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..
25/11/19: Two more runners to report and the first was a seriously close call by SCRUTINISE on his debut for us. It took him a little time to wind himself up to full steam ahead but once he got to that rate the train analogy continues and he was making ground hand over fist (not that trains have hands, unless there is a some small piece of engineering called a hand somewhere in the machine). Unfortunately he failed by a head and a short head but it was his first finish in the top three. After that YEATS BABY went to Ascot and found testing conditions too hard. She needs a bit of a drop in the handicap and fences to bring about her best.
9/11/19: Doing an update before the Flat jockeys' hurdle at Lingfield was bound to be a good omen, and so it proved as RUACANA skipped away on the run-in to land a race that we do rather like. Former winner THE GAME IS A FOOT landed the best turned out and also the Secret Circle bragging rights as he was third, with O'RAHILLY in fourth. A couple of years back Colin Tizzard speculated that with three of the top five in the betting he "had the Gold Cup by the balls" only for fate to not take that lying down and plague the trio with setbacks. We were in the same position here, but the trouble maker was the airline that Trevor Whelan was using to travel over from Ireland for Ruacana - his flight was cancelled. As anyone will know who saw on the BBC or Racing Post websites, a stressful last ditch Twitter appeal got Racheal Kneller volunteering to stand in - she was obviously delighted that she did and played a stormer with no prep. Rounding up riders was a bit of a challenge, but we had Tim Clark and Phil Dennis in hand early for the other two horses. As Gary Moore noted, a simultaneous Kempton flat meeting was most unhelpful but there were some other good excuses as well. "I have to wallpaper our Christmas yurt" was one. "I need to finish writing my biography of the third Earl of Sandwich" another. The best was the jock who had to deliver a pine marten to Burkina Faso. Turned out it was a wolverine - wow, was that plane a mess when it landed... Anyway, the link to the attheraces page with video is here
18/11/19: Since Ruacana's win all of the horses have run well, five runners all ending up in the first four, but unfortunately none winning. Taking them in finishing order, then chronological order if tied, then on goal difference. The most honourable mentions start with BRANDY CROSS who ran a cracker on seasonal debut, seen off only by a well handicapped winner at Fontwell (last race of the day, so poor picture quality). James Bowen did not bottom him out, as we were a bit tentative to see what the wind op had done, so we were very pleased with the outcome. At Plumpton a day later DYLANSEOGHAN matched his result in the three and a half miler, beaten only by a Gary Moore horse who had also enjoyed course and distance success. He only conceded on the run-in and was pretty tired afterwards having had heavy ground which is not his favourite, so the next step will be dependent on his recovery. He might sneak into the Sussex National on a nice low weight. On the same day FINNEGAN'S GARDEN finished third to better handicapped horse who also likes two and a half milers at Plumpton. It was a big step up on his comeback run, but he needs a bit of relief from the handicapper at the moment. Finally we had two fourths at Uttoxeter. CLONDAW ROBIN was first up, his best effort yet. Now he is mentally more mature and less nervy he can go on form there and challenge for wins. On the other hand IMPULSIVE LEADER is making more erratic progress, although she was also fourth. Last time we sent Rupert the pony as a travelling companion and all went well until she started a fight with him. Rupert may not have the size, but he has some sneaky tricks, so this time he did not join the voyage. Due to an early start, we stabled on the course overnight and Impulsive Leader box-walked incessantly from arrival. She also posted a Trip Advisor review about Hotel Uttoxeter that said "It was OK but is desperately short of chickens." We may have to create a racecourse near Shovelstrode and stage solely mares only races to satisfy her.
12/11/19: The weekend started on a non-participation note. A bruised foot ruled OUR DOT'S BABY out of her Sandown return and then our trip to Stratford was aborted when the River Avon waterlogged the course, Apparently land higher than water is considered essential for racing - it is hydrometrical correctness gone mad. Things took a mighty turn for the better a day later when RUACANA made a winning start for us. In testing ground there was the worry that all the work done to nurse him back to his best could be undone if he took exception to the challenge. In fact he relished it and was staying on strongly and was only slightly off of first place when the leader fell at the last. GUSTAV had a less elite comeback later on but having got as far as retirement in the last eighteen months, just getting a race into him was a big step. Watch Ruacana's finish here.
7/11/19: There has been a splurge of runners lately, almost all of them in their winter campaign debut. In chronological order... IMPULSIVE LEADER - went to Chepstow, hated the ground and lost a shoe as well. A rather annoying day all round. CAGLIOSTRO - they put on an extra ideal race for him at Huntingdon and he ran a cracker to be second, just running out of puff in the home straight. Jumped well and James Best gave him 5/5 for effort, so there is definitely something to work on there. BROTHER BENNETT - fourth in a Plumpton race over a bit too far. He needed a slowly run affair and did not get it, so did as well as could be expected in the circumstances. HARRY HAZARD - also at Plumpton, needed the run but took home some prize money by also finishing fourth in his seasonal pipe opener. O'RAHILLY - one of two in the the final race and we hoped that a longer distance would allow him to stay in touch and be a serious challenger before it was too late, Page was riding and felt that he disliked the ground but also was not happy going downhill on the far side, even in this lesser pace. PETE'S CHOICE - pulled up in the same race, absolutely loathing the heavy ground. WATAR ALLSTAR - did not get on the winner's heels at Exeter but finished an acceptable sixth of thirteen. GLORIOUS BORU - also went to Exeter and for reasons unknown jumped like a complete numpty. This is not his normal method, so hopefully it was just one of those off days. KING OF THE SHARKS - will probably never be a horse to completely excel first time out but he was beaten by just five lengths and was not quite close enough to take advantage when Sandy Boy tried to take out all of the horses in front of him. Several of these will come on for the spin and a couple we learned that we need to be a bit more ground fussy.
23/11/19: And we leap into autumn action like a great big leapy thing (a gazelle? - Ed). The first salvo was fired at Stratford. KILINAKIN ran a cracker via an uncontested lead and was only pipped close home. Unfortunately he picked up a tendon injury and whilst we have not yet ascertained the full degree of it yet, he is going to be out for some time, BROTHER BENNETT went on the trip with him and despite not being an archetypical first time out horse, he was third by only a couple of lengths in the style of the same old Benny, Two days later O'RAHILLY was out at Plumpton - he got a bit too far off of the pace but finished like a train (next stop O'Rahilly Road Station, Ballymagreehan, where there is a bus replacement service back to Shovelstrode) for fourth by four lengths. The pair who tried Fontwell, FINNEGAN'S GARDEN and DYLANSEOGHAN, did less excitingly but on balance it was an encouraging few days.
12/11/19: A nice drop of rain this week! It has allayed some fears that chosen opening races for some horses may have going too quick, so next Saturday Kilinakin and Brother Bennett should both be on their way to Stratford, and everyone who was thinking on Plumpton, Exeter or Fontwell just afterwards should be fine too.
13/9/19: Just a quick note that due to availability, the October owners' morning is now on the final Saturday of September, on the 28th. To inspire / console (depending on how this fits your response), have an art picture looking up the schooling gallop. Also, a belated addition to the horses in training list as GUSTAV is back with us, having seen dramatic improvement with his old leg injury.
27/7/19: The horses are back in light training (and quite happy for plenty of shade on the hot days). The August owners' morning has been postponed to 1pm on Sunday August 18th, with a parade of all the horses. Please let us know if you plan to attend to that catering can be scaled appropriately. Meanwhile, one of the most important roads in Ulster...
17/6/19: A quick update to add the final couple of new arrivals - RUACANA and YEATS BABY, both multiple winners so far.
27/5/19: One runner this week - GLORIOUS BORU. He was runner-up at Uttoxeter, behind the horse that won the previous race that he contested. It was a decent run all round, but he is a little young to have developed an arch-nemesis already. A revenge plan is being hatched. We also spent what seemed like a million hours going through the Doncaster Sales catalogue, and after another thousand or so hours of watching horses being auctioned, we came away with the couple - OUR DOT'S BABY and BLARNEY BATELEUR. The former came from Jeremy Scott, where she overcame early clumsiness to win over hurdles and be placed at Listed level. The latter won her only Irish point in a very big field - both in terms of the number of runners and the geographical location. We have also got CAGLIOSTRO from Tommie Dowling. The horse is named after an infamous medieval Italian alchemist and magician who unsurprisingly turned out to be an almighty conman. Hopefully the horse, who has had a injury setback or two, is not taking notes on this. There are a couple more to be revealed as well. Pictures to add to the Gallery soon.
12/5/19: We had two runners at Plumpton's final meeting, both in the novice hurdle. There was nothing much else local for O'RAHILLY so we had to run him in a shorter race than ideal. He got a bit outpaced but stayed on stoutly from the second last and Tom was very keen on his potential for next season. DEVIOUS DICK'S DAME was again her own worst enemy, pulling hard early and wasting too much energy. James Best confirmed what we thought about her - no lack of physical ability but she has a lot of mental catching up to do. He actually felt with half a lap remaining that she could challenge for a place, but the early silliness had taken too great a toll. Aside from the racing front, there have been a couple more mares' joining the retired roster. MAISY BELLE was an experimental purchase which has not succeeded and VENETIAN PROPOSAL has suffered a loss of appetite for the job.
22/4/19: A small catch-up after Easter. BROTHER BENNETT finished second at Plumpton. It had looked like a golden opportunity for him but one opponent whose performances are widely variable had a going day and got the better of him. On the same card DEVIOUS DICK'S DAME finished fourth in the juvenile hurdle. She was a bit of a handful at the start (where Andy was stationed in order to give her a stern talking to) but for the race itself Tom gave her no chance to indulge in silliness and she completed problem free. The other side of the coin had been a week earlier when WINDY BOTTOM was running a huge race at Stratford and had every chance of winning, only to suffer a serious tendon injury.
12/4/19: Back to Fontwell for FINNEGAN'S GARDEN and he was able to complete the hat trick. With two opponents wearing very similar colours to him, it was not always easy to keep track during the race but once he led three out Finn had the situation under control, although it was notably harder work than the last two. On the same day we had GLORIOUS BORU running. After his multiple moments of bad luck at Exeter, a bit of good fortune was due. Fighting his way into contention in the home straight, he then had the leader unseat at the last in front of him, and not only did that horse hamper him, the runner-up also did taking his own evasive action. Worse, the loose horse then badgered him for half of the run-in and he was only beaten byb two lengths. Everyone likes to say that these things even out over time - Glorious Boru is owed a massive favour somewhere. Follow the link at the end of the previous paragraph for replays on ATR.
7/4/19: Well this is shaping like a good spring. We took five runners to Plumpton and bookended the quintet with wins, a double also for Page. Firstly we cunningly managed the entries and got FINNEGAN'S GARDEN and BROTHER BENNETT in very suitable six runner chases. Finnegan's Garden has really flourished since his Fontwell win and turned out looking in A1+ shape - could not find the infinity symbol on this font to upgrade him from that. The oppo worked hard at him but there was no stopping Finn on the day. Brother Bennett is a bit more dependent on things falling into place as he would demand it and this time it did, although a day earlier Rory gave him a veterinary once over and was certain that Benny was in good a shape as he had seen him. From the other three, O'RAHILLY came on a bundle for his comeback and finished fourth. Unless the weather remains bad, it is probably too late in the season to bring him into winning form but this gave us something to look forward to. HARRY HAZARD made his handicap debut stepping up to two and a half miles and finished fifth. His inexperience showed when he made a very untimely blunder three out, just as the pace quickened. In contrast to O'Rahilly, the benefit should for him is more likely to be a mental advance. The only disappointing run was MAISY BELLE but it was not her fault. She was less wound up than previously before the race but hated the rain loosened going and could not put her best foot forward. So if we do not have the bad weather to keep O'Rahilly on the go, she will be getting what she wants. The ying must balance the yang, the good must balance the bad and the fruit cake must balance the broccoli. Watch reruns on ATR.
22/3/19: A couple of places to report on this week. Firstly we were very pleased to see KING OF THE SHARKS start to show his true merits at Exeter. He finished third to a couple of horses already rated in the mid-130s, and was well clear of the rest. Hopefully he will sustain this momentum. A day later BROTHER BENNETT was also third, at Huntingdon. Things never looked good when the leader flew off at a mad pace (Benny hates that) but he got caught up in an odd incident when every horse bar the first two made a mess of fence eight. Maybe they were collectively startled by the ghost of Wenceslaus II of Bohemia? It probably cost us second place. Finally a word of consolation for GLORIOUS BORU from Exeter. He found one of those races where everything went wrong. If a horse was going to hesitate approaching a hurdle or go off at an angle, they did it front of him. If a horse was suddenly going to veer off in search of a gap, they did it into a gap that he was looking to take. In the end he just ran out of evasive manouvres - better luck next time.
17/3/19: WINNER! At last. Good old FINNEGAN'S GARDEN does the trick for us at Fontwell under a good ride from Page. Thanks to Kenny for his patience through various inconveniences this season and his unrelenting optimism that only deserts him for the five minutes or so that Finn is actually racing. Watch a replay here.
15/3/19: Three runners this week, which might have been four but Page was claimed to ride at Cheltenham so we gave the lady riders' race at Huntingdon a miss. On Monday we had BRANDY CROSS at Plumpton, where he ran his race sensibly rather than than a touch hysterically. Now that he gets how the job works we can progress more aggressively with him. Meanwhile at Taunton, VENETIAN PROPOSAL also settled better than she has been and ran better as a consequence. Unfortunately she was badly hampered with half a lap to go and could not chase down the main quartet. Definitely a better performance than the result shows. At the end of the card BROTHER BENNETT got a very encouraging third. Turning for home we were entertaining thoughts of a win but he is a stuffy horse who had been off for eight weeks, and that found him after the second last. Dare we hope that he will decided to come good in spring, just like last year? And in "not this week" news, HARRY HAZARD went to Sandown on Grand Military Gold Cup day, running very well in the novice hurdle, despite a rather rude racecard comment regarding his prospects.
3/3/19: We had a busy day at Plumpton, but not a successful one. WINDY BOTTOM ran OK in a frantic handicap hurdle in which she was unable to quite get with the leaders. Other races will be easier. BRANDY CROSS and HARRY HAZARD both did all expected in the novice hurdle, which was all part of bringing them along sensibly. MAISY BELLE approached her racing much more sensibly in a new bit, but now her mindset is more functional we probably need to put her up in trip and DEVIOUS DICKS DAME again showed promise in the bumper but with the whole field well bunched, she got the worst of some serious scrimmaging on the final bend. Now we have the update from A&E. PETE'S CHOICE made his chase debut at Plumpton but picked up a tendon injury. At first we thought it was a serious one, but when scanned there was no hole, tear or bowing, so it appears that he just bruised it - he will need some time off, so that is his season finished. DYLANSEOGHAN, in one of those acts of zero self preservation instinct that horses love to get involved in, was out in the field and decided to have a roll. This led to his injured leg getting caught in the fencing. At first it appeared that he had aggravated his injury quite badly, but when the cold light of day shone upon us, it has not turned out to be as bad as the first impression implied. Finally, with suspicion that his splint injury is still niggling away and the ground turned against him, THE GAME IS A FOOT will not run again this season.