It Has Been A Long Winter!

A little later than usual – this morning we woke up in Newbury, after a great days racing there yesterday – don’t panic – we didn’t wake up on the steps of the stand after a a few too many – we had booked a room in the town, and had a night out with Andy and Claire after giving away a brand new Theault Horsebox to the winning trainer of the world’s richest bumper that was run there yesterday! Paul Nicholls – who was in the process of buying a new one – now gets one for free!!

            We had expected to have had a couple of runners last week - but for different reasons that didn’t happen – but with extra daylight hours – drier weather and a bit of sunshine we should be able to get a few back to the races – it has been really frustrating not being able to run so many of the team – but they really do not handle very testing ground – and it would have been a waste of time and energy running them – our time will come with some decent spring ground and we are looking forward to finishing the season with plenty of runners!

            The week didn’t start to well – Maria’s Flame was expected to be declared in Market Rasen on Wednesday – but their ground was still soft, so that would not have been ideal – but sadly there was another reason that she would not be confirmed for the race – she was ever so slightly lame in the morning when she pulled out, and when examined by the vet later in the day she was found to have just aggravated the small pelvic issue she had suffered in January, and the best course of action is to give her a good break and bring her back into training in three months time. Fergal sent a video to her syndicate members, and reiterated how much they like her, and that he is sure that she will repay their patience next season. The team all like her a lot and there will be plenty of fun to be had with her over the course of the next couple of years for sure!

The rest of the day was spent in the office, we got the race report for Reflexion Faite done and out to her owners in the morning, and organised a stud visit for next week – a chance for ‘Barrys’ owners to get in and see him before he heads down to Ivy Lodge Farm for his second stint. He was broken in down there last summer and this ‘secondary school’ will involve three months training and culminate in a couple of swinging pieces of work up Tom Georges wood chip gallop. He will not be seriously tested but will do enough to give him an idea of what will be expected of him as a racehorse, and it will not be too much of a shock when the time comes for him to head into training proper.  

            Tuesday and the first thing to check was the revised handicap marks published in the morning. Cloud Dancer remained unchanged on 125 – despite the best efforts of his trainer to get him dropped a few pounds. Reflexion Faite dropped 2 to 63 after her outing in Newcastle the previous Friday. Tuesday is work day at Ravenswell Farm and it was good to get a clip of Fortune Forever putting in a decent shift on the hill.

One that nearly got to go to the races was Greyval – we know that she needs better gound and had decided early doors that she would not be declared in Ludlow on Thursday, as their ground was still soft, and had taken plenty of ‘hammer’ over the winter – it was likely to ride very soft indeed – but at 9.56am with 4 minutes to go until declarations closed there were just 4 runners confirmed and we did have a brief conversation about letting her take her chance, but it was only a short conversation – and Ferg and I both came to the same conclusion – it would be the wrong thing to do – her optimum conditions are around the corner, it is not as if we are running out of chances to run her – so we would wait a while longer with her to give her the best chance of showing her best when we see her next.

            Wednesday – and after her lovely piece of work the day before, Fortune Forever got an entry in Taunton on Tuesday hopefully the ground will dry back and be suitable for her to take her chance. Also entered in Taunton – in the novices hurdle, is Intrepide Sud, who we have been looking forward to running for some time. A bumper winner on his last start, he suffered an injury in winning that and has had all the time he needed to recover. He was rehabilitated at Ivy Lodge Farm, and everything has gone to plan with him. A few other issues such as a bout of ringworm and a few mucky scopes have delayed us slightly, but we can’t wait to see him back on track!

One other piece of injury news – Itchy Feet who had missed his last couple of intended runs, has had his season brought to a premature end. Thankfully nothing too serious, he has just not been moving right for a while, and the vets have discovered the cause and advised that he be given the summer off to rest his weary bones and come back good and fresh next season. He will spend a few weeks in the field at Warren Chase before heading down to Jason Maguires to make use of all the facilities there before coming back to Olly’s in late summer. It will do an old horse like him the world of good to get a change of scenery for a while – and he will be back next season for sure. Another one that has benefitted from her spell with Maguire is Auditoria, who has returned to Warren Chase Stables in great shape – she is looking and moving great, and Olly is delighted with her. She will be back on track next month, and will have a nice little summer campaign this year.

            Thursday was the end of an era – Hidden Beauty returned to the yard where she was born, ready to start her own career as a mother. She headed back to Cheshire and to Peel Hall where she was foaled, and joins her mother and some of her siblings there – one of which is her 2 yr old half sister that we have on the team already! The plan is for her to head over to France in the next few weeks where she will be covered by Martinborough, the sire of the very exciting Triumph Hurdle winner Majborough. An exciting cover and we will follow her progress as a broodmare with interest!

Hidden Beauty heading off to Peel Hall

As ever we like to keep our options open – and Intrepide Sud, having got an entry in Taunton on Tuesday was also entered in a novices’ hurdle in Wincanton on Wednesday. Blue Bikini, who we have a nice plan for next month also got an entry in the mares’ handicap hurdle on the card – we are keeping everything crossed that their ground dries back enough for her to take her chance. She has shown that she really doesn’t like soft ground – but a run here would be very beneficial in terms of setting her up for her target race in April – so we will have to see what we do with her. Hopefully the ground dries up enough for her to go – if not, she could just go and do her best, with April in mind – or she could stay at home if Ferg feels that he can have her spot on for that target race without running in Wincanton.

It was good to sit down and watch the racing on Thursday afternoon and see one of the squad get a couple of significant form boosts. Rockola’s debut run in Stratford keeps looking better and better - the winner won the concluding bumper in Chepstow, after the second from the Stratford race won her second race over hurdles a bit earlier in the afternoon. Rockola was disappointing on very testing ground in Wetherby last time out – she is better than that. I spoke to her trainer Alan King in Newbury yesterday, and he said that she just ran up a bit light after that run, and he has given her a quiet time to let her regain her condition. He is happy with her now and will crack on with her from here. She will be kept away from very testing ground for the time being – she has shown us what she doesn’t like!

            Friday – horseboxes were the order of the day – it has been an unbelievably busy start to 2024, and there is no let up on the horizon – I’m certainly not complaining. Lots of existing clients reordering new vehicles and plenty of new clients making the switch to Theault too!

Two clips from Jason Maguire hit the inbox on Friday afternoon – Tintagel Queen has settled in well, and is doing her twice daily shifts on the walker, as is Dino Bellagio – both looking really well, and two horses that have very exciting seasons ahead of them next term.

Tintagel Queen

Dino Bellagio

            Saturday we set off for Newbury where, as mentioned – Andy and Claire who own Atacanter and who are the sole UK agents/dealers for Theault Horseboxes, were providing a brand new box to the winning trainer of the worlds richest bumper sponsored by Goffs. They provide two boxes every year – one going to the flat trainer who wins the big Goffs Sales race at York’s Ebor meeting in August, and one to the jumps trainer that wins the Newbury Sales bumper, which, yesterday was won by Regent’s Stroll from the Paul Nicholls yard. I have been chatting to Paul for a couple of months about him getting a new horsebox, and now he has one!

The trip down was certainly far from simple! A34 closed around Oxford – huge delays – glad we set of early – but sitting in near stationary traffic for an hour and twenty minutes gives you a chance to ring a few trainers. Josh Moore really happy with Cloud Dancer, and a chat with Gary later in the afternoon at the races confirmed that he had worked very well that morning and that he would be out again very soon. Gary had been on the phone to the handicapper more than once since his last run in an attempt to convince him to ease CD in the ratings – as yet not successful – but he’s not giving up. Should the handicapper not agree to drop him, he is likely to contest a novices’ hurdle next time out. I also had a chat with Donald McCain who reported that Ridin Solo was cantering away nicely, and building back up to his next outing which is likely to be in another couple of weeks, and Old Blue Eyes is just under the weather a bit. He has got a bit of a snotty nose, and as Donald will not ask a young horse like him to exert himself when obviously a bit sick, he has started him on a course of antibiotics and just moved him away from the main yard for a few days until he recovers sufficiently to return to full work. Again – nothing major, and just one of those things that you can get with young horses early in their careers.

            Having finally arrived at the track – the heavy showers made way for a chilly but sunny afternoon. The field was at the start ready for the tapes to rise for the second race when there was a medical emergency in the middle of the track and all the available medical resources were sent to the scene. This meant that the racing had to be put on hold until the situation was resolved, and the horses and jockeys returned to the paddock and weighing room. Our thoughts are with the person who was taken ill, and hopefully he makes a full recovery. Newbury were able to run the remainder of their card after the gentleman had received all the attention that he needed and they did a great job to end the card just 40 minutes after their scheduled close – making up an hour of lost time. The rest of the card went really well – some great racing – the bumper will turn out to be a very strong heat – I can’t tell you how many of the trainers with runners in the race told me they were going to win it – there were some lovely horses on show in the paddock, and the winner looks exceptional! The evening was spent in Newbury, staying in the Elephant on the Market, right in the centre of town! Functional and convenient – a busy pub with rooms – rooms were a bit 'tired' and the entire upstairs was in need of a bit of a spruce up!  We had dinner in Turkuaz a few yards away at the end of the market square which was once again – superb. We had eaten there last year – and were looking forward to heading back – it didn’t disappoint – great Turkish food, excellent service and a good wine list too!

            Sunday morning, two declared in Taunton – Fortune Forever takes on 9 rivals in the mares’ handicap hurdle – Tom Broughton takes off an invaluable 5lbs. The further step up in trip looks sure to suit, and as long as the ground remains around Good To Soft she should run a really nice race. The wait is over for Intrepide Sud – he is declared in the novices’ hurdle. This is his first run back off of a mammoth absence, but we are really looking forward to seeing him over hurdles for the first time. Johnny Burke takes the ride. The trip back from Newbury was better than the trip down there – no need for another tour of Oxford (you pay a fortune for that on an open top bus) – but updating owners on declarations from a layby on the A34 did lead to a slight glitch in the matrix when the message I sent to Suds team said that he had been declared in Wincanton on Wednesday!! Luckily I realised the mistake quite quickly, and rectified it when I got to the next layby!

Intrepide Sud schooling earlier in the week under Johnny Burke.

            Around the rest of the squad – Mamoon Star is in great form and will be ready to run in a couple of weeks, ground permitting – he will be kept to a sound surface. Reflexion Faite is well after her sub par performance in Newcastle – Nigel is just tinkering with the way that he trains her, and is likely to drop her back a furlong in trip for her next start.

Next week looks like being fun – Taunton Tuesday – Wincanton (hopefully) on Wednesday – dinner with a couple of owners on Wednesday night in the Cotswolds and a Thursday morning visit to Ravenswell Farm! Good Friday we have a visit to The Elms scheduled for members of The Denton Partnership, and then we could have the odd entry over the Easter weekend.

There will be a further visit to The Elms in a few weeks when the ground has dried up sufficiently, and access to the fields is a little easier, and we will get to see all of the young stock that have wintered out there.

Let's hope this is not a false spring - the sun has a little bit of warmth in it - the hedgerows are starting to green up, and the grass is growing - it has been a long winter - here's to spring - Hopfully - Finally!! 

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