A New Career Beckons

England lost the cricket – but won the rugby! Didn’t see the latter coming!

It was another busy week – a couple of yards visited – one sad retirement, and a runner in Ayr.

            Monday started as most Mondays do, with a video of horses schooling at Ravenswell Farm. It is always great to receive and pass on these updates from the yards and I am very grateful to the teams all around the country who take the time to do it – it really keeps all syndicate members and owners engaged with the progress of their horses. This week it was Maria’s Flame having a pop over hurdles – she is in great form and did have an entry in Taunton tomorrow, but their ground is still pretty soft, and they are predicting that the worn areas of the track will be very tacky. Maria is still only a baby, and as a result still quite weak, and as we learned in Newbury on her last start, she doesn’t appreciate that sort of ground, so Fergal decided not to declare her when decs closed yesterday, but she is fit and well and will be out again very soon when we will hopefully get some nicer ground. She absolutely loves her jumping and we are all looking forward to seeing her start her career over hurdles later this month.

Maria's Flame just loves jumping

Donald had spotted two suitable races for Ridin Solo – Ayr on Friday, and he also gave him an entry in Kelso on Sunday.

Monday was also the day when we called time on the racing career of Hidden Beauty, who has been having issues with the pelvis that she fractured last year and after giving her plenty of time to recover the vet advised that there was an increased chance of her suffering a more serious problem with it, and the best course of action was to draw stumps. She is 100% sound and will have no further issues with it as she heads off on her second career as a broodmare. A case of what might have been with her, she had made quite a reputation for herself even before she made her racecourse debut after putting in some very impressive pieces of work at home. So it was no real surprise when she won her first race in Ffos Las. Given an ultra confident ride by Liam Harrison, she came from last to first in the blink of an eye and was oh so impressive! The words of the commentator that day – ‘She will have to be very good to win from there’ will live long in the memory. As we would come to learn the journey with her was seldom smooth, and things took a downward turn when she suffered atrial fibrillation and was pulled up on her next start in a Listed bumper in Cheltenham – a race that had been switched from Market Rasen which had been abandoned due to frost, just as we all arrived at the track– like I said nothing was ever straight forward with her. On her first start over hurdles at the start of the next season she was carried out when a horse slipped up in front of her in Uttoxeter, she was cantering that day and Paddy remains convinced that she would have won by the length of the straight. Having not handled the soft ground on her next start, she had a few false starts when the ground wasn’t quite right for her, but when we did get to see her again she was the impressive winner of a novice hurdle in Doncaster. She was second next time out, after which she suffered the pelvic fracture that has eventually led to her retirement. Her last run was in Market Rasen on Boxing day where she was a close third in a race that has worked out very well indeed. So sad that we never really got to see the very best of Hidden Beauty. It took her quite a while to get her confidence back after the atrial fibrillation in Cheltenham, but she did, and it is just a shame that we never got to see her over fences which is where she would surely have shone. It was quite the trip with her, and being part of her syndicate was never dull for sure! She returns to the stud farm where she was born and will be covered this spring. We will follow her career as a mum with interest. Her retirement does not end our association with the family, as we do have her 2 yr old half sister on the team, and she is likely to be syndicated next year. At this stage she looks like she will be an early type and could well start off in a junior bumper in the autumn of 2025.

            On Tuesday I headed down to Fergals to see the team in training there, and have a catch up with the trainer. Just the six horses there now with Volkovka and Hidden Beauty both heading off to be Mums. Fergal is happy with them all, but like us all is getting very tired of all the wet weather we have been having. The vast majority of his horses prefer better ground than the soft and heavy going we have had all winter, and he is frustrated with how many horses he has run once on bad ground this season, and not been able to run them again. I know how he feels,11 of the 14 horses we had in training last season won – it was a drier than average winter, and even when it did rain, you could rely on the likes of Doncaster, Huntingdon, Taunton and Ludlow to provide a decent surface – this year not so, and it has shown in our results. Sadly the two horses that we had that would have relished the conditions this season, Volkovka (retired) and Tintagel Queen (Factured Tibia) did not get to take advantage of it! It looks like being a very busy spring! Greyval is back cantering after giving herself an overreach and cutting the bulb of her heel a couple of weeks ago. Maria’s Flame as mentioned is in great heart. Mamoon Star looks incredible and is in fine fettle – he will be ready to run in around 3 weeks, and will certainly appreciate a return to better ground – he will have a spring/summer campaign. Intrepide Sud is ready to run and would have done so by now if he had not been held up with a dose of ringworm and a mucky scope. Blue Bikini is well, and we have a bit of a plan for her. She will have a run somewhere later this month, and then head to Ayr for a valuable mares handicap at their Grand National meeting in April. Fortune Forever did a sparkling piece of work with Grade 2 hurdle winner Springtime Promise on Tuesday and is another one that will appreciate a step up in trip and a sounder surface when we see her out again. She is obviously in great shape, her coat is gleaming, and as soon as there is a suitable race on a nice surface she will be ready to rock and roll. It was good to see Debbie Burt who was armed with her camera as usual and captured some fantastic shots of the team on a misty morning! Her photos can be seen here – the system we use here doesn’t allow you to simply click the link, but if you copy and paste the address below into your address bar and you will get to see them.


Fortune Forever near side 

Intrepide Sud

Remee and Maria's Flame


Maria's Flame

Mamoon Star

Blue Bikini



Nigel Tinkler was in an upbeat mood on Tuesday and sent a video of Reflexion Faite doing a nice swinging piece of work up his woodchip gallop. She is in great order and has an entry in Newcastle on Friday evening. She will start her 3 yr old campaign over 7 furlongs.

Reflexion Faite (3rd)

After working nicely at the weekend, Gary Moore gave Cloud Dancer an entry in a novice hurdle in Plumpton on Monday. The form of his Ascot run has worked out extremely well, and we are looking forward to seeing him out again. He has been held up by a few niggly problems since that run and is likely to need this reappearance – but it will be good to see him back on the track.

            Wednesday, I headed up to Olly Murphys to see Itchy Feet have a canter and a school ahead of his trip to Cheltenham next week for the Pertemps Final. It was good to see Sean Bowen in riding out. After third lot we headed down the road to see a filly that we could be adding to the squad this summer, and to watch a group of his younger horses work. They all went very nicely, and there looks to be a couple of nice ones in among them. Tintagel Queen is currently in his isolation yard away from Warren Chase but has been given the all clear by the vet to make the short trip down to Jason Maguires to recuperate and rehabilitate there. She will head down on Monday. The vet is very happy with her, and she will return to full training in July. We had a really nice programme mapped out for her this season, so it goes without saying that she will follow the same path next season.

Itchy Feet and Cerys


Itchy schooling under James King

Donald declared Ridin Solo in Ayr on Friday – Brian Hughes booked to ride. RS will improve when stepped up in trip, but Donald felt it was worth having one more crack at 2m around Ayr before stepping him up.

            Thursday was a quieter day – I did have a chat with Josh Moore, who was really happy with Cloud Dancers work the day before, and said that he would be a likely runner in Plumpton on Monday.

            Friday was a special day – Cheryl’s Mum, Margaret reached a milestone Birthday – her 90th and we headed out for a family lunch, which was lovely. This was an occasion I was not going to miss, so I didn’t make the trip up to Ayr to see Ridin Solo, but a good number of Red Sash Racing Club members did. Ridin Solo looked well in the paddock, and Donald had been very happy with his preparation. Himself and Brian had decided to make plenty of use of him over the minimum trip and try and bring his stamina into play. Jumping off out in front he went a nice even gallop and jumped superbly, as they straightened for home he looked to be in with a great chance, but eventually a few speedier types bore down on him and went past. Brian was critical of the ride he gave RS in his debrief, feeling that he should have gone half a stride quicker on him to make it a real test, as it panned out, he merely set the race up for the speedier types in behind. He really does like RS and as we can all see, he will be seen in a much better light over further, and even better again when he starts to jump fences. He will remain over hurdles this season and go chasing next term.


            Saturday – another party for the ‘birthday girl’ This one in the Barely Mow in St Neots. Handy, as they were showing the rugby internationals, which a few of us could keep nipping in to watch for a minute or two or grab a score update.

The day didn’t get off to the best start when Olly Murphy called to say that Itchy Feet had been away for a gallop and had worked poorly. You can usually set your clock by him, and he is a very good and consistent work horse. He certainly was neither of those yesterday and it has to cast some doubt on his participation at The Festival on Thursday. Olly will have him checked over by the physio today to see if they can find anything that can be put right – but as it stands it looks unlikely that he will be a runner. One that would be running, but not in Cheltenham would be Cloud Dancer, who Gary declared in Plumpton on Monday – a decent looking little novice hurdle where we would like to see him finish in the first three and then move on to bigger and better things. Tom Cannon rides. One that was not declared was Maria’s Flame – as mentioned, Fergal preferring to wait for better ground.

Nigel Tinkler gave Reflexion Faite her Newcastle entry, and he is keen to get going with her!

At Ivy Lodge Farm - Auditoria is back being ridden and is her usual 'sassy' self - she will head back to Warren Chase the week after next. Dino Bellagio is in good order - the vet was in to see him earlier in the week and he has given him the go ahead to move on from being walked in hand (led) to going on the horse walker for two 10 minute spells in the morning and afternoon. As the month goes by, those 10 minute sessions will be extended, and at the end of the period he will be back ridden again ahead of a summer holiday. 

Up at Donald McCains Old Blue Eyes is in super order - he has certainly sharpened up mentally for his enforced holiday at Ivy Lodge and is really pleasing everyone now that he has returned to training. 

Reflexion Faite has come out of her Wetherby run last week fine, and will be out again in a couple of weeks time - and will not be asked to run on very testing ground again. She is a lot better than she showed in Wetherby for sure! 

            Next week we will be making the usual pilgrimage to The Cotswolds – three days at The Festival, great fun and great sport – looking forward to catching up with plenty of you down there!

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