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..
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.