Tight Spot

After watching the England XI stumble and stutter their way through last Sunday morning as I wrote last weeks blog there was only one way to cheer me up (well there were many that I could think of if I’m honest – but some are not legal, some were not possible, and the rest were not probable) – Sunday lunch at The Redhouse in Longstowe – I mentioned it when we went there just after Christmas – and once again it did not disappoint, if anything it has strengthened it’s position at the top of the ‘Best Sunday Lunch’ league! There is just one slight drawback – no Guiness on draught. They lose a few points for that sacrilege!

Monday started the same way that most Mondays seem to start this season – a change of plan – this one not as a result of the weather, this one as a result of a tiny hold up. We have been waiting for weeks to run Greyval – she disappointed in late December when we ran her on ground that was too soft for her in Newbury, and as we all know we have hardly had a dry day since, and even when we have entered her at tracks like Kempton where you can usually be assured a sounder surface, they have got torrential overnight rain that has left the meeting threatened by waterlogging. Greyval has been in rude health at home, and her work has been sparkling, and late last week a race was earmarked for a possible return for her – Doncaster on Saturday 2nd. She was all set to be entered on Monday morning, but once again she would not be given the chance – not due to the weather or ground this time – their ground being Good to Soft, would be OK for her – this time she had given herself a little overreach and was not quite 100% sound – just a little thing, that she will soon be over, but it would mean that she would miss her chance to run – as it happens – the rain at the end of the week, and a downpour during racing meant that the ground in Doncaster was horrendous by the time that the tapes went up for the race she would have been entered in, and the likelihood of her taking part would have been slim anyway! The wait continues, but at least the better ground is coming for her, and there will be plenty of opportunities for her as we head through the spring. Chatting to Fergal last week, he said it is astonishing how many horses he has in training at present that have not run or had just a single run this season on ground that they have hated. He feels like it is over 80% of his team that fall into this bracket – we are not alone!

The better news to come out of Ravenswell was a clip of Fortune Forever schooling over hurdles on Monday morning. FF had three runs over hurdles early in the season, and then stepped up in trip for her handicap debut, but is another that needs a sounder surface, which has meant that there have been a few false dawns with her in the last few weeks as the rain continues to fall. She would get an entry in Southwell on Monday 4th March.

Another early update was from Nigel Tinkler with news of Reflexion Faite who is going very nicely at her new home in Yorkshire. He is very happy with her and said that she would be doing her first proper piece of faster work on Friday, after which he would have a better idea of what he perceives to be her optimum trip and where she may start her season – she is not far off of making her debut!

I cracked on with the monthly admin for the rest of the morning and got all the invoices paid!

Olly Murphy called in the afternoon to discuss a few things. The vet had been in to see Tintagel Queen in the morning and was very happy with her. TQ had suffered a fractured tibia in training in early January, and in all honesty, was a lucky girl by all accounts – but she was box rested for 6 weeks and for four of those weeks she was not even permitted to lie down, as the process of getting up would put too much pressure through the area of the injury. Thankfully she has been a model patient, and the vet is happy for her to resume very light exercise on the walker twice a day. He also gave her the all clear to travel in 10 days – so later next week she will make the trip down to Ivy Lodge Farm to continue her recovery there, and make use of all the equipment on hand to aid her rehabilitation.

Along with updating me about TQ, the purpose of Olly’s call was twofold, as he had a very exciting opportunity offer itself earlier in the afternoon, and he felt it would be something that 1 should be very keen to get involved with – I am – watch this space!

On Tuesday morning I set off early and made the trip round the M25 to see Cloud Dancer at Gary Moores. CD is another that has had a limited season thus far. He made a superb seasonal debut in an Introductory Hurdle in Ascot in December, the form of which has worked out supremely well, but has had a few niggly issues since then, and we have not seen him out since. Now rated 125 after just 2 hurdles starts, he is a very exciting prospect, and all efforts are being made to get him back on track as soon as possible. His last minor ailment has been sore feet, and he is now shod with cushioned pads under his shoes which has alleviated this problem, and it was good to see Josh Moore ride him in a swinging piece of work. I know that it has been wet everywhere this winter – with an extremely wet December, and record rainfall in February, but I think that Gary Moore’s yard is just about the wettest place I have been all year! There is water standing everywhere, he is not able to use a couple of his gallops as they are simply not fit to use, and the horses hate having to slog through the very deep parts of them, and his sand gallop was actually washed away in a December storm, which has led to him doing major work on the drains and resurfacing that gallop as well! The team at Cisswood have never seen it so wet for so long and have done a fantastic job through the past few months! The good news is that Cloud Dancer went really well and Josh was very pleased with him – if all goes to plan he should be back racing again in a couple of weeks While we were making our way between gallops in Gary’s own version of a ‘monster truck’ – a truck that is so high that he does admit to falling out of when he first had it as he didn’t realise how far it was to the ground- Alan King called to say that he was minded to declare Rockola in Wetherby on Thursday. She would be making her hurdles debut, the ground was soft, which although not ideal should be OK for her, and as she would be sticking to National Hunt Junior Hurdles this season, and the number of these particular races left in the calendar are decreasing rapidly we decided to let her take her chance. Tom Cannon booked to ride.

Wednesday was another early start, this time up the M6 to Donald McCains Bankhouse Stables to see Old Blue Eyes and Ridin Solo. As they were racing in Bangor in the afternoon – it was no surprise to see Brian Hughes in riding out – but I did do a double take as Tom Cannon came walking past me after first lot! Tom had ridden in Catterick the previous afternoon and stayed in the north for a ride in Bangor on Wednesday and would also stay up for his rides in Wetherby on Thursday. Old Blue Eyes looks in great shape and is going really well – he is just on the circular sand gallop at present, but is doing it really well, and regular rider Peter Kavanagh is delighted with him. He showed us what he can do in the autumn before a slight setback meant that he had a spell off games down at Ivy Lodge Farm before returning to training last month. It was a shame that we had to draw stumps with him for a short while, but if I am honest, I think it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for this talented young horse. Jason had said as he was pre training him, that he felt that he may need a mid winter break form training as it would do wonders for his mind – he is quite immature mentally, and he felt he would benefit from a short break away from the hustle and bustle of Bankhouse, and although the break was forced upon us, and was longer than he would have had otherwise, he was 100% right, the time away from training has done him the world of good – Donald, Peter and the team all thought he was a very nice horse judged by the work he was doing in the autumn, so to hear that he has come back ‘a different horse’ who ‘really knows what the whole job is all about now’ is great to hear. By Blue Bresil, from a family that just keep getting better and better, he is a very exciting prospect, and a horse that we all think very highly of, and one that will be brought along, very much with the future in mind. The hope is to get a run into him in the spring in a bumper. There is a share still available in him, and he is very highly recommended! nickbrownracing@gmail.com – or 07909 518902 – come and have a look at him!

Old Blue Eyes 

The Red Sash Racing Club’s, Ridin Solo is in great order too. He is ready to run and will be out again soon. Second on his first two starts over hurdles after winning his Irish Point to Point, he looks like a winner in waiting, and is very close to giving the Club their first winner! Shares are just £100 grab one and get involved – not only will you have a share in a nice young horse, but you will also get access to the members area of the website where we post a host of interesting articles, and (very) regular updates from the yard!

Ridin Solo 

On Thursday we headed north again – this time up the A1 to Wetherby to see Rockola make her hurdles debut. After more rain, their ground was going to be far more testing than we had hoped, but for the reasons we had taken into account when we declared her, we went ahead and ran her. The level of form she had shown in bumpers gave her a great chance of being in the first three, and she would benefit from the experience and be in a good place for her next start over hurdles, hopefully on better ground in around a month. She looked great in the paddock – she isn’t the biggest filly, but she is strengthening all the time, and took all the prelims very well. She was a little keen to post, and as the tapes went back, she took a bit of a grip on the inner as they approached the first. Her jumping improved as the race went on, although the testing ground meant that the jockeys went very slowly on these young horses which meant that Rockola did far too much in the early stages, and when the inevitable sprint for home developed in the home straight, she was initially caught flat footed and outpaced before staying on again between the last two. When one fell in front of her at the last she swerved to avoid it, and sadly caught Tom off guard and he fell out of the side door after the flight, leaving Rockola to finish alone. That was not the end of the drama. Having pulled herself up she then decided to find her own way back to the stables, but instead of taking the exit off of the track she cantered down the rail in front of the stands looking for a way to get back onto the all weather strip that she remembered cantering down to the start on. When she came across the small gap that is left in the plastic rail at the winning post that allows the photo finish camera to get it’s images she quickly nipped through – clever girl – she had found her way onto the canter strip, her next move was less intelligent, instead of turning left and making her way back up the hill the way she had come down, she decided to walk straight on into a railed off area that was once used to house the photo finish equipment back in the day – this space, surrounded by 5ft hight antique railings is just about 6 inches wider than her and about a foot longer. That was fine until, filled with post race adrenalin, she then had a long hard think about trying to jump out over the railing in front of her and into the crowd. As luck would have it a group of us were standing very close by, and when I spotted her thinking about coming over the top, I quickly grabbed the reins and managed to prevent that situation escalating! Luckily, she resisted the temptation to have another go, and I was able to back her out of her tight spot, with Alans travelling head lad, Whitey, getting to her just as I got her back out onto the carpet strip. It was an ‘interesting’ moment! Rockola was fine – the rest of us a little disappointed – from her homework, and her bumper form we had expected better from her, and Alan is certain that she is much better than the filly that we saw on Thursday. The slow ground meant they went no gallop, which in turn caused her to be far too keen. She will be far better on a sounder surface, with a stronger gallop. She will have learned a lot from her hurdles debut – hopefully not to get into tight spots if nothing else – and will be out again on better ground in around a month.

On the way up to Wetherby I caught up with Jason – who gave a very positive update on Dino Bellagio who is recovering well from his leg fracture. The vet will be in to see him in the next few days and he should give him the go ahead to move on to the next phase of his rehabilitation. When I saw Brian Hughes earlier in the week he was keen to get all the news regarding Dino and how he was. He is certain that the injury happened during his last run in Doncaster, and still maintains that he is a very talented racehorse. He said he still remembers the feel he got off of him in the bumper he won in Doncaster, and he still has every faith in him. We will just park this season and move onto the next, where we can hopefully rejoin the path that we had mapped out for him this winter! Jason was also pleased with Auditoria who is having a short spell away from Warren Chase, and a little holiday with him.

It was also good to catch up with our unofficial ‘official’ photographer Debbie Burt this week. Debbie has just returned from a shift at the Saudi Cup and was readjusting to low temperatures and rain! Debbie has been involved with the setting up of The Red Sash Racing Club from the start, and I am delighted that she has agreed to take that involvement a degree further and will be taking over the Club’s social media channels and managing its output in the future.  Debbie has a wealth of experience in creative media and we are thrilled that she has agreed to come on board – her involvement will streamline and simplify the way that the Clubs’ social media works, and will be a huge benefit to all current and future members!

Friday – Kingy on to say that all was well with Rockola – and to once again reiterate that she is far better than her run the day before. Once I knew that she had come out of her race ok – I got the race report typed up and over to her owners. Mid morning, Nigel Tinkler phoned to say that Reflexion Faite had done her first piece of faster work since arriving with him last month and he was delighted with her. In his opinion she is definitely not a 5f filly, which is something we all felt last season, nothing about her suggests the minimum trip was her optimum distance, but she was simply not strong enough for 6f early last summer. She has now developed, and the way that she settled in behind a well bred work mate on Friday suggested that she may even be suited to going up to 7f. Nigel is keen to get her out, and has earmarked a race in Newcastle on March 15th – a handicap over 7f for her seasonal/yard debut. Lovely to have a runner on Gold Cup Day – just not in the Cotswolds!

We had a lovely evening on Friday, celebrating a birthday at the Jockey Club Rooms in Newmarket. A beautiful venue and a special evening. Lovely to catch up with so many people – some of whom I had not seen for an absolute age! It was a really enjoyable evening!

The Jockey Club Rooms

Saturday – no runners for us, but Donald did give Ridin Solo an entry in a maiden hurdle in Ayr next Friday. We have so many options for him, he will continue to get entries, and we will decide nearer the time where he goes. One that will not go next week is Fortune Forever, who, as mentioned earlier needs a bit of nicer ground. All week the ground in Southwell has been Good To Soft, Soft in places – that would be fine – rain before decs meant that it then went Soft all round – and so Fergal decided not to declare her! Yet again, thwarted by the weather, but as I say, at least we know the spring weather is coming and with it the better ground! The remainder at Ravenswell are all fine – Intrepide Sud is now over his bout of ringworm, and will be out in the next 10-14  days. Mamoon Star is building back up to full fitness in preparation for a spring/summer campaign. He will be ready to run in around a month – the better ground sure to help him! Blue Bikini is in great order – I have a plan for her for the end if the season, and we will work back from there, she will not be seen on soft ground again. We also have a plan for her for the autumn which is exciting! Maria’s Flame is still leaping around the place – full of beans as usual – she is back doing plenty of work on the hill and should make her hurdles debut later this month all being well. Hidden Beauty was due to be checked over by the vet late last week, but he didn’t get to her sadly. He will examine her this coming week, and we will know where we are heading with her after that.

Maria's Flame (pink cap)

At Warren Chase Itchy Feet is in great shape, and he is very much on target for a crack at the Pertemps Final in Cheltenham the week after next!!

Next week looks quiet, the calm before the storm, with the Cheltenham Festival the week after. It will be just the one runner for us this year – Itchy Feet, but we will enjoy our annual jaunt to The Cotswolds, and look forward to catching up with plenty of you down there!

I am delighted to report that there has been no England batting collapse this morning – I’m sure we will be back to normal next week!!

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