THURSDAY 11th JUNE 2015

 

OVERWHELMING PRESENCE

Channel 4's viewers of the 2015 Derby may have been down about 25% but physical attendance on the day reached 125,000, the highest ever one-day crowd at a British sporting event. It represents a 5,000 increase over last year's Epsom spectacular. The day before Derby Day was Ladies' Day, featuring the Investec Oaks, when 26,375 (up 5% on last year) were present to watch the victory of the 50-1 outsider, QUALIFY.

 

The Regional Director of Jockey Club Racecourses London, Rupert Trevelyan, commented: We have had a fantastic day, crowned by the people’s favourite, Frankie Dettori, winning the Investec Derby on Golden Horn in impressive fashion. Racegoers have had a thrilling day in glorious weather and we look forward to welcoming them back next year. It has been an amazing Investec Ladies’ Day with a brilliant atmosphere and some thrilling racing. The finish to the Investec Oaks was particularly exhilarating and we saw a worthy winner in Qualify.”

 

THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN

The biggest sponsorship in British racing history has just been announced. QIPCO has decided to extend its support of the British Champions Series, British Champions Day, Newmarket's Guineas festival and Ascot until 2024, in a deal that is believed to be worth more than £50 million. It seems the agreement is intended to establish Royal Ascot as a £5m fixture, making individual race sponsorship at the royal meeting, in the word of one Ascot race official, "unnecessary". The deal will also include the raising of the prize money for next year's 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas to half a million pounds.

 

Sheikh Hamad Al Thani, Qipco's Chief Executive commented: My company is privileged to build an association with the very best of British racing. His fellow director Sheikh Fahad, Chairman of Qatar Racing, added: "We love racing and are very enthusiastic about it. We are helping racing but this is a 100 per cent business decision. Our racing sponsorship has brought a lot of business to Qipco. Events like Royal Ascot and British Champions Day are televised worldwide so we get a return from the sponsorship. For us it is a win-win situation.

 

Rod Street, CEO of the British Champions Series said: "Four years ago Champions Day as worth £2 million, which made it the richest day's racing in the UK. It doubled to £4m, which included extra money from the sponsor, and this year the day will be worth a little more than £4m. This now means we can continue to grow with our next target being £5m."

 

A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

A 34-year-old jockey, whose father was Irish champion jump rider 10 times, is clearly following the paternal path. Fran (Francis Martin) Berry rode his 1,000th winner in Ireland at Fairyhouse yesterday. He was aboard the Anthony McCann-trained SHABRA EMPEROR in the Follow Us On Facebook Handicap. It didn't look an easy victory as the six-year-old son of HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR was well back in the rear as the field entered the straight but then he found something extra and came from almost last to first to win the seven-furlong race by half-a-length.

 

The Ireland-based winning jockey now has a total of 39 winners over hurdles and 961 Flat winners since 1996 when he kicked off his winning streak in a sprint handicap at Navan, riding LOUGHMOGUE, trained by his father Frank.

Fran Berry commented: "When I was getting my clearance to go to Japan last year I was told at the Turf Club that I had ridden more than 960 winners and I’ve been doing my sums since then. It means a lot. This is my 20th season riding and having 50 winners a year is probably a good average in Ireland, plus I’ve missed a lot of time relatively through injury so it’s good to have kept going and to have reached a landmark like that."

 

WEDNESDAY 10th JUNE 2015

 

DREAMS OF THE RISING SUN

Trainer Kazuo Fujisawa and owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto have two European ambitions that seem perennially to be out of reach. The first one is Europe's most valuable race, the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe which has eluded them year in year out. The other is to have a winner at Royal Ascot. The latter is on their agenda for next week and the focus of all their attention is to run the talented SPIELBERG in the Prince of Wales's Stakes.

 

The Japanese trainer commented: "Spielberg is one of the best horses in Japan and finished third in the Japan Cup a few years ago, but we feel he's better over a mile and a quarter and won the Tenno Sho at that distance last November. He likes to come from behind and we hope he can be competitive in what looks a strong race. We have booked Christophe Soumillon, who is a top-class jockey."

 

LIKE IT OR LUMP IT!

Finally Newcastle has got the go-ahead for an all-weather track and many trainers are not very happy and have condemned the plans. The High Gosforth Park racetrack will present its its last Flat races on turf in September and in the first quarter of 2016 it will reopen as an all-weather track which will have cost around £11 million. The development have been delayed for a while because of a technicality in racing’s rules which requires at least one race of more than a mile on each card. Finally this problem was circumvented by reaching an agreement with racing’s powers-that-be that some twilight or floodlit cards will start earlier than normal, which will permit one race at least to be run on the circular track while it is still light allows. That is because the current plans only allow for the straight mile to be floodlit. Newcastle’s turf Flat track been the subject of much praised from some trainers and its disappearance has provoked sadness and anger from many others. Andover-based Ralph Beckett was one of several who voiced his opinion on Twitter, commenting that it was “difficult to think of a more depressing announcement for the sport” and newmarket trainer, Ed Vaughan described ARC’s plan as “an act of vandalism”. Tim and Mick Easterby, based in Yorkshire also regret the development and indicated that they would preferred an all-weather track at Catterick, whose plans may now be abandoned as a result of Newcastles plans.

 

William Haggas, whilst acknowledging that that Northern trainers need an all-weather track nearer than Southwell added: “Surely this isn’t the answer. The only way we can stop it is to not support it. It will have to be a desperate situation for me to go there. Never say never but I certainly won’t be leading trainer there. Field sizes will suffer as the horse population shrinks and opportunities increase. You could be a blind man and see that. And this will impact on the all-weather tracks in the south, as the Johnstons and the Faheys won’t come down as they have done.”

 

There are no definite dates yet for the new Newcastle's opening as development progress could be delayed if there is a harsh winter. Next season's jumps fixtures will be moved elsewhere. The Fighting Fifth Hurdle will probably be staged at Doncaster in November but will then go back to Newcastle where the intention is to retain the jumps turf track. However, The Northumberland Plate, the track's famous Flat race, will be run on the new surface.

 

One North Yorkshire-based trainer, Richard Fahey, distanced himself from many of his colleagues by welcoming the news: “I think we need [an all-weather track] and whether that is at Newcastle or not, we had to get one sooner rather than later. If no other course wants to take the bull by the horns and set the wheels in motion, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be Newcastle.”

 

HE SOCKED IT TO HIM!

After more than a year's absence from the track an eleven-year-old son of OVERBURY spoiled a big gamble on the favourite by winning the Follow Us On Twitter At starsports-bet Handicap Chase at Fontwell yesterday. Being saddled for the first time by Tim Vaughan, TACHBURY, with Richard Johnson aboard, outmanoeuvred the Gary Moore-trained KNOCKYOURSOCKSOFF, who had been backed down from the early odds of 10/1 to a surprisingly short 13/8. The favourite looked like pulling it off as well under Jamie Moore but somehow didn't have enough to outrun TACHBURY who took the two-mile-five-furlong contest by a length and a quarter.

 

The winning jockey commented: "Tim was pretty confident off the mark he was off. He'd won his couple of point-to-points and was in good order. Obviously, when we saw the horse of Gary Moore's get well supported I think there were a few thinking we'll not be able to beat him, but it's been great. He jumped quite well on the whole, apart from when I got upsides Jamie when he seemed to forget what to do, which, for an 11-year-old, is strange. Considering the mistake at the last he was quite good to get up."

 

TUESDAY 9th JUNE 2015

 

DERBY DOWN AGAIN

Despite having the attraction of watching Frankie Dettori – probably one of racing's most recognisable faces – aboard an unbeaten favourite, GOLDEN HORN, the numbers of TV viewers for Channel 4's broadcast of Saturday's Epsom Classic plunged again for the third year in succession from 1.95 million in 2013 to 1.47 million this year. Significantly Channel 4 attracted under half of the viewers of the 3.3 million that the BBC produced in 2012, the last time it screened the Derby. These poor results come at the wrong time for Channel 4 as their exclusive four-year terrestrial television deal comes up for renegotiation at the end of next year.

 

Steve Lyle, Channel 4's Commissioning Editor for sport, noticeably wanted to sound upbeat when he commented: "Once again, the Derby was the most watched channel at 4.30pm - movement between volume and share saw us attract just under 1.5m for the feature race."

 

At least one organisation has had something good to say about Saturday's spectacular. Bookmakers, Betfred, named after its co-founders Fred and Peter Done, were full of praise for the half-an-hour later start time and claimed it contributed to record turnover.

 

Andrew Griffiths, Betfred's spokesman commented: "We were fully behind the move to a later start time and the figures all point towards it being a huge success. The additional 30 minutes build-up obviously gives punters more time to place their bets and this was reflected in record-breaking turnover in the shops and online. There has been talk in the past of an evening start time for the Derby but we think it's found the perfect slot. Thousands of punters who backed Golden Horn were able to play up their winnings on the Champions League final, where Barcelona rounded off a nightmarish day for the bookies."

 

DEAD FOR SIX SECONDS”

Despite suffering life-threatening injuries that left him "dead for six seconds" a 25-year-old jump jockey aims to get back into the saddle again. It's almost two years since Brian Toomey's horrific fall from SOLWAY DANDY at Perth on July 4, 2013 resulting in his having to be placed in an induced coma in the Ninewells Hospital's high dependency unit for two weeks and have surgery to reduce swelling on his brain. All in all, he was in hospital for 157 nights.

 

The North Yorkshire jockey commented said: "It's been a long road back, but the one thing that has driven me throughout my recovery, and the main thing that has kept me going, was a desire to be a jockey again, and I am delighted that I've been cleared to ride. Following the accident, the paramedics said that I was dead for six seconds, but they managed to resuscitate me. Then when I made it to the hospital they thought that I only had a three per cent chance of survival. Now here I am, two years on, ready to race ride again. I know there will be people who will say I'm mad to want to come back but as part of my rehabilitation I had to retake my driving licence and when I passed the instructor told me I had a 20 per cent chance of being in a car crash so that put things slightly into perspective.”

 

FRANKEL AND HENRY

As a build-up to its coverage of Royal Ascot Channel 4 is to broadcast a one-hour documentary on Saturday June 13 at 7pm, called “The Trainer and the Racehorse: The Legend of Frankel” in memory of the late Sir Henry Cecil. The programme will relate how FRANKEL became the ultimate champion racehorse and influenced the last years of the legendary trainer, Sir Henry Cecil.

 

Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Sport, Steve Lyle, commented: “This documentary is a wonderful addition to our vast Royal Ascot broadcast and launches what is set to be a tremendous week of top class sport on Channel 4. "The Trainer and the Racehorse: The Legend of Frankel” is also be available to view online and through our VOD service.”

 

Amongst other facts in the documentary will be the recollections of Lady Cecil: "Frankel was an intelligent and exuberant horse. He had a magnificent action, with that extraordinary stride that made him stand out. Henry worked with him, along with his work-rider, Shane Fetherstonhaugh, to channel that enthusiasm in the best possible way. He learned to settle beautifully in his races. He was definitely a dominant male and, along with his three-parts brother Bullet Train, enjoyed leading the string out onto the heath every morning. It was fabulous for all of us to have such a charismatic and talented horse in the stable."

 

MONDAY 8th JUNE 2015

 

SAD BLOW FOR WILLIE

The French Champion Hurdle (Grande Course de Haies D'Auteuil) yesterday sadly eluded Willie Mullins' superstar, HURRICANE FLY who only managed sixth. The son of MONTJEU even with the expert assistance of his jockey, Ruby Walsh, just didn't seem to have what it takes and it was left to his stable companion, THOUSAND STARS, with Katie Walsh aboard, to uphold the honour of the Closesutton Stables by making it to a creditable runner-up position. This 11-year-old son of GREY RISK has become quite a regular visitor to the Paris Hippodrome Auteuil having won on four previous occasions. All in all was a successful Anglo-Irish raiders' day as the winner was the David Pipe-trained UN TEMPS POUR TOUT who made all the running under James Reveley, the number three slot being taken by Paul Nicholls's ZARKANDAR.

 

The winning trainer commented: "It was a fantastic race. Horse and jockey were very brave and galloped all the way to the line. Ballynagour ran well and finished fifth, but the trip was probably better for Un Temps Pour Tout than it was for him."

 

Patrick Mullins, son of the County Carlow champion trainer, commented on THOUSAND STAR's performance: "He seems to keep his best form now for Auteuil in May and June. He's a credit to the yard and he's a remarkable horse at 11 years of age."

 

However he went on to say about HURRICANE FLY's disappointing ride: "I thought you could tell after the first hurdle that he didn't look comfortable. He finished sixth so he got some prize money. We'll give him his holidays now and he'll come back in training next year and we'll see how he is then."

 

THAT'S A PRICE, FOR A START!

Time for a change in the way we bet, it seems. There is to be a consultation on a possible alternative to the long-established starting price system which is the main basis for settling horse racing bets in this country. The organisation that supervises the integrity of the SP is The Starting Price Regulatory Commission and it has asked anyone with strong views as to continuing viability of this betting to come up with a workable alternativey. This initiative seems to have come about after many punters complained about the unacceptably high 'overround' during the Grand National, which was set as high as 165% and led to accusations that off-course bookmakers were manipulating the system completely to their advantage and and to the detriment of punters. (Simplistically put, if an overround is 125%, then the bookmaker can expect to make a profit of 20% so 165% is excessive!) The Commission insists that none of these allegations has been been proved with hard evidence but it has promised to examine any examples of potential manipulation of the system and any other complaints.

 

The SPRC commented: "The large total overround in the case of the 2015 Grand National is clearly of concern to the SPRC from the point of view of fairness between bookmakers and punters, as are allegations of wrongdoing on-course. Accordingly, as part of its continual review, it is launching this consultation, inviting all concerned to give the Commission their views. However it is easy to forget the advantages of the SP. It is a tried and tested system. It is simple to understand, punctiliously administered and the number of complaints the SPRC receives about its operations is, despite the latest coverage, negligible. It does what it says on the tin. Sophisticated punters who prefer a different flavour have opportunities to place their money elsewhere, for example taking guaranteed prices, or bookmaker special offers, or using the betting exchanges. That many still choose the SP is testimony to the advantages of the system.”

 

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

Last year's winner of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes who failed the Triple Crown is heading for Royal Ascot but not with the first-choice jockey aboard. Connections of CALIFORNIA CHROME really wanted Frankie Dettori to ride him but he is already booked to partner the John Gosden-trained WESTERN HYMN in the Group One one-mile feature race on June 17. So they have opted for William Buick whom they already know as the jockey who steered their PRINCE BISHOP to victory in the Dubai World Cup at Meydan in March.

 

CALIFORNIA CHROME is a temporary guest of Newmarket trainer Rae Guest, who commented: "William Buick's going to ride him. Connections of the horse wanted him to ride. They did want Frankie, but he's going to ride Western Hymn. They wanted one of the good English or European jockeys and William beat them in Dubai so they know him and he's available."

SUNDAY 7th JUNE 2015

 

RUN LIKE AN EGYPTIAN!

On the 14th attempt in 37 years racing history was finally made at Belmont Park yesterday. The Bob Baffert-trained AMERICAN PHAROAH, with Victor Espinoza aboard, won the 147th renewal of the Belmont Stakes to become only the 12th horse in history to complete the US Triple Crown which involves winning the Preakness Stakes, the Kentucky Derby as well as the Belmont Stakes. Eleven previous contenders have failed this daunting challenge since AFFIRMED won in 1978 during which time America has elected five presidents and fought three wars.

 

Not only did this son of PIONEER OF THE NILE claim this prestigious prize but he did it by soundly trouncing his rivals with a start-to-finish gallop, winning the $1.5 million 'Test of the Champion' by five-and-a-half lengths. Despite the many doubters, the three-year-old bay colt always looked a winner and any fears about his stamina were soon allayed as he easily went into the lead, allowing no rival to get closer than a couple of lengths. AMERICAN PHAROAH indeed deserved the the resounding cheers from the 90,000 well-wishers in the stands

 

The 62-year-old trainer's comment was: "I didn't know how I was going to feel; now I know and I'm very emotional. I'm just thinking about my parents - I wish they'd been alive to see this but they were with me today. I was thinking about them the whole race. He's just a great horse and I felt good about him. I knew he was training well but you've got to have the horse. Down the backside I knew if he was a great horse, he was gonna do it. And he's a great horse. I feel like I have a very special horse and he's the one that won it, not me."

 

The Mexican 43-year-old jockey, Victor Espinoza, who had two previous attempts at a Triple Crown on WAR EMBLEM and CALIFORNIA CHROME added: "That trophy has given me a lot of stress but to finally get it...the third time is the charm.”

 

A WELL-TUNED HORN

Two years ago the 44-year-old Italian jockey was for the proverbial high jump when receiving a six-month ban for failing a drugs' test. Yesterday he was back to his customary celebratory high jump from the saddle after winning his second Derby (last time in 2007 on AUTHORIZED) after twenty years of trying. This success came courtesy the John Gosden-trained GOLDEN HORN who was adding an extra two furlongs to his repertoire, as his longest trip was when he won the Betfred Dante Stakes over ten furlongs at York in May and that was a furlong further than the norm. In fact, concerns about the son of CAPE CROSS's stamina had been the main reason his owner, Anthony Oppenheimer, had strong reservations about running his colt at Epsom but then he relented at the eleventh hour last Monday and forked out the £75,000 supplementary fee for late entries. In the event GOLDEN HORN justified the confidence placed in him by 'boldly going where he hadn't been before' (to paraphrase a well-known saying) and claiming the prize in style.

 

ANOTHER 'D' DAY!

It was 'D' for Dobbs Day at Epsom Down yesterday. Jockey, Pat Dobbs also went boldly where he hadn't been before. He won his first Group One contest in the Investec Coronation Cup on the Richard Hannon-trained PETHER'S MOON, in what turned out to be a disappointingly contested event, as there were only four runners after Roger Varian's AYRAD and the John Gosden-trained ROMSDAL were pulled out earlier in the day, meaning even the last horse would claim £20,000. There was general speculation that the cup would be retained by France – Cirrus des Aigles won it last year – as this year the Alain de Royer-Dupre-trained DOLNIYA, winner of the Dubai Sheema Classic in March, looked as though she would have it all her own way with only last year's runner-up, Andre Fabre's FLINTSHIRE, to contend with. The calculations, however, underestimated somewhat the skills of Pat Dobbs and the persistence of the son of DYLAN THOMAS which combined to defeat them both.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He was very good. He's loads of ability, but he pulls up when he gets to the front. He's run some good races, he obviously handled the track and he loves fast ground."

 

The County Kildare winning jockey didn't stop there. He went on to make it a double 'D' Day by scoring in the Investec Out Of The Ordinary Handicap on the Amanda Perrett-trained BLUE SURF.

 

SATURDAY 6th JUNE 2015

 

IT'S DOUBLE 'D'- DAY

Today not only are we commemorating 71 Years Since the WW2 Landings in Normandy on 'D'- Day June 6th 1944 but we are also celebrating another 'D'- Day – Derby Day. The inaugural running of the race that came to be known as 'The Derby' was held in May 1780. It was decided at a dinner gathering that this new contest should be named after either the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby, or one of his guests, Sir Charles Bunbury. Legend has it that the decision was made by the toss of a coin. It's just as well that Lord Edward Smith-Stanley won the toss because somehow 'The Bunbury' doesn't have the same ring about it. (It sounds like the character in Oscar Wilde's 'Importance of Being Earnest”!) The first four renewals of 'the Derby' were run over the distance of one mile but this was subsequently changed to the current distance of 1½ miles in 1784. The Derby has been run at Epsom in all years except during the two World Wars.

 

The English Derby has inspired many similar events around the world. There are now European variations such as the Derby Italiano, the Deutsches Derby, the Irish Derby and the Prix du Jockey Club (popularly known in the British Isles as the "French Derby"). Other national equivalents include the Australian Derby, the New Zealand Derby and the Tokyo Yūshun. Even the United States have adopted the "Derby" name, witness the Kentucky Derby

 

Today's Derby will now be run on ground officially describes as 'good, good to firm' after a dry afternoon yesterday and no rain overnight. Andrew Cooper, the Clerk of the Course, announced this morning: "We've stayed dry and a dry day is expected and the going change reflects this. The easier ground remains in the lower part of hill. Temperatures are forecast to reach 20C and it looks like the 2015 Derby could be run on ground described predominately as good to firm.”

 

These drying conditions were certainly what trainer John Gosden was hoping for to give his star, JACK HOBBS, a chance of competing but a final decision will not be made until he has walked the track later in the day. The Clarehaven Stables' trainer commented earlier today: "We would have run yesterday and we want to run but I'll make my decision when I've walked the track. The ground was quickening by the end of play yesterday and it depends how warm it gets."

 

STAKES HIGH IF NOT INSUPERABLE

Today is another kind of 'D' Day in the States. It marks the 147th renewal of the Belmont Stakes. AMERICAN PHAROAH, (that's how they spell it!) trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Victor Espinoza, will attempt to become the twelfth winner of the Triple Crown (The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.) However, this New York Classic is not nicknamed the 'Test of the Champion' for nothing. The 1-mile-4-furlong challenge is a severe test of equine strength and stamina that has eluded every single Triple Crown hopeful since 1978 when AFFIRMED completed the historic sequence. Since that time thirteen horses have run in the Belmont Stakes hoping to complete the triple and not one of them has succeeded, although they were victors in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. ,

only to fall at the final hurdle awaiting American Pharoah in New York as he faces seven rivals in Saturday's $1.5 million highlight of a card featuring six Grade 1 races altogether. S much so that this aspiration has acquired a kind of legendary holy-grail status in the American racing world.

Trainer Bob Baffert is no stranger to failure as he has been here three times before with SILVER CHARM in 1997 and REAL QUIET (beaten a nose in 1998) and WAR EMBLEM in 2002.

He commented: "I never thought I'd go through this again. I'm reminded every year of Real Quiet and Silver Charm. He is a different horse than they were. You really don't know until the whole series is over how good the horses are. I'm just hoping I brought the right horse here, but we won't know until halfway into the race. He hasn't given me anything to worry about. So far we like what we see and we're excited about him. We know we're against it. This is a very tough race with a lot of very nice horses in it. It's exciting. I never thought I'd be back here again in this position, but the way he won his races, and then the Preakness, he was so dominating that day. When he's right, he likes to dominate. He's that kind of horse. Hopefully, he can bring it one more time."

 

50/1 TO QUALIFY IN OAKS

Who'd have thought it! The apparent complete outsider of a string of three contenders in yesterday's Investec Oaks gave Aidan O'Brien his fifth victory in this prestigious contest. QUALIFY surged through the last furlong to mug the favourite, the David Wachman-trained LEGATISSIMO, on the line to become the afternoon's shock 50/1 winner. It was no easy race for any of them but Ryan Moore seemed to have it sorted as he urged his son of DANEHILL DANCER to go clear about a furlong from home. He had perhaps underestimated his weighing room rival, Colm O' Donoghue's riding skills as he steered QUALIFY on the outside of the field and narrowly beat the 5/2 favourite. Interestingly this year's Oaks victor is not owned as expected by the Coolmore Stud but was bred by Aidan O’Brien and his wife Anne-Marie.

 

The winning Ballydoyle trainer commented: “She didn’t get a clear run at the Breeders’ Cup and the plan was to run in the two Guineas. The run at Newmarket went a bit wrong but she ran a really good race at the Curragh. She finished really well off a very slow pace and one-one really noticed her. ’

 

Colm O’Donoghue added: “This is the highlight of my career. I’ve come second In a Derby (Treasure Beach in 2011) and I’ve won an Irish Derby (also on Treasure Beach) an Irish Oaks on Bracelet (2014). I’ve been fortunate to ride around the world and have had some big winners but an Oaks is very special.”

 

 

FRIDAY 5th JUNE 2015

 

THE DERBY'S AFOOT!

The Derby story of the century has to be the one that has just come to light about the First World War wounded soldier who won the Epsom Classic without a horse. His name, which has remained a mystery until now, has been revealed as Harry Wimblett, known to his friends as 'Happy', who took part in this unusual Epsom Derby in June 1915 when he was 24. Ironically that was the year that the world-famous horse race was officially cancelled because of WW1. The Epsom Down track was at that time taken over by the armed forces as a location where wounded troops could recuperate and on the official day when the race should have been run, some of the soldiers thought it would be fun to stage the event - but without horses.

 

Harry Wimblett's son-in-law Geoff Bridger, 71, commented: "Two months after he was wounded, he was fit enough to run, and took part in the Epsom Derby. He beat his fellow soldiers, even though I imagine it would have hurt him to run. He died before I met him but my wife would speak very fondly of him. The whole of the grass area was given over to the army to run races on and the people in top hats weren't present. It was his moment of fame. In 1915 he became the only man alive to win the Derby without the aid of a horse.”

 

IRISH EYES MAY NOT BE SMILING!

Dermot Weld's son of SHAMARDAL is out of the Derby and thus has dented somewhat the chances of an Irish-trained colt winning the Epsom Classic for a fourth successive year. ZAWRAQ was slightly lame after a routine piece of work earlier in the week and unfortunately didn't recover in time to pass a fitness test prior to declaration for tomorrow's contest.

Owner Hamdan Al Maktoum's Racing Manager, Angus Gold, commented: "When Zawraq flexed one of his joints he was a bit sore. Maybe it is something to do with a joint that did not show up on the scans or X-rays. He did a bit of work this morning and moved beautifully but by the time he got back to the yard he was definitely not right again. It's very bad timing."

 

Of course, it's not the end of the world for Irish Derby hopes because there is still Aidan O'Brien flying the flag, trainer of the last three successive Derby winners and he has a trio of hopefuls declared. There is GIOVANNI CANALETTO, a full-brother to the 2013 victor, RULER OF THE WORLD OF THE WORLD, whom Ryan Moore has opted to ride. The thing is that this GALILEO son has only won one of his three career starts and didn't sparkle when he was pipped at the post by the David Wachman-trained CURVY in the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh two weeks ago. As was always on the cards, the Ballydoyle trainer has also declared KILIMANJARO and HANS HOLBEIN and his luck may be in as John Gosden, who is saddling the market leaders, GOLDEN HORN and JACK HOBBS in the Epsom Classic, has hinted the latter may not compete as the ground may be too quick.

 

KING MAY GO ROYAL

Last night's victory in the Seamus & Rosemary McGrath Memorial Saval Beg Stakes at Leopardstown could have been enough to give the Aidan O'Brien-trained KINGFISHER the chance of a crack at the Royal Ascot Gold Cup. This GALILEO colt came second to AUSTRALIA in last year's Irish Derby and seems to have been relegated for the rest of his three-year-old career to acting as pacemaker to his eminent stable companion and, therefore, was destined to end up usually back in the field in contests such as the Juddmonte International and the Irish Champion Stakes. The Whisperview Trading-bred four-year-old started off well this season when managing a good fourth behind Dermot Weld's FORGOTTEN RULES in the Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan. This success may have put the idea in his trainer's head that KINGFISHER is a champ in his own right and may just have what it takes to take on the Berkshire battle later this month.

 

Aidan O'Brien's thoughts were: "He has progressed well. We're thinking of the Gold Cup and trying to get him to slow down and relax. We were very happy with his run in Navan. If he runs well (on Friday) he could go to the Gold Cup."

 

SMOOTHLY AND CONNECTEDLY” - THAT'S LEGATISSIMO!

Ryan Moore is seeking to assert his domination of the British Classics and, to further this ambition, he will be aboard the David Wachman-trained LEGATISSIMO in the Investec Oaks at Epsom today. At the beginning of this season it was revealed the Brighton-born 31-year-old jockey would have first choice of the Coolmore collection for all the big races and justified his employer's trust by clinching a Guineas double at Newmarket aboard GLENEAGLES and his mount today. David Wachman's daughter of DANEHILL DANCER has had three outings this year season and has had a shortish break since winning the Qipco 1000 Guineas Stakes on he Rowley Mile a month ago.

 

The County Tiperary-based trainer commented: "Everything is good with Legatissimo. We've been happy with her since Newmarket and her preparation has gone well. We think she will get the trip but only time will tell."

THURSDAY 4th JUNE 2015

 

THE FEMALE RACE

A coach at the Newmarket British Racing School seems to have opened his mouth and put his foot in it. Michael Tebbutt has had to apologise for what he said about the riding abilities of female riders on a programme shown on the BBC website. The former jockey admits that he made what appeared to be sexist remarks ( “That’s women for you. Still can’t ride though.”) in an interview by Irish Grand National-winning jockey Katie Walsh but insists that his words were misrepresented. A contrite coach who was present at Nottingham yesterday to help oversee the hands and heels apprentice series race that featured two female jockeys commented: "What I actually said, both on and off-camera, because the interview went on for an hour, was that history will tell you that pound for pound male jockeys are stronger than females, but they didn't put that in. But it was said and needs to be apologised for, and I'm big enough and old enough to say I'm profusely sorry if I have caused offence."

 

Robin Mounsey, a spokesman for BHA, also said: "The comments are unacceptable. They are not views that anyone involved in racing would endorse or share. Racing is a unique sport in that women and men compete on entirely equal terms as jockeys and trainers, and female riders have the full respect of their male counterparts in the weighing room."

 

Former Derby-winning jockey, John Reid, added: "Every jockey I coach has individual strengths and weaknesses, no matter what their age or gender, and they will only gain race-riding strength and experience from racing. If a jockey doesn't get the rides they're simply not competitive as they miss that vital fitness and experience opportunity - there is no substitute for it. If female jockeys are not supported and do not get the rides the same rule applies, they all need the recognition and a much more level playing field.”

 

The chair (?) of Women in Racing, Sally Rowley-Williams, had perhaps the last word: "A woman jockey rode a not particularly good Flat horse I once owned and she won on him when even some of the strongest male Flat jockeys could not do so, underlining the point I make in the film about how irrelevant strength can be. And look at Katie (Walsh), she wins a National, out-riding the British and Irish champion jockeys and all others."

 

PEDALS FOR IRONS

Next month's racing at Newbury will witness the swapping of bicycle pedals for riding irons. Victoria Pendleton, a double Olympic cycling champion, will be on track to to make her debut as an amateur rider. The 34-year-old announced in March that she was training to become a jockey and her ambition was to compete in the Foxhunter Chase at next year's Cheltenham Festival. Sponsored by Betfair, the world's largest Internet betting exchange, Victoria Pendleton has had four months of intensive training, supervised by a team of experts, including eventing guru, Yogi Breisner, and former event rider Chris King. Five times a week she has been riding out at Lawney Hill's Oxfordshire yard and now it has been announced that she will take part in the George Frewer Charity Race on July 2nd.

 

The sprint, team sprint and keirin discipline specialist commented: "When I partnered with Betfair to switch saddles and become an amateur jockey, I knew it'd be one of the biggest challenges I've faced but I've already enjoyed so many exciting experiences. The first time I sat on a race horse and didn't fall off was a relief, the first time I cantered on the gallops was exhilarating and the first time I jumped in the riding school and schooled over brush fences were hugely satisfying and exciting steps for me. And of course starting to ride out with other jockeys at Lawney Hill's yard was a really proud moment, and gave me a feeling of belonging. Although I have to say taking part in this charity race, back in a competitive environment, will probably top my other experiences on this journey to date.”

 

CHANGING TRACK

Chelmsford City ( formerly Great Leighs) racecourse is planning begin work on two test areas of the track next week before the entire circuit is re-waxed with the aim of pmpleting the task before the end of July. Ever since the re-opening in January jockeys and trainers have vociferously criticised the track conditions and finally officials had to do something about it.

 

Fraser Garrity, the Racecourse Manager commented: "We recently had prepared two test beds of 25m x 2m on the outside of the track down the back straight but the suppliers Martin Collins said it was still too wet when they excavated part of it last week. They are coming next week to try again, weather permitting, and hopefully we will have it all completed by the end of July. We hope to have our seven furlong chute completed by out meeting on July 21. Although we have no seven furlong race programmed for that card we hope to have conducted the necessary tests by that date for use later on. Seven furlong races have been an omission that we are keen to address."

 

*The word 'chute' was new on me. I looked it up on Wikipedia! It refers to an extended path increasing the length of a straight portion of a racecourse, particularly an oval-shaped one, allowing races of a specified distance to start at a location other than on one of the turns.

 

WEDNESDAY 3rd JUNE 2015

 

THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC! (with apologies to Frank Sinatra!)

That old black magic has him in its spell

That old black magic horse riding weaves so well

The champion jockey's coming back to race

After insisting riding was no longer his place.

 

Tony McCoy'll be back up there where he feels fine

For Doncaster's Legends Classified Stakes September 9

The contest however is over one mile flat

And raising cash for Jack Berry House is what it's at.

 

And down and down he goes, round and round he goes

In a spin, and he's loving the spin that he's in

Under that old black magic called fame.

 

He should stay away but what can he do?

He hears his name and he's aflame

Aflame with such a burning desire

That only legs astride a horse can put out the fire.

 

He says Jack Berry bullied him into it

But he's been riding out so should still be fit.

He's no idea against whom he'll ride

But the excellent cause was what made him decide

 

And down and down he goes, round and round he goes

In a spin, and he's loving the spin that he's in

Under that old black magic called fame.

 

HORSES FOR (DIFFERENT) COURSES!

The first auction of ex-racehorses, organised by Brightwells Auctioneers and Retraining of Racehorses (RoR), has taken place at the Three Counties Showground in Malvern with twelve horses being sold for the sum of £7,070, an average price of £589. Altogether 28 ex-racehorses were up for auction, quite a few from National Hunt trainers such as Tom George, Venetia Williams and Anabel King Murphy but sixteen of them did not meet their reserve. The ex-racehorses included three-year-old mare, REET PETITE, originally trained by James Evans, with thirteen career starts, achieving one Second and one Third; 12-year-old STOREY COBURN, who had fifteen outings with two Thirds and BARTON BLOUNT the six-year-old gelding that fetched the the highest price of the auction - £1,100 - who is now destined for the stables of individual silver medallist at the World Equestrian Games in Jerez in 2002, Jeanette Brakewell.

 

The Chief Executive of RoR. Di Arbuthnot, commented: “Racing did its bit by providing horses for the sale which were suitable for sport horse market. As it was the first time we have tried this we are pleased with how the sale went, but in the future we need to do more with the auctioneers to ensure the buyers are there in greater force.”

 

Bloodstock Manager and auctioneer at Brightwells, Andrew Elliot, added: “This being the first sale of its type, we really did not know how it would be received. However, the feedback from trainers has been very positive and we are greatly encouraged by how well it has been supported. I am pleased with the quality of the horses entered and have no doubt that they will all have the potential to find a rewarding second career after racing.”

 

Every horse that is sold at such auctions is covered by a “non racing agreement” clause which is added to its passport to prevent the horse from returning to racing in the future.

 

SURVIVAL MONEY

Sad news about the fate of racing in Northern Ireland. Down Royal and Downpatrick, the only two racecourses there, are engaged in urgent consultation with Government because funding is reaching a crisis point. A green paper will soon be published by the Northern Ireland Executive's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) with the aim of deciding whether the courses are viable. Mike Todd oan official of Down Royal commented ominously: "The outcome of the consultation process will determine whether there will be horseracing in Northern Ireland in five years' time.”

 

It may not be well-known but horse racing in Northern Ireland does not receive government funding nor is there a levy in place as in the rest of the UK. Also the on and off-course contribution from bookmakers is not the same as in the Republic of Ireland and Britain. Bookmakers in Northern Ireland pay a licence fee to DARD which is added to the Horse Racing Fund. Down Royal and Downpatrick can only use this fund only for prize-money, integrity services and health and safety at the racecourses. It appears that this year that money was almost halved (£2,000 to £1,123) for the contribution from off-course bookies bringing about a dramatic drop in available funds for the two tracks.

 

Mike Todd added: "Both tracks are non-profit taking. We're here for the benefit of the sport and are extremely grateful to HRI for stepping in and helping out with this contribution. We're losing money and the situation is dire, in all honesty. All we're asking for is the bookmakers to pay a fair and equitable amount. We've lobbied the government for 18 months, asking them to do something about the amount of bookmakers' contributions. Now we're hoping common sense will prevail when the green paper is published. We rely on the licence fee from bookmakers as we don't get public money from government. None of the boards of the tracks get dividends, we work on a voluntary basis. This is a very serious position we find ourselves in."

 

TUESDAY 2nd JUNE 2015

 

HOW ARE THE MIGHTY FALLON!

If a jockey intentionally misses a chance to ride in the Derby, that's a momentous decision, isn't it? Well, it's just transpired that it looks like Kieren Fallon has decided to stay on in the States and probably won't return to ride at Epsom on Saturday. The six times champion jockey has not been seen in Britain or Ireland since the middle of last month. It is understood that he took a Winter break in California to consider his future. Apparently his agent, Simon Dodds was as surprised as anyone to learn that his client had been signed up as a reserve rider for the Patrick Gallagher-trained BELLE ET BETE, entered in the Oaks on Friday at Santa Anita. This a contest where the best of the female Classic generation show what they are made of. It is interesting to note that the 50-year-old County Clare rider has triumphed in this race four times already as well as claiming three Derby victories.

 

Kieren Fallon won the 2,000 Guineas victory last year when riding NIGHT OF THUNDER but his relationship with Saaed Bin Suroor seems not to have been the happiest so he went off to Santa Anita last October where he notched up four winners before coming back to the UK in March. To date he has ten winners to his credit. He must have been a little miffed when not called upon to ride NIGHT OF THUNDER again in last month's Lockinge Stakes when he won, this time with James Doyle aboard.

 

Patrick Gallagher commented: "If Belle Et Belle gets in Friday's race, Kieren will ride her. He hasn't been riding work for me, but he's been here (at Santa Anita racecourse) the last two or three mornings."

 

American Agent, Sarah Wolfe added "I picked Kieren up yesterday. We spoke briefly about it and he's named on a horse not drawn for a race on Friday yet, but he does intend riding at Santa Anita. I don't know how long he will be staying, but he is here now and he is planning on riding here as far as I know."

 

ALL CHANGE!

So now we know after all the speculation. Aidan O'Brien-trained GLENEAGLES will not run in Saturday's Derby but, instead, will make straight for Royal Ascot later in the month. The Ballydoyle king, who has claimed victory three times in this contest, will be saddling three hopeful colts in an attempt to uphold his record. His GALILEO filly, FOUND, who could also have competed in the Oaks, will by-pass the Epsom extravaganza, too, and concentrate on the

Coronation Stakes at Ascot. John Gosden's GOLDEN HORN and the Ken Condon-trained SUCCESS DAYS were both late additions to a field of 15 runners and cost a late-entry fee of £75,000.

 

Trainer Ken Condon commented: "Saturday looks set to be lovely, a picture-perfect Derby day and we will be there. He has won the best two trials in Ireland and he certainly deserves his place in the line-up."

 

NOT TOO HOT TO HANDLE!

The Dean Ivory-trained TROPICS was the decisive victor in the Weatherbys Private Banking Leisure Stakes at Windsor last night. This was the seven-year-old's first outing of the season after his making his mark last year coming second in the July Cup to Slade Power and runner-up at Ascot on Champions Day. With Robert Winston aboard, the son of SPEIGHTSTOWN noticeably gathered speed at about the the two-furlong pole and was soon dominating around one furlong from home.

 

A visibly delighted winning trainer commented: "What can I say, I'm so lucky to have a lovely horse like him. Mentally he's the best I've ever had him, he looks a million dollars and when he walked around he looked the best of the bunch. Hopefully we'll have a lovely bit of fun with him this year and win the Group One I've always dreamt of. The Diamond Jubilee is the race I'd like to win, that's what I'm aiming for and we'll see where we go then. There's only so many races so it's easy to look at the calendar. I'm excited for the year ahead, I can't wait."

MONDAY 1st JUNE 2015

 

DO ME A FABRE!

France's Chantilly-based top trainer blocked Ireland's County Tipperary-based top trainer from adding the French Derby to his list of Gallic gains. It was Godolphin against Coolmore and the former won. Yesterday NEW BAY gave trainer André Fabre fourth triumph in the Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly. The Khalid Abdullah-owned chestnut colt, with French champion jumps jockey Vincent Cheminaud aboard, was kept quietly to the rear of the field for most of the contest and was still there as the runners came round the home turn. His jockey had to take his mount quite wide to make his challenge but that was no problem as the son of DUBAWI has a swift turn of foot and easily cruised into the lead and past the post one-and-a-half lengths ahead of his nearest rival, Aidan O'Brien's HIGHLAND REEL.

 

Khalid Abdullah's racing manager, Teddy Grimthorpe, commented: ‘‘He is a relatively inexperienced horse, really. It was very exciting. This is the first French Derby (win) for Prince Khalid since Sanglamore in 1990. We have had some near-misses, with the likes of Famous Name and others. This was a super performance, the way he accelerated, and he showed a great turn of foot to come and win a big race like this. I think he has good options, he might even stay the mile and a half. We will have to sit and think about what is the best plan. The Arc or the great options of Juddmonte at York, the Irish Champion Stakes - there are plenty of very nice options.”

 

As mentioned earlier, the best of the Ballydoyle king's trio was HIGHLAND REEL who managed to draw a veil over his disappointing performance in the French 2000 Guineas. Aidan O’Brien had this to say about his three runners: ‘‘I’m delighted with Highland Reel. He ran a very good race. He progressed well from the last race. I’m very happy with his race. Highland Reel has a lot of options. There is the Irish Derby or the Eclipse. He has all of those races possible. The winner quickened up very well, didn’t he? Cape Clear Island wants fast ground. War Envoy ran disappointing. Maybe a mile and a quarter is too far.”

 

COOKIE TAKES THE BISCUIT

Despite winning the Listed Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup at York on Saturday, trainer Peter Niven insists that CLEVER COOKIE will only head for Royal Ascot if ground conditions are suitable. The son of PRIMO VALENTINO is a 12/1 shot for the Ascot Gold Cup after notching up his fifth win from eight starts on the Flat with this Knavesmire conquest.

The Malton-based trainer commented: He's fine this morning - he's not really had a race, to be honest. They went a good strong gallop, which was a big help, and the ground was spot-on after the rain they had. I don't think he'd have run without it. We hope to take him to Ascot, but he'll only go if the ground is right. There are plenty of other options, we obviously want to go for the big one if we can, but we won't risk him on fast ground. He's an easy enough horse to keep right, so we'll just keep going and hope the ground is right. I've said all along his main aim for the year and the Group One we'll go all out for is the race at Ascot on Champions Day."

 

EXCITING EPSOM

This Coolmore-owned colt is still to run in this week's Derby according to today's confirmation stage. So racegoers' chances of watching the dual Classic winner, GLENEAGLES, are still high. Aidan O'Brien is after his sixth Derby win in total, four of them in a row and he could even cover his bets as, luckily, connections are prepared to pay the supplementary cost of £75,000 to enter FOUND at the last moment if the GALILEO son doesn't run after all. This GALILEO daughter would join HANS HOLBEIN and KILIMANJARO and perhaps GIOVANNI CANALETTO. That outcome, though, wouldn't be as exciting as the prospect of GLENEAGLES' participation. The latter's fate, however, will not now be decided until Thursday morning when weather conditions should be clearer as he is acknowledged to perform best on fast ground. The going was described as good on Sunday. Rain and heavy winds are forecast for tonight but there is the prospect of improving weather from Wednesday.

 

SUNDAY 31st MAY 2015

 

PUTTING THE ROYAL IN ASCOT

The Richard Hannon-trained PEACOCK's victory in yesterday's Listed winner.co.uk Fairway Stakes at Newmarket means that there will be at least one royal runner at the Berkshire track next month. This is because the Queen-owned PEACOCK, with Richard Hughes aboard, put on such an impressive performance that it is now on the cards that he will compete in the Group Three Tercentenary Stakes on 18 June. This seems the next logical step for the progressive son of PACO BOY but it must be tempting for connections to entertain the idea of a more ambitious target – perhaps next Saturday’s Derby. After all, PEACOCK did come second behind the current Epsom favourite, GOLDEN HORN in the middle of last month.

 

John Warren, however, the Queen’s Racing Manager, seemed anxious to put the kibosh on any such notions: “I don’t think we ever thought he should have had a Derby entry. He’s had good form all the way through his career but he’s just now come of age and is now really set up for Ascot, which is great, to give the Queen a nice runner there. He goes for the Tercentenary. That was the plan that we talked about with the trainer, if he managed to do it today. That would be absolutely tailor-made for him.”

 

This horse is not the only one that could give Her Majesty's visit to Royal Ascot a monarchical moment. RING OF TRUTH, appropriately sired by ROYAL APPLAUSE, winner of the EBF Stallion ApolloBet Maiden Fillies' Stakes at Haydock three days ago, is likely to run in the Albany Stakes. FABRICATE, on the other hand, having also pulled off a decisive victory in the

Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Handicap also at Haydock, may well be entered for the Queen’s Vase. Then there's PACK TOGETHER and TOUCHLINE who may be considered for the the Sandringham Handicap, leaving DARTMOUTH for possible inclusion in the King George V Handicap.

 

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER

The Listed Achilles Stakes at Haydock yesterday was won by a veteran sprinter who was nearly put out to graze last year. Ten-year-old KINGSGATE NATIVE showed his rivals, some half his age and less, how to run the five-furlong 888sport Achilles Stakes in style. With former jumps jockey, Graham Lee, aboard, the son of MUJADI raced mid-field for a while and seemed to be held up but made headway one furlong out until getting the chance to strike late and outdoing the David O'Meara-trained OUT DO by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

The Robert Cowell-trained gelding hasn't produced this kind of result since triumphing in the Temple Stakes over the same course and distance two years ago. Yesterday was a clear demonstration that he hasn't lost any of his skills or , and perhaps more importantly, his enthusiasm for the game. Surprising, though it may seem, it was only KINGSGATE NATIVE's seventh career win (9 Seconds and 5 Thirds), notching up over £800,000 in prize-money since his debut in 2007. His most memorable moments are probably when he won the Group One Nunthorpe in 2007 and the Golden Jubilee (now the Diamond Jubilee) in 2008.

 

A RIDER'S RIDER FOR SATURDAY RACING

Richard Hughes is not only a Champion Flat jockey but has recently been turning his hand to writing in the racing papers and, naturally, has a few wise words on the state of flat racing today and adds his rider to certain on-going trends. He is of the view that arranging as many races as possible on a Saturday is not a good idea. He is pleased that Sandown's Brigadier Gerard proved, as expected, to be the most successful evening fixture of the year and one of the top midweek fixtures in the racing calendar. He was naturally disappointed to learn that there is talk of switching that event to a Saturday. Although attendance on Thursday night was not as high as it could have been, Richard Hughes stresses that those who did attend were committed racing fans who delighted in special evening package of the Brigadier Gerard Stakes, Henry II Stakes and National Stakes, not to mention the Heron Stakes and Whitsun Cup all on the same night. Particularly, he also mentions, in attendance were of some of the most important people in racing, namely customers who buy the hard-copy of the Racing Post and viewers of Channel 4 every Saturday. He adds, too, that far too much money is wasted trying to get people to the races who really are not interested in the sport and are just there for a day out. Quite often these 'newcomers' are pandered to whilst neglecting regular customers who may become disillusioned.

 

Finally he makes it very clear that the most important people for trainers are the owners whose every need has to be attended to as much as possible. They are number one. So just as in any business, the racing industry must consider the needs and interests of all the loyal, existing customers before spending vast amounts of money on attracting new ones. It is a well-known fact that it is cheaper to retain existing clients. The most important point of his piece is that arranging too many races on a Saturday potentially provides too many options for the racegoer who, being spoilt for choice, may well decide to stay home and watch it on the box.

 

SATURDAY 30th MAY 2015

 

BRAVE ENOUGH?

Ireland's top National Hunt trainer is gunning for the last two races of the Listowel Flat fixture tomorrow and has a good chance of achieving a double. The five-year-old LAVINIAD, who unfortunately has to contend with an additional weight of eleven pounds after her easy victory in the Gowran Park Handicap on Wednesday, should have no problems in the Follow Listowel Races On Facebook Handicap but the fact that she is conceding six pounds to Denis Hogan's ERIC THE GREY and a massive twenty-four pounds to the lightweight in the field, the John J Walsh-trained NEVER AGAIN, is a factor of which jockey Pat Smullen will be very conscious.

It is the Daughter of LAWMAN'S stable companion who will attract more attention, however.

WICKLOW BRAVE, running in the Bryan McMahon Race showed what he was made of when he won the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle at the March Cheltenham festival by eight lengths. The six-year-old son of BEAT HOLLOW, with Patrick Mullins aboard, seems in a class of his own compared with his five rivals and should have no trouble proving who's boss.

 

TREVE POUR TROIS?

The name on everyone's lips when referring to October's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe appeared again on the list of winners at Saint-Cloud yesterday. The 'Criquette' Head-Maarek-trained TREVE won the Prix Corrida easily by four lengths, although, having been unsuccessful in her first two races last year no-one expected a lot but everyone must have been delighted by how she performed during the race and handled the competition almost with disdain. This success has certainly increased hope and speculation that she could become the first horse ever to win the Arc three times. It is, in fact, the first time that the five-year-old daughter of MOTIVATOR has been seen on the racecourse since her victory in the prestigious contest last year. It seems on the cards that TREVE's next outing will be to compete in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on 28 June. Originally her owner, Sheikh Joaan, was planning retire her at the end of last year but decided, much to the pleasure of all her fans, to bring her back for another campaign.

 

Mme. 'Criquette' Head-Maarek commented: "She did everything I thought she would so I am delighted. She will improve a lot on that and there's so much to look forward to, with the Grand Prix back here the next step."

 

CAPE OF GOOD HOPE

One race the Ballydoyle trainer hasn't claimed and would dearly love to is the Prix du Jockey Club and with that in mind Aidan O'BRIEN is sending three runners to Chantilly tomorrow. The unexpected news was that Ryan Moore has now opted to ride CAPE CLEAR ISLAND instead of HIGHLAND REEL, perhaps influenced by the fact that the son of GALILEO ran a disappointing race in the French 2,000 Guineas at Longchamp. Anyway once Ryan Moore made this sudden switch, the odds on HIGHLAND REEL for this French equivalent of the Derby moved out to 10/1 from an earlier 6/1 and CAPE CLEAR ISLAND was brought into 7/1 from 10/1. A cuple of factors that may have influenced Ryan Moore's decision is that the FASTNET ROCK son will be wearing blinkers for the first time and has got the best draw of the trio, coming out of stall seven. The trainer's son, Joseph, gets the choice ride of HIGHLAND REEL and Colm O'Donoghue will partner WAR ENVOY

 

The 14-horse race will be as tough to predict as ever and Aidan O'Brien is well aware of this as the best he has ever managed was a third place with SUPER PISTACHIO in 2009 despite successes with 35 Group One winners in the rest of France.

 

FRIDAY 29th MAY 2015

 

GETTING THE WIND UP

The 6/4 favourite, Hughie Morrison-trained VENT DE FORCE gave Richard Hughes the chance of a demonstrating a textbook, from-the-front ride in the Cantor Fitzgerald Investment Trusts Henry II Stakes at Sandown Park last night. The 2012 Flat racing champion settled for a steady pace from the outsetand the rest of the field was prepared to accept his lead. Then just over half-a-mile from home he decided to up the tempo on the final turn and at that stage rivals were lining up thick and fast behind him. The four-year-old son of HURRICANE RUN, however, had kept enough in reserve to beat off any challenges inside final furlong and beat his nearest rival, Ed Dunlop's TRIP TO PARIS by one-and-a-half lengths. It was a good day for Richard Hughes as he had also scored in the earlier race on his brother-in-law, Richard Hannon's KING OF ROOKS.

The winning Newbury-based trainer commented: "It was the jockey's decision and that's the great thing about having a top jockey aboard. That's hopefully put him spot on for Ascot. You never know if they'll stay two and a half miles over a true gallop."

 

CIRCUS ACT

Yesterday at Worcester racegoers witnessed an acrobatic display of riding from an amateur jockey that would not have gone amiss in the circus. Bradley Gibbs was aboard the Tim Vaughan-trained DESHAN in the two-mile Ladbrokes Standard National Hunt Flat Race. He was in the process of a ding-dong battle with Freddy Tett on Mark Bradstock's BLACKDOWN HILLS, when his four-year-old decided, out of the blue, to swerve violently to the left, almost crashing through the extremities of the final obstacle on the hurdle track. Bradley Gibbs was launched over one side of the son of SOLDIER HOLLOW. He managed to get back into the saddle again somehow but had lost his irons, Undaunted and pluckily he was determined not to lose out completely and pursued BLACKDOWN HILLS right to the end and was only a length-and-a-quarter adrift when the line came.

 

The twenty-year-old acrobat commented afterwards: "He was just very green and I was very lucky to stay on. I thought I was going to get back up, he's a very nice horse just very green."

 

HYMN TO VICTORY

Things seem to be on the right track for this Suffolk-based trainer. John Gosden, who already announced this week that he has two strong contenders for next week's Derby, obviously wasn't just going to sit back and wait for the Epsom contest. He got himself in the mood last night at Sandown Park by claiming the Brigadier Gerard Stakes with his WESTERN HYMN, ridden by James Doyle. For a while it looked as though the son of HIGH CHAPARRAL was taunting connections and backers alike as he veered from right to left in the final yards and then just edged past the Sir Michael Stoute-trained ARAB SPRING in the concluding stages and just got his head in front.

 

The winning trainer commented: “He’s a horse that, if you hit the front too soon, he says, I’ve done it all and then he has a look at the crowd. That’s him and he’s a lovely character but he did get there too quick. He might have won half a length if he’d left it later.I was particularly delighted with Eagle Top because he had no cover. He wants a big field with cover and he’s sitting there, upsides another, from six out, back at school, very fresh, full of himself. He’s run a lovely race but he’s needed it. He looks in great shape after the race, I’m delighted with him. He goes to the Hardwicke and this horse, if he gets reasonable ground, goes to the Prince of Wales.”

 

NEW FOUND FRIENDS

A young horse was spared the knacker's yard by just a few hours. Chad Gilbert, the guitarist of the American Rock Band from Florida, New Found Glory, was searching on Twitter recently to see what fans' reactions were to the band’s tour, when he noticed an advertisement for a yearling thoroughbred filly with "a breeder's certificate with the Jockey Club", due to be slaughtered the following morning at 10am. Nothing extraordinary about that you might say but what caught his eye was that the horse had the same name as his band. The ad went on to say that the Sorrel mare “gets her name from the 90's Punk Band. They were considered pioneers in the second wave of the punk scene – this girl will be a pioneer if given the chance”.

 

Chad Gilbert also found out that it would cost only $350 (about £230) to buy the mare which would certainly spare her from imminent slaughter. So the guitarist sought his colleague's agreement to adopt the horse and, nice guys that the are, got unanimous approval. He managed to get the money to the auctioneer just in time, and then, after seeking assistance from the animal organisation, Freedom4Horses, an owner was found in Texas with wide open spaces where she can roam to her heart's content but not race, unfortunately.

 

THURSDAY 28th MAY 2015

 

APPLE ON HEAD MOMENT

The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden at Gowran Park yesterday gave Aidan O'Brien's SIR ISAAC NEWTON the chance to show that he is worth his salt. The son of GALILEO had something to prove as he had disappointed connections on his return to the track at Chester at the beginning of May when he was beaten by Tom Dascombe's CYMRO. All seemed forgiven as he was sent off the 4/6 favourite in today's contest and made his mark by overhauling fairly easily the Dermot Weld-trained VALAC as the furlong pole approached and showed a fleet turn of foot to fly past the winning post three-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of jim Bolger's STOP AND LINGER.

Winning jockey, James Anthony "Seamie" Heffernan commented: "He's one that we have always liked and that was expected. I expect more progress. A mile and a quarter might end up being his ideal trip."

 

SOMETHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT

Connections of SIMENON are of a mind that today's Cantor Fitzgerald Investment Trusts Henry II Stakes at Sandown could be the ideal race to set him up for another crack at the Ascot Gold Cup. The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old will appear in this Group Three two-mile contest on his re-appearance after sustaining a stress fracture after his triumph in the Grade 3 Kevin McManus Bookmaker Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary mid-July 2014. The lengthy absence notwithstanding, it is thought by the Mullins' team that the eight-year-old son of MARJU has everything going for him.

Paul, son of Willie Mullins, commented: "He's ready to start off his campaign. He did a nice bit of work in the Curragh on Saturday and we're happy with him. This looks a good starting point for him ahead of another crack at the Ascot Gold Cup, all being well. Ascot is not that far away and he's as ready as he can be without having had a run. He had a stress fracture after he won the hurdle race in Tipperary, but we've had no complications since and it will be good to get him going again."

 

D-DAY FOR COOLMORE

One would have to have been on another planet for the past two weeks not to be aware that it's the Epsom Derby a week on Saturday. One outfit that probably wishes it were elsewhere in the universe is the Ballydoyle and Coolmore operation who seem to be in something of a quandary as to how this prestigious event will pan out. It's common knowledge that Coolmore horses have claimed the Derby for the last four years, a success that started off with POUR MOI in 2011 and was added to by Aidan O’Brien in the following three seasons. It seems, however, that preparations for this year's contest haven't gone as they ought. Endowed with the luxury of eight horses in the top 10 in the betting list at the beginning of the year, Ballydoyle now finds itself with only two colts that will probably run, HANS HOLBEIN and KILIMANJARO. The well-favoured GLENEAGLES who was even as short as 4/1 for D-day, now seems an unlikely contender as even his trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has come out with his opinion that he doesn't think that this particular GALILEO son would handle the extra half-a-mile of the Epsom attraction and and he thinks that Royal Ascot would be more suited for the horse about whom he is recently on record as saying that he is the best miler ever ever to grace the Ballydoyle stables. On this occasion, seemingly, the Ballydoyle king is being brutally frank and honest. Coolmore does not appear to have a Derby winner. An operation that has claimed this crown for the last four years may find this truth indigestible but it has to be accepted. If they decide to run GLENEAGLES or even FOUND that would be an indication of how desperate they are to maintain their reputation. This is an interesting Derby scenario and it will add a little spice to the Epsom extravaganza build-up.

 

WEDNESDAY 27th MAY 2015

 

DERBY DUO DECISION

Tonight’s opening race at Gowran Park features he 7-furlong Irish Stallion Farms Maiden and John Gosden is going for it as a consolation prize for his former Derby hopeful, SIR ISAAC NEWTON, who is currently the the odds-on favourite. With the latter ruled out for Derby Day, the Clarehaven Stables' master has made his definite selections for the Epsom extravaganza which now seem firmly to be JACK HOBBS and stable companion, GOLDEN HORN, based on how they performed in an exercise session on the Epsom track yesterday morning.

 

John Gosden commented: “Both colts pleased me this morning. We brought Jack Hobbs to the track to see if he handled it and he did, so we run. I've now got my former stable jockeys riding for me again, and, as usual they never do what they are told. I told William (Buick) not to overdo things but he tells me he got run away with on Jack Hobbs. Frankie (Dettori) was not much better on Golden Horn but I have to say I'm pleased with the way things went. If the ground remains like what it is today, Jack Hobbs runs. I can see him getting the trip and will come from his run in the Dante. I think Golden Horn's temperament is a big plus, he's just like his father Cape Cross,” said Gosden. And that's going to help him in staying the trip.

He's a relaxed horse. He walked across the course, had a look at the tents, and went back to sleep. Jack Hobbs is laid back too.”

 

COURAGE OF HIS CONVICTIONS

COBANA SAND is Giles Bravery's selection for the Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot on 17th June but only if there is little easing in the ground. The Charnwood Stables trainer would like to let the daughter of CAPTAIN RIO have a go at the 5-furlong Group Two contest, especially after she decisively got a first victory in her second career start in the toteswinger Median Auction Maiden Stakes at Leicester two days ago. If the ground turns out not to be what the doctor ordered, however, the Newmarket handler will leave it ten more days and take a chance on the 6-furlong Listed Empress Stakes at Newmarket on June 27.

 

Giles Bravery commented: "She's grand, very relaxed and ate up. All seems well and we're very happy with her. We'd like a bit of juice in the ground for the Queen Mary. If not, we could fall back on the Empress Stakes the following week if needs be. At the moment the Queen Mary is where we will enter her and aim for, if we can get a nice bit of rain. People say you need everything in your favour at Ascot, but that is our aim at the moment."

 

COVETING THE CUP

Next week racegoers should get a chance to see the Alain De Royer-Dupré-trained DOLNIYA make her British début in the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom. The 4-year-old daughter of ARAMOUR claimed last year's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and then in a dazzling start to this season triumphed in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March. All probability is that the 4-year-old filly will the hot favourite for this feature event.

 

Georges Rimaud, stud manager for the Aga Khan, owner and breeder, commented: "She worked (on Tuesday morning) and worked well. She's in good form and I think the Coronation Cup will be a good test for her. I think it will be a tough race, but this is one of her big objectives for the end of spring and we are looking forward to seeing her run. We can make a plan for the summer after we see how she performs at Epsom."

 

TUESDAY 26th MAY 2015

 

FRENCH STALLING

The France Galop stewards replied with a resounding 'non' when Mme. Christiane 'Criquette' Head-Maarek requested that Nicolas Blondeau, a horse behavioural expert, be permitted to help load her three-year-old EPICURIS for the Prix du Jockey Club on Sunday. In response the Chantilly-based trainer has decided to send the Khalid bin Abdullah-owned son of RAIL LINK to have a crack at next week's Derby. Nicolas Blondeau has been employed extensively by the top French trainer to deal with her colt's problem after he declined to enter the stalls for the Prix Greffulhe at Saint-Cloud on 5th May. It is clear that under French racing rules nobody other than the stalls handlers may participate in the loading process. It seems to be a similar situation here, as Rule 3.3.6 clearly states: 'a horse must not be passed to or led round by handlers.'

 

'Criquette' Head-Maarek commented : "They said no so we're going to England. I only heard their decision late last night so I called [Khalid Abdullah's racing manager] Teddy Grimthorpe. He called me back and it's all decided. There will be a parade and crowds at Epsom but he would have to face that here too. He'll be with Blondeau for two days and he really helps calm him. Epicuris is very well balanced and I think he'll handle Epsom."

 

IVA GOOD MIND TO CHANGE

The Richard Hannon-trained IVAWOOD finished third behind winner, GLENEAGLES, in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday so it has been decided that he should drop back in trip to six or seven furlongs. Connections appear to be considering a run in the new New Group One six-furlong sprint, to be called the Commonwealth Cup for the son of ZEBEDEE or even the seven-furlong Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot on 17th June.

 

The problem is that if the Collingbourne Ducis-based handler does go for the Commonwealth Cup, his stable jockey Richard Hughes will be on the horns of a dilemma because he is already scheduled to ride stable companion TIGGY WIGGY in that contest.

 

Richard Hannon commented: ‘The talk after the race was of dropping Ivawood back in trip. Races he could go for include the Commonwealth Cup, the Jersey Stakes or the Prix Maurice de Gheest. We have taken on Gleneagles twice now and, while we got closer to him, second time around you can’t keep banging your head against a brick wall.’

 

DERBY DREAMS

When the average punter bets on the outcome of the Derby next week, is he going to risk his hard-earned cash on an inexperienced contestant who has never raced more than a mile and and has yet to compete in a Group 1 race? Well his trainer thinks he should. The horse in question is Dermot Weld's ZAWRAQ and, despite his apparent lack of appropriate credentials, he is currently a 6/1 shot for the elite Epsom extravaganza. The son of SHAMARDAL's kudos rose considerably as a result of his beating ENDLESS DRAMA and MOHAAYEED to the post in the 2,000 Guineas Trial Stakes at Leopardstown last month and before that, in October, landing the thetote.com European Breeders Fund at the same track and, into the bargain, beating the Aidan O'Brien-trained SIR ISAAC NEWTON. This meagre two-race career performance could even bring ZAWRAQ into consideration as one of the leading three-year-olds in Europe and, as such, could make him the one to beat at Epsom.

So the Rosewell House trainer may not, after all, be seeing things through rose-coloured spectacles!

 

MONDAY 25th MAY 2015

 

HE HAS GOT THE BALLS!

The 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup winner came back and did it again yesterday at the Curragh after an absence of two years. 7-year-old AL KAZEEM, the eldest of the the six runners with one 6-year-old and four 4-year-olds. The Roger Charlton-trained son of DUBAWI, ridden patiently by James Doyle, tracked the leaders in third position and gradually improved between horses from about a furlong from home. A lucky gap opened up in the straight between the long-time leader, Luca Cumani's POSTPONED and the favourite, THE GREY GATSBY, with Ryan Moore aboard.

 

This success marks just another phase in the life of the extraordinary AL KAZEEM who only came back to racing last year after a disappointing period at the Royal Studs in Sandringham

after 'proving subfertile', as the official verdict put it. On the positive side, yesterday's win was his fourth Group 1 and it now looks as though he will go back to Royal Ascot to have another crack at the Prince of Wales's Stakes, a contest he put his mark on in 2013.

 

There were celebrations, too, for Cambridge-born James Doyle, who has now won this race three years in a row: he was riding today's hero two years ago and steered the Lady Cecil-trained NOBLE MISSION to victory last year.

 

The delighted winning jockey commented: "Whatever he did today couldn't change my opinion of him. He's done everything for me. Standing here a couple of years ago in this position [in the winner's enclosure] was a relatively new thing for me and off the back of his successes he's put me here a bit more. I can't speak highly enough of him. The ground was perfect for him. He's bang there [compared to two years ago] and he might have got quicker. He is everything you'd want in a racehorse and is a credit to his connections."

 

OLIVER WANTS MORE

A Lambourn trainer is intending to make an eight-hour, 500-mile round trip to the North of England with three of his horses. Oliver Sherwood clearly believes it could be his day at the Bank Holiday Monday fixture at Cartmel. He 'hopes' to run his 4/5 favourite, four-year-old ROMULUS DU DONJON, in the first race of the day, the Cartmel 25th Anniversary Sticky Toffee Novices Hurdle. He explained the reason for the possible doubt going: “I haven’t had chance to talk with Anthony Bromley, who is racing manager for Romulus Du Donjon’s owner Simon Munir, but hopefully he will give the go-ahead and, if he runs, then all three of my entries will go. I think it is more likely they will run than they won’t.”

 

Oliver Sherwood certainly isn't a frequent visitor to the Cumbrian course so he must think his three Southern raiders have a chance. On the face of it, his main hope, ROMULUS DU DONJON, doesn't infuse a lot of confidence. He came last in three French events races before coming to the Sherwood stables in November. Then the grey gelding didn't get off to a good start for his new master; he was beaten by 64 lengths when coming fourth in the Invest For The Future Juvenile Hurdle at Sandown Park. To his credit, the son of STORMY RIVER has improved since then. His fifth outing for the Lambourn yard was two weeks ago at was at Market Rasen, where he was surprisingly the favourite in a three-horse race, the Molson Coors 'Carling' Classic Handicap Hurdle which he won by eight lengths.

 

The other two of the North-bound string are EASTERN CALM who, it is hoped, will make up for his last performance when he unfortunately fell whilst in the lead in the Tony Connell Memorial Novices Handicap Hurdle at Warwick at the beginning of the month and ROUGE ET BLANC who came second in the £10,000 Bet Totetrifecta Handicap Chase at Uttoxeter on 6th May .

 

MAKING HIS VOICE HEARD

The Martin Hassett-trained MASTER SPEAKER won the K Club Hotel, Spa & Ryder Cup Venue Handicap which was much appreciated by his jockey, Ryan Moore, as it constituted the second leg of a treble that was to claim at the Curragh yesterday. Earlier in the day he won on Aidan O'Brien's AIR FORCE BLUE and followed up in the last race of the day with a victory on another Ballydoyle trainee, BANTRY BAY.

 

The son of DANEHILL DANCER, formerly trained at Ballydoyle, hadn't much to go on when it comes previous successes. In fact, that's putting it mildly. The five-year-old had only one win to his name from from nineteen starts, although, to be fair, he did get placed in nine of them, including runner-up three times this season. MASTER SPEAKER beavered away quietly on the outside of the field and slowly but surely moved into ascendancy and claimed the race by half a length

 

The winning trainer from Copper Beech Stables commented: "It's the Moore factor! Sean Corby has been riding him all along and it's nothing against him, but we said we'd try something different. His first few runs this year were phenomenal, but we were disappointed with him the last day. In fairness, the handicapper has given us a chance, and hopefully he won't be too hard after that. We are thinking of the Rockingham, although that's over five. We'll see."

 

SUNDAY 24th MAY 2015

 

DOUBLE - NO TROUBLE!

Racegoers at the Curragh witnessed something a bit special yesterday. The Aidan O'Brien-trained GLENEAGLES, with Ryan Moore aboard, became only the eighth horse in history to claim the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas double and, into the bargain, provided his Ballydoyle handler with his tenth success in this first Irish classic of the season. The 2/5 odds-on favourite got involved unusually late in the proceedings with Richard Hannon's IVAWOOD making much of the running and it began to look as if the Gods were on his side on this occasion. The son of GALILEO also seemed to have no room for advancement and Ryan Moore just had to sit boxed in by the rail and wait for a gap which fortunately came fairly late in the day. The hero of the Newmarket Guineas didn't need asking twice and showed his customary turn of foot and surged to the front, three-quarters of a length ahead of his rival, not IVAWOOD as expected, but the Ger Lyons-trained ENDLESS DRAMA, steered by Andreas Atzeni. Not only was this a record-breaking occasion for the the horse but for the trainer, too, who has now gained the Newmarket/Curragh double three times.

 

John Magnier, the winning owner commented: "The slow ground today was not his ground, whereas it was at Newmarket. You have to pinch yourself when you get a horse like this. Considering the trouble he had in running, a very good success this by Gleneagles, and another fine ride by Ryan Moore to manoeuvre the colt into a winning position when things looked unpromising.”

 

The victorious jockey added: "The ground is just slow enough for him and just blunted his pace a bit. He didn't have a lot of room, but he had the gears and the class to go through. He put his head down and fought well at the end, he's a very exciting colt. I felt I was on the best horse, and when you're on the best horse invariably the gaps come."

 

THE DICK FOR RICHARD?

The last day of Goodwood’s May Festival turned out successful the Sussex track's top trainer. It looks like Richard Hannon is keen on confirming his title as Goodwood’s top trainer as he notched up a double yesterday. It was almost a treble in the 888sport Handicap but his KING TO BE, ridden by Cam Hardie, was denied the crown by a nose. The first victory had to wait until the next race, when Pat Dobbs rode the 5/6 favourite, BOURNEMOUTH BELLE, to a one-and-three-quarter length win in the ebfstallions.com Maiden Fillies’ Stakes. The Marlborough-based trainer's day wasn't over yet as in the last race of the day the Barnsley-born apprentice jockey made up for his narrow defeat in the third race by steering BLACK CHERRY to victory by three lengths in the EBF Stallions Maiden Fillies' Stakes

 

Richard Hannon's aspirations of receiving yet again the Dick Hern Trophy, named after the successful thoroughbred racehorse trainer and winner of sixteen British Classic Races between 1962 and 1995, could be thwarted by Mark Johnston, the only other trainer to win the prestigious prize since 2008. The North Yorkshire trainer notched up his second win of the festival when Nicky Mackay scored on ENLACE, the one that beat Richard Hannon's KING TO BE by a nose in the 888sport Stakes.

 

RUSSIAN OFF TO IRELAND

Today Ed Dunlop is sending one of his string to the Curragh with the aim of finding out more about his potential. Three-year-old PRINCE GAGARIN will try his luck in the Airlie Stud Gallinule Stakes oin just over two hours' time. This DUBAWI colt won the Listed Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract last October and followed that up with a creditable third in the Betfair Dee Stakes at the beginning of this month. The bay colt is also entered for the Epsom Derby and was due to perform in the Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood on Friday butit was decided to miss this assignment and head instead to County Killarney for the Group Three contest.

 

The Newmarket handler commented: "We just felt the ground was getting too firm for him at Goodwood. It's beautiful racing ground, but it might just be a bit quick for him, which is the reason for the last-minute switch. He's in good form and the ground in Ireland should be more suitable for him. It was a good comeback run at Chester in a strangely-run race. It was soft ground, they didn't go much of a pace, it turned into a sprint and nothing changed position during the race. This race will tell us a bit more about where we are with him and where we're going for the future."

 

SATURDAY 23rd MAY 2015

 

GO GALILEO!

Well it's here! The Irish 2000 Guineas, the first Irish Group 1 race of the year, is the obvious highlight on Day 1 of the Curragh’s Spring Racing Festival. And one doesn't have to look very far for the strongest contender. The Aidan O'Brien-trained GLENEAGLES dominates the eleven-strong field as the 2/5 odds-on favourite. The nearest in the betting market is 9/2 offered for Richard Hannon's IVAWOOD. The favouritism is understandable after the superb record of this son of GALILEO in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket at the beginning of May. In fact, after finishing fourth on his debut, he finished first in his remaining five races as a two-year-old in 2014 and was named Cartier Champion Two-year-old Colt. He won the Tyros Stakes, Futurity Stakes and National Stakes in Ireland. His record would be six out of seven but although he crossed the line in first place in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere iat Longchamp last October he was disqualified and placed third. It's fairly well known that in France the rule is that you keep your horse in a straight line and do not cause any interference whatsoever. Joseph O’Brien seems to have forgotten that rule and allowed his horse to cross over to the rail and thereby interfered with the passage of the second and third runners and paid the price.

 

Records over the last 29 years suggest that, at the end of the day, the result of today's Classic will be a resounding victory for the Ballydoyle star or for one of the five foreign entries. Trainer Richard Hannon seems to be prepared for the worst: "The odds are stacked against us but we think Ivawood has improved again since the Guineas and, though we are not claiming we will beat Gleneagles, who looked a proper horse at Newmarket, we have always loved our fellow."

 

GOING PLACES

Fancy TRIP TO PARIS? No that is not an invitation! There is no indefinite article before the name which belongs to the winner of the Chester Cup at the beginning of May. The Ed Dunlop-trained son of CHAMPS ELYSEES will be put to the test next Thursday when he competes in the Cantor Fitzgerald Investment Trusts Henry II Stakes at Sandown. The Newmarket-based handler has let his four-year-old take it easy for a while after securing his hat-trick for the year with that feature event but he now seems ready to get weaving again.

 

Ed Dunlop commented: "Trip To Paris has had his break and was back in work today. We have given him an entry in the Henry II Stakes, so we'll see how that pans out, but we are strongly considering going into Pattern company rather than going down the handicap route with big weights on his back. If we don't go to Sandown there is a one-mile-six-furlong Listed race at York (Grand Cup, May 30) he could go for, but we'll see."

 

The Eton-educated Ed Dunlop commented about a possible trip to Australia: "Who knows? He needs to go up in the weights before he can be a Melbourne horse. We're just concentrating on his next target at this stage."

 

RAISING A STORM

The William Haggas-trained STORM THE STARS won the Goodwood Listed Cocked Hat Stakes in style yesterday and, thereby, added to the honour of his sire, SEA OF STARS by becoming a 15th stakes winner of the illustrious family which is related to leading sire GIANT'S CAUSEWAY and YOU'RESOTHRILLING, winner of the Cherry Hinton Stakes. The latter has now consolidated her position as one of the world's leading broodmares; her first two foals:- MARVELLOUS, who scored in the Irish 1,000 Guineas and none other than GLENEAGLES who was the victor in the British 2,000 Guineas on 2nd May, and, as mentioned above, is the hot favourite to follow up that triumph in the Irish equivalent at the Curragh today.

 

Interestingly STORM THE STARS, runner-up to HANS HOLBEIN in the Chester Vase last time out, couldn't fetch the asking price of $150,000 at the Keeneland, Kentucky, Yearling Sale in 2013 and remained unsold. His current owner, Sheikh Juma Dalmook Al Maktoum, must be counting his lucky stars now!

 

FRIDAY 22nd MAY 2015

 

BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A RIDE!

Champion Flat jockey and top trainer's brother-in-law will still be the main stable rider up to the moment he retires, it has been revealed. Richard Hannon has admitted, though, that there will be more sharing of rides as Richard Hughes heads towards the day when he will no longer race ride. Although, curiously, tomorrow at Goodwood, Richard Hughes will be aboard the Roger Charlton-trained ROYAL SILK in the Aero Club Fillies’ Handicap, whereas Pat Dobbs and apprentice Tom Marquand will ride Richard Hannon's FONDLY and ON HIGH, respectively.

 

The Marlborough-based trainer commented: “Richard is our stable jockey as well as my brother-in-law. There are going to be times when he rides for other trainers but if any of our owners want him, they will have him. I also have other people in the yard to look after and it is all part of the transition process for the future.”

 

As a sign of his 'brotherly' love, Richard Hughes goes over to the Emerald Isle on Saturday to ride Richard Hannon’s IVAWOOD in the Irish 2000 Guineas where he might have quite a challenge as he will be up against the Aidan O’Brien-trained GLENEAGLES who is the odds-on favourite.

 

About this particular event Richard Hannon commented: ‘He is up against it but we wouldn’t be going there if we didn’t think we had a chance.’

 

RACING AHEAD

JCR (Jockey Club Racecourses) is pleased with itself because it attracted an additional 100,000 visitors to its events in the first quarter of this year, even though there were ten fewer fixtures than in the same period last year. Between January and March, comprising 66 fixtures, there was an attendance of the best part of half-a-million racegoers (479,551 to be precise), representing an increase of 26% compared to 381,028 visitors attending 76 fixtures in the first three months of 2014. The Cheltenham Festival, as probably expected, proved to be one of the highlights of this period, bringing in over 15,000 more people over the four days of 2015. Sandown Park managed to double its attendances in March, alone. The three free racedays that were staged at Huntingdon, Kempton Park and Market Rasen attracted 22,000 more horse fanciers than for similar fixtures in 2014. The JCR's second quarter up to the end of June indicates a year-on-year growth in visitors to the Grand National at Aintree. As expected, Sandown Park's bet365 Jumps Finale was a sell-out, mainly because it was the scene of champion Jump jockey AP McCoy's farewell appearance.

 

Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, Paul Fisher commented: "We started 2015 well and overall things are continuing in that vein, in particular at our big events. We're delighted to have welcomed almost 100,000 more people to Jockey Club Racecourses in the first quarter of this year compared to last and for the sport to be up as a whole. "We're seeing a number of different reasons for this. Ultimately the promotion of our sport and our events is working, we've been able to create attention or capitalise on high profile moments, including the retirement of AP McCoy, and three free race days boosted crowds too.”

 

IT'S ME, AP!

Talking of Tony McCoy, the rider from Moneyglass is to star in an up-and-coming BBC documentary that will aim to give audiences a rare glimpse into the daily life of the champion jockey. This full-length feature film, with the working title of “Being AP” was made at different locations and racetracks across Britain and Ireland over the 2014-15 season. Tony McCoy is arguably one of the most successful living sportsmen in Britain and Ireland today, having notched up 4000 wins over his 20 years in the saddle and, along the way, becoming 2010 Sports Personality of the Year. It even looks as though he could be on the receiving end of this prestigious presentation again this year. 'Being AP' is directed by Anthony Wonke and will be produced by Moneyglass Films, Partizan Films and Roads Entertainment, in association with BBC Films.

 

The BAFTA winning director commented: “When producer Nick Ryle called me and said ‘They call him simply Champ in the racing world - 19 times champion AP McCoy has never lost a season and this could be his last – do you want to make a film about him?’ I was instantly hooked. It’s a great thrill and honour to be allowed to take our cameras into such an incredible world and especially into AP McCoy’s. With truly unprecedented access into the life and mind of a sporting legend in what could be his most defining year - 'Being AP' is going to make for a moving and enthralling film that captures the drive for greatness but the realisation that with retirement it must all come to an end.”

THURSDAY 21st MAY 2015

 

I'M ALRIGHT, JACK!

The John Gosden-trained Betfred Dante Stakes runner-up has new part-owners. The Emirates Airline-sponsored Godolphin Racing has acquired a share of JACK HOBBS, one of the leading contenders for next month's Derby. No doubt the Maktoum family were impressed by the son of HALLING's 12-length victory in the bet365 Handicap at Sandown towards the end of April. The three-year-old colt, who has had former Godolphin jockey, Frankie Dettori, aboard for both of his races this season, is also entered in the King Edward VII Stakes, and the Coral-Eclipse, the Irish Derby as well as the Curragh Classic on Wednesday.

 

The Godolphin racing empire has clearly been on the look-out for a strong Derby candidate. The only hope they have at the moment is the 33/1 shot, BEST OF TIMES who is due to run in tomorrow's Casco EBF Stallions Cocked Hat Stakes at Goodwood. Their policy of acquiring successful horses has already paid dividends, as witnessed by NIGHT OF THUNDER's victory in the Group 1 Al Shaqab Lockinge Stakes at Newbury five days ago.

 

Godolphin's bloodstock adviser, John Ferguson, commented: "Jack Hobbs has run just three times and has shown remarkable progression. John Gosden, who also trained his sire Halling for us, has a high opinion of the colt. He has loads of scope and class and looks like the kind of horse that will only improve with age."

 

Tom Goff, Blandford Bloodstock owner, organiser of the JACK HOBBS deal commented: "There has been a lot of interest in Jack Hobbs. The possibilities for him are the Derby, the King Edward VII Stakes and the Irish Derby. I believe he's got an exciting future."

 

LORD KNOWS HOW!

The Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh this weekend sees the return of the Tom Hogan-trained GORDON LORD BYRON, who is a much-travelled seven-year-old, last seen racing in Hong Kong in March in the Sha Tin Queen's Silver Jubilee Cup. The son of BYRON was also at that track last December when he tackled the Hong Kong Sprint, just two months after winning British Champions Sprint at Ascot on Champions Day.

 

The County Tipperary trainer commented: “He seems in good form and the plan is the Diamond Jubilee. The ground should be fine for him, hopefully we get no more rain as he prefers good ground. This is a starting point, he's working nicely, we've had him away to work and he's going well."

 

DOWNSIZING?

An Irish champion of eight Grade One races, including the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2011, the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival the year before and three Champion Chases at Gowran Park is to race no more. The Henry de Bromhead-trained SIZING EUROPE, unfortunately, didn't exactly cover himself with glory the last time out in March when he came a disappointing seventh in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, following on from a sound defeat in the Clonmel Oil Chase last November. This was obviously a defining moment for his owners as they decided to hang up the son of PISTOLET's saddle for good.

 

The County Waterford-based trainer commented: "There's been too many highlights to pinpoint one and he really has been the horse of a lifetime for all involved,” said de Bromhead. "We're delighted he retires in one piece, and hopefully he'll take part in the racehorse to riding horse shows in the future."

 

SIZING EUROPE raced 45 times, notching up 22 Firsts, 10 Seconds and 2 Thirds. In the process he accumulated over £1.3million for his owners and connections.

 

WEDNESDAY 20th MAY 2015

 

FIRST-RATE!

According to the recently published official Anglo-Irish classifications for the 2014-15 season, an eight-year-old gelding who only made it to third place in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March has been nominated as the champion steeplechaser at both two-and-a-half and three miles plus. There again, the Gordon Elliott-trained DON COSSACK did go on to score decisive victories on his next two outings, the Aintree Betfred Melling Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup, both in April. The son of SHOLOKOV has been given a rating of 175, three pounds higher than the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Mark Bradstock's CONEYGREE, in the staying chasers’ category. The latter was, in fact, the first novice for 41 years to secure the Gold Cup and is rated at 172 jointly with the Paul Nicholls-trained SILVINIACO CONTI, winner of the King George VI Chase. Willie mullins' VAUTOUR, the impressive victor of the JLT Novice Chase at Cheltenham is among six other chasers rated at 170 or above and his is 171.

 

These results with novice chasers scoring so highly possibly indicates that racegoers can look forward to an exciting and competitive 2015-16 season with the high level steeplechasing. Informed racegoers will immediately recall that DON COSSACK'S rating is over 14 pounds lower than the legendary KAUTO STAR's 190 on the conclusion of the 2009-2010 season but there is clear evidence that there is an abundance of evolving talent who has made it to within six pounds of the top scorers so there could be a lot to look forward to. The six-year-old Willie Mullins-trained DON POLI (163), the RSA Novice Chase winner, will possibly be strutting his stuff in the 2016 Gold Cup, for which VAUTOUR is the current ante-post favourite at 6/1, followed by DON COSSACK (7/1), CONEYGREE (8/1) and DON POLI (9/1).

 

the two-and-a-half miler handicapper, Mark Olley, stated: “Don Cossack finished third in the Ryanair Chase [at Cheltenham] having made a mistake and being hampered two out at a very crucial time of the race,” Then he came out in the Melling Chase [at Aintree] and destroyed the field there. The hard thing about it was what on earth to call a 26-length win ahead of some reasonably solid horses? It was such a hard race to put a level on and strictly speaking it could have been a lot higher than 175, but we were weighing up whether all the others just underperformed. Then he came out and won again [over three miles] afterwards which helped to tie a level to the form.”

 

Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien added: “Don Cossack’s run at Cheltenham does raise the question about him at Cheltenham, and he fell there as a novice. But away from Cheltenham, his form was absolutely rock-solid. At Aintree, we were downgrading all those behind him, but even then, 175 was going to be a minimum.”

 

TWEEDLEDEE HASN'T THE SCOPE

It's just been announced that ESTIDHKAAR won't be running in Saturday's Tattersalls Irish 2,000 Guineas after al.l so will not be accompanying his stable companion, IVAWOOD, to County Kildare on Saturday. As mentioned yesterday, trainer Richard Hannon commented on Monday that the son of DARK ANGEL had performed well on the gallops at the weekend and everything indicated that the three-year-old colt was all set to make history of his calamitous result in the Qipco 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket at the beginning of the month. But to paraphrase a well-known saying from Robert Burns' poem, 'To a Mouse': “the best laid schemes of mice and horse trainers gang aft a-gley”.

A disappointed Richard Hannon announced: "It's a shame but Estidhkaar's scope was not great and you need to be 100 per cent to be a player in a Classic. We'll give him time to recover and look for something else."

 

2000 GUINEAS? ROGER!

Someone else with Irish 2,000 Guineas aspirations is Kremlin House Stables' trainer, Roger Varian who hopes to saddle BELARDO at the Curragh but success might depend on there being some ease in the ground by Saturday. The son of LOPE DE VEGA demonstrated his Classic credentials when winning the Group One Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, but disappointed his connections at Newbury in April, coming last-but-one in Greenham Stakes.

Varian insists there are no signs his charge has not trained on judged on his homework and he expects a bold show on Saturday, as long as underfoot conditions are suitable.

 

Roger Varian commented: "He doesn't want it too quick. I think good ground and anything easier than good is favourable. He did some very nice work on Sunday morning, the plan is to run him on Saturday and we just hope it doesn't dry out too much. You have to keep faith in these horses and you can't write them off after one run, especially as the ground was very quick at Newbury and he just never let himself down. He didn't have a hard race, he's a fresh horse. His work had been excellent leading up to that race and excellent since.

"We'd be very confident that, provided the ground isn't too quick, we've a very good horse on our hands still."

 

TUESDAY 19th MAY 2015

 

TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE

 

IVAWOOD and ESTIDHKAAR

At the Curragh will compete

For IVAWOOD claims that ESTIDHKAAR

In the Irish 2000 Guineas he can beat.

But IVAWOOD in the Greenham Stakes

Was really quite outpaced

And ESTIDHKAAR's failure in the QIPCO Guineas?

Really has to be faced.

But IVAWOOD and ESTIDHKAAR

Are going to County Kildare

'Cos IVAWOOD and ESTIDHKAAR

Are Richard Hannon's inseparable pair.

 

About ESTIDHKAAR the Marlborough-based trainer commented: “He is a big colt and maybe he was not as fit as we thought he was in the trial, but you saw the real Ivawood in the Guineas and, while we aren't claiming we would have beaten Gleneagles, we might have been a length or two closer had we not been drawn out in the middle. Estidhkaar, in contrast, never ran a race in the Guineas. He did not enjoy the dips and ridges of the Rowley Mile when he injured himself in last year's Dewhurst, so we think the Curragh will suit him better. He worked really well when Dane O'Neill came to sit on him on Saturday and he can also expect easier ground in Ireland which will suit him.'

 

A HORSE BY ANY OTHER NAME ...

Last night at Roscommon in the Irish Stallion Farms Fillies Maiden the Dermot Weld-trained KALEEFA earned her stripes as the favourite, taking the prize by three-and-a-half lengths. Her name, for some, conjures up thoughts of another similarly named mare, KAYLIFA ARAMIS, the ten-year-old daughter of KAYF TARA, who unfortunately never raced because of a throat disorder but performed excellent duties as a Dam and gave birth to ZAYFIRE ARAMIS, now in training with Michael Scudamore, and BERLYF ARAMIS, still waiting to join the ranks of the successful SADLER'S WELLS descendants.

 

It was the Aga Khan-owned KALEEFA in the limelight last night, however, and the four-year-old daughter of SINNDAR showed she was no shrinking violet when tackling the soft ground caused by heavy showers throughout the day. She even seemed to enjoy the test of her stamina, particularly in the final two furlongs when she had to work hard to to fight off the challenge from WHEN IN DOUBT, the four-year-old daughter of MONTJEU.

 

Winning jockey Pat Smullen commented: “It’s good to get a bracket with her (!?). Stamina won the day. She handled the ground, dug deep and stays well.”

 

HOW YA GONNA KEEP'EM DOWN ON THE FARM, AFTER THEY'VE SEEN PAREE?

After his success in the Prix la Barka at Auteuil on Sunday trainer David Pipe is thinking of taking his BALLYNAGOUR back to the French capital. It seems the nine-year-old son of SHANTOU survived his trip very so well that the Somerset-based trainer wants to cross the Channel again to have a crack at the French Champion Hurdle, perhaps, appropriately, taking along his French-bred stable companion, UN TEMPS POUR TOUT.

David Pipe commented: "Ballynagour ran out a most impressive winner of the Prix la Barka - the main trial for the French Champion Hurdle in three weeks' time. In beating Willie Mullins' Val De Ferbet and the best hurdlers that France could throw at him, he proved himself a leading contender for the big one itself. He has travelled well and is home safe and sound and providing he continues to please me in the coming days, I see no reason why he should not take his chance. Of course the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil (French Champion Hurdle) will be tougher again, with the likes of Hurricane Fly and Annie Power possible runners from the Mullins battalion, but he more than deserves his place in the line-up. We could also have another string to our bow with Aintree third (in the Stayers' Hurdle) Un Temps Pour Tout also an intended runner."

MONDAY 18th MAY 2015

 

GETTING INTO THE PICTURE

Yet another horse named after a famous painter is striving to make his claim to run in the Derby. This time it's GIOVANNI CANALETTO, who was due to run in the trial at Chester earlier in the year but couldn't because of he didn't pass a medical test, is now set to race at the Curragh this coming weekend. He follows in the hoof tracks of another artistically named colt, HANS HOLBEIN and a high flyer, KILIMANJARO, who have already proved their credentials for next month's celebrated contest. This GALILEO son, on only his third career start, was victorious by six-and-a-half lengths in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund but that was back in October 2014.

 

Ballydoyle trainer, Aidan O'Brien, commented yesterday: "We're looking at running Giovanni Canaletto in the Group 3 Gallinule Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday. We'll see how he gets on, then make a decision about Epsom.”

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM

Saturday's win in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico (USA), in conditions decribed as 'sloppy', means that expectancy is building up for AMERICAN PHAROAH to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Trainer Bob Baffert wasn't even allowed the luxury to enjoy his sixth win in America's second Classic because everyone else countrywide had moved on to discussing the three-year-old's chances in the Belmont Stakes in three weeks' time. Achieving the Triple Crown has been the making and breaking of thirteen Kentucky Derby/Preakness winners so far, and three of them handled by Bob Baffert. This son of PIONEER OF THE NILE has, for some reason, captured the hearts of all America some time ago and he has been ear-marked as the lucky number 14. It seems he cannot put a hoof wrong: he was the Kentucky Derby Favourite and he won; the Favourite for the Preakness and he claimed it; he's the Favourite for the Belmont Stakes and it's got to be his, along with the Triple Crown. Stands to reason. Well, perhaps not. Thirty-seven years ago AFFIRMED became the last horse to claim the famous treble which has been many a star horse's downfall, caused by a combination of the very tight five-week schedule of the Triple Crown series and the toughness of the Belmont track.

 

The ecstatic support for AMERICAN PHAROAH is not exactly justified when examining what he has to offer. For one thing, his form and times aren't particularly impressive even if he is undoubtedly the best three-year-old in America. His stamina raises a number of questions. His pedigree could mean he might have a problem handling the step-up in trip to a mile-and-a-half in the Belmont Stakes although his successes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness indicate that he a strong performer over one mile two furlongs and, on that basis, he should not be lacking in the extra two furlongs. A veritable feather in his cap has got to be his consistency. He has only lost one race and that was his juvenile debut and since then he has not looked back, scoring at the highest level on every outing.

 

As mentioned earlier, Belmont's stamina test is the one that will be critical. The victor will be the one who runs the legs of his rivals and judging from AMERICAN PHAROAH's performance at Churchill Downs and Pimlico, he has got what it takes - if all goes well on the day.

 

FORGOTTEN RULES, OK?

Dermot Weld-trained FORGOTTEN RULES won the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes at Navan yesterday and thus maintained his unbeaten record in four races. The five-year-old may have been the 8/11 favourite but it wasn't even so an easy victory but he managed eventually to find that little bit extra approaching the post and beat off Jim Bolger's ANSWERED by one-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

The winning trainer commented afterwards: “I was very pleased with the performance and thought it was an excellent renewal of the race. Two very brave and high-class stayers fought it out. The obvious logical next step is the Ascot Gold Cup and the only caveat I would have is that he would never want the ground too firm.”

 

SUNDAY 17th MAY 2015

 

COMING BACK FOR MOORE

A three-times champion jockey clocked up five out of six at Newbury yesterday. Ryan Moore cost the bookies a packet winning in the first race on 11/1 shot BIRCHWOOD, trained by Richard Fahey, then the second on the 8/13 favourite, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained TELESCOPE. In the following Toronado Carnarvon Stakes he then steered William Haggas' ADAAY to a one-and-three-quarter length victory and hardly had time to change his colours before getting astride the Roger Charlton-trained TIME TEST and taking him into the winner's enclosure. It then looked as though that was his lot for the day as he only managed to bring home in fifth position another Sir Michael Stoute-trained five-year-old, INTEGRAL but it was the hotly-contest Lockinge Stakes after all. But just when the bookmakers thought it was 'safe to go back into the water', there was more magic from Moore. On his sixth and last ride of the day the 31-year-old Brighton-born jockey brought Sir Michael Stoute's CRYSTAL ZVEZDA with a powerful surge from the rear of the field to win convincingly by three-and-a-half lengths the Haras De Bouquetot Fillies' Trial Stakes.

 

Ryan Moore, with typical modesty, commented: "I thought I would have a chance of four winners today. But it has been a good day. Pity I didn't win the Lockinge. I can't remember how many five-timers I've had - not enough!"

 

Michael Shinners, a spokesman for Sky Bet said: "It's been a good day for our racing punters, especially with Telescope's victory triggering our money-back offer. We knew after the third one went in that we were in trouble, but thankfully Integral's defeat meant that we avoided paying out on the full six-fold. He's now 7/2 to win this season's jockeys' championship with Sky Bet."

 

David Williams, of Ladbrokes, was not so restrained when he added: "It's been an horrendous day. Ryan Moore is the pre-eminent jockey of our time. When he strings together multiples on a big betting Saturday, it's bad. When he strings five together, it's horrific."

 

STEALING THE THUNDER

And the one that got away from the jockey of the day at Newbury was, as mentioned above, the Lockinge Stakes. That was because he was up against last year's Godolphin 2,000 Guineas winner, the 11-4 joint favourite NIGHT OF THUNDER, with James Doyle aboard, who beat his stable companion, TOOLMORE, to the post by a neck.

 

The delighted winning trainer, Richard Hannon, commented afterwards: “They will probably both go to Ascot for the Queen Anne. As the year goes on the races open up in Europe. There's the Jacques le Marois, the Moulin. There are lots of lovely races and they don't have to go for the same ones."

 

WHAT AM I BID?

In Malvern Next week is scheduled the first auction of racehorses that are being sold as normal riding horses. Brightwells Auctioneers has teamed up with RoR (Retraining of Racehorses) to organise this unique sale. There will be some thirty currently active thoroughbreds up for sale, including quite a number from National Hunt trainerssuch as Tom George, Venetia Williams and Anabel King Murphy.

 

The age-range of these horses ranges varied from the three-year-old James Evans-trained mare, REET PETITE, a sprint racer who managed a Second and a Third from thirteen outings, to a 12-year-old gelding, STOREY COBURN, who clocked up two Thirds from fifteen races.

 

Brightwells' bloodstock manager and auctioneer, Andrew Elliot, commented: “This being the first sale of its type, we really did not know how it would be received. However, the feedback from trainers has been very positive and we are greatly encouraged by how well it has been supported. I am pleased with the quality of the horses entered and have no doubt that they will all have the potential to find a rewarding second career after racing.”

 

Di Arbuthnot, chief executive of RoR added: “There are now more than 10,000 horses registered on RoR’s database as active in a second career. This sale is intended as another step towards facilitating the transfer of horses from a training yard to a life after racing.”

 

Buyers will have to agree to have a ‘non racing agreement’ clause added to its passport which will not allow any purchase horse to be returned to racing in the future. It is anticipated that prices will range from £400 to £2,000 and higher.

                                                     

SATURDAY 16th MAY 2015

 

TWEET AND SOUR

Cathy Gannon's tweet yesterday at Newbury cost her £290. The Dublin-born jockey incurred the wrath of the stewards by tweeting a picture illustrating the low standard of food on offer for the jockeys. The Berkshire trac authorities fined her and made the following statement: “Following a report from the clerk of the course that Cathy Gannon had taken a photograph on her mobile phone from within the jockeys’ changing room during racing, which she later put on Twitter, they interviewed the rider and took evidence from the clerk of the course. Having heard their evidence the stewards found the rider in breach of rule (D)33.1 and fined her £290.”

 

The reason for the fine is that the rules expressly state that no rider may to use a mobile telephone in the jockey’s changing rooms or anywhere else on the racecourse.

 

Paul Struthers, C of E of the Professional Jockeys Association, showed his sympathy when he tweeted: “Fined £290 for taking a picture after you've finished riding and tweeting it after leaving the racecourse. #pathetic.”

 

THANKS A MILLION!

Today someone could become a millionaire. Totepool's Scoop6, win and place competition has £1.25 million up for grabs on races at Newmarket, Thirsk and Newbury. The win fund has risen to £477,526 because nobody claimed it last month and the bonus fund is on its 15th week rollover and so another £516,801 is there for the winning. It's reminiscent of this time last year when a huge £10m prize was eagerly competed for but no-one got their betting skills successfully around the six-race sensation and it was also rolled over to the following week when it was finally bagged at £15m. Readers may remember that wheelie bin cleaner, Craig Brazier trousered about £1. 3 million.

 

Totepool spokesman, Andrew Griffiths commented: "Once again we have a whopping Scoop6 on Lockinge Day. We may not be hitting the heights of 2014 quite yet but there's a real chance we could make one punter very rich indeed."

 

FOUR-HUNDREDTH VICTORY

A Haddington-based racehorse owner got the champagne out last week after notching up his 400th winner when his TURTLE WATCH won at Kelso Races. Raymond Anderson Green commented: “It’s taken us a bit of time, but it’s a bit of a milestone and we’re all very delighted. It was a frustrating couple of weeks between the 399th win and getting 400 but it was nice when it came. We haven’t set any sort of targets, but when you get to four [hundred] then five is the next one, I suppose – it would be nice if we were around for long enough to have another 100 winners.

 

Most of his successes have been in National Hunt races. He sincerely believes that he and wife, Anita, will become the most successful horse owners in the country. He has a list of highlights in his horse-owning career. He particularly recalls a memorable afternoon at Carlisle when he had four consecutive winners. Perhaps pride of place, however, goes to his MERIGO who won the Scottish Grand National in 2010 and again in 2012.

 

FRIDAY 15th MAY 2015

 

HORN OF PLENTY

What's two-and-three-quarter lengths between stable mates? Victory in the Dante Stakes, that's what! John Gosden saddled two of his stable stars in yesterday's contest, GOLDEN HORN and JACK HOBBS. It was the latter who was sent off the favourite for this Derby trial and seemed well positioned as he tracked the Karl Burke-trained LORD BEN STACK who set the early gallop, with Andrew Balding's ELM PARK shadowing him closely. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Andrea Atzeni would claim the prize on the the Racing Post Trophy winner. That was not counting, however, on the hidden reserves of GOLDEN HORN steered ably by William Buick who moved into second spot two furlongs from home, then producing an impressive run coming through to brush off JACK HOBBS' possible bid for glory. The result gave the Clarehaven Stables' trainer a one and two for the race.

 

The winning jockey commented: “That was a very good performance from a very good horse. He keeps progressing. He switched off well. It was a very good race, an even pace and he’s a very exciting horse. To ride a horse like this is what it’s all about, he’s got so many gears – it’s just point and shoot. He’s come forward from Newmarket (Feilden Stakes) and that was only his third run, so you could see a lot of improvement.”

 

John Gosden added with regard to his winning protégé's possible involvement in the Derby: “It’s very much up to Mr Oppenheimer. He’s been very firm with me that he’s a mile-and-a-quarter horse and he told me that all along, so we will see. The jockey felt he finished strongly today. He’s a horse who has really come on since he won the Feilden Stakes. When he won the Feilden, we said we’d come to the Dante and that’s what we’ve done. The other horse (Jack Hobbs) ran great, but was stacked three wide the whole way and I told William to tuck in at the back and go to sleep as he has a good turn of foot. He had a dream trip, but Jack was rather wide all the way and then babyish and wondering what to do. Golden Horn is a well-balanced horse and he’s neat, whereas Jack Hobbs is a big, rangy boy – they are different types. I can see the logic in supplementing him, but it’s not my money.”

 

WHAT BALLY WELL WENT WRONG!

Someone who was undoubtedly baffled by the Dante Stakes was Ballydoyle trainer, Aidan O'Brien. His two entries, OL' MAN RIVER and JOHN F KENNEDY were completely outpaced and trailed home a long way behind the rest of the field, finishing second to last and last, respectively.

 

JOHN F KENNEDY's jockey, Ryan Moore commented: “JFK travelled very well and then just cut out. He did that at Leopardstown and we put it down to the ground, but there's obviously something else. We cant find anything wrong with them at home. All the tests had been ticked off, so there'll be no Epsom for them. We will stop with them now and give them a break. As for what we will run in the Derby, we will see what happens in the next two weeks. Those three pulled a long way clear there and I would imagine that their trainers were very happy."

 

The clearly disappointed trainer added: "There's no way Gleneagles will be going to Epsom. We haven't had a horse like him for a long time. He's an out-and-out miler but with more speed than Giant's Causeway."

 

SKY'S THE LIMIT

Will there be a similar upset in today's Betway Yorkshire Cup? The favourite is the Tom Dascombe-trained BROWN PANTHER, winner of the Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March. John Gosden is back again with ROMSDAL, victor of the Magnolia Stakes at Kempton. On the face of it it looks like a two-horse race but that leaves out of the mix last year's St Leger third, SNOW SKY, who hasn't set hoof on a track since running in the Longines Hong Kong Vase where his performance is best forgotten. But this four-year-old son of NAYEF is a progressive middle distance stayer, trained by Sir Michael Stoute, destined for higher things and is in many a punter's good books for the Knavesmire as he put on a strong show when he was at York last August when he was runner-up to Luca Cumani's POSTPONED in the Great Voltigeur Stakes.

THURSDAY 14th MAY 2015

 

SEVILLE, MONEY FOR JAM?

Trainer John Gosden may well think he's got an Oaks' winner to match his last-year success with TAGHROODA but it looks like not everyone is sure about that, particularly the bookies. His this-year hopeful, STAR OF SEVILLE, was ridden to victory by Frankie Dettori in yesterday's Musidora Stakes at York. Doubts are however raised by how the daughter of the DUKE OF MARMALADE did it not that fact that she claimed the prize. The three-year made all the running but needed to be shaken up before quickening into a two lengths' lead in the final furlong. She then proceeded to move to the left, was soon ridden inside the last hundred yards and just held on to beat her nearest rival TOGETHER FOREVER by a head.

 

After his customary flying dismount, the winning jockey commented: “She’s a character but she’s very talented. She had the race won but all of a sudden she decided to wait for the others and put her brakes on. When the other horse came, she ran on again.”

 

John Gosden added: ”It’s a long time to be in front. I’m delighted with her and there’s a little bit more to be had as she’s gaining in experience.”

 

GLASS RAISED IN TRIUMPH

The Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes on the Knavesmire yesterday afforded the David Simcock-trained GLASS OFFICE the opportunity for a dramatic display of a well-timed late run to triumph in a very tight finish where the first five finishers were separated by head, neck, head, neck and a nose. It wasn't a foregone conclusion by any score as the keenly-ridden

William haggas-traine MUTHMIR was off like a shot under Paul Hanagan, hotly pursued by Jamie Spencer on ASTAIRE and Frankie Dettori on French raider GAMMARTH. It looked as though it was all over bar the shouting as it appeared GLASS OFFICE's task was impossible as they neared the two-furlong pole with too many horses to overhaul. Somehow the 37-year-old Jim Crowley manage to find a little extra from somewhere within his five-year-old son of VERGLAS and claimed the contest.

 

The Ascot-born winning jockey commented afterwards: "I got shuffled back early on and we just had to work our way into it. To be honest, he had been off the track for such a long time before Newmarket we were hoping he would improve. David Simcock has done a fantastic job to get him back after such a long lay off. It was a great performance."

 

The Trillium Place Stables' trainer added: "Glass Office was entitled to improve for his first run in 16 months. We were hopeful of going to Dubai last year, but he got struck into coming out of the stalls and hurt himself quite badly and had the year off. I don't care how much work I could have put into him, he was never going to be ready first time. It was just a question of getting him back on track and getting a run into him and the freshness out of him. He actually ran very well in the Palace House over a trip far too sharp. He will go to Ascot now, then to the July Cup. It is a set pattern. I am pretty sure he will come on again."

 

AMERICAN TAKEOVER

BIG MACHER's current trainer, Richard Baltas, has recommended that the retired American Champion jockey, turned trainer, Wesley Ward, should train his his Grade One-winning sprinter for next month’s Royal Ascot meeting. The five-year-old is being moved to Wesley Ward's stable on the recommendation of Richard Baltas as he felt that he was the best man for the task at hand, as he had achieved great success at Ascot, particularly with the now-retired NO NAY NEVER in the Norfolk Stakes two years ago. The son of BEAU GENIUS won the Grade One Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar last July and fared not so well afterwards, only managing fifth slot at Meydan on Dubai World Cup night at the end of March. The American handler will also be saddling UNDRAFTED in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.

 

The 47-year-old Selah-born trainer commented: "Undrafted ran on Kentucky Derby day and is going to go in the Diamond Jubilee on the closing day at Ascot. I've another horse called Big Macher. He got left at the gates at Dubai (in the Golden Shaheen). He's trained by a friend of mine, Richard Baltas. He was kind enough to refer me to the owners . The owners want to run him at Royal Ascot and as I'm familiar with going there Richard felt it was best I took him on. We'll breeze Big Macher on the grass and see how he takes to it before we decide which race to go for with him."

 

WEDNESDAY 13th MAY 2015

 

DANTE DAY DELIBERATIONS

Tomorrow's Dante Stakes at York will see a powerful octet entering the stalls and three of them are hot Derby contenders. As expected Aidan O’Brien has brought over JOHN F KENNEDY and OL' MAN RIVER. Obviously the Ballydoyle trainer is hoping that the former can put behind him a very disappointing ten-and-a-half lengths defeat in the Ballysax Stakes last month and the latter has more stamina than he had in the 2000 Guineas when he tailed off dramatically. In response Newmarket-based John Gosden will be saddling three-year-old JACK HOBBS looking for a hat-trick after his wins at Wolverhampton in the Bet365 Maiden Stakes in December and the Bet365 Handicap at Sandown Park last month. The latter will be accompanied by stable companion GOLDEN HORN also looking for three in a row. The only other entry worth a mention from the rest of the field is the Andrew Balding-trained ELM PARK winner of the Racing Post Trophy in October seeking his fifth consecutive victory.

Kingsclere-based trainer, Andrew Balding, commented: “It should be fascinating. I think it’s near enough the first four in the Derby betting who could all be running.”

 

KEEN COLIN CONQUERS KILLARNEY

Last night at Killarney jockey Colin Keane pulled off a treble victory, making it the third treble of his career. First off the mark was BERTIE LE BELGE, trained by his boss, Ger Lyons in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Race, following that up swiftly in the very next race, the Bet Online At thetote.com Handicap, when SACRIFICIAL, also County Meath trained, came in by a neck. Striking while the iron was hot Colin Keane then went on to make it a treble on JACKY ELLIS, this time saddled by County Longford trainer, Pau Flynn.

and following-up on Paul Flynn’s Jackie Bertie Ellis.

 

Of BERTIE LE BELGE's performance where he came from last to first for an emphatic length-and-three-quarter victory, the winning trainer commented: “Colin said he got there lovely, but idled in front. He won like a nice horse and, with no firm plans, we’ll make it up as we go along. He should stay further, although the fact that he won over six last year had us confused.”

 

DON'T COUNT YOUR DUBAI SHENS BEFORE THEY'RE HATCHED!

Anyone with money on the the 12/1 shot, DUBAI SHEN in the last race of the day, the Furlonger Life Paxtons Kverneland Genuine Parts Maiden NH Flat Race, must have already been thinking how they would spend their windfall, when the Alistair Whillans-trained four-year-old, with Craig Nichol aboard, surged through his rivals into two-length lead just half-a-furlong from the post. But, as many a great horse has done in the past, including Cheltenham champion KAYF ARAMIS on his only all-weather outing at Kempton Park, the son of DUBAI DESTINATION pricked his ears when he passing the paddock situated just before the winning post, decided that was the place to be, swerved to the right and plonked his unfortunate jockey unceremoniously on terra firma. (The firmer, the less the terror! Boom, boom!) That action handed the race on a plate to an unlikely victor, the Chris Grant-trained ALLYCAT ridden by Diarmuid O'Regan. The only possible consolation for those who didn't tear their betting slip into tiny pieces in disgust is that Paddy Power has announced that it would refund all bets on the recalcitrant rogue.

 

TUESDAY 12th MAY 2015

 

MAKIN'S MUSSELBURGH MONDAY

The East Lothian track, known until the 1990s as Edinburgh Racecourse, provided jockey, Phillip Makin, with an impressive victory in the Download Your Racing UK App Handicap Go Dan Go was an impressive winner of the at Musselburgh on Monday. The 30-year-old Thirsk-based rider was consolidating his 18% strike rate when he steered the Keith Dalgleish-trained 5/2 favourite, GO DAN GO to a five-length win. The three-year-old son of DANDY MAN has only had seven outings which have produced two Firsts, two Seconds and two Thirds, much to the delight of his owners, Richard & Katherine Gilbert.

 

The South Lanarkshire-based winning trainer commented: "He progressing nicely and even more so on the evidence of today. He's a nice, big horse and pretty versatile regarding track and ground. We will see where to go from here but he will stay a mile on a galloping track. He's also very relaxed and was half asleep in the paddock."

 

A FINE ROMANCE”!

One the shortest-priced British-trained fillies for the Investec Oaks may not be ready by June 5th , however. The Saeed Bin Suroor-trained BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE is behind schedule for the prestigious Epsom Classic, it has been revealed. The NEW APPROACH three-year-old filly triumphed by nine lengths in her maiden, the Universal Recycling British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes at Doncaster last October and last month clinched a third in the The Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket.

 

The legendary Godolphin trainer commented yesterday: "Beautiful Romance is in light training and it looks like the Irish Oaks is more likely, but we are keeping options open.”

 

No worry if BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE doesn't make it. The four-times champion trainer will have other options. Even without stablemate, LOCAL TIME, who might not run, either, because of the ground, then Godolphin could be represented in the Oaks by VERY SPECIAL and WINTERS MOON.

 

LUCKY ESCAPE

The 2008 Grand National winning jockey scored his first goal yesterday on the Flat at Wolverhampton. The race - the Roger & Mary Marsh Handicap, the horse – three-year-old HOUDINI, trained by former jockey, Jamie Osborne. Timmy Murphy who had been out of action since the beginning of last season because of a shoulder injury, was following up his first first rides on the Flat at Thirsk on Saturday when the best he could muster was a third. The County Kildare 30-year-old only had one ride for the day, after losing his bookings last Wednesday at Brighton when the meeting was abandoned after the second race because of high winds. The three-year-old son of PIVOTAL was sent off at 7/1 and succeeded in rebuffing the late challenge of Mark Usher's ARLECCHINO'S LEAP to claim the race by a head.

 

Jamie Osborne commented: "It's great he's got it under his belt so quickly. He's been riding out three or four times a week for me for the best part of two months now. Timmy is and always has been a great horseman and if you saw that race, he didn't look like a man having his third ride on the Flat. In my eyes if you can ride, you can ride. I can't believe he is where he is with his weight but he did 9st comfortably there and didn't look bad on it, he seems strong and healthy. He's just a phenomenally good jockey, he's a good bloke and I'll be using him when I can. If I can help him make a good go of it, then I will do."

MONDAY 11th MAY 2015

 

WHERE ANGELS DARE TO TREAD!

A County Durham trainer achieved the greatest success of his career yesterday at Longchamp with a four-year-old sprinter. The Michael Dods-trained MECCA'S ANGEL broke Longchamp track record into the bargain in the five-furlong De St-georges Group 3 Stakes. The daughter of DARK ANGEL, owned by Darlington-based businessman David Metcalfe, was also making it her second Group Three triumph by seeing off such talented rivals as CATCALL, HOT STREAK and MAAREK. The win was unexpected by her trainer as he was convinced that the ground had become too too firm but these fears were soon allayed his stable star, with Paul Mulrennan aboard, surged from the stalls and was soon challenging Kevin Ryan's HOT STREAK for supremacy in the first three furlongs. The grey filly had enough in reserve in the final quarter-of-a-mile to kick on again, virtually getting the contest signed, sealed and delivered by the time she reached the furlong pole and there remained just the formality of passing the post two lengths clear of the chasing eleven.

 

The Denton Hall-based winning trainer commented: “It was a really strong field for a Group Three, but she ran brilliantly. We knew it was a strong performance, but then after the race they came and told us she’s broken the course record. That just shows how well she’s run. I don’t know the exact time yet, but to claim the course record at Longchamp is some achievement. You can’t fail to have been impressed with her. We came here because we wanted good ground and we were hoping it would be on the soft side of good when we flew over (this morning). By the time we got here, we were a little bit worried it might have dried up and gone against her, but she obviously handled it fine. We’re really pleased with her, and Paul even had to take a bit of a pull two-and-a-half furlongs out because she was going so well.”

 

VOTING RIGHT, GOOD FOR RACING RIGHT?

It seems that the racing world is delighted with the Conservative success in the General Election. Bookmakers, in particular, have been falling over themselves to record their pleasure. It's interesting, though, that the more influential bookies have not mentioned the main cause for their relief at last week's result. Racing and betting are, of course, the bread and butter of the industry but it is the fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) that provide the jam on top. It cannot have escaped any betting shop visitor's attention that just about every gambling location has four, what used to be called 'one-armed bandits, relentlessly providing risk-free revenue for hours on end, day in, day out.

 

The Labour Party did promise, if they were returned to power, to give local councils the authority to control the number of these FOBTs in their area and maybe even ban gaming machines altogether. Now the companies that control these machines know that it will be at least five years before there is a repeat of such a threat to their money makers.

 

The top officials of the Racing industry are also encouraged to believe that their much-desired “Racing Right”, the means by which they hope to procure a fair return to racing from betting, is now achievable. Indeed the proposal gained broad cross-party support in the last Parliament, promoted persistently by an appropriate Conservative MP, Matthew Hancock, whose constituency includes none other than the sport's holy ground, Newmarket. The crux of the reform is based on the strong belief by many within the sport, from the Jockey Club to the Racehorse Owners Association and the National Trainers Federation, that bookmakers are greedy individuals out for all they can get. The Racing Right, if brought into being, would give them greater powers in their negotiations with the gambling industry when endeavouring to ensure that the racing gets a fair return for what it offers. There is one complication, however. It is clear that many senior figures in the racing world seem to want more than “a fair return”. They may want to use the new powers as a weapon to avenge what they see as the injustices of the last 50 years or so .

 

YOUTHFUL YEARNING

Last season's champion conditional jockey has admitted that winning the jockeys' championship title this season is out of the question. 17-year-old Sean Bowen' s name has been mentioned in various papers as a possible successor to retired champion Tony McCoy even as soon as this season. The Pembrokeshire-based rider, however, seems to pooh-pooh the idea and maintains that his main ambition this season is to ride 80 winners.

 

Sean Bowen commented: "The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, but unforgettable. I enjoyed a fantastic season and receiving my trophy from racing legend Tony McCoy was amazing. Achieving half a century of winners was really rewarding and I am setting out to better that total in 2015/16. I lost a couple of months through injury early this year after a fall at Catterick so that lost me a few opportunities to have enhanced my total of winners. This season I’m setting a target of 80 winners. Of course, I’m going to be trying for as many as I can, but I don’t think that figure is unrealistic.”

 

SUNDAY 10th MAY 2015

 

NEW HEIGHTS FOR KILIMANJARO

Yesterday's Lingfield Derby Trial produced a surprise result. The John Gosden-trained CHRISTOPHERMARLOWE, one of the bookmakers' five favourites for the Derby blotted his copybook, only coming third, three-and-a-quarter lengths adrift of the winner, Aidan O'Brien's KILIMANJARO. The three-year-old, ridden by Ryan Moore slowly but surely reeled in the long-time leader, Ralph Beckett's 14-1 shot, MAGIC DANCER who had gone off at a fair lick with Pat Dobbs aboard and, for a while, it looked as though he had got it made but he was no match for the eventual victor at his peak.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He did it nicely. We took our time and he settled beautifully. We didn't go mad and had a lot to do turning for home, but he kept steadily picking up and when we got to the front he was just a little bit idle. I was really happy with him. He's got a good attitude. He only won a maiden a couple of weeks ago and this is all happening quite fast, but he's a nice progressive horse and I think he'll have a good year. He wasn't stopping and had done well to make up all that ground in the straight."

 

Of the disappointing performance of the odds-on favourite Frankie Dettori added: "The ground was too soft. He's American bred and didn't go on it at all."

 

OPERATION OVERLORD

At 40 years old, Grand National-winning jockey Timmy Murphy decided to switch disciplines and try his luck on the Flat and his first sortie was yesterday at Thirsk in the Project Management Scotland Ltd Handicap. The County Kildare rider was last in the limelight at the Aintree National in 2008 when he won spectacularly on the David Pipe-trained COMPLY OR DIE but has been absent from action since a year last January due to a problem with a dislocated shoulder. For his debut on the Flat he was aboard the Mark Rimell-trained OVERLORD who managed to make some headway when over two furlongs out, stayed on well in the closing stages but, when push came to shove, had to settle for fourth slot, conceding victory to Mick Appleby's SECRET LIGHTNING

 

BRAVE HEART

There was one successful debut on the Flat, though. After fifteen outings under National Hunt rules, including winning the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle, the Willie Mullins-trained WICKLOW BRAVE scored in the Follow Gowran Park On Facebook Maiden at the County Kilkenny racetrack. The six-year-old son of BEAT HOLLOW cruised smoothly from the rear to easily dominate the situation, ridden by jump jockey David Casey, who, interestingly, began his riding career as an apprentice to the Flat trainer, Tony Redmond.

 

The winning rider from County Waterford commented: "He has been a little bit quirky at the start a couple of days over jumps but he had been in stalls at home and he was in them again yesterday. I rode him myself at home and he was fine. The race went smooth for me, he travelled great. He quickened up well in the straight and he put it to bed once he got by the filly, and he galloped on well to the line. He had the ability going into the race to do that. I think he could be kept on the Flat for the summer. He has won his maiden here now and I think Willie can look at a few more Flat races for him now and see where he will progress to. He will handle nicer ground a bit better as well.

 

SATURDAY 9th MAY 2015

 

A STAR IS BORN

The beginning of the Stobart Jockeys’ Championship at Goodwood saw the unveiling of the Championship Star which the champion flat jockey will claim at the end of the season. This star will be awarded on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot on 17th October together with the annually bestowed trophy and a monetary reward of £25,000. Previous champion jockeys display the number of titles they have previously won on their riding breeches. The current Flat racing champion is Richard Hughes and he will be hoping to add a fourth to his winning total by the end of this season which he has already announced will be his last in the saddle.

 

Seb Sanders, who was the 2007 joint champion flat jockey with Jamie Spencer commented at Goodwood: “I think it’s a really nice idea that the champion jockeys will be recognised in this way. I’m certainly very proud to wear my star and I think it will be a good way for the public to recognise who the past champions are.”

 

Head of PR at Great British Racing, Harriet Collins, said: “We felt it was very important for racegoers and TV audiences to be able to identify our past and current champion jockeys. The Championship Star will be a visible reminder to the jockeys of what they’re fighting for throughout the season.”

 

THE REEL THING

Aidan O’Brien will soon be chasing his fourth victory in the French 2,000 Guineas and, with that in mind, he is putting his faith in HIGHLAND REEL to produce the goods in the Essai Poulains Group 1 Stakes at Longchamp tomorrow thereby mark the colt out as a top contender in the Epsom Derby. Eighteen horses are due to be saddled in the French Classic, worth over £400,000 where the draw can be a major factor in big fields. HIGHLAND REEL has got a lucky draw in stall 7 and faces one of his greatest rivals in the Charlie Hills-trained MUHAARAR, winner of the Greenham Stakes at Newbury last month, who, admittedly will be coming out of the not-so-favourable stall 18. As a second string to his bow, as it were, the Ballydoyle trainer is also giving his three-year-old WAR ENVOY a run with Chris O’Donoghue aboard.

 

Muhaarar’s trainer Charlie Hills commented: “Obviously we could have fared better with the draw but we can’t do anything about it. I couldn’t be happier with the horse. The ground has dried up since midweek. But he’ll have to be very good to overcome the draw.”

The main hope for a French victory is probably the Andre Fabré-trained MAKE BELIEVE, ridden by Olivier Peslier.

 

A COUPLE OF KERRY KINGS

The 2012 Cheltenham Champion Chaser, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup in November 2013 and the 2013 Arkle Trophy champion, SIMONSIG could be the crowd-pullers for the three-day meeting at the Killarney Racecourse or so the officials hope. FINIAN'S RAINBOW will be taking his chances in the Leane’s Tool Hire & Lawnmowers Chase tomorrow , steered by by Paul Townend. And SIMONSIG could well run in the Laurels Pub & Restaurant Hurdle on Monday. This dynamic duo have both been off the track for a long time due to injuries but their trainer, Nicky Henderson's decision to run them at the Ross Road track has been warmly welcomed by all the officials.

 

Sales and marketing manager, Brid Lucey, stated: “They have caused quite a stir. I know they are ground dependent – they’d need good ground — but obviously we’re delighted that they’re running them here. It’s huge and that should draw a big crowd. Simonsig hasn’t been out in two years so it’s a big thing that he and Finian’s Rainbow are coming over here. They would bring a crowd of their own, especially Simonsig. If one of those horses runs on Sunday and/or the other on Monday, it’ll just be huge.”

 

FRIDAY 8th MAY 2015

 

A NATIONAL TREASURE

To mark the centenary of the National Stud a special royal visitor was in Newmarket at the beginning of the week. Her Majesty The Queen, as Patron of The Jockey Club, unveiled in the historic Jockey Club Rooms a painting of herself with her Ascot Gold Cup-winning ESTIMATE. The portrait by Paul Benney was commissioned by The Jockey Club to celebrate the Queen’s long-standing contribution to British horse racing and will hang in the Jockey Club Rooms. A second portrait was presented to the Queen as a personal gift from the Members of The Jockey Club.

 

The Jockey Club, founded in 1750 by a group of gentlemen brought together by a shared passion for horse racing, is the largest commercial racing organisation in Britain and it is governed by Royal Charter, which means that alll profits are reinvested into the sport. The illustrious club manages many of the iconic institutions in the country, including the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National Festival and The Derby.

 

Senior Steward of The Jockey Club, Roger Weatherby, commented: “We were honoured and delighted to welcome Her Majesty The Queen to The National Stud and the Jockey Club Rooms. She is a wonderful advocate for our sport and continues to make a tremendous contribution as our Patron and a leading racehorse breeder and owner.”

 

CANDID CAMERA

Cheshire-based trainer Tom Dascombe is just fifteen miles away from Chester racetrack so it is no surprise that he has the Chester May meeting in his sights every year. He's already got a winner on the board with CYMRO who scored in Wednesday's Homeserve Maiden Stakes which may have come as icing on the cake as he has undoubtedly been targeting today's EBF Stallions Handicap for some time where he will be saddling SNAP SHOTS whose chances have improved considerably since the Charles Hills-trained SALT ISLAND was withdrawn. The three-year-old son of KODIAC won two races as a juvenile, the Halliwell Jones BMW i3 Become Electric EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes on his debut at Haydock in May 2014 and the Bathwick Car And Van Hire EBF Novice Stakes at Bath in July of the same year. He was back in business again last month when coming a creditable fourth in his first run in a handicap, the Group 2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot.

 

IN THE PICTURE

The Chester Vase was claimed yesterday by a last-minute substitute. The Aidan O’Brien-trained HANS HOLBEIN got his chance on the Roodee after another of the Ballydoyle trainer's stars suffered a setback and couldn't compete. In the event this was just what the doctor ordered for the son of MONJEU who gave his rivals short shrift, by making all the running and winning by a length-and-three-quarters, providing his trainer with his sixth victory in this Group Three contest.

 

The UK representative for owners Coolmore, Kevin Buckley, commented: “Ryan was told to ride him positively if there was no pace and he did. The horse has not run on that kind of ground before and we were very happy with the way he galloped all the way to the line – Ryan had a job pulling him up. That definitely puts him in the Derby picture. He saw the extra two furlongs out really well, as we thought he would. The horse is very honest and straightforward. Giovanni Canaletto couldn’t come here. He did and we’re very happy with that.”

THURSDAY 7th MAY 2015

 

A WIN FOR FIERCE WINDS

No this wasn't a victory yesterday for Tony Blower's four-year-old TORNADOES in the Gale Force Winds Handicap! No such luck! Brighton racecourse, just five minutes away from the South coast, had to abandon its meeting after only two races for safety reasons. Race officials and jockeys inspected the conditions before the race and were happy to continue with the first two of the seven-card event. After FAST GOLD's win in the first contest of the day, the Call Star Sports On 08000 521 321 Maiden Stakes, trainer Marcus Tregoning was prompted to comment ominously: “The wind is strong and he did well to get up" Sounds like a kite not a horse!

 

The second race, the starsportsbet.co.uk Handicap, also took place with no problems, won by the appropriately named, Chris Dwyer-trained FLEXIBLE FLYER. Then before the third fixture, strong gusts of wind began to cause problems and the day's racing was abandoned just after 3 o'clock.

 

Ed Arkell, the Clerk of the Course commented: "The wind is getting under the mats that we put down across the road crossings and to a lesser degree on the pull ups causing them to lift and even flip over. The problem is that not only is that dangerous to have horses racing across them but even if they are just lifting and moving the gaps between the mats open up and potentially a horse can put a foot straight through onto the Tarmac. Obviously the wind isn't ideal. The jockeys were happy [to race] but safety is first and we can't take that risk."

 

THE FRENCH CONNECTION

The Betway Chester Cup yesterday produced an unexpected win for the 10/1 shot, Ed Dunlop-trained TRIP TO PARIS, who put on a pleasing performance for connections and fans on the Roodie ( from Saxon 'Rood- a cross' and the Norse 'Eye- meaning an island so 'The Island of the Cross') as the Cheshire track is nicknamed. Earlier wins for the son of CHAMPS ELYSEES at Lingfield and Ripon in April obviously persuaded the Newmarket trainer to let his four-year-old have a crack at one of the most fiercely fought handicaps in the Flat season calendar. Winning jockey, Graham Lee, got every response he needed from the gelding in this extended two and a quarter miles. Two furlongs from home the 4/1 favourite, QUICK JACK and Dermot Weld's ZAFAYAN looked as though they would carve up the spoils between them but, before they knew what was happening, TRIP TO PARIS, not offered the best of chances from a disadvantaged Stall 11 draw, suddenly threw down the gauntlet and ended up three-quarters of a length ahead of the battling duo.

 

Ed Dunlop commented: “He’s been a revelation. I’ve always wanted to win this race. It’s very hard to do it, so it’s a great day. I made the strange entry and he’s won. He’s become a man this year.”

 

THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT!

The old joke was: “They're not running the Grand National any longer. It's quite long enough already!” Boom! Boom!

Well never a true word … , as they say. A new survey of all National Hunt tracks has discovered that many of Britain’s race courses are listed as longer than they are. Consequently, the distance of the Aintree spectacular has been reduced by a furlong. Last year it was announced that Wetherby had been running races over the wrong distances for the last five years. The new methodology will use system of measurement employed for Flat courses. Measurements will be based on a position taken two yards outside the inner rail instead of a the traditional running of the surveyor’s wheel in the middle of the course. From now on courses will be described in yards as well as to the nearest half-furlong. So the Grand National will henceforth officially be advertised as four miles, two furlongs and 74 yards. So it is no longer a four-and-a-half mile contest! In addition thirty-five other courses, including Ascot, Cheltenham, Chepstow, Haydock and Sandown are to have their published distances shortened.

                                           WEDNESDAY 6th MAY 2015

 

TAKING A FENCE - OR TWO!

It never rains but it pours, as they say. Officials at Sedgefield racecourse decided to water on Saturday and, would you believe it, then three-quarters of an inch of rain fell between Sunday and today. As a result, he first, fourth and fifth fences have pools of water around the take-off and landing areas and consequently these three obstacles will have to be omitted during today's fixture.

 

Sophie Barton, Clerk of the Course commented: "We were due up to seven millimetres the whole of the morning, but we've had five millimetres already since I walked the track at six o'clock and it's come down harder than I thought it might. The ground has stood up to quite a lot, it took Sunday's rain very well but this has tipped it over the edge. It can take a bit more. All of the week before we'd been forecast rain but had nothing so took the precaution of watering on Saturday, we put three millimetres on. The rain on Sunday helped a lot, but today's rain has been a bit too much in a short time."

 

It was later announced that no hurdle races were affected but one other fence might be a problem and some work might be necessary so that it does not also have to be by-passed.

 

THE PULL OF GRAVITY

The Homeserve Maiden Stakes at Chester tomorrow will witness the eagerly-awaited return of the Aidan O'Brien-trained SIR ISAAC NEWTON who hasn't been seen since he made his debut at Leopardstown in October, coming second, only half-a-length down, to Dermot Weld's ZAWRAQ, currently second favourite for the Epsom Derby. The three-year-old colt is a full brother to the Ralph Beckett-trained SECRET GESTURE, winner of last year's Voute Sales Warwickshire Oaks. This time the son of GALILEO will be up against a doughty rival in the form of KEBLE, John Gosden's hopeful for the Derby, who finished in INTILAAQ's slipstream in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Maiden Stakes at Newbury in the middle of last month.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented: "He's only had one run and we were taking our time with him. He's a horse we've thought a lot of and he has a lot of speed. You wouldn't rule out an Irish Guineas with him, but he probably has a lot to learn in a short space of time if he is going to be a Classic horse having only had one run. We always feel they learn a lot in Chester and come out of it very well. We'll let that happen and deal with it after that. He's a horse with a lot of pace, he could come back to an Irish Guineas if we needed him - Magician did that (after winning at Chester)."

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

The Gold Cup at Leopardstown was initiated in 1987 and Jas Hennessy & Co., or better known as Hennessy's, began the sponsorhip of this prestigious prize in 1991 but now this twenty-five-year association has come to a close.

 

Andy O'Hara, CEO of Edward Dillon & Co, distributors of Hennessy in Ireland announced the momentous decision on Tuesday: "In this, our 250th anniversary year, and following the 25th running, we have reluctantly decided not to extend our sponsorship beyond 2015. We've had a wonderful long-standing relationship with Leopardstown and we thank them for their dedication and commitment to this multifaceted sponsorship."

 

In response, Pat Keogh, Chief Executive of Leopardstown racing added: "We're extremely grateful to Hennessy for their huge contribution over the past 25 years. Our Gold Cup day is one of the premier sporting occasions each year and the only day in the Irish jumps calendar with four Grade 1 races on the same day. There is now a wonderful opportunity for a new partner."

 

TUESDAY 5th MAY 2015

 

NO TROUBLE WITH A DOUBLE!

Trainer Gordon Elliott proved that last week's triumph with his DON COSSACK winning the Punchestown Gold Cup wasn't a fluke by kicking off the new jumps season in great style. He and amateur rider jockey Barry O’Neill notched up a double at Down Royal yesterday. The first success came in the Charles Caldwell Memorial Beginners Chase with 4/11 favourite, FLAXEN FLARE, who hasn't raced since September in a Galway charity hurdle, showing his skills over fences for the first time and claiming the contest by four lengths.

 

The County Meath-based trainer commented: “Barry Geraghty rode him in Galway last year and told me he didn’t have the scope for winter ground. He’s been off since and won well. We should have fun with him for the summer.”

 

The double act made it a double in the very next race, the Daily Mirror Handicap Chase when the Gigginstown House Stud-owned MAKE A TRACK managed to overcome his top-weight and saw off nine-year-old MARITO in the final strides.

 

NOT GOING OFF THE RAIL - YET

A false rail was erected on the the stands’ side of the Newmarket track with the effect of narrowing the track by by some nine feet or so. The aim was to keep all the runners closer together instead of, as in in previous renewals of the Guineas, last year's 2,000 for instance, when, somewhat confusingly for the racegoers, two separate races seem to evolve on each rail. This innovation appears to have been considered successful and will probably be featured again, even though Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas race still divided into two groups for a good part of the race but the gap between them was not nearly as great as on previous occasions and soon disappeared. Not everyone was won over by the false rail, however. Jockey, Ryan Moore, for example, the eventual victor in both Classic contests was one of these. There was general feeling among the track officials, though, that there was less trouble in running.

 

Newmarket’s Director of Racing, Michael Prosser, stated: “The important thing is that we’ve delivered the correct winners on both occasions. I didn’t have anyone come up to me afterwards and say, ‘I should have won.’ If the false rail had not been there, I think those two groups would have been even further apart. You can argue strongly that Home Of The Brave, as a frontrunner, would have tacked over to the stands’ side rail and we’d have ended up with a situation not dissimilar to last year. But this time the two groups amalgamated from two furlongs out because they were not that far apart.”

 

SHOULD'A GONE TO ...!

The Denis Hogan-trained MY PAINTER revealed a stylish turn of foot as jockey Michael Hussey steered him positively through the field, two furlongs from home, ahead of the the main group of runners, in the PG Duffy & Sons Citroen Handicap at the Curragh yesterday and it certainly looked as if the Dundrum-born rider thought he had the race in the bag. The only problem was he had failed to see the 11/2 favourite, BOBBY JEAN who surged clear on the far side to win by half-a-length.

In the inquiry that followed Michael Hussey confessed he hadn't seen the eventual winner and was found in breach of Rule 212 as he failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to obtain the best finishing position and received a 14-day suspension; which means he'll miss the Irish Guineas meeting for his pains.

 

The jockey who ended up second commented: "I should have won. I knew I had the ones beside me covered, but I didn't see the horse on the far side."

 

MONDAY 4th MAY 2015

 

MOORE THAN BARGAINED FOR

The day after landing his first 2000 Guineas on the Aidan O’Brien-trained GLENEAGLES Ryan Moore did it again. He won the the Qipco 1000 Guineas riding in the same colours on LEGATISSIMO, incredibly making it his first double for ten years and, what is more significant, thereby becoming the first jockey since Kieren Fallon in 2005 to bag the big-race double on Guineas weekend. It looked as though the 31-year-old Brighton-born rider wouldn't be going anywhere, though, as he lost FOUND, his original booked ride, because Aidan O'Brien decided his thee-year-old GALILEO son wasn't ready and withdrew him at the declaration stage. Then Ryan Moore got lucky and was given the chance to land a second winner in this Classic to add to his success on HOMECOMING QUEEN in 2012. He was offered an acceptable substitute, the David Wachmann-trained son of DANEHILL DANCER.

 

Ralph Beckett's REDSTART and Richard Hannon's TIGGY WIGGY seemed determined to make the running and Ryan Moore was content to bide his time midfield until the right moment came. That came when REDSTART seemed to have no more to offer. TIGGY WIGGY was still going strong, galloping on gamely in front, soon, however, to be overhauled by the powerful Jim Bolger-trained LUCIDA and it looked then like it was all over bar the shouting. That, however, was not taking into account the skills of Ryan Moore and his mount's undoubted stamina, having won a Listed heat at Gowran Park just seven days previously. The dynamic duo gradually reeled in the 9/2 favourite who fought back bravely but this was not her day and she went down by three-quarters of a length.,

 

David Wachman, enjoying his first English Classic success, commented: “She’s a lovely filly, a big, scopey filly, and Ryan gave her a great ride. Over the winter she showed me she could be classy, but we went to Leopardstown early this season and she was beaten in soft ground and we were scratching our heads a bit. She won very well in Gowran last week, it was like a bit of work – we were taking a chance coming here so soon but it worked.”

 

STRIKER LASHES OUT

The Tom Dascombe-trained CROWLEY'S LAW lost the Listed Betfred EBF Conqueror Stakes at Goodwood on Saturday by a short head to Sir Mark Prescott's DON'T BE. To add insult to injury, the winning jockey, Chris Catlin, was reprimanded for using the whip above the permitted number of times (7 on the Flat and 8 on the jumps). This prompted Michael Owen, now a prominent owner and breeder, to voice his great displeasure at the result and to question the fairness of the whip rules. In the event, the winning jockey received a seven-day ban and fined £300 for his misuse of the whip, perhaps in some people's minds giving rise to the impression that racing rewards those who do not operate inside the rules.

 

As the former England striker commented: "Is racing the only sport where you get rewarded for breaking rules? People bend rules in all sports to get an advantage but how can it be that a horse gets beaten by the tiniest of margins with one jockey sticking to the rules and the other blatantly flouting them? The only punishment is the jockey in question [who broke the rules] gets a small fine and ban. What about the beaten horse? What about the owner and the near £23,000 he deserved to win? Should we be telling our jockey to break the rules to win at all costs? Nobody can tell me [Don't Be] would have beaten Crowley's Law had she not been hit over the permitted number [of strokes]."

It is interesting to note in this case that Sir Mark Prescott, the winning trainer, has stated very firmly in the past that winners who break the rules should be disqualified which makes the result a bit of a farce.

 

AND ALL THAT JAZZI!

The Newmarket Tweenhills Pretty Polly Stakes was, to all intents and purposes, a ragged sort of affair with fillies seeming to dash off all over the place as they approached the notorious Dip. Frankie Dettori, aboard JAZZI TOP, shrewdly, however, headed for the new cutaway two and a half furlongs out which has been introduced to prevent the field from splitting into two. The Dermot Weld-trained ZANNDA maintained a persistent challenge, never far away from James Tate's NAMHROODA but John Gosden's three-year-old DANEHILL DANCER daughter was more than their match and pulled well clear to win by a length-and-a-half.

 

John Gosden commented: "This (10 furlongs) looks like her perfect trip right now, the second looks a nice filly and it was a good quality race and she quickened well. She'd been training well coming into this and I was hopeful of a good run. Her half-sister (Izzi Top) was third in the Oaks, but her best trip was a mile and a quarter. With this filly being by Danehill Dancer, we've got a slightly different pedigree to consider. We could not be more pleased with her and Frankie felt the trip was spot on. We'll keep all options open and discuss the situation."

 

SUNDAY 3rd MAY 2015

 

PUNCHESTOWN PERFECTION

The legendary County Carlow trainer didn't let up until the final day of the prestigious Punchestown Party. Willie Mullins has dominated this occasion as is his wont and he didn't disappoint his fans and followers. He had already put his stamp on the week with his triumphs with FAUGHEEN, UN DE SCEAUX and VALSEUR LIDO and yesterday ANNIE POWER and PETITE PARISIENNE were victorious in the last two Grade 1 events of the Irish season.

 

ANNIE POWER may well be ranked amongst the top stars at the Closesutton yard but she's not infallible by any means, if the seven-year-old mare's performance in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at the the last Cheltenham Festival comes to mind, when she seemed to have the race in the bag and then fell at the last. So yesterday's Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Champion Hurdle awas an opportunity to make amends - and make amends she did. The daughter of SHIROCCO was a good two lengths clear at halfway, extending this advantage before the second from home and this time, with jockey Ruby Walsh firmly and securely in the saddle, she cleared the final flight easily, seeing off any hint of a challenge from stable companion ANALIFET.

 

All in all, Willie Mullins clocked up a record sixteen wins during the five-day festival and commented: "She's back and we'll have to decide whether to go to France or put her away. She was definitely not herself after the fall at Cheltenham and I was concerned after her first few bits of work that she might have pulled something in her neck and was not letting herself go. However, Ruby pushed her a bit more in a piece of work and she was better, and she's worked well in her last few bits. I'm just lucky to have her. She's got everything - she has size, scope, a lovely deep girth and the temperament as well."

 

His other win on the day was with PETITE PARISIENNE in the very next race, the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle, with Bryan Cooper aboard, won by eight-and-a-half lengths, although, unfortunately, not as neatly as her stable mate. The grey filly, daughter of MONTMARTRE, had it all done and dusted early on but she blotted her copybook by crashing through the last flight obstacle, which fortunately didn't affect the final outcome.

 

Willie Mullins, notching up an amazing 30th Grade One triumph of the season commented: Compared to Annie Power, it's like little and large, but she has a huge engine. I thought Bryan was in a bit of trouble caught on the inside at the fourth-last, but the minute she got daylight she picked up. She could go for the Prix Alain du Breil at Auteuil if the owners want to go there."

 

HORSES CAN'T SPELL!

AMERICAN PHAROAH (or should that be PHARAOH!) won yesterday's Kentucky Derby and, thereby, claimed the 141st renewal of this world-famous contest run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It was the third triumph for jockey, Victor Espinoza and his second in a row after his victory aboard CALIFORNIA CHROME last year.

 

So why is it that this year's fastest horse in America's renowned race gets his name spelled wrongly everywhere in the Press? The Daily Mail bravely put the correct spelling but had to explain later that the horse's moniker is slightly different. Justin Zayat, AMERICAN PHAROAH's racing manager initially blamed The Jockey Club for the mistake but it was subsequently revealed that it probably all started with a misspelled (winning) entry in the annual naming contest, organised by the same racing manager.

 

James L. Gagliano, President and CEO of The Jockey Club commented: "The name request for the 2012 colt American Pharoah was submitted electronically on January 25, 2014, through The Jockey Club's interactive registration site. Since the name met all of the criteria for naming and was available, it was granted exactly as it was spelled on the digital name application. We wish Zayat Stables and American Pharoah continued success."

 

Justin Zayat added: “Basically, 'pharaoh' is such a tricky word to spell that multiple people seeing it in isolation and with money invested in its usage can overlook a transposition of those last two vowels. Anyway, horses can't spell, so who cares!”

 

SEVENTH HEAVEN

Another top Irish trainer was celebrating yesterday at Newmarket. The Aidan O’Brien-trained GLENEAGLES, ridden by Ryan Moore, made it very clear from the start that the result of the 207th renewal of the 2000 Guineas was not negotiable. The three-year-old, bred by the You'resothrilling Syndicate, oozed with class as he hurtled away from his seventeen rivals to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

Hugo Palmer's HOME OF THE BRAVE took up the early running when the field divided into two groups , but the favourite GALLILEO son, making his challenge as they went into the home straight, found some extra pace and surged away, providing the Ballydoyle king with his seventh 2000 Guineas success.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented afterwards: “He was always a good traveller. When he gets there he doesn’t do much, but that was him last year as well. His form was top class and he only does what he has to do. We always thought he would be a miler.”

 

SATURDAY 2nd MAY 2015

 

AITCH IS FOR ...

One trainer certainly has today's first Classic of the 2015 Flat season, the Qipco 2000 Guineas,well and truly in their sights. With that in mind and as a demonstration of the horse power at his disposal, Richard Hannon will be saddling four of the nineteen runners. One, in particular, catches the eye and that is last September's impressive victor in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, the Paul Hanagan-ridden ESTIDHKAAR, who today is following up his striking success in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury in the middle of last month. Then comes IVAWOOD, who came third in the aforementioned Greenham Stakes, with champion jockey, Richard Hughes aboard. Included in the four-hander, is last month's Craven Stakes winner, KOOL KOMPANY on whom Pat Dobbs will be hoping to triumph and last but not least, is MOHEET who followed his stable companion into third slot at Newbury and he will have the advantage of Frankie Dettori in the saddle. As the Aidan O’Brien-trained favourite GLENEAGLES is in the mix it will be a hard-fought contest but the two aitches, Hannon and Hanagan, are determined to make the day theirs.

 

The Marlborough-based trainer commented: “Estidhkaar will improve for his Newbury run – like all of mine he needed his first run back – and I have been very happy with him since. He will also improve a lot for the step up to a mile as he was staying on nicely at the end in the Greenham which was pleasing.”

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

In time to celebrate his real seventh birthday today, the Willie Mullins-trained FAUGHEEN pulled off the double yesterday by winning the Punchestown Champion Hurdle to follow his earlier Cheltenham triumph, thus entering the record books alongside JEZKI (2014) and HURRICANE FLY (2011 and 2013). There had been speculation that his stable mate, ARCTIC FIRE might put the cat among the pigeons, so to speak, but the son of GERMANY stamped his inimitable authority on this contest by putting seven lengths between himself and the number two. It was as if FAUGHEEN knew that this was his onlyracecourse appearance in Ireland this season and was determined to make the occasion something special for the 28,000 or so race-goers who were present and he certainly raised the temperature on the chilly plains of Kildare.

 

As winning jockey, Ruby Walsh, has been aboard some of the best in the business, such as HURRICANE FLY, KAUTO STAR and MASTER MINDED, he certainly recognises a superb horse when he sees one and perhaps can be forgiven his effusive reaction: 'He's an aeroplane. He's not the biggest but he's brilliant. He has everything, speed, stamina, he jumps handles any ground, any trip. He could become anything, all he needs is bit of luck. The man (Mullins) that has him knows how to get longevity out of horses. He'll keep me going for a while longer.”

 

The latter comment clearly reflecting more sombrely the soon-to-be 36-year-old's thoughts on 'anno domini', hoping for a few more such successful days with a horse that has five Grade Ones to his credit and has be victorious in his last ten 10 races.

 

The winning County Carlow trainer endeavoured to be a little more restrained in his comments about his legendary mount: “He's done it brilliantly for year one out of novice class. I believe in Faugheen but he's got to stand the test of time yet. The quicker they go, the better he jumps. Arctic Fire was never on the bridle and they must have been going at some pace for that to happen. That was an amazing performance.

 

RETIRING NOT TIRING

Another champion jockey has thoughts of hanging up his riding boots. Richard Hughes has made no secret of the fact that he is looking forward to his new career in training as he has no doubt that the time is right. Son of the late training legend, Dessie, the three-times champion

aims to make this his last season in the saddle. In his comments he reflected on his admiration for past champions: “I really admired Mick Kinane, probably the most professional jockey I ever rode against. He was the perfect size and he made fewer mistakes than anyone else. Johnny Murtagh was extremely strong, ultra-competitive and just had great belief in himself. It would be great to go out at the top, as they did, but it’s been itching at the back of my mind to go training for a couple of years. You know you can’t ride forever, but you can train forever. That’s why this is the right time to stop riding – my desire to train is growing greater than my need to ride. When you get to that stage, it is time to make the switch.”

 

FRIDAY 1st MAY 2015

 

SCEAUX HE WINS AGAIN!

The Grade 1 Ryanair Novice Chase yesterday at Punchestown proved to be a bit of a foregone conclusion when the I/10 odds-on favourite, the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX, proved that he was streets ahead of anything his rivals could produce. The seven-year-old simply had the speed and stamina to handle any opposition and, whilst not belittling the contribution of his jockey, Ruby Walsh, perhaps the task was made even easier by the fact that any resistance that might have been offered was removed when Henry de Bromhead's SMASHING was withdrawn after he bolted down to the start and was clearly in no condition to continue. That left just four other runners. As usually happens the son of DENHAM RED leapt off in front from the start, shadowed by Micky Hammond's 16/1 shot, JUST CAMERON and these two very quickly put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field. Then about five from home Ruby Walsh decided it was time to go for it and, although his mount wasn't the best of jumpers at a few of the fences, he made up for it with an impressive cruising speed that made the others look as if they were standing still, except for JUST CAMERON, who to give him his due, held on valiantly under Joe Colliver and kept the final winning distance down to three lengths.

 

The winning jockey commented: "The ground rode on the quick side for him. He was deliberate at the first and a bit high at the second."

 

Willi Mullins added: "I was a bit worried coming to the last. Ruby said once he shook him up he was fine but I'm not too keen on that sort of ground for him. I thought he wasn't jumping half as well as he did at Cheltenham."

 

BACK ON TRACK

After being off the track for the whole of the 2013-14 season, trainer Nicky Henderson is tossing up whether to bring his absent star, SIMONSIG, back into action, probably jumping across the Channel but there's even a chance that he might have a go on the Flat at home. A splint injury was the reason for the nine-year-old grey's enforced inaction and a number of setbacks delayed his return even more. The son of FAIR MIX was last seen when he claimed the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago. His previous two victories are remarkable for the incredible winning distances that are involved: 35 lengths in the Williamhill.com Novices' Chase at Kempton in December 2012 and 49 lengths at the Betfred Novices' Chase at Aintree in the a week before.

 

Nicky Henderson commented: "He is hopefully not far off returning. "Ronnie (Bartlett – owner) is very keen to give him a run, and you can understand why, as if the horse is able to get back on the racecourse it would seem rather crazy to put him out in a field. I would be happier getting him back racing again now and giving him a run before he has the summer off. Given how long he has been off we are covering every base. I have been scouring the programme book and it is perfectly possible he could go to France. Our own programme book is rather rigid compared to the French one and over there we might be able to find a race for horses who have not won for two years. If I can't come up with a suitable race over jumps I could well give him a run on the Flat. We have even walked him through stalls to see how he would react. That said, I would ideally like to run him somewhere without stalls just in case they rev him up a bit much."

 

FLY SWATTED

Jessica's JEZKI not only handled the step-up to three miles but, more importantly, he managed it slightly better than his great rival, the Willie Mullins-trained HURRICANE FLY and proved it by coming home one-and-three-quarter lengths ahead of the eleven-year-old son of MONTJEU. On the face of it, both of the champions had to show they had the stamina for such a contest and both of them proved they were in a class of their own as they drew clear of the rest of the field. This victory means that the Jessica Harrington-trained JEZKI is certain to throw down the gauntlet to ANNIE POWER in the run up to next year's World Hurdle ante-post market. One person confined to the side-lines is the now retired Tony McCoy who would have been aboard again, having ridden him on the last four outings and nine times altogether. This change meant that another talented jockey, Mark Walsh got the ride and, a small compensation perhaps, as a broken arm and ankle he incurred in February deprived him of the Irish jump jockeys' championship.

 

Winning owner JP McManus commented: "It's nice to beat Hurricane Fly but when you think of all the Grade 1's he's won, he's such a marvellous horse. We thought Jezki would get three miles and didn't think stamina would be his problem."

THURSDAY 30th APRIL 2015

 

WRONG AGAIN, RIGHT?

Things just aren't going right at the moment for jockey Bryan Cooper. He chose to ride DON POLI instead of the eventual winner, VALSEUR LIDO, at Punchestown on Tuesday and yesterday he preferred ROAD TO RICHES to the Gordon Elliott-trained DON COSSACK in the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup. And you guessed it. He got it wrong again!

 

Still the winning jockey, Paul Carberry, wasn't complaining when he steered the eight-year-old to an impressive seven lengths' victory over the Willie Mullins-trained DJAKADAM with Ruby Walsh aboard. In fact the son of SHOLOKHOV has only put a hoof wrong once this season and that was in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March when the fated Bryan Cooper could only manage third, some eight lengths behind the winner, the Alan King-trained UXISANDRE. He made up for it the next time out, though, when, partnered by the now retired champion jockey in the Melling Chase at Aintree, he put 26 lengths between him and his nearest rival, Colin Tizzard's CUE CARD.

 

Paul Carberry must be relishing the irony of the occasion because nineteen days later he followed Tony McCoy victoriously into the saddle and he is three months older, as his birthday was in February and the man from Moneyglass doesn't have his 41st until next week.

 

Nina Carberry's big brother commented: "I'll keep going as long as they keep coming. It's just as well AP retired on Saturday! To go to Cheltenham and Aintree and come here is hard to do, but this fellow has always been a serious horse. Gordon's done a great job with him."

 

And to prove that there are still a few years of racing left in him yet, he emulated Frankie Dettori with a flying dismount.

 

The winning trainer, Gordon Elliott added: "He has always been the apple of my eye. We wanted to find out whether or not he stays the trip to know where we would be going next season. We were nervous about running but it was the Gold Cup so we said we'd take our chance. Michael and (brother) Eddie said that if it doesn't happen, it doesn't, we won't knock him about. I'm so pleased with the way he did it - from the last to the line he put seven lengths between them, which was impressive."

 

HUGO'S THERE!

It's the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket this Saturday and Newmarket-based trainer, Hugo Palmer, is counting on his HOME OF THE BRAVE to bring home his first Classic victory. As he is the son of STARSPANGLEDBANNER, clearly the three-year-old' pedigree points more in the direction of sprinting and his four career starts were three over six and the last-one over seven furlongs but Kremlin Cottage Stables trainer strongly believes his colt has the stamina when he take on the extra furlong in this challenging contest.

 

Hugo Palmer commented: “There’s a big difference between staying a mile and being good enough to win a Guineas, but he was certainly not stopping at the end of his trial. James Doyle may ride if Maftool doesn’t run, but Pat Smullen has agreed to be the super sub. I’m in a privileged position to have a choice of two of the world’s best jockeys. If he went on to win the Guineas, it would not be definitive that he stays at a mile as we may drop him back for the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot. The mile track there in the St James’s Palace Stakes is a very different test for a horse compared to the Newmarket track. Lots of Guineas horses get beaten in the St James’s Palace. It’s a very stiff mile and you have to travel to the bend and kick off it. My guess is that the sprint trip might be more suitable for him.”

 

WILLIE RINGS THE BELL

The County Carlow king notched up his fourth win in five years in this contest, the Grade 1 Attheraces.com Champion I.N.H. Flat Race. The Willie Mullins-trained BELLSHILL, ridden by Patrick Mullins, showed rivals, DISKO and MODUS a clean pair of heels in the straight and won by three-and-a-quarter lengths. The winning five-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE, put on a disappointing performance at Cheltenham but managed to put that behind him with a confident ride at Aintree earlier this month when coming second to Ben Pauling's unbeaten five-year-old, BARTERS HILL.

 

The winning jockey commented: "It's grand to get it right sometimes, he was the first of ours home at Cheltenham and he ran a cracker at Aintree so he had the best form available. We had a fantastic Cheltenham but it [the Champion Bumper] was the one real downer, none of them really showed up. At least this fella showed up at Aintree and he's improved with every run. It's special to win a Grade 1."

 

Willie Mullins added: “He’s a fine big horse. He’s a chaser in the making but he’ll go over hurdles next season. I felt the horse had had too hard a season but Patrick wanted to ride him and thought he was the best of ours.”

 

WEDNESDAY 29th APRIL 2015

 

SPOILT FOR CHOICE

Another jockey admits he might have made the wrong choice. It's the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Gold Cup at Punchestown today and Bryan Cooper is having second thoughts about his decision to ride ROAD TO RICHES rather than DON COSSACK. The former, trained by Noel Meade, put up a plucky performance in the Grade 1 Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase last time out in March and if the eight-year-old son of GAMUT could duplicate that effort then he's in with a shout. The dilemma is that the County Kerry jockey could have gone for the Gordon Elliott-trained DON COSSACK who ran the competition ragged in the Grade 1 Betfred Melling Chase and that included the likes of CUE CARD, CHAMPAGNE FEVER, AL FEROF and SIRE DE GRUGY.

 

Bryan Cooper commented: “Road To Riches ran a cracker in the Gold Cup. I sat on him the other day and he’s in great form. We’re hoping the rain stays away until after the race as that will definitely help him. We skipped Aintree but, of course, both him and Djakadam had hard races at Cheltenham. He seems in top form at home, but you never know until the race itself if the last run has left its mark. Don Cossack has had a great season and it wasn’t an easy decision, but Road To Riches has finished third in a Gold Cup. There’s a chance I could have got it wrong, but that’s the game we’re in and I’ve got two very good horses to look forward to next season. The trip is obviously the big question mark for Don Cossack. He’s come out of Aintree well, but he’s not had much of a break and he’ll need to be on his A-game to win.”

 

ED OVER THE MOON

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Godolphin Racing has acquired the top-class sprinter, LIGHTNING MOON, who will remain in training with his current trainer, Ed Walker. The four-year-old has an unbeaten record after three career races and surpassed himself when victorious last October in the the Group 3 Bengough Stakes at Ascot. On the cards for this son of SHAMARDAL is a crack at the Duke of York Stakes at the Dante meeting in June.

 

The Newmarket-based trainer commented: "I'm thrilled that Sheikh Mohammed has purchased the colt and, needless to say, I am even more pleased that he is going to remain with us, which is fantastic news for everybody here at Warren Place. It really is a huge honour to be allowed to continue training this colt on behalf of Godolphin. Lightning Moon has been a revelation ever since he came to us. He has a fantastic attitude and is a wonderful physical specimen. The plan is to go to York for his first run and then look at the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot, and then the July Cup back here in Newmarket."

 

FELIX KEPT ON …. RUNNING!”

A thrill a minute at Punchestown when FELIX YONGER, one of three runners for Willie Mullins, duelled with 'Mouse' Morriss's BAILEY GREEN in the Grade 1 BoyleSports Champion Chase and came out half-a-length to the good. It was another example of a jockey getting it wrong. Ruby Walsh opted for the 3/1 favourite CHAMPAGNE FEVER who could only make fifth, 30 lengths adrift, leaving Danny Mullins, seemingly riding the third choice to romp home in style. The nine-year-old son of OSCAR, sent off at 5/1 after winning his last three races, waited patiently in th ewings in this two-mile contest and was coaxed by his rider to slowly but surely progress to eventually to catch up with the leaders in the back straight. With CHAMPAGNE FEVER and the John Hanlon-trained HIDDEN CYCLONE running out of steam before they reached the home turn, racegoers were treated to the aforementioned neck-and-neck battle.

 

The winning County Carlow trainer commented: "That's great for Danny. He went off to America the last two weekends and rode four winners. He's riding out of his skin. He's riding full of confidence. He sat on him and waited his turn, letting his lungs fill with air and came with one run. It paid off. He has the confidence to ride him like that and when the horse hits a flat spot he leaves him alone until he comes right. They are a good partnership. We thought it was a very open race going out. Ruby said Champagne Fever slipped going into the first and was never right after. Paul said Twinlight hit a wing in mid-air and his race was gone then. Felix Yonger is a good horse. They are calling it good to yielding but there is a lot more good in it and that suits him.”

 

TUESDAY 28th APRIL 2015

 

WISH YA WOULD!

Another day, another festival. This time it's the one at Punchestown, County Kildare, kicking off with the Fr Sean Breen Memorial Chase when the Enda Bolger-trained WISH YE DIDNT (no apostrophe!), ridden by Nina carberry is the evens favourite. The six-year-old is having another crack at this contest, having failed to finish the course last year, although, to give him his due, he showed up at this track in November to run in the Risk Of Thunder Cross Country Chase and put on a better performance than his fourth position indicates. Admittedly his last three outings are nothing to write home about but that run in November revealed more class than the rest of today's field and he has youth on his side into the bargain.

 

The horse everyone has great expectations for is the Willie Mullins-trained CHAMPAGNE FEVER competing in the Boylesports Champion Chase. On the negative side, however, this son of STOWAWAY hasn't really shown an ability on a par with his convincing performances over hurdles. The eight-year-old was also very disappointing in last year's Arkle Chase at Cheltenham and he was the beaten favourite in the Grade 1 Novice Chase at this meeting in 2014. So, all things considered, punters might be tempted to look elsewhere for value as his odds are so short. One for consideration could well be another of the three that Willie Mullins will be saddling for this contest. The outsider FELIX YONGER could well fit the bill. Being a son of OSCAR must be in his favour and he'll enjoy a fast-run two-miler, particularly with Danny Mullins aboard, who has won on him before.

 

BREAK A LEG!

A surprising victory for a Harry Dunlop-trained four-year-old who returned from serious injury to take the betdaq.com 50% Commission Refund Handicap at Kempton Park yesterday. It looked as though the four-year-old would never appear on a racetrack again after breaking a leg on a routine outing on the gallops but the fortunate son of NEW APPROACH received expert care and was nursed back to health. All this patient attention has clearly paid off as the grey gelding seems to have lost none of his former ability and demonstrated this by surging clear of the rest of the field to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

The winning trainer commented: "He was doing a fantastic piece of work at Lambourn just before going for the German Derby and he broke his leg on pulling up. We had to drive him in the horse ambulance to Donnington Vets in Newbury, who did the most amazing job and here we are 11 months later. It was a horrible occasion when it happened because it initially looked a simple fracture, but he had in fact fractured his whole cannon bone. We thought we'd never get him back, but obviously we were hopeful. We had no idea what of his ability remained, though. He came for a racecourse gallop a couple of weeks ago and Steve Drowne said he felt rather nice, but until they run you never know.”

 

BACKING THE WRONG HORSE!

Last year in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas Richard Hughes chose the 'wrong' horse and so failed to add this Newmarket Classic to his list for the first time. He rode TOORMORE then and stablemate NIGHT OF THUNDER went on to claim the prize with Kieren Fallon aboard. The champion jockey, it seems, is determined not to make the same mistake again. Richard Hannon will be saddling four of the 28 runners in Saturday's feature race. Richard Hughes has opted to be aboard IVAWOOD. The son of ZEBEDEE was not up to standard when coming third in the Avon Greenham Stakes at Newbury ten days ago but his jockey firmly believes that his mount wasn't as fit as had been thought.

Richard Hughes commented: "He exploded at Newbury with me. He looked big in the ring. All the work he'd done, he had done so easy. We thought he didn't take much graft because he wasn't blowing and he was working with a Guineas winner, Night Of Thunder, and going easier than him. He was working with Estidhkaar the odd morning as well. We thought he was relatively fit, but two out at Newbury I knew I wasn't going to beat him."

 

MONDAY 27th APRIL 2015

 

DAMNED IF THEY DO AND … !

Saturday's non-starter in the Bet365 Gold Cup has caused a few people's hackles to rise and raises the question as to who has the ultimate authority over a race – the starter or the stewards. The Henry De Bromhead-trained GRAND JESTURE was declared a participant even though he was standing stock still, way behind the remainder of the field as they approached the tape. What is more, The British Horseracing Authority upholds this decision much to the anger of countless punters who had backed the seven-year-old son of GOLD WELL and expected bookies to make their 'grand gesture' and refund the bets or offer free bets in lieu.

 

The BHA issued the following statement yesterday: "The rules on refusing to start are clear, in that when the horse comes under the starters orders it counts as a runner. It's unfortunate and we have sympathy for connections and punters, but it is a part of racing. Had the horse been withdrawn punters would have been affected by a Rule 4 deduction."

 

That effectively means that a horse is 'under orders' when the race begins and Rule 36.6 clearly makes it clear that "each horse which has come under Starter's Orders shall be considered as having started the race apart from a horse which is for any reason withdrawn by the Starter or the Stewards"

 

It was also revealed that starter, Simon McNeill, had already accepted that jockey Johnny Burke could keep his mulish mount some way away from his rivals in the hope of getting him to start. That said, it is obvious from watching a video replay of the race that GRAND JESTURE was becoming more and more recalcitrant and never looked like starting. Therefore the stewards' official race report that "GRAND JESTURE (IRE), ridden by J J Burke, had lined up but refused to race" seems to be a little way off the truth, particularly when BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey says: "The horse was given every chance to start by the starter. He refused to come into line with the other horses, so - in communication between starter and jockey - it was decided he should be given the opportunity to start away from the rest of the field, but the horse refused to start. He was known to be difficult at the start and had been reluctant going to post previously, at Cheltenham.”

 

This is one of those situations when the racing officials will be 'damned if they do and damned if they don't.” Changing the rules to allow a horse to be declared a non-runner once the race has started would inevitably involve changes in pre-race betting patterns. A notorious nag, MAD MOOSE, for instance, who probably has the record for refusing to start, could in that case be more confidently backed because if he did start, he would be a a decent bet but, if he didn't, there was a strong possibility that would be declared a non-runner and bets would be refunded.

 

A FRIEND IN NEED IS A FRIEND INDEED

If there's one thing that the retired champion jockey knows something about and that's injury, of which he has had more than his fair share. Whatever else Tony McCoy is planning to do in his post-racing days there is no doubt he will find time to continue his tireless support for those of his colleagues suffering from serious injury and it was typical of the man that he raised that subject as a priority amid his farewell words at Sandown on Saturday.

The man from Moneyglass commented: “I’ve seen the very tough side of this sport, with colleagues being fatally injured and very severely injured as well. I feel very lucky that I’ve been able to end my career in one piece. Those lads we have lost along the way, I will never forget. The lads that have been injured, you try and do your best for them.”

 

The 20-times champion jockey will remain as vice-patron of the Injured Jockeys Fund and during his first saddle-free week he plans to visit riders who have perhaps suffered more than most. Included will be Robbie McNamara who is still in hospital after suffering a spinal injury. The irony is that his cousin, JT (John Thomas) McNamara was paralysed by a fall at the Cheltenham Festival two years ago.

 

It should be mentioned that British racecourses have an excellent record of supporting the IJF. During last year's 50th anniversary celebrations every British track mounted fundraising activities. As mentioned before Fund’s excellent work has include the construction of Jack Berry House, a £3.5m project in Yorkshire, which will be to be opened in June, a ceremony that Tony McCoy is expected to attend. This facility will offer jockeys based in the North similar rehabilitation facilities to those that have been on offer since 2009 Oaksey House, Lambourn.

 

THUMBS UP!

This West Yorkshire racecourse seems to be in everyone's good books after yesterday's flat racing debut. Trainers and jockeys alike, whether on their first or umpteenth visit were of one accord in giving Wetherby's day the 'thumbs up'. The occasion was even attractive enough to lure, for the first time, trainer Brian Meehan all the way from Marlborough, Wiltshire, a 218-mile, three-and three-quarter-hour journey, and he didn't go away empty-handed. His four-year-old GREAT FUN carried off the Division 1 bet365 EBF Stallions Maiden Stakes in the face of stiff opposition from Eddy Dunlop's DARK RED and the Barry Hills-trained WARDAT DUBAI.

 

The winning trainer commented: "It is a great spot. The racecourse team are very friendly and they have looked after the lads really well. I am very pleased with it."

 

Top jockey Paul Mulrennan making his debut win at the new Flat track added: "It is on the quick side but it rode really well. It is a good, safe place, the bend rode well and you have got a nice long straight so you can ride a race. I was really pleased with it. It is just great for Northern racing to have another top-quality track here - we just need to get that all-weather track now!"

 

Commenting on possible future fixtures next year, CEO Jonjo Sanderson stated: "I don't know, everything was only on a one-year basis and we haven't really started the fixture list process for 2016 yet. We will take stock of what we have done and assess it and see how we want to move this forward. What we don't want to do is go jump, Flat, jump, Flat. That is very labour intensive for us as a small team so whatever we do next year we will have an end to our jump programme and then Flat racing.”

One thing he is sure about is: "Jump racing is what Wetherby is all about, it is the heart of Wetherby. This is merely an extension, another string to our bow."

SUNDAY 26th APRIL 2015

 

SEEN THE BACK OF HIM – TOO MANY TIMES!

Today, expectedly, just about every racing news item is about you-know-who and his retirement, with memories from so many people who have been touched or influenced by him over the years. It is, therefore, particularly moving to read comments by Richard Johnson who has, virtually year in, year out, had to watch the back of the 20-times champion, Tony McCoy, as he crossed the winning line ahead of him or be a perennial runner-up in the jumps jockeys' championship. The 37-year-old confesses to being genuinely very saddened by the departure of his old rival and recognises the impact Tony McCoy's absence will have in the weighing-room. He is honest enough to admit, however, that his job might become a little bit easier from now on.

 

The Hereford-born jockey joked: "I won't miss him being there, that's for sure! It's sad that he won't be sat next to me. He's a good friend as much as anything else. In a racing point of view, I'm quite glad he won't be there to do me on the line before the winning post comes. His career speaks for itself and I'm sure we'll all miss him in one way or another, but some more than others. Even the general public have taken it in the last two months and I think he's been pretty overwhelmed by the amount of support and people who wanted to say hello or goodbye. It's been amazing and it's a fantastic day for him to have a send-off.”

 

The now ex-jockey responded equally magnanimously: "I'd like Richard Johnson to be champion jockey because he made me achieve a lot of the things that I did. I would never have achieved the numbers I have done if it wasn't for Richard Johnson. That's no disrespect to Sam Twiston-Davies or Tom Scudamore or Jason Maguire. We have numerous lads who could be champion jockey, but, personally, I would like Richard Johnson to be champion jockey."

 

FLAT APPEAL

As mentioned yesterday Wetherby is holding its first-ever racing on the Flat and, by the looks of it, this is proving to be a very popular move. Former champion jockeys Paul Hanagan and Kieren Fallon will be joining the appreciative racegoers this afternoon where there there will in excess of £70,000 in prize-money on offer, spread over across an eight-race card for which an amazing 158 horses have been entered. Clearly part of the attraction was to be part of this historical occasion which is expected to be attended by over 5000 people.

 

Jonjo Sanderson, Clerk of the Course commented: "Prior to closing down our advanced ticketing on Friday we had seen a very good demand and we expect that to be bolstered by a strong walk-up trade on Sunday, depending on the weather. This meeting was a jumps fixture last year and we used to get between 4-5,000. I'd say we'll be at the high end of that at least. It's great to have Kieren Fallon and Paul Hanagan riding at our first meeting and we're hoping it proves a success. We have an 18m-wide track and are racing on the inside down the back straight on our old point-to-point course, which hasn't been used for many years.”

 

Although the West Yorkshire track has decided to add a Flat fixture to its programme, it will not be deserting its traditional roots. the next two meetings in May will be over jumps, followed by three Flat racing days on June 20, July 13 and 21.

 

FOUND LOST ONCE

Trainer Aidan O'Brien is taking his time deciding whether FOUND, the favourite for the Qipco 1,000 Guineas, will run at Newmarket next Sunday. She was rated the joint-best two-year-old filly to race in Europe in 2014 but the GALILEO filly, jointly owned by Michael Tabor, Sue Magnier and Derrick Smith, hasn't been on the track since last October when she won the Total Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. Before that the three-year-old's only other two outings were at the Curragh in September when she came third in the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes, having broken her duck a month earlier with her triumph in the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Fillies Maiden.

 

The Ballydoyle trainer commented: "She went nicely. Joseph [O'Brien] rode her and he was very happy with her. However, we'll wait and see how she is early in the week before deciding if she'll go to Newmarket."

 

SATURDAY 25th APRIL 2015

 

SO LONG, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, ADIEU!

No bones about it, this is the overwhelming main racing story of the day. The greatest National Hunt jockey of all time is hanging up his saddle after today's racing at Sandown, following his coronation as champion jockey for the 20th time. The soon-to-be 41-year-old has rarely been out of the news in all those years, yet how much does the average racegoer know about this legend? Referred to as AP (Anthony Peter) or Tony McCoy (his mother has always called him Anthony!), he was born on 4 May 1974 in Moneyglass, Northern Ireland. At 17 he scored his first success on the Flat for County Kilkenny trainer Jim Bolger. His mother never forgave the trainer for taking her 'little brown-eyed boy' away from home! Following in the footsteps of many an Irish rider, Tony McCoy moved to England in 1994, beginning as conditional jump jockey to Toby Balding and becoming the champion conditional jockey twelve months later. Since then he has has been champion jockey every year, surpassing Peter Scudamore's previous record of eight titles.

 

In the last twenty years he has more than matched his smashing of records with the breaking of nearly every bone in his body and became something of a walking miracle when it came to recovering from serious injury. The landmarks in his long career are too many to mention but the ones that stick out are: 1) his 1000th winner on MAJADOU in 1999; 2) the 2000th on MAGICAL BAILIWICK in 2004; 3) the 3000th on RESTLESS D'ARTA in 2009 and the 4000th on MOUNTAIN TUNES in 2013. A significant triumph in a country not excessively enamoured by horse racing, was the champion's receiving the award as BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010 – the first time a jockey had won it. This was followed in the same year by an even more esteemed prize - an OBE for services to horse racing.

 

One of the big frustrations of Tony McCoy's riding career was undoubtedly his failure to win the Grand National which he finally did in 2010 on DON'T PUSH IT – on his 15th attempt. Apart from that slight blip, the Moneyglass magician has added pretty well every other major National Hunt race to his credit, including the Champion Hurdle, King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice. Tony McCoy spent seven years riding for his friend and mentor, Martin Pipe, and it was an emotional occasion when on 19 July 2014, he surpassed the Devon-based trainer’s career total of 4,191 winners. In the same year he broke his own record for the fastest ever 100 winners for a National Hunt season: 116 days.

 

AP McCoy shocked the racing world by announcing his retirement in February this year after notching up his 200th winner of the season on MR MOLE at Newbury. So his long successful career will come to a close after over 18,000, eventful and never dull, races and will have made his claim to fame as the most successful jockey of all time.

 

Before the final curtain, AP McCoy will be presented with his 20th champion jump jockey trophy but this time the ceremony will have a different conclusion. He won't have to give it back! The prestigious prize is to be 'decommissioned' and presented to the racing legend for keeps, recognising his great achievement of winning it twenty times and acknowledging his massive contribution to racing over the past two decades. The British Horseracing Board commissioned the original trophy in 2007 and since Tony McCoy has been champion jump jockey since 1996, he is the only one to have claimed it. A new trophy will be designed and commissioned in time for presentation to the new 2015/16 champion jump jockey in April 2016 and will again bear the roll of honour from 1900.

 

YOU MUST BE JOKING!

A three-year-old son of ZAMINDAR was outpaced by the Andrew Balding-trained MASTER APPRENTICE in the Group Three Bet365 Classic Trial at Sandown yesterday and that's not funny! At least Charlie Hills failed to see the joke when his COMMEMORATIVE came last, 28 lengths adrift, in this four-hander. The Berkshire trainer called the race a 'joke' after it turned out that ground originally described as 'good, good to firm' was judged by the jockeys to be ‘dead’ even when it had been watered in an attempt to soften the turf before the jump meeting. An indignant Charlie Hills, who is adamant that his charge will fare better on faster ground, stated: “We won’t bring nice horses to this meeting anymore. It’s a joke.”

 

WETHERBY'S ON THE LEVEL

The clock is ticking towards another historic moment. (There seem to be so many these days!) At 2pm tomorrow Wetherby, the only Yorkshire racecourse, historically hosting only National Hunt jump meetings, will present its first-ever Flat race, the one-mile bet365.com Handicap.

 

The event coincides with the West Yorkshire track's annual family day so a memorable celebrity-packed show is being staged as it is also the course’s 10th annual running of the thrilling Foresters Mascot Gold Cup, the world’s largest mascot race, which raises money for the Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice and other charities. One of Yorkshire’s favourite races also plans to break the Guinness World Record for the number of mascots participating in one race, and will get off with a 'bang' when two racing sausages take to the track.

 

The Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, Jonjo Sanderson, commented: “We are looking forward immensely to our first Flat fixture and it will be special for everyone who attends. Bet365 have played a huge part in the success of our most prestigious jump meeting, the bet365 Charlie Hall meeting, for the last 12 years and it is great that they are supporting the card. We are putting on a lot of activities besides the seven Flat races to give racegoers of all ages something to be involved with. Claire King and some of her colleagues from Coronation Street and Emmerdale will be here to mix and mingle with the crowd and make race presentations.”

 

FRIDAY 24th APRIL 2015

 

LOOK WHO'S BEHIND!

Australia's Canterbury Park racetrack proved to be quite a revealing experience for one particular jockey. Whilst racing in the Hyland Race Colours Plate, Blake Shinn, aboard MISS ROYALE, suffered an embarrassing, as they say nowadays, 'wardrobe malfunction'. The elastic in his trousers seems to have snapped revealing his bare bottom in full view to the world. The 27-year-old had no choice but to 'grin and bare it' and get on with his job of moving his mount slowly through the field to eventually finish second.

 

The 2009 winner of the Melbourne Gold Cup commented afterwards: “The elastic went during the race, but I had to keep going. I think a lot of people are going to have a bit of fun with this, but they can’t say I wasn’t focused and went to the line."

 

The delighted winning trainer, Tommy Berry added: “What a great race to win. It meant I was the only one that didn’t have to stare at Blake’s arse the whole way up the straight.”

 

In third place, you'll never believe it, was a horse called MODESTY, ridden by Joseph Pride!

 

See for yourself:

https://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/blogs/world-of-sport/jockey-s-trousers-fall-down-to-reveal-bare-bottom--still-finishes-second-205335368.html

 

Click BACK to return here.

 

DAVE THE BRAVE

It's a sad day for racing. Another brave jockey has had to quit the saddle after receiving a spinal injury. Davy Condon has now been forced to retire due to a spinal injury, sustained when partnering PORTRAIT KING in the Grand National who fell at the third fence from home. The 30-year-Cork jockey was totally motionless after the fall from the moment he hit the ground, lying face down with his arms strewn lifeless by his side. The Irish national Hunt had only returned to racing in December after three months off due to a similar horrific fall from FLAXEN FARE at Cork. Davy Condon had already realised that on this occasion he would be off the track for quite some time but he hadn't expected what his doctor was about to tell him.

 

Dr Adrian McGoldrick, chief medical officer of the Irish Turf Club issued the following statement: "Davy Condon suffered a spinal injury in a fall during the Grand National at Aintree. This was on the background of a previous spinal concussion from which he had recovered fully and had been passed fit to ride by our consultant neurologist. Davy was reviewed yesterday by Dr Brian Murray, Consultant Neurologist, on behalf of the Turf Club. Dr Murray has recommended that Davy retire from horse riding, be it professional or recreational, due to the risk of further spinal injury.

 

Davy Condon's most recent successes were for trainer Gordon Elliott who was quick to pay tribute: “It's very sad to say that Davy Condon has been forced to retire from racing due to injury. Davy has been an integral part of the team and has ridden some of the biggest winners I have had in my short career. Davy will not only be missed by myself, he is a very popular person in the industry and here at Cullentra. We all wish him the very best of luck with whatever he chooses to do next with his career and if we can help in any way, we will not hesitate to do so. Thanks for everything Davy, we've had some great memories together."

 

PARROTT AND THE PRINCE

Another retirement has been announced, this time a double. Gloucestershire trainer, Hilary Parrott, is to end her training career on a high note. Her 11-year-old WAYWARD PRINCE made a dramatic comeback and held on bravely to win the Scottish Grand National six days ago. Now the son of ALFLORA is also going to call it a day, after bagging this annual Ayr attraction.

 

Redmarley-based Hilary Parrott commented: "We have retired him now. He's 11 and can't do any better than that. He's come out of the race absolutely fine, perfect. He will have an honourable retirement. I owe it to him , he's been so good to me. We're winding down and the place is on the market. I want to be able to play a bit more golf. I'm delighted we were able to win such a big race before we retired, it was just wonderful."

 

THURSDAY 23rd APRIL 2015

 

A TOUGH NUT!

The £25,000 Old Mout Cider Handicap Chase is on the cards at Perth today and Richard Johnson aims to claim it on the Philip Hobbs-trained FILBERT. The nine-year-old son of OSCAR, who last scored in the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase at Wincanton in January, will have to take on last year’s 
winner, the Tom George-trained MAJALA who was two pounds heavier then.

 

Jockey Richard Johnson commented: “If he gets it right he’ll hopefully have a big chance. He can be a bit hit or miss but this smaller field should help him. He was a bit lost and never happy at Cheltenham and the ground should be fine. Fingers crossed it doesn’t dry out too much as he doesn’t like it quick.”

 

Today is quite a momentous day for Philip Hobbs,too, because, after yesterday's victory by ONENIGHTINVIENNA in the (deep breath!) Aberdeen Asset Management Plc/EBF Stallions “Future Champions” “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle, the Minehead-based trainer is hovering two short of a century for the season.

 

His wife, Sarah added: “We are desperate to get to 100 and we’ve probably got about seven more runners before the end of the season on Saturday. Onenightinvienna will make a fantastic novice chaser and we’re really excited about next season.”

 

RUSSELL TO SPRING?

Many hats are in the ring for this top job but Davy Russell's name is surprisingly being linked with the possibility of replacing AP McCoy as the retained rider to owner, JP McManus. In fact, odds of 11/10 are being offered making him a joint-favourite with Barry Geraghty (originally 1/6 favourite) for the top riding slot ahead of Paul Townend who is on at 7/1. At that time Davy Russell had just lost his retained position with Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown House Stud and you could have got 33/1 on him.

 

A Paddy Power spokesman commented: “We do feel the situation has changed. At one time we thought Barry was a bit of a shoo-in but we think circumstances have changed now and Davy is much more in the running for the job than he was before. Davy is now available having had a huge job previously and we think it’s a toss-up between him and Barry. Paul Townend is unlikely to get the job because we feel he won’t be too keen to leave Willie Mullins in the hope he gets the number one job when Ruby hangs up his boots.”

 

HERO AND LEA(N)DER

Epsom staged its Investec Derby Trial yesterday and trainer John Gosden was the delighted winner with his CHRISTOPHERMARLOWE who was also notching up three triumphs in a row. The three-year-old was the 4/6 favourite as he was last time at this Surrey racecourse and this previous run obviously helped him when dealing with quirky ups and downs of the track. Ian Balding's DANCE OF FIRE, ridden by David Probert was determined to stamp his mark on the contest but Frankie Dettori kept a close eye on every movement and then, as they approached the familiar dip in the track as they turned for home, the man from Milan urged his mount on to challenge the leader and three furlongs from the post the duo went three furlongs clear. The son of TAPIT didn't disappoint his rider and kept finding more to produce an eventual four-length win.

 

Trainer John Gosden, winner of the 2009 Derby trial with DEBUSSY commented: "Frankie thought he really went strong and took him all the way down to the stables. A mile and a half will be his game. He likes this type of ground. It was a nice performance and he handled the track well enough, having been here before. We'll watch a few more trials and see where we go. "He could go to Chester for the Vase, but it's two weeks to the day and I'm not convinced about that as he had a strong race today. Or he could come here for Breakfast With The Stars. They are the two options."

 

For as a hot proud horse highly disdains

To have his head controlled, but breaks the reins,

Spits forth the ringled bit, and with his hoves

Checks the submissive ground; so he that loves,

The more he is restrain'd, the worse he fares.”

(Christopher Marlowe: Hero and Leander)

 

WEDNESDAY 22nd APRIL 2015

 

SINISTER SWITCH

At Wexford yesterday this five-year-old bay mare didn't exactly crown herself with glory in the Loch Garman Maiden Hurdle. She made a bad mistake at the first, lost her position and drifted to the rear. She wasn't fluent at the second and fourth hurdle either but made some headway after three from home, going into the lead two out and squeaked home by three-quarters of a length. But this was enough to make a little bit of history because the Peter Fahey-trained CREDO STAR had just won the first race at Wexford to be run left-handed round the track. Historically races have always been right-handed but recently, in an apparent attempt to improve safety, the racing officials decided to change direction and this innovation seems to have been well received by all involved. This is interesting because in the whole of Ireland there are 26 racecourses where 16 are right-handed and now with Wexford ten are lef-handed. The other course is at Laytown where racing takes place just one day a year on the sandy beach on a near level course of six to seven furlongs. This compares with the situation in Great Britain where there is a total of 37 tracks, 22 left-handed and 15 right-handed.

 

WHO RULES, OK?

Racing fans next week at Punchestown seem to be in line for a special treat in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle when JEZKI and HURRICANE FLY have accepted the mutual challenge to fight out the famous three-mile contest. This dynamic duo have come up against each other several times over two miles over the last two years but both had to accept defeat at the hands of the fabulous FAUGHEEN in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival. As this seven-year-old unbeaten star from the Willie Mullins’ yard is sticking to races of over two miles, the two rivals will both have to step up in trip, although the Jessica Harrington-trained JEZKI did win the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle in April over two-and-a-half miles.

 

Jessica Harrington commented yesterday: “As of this morning the plan is to go three miles in the World Hurdle on Thursday. Like all plans, it can all change. He won over two and a half at Aintree and he’d been well beaten by Faugheen at Cheltenham. He shouldn’t have trouble with the trip, there’s lots of stamina in the family, Jetson gets three miles well and there’s no reason if he relaxes he shouldn’t get it. It sounds like Hurricane Fly is going that way too so we’ll probably be looking at his backside again — but hopefully not!”

 

LAST TONY GO AT SANDOWN

Andrew McCoy... er Tony Cooper … no Andrew Cooper! The confusion arises because Andrew Cooper has been Clerk of the Course of Sandown Park for almost twenty years so the only champion jockey he has ever known is Tony McCoy and he is already starting to feel withdrawal symptoms as he anticipates the soon-to-be 20-times champion jockey's final appearance in the saddle at the Esher. The last twenty years have provided Andrew Cooper with countless memorable races out of which, he confesses, his favourite was at the 2009 Hennessy when Tony McCoy's obliged his good friend, Carl Llewellyn, with the greatest triumph of his all-too-short training career.

 

Andrew Cooper has announced that, unsurprisingly, tickets are selling like hot cakes for AP McCoy's final session in the saddle. What is not sure yet is how many rides he will actually get. The only definite booking so far is the Paul Nicholls-trained MR MOLE, a situation that has a certain irony about it as this is the horse he planned to ride in the Bet365 Celebration Chase for his retirement back in February.

Andrew Cooper warned: "There are still limited grandstand tickets available but the Premier Enclosure is sold out. My advice to people thinking of coming would be to get a move on, I'd say it's on course to sell-out. There's been a huge build up to this meeting. There was a bit of uncertainty whether or not Tony was going to make this his last day as he could have gone to Punchestown and then he said if he won the National that would be it but to know this is where he'll bow out is great. It will be an emotional day.”

 

TUESDAY 21st APRIL 2015

 

FEWER ON TRACK

One day there is positive news about the state of British racing and the next it's doom and gloom. At Exeter today there are only thirty-one runners for the seven-race card. Reasons for this range from 'too many fixtures in the West Country' to the effect of the drying ground conditions. Two of the more important contests of the day, the Molson Coors 'National Hunt' Mares' Maiden Hurdle and the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase only have two runners in each. This situation certainly doesn't offer an attractive day out for racegoers and any excitement for punters.

 

The area hasn't had any rain to speak about for over three weeks and there has had to be watering for the first time in two years just to produce a track that is good to firm, firm in places on the chase course and good to firm on the hurdles track. These aren't ideal conditions for jump racing.

 

Barry Johnson, Clerk of the Course announced yesterday: "It’s been dry, sunny and quite windy and at this time of year it can dry out really quickly. Traditionally April can be one of the driest months here, but in the past we’ve been lucky to get some rain when we’ve needed it. With Wincanton [Sunday], Newton Abbot [Monday], Exeter and Taunton [Wednesday] there’s a lot of racing in the region this week and it could have been a different story if there had been two or three days’ break between these meetings."

 

The Devon track had even been hoping against hope that the retiring champion Tony McCoy might make one of his final appearances there but that wasn't to be. It was finally decided that Richie McLernon would take the ride in the Bet With Your Racing UK App Novices' Hurdle on the Jim Best-trained NEW STREET and theneven he was withdrawn due to the ground conditions.

 

RIDING HIGH

But there is good news in the broader picture. It has been announced that the Jockey Club's annual results reveal that the largest commercial British horse-racing group expanded its business to record levels last year, producing a sixth consecutive year of turnover growth, and, what is more, these increased resources were used to plough money back into the sport in the form of contributions to prize money. The Jockey Club’s commercial operations have, in the last ten years in fact, injected more than £400 million into prize money and facilities for customers and those involved in racing. The organisation, governed by Royal Charter to reinvest all profits into British racing owns some of the world’s leading racing festivals, such as the Crabbie’s Grand National Festival, The Cheltenham Festival, The Investec Derby Festival and the QIPCO Guineas Festival. In 2014, its commercial operations achieved a‎ record turnover of £171.2 million which was up 5.1% on 2013 (the £162.9 million). A major contributing factor to this phenominal growth was ticket sales, especially at the major racing festivals, including hospitality and catering sales, income from the media, notto forget music nights and non-racing events at its meetings.

 

Simon Bazalgette, Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, commented: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to grow the business for a sixth successive year because it allows us to increase our dividend for British racing. By maximising returns from our commercial operations we’ve been able to invest more than £400 million into the sport in the last 10 years. We’ve done that through prize money and facilities for customers and participants, and also supporting the sport’s promotion. This is something our people feel very proud of and it is thanks to their hard work striving to give customers of all types the best possible experience and promoting British racing as a sport, nationwide. It’s also been essential because of racing’s flawed funding model where Britain remains the poor relation to other racing nations thanks to an outdated Levy system that needs replacing as quickly as possible.”

 

A CONDITIONAL WINNER

The challenge for the Conditional Jockeys title is hotting up with Sean Bowen holding A three-win lead over Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey, Nico de Boinville, with Saturday's jumps finale at Sandown Park to come. 17-year-old Sean, winner of the Wilkinson Sword awarded each year to the leading UK novice rider in point to points, triumphed at Newton Abbot on Monday on the Paul Nicholls-trained ABIDJA, whilst Nico de Boinville matched that on Nicky Henderson's ONE LUCKY LADY at Kempton Park. The latter will also have a chance to close the gap even further today when he rides RUSTY NAIL and TAYLOR at Exeter, the second contest being one of the two-horse races as Sean Bowen has no rides today.

 

MONDAY 20th APRIL 2015

 

GRASS IS GREENER - ON TURF

After his striking performance at Lingfield on All-Weather Finals Day on Good Friday, trainer Charlie Appleby is considering a prep run on turf for his four-year-old gelding, PRETEND. The Godolphin-owned son of INVINCIBLE seems to have persuaded his connections that his future could lie in sprinting. PRETEND has scored in six of his ten starts, although his only venture onto turf at Meydan last year is probably best forgotten.

 

Charlie Appleby commented: "He's an out-and-out sprinter and I'm very confident he can transfer his all-weather success to the turf. He's in the Duke of York but we'll probably look at the Temple as a prep for the King's Stand. I happily hold my hands up, I had the trip wrong with him. You're looking for that Classic horse and I was trying to stretch him, but ultimately he's all speed."

 

STREWTH! A HOLIDAY

LIE FORRIT, the Lucinda Russell-trained 11-year-old, is getting an unexpected holiday after his run in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr on Saturday where he only managed tenth. This performance seems not to have displeased his trainer as last year he had to be pulled up. The son of SUBTLE POWER may be forgiven this lapse as he had three of his previous four races, including the Betfred National Trial at Haydock, thus lining the pockets of his connections and fans.

The Kinross-based trainer commented: "Lie Forrit ran a brave race, overcoming two errors halfway through and trying hard up the home straight. He could not quite match the leaders turn of foot, but remains a star player for our yard. He will have a good summer holiday and the veterans' chase series in the autumn remains a possibility."

 

GOOD THINGS COME  IN THREES

Despite the fact that his three stars, TIGGY WIGGY, ESTIDHKAAR and IVAWOOD all suffered defeats at newbury on Saturday, trainer Richard Hannon still seems upbeat about their prospects in Classic company.

 

The Marlborough-based handler commented: "None of them won, but equally none of them ran that badly, and it was certainly not a disaster. Obviously we would have been delighted for Tiggy Wiggy to have won the Fred Darling instead of finishing third, but the trials come plenty soon enough and she has taken time to come to herself this spring. She might have needed the race more than we envisaged but, though we rode her to get the trip, Hughesie (jockey, Richard Hughes) was adamant that she would not have won at five, six or seven (furlongs), so maybe we should put a line through the race and move on. The plan is still to aim Tiggy Wiggy for the 1000 Guineas and, hopefully, she'll come on a lot physically in the next two weeks. If we find at Newmarket that she doesn't stay, we can always come back to sprinting for Royal Ascot. It was a very hot renewal of the Greenham, and Estidhkaar ran a super dress-rehearsal. He looks every inch a Guineas horse, and he was coming back at the winner at the line, so you'd have to think that he would improve again going up a furlong. Estidhkaar definitely goes for the Guineas, and the plan is also to send Ivawood. Like Tiggy Wiggy, we'll monitor him through the week, but Ivawood will improve an awful lot on this first run. He is a big horse who carries a bit of weight, and we have not lost faith in him."

 

SUNDAY 19th APRIL 2015

 

A NATIONAL PRINCE

An eleven-year-old former Grade One hurdle winner in 2010 about to be put out to graze won yesterday's Scottish Grand National at Ayr. WAYWARD PRINCE, trained in Gloucestershire by Hilary Parrott, sent off at 25/1, showed the likes of GOONYELLA and BENBENS how to win a race. With Irish jockey Robbie Dunne aboard, the son of ALFLORA always looked as though he was a serious threat, going into second position at the 21st fence, taking the lead as he approached the third and striking for home to win by three-quarters of a length.

 

The winning trainer, joining the ranks of Jenny Pitman and Lavinia Taylor as only the third female trainer of a Scottish National winner commented: "He had two really bad runs and pulled up twice and we took him to Exeter when he seemed to be galloped off his legs. I thought: 'Well, I think I am going to retire him. Something has turned the tide, but I don't know what it is. I just cannot believe it. It is amazing and I am absolutely over the moon. I could see he was going so well and I thought to myself: 'You have just got to stay now, old chap, for these last two fences.' He had never gone four miles before as he fell in the National last year. He ran like a dream, didn't he? He loved every minute of it. He was jumping for England and Robbie gave him a dream ride by getting into a lovely rhythm early on.”

 

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

Six winners in four days is not bad for a 44-year-old who is generally no longer considered champion jockey material. If I mention that three of the wins were followed by flying dismounts then there is no longer any doubt who the jockey is. Frankie Dettori clinched his triumphant week with a treble at Newbury yesterday, including a breath-taking close finish on the Charlie Hills-trained MUHAARER in the Greenham Stakes. No longer a spring chicken the three-times champion jockey is no doubt relieved that the continual criss-crossing of the Channel to get rides will become less necessary as, after various staff changes at his old boss's, John Gosden's yard mean there are quite a few 'spare' rides available for the man from Milan and he hasn't been slow to profit from this situation. Three of the jockey’s winners – GOLDEN HORN, a strong candidate for the Derby, who won the FEILDEN STAKES at Newmarket, STAR OF SEVILLE, who scored in the Dubai Duty Free Golf World Cup EBF Stallions Conditions Stakes at Newbury on Friday and MR SINGH, triumphant in the Al Basti Equiworld Maiden Stakes, were all trained by newmarket-based John Gosden.

 

Frankie Dettori commented: “The Greenham was good. They went very fast and Muhaarar is a horse that needs to settle. He did and produced. I don’t think I have had thee flying dismounts before so early. I have had a fantastic week. It is brilliant and being back at John’s – I have gone full circle. I am back to where I started.”

 

JESSICA'S JOY

BOCCA BACIATA's success in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Salsabil Stakes at Navan yesterday made the day for County Kildare-based trainer, Jessica Harrington. The daughter of BIG BAD BOB had already proved herself at this track when winning the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Fillies Maiden last October and so had earned 5/2 joint-favouritism. The three-year-old, held up in the rear for a while by jockey Fran(cis) Berry, made steady progress on the outer straight and, when asked the question, moved into the lead about three-hundred yards from home, staying on well to win by one-and-a-half lengths.

 

A joyful Jessica Harrington commented: "She's been pleasing me at home this spring. It's amazing she did as much as a two-year-old as she did. She may come back in trip for the Irish Guineas, as she's not a slow filly. Fran said she was getting a little bit tired in the last 50 yards but she was entitled to on her first run of the year. She seems to go on any ground, and is a lovely filly."

 

SATURDAY 18th APRIL 2015

 

AYR FAREWELL

Just when you think it's safe to come out of the water something else looms up. Soon-to-retire champion jockey, Tony McCoy, was due to make his Ayr farewell today, riding the Paul Nicholls-trained BENVOLIO in the Scottish Grand National but that's not on now. The son of BENEFICIAL has been declared a non-runner, apparently due to the condition of the ground, good (good to soft in places). It's difficult to see how the 19 times champion jockey can get a ride in this race unless one of the booked riders falls earlier but he has three others with which to thrill the crowds.

 

This last-minute change means that VINTAGE STAR, trained by Bingley Moor-based Sue Smith and partnered by Harry Skelton, will get his big chance. The champion trainer still has one good chance in this prestigious event, the 8-year-old top weight SAM WINNER, who has proved that he can handle Group One company but was pulled up in last month's Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup. It's not difficult to imagine that Paul Nicholls is hoping for a similar scenario to Oliver Sherwood's MANY CLOUDS who finished a poor sixth in the Gold Cup and then went on last week to claim the Grand National by one-and-a-half lengths.

 

The Ditcheat-based trainer commented: "Sam Winner ran a bit flat in the Gold Cup, but then so did horses like Many Clouds and Silviniaco Conti and they've come out and won sinces. On his best form, when he beat the likes of The Druids Nephew at Cheltenham giving him weight and finishing third in the Lexus, he'd definitely have a chance. He's fairly versatile ground-wise."

 

LIFE OF BRIAN

It's the general view that Brian Hughes is a modest sort of guy who shrugs off praise for his achievements and always believes that his next win will be his best. Nevertheless, the North Yorkshire jump jockey should be recognised for the success he has achieved. Last week was something of a landmark for Northern riders when he notched up his maiden century of winners when he scored on WARDEN HILL at Market Rasen. This makes the Dublin-born rider, based almost entirely in the North of England, the first one to achieve the ton since Graham Lee in 2005-06. Life is not easy for Brian Hughes as he does not have the advantage of links with a raft of top trainers as do his counterparts in the South. When the 29-year-old is not required by his regular trainer, Malton-based Malcolm Jefferson, he is the pick of a whole host of trainers in the area.

 

Brian Hughes commented: “The 100 is something that I started to think about when I had such a good start to the season. ( He is currently fifth in the jockeys’ ratings, behind, of course, Tony McCoy, Tom Scudamore, Richard Johnson and Sam Twiston-Davies.) By the New Year, I was already at 70 so it became realistic. Malcolm’s horses were slow to come to hand, but they have finished the season well. I’ve been lucky that everything has clicked. I’m never going to be champion jockey – there just aren’t the big yards in the North that you need to make it happen – but my aim for next year will be to work towards 100 winners again. You have to set yourself little targets, but be realistic. After Warden Hill won, a lot of people were ringing and texting. I didn’t think it was anything special, but I realised in fact that it meant quite a lot to those who are close to me and who support me.”

 

CHASING STEEPLES NEVER HAD IT SO GOOD

National Hunt racing ('Steeplechasing') has certainly been grabbing the headlines lately and that can't be bad for the sport. There was last month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, won in fine style by Mark Bradstock's CONEYGREE, who grabbed the honours with a faultless display of jumping, beating even the Willie Mullins-trained DJAKADAM and Noel Meade's ROAD TO RICHES into second and third place, respectively. It's interesting that none of this trio have not had an outing since that prestigious event but others have shown up. The Paul Nicholls-trained SILVINIACO CONTI, for example, came seventh in the Gold Cup but then returned to glory by winning the Betfred Bowl Chase. Another - the Willie Mullins-trained, ON HIS OWN, was twenty-three-and-a-half lengths adrift of the winner in fifth place but still came back and won the Imperial Call Chase at Cork two weeks ago. Of course, everyone cites MANY CLOUDS' disastrous performance in the Gold Cup who, nevertheless, undaunted went to Aintree and bagged one of the world's most sought-after prizes, last Saturday’s Aintree Grand National. Connections, no doubt, are still puzzled why their mount failed to make even the first three at Cheltenham but that is to underrate the winner's, CONEYGREE's setting a relentless pace throughout which put paid to many aspirations. Add other National Hunt success stories such SAPHIR DU RHEU and DON COSSACK, to mention just a couple and it paints a current picture of a healthy sport, despite what all the naysayers and doubting Thomases have been reporting in the press.

 

FRIDAY 17th APRIL 2015

 

RICHARD'S COOL - AGAIN

Trainer Richard Hannon continued his winning streak yesterday at Newmarket when he saddled KOOL KOMPANY in the Novae Bloodstock Insurance Craven Stakes. The top-weight three-year-old didn't hang about at the start under the expert guidance of Richard Hughes and took over the lead from the Barry Hills-trained NAFAQA after a furlong in this one-mile Group Three race. The latter endeavoured to make a serious challenge but didn't seem to have enough to close the length-and-a-quarter gap that the son of JEREMY had established. This marked the a fourth successive win of this contest for the Hannon yard and, to prove the point, his MOHEET even came in third, three-and-quarter lengths behind, though never looked like he could make it first past the post.

 

The winning Marlborough-based trainer commented: “He’s always been a very tough horse, but I was not sure if he’d stay a mile and he did have things marginally his own way out in front. People have not given him the respect he deserves, I don’t think there was anything flukey about the win. The third has run a good race, but he’s a bit immature as he didn’t learn a lot from his first run and he needed the experience today. Both will go for the Guineas.”

 

BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU!

Ironically the retiring champion jockey is forced to race against his boss's horse in tomorrow's Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr. It will be Tony McCoy's last-ever appearance at the Whitletts Road racecourse and he will be unable to ride for JP McManus on this auspicious occasion. When it came to light on Wednesday that the County Limerick-based Irish businessman and racehorse owner had bought the Tony Martin-trained GALLANT OSCAR, there was eleventh-hour speculation that this acquisition could give the man from Moneyglass the perfect finale aboard this ante-post favourite. This wasn't to be, however, as the soon-to-be 20 times champion jockey can't make the weight of 10st. 1lb. and so, instead, he will be riding the horse of a rival, the Paul Nicholls-trained BENVOLIO, who was runner-up in the Welsh National.

 

Coral spokesman, David Stevens, said: “With record prize money up for grabs, it’s no surprise a maximum field of 30 have been declared for Scotland’s biggest race, and we have the possibility of AP McCoy, in his last Scottish National ride, denying his boss JP McManus victory with his new purchase, or of course, vice versa, should the ante-post favourite oblige,”

 

Emma Marley, Clerk of the Course added: “The going is good to soft at present. “We’ve had a dry day today and the forecast suggests a dry outlook for the next two days. I envisage us starting on good to soft ground, possibly good in places. We’ll see how it rides on the first day and what the jockeys say and we won’t rule out watering if we need to, but we have such a good covering of grass I don’t think we’ll have to. I’m really pleased with the condition we’re in to start off with.”

 

TO DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM”

Louise Osmond’s documentary, Dark Horse (winner of the World Cinema Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival) has just hit the screens. It is the story of a home-bred racehorse, called DREAM ALLIANCE, the equine star of the film, who went on to win the 2009 Welsh Grand National and £137,000 in career prize money. With name and scenery changes this could well have been the story of KAYF ARAMIS who was raised in a cowshed in a muddy field by a young girl with a dream and that dream came true also in 2009 at Cheltenham when the son of KAYF TARA claimed the Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle).

 

Such stories are based on the fact that we are all profoundly moved by epic accounts of these courageous animals. DREAM ALLIANCE'S breeder, Jan Vokes, in a derelict allotment in a barely-known Welsh village, and alongside her cleaning jobs, decides, with the help of her husband, Brian, to try breed a champion racehorse. This, on the face of it, crazy venture eventually changed the lives of the 23-man syndicate set up to cover the significant training fees and also the whole local community. DREAM ALLIANCE's success brought back pride to a village depressed by the death of the mining industry.

 

There must be many such stories which remind us that regardless of wealth or background, anyone can 'dream the impossible dream' and even have it come true.

THURSDAY 16th APRIL 2015

 

BUY TO RACE

If you want a good horse for the Scottish Grand National, you can always buy one. Of course, you'd have to be as wealthy as J P McManus who, it has just been revealed, did just that. He purchased the ante-post favourite, GALLANT OSCAR. The acquisition will not, however, provide Tony McCoy, with another last-minute National winning opportunity for his last ride in this prestigious contest, after his disappointment on SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR in the Aintree spectacular last week. The nine-year-old is, unfortunately, too low in the weights for the retiring champion jockey. This chance will go instead to Paul Carberry.

 

JP McManus' Racing Manager, Frank Berry, explained: "He only has 10st 1lb and the weights are unlikely to rise so Paul Carberry will ride him. It is important for him that an ease stays in the ground and the forecast is nice at the moment."

 

Trainer Tony Martin added: "He's fit and he's well. He didn't get into Aintree which was a pity because I was looking forward to having a whack at the big race. But I've been very happy with him since Cheltenham and he ran well there. Previously he had run well in the Goffs Thyestes and to be fair to the horse he has held his form well throughout the season. If he can produce a similar type of run to any of those two I'd be happy. You never know for sure but he won the National Trial over three miles at Naas last year on soft ground so that would indicate that he'd have a good chance of getting a mile further on better ground, we'll see."

 

In fact, GALLANT OSCAR was also the ante-post favourite for the Irish Grand National two weeks ago but it was decided to miss that race in the hope of getting into the English Grand National but that didn't happen so it's third time lucky. It's an interesting fact that no Irish-trained winner has won the Scottish National for 146 years, the last time being in 1869 when HUNTSMAN, trained and ridden by Larry Hyland claimed the coveted prize.

 

THE THREE MUSKETEERS

The (deep breath!) Queally Group Celebrating 35 Years in Naas Punchestown Champion Hurdle will become the contest where stable companions, FAUGHEEN, ARCTIC FIRE and HURRICANE FLY will battle it out for supremacy. This Willie Mullins' trio dominated the final stages of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival. FAUGHEEN passed the post a length-and-a-half ahead of ARCTIC FIRE who in turn was five lengths ahead of the 22-times Grade One hero, HURRICANE FLY.

 

ARCTIC FIRE is the only one of the three to have a race since that contest and connections are probably wishing he hadn't. The six-year-old son of SOLDIER HOLLOW was at Liverpool last week but came a cropper at the last flight in the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle handing the race to JEZKI with Tony McCoy aboard.

 

The County Carlow trainer commented: "Our first three home in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham - Faugheen, Arctic Fire and Hurricane Fly - definitely look likely to line up again in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. Arctic Fire doesn't seem any the worse for his Aintree fall - it was a tough fall - but he's eaten up and everything and was out on Monday morning for the first time since doing some light exercise. Punchestown is nearly Hurricane Fly's second home, he looks great but will have it all to do against Faugheen. I'm a huge Hurricane Fly fan so hope he might get his revenge against Faugheen but we'll see what happens."

 

RICHARD'S FIRST

The Richard Hannon-trained OSAILA, the highest-rated filly in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes had a wide draw and jockey, Frankie Dettori, was in no particular hurry to join up with the main group. Two furlongs from the finish it looked as though the result would come from the Godolphin duo, BEAUTIFUL ROMANCE and NEW PROVIDENCE. The latter was very much on the cards to provide jockey Hugo Palmer with a big treble on the day and clearly wasn't going to give up easily. OSAILA, however, stuck obstinately to the task at hand, giving Richard Hannon his first turf win of the new season.

 

The winning Marlborough-based trainer commented: "We always believed she was a beautiful filly and I was amazed at her price today, as her form is impeccable. She is not there in her coat yet and there is 3- to 5lb to come from that. Sky Lantern got beat in this race two years ago and went on to win the Guineas and this filly is hopefully as good, as there is not lot of difference between them. She will improve a lot for that and will have a great chance on Guineas day. Today she was drawn quite poorly and things were quite difficult for her. Hopefully that will be different in the Guineas."

 

WEDNESDAY 15th APRIL 2015

 

ROCK STEADY

The Punchestown Festival at the end of this month will be the scene for trainer, Harry Fry, to put his stable star to the test in his first run over three miles in the Ladbrokes World Series Hurdle. The 2012 Champion Hurdle champion, ROCK ON RUBY was set to step up to this longer distance at Cheltenham in the World Hurdle in March but was pulled out due to a medical condition. The ten-year-old son of OSCAR was, however, fit enough to take on the two-and-a-half mile Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) last week when he gave JEZKI a run for his money, ultimately finishing well back in second place, however, after he was badly hampered at the last hurdle when ARCTIC FIRE fell.

 

The Dorset-based trainer commented: "It's very much in our thoughts to bring Rock On Ruby to Punchestown for a first try over three miles. Arctic Fire unfortunately had a heavy fall at Aintree and we got caught up in the melee, but it was a solid run and we were coming back at the end. He's never run a bad race over hurdles and missed Cheltenham so is still relatively fresh. Watching the race back at Aintree, it looked like three miles would suit him and Noel (Fehily) felt he was coming back at them. All he was doing was staying on at the line.

"He deserves his chance at the trip at Punchestown."

 

PRINCE STAKES MORE MONEY

Newmarket is to run a new sponsorship for the Middle Park Stakes and Royal Lodge Stakes which will be run on the last day of the Cambridgeshire meeting this year on 26th September.

Juddmonte, an award-winning horse breeding farm, owned by Prince Khalid bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has agreed to sponsor these two contests for three years. This year will mark the 150th renewal of the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, worth £180,000. This prestigous race has been won by a number of top horses, including OASIS DREAM and DREAM AHEAD, both owned and bred by Juddmonte, who also went on to win the July Cup.

 

The Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes his also a contest with strong credentials as it was won by Prince Khalid Abdullah's tent-times unbeaten Group 1 champion, FRANKEL in 2010. This GALILEO son is top stallion Juddmonte's at Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket where he commands a princely fee of £125,000.

 

The Chief Executive Officer of the Juddmonte group commented: "Juddmonte Farms is delighted to sponsor one of the top Group 1 two-year-old races in Europe with the history of the Middle Park, especially as Prince Khalid has won it twice with successful sires Known Fact and Oasis Dream. Running this race alongside the Royal Lodge, which was won by Frankel, is a great attraction as well. Juddmonte has a long history of sponsorship and believes that this supports the industry and upholds the quality of such races."

 

THE FRENCH STRIKE AGAIN!

The big race of the day at Saint-Cloud was delayed by almost thirty minutes yesterday and not for the usual reasons. Racecourse workers blocked the home straight in their ongoing protest over transport fees. The Prix d'Aquitaine was supposed to go off as the day's big event, accounting for about 20% turnover for the pari-mutuel (similat to the Tote) on an average weekday. Normally that would have meant that the race would miss the scheduled slot for TV filming although the sports news channel, L'Equipe 21, did manage to show the delayed race live.

French trade unions were protesting about the racing industry's proposal to restrict this year's salary increase to only a €30 supplement to cover ravel expenses.

 

Union official, Pierre Bellaiche, commented: "This is a first demonstration and we will vacate the course and return to our homes after a quarter of an hour but, the next time, it will be a whole meeting. We are told there is no money and that the government is demanding economies, so why are France Galop about to spend €160,000,000 on rebuilding Longchamp?"

 

TUESDAY 14th APRIL 2015

 

BREEDING GOOD!

Aidan Aherne, cetainly had something to celebrate after his MANY CLOUDS' triumph in Saturday's Grand National. He is the breeder of the eight-year-old, whose dam was Bobbing Back, also the Dam of The Tullow Tank, who was second on Sunday in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. It has been a remarkable year for the Oliver Sherwood-trained MANY CLOUDS who has won four of his five starts, which include the Hennessy Gold Cup and Grade 2 BetBright Cup Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day. The son of CLOUDING's only recent defeat was in the Gold Cup in March when he trailed in sixth position behind CONEYGREE.

 

An elated Aidan Aherne commented: "It was fantastic. I had a few drinks, but if you can't celebrate a National win, when can you? I went to Cheltenham to watch Many Clouds in the Gold Cup. But I couldn't make it to Aintree because Bobbing Back gave birth last Sunday and the foal is now with a foster mare because Bobbing Back is 18. We've been very busy at home [Windward House Stud], so I ended up watching the race in the local betting shop and screamed him home. It was some performance - when was the last time a horse carried that weight [11st 9lb]? He was brilliant and Oliver Sherwood has always said he'd go over a cliff for you."

 

BACK TO THE FUTURE

Ruth Quinn, BHA's Racing Director said there are "challenges and concerns" that threaten the long-term health of British jump racing in the first comprehensive review of the sport's future since 2004. A committee of twenty members representing all aspects of racing will set about assessing the current state of jump racing and they will focus, in particular, on areas where things have not gone well recently, such as the decline in ownership of National Hunt horses.

 

Ruth Quinn commented: "Having just come off the back of a successful Grand National meeting, which was itself hot on the heels of another memorable Cheltenham Festival, some might be forgiven for thinking that jump racing is in perfect health. Indeed we have a great deal to be positive and proud about. Attendances and betting turnover at Cheltenham and Aintree reached record levels and the quality of the jump racing product at the top end remains first class, and continues to capture the imagination of the British public. However, a look beneath the bonnet reveals challenges and concerns which need to be addressed in order to secure the long-term health of the sport. Without an industry functioning properly, from the grass-roots up, then the future security and success of the sport at all levels is at risk."

 

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

Timekeeping and tracking technology in racing may never be the same again after Swiss watchmaker Longines unveiled a "game-changing" development for the Longines Positioning System (LPS). This technology was employed for the first time last Saturday on Longines' Queen Elizabeth Stakes day at Randwick. The LPS, static or portable, offers an easily deployable system which sets a new standard for accurate, reliable and repeatable timekeeping and is able to track results that, reputably, will offer great benefits to the horse racing industry.

Vice President and Head of International Marketing for Longines, Juan-Carlos Capelli, commented: “For Longines, investing in technological advancements is the latest step in our long term relationship with horseracing. The Longines Positioning System delivers a number of benefits to the sport and is a game-changer for the racing industry. Whether you are a horse racing enthusiast, a world renowned jockey or a TV broadcaster, access to more accurate, flexible data allows you to understand, share and act on the intricacies of performance as never before. We are excited to see how the LPS technology can be utilised in the future to improve the experience for racing spectators, TV viewers and even smart phone and tablet users. There is no question that live performance data enhances viewing experience and depth of understanding. Understanding leads to improvement, and improvement leads to winning: for all."

 

MONDAY 13th APRIL 2015

 

FALL OF THE KING

The only equine casualty in the Grand National is now recovering in hospital. BALTHAZAR KING suffered a heavy fall in the race on Saturday and it suspected that he has incurred some broken rib. The 11-year-old had been particularly aimed at this contest, having given the Cheltenham Festival a miss and it was obvious that connections were hoping for a good outcome. It wasn't to be, however, as the son of KING'S THEATRE went down with his jockey, Richard Johnson, at the Canal Turn. The unfortunate faller was treated on the course for about an hour before being taken to the University of Liverpool’s equine hospital, Leahurst.

 

Richard Johnson commented: “I spoke to Philip [Hobbs, trainer] this morning and it looks like he’s broken three or four ribs. It’s like with humans, you have to just allow them to mend, although it’s hard with a horse explaining that he needs to stand still. He has a fantastic attitude though so fingers crossed he’ll be back soon. He just took off too early. He’s always been very bold and brave at jumping, maybe he was a little too bold yesterday. It was a nasty fall but then Ballycasey bowled into him too, so it’s hard to know what caused the injury. He got up relatively quickly though.”

 

ARE THE GREENS RED?

Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, has said that the greatest steeplechase in the world, the Grand National, could be banned if they get into power and they would initiate a review of all horse and greyhound racing and any other commercial events that involve the participation of animals which could eventually be prohibited.

 

Natalie Bennett commented on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: “There are clearly animal protection issues that need to be addressed - not just what happens in races but what happens to the animals, the animals that disappear from the system, the whole range of issues.”

 

NOT ALL THE WAY WITH (THIS) JFK!

A late president was in the spotlight again at Leopardstown yesterday. There were only three runners in the P.W. McGrath Memorial Ballysax Stakes and Derby favourite, JOHN F KENNEDY, suffered a humiliating defeat by coming last, ten-and-a-half lengths behind the winner. Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old was backed into 1/4 for this contest but never got close to the eventual victor, the Ken Condon-trained SUCCESS DAYS.

 

The son of GALILEO, making his first outing since his strong performance at the same track in September when he won the Group 3 John Deere Juvenile Turf Stakes by three-and-a-quarter lengths, revealed none of his former brilliance on this occasion. The race certainly went at a fair lick dictated by Shane Foley, riding SUCCESS DAYS and there was no stopping this dynamic duo when he kicked for home several lengths clear of his two rivals. Ryan Moore, aboard JOHN F KENNEDY, made every effort to catch the leader but it was no use and when, to add insult to injury, the Dermot Weld-trained ZAFILANI surged past him, he seemed to abandon all hope.

 

A clearly disappointed Aidan O'Brien commented: "We weren't expecting that to happen and it was disappointing. The ground was very soft and Ryan said the horse felt bad on it. He's really a fast ground horse. I thought he was fit enough but maybe he wasn't. We'll take him home and see how he comes out of the race before making plans. First time out last year he didn't concentrate before winning his next two races."

 

The winning trainer added: "Most male horses I have are gelded but this fellow has always had a good temperament and a great attitude. He relishes that sort of ground and had a fitness edge over the other two runners. He's in the Irish Guineas and we'll consider running him. He could be put in the Irish Derby. He was 25-1 when he won his maiden last year and he keeps giving us nice surprises."

SUNDAY 12th APRIL 2015

 

BRING ON THE CLOUDS

Well, there was a fairytale ending to the Grand National but not the one expected or hoped for. The champion jockey, AP McCoy failed to leave the sport on a high by winning the world's greatest steeplechase. The bookmakers' sigh of relief could be heard all over the country as they were spared an eye-watering pay-out of some £30 million.

 

It was an event for the record books, nonetheless. It's 42 years since a jockey won the national two years in a row on the same horse, Brian Fletcher on RED RUM (1973, 1974) and 62 years since Bryan Marshall scored back-to-back wins on different horses, EARLY MIST in 1953 and ROYAL TAN in 1954. Yesterday, Leighton Aspell, who was victorious on PINEAU DE RE last year, entered the racing history annals when he partnered the 25/1 shot, MANY CLOUDS, trained by Oliver Sherwood to victory. The eight-year-old son of CLOUDINGS is owned by Trevor Hemmings who was back in the winner's enclosure for the third time (HEDGEHUNTER in 2005 and BALLABRIGGS in 2011). Only three other owners have such an amazing record but none in the past 100 years.

 

The other intriguing fact is that the winning jockey decided to give up racing in 2007 in, what was probably, a 'spur-of-the-moment' decision, because, as he put it, racing had lost its appeal but he was back in the saddle again 18 months later because he said he missed the buzz of the weighing-room and the excitement. Probably one of the better decisions in his life!

 

Leighton Aspell kept his mount not too far off the pace and MANY CLOUDS, Hennessy Gold Cup winner and sixth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, responded by jumping skilfully throughout the contest. For much of the race it seemed possible that SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR could provide Tony McCoy with a retirement ticket and his second National triumph (DON'T PUSH IT 2012) but he eventually tired a drifted back into fifth. It was clearly a hard-fought battle as MANY CLOUDS also visibly weakened but had enough left to hold off SAINT ARE (2), MONBEG DUDE(3) and ASLVARADO (4)

 

Leighton Aspell commented afterwards: “Last year, I was shell-shocked and I had to work hard. This year, I had a smooth ride. It was wonderful and we will certainly celebrate tonight. I asked some big questions, but he dug deep. If you look back now, it was a crazy decision to retire. But it has given me new-found enthusiasm.”

 

The winning trainer, Oliver Sherwood added: “I can’t believe it. I didn’t see my horse come back in, so I was a bit worried, but I gather he was just a bit wobbly and he’s OK. Jumping the last I couldn’t watch. I feel sorry for the the poor people beside me – I lost it completely. It was some spin from Leighton – to win it two years on the bounce is just unreal. I’ve done nothing with this horse since Cheltenham. He hasn’t seen a National fence. I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. He’s done two quiet bits of work and that’s all I’ve done with him.

 

MONBEG'S TO DIFFER

One pleasing result of the Grand National was the performance of the Michael Scudamore-trained MONBEG DUDE. He didn't win but improved his last-year position from seventh to third, thus restoring connections' faith in his future. Apart from a couple of decent placings the 10-year-old hasn't had a win since December 2013 at Cheltenham in the Majordomo Hospitality Handicap Chase when he also came from the rear and didn't make any headway until passing the eleventh fence. Then he turned on the power and pursued the leaders from the 16th, going into went 2nd when nearing 2 fences from home. He kept pushing on and showed the likes of PIGEON ISLAND, KNOCKARA BEAU and DUKE OF LUCCA ( the winner of this year's Betfred Handicap Chase) how to win a race.

 

That's why hopes were high that the son of WITNESS BOX would come up trumps, particularly after coming sixth in the Coral Welsh Grand National last December. In yesterday's battle, as seems to be normal tactics, Liam treadwell kept the ten-year-old in the rear. He was unfortunately hampered at the 6th fence (Bechers) when RIVER CHOICE went down, losing a little momentum but started to make headway six fences from home, chasing the leaders three out. He slowly nudged up into third position as they approached the Elbow and although he had stamina enough to carry on, he didn't seem to have enough to catch the front pair, the eventual winner, the Oliver sherwood-trained MANY CLOUDS and runner-up, Tom George's SAINT ARE under Paddy Brennan.

 

The story has it that when Zara Phillips learnt that her husband, Mike Tindall, former England rugby captain, had bought a quarter share in MONBEG DUDE she called him an 'idiot'. Perhaps after claiming yesterday's share of the £105, 500 prize money the Queen's grand-daughter might want to take that back!

 

FLAG WAVING ROLE

Jockey Ruby Walsh, with two National wins to his credit (PAPILLON in 2000 and HEDGEHUNTER in 2005) has proved himself to be one of the great jockeys of our time but yesterday he revealed another side to his character – concern for his fellow riders and horses. When BALTHAZAR KING, with Richard Johnson aboard, fell at the eighth fence and was crashed into by the following BALLYCASEY, unseating his rider, Ruby Walsh, the latter assume another unexpected and more humble role. So many of the track officials were busy placing screens around the fallen horse that there was hardly anyone left to warn the remaining runners to miss the Canal Turn fence on the second circuit. So what did the County Kildare jockey do? He grabbed a chequered flag and, responding to protests from the attendants that he would be highly visible in his bright pink silks, he bravely stood 50 yards in front of the Canal Turn directing 20 galloping horses to one side. The strategy was a success but probably wont be advocated by the British Horseracing Authority. The good news is that the Phillip Hobbs-trained gelding was able to get up and walk away from his fall and Ruby Walsh's mount was none the worse for his experience.

SATURDAY 11th APRIL 2015

 

LORD KNOWS!

Today's 'you-know-what' has something for those with an idiosyncratic system of betting. (See 'You bet it your way' - 7th April) Clearly there are literally thousands of hopefuls who have gone for the Favourite, particularly this time as the retiring champion jockey, Tony McCoy, is making his last appearance at Aintree on SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR. There are runners for those who go for royal names: BALTHAZAR KING, PORTRAIT KING, CHANCE DU ROY and ROYALE KNIGHT. A surprise punter, however, is the Dean of Wakefield who clearly also has his own system of betting. The Very Rev Jonathan Greener has bet £50 at 20/1 on a horse to win today's Grand National. And which entrant has attracted the attention of the expectant ecclesiastic: the Alan King-trained GODSMEJUDGE, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson! The good Dean also has a specific goal in mind for his 'winnings'. He will put the potential £1000 towards mending the church roof. And not any old church at that but Wakefield Cathedral no less. Any normal punter would be praying just for his selection to come in but not the very Rev Jonathan Greener. Far from exhorting divine intervention in his own favour, he has generously devoted his prayers to a “safe outcome for all horses and riders”. That probably reflects rather a magnanimity of spirit than a realistic expectation of the outcome. It's highly likely on biblical evidence that venturing vicars may get short shrift from the Powers above. After all, King David, in Psalm 20:7, makes it abundantly clear: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord.”

Perhaps God will be his judge!

 

BOOKIE BASHING

We seems to have heard this before but once again, it seems, the Turf Accountants could be facing the biggest pay out in history. SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR, the champion jockey's retiring ride at the Grand National today, could turn out to be the shortest-priced favourite for the Aintree spectacular in more than forty years and the reason for his selection is obvious. It is calculated that more than £150 million has been bet on AP's mount and if it wins bookmakers country-wide could be liable to pay out of more than £30 million. You could have got 25/1 on the eight-year-old son of ACCORDION a couple of months ago and the current 5/1 could dive even further by the early afternoon when all those once-a-year gamblers follow the market.

 

Bookmakers know they have history on their side, however, and that such massive public punts rarely come off. For instance, the shortest-priced winner of the National was back in 1919 when POETHLYN was sent off at 11/4. Wind on sixteen years and another short-priced favourite, GOLDEN MILLER, disappointed his supporters in 1935. This mythical mount was the pride and joy of his generation, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup five times but his flirtation with Aintree was short-lived.

 

The odds are stacked against the punter in another example: The Reg Tweedie-trained FREDDIE was a superb jumper of fences and in the 1965 National he was the 7/2 favourite but was was beaten by three-quarters of a length by JAY TRUMP. He tried the following year when he was the 11-4 favourite but was runner-up again, this time, however, some twenty lengths of the winner, ANGLO.

 

It's on record that over the last thirty years only five favourites or joint-favourites have been victorious; ROUGH QUEST in 1996, EARTH SUMMIT in 1998, HEDGEHUNTER in 2005, COMPLY OR DIE in 2008 and DON'T PUSH IT in 2010. Nevertheless, the bookmakers are preparing themselves for a battering similar to the one in 1996 when when Frankie Dettori won all seven races at Ascot. It cost them £40million on that occasion.

 

David Williams commented for Ladbrokes: "A win for McCoy is our nightmare scenario. Shutthefrontdoor could easily be the best backed horse we've ever known in the Grand National. We're scared even to think about it. More often than not Aintree throws up a host of stories but this year there's only show in town. The entire race revolves around one man and one horse. We reckon it will cost the industry £30 million if McCoy wins but that could be conservative. If the nationwide gamble unfolds the liabilities could go through the roof. The total cost could be disastrous."

 

I DREAMED A DREAM ...

With all this Grand National excitement it was easy to overlook the fact Brian Hughes moved to one short of the tantalising ton yesterday when he steered the Malcolm Jefferson-trained CYRUS DARIUS to a ten-length triumph in the E-Lites Top Novices’ Hurdle. The Dublin-born

jockey, due to be aboard the 125/1 outsider, ELY BROWN (the only one for those who pick horses by colour!) stamped his mark on the race early on and pulled well clear in the closing stages to give the Malton-based trainer a long-awaited win, raising hopes that his luck was turning as he has had a fairly lean time recently.

 

Malcolm Jefferson is clearly not one to tempt fate and merely commented: “I dream about all sorts of things but often they end up as nightmares. We’ll just leave him at grass and see what next season brings.”

 

FRIDAY 10th APRIL 2015

 

CAN'T WEIGHT ANY LONGER

It seems that trainer Aidan O’Brien's son, Joseph, has finally given up the battle against the scales with the announcement that Ryan Moore will take over all the main rides in the new Flat season. The 31-year-old rider from Brighton, it has been confirmed, will be aboard Ballydoyle’s leading contenders in the Classics and other major Flat races. This news has finally put paid to any further speculation about the future of Joseph O’Brien, winner of two of the last three Derby champions for his father. It is now clear that the talented 21-year-old six-footer is unable to make the nine-stone Classic weight this or any other season. With that in mind he ventured last month over hurdles for the first time in his career. This new direction will terminate a brief but very successful career on the Flat for Joseph O'Brien trainer’s son. In addition to the successes mentioned earlier he added the Irish Derby, a win in the US Breeders’ Cup meeting and on World Cup night at Meydan in Dubai. He bows out as Ireland’s twice champion Flat jockey, in 2012 and 2013.

 

Ryan Moore, on the other hand, is no stranger to the Ballydoyle king, having regularly ridden for him when there was more than one runner in a big race. In fact, he was victorious in the 2013 Derby on RULER OF THE WORLD and claimed the the 1,000 Guineas in 2012 on the Aidan O’Brien-trained HOMECOMING QUEEN. He will be back in the saddle as soon as Sunday at Leopardstown when he will partner, amongst others, the ante-post favourite for the Derby, JOHN F KENNEDY in the Ballysax Stakes.

 

Trainer Aidan O'Brien commented: “Ryan will be riding our main horses this year and Joseph will be riding other horses when the weights allow him to. Seamie Heffernan and Colm O’Donoghue will also be involved as in the past. I’d imagine that if he wants to, Joseph will continue to ride over hurdles.”

 

IT'S GRAND TO BE IN THE NATIONAL!

Unbelievably, it looked for a moment as though Brian Hughes wouldn't be at this year's Grand National when his scheduled ride, the Dianne Sayer-trained BAILEY'S CONCERTO, surprisingly didn't make into the final 40 runners. But such a talented jockey, who is currently fifth in the jockeys’ championship, is not likely to rest on the sidelines for very long. He was soon booked by the Cotswolds-based trainer, Charlie Longsdon, to ride his Wetherby’s Grade Two Towton Novices’ Chase winner, ELY BROWN in tomorrow's prestigious contest. As a sign that he was back in business, the Dublin-born rider unexpectedly steered Kevin Frost's SURF AND TURF to victory in the Betfred Red Rum Handicap Chase yesterday at Aintree and, what is more, this triumph took his winning tally to 98 this season, two off the magical 100.

 

Brian Hughes is very modest about achieving such landmarks, preferring instead to sound the praises of his various trainers: “Kevin spotted this horse when he was with Jonjo [O’Neill]. A small yard suits him. He won round here in May and with half tongue-in-cheek said we’d bring him back for this race. For a small yard it’s nice to have a horse good enough to be at this meeting. He travelled all the way round and jumped brilliantly; I probably got there a bit soon – he had a good look at the last, but jumped it and off we went.”

 

The winning trainer was more effusive: “It’s amazing for such a small yard like ours. I’m lost for words a little bit. He’s done us proud. We picked him up at the sales very cheaply. When I first started training, he was bought as a horse who might win us a seller and get us off the mark but he’s done nothing but improve all the time. Brian wanted to run him here. He loves him – they go together like strawberries and cream. It’s his type of horse as he doesn’t like being knocked around. It was a great ride.”

 

GROUNDS FOR WATERING

Speaking of the Aintree track, various amounts of watering took place last night as the day had been warm and dry, giving rise to a possible faster track today. The going at the end of the first day of racing was recorded as 'Good to Soft, Good in places' but it was decided to apply 4-5mm of water to parts of all three courses ahead of today's racing. On the whole, jockeys were full of praise for going conditions on the hurdle and Mildmay courses but some riders in the Foxhunter Chase which takes place of the National Course opined that conditions were slower. Jockey, Kevin Power, who gained a third on LAST TIME D'ALBAIN commented: "The ground is on the dead side and even if they put no more water on I can't see it being any better than good."

 

One good thing to say for the sunny weather was that it persuaded a record 34,752 racegoers to come to the venue, which is an increase of about 1,300 on the 2014 figure.

THURSDAY 9th APRIL 2015

 

CAUGHT ON CAMERA

Well the three-day Grand National meeting finally starts today after all the hints and tips and speculation. One innovation this year is that a high-definition camera, which will probably be worn by jockeys Gavin Sheehan and Will Kennedy, will provide viewers with an exciting rider’s eye view of the world’s greatest steeplechase and other contests throughout the fixture.

 

As Director of programmes for Channel 4 Racing, Denise Large, said: “This year, Channel 4 viewers will be able to experience the jockeys’ point of view when riding around Aintree. I would like to thank the British Horseracing Authority and the Professional Jockeys Association for all of their support, and all the jockeys who have tested the camera on training grounds. Without them, this would not have been possible. This technology brings racing to the forefront amongst other sports who have developed onboard POV cameras. It has been a major achievement to launch this high-definition jockeycam, and the development of such a small device with sound was paramount to it being able to be used in race riding. The results should give the most dynamic pictures and insight into the Grand National.”

 

HIP HIP FOR RE!

One runner who will not be short of a few friends will be last year's winner, the Dr Richard Newland-trained PINEAU DE RE who will have more than 150 friends and family cheering him on as well as the trainer's other entry, ROYALE KNIGHT. The twelve-year-old son of MARESCA SORRENTO has run four times over hurdles this season but has failed to score and, what is more, he will be racing off an 8eight pound higher handicap.

 

Dr Newland commented: “I am really excited about it. Ever since Pineau De Re won the National last year the plan was to go back to Aintree to see whether he could become the first horse in 40 years to win it again. Because of local interest and family interest I have got 150 people coming to the Grand National. We’re getting to the stage now where all the work has been done and, hopefully, nothing goes wrong on the day. I don’t know whether Pineau De Re will win it again but there’s been a lot of time planning and thinking about this so I am looking forward to him lining up on Saturday with Royale Knight. Daryl has ridden him before and is a top jockey and has ridden lots of winners for us in the past. It’s a bit ironic that Leighton picked up the ride last year as a spare when someone else had to pull out so it’s turned full circle.”

 

COME ON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE

The Willie Mullins-trained ARCTIC FIRE will have a chance to prove he's as good as his more famous stable companion, HURRICANE FLY when he runs in the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle at the Liverpool track. The six-year-old has twenty-two Grade One wins over hurdles to his credit but this time he will be taking on a greater challenge. The progressive son of SOLDIER HOLLOW finished twice behind Hurricane Fly in the Ryanair and Irish Champion Hurdles at Leopardstown and he even beat HURRICANE FLY into third place when coming second to his other stable mate, FAUGHEEN in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham Festival in March.

 

The legendary County Carlow trainer commented: “He’s been in good form since Cheltenham so we decided to let him take his chance. I just felt we should keep Hurricane Fly for Punchestown as he’s always good there. It’s Arctic Fire’s first time over the trip (two and a half miles), but the way he was coming up that hill at Cheltenham, you would be hoping he’ll stay. We’ll find out on Thursday. He’s an exceptional horse and I still think there is a lot of improvement in him. While it is no certainty the step up to two and a half miles will suit, jockey Ruby Walsh is optimistic he will stay.”

 

WEDNESDAY 8th APRIL 2015

 

THE SPEED OF LIGHT

The Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse yesterday provided maybe an unpredictable but, nevertheless, a very welcome outcome for the Willie Mullins-trained TWILIGHT when Ruby Walsh steered him to a seven-length victory and, thereby made his mark among the County Carlow handler's formidable Punchestown Festival team. The eight-year-old gelding had already proved himself over Christmas when he won the Grade One Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase at Leopardstown but then seemed to lose it when only managing a distant third in the Paddy Power Your Local Betting Shop Chase at Naas in February. This son of MUHTAHIR was again up against his big rival, the Sean Doyle-trained MALLOWNEY but Ruby Walsh saw to it that there was no repetition of the previous defeat and urged his mount straight into the lead in the Grade Two contest. The nine-year-old son of OSCAR tracked him closely into the straight but TWILIGHT, jumping confidently, soon asserted his authority between the final two fences and finished in grand style.

 

Willie Mullins commented: "We ran him in a snaffle with no noseband which may have made a difference, but in fairness he jumped great and the other two didn't jump as well. Ruby said he was really enjoying himself and was a different horse than the last day. He hasn't missed a beat all season and, as long as the ground is soft, he'll go to Punchestown."

 

EGGSTRAVAGANZA

You thought Easter was all over? Not a bit of it. Fontwell Park has decided to offer a fun-packed day of racing this Friday with an Easter theme. The Easter Eggstravaganza Raceday presents an afternoon of first-class jump racing alongside many free activities including zorbing, (defined in Google as 'the activity of travelling downhill inside a large air-cushioned hollow ball'! ), fairground rides and pony rides. For the youngsters there will also be a Fonty (Fontwell Park mascot) Easter egg hunt.

 

There will be the usual seven races to enjoy and will certainly get racegoers in the mood for the next day's Grand National as a few of the jockeys taking part are also due to race in the Aintree spectacular. The Fonty egg hunt is for all to enjoy. The competitors just need to note on the entry sheet where they are. After the hunt the forms will be handed in and participants will receive a chocolate Easter treat for their pains. In addition, three lucky egg hunters will be drawn at random at the end of the day. The winner will enjoy a day out at Drusilla Zoo Park, near Alfriston, East Sussex. The second prize is a tablet and third prize is a visit back to Fontwell Park for the Bank Holiday Family Fun Day on Sunday, May 24.

 

Fontwell Park Executive Director, Simon Williams, commented: “We’re really looking forward to some Easter fun. What better way to end your Easter holidays than by heading to Fontwell Park for a day out with the family? Alongside the fun for the kids they’ll be some exhilarating horse racing.”

 

WATERING CAN ...

The current good weather is drying out the Aintree track fast and has made the officials decide start watering before Saturday's Grand National meeting – although, interestingly, not on the Grand National course, itself. Today and tomorrow's temperatures look like continuing around 15 degrees but the weekend is expected to be a cloudy 12C. Conditions on the Grand National course are reported to be good to soft but the Mildmay Chase and the hurdles tracks are a little dry so Andrew Tulloch, Clerk of the course, decided to spray a quarter-of-an-inch of water on them.

 

If temperatures do rise even further, then the same cooling-down facilities for the horses will be available as in previous years. There will be a tented area, where a cold mist can be blown around horses. There will also be large portable water containers with pumps, and a team of on hand with vast experience of cooling down event horses.

 

The last two years has not witnessed any fatalities but, nevertheless, the RSPCA repeated its request for a reduction of the size of the field from 40. David Muir, who is the RSPCA's equine consultant has welcomed much of this work Aintree has done, including softening the core of fences, but added: “Together with the occasional bunching issues, the number of loose horses when jockeys become unseated further increases risk factors to both horse and jockey.”

 

In response, Robin Mounsey, BHA's spokesman, was quick to respond that there was “no evidence” that fewer runners would reduce the welfare risk.

 

TUESDAY 7th APRIL 2015

 

A NATIONAL TREASURE

Well, she did it. Katie Walsh became the first woman to win the Irish Grand National yesterday for four years, when she rode THUNDER AND ROSES to an emotional victory at Fairyhouse yesterday and, into the bargain, upstaged champion jockey, AP McCoy, making his final appearance in the County Meath contest. Only three lady jockeys have claimed this prestigious prize, starting with Ann Ferris 31 years ago aboard BENTOM BOY and then a long gap until Nina Carberry steered ORGANISEDCONFUSION National victory in 2011.

 

The winning 20/1 son of PRESENTING is trained by Sandra Hughes, daughter of the late lengendary trainer, Dessie, who also scored in this Irish spectacular with TIMBERA in 2003. THUNDER AND ROSES was one of three Gigginstown House Stud horses, including RULE THE WORLD and BAND OF BLOOD, who were in with a chance at the top of the home straight and jumped the last obstacle in a line but it was Sandra Hughes' mount who had that little extra and galloped all the way to the line to win by four-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

Katie Walsh, sister of Ruby and daughter of trainer Ted, commented: “This is absolutely class. I’ve had some fantastic days, but this is an Irish National. It’s great for women in racing.”

 

The delighted winning trainer added: “Katie was absolutely fantastic, she just suited him to a tee. She was brilliant and he (Thunder And Roses) was brilliant. Someone above was helping us out. Dad always loved this race and to do it for him is wonderful. Dad was with us all the way.”

 

SON OF BOB BACK BACK

A cough meant that the Tony Martin-trained DEDIGOUT, missed the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham last month so his resounding victory in the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Irish Grand National day was a kind of compensation. The nine-year-old, also owned by the successful Gigginstown House Stud, ridden by Paul Carberry, was making it three in a row, having triumphed in the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January and the Navan Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle in February.

 

The son of BOB BACK was sent off the 2/1 favourite of the nine runners powered to a three-length victory over an old stalwart of the Willie Mullins yard, THOUSAND STARS, racing for the first time in 302 days who even looked as though he could repeat his last year success but perhaps he was feeling the effects of being so long off the track.

 

The Summerhill Meath-based winning trainer commented: "We thought we had a World Hurdle horse on our hands but he chipped his knee here in December 2013 and it's a credit to Gerry Kelly [vet] and to Michael and Eddie [O'Leary] for getting him back. He's just a very good horse and we had to miss Cheltenham again this year because he didn't travel great and lost a lot of weight over there. Whether he runs again this season probably depends on the ground, but we'll make a call about Punchestown later."

 

YOU BET IT YOUR WAY

The Grand National is an emotional event. Even people who have never been inside a bookmaker's building or who never think about betting on horses from one year to the next, suddenly feel the urge to place a bet, With 40 horses having to negotiate 30 jumps picking a winner of the Grand National is not so easy. Various methods are employed to get lucky on the day:

 

PICK THE FAVOURITE

On the face of it, that sounds like a good idea but the records show that in the last 68 races only nine favourite or joint favourite horses have claimed the ultimate prize. In fact, worse than that, a favourite in the race is four times more likely to fail to finish for one reason or another

 

BACK THE OUTSIDER

Now that's really gambling but, if you should get lucky, imagine all that cash from a 200/1 bet!

 

PICK A FAVOURITE NAME

This method is know to be used by many. Some people bet on horses with King or Royal as part of their name. This is really a fun bet but there aren't any statistics to back up this method.

 

PICK A FAVOURITE COLOUR

Some of the riders' colours are very striking and you could get lucky. The distinctive green and yellow of the JPMcManus horses, particularly ridden by champion jockey, Tony McCoy, for instance, certainly give a certain validity to this method.

 

STICK A PIN IN

Close your eyes, get a pin and stick it onto the list of runners. You could get lucky!

 

PULL A NAME OUT OF A HAT

You can do this on your own or join one of the many office syndicates. Here you put your fate entirely in the lap of the gods. At least you will have a horse to follow, with a chance or not.

 

LISTEN TO AN EXPERT

There's always someone who claims to have inside knowledge from the yard and, at a price, will let you in on the secret.

 

Whatever method you choose, next Saturday at Aintree will provide fun and entertainment for thousands of people at the track or watching on TV.

If you've come up with a winning scheme why not share it with this website!

 

MONDAY 6th APRIL 2015

 

ALL YOU NEED IS FRIENDS

The Irish Grand National, with thirty runners, today looks a highly competitive affair. Interestingly the champion jockey, AP McCoy, has opted to ride CANTLOW for his farewell to Fairyhouse. An interesting choice as this son of KAYF TARA, although currently favourite in the betting, came a disappointing eighth in last year's renewal and hasn't done anything remarkable since. The only good point in his favour is that the ten-year-old gets to compete fourteen pounds lighter but there are still questions marks re his fitness and stamina. He will be wearing a tongue-tie for the first time in an attempt to control a breathing problem.

 

So it could be wise to look elsewhere in the field for an Easter Monday gamble. Perhaps the Jim Dreaper-trained LOS AMIGOS fits the bill. Although the eight-year-old failed to impress in bumpers or even as a novice hurdler, he did redeem himself somewhat over fences, adding two handicap chase wins and a places to his tally last season. The son of OVERBURY even kicked off this season with a decisive victory in the #Boylesign Rated Chase at this track in January and it seems that connections have had this contest in their sights for some time. With racing conditions set to be testing it will be the horse with the requisite stamina that will make the grade.

 

LIAM RIDE WELL

The Grand National-winning jockey who rode the 100/1 outsider, MON MOME, to victory in 2009 is to ride the Michael Scudamore-trained MONBEG DUDE, winner of the 2103 Welsh National, in the Aintree spectacular on Saturday. The Ross-on-Wye trainer holds great store by his ten-year-old son of WITNESS BOX, who came seventh in last year's renewal and expressed his delight that he has obtained the services of the Arundel-born Liam Treadwell.

 

Michael Scudamore commented; "All being well, Liam will ride him and we're delighted. He's obviously been riding for us for a couple of seasons and is always a big help in the yard. He has a good experience around the track and if he can produce the goods like he did on Mon Mome that would be great. He's had a pop on the horse before and has ridden him in plenty of work, so he knows the horse better than most."

 

NOT THE WAY TO GO, JO!

Joseph O'Brien was denied his first win over hurdles at Fairyhouse yesterday when MARCHESE MARCONI, trained by his father, Aidan, made a mistake at the last and unseated his rider in the Gleesons Butchers Novice Handicap Hurdle handing victory to champion jockey, Tony McCoy aboard SIR SCORPION.

 

The six-year-old GALILEO gelding was prominent throughout the race and was narrowly in the lead when catastrophe struck. The Tom Mullins-trained SIR SCORPION, also wearing the famous McManus colours, needed no prompting to take up the challenge after that, although he needed that bit extra to beat off the attention of Thomas Connor's LILSHANE. Joseph O'Brien seemed none the worse after the fall in which nothing had perhaps suffered other than his pride. Tony McCoy's possible last appearance at the Easter Festival was greeted with rousing cheersw in the winner's enclosure.

 

The winning trainer commented: "He sweated up a lot at the start and we'll have to see how he comes out of this before thinking about Punchestown. Tony said he'll stay further."

SUNDAY 5th APRIL 2015

 

CAMERON AHEAD BY SIX

The Prime Minister will be wishing that this piece of news is a good omen for the General Election. Yesterday at Haydock Park The Micky Hammond-trained JUST CAMERON won the Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase by six lengths. This made it the third win in a row for this son of KAYF TARA after triumphing at Ayr and Carlisle in February and March, respectively, despite the fact that these successes meant he was the top weight in the field. The eight-year-old gelding, encouraged by jockey Joe Colliver, didn't waste any time in asserting his authority over the contest and set out for home from a long way out, finishing well ahead of the Tony McCoy-ridden IFANDBUTWHYNOT, who, in turn, was five lengths ahead of Donald McCain's UBALTIQUE.

 

The winning Middleham-based trainer was obviously delighted with the result: “It was a good weight-carrying performance. I’m very pleased, he’s done it well. I’ll speak to the owners to decide what we do. You can always go to the well once too often, especially at this time of the season.”

 

SEAN GETS HIS RIDE

A tenth victory over fences at Haydock yesterday was enough to qualify a leading conditional jockey to ride in the Grand National. Seventeen-year-old Sean Bowen, in fact, got his first win of the day in the previous race on SOUTHFIELD VIC but that was over hurdles and didn't count. The all-important result came in the next race, the 888sport.com Handicap Chase, when he rode the Paul Nicholls-trained VIRAK to a six-length triumph. That means he's all set to be aboard MON PARRAIN at Aintree on 11th April. The son of trainer Peter Bowen went on to clinch a treble on the day by winning the last race of the day, a bumper, on RED SIX, trained by his father and that took his season's tally to 37.

 

Sean Bowen, who is competing with with Gold Cup-winning rider Nico de Boinville for the conditional jockey's title commented: "I've been waiting for that for a while, but I'm glad I've got it and hopefully Mon Parrain will be a good spin in the National. I was very frustrated. Monday was the last day I could do it as Tuesday and Wednesday there are no jump meetings. Thanks to Paul for giving me the chances to ride these horses and it's great to get my 10 winners over fences. It will be great to ride in the National, that was a target, but the main target is to go for the conditional jockeys' title, though Nick will be hard to beat. I've been waiting for that for a while, but I'm glad I've got it and hopefully Mon Parrain will be a good spin in the National."

 

WHAT'S IN A NAME

A two-year-old Galileo filly, third foal out of Group-winning juvenile out YOU'RESOTHRILLING has been given an imposing name. She was bred by the Coolmore team, will race in their colours and be called COOLMORE, which probably gives some indication as to how highly she is regarded.

 

It is not the first time that that a special name has been reserved at Weatherbys by the Coolmore Stud for runners that are considered to have great potential; for example CAMELOT, AUSTRALIA and JOHN F KENNEDY, currently this year's ante-post Derby favourite.

 

SATURDAY 4th APRIL 2015

 

A SUPERB TRY

What an exciting result in the Coral Easter Classic All-Weather Middle Distance Championships Conditions Stakes at Lingfield yesterday! The winner, the Charlie Appleby-trained TRYSTER produced a remarkable burst of speed to come from virtually last to take the £125,000 prize. As the runners turned for home the four-year-old odds-on favourite, ridden by William Buick, looked as though he'd left it too late as Jim Crowley, aboard COMPLICIT, was a good two lengths clear in this mile-and-a-quarter contest. But this Winter Derby winner had already proved himself over course and distance last time out and, when his jockey asked him the question, he responded with a flourish and surged past his rival in the final few strides to win by three-quarters of a length.

 

The winning trainer commented: “He is a proper horse. I knew he would find as he some engine, but I thought the leader had got a good march over us. It gave us something to aim at. I am sure he could put this form forward on the turf as well. The time he was beaten at Newmarket in July he went wrong and that was why he had time off, which has done him the power of good.”

 

WINNER WITH THE WRONG LEGS!

Everyone loves a star steeplechaser, it seems, even when he has retired. This was obvious at Middleham’s 22nd stables open day on Good Friday which was attended by 3,500 visitors. One of the objects of their affection was MISTER MCGOLDRICK who has become something of a mascot for the Yorkshire community project which looks after retired racehorses. Now 18 years of age the Cheltenham Festival hero retired four years ago and now spends his days making public appearances for New Beginnings, a company based in Ryedale.

 

MISTER MCGOLDRICK, originally in the hands of Sue and Harvey Smith at Bingley, scored eight times at Wetherby but, undoubtedly, the chaser’s finest hour was at Cheltenham in March 2008 when he claimed the Byrne Plate even though he was the 66/1 outsider. This success cost the bookmakers dearly, particularly the ones situated near the Leeds General Infirmary. The reason for this was that the owner, Richard Longley, had named his horse after his consultant cardiologist Joe McGoldrick, which tempted many of the hospital staff to have a wager, especially at such generous odds.

 

Richard Longley commented:“There was no way I could keep him in my back garden, much as I would have liked. I had to find somewhere that would be suitable and Sue came up with New Beginnings. It’s the most fantastic place. The interest is just amazing. I have a Google alert for Mister McGoldrick and I’ve lost count of all the messages saying what the horse is getting up to. It is testament to his popularity so long after he retired. It is important that there are causes and charities like this who give racehorses the pleasure that they deserve. It’s run by Pam Hollingworth and Kevin Atkinson, and they’re a real hard-working couple. Pam sent me a video clip in which you see a little spec in the distance. The next thing McGoldrick is galloping towards the camera. I was going through some paperwork the other day and found a vet’s report from 1999 when he was two. It said he would never make a racehorse, his legs were wrong and this wasn’t right. I’m glad I didn’t listen.”

 

BET YOU'RE SUPERSTITIOUS!

The current sponsors of the Grand National, Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer, recently commissioned a study into our betting habits when it comes to one of the world’s greatest horse races. And surprise, surprise, the study revealed that the way we bet is controlled by superstition and ritual! A survey of some 2,000 or so people revealed that nearly 40% select their horse solely by its name. It also seems that 70% of women trust to luck on race day but only 47% of men. Surprisingly, only 13% of punters made their selection based on the colour of the horse or jockeys' silk. (13%). The study also indicated that if a horse bears a number seven or a jockey's racing silks are royal blue, emerald green or red, it is thought to be more likely to win.

 

The top five ways a selection is made:

 

1 By the horse's name

2 From the advice of tipsters

3 Picking a grey horse

4 According to the colour of the jockeys silks

5 If the horse bears the punter's lucky number

 

Al Cross, Crabbie’s Grand National Marketing controller commented: “It seems most people have some sort of good luck charm such as the 60 per cent who always watch the race with the same family or friends to bag them a winner. My own ritual when watching the world’s greatest chase is to always pick the well turned out horse and usually go with red or white jockey silks – it’s only worked for me once or twice over the years but, I will keep trying. A remarkable 40 per cent* of those jockeys who have won the biggest horse race, have been wearing ether Blue or Green, something to bear in mind when looking at this year’s runners and riders.”

FRIDAY 3rd APRIL 2015

 

EPONYMOUS HERO

Today at Musselburgh a veteran sprinter will run in a race that has been named in his honour. 13-year-old BORDERLESCOTT, trained by Rebecca Bastiman, will take on five rivals, three of them five-year-olds, in the Totepool Borderlescott Sprint Trophy. This will be the son of COMPTON PLACE's 82nd start, winning fourteen and being placed in 28. When at the height of his powers the gelding won the Grade One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes two years in a row. BORDERLESCOTT went into retirement two years ago but he clearly wasn't happy with his lot so his owners put him back into training and he raced eight times in 2014, producing a couple of good seconds, including the first running of this eponymous event.

 

The Wetherby-based trainer commented: “He’s still young at heart and has been doing some nice pieces of work. We’ll run him here and see how he is, we won’t over-race him, that’s for sure. He was so unlucky to lose last year but at the same time it was overwhelming how well he actually ran. We’ll try and place him in the right races to give him the best chance of winning, though obviously he’s not very well in tomorrow and the ground will be a bit soft for him. “Basically he’s running as it’s his favourite track, he always runs well there, and it’s a day out for him. I’d like to have run him in the 0-85 handicap instead but he’s still rated 87. Once he qualifies for those races I’m sure he’ll be competitive.”

 

JE SUIS CHARLIE!

It's Good Friday and the second running of the All-Weather Championships Finals at Lingfield. Charlie Appleby has dominated the all-weather season and fully intends not to come away empty-handed and is sending a formidable team to the fray. The Godolphin trainer has bagged nighe on £650,000 in prize money, £300,000 more than closest rival, Marco Botti, and has set his sights on pushing that sum past the magical £1 million mark with seven runners in the very lucrative seven-race fixture. TRYSTER, winner of the Winter Derby is his the odds-on favourite for the £200,000 Coral Easter Classic, is his star of the day.

 

Charlie Appleby commented: "As you saw at Chelmsford, you don't want to hit the front too soon with him so he always has to be ridden for luck. He comes here in good order and is justifiably favourite, but he'll have to be ridden for luck again. So far all the breaks have gone his way and, in a smaller field, let's hope that continues."

 

GOING DUTCH

The Marco Botti-trained LADY DUTCH steps up to Listed class tomorrow at Kempton Park when she runs in the Betfred Mobile Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes. The four-year-old should handle this very well as she raced at fairly high level in Italy for a couple of years. Even though converting continental form to UK standards is not that clear cut, the daughter of DUTCH ART has sufficiently impressed the handicapper for her to be given a rating of 102. LADY DUTCH turned in a strong result at Kempton in February, when she won the 32Red.com Conditions Stakes against some strong opposition. Today's race, the Betfred Mobile Snowdrop Fillies' Stakes (Listed) won't be as easy but she is clearly at the height of her fitness and the Green Ridge Stables seem to be on a high so it might be a foregone conclusion.

 

THURSDAY 2nd APRIL 2015

 

FLIPPING INCREDIBLE!

Paul Nicholls was set for another victory in the John Dufosee Memorial Open Hunters' Chase at Wincanton yesterday. MERRION SQUARE approached the final fence with seemingly plenty in hand. Nothing can be taken for granted in National Hunt racing, however. The nine-year-old son of KOTASHAAN suddenly swerved violently to one side ('jinked'?) and unseated his amateur rider, Lewis Ferguson. But that wasn't the end of the story. The young rider landed virtually upright on the ground but he was going at such a speed that he was lunged into the fence where he completed a somersault over the fence before crashing to the ground. Quite naturally officials were quickly on the scene, ready to set up screens around the area and provide medical assistance to the fallen jockey but remarkably Lewis Ferguson got to his feet and walked away seemingly uninjured.

 

Barry Johnson, Wincanton's Clerk of the Course commented incredulously: "Lewis is absolutely fine, unbelievably. He walked into the parade ring and was chatting away as if nothing had happened, calm as you like. It was amazing, I've never seen anything like it. It was certainly the worst fall I've ever seen and I'm just glad he's all right because I feared the worst."

If you didn't quite get the picture, see for yourself. (Courtesy The Mirror online):

 

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/watch-jockey-miraculously-escape-unhurt-5444162

 

(Right Click Then BACK to return here)

 

CALIFORNIA, HERE HE COMES!

It has been confirmed that the Art Sherman-trained CALIFORNIA CHROME, Dubai World Cup runner-up (but still earning connections over £1.2million!) will run at Royal Ascot in June. Before that the Kentucky Derby and Preakness hero could take part in the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury. The four-year-old colt will be stabled at Rae Guest's yard in Newmarket where he will be prepared to compete either in the Queen Anne Stakes or the Prince of Wales's Stakes. It is understood that the American trainer had wanted to give his star a well-earned rest after his efforts in Dubai but, it seems, co-owner Perry Martin had other ideas when he commented: "We are grateful for the opportunity to race at Royal Ascot and hopeful that California Chrome can put up a good show. We are looking forward to the experience."

 

The Orange County handler added, however: "I was looking forward to giving him a rest. I'm not sure everyone realises that this is going to be a tired horse. That was a hard race on him. It's going to be hard on him, too. He's been with the same groom, the same people since he was a two-year-old. I hope it works out for the horse."

 

LEG AND HEARTBROKEN

What has Jamie Moore got in common with Mark Walsh, Davy Russell, Barry Geraghty and Jason Maguire? He will miss the National meeting due to injury. He broke his leg in a fall at Towcester yesterday. The Brighton-born thirty-year-old was was due to be aboard the Peter Bowen-trained AL CO who won last year's Scottish National. Together with Bryan Cooper, who has a suspension, that makes six jockeys so far who are out of the Aintree spectacular.

 

Trainer Gary Moore, Jamie's father, commented: "He's broken his leg and I'm not sure how it happened. It was just one of those crazy things and I feel so sorry for him."

 

Jamie Moore is Queen Mother Champion Chase winner, SIRE DE GRUGY's regular jockey but now brother Josh will ride him, either in the Melling Chase at Aintree's National meeting or the Celebration Chase at Sandown on 25 April.

WEDNESDAY 1st APRIL 2015

 

THE RACE FOR NO. 10

It's just been announced that Hereford race course that closed its gates after a 241-year history last December is to open for a one-off special event on Easter Monday. As a run-up to the 2015 General Election five senior political leaders have agreed to take part in a head-to-head contest over one mile, the Firstpastthepost Handicap Chase. All the participants have been in secret training at a race track in their constituency. David Cameron has disclosed that he will ride the five-years-in-training ONTHEWAYTOABETTERFUTURE, the current 4/9 odds-on favourite with most bookmakers.

 

His main rival, in what many see as a two-horse contest, is Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who has chosen to ride the old war horse, CAPPRIVATEPROFITSINTHENHS which has attracted some attention and is available at 7/4. Despite his preference for left-handed tracks, the 46-year-old jockey was born in Fitzrovia, London and has already proved that he can win a two-horse campaign when defeating his older brother, David, in the race to be Labour leader in September 2010.

 

The only other entry that might give these two a run for their money is UKIP's champion, Nigel Farage, who will make his emotional appeal to the nation when he rides BELIEVEINBRITAIN, hoping to challenge, as he puts it, the ‘endlessly negative’ and ‘boring’ rides from the other political parties'. At 100/1 he could be worth an each-way bet.

 

There's not much to choose from the rest of the field. The Lib Dems are backing Nick Clegg again, who has said he wants to go on riding for another five years. He gets this ride despite Lord Oakeshot's warning that the contest is (to paraphrase) 'not just about the race, it is also about the jockey'. The 48-year-old Chalfont St Giles-born hopeful will be aboard the veteran BUILDINGAFAIRERBRITAIN who has been around this course many times before but, if you like a big gamble, then 1000/1 should fit the bill.

 

Another contestant, perhaps worthy of a mention, is hoping to become the first lady rider to win this Grade 1 race. Nicola Sturgeon is pinning all her hopes on WEVEGOTWHATITTAKES, after falling at the last fence in the Scottishreferendum Stakes last September, which clearly indicated that her horse was wrongly named. The 44-year-old Irvine-born rider is obviously looking for a dead-heat result with Labour because she has already threatened “to lock David Cameron out of No. 10”. The Scottish gamble is on offer at most bookmakers for 250/1.

 

IT'S APRIL FOOL'S DAY!

 

RIDING HIGH

It has also been revealed that there will be at least one female jockey in the Grand National. Nina Carberry has picked up a ride that could give her another chance to make history by becoming the first woman to win the Aintree spectacular next weekend. The 30-year-old jockey, whose best result was seventh on CHARACTER BUILDING in 2012, will be aboard the Mouse Morris-trained FIRST LIEUTENANT. This last-minute opportunity came about, as the 10-year-old son of PRESENTING's regular rider, Bryan Cooper, is serving a suspension.

 

The County Galway-based trainer commented: "He's got as good a chance as any. I was fourth in it one year (with Lastofthebrownies in 1989) and he'd have a better chance than that one. He's got a bit of class but you also need a bit of luck."

 

UNDERRATED VICTORY

A 66/1 five-year-old bay mare earned the unusual distinction of becoming one of the lowest-rated horses ever to win a race, the Unibet Offer Daily Jockey/Trainer Specials Median Auction Maiden Stakes at Southwell yesterday. The Neville Bycroft-trained MISU MAC hadn't produced much in her seven previous races but 5lb claimer jockey, Joe Doyle, gave the Norton-based trainer first victory winner for 89 days when he beat Scott Dixon's THUNDERBIRD by a neck.

 

Neville Bycroft commented: "In small fields you can get one or two horses out of form, the favourite can run moderately and you get results that are kind of unnatural. She's been a big, backward filly but is from quite a good family of ours. Consequently she's took a long time to come to herself. She's a big, burly filly and blew up last time over a mile, but the jockey said give her a couple more runs and she'll be all right. She didn't look like she got the mile last time but because she's been so backward it's hard to know what distance she wants. We've had a lot of the family and most of them have won for us."

 

TUESDAY 31st MARCH 2015

 

SEVENTH'S FIFTH

The Local Parking Security Ltd Handicap Chase, the feature race at Warwick yesterday gave trainer Charlie Mann a 'dream win' when SEVENTH SKY routed the opposition by eight lemgths. The arresting aspect of this victory is that this German-bred eight-year-old's pedigree doesn't embrace chasing, as his sire and a number of his siblings were all Group One winners on the Flat. No-one seems to have explained this to the son of KING'S BEST, however, as this victory marks his fifth over fences this season. With Daryl Jacob aboard, SEVENTH SKY put on a neat display of jumping throughout and his only serious contender, the Tom Scudamore-ridden NO BUTS, had nothing left to fight back with as they entered the back straight.

 

The winning Upper Lambourn-based trainer commented: "He's an extraordinary horse. That was his 15th run of the season and he just loves his racing. He's a very well-bred horse. One of his brothers, Schiaparelli, was sold for #5.2million, and another brother, Samum, won a German Derby. I bought this horse from Peter Schiergen a few years ago and he's been tremendous for us. He's just a trainer's dream. He loves his work and eats everything. I wouldn't mind another five like him, that's for sure. If I gave him a break he'd just get fat, so we'll keep going with him and he's still a novice until the end of the season. We'll probably enter him for Aintree, but it might be a bit quick for him round there, so we'll also look at Ayr and Perth."

 

HIGH ALERT!

A potentially fatal horse disease has put all Newmarket stables on high alert. Strangles, one of the most common equine respiratory infections in the world, has been confirmed at the stables of Marco Botti who recently returned from a successful campaign at the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The affected horse is now in isolation and the two other horses, who were on the same flight from the United Arab Emurates, are being monitored at another yard. So far, it seems, these two are showing no signs of the infection.

 

The Newmarket handler commented yesterday: "All three horses came back on the same flight and we took one straight to a pre-training yard after he tested positive for strangles, and he has since been moved to an isolation yard out of town. We didn't want to take any chances with him and are monitoring the other two at our second yard, the White Stable. Their first tests have both proved negative and we are taking precautions by only exercising them in the afternoons as it's not fair on the other trainers if they go out normally. At the moment our main yard at Prestige Place is not affected and we are able to run horses and operate as normal."

 

Apparently this is the first case of strangles there since 2009 and Mark Tompkins, chairman of the Newmarket Trainers Federation, added: "I've only just heard about it and hopefully the vets have caught it in time as it's a horrible disease which is so easily spread. Trainers should be very aware about this outbreak of a disease which can shut racing down It's all very well having all this international racing but with no quarantine for some places this is what can happen. I would hope all the horses in Marco's yard are being tested."

 

THE MORE WE ARE TOGETHER”!

Racing Together, whose aim is to create, coordinate and communicate British Racing in the community as a whole has nominated Aintree racecourse as the pilot 'Beacon Racecourse'. In this new role, the home of the Grand National will launch a number of schemes this year focusing on educational activities that could make a real difference to local pupils. Such projects will include offering careers training, hands-on pony days and work experience opportunities at Aintree. The racecourse staff and others involved in racing will supervise each course aimed at giving something back to the local community.

 

To guarantee the success of these projects a number of active ambassadors have been appointed, including young jockeys Lucy Alexander and Saul Woods and Carrie Ford, legendary winner of the the Aintree Foxhunter's Chase in 2004 on FOREST GUNNER. Each of these individuals will join in a number of the activities with the aim of pointing out the benefits that can be obtained by using racing as an educational tool.

 

Andrew Tulloch, Aintree's Clerk of Course and Equine Centre Director commented, "Aintree racecourse is right in the heart of the community and we are committed to making a positive contribution to the lives of those living close to the course. Through the educational schemes we will be running we are proud to be making a really positive contribution to our neighbours through the wonderful sport of horseracing."

 

Lucy Alexander, the newly appointed ambassador for the Racing Together Programme added, "'I am delighted to be a part of the Beacon Racecourse initiative at Aintree. It is a great platform to demonstrate the vast number of careers available within British Racing whilst also providing local children with an exciting addition to their regular school work. It is important for young people to have their options clearly presented to them, and racing can provide a great career. I look forward to participating in some of the activities later this year!'

MONDAY 30th MARCH 2015

 

BATTLE OF THE SCALES

Mysteriously the twice-crowned Irish champion jockey missed the opening day of the Flat season at the Curragh, opting instead to have his first ride over hurdles at Limerick. Then the top Irish trainer announced that another jockey will be riding more of his horses this season. Now the mystery has been solved. Joseph O'Brien, son of trainer Aidan, is fighting the battle well-known to many jockeys – the battle of the scales. As the 21-year-old is nearly six feet tall, he has to struggle more than most but he says he will be back riding on the Flat on Wednesday at Dundalk. Because of this problem, three-time British champion Ryan Moore took over three rides for Aidan O’Brien at the Curragh on Sunday and even won on THE WARRIOR.

 

The Ballydoyle trainer commented: ‘We’ve a good relationship with Ryan and we always have. We used Ryan more last year than we did the year before and hopefully it will be that way again this year. Obviously (doing) nine stone has been a problem for Joseph over the last two seasons and last year it was a big problem. This year he’s heavier than he was this time last year. He’ll go gently and we’ll see what will happen.’

 

Joseph O'Brien added: “It (riding over jumps) is different but I enjoyed it. He popped away although the ground was a bit slow for him. I’ll be in Dundalk again on Wednesday and after that I might ride over jumps whenever we have a few runners. I will be back riding again on the Flat.”

 

A WINNING DONATION

Sheikh Hamdan triumphed at Meydan on Saturday when his 14/1 outsider, PRINCE BISHOP, won the world's richest race, the DUBAI WORLD CUP, two-and-three-quarter lengths ahead of the expected victor, the Art Sherman-trained CALIFORNIA CHROME (who will now, it has just been revealed, be shipped to England to run at Ascot in June). Then generously the son of Godolphin founder Sheikh Mohammed immediately announced that he had donated the $6 million prize-money to charity.

 

Sheikh Hamdan commented: "I am pleased to announce that I have donated the Dubai World Cup prize of 6 million dollars to the Dubai Autism Centre. I am optimistic for what the Dubai Autism Centre will achieve socially and medically for children with autism."

 

The Dubai Autism Centre is described as "the largest, most innovative and comprehensive nonprofit organization in the United Arab Emirates serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorders".

 

100/1 SHOCK

Conditions at the Curragh yesterday were described as 'Yielding to Soft' and this certainly took its toll on the top-class entries in the Lodge Park Stud European Breeders Fund Park Express Stakes (Fillies' Group 3). Most of the runners just seemed unable to really get going. Only the British raider, the Eve Johnson Houghton-trained AMULET, showed any great ability, making all the early running on the far side of the track with only the 100/1 shot, RAMONE, with Shane Foley aboard, keeping her company, albeit some distance behind. Eventually the Bill Farrell-trained five-year-old gradually overhauled her only rival to produce a shock two-length triumph.

 

The winning trainer commented: "That's the first time she's got her ground. I always had faith in her, prepped her for today and just had to decide between this race and the Lincoln (Irish Lincolnshire). She's a big, strong yoke, and the ground will control everything as to where she will run. I've only six in training and that's my first Group-race winner. I always said if I got black type I might retire!"

 

SUNDAY 29th MARCH 2015

 

THE IRON LADIES

In 1977 21-one-year-old Charlotte Brew became the first female jockey to ride in the Grand National, aboard BARONY FORT who, unfortunately, refused to jump the 26th fence (four from home!). Since that historical occasion the Aintree spectacular has been open to riders of the distaff side. There has never been a lack of top class lady jockeys wanting to compete but so far not one has managed to claim this National Hunt crown. The closest results were in the 1994 and 2005 renewals when Rosemary Henderson and Carrie Ford both came fifth, respectively and 2012 when Katie Walsh came third.

 

Another top rider, Nina Carberry, has had four rides so far (2006, 2010, 2011, 2012) and, although the best position she attained was 7th, it is a measure of her great talent that she did so well. No discussion of talented female jockeys, of course, would be complete without naming Katie Walsh. The 28-year-old daughter of the legendary Walsh family was just five lengths away from making history by becoming the first female jockey to win the Grand National at Aintree three years ago. It's on the cards that one day soon there will be a lady jockey winner of the Grand National. Is 2015 the year?

 

The 22 leading ladies:

 

1977 Charlotte Brew, Barony Fort, Refused 26th fence

1979 Jenny Hembrow, Sandwilan, Fell 1st fence

1980 Jenny Hembrow, Sandwilan, Pulled up, 19th fence

1981 Linda Sheedy, Deiopea, Refused, 19th fence

1982 Geraldine Rees, Cheers, Completed, 8th & last place

1982 Charlotte Brew, Martinstown, Unseated, 3rd fence

1983 Geraldine Rees, Midday Welcome, Fell, 1st fence

1983 Joy Carrier, King Spruce, Unseated, 6th fence

1984 Valerie Alder, Bush Guide, Fell, 8th fence

1987 Jacqui Oliver, Eamons Owen, Unseated, 15th fence

1988 Gee Armytage, Gee-A, Pulled up, 26th fence

1988 Venetia Williams, Marcolo, Fell, 6th fence

1988 Penny Ffitch-Heyes, Hettinger, Fell, 1st fence

1989 Tarnya Davis, Numerater, Pulled up, 21st fence

1994 Rosemary Henderson, Fiddlers Pike, Completed, 5th place

2005 Carrie Ford, Forest Gunner, Completed, 5th place

2006 Nina Carberry, Forest Gunner, Completed, 9th & last place

2010 Nina Carberry, Character Building, Completed, 7th place

2011 Nina Carberry, Character Building, Completed, 15th place

2012 Nina Carberry, Organisedconfusion, Unseated at the Canal Turn first time

2012 Katie Walsh, Seabass, Completed, 3rd Place

2013 Katie Walsh, Seabass, Completed, 13th Place

 

GABRIAL'S AN ANGEL

The first day of the new Flat season at Doncaster produced some surprising results and none more so than the 12/1 outsider, GABRIAL, trained by Richard Fahey and ridden by Tony Hamilton. The often unpredictable six-year-old showed a touch of class when he battled it out in the final stages to win the Betway Lincoln at Doncaster by a neck. This made the second Lincoln victory in four years for the Malton-based trainer.

 

The delighted owner, Dr Marwan Koukash, commented: “When I started off in racing, I always wanted to win the big handicaps, Cesarewitch, Ayr Gold Cup and the Lincoln. When I first met Richard, I asked what race he would like to win the most and he said it was this one. Now we've done it twice."

 

Richard Fahey added: “They raced in a very tight pack and I wasn't sure he was going to get out in time. That's the first time I've ever seen him really pin his ears back and have a real go as he's a bit of a character. Tony said he always felt like he was going to win. The only reason he was running over further last year was because, after Mount Athos got injured, Marwan wanted a 
Melbourne Cup horse but he didn't stay. He's a Listed winner and, while I doubt he's getting better, we'll hatch a plan and see where we go. I presume it will be Chester.”

 

AIDAN AND A-BETTING

Aidan Coleman who got his first Cheltenham win aboard KAYF ARAMIS in the 2009 Pertemps Final is to have a crack at the Grand National. Trainer Neil Mulholland has just announced that the 26-year-old jockey from Innishannon will ride THE DRUIDS NEPHEW at Aintree. The eight-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE, with Barry Geraghty aboard, performed impressively at the Cheltenham Festival a couple of weeks ago, when he won the Grade 3 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase by three-and-three-quarter lengths. In fact, the plan originally was the same partnership for the Grand National on April 11 but the County Meath rider unfortunately had a fall recently at Downpatrick, sustaining a hairline fracture to his left tibia and so is out of the game for at least six weeks.

 

The Limpley Stoke-based trainer commented: “Aidan’s a top jockey. There were several jockeys in the picture, but I had a chat with the owners when I got here (Wetherby) and that’s who we came up with. Aidan will school him in the morning.”

 

SATURDAY 28th MARCH 2015

 

THE FLAT'S BACK

Doncaster is one of the oldest established race tracks in the country. Records of regular race meetings stretch back to the 16th century. It is interesting to note that in 1600 Doncaster Corporation tried to put an end to the races because of the number of 'ruffians' but all their efforts came to nought. S instead of trying to beat them, they joined them and established an official racecourse. Doncaster now has the honour of both starting and ending the flat season on turf. Every September, Doncaster hosts the prestigious four-day St. Leger Festival, acclaimed as the premier sporting occasion of the Autumn calender. Doncaster also took over the Lincoln in 1965. A race called the Lincolnshire Handicap was first run over two miles at Lincoln in August, 1849. This prestigious contest was run at Lincoln until 1964. Then due to the closure of Lincoln race track, the race was moved to Doncaster in 1965 and was renamed the Lincoln Handicap.

 

Today and tomorrow, with the two-day Lincoln Meeting, the South Yorkshire track plays host to the eagerly-awaited beginning of the 2015 British Flat Season on turf. Today's highlight is the previously mentioned Betway Lincoln Handicap with prize money of £100,000. One horse that would be a most appropriate winner would be the aptly-named LINCOLN, who won the Romero Insurance Brokers Ltd Handicap at last September’s St. Leger Festival at Doncaster, marking the end of the Flat. As a 'consolation' prize for all those horses who entered the big race but were eliminated, the Betway Spring Mile was established to offer a chance to take home £45,000.

 

TEA'S OFF

Another big name out of the Grand National. The Rebecca Curtis-trained TEAFORTHREE has, it is reported, had a recurrence of an old injury. The 11-year-old came third in the 2013 Aintree spectacular but had to be pulled up last year. The news is a surprise and a shock as the son of OSCAR had a couple of decent runs in February, winning the Bet On Your Mobile @ Corbettsports Open Hunters' Chase at Bangor by two-and-three-quarter lengths.

 

Nigel Roddis, one of the four co-owners, commented: “It’s a big blow but these things happen. He picked up an injury in last year’s National that occasionally flares up and he’s going to need a few quiet days. It was the human equivalent of having a badly sprained ankle. The timing is terrible because you can’t exactly send a horse over that sort of demanding trip after having any sort of issue. This just shows you how fragile horses are.”

 

IN THE KNICKER TIME!

It has been revealed that Aintree racecourse officials intend to ban the photographing of women in, what they call, ‘inappropriate’ poses. Aintree racecourse MD, John Baker explained: “We want to overwhelm the negativity, to push the positivity to the front.* Our event is full of character, it’s fun, and that’s generated by the personality of the Liverpool people.”

 

He didn't make it absolutely clear what kind of photograph would be 'appropriate' but just stated that Aintree has a responsibility to its customers “to project the correct image”. There also seems to have been a thinly disguised threat that photographers who focus on taking pictures of women might not be allowed into the Grand National.

 

* Johnny Mercer's 1944 song expressed it better!:

You've got to accentuate the positive

Eliminate the negative

Latch on to the affirmative

But don't mess with Mister Inbetween.”

 

 

FRIDAY 27th MARCH 2015

 

NEW NEWMARKET NARROWING

The Qipco Guineas Festival to be held on May 2 and 3 at Newmarket will have a different track layout. Officials at the Cambridge Road race course have announced that the stalls for the first two season's Classics will be arranged on the stands rail rather than on the centre of the track. This new fixture will also include a false rail ten feet from the permanent stands side rail which will cut in at the three-furlong pole. The immediate effect of the narrowing of the course that the maximum field size will be reduced to twenty-five runners compared to thirty last year. Last year’s 2000 Guineas probably brought about this decision as on that occasion the field split into two groups in what was considered as a confusing and disorderly outcome.

 

Michael Prosser, the East Region Head of Racing for the Jockey Club Racecourses, commented: “Following consultation with certain horsemen, it was agreed that the stalls would be positioned in the centre of the course for the 2004 Classics which has remained the same ever since. This has been a successful move and the best horse in the race has invariably won. However, tactics can lead to the field splitting which was the case in the 2014 Qipco 2000 Guineas, and this is unsatisfactory. By positioning the stalls against the stand side rail and introducing a false rail at the three furlong pole, we are encouraging the field to stay together with the false rail helping to eliminate any hard luck stories.”

 

The move has the support of trainer, Roger Varian, who added: “I think it’s a good thing that Michael Prosser and his team are thinking of ways that the showcase event gets run as fairly as possible as nobody likes seeing the race split.”

 

DONCASTER DOUBT

The arrival of the official first day of flat racing on Saturday attracted an uninvited guest yesterday – rain, which means that the opening day at Doncaster, featuring the Betway Lincoln has been changed to good to soft, good in places (from good). A return to quicker ground is expected, though, as today is set to be dry. Wet weather is forecast for Saturday, however, so the situation is somewhat in the air.

Doncaster's Clerk of the Course, Roderick Duncan, said: "It is a dry forecast tomorrow with light showers on Saturday with conflicting forecasts about when they will arrive, either midday or later after racing. If there is no rain the ground could return to the easy side of good but it wouldn't need much ran to move it back to good to soft."

 

LADY CHAIRMAN

From the first of June the Racecourse Association will have a new Chairman when the current one, Ian Barlow, steps down. He will be succeeded by Maggie Carver, who will become a non-executive Director of the RCA Board from April 1 until officially taking over the reins. Maggie Carver is currently chairman of RaceTech, a subsidiary wholly owned by the RCA, AND is also a director, and past Chairman, of ITN, a former director of SIS, Channel 5, and spread betting company, Sporting Index.

 

Vivien Kyles, RCA's Vice-Chairman commented: ‘We are delighted to announce the appointment of Maggie Carver as our next Chairman. She offers a wealth of experience in a number of areas that are of key importance to racecourses, including her expert knowledge and understanding of the media and broadcast industries. We would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the contribution Ian Barlow has made to the RCA and its members through his leadership over the past six years.’

 

THURSDAY 26th MARCH 2015

 

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

It's the 2015 Middleham Stables Open Day in a week's time and it will be launched this year by a talented racing journalist who many will remember as the face of Channel 4 Racing for many years. Alistair Down has strong associations with Yorkshire, including studying at the University Of York. This North Yorkshire event has now been running for twenty-two years and, this year, unfortunately, it will have to compete with Good Friday racing at Kempton Park and Musselburgh. Last year the Open Day brought in more than 6,000 visitors and, what is more, raised more than £18,000 for local and national charities.

 

As usual the stables will be open to the public and there will be over 500 horses on view. Two main charities will be beneficiaries of the Open Day this year: the Jessica Bethell Charitable Foundation, established in memory of the daughter of James Bethell, the chairman of Middleham Trainers’ Association, and The Household Cavalry Foundation.

 

The special equine guest of honour will be the 2008 Racing Post Plate winner, MISTER MCGOLDRICK, who is one of the icons of Yorkshire’s National Hunt racing scene. The 18-year-old legend will appear at trainer Patrick Holmes’s Spigot Lodge yard in his new role as an ambassador for the New Beginnings, a racing charity that aims to provide a safe and supportive environment for ex-racehorses.

 

Alistair Down, who is due launch the event at 9.15am commented: “It is a great honour to be opening Middleham’s special day. My association with racing in Yorkshire goes back 40 years, when I was a student at York University, and I have many happy memories of racing in the county, as well as many friends amongst Yorkshire’s trainers and jockeys. I love Yorkshire – and Yorkshire people – and I find all the stereotypes to be completely false. Whilst I was at university I chose to live at Buttercrambe near Stamford Bridge because of its proximity to Malton’s gallops.”

 

MAKING HIS MARCO

Marco Botti has enjoyed huge success around the world since he took up training nine years ago but there is one triumph that has eluded him: he has never had a Group One winner in Britain. Despite that, the Newmarket-based Italian finished last season on a high. He claimed his second victory in the Prix Royal Oak with TAC DE BOISTRON at Longchamps last October and, to top that, his EURO CHARLINE became the first three-year-old to claim the Grade One Beverly D Stakes in the history of the race at Arlington Park last August. Both of these stars are back in action this season so there is every chance for the Newmarket handler to break his Group One 'duck' on a British racetrack in 2015.

 

Marco Botti commented: "For the profile and CV it would be nice to have one A Group One) on the board and it would mean a lot. We have got close so many times with Excelebration and Moohaajim, but for one reason or another we are still missing a Group One winner in England. I keep saying each season 'Let's hope it happens this year' and hopefully it will do. Euro Charline looked to be spending the rest of her career in America after winning the Beverly D, but she had a setback and her owners Team Valor decided to send her back to England. I can't thank them enough for that. I am hoping for another exciting season as there are so many good races for her. The owners like to go travelling for these valuable races. If she was owned by someone in England, winning a Group One in England would be the priority. We will see how she comes out of Dubai before deciding if she goes to Royal Ascot.”

 

THAT'S HIS STORY

History, it seems, is waiting to be made again – this time in Dubai. AFRICAN STORY, according to James Doyle, has got what it takes to become the first-ever winner of the Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup for a second time on Saturday. The Cambridge-born jockey is clearly making the most of the world-wide riding opportunities he can now enjoy in his new role as a retained jockey for Godolphin. He has five rides on World Cup night and AFRICAN STORY could be his best chance even though he has drawn stall three, not the best of options.

 

James Doyle commented"I have ridden on World Cup night before, but I've got five rides on the night and it's great to be part of all this," Doyle said. "It's been amazing, I've been down to Australia twice in the last two and a half weeks and my feet haven't touched the ground since we started the job in early January. I'm thoroughly enjoying it and it's been an amazing experience so far. Hopefully we can make a bit of history. It's not going to be easy and Lea and California Chrome are posted a bit wider and I can just see the speed horses pushing us across to the fence. If he can get out and hold a forward position I think he can run a big race."

WEDNESDAY 25th MARCH 2015

 

FOLLOW THE LEADER

It was one of those days when all that had to be done was follow the market leader. Favourites or joint-favourites won every race on the card at Wolverhampton yesterday. When it comes to all-weather racing there's one top jockey who's bound to be involved, Adam Kirby, who helped himself to a trio of triumphs. He wasted no time getting started, winning the first race, the Ladbrokes Handicap, on the Phil McEntee-trained TOYMAKER, the 15/8 favourite. He followed that with a win in the third race, the Daily Enhanced 'Magic Multiples'At Unibet Handicap on HUMOUR (11/4), trained by Christine Dunnett-trained. He had to wait a while before he scored on the Neil King-trained CONSERVE, 3/1 joint-favourite, in the 32Red On The App Store Handicap.

The meeting ended as it had started with favourite-betting punters giving a rousing cheer to Kevin Ryan's odds-on SIR KEATING, as he powered home, ridden by Jamie Spencer, in the 32Red Casino Handicap. To the bookmakers' chagrin, many of the punters had placed multiple bets on the winning favourites at Sky Bet with their Best Odds Guaranteed service and were laughing all the way to the bank. One of them placed a £2.50 each-way accumulator and won £2436.57.

 

Sandro di Michele, Head of Trading for Sky Bet commented: "We didn't expect to be looking back at a quiet Tuesday at Wolverhampton when assessing the damage done in March but here we are. All of the winners were small-staking punters but there were plenty of them and they have plenty to play with ahead of the Flat curtain-raiser at Doncaster this weekend."

 

A JOCKEY, A JOCKEY MY KINGDOM FOR A …...

With the prospect of important meetings at Doncaster, Kempton and Chelmsford on Saturday the first day of the Flat season, as well as big meetings around the world, it seems trainers are having a bit of a problem booking their preferred jockeys.

 

One trainer, George Baker, summed it up: “There are jockeys all over the world this weekend and what with poor Pat Cosgrave getting injured recently we are one down ourselves. Belgian Bill would only not run if there was a downpour, but I think we should be racing on good ground. He had a fantastic time of it out in Dubai, winning once and going close twice in his three runs, so we'll let him loose. Jack's Revenge will also run at Doncaster and Jamie Spencer rides him. They could be a match made in heaven as Jack is a bit of a character, he likes getting into trouble and being produced late through horses and there's probably no man better for producing one like that than Jamie.”

 

A DOUBLE FOR THE LORD?

Slowly the number of runners in the Grand National is starting to level out with early withdrawals. One absentee confirmed is the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup winner, CARLINGFORD LOUGH. Connections of the John Kiely-trained son of KING'S THEATRE

were quick to rule out a visit to Aintree, after his disappointing performance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It appears, however, that fellow top-weight, LORD WINDERMERE, trained by Jim Culloty, will still make the trip to Liverpool. If so, It could be history in the making. If LORD WINDERMERE can pull it off, that would make him only the third horse to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National after GOLDEN MILLER (Gold Cup 5 times 1932-1936. Grand National 1934) and L'ESCARGOT (Gold Cup 1970 and 1971. Grand National 1975).

That still leaves 74 potential runners at this stage. So many changes to come.

 

TUESDAY 24th MARCH 2015

 

NOT A BLESSED WORD ABOUT SACRE!

It's almost a fortnight since Nicky Henderson's stable star was pulled up in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and there seem still to be no further plans for SPRINTER SACRE's future. The nine-year-old son of German-born NETWORK won the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Tingle Creek in 2012 followed by the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the John Smith's Melling Chase and the Boylesport Champion Chase in 2013. Since then, however, there hasn't been a lot to write home about, apart from the valiant runner-up slot to the Paul Nicholls-trained DODGING BULLETS in the January Clarence House Chase at Ascot. His disastrous performance at the Cheltenham Festival must have sent shudders down connections' spine and is best forgotten.

 

Nevertheless, an eternally up-beat but laconic Nicky Henderson commented: "There's no word on Sprinter Sacre, but he's fine. When I've something to say about Sprinter Sacre I'll let everyone know."

 

ALL RIGHT JACK

This Jim Goldie-trained sprinter will probably kick off his season as he has done for the last three year running on the opening day of the Flat season at Doncaster and his likely target is the Betway Cammidge Trophy on 28th March. JACK DEXTER won this Listed race two years ago and came third last year behind Henry Candy's DINKUM DIAMOND. All wasn't fair dinkum for the six-year-old last season, however, although to his credit he did come third, only a length and a half down to the great the Tom Hogan-trained GORDON LORD BYRON at Ascot on Champions Day.

 

The son of ORIENTOR has an official rating of 104, which does give him a certain the edge over the Kevin Ryan-trained ASTAIRE, winner of the Gimcrack and Middle Park Stakes as a juvenile who struggled to make his mark last season.

 

A SILVER LINING FOR CLOUDS?

It looks like trainer Oliver Sherwood will have his thinking cap on this weekend. He has to decide whether MANY CLOUDS will run in the Grand National. The eight-year-old hero of the Hennessy Gold Cup didn't actually cover himself with glory in the recent Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he came sixth, 25 lengths adrift of the winner, CONEYGREE. The problem is that the son of CLOUDINGS has a lot to live up to, as his owner, Trevor Hemmings, having already won the Grand National twice, with HEDGEHUNTER IN 2005 and BALLABRIGGS IN 2011, is obviously very keen to make it a trio of triumphs but the Rhonehurst-based trainer doesn't want to be rushed into things, it seems.

 

Oliver Sherwood commented: "He's done nothing for a week, he'll start doing a bit more this week. I'm meeting with Mick Meagher (racing manager) and Trevor Hemmings at the weekend and we'll probably make a decision then. I just want to see how he is over the next 10 days or so."

 

MONDAY 23rd MARCH 2015

 

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER NATIONAL

This time it's yesterday's Ulster Grand National at Downpatrick. In winning ways was the Gordon Elliott-trained RIVERSIDE CITY, ridden by Davy Condon. It didn't look an easy victory, however. The six-year-old was in fifth position approaching the last when he was brought out wide to mount a challenge, even though it looked too late as the top weight, MAN WITH VAN, had gone well clear. The final incline also put pressure on the son of PRESENTING who noticeably shortened his stride. Davy Condon, never one to admit defeat, clearly thought he still had a chance and managed to urge his mount up to the line and go on to win by a head.

 

The winning jockey commented: “That was my first winner for JP and it is an honour to wear these colours. We said we would hunt him round and hope to be in with a squeak over the last two. I needed a clear run over the last two so I pulled him wide and he winged the last. In fairness he dug deep and will be a fun summer horse."

 

Trainer Gordon Elliott added: "This is a lucky track for us so it's nice to win their big race. We were worried about him getting the trip so we told Davy to ride him to be placed so that there was no pressure on him. Thankfully it worked out and Davy gave him a peach. We might take him to Punchestown for the long-distance chase."

 

MAKE OR BREAK

Talking of Grand Nationals one jockey might not make it to Aintree next month. Barry Geraghty fell and broke his shin bone at Downpatrick yesterday. It appears that the County Meath rider's injury probably isn't serious enough to warrant surgery but he's likely to be out of action for a month or more.

 

Dr Adrian McGoldrick, the Turf Club’s senior medical officer, commented: “He’s got a hairline fracture of his left tibia. He’s been told it won’t need surgery and the leg has been set in plaster of paris. He’ll be assessed on Tuesday and we’ll know more then. It’s hard to be sure but I’d say he’ll be out of action for four to eight weeks anyway.”

 

Barry Geraghty was probably in line to partner the Nicky Henderson-trained HADRIAN'S APPROACH or maybe THE DRUIDS NEPHEW, his winning mount at the Cheltenham Festival. He will probably miss another National on the list - the Irish Grand National on 6 April. He won this contest last year on SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR. All he can hope for now is that he can get back in the saddle in time for the Punchestown Festival at the end of April.

 

WHAT'S FOR THE HIGH JUMP

The jump jockeys’ championship could possibly be in line for substantial prize money, according to Rod Street, Chief Executive of Great British Racing but he is not able, it seems, to say when this might come about. His comments were made in response to criticism that last week there was prize money proposed for the Flat jockeys’ championship but no similar arrangement was mooted for jump racing.

 

Rod Street commented: “We are considering rewards for the jump jockeys. We were tasked with looking at the Flat first, which has arguably undergone more change, fixtures-wise. It has been under discussion for well over two years.”

 

Some £100,000 was put forward for various prizes now on offer to Flat jockeys and £25,000 of that would be awarded to each year's champion together with other prizes for the runner-up; the top apprentice; and the rider with the most winners in a calendar year. This prize money will be put up jointly by Great British Racing and by British Champions Series.

 

Rod Street added: “It needed central funding to get it off the ground but we hope that, by promoting the Flat championship more effectively all round and with a more high-profile start and finish, it may be attractive to commercial partners, so the aim is for it to be externally supported. Central funding would be required for a jumps championship, too, and this is being considered, but on the same basis as the Flat”

 

PJA's Chief Executive, Paul Struthers, elucidated: “Our board feel very strongly that, if prize money is going to be awarded for Flat jockeys, it should also be offered for jump jockeys. Clearly it won’t be in place for the end of this season in April. But I don’t see why it couldn’t be in place by the end of the next season a year from now, sponsor or no sponsor.”

SUNDAY 22nd MARCH 2015

 

WELL DONE, CARRUTHERS!

It's four years since this son of KAYF TARA bathed in such a wealth of adulation at Newbury when he was victorious in the Hennessy Gold Cup. Yesterday CARRUTHERS came back and did it again and scored in the Ultima Business Solutions Silver Jubilee Handicap Chase by a neck, ahead of a rival four years his junior. Once more the small Letcombe Bassett yard, run by Mark and Sara Bradstock showed the big boys how it's done.

 

The twelve-year-old star, with his usual jockey, Nico de Boinville on board, is also half-brother to CONEYGREE who just over a week ago raised his trainers' profile even more when he became the first novice chaser to win the Gold Cup since 1974. Considering the success of this handling duo many owners of steeplechasers might now begin to think that the Bradstocks' stables ought perhaps to be one of their first ports of call. As it is the Wantage-based trainers have had to make a living for quite a few years with a small number of horses. Remarkably they have won six of the twenty races they have entered this season and, as a result of their success in the Cheltenham Festival, have been able to add over £400,000 in prize money to their coffers. In fact, Mark Bradstock admitted that, since that Gold Cup triumph, there has been a lot of interest expressed from owners.

 

Sara Bradstock commented: “Coneygree is a ruthless professional. He goes out there and he’s on a mission. Carruthers does a lot more worrying about what might go wrong. Coneygree is easily the more talented but he might not be quite so much fun to know and is quite happy to bite whoever happens to be in the box with him.

 

Mark Bradstock added: “Carruthers is such a lovely, lovely horse to have anything to do with, always has been, and he just doesn’t know how to give up. I know he’s now 12 but you should have seen him when we were trying to tack him up, he was behaving like a bloody two-year-old.”

 

PICK SICK

Not everyone was pleased with CARRUTHERS' conquest, however, particularly two Pick 6 players. The latter, Wayne Boyce and Roy Harrald had been lucky enough to pick the first four winners in the popular Sportinglife free-to-play contest and, you guessed it, both had their money on an eventual loser, Tom George's NO DUFFER in the Ultima Business Solutions Silver Jubilee Handicap Chase at Newbury. Mark and Sara Bradstock's mount put paid to any hopes of winning the £5,000 prize money which remains up for grabs next week. The twelve-year-old's victory must have been especially galling for Mr Boyce because he won his sixth selection with ALZAMMAAR in the very next race. His consolation prize, however, was he received a free £25 free bet for correctly picking five of the six winners.

 

AT THE PINEAUCLE OF HIS CAREER

Minds are focussing more and more on the next big race – the Grand National and nowhere more than at the stables of Dr. Richard Newland, whose PINEAU DE RE was last year's star. The Worcester-based trainer seems to have every confidence in his twelve-year-old's ability to pull it off again when defending his crown. The downside, from an outsider's point of view, is that the son of MARESCA SORRENTO has failed to get his act together this season, only managing to come eleventh in the Cheltenham handicap, almost 20 lengths behind the winner. On the other hand bookmakers won't offer higher than 25/1 on PINEAU DE RE's becoming the first horse since RED RUM to retain the National crown.

Dr. Richard Newland's prescription: "His Cheltenham run last year screamed out what a good opportunity he had at Aintree. This time his run was absolutely fine without being breathtaking. For any normal National horse it would have been regarded as a very good hurdles prep, so maybe his Pertemps run last year just got our expectations up a bit high. He's in good nick and it's all systems go for Aintree, where Leighton Aspell will again ride if he is available. Last season I would have been more confident, but even with his bigger weight I'm hopeful he'll run a very big race."

 

SATURDAY 21st MARCH 2015

 

THE FRENCH INVASION

Over the years more and more trainers seem to have been won over by the idea of handling French horses. Rarely a racing day goes by without a sizeable number of 'chevaux' making their mark. Just looking at today's card there are fourteen running:

 

NEWBURY

Puisque Tu Pars (FR) G L Moore

Pepite Rose (FR) Miss V Williams

Allez Encore (FR) K C Bailey

Le Capricieux (FR) G L Moore

Tresor De Bontee (FR) R Lee

 

BANGOR

Roc D'apsis (FR) T R George

Lac Sacre (FR) J L Flint

A Vos Gardes (FR) C E Longsdon

Sainte Ladylime (FR) D McCain Jnr

 

FONTWELL

Tang Royal (FR) R Rowe

Very Noble (FR) C Gordon

Tarraco (FR) Miss V Williams

Vengeur De Guye (FR) Miss Lucinda V Russell

Urcalin (FR) D W P Arbuthnot

 

One trainer, in particular seems to recognise equine talent across the Channel and that is Willie Mullins, who emphatically demonstrated that at the Cheltenham Festival. Four of his eight winners, DON POLI, DOUVAN, UN DE SCEAUX and the remarkable VAUTOUR all came from France. Clearly the County Carlow king and his advisers know their onions when it comes to making their selections. The one aspect that seems not to be a problem here is cost as French horses don't come cheap. Luckily Willie Mullins has an advantage as he has the support of very wealthy owners such as Rich Ricci.

 

An intriguing part of these acquisitions is their source. Take UN DE SCEAUX, for example. The seven-year-old was purchased solely on the strength of two minor victories in France at virtually unknown race tracks. Them there's the Gold Cup runner-up, DJAKADAM and not to forget the exciting HURRICANE FLY. Champion hurdler, FAUGHEEN, is another interesting story. The seven-year-old was a point-to-pointer who only won one contest.

 

So with another Festival coming up, this time at Punchestown, the French connection is clearly going to make its mark.

 

RUBY'S RUN

It looks like Ruby Walsh is hankering after a 10th Irish jockeys' championship crown. Admittedly he's behind both Mark Walsh, currently off the track with injury, and Paul Townend but he has suddenly announced that he is keen to hold onto the title he made his, last season.

 

The jockey from Kill, County Kildare commented: "I suppose it is the time to start thinking about the possibility of chasing the champion jockeys' title, too. I'm in shouting distance so I will give it a go now. I was out for four months at the beginning of the season when I had the operation on my shoulder, having held off on it until June so I could ride in Punchestown and Auteuil. That gave me a little bit of an uphill climb but I am only six winners behind the unfortunate Mark Walsh, who broke his arm at the end of February, and just two in arrears of Paul Townend. If I got a little bit of luck in the next three or four weeks, I would have a good chance. But things will have to happen."

 

AN OLDIE BUT GOODIE

A veteran will going back to Newbury today in an attempt to repeat his Berkshire success. The Mark Bradstock-trained CARRUTHERS won the Hennessy Gold Cup there in November 2011 and today he lines up in the Ultima Business Solutions Silver Jubilee Handicap. The twelve-year-old son of KAYF TARA is only appearing in this event because he was withdrawn at the last moment from the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter last week because of extremely soft ground.

 

The Wantage-based trainer commented: "He's in good old nick, the old boy. He's in a good place in the handicap, but we will be hoping the ground is on the slow side. He's a bit more fussy about the ground now in his old age. I had no problem taking him out of the Midlands National on that ground at Uttoxeter. I watched the two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle there and they didn't get home in that."

 

FRIDAY 20th MARCH 2015

 

IF I WERE A RICCI MAN!”

Rich and Susannah Ricci, top National Hunt owners, are to try their luck at Flat racing. With that in mind they have acquired partnership with four two-year-olds, currently being trained by Lambourn-based Jamie Osborne. This is a new venture as nearly all the Ricci-owned horses,including FAUGHEEN, last week’s Champion Hurdle winner and DOUVAN winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle are being trained by the Irish top handler, Willie Mullins in Muine Bheag, County Carlow. So this season there is the prospect of their well-known pink silks with green spots being sported at major British Flat festivals.

 

Their first venture on the Flat involves sharing CHAMPS ELYSEES, CANFORD CLIFFS, KODIAC and SHOWCASING with Michael Buckley and Linda Shanahan, whose husband Paul is a Coolmore Stud adviser.

 

Jamie Osborne commented: “This is a first venture over here. I met Rich seven or eight years ago and we talked about doing this at Royal Ascot last year. The Showcasing and the Kodiac are most forward. They could be ready this side of (Royal) Ascot and, if they were good enough, it would be nice to go there.”

 

The Riccis seemed to have made a knowledgable decision as this Lambourn stable is on the up, producing TOAST OF NEW YORK, last season's UAE Derby winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up. The four-year-old son of THEWAYYOUARE was sold by Michael Buckley to Sheik Joaan Al Thani but, sadly he'll not make the Dubai World Cup next week due to injury.

 

Jamie Osborne added: ‘He is still in lower level exercise. Hopefully he will be back later in the year. I have 35 two-year-olds whereas last year I had 15. Things are going well. It is thanks largely to the exploits of one horse but if you take Toast out of the equation we have had a few consistent years winning plenty of races.’

 

LUCK OF THE IRISH

Previous 2011 Grand National Winner will not ride in the Aintree attraction – again. Jason Maguire, BALLABRIGGS' winning partner four years ago, who missed last season's Cheltenham Festival and and the World's most famous steeplechase due to a fall and now, after a mishap at Catterick, he's back on the sidelines again.

 

The County Meath rider commented: “I’m having a second opinion on it next week, but the initial signs are not good, which means I may be ruled out of riding in the Grand National for the second year running. It’s fair to say luck is not on my side at the minute. The first scan I had after the fall suggested that I had a slipped disc and I may have damaged one of my vertebrae, which is not good news at all.”

This is rather adding insult to injury as Jason Maguire missed this year's Prestbury Park festival because of a suspension.

 

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

A seven-year-old was bought for £150,000 on the strength of two wins and a second place in bumpers in Ireland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. TWENTYTWO'STAKEN, previously trained by Stuart Crawford in County Antrim and now handled by Somerset-based David Pipe, seems to have developed into a useful hurdler since the change of ownership and have gone part of the way justify the decision to buy her. The daughter of KING'S THEATRE offset the not inconsiderable cost of his purchase by winning next time out the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Maiden Hurdle under the astute stewardship of Tom Scudamore and then going on to be victorious in the Andrews Family & Friends Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Exeter in February, again ridden by Tom Scudamore. That's taken almost £25,000 of his buying price.

 

Now there's a chance for the owner to get even more back at Newbury tomorrow when TWENTYTWO'STAKEN runs in the EBF & TBA Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle Race Finale apartnered by his regular jockey and this time there's another £23,000 up for grabs.

THURSDAY 19th MARCH 2015

 

COLE, CALM AND COLLECTED!

After winning the World Hurdle last week the plan was for the Warren Greatrex-trained COLE HARDEN to have a well-deserved week off but, as with all the best laid schemes of mice and men, it hasn't worked out that way. The six-year-old will now have a crack at the Liverpool Hurdle at the Grand National meeting next month. According to his trainer the son of WESTERNER recovered so well from his Cheltenham conquest that he has already put on a few pounds. COLE HARDEN started to make his mark for Warren Greatrex and jockey, Gavin Sheehan, when he powered to an eight-length win in the The West Yorkshire Hurdle in November last year.

 

The Hungerford-based handler commented: “The plan was to give him a quiet week after Cheltenham but he’s so fresh and well I gave him a canter yesterday morning. He’s taken his race so well that he weighs four kilos heavier than he did a day before the World Hurdle. He’s got a great constitution, he just loves it. Last season he led Faugheen into the straight in the Neptune and then bettered that at Aintree when second to Beat That in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle. As long as he’s 100 per cent, that is where he’ll go, but if he’s 99 per cent he won’t. I don’t want to build him up, but he could be even better there. He seems in tip-top form.”

 

BY GEORGE! I THINK HE'S GOT IT.

The Racing Levy, a system whereby money from off-course betting is returned to the industry, is even nearer to being abolished after yesterday's budget. The chancellor, George Osborne, announced that a Racing Right will be introduced which will require bookmakers to pay for the right to accept bets on British racing. It is well-known that the British Horseracing Authority has wanted such an arrangement for many years, particularly since the growth of online betting has meant that major gambling firms only have to relocate offshore to avoid both the betting duty and the Levy obligations that control high street bookmakers. There has been a recent move, indeed, to tax online betting and a Racing Right, if introduced, would, if effective, force offshore firms to pass a proportion of their racing profits back to the racing. It seems that the proposed scheme enjoys the support from both sides of the house which leads everyone to believe that the necessary legislation will be introduced whatever happens in the general election in May.

 

Nick Rust, the BHA’s chief executive, commented: “Today’s announcement is a welcome and tremendous boost for the tens of thousands of people across the country that derive their livelihoods from our sport. We are still in the situation whereby the vast majority of bets placed by punters outside of betting shops are making no contribution to the central finances of the sport. This is unsustainable, and there is recognition that this needs to change.”

 

The Association of British Bookmakers, however, are not convinced: “Unfortunately, we believe the Racing Right is unworkable and the detail will derail it, leaving racing seriously underfunded for a considerable length of time. It will be mired in legal and other issues for many, many years. Arguably, the proceeds from the right will not even be able to be distributed until legal certainty is obtained, with racing being the main loser.”

 

NOT MOTHER'S DAY!

The totejackpot Go For The Big One Handicap at Chelmsford turned out to be was something of a family contest. Shelley Birkett rode the John Long-trained SAIL HOME to victory whereas her mother, trainer Julia Feilden, could only manage fourth with her five-year-old bay mare, AVIDLY, ridden by George Baker.

 

The winning trainer commented: "Sail Home has run well. The owner Peter Foster wanted to breed with her but he could not get her in foal. It has taken two or three runs to get where we wanted with her. You have to produce her late with a furlong to go and Shelley timed it to perfection."

WEDNESDAY 18th MARCH 2015

 

STRAP GOT YA TONGUE?

The Michael Scudamore-trained MONBEG DUDE is having a full check-up after his disappointing performance in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase last week at Cheltenham. The Ross-on-Wye based trainer is clearly hoping that it is just the dislike of a tongue strap that caused the son of WITNESS BOX to finish way down the field. If the ten-year-old is deemed to be A-one then the plan still seems to be to run him next month in the Grand National, in which he was seventh last year. MONBEG DUDE ran well on his previous outings, coming fourth in both the Hennessy Gold Cup and the Welsh National.

 

Michael Scudamore commented: "We were very disappointed with his run at Cheltenham. We're just not sure. We're doing a few tests to see what comes back. One idea is maybe he didn't like having the tongue strap on, but he has come back bright and happy in himself. For whatever reason he just did not perform on the day. It's back to the drawing board a little with him, but other than that he seems quite happy. The National is still the option as long as he's OK.”

 

DON'T LOOK THIS ONE IN THE MOUTH!

A German artist's statue of a horse’s skeleton took up position on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square last week. Hans Haacke's 15ft high sculpture was commissioned by the Mayor of London to replace the giant blue cockerel that has occupied this spot since 2013. The commission bears the title “Gift Horse” and, apparently, is intended to be “a contemporary comment on history, power and money.”

 

A recreation of London Stock Exchange ticker tape that was the vehicle for transmitting stock price information until the 1970s is attached to the bronze sculpture's leg but this modern version has an electronic face, across which the daily stock market figures are streamed, updating passers-by on what’s happening in the City. The seventy-eight-year-old artist says that the inspiration for his creation is an etching by George Stubbs' famous Whistlejacket painting which hangs in the National Gallery at the top of Trafalgar Square. .

 

Boris Johnson commented: “Gift Horse is a startlingly original comment on the relationship between art and commerce and I hope it will stimulate as much debate as the other works that have appeared on the Fourth Plinth. As Hans Haacke’s take on the equestrian statue trots into Trafalgar Square, it brings another reason for Londoners and tourists to visit this cultural landmark.”

 

VARIAN VARYING

Trainer Roger Varian has decided to use the services of a pool of riders as opposed to having a retained stable jockey. The Newmarket handler has chosen this option after his main rider, Andrea Atzeni, moved to Qatar Racing at the end of last season.

Roger Varian commented: "The jockey scene has changed over the last few years. It is hard to implement [the use of] a stable jockey with the racing stacking up at weekends - they can only ride in one place. Stables can't compete with private owners offering retainers. Having a stable jockey which all the owners are happy to use is very hard to find. We will try and build relationships with a few jockeys this year to get a bit of regularity. Andrea will still ride for us, but we can't build plans around him so we will use the likes of Graham Lee and Freddie Tylicki. Quite how it plays out we will see, but we have got to make sure we are super-organised."

 

TUESDAY 17th MARCH 2015

 

MORE MONEY FOR THE SAME

The jump jockeys championship should benefit from similar financial rewards to the new-look Flat title equivalent but the duration of the season should remain the same, according to the Professional Jockeys Association. The pending retirement of champion jockey,Tony McCoy, has been used as an opportunity to call to establish future championships over a basic Winter season running from the first Cheltenham's first October meeting to the last fixture at Sandown in April.

 

Paul Struthers, the Chief Executive of PJA, commented: “We believe that if you are going to be rewarding Flat jockeys, you should be rewarding jump jockeys. The jump jockeys’ championship has always been over a 12-month period and I don’t think there would be any appetite to make any change. If the Flat championship runs from Guineas weekend to Champions Day there would be nothing to suggest you can’t keep the jump jockeys championship as it is. You just shift the promotional focus on to the jump jockeys come the October Cheltenham meeting.”

 

Rupert Arnold, National Trainers Federation chief executive added: “Trainers feel everybody works hard to establish a position in the table over 12 months and they wanted a format to reflect that.”

on the Flat who is also about to retire expressed himself in favour of the proposed changes, commenting: “The changes would make the title less of a slog for the lads in the weighing room”.

 

TOP MARK (AND SARA!)

No lesser person than racing's top trainer of staying chasers, Paul Nicholls, has described the Mark Bradstock-trained CONEYGREE's victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last Friday as a Denman-like delivery, bringing back memories of The Tank's (his nickname!) 'demolition job' in 2008 when he trounced his stable mate KAUTO STAR by an impressive seven lengths.

 

The Ditcheat-based trainer commented: "Top marks to Mark and Sara Bradstock for their brilliant handling of the Gold Cup winner Coneygree. I loved his attitude and the way he jumped as he took the entire field out of their comfort zone. He very much reminded me of Denman in the way he dominated throughout. It was a brave shout by Mark and Sara to sidestep the RSA Chase on Wednesday with Coneygree and wait for the Gold Cup and they got the reward they deserved. For a stable with ten or so horses to triumph in the Gold Cup with a novice short on experience over fences is a tremendous achievement and I salute everyone involved."

 

CATHY COME HOME

Britain's most successful female jockey on the Flat after the incomparable Hayley Turner will be back in the saddle at Chelmsford City on Wednesday. Cathy Gannon has been away from the track for a year-and-a-half due a series of injuries. The Dublin-born rider, with nearly 300 winners to her name, plans to be aboard the John Jenkins-trained RAMBO WILL in the totetrifecta Pick The 1, 2, 3 Handicap.

 

The 33-year-old was originally advised to rest for 12 months but she got her doctor's permission to start riding out last month and proceeded to do so for Eve Johnson Houghton, Henry Candy and Mick Channon, whilst completing courses in horse care management and dog-grooming, presumably as a back-up in the event that her riding career doesn't progress as she envisages.

 

Cathy Gannon commented: “Things are going really well and I'm feeling fit and strong, and it will be great to be back. The aim is to get a few winners and plenty of rides."

 

MONDAY 16th MARCH 2015

 

THEATRE TAKES CENTRE STAGE

A Ballylinch Stud sire has broken his own 2014 record for seasonal earnings with the two winners he notched up at the Cheltenham Festival. KING'S THEATRE claimed this second jumps sires' championship when the total earnings rose to £2,614,626 almost £1 million ahead of his closest rival, MILAN and there is still a month to go. As well as the two Festival winners, GLENS MELODY in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle and DRUIDS NEPHEW in the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase, there were two runners-up, SOUTHFIELD THEATRE in the RSA Chase and SHANESHILL in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

 

John O'Connor, the Ballylinch Stud manager, commented: "He went into Cheltenham with lots of good chances, but Cheltenham being what it is, you can never expect to come away with too many winners. But we expected him to do well because he has a fantastic record at Cheltenham. His progeny really seem to relish that environment, coming up the hill in the heat of top-class competition. They seem to thrive in that sort of situation. I think the next thing is, can he break the £3m mark? It's possible to do now - not easy, but it is possible. If he did that, it would be quite a notch on his belt."

 

Sadly KING'S THEATRE died from a bout of colic in 2011.

 

TITLE FIGHT

Plans will shortly be revealed for the re-vitalisation of the British Flat jockeys’ title, involving a radical revision of the qualifying time for the championship. It looks like the suggestion is for the period to run from the Guineas weekend at Newmarket in May to the Qipco British Champions Day at Ascot in October instead, as now, starting in March and ending in November.

 

These proposals will come from an organisation called Great British Racing which is funded by Racing Enterprises Limited (REL), the commercial arm of British horse racing. REL is, in turn, a joint venture company whose shareholders are the Racecourses and the Horsemen's Group (owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and stable staff).

 

The beginning and end of the Flat season have been debated for a long time, with many people holding the view that the campaign somehow stutters to a start at the beginning of March and then seems to fizzle out in November. That is why GBR has come up with the idea of these amendments. One of the downsides of these proposed changes would be, however, that fixtures such as the Betway Lincoln meeting at Doncaster and the Craven meeting at Newmarket, both in March at the start of the Flat turf season and the Racing Post Trophy and Betfred November Handicap at Doncaster at the close would be excluded from the new championship.

 

Rod Street, GBR’s Chief Executive announced back in 2013: “I think we need to make more of our championships. We are working very hard in conjunction with the horsemen and the BHA, looking to make some changes next year that will create a much clearer definition of our championship periods so we can make more of our stars and show people who the best is – it’s how every other sport operates.”

 

NO END TO TOWNEND

Spurred on, no doubt, by his treble triumph at Cheltenham, Paul Townend went one better at Navan yesterday and made it a quartet of victories. He won the feature race, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Novice Handicap Chase Final on the Tony Martin-trained HEATHFIELD in impressive style. The winning trainer commented: “It was a weak enough race for the pot. Two out you’d say he was in trouble, but stamina won the day. He loved the ground and the track. Paul let the others come back to him and that made the difference.”

 

Earlier on in the afternoon the County Carlow rider had triumphed on Thomas Mullins' GRAND PARTNER in the John Lynch Carpets Kells EBF Novice Hurdle in a somewhat slow-crawling contest. He then followed it up with a win on VEDETTARIAT for the Cheltenham 'Man of the Match', Willie Mullins. He rounded off a good day in the saddle with his fourth victory in the www.navanracecourse.ie Handicap Chase. on the Thomas O'Brien-trained IBETELLINGYOUALIE.

And that's all true, despite the name of the last horse!

 

SUNDAY 15th MARCH 2015

 

FOUR ON DEMAND

The you-know-what may be over for another year but there was still plenty of exciting racing yesterday. For instance, the Charlie Appleby-trained TRYSTER made it four in a row at Lingfield in the coral.co.uk Winter Derby (All-Weather Championship Fast-Track Qualifier). The Godolphin son of SHAMARDAL, with Adam Kirby aboard, won the contest impressively, having settled in last position for most of the race and then then showing a fast turn of foot and swiftly overhauling the others. It looked initially as though the four-year-old wouldn't make it, as there was no clear passage through but, luckily a gap appeared and TRYSTER didn't need much asking to surge pass the remaining rivals to win by three-quarters of a length. The bay gelding has been showing some good form lately and this performance serves to enhance his reputation even further.

 

The winning trainer commented: "Adam Kirby has given Tryster a fantastic ride round there. You know Adam - he can go from the front or in behind with no fear because he was the best horse in the race. We said to him beforehand to go out there and ride with a plenty of confidence, win lose or draw, and he that is what he has done. One of best plans we made was skipping the trial for this race. You get confidence into horses at this time of year or get them on a good wave, and you never know where they will end up. He has proven today that he is a horse with supreme confidence and I had great confidence in the rider.”

 

ANOTHER GRAND

And no need to wait for Aintree because every County seems to have its own Grand National. Yesterday it was Uttoxeter's turn with the Betfred Midlands Grand National which was not without its moments of high drama. Early in the race Oliver Sherwood's GLOBAL POWER took a dive and then, at the eighth, the popular CATCHING ON went down. And who was getting back down to earth again (literally!) after riding high at Chelteham? None other than the retiring champion jockey,Tony McCoy, proving that he could have a few more falls before he goes. Fortunately he was quickly on his feet even if he did walk a little gingerly back to the changing rooms.

 

The one horse that showed he was more than a match for the gruelling conditions was the Jim Dreaper-trained GOONYELLA who kept on persistently in the straight to beat his fellow Irish raider, RAZ DE MAREE by nine lengths. It was a victory much savoured by 3lb claimer retained rider, Johnny Burke.

 

BACK IN THE OLD ROUTINE

And it was back to normal business also for trainer Nicky Henderson and Barry Geraghty at Kempton Park, where they enjoyed a trio of triumphs. The first victory came in the second race, the Kempton Park 888Sport.com Silver Plate (Handicap Hurdle) when THEINVAL, given a patient ride by his County Meath jockey, travelled impressively to go into the lead at the second-last hurdle to win by two-and-three-quarter lengths.

 

The trainer/jockey duo didn't have to wait long to score again. The very next race, in fact. The odds-on favourite ONE FOR THE GUV'NR triumphed by six lengths, although it seemed to take a while before challenging TRADER JACK for supremacy.

 

Number three arrived in the guise of WILLIAM HENRY in the last contest of the day, the Family Fun At Kempton Park 04.04.15 Maiden Open NH Flat Race when the five-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE romped home by seventeen lengths.

 

So there IS life after the Cheltenham Festival!

 

SATURDAY 14th MARCH 2015

 

... SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS ARE MADE ON.”

There was a fairytale ending to the Cheltenham Festival but not the one most racegoers were dreaming of. The Mark Bradstock-trained CONEYGREE won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and, thereby, became the first novice chaser to do so for 41 years. The eight-year-old, with Nico de Boinville aboard, made it also his fourth consecutive win over fences and he did it from the front which is unusual in such a contest. But there's always a first time. The son of KARINGA BAY was originally scheduled to run in the RSA Chase on Wednesday but connections and all concerned must have been delighted that they entered their horse in the prestigious the blue riband race of steeplechasing.

 

The winning jockey stated he was lost for words but then went on to say: “I never thought they shouldn’t have run in this, it was a great plan. The weather gods were looking down on us and the ground was ideal. He’s so deceptive, even when he gets in tight he’s brilliant, it’s all thanks to the Bradstock family, it’s a great family effort. I must thank the owners and the Bradstocks for keeping the faith in me. These horses only come once in a lifetime.”

 

The winning trainer's wife, Sara Bradstock, daughter of the late Lord Oaksey, who bred Coneygree, commented: “He [Lord Oaksey] is not here, but he’s here in spirit. I’d been saying to people, when we win the Gold Cup we’ll win the lottery, it’s that amazing.”

 

WHAT A DAY!

The fairytale that didn't achieve reality was the one where the nineteen-time champion jockey wins the Gold Cup on the day of his final appearance at Cheltenham. In fact Tony McCoy ended his Prestbury Park episode with no further winners. Others made up for the anticlimax, though. Trainer Willie Mullins recorded a record-breaking eight victories f this year’s Festival when KILLILTAGH VIC scored in the last-but-one event of the day. There was a dream result for another Mullins. Mags Mullins, Willie Mullins' sister-in-law, notched up her first Festival win when MARTELLO TOWER, ridden by Adrian Heskin, bagged the prestigious Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. The irony was that the 14/1 son of MILAN had to battle it out with the Willie Mullins-trained MILSEAN, with her son, Danny aboard.

 

The highlight of the day was clearly the Gold Cup Chase, and fans were all hopeful that Paul Nicholls might the joint most successful trainer in Gold Cup history if either his SILIVINIACO CONTI or SAM WINNER came first past the post. But it was not to be as discussed earlier.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: “Noel (Fehily) wasn’t really sure why he did not perform better. The ground might have been deep enough for him - I don’t think he travelled in it as he was on and off the bridle a little bit. I think the ground was a bit more testing than we thought and he was not enjoying it. No excuses really. I know that he has had a good prep and everything was right. He’s not the biggest in the world and you would have to say, watching that, he needs a flatter track or better ground.”

 

The champion jockey was also out of favour in the race named after him, the A P McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase (replacing the Johnny Henderson Trophy for this year only), as his mount, NED BUNTLINE could only finish fourth.

 

The deserving winner of this final race of the season was NEXT SENSATION, trained by Michael Scudamore, the third generation of the Scudamore dynasty, who took over the licence from his late legendary grandfather in 2008.

 

The winning trainer, also celebrating a first at the Festival commented modestly: “A P is an absolute legend and we’ll never see the likes of him again. It would have been a lovely story if he’d won this – I’m just glad he didn’t finish second. We wouldn’t have been very popular if he had, I think!”

 

To cheering crowds Tony McCoy had the final words: “I feel I’m a very lucky person to have done what I’ve done and to have the life I’ve had. It’s a privilege to live my life through my hobby. I’ll never forget the reception I’ve been given today – it is people like this I’m going to miss.”

 

A STING IN THE TAIL

It wasn't a good day for everyone, however. Jockey Bryan Cooper looks like he will miss both the British and Irish Grand Nationals after receiving a 15-day ban from the Cheltenham stewards. Three other Irish jockeys were the target for their whip offences' ban yesterday. This year there was a special pre-festival reminder for all riders about the whip rules by BHA director Jamie Stier but that seems to have been forgotten by the fourth day by not only Bryan Cooper but also Paul Carberry, Adrian Heskin and amateur rider Noel McParlan. Unfortunately Bryan Cooper missed last year's world-famous steeplechase after breaking his leg as a result of a fall at the Cheltenham Festival. The jockey was also fined £1,250 for his Gold Cup ride. It never rains but it pours!

FRIDAY 13th MARCH 2015

 

COMING UP FOR AIR

There was never any doubt yesterday that the 19-time champion jockey was determined to celebrate his last Cheltenham Festival on a high. From the moment the starter let them go, Tony McCoy rode his 16/1 chance, UXIZANDRE, into a commanding lead in the Ryanair Chase and maintained a brave front-running tactic throughout.

 

AP McCoy commented afterwards: “I would love to say it’s a relief, but I actually got such a thrill riding him. I was actually thinking I wouldn’t mind riding the horse in next year’s Champion Chase. He ran away with me for a mile-and-a-half and I thought he would never keep it up, but I was quite happy coming down the hill, he kept looking at the television camera on his inside and I thought he had saved a bit for himself. It’s nice. Cheltenham is about winning isn’t?

 

Chanelle, the jockey's wife added: “When he got up and was heading into day three he wanted one more time to ride a winner at Cheltenham, to soak up the atmosphere and not finish his career without one more winner. He wanted that feeling one more time. He’s not the most animated at the best of times, but this will absolutely mean the world to him.”

 

The last word was with J. P. McManus, who has owned so many successful horses and for whom Tony McCoy has been retained jockey for ten years: “It’s great to be at Cheltenham and have a man like AP at your side. What can I say, I am just so happy and pleased that he has had a winner at his last Cheltenham. That we provided it makes it even better.”

 

HIS CUP RUNNETH OVER

The big one everyone's waiting for today is the Gold Cup, not least because the champion jockey will be hoping to crown his final appearance at the Festival with this prestigious prize. Quite naturally, the dream outcome for friends and rivals would be for Tony McCoy to win on the John Kiely-trained CARLINGFORD LOUGH. The nine-year-old triumphed in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup in February and is well supported. The only negative is that the son of KING'S THEATRE's jumping is not always top-notch and it will have to be spot-on today.

 

The last two year's winners, LORD WINDERMERE (2014) and BOBS WORTH (2013) will be attempting to repeat their triumphs but, by general agreement, the one they must all watch out for is the Paul Nicholls-trained SILVINIACO CONTI, two-time hero of the King George. The one aspect of this race that trainers and jockeys are well aware of is the Cheltenham track, itself, with its undulations, tough fences and a killer of an uphill finish that has been the downfall of many a gallant equine bid for victory. A few of those in the know, will state that the nine-year-old son of DOM ALCO has failed to score on his three visits to Prestbury Park. In his favour he is one of the best staying chaser in England and Ireland and is in the hands of one of the best trainers in the country.

 

Of course, it wouldn't be the Cheltenham Festival without Willie Mullins and he will be saddling three hopefuls, BOSTON BOB, ON HIS OWN and DJAKADAM. The latter, ridden by the Prestbury Park prince, Ruby Walsh, ran an impressive race last time out in January when he won the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park by eight lengths.

 

So the soon-to-be twenty-time champion will have a lot to do if he is to mark his last day at Cheltenham with the Gold Cup.

 

YOUNG KING COLE!

Another front-running victory in the World Hurdle yesterday when the Warren Greatrex-trained COLE HARDEN provided both trainer and jockey, Gavin Sheehan, with their first Cheltenham Festival successes. The Cork-born rider took the bold decision to grab the race by the scruff of the neck and surged ahead at a powerful gallop from the word go. Then wisely Gavin Sheehan gave the six-year-old son of WESTERNER a little breather before going for the chastening Cheltenham climb for the last time and slowly asserted himself coming round the home bend, managing to fight off the challenge from SAPHIR DE RHEU and go ahead by three-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

The jubilant jockey commented: "His jumping was brilliant and holding on to him down the hill I was nervous, should I be sending him or not? Turning into the straight I started winding him up. I was thinking, where is everybody?"

 

THURSDAY 12th MARCH 2015

 

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

Patrick McCann, a Cheltenham photographer, got too close to the action for comfort and landed up in hospital with a broken ankle. The nasty accident happened during yesterday’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. TOUTANCARMONT, the French challenger and favourite crashed through rail two fences from home, taking the Ed Bolger-trained QUANTATIVEEASING, with Nina Carberry aboard, out with him. Unfortunately that was also just where the Racing Post photographer was positioned and they crashed into him.

 

A Cheltenham official commented: “We’ll review it, but we work to BHA general instructions, provided as part of the rules and regulations, and ensure every photographer coming on sight has a public liability of £1,000,000-plus to help us with incidents like this. The general consensus is this is one of those slightly freak accidents. Having looked at the images, the horse didn’t go over him, he brushed past him rather than trampled over him. The horses just moved to their left as they were jumping, Patrick was in that position off the rail, where we’d expect him to be. They did violently move to the left and Patrick felt the consequence.”

 

ANOTHER OFF DAY

It's always the same. A champion plans to retire from his sport in a blaze of glory and it just doesn't work out that way. After the second day of the Cheltenham Festival Tony McCoy again went home empty-handed, much to his own and his fans' disappointment.

 

The opening contest, the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle looked like it was going to be the one when the J P Ferguson-trained PARLOUR GAMES rallied strongly at the end but could only manage second three-and-three-quarter lengths behind Dermot Weld's WINDSOR PARK.

 

The next race was a great disappointment for the champion and trainer Philip Hobbs when the seven-year-old IF IN DOUBT seemed lucky to come fifth from the seven finishers. Even Jonjo O'Neill couldn't provide the ninteen-times champion with the success he craved. His five-year-old GOODWOOD MIRAGE finished seventeenth, a good twenty-five lengths behind the winner.

 

It was Paul Nicholls' turn in the next race. He saddled MR MOLE in the Queen Mother Champion Chase but the son of THE GREAT PRETENDER was outpaced before he even reached three out and never really got on terms and finished last.

 

Tony McCoy had to sit the next race out as he had no ride but the rest didn't improve his chances in the next when he rode another Jonjo O'Neill hopeful, BOX OFFICE who didn't turn out to be the star attraction, either, finishing seventh.

 

It was in the last race of the day, the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper that Tony McCoy looked again that he might just pull something out of the bag on the Alan King-trained YANWORTH who moved up into fourth position inside the final furlong and seemed to be making a valiant effort but, ultimately couldn't catch the trio in front.

 

So, after two days, the champion jockey has seen Ruby Walsh score three times and Davy Russell and Sam Twiston-Davies get two apiece. but there are two days to go and AP McCoy is not one to go without a fight.

 

NONE OF YOUR LIP!

Many must have wondered what happened to Willie Mullins' CHAMPAGNE FEVER and his bid to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The eight-year-old grey was billed as the big challenge to the aspirations of the likes of SIRE DE GRUGY, DODGING BULLETS and SPRINTER SACRE. But, in the event, he became a non-runner but not because of the drying ground.

 

Trainer Willie Mullins explained afterwards: "Champagne Fever got bitten on the lip by another of our horses on the way over to Cheltenham. He was ridden out for the past few mornings on the track, but I wasn't happy with him this morning. The small injury he picked up in transit hasn't fully resolved itself and I've decided not to risk him."

 

In the event, the race was impressively won by the Paul Nicholls-trained DODGING BULLETS. Gary Moore's SIRE DE GRUGY just didn't seem to have it, was soon pushed along, ridden and unable to go with leaders. Perhaps the saddest result was SPRINTER SACRE, the apple of Nicky Henderson's eye. He took a keen hold from the outset and made some headway from four fences out. Then he was clearly beaten, slowed down and pulled up before the last. The nine-year-old son of NETWORK has seen better days.

 

WEDNESDAY 11th MARCH 2015

 

WILLIE DO IT AGAIN TODAY

The question on everyone's lips today must be whether top Irish trainer can repeat yesterday's triumph when he scored four times, despite the fact that his favourite, ANNIE POWER, fell at the last when well in the clear. All was not lost, however, as Phil Townend aboard stable companion, GLENS MELODY, managed to rally and take the prize by a head in a photo-finish.

 

In the Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy, in fact, not only did the odds-on favourite, FAUGHEEN, carry off the prize, as expected, but the County Carlow trainer took second and third place as well with ARCTIC FIRE and HURRICANE FLY, which must be something of a record.

 

Willie Mullins certainly is not short of some talented runners on the second day of the Cheltenham spectacular, partyicularly within the novice hurdling ranks. In the first race of the day, the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle he plays a strong hand with NICHOLS CANYON, with the inevitable Ruby Walsh aboard. The five-year-old son of AUTHORIZED, however, will be up against some tough opposition, especially the John Ferguson-trained PARLOUR GAMES who has acquitted himself well over fences this season. But Willie Mullins has another ace up his sleeve in the form of the talented OUTLANDER. Ready to pick up the pieces if anything goes wrong.

 

The second race of the day is the RSA Chase which hasn't been won by a favourite since COOLDINE did the honours back in 2009 for you-know-which trainer. Since then it seems to have the prerogative of the bigger priced horses such as the 16/1 shot BOSTONS ANGEL in 2011. Today Willie Mullins will be saddling his six-year-old DON POLI who has revealed no mean form in Graded novice chases this season and should be the one to watch.

 

The big race is undoubtedly the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The Gary Moore-trained SIRE DE GRUGY was the emphatic victor in this contest last year and is well prepared for a return to the Cheltenham Festival after an impressive win at Chepstow recently. The one everyone's eyes willl be on, though, will be Nicky Henderson's SPRINTER SACRE who is making his long-awaited return to the track.

 

Willie Mullins has selected his CHAMPAGNE FEVER to take on the field. This eight-year-old grey hasn't had a win since last November when he scored in the Clonmel Oil Chase so he could be taking on quite a bunch of strong rivals including the Paul Nicholls-trained DODGING BULLETS.

 

OFF THE HOOK

Aah! The bookies had a rough time of it on the first day of the Cheltenham festival. They were even bracing themselves for their worst day ever after enduring three huge financial defeats, courtesy the Mullins/Walsh partnership with wins from DOUVAN, UN DE SCEAUX, and then FAUGHEEN. How they must have cringed as they awaited the final blow from ANNIE POWER, running in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle! Then someone up ther must have taken pity on them. The impossible happened. The seven-year-old daughter of SHIROCCO look as though she had the race in the bag, being well clear and unpressed as she approached the last. Then she dived at it and came down. A loud gasp could be heard emanating from the stand and probably from all the bookmakers' offices throughout the land. With that inexplicable mistake they avoided a multi-million payout.

 

LONG LIVE THE KING!

A mention should be made of the David Pipe-trained KINGS PALACE who is jockey, Tom Scudamore’s best chance of a winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. The seven-year-old has established a strong reputation which he will be risking in the RSA Chase – sometimes called the Gold Cup for novice steeplechasers when up against the Willie mullins onslaught. The son of KING'S THEATRE is as yet unbeaten in his last three starts over fences. The one worry connections have, however, is that their horse did'nt stay in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle over three miles last year’s. Then in a prep race at Newbury later, with again Tom Scudamore aboard, he made a few unnecessary unhurried mistakes.

 

Harry Drew, son of part-owner Bryan Drew., commented: “Don Poli looks the main threat, but we’ll give it our best shot. There are a lot of good horses like The Young Master as well, but hopefully we can do them. You have to put that run at Newbury to one side and look at his form at Cheltenham. It has been flawless. He’s won there a couple of times which is good form. There’s only nine runners and I think that helps a lot. We’ve run in small fields so that’s fine.”

TUESDAY 10th MARCH 2015

 

TODAY'S THE DAY!

Well, today's the day racegoers, punters and bookies have been waiting for! Prestbury Park opens its gates for the Cheltenham Festival. The weather looks fine so many will go there to enjoy a day or more in the open enjoying the delights of horse racing with a little flutter here and there. Many thousands more will have taken it more seriously and, as the expression goes 'studied form' and placed serious ante-post bets. As mentioned on Sunday, the bookies are nervously awaiting possibly the biggest-ever trouncing by the punters if all the favourites do their stuff

 

One of today's exciting races is the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase scheduled for 2.40pm.with twenty-four runners. The one everyone seems to be going for, however, is the Charlie Longsden-trained PENDRA. This seven-year-old son of OLD VIC is even more attractive because champion jockey, AP McCoy, will be aboard, in what will be his last appearance at the Festival before he retires. So everyone is expecting him to go out in a blaze of glory. It's not a one-horse race by any means, though. A very popular bet is the Alan King-trained NED STAR, winner of three of his four chases this season.The son of WOLFE TONE was victorious in a Grade 2 Novice at Wetherby last time out and seems to be in remarkable form.

 

As expected, the undoubted contest of the day is the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy where the Willie Mullins superstar, FAUGHEEN, ridden by Ruby Walsh, makes his eagerly awaited appearance. Punters will have seized on the fact that Ruby Walsh preferred this horse to the 22-time Grade 1 winner HURRICANE FLY. With the Mullins yard flying high recently it is no wonder that a lot of money has gone that way.

 

Of course, JEZKI cannot be left out of the mix, as he is the reigning champion. He hasn't been too accurate with his jumping recently but, again, many punters have gone for this one because Tony McCoy is riding.

Whichever way you have bet, it's going to be four days of exciting jump racing.

 

THE NAME GAME

Twelve years ago former Press Association racing reporter, Will Lefebve, found out that there was picture of his father at Fontwell Park, celebrating his participation as a jockey in the first-ever race run at the West Sussex track in 1924. After his initial delight, however, he was disappointed to see that the captions on the picture were wrongly spelled – the surname was written as 'Lefbye' instead of 'Lefebve' and the horse's name was written down as 'Pride of Minister' instead of 'Pride of Manister.'

 

Will Lefebve commented: “I asked if I could get the mistakes rectified and Ed was quite happy, so I took it to a printing business I know in Worthing, Impress, who were able to do the job. The display has been nicely restored and is now back in the weighing room – where I’m hoping that among the jockeys who see it will be Tony McCoy, if he makes a visit or two the course before he retires at the end of the season. I’m delighted I’ve been able to get the mistakes corrected and it’s lovely to see the picture back on display – some 91 years after it was taken to record the start of racing at Fontwell Park.”

 

RACING BY THE BOOK

A remarkable book was published last month called: 'Warriors on Horseback. The Inside Story of the Professional Jockey'. It gives an enthralling insight into the lives of jockeys. If we didn't know it already, the book reveals that jockeys who earn a living race riding on racehorses are a remarkable bunch of people. The strong contrast is highlighted between the fierce competiton on the track and the almost a tribal brotherhood in the weighing room. What also comes to light are the minimum requirements for long-term success which include courage, skill, athleticism and an intuitive understanding of how to 'get a tune' out of a horse.

 

The book celebrates these 'warriors on horseback', past and present, picking out the great performers, male and female, of both jump and flat racing over about the last five hundred years. The reader is also afforded a behind-the-scenes insight into the lifestyle of professional jockeys in the 21st century.There is a tour of Aintree's weighing room; a day in the life of a Derby-winning jockey. Consideration is also given to the daily challenges every jockey must face: the inevitable injuries and weight management. The book also includes great moments in racing history such as Red Pollard's partnership with the great American horse, Seabiscuit; Bob Champion, who recovered from cancer to win the Grand National, and Frankie Dettori's magnificent seven wins in one day at Ascot. There are other great names: Lester Piggott, Bill Shoemaker, Scobie Breasley, Julie Krone, John Francome and Tony McCoy. The book provides quotes and insights from top jockeys and racing insiders, people who know the profession and the sport; and is illustrated with great pictures from the world of horseracing.

A good read for all lovers of horses and horse racing.

 

MONDAY 9th MARCH 2015

 

BACK IN THE UK!”

A six-times champion jockey hit the headlines last October with the announcement that he had decided to go over to the States to ride for the Winter and might not come back. Well, he's back at Kempton Park on Wednesday and Lingfield on Saturday. Kieren Fallon, it seems, is prepared to give Flat racing in the UK another go, even though what he really wants is to become established in the horse racing scene in California. The rider from County Clare celebrated his 50th birthday last month but doesn't seem to have lost any of his winning ways, steering a 25/1 outsider to victory in a Group Three at Meydan on Saturday, reminiscent of his triumph last year at Newmarket when he won the 2,000 Guineas on 40/1 shot, NIGHT OF THUNDER. Clearly things didn't work out as well as he had hoped on the West coast of the US as he indicated that he was up against quite a few high-profile (younger?) jockeys who had already become permanently established there.

 

Simon Dodds, his agent commented: “He’s looking forward to riding in the UK. Seven or eight different trainers have offered him rides. He was likely to return to Dubai for World Cup night at the end of the month and may return to California next winter.”

 

LET'S GET STARTED!

The BHA announced that this week’s Cheltenham Festival will be the scene for testing thoroughly the new starting procedures. This obviously is due to criticism received after the start of the Imperial Cup at Sandown on Saturday. The first start was ruled a false one and so the procedure requires that a standing start is to be undertaken. Unfortunately it seems that several horses appeared to be put at a disadvantage by slow starts. A similar thing occurred at the Welsh National when there were complaints that many runners lost chances as a result of the standing start.

The new rules being introduced require horses to approach the tape at no faster pace than a what they term a “jig-jog” (which is defined in the dictionary as “bounce jerkily up and down in proceeding”). If any horses are moving faster then it will be deemed a false start and a standing start will follow.

BHA’s director of raceday operations, Jamie Stier, asked why a second jig-jog start could not be attempted, commented: “Under the previous procedures, it proved difficult to get the riders to collectively retreat to a point, assemble and approach the start as one. This, on several occasions, resulted in further failed starts or the field approaching the start at an increasingly faster pace, which nobody wanted and was often the subject of negative comment. This was exactly the sort of scenario everyone is keen to avoid. While believing it is preferential to have a start where the field is on the move, either walking or no faster than a jig-jog, if the first start is unsuccessful a subsequent standing start precludes another rushing of the tape.”

It was pointed out that these new starting rules had been developed in “in partnership” with jump jockeys working together with management at Cheltenham and Aintree.

 

THE HORSE DOCTOR

One horse that appears not to be disdvantaged by a standing start is the 33/1 shot, EBONY EXPRESS, who produced a shock result in the William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown, trainer Dr Richard Newland enjoying his first success in this Grade Three handicap hurdle. The six-year-old son of SUPERIOR PREMIUM kept relentlessly with the pace from the word go and slowly hauled in the long-time leader, RAYVIN BLACK and left him three-quarters of a length in his slipstream as the line was reached.

The Worcester-based trainer commented: "When he won his first two races he was very impressive, then it went wrong at Catterick as I rushed to get a third run in. He was coughing a bit and I was a bit stupid to run him there. At Newbury he was running well when he was brought down and since then he has been very good and working ever so well. He had a little leg infection in the week, but the vet did a great job in getting that sorted "On his best form he had a good chance of winning today and it was just a question of whether he brought his 'A' game."

 

SUNDAY 8th MARCH 2015

 

RUBY DOESN'T HAVE WIND!

Much of the racing world has been in a state of suspense or agitation because of uncertainty about a future event ( definition of 'being on tenterhooks'). The cause of this debate? Would Ruby Walsh ride FAUGHEEN or HURRICANE FLY in Tuesday's Stan James Champion Hurdle. Well, the die is cast. The jockey from Kill, Country Kildare, has plumped for the former, the seven-year-old son of GERMANY, who remains undefeated at any level of of contest and is the favourite for the event. Ruby Walsh left it as late as he could before deciding not to be aboard HURRICANE FLY who won the prestigious prize in 2014 and 2013 and was third in 2012. The honour now of riding the eleven-year-old son of MONJEU fallS to his colleague in arms, Paul Townend.

 

Trainer Willie Mullins commented yesterday: "Ruby will ride Faugheen. We had a look at it but all the work is finished how. It's amazing to have Hurricane Fly as a second-string."

 

SCU'S TIP

Wedneday's racecard (Cheltenham! Where else?) is the day of the RSA Chase and figuring highly in the bets is an exciting seven-year-old, who has not yet lost a race over fences – KINGS PALACE. His jockey, Tom Scudamore, rates the son of KING'S THEATRE (with apostrophe!!) as his best ride of the week and even thinks he's a strong bet for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

The British flat and steeplechase jockey on a 27% strike-rate so far this season commented: “He is the most exciting novice chaser we have seen this season. I have complete belief in him. He made a mistake in his last race at Newbury but hopefully he will learn from that. He has won around Cheltenham twice this season and likes the track. He could be a Gold Cup horse next season. That’s the hope and the dream. He is more relaxed and straighforward to ride. He has matured. Last year he was a bit too keen.” ”

 

HAVE A BASH!

Turf accountants, bookmakers, bookies - whatever your preferred name. They could all be in for possibly the biggest-ever trouncing by punters if all the big names strike it rich at Cheltenham in four of their busiest days of the year, when over £200million is expected to change hands. Some bookies, in fact, are said to quaking in their boots at the thought of Tuesday's racecard which could prove to be one of their most expensive in living memory. Some of the top bookmaking companies were asked recently to name their potentially biggest loser at the Cheltenham Festival this year.

 

Mike Shinners of Sky Bet confessed: “Peace and Co in the Triumph Hurdle. The dogs were barking before his win at Doncaster and we have laid him from his initial price of 25-1 all the way down to 9-4 clear favourite.”

 

William Hill's Jon Ivan-Duke stated: “Sprinter Sacre. He’s the highest rated horse this century. The liabilities are increasing but we’re happy to take as much business as we can.”

 

David Williams of Ladbrokes commented: “There’s no form like Cheltenham form and, as a dual Festival winner already, Lord Windermere is an ugly blot in our ante-post book. Punters clearly believe this is his track and his time of year and if he defends his Gold Cup crown it will be a lousy result.”

SATURDAY 7th MARCH 2015

 

LOOK AWAY. LOOK AWAY!

Lizzie Kelly, a conditional jockey for trainer Neil King, has had one burning ambition from the day she started riding racehorses, aged ten, at trainer Nick Williams’ stables near Barnstaple, Devon. She wants to compete with the best, including her hero, Tony McCoy, at the top racetracks. She has already notched up eight victories from 46 rides in her first season as a professional, totting up around £130,000 in prize-money the owners. The twenty-one-year-old is now determined to achieve some glory at the Cheltenham Festival where she will be aboard two horses owned by her mother, Jane and trained by step-father Nick. Lizzie Kelly has already scored six times on TEA FOR TWO who is currently a 33/1 chance in the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle on Gold Cup day and she is booked to partner AUBUSSON, 50/1 outsider in the World Hurdle on Thursday.

 

However, Lizzie Kelly is also aiming for a first off the track - which may stir things up a bit. She plans to use the male jockeys' changing rooms during the Cheltenham Festival because, being one of only five women professional National Hunt jockeys in the country, it seems it can be a bit lonely on race days.

 

As the Devon diva divulged: “It’s very much a man’s game. I usually end up sitting on my own in the women’s changing rooms because there are no other female jockeys at the meeting. It can quickly get boring. So I’ve had to broach the subject of going in with the men. I get changed in the ladies changing room and then go and have a cup of tea in the men’s. To be honest, what can they do about it? Are they going to tell me to leave? Jockeys are coming in and getting changed all the time. But we are all adults - we are all capable of looking the other way.”

 

A RIGHT ROYAL RUNNER

The Willie Mullins-trained PRINCE DE BEAUCHENE is on course to make it three hunter chase wins in a row in the Best Of Luck To Bally Hale Shamrocks Tetratema Cup in Gowran Park today. The veteran son of FRENCH GLORY, winner of the Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase in 2012, has already demonstrated that, despite his twelve years, he still has got what it takes when scoring at Thurles in the middle of January and at Leopardstown at the beginning of last month. He'll have plenty on his plate this time around as he will be conceding seven pounds to the Adrian Maguire-rained TWO ROCKERS who did well wth his former trainer, Alan King, before going on to score in four of his five point-to-point starts for his current yard. PRINCE DE BEAUCHENE certainly looks like the class act to follow in what may well be a two-horse contest.

 

TOAST OFF THE MENU

The Jamie Osborne-trained TOAST OF NEW YORK certainly spread good cheer further East when he was the emphatic winner of the UAE Derby last March. The son of THEWAYYOUARE brought his successful three-year-old campaign to a dramatic conclusion when being beaten by a mere nose by Bob Baffert's BAYERN in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita last November.

 

Sheikh Joaan Al Thani's Al Shaqab Racing attracted much attention when they bought the four-year-old colt earlier this year. Since then trainer, Jamie Osborne, has been working hard to get him ready for a crack at the world's richest race. Disapointment all around, however. It looks like TOAST OF NEW YORK is in for a period out of the public eye.

The Hungerford-based trainer announced the other day: "He's had a setback and, sadly, he's going to miss the World Cup. I have to speak to the Al Shaqab team and I'm sure we'll be formulating another plan. It's very disappointing for Sheikh Joaan and his team, and obviously for everybody here. He'll be back."

 

FRIDAY 6th MARCH 2015

 

DON'T JUMP THE GUN!

In the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival the racing pages are full of speculation about which horse will run in which race and which will win. Horseracing, however, particularly over the jumps, is a risky business for both horse and jockey. Last week provided an example. Mark Walsh, currently at the top of the Irish jockeys' championship, broke an arm as a result of a fall in a maiden hurdle at Thurles recently. This sadly means that not only will he miss next week's event at Prestbury Park but he may very well have been denied the chance of being crowned champion jockey for the fist time. Another Walsh – Ruby, for example, has been in the saddle long enough to to understand that horses have to make it to a contest first before a jockey can positively make any decisions about which one to ride. Hence his potential dilemma with FAUGHEEN and HURRICANE FLY. It seems more than likely that the County Kildare king will plump for the former but if he decided now and, for some reason, the Willie Mullins-trained champion doesn't run then he will have unnecessarily upset and disappointed the owners and connections of HURRICANE FLY. Or vice versa. Far better to keep everyone happy until the very last moment when the final runners have been decided.

 

While on the subject, whilst enjoying the news of all the jockeys and horses that will be exciting all racegoers in the week to come, it is timely to think about not only the riders but all the owners and connections of horses that will not be racing for one reason or another. Clearly the ones that will make the news will be horses that have been forced to miss one of the bigger events. A thought should also be spared, however, for the lesser known trainers or owners who will not have their mount competing in one of the important handicaps. Their dreams will be dashed before the Cheltenham Festival even begins.

 

FOUR LEGS FOR TWO WHEELS

A six-time world record winning Olympic cyclist is swapping saddles. Victoria Pendleton, queen of individual sprints was crowned Commonwealth and European champion before she retired from professional cycling. The thirty-four-year-old from Stotfold has let it be known that she has set her sights on next year's Cheltenham Festival, after deciding to take up the challenge of horse racing. She has already begun training in this new discipline and is being assisted financially by Betfair. She is working with top National Hunt trainer, Paul Nicholls, and Yogi Breisner, eventing performance manager for Team GB. In the coming year the nine-time world champion's priority will be to get her Category A amateur licence which means she will be able to to race in point-to-point meetings.

 

Victoria Pendleton commented: "I've been looking for a new and exciting challenge, and when they approached me about the opportunity to become a licensed amateur jockey, it captured my imagination. I'm motivated by the scale of the challenge and the opportunity to combine my love of horses with learning a new skill under the guidance of racing experts put together for me. My team and I have identified the ambitious target of riding competitively in the Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival next year. But the initial focus will be on getting me to a level whereby I am granted an amateur jockey licence, which is a significant challenge in itself given that I had never even sat on a horse until a week ago."

 

CRACKING THE WHIP

All the riders in next week’s Cheltenham Festival have been strongly reminded about the importance of observing the rules on the use of the whip. At the same time the British Horseracing Authority has highlighted the ongoing success of these new rules since they were esatblished at the end of 2011. It is claimed that the breach rate has decreased by 39% since the beginning of 2012. Jamie Stier. The BHA's Director of Regulation commented: “This is of a culture change towards use of the whip amongst riders. We hope that this will remain the case, in particular at next week’s Cheltenham Festival.”

THURSDAY 5th MARCH 2015

 

HUGHES NOT ON FIRST BASE MUCH LONGER!

There must be something about the year 2015. First the champion jump jockey announces that he is to retire and now the champion flat jockey is following in his tracks. 42-year-old Richard Hughes, plans to start training in 2016. There must be something of the 'chip of the old block' as he is the son of the late Dessie Hughes whose major racing wins included the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup. It seems Richard Hughes had always planned to train and has been preparing for this ambition for the last three years

 

An official statement from the Richard Hannon stables states: “Hughesie will be going all out to ride as many winners for us this season, but he is very excited about his new venture and we wish him all the best. Training is something that Hughesie has always wanted to do, and he has been in Newmarket this week doing his modules. He feels that this is the right time for him to switch, and we look forward to being rivals on the track next year and also at the bloodstock sales in the autumn.

 

The Dublin-born jockey added: “I feel physically like I could ride for another five years. My weight is fine and my hunger is as strong as ever. I still have a huge desire to ride as many winners as I can but I know I can’t ride forever. However, I know I can train nearly forever and I want my children to grow up in a training yard in the same way I did.”

 

FEHILY'S GOING TO ROCK AFTER ALL

Noel Fehily's found a way to have another crack at the Champion Hurdle. The jockey from Macroom, County Cork, rode ROCK ON RUBY to victory in this race in 2012 but this year he has something of a dilemma as there was a clash of inteterests in that he has a firm commitment the owners to ride ZARKANDAR at Cheltenham. So Noel Fehily has opten to be aboard the Edward O'Grady-trained KITTEN ROCK in next Tuesday's Grade 1.

 

Chris Broad, Noel Fehily's agent, commented: "Noel's been booked to ride him. There are only eight runners in the race and he's a nice ride to get. A general 25-1 shot, Kitten Rock has won six of his eight starts over hurdles, including his last four runs. The plan is to run and he seems in very good form. I'm happy with him and he's in good shape."

 

THE NAME OF THE GAME

The champion jockey's last ride and final race of the Cheltenham Festival will be in the Grand Annual. This event is traditionally staged in memory of Johnny Henderson, Nicky's father, who is generally regarded as the person who saved Cheltenham racecourse from being taken over by property developers. It has been decided this year, however, to name the race after AP McCoy, who is planning to retire at the end of the jumps season. On this occasion Tony McCoy is scheduled to ride the Noel Meade-trained NED BUNTLINE, last year's runner up who is an 8/1 shot this time around.

 

Nicky Henderson commented yeaterday: "Cheltenham asked us if we were happy to rename the race this year and of course we were. It's the right thing to do and I'm sure it will be a very poignant occasion. I'm certain Dad would have approved, and while I will be trying as hard as ever to win it I'm afraid I'm a bit light on ammo this year."

 

AP McCoy added: "It is a privilege and I would also like to thank the Henderson family for sharing the title for this year."

 

WEDNESDAY 4th MARCH 2015

 

LIVED TO WIN

A nine-year-old gelding with nine starts to his credit and no wins has finally made it first past the post. OSCAR FLYER, who was last seen on the track at Chepstow almost two years ago where he came third, started his training career with Tim Vaughan but has been with various handlers since. Over a year ago the son of OSCAR incurred a serious injury and was subsequently put up for sale and was bought for a mere £300 by a North Yorkshire couple, Valerie and Keith Welton. The former hurdler was nursed back to health by their son, jockey Sam Welton and his partner Carolyn Woods. They spent the past year training him and their kindness and dedication were rewarded when OSCAR FLYER carried his rider to victory in the South Durham Farmers three-mile point-to-point race which even included prize money of £150 and recording the fastest time of the day to boot.

 

The winning jockey commented: “We were hoping he would just make it all the way round. He was really tough that day and battled it out to the line. He was brilliant. It was Carolyn who spotted Oscar Flyer for sale. But when she called me and suggested buying him I wasn’t too keen – he had a bad tendon injury. When we collected him in September 2013 he was actually in the queue for the abattoir – we never expected this to happen.”

 

YOU'RE THE TOP ….”

The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities has declared that the Juddmonte International is classed as the best race in the world. This auspicious contest, held every year at York's Ebor meeting, won the award ahead of such prestigious meetings as the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Breeders' Cup Classic and Japan Cup. The races are ranked according to the first four horses past the winning post over the last three seasons for all the top races. Top horses including AUSTRALIA, THE GREY GATSBY, DECLARATION OF WAR and the legendary FRANKEL have all competed in this Group 1 fixture and, in doing so, have given the Juddemonte the edge over all he other world-wide races.

Aidan O'Brien-trained horses won the last two renewals of the Juddmonte and he commented: "It's a race we love to win and we have been fortunate enough to do so with five great horses; looking at some of the placed horses that we have had in it, we are not surprised that it came out on top."

 

It is also significant that British racing has once more asserted its position across the board , with eight of the top 16 races being held on UK tracks. All of these comprise the British Champions Series and the Qipco Champion Stakes is still in the top three.

 

BHA's Chief executive, Nick Rust, added: "That a British race should again top the world rankings is very encouraging and a further reminder of the strength and quality of racing staged here. Britain's position as the country responsible for the best racing in the world should never be taken for granted, but it is a fantastic endorsement for what we have to offer that eight of the top 16 races in the world are run on these shores."

 

HE DOESN'T PETER OUT

'The Voice of Racing' has made it to 97 and, what is more, is looking forward to enjoying another Cheltenham Festival. Sir Peter O'Sullevan has unfortunately had to spend quite some time in hospital in recent months but he's back home to celebrate the great day. The Irish-born legend is renowned for attending some of the world's biggest racing occasion. He even used to drive himself to Paris to witness the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which he did until his health deteriorated.

 

The famous former BBC racing commentator remarked: "When you get to 97, you can't expect not to have a few impediments! It is good to be back home. I've had five months in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and King Edward VII Hospital, so it's just lovely to be back home. I'm certainly looking forward to the Festival, it's always very special and I'm sad to be missing out this year. There are some very interesting races to look forward to and I just hope the weather is kind. "I think the Champion Hurdle is one of the most fascinating contests of the meeting - there are so many permutations for the race. It's very, very hard to predict. One has to wonder how good the favourite (Faugheen) is as he's not run against the very best yet, so there are question marks. Hurricane Fly is a fantastic horse - his record speaks for itself. He seems to really relish it there and is a proper battler.”

 

TUESDAY 3rd MARCH 2015

 

OPINIONS ARE MADE TO BE CHANGED”

So wrote the poet, Lord George Gordon Byron, and the connections of his virtual equine namesake seem to have similar thoughts. It looks like GORDON LORD BYRON won't be racing at Dundalk on Friday, after all, as he already has a mid-week booking for Hong Kong. The Tom Hogan-trained seven-year-old is now scheduled to run at Sha Tin on March 15 in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup, a seven-furlong contest that has gained international status for the first time this year.

 

The County Tipperary trainer obviously had this venue in mind all the time. In preparation the son of BYRON was given a couple of gallops on Ireland’s only all-weather circuit and, surprisingly, was even entered for this week’s Value Centre Race which is a fast-track qualifier for All-Weather Championships Finals Day that will take place at Lingfield on Good Friday.

 

Tom Hogan commented: “He’s in Newmarket as we speak, he worked this morning on the Al Bahathri and Wayne Lordan rode him. The plan as it stands is for him to catch a ferry to Amsterdam tonight and then fly to Hong Kong on Wednesday. These things are never 100 per cent certain, but if everything goes according to plan that is what will be happening. If for some reason there is a hitch with the travelling and he doesn’t travel to Hong Kong, he’ll turn up in Dundalk on Friday. He’s been to Dundalk a couple of times to work, just to keep him happy, and he seems in good form.”

 

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE BUT NOT ….”

What's so special about Prestbury Park? Racing at Wincanton is abandoned today. A waterlogged Fontwell has an inspection and Exeter's going is heavy, soft in places. Yet a week to go for the you-know-what at Cheltenham, Simon Claisse, Clerk of the Course, announces that they may have to water during the meeting! Apparently the current state of the ground is acceptable but temperatures are forecast to rise around the end of this week and there is hardly any rain due. Cheltenham is notorious for drying out quickly.

 

Simon Claisse commented: "The ground on the Old Course which is used for the first two days is good to soft, soft in places and it is the same on the cross-country course. The New Course is slightly quicker and is good to soft. We are forecast some heavy showers for the next two days, some wintry but only two to three millimetres in total and then it is due to get significantly warmer towards the end of the week. The forecast says it could be 6C or 7C overnight and double figures through the day but there is no sign of any more rain beyond Wednesday. It's looking like Festival week will be warm and dry with chilly nights, but there are currently no signs we'll see the frost covers. Watering through the week is a possibility. We aim to start with ground on the slow side of good, it is difficult to know how fast the ground will dry out, though, so we may need to water through the week which we have done five or six times in the last 14 years."

 

IT'S GRAND FOR NIGHT

Trainer Keith Reveley’s champion had a tougher time than expected on Saturday, mainly due, perhaps, to a much higher handicap mark, when the plan was he should claim Doncaster's Grimthorpe Chase for the second year in a row. As it happened NIGHT OF MILAN struggled to come third, finishing eleven lengths behind the surprise winner WAYWARD PRINCE. This result clearly caused a little re-thinking to take place at Groundhill Farm between trainer and connections and it now seems that the Grand National is the way to go for the son of MILAN.

 

The County Cleveland-based trainer commented: “He’s come out of it grand, no cuts or anything, so it’s straight to the National now. The winner was a very good horse a few years ago and had plummeted down the weights. He was just too well handicapped for us, but we ran our race. He’s proved in his last two races he doesn’t have to make all of the running now, and that is crucial because that would be very hard to do in a National. You can’t make all (of the running) off top weight in staying chases, at least it is very hard to do, so we’ve changed tactics slightly. Anything can happen in a National. He actually made a bit of a mistake at the first on Saturday because when you drop him in he can lose a bit of concentration, and that will be out biggest worry on the second circuit. If he’s still there on the second circuit and can get into a rhythm and find a bit of space he’ll definitely keep galloping.”

 

MONDAY 2nd MARCH 2015

 

LIFE'S NOT SO TWEET

Melbourne Cup winning jockey, Christophe Lemaire, was on the point of assuming his new role as a fully-licensed rider at the Hashin racecourse in Japan when he was given a month's ban by the Japan Racing Association (JRA). His offence? He retweeted an acquaintance's post. JRA rules prohibit jockeys from contacting anyone until after their final race at any race meeting in Japan. Stewards at the racecourse discovered that the 35-year-old French jockey had not switched off his mobile phone on the Saturday evening when he checked in to the jockeys' quarters, the day before he was due to race. This outcome is aggravated by the fact that Christophe Lemaire was just getting back to racing after a three-month absence due to a broken leg which he sustained in the final race on the Kyoto card when his mount, FERGUSON, swerved violently into the running rail.

 

Fumi Tsuruoka, JRA's Paris representative commented: "It is prohibited for the jockeys to contact any person outside after checking in the jockey's quarter until when he/she finishes his/her final ride in that race meeting for the purpose of integrity."

 

That means that Christophe Lemaire will have to wait another month before getting back in to the saddle as there is no right of appeal under JRA rules.

 

BACK ON TRACK

Another long-term absentee from the race track celebrated a triumphant return to the fray last week. SHUIL ROYALE, formerly with David Arbuthnot but now trained by Harry Fry, was coming back from over a year's break. The ten-year-old put on a good show for his for his owner Phil Fry (no relation to Harry). The son of KING'S THEATRE, despite his long absence, was the top weight but that doesn't seem to have hindered him. He appeared definitely to enjoy being back and gave jockey Ryan Mahon a ride worth waiting when winning the Weatherbys Hamilton Handicap Chase by a head. This was his first victory since the Bathwick Tyres Handicap Chase at Wincanton in March 2013.

 

The winning Dorset-based trainer commented: “Phil has long been a supporter of Richard Barber’s point-to-pointers (Harry’s landlord) and sent me Shuil Royale following an injury setback.”

 

NOT THE FIRST NOEL

Trainer Noel Meade has been regularly notching up winners lately and yesterday a Navan victory added one more to the score. This time it was the turn of six-year-old WILDEBEEST with Paul carberry aboard who claimed the Nobber Maiden Hurdle by two lengths, adding to his bumper win at punchestown in November, ridden on that occasion by Paul's sister, Nina.

Big brother rode his usual patient race, creeping, picking off rivals one by one as he prepared to assert his authority as the field proceeded into the straight. Paul Carberry seemed to be in no great hurry to go into the lead, even allowing the 11/4 joint-favourite, SIZING TITANIUM, to join him whilst negotiating the final flight and then casually drew away to an easy victory in the soft to heavy ground.

 

County Meath-based Noel Meade commented: "He worked last Tuesday with the horse that won yesterday (Heck Thomas) and I was thinking either the other horse worked badly or he worked exceptionally well. He's a chaser for next year. He's a big horse by Oscar and could make a nice one. He didn't seem to fire last time at Leopardstown. He handles that soft ground and jumps great. We'll try and win another one, but chasing is his game. He hasn't done much wrong and wants further. Today you'd have to get two and a half to win over two miles."

 

SUNDAY 1st MARCH 2015

 

A PRINCELY VICTORY

Prince William may be the star on his visit to Japan at the moment but an equine royal was Doncaster's delight yesterday when he won the BetBright Grimthorpe Chase by seven lengths. The victory was all the more surprising because the 25/1 Hilary Parrott-trained WAYWARD PRINCE hasn't won a race since December 2012, even though he had proved himself capable of scoring in a Grade 1 hurdle back in 2010. Since then things haven't seemed to go right for the son of ALFIORA. He seems to have managed to get his act together for yesterday's contest, though, and, moving smoothly in the professional hands of Robbie Dunne, aboard for the first time, was content to stay in the slipstream of joint favourite, STREAMS OF WHISKEY. The latter bungled his jumping of the fifth fence from home, giving WAYWARD PRINCE a clear advantage which was compounded when this rival was pulled up, making the result a foregone conclusion.

 

The winning Gloucestershire trainer commented: "He's been working very well at home but we were going to retire him after his last run because he'd had three dismal runs. I decided I would retire him. I went away for a week and my head girl (Laurianne York) said we shouldn't retire him as he was absolutely flying, so I thought we'd give him a chance. We'll keep him going and I suppose he'll run again this season somewhere. Robbie (Dunne) suggested the Scottish National. We'll have to see how he is at home first."

 

Robbie Dunne added: "You'd love a spin like that every day. He got into a lovely rhythm and when I pulled him out for a bit of light, he came alive. He ran off 124. Three runs ago he ran off 142 and that good ground helped him an awful lot."

 

ANOTHER HIGGINS ON THE BALL

Another unexpected victory presented itself at Lingfield yesterday in the 32 Red Conditions Stakes. The Nicky Henderson-trained HURRICANE HIGGINS got back into the winner's enclosure after an absence of more than two years. In fact the last time he raced was at Longchamp in October 2012 when he finished last in the Prix Royal-Oak. At that time he was being trained by Mark Johnston. The son of HURRICANE RUN was partnered as usual by Joe Fanning who settled comfortably in the rear early until he was ready to ask him the question, the response to which was a well-timed run to mug the odds-on favourite, GOLD TRAIL on the line by a nose.

 

BARRY DIDN'T TARRY

When everything is properly in place there is no more formidable foe on the race track than Barry Geraghty and yesterday at Newbury proved to be one of those occasions. The County Meath-born jockey gave one of his customary powerful performances when he steered the Neil Mulholland-trained LEAVE IT BE to a four-and-a-half length victory in the Betfair Supporting Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Hurdle. The eventual outcome was by no means assured because the eight-year-old grey seemed to be labouring a bit as the runners turned for home in the two-mile-five-furlong contest but the son of HIGH RISE proved to be made of sterner stuff and stayed on in gamely in the home straight before surging into the lead as he jumped the last hurdle and showing his rivals a clean pair of heels all the way to the post.

 

The Limpley Stoke-based winning trainer commented: "He had two nice runs, to be fair, and we hoped that the step up in trip would help, the way he galloped on at Chepstow. He came out of the Chepstow race well. The boys (owners) were keen to come here. They went a nice gallop and that helped him settle better. He was a bit keen in his novice races and they went that gear quicker."

 

SATURDAY 28th FEBRUARY 2015

 

MIDNIGHT LADY”

The Met office is forecasting rain between 9am and mid-day then a break with clouds until 4pm and then more rain. Still, that might just be enough to fulfill the wish of Tom Symonds who is hoping to saddle MIDNIGHT BELLE in todays's £50,000 StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup, which would represent one of the biggest wins of his eight-year-old's career. The daughter of MIDNIGHT LEGEND has quite a bit on her plate as she is also going for a hat-trick after winning the European Breeders' Fund/Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares' Novices' Chase at ludlow in the middle of January and the totescoop6 Updates At totepoolliveinfo.com Handicap Chase the last time out.

 

The Ross-on-Wye based young trainer commented: "Midnight Belle is only really effective on soft ground and we are hoping there is more rain coming to Newbury, which it sounds like hopefully there will be. She quite surprised us with her win at Wetherby last time and she has now put herself in the position where she has to go for races like the Greatwood Gold Cup. She has won seven races now and has been an absolute star for us. Anything more she can do will be a bonus. This could be her last real opportunity this season as the ground will have gone for her by the time of races like the mares' final at Cheltenham in April."

 

NOTHING LIKE THE FIRST TIME”

All the racing news at the moment seems to be focused on the pending Cheltenham Festival but one top trainer family would have had thoughts elsewhere last night when one of their number rode her first winner as an apprentice at Wolverhampton. Megan Nicholls, 17-year-old daughter of Paul, turned professional early this year, after notching up five victories as an amateur in 2014 and sealed her new career by landing the Bet In Play At Coral Apprentice Handicap aboard the James Eustace-trained GIOS LAST

 

The delighted winning jockey commented: "That's my first winner as an apprentice from my fourth ride so that's great. I'm very lucky to pick up a nice ride. I have been with Clive Cox a couple of weeks now, it's been going really well and I'm enjoying it; he's looking after me. I'm looking forward to getting going on the turf now - I will keep my head down and see what I can do."

 

THE MARE THE MERRIER

Can't avoid mentioning the Cheltenham Festival! There's good reason for it. The OLBG Mares' Hurdle scheduled for 10 March has attracted more entries than usual this year largely probably due to the fact that the race has been elevated to Grade 1 status. One mare to keep an eye on is the Willie Mullins-trained ANNIE POWER who claimed second place in the Ladbrokes' World Hurdle at last year's at Prestbury Park and it is on the cards that the seven-year-old will go for that event again, although the OLBG seems more and more. The daughter of SHIROCCO's success in not a foregone conclusion, however, as her own stable-mate, GLENS MELODY will have another tune to play and could very well land this prize for herself. This KING'S THEATRE seven-year-old produced good credentials last year when she was runner-up to the six-time heroine winner of the OLBG Mares' Hurdle. QUEVEGA, also trained by Willie Mullins. GLENS MELODY is certainly a noteworthy second string for the County Meath handler who will be aiming to bag this contest for the seventh year running.

British opposition to the Irish raider took a few knocks recently certainly when from Britain met with a setback recently when the John QuinN-trained AURORE D'ESTRUVAL was withdrawn because of injury. That leaves horses such as POLLY PEACHUM, L'UNIQUE and THE PIRATES QUEEN with the task of taking on Ireland's top mares.

 

Nicky Henderson recently commented: "I took Polly Peachum to Kempton on Tuesday for a spin and she worked very well with David Bass on board. I'm really pleased with her at the moment, she's a lovely mare and Barry Geraghty will ride her in the OLBG.com Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham."

 

Alan King mentioned his two leading candidates: "L'Unique's in very good form, I couldn't be happier with her. It's always been the plan to give her a mid­winter break and then bring her back for the OLBG Mares' Hurdle as she's a spring horse really. We are hoping for better ground and Wayne Hutchinson will ride her. “The Pirate's Queen's in good shape after a nice little break and will join L'Unique in the Mares' Hurdle with Dennis O'Regan taking the ride. She's been winning through the winter despite not enjoying the ground so we hope it dries up a bit."

 

FRIDAY 27th FEBRUARY 2015

 

THE RAINBOW'S END

Kim Bailey seems still keen on chasing the pot of gold despite the poor performance of his veteran, THE RAINBOW HUNTER, at Kempton a week ago when Noel Fehily had to pull him up by before the 13th fence in the Grade 3 BetBright Gold Cup. The Andoversford-based trainer is still aiming to run his eleven-year-old in the Grand National even though he was last seen ditching Aidan Coleman at the Canal Turn in the 2014 renewal of the world-famous contest. The Kempton race, however, didn't help to rate his chances at Aintree, either, as the son of RAINBOW HIGH was soon as soon struggling on the soft ground.

 

Kim Bailey, who last won the Grand National in 1990 with MR FRISK, commented: "I was fairly happy with the Kempton run. The ground was terrible on the day and it did not suit him at all. He done well to get round as far as he did in the conditions. We've been quite lucky in a way. He's been dropped three pounds since and would not have made the Grand National if the weights had been announced a week later. He's been unlucky in his last two Grand Nationals after being pulled up and unseating when interfered with on both occasions. The better ground should see him improve at Aintree. Hopefully it can be third time lucky."

 

OLIVER GETS MORE

Trainer Oliver Sherwood hasn't been having too good a season so far with only five winners to his name so yesterday's success by GLOBAL POWER in the Forbra Gold Cup at Ludlow would have warmed the cockles of his heart. The unlucky nine-year-old, ridden by his regular jockey, Leighton Aspell was denied victory by a neck in the Axio Special Works Handicap Chase in December and then, to make matters worse, had to be pulled up in the Welsh National at the end of January. So yesterday's win was something of a consolation prize and Leighton Aspell had no problems with the son of SUBTLE POWER on this occasion, putting the race to ber by four lengths.

 

This made a welcome double for Oliver Sherwood on the day because half an hour earlier BLAMEITONMYROOTS, also with Leighton Aspell aboard, ran a brave race to win the Follow @corbettsports On Twitter Mares' Handicap Hurdle. This event wasn't so easy, though, as champion jockey, Tony McCoy almost snatched victory on the Kim Bailey-trained A SHADE OF GREY after the last hurdle but the five-year-old son of TURTLE ISLAND managed to fight back and win by a length and a quarter.

 

A delighted Hungerford-based trainer commented: "She's a tough girl and is still improving. She's still very green. I was mortified after her first run and can't believe she was able to win a point-to-point. They didn't go a great gallop but Leighton said he sort of had to win the race twice. He was lucky AP (McCoy) challenged quite early as that meant she had time to respond."

 

LIKE DAD, LIKE DAUGHTER

Barry Geraghty made a gift of his only Thurles race to the daughter of a lengendary trainer when he won the Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle on the Sandra Hughes-trained SUB LIEUTENANT. Her late father Dessie had made this contest his for the last three renewals with LYREEN LEGEND, BRIGHT NEW DAWN and GIANTOFAMAN. So the six-year-old son of BRIAN BORU was keeping it in the family, so to speak.

 

Sandra Hughes commented: “I was disappointed with him in Leopardstown last day - that wasn’t him. I was very afraid of the ground today, because we always thought he was a good ground horse. But he’s tough as old boots. Barry gave him a super ride - he was tough on him, what he needs. This horse is entered for Cheltenham (in both the Supreme Novices and Neptune) and I wouldn't be afraid to bring him. But I’ll have to talk to Michael and Eddie (O'Leary). If he doesn’t travel, he’ll head for Fairyhouse.”

 

THURSDAY 26th FEBRUARY 2015

 

SAINTS ALIVE – HE WON!

The Weatherbys Bank Handicap Hurdle at Bangor yesterday was the scene for celebration for a popular Somerset-based trainer. The cause for rejoicing was that David Pipe clocked up his century for the season with a perhaps nail-biting performance from SAINT JOHN HENRY who has certainly upped the ante by making it three wins in as many starts. The five-year-old son of SAINT DES SAINTS made the race his from the outset but it was not a faultless affair. He made a mistake at the second hurdle, the third from home and at the last but he was well clear by then and clinched the contest convincingly by six lengths

 

The winning jockey, Tom Scudamore, commented afterwards: "He's one of those horses that the more we've done with him, the more he's stepped up to the mark. He was quite backward to begin with, but he's improved. He's really beginning to blossom. He's going to have to step up again as the handicapper is going to have his say after this, but he's a young horse and he has the confidence going. Hopefully he can continue on an upward curve."

 

NO HURRY, HARRY!

Trainer Harry Fry's successes ROCK ON RUBY may not much longer be able to depend on the services of his regular rider, Noel Fehily, who has been aboard the son of OSCAR for fifteen of his career starts, seven of which have been wins. The successful Dorset-based trainer has let it be known that his ten-year-old may well need a new jockey when going for the World Hurdle at Cheltenham in a couple of weeks' time. The problem is that Noel Fehily is now retained by Potensis Bloodstock who are co-owners of another World Hurdle contestant, ZARKANDAR, so there may well be an unavoidable clash of interests. Although the Cheltenham Festival is approaching fast Harry Fry seems to be in no particular hurry to decide uon a potential replacement.

 

As he commented: “Noel is retained to ride Zarkandar and there is every possibility that he won’t be available, but we will cross that bridge when we know the final decision. I’ve had a few text messages about it. We’ve got two weeks to go. The horses and jockeys have got to get there first and the plans are fluid. We can’t confirm either way who’ll end up riding him at the moment.”

 

ROAD TO LOVE AFTER ROAD TO RICHES!

Nothing appears to be more important than the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Or so it seems. The recently married top Irish trainer, Noel Meade, has even cancelled his honeymoon so that his lexus Chase winner, ROAD TO RICHES can have a crack at this prestigious Prestbury Park challenge. The County Meath handler has four Festival winners to his name so far and is not known to waste his time sending over horses to compete just for the sake of it. The fact that he is prepared to disappoint his new bride proves it. “For better for worse, for richer for poorer, to love and to race at Cheltenham ….”.

 

Noel Meade commented: “Cheltenham is the place where I have to be right at this moment.” If Road To Riches is in the sort of form I have him at the moment when he runs in the Gold Cup, he's going run a tremendous race. “I don't think there's much between the Irish horses. We've beaten them all, but the one we all have to worry about is Silviniaco Conti.”

 

I ran Harbour Pilot in the 2003 Gold Cup and everybody was giving me stick and told me he should be going for one of the handicaps. But he did not disappoint me when third behind Best Mate. I think Road To Riches is better than that fella but I cannot say that I thought he was a Gold Cup horse after he won the Galway Plate in July. But he's done nothing but improve.”

 

WEDNESDAY 25th FEBRUARY 2015

 

CLOUDS' SILVER LINING.

Oliver Sherwood is praying that it keeps on raining for the next few weeks so that MANY CLOUDS can have a fair crack at the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 13 (another Friday 13th!!) The eight-year-old gelding will begin some serious schooling over fences from tomorrow in preparation for the challenge. The son of CLOUDINGS has had a three-out-of- three this season at Carlisle, Newbury and Cheltenham with the Berkshire racecourse offering the most glory as he added the Hennessy Gold Cup to his credits. Not that his performance in the the BetBright Cup Chase at Cheltenham last month is anything to be sniffed at as he got the better of such revered rivals as SMAD PLACE, DYNASTE and THE GIANT BOLSTER

 

The Upper Lambourn-based trainer commented: "He did his first piece of semi-serious work (on Tuesday morning) and I plan to pop him over a few fences on Thursday. His latest success at Cheltenham was impressive and I just hope the forecast remains bad in the next couple of weeks."

 

DONNY'S DELIGHT

If you want to know what's going to happen at the Cheltenham Festival, go to Doncaster! As the sun sets on another jumps season at the Town Moor Track, a special Cheltenham Preview Evening will be hosted there on Saturday, 28 February. Prior to, arguably, the most prestigious race days in the UK National Hunt racing calendar two well-known Channel 4 Racing personalities will discuss their take on the days' events with the interested racegoers. Betting reporter, Tanya Stevenson and racing expert Graham Cunningham will rate the chances of the main contenders in the feature races at Prestbury Park, with Doncaster Racecourse’s regular racing tipster, Roger Hart, hosting the event. This Preview Evening is free to attend for anyone who has bought a ticket for the BetBright February Festival’s Saturday fixture. The Cheltenham Preview evening will begin after the day's racing at

 

Executive Director of Doncaster Racecourse, Kieran Gallagher, commented: “The Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights of the National Hunt calendar, and a meeting that attracts a huge amount of interest from horse racing fans across the UK. We’re delighted to be hosting a preview evening with a panel of this stature ahead of this important fixture and the event is also a fitting way to bring our own National Hunt season to a close. ”

 

TESTING TIMES

Monday marks a new era in drug control. The British Horseracing Authority has drawn up new anti-doping rules, including a zero-tolerance approach to anabolic steroids, and these will be operational from March 2nd. The rules declare that no horse should be given an anabolic steroid at any point in its life. If traces of such drugs are found on examination, a mandatory stand-down period from training will apply for 12 months and the horse will be ineligible to start in any race in Britain for a total of 14 months. There is also the requirement that all horses must be available for testing at any time after registering with the General Stud Book. In addition, horses born in Great Britain must also be registered with Weatherbys within 12 months of their birth. Horses that are imported permanently to the UK must be registered with Weatherbys within 90 days of arrival, accompanied by a sample that shows no evidence of administration of anabolic steroids or other substances banned at all times.

 

Horses imported from Ireland, France and Germany that have spent 12 months under their equivalent policies will be exempt from this requirement as those countries apply similar policies. Horses from the named countries will be treated as British runners and samples will be taken according to the standard testing policy. Owners of any runner from foreign countries must be in the UK a minimum of ten business days in advance of their proposed race and notify the BHA of their whereabouts in order to facilitate post-arrival sampling and analysis. The results of such tests which will be published before the horse races.

 

Rupert Arnold, Chief Executive of the National Trainers Federation stated: “The NTF has been working with the BHA to ensure the guide is clear. We are pleased to have contributed and are grateful to the trainers who have given us helpful feedback.”

 

Nick Rust, BHA's Chief Executive added: “Following the events of 2013 ( the Al Zarooni and George Butler cases) it is essential that the BHA ensured that British racing would remain at the forefront of a critical topic for not only racing but all modern sports. The enhanced, zero-tolerance rules represent exactly that. The BHA will continue this role and ensure that British and international racing does all within its power to remain at the forefront of combating doping. We hope that the steps we have taken will lead other nations to follow suit and implement rules that are as stringent as ours, for the good of the sport and the horse.”

 

TUESDAY 24th FEBRUARY 2015

 

SEE WHAT THE BOYS (AND GIRLS!) IN THE BACKROOM WILL HAVE!”

Last night the manager of a Bridgend stud got what was coming to her. It was the occasion of the annual Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, first held in 2005 to celebrate all those who work in racing. In partnership with the Racing Post and with the generous sponsorship and support of Godolphin, the awards are organised by BHA and offer prize money of £120,000. This time Jessica Fortt, manager of the Dunraven Stud was honoured as employee of the year and apart from receiving the trophy was the happy recipient of a cheque for £40,000 - half of which will be shared out among the rest of the stable staff. There were sixteen in the final this year and all were praised by the judges for their talent, outstanding commitment and contribution to the racing industry.

 

Looking as surprised as Eddie Redmayne receiving the Oscar, Jessica Fortt commented: "I'm totally shocked, I didn't expect to win at all. To be one of the finalists was fantastic and to win overall is just incredible, I'm so pleased."

Jessica Fortt joined Dunraven Stud 16 years ago after a serious injury to her face put an end to promising apprentice career. She is responsible for all aspects of the work on the stud, which includes office administration, stallion handling, foaling throughout the season, breaking in, updating owners and sending videos to owner of their new foals.

 

Chairman of the judging panel, Brough Scott, alongside his fellow judges, Ian Balding, Peter Scudamore and last year’s winner Leanne Masterton, said: “This year’s awards have yet again produced a quite outstanding set of finalists and excellent winners. Despite the remarkable credentials of the winners, Jessica was a clear-cut choice for employee of the year in the eyes of the judging panel. Despite not being the typical stud staff breed, at less than five feet tall she shows empathy with each stallion and a natural way of handling them that means her lack of physicality is not an issue.”

 

NOT SO SLOW!

The champion jockey was at it again yesterday! This time at Plumpton. Tony McCoy rode the Jim Best-trained SLOWFOOT to victory in the Compare Prices At attheraces.com/odds Maiden Hurdle. The German seven-year-old, contrary to what you'd expect from his name, put up an impressive performance on his first appearance in this country and dealt with any challenges easily and went on to win by six lengths.

 

AP McCoy looked confident throughout the two-mile race and, although there might have been a few missed heartbeats when Daryl Jacob steered the Tony Carroll-handled KEYS smoothly into the lead in the final straight, SLOWFOOT's fleet footedness, after negotiating the final flight, signed, sealed and delivered the prize.

 

The son of HERNANDO could now well be considered for a crack at the Grand National in April after this show of eye-catching expertise over the jumps. For some trainers the age of seven could be a bit late to start National Hunt racing but Jim Best seems to have no qualms, commenting: "It all went to plan and he's nice type. His form in Germany is okay. We left a bit to work on today as well. We'll have to go back and reflect now and think where to go. I suppose you could think of Liverpool (Aintree) or something like that. Let's not forget it was his first run over hurdles today and it's not easy for them out there."

 

CAMERON'S A WINNER. JUST!

There must have been a few peeved punters around at Ayr yesterday when the odds-on favourite was mugged on the line in the Back Of The Net at BetVictor.com Novices’ Chase. The Micky Hammond-trained JUST CAMERON, making his chasing debut, took the initiative from the start, going 15 lengths clear at one stage. But then he was not very fluent at the third fence and after blundering four from home, a confidently ridden DUKE OF NAVAN seized the opportunity to go into the lead. The eight-year-old son of KAYF TARA, however, wasn't giving up so easily and bravely rallied again and took control of the race to inch out the favourite by a neck.

 

The winning trainer, based in Middleham, North Yorkshire, commented afterwards: “He won over hurdles for us at Sedgefield earlier on in the year. He has the make and shape of a chaser and we thought we’d go as far as we could over hurdles so we decided to put him over fences. He jumped well in the main and coped with the ground though I think he’ll be better on better ground. It was a good start to his chasing career.”

 

MONDAY 23rd FEBRUARY 2015

 

SNOW WAY TO GO!

Joanna Morgan, who plans to saddle her last runners at Dundalk on Friday before retiring, had a memorable day in St Moritz yesterday on unusual ground – snow. Her DUCHESS ANDORRA, ridden by Colin Keane, did the honours by winning the Grand Prix Schlossatelier in grand style.

 

The County Meath-based trainer surprised the racing community last month when she announced that she was retiring. Joanna Morgan was the first woman to ride in an Irish Classic when she rode RIOT HELMET in the 1976 Irish Derby and went on to establish another record by being the first to be placed third on EL CITO in the Irish St Leger in 1980. She has ridden winners on every continent and was the first female jockey to race at Royal Ascot, topping that by training a winner at the Berkshire track when ROCA TUMU landed the Britannia Handicap in 2013.

 

By 1997 she had clocked up more than 200 winners but her love of training took over and she she decided to concentrate on that, producing probably one of her best horses, ONE WON ONE, who went on to win the Group Three Phoenix Sprint Stakes in 2002.

 

Joanna Morgan commented: "I'm giving it up for no real reason except that my heart isn't in it. I don't know why. I just felt I couldn't tackle it for another season. Having said that, I've never had as good as owners or a nicer bunch of horses going into next year, but I just couldn't hack it. I had a winner in every continent as a jockey. I rode a winner in Kenya very early on in my career. I had winners in America, Japan, Dubai and Australia as well. In Dubai they used to race on a camel track. It was great experience. At that time it was an extraordinary thing for a woman to ride in Classics and at Royal Ascot. It's moved on since those days and there's definitely a place for women riders."

 

GO THE DISTANCE!

Another case of a jockey misjudging the distance of a race. This time it was Lucy Gardner at Fontwell Park in the totepoolliveinfo.com Handicap Hurdle over an extended two and a quarter miles. The Devon-based rider aboard SIROP DE MENTHE, trained by her mother, Sue, misjudged an unusual race distance and and consequently, sat motionless in the saddle when well in the lead two out and allowed the eventual winner, the Colin Gordon-trained VERY NOBLE to overtake and score by four and a half lengths.

 

The Exeter-based rider, reportedly, explained to the local stewards that she had mistaken the distance of the race and thought there was another circuit to go for the finishing post and consequently had not ridden the five-year-old son of DISCOVER D'AUTEUIL out to the line. The regulators of the racetrack regime were unimpressed, however, and dished out a 14-day suspension. The sad thing is this ban will run from March 8 to march 21 and - whadya know! - the Cheltenham Festival falls slap bang in the middle of those dates!

 

AYR'S ANOTHER THING

Trainer, Nick Alexander’s bundle of equine excellence, LITTLE GLENSHEE, who rarely finishes outside the frame, will be seeking to increase her career wins to five when she runs in the Play Casino At BetVictor.com Handicap Chase at Ayr today. The nine-year-old has only one chase victory to her name and that was her last win at the 109-year-old Whitletts Road track in February 2014 so, quite naturally her connections are hoping for big things this afternoon. For her sins, the daughter of TERIMON will have to put up with top weight for this race, another extended two and a half miles, so I hope jockey Lucy Alexander keeps her wits about her, if she doesn't want to miss the Cheltenham shindig! LITTLE GLENSHEE, however, should be able to handle that, being a strong mare with plenty of stamina. Although she has done pretty well over longer distances it seems that there is a strong case to be made for her making the shorter trip. Another consideration is that this will be a not too challenging test for her.

SUNDAY 22nd FEBRUARY 2015

 

A SHOT IN THE ARM!

All guns were blazing yesterday for SIRE DE GRUGY when he made his second only visit to Chepstow in the Rifles Handicap Chase Supporting Care For Casualties. The nine-year-old certainly made up for his performance at Newbury at the beginning of the month when he unseated the hapless Jamie Moore. His three rivals were left in no doubt that the son of MY RISK was back in form as he left them trailing seven, nine and twenty-seven lengths behind, respectively, as he passed the post. Despite being upwards of twenty pounds heavier than the rest of the field SIRE DE GRUGY powered into the lead three fences out and a combination of excellent jumping and seemingly endless stamina sealed the victory. It looks now that his connections' confidence was fully warranted and he is now on track to defend his Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in a few weeks' time.

 

A jaunty Jamie Moore commented: "They went a proper gallop trying to stretch us. It was a very impressive performance. He was jumping so well. Halfway up the home straight I was buzzing because he was giving me such a wonderful feel. He's right back where he was at this time last year. He was a little tired after the last fence, but that was because of the big weight. He goes to Cheltenham with every chance and I certainly wouldn't swap him."

 

HORSES FOR COURSES

The Weatherbys Fact Book has revealed that the number of British and Irish-bred horses exported to Qatar last year was 189, making it the highest figure since they started publishing records. The figure could be even higher as sometimes it can take up to nine months to obtain an export licence. The small Qatar Peninsula on the North-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, was in fact fifth in the list of countries to whom both Britain and Ireland most commonly exported. In 2011 it received 68 horses sent to the Gulf state.

 

Whilst Qatari investment in British and Irish domestic racing has been substantially maintained in recent years, this latest report reveals that Qatar is augmenting its acquisitions. Buyers from this Arab State have always favoured the Tattersalls July Sale. The year 2013 was significant when trainers Ibrahim Al-Malki and Gassim Ghazali bought the top three lots.

 

Jimmy George, Marketing Director for Tattersalls commented: "The impact of the Qatari ruling family on sales at Tattersalls in recent years has been massive and most importantly their enthusiasm is having a similar impact in so many different areas of the sport. Members of the ruling Al Thani family have mostly been involved at the higher end of the market, but other Qatari buyers have long been prolific at Tattersalls at all levels of the market, and it would be fair to say that in the past few years their contribution to sales at Tattersalls has been greater than ever. The Gulf region as a whole is hugely important to both Tattersalls and the wider industry, and Qatar has been a very significant market to us for many years.

"We make promotional trips to Qatar every year and visits to the country have been a feature of our global marketing since the 1990s.”

 

SPICE AND ALL THINGS NICE

After being off the track for nearly three months the Chris Gordon-trained COMEONGINGER put six lengths between him and his nearest rival in the BetBright Risk Free Bet Handicap Chase at Kempton Park yesterday. Jockey, Richard Johnson had the pleasure of steering the EIGHT-YEAR-OLD back to winning ways in the two and a half mile race. The son of KING'S THEATRE did appear to tire a little as he approached the last fence but he stayed on gamely to clinch the victory.

 

The winning Winchester-based trainer effused: "His jumping was smashing. He is not really a winter ground horse that is why he has missed the last six weeks. I thought it would be better ground at the start of the week so he had every right to get tired on that ground. He has been very brave. I think I will just keep him low profile for now to keep building his confidence. The way he jumps I would love to think he may be a Topham horse next year."

SATURDAY 21st FEBRUARY 2015

 

KEEPING HIM IN THE PICTURE

It's the Betfred Eider at Newcastle today and that's where Maurice Phelan is heading from Ireland with PORTRAIT KING and, by all accounts he is confident his ten-year-old can repeat his 2012 success. The son of PORTRAIT GALLERY then made history by becoming the first Irish-trained winner of this prestigious handicap chase for over ten years. Unfortunately things didn't pan out too well for the grey gelding after that for he struggled to finish in the Scottish National two months later and was then incapacitated for over a year and a half due to injury. When he resumed racing it looked like PORTRAIT GALLERY may have had his day but he defied his critics by coming up trumps in the Connolly's Red Mills Amateur National For The Conyngham Cup (Q.R.) Handicap Chase at Punchestown in the first week in January and, impressively, going back there three weeks ago to claim second place in the Grand National Trial Handicap Chase .

 

The Athy, County Kildare-based trainer commented: “We’re looking forward to it. We travelled over on Thursday night and the horse travelled well, so we’re just hoping for the best. He had to have a long time off with injury, but he’s come back to form on his last two runs and I think he’s as good as he ever was. I think he’s improved again since his last run and hopefully he’s at his peak. I walked the course (on Friday morning) and I’m happy with the ground. All we can do is hope for a bit of luck in running and that he runs up to his best.”

 

SHOULD GO FAR

On the other hand Alan Bailey's making the shorter trip of 94 miles from Newmarket to Lingfield Park to saddle GO FAR In the £45,000 six-furlong Listed Unibet Cleves Stakes which is a qualifying contest for the £150,000 Unibet Sprint Championships to be held at the same track on All-Weather Championships Finals Day on Good Friday. The five-year-old son of DUTCH ART was surprisingly by his stablemate, BADDILINI, in the Unibet Handicap at the Sussex racecourse at the beginning of February. The five-year-old will be ridden by for the first time by Ryan Moore today.

 

The Suffolk-based trainer commented: "Go Far was a little bit ring rusty last time. It took him a while to get going but he flew home and could have possibly won. He is very well in himself and has definitely come on for that. It is a step up in class but I'm hopeful of a big run. It is good to have Ryan on board as well. In terms of jockeys, you can't get any better than him."

 

EVEN STEPHENS

Excitement at Kempton Park, too. Robert Stephens is taking BELTOR there to see whether he can match his end-of-January success at Ludlow in the Watch On 3 Devices Racing UK Juvenile Hurdle. Today he'll be taking on an even longer-named race, the - (deep breath!) - BetBright Cheltenham Festival Fund Adonis Juvenile Hurdle. The four-year-old, purchased for 30,000 guineas at Tattersalls October Sales, delighted his connections with first performance over hurdles. The son of AUTHORIZED showed eight rivals what he was made of four weeks ago at Ludlow and he now has an entry in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Welsh trainer, Robert Stephens, who only took out his licence in June 2013, commented: "The race he won at Ludlow has worked out very well. He did that nicely for his first start over hurdles. Hopefully he's come on a lot for that and we think a lot of him. I want to step him up to see exactly where we are and it's a nice sized field for him as well. You'd have to see how he gets on before you think about Cheltenham."

 

FRIDAY 20th FEBRUARY 2015

 

ZAYFIRE ARAMIS is off on his travels again. This time to Exeter for the Up The Villa Handicap Hurdle in which he will have ten rivals. The ground seems right: Soft, Good to Soft in places. The distance, however does seem on the short side: 2 miles 1 furlong. The problem seems to be for trainer, Michael Scudamore to find suitable longer distances at this time of the year. The six-year-old son of SAFEEN's last three races have been two-and-a-half miles at Chepstow and Ffos Las. He did, however, come third in his maiden outing at Wetherby over two miles but that was a National Hunt Flat race. Interestingly he will not be partnered by the trainer's brother this time but by Malton-born Andrew Tinkler. Tom Scudamore will, in fact, be aboard the John Farrelly-trained bay filly, MOVING WAVES who has had sixteen outings but managed to break her duck on the Flat in the Macmillan Roseland Business Park A1 Eastmidlands Handicap last August.

 

ZAYFIRE ARAMIS sems to have been ignored by both bookie and punter so let's hope they are are all in for a big surprise!

 

ANOTHER HURDLE

It seems that Jessica Harrington is more worried about the Willie Mullins-trained FAUGHEEN when it comes to her stable star, JEZKI's defence of his Champion Hurdle crown at Cheltenham in March, even though her seven-year-old has been beaten three times this season by stablemate, HURRICANE FLY. The son of MILAN is reported to be in great form ready for, what is usually, his most successful part of the racing season and his Moone-based trainer seems confident that the JP Manus-owned gelding can pull it off again this year.

Last year's performance was a highlight since, after winning the Champion Hurdle he went on to trounce HURRICANE FLY at Punchestown. That form didn't hold, however, as mentioned earlier, but there is optimistic speculation that a combination of drying ground and a left-handed track, where JEZKI excels, as proved by his having produced a fourth in the Champion Bumper and a third in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle before his big triumph at Cheltenham.

 

Jessica Harrington commented yesterday: “I have no hesitation in saying Faugheen is the biggest danger. He’s beaten what’s been served up to him in England and I just think he’s the unknown quantity. We still have Hurricane Fly, and I know Willie still loves Hurricane Fly to death, but Faugheen is the unknown quantity. Jezki came out of Leopardstown well and he is going to work on Friday morning on the grass. We’re on schedule at the moment and, touching all wood, everything is going according to plan.”

 

The big thing is that HURRICANE FLY is now eleven years old, four years older than both his two great rivals, JEZKI and FAUGHEEN but Jessica harrington doesn't necessarily think that's a negative.

 

As she added: “I must say when he appeared in the Morgiana I thought he looked as fit as a flea and ready to go. Willie has said that he’s had him in a better place this year than he has had him probably ever. It would be no surprise to me if he did go and win another Champion Hurdle. It would be a great feat of training. Faugheen is the young horse coming up and you always fear the younger ones rather than the older ones. You don’t know how good they are, and what we’ve seen him do has been very good. You could argue he hasn’t beaten anything, but he could only do it as well as he could.”

 

BOUND FOR FRANCE

It looks likely that the Gordon Elliott-trained BAYAN won't be going for the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival but rather the Prix Juigne at Auteuil on March 1. The six-year-old son of DANEHILL DANCER has done his connections proud, winning the Ladbroke at Ascot just before Christmas. Although he's a favourite the Coral Cup, co-owner Gary O’Brien said that if nothing untoward happened the French contest, with prize money of €135,000, would be the target.

He commented: “Plan A is to go to France. We’ve put him in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham just in case something happens like he has travel issues or something. He certainly wouldn’t run in both.”

BAYAN is currently just one of 156 entries in the Coral Cup so they won't miss him!

 

NO SMALL FRY

Talking of the Coral Cup. It has now been revealed that sponsors, Betfred, have the Harry Fry-trained ACTIVIAL as a favourite for this prestigious event. They have made him the 10/1 co-favourite with QUICK JACK and REGAL ENCORE after his trainer announced that his

five-year-old was more likely to run in the Coral Cup than in the Vincent O'Brien County Hurdle.

The Seaborough-based trainer commented yesterday: "Nothing is set in stone and if it came up testing he would run in the County, but at this stage we're definitely leaning towards stepping up in trip for the Coral Cup."

 

THURSDAY 19th FEBRUARY 2015

 

GIVE US THE MONEY!

Willie Mullins has said that he thinks the prize money for next month’s Cheltenham Festival should be doubled to take into account the level of investment that is required to buy and train top quality National Hunt horses. The County Carlow trainer wants Cheltenham to match Flat racing’s £4m Champion Day. As it stands a total prize money of £3.9million will be available over the March Festival, the most valuable race of the four days being £550,000 Gold Cup.

 

The seven-time Irish Champion trainer, whose clients include Michael O’Leary, Ryanair's founder and Rich Ricci, former Barclays Investment Banking chief, commented: ‘With the exception of the Grand National, our major prizes match are the cost of an expensive National Hunt purchase. That is not on. ‘I’d say prize money at Cheltenham, for the grade ones at least, should be doubled. When I see the levels of prize money that can be earned compared to what it costs to put on the show, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I know what I have to put up front on January 1 and it is an eye-watering figure. It costs so much to run a yard like this but if we don’t do it, we don’t survive. The percentage profit we would make each year would be very small when you consider the operation we have. I have seen colleagues getting out of the game and we are going to have more.”

 

Sophia Brudenell, speaking for Cheltenham racecourse added: “As a racecourse we are not in a position to invest anymore. It is hard to feel sympathy for Mullins’ rich owners but an argument can be made for jump racing getting a bigger slice of betting-related revenue with Coral producing figures which showed that 24 of the top 40 betting races in 2014 were over jumps with 17 of them at Festival.”

 

DOUBLE TROUBLE

Someone who most likely won't win any of that prize money at Cheltenham for the second year in a row is Jason Maguire. He has received a two-week ban from Ludlow stewards under the non-triers rules. It was apparently decided that the County Meath jockey only gave his mount, BORN TO SUCCEED a “schooling or conditioning” ride in the last race of the day, £4,000 Onny Maiden Hurdle. Not that the five-year-old had distinguished himself in his previous two contests, having been pulled up at Newcastle and coming fifth at Ayr. It was no surprise, therefore, that the son of ROBIN DES PRES was sent off as a 28/1 outsider and never showed any hope of making the race his. Even the analyst for The Racing Post recorded that Jason Maguire gave the bay gelding a couple of “reminders” with his whip before the third hurdle from home but to no avail as BORN TO SUCCEED failed to live up to his name came seventh, 23 lengths behind the winner.

 

The stewards, however, took a different slant on the incident and, it is reported, questioned Jason Maguire as to why his horse had seemed to be, as they put it, “tenderly ridden”. They duly noted the jockey's explanation that BORN TO SUCCEED had become “very tired at the entrance to the home straight, was not quick enough to take any gaps and did not jump well in the closing stages. He therefore felt it prudent to keep a good hold of the horse.”

 

Trainer, Ben Pauling appears to have told a different story in that he explained that his trainee was nervous but he was still “keen that the horse should be allowed to get home in its race in order to progress its education”. He also stated that his jockey had followed his instructions. As a result of that statement the stewards decided that both men were in breach under the rules and fined the trainer £3,000 and banned the horse from racing for 40 days.

 

The unfortunate situation is that Jason Maguire, who said he would appeal against the decision, missed last year’s Cheltenham Festival following an awful fall at Stratford that left him with a fractured sternum and bleeding on the liver. He only got back in the saddle in September and has clocked up 63 winners this season.

 

LIFE OF BRIAN

It's nothing to do with horse racing but the story of a horse with an 'unacceptable' name is irresistible. Thames Police acquired the six-year-old 17.2hh Shire Friesian cross, called Brian, from the Stables Equestrian Centre in Bedfordshire with the intention of training him for police duties. His new owners, however, thought his current name was a bit 'sissy' and proposed to change it to something 'tougher sounding'. The tradition is to go for something god- or war-like, such as Hercules, Thor or Odin. However, when news of this broke it caused quite a storm on the social media where Brians and pro-Brians all united in a campaign against the potential name change.

 

One campaigner tweeted: “He looks sensible, dependable, and kind. In short, he looks like a Brian.”

Another said on Facebook: “It’s bad luck to change a horses name! Brian is a fantastic name for a horse like him.”

 

The outcome of all this is not the expected one. Apparently after six weeks of training Brian didn't make the grade. According to a police spokesman: “Although he had been progressing well in training, Brian was raised in a rural environment and he started to become nervous when out and about. You can see the change in him when he walks out the gates of the police station, which endangers him, the officer on board and the public around his feet.”

 

Brian will now go back to his owner Joanne Samuel, who said she is looking for a new home for Brian which will nurture his flair for show jumping, cross country and dressage.

 

It has now come to light that Thames Valley Police is not the only mounted force who renames its horses. Avon and Somerset Constabulary tweeted a picture of their 'Brian' who is now called Quantock!

 

WEDNESDAY 18th FEBRUARY 2015

 

KING COULD BE QUEEN

The Colin Bowe-trained LITTLE KING ROBIN is back on the track again after a short break, running in the punchestown.com Mares Hurdle. The seven-year-old has proved herself to be quite a doughty front-runner and her County Wexford trainer must be hoping for a strong performance before she struts her stuff at the Cheltenham Festival next month. It's worth noting that the daughter of KING'S THEATRE held her own in Group 1 company in November when she came third to the legendary HURRICANE FLY. It's fair to say that if she produces anything like that form today she should be at least in the frame if not a winner.

 

Trainer Colin Bowe clearly has the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham in his sights. When LITTLE KING ROBIN ran in last year's renewal, it became obvious that she was out of form, not having raced since the previous November, because although she was holding her own well and in the lead two hurdles out, she soon began to tire and finished ninth, with the glory going to the Willie Mullins-trained QUEVEGA with Ruby Walsh aboard. It remains to be seen whether the current training strategy will deliver the goods.

 

BOOKIES RUNNING SCARED?

When bookmakers get nervous it must be something big. What is the possible reason for their anxiety? They are worried about the prospect of the retiring Tony McCoy will repeat what he did in 2010 on DON'T PUSH IT, and win the GRAND NATIONAL with all his punter fans backing him and cost them another fortune in losses. That was the first time the 19-times champion jockey had won this prestigious event after fourteen years of trying so it is generally believed that he will be aiming to go out in a blaze of glory. Already Tony McCoy's most likely partner, SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR has been selected as the 12/1 favourite by Aintree’s official betting partners Betfred and Ladbrokes. They all seem to believe that the JP McManus, Jonjo O'Neill, AP McCoy team could do it again. The eight-year-old son of ACCORDION won last year’s Irish Grand National and produced an eight-length winning victory in the Weatherbys Bank Graduation Chase which was his only outing this season.

 

Andrew Griffiths, speaking for Betfred, commented: “The Grand National never fails to top the turnover charts and this year’s renewal could be a record-breaker with Tony McCoy due to take his final ride in the race. Whatever he rides is sure to go off favourite and the plunge has already begun on Shutthefrontdoor, who has halved in price since the entries were revealed.”

Betfair’s Barry Orr added: “The industry is already running for cover from a fairytale ending to AP McCoy’s career on Shutthefrontdoor, but we are happy to offer a top price of 12-1 for the dream to come true and AP ride a Grand National winner in his last season,”

 

NEARLY A HORSEMAN!”

Trainer Jim Culloty has established himself as something of a master when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival. Every horse he has saddled there has won. Last year it was SPRING HEELED's turn when he was victorious in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase. In 2013 LORD WINDERMERE did the honours by winning the RSA Chase. Jim Culloty is now making a name for himself as a trainer but for many racegoers he will always be remembered as the jockey who rode the legendary BEST MATE to a triple victory in the Gold Cup. He clearly has that in mind when referring to his nine-year-old son of OSCAR: "He is a hold-up horse and at Leopardstown at Christmas the ground was bottomless, which he struggled with a bit, and the race just didn't work, but the horse came out of it well and I wasn't overly disappointed. Last time, we went into the race with different tactics - we wanted to be involved in the race a bit more - and I said to Davy (Russell), if he can be upsides in front between the last two, then may the best man win. "He probably got to the front slightly sooner than that but he jumped himself there. Henrietta Knight, a consummate horsewoman, won three with Best Mate - if I won two I could nearly call myself a horseman."

TUESDAY 17th FEBRUARY 2015

 

PICNIC HAMPERS RACING

Picnickers will not be able to enjoy their usual day's outing at Newcastle racetrack because for all-but-one of its 2015 fixtures the spreading out of rugs and even eating in chairs has been banned, apparently because of a number of 'elf and safety' problems at events last year. The Arena Racing Company-owned Gosforth Park venue is popular and attracts on average more than 20,000 people to its meetings. One of the management team's reasons for this unusual ban is purportedly to facilitate the ease of movement around the racecourse and increase visitors’ enjoyment. Would-be picnickers will be offered an area situated outside the main racecourse.

 

David Williamson, an Executive Director commented: “We have taken the decision not to allow picnics or picnic furniture into Newcastle Racecourse for all of our 2015 fixtures, with the exception of The Blaydon Races in August, to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all of our guests, which is our number one priority. At Ladies Day and Plate Day, which regularly attract in excess of 20,000 guests, a number of health and safety issues were highlighted to the racecourse executive, so to ensure the enjoyment of all those attending these popular fixtures and for ease of movement around the racecourse, we have taken the decision not to allow picnics in any enclosure. This is not a decision that has been made lightly and we hope that this change will allow us to continue to provide an enjoyable experience for all of our guests.”

 

Local racegoers are, understandably not too pleased with this decision lightly and have gone as far as to say: “This has nothing to do with health and safety. It’s so you will pay top prices for their food at the course. This is shocking. Picnics make part of a great day. I think a lot of people will stop going.”

 

WAKE UP CALL

Seven-times Irish champion jockey, Pat Smullen is planning to join forces with trainer, Dermot Weld, at Cheltenham next month. The Curragh-based trainer plans to saddle VIGIL

in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. The six-year-old son of DANSILI has only been on the track four times. His last outing was at the end of December at Leopardstown when he beat the Willie Mullins-trained BELSHILL in the Ryanair INH Flat Race. He had a go at the Champion Bumper last year but could only manage fifth some four lengths behind the winner,

stablemate SILVER CONCORDE.

 

Dermot Weld commented: "I think it has to be an advantage for Vigil to have run in the race before although it looks an exceptional renewal this year. It's wide-open but I think our horse is capable of running a good race in it and Pat Smullen will ride."

 

FIRST WAS LAST

The Michael 'Mouse' Morris-trained FIRST LIEUTENANT will be given a crack at the Grand National even though he landed up last and 22 lengths behind the winner in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown in December. The 10-year-old son of PRESENTING has competed for a quite a while in some of the top staying contests in the National Hunt calendar but, sadly, age may be starting to take its toll and he may no longer be able to reproduce some of his memorable performances.

 

The 2010 Future Champions Novice Hurdle winner failed to make any impression in November in the Down Royal Chase which he has tackled every year since 2012 with a modicum of success and the result of the Lexus Chase over Christmas is best forgotten.

Mouse Morris mused: "I think we'll probably go straight to the National with him now. I think he's probably more of a handicapper these days than that (Grade One) sort of level. He's had a lot of hard races over the years - he's a horse who gives himself a hard race every time. He won't go to Cheltenham this year. We'll cheer him up and look to Aintree with him. It will be interesting to see what mark he gets."

MONDAY 16th FEBRUARY 2015

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

The National Spirit Hurdle, first run at Fontwell in 1965, celebrates its 50th renewal at the West Sussex track this weekend. It goes without saying that all concerned are looking forward to this historical contest's attracting huge crowds to watch a top field of runners. A lot of trainers could well use a run on this famous figure-of-eight track on Sunday as a prep race for next month’s Cheltenham Festival. Fontwell Park's most valuable and prestigious event takes its name from from a horse called, not surprisingly, NATIONAL SPIRIT, who twice won the Champion Hurdle. In fact, this regular Fontwell competitor in the 1940s was paraded at the track when he was 24-years-old on the day of the first running of the National Spirit Hurdle.

 

The two-and-a-half-mile National Spirit Hurdle offers a total of £50,000 in prize money. The first winner of this prestigious contest in 1965 was SALMON SPRAY but since then other more familiar names have been added to the list such as the JP McManus-owned BARACOUDA in 2001, Gabe Mahon's MY WAY DE SOLZEN in 2006 and the David Pipe-trained LOUGH DERG won back-to-back renewals in 2008 and 2009. Champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, has also had his successes, winning two of the past four contests with CELESTIAL HALO in 2011 and PROSPECT WELL in 2013. Last year's hero was KAYF MOSS, the seven-year-old son of KAYF TARA.

A day to look forward to (to which to look forward!).

 

NO GRUDGE FOR THE SIRE

Chepstow could be in connections' plans for their nine-year-old, SIRE DE GRUGY with the idea of giving him a bit of practice after his disappointing comeback at Newbury at the beginning of the month when he unseated his rider, Jamie Moore in the Betfair Price Rush Chase. This unfortunate incident has obviously tempted trainer Gary Moore to think about running the son of MY RISK in the Bombay Hunt Cup on Saturday with the aim of preparing his stable star to defend his crown in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham next month.

 

The Lower Beeding, West Sussex-based trainer commented: ‘He’s come out of Newbury really well and did a nice bit of work on Saturday. We were disappointed with what he showed at Newbury as he didn’t jump with his usual confidence or conviction. He did something similar when he ran below-par at Aintree as a novice after a big break. He blew up approaching three out and again didn’t jump with his usual zest. We got him back on track straight away after that run by taking him to Stratford a couple of weeks later and we are thinking of doing something similar. He will be given an entry for Saturday and if he works well he will run. The match practice will help both his confidence and ours!’

 

MAKING A MARK

Everyone expected the Enda Bolger-trained GILGAMBOA, with Andrew Lynch aboard, to come up trumps yesterday at Navan in the Grade Two Flyingbolt Chase but the 25/1 outsider, RAWNAQ, and jockey, Mark Walsh had other ideas, rallying to dispute the lead at last fence and regaining ascendancy inside final furlong to win by one-and-three-quarter lengths

 

The winning trainer, Matthew Smith, commented: “It’s a great day for the whole family. He had a few little issues that came to light after his last run at Cork which we sorted out, but I suppose we were still more hopeful than confident. We had him entered in the three-miler here too, but Andrew said on this ground to go for this race. We’ve seven or eight at the yard, but please God we might get a few more. We had no plan. We said we’d see how we got on today and take it from there.”

 

SUNDAY 15th FEBRUARY 2015

 

A TRUTHFUL WIN

Yesterday's Betfred Grand National Trial was ultimately a two-horse affair fought out in the last yards of the race between Sandy (A M) Thomson's HARRY THE VIKING and the Lucinda Russell-trained LIE FORRIT, the latter claiming victory by just a head. The 11-year-old, with Peter Buchanan aboard, was clinching his 12th career win from 28 starts. The day was tinged with a certain sadness as the son of SUBTLE POWER was steered to victory seven times earlier in his career by the late jockey, Campbell Gillies, who died in a swimming pool accident in Greece two days before his 22nd birthday in 2012. His mother, Lesley Gilles, is, in fact, one of the current owners.

 

The Kinross-based winning trainer commented: "What a thoroughly likeable horse Lie Forrit is. Back in the form of his life, the veteran simply refused to lie down as he got the better of a duel with Harry The Viking. His weight will go up now, but likely drier conditions at Ayr in late April for the Scottish National will suit. And it's amazing how often athletes, whether two-legged or four, are swept along on a wave of emotion, in this case because of the connection to Campbell Gillies. I love this race, that's the third time we have won it.”

 

Sadly it couldn't be a good day for everyone. The Michael Scudamore-trained MONBEG DUDE finished third, nineteen lengths adrift, despite all the efforts of the champion jockey, AP McCoy, who had his first unsuccessful day since announcing his retirement.

 

AN ENGAGING STORY

Romance came to Wincanton racecourse yesterday. As the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle was being run on St. Valentine's day, racecourse officials joined with the sponsors, Bathwick Tyres, to offer a Proposal Package and a resident of nearby Yeovilton, Alex Hickman, decided to use this as an opportunity to propose to his Norwegian girlfriend Berit Reaber.

 

It was, therefore, arranged that Berit and Alex would present the trophy to the winning connections of the fourth race, the Thank You Wayne & Sarah Clifford Handicap Chase. During this presentation the Caroline Keevil-trained WHAT LARKS was paraded around the ring with a specially embroidered proposal rug, upon which was written:“Berit, will you marry me?” To the delight of everyone concerned, (especially Alex!) the lady accepted and ex-jockey now on-course announcer, Luke Harvey, was to pronounce the couple as 'weighed in!' Alex Hickman presented Berit with a family engagement ring and said that they planned to get married in 2016.

The bride-to-be commented: “This was a complete surprise. I’m absolutely stunned and delighted.”

 

As a bonus, Wincanton Racecourse officials also provided the newly engaged couple with complimentary transport to The Charlton House Hotel in Somerset for a Valentine overnight stay.

 

A WINNER OUT OF THE BLUE

What was thought to be another two-horse race between the Paul Nicholls-trained IRVING and Nicky Henderson's SIGN OF A VICTORY turned out to be the 'Dan and Harry Show'. BLUE HERON, trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by son Harry, to everyone's surprise, won the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle by six lengths.

The son of HERON ISLAND, more relaxed than in previous races when he always seemed over-keen, took things easy until Harry Skelton decided to speed things up and then the drama unfurled. SIGN OF VICTORY, ridden by Andrew Tinkler, blundered at the fourth hurdle and didn't look comfortable after that. Then the Nick Scholfield-ridden IRVING seemed a bit flat-footed as they turned to go downhill and, although it seemed that they could make up the lost ground, it became clear that BLUE HERON was more than a match for any challenge that came his way.

 

The winning trainer commented: "This was his Champion Hurdle as I took him out of Cheltenham earlier this week. His next run is likely to be the Grade 1 two-and-a-half-mile hurdle at Aintree as I am not interested him humping top weight in handicaps. I am hoping we can keep him in good form and then send him chasing in the autumn as I hope he can become an Arkle contender next season."

SATURDAY 14th FEBRUARY 2015

 

MORE FOR SCUDA

One of the champion jockey's last rides of his career will be his first today at Haydock. Tony McCoy will be aboard the Michael Scudamore-trained MONBEG DUDE for the first time, competing against eleven rivals in the Betfred Grand National Trial. The Ross-on-Wye-based trainer has made no secret of the fact that he has his sights on the Grand National for his ten-year-old who came seventh last year in this world-famous steeplechase. The eponymous grandson of the late legendary Michael Scudamore, who rode in 16 consecutive Grand Nationals and won in 1959 on OXO, has great hopes for victory for the son of WITNESS BOX, part-owned by Mike Tindall, husband of the Queen Elizabeth’s granddaughter Zara Phillips.

 

Michael Scudamore commented: “If he comes out of Haydock well then I think we will have a look at one of the handicap races at Cheltenham but I will speak to the owners about that. Saturday is a big race and he will go there to do his best, but Aintree is the main aim at the moment. I would have said, looking at his form, that you could argue that he is better at a Cheltenham or a Chepstow, the more undulating and testing tracks, as they probably play to his strengths more than flat tracks.”

 

SMITTEN KITTEN!

If all goes well, Gowran Park today should provide victory for the Edward O’Grady-trained KITTEN ROCK, unbeaten in three races this season, in the Grade 2 Red Mills Trial Hurdle. The five-year-old odds-on favourite, the top weight, however, will probably have more on his plate this time around as the Willie Mullins-trained ABBYSSIAL if he has anything of the form with which he won the Grade 1 AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival last May. To compensate for that the son of LAVEROCK is appearing after his confident victory in the Grade 3 Limestone Lad Hurdle (at Naas in the middle of January

 

The Belnonty-based trainer clearly rates his five-year-old highly, whilst recognising that there's room for a lot of improvement if he’s to have any chance of becoming Champion Hurdle contender. Unless things go disastrously wrong today, however, KITTEN ROCK should be in the winner's enclosure.

 

YOU GIVE ME FEVER”

Another interesting race at Gowran today, the Red Mills Chase, when another Willie Mullins trainee, CHAMPAGNE FEVER, will be endeavouring to live down his last race, the Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase when he fell at the last when narrowly in the lead. The grey gelding was bred by local John Cahill in Thomastown by John Cahill so it will be the first time that his County Kilkenny fans will have a chance to cheer on their local hero. Paul Townend, who has ridden the son of STOWAWAY to victory three times before, will be aboard again as his regular rider, Ruby Walsh, will be flying the Willie Mullins flag on BALLYCASY at Ascot.

 

Patrick Mullins, son of the trainer, commented: “At the ratings he’s entitled to win. He’s in good form and it would be great to get a bit of a confidence into him after a fall the last day. It’s our local track and it’s a race we like to support. Every horse can fall and he’s schooled well since. It doesn’t seem to have left a mark on him and the fall is not a huge worry in our minds.”

Owner Rich Ricci added: “He’s in good form. He’s only won two chases, that’s the remarkable thing because he does jump a fence pretty well. Unfortunately the last day he came down. He’s fine and we’ve got to decide yet on what race for him at Cheltenham – the Champion Chase or the Ryanair.”

 

FRIDAY 13th FEBRUARY 2015

 

THE INCREDIBLE WORLD OF DISNEY

Another one for the racing history books today at Sandown Park when Captain Guy Disney will make his mark as the the first jockey to ride in a steeplechase with an artificial leg. The inspirational officer lost his right leg in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in 2009 while serving with the Light Dragoons. As the name suggests, this was originally a Light Cavalry regiment mounted on fast horses, able to move quickly across the battlefield. Today they use Jackal Fighting Vehicles or MWMIK (pronounced EmWimmick). Well this afternoon the brave captain will climb back into the saddle when he rides the Tom George-trained BALLYALLIA MAN in the feature race, the Royal Artillery Gold Cup, which is one of Sandown Park’s oldest races, having been first run at the Surrey track in 1878. It has been run at the racecourse every season since 1921. The race is restricted to horses that are owned or have been leased by those who are serving or have served in the Royal Artillery The jockeys must be amateurs and either past or existing members of any of the Armed Forces, making the race unique in every sense.

 

Despite enduring disabilities that would overwhelm lesser mortals, Captain Disney showed true grit when he went on to conquer both the North and South Poles as part of major fundraising expeditions launched by Prince Harry. Captain Disney has always been keen on riding horses and, in fact, is no newcomer to this particular contest as he competed in the 2008 and 2009 renewals, prior to sustaining his injuries. He has also been the recipient of some tips on riding from Tom George's assistant, the Dutch jockey, Tjade Collier, who gained valuable experience serving an apprenticeship with Sue and Harvey Smith in theirstables near Bingley.

 

Tom George commented: “It’s part of history. “You have to take your hat off to Guy. He’s thinking of the future not the past. He’s showing that you can still live your life and do what you want to.”

 

LOOK WHAT KATIE DID!

The Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Chase at Thurles yesterday proved a good race for the Garrett Ahern-trained OUR KATIE, the 11/10 favourite, whose strong performance was enhanced by the professional touch of Brian Hayes who was on board. The eight-year-old was making a return trip to the Tipperary track, where at the end of last month she notched up her first victory over fences in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Mares Beginners Chase which, notably, was over a slightly shorter distance. The step-up in trip to three miles, however, didn't seem to trouble the daughter of DR. MASSINI who went on to assert her dominance before the last fence and win by four and a half lengths.

 

Garrett Ahern commented afterwards: "She didn't travel as well on the ground the last day but Brian said he never had to get after her at all today. She's had two quick runs in a fortnight and might run at Limerick in the Dawn Run Chase over two and a half miles on St Patrick's weekend."

 

It also turned out to be a very good day for Brian Hayes as well as he scored a double with , the David McGrath-trained GOULANE CHOSEN in the Cashel Maiden Hurdle but he had to work harder than expected for the victory. His six-year-old son of WELL CHOSEN seemed to have it all in the bag and then he almost but gave the race away by idling before the last. When push came to shove, however, he decided to give his jockey a break (not literally!) and go serious again, winning by three-and-a-half-length verdict.

 

NEW EVENT, NEWMARKET

It seems that Newmarket's new baby, the Dubai Future Champions Festival has the backing of at least two trainers, William Haggas and John Gosden. The Suffolk racecourse will hold this new event on on Friday and Saturday, 9th and 10th October 9, ending Champions Weekend, which it hosted alongside with Ascot's Qipco-backed Champions Day last year. What makes it so attractive is that the programme will be worth more than £2 million in prize-money and will features the Dubai Fillies' Mile on the Friday and the Dubai Dewhurst Stakes and Betfred Cesarewitch on the Saturday.

 

 

William Haggas joined John Gosden, commenting: "This is terrific news, not only for the entire racing community in Newmarket but also for our sport in general. Horsemen and the racing industry will be delighted with the creation of the new Dubai Future Champions Festival, its significantly increased prize-money and position in the racing calendar. This festival helps reaffirm Newmarket's unique place at the heart of horseracing in Britain. These are two fabulous days of the highest quality of Flat racing, held between Book 1 and Book 2 of Tattersalls Sales. Well done to Newmarket and Dubai. Huge thanks, once again to Sheikh Mohammed who continues to stoically support our industry.” ramme that will create a solid foundation which can be built upon for the future."

 

President of the Racehorse Owners Association, Rachel Hood, added: "Racehorse owners will be delighted with this exciting development and we are particularly grateful to Dubai for their valuable input and investment," she said. "Newmarket is to be commended on the work they have put into creating this autumn programme. The prize-money fund for the Dubai Future Champions Festival is most welcome and the Rowley Mile deserves to be supported by owners and trainers."

THURSDAY 12th FEBRUARY 2015

 

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!

This year's Derby on June 6th at Epsom will start half-an-hour later, racing officials have announced. The main reason, it appears, is the disturbing drop in the numbers of people who watch the event. The decision to start the meeting at 2pm., thus moving the start of the prestigious contest to 4.30pm. was already published last October and it was even intimated that the biggest Flat race of the British season could take place in the evening. The latter option seems now not to be on the cards. The Queen's presence is considered of paramount importance for the success of the Derby so Buckingham Palace approval may well have been necessary. In any case the additional costs of such a move may have forced the Directors to put the idea on hold for the time being.

 

Epsom boss, Rupert Trevelyan, however, seemed keen to stress that an evening Derby has not been dropped completely when he commented: “At this stage this is the extent of our changes to race times but we will review following the 2015 Investec Derby Festival.”

 

Someone else who is bound to feel the effects of these changes is Channel 4's recently appointed Commissioning Editor for Sport, Stephen Lyle, who was until recently Series Editor of BBC Match of the Day 2 and Programme Editor on Match of the Day. His first monumental task in his new job is deal with 2014 figures which reveal year-on-year falls in peak audience from 1.95 million to 1.55 million, audience share down from 21.8% to 14.7% and average audience figures diminished to 770,000 from 834,000. There's no way that a half-hour later start time will turn around this situation so Channel 4 is going to have to put its thinking cap on and use its marketing skills to attract more viewers similar to their Cheltenham Festival campaign, which seems to be having an effect.

 

OLIVER GETS MORE

5/2 favourite, FINANCIAL CLIMATE, ridden by Thomas Garner, produced a significant landmark for trainer Oliver Sherwood when he narrowly won the All Free Bets At thebookiesoffers.co.uk Handicap Chase at Chepstow yesterday, thereby giving the Upper Lambourn-based trainer the 1,000th winner of his career.

 

A delighted Oliver Sherwood commented: Sherwood said: "It's a special day, I don't think I'll be getting to 2,000! My first winner was at Newbury, ridden by my brother, Mr S Sherwood as he was then. I've had some really good horses, and it's nice to have some good horses to go to war with this season. I love the highs, I don't like the lows - I still hate having to tell owners their horse has got a tendon injury, I can't stand that but that's the nature of the game. The intensity of training is much more different now to when I started, courtesy of a certain west country trainer named (Martin) Pipe, he revolutionised training methods and we've all had to catch up. If you don't raise the bar or join them you sink - a couple of times we got close to sinking but luckily through very loyal owners we got back and got some really nice horses and it's onwards and upwards. The professionalism of jockeys now is just unbelievable compared to when I started as a budding amateur. It's been a great 30 years and long may it continue."

 

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DERBY!

It's the coral.co.uk Winter Derby at Lingfield on March 14. As of now, there are 35 entries and two of the eye-catchers are GRANDEUR and CAPTAIN CAT. Both the former, trained by Jeremy Noseda and the latter trained by Roger Charlton gained their entry by winning on All-Weather Championships Finals Day that was held at the track on Good Friday last year, the Coral Easter Classic and the Ladbrokes Mile respectively. The two rivals have been off on their different ways since those successes. GRANDEUR made his name in a few top American races whilst CAPTAIN CAT proceeded to victory in two Group Three levels before going on to notch up a creditable fifth place in the Queen Elizabeth II at Ascot last October.

 

One contender who could well 'put the cat among the pigeons', however, is the Paul Cole-trained COMPLICIT who has a record of five wins from six starts on the all-weather and was well noted last time he appeared at Lingfield in December.

 

Oliver Cole, his father, Paul's assistant commented: "Complicit is very well in himself. He had a break after his win at Lingfield and is back in work again. He will go straight to the Winter Derby and then hopefully on to All-Weather Championships Finals Day. I don't think you could fault his performance at Lingfield last time - I thought he was very, very good. He won it easily. He has a rating of 108 - which is pretty high - and you would hope he will be competitive in the Winter Derby and on Finals Day. It all depends on what turns up on the day."

 

WEDNESDAY 11th FEBRUARY 2015

 

A BETFAIR FAVOURITE

Betfair have the Alan King-trained BALDER SUCCES as their 9/4 favourite for Saturday in a race sponsored by them, the Betfair Ascot Chase. That puts him marginally ahead of the Paul Nicholl-trained PTIT ZIG, who is defending his unbeaten record as a novice chaser. The seven-year-old son of GOLDNEYEV has only pulled off six 12 starts over fences whereas the six-year-old son of the GREAT PRETENDER has had four straight wins over fences but it will be his first time in aa Grade 1 so it will be interesting how he fares.

 

Speaking for Betfair, Barry Orr said: "It’s fascinating that Paul Nicholls has chosen this race for Ptit Zig to step out of novice company for the first time and he has to be respected as this season's novice chasers look an above average bunch, but our market is headed by impressive Kempton winner Balder Succes at 9-4."

 

SUPER TROUPER!”

There's another big race sponsored by a betting company on Valentine's Day. That's the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock. One horse that catches the eye for a bit of a gamble is the currently 16/1 SUPER DUTY, now trained by Ian Williams but previously in the hands of Donald McCain. The latter always had great faith in the son of SHANTOU and maintained he had the makings of an excellent staying chaser. Unfortunately a leg injury meant that his charge was off the track for more than a year and by the time he was sufficiently recovered to go out there and prove himself, the owners had decided to move him over to join the rest of their in the Ian Williams yard.

 

Aintree has always been in the sights for SUPER DUTY and the Grand National is a race that Donald McCain knows something about but that will now be in the hands of Ian Williams. The latter came into his own a couple of years ago when a similar 'swop' occurred when WEIRD was transferred, who then went on to win the Charlie Hall Chase. The Birmingham-based trainer is also in good form just now, having saddled two winners out of two on Saturday night at Wolverhampton, FERRYVIEW PLACE and MOULIN ROUGE, both by ridden by Stevie Donohue.

 

Admittedly SUPER DUTY hasn't got much racing in just lately. His last race, in fact, was at the end of last month, having been off the track for the previous year because of the said leg injury. His form, however, is solid enough and he has had sufficient experience over fences. His last commendable performance was at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival he only failed by head in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.

 

SUPER DUTY's first run for his new trainer, Ian Williams, was at Wetherby on 31st January in the totetrifecta Pick The 1, 2, 3 Handicap Hurdle, where he seems to have made the most of a vulnerable position amongst some tough rivals. He ultimately landed up sixth which perhaps gives a false impression of his capabilities. The intriguing aspect when considering this race is that quite a few of the entries in the ante-post list probably won't run, as some of them are also entered in the Newcastle Eider which may be preferred because of the ground conditions.

 

These could include ALPHA VICTOR and TRUSTAN TIMES. GLENQUEST has now been declared to run at Down Royal on Wednesday so that rules him out. MOUNTAINOUS will probably only go for it if conditions are right. The two favourites will most likely be the paul Nicholls-trained BENVOLIO and 2013 Coral Welsh national winner, MONBEG DUDE, trained by Michael Scudamore.

 

What makes SUPER DUTY a consideration is that the going could be ideal for him and, if he gets his own way and dominates from the front, it is not inconceivable that the opposition might have a job on their hands. It all hangs on the original Duncan McCain assessment that there there is still more to come from this nine-year-old.

 

HAIL TO THE KING!

Clonmel king, Willie Mullins, did it again yesterday. He clocked up his third successive win and his fourth victory in five years in the Grade 3 Surehaul Mercedes Benz Novice Hurdle when ROI DES FRANCS, with Bryan Cooper aboard, made the race his by two-and-a-quarter lengths. The County carlow chief, following on from a trio of triumphs at Leopardstown on Sunday, didn't let it rest at one victory. He also got into the winner's enclosure with ARGENTINO and TURBAN.

 

This success followed on the son of POLIGLOTE's victory in the thurles.ie Maiden Hurdle at the beginning of last month, which was the first outing with his current trainer, having previously been in the hands of another Mullins - Anthony. ROIS DES FRANCS crept into the lead just before the straight and, jumping fluently over the last two flights he won by an easy two-and-a-quarter lengths,

 

Willie Mullins described his charge as “every inch a staying chaser” and added: “The Michael Purcell in Thurles will come too soon for him, so we’ll probably wait for Fairyhouse at Easter. I was afraid the track might be too sharp for him today, but he won well.”

 

TUESDAY 10th FEBRUARY 2015

 

NUMBER ONE AFTER A P?

Inevitably there is a swell of speculation as to who will take over from retiring AP McCoy as JP McManus's retained rider. As you would expect from a sport that thrives on gambling, the bookmakers are determined to make some money out of this 'gift horse'. Paddy Power, Boylesport and Betfair are three of the first to chance their arm. Paddy Power offers very short odds of 1/6 on Barry Geraghty as the first one in line for consideration. There is certainly sound reasoning behind this decision. The 35-year-old jockey from County Meath has got impeccable credentials for the job as he has already achieved top-notch success for the famous green and gold colours of JP McManus: he scored in last year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham aboard the Jessica Harrington-trained JEZKI and in the World Hurdle on Jonjo O'Neill's MORE OF THAT. Barry Geraghty was offered these two rides as the champion jockey had opted for MY TENT OR YOURS and AT FISHERS CROSS which turned out to be an unusually expensive mistake for the man from Moneyglass. The possible heir apparent also got the suspended Tony McCoy's winning ticket on SHUTTHEFRONTDOOR in last year's Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse.

 

Betfair punters will only match 1/3 on Barry Geraghty and Boylesports is even a little more cautious and will only offer evens. There are, of course quite a few other names for consideration, particularly Richard Johnson who, to coin a famous Music Hall song, has always been 'the bridesmaid but never the blushing bride”, having been runner-up for the champion jockey title no fewer than eleven times.

 

Paddy Power's current list of odds: Barry Geraghty 1/6; Paul Townend 8/1; Richie McLernon 12/1; Richard Johnson, Noel Fehily, Aidan Coleman, Mark Walsh, Bryan Cooper all 20/1; Ruby Wals and Tom Obrien 33/1 and Joseph O'Brien 66/1.

 

It will be interesting to see how the odds change as Tony McCoy's three month retirement period comes to a close.

 

IVAN THE GREAT

Kelso is in the news for Thursday because some of National Hunt’s top horses will be competing in the Ivan Straker Memorial Chase. One champion, sadly, will not be among them. Last year's winner and the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, the Nicky Henderson-trained LONG RUN, will be unable to defend his prized title because of injury. It is interesting to note that the race honours a former Director of Kelso Races who is attributed with helping to save the Grand National.

 

As a spokeswoman for Kelso Races put it: “Ivan Straker will be long remembered for his huge effort to save the Grand National, which was honoured by a presentation from the Aintree Executive to Tizzy at last year’s National meeting. This is the second year that the Ivan Straker Memorial has been staged at Kelso and Ivan’s widow, Tizzy, has very kindly made this race possible. It will be very hard to better the first running when the epic battle between Long Run and Knockara Beau delighted the crowd at Kelso.”

 

THE MARE, THE MERRIER!

Clonmel has something special to offer today: the Kilsheelan Mares Maiden Hurdle with eighteen hopefuls. One particular mare, however, that has caught the eye of a number of punters is the Eddie Harty-trained DALMATIA who should give the rest of the field a good run for their money.

This four-year-old, previously trained by Michael Stoute, had run seven races on the flat, gaining three 2nds and two 3rds before running an impressive debut over hurdles in the Donohue Marquees Maiden Hurdle two weeks ago at Leopardstown, when she finished third, only two and a half lengths behind GLADIATOR KING and PRINCE OF SCARS who unusually 'dead-heated' for first place. The daughter of CAPE CROSS will be ridden today, by Adrian Heskin as she was in her run in the maiden hurdle which showed much promise. Because of that and because she has the benefit of eighteen pounds over the favourite, the Willie McCreery-trained WHAT LIES AHEAD, she must be worth a little flutter.

MONDAY 9th FEBRUARY 2015

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO PAUL!

There's life after McCoy! Paul Carberry, 41 today, (a year older than the champion jockey!) was living proof of it yesterday at Leopardstown. The master of stalking rides produced another classically timed last-minute attack in this Grade 1 contest, the Flogas Novice Chase, bringing his APPACHE STRONGHOLD to to the fore at just the right moment to deprive the favourite VALSEUR LIDO of victory, despite all the efforts of jockey, Bryan Cooper.

 

As the race progressed JARRY D'HONNEUR made all the running under champion jockey, Tony McCoy. As they came into the straight, the three Mullins-trained runners – VALSEUR LIDO, ADRIANA DES MOTTES and JARRY D'HONNEUR started to dominate the track and Paul Carberry made the, with hindsight, wise decision to switch from the outside, which proved ultimately to be the race-winning move and finally gave out the unmistakeable signal that he was not going to give up without a serious fight. APACHE STRONGHOLD and VALSEUR LIDO for a while were neck and neck but Paul Carberry's mount managed to hold on by half a length.

 

The winning jockey commented: "It's hard to believe I rode my first point-to-point winner 25 years ago today. He was a little dead in the back straight so I just sat and waited. He came alive then on the home bend and kept galloping to the line. He has a great cruising speed and he jumped well when he needed to."

The winning trainer, Noel Meade, added "Everyone said he ran a great race at Christmas in the Drinmore when second to Valseur Lido but there was no one more disappointed than me. I have great belief in him and coming back in trip today he put in a super display.”

 

"He's a lovely looking horse and he's a joy to watch every morning at home. We bought him for €16,000 at the Land Rover sale and I'm delighted for the owners who always had great faith in him."

 

STAY AHEAD OF THE WEATHER

One of the main concerns that trainer Nicky Henderson, and many other trainers no doubt, has at the moment is the weather which is threatening his entries, SIGN OF VICTORY and VASCO DU RONCERAY in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury a week on Saturday. The inclement conditions may even affect his plan to send a number of his horses to compete in the valuable fixture at Musselburgh on Sunday. He even has a plan B if the weather forecast turns out as bad as predicted at the East Lothian track. One of the horses he plans to run, DAWALAN, could be re-scheduled for the Betfair contest.

 

The Lambourn trainer would be particular miffed to miss the Newbury event as he has a good record, having saddled five winners so far; most recently two years ago with MY TENT OR YOURS. His SIGN OF VICTORY is currently the short-odds favourite, although he didn't do so well in the Christmas Hurdle when the Willie Mullins-trained FAUGHEEN showed him a clean pair of heels.

 

Nicky Henderson commented: “You could say he either had to become a Champion Hurdle horse, or a handicapper and this is the handicap you want to win – it’s the best, most competitive and the most valuable two-mile handicap of the whole year. He does want good ground but we would be pretty keen to try and run. He came into Kempton a bit rusty, I don’t think you saw him at his very best there, although he wasn’t going to beat the winner in a million years. He didn’t get home and I think he can be a bit sharper than that. He’s very well and is coming in on a clean preparation.”

 

As for VASCO DU RONCERAY: “Things didn’t go his way last year, he had a few issues,” Henderson explained. “He went quiet on us for a bit, but he’d be at least where he was at Haydock. He’d handle the ground and be competitive.”

 

Newbury officials are not taking any chances at this stage and are planning to start laying covers down on Wednesday when there is a possibility of freezing temperatures.

 

WILLIE DO IT AGAIN?

The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle has been WILLIE MULLINS's for the taking on the last two renewals. Hardly surprising because the County Carlow trainer has a superabundance of talent in his yard including the ante-post favourite DOUVAN, who is not only Listed winner on the Flat but also a Grade 1 winning novice hurdler whose staying powers are remarkable.

 

Willie Mullins commented: "He did what he did on the Flat, he jumps and stays and he's improving all the time. I didn't think he'd beat the grey [Alvisio Ville] but he's a professional horse. He jumps and stays and he'll more than likely go for the Neptune, but I wouldn't rule out the Albert Bartlett."

 

SUNDAY 8th FEBRUARY 2015

 

A CHAMPION WAY TO GO!

You read it here on 31st January ('(Mc)Coy about retiring'). Today there's hardly any other racing news! Now probably the greatest ever jump jockey of modern times is not so coy about his plans. He has announced that he intends to quit while he's ahead. That leaves three more months of racing for him as he plans to stop at the end of April. It reminds me of the story of the hitch-hiker who was picked up by the film legend Kirk Douglas. He could hardly believe his eyes when he saw who was in the driving seat that, after staring at him disbelievingly for a while, he said: “Do you know who you are!” In Tony McCoy's case, apparently, he got into a taxi with his wife, Chanelle, at Dublin airport and the taxi driver said: “Did you hear McCoy is retiring?”

 

Anthony Peter McCoy OBE, known by nearly everyone as AP McCoy or Tony McCoy, has broken about every record in the book, (and probably just about every bone in his body!) from the fastest to the highest accumulation of victories in a single National Hunt season. His current life-time total is now more than 4300. The 40-year-old jockey born in Moneyglass, County Antrim, which in the 2001 Census recorded a population of 90, only told two people first about his decision – his agent, Dave Roberts and JP McManus, the Irish multimillionaire owner for whom he has been the retained rider for over a decade. Then he told his wife!

 

Ironically Tony McCoy had to wait many years before gaining one particular crown – the Grand National – which he finally won in 2010 on DON'T PUSH IT, thus leaving no other top races to be claimed. That year also culminated in his being voted the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year.

 

He reached the 200-win mark yesterday, appropriately when riding the JP McManus-owned MR MOLE to a 13-length victory in the Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury. That's when he dropped the bombshell on live television.

 

He commented: "It's going to be the last time I ride 200 winners. I want to go out at the top, I want to go out as champion jockey and it will be my 20th year if I can win the jockeys' championship. I want to go out while I still enjoy riding and am still relatively at the top. I love racing, and I'm probably the only person who is going to miss bouncing off the floor, like I've just done from Goodwood Mirage. I know I'm never going to find anything to replace that buzz."

 

The fitting last words come from weighing room colleague and rival, Ruby Walsh: "It sounds a strange thing to say for someone so good, but I'll definitely miss riding against him. He's just brilliant - what makes Ronaldo? What makes Messi? What makes Federer? He's just unbelievably talented."

 

NOT QUITE FIT FOR A KING

Well KINGS PALACE made it three out of three over fences yesterday but not quite how his trainer, David Pipe, had planned. The seven-year-old was competing in the Better Odds With Betfair Price Rush Novices' Chase at Newbury which eventually landed up with only two runners, the other being Paul Nicholls' VIVALDI COLLONGES. The son of KING'S THEATRE made all the running but no doubt caused a few missed heartbeats as he hit the 10th and dived badly three out. It certainly didn't look plain sailing for jockey, Tom Scudamore as he gradually took command as they approached the last but still had to b coaxed and wheedled to the final one-length victory.

 

David Pipe was asked afterwards whether KING'S PALACE would still be going for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he replied: "I shall be speaking to the owners, but I think it is more than likely he will be going for the RSA. After two nice wins, we had to decide whether to give him a racecourse gallop or another race, and we found this one. But in these small fields, it's never easy for either horse or jockey."

 

JAWS

Miraculously an injured racehorse has been able to return to the track and even win again. What is being described as “pioneering” bone repair technology has facilitated a successful jaw reconstruction for ANNAGH HAVEN, using technology known as HydroxyColl. The thoroughbred filly developed a large swelling in her jaw when she was two years old, making it virtually impossible for her to eat and even raising the inconceivable possibility of having to be put down.

 

This new technology was developed by researchers in the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre (AMBER), which is made up of a collaboration between Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) under the guidance of Professor Fergal O’Brian.

 

The happy news is that since undergoing this revolutionary surgery, the Michael Mulvany-trained ANNAGH HAVEN, now five years old, has gone on to won one race, last September's the 100 Years Racing Handicap at Gowran Park and got into the frame in in five others.

 

The technology could well provide wider benefits to mankind as it is expected to get regulatory approval for use on humans.

 

SATURDAY 7th FEBRUARY 2015

 

A TURN UP FOR THE BOOKS

Bookmakers have had to have a re-think their position on the two Willie Mullins-trained runners, after Ruby Walsh made a last-minute choice for his ride in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown on Sunday. Somewhat surprisingly he has decided to be aboard ON HIS OWN rather than BOSTON BOB. Perhaps the County Kildare jockey is giving the eleven-year-old son of PRESENTING the benefit of the doubt after his close-run second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup last year when he lost by a shoulder to the the Jum Culloty-trained LORD WINDERMERE or his post-Festive Season performance in the Lexus Chase when he was also runner-up in a top-quality contest.

 

BOSTON BOB, who was almost five lengths behind his stable mate in that Leopardstown line-up, does seem to be at his best at this time of year and has certainly got everything going for him so cannot be ruled out.

 

Ruby Walsh summed it up: "There wasn't a whole pile between them at Christmas, On His Own shaded it. It's a competitive race, it should be, and with the exception of Road To Riches and Bobs Worth it will be much the same field that ran in the Lexus with one or two more thrown in."

Trainer, Willie Mullins, on the other hand, gave his own take on the matter: "On His Own ran a fantastic race (in the Lexus). I'm really looking forward to him. Boston Bob comes better in the spring and will be a lot straighter than he was in the Lexus, I think, and with the prevailing forecast, drying ground will suit him a lot better. I looked at his run in the Lexus and I thought we have double the prize-money at level weights (in the Hennessy), instead of carrying top weight in the Thyestes. Then we had Djakadam for the Thyestes and if he was as nicely handicapped as we thought, even carrying top weight, I thought he had to have his chance there."

 

MORE IN HOPE THAN EXPECTATION”

Connections and trainer Gary Moore are decidedly optimistic about SIRE DE GRUGY's long-awaited comeback in the Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury today after niggling injuries have kept him off the track since last April. Clearly this re-appearance has to be looked upon as a kind of preparation for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which he won last year and needs to prove he can do it again this March. It won't be the end of the world if he gets beaten today, however, but it might not be a good omen.

 

History has shown time and time again, however, that comebacks don't always go to plan. See what happened to SPRINTER SACRE last month in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot when expectations were high for the 2013 Champion Chase winner – he only managed second. So trainer Gary Moore and son, Jamie, who takes the ride today, can't afford to take things for granted.

 

The Lower Beeding, West Sussex-based trainer commented: “Everything’s good. I’ve got no problems, no worries. I hope he wins. If he doesn’t win he shouldn’t be going to Cheltenham.”

can't say fairerthan that!

 

HAS HE GOT THE GALL?

For many who may have struggled with Roman history at school, the name might just vaguely recall the tribal chieftain who united the Gauls against the Romans during the last phase of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars. If you were fortunate enough to miss out on this litany of Latin learning then you are probably more familiar with the Gordon Elliott-trained Triumph Hurdle winner, VERCINGETORIX, who will be leading his own particular revolt in tomorrow's Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown. This four-year-old son of DYLAN THOMAS will, however, be up against a different standard of rival to the ones he left trailing seven-and-a-half lengths in his slipstream in the Irish Field 3-Y-O Maiden Hurdle at Limerick just after Christmas. Today's contest is a Grade 1, after all.

 

The County Meath trainer summed it up thus: “His work has been very good. He didn’t beat a whole lot at Limerick but you’d have to like the way he did it. He came from France from Andre Fabre with a nice rating and does everything right at home. He’ll have to improve an awful lot but we’re hopeful he’s in good form. On his work and what he’s shown us he’s the best (juvenile) we have. I was impressed at Limerick and we’re hoping he’s come on for the run. I think the better ground will help and it will tell us whether we are going for the Triumph Hurdle or a different route.”

 

FRIDAY 6th FEBRUARY 2015

EASY AS 1- 2 -3

One person who was delighted that Huntingdon defied the current bad weather yesterday was

certainly Jonjo O'Neill; he saddled a trio of triumphs. This would have been very welcome as the Cheltenham-based trainer seems to have been off form of late. He did not have much fun in December as he failed to score once. The New Year got off to a more promising start with seven victories registering a 13% strike-rate but that was not a lot to write home about as that month is one of the busiest in the year.

 

The Temple Guiting handler got off to a cracking start in the first race of the day, the Free Bet At 32RedSport.com Handicap Hurdle when, with the assistance of champion jockey, Tony McCoy, CAPARD KING snatched victory by half-a-length, thus denying the Henry Daly-trained NORDIC NYMPH's bid for a hat-trick.

Jonjo O' Neill couldn't resist an immediate comment: "It's great, a bit of a surprise, but nice to see the horses come back to themselves. Saying it's been difficult is being very polite. Hopefully we're over it now. He (Capard King) ran quite free, he jumped well, it wasn't a great race and AP (McCoy) was brilliant on him. Hopefully he'll jump a fence in time."

 

The County Cork trainer didn't have to wait long before he was back in the winner's enclosure, the next race, in fact, the 32RedSport.com Handicap Hurdle; this time with FORTHEFUNOFITH who hasn't raced since last October when coming a good third in the Vanilla Photobooks Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham. The perplexing problem this six-year-old son of FLEMENSFIRTH has is that he is too lightly handicapped to qualify for the big valuable races.

 

Jonjo O'Neill's reaction: "I thought the ground would be too soft for him but he travelled away through it better than I thought, going down the back he was going nicely. How good the race was I don't know, but he did it well. I'm not sure there was much in the tank but he did it nicely enough. He could go on to better things, you never know."

 

The trainer's winning streak was certainly contagious as a mere half-an-hour later Wayne Hutchinson did the honours and steered CATCHING ON to a seven-length win in the 32Red Casino Novices' Limited Handicap Chase, benefiting from the generous eight-pound reduction in weight since his last run at Wetherby when he could only make sixth place in the New Racing UK Anywhere Available Now Handicap Chase.

 

The last words come from the master of Jackdaws Castle: "Catching On jumped well today, Wayne got a great tune out of him and everything went right. I'd say after today he maybe wants ground like this (heavy), he just goes his pace and he was comfortable today."

 

NOT GETTING RACING RIGHT WRONG

The Government plans to replace the racing levy system with something called 'a racing right' and with that in mind is holding consultations with all interested parties. The 'right' would mean that all bookmakers taking bets on British horse racing would make a contribution to racing, taking funds from betting companies operating offshore who do not currently have to pay any levy. Highlighting the delicacy and intricacy of the plans this is the third consultation on this subject in just a few months. Previous discussions have investigated the possibility of extending the levy offshore and a possible reform or replacement of the levy. The current Sports Minister, Helen Grant, has been keen to seek the views and opinions from the racing and betting industries and also any other interested parties by March 12th when the current round of talks ends..

 

Helen Grant commented: "I want us to ensure that we end up with a modern, viable levy system which is fair and extends to all bookmakers equally. I am open minded as to whether that is through levy reform or replacement but it is important that we consult widely on what a betting right might look like. Horse racing is a sport that makes a significant contribution to our economy. But given the current levy system has existed since the 60s now is the time to modernise it to help secure the future of the sport that plays a big role in many local communities. I want to hear from a wide variety of stakeholders to help us come to an arrangement that is fair for both betting and racing."

 

CHANGE OF TACTICS

The Hennessy Gold Cup on Sunday will probably witness a change in tactics for last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, LORD WINDERMERE takes his place in the line-up, if things go the way his jockey hopes they will. Davy Russell plans to wait until the of to see what sort of pace the contenders set before making his decision to make any modifications to the running style of the Jum Culloty-trained nine-year-old. This change of tactics has been brought on because of the son of OSCAR disappointing performance in the Lexus Chase at Christmas.

 

The County Cork rider commented: “It’s very hard to say that you’re using a Grade One, an Irish Gold Cup, as a prep race. He’ll be going all-guns-blazing to win it Sunday. The one thing we don’t want to do is empty the tank and leave it up in Leopardstown. It stood to us last year that we didn’t do that. Going to the second-last, if he’s there with a shout, he’ll be going hard to win the Hennessy. The last day I rode him at Leopardstown, I probably dropped him in a little bit too far. I over-exaggerated it a bit on the ground. It was very tacky and I couldn’t get past horses. Hopefully the ground will be a little bit drier Sunday and we may try to ride him a little closer as long as the horse is happy doing that but again, we tried it last year and it didn’t work. So we’ll just have to see and play it by ear.”

 

A LITTLE LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT

Trainer Chris Gordon will be hoping for a memorable day on Sunday when his LIGHTENTERTAINMENT takes his chances in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. The seven-year-old has been putting on quite a good show since his success in the Sussex Snowdrop Trust "Care At Home" Handicap Hurdle at Fontwell last May. In fact the son of KING'S THEATRE has won four of his last races, only ceding victory to the Rebecca Curtis-trained TARA ROAD at Ascot in November. His last win at Cheltenham in the Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle may not be the form to judge him by but the handicapper has certainly recognised his talents as he has bumped him up from a mark of 97 last May to his current rating of 126. Even so LIGHTENTERTAINMENT is the lowest rated in the field, some twenty-odd pounds lighter than the two favourites, CALIPTO, trained by Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson's VASCO DU RONCERAY.

THURSDAY 5th FEBRUARY 2015

 

'MY FUNNY VALENTINE'

Ascot Racecourse, many a race goer's first love, has a special offer for Valentine's Day. Free Grandstand Admission tickets are on offer for, when else, Saturday, 14th February. Ascot has been featuring Flat racing since 1711 but, surprisingly, only commenced National Hunt racing in 1965. So the famous Berkshire track is combining this 50th anniversary with this special offer, restricted, as you would expect to two tickets per person. This is the first such event presented by Ascot racecourse. Among other notable guests, champion trainer Paul Nicholls will be there to discuss his views on the current racing scene and outline his plans. The Valentine’s Couple Package includes Premier Admission tickets to the fourth floor of the grandstand which offers spectacular views and guests will receive a glass of sparkling Prosseco as they enter this St. Valentine's venue.

 

On the day, supported by Racing UK, the course’s rich history will be celebrated, highlighting racing legends on huge screens. There will, of course, be thousands of other 'non-couple' punters hoping to witness the emergence of a new star from seven top-class race fixture, including the Grade One £150,000 Betfair Ascot Chase. In past years one of Ascot’s long established Jumps races, the Betfair Ascot Chase, has served as a preparation for the Ryanair Chase or even the Champion Chase at the March Cheltenham Festival.

So a more unusual way to spend Valentine's Day!

 

WANNA BET?

There was a special test at Cheltenham's Festival Trials Day and nine out twenty-one failed it. The local Borough Council's licensing officers, supported by officers from the Gambling Commission, set up a special operation at the January 24 meeting to check whether the on-track bookmakers accepted bets from under-18-year-olds. The operation involved under-age young people, supervised by a local authority officer, trying to place a bet. Nearly 43% of those approached failed to challenge the young person by seeking verification of their age. The aim of such operations is to assure the Council and the Commission that there are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent anyone under the age of 18 from gambling.

 

Councillor Andy McKinlay, Cheltenham Bough Council’s cabinet member for development and safety vommented: “We have a statutory responsibility to ensure that children and other vulnerable persons are protected from being harmed or exploited by gambling. Test purchase operations such as this are important to ensure that licensed operators remain vigilant and comply with their legal responsibilities to ensure that young people are not harmed or exploited by gambling. The council will continue to work with its regulatory partners to promote public safety and protection against activities that are potentially harmful to them.”

 

Matthew Hill, Director of Regulatory Risk and Analysis for the Gambling Commission added: “A test purchase exercise at Royal Ascot last year highlighted severe weaknesses in the under-age gambling controls among track bookmakers. The results from Cheltenham show that there is still considerable room for improvement. The expectations of bookmakers are straightforward – they must not allow an under-18 to bet with them. And that means challenging for ID whenever there is any doubt.”

 

The Council later announced that it would not be taking any formal action on this occasion but the intention was to use the results to deal more effectively with the revealed weaknesses in preventing access by children and young people to gambling.

The last word came from Ian Renton, Cheltenham Racecourse Director: “We are disappointed by the findings. Our racecourse bookmakers are fully aware of the requirements of their individual bookmaker licences, but these most recent test results make clear greater vigilance is required with regards to checking all customers are aged over 18. We will highlight this as a priority.”

 

I'LL BE BACK!

Sadly the David Pipe-trained Cheltenham Festival winner, DYNASTE won't be back to defend his crown this year and probably won't race for the rest of the season. The nine-year-old grey, who won last year's Ryanair Chase, unfortunately strained a hind leg when finishing third in the BetBright Cup Chase at the track last month. The son of MARTALINE has been successful in seven of his 23 career races and did very well to come second to SILVINIACO CONTI in the King George VI Chase at Kempton at the end of last year.

 

The Somerset-based trainer commented: "It's nothing serious but he's too good to risk and the chances are good for him to be back for a full season come next autumn.”

 

Tom Scudamore, the stable jockey wasn't so upbeat: "It's very disappointing and he'll leave a big hole as far as our Cheltenham is concerned, that's for sure."

 

HERE'S TO THE WHITE ROSE!

Interesting. There are no fewer than four Yorkshire-trained horses listed in the initial 98 entries for the Grand National. Aintree hasn't seen many winners from this part of the world over the years. Trainer Sue Smith succeeded in 2013 with AURORAS ENCORE which came 53 years after the last local winner, MERRYMAN II, trained by Middleham-based Neville Crump and ridden by Gerry Scott. Afterwards the Bingley Moor trainer quipped: “We’re past the stage of partying all night, so we made sure we got to bed! I hope this is a boost for Northern racing. This time Sue Smith will hope to saddle both VINTAGE STAR, who unfortunately was pulled up last year and ten-year-old LACKAMON. Nawton-based trainer David O'Meara will be hoping to seize the crown for Yorkshire by sending his ROSE OF THE MOON for a second crack at the world-famous steeplechase. (He fell last year). Completing the Yorkshire quartet is Cleveland-based trainer Keith Revely, pinning his hopes on NIGHT IN MILAN, who has raced once before at Aintree, coming a close second in a three-mile chase in 2013

 

WEDNESDAY 4th FEBRUARY 2015

 

GREY IS SUPER

Super Saturday is the likely venue for UNIONISTE in the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury whilst owner John Hales clearly has his sights on the Grand National. The seven-year-old grey steps up in class after he produced a convincing performance by winning the 32Red Casino Handicap Chase at Sandown on January 3rd by 10 lengths which decidedly made up for the disappointing appearance in November's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury when he could only manage a sorrowful sixth. Currently the seven-year-old son of DOM ALCO can be backed a 5/1 for Saturday's contest and a surprising 25/1 for the Grand National.

 

John Hales commented: "The plan is to run Unioniste in the Betfair Denman Chase. He ran a really encouraging race in the Hennessy and won very well at Sandown last time. He seems to be on an upward curve which is good going into the weekend. I think he is ready for the step back up in class. It is a level weights race and that will tell us how much he has progressed, but he deserves to take his chance - I don't think there is any doubt about that. There is a lot of interest in him about the Grand National but we are worried about what weight he will get.

The public love to see a grey horse in the Grand National but it will all depend on whether or not he is given a realistic chance.”

 

WINDERMERE'S FAN?

Over in Ireland on Sunday it's the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown where LORD WINDERMERE, last year's winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup will have his final preparation before defending his crown at Prestbury Park in March. All efforts this season have been concentrated on getting the nine-year-old back to the top of his form to return to the Cotswold course and carry off a third victory at the renowned Festival. The son of OSCAR made a fighting return to action in December in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, making his connections, perhaps, a little bit too confident about how he would fare in the Lexus Chase just after the Festive Season and the result was unfortunately no Christmas present – he came seventh out of eight finishers. He made a pleasing return to action, though, in the two-and-a-half-mile John Durkan which encouraged connections to look forward to the Lexus Chase just after Christmas with confidence, but sadly he only made it to seventh.

 

His regular jockey, Davy Russell, however, is still upbeat about his future: “I went back to the old tactics and dropped him right in and he still ran a reasonably good race the last day, he was beaten the same distance as he was last year. We weren’t that happy to be honest, though, especially after his good first run at Punchestown when we were over the moon with him. We thought he’d improved for that so hopefully he can take a step forward again at Leopardstown.”

 

ONLY AS OLD AS YOU FEEL

Another OSCAR son is in the news but this a much older one; it's the fourteen-year-old OSCAR TIME, owned and trained by Robert Waley-Cohen who has just announced that he has entered him in this year's Grand National. Originally his owner was in two minds whether to run his supreme veteran in the world-famous steeplechase because of his age( the horses!) but after giving it some thought, he has taken up the option. OSCAR TIME has run twice before in the Grand National. His best result was second in the 2011 renewal when he chased BALLABRIGGS home, a mere two-and-a-half lengths adrift. The last time was in 2013 when he seemed to be doing well when he went into the lead four fences out after causing a few missed heartbeats when hitting the 20th obstacle. He was eventually headed two from home and then seemed to lose it completely, finishing fourth some eleven lengths behind the winner, AURORAS ENCORE.

 

Robert Waley-Cohen commented: "Couldn't resist entering Oscar Time in the Grand National. In great form and is behaving younger than his age which anyway he doesn't know."

 

A GOOD SIGNAL

Back on the Flat, trainer John Quinn has in mind to make the final preparations for THE WOW SIGNAL towards his ultimate goal of the English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 2, by letting him run either in the Craven Stakes or the Greenham. The son of STARSPANGLEDBANNER made his mark early by winning his debut race in style at Ayr last May and then, not resting on his laurels, going on to triumph in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and later in the Prix Morny at Deauville. What goes up has eventually to come down and this happened at Longchamp in October in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere when the then two-year-old felt the pressure two furlongs out and soon looked a beaten beast, falling weakly back to last some twelve lengths behind the winner, Aidan O'Brien's GLENEAGLES

 

The never-say-die North Yorkshire-based trainer commented: "The Wow Signal had a nice break and then came back in after Christmas and is back cantering. He is a big, strong colt and is very enthusiastic. The 2000 Guineas is his number one spring target and I think that it will be helpful to get a prep race into him beforehand, so he will probably go for the English 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on May 2. I wouldn't want to make any major excuses (about his Longchamp performance), but when he came home afterwards he was a very tired colt who had clearly had enough, whereas after his Ascot and Deauville runs he bounced back straight away."

 

TUESDAY 3rd FEBRUARY 2015

 

FROZEN ASSETS

The weather's not usually a subject of interest here but it can't be avoided. For the second day on the trot there is no National Hunt racing today after Market Rasen and Sedgefield were forced to surrender to the adverse conditions, following on from Musselburgh's missing Monday. The situation doesn't look good for the rest of the week, either. Tomorrow's meetings at Ludlow and Carlisle have been abandoned as the tracks are frozen. So if you cannot bear to miss a day of racing then you have to turn to the all-weather tracks at Southwell and Kempton Park and Chelmsford City will join the latter tomorrow with quite a full fixture.

 

PIPE DREAM

All things being equal the David Pipe-trained KING'S PALACE, probably one of the most exciting long-distance novice chaser in action today, will be off to to Newbury on Saturday where he will have his final preparations for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The Somerset-based handler has been considering a number of possibilities for the seven-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE but it looks like he's plumped for the Betfair Novice Chase, where the race officials were wisely trying to stay ahead of the game by putting down frost covers as early as last week in an attempt to keep the show on the road.

 

David Pipe explains his plans in more detail on his website: “With the ground at Wetherby coming up very testing [last] Saturday we decided against taking exciting novice chaser Kings Palace there for the Towton Chase. While it was a winnable race, we did not want to give him a harder time than necessary on heavy ground at this stage. He will be entered in novice chases at [the televised meetings] at Newbury and Warwick on Saturday as well as in a graduation chase at Exeter on Sunday. The preferred option is the Newbury race, although the recent inclement weather with all the rain, snow and frost has made it extremely difficult to predict the ground [or even the chances of racing going ahead] and so we need to keep our options open for him for his final start before the Festival.”

 

THE NUMBERS GAME

There is growing concern about the low entries into current races. Three of Saturday's high-profile contests have consequently opened for a further 24 hours in the hope of attracting more runners. It is sad and disturbing that the numbers are so low as the stakes are high. The Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury, for instance, will give any aspiring Cheltenham Gold Cup winner the opportunity to put down his marker. Racegoers will also have the chance to welcome the legendary victor of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, SIRE DE GRUGY back onto the track, after a nine-month absence, to compete in the Betfair Price Rush Chase. The nine-year-old son of MY RISK may not have it all his own way this time, however, as he will have to deal with a potential challenger, MR MOLE, Paul Nicholls' improving seven-year-old.

.

The champion trainer also resorted to his website to say: "Mr Mole is another I am looking forward to running on Saturday in the Betfair Price Rush Game Spirit Chase which has been chosen for the comeback of Sire De Grugy. I've been tickled pink by the improved form of Mr Mole now that we have adopted more aggressive tactics with him over fences."

 

ACCUSATIONS OF KICKBACK AT RACETRACK

No not bribery, this time! After Sunday's public fixture at the newly-opened Chelmsford City all-weather track, jockeys and trainers have complained that the level of kickback from the Polytrack is unacceptable. They are also concerned that the racing surface is riding too slowly.

 

John Best, one of the winning trainers commented: “The jockeys are all coming back saying it is much too soft and that they are going in a long way.”

 

Luke Morris, a top all-weather jockey added: “The surface is like no other and a cross between Fibresand and Polytrack, with a lot of kickback.”

 

In response, Chelmsford's MD said: “ The track has been lying dormant for six years and we've only had about 200 horses on it, which is relatively light. I think it will probably take us two months to see the effect racing has on it and to see if the surface has enough binding in it. But we're here to provide jockeys and trainers with what they want so we will be getting a consensus from them”.

MONDAY 2nd FEBRUARY 2015

 

IT'S GROUNDHOG DAY FOR THE BHA!

The British Horseracing Authority’s in hot water again! This time it concerns the strange goings-on in the West Wales National at Ffos Las on Saturday. This is where, it seems, something unusual occurred at the final fence after the winner had crossed the line. From the ten horses that set off, in conditions as 'unraceable' as they have been so far this winter, eight were pulled up, unable to carry on. Only BOB FORD managed to complete the course without any trouble. No problem with that. The complication arises with the Venetia Williams-trained GORGEOUS LLIEGE who is eventually awarded the second position and accordingly the associated prize money. A record of the race states very clearly that Rebecca Curtis's eight-year-old son of VINNIE ROE was just about past the post when GORGEOUS LLIEGE reached the last fence. None other than the impeccable Racing Post gives a reliable in-running account of the event. The actions of the Herefordshire-based trainer's nine-year-old are recorded thus: “ … 20 length 2nd and extremely tired when initially pulled up nearing last, retraced steps, clambered over last and eventually completed”. If this is accepted as a fair and concise summary then it seems that this indicates a clear breach of Rule 46.4 which states: “Where a Rider pulls up for any reason, he must wait in the area where he pulled up until all contenders in the race have passed by and, if the race is a steeple chase or hurdle race, he must refrain from jumping any further Obstacles.” The problem perhaps is that there were no other horses to 'pass by' as they had all pulled up. Another sticking point is that the stewards at Ffos Las decided Callum Whillans had not pulled up but somehow completed the course and officially came second. It seems that the BHA is on the side of the Ffos Las stewards on this issue, stating: “The horse wasn’t officially pulled up. You are not officially pulled up until the race is completed and the judge confirms the race has finished. The vets examined the horse after the race and it was in perfect health and its welfare wasn’t compromised by completing the race.”

 

Somehow that seems to miss the point. If the horse's welfare was of ' paramount importance', as is stated elsewhere in their report, then it raises the embarrassing question as to whether GORGEOUS LLIEGE's welfare was indeed 'compromised' by the jockey's decision to carry on after he clearly seems to have pulled up. Surely Rule 46.4 exists to protect both jockeys and horses. It provides a clear ruling as to what to do to avoid taking unnecessary risks. The repercussions for the jockey and the racing industry do not bear thinking about if the horse in question, had suffered a fatal injury when he finally, as was reported, “clambered” over the last fence. The problem is that, if this situation is not further clarified, it sets a precedent. What if this year's Grand National has similar running conditions and only two horses are left on their feet, as happened in 2001? Perhaps the jockeys will slow down whilst not actually pulling up to wait around just in case a situation arises similar to the Ffos Las incident. What damage would that do to horse racing's image in an event that is watched by the sport’s biggest annual audience from all over the world?

Punxsutawney Phil can't help with this one!

 

THEY'RE OFF!

Chelmsford City got off to a good start yesterday when it went officially public. One person pleased with the debut, no doubt, was top all-weather jockey, Adam Kirby, who savoured a double on this auspicious occasion. The new track in Essex used to be known as Great Leighs but had to close in January 2009 being forced to go into financial administration barely months after it had opened. Like a Phoenix it rose again, however, earlier this year under the new name of Chelmsford City. The first races were held on January 11 solely for a few invited guests and the owners and connections of the runners. Then two more meetings were organised to make sure that all the on-course facilities were properly up-and-running and suitable for the general public.

 

As mentioned, Adam Kirby celebrated this inauguration in style by getting off to a flying start in the first race of the day, the toteplacepot Maiden Fillies' Stakes when he rode the Charlie Appleby-trained favourite, WANTING, to a two-and-a-quarter length victory ahead of his stable mate SIMPLE ELEGANCE.

 

The 26-year-old winning jockey commented afterwards: "It was a good performance and she'll improve a bit from that as well. She travelled round nicely, when I went for her she was a little bit gormless, but then she got on with it. She's a nice filly. It's a funny track. You're sort of running into the winning line on the turn, so for babies it looks like they're running into a dead end. A lot of horses are pulling up in front."

 

The double for this Newmarket jockey came up in the appropriately named totepool 'We Love Winners' Handicap, aboard the John Jenkins-trained KARAM ALBAARI, who blissfully bowled along eight lengths clear of the rest of the field.

 

OFF LIKE THE WIND!

The John 'Shark' Hanlon-trained HIDDEN CYCLONE blew up a storm with his resounding triumph in the Boylesports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown yesterday. The ten-year-old proved he was on the verge of a win by notching up a second slot three times at Grade One level last season. Then he blotted his copybook by falling on his last running of the year at the Punchestown Festival and compounded the situation by also coming down at Thurles last November. All was not lost, however, as he re-asserted his authority by coming good at Leopardstown over the Festive Season which culminated in his being the 6/5 favourite for yesterday's contest and no-one went home with a long face, that's for sure..

 

HIDDEN CYCLONE didn't hide his talents under a bushel, either, jumping cleanly and precisely under the watchful hands of jockey, Andrew McNamara. The rest of the field could just look on as the son of STOWAWAY kicked on from two fences out. Clearly the man aboard was mindful of his couple of 'ouch' moments in the previous races so he visibly slowed his mount down as they headed for the final jump. His caution was understandable but probably unnecessary as HIDDEN CYCLONE popped over without any problems and had enough left to get the job done in style.

 

'Shark' Hanlon commented: "We're happy for a change. We're so used to being second so it's good to come here and win. The better ground helped. It dried out a lot in the last couple of days as they were giving it as heavy two days ago. He jumped well today, never put a foot wrong, and I couldn't be happier. I'd say that's the best he's ever jumped. He also did something today which he hasn't ever done and that's settle. Andrew said going to the start he thought there was something wrong with him. We've done a lot of work at home getting him settled and I have to thank my staff who have put in a lot of work."

 

SUNDAY 1st FEBRUARY 2015

 

£5,610 FOR NOT GIVING UP

Testing ground in yesterday's running of the West Wales National at Ffos Las resulted in just two of the runners out of a field of ten completing the course and, then, the runner-up was the subject of a stewards' enquiry. The Rebecca Curtis-trained BOB FORD, with top Irish jockey, Paul Townend, aboard, claimed the prize with a winning distance of an incredible 99 lengths. There was no doubt about the winner but there was some concern about number two, GORGEOUS LLIEGE, who had two goes at jumping the last fence, so the result was only declared after an official investigation. The stewards were apparently concerned as to why Callum Whillans, riding the Venetia Williams-trained son of LAVIRCO, had stopped before the final obstacle when the gelding was obviously tiring in the heavy ground and had then retreated from the fence, successfully jumped it and claimed the runner-up slot. In the subsequent interview it was revealed that the jockey stated that his horse was very tired so he pulled him up. When he realised, however, there were no other runners behind left in the race and that his mount had had a little time to recover from his exhaustion, he decided to finish the race, jumping the last fence and canter to the line. After listening to this evidence, hearing a report from a veterinary surgeon which confirmed the tired state of the horse and watching a recording of the contest, the stewards accepted the jockey's explanation of events and connections were able to claim Second Prize.

 

MCCAIN AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN

The 2012 Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero, CINDERS AND ASHES is running today in the John Smith's Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh. It will be the eight-year-old's first appearance since last March when he was pulled up.

 

Trainer Donald McCain commented "We're happy with him at home and it's time to go to the races and see where we stand. He's been off a long time and we'll be riding him accordingly, but we need to get him going and we said we wanted to start him off over two miles on a flat track on decent ground and see how we go. That's what we're doing and we'll know a lot more after Sunday."

 

The Cheshire-based trainer is going great guns and will be saddling horses in six out the eight races at the Edinburgh track. As well as CINDERS AND ASHES mentioned above, he has KIE and SWIFT ARROW in the second race of the day, the John Smith's Scottish Champion Chase (Handicap). He then follows this up with STARCHICHECT in the John Smith's Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial. The John Smith's Scottish Future Champions Novices' Chase will have DOYLE CARTE, who unfortunately fell two out at Catterick last time out. In the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial (Novices' Hurdle) Donald McCain will be pinning his hopes on his grey gelding, ARGENT KNIGHT who produced a couple of good runner-up slots at this track in December and January. The last race of the day will see eight-year-old KRUZHLININ take his chances in the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) but this son of SHOLOKHOV hasn't produced much to write home about since finishing third in a race at Kelso last March.

 

'GYPSY WOMAN' - A GOOD TRAVELLER

The Willie Mullins-trained GITANE DU BERLAIS treated her rivals with absolute disdain yesterday at Sandown Park in the Scilly Isles Novices' Chase. Given a masterly ride by Daryl Jacob, the five-year-old daughter of BALKO, although with a tendency to jump to the left on occasion and not always fluent, was by far the strongest traveller and the eight-length victory was well deserved.

 

This success gave the County Carlow champion trainer his first chase winner in Britain this season. Initially it looked as though the favourite, the Philip Hobbs-trained CHAMPAGNE WEST would have it all his own way but, unusually, he wasn't his normal self over the jumps and took a dive five fences out, leaving only four runners left in the race. Only Paul Nicholls' IRISH SAINT and Alan King's GRUMETTI could offer any semblance of challenging the eventual winner, who by that time was travelling at ease.

 

Anthony Bromley, who is the Racing Manager for the owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, commented: "I thought we might be going for the novice handicap as I thought she might get beat today. She is in the Arkle, JLT and RSA so we'll speak to Mr Mullins once she's home and see. The idea was to see if she was a Grade 1 horse for Cheltenham, I wasn't quite sure she was, but that was good wasn't it?"

 

SATURDAY 31st JANUARY 2015

 

SHOULD HAVE GONE TO SPECSAVERS!

Hayley Turner, one of this country's leading female jockeys, got a 10-day ban yesterday at Lingfield on the charge of 'failing to ride out'. It certainly looked like the 32-year-old rider slowed down near the winning post when aboard the 6/4 favourite SINGULAR QUEST who eventually made fourth in the coral.co.uk Best Odds Guaranteed On Racing Maiden Stakes.

 

The Nottinghamshire-born jockey, whose claims to fame Turner include being the first female British jockey to ride 100 winners in a season, commented: "I deserved it. I've never done it before in all my years riding, but it was human error and I hold my hands up. I didn't ease up though. I mistook the winning line. When I stopped riding I thought it was the winning line. I can't argue with the punishment."

 

(MC)COY ABOUT RETIRING

Could it be that the Moneyglass magician is thinking the unthinkable? We've been given the the strongest hint yet by the soon to be 20-times champion jockey, Tony McCoy, that retirement could be on the cards for the end of the current season. What has suddenly given rise to this speculation? Well, the Country Antrim rider has unexpectedly announced that, despite being fit to ride, he might take a few days off next week. Now that's something he's never said, let alone, done before. Tony McCoy was hotly pursuing a record-breaking 300 winners earlier in the season but that was put paid to by injury, leaving him on his present score of 289.

 

The man from Moneyglass, County Antrim, who will be 41 in May, commented: "I've no numerical target now (that 300 is unachievable) and I might even take a few days away next week, which tells you something. The good races are more important for the rest of the season.

The last few Saturdays, I've had very little and there was nothing for me to ride on Trials day at Cheltenham once we'd decided not to run Holywell. More Of That will be back in a couple of weeks and he's the great hope for the spring.”

 

Whatever happens, Tony McCoy has his place in the record books, achieving over 4,300 winners in a remarkable riding career. The next noteworthy target, however, would be 5,000 winners but he would need three more seasons to achieve that and he will be touching 44 by that time. It's a pound to a penny that the champion jockey is aching to add a second Grand National victory to his credentials before he does pack it in. Remarkably he has only won this Aintree spectacular once and he had to wait until the year 2010 when he achieved this goal on DON'T PUSH IT, probably leading to the additional honour of being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year. It seems that the legendary Ulster jockey has run out of targets to fire his ambition.

 

THREE COME GOOD

It's good to see horses that have had a slim time of it, to put it mildly, finally take their places in the winner's enclosure. This was the case for three equine expectants yesterday at Lingfield. It's true that there were game gamblers out there that supported two of them despite their recent history.

 

First off the mark was the Brendan Powell-trained ELUSIVE ELLEN , the 20/1 outsider with Jimmy Quinn aboard who knocked the spots off the 2/9 favourite Tarooq with a two-and-a-half length victory.

Then Lewes-based trainer, Sheena West, showed them all how to do it when her 'off calendar' FEB THIRTYFIRST, ridden by Charlie Bishop, took and held onto the lead one furlong out in the 32Red.com Selling Handicap to win by, again, two-and-a-half lengths and that after never having even gained a place before on the Flat.

 

Last but not least in this trio of triumph tryers was the Jimmy Fox-trained THE WEE CHIEF who came good, (by two lengths this time!), in the Unibet Sprint handicap, his first victory since winning the Blue Square Sprint Series Round 5 Handicap (Qualifier) in February 2012, also at Lingfield.

 

His owner, Rick Kavanagh, commented: "He's been off a while with problems. He had a bit of a bleed after he last ran and but for the vet and Hannah (Fox) persevering we would not be here high. Jimmy is on three from three for the year now. The full-brothers Gracious George and Henry Grace both won at Kempton on January 14."

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Connections of the Alan King-trained French delicacy are wondering whether they have a serious contender for the JCB Triumph Hurdle. To find out they are running PAIN AU CHOCOLAT in today's Betfred "Supports Jack Berry House" Juvenile Hurdle at Sandown. It's only the four-year-old's third appearance on the track. The son of ENRIQUE was humiliated on his first run in the 32Red.com Juvenile Hurdle at the beginning of December at Market Rasen when he was the 10/11 favourite, although he compensated for that ignominy by a confident winning performance at the beginning of this month at Plumpton. The Million In Mind Partnership own this bay gelding and their Racing Manager, Anthony Bromley, is confident that this is a good time to find out what their mount is made of.

 

He commented: "There are only five runners, but it looks a very strong race. Jonjo O'Neill's horse The Saint James cost €320,000 having shown good form in France and Paul Nicholls' horse, Old Guard, beat Karezak on his first run over hurdles at Newbury, which is strong form. This will be a good test for our horse and tell us whether he could be a Triumph Hurdle contender or not."

 

FRIDAY 30th JANUARY 2015

 

IS IT ZAYF?

ZAYFIRE ARAMIS is running today at Chepstow in the Truvape/EBF Stallions 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle. If horses could be described in human relationship terms, then this six-year-old son of KAYF TARA is the nephew of Cheltenham champion, KAYF ARAMIS, as the latter is the full brother of his dam, KAYLIFA. His sire is ZAFEEN, winner of the Grade 1 St James's Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. His trainer is Michael Scudamore and today's ride will be taken by his elder brother, Tom. So he seems to tick all the right boxes. The distance is right – two-and-a half miles, and the ground is suitable – soft, heavy in places. So it's 'Hellfire' for ZAYFIRE!

There are eleven runners in the contest and the winner's here:

 

If you've CHOSEN WELL with GIFTED ISLAND

Or are OH SO FRUITY on KAVANAGHS CORNER

UNCLE TONE with a FIVEEIGHTSACCOUNT

Could have you OUT ON BUSINESS

But WAIT A SECOND !

ROYAL REDEMPTION might still be yours with ZAYFIRE ARAMIS

If he's WILDE AND WILLING.

 

WELL. STONE ME!

The Mark Bradstock-trained CARRUTHERS is a last-minute absentee for the race at Ffos Las on Saturday. The 12-year-old trod on a stone and will not recover in time to be in the line-up for the West Wales National Handicap. The son of KAYF TARA won this race two years ago but, sadly, will not have a chance to repeat his triumph.

 

The trainer's wife, Sara, commented: "It's unfortunate, but as the ground is likely to be sticky, rather than sloppy, we're not as upset as we could have been. He just trod on a stone and he's the sort of horse that feels pain more than some others, he's a bit precious. He'll probably be fine by Sunday. We'll look at running him in some veterans' races now, I'm sure there's a couple of races in him. He's showing all his old enthusiasm at home, it's just that as he's got older he's found it harder to cope with sticky ground. I'm sure he's well handicapped, he's a stone lower than when he won the Ffos Las race a couple of years ago."

 

WAIT AND SEE

The Paul Nicholls-trained AL FEROF is currently entered for the Gold Cup, the Ryanair Chase and the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It seems, however, that how he runs in the Betfair Ascot Chase will decide which one of these Cheltenham Festival features will actually be the one. That seems to be what owner, John Hales, believes as he wants to see how the ten-year-old son of DOM ALCO performs before he makes up his mind which of the Cheltenham Festival races suits him best.

 

John Hales commented: "Al Ferof is very well and is going to Ascot on February 14. He's in the three races at Cheltenham, but we'll probably have a better idea about where we stand after Ascot. Circumstances can change so it's not something that we can rush into."

 

A HIGH FLYER

The David O'Meara-trained OPEN EAGLE is about to undertake his hurdling debut and connections are excited about the prospect. The earliest opportunity for the former November Handicap winner's first success for trainer Willie Mullins offer itself at at Fairyhouse on Saturday and maybe Punchestown on Sunday.

 

Steve Massey, representing owners, the Supreme Horse Racing Club, commented: "Willie has given him plenty of time to settle in, it's a different environment and different gallops and everything so there's been no rush. He's got plenty of experience on the Flat but it's different over hurdles. When Willie came to us and he told us there was a chance of buying him, we couldn't really believe it. He won the November Handicap like a class act but has also got plenty of stamina so I don't think two and a half over hurdles will be a bother."

THURSDAY 29th JANUARY 2015

 

CLASH OF THE TITANS

This year's Grade 1 £300,000 Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival looks like turning into an interesting clash between the past two winners: CUE CARD versus DYNASTE. Two years ago it was the former, trained by the Colin Tizzard, ridden by his son Joe, who made all

to win the two miles contest by nine lengths. The nine-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE didn't make it last time to the Festival due to injury and seems to have had problems recapturing his top form. It was announced on Tuesday that connections have now decided that their charge should revert to his customary successful front-running role.

 

Joe Tizzard, now retired from race riding and working in a managerial role for his father, commented: “We haven’t even entered him in the Gold Cup, he’s only entered in the Ryanair and he’ll go straight there. He had a really nasty over-reach after the King George and we only started cantering him again 10 days ago. If it had been a couple of centimetres higher it could have been really nasty. We think he could have done it on the first circuit when he made a mistake so it is bound to have affected him. Instead of holding on to him, we’ll go back to how we used to ride him – let him go, use his jumping and be positive on him.”

 

At the same time it was revealed that last year’s victor, the David Pipe-trained DYNASTE will probably defend his Ryanair title even though he has successfully tackled longer distances on his last three outings. This nine-year-old son of MARTALINE came a good third in the Betfair Chase and second the William Hill King George VI Chase both behind the Paul Nicholls-trained SILVINIACO CONTI. His last appearance was in the BetBright Chase last Saturday on Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham, when he also came third..

 

David pipe commented: “The main talking point heading into Trials Day was which race Dynaste was likely to participate in come the Festival. He was sent off favourite for the BetBright Cup over three miles and one and a half furlongs on Saturday but unfortunately the race did not really provide a satisfactory test at the trip and seemed to raise as many questions as it answered. Once again, Dynaste performed with credit but was unable to overhaul the improving Hennessy winner Many Clouds on the run-in, finishing third beaten less than two lengths. I certainly wouldn’t say he was beaten for stamina, although it is pertinent that his best performances have come over slightly shorter. With that in mind he is more likely to line up in the Ryanair Chase in March, although I am sure we will keep the Gold Cup option open until the last moment and not make a definitive decision until nearer the time.”

 

M FOR MEE

Another Paul Nicholls-trained rising star, AS DE MEE, battled to a half-length victory in the EBF Stallions 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at Leicester yesterday, struggling through heavy ground to defeat the favourite TARA MIST. The five-year-old has, thereby earned serious consideration to compete in the The EBF Novices' Handicap Hurdle Final on March 7 at Sandown. The owners of this son of KAPGARDE are actress Dame Judi Dench, M in the James Bond films and the Stewart family whose other claim to fame was the now retired BIG BUCK'S.

 

The winning jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies commented: “I've been told the EBF Final is the target and better ground would probably suit him. He's a nice horse. It's just taken a bit of time for him to relax. When he got beat at Cheltenham last time, it was a stop start sort of race which wasn't ideal for him as he needs to relax.”

 

A MILLIONAIRE WINNER

A winner has already been announced for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 13. The Angela Yeoman-owned SAM WINNER has performed well this season with wins at Cheltenham and Aintree in November and December, respectively. The eight-year-old son of OKAWANGO will, however, not now race again until the Cheltenham.

 

The millionaire owner, clearly delighted with her horse's current form, commented: "He's really very well and we're very happy with him. He's had a little rest during the winter and is ready to go again. He seems to have grown up, which has been really pleasing to watch this season. He will not run before Cheltenham but I've absolutely no idea who will ride him in the Gold Cup - that's for Paul to work out. It has surprised me how good he has been in the wet, but I really think the deciding point (in the Gold Cup) will be the Cheltenham hill."

WEDNESDAY 28th JANUARY 2015

 

THE POWER TO WIN

The OLBG Mares’ Hurdle featured every year at the Cheltenham Festival in March since 2008 was won for six years on the trot (not literally!) by the Willie Mullins-trained QUEVEGA but she was retired early last season. So the County Carlow trainer was counting on ANNIE POWER to assume the winning mantle but the Rich Ricci-owned daughter of SHIROCCO incurred an injury earlier this year and her participation in this prestigious contest was starting to verge on the 50/50. Her regular rider for the last two years, Ruby Walsh, however, is more upbeat and has blogged that the seven-year-old is recovering and preparing well for the event and was optimistic that she would be ready for Prestbury Park. Another thing in her favour is that the Racing Post rates Annie Power two pounds better than QUEVEGA was when delivering her best results which makes her the top performer in recent times under NH rules.

 

Ruby Walsh commented: “She is in good form at Closutton and working well but she is coming back from injury,” he said. “One thing’s for sure – there’s no room now for any hold-ups as we are only six weeks out from the Festival. I’m optimistic she’ll make Cheltenham and just glad that I’ll be in the saddle when she’s ready to reappear.”

 

A LAME EXCUSE

More depressing news from Lambourn. Trainer Nicky Henderson has just announced that TRIO D'ALENE, one of the bookies' favourites for the Grand National in April, has a knee problem and is highly unlikely to run at Aintree. The eight-year-old won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in 2013 and as a result was a 16/1 chance for last year's Grand National but things didn't go well and Barry Geraghty had to pull him up before Becher's brook the second time round. In preparation for the Aintree spectacular the son of EPALO ran very confidently in the 2013 Topham coming third to UNIONISTE at Sandown even on ground that was not the best for him. The sad news for the trainer and owners, Sandy and Caroline Orr, however, was that their pride and joy was found to be lame soon afterwards.

 

Nicky Henderson commented: "We've done an MRI scan which showed no obvious fracture but there was certain parts of it they didn't like and the knee will need to be re-examined in a fortnight. Accordingly, he's unlikely to be back to the racecourse in the short-term and therefore he must be considered very unlikely to run in the National. It's a great shame for Triolo, and Sandy and Caroline Orr, because at Sandown he really did look as if he was coming back to his best. We thought, right, we've got him back and now we can plan ahead for the National, only for this to happen. He's a very talented horse and looked ideal for the National when winning the Topham."

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

Hands up everyone who has a birthday on Saturday, 31st January! Well those lucky Aquarians, who like to go racing are being offered free entry to Sandown Park. This generosity is due to the fact that this London race track is celebrating the birthday of its ambassador, Jamie Moore, younger brother of three-time champion Flat jockey Ryan, who will be 30 on that day. All you have to do to claim this unofficial birthday present is to produce photographic proof of your age when you buy a Grandstand ticket. Jamie Moore was so successful last season in both the Tingle Creek Chase and Celebration Chase riding SIRE DE GRUGY, trained by his father Gary, that Sandown Park decided to bestow this honour on him.

TUESDAY 27th JANUARY 2015

 

IN THE PIPE LINE

The totepool Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby on Saturday could be the target for David Pipe's KING'S PALACE but it will all depend on the weather. The seven-year-old broke his duck over fences at Cheltenham in November and confirmed that this wasn't a fluke by doing the same again at the same venue in December. He has been biding his time since then and even now it is not certain that he will run. If the son of KING'S THEATRE does show up at the West Yorkshire track it will probably be more in the interest of keeping fit for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

 

KING'S PALACE is probably the jewel in the crown out of the 15 runners in this Wetherby feature event. A trio of talent seeking to deny him victory includes NED STARK, trained by Alan King, the Philip Hobbs-trained RETURN SPRING and STRAIDNAHANNA hot frim the Bingley Moor yard of trainer, Sue Smith.

 

The Somerset-based trainer commented: “We’re just having a look, we’ll see what the weather does and how he works during the week. I think it’s hard for any of us to know what the weather is going to do at the moment, it might be worse up north, but we’ll see. Wetherby is one of a few options. There is the novice chase at Newbury on Betfair day (February 7) and then the Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot (February 14).

 

NOWHERE UNTIL WINNING

It's good to see Paddy Brennan in the winner's enclosure again which he was yesterday at Ludlow in the TurfTV Handicap Chase in which he steered the Tom George-trained UNTIL WINNING to a seven-length victory. It was only the seven-year-old's third turn-out since sustaining an injury that necessitated a long 22-month absence from racing. The handicapper had treated him surprisingly leniently, dropping his weight by six pounds, even though there was definite improvement in his runs at Leicester and Sandown in December and January. Punters were clearly well ahead of the game on this one as they had backed the seven-year-old son of KAPGARDE into the 2/1 favourite and the County Galway jockey didn't disappoint them, getting everything well under control from two out.

 

The winning Worcester-based trainer, who has made a speciality of buying inexpensive subsequent winners from Poland, commented: "He won it nicely and it worked out well for us. He won a bumper for us, but never won over hurdles and picked up a small injury. His owners have been very patient and have been rewarded with a nice horse. I don't think it was the world's best race, but we'll see what options we've got for him. He's a nice horse for the future."

 

KEEP RIGHT ON TO THE END

Not the most glorious finish to a 19-year career in the saddle, which included 280 winners but Finbar ‘Barry’ Keniry decided to call it a day on Sunday when he had to pull up his last-ever ride, WOLF SHIELD in a novice chase at Sedgefield. The Cork-born jockey had more than his fair share injuries, including three broken legs and a dislocated shoulder. Older readers might recall one of his unusual claims to fame was when he rode the 66/1 outsider, RED RADISH in the Feast of St Raymond Novice Chase at Southwell in 2002, one of the most incident-prone races in recent years. Incredibly of the seven runners, three unseated their rider, one fell and two refused to jump and then unseated the riders. Finbar Kineiry was then left in lead when WOLF SHIELD who then refused to jump and unseated him four fences from the finish. Meanwhile champion jockey, Tony McCoy, riding the Martin Pipe-trained FAMILY BUSINESS, had also been unseated at the tenth fence but remounted, finished the race alone and was awarded the race. That can't happen nowadays as under new rules that came into effect on 2 November 2009 “if a horse is remounted after the start of a race it will be disqualified.”

 

MONDAY 26th JANUARY 2015

 

HURRICANE PUTS WIND UP RIVALS

A Leopardstown legend did it again yesterday. HURRICANE FLY notched up a five-time victory in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle and, at the same time, increased his Grade One wins to a world-beating 22. Into the bargain the Willie Mullins trained 11-year-old beat JEZKI, the reigning Cheltenham Champion Hurdler, for the third time this season. It now seems that the son of MONTJEU will have the Champion Hurdle prize in his sights. Before that Ruby Walsh will have to undertake some very difficult decision-making. FAUGHEEN, the rising hurdling star in the Willie Mullins yard, is currently the favourite to claim this title so it won't be an easy choice for the County Kildare champion, who wasn't giving anything away as to which horse he will go for. He would only comment that he will decide at 11 o'clock on the Sunday before the race which is when declarations are made for the Champion Hurdle.

 

THAT'S SWANSONG HE WANTED TO HEAR!

The nine-times champion jockey and now successful trainer got what will probably be his final win, certainly at Navan, and maybe altogether as this is his last week as a trainer. Charlie Swan, famous for partnership with ISTABRAQ, announced the other week that he was giving up training to concentrate on earning a living from his bloodstock business. ROGUE TRADER, ridden by Nina Carberry, did the honours for him on this momentous occasion in the 2015 Navan Membership Maiden Hurdle and the six-year-old son of MILAN did it in style, making all the running and winning by twelve lengths. The winning training had never kept it a secret that he always had a soft spot for ROGUE TRADER and was clearly very pleased that his bay gelding was now starting to reward the confidence he had placed in him.

 

Charlie Swan commented afterwards: "It's sad but it is great that he has won as we have always thought a lot of the horse.”

ROGUE TRADER's future career as a staying chaser, however, will now be in the hands of another County Kildare, trainer, Tom Taaffe, at whose yard Charlie Swan delivered his equine favourite on his way home to Tipperary.

 

SOMETHING TO BOLSTER CONFIDENCE

If David Bridgwater has his way THE GIANT BOLSTER will be having a fourth shot at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, having been beaten by only three-quarters of a length last year and coming second, fourth and third respectively in the previous years. Not that Saturday's performance in the BetBright Cup Chase is anything to write home about. The ten-year-old son of BLACK SAM BELLAMY only managed fourth out of six runners and some eight lengths behind the winner. This obviously hasn't diminished the Stow-on-the-Wold-based trainer's admiration for his horse, who, he is adamant, will improve by the time of the race next March and will again be in with a shout at the finish.

 

David Bridgwater commented: "I was absolutely thrilled to bits with him. Without winning it or picking up a bit more prize-money, it was the perfect result. The pace of the race didn't help. He's a horse who needs to be off the bridle after a mile and he was still cantering after two miles yesterday. It looked as though he was going to beaten 100 lengths at the top of the hill and he's ended up being beaten just over seven, so it was a fantastic run. A bigger field and a stronger pace will bring out the best in him in March and I'm not worried about anything. If you'd run last year's Gold Cup three times you'd have had three different winners and one of them would have been us.”

 

SUNDAY 25TH JANUARY 2015

 

NEVER IN THE FIELD OF EQUINE CONFLICT ….”

On the 50th anniversary of his death one of this country's greatest statesmen won a race at Uttoxeter yesterday. The Sophie Leech-trained WINSTON CHURCHILL was victorious in the Claire Jenkinson Golden Handicap Chase by 81 lengths (yes eighty-one!), a race in which only two of the five horses finished the course: one was pulled up; another fell and brought down the third. Killian Moore aboard the nine-year-old had an easy time of it, making all the running and stayed on relentlessly to the very end.

 

The Westbury-on-Severn-based winning trainer confessed that there was no coincidence involved. It turns out that Geoff Thompson, who owns the son of PRESENTING, is a great fan of Sir Winston Churchill and has collected all kinds of memorabilia of the famous war-time leader, even naming a horse after him. He had, it seems, been planning and hoping for a long time that he could get his bay gelding to win on this important day and, with this in mind, this particular race had been pinpointed for quite a while.

Sophie Leech commented: "There were a couple of other options for him this week, but everything panned out to perfection. It was a great result and we are very pleased."

 

TRY, TRY, TRY AGAIN!

The Philip Hobbs-trained IF IN DOUBT gave Tony McCoy a relatively easy win yesterday at Doncaster in the Sky Bet Chase. The champion jockey was content to sit back early on as as FAIRY RATH and MR MOONSHINE bowled along at a goodly pace. The four out NIGHT IN MILAN made noticeable progress and went into the lead. That was when the seven-year-old son of HERON ISLAND moved up to make a strong challenge. There were a few moments when it looked as though Diane Sayer's 25/1 shot, BAILEYS CONCERTO, might produce a better tune but in the event there was no doubt about the winner's three and a half lengths' victory.

 

Tony McCoy commented afterwards: "He was very keen and I wanted to sit seventh or eighth but I ended up dropping him out. He's not a natural jumper so I switched him to the outside to get some light. I tried to nurse him round and when I gave him a squeeze at the top of Rose Hill, he shot round the outside. I didn't want to put his jumping under any pressure in the straight but I went on and he stayed on well. To be honest, I didn't fancy him much coming here because he had been beaten off the same mark over hurdles. He's got a lot to learn."

 

A WIN OF QUALITY

It's a good two years since Simon Hodgson took out his training licence so he would have been celebrating a long-awaited first win on the Flat when QUALITY ART won the Daily Enhanced "Magic Multiples" At Unibet Handicap at Wolverhampton. The dual-purpose trainer, whose previous wins were on the National Hunt track, clearly hasn't had a good year so he must now be hoping that his Yeovil-based yard is in for better times.

 

Simon Hodgson commented: “Quality Art certainly was not winning out of turn. He had been beaten a neck at Lingfield Park the previous Friday and in three previous races at Wolverhampton between October and December he had finished a close third. I asked Richard (Guest) if he had anything that needed sweetening up and he came up with this one. He said he was a miserable old blighter but he would win for me.”

 

SATURDAY 24th JANUARY 2015

 

AIMING TO SWAT THE FLY

It looks like the ground at Leopardstown tomorrow will be more to JEZKI's liking when he takes on HURRICANE FLY again in the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle. The Jessica Harrington-trained 2014 Champion Hurdle hero has come off second-best in both races with Willie Mullins' eleven-year-old son of MONTJEU.

 

Jessica Harrington commented: "He did a nice bit of work on Tuesday and is in good form. It would be great to get nice ground and no rain. I see Willie is looking for rain, so we all want different things! They will have some new ground, which is great. We got nearer than we've ever got to Hurricane Fly (at Leopardstown) over Christmas. We were only half a length behind him. We'll make a race of it and it will be a great spectacle for everybody that comes racing.”

 

Jessica Harrington's main concern seems to be that JEZKI will not be on top of his form until he returns to Prestbury park to defend his world title at the Cheltenham Festival in March.

She added: "He's pretty close to 100 per cent but is always a better horse in the spring. He comes to life then, and better ground certainly helps. March is the day we really want him."

 

THE PRICE IS NOT RIGHT, FOR A START!

Wolverhampton racecourse management, it has been revealed, has sent an unusual warning letter to all on-course bookmakers, the gist of which seems to be that they harbour suspicions that starting prices are being fixed with the aim of saving the betting industry thousands of pounds per race. The man behind this remarkable claim is the all-weather venue's MD, David Roberts, who is clearly concerned that the on-course bookmakers may have been in breach of a rule which resulted in "distorting artificially the betting market or starting price".

 

In his letter, David Roberts writes: "The racecourse has recently become aware that some bookmakers may be in danger of contravening [the] requirement by laying off-course hedging money at starting price rather than the prevailing fixed odds price at the time the bet was struck.”

 

He doesn't actually go as far as to confirm or deny that he or any of his staff had witnessed this contravention happening but his letter does go on to say: "We have observed the impact of the this practice in the betting ring and it is the racecourse's view that such behaviour invites accusations of price fixing and collusion which, consequently, may jeopardise the racecourse's premises licence and compromise the integrity of the betting ring."

 

Robin Grossmith, a Director of the Federation of Racecourse Bookmakers commented: "It has always been the case that you mustn't conduct yourself in a manner against the rules," he said. "It is now in the racecourse terms and conditions of entry and it appears all they are doing is flagging up the rules. Perhaps, I don't know, somebody has observed something up there."

 

Caroline Davies, the Racecourse Association's Services Director, made it clear that she welcomed this shot across the bows of the Wolverhampton bookmakers and welcomed david Roberts' letter for raising concerns not only in respect of the track's legal requirements but also for punters betting on British horseracing.

 

FOUR'S THE TARGET

Another unhappy bunny! Andrew Franklin, who spent twenty-eight years at the head of Channel 4 Racing, has fired a salvo at the programme, saying the current format has lost 'the spark, energy and humour of old' and expressing his concerns about the dwindling viewers for for some racing's biggest events. His rule, however, came to an end when IMG Sports Media took over as the network's racing producer at the beginning of 2013.

 

Andrew Franklin commented: "Far and away the biggest worry is the showpiece occasions haven't bottomed out yet. Channel 4 keeps saying it is proud of the programme but in the end it comes down to how many pairs of eyeballs you have attracted. The term I keep hearing when people talk to me is that Channel 4 must be ‘in denial'. In my view, the loss of viewers has been alarming. Everybody knew viewers would be lost from events the BBC used to cover, but the numbers far outweigh those lost by other sports that moved from the BBC to a commercial channel. No-one could have predicted that."

 

Generally criticising Channel 4's programme output, he added: "I think they miss individuals - particularly John Francome, who was unquestionably the star of the show. The presenters seem to get on with each other from what I can see, but there is nothing over and above that. There's no sense of chemistry, which there was before.”

It seems to have been no coincidence that Andrew Franklin's departure coincided with the disappearance of other popular presenters such as Alastair Down, Derek Thompson and Mike Cattermole.

 

FRIDAY 23rd JANUARY 2015

 

HAVEN'T THE FOGGIEST

A day to remember at Gowran Park yesterday even though virtually the only ones who could see what was going on were the jockeys. Hidden from view, Willie Mullins became the first trainer in history to win Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase for a sixth time. There was, however, thick fog all over the track which just about obscured all the action. What some racegoers may have seen was a brilliant DJAKADAM, undeterred by being top weight, winning this three-mile contest by eight lengths under the expert stewardship of Ruby Walsh.

 

The County Carlow trainer, who was until yesterday level-pegging with the legendary Tom Dreaper commented: “It is very nice to make history and to be mentioned in the same context as Tom Dreaper. I am very lucky to have people to back me. “I know it was a pain for the people watching, they couldn’t see the race, but it was very enjoyable from where I was,” Walsh said.