11/6/18: With all the horses turned out, or about to be, there will not be an owners' morning on the first Saturday of July. However, the plan is to get then all back in on August 1st, so everyone can have a good look at the new ones on the first Saturday of August. The plan is to have the first runners ready for mid-October.
25/5/18: Things are starting to get quiet around the yard as most of the horses are having a summer holiday. The main news has been the expiry of our previous sponsorship arrangement with Jeanie Marshall Foods, who we would like to thank for everything that they have put into the yard. The new sponsors are Stone's Ginger Wine, and we look forward to an equally productive partnership - especially in the middle of winter! Finally, the spring sales have been in full flight and we have some new horses to look forward to for next autumn. See the Secret Circle and Ownership pages for those in which shares are available.
21/5/18: Two recent positives. DYLANSEOGHAN followed up his Stratford win by handling the very different challenge posed by Towcester. He had previously been placed in five out of seven races since December 2016, so he really is sustaining a productive spell well. Most recently VENETIAN PROPOSAL ran a corker to be third in a novice hurdle at Plumpton's final meeting of the spring. It is a great omen for what she can go on and achieve over hurdles. However, after a spell of being more or less aggro free, there have been some minor setbacks. DYLANSEOGHAN finished lame at Towcester, although fortunately he got over it really quickly and probably just knocked a nerve or something else minor. FRANK N FAIR uncharacteristically burst a blood vessel at Fakenham (although we were again fortunate that it was of the minor kind), GUSTAV also picked up an injury, which will keep him out until the autumn and another small, short term incident kept BROTHER BENNETT out of an appealing race at Plumpton. It is a swings and roundabouts scenario, but it is never clear if the swings are good and roundabouts bad, or vice versa.
24/4/18: GUSTAV does it - bringing up winner number fifteen with our last possible runner of the season, as exclusively, and a bit tentatively, predicted on here two days previously. Bashing around Exeter is never an easy option, but Gustav really enjoyed it, and seemed to have a little bit in hand. So that means The 2017/18 Season. That is us drawing a line under the 2017/18 season. We finished on nine of the eleven horses fielded winning, picking up fifteen successes between them. That was from sixty runners, of whom another twelve were placed. A big thanks to all the team at Shovelstrode for their hard work during the season. Also to the riders who picked up the wins for us - Tommy Dowling, James Bowen, Page Fuller, William Featherstone, Noel Fehily, Rob Hornby and Nick Scholfield. A big shout out to Rupert the travelling pony, Magnus the horse whispering magpie, and most of all to the owners who have stuck with some slow developing chasers of a type not totally fashionable at present.
22/4/18: At last!!! DYLANSEOGHAN wins. We upped him to three and a half miles at Stratford and he really relished it. It has to said that after the races he has recently contested, he had earned the success the hard way. Now we have eight of the eleven horses to have raced this jumps season as winners. The three who have not won each only have two races this season, and of them Gustav has an entry at Exeter on Tuesday...
15/4/18: A pretty good weekend. We shall take it chronologically because it builds to a crescendo and we wanted to prove that we could spell chronologically. Type it correctly and it looks wrong... First off we had GUSTAV at Chepstow, where he finished third. He was staying on nicely and threatened to do more when a bad error three out knocked the stuffing out of him. A good performance apart from that. Next we had four run at Plumpton. VENETIAN PROPOSAL ran a really nice race to be fifth in the maiden hurdle - showing what she can do if the build up to the race does not include a traffic cursed seven hour ride in the horsebox. TRY CATCH ME was also fifth, progress on his comeback run and as a teenager, he cannot be dragged to fitness quicker than he wants to. FRANK N FAIR came next, finishing second at her 'traditional' course and distance. That was enough to book her place in the Norfolk National next month. Page Fuller gave her a good ride and got reward for her efforts when she won on BROTHER BENNETT in the penultimate race of the day. After no wins and multiple wind ops, plus one on his back as well, it was very satisfying to see Benny get his nose in front - and with a final distance of a short head, it really was only his nose. He is the seventh different horse to win for us this season. He wishes to make it known that he had no advice from a magpie, as he considers Magnus to be a trick of ventriloquism.
11/4/18: The latest close call for DYLANSEOGHAN came at Kempton, where he was a four lengths third. The three horses that beat him over his previous two races, both at Leicester, have won seven races between them since, so surely he will deliver the goods soon? Meanwhile, in END OF SEASON NEWS, we are having an Open Day Light (as in not a full tilt open day) on Saturday 5th May. The idea is to celebrate the successful season with an afternoon of food, drinks and a parade of the horses that made it all possible.
1/4/18: Well done to FINNEGAN'S GARDEN, who gained his third win of the season (and our twelfth) at Plumpton's Easter meeting. It was not plain sailing, as Finn was travelling best on the final bend but got stuck with a wayward loose horse between him and the leader approaching the second last. Noel Fehily had seen Finn test his alertness at the top of the hill when he broke a pattern of quietly efficient jumping by opting for a huge leap at the first fence in the back straight, and Noel showed great patience to wait for a suitable gap to open up. We got best turned out as well
23/3/18: The horses that have run have not done much to report, but we should not underestimate what KILINAKIN managed at Huntingdon. Trevor Whelan reported that he was a bit outpaced having been upped in grade, and was short of jumping fluency as a consequence. He certainly lost more than the dozen lengths that he was beaten. Next stop will be a lower grade again or trying something in the 2m 7f or 3m range. Also we have Get Well Soon to Tommy Dowling. Having survived GEORGIESHORE over fences, he was unseated from the safer conveyance of FINNEGAN'S GARDEN, cracking some ribs and getting tw fractured verterbrae from it. He is likely to be off for some time.
9/3/18: Within a week the score was eleven. We are waiting for our congratulatory telegram from Nigel Tufnell. The horse that added the next score was KILINAKIN. This was a blessed relief because his ability to get into injury related mischief would have tried the patience of a saint this season. Even if he was put under 24 hour surveillance, you would not even dare to turn your back and make a cup of tea for fear that he would kick or step on something less fragile than a horse. A job well done via a good patient ride by Tommy. On the same day GUSTAV had his first race for almost a year and ended up third, running excellently until the gas ran out late on. We also had OPEN HANDED making his racing debut on the all-weather, but he dozed off in the stalls and hopefully learned that he is supposed to be racing at the same time as all the other horses - it is not a time trial!
5/3/18: TEN UP FOR THE SEASON!! This was done thanks to FINNEGAN'S GARDEN, who got rewards for a phenomenally consistent season by getting his second win of the season. James Bowen rode a perfect race by stalking the leaders down the hill and going for home successfully once it had flattened out. Although we knew two miles on heavy ground is a good fit for Finn, he did well to hold off a runner-up who was quite a speedy hurdler at his best. There is also a gap to report as we had missed off a third at Chepstow before the snow. Surprisingly for the time of year Chepstow was not testing enough for him, although he was unlucky to bump into an inconsistent winner on who had got out of bed very much on the right side that day. Those watching on television may also have missed a bad mistake that Finnegan's Garden made at the last fence in the back straight - the field was well enough bunched to hide it. On the same day GEORGIESHORE made his log awaited (?) chase debut, although it should be noted that Tommy Dowling was rather more optimistic about it than most people. The horse jumped safely but big and slowly, being second of two finishers. There could be some mileage in digging out place money in small field novice races when the conditions suit but an ideal handicap hurdle is not available.
19/2/18: The quest for winner number ten stalled in the last few days as three horses went out, did their best and failed to hit the target. Taking them in chronological order: DYLANSEOGHAN finished second at Leicester, getting himself in with every chance of winning and then finding one horse finishing off the race much more strongly. He continues to rattle on the door knob. GEORGIESHORE took a step up in class at Sandown (and best turned out) but could not cope. He was barely a length off of finishing fourth, staying on up the hill. And finally FINNEGAN'S GARDEN went to rainy Lingfield and got bogged down in the worst of the mud, finishing third. A couple of omitted fences probably helped some of the oppo more than our chap.
12/2/18: The day started quietly with our two contenders in the jockeys' space hopper race failing to deliver. Sporting the Lump O'Clock colours Aidan Coleman managed to fall off at the start, and Tommy Dowling (in the Secret Circle silks) seemed somehow to have been practicing on the wrong sort of space hopper. Fortunately for us, Tommy proved a bit better versed on how the horse racing would go as he predicted the unfolding of the 3m 1f handicap hurdle perfectly, and delivered THE GOLDEN HOUR to break her maiden tag. There was a spell about a mile out when she needed to work a bit to get up to the leaders, but those that had contributed to a fierce pace began to weaken and she outstayed a horse that finished second over course and distance two weeks back. Katie also won best turned out. And we had a nice lunch in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund and it was a generally splendid afternoon. Magnus the magic Danish magpie is not allowed to take any credit for this as he has done no work with The Golden Hour. He has promised to compose a poem in her honour but as is experimental start was "Kaaaarrk, kaaaarrk, kaarrrrrrkk" it probably will not be worth reproducing.
1/2/18: A busy week, and we could take it in chronological order, or be full of pride and do it in results order. The latter sounds as if it will work. THE GAME IS A FOOT has run twice in the last few days. He was fourth on very heavy conditions at Lingfield, but when it was clear that nothing better was going to be possible (he made a mistake at the third last hurdle, climbing the hill, and was a bit laboured afterwards) Tommy Dowling looked after him whilst ensuring that the pair made the best possible placing. So we took a chance and declared for a reopened race at Towcester. The horse was full of life, so we went there, and The Game Is A Foot won it - two opponents hitting the deck three out made life easier for him - take note Mr. Handicapper. Four wins in a season is a great return. Also at Lingfield was FINNEGAN'S GARDEN, who was dropping down to two miles in order to get a race of the right level. He finished second, the tactics being to use his stamina by ensuring a strong pace. Unfortunately we bumped into one opponent who was in peak form and he ended up second, still running well. At Leicester on Wednesday, DYLANSEOGHAN was a close third - beaten less than five lengths and again threatening that a win is not far away. That Danish-speaking magpie is doing a good job as an armchair psychologist. At the same meeting GEORGIESHORE ran a decent race trying to follow up his recent win, finishing fifth of fifteen - getting hampered possibly cost him a finishing position, maybe even two. He is next on the block when the magic magpie has finished with his current project. And back to Plumpton on Monday, where FRANK N FAIR was not at her best but still picked up fourth place - Tommy felt that she was a little flat and needed a short break. So the score for the season is eight winners and eight places from only thirty-four runners, plus we have found that The Game Is A Foot will win when his trainer has a short holiday because he fears a stern telling off when she gets back...
23/1/18: Since the new year we had a little run of the sort of bad luck that had been avoiding us late last year. FINNEGAN'S GARDEN had an unseat, DYLANSEOGHAN got messed about at the start and then could not, or perhaps would not go the pace (see Editor's Note below), so when we took three to Leicester today and it began with DYLANSEOGHAN unseating, the omens were not of the brightest kind. Forty minutes later things were looking up, as GEORGIESHORE won in just the style that we would expect of him. Bottomless ground, make the running, balloon a couple of hurdles and because it was only two miles use his stamina to see off the challengers. Tommy Dowling kicked on (sort of) in the straight, and whilst two or three came cruising through to make their challenge, none of them could get past our hero. A marvellous return to form and it set a new personal best for wins in a season. In the final race we also had a very encouraging show from THE GOLDEN HOUR, who found the deep ground less than pleasant but still stayed on for third place. And then we went home very satisfield.
Editor's Note: On the "if only they could talk" principle, I applied some logical thinking to diagnosing what upset DYLANSEOGHAN in the first run mentioned. We cannot talk to horses, but magpies are pretty clever, so maybe they can, and then translate into a human language. Unfortunately, my first "volunteer" magpie only understands one human language, and it seems to be Danish, but there is definitely something to work on there.
7/1/18: Sussex National day at Plumpton. The day started on a low note as FINNEGAN'S GARDEN was forced by a small knock to miss a race that he had a splendid chance of winning. That left FRANK N FAIR to carry the flag in the feature race - and what a great job she did. Tommy Dowling rode his usual race, loitering at the back in comfort and then move through the field after passing the stables for the final time. The difference at this level is that they were going much faster earlier on and there were still runners going strong at the business end as well. The final outcome was third place for FRANK N FAIR, and once it was clear that no better was on the way, Tommy let her have as easy race as was possible to get third. Sponsors At The Races despatched Sir Bob Cooper to Shovelstrode to get the FRANK N FAIR lowdown, and the results can be viewed on the ATR player at http://www.attheraces.com/atrplayer#
22/12/17: As has become a stable tradition, the last Friday before Christmas saw GEORGIESHORE off to Uttoxeter. He put in his traditional performance for the track - lead, lose position under pressure turning into the home almost-straight and then stage a recovery from two out. The final outcome was a solid third, but might it have been better? Does he hate railway lines? Is he a conspiracy theorist who fears the grassy knoll by the second last fence? Is this speculation nonsense? We may never know. Joining him was BROTHER BENNETT, who also finished third. He got a bit roughed up before the second last hurdle and ran out of room on the rail, but the winner was on a real going day and he would only have been runner-up without the trouble. Again it was a solid effort. And finally - MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS.
8/12/17: Our first ever double! At local Plumpton! Winners five and six of the season! From only nineteen runners! Are there too many punctuation marks here? There had been some near misses on a double in the past, but the landmark was achieved via FRANK N FAIR and FINNEGAN'S GARDEN. After her lively race two weeks ago, Frank N Fair had a relatively stress-free spin around this time, with Tommy Dowling on board. He made a move forward on the top of the hill, and nothing got in her way from the third last. FINNEGAN'S GARDEN had a tougher passage. He made his only mistake at fence four and it caused the saddle to slip. Fortunately Tommy was able to get the tack sorted out before the next jump and without losing any ground. A lap later the only rival remaining competitive fell and we had a nerve wracking half a mile of schooling round before the result was sealed. You can watch a replay of FRANK N FAIR here http://www.attheraces.com/racecard/Plumpton/18-December-2017/1350 and FINNEGAN'S GARDEN here
8/12/17: A really busy day yesterday with four runners. No winner, but the good results mostly continued, so for reasons of not forcing fake dramatic suspense on readers, we will take them in order of finishing position. DYLANSEOGHAN gets pride of place, with a close second, despite it being a year and a day since his last race. Trevor Whelan was riding and he reported that Dylan blew up in the back straight, early enough to get back a proper lungful of air and finish the race quite strongly, grabbing the runner-up slot on the line. In the evening at Chelmsford, VENETIAN PROPOSAL ran her umpteenth fine race of the year to end up in third place. Now back to Leicester, and another seasonal debutant, GEORGIESHORE, performed well to be fourth (a head away from third place) in an event which he was a close second in 2015. Tommy Dowling was very pleased with the run, apart from the inevitable jumping ten feet too high (approx) at the first two hurdles. The only disappointment of the quartet was THE GOLDEN HOUR, who is now destined for a wind operation.
5/12/17: Back to Lingfield for THE GAME IS A FOOT and the hat trick was completed. This time we tackled a higher grade race with a lower weight and were also able to get James Bowen to ride, sporting a handy five pounds claim. As an exercise, it was tiougher going than the past two wins (inevitably) but out hero just outbattled the winner as the winning post loomed. Watch the race at http://www.attheraces.com/racecard/Lingfield/5-December-2017/1530
4/12/17: A very nice weekend/Monday round up. The Monday saw FRANK N FAIR at Plumpton and BROTHER BENNETT at Fakenham. The last time the pair ran at different places on the same day she was brought down and he unseated, all in the space of less than ten minutes. So on this day superstitious people were desparately trying to disprove superstition, and the non-superstitious were refusing to acknowledge how fate can bring bizarre coincidence upon us. In an astonihsing parallel, two horses unseated at the bottom of the Plumpton hill, but the preferred alternate reality saw Frank N Fair (Tommy Dowling on board) hit the gap and exit the danger zone untouched, and well clear. Two safe jump and the race was in the bag. Now the coincidence believers were getting quite enthused, but Brother Bennett could not get around the tight Fakenham turns in a race run at a strong pace. A day earlier FINNEGAN'S GARDEN went to Leicester and finished second - yet another horse bringing home prize money. Two fences out Trevor Whelan thought he would win, but Finn's lack of a prep race caught him out for fitness and we were left if not regretting his inability to make the warm up race at Lingfield, both rueing and lamenting it. Watch Frank N Fair's race at http://www.attheraces.com/racecard/Plumpton/4-December-2017/1440
25/11/17: Owners morning 2nd Dec. Slightly different format this month, in order to make it a Christmas social. We are looking to start at 10.00, have a few horses on the gallops after that and follow it with a spot of brunch. See you there.
24/11/17: And so we had another of our occasional trips to Fakenham, who were, as ever, very welcoming to the long distance travellers. Things started with a bad omen, as FRANK N FAIR unseated after an uncharacteristic error. The race was won by Kayfleur, who had finished behind our mare at Fontwell, so we HAD to think of victory as a real option.Fortunately, when the human beings are contemplating the worst case scenario, the horses do not gives two hoots (or is that only owls?) so the other two runners had things go much better. THE GOLDEN HOUR had not run for quite a while and finished third - she will be better for the spin. Exactly the same outcome happened for BROTHER BENNETT, He did give us a nasty flashback with a mistake at the fence which foiled Frank N Fair, but third place was there for grabs, and he took it. Again - better for the run.
14/11/17: And off we go to Lingfield for THE GAME IS A FOOT to pick up his second win in eight days, despite having to race at somewhere that is not Plumpton. This was the flat jockeys hurdle race, and we managed to secure the right man for the job - Rob Hornby, who began his racing life with Henry Daly with a plan to be a jumps jockey. Slightly tapped for toe coming down the hill, stamina came into play from the last hurdle and The Game Is A Foot has plenty of that, so he won going away. A speculative entry for Plumpton next Monday has been made, but unless it looks like being an easy race, he will not do three races in two weeks - even though in his current mood the horse probably would volunteer to. Sadly heis yet to volunteer to muck out his own box. Our other runner on the day deserves an honourable mention. KILINAKIN jumped well on his chase debut and was eased when lack of match fitness cut in from the second last. Interestingly, Marc Goldstein's verdict was that two miles in testing ground would be fine for Kilinakin, which was not an option that we had thought of, and gives us a wider range of races to choose next. PS Apologies for the photo quality, but it is what happens on a gloomy November day when you leave the camera setting on 'sunny.' Dimwittery of the first order!
7/11/17: What a splendid day at Plumpton. It ended with Will Featherstone turning over the hotpot in the final race with flying assistance from THE GAME IS A FOOT. Check out what a brilliant record the horse has at Plumpton. Half an hour earlier FRANK N FAIR had finished second in the handicap chase, jumping well and finishing strongly. We have waited with some patience for the horses to come right and the ground to follow suit, or vice versa, and it paid off here. There should be plenty more racing activity in the next few weeks, at a variety of locations around the country. For good measure at Plumpton FRANK N FAIR won best turned out (again). To see THE GAME IS A FOOT delivering, the replay is on ATR at http://www.attheraces.com/racecard/Plumpton/6-November-2017/1610
6/9/17: Bulletin from all the owners - Congratulations and good luck to Andy and Zoe for the wedding on Thursday!
5/9/17: A small update to report that BOLD MAX has been retired, and he has found a home where all that is required is a horse to a) ride and b) wipe his uncontrollable tongue over people's clothes. He was a perfect fit. The horses back in are coming along nicely and the plan is for the bulk of the jumpers to be ready to race by late October - as ever the ground will dictate whether that plan can be adhered to.
2/8/17: And VENETIAN PROPOSAL acquits herself with honour again. This time it was over 1m 2f, but she enjoyed good to soft at Lingfield and finished third. At a key stage in the race she did get disrupted by some general jostling, but having finished a couple of lengths behind the runner-up, it did not necessarily cost her a place, just made ensuring third that little bit trickier. She has had a good summer so far.
16/8/17: Another good Lingfield run from VENETIAN PROPOSAL. She found the standard of competition a bit easier than Sandown, but the extra furlong and softer going meant that she did not quite power home as strongly as she did when winning there. There was enough to be going away from the bulk of the field, but two horses showed just a little bit more stamina where it mattered and she was beaten a length or so - hardly crisis time. Earlier in the day it was nice to see so many people at the August owner's morning, and with the rain having gone away, the horses were terribly sociable as well.