16/11/20: Well that has been an eventful couple of days. After 'interesting' events at Fontwell, we had a more productive day out at Plumpton.The highlight was the first win for DEVIOUS DICKS DAME, making the running and clinging on by a neck under a super effort from James Davies in the plate. She is still quite a way from being an easy ride, but this is clearly the way to make her functional. Later on the card, DYLANSEOGHAN repeated his 2019 second place in the three and half mile chase and BRANDY CROSS had a neat comeback from eleven months off, plus quite possibly did not stay the two and a half miles - we will look for something shorter next. Stepping back twenty-four hours, what can we say about Fontwell? As reported in the press, the jockeys' view of what was going on was badly impaired by the gloom and rain, and it probably did not help that the injured horse was well over to one side of the track, off of the natural line of sight. Page said that she realised as they passed the hurdle that it should have been jumped, so she looked after QUEEN AMONG KINGS as there was no point in riding out a finish. However, being tucked into the middle of the pack, had she tried to go over the flight, a couple of other horses would have had to have been dangerously barged out of the way, so there was no ideal option at that moment in time. Ultimately the problem was just one of those things, although there is a lesson to be learned about scheduling the last race to be too late in the afternoon for this time of year.
10/11/20: Three runners at Lingfield, all having their first run of the season.After that we have a pause for breath before Fontwell and Plumpton from Sunday. First up was O'RAHILLY, who was seventh. He tried hard but Cillin Leonard reported that the horse simply needed the run more than we hoped, so it was useful exercise. Then we had two in the final race, a two mile chase. Pete and Harry combined had not managed to disrupt Desque De L'Isle last time, so for the second round we pitched in the strategic reserve of CLONDAW ROBIN and IMPULSIVE LEADER. Coming down the hill it looked as if Robin may have vengeance in mind (on his stablemates' behalf) but in the home straight he came to the end of his tether and had to settle for third - the theme of the last few days. Impulsive Leader's run was all about getting her match ready whilst training her mentality - something that has got in her way in the past. She managed fourth without any form of meltdown, so it was a step in the right direction.
8/11/20: Thanks in part to a replacement meeting at Stratford to replace the Lingfield replacement meeting, we were able to have a lot of runners towards the end of the week, and the trainer deciding to break her collarbone in order to avoid driving to Huntingdon was rendered irrelevant as all the possible Huntingdon runners had replacement races elsewhere. Where were we? Peak results of the week were at Stratford where SCRUTINISE took third despite being lumbered with top weight (results of 123 this season get the Ted Rogers mirror image seal of approval) and WATAR ALLSTAR also finished in third - in the tougher division of the novices' handicap chase he stayed on really well after having turned for home out of the places. The tight bends did not bring out the best in a such a big horse. PETE'S CHOICE and GUSTAV also ran there, the latter managing to make it beyond the first fence! Not only that but he may even have nosed ahead three from home to raise the excitement level before lack of a proper race this autumn caught him out. At Fontwell FINNEGAN'S GARDEN ran really well on his comeback, having every chance until outsprinted from a point approaching the last fence. Unfortunately BROWN BULLET pulled hard and took too much inspiration from recent Gustav on her hurdling debut.
2/11/20: Well that was a salutary lesson in over-optimism! On Wednesday we were due a quiet break from runners over the weekend. Then an additional Lingfield meeting was scheduled, framed with some races that we thought we could have a serious shot at. Almost inevitably it lashed down with rain and on Sunday morning, the much needed extra Lingfield meeting was a goner. Next stop was Plumpton on Monday, but that was attended with lesser expectations. Although lack of a recent run eventually knocked her back quickly, DEVIOUS DICK'S DAME seemed to take well to front running, even if local rival MON PETITE CHERI eventually beat her by half a length. BROTHER BENNETT took another step forward in building up to his traditional gradual peak with fourth and QUEEN AMONG KINGS ran above expectation until lack of match practice caught up with her two hurdles out. And now we come to GUSTAV. Having never fallen in his life before this autumn, he has now failed to get beyond fence number one in the two and a half mile chase at consecutive Plumpton meetings. A stern finger wagging lecture is coming his way.
30/10/20: We have a busy week ahead, especially with some appealing races at the additional Lingfield jumps meeting on Sunday. The horses made an encouraging start to it. SCRUTINISE went back to Stratford but ran into a horse that the betting market correctly expected to be a handicap good thing. He tried hard and got second place, well clear of the rest. A day later GLORIOUS BORU was beaten only three lengths at Uttoxeter. He just needs to dig out a tiny bit extra to be winning soon.
22/10/20: A few more runners have made their seasonal debut. Not all have gone to plan (referring to you GUSTAV!) but some very satisfactory returns have occurred. Pride of place goes to BROWN BULLET, who defied odds of 80/1 to finish third in a bumper at Fontwell. The race was too short for her, but there was nothing more suitable coming up, so we took a chance and were delighted with her effort. There will be no loitering around bumpering - next stop for Brown Bullet will be hurdles. On the same day BROTHER BENNETT ended up fourth on his seasonal return. It was an oddly manic event and he at one stage looked likely to dig out third, but lack of fitness found him out on the run-in A day later we had a couple in the two mile novices' handicap chase at Lingfield. Neither made the frame but both jumped well and got through unscathed on what was a comeback from injury in both cases.Honours went to HARRY HAZARD whose fifth was two places in front of PETE'S CHOICE. A longer race will suit them both.
18/10/20: The season started with a bang for us as SCRUTINISE made a winning return in the finale at Stratford. Page got a good tune out of him in the closing stages and his final lunge was enough to get home by a neck. A well judged ride on a horse that needs one! The other two runners did not quite have things go their way, especially GLORIOUS BORU, who added one untimely mistake into his race just as the pace was picking up. DYLANSEOGHAN found the ground a bit too quick and looked after himself on it. He is old enough to have earned it!
16/9/20: After an enforced early break we were hoping to get the horses out a bit earlier, but so far the dry weather is in the way - Plumpton this Sunday is a little bit on the quick side for any of ours. However, we have consoled ourselves by picking up a couple of horses at the Doncaster sales. The first to mention is MONTY'S AWARD, a 125-rated chaser who won as recently as August. He has trained up a bit light but should be built up quickly. See the Ownership page for syndication details. He was expected to go for a bit more, but probably suffered by being lot 292 and thus everyone who was afraid of vampires had already left the sales before dark. Also cheaper than expected was DREAM DU GRAND VAL. He was an unhappy camper at Nicky Henderson's and though he had a rebuilding stint at Sue Smith's, Trevor Hemmings decided to sell up before Dream Du Grand Val got to run for her. At present we will not syndicate him until we have proven that he is back in the right mental state for racing, but his 135 hurdle rating suggests it will be well worth the effort.
17/5/20: As you can imagine, not much has happened since our visit to Market Rasen. Only two more days racing took place from that time. As of now, all the horses are turned out for the summer, and the social media accounts will have the odd update, mostly videos of the horses behaving either very like horses or completely irrationally. As they ended their season early, we will be looking to bring them back in a bit earlier, and have a few more runners in October than usual - weather permitting.
16/3/20: The good/bad fortune rollercoaster was in full tilt this weekend. The main sufferer was CLONDAW ROBIN who was going really well at the third last in his race at Fontwell. At that point he was struck into by another horse and picked up a really horrible cut that will take some time to heal. The consolation is that it does not appear to have damaged the tendon, which could easily have happened. The day after we had a bunch go to Market Rasen. The best result was SCRUTINISE getting a second place to a horse who won a week earlier and did not get a penalty because it was a conditional riders' race. A solid effort in what turned out to be impossible circumstances. On the same day CAGLIOSTRO was third over fences - lack of suitable alternatives meant running from seven pounds out of the handicap in a class higher race than he has been contesting. He jumped well, so that will be the weapon that we will try to exploit in future. An honourable mention for WATAR ALLSTAR who was fifth in a chase. His jumping was spot on but after the race James Davies reported that jumping and galloping at full speed still is a confusing concept for the horse, We can be optimistic for when his brain catches up with his physique. Also good news from Market Rasen - they offer a bottle of champagne and a complimentary post-race tipple if your horse finishes second, third or fourth. That gets a thumbs up!
Finally - rest assured that we will be keeping an eye on all recommended Coronavirus countermeasures and complying with them. What we do not feel a need to do is email everyone about it on an hourly basis...
13/3/20: The attempt to shame Fate into giving us an instant change of luck failed, as two horses went to Southwell on Sunday and disappointed. However, there must have been something to do with international time zones going on, as on Monday three went to Plumpton and they all exceeded expectation and finished third. IMPULSIVE LEADER began it - Marc Goldstein gave her a nice ride, got her jumping well and finished well, where in the past her previous fretting undermined the energy for the end of the race. She was beaten only five lengths, OUR DOT'S BABY was next up and she looked like a potential winner turning for home but just could not handle a couple of in-form opponents. Rex Dingle rode, knowing the horse from having rode her in the past, and felt that she would prefer a level track over Plumpton. Finally O'Rahilly. He had lost his way a bit chasing in deep ground but was fine hurdling on it and was also only beaten by five lengths.
7/3/20: It has been hard to match up a horse with race and then have it actually take place recently, so no notable results have been there to report. When did get one KING OF THE SHARKS unfortunately picked up a significant tendon injury and will be off for a year. This came soon after we lost YEATS BABY to a multiple leg fracture that she picked up when turned out. Commiserations to the owners of both, and hopefully this is just a short burst of misfortune.
3/2/20: It was hard to find suitable race that was actually on in the last couple of weeks. We even were left with just one entry at Plumpton, which is now off anyway. The stand out display has come from GLORIOUS BORU on going that he was less than totally in love with. However, he lost by just a couple of lengths and took a huge step back in the right direction compared to his disappointing day at Lingfield.
11/2/20: It had been a quiet week and a half since Benny's triumph at Fontwell. The best had been an improved show by OUR DOT'S BABY at Market Rasen in a chase. She did not quite qualify for the note of being competitive at the finish but she was right in the mix two out and is going in the required direction. CAGLIOSTRO was next to earn a mention, threatening a place at Huntingdon and then losing out due to match fitness. Perhaps he was shocked that a race he was entered in failed to be abandoned. Then Plumpton came to the rescue the day after the big storm. Well, Plumpton provided a stage that had not blown away and not for the first time FINNEGAN'S GARDEN was on hand for the star performer - it was his tenth success and fourth at Plumpton. Not bad for a former old-enough-to-know better delinquent, who has turned into a ruthless assassin when the oppo let their guard down. He and Page have become the McFadden & Whitehead of Sussex horse racing.
4/2/20: A brief update about a new arrival to race in the Lump O'Clock Syndicate Colours. The mare concerned is HONEST OSCAR, who has run in one Irish point-to-point and finished third by just three lengths. We are hopeful that she has a big future. .
28/1/20: A triple header of a local meetings was supposed to take place but Lingfield was taken away from us by the rain. So we had to make do with Fontwell and Plumpton. The former went very nicely as BROTHER BENNETT won the 2m 2f chase. Page sat patiently with him, as is needed, whilst the pace got silly and between the last two fences he only had one more rival to pick off. That happened halfway up the run-in. The two other runners on the day both need further - O'RAHILLY got outpaced and out of his comfort zone in the same race as Benny, and RUACANA was pitched at a tempting five horse race but did not adapt as we hoped. The following day we had six runners and proper hope for a ninth winner of the season. Instead we had four fourth places, which is incredibly frustrating. CLONDAW ROBIN was our main hope but he did not enjoy the course and hung most of the way round, At least he knuckled down to get fourth late on. It was a shame as the bad conditions would have suited him. THE GAME IS A FOOT has a shot at a three mile hurdle and did not last in the bad ground, Page giving him an easy time once better was out of reach. Next up was DYLANSEOGHAN in the rain. Page suggested that the chase course was by this stage barely raceable, and whilst they hung on in contention to the final turn, a well handicapped opponent dashed clear in the straight. And in a rather waterlogged closing hurdle SCRUTINISE suffered the same issues as Dylan. Summary: Good weekend, could have been better.
22/1/20: The star turn for the last few days was DYLANSEOGHAN, who dispensed with the previous shenanigans and was back to form at Plumpton, finishing second in the conditional jockey's veteran's chase. In the interests of balance, should there not have been a veteran jockey's juvenile hurdle too? One race that was missing from the rearranged card was the 0-100 two mile chase, which was extremely disappointing as in the next three weeks the only other options were Fontwell, Ffos Las and Newcastle. On the same card QUEEN AMONG KINGS made a very satisfactory debut over hurdles. We were supposed to have runners at Leicester on the following day, but the now habitual abandonment was due to frost. It always seems to be meetings with Secret Circle runners that end up being off. The message here must be "Don't mess with the occult, kids!"
19/1/20: A belated update (sorry Kenny!) on FINNEGAN'S GARDEN, who got his ninth chase win in twenty-nine starts. The editorial policy was that there were plenty of entries over the week so one big round-up would be ideal. Other than every other meeting where we had runners being called off, it was the perfect plan. Anyway, Finnegan's Garden enjoyed a stroll around his local course and was the only horse still on the bridle as they started off down the hill. From that point on he was incredibly sensible, as per normal, and had enough in hand to keep the pursuit at bay on the run-in.
8/1/20: Since the last update we have had a couple of third places, both in Kenny Corke's colours. FINNEGAN'S GARDEN went to see what he could do in a televised race at Sandown, and it turned out that he could do very well. The leaders never quite shook him off, but he was just short of the zip to pick them off from the second last. The following day IMPULSIVE LEADER took on one of the Plumpton's Cheltenham bonus novices' chases. By not travelling very far from home she was much more comfortable with the overall raceday experience and popped round over the fences very efficiently. A couple of other runners that had been in good form, RUACANA and SCRUTINISE, did not cope with drying and tacky ground.
30/12/19: And now the last round up of 2019 - Happy New Year and please do not expect some new jokes for 2020 as the current crop have served us so so well. The best result recently was from sturdy old FINNEGAN'S GARDEN who finished a close third in a handicap chase at Leicester. On the same day OUR DOT'S BABY finished sixth at Newbury. She again ran really well to the second last but did not get home in testing ground. It looks as if our race search must concentrate on good ground. And then maybe race less prominently. Boxing Day was a wash out in that our best chance, BRANDY CROSS, had his race abandoned. Apparently nobody predicted that sending dozens of horses repeatedly over a very narrow strip of turf would chop it up a lot. The three runners that beat the abandonment did not place but YEATS BABY was in contention to the second last, which was much improved on recent efforts, THE GAME IS A FOOT found class 3 level a bit beyond him and BROTHER BENNETT needed the run after some time off, only losing fourth on the run-in. Look right for some rain affected art.
19/12/19: And another nice December week. SCRUTINISE doubled up on Plumpton wins (they are a bit like fruit pastilles - one at a time is never enough, hence in France July 15th is Pastille Day). After a bit of a faux pas three out he initially hit the lead without shaking off the pack but before the final hurdle Page asked for another effort and it was all there to give. On the same day O'RAHILLY jumped neatly to be third in a chase (beaten by a devastating effort from a horse that was ahead of him last time and a horse that has been placed in Grade 2 company). A day later GLORIOUS BORU made his chasing debut and had a nice chug around Fakenham. Like many horses, he found the very tight turns, short straights and undulations a difficult combination but ended up in third despite that. Among the also rans was DYLANSEOGHAN, who put in a lacklustre display at Plumpton for which the trainer's quote was "he has been acting like an arse all morning, so I am not surprised." A stern finger wagging is coming his way.
11/12/19: More good efforts from the latest clump of runners, star of the show being CLONDAW ROBIN, who picked up his first ever win with a muddy trudge around Fontwell. This sort of success is extremely satisfying because when he came over during the Summer of 2018 Robin was a very nervous sort of horse and it took ages to get him settled in and treating Shovelstrode like home. It was the same once he was racing, and if you watch the race video (here) Robin puts as much distance between himself and the other runners as possible. As long as that is distance front to back as often as possible, we can live with it! The honourable mentions are as follows: OUR DOT'S BABY made her debut for us in very testing conditions at Sandown and showed up very prominently until she ran out of steam two out. She eventually pulled up but there were oodles of positives (an oodle is more than a doodle). After his Lingfield fourth RUACANA made a quick reappearance on the same day and finished fifth in a Listed handicap hurdle, beaten by nine lengths. What strides forward he has made in the last few months. On the same day that Clondaw Robin won, BRANDY CROSS had another improved day, finishing fifth of sixteen. Early in the home straight it looked as if something really good was coming but he struggled to see out 2m 5.5f in the very wet conditions. And today we had two runners at Leicester. CAGLIOSTRO was beaten eight lengths into fourth having got a bit outpaced mid-race but then keeping on nicely and we nearly had a delight in the last race as THE GAME IS A FOOT succumbed by just a head. The horse that pipped him was only born after The Game Is A Foot had already run in nineteen races, so this does count as bullying of the elderly and the government would need to do something about it, if we had one. And in all this there have been four or five best turned out awards as well. Finally - don't forget the Christmas Owner's Morning this Saturday - from 10.30.
3/12/19: Well, it has been a fine week so far, and it has only just started. The first runner was O'RAHILLY on his chase debut at Plumpton. The presence of Lisp, and a couple of others prevented him qualifying for the Cheltenham bonus, but he jumped soundly, picked up fourth place and is ready to take on his peers. The day ended on a top note as SCRUTINISE got his first ever win, cruising along in great comfort to nab the two mile handicap hurdle on the same card. He was one of three that went clear in the back straight and once the other two had come under pressure he had nothing to fear but fear itself. Due to not getting the reference, Scrutinise just noodled home at his convenience. Watch Scruff's win on ATR here. On Tuesday we went to Lingfield with three contenders. RUACANA could not get his hat trick but he finished fourth to horses getting sixteen, seven and fourteen pounds from him respectively so it was a very game display. Then the grand old Duke of Mud was in action. THE GAME IS A FOOT finished second on his favourite track, only beaten by a couple of lengths in the end. The day got even better as after being presented with the small field that suit FINNEGAN'S GARDEN he got his eighth career win, the last seven of which have not involved leaving Sussex or Surrey. Watch Finn's win on ATR here..