DAILY NEWS ARCHIVE 6

 

THURSDAY 7th APRIL

WILLIE, WON'T HE?

One topic dominates the racing headlines today. It's Day 1 of the Aintree

Grand National meeting and, according to the weather report the Hurdle and National courses will be soft, good to soft in places, following last night's rain. One trainer who will not be unhappy with this news is Willie Mullins who saddles ANNIE POWER in the Doom Bar Aintree Hurdle. The lightly-raced SHIROCCO daughter is just one of the County Carlow trainer's Cheltenham winners running at the Merseyside track which may result in Ireland's top champion trainer's taking the British title from Paul Nicholls, making it the first time in sixty years (Vincent O'Brien 1953) that a foreign trainer has done this. If today goes well for the Closutton-based team, then it's going to be an interesting time t Aintree.

 

Willie Mullins' son, Patrick, commented: “This race should be near ideal for Annie Power. Like all those heading to the meeting she has come out of Cheltenham well. If she can run to her Cheltenham form, she will be very hard to beat.”

 

OH, LUCKY JIM!

The Jim Bolger-trained ALTESSE, after a run of six races where she managed a place, finally got her second career victory, when she beat BALLYBACKA QUEEN by a half-length in the listed Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Noblesse Stakes, the feature event on Student Day in Leopardstown yesterday. The five-year-old daughter of HERNANDO, whose only previous claim to fame was winning her maiden debut at Killarney in August 2014, put on a doughty performance, with Kevin Manning aboard, in the heavy conditions following torrential showers.

Jim Bolger commented: “She’s been very consistent and goes on all types of ground, except firm. If she gets a good pace, the trip doesn’t matter to her. She’ll probably go for the Vintage Crop Stakes (Group 3) in Navan.”

 

IN WITH HALF A CHANCE, BROTHER!

The Paul Nicholls-trained SILVINIACO CONTE has made quite a name for himself over the last few years with a long list of memorable victories. Odds are that the name of his half-brother, UCELLO CONTI, is not one that readily springs to mind. The eight-year-old was trained in France by Guillaume Macaire, where he had three runs, before moving to Gordon Elliott's yard in County Meath. This is where the story gets interesting. The equine siblings are due to race against each other in the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday. UCELLO CONTI has earned his place in the Aintree spectacular, which incidentally Gordon Elliott won with SILVER BIRCH in 2007, as a result of two excellent runs in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at Leopardstown and the Thyestes Chase at Gowran.

 

Anthony Bromley, racing manager for the owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, commented: "Simon owned him in France. He was a smart three- and four-year-old over hurdles and fences for Guillaume Macaire. He lost his way and became disappointing, and the last roll of the dice was to go to see if Gordon Elliott could rekindle him a bit. Gordon had him over a year before he got him on the track. He's been a bit of a surprise package. He's come back to his good form as a youngster and has run two great races in Ireland's two biggest handicaps this winter. He clearly likes cut in the ground but we're not completely sure about him getting the extra distance of the National. "He's a bit higher in the handicap over here than he is in Ireland and that meant he definitely got in the race. If he was off his Irish mark it would be touch and go if he got in. Daryl Jacob rides and this horse is a half-brother to Silviniaco Conti.”

WEDNESDAY 6th APRIL

DOCTOR'S PRESCRIPTION

As mentioned yesterday trainer, Dr. Richard Newland is extremely disappointed that his PINEAU, who won in 2014, is most likely not to get another chance to repeat the success in this year's Grand National on Saturday or ever again, as he is already thirteen years old. He is adamant that changes will have to made to one of the world's most popular races. His prescription includes: an improved reserve system; a different approach to framing the weights; possible limits on the numbers of horses an owner or trainer can run and an automatic qualification for past winners.

 

The Worcestershire-based trainer commented: "The Grand National is the public's race and the public surely want to see a previous winner, and also a horse like Alvarado, as they are the ones they latch on to. Phil Smith [BHA handicapper] has tried to help the National horses, and I'm not blaming him for misjudging it but you really need two ratings, an official rating and a staying chase rating. Horses in the top 40 may have higher ratings than Pineau De Re and Alvarado, but they don't necessarily have a staying chase rating higher than them and have very little chance of staying the trip. In the Irish National last week one owner had eight runners, and on Saturday another owner could have five, while two trainers competing for the title could run ten between them. Limiting trainers is hard, but at some point somebody will have to say that perhaps three runners for one owner is enough."

 

ALMOST MADE IT!

Whilst all connections at Eccleswall Court would have been rooting for the Michael Scudamore-trained RIPTIDE in yesterday's Jamaican Flight Handicap at Pontefract, nevertheless they could not have failed to be impressed by the performance of the eventual winner. The Kenneth Slack-trained ALMOST GEMINI switched to hurdling in February 2014, producing a trio of wins and his last triumph on the Flat was in June 2013. The son of DYLAN THOMAS, used to three-mile contests, seems to have taken this two-and-a-quarter-mile round one of the Pontefract Stayers Championship completely in his stride, even though it was on heavy ground. The 7/2 shot, seven-year-old grey, ridden confidently by James Sullivan, travelled smoothly in the rear, biding his time until asked to make his way into the lead and move on to leave the Micky Hammond-trained TUSCAN GOLD a length and three-quarters adfrift at the winning post.

 

Evelyn Slack, the winning trainer's mother and assistant, commented: "He took to it extremely well. I was frightened he might be wondering where the next hurdle was. We might try to keep him on the Flat a little bit now, but eventually he may go chasing."

 

TWO DOWN ONE TO GO!

The bookies were laughing all the way to the bank yesterday at Fairyhouse. The reason for their happiness was that not one of the favourites in the seven-race fixture was successful. The afternoon of punters' depression began in the opening maiden hurdle, when the 4/7 odds-on favourite, SEVEN NATION ARMY trained by Henry de bromhead, fell at the last when clearly in the lead. Andrew Lynch, who was aboard that disaster, was in for more disappointment in the last race of the day, the Mares Beginners Chase, in which the 11/10 favourite, MISSYPET, also unceremoniously deposited her rider on the deck just after gaining the lead as they neared the final fence. The other beginners chase of the day also produced a shock result but, by some poetic justice, it worked out in favour of the twice-fallen rider. After the early departure of the evens-favourite, FINE ARTICLE, at the first fence, it looked like the second favourite, DALLAS COWBY would inherit the winner's mantle but that wasn't to be. The Gordon Elliott-trained son of BENEFICIAL ran out of steam between the last two fences and Andrew Lynch was a worthy beneficiary aboard the 50/1 outsider, the Norman Lee-trained FESTIVE DAY.

 

TUESDAY 5th APRIL

DANSILI FILLY WILLY-NILLY

This Khalid Abdullah-owned three-year-old grey has a lot more to offer, acording to her Wiltshire-based trainer. Roger Charlton saddled BATTLEMENT in the TTS Networks Maiden Stakes at Lingfield Park yesterday and not only did she overcome her obvious dislike of the polytrack surface but, under the stewardship of Ryan Moore, she had enough class to hang on until the end and beat her rival, the Richard Hannon-trained TARAABUT, by a neck.

The 4/11 favourite didn't give her jockey the easiest of rides, though, hanging to the right as the eight-strong field turned for home but she managed to sort herself out and find more in reserve to seal the narrow victory.

 

Roger Charlton commented: "Ryan said she didn't go on the course, but he was happy with her. He thinks she wants a mile and a quarter with a fast pace to run at. She was up there and a bit free early on. You want horses that keep on improving and I'm pretty sure she will."

 

It was a good day for the thirty-two-year-old Brighton-born jockey. An hour later he clocked up the double when he partnered the Brendan Powell-trained ELUSIVE ELLEN in the JEC Fillies' Handicap. In the process, the six-year-old daughter of ELUSIVE CITY had to beat off some serious resistance from DIAMOND LADY but this lady wasn't for turning and she claimed the prize by a head.

 

COMING UP FOR AIR

There's a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as in the countdown to Aintree. Last-minute decisions have been made as to whether a particular horse will run or not. Another one that will not is the Nicky Henderson-trained ALTIOR. It seems connections would prefer to involve their protégé in a session of schooling over fences next week. The objective is to help them decide whether he should be entered in the Stan James Champion Hurdle or the Racing Post Arkle Chase next season. The six-year-old son of HIGH CHAPARRAL, the supreme victor in last month's Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle had been rated as short as 4/7 for Friday's Grade 1 Top Novices' Hurdle, where there would undoubtedly have been an almighty ding-dong between the Willie Mullins-trained LIMINI or YORKHILL. However, that is now not to be. The Lambourn trainer will now be saddling BUVEUR D'AIR, who came third, just one-and-a-half lengths behind his stable companion in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle. The five-year-old son of CRILLON was originally a 16/1 shot with the bookies but has been shortened to 5/2, as a result of this lastest development.

 

Nicky Henderson commented: "We've discussed what we should do with Altior. There is nothing wrong with him and he looks fantastic but we've decided he has done his bit for the season so he won't be going to Aintree. Buveur D'Air will now come into that race. Altior's owners, Pat and Christopher Pugh, are now going to come down next week when Altior will school over fences under Nico (de Boinville). We need to decide if next season he will go down the Champion Hurdle or Arkle route. Schooling him now will give him and us something to think about."

 

A RE OF HOPE?

It looks like the 2014 Grand National Champion PINEAU DE RE won't make it into Saturday's Grand National, either, but not for the want of trying. The way things are going the son of MARESCA SORRENTO needs three withdrawals to become part of the world-famous contest. The final field of a maximum of forty, plus four reserves, will be announced on Thursday.

Trainer, Dr Richard Newland commented: “It’s very disappointing and all the more frustrating because he is in fantastic shape. But everyone else has paid their £5,000 to stay in the entries to this point, so I would think they want to run and we’re not going to get many dropping out. The idea that a rating of 143 doesn’t get you a run is incredible. I don’t think anyone expected this and the thing needs thinking about. If you look at those horses rated above him, how many have ratings based on races short of three miles? I’m sure there will be changes for next year.”

 

MONDAY 4th APRIL

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

No prizes for guessing what names featured most at Limerick yesterday. Tom and Jerry? No, Ruby and Willie, of course! This jockey/trainer partnership bagged the largest rewards of the day. First came the Family Fun Day Sunday 8th May Rated Novice Hurdle in which the County Carlow king saddled BELLOW MOME, who after tracking the leaders for some time, was urged by Ruby Walsh to dispute lead two hurdles from home. The son of HONOLULU travelled well and went narrowly in the lead before the last. The five-year-old's jumping was not particularly fluent, however, and he was headed as he approached the last by the Denis Cullen-trained A GREAT VIEW but the County Kildare jockey managed to keep the act together and the duo triumphed by a head. Perhaps a more interesting contest was the £20K Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase an hour later. AVANT TOUT, last seen in a disappointing run in the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival (9th) and who hasn't had a win since last May, interestingly was sent back over fences again in the Grade 2 Hugh McMahon Memorial Novice Chase. The son of AGENT BLEU was sent off the 8/15 odds-on favourite and Ruby Walsh seemed determined not to waste his energy as he remained motionless until they neared the second obstacle from home when he then asked the six-year-old to take up the running. Bryan Cooper had still not finished putting the Gordon Elliott-trained LORD SCOUNDREL through his paces, though, and when the two leaders approached the final fence it looked like the result could swing either way. Ruby Walsh had other ideas, however, and finally took action and drove AVANT TOUT to a determined two-length victory.

 

Willie Mullins commented afterwards: "He has stamina, and jumping and stamina is what is needed here today. He'll either go to Sandown or Punchestown and can also be kept for the Summer as he goes on good ground. Depending on what the weather throws up, the Galway Plate could be an aim."

 

ARMY MANOEUVRES

This son of GALILEO made an impressive winning start to his racing career at Curragh when he won yesterday's Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Maiden. The Aidan O'Brien-trained US ARMY RANGER, already an 15/8 antepost Derby gamble, was purposely held up in the early stages of the contest, allowing his stable companions, KELLSTORM and THE MAJOR GENERAL to do all the work. There were moments when it seemed that Ryan Moore may have left it too late as there was still plenty of work to do as the ten-strong field turned into the straight. Danger then struck as the 11/10 favourite, Dermot Weld-trained AASHEQ surged powerfully into the lead, about two furlongs from home. US ARMY RANGER, however, in true military fashion, out-manoeuvred his rival with a last-minute attack, winning the day by three-quarters of a length.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented: "Pat (Smullen) rode him in some work here two weeks ago and liked him, but I was a bit worried beforehand (with all the money for Weld's horse). We thought he was very nice last year but he had a small problem and didn't run. He has only done half-speed work for Donnacha (O'Brien), but he has worked well with horses that have Group-race form. I told Ryan to drop him in and educate him. He has a great pedigree, but has only won a maiden. That was the most serious bit he has ever been asked to do. He could go for something like the Derrinstown or to Chester for education. He'll only have one more run if he goes to the Derby."

 

A SHOCKING BAN

The stewards at Limerick yesterday, it seems, were in no mood for half measures when they handed out a 30-day ban, no less, to this County Meath jockey. Barry Geraghty was riding the Tony Martin-trained NOBLE EMPEROR in the Book Online At www.limerickraces.ie Handicap Hurdle and finished a strong runner-up. The problem was, it seems, the winning distance was eleven lengths. Under Rule 212, which governs running and riding procedures, the stewards decided that Barry Geraghty had failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures to gain the best possible result for his mount and, therefore, banned the jockey for 30 days, (also ordering his riding fee to be forfeit), the horse for sixty days and fined the trainer £2,400. During the investigation all the jockeys bar Barry Cash (who had gone off to another race), who rode the winner VELOCITY BOY, were interviewed by the officials and asked to explain why they allowed the eventual winner so much of a lead which proved ultimately unassailable. Curiusly none of the other riders interviewed were punished,

 

It was revealed later that the trainer, Tony Martin had stated that his instructions to the jockey were; "to get some cover and try switch him off, bearing in mind that the horse can be keen". Barry Geraghty had also confirmed that his instructions were that the horse "needs to be covered up and delivered late" and that the winner "quickly established a good lead at the start and circumstance meant that he was unable to chase the leader until the straight as he was riding strictly to instructions".

 

The jockey's ban, due to begin on April 17, will include the conclusion of the British jumps season at Sandown and the five-day Punchestown fixture, where Barry Geraghty would, no doubt, have been booked for many rides in his first season as retained rider to JP McManus.

 

SUNDAY 3rd APRIL

TIP TOP

There now seems no doubt about it. Ireland's top trainer has his eye on taking the British trainers' championship title. This is obvious from the fact that Willie Mullins has an illustrious array of forty-three runners on the second day of the Grand National meeting at Aintree on Friday. By contrast eight-time British jump racing Champion, Paul Nicholls will saddle only eighteen horses throughout the day and three-time champion trainer, Nicky Henderson, only eight. In fact, the County Carlow trainer has more horses running than the total entry of Paul Nicholls, Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson put together. For example Willie Mullions has seven horses entered in the Grade 1 Top Novices' Hurdle, including YORKHILL and LIMINI where they will attempting to get the better of the Nicky Henderson-trained ALTIOR who demonstrated his superiority in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, leaving Irish contingent's stable companion, MIN, trailing seven lengths in his wake. Later in the day, in the Grade 1 JLT Melling Chase, VAUTOR and VROUM MAG will be seeking to deny the Paul Nicholls-trained SAPHIR DU RHEU victory, especially if Willie Mullins's UN DE SCEAUX has recovered from his recent Champion Chase defeat.

 

BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Doncaster's traditional first day of Flat racing produced some unexpected results, some desired and some not. Trainer Charlie Appleby was no doubt pleased with the result of the Betway Lincoln when his SECRET BRIEF put on a powerful performance by snatching victory by a neck from the Jeremy Noseda-trained BRAVO ZOLO despite the gallant efforts by jockey Ryan Moore. Despite coming out of the highest-numbered stall (22) William Buick confidently urged the son of SHAMARDAL consistently through the field, sticking to his task for this narrowest of victories.

 

John Ferguson, recently appointed Godolphin's CEO, commented:"You couldn't ask for more. It's a handicap but it's a very significant one and it gets you off to a great start. The lovely thing about both yards is that everyone works so well together and it gives everyone a boost and it is very important to be positive. My hopes and aspirations are to maximise the potential of every horse in the yard. I am not saying they are all champions, I am not saying they are all Group horses but if we can maximise the potential of every horse we have done a good job and that is what Sheikh Mohammed deserves."

 

HE WASN'T THERE AGAIN TODAY!”

There's one jockey for whom I have a secret admiration. He doesn't seem to get many rides but when he does it's usually for top trainers. What is more, he seems competent both on the Flat and over the jumps but, strangely, he never gets a chance to display his prowess. Yesterday, for instance, he was listed as riding the Richard Hannon-trained MOHEET in the 3.55 Betway Lincoln Mile Stakes at Doncaster. Then he had to dash southwards, presumably by helicopter, because he was booked to be aboard Jim Best's OFFICER DRIVEL in the 4.50pm Doom bar Chelmsford Handicap Chase at Newbury. The mystery about this jockey is that whenever I check the results the next day, his name is nowhere to be found. Invariably the horse he was booked to ride has been declared a non-runner. There are nothing in his name anywhere on record. The Daily Telegraph's Racing Section also, it seems, has a lot of respect for this ghost rider because, when he is due to compete, his name is always listed in capital letters: DOUBTFUL.

 

SATURDAY 2nd APRIL

A BIRTHDAY DOUBLE

This Pembrokeshire-based trainer probably couldn't have wished for a nicer thirty-sixth birthday present than a double win at Newbury yesterday. The day started off propitiously with the first race of the day. The Rebecca Curtis-trained BIGBADJOHN, a 20/1 shot, with Trevor Whelan aboard, set the cat among the pigeons when he took the lead from the word go and outran Harry Fry's HELL'S KITCHEN to win the AJC Premier Novices' Hurdle by a staggering nine lengths.

 

The birthday girl commented: "He is a horse we liked but we first ran him at a time when some of our horses were wrong. He is a proper chaser for next year. Where we go next I don't know, there is Punchestown but we will see how he comes out of this as we want to look after him for next year."

 

The winning trainer has made no secret of the fact that she wants her POTTERS CROSS to take on the Grand National but has realised that probably that wasn't on the agenda for this year. The performance of her nine-year-old yesterday, however, in the Oakley Coachbuilders Novices' Limited Handicap Chase only served to convince her that an appearance at the world-famous Aintree spectacular is only a matter of time. Although this son of ALFLORA failed to finish in either of his two previous starts this season, including his debut over fences at Chepstow last time out, when he unseated his jockey, David Noonan, he clearly showed his talents yesterday with a clear-round victory in the extended two-mile-seven-furlong contest. Despite a last-minute rally by his closest rival, the 11/4 favourite still had enough left to repel all boarders to complete the birthday double for his trainer.

 

Rebecca Curtis added: "Today could not have worked out any better. I thought he was off a really nice mark. He missed a couple of seasons with a leg injury and sometimes it takes a couple of runs to get them back. Hopefully he will keep improving now. He jumped well and travelled a lot better than he did at Chepstow. At Chepstow he just landed steeply. I've never considered him a bad jumper. If he gets rated high enough I hope he will end up as a National horse. This is my present. To be fair I've not had one birthday present given to me yet. That maybe because I left at 5.30 this morning!"

 

CARDS STACKED AGAINST?

Connections were absolutely non-plussed and who could blame them, when the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD took a dive, taking an unfortunate Paddy Brennan with him, just as he began to assert his dominance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on March 18 and it looked like he would be well involved in the final flurry. Another star, the Willie Mullins-trained VAUTOUR, had better luck at the festival with for a third successive year, benefitting from a late switch to the Ryanair Chase. Now both of these have become the star attractions among the sixteen runners in the Betfred Bowl on the first day of the Aintree spectacular on Thursday. Mind you Colin Tizzard's son of KING'S THEATRE will have a lot on his plate because the Irish top trainer is taking no chances and is also saddlng DJAKADAM and DON POLI, who came second and third, respectively, in the Gold Cup, as well as VALSEUR LIDO and BOSTON BOB.

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM

Today marks the traditional official traditional start of the Flat season at Doncaster. Former American jockey and now trainer, Wesley Ward, is back to enjoy the occasion and claims that CREATE A DREAM is one of the best horses he has ever brought to these shores – and he has been here many times before. In fact the forty-eight-year-old trainer has built quite a reputation for regularly bringing over his talented juvenile fillies to Royal Ascot and running off with big prizes. Recently it was the likes of NO NAY NEVER, HOOTENNANNY and, particularly, ACAPULCO who showed all her rivals a fine pair of heels in last year's Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes. This is the first time, however, that Wesley Ward has made it to Doncaster where he hopes his daughter of OASIS DREAM will justify the supreme confidence he has in her.

 

The Washington-born trainer commented: "Create A Dream came to me and started breezing and from what I've seen so far, she'd just jump right right up there with all the ones I've brought over to Ascot in the past, at least in the mornings. It just remains to be seen what she'll do in the afternoon! She wouldn't look like Acapulco [in terms of her size]. She's a European pedigree and probably has more of a European look to her. She's a tidy horse and she's just a beautiful filly."

 

FRIDAY 1st APRIL

GROUNDS FOR WINNING

It has just been revealed that some bookmakers are planning to place 'live' racecourse turf in their shops so that punters will be able to check for themselves what the ground conditions are really like before placing a bet. The idea is that the 'living turf' will be kept up-to-date in the same conditions as at the local course. This initiative, approved by the BHA, will literally give the betting public the opportunity to 'walk the course' before a race and not have to rely on out-of-date ground reports or word-of-mouth accounts from jockeys. The stretches of turf, measuring approximately twelve by five feet, will be kept in the identical conditions of the real track, including watering or drying out as necessary.

 

One particular jockey commented after testing the strip of turf: "What an amazing idea. I've never seen anything like it. The ground conditions of any track can suddenly change and that can make a difference to the outcome of a race. Full marks to the participating bookmakers who, for once, are really offering an advantage to the punter.”

After all it is April Fools' Day!

 

BRIGHT NEW DAZZLER

The Cheltenham Gold Cup winning owners, trainer and jockey were not resting on their laurels but were in action again yesterday at Clonmel. The Gigginstown Stud, Gordon Elliott and Bryan Cooer were back in the winner's enclosure when their BRIGHT NEW DAWN took the Suir Valley Chase by twelve lengths. It was a fine day and no-one was really complaining but the low sun did cause the last two fences in the straight to be omitted. In fact, early on, it did look as though the Dermot McLoughlin-trained WESTERNERS SON was going to claim the race as he was miles ahead of his four rivals but then a bad mistake on the final circuit cost him momentum. Then it was no trouble at all for the nine-year-old son of PRESENTING to take up the challenge and glide effortlessly past the long-time leader in the straight and leave the field trailing in his wake.

 

The winning jockey commented: “He was entitled to win on ratings, and that will get his confidence up. The fences being omitted did no harm either - they didn’t tire him out – as it is as far as he wants to go now, and I’d say he’ll be going back in trip rather than further.”

 

UPS AND DOWNS

It's a precarious profession being a jump jockey. One minute you're up and then you're down.

The up news: Tom Scudamore is back in the saddle before next week's Grand National, after being absent since March 19 due to an injury in a fall at Uttoxeter. The thirty-three-year-old jockey has been preparing himself by riding out at David Pipe's Wellington-based yard this week and is said to be looking forward to getting aboard his two Cheltenham Festival winners – the Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK, hero of the Ryanair World Hurdle and David Pipe's Ultima Handicap Chase winner, UN TEMPS POUR TOUT.

 

Downer one: Ruby Walsh has sprained his left ankle after coming off the Willie Mullins-trained BLEU BERRY at the final flight when in second place behind eventual winner ALAMEIN, trained by Mouse Morris in the opening Easter Holidays Maiden Hurdle. This could put in doubt the thirty-six year-old County Kildare jockey's participation in the Grand National. Ireland's leading jump jockey was able to make it back into the weighing room under his own steam but he had to forgo his only other ride of the day, the Michael Hourigan-trained THE JOB IS RIGHT in the Suir Valley Chase.

 

Doctor John Downey commented: "Ruby will ice his ankle when he arrives home and we'll decide from there. We can't make a decision on when he'll return until tomorrow."

 

Downer two: Another jockey who will definitely miss the Aintree spectacular, which he won in 2009 when riding the 100/1 shot, MON MOME, is Liam Treadwell. The thirty-year-old Arundel-born jockey was taken to hospital yesterday afternoon, having been knocked unconscious after a devastating fall from the Venetia Williams-trained MARKET OPTION in a three-mile handicap chase at Bangor. It was announced that the injured rider was soon up and talking after the trainer had visited him at the scene. Unfortunately because he had concussion, Liam Treadwell faces a mandatory six-days off from riding.

 

Andrew Morris, Clerk of the Course, reported: "Liam was taken to Wrexham hospital for further assessment as he was knocked unconscious. He was conscious when he was put in the ambulance."

 

THURSDAY 31st MARCH

I GOTTA HORSE!”

Ever fancied owning a Grand National runner and possibly winner? Now's your chance! Trainer Paul Nicholls has just announced that he intends to put the 50/1 shot, BLACK THUNDER up for auction two days before £1m Aintree spectacular which takes place Saturday week. The son of MALINAS has won seven of his twenty-four races, although his last triumph was back in December 2014 at Sandown when he took the John Tyndall Memorial Future Stars Chase by eleven lengths. Since then nine-year-old's star has somewhat waned with disappointing runs at Cheltenham, Chepsow ans Sandown.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: “If anyone wants a Grand National winner he is going to the sale at Aintree. I haven’t booked anyone to ride him yet but have a couple of possible jockeys lined up.”

 

DENIS A MENACE?

Not a year to write home about for Denis O'Regan, who used to be one racing's highest-rated jockeys. At the recent Cheltenham Festival he only had one ride; that was on the Alan King-trained ARDAMIR in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices Hurdle and he had to be pulled up. For the rest of the week, the Cork-born jockey, who won the World Hurdle and Arkle Chase as well as clocking up over fifty triumphs in six of the last eight seasons - had to do something he wasn't used to, be a spectator. The thirty-four-year-old Irishman then decided to move South from his County Durham-based job and is now hoping for a change of fortune at Aintree, where he is booked to ride the Neil Mulholland-trained THE DRUIDS NEPHEW in the Grand National. In last year's race the nine-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE came a cropper at the fifth fence from home when it looked like he would deny victory to the eventual winner, MANY CLOUDS. So perhaps both horse and rider have scores to settle!

 

A CLASSIC DREAM

Another rookie trainer is in the news. Owen Burrows took over control at Kingwood House Stables from the retiring Barry Hills at the end of last season and, thereby, inherited not only numbers of horses that any beginner would dream about but also equine talent potentially second to none. In fact, chances are that the Sir Michael Stoute's former assistant could become a Classic-winning trainer even in his first season. Next month marks the 208th renewal of the 2000 Guineas Stakes (first run 18th April 1809) and it so happens that the second favourite for this Group One contest is the Owen Burrows-trained MASSAAT who is on course to take his revenge on the ante-post favourite AIR FORCE BLUE, to whom he was runner-up in the Dewhurst Stakes last October.

 

Owen Burrows commented: "He was big and backward at this time of year last year and it wasn't until we took him over to the grass gallops in May that he showed us a lot more. He is working well at home and we are thrilled with him. He has got three and a half lengths to find with Air Force Blue, but the nice thing is there was a good gap back to the third that day.

"Hopefully he has improved enough to give it a shot. How he runs in the Guineas will determine where we go after that. He was a big, scopey horse and whatever he did last year as a two-year-old it was a bonus. I don't know where we will start him off but he will have an entry in the Dante at York. Whether we go for that, I don't know. He got beat at Newmarket first time out, then we went back to the July Course where he was beaten on good to soft ground and we were disappointed as we thought he would win. We gave him a bit of time off and he went to Leicester and won his maiden well. We won't be running him on soft ground, we will wait until it dries out."

WEDNESDAY 30th MARCH

THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING!

Two days after revelling in her first Grade One victory when KYLEMORE LOUGH landed Sunday's Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, Kerry Lee was back again savouring success at the County Meath track. This time it was a Grade 2 event, the Normans Grove Chase where the Herefordshire-based trainer saddled the 5/4 favourite TOP GAMBLE, ridden by champion jockey-elect, Richard Johnson. The son of PRESENTING was held up early on in the race but made steady progress as the fourth and fifth fence approached. After a slight mistake six from home, the eight-year-old chestnut gelding went from strength to strength and asserted his position before the last jump and ran on to win by seven lengths.

 

Richard Johnson commented: "The last time I was here was when I rode for my father-in-law Noel Chance in the Irish Grand National five or six years ago. It's great to come over, Kerry's horses are running very well and this horse, on his day, is very good. He was good at Newbury.

We were slightly worried the ground might have dried out too much, but it was a strong gallop and it suited him well. He's not the fastest, even though he's a two-miler. He prefers very soft ground. Once we jumped three out I felt I had a very good chance then."

 

Kerry Lee took over the running of Bell House on the Shropshire/Herefordshire border in the Summer when her father Richard retired and has had a whirlwind of a first year, in which she saddled MOUNTAINOUS to win the Welsh Grand National, RUSSE BLANCE the Classic Chase at Warwick and BISHOPS ROAD the Grand National Trial at Haydock.

 

CREAM OF A DREAM

A regular American visitor to these shores and a successful challenger for Royal Ascot’s juvenile prizes is back again with an advance party, based at the Manton training estate in Wiltshire. Wesley Ward, a retired American Champion jockey and now a trainer, has decided to saddle his two-year-old filly, CREATE A DREAM, ridden by Frankie Dettori, in Saturday’s Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster’s Lincoln meeting in the hope that the daughter of OASIS DREAM will be able to handle soft ground for the first time. The forty-eight-year-old trainer will also be represented at Kempton Park on Saturday when Jose Valdivia will partner NEW TRIER in the Betfred TV/British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes.

 

Wesley Ward commented: “I am really excited this year because I have a lot better quality horses than I have brought over in the past. Physically, they are ready to come out running. I can use the condition that I have put into the in Florida where we have beautiful weather. I want to take advantage of that. The ground is a bit of an unknown and I contemplated starting Create A Dream on Polytrack but she is so talented that, even if she doesn’t relish the ground, I hope that talent will bring her home. She has an all European pedigree so her bloodlines would suggest she should stand it. What I have seen her do on fast ground in Florida has been sensational.”

 

WHO'S HUGHES?

A former North Yorkshire champion conditional jockey has gone on to another significant landmark in his career. Brian Hughes clocked up his second successive century of winners by completing a double at Hexham yesterday. His first success came on the Malcolm Jefferson-trained GULLY'S EDGE in the LWC Novices' Hurdle which he won by seventeen lengths. He followed this up two races later when he partnered GIBBSTOWN in the Primary Websites Handicap Chase for Ireland-based trainer, Paul Stafford.

 

Dublin-born Brian Hughes has insisted on spending most of his riding career based in North Yorkshire, which means there are fewer fixtures and opportunities for aspiring riders. He is nevertheless only the fifth jockey, after Richard Johnson, Aidan Coleman, Sam Twiston-Davies and Noel Fehily, to achieve this much-coveted landmark. He has let it be known that his next target will be to surpass the career-best 106 winners he notched up last season. He's got just three-and-a-half weeks to do so. He needs more than six winners in that time.

 

TUESDAY 29th MARCH

A NARROW SQUEAK!

The Irish Grand National proved to be an emotional occasion for this County Tipperary trainer. Michael 'Mouse' Morris won this race as a jockey in 1977 on board BILLYCAN and then went on to train his first winner of this contest in 2008 with HEAR THE ECHO. The former Honourable Michael Morris, son of the Third Baron of Killianin, was back in the winner's enclosure again yesterday after an eight-year gap when his ROGUE ANGEL, ridden by Ger Fox, claimed the prize by a short head, producing a bold front-running performance. The eight-year-old son of PRESENTING had, in fact, led from the third fence and produced an almost flawless round of jumping. Mouse Morris confessed that this narrow victory was very much treasured after a tough twelve months. Last June his son, Tiffer, died in unusual circumstances, whilst travelling in South America. Then this time last year he was denied success by the Katie Walsh-ridden THUNDER AND ROSES and had to be content with second and fourth with RULE THE WORLD and BAND OF BLOOD, respectively.

 

Mouse Morris commented: “This win is better because of the year it has been. It has been a great year. It's unbelievable. Tiffer was looking down on me. He helped me there. That's just special. Last year I had two in it jumping the last and didn’t win it. I thought here we go again. I gave Ger no instructions. He knew the horse as he won a Kerry National on him, so there was no need for instructions.”

 

GO ON MY SON!

Although not officialy in possession of a trainer's licence, Joseph O’Brien, using his father's name on the card, continued his remarkable beginning to his training career when his SLOWMOTION luckily didn't live up to his name and scored in the first race of the day, the Grade Two Juvenile Hurdle. The daughter of SOLDIER OF FORTUNE's jockey, Barry Geraghty, was clealy determined not to let the same thing happen as last time when the four-year-old filly got pipped at the post. The County Meath rider confidently kept his charge handy in third position for most of the race, leaving Gordon Elliott's TOCORORO to lead the pack. When the latter tired and fell back to join the rest of the field, SLOWMOTION eased away down the straight to win by seven lengths.

 

Joseph O’Brien commented: “At Limerick the last day she was a little bit fresh as she hadn’t run for a while, and blew up at the back of the last. She came on a lot from that. She’s a very good jumper, handles an ease in the ground, should stay well, and is a very exciting filly. She doesn’t have to run again, but obviously Punchestown would be the target if she was to.”

 

A STALLION FOR ALL SEASONS

For the last fifteen years one special resident of the Overbury Stud farm in Gloucestershire has played his part in enhancing the British racing industry, particularly the National Hunt scene. The now twenty-two-year-old KAYF TARA is certainly owed a debt of gratitude by British breeders. Just last week at the Cheltenham Festival alone, this son of SADLER'S WELLS supplied three of the week's four British-bred Grade 1 winners. One of his first successes was the, now retired, KAYF ARAMIS who produced four wins, (three at York) and ten places from forty-two races on the Flat and then went on to run over hurdles where he notched up three wins, including the Pertemps Final at Cheltenham in 2009, and thirteen places from forty-three outings. Currently an example of KAYF TARA's versatility is illustrated by the fact that he has produced winners across the spectrum, from Champion Bumper hero, BALLYANDY, to the dominant World Hurdler, THISTLECRACK and RSA Chase champion, BLAKLION. One characteristic all these horses seem to have in common is toughness and a will to win. The successes of all these offspring has assured KAYF TARA's position as third on the leading jumps sires' list behind KING'S THEATRE and PRESENTING. His having produced current Grade 1 winners such as TEA FOR TWO and IDENTITY THIEF also resulted in notching up approximately £1.9 million in earnings for the Overbury star. Whatever happens from now on, the season 2015-16 will go down as a personal best for KAYF TARA, in terms of prize-money and numbers of winners, which stands at 90 at the moment but there is still time to add to that and even reach the century.

 

Simon Sweeting, Overbury Stud manager, commented: "He was the most exciting horse to retire to the National Hunt ranks at the time. He was an obvious horse, as well-bred as you could find [as a Sadler's Wells brother to Group 1 winner Opera House] and a multiple Group 1-winning stayer. He covered 160 mares in his first year and would have had more than 200 if he hadn't suffered an injury. He's been popular since then - his progeny are tough, they battle and they also seem to jump well. A few trainers commented that the stock they had were chasers in the making, and we're seeing a number come through and do well over fences. But it's very hard to say whether they're better in one area than another when he has so many good hurdlers. There are some loyal Irish breeders who send him a couple of mares every year," says Sweeting. But British breeders have been the making of him. He's very well and as enthusiastic as ever. Long may it continue."

 

MONDAY 28th MARCH

SHE MADE THE GRADE!

Yesterday's Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse was won by a Herefordshire-based trainer in her 'rookie' year. The hits certainly keep on coming for Kerry Lee, who took over from her father, Richard, only last year. She saddled KYLEMORE LOUGH in this Grade 1 contest and Barry Geraghty steered the seven-year-old to a one-length victory over the Willie Mullins-trained favourite, OUTLANDER. The son of REVOQUE, winner of four of his five previous starts over fences, had more on his plate yesterday, as he was joining a higher class company in this two-and-a-half-mile feature. He was up to the task, though, jumping smoothly and matching the pace of the favourite as they came into the home straight. Indeed there was was little to choose between the two market leaders as they negotiated the last fence but Kerry Lee's trainee showed he had more in reserve as they galloped for the line. This also proved to be a good day for the winning jockey, Barry Geraghty as it marked his second Grade One victory of the day, as he had earlier claimed the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final, riding the Gavin Cromwell-trained JER'S GIRL.

 

Kerry Lee commented afterwards: "This is my first Grade One runner and my first runner in Ireland. It's my 22nd winner of the season. I have to give a massive mention to Jamie (Moore) who has put in a lot of work on this horse at home and I'm sorry that he couldn't ride him today (injured). Five wins on the bounce is a fantastic achievement, and I'd say it will be Punchestown next, probably over two miles. He's quite versatile distance-wise at two miles or two-and-a-half. Potentially we could be looking at anything next year. We've always thought where is the ceiling and we don't know. We'll certainly be aiming for the stars and we'll see what happens. I think he's a class horse that isn't ground-dependent."

 

JUST A SECOND!

Two British raiders at Auteuil yesterday had to be content with being runner-up in both events. In the first race of the fixture, the Prix Virelan, Nicky Henderson saddled PROTEK DES FLOS, who was originally destined for the Triumph Hurdle but the Lambourn-based trainer decided to take him to the Parisian Hippodrome in the hope of finding better ground. It turned out to be one of his better decisions and he almost pulled off a coup as his four-year-old son of PROTEKTOR, with James Revely aboard, only lost by half a length to the Guillaume Macaire-trained SAINT GOUSTAIN BLUE.

 

The winning jockey commented: "They didn't go any sort of pace which wasn't ideal as he is a stayer. If he were to come back on softer ground he would have a big chance in the good races here. In the group races they go faster and it would suit him to get a lead for longer. He is still big and raw and I was very happy with him."

 

Later on it was the turn of Middleham-based trainer Simon West, who was saddling a horse for the first time in France. His runner, MAXIMISER, was back on the track after a four-month absence after a fall in a novice chase at Newbury. The son of HELISSIO put on a spirited display under Joe Colliver in the Listed Prix Hubert d'Aillieres. The eight-year-old made good headway in front and performed very well under pressure when challenged by the Bert Lefevre-trained PARK LIGHT. The latter, however, just pipped him at the post by a short neck.

 

Simon West commented: "We have got to take the experience, learn from it and go on. We know he will come on fitness-wise and I think we will come back."

 

PRIVATE PRACTICE

In four locations in Britain and Ireland special Grand National schooling fences have been given a Spring cleaning and dressed with fresh spruce ready for use before the big event next month. Any trainer may use these fences for schooling the horses they intend to enter in Grand National, the Topham Chase and the Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree. The latter's personal groundstaff have been busy working on the obstacles, located at David Pipe's yard on the Devon/Somerset border, at The Jockey Club's Lambourn Gallops, at the Malton Schooling Grounds and at the Curragh Training Grounds.

 

Andrew Tulloch, Aintree's Clerk of the Course commented: "At each location, there are two Grand National fences which are replicas of the fences we have here at Aintree. We are keen to encourage trainers, who are thinking of running horses over the Grand National fences, to use them. Aintree is very appreciative of the help given by David Pipe, Lambourn, Malton and the Curragh to facilitate the provision of these schooling fences. Trainers wishing to use the fences need to liaise directly with the locations."

SUNDAY 27th MARCH

CALIFORNIA HERE I COME!

Neither the disadvantage of a wide draw nor a slipping saddle were going to deter this top jockey from claiming the Dubai World Gold Cup at Meydan yesterday. Victor Espinoza tenaciously overcame both of these setbacks when he rode CALIFORNIA CHROME to an impressive victory in the world's richest race (ca. £8M!). Trainer Art Sherman had maintained earlier that his Kentucky Derby winner was a good five-lengths better than last year and so it turned out to be.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He has done everything right, it was perfect. Sometimes it's better to stay a little bit further wide than being stuck inside but everything went well. When we left the gate I assumed I could take the lead but that was impossible so I stuck right with the leaders. Turning for home, I couldn't wait any longer and I had to go because I felt like the saddle was slipping back. I didn't want to take any chances. I know it was really far back but I wasn't really paying attention."

 

An equally thrilled Art Sherman added:"He's got such a fan base, the people in Dubai love this horse. When I was here last time when he won, he got a standing ovation and it made me feel really good. I love this place."

 

Sadly CALIFORNIA CHROME missed a crack at last year's Prince Of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot due to injury and it looks almost certain that he won't be back to these shores this year as his connections clearly the Breeders' Cup Classic in their sights, a race in which their champion finished a close third in 2014.

 

MAKING LEEWAY

Presteigne-based trainer, Kerry Lee, who only took over the training licence from her father last year and who has has made such a splendid beginning to her career, will be hoping for her first Grade 1 success when she saddles the improving KYLEMORE LOUGH in today's Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse. This son of REVOQUE has had four straight wins over fences beween December and March but victory in this afternoon's two-and-a-half mile contest will more than double the prize money he earned in all those four events put together. As the seven-year-old's regular jockey, Jamie Moore, is out of action with a broken collarbone he has recommended that Barry Geraghty takes the ride for the first time.

Kerry Lee commented: "I'm really looking forward to it, it's raining and everything's coming right for him," Lee said. This was definitely the right race."

 

RESULT POSTPONED!

Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum must be well pleased with his Newmarket trainer as he saddled his fifth winner from five races yesterday. Roger Varian maintained his impeccable record for this owner when POSTPONED easily won the Dubai Sheema Classic Presented by Longines at Meydan and, thereby, also secured a second Group 1 victory for his trainer. POSTPONED has now caught the eye of the bookies to score in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot and is a favourite to claim the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in October.

 

Roger Varian commented: "That was good to watch. I was happy from the outset really. They went an even gallop, Andrea got him in a good position and he quickened nicely. He's a very good horse. He has thrived since he has come out here so all the credit has to go to my staff. We'll get him home and make a plan, though he will be contesting the main mile-and-a-half races in the summer."

SATURDAY 26th MARCH

MAKING THE MARCUS

The recent success of Olympic champion, Victoria Pendleton, to switch saddles and ride successfully at the Cheltenham, seems to have aroused dormant desires in other would-be equestrian stars. The latest is Marcus Townend, who has accepted the challenge to become a Flat jockey and race in the historic Newmarket Town Plate on July 7. The task is hugely different from that of the the thirty-five-year-old fit sprint cyclist, though. Here it is the question of a fifty-two-year-old Sportsmail racing correspondent, who freely admits that his inner core, far from being like Victoria's high tensile steel, resembles more a 'rotting apple'. Anyway the doughty journalist is on a crash course at the British Racing School in Newmarket. Assisting him in his reach for the stars is the Aga Khan-bred DARROUN who is now retired from racing and serves as an equine tutor for jockeys of the future. The eight-year-old son of DALKHANI had the great and the good on board in his short successful racing career, including Ruby Walsh who won on him twice, Joseph O’Brien, David Casey and Paul Townend — no relation. After riding a few circuits in the indoor school at the BRS, one of Marcus Townend's instructors, former jockey, Michael Hills, who notched up over 1,600 winners, including SHAAMIT, in the 1996 Derby, commented diplonatically: “The horse was in charge more than you.”

 

GORDON EIGHT. WILLIE NONE!

It's the Boylesports Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Monday and Gordon Elliott aims to sadddle eight horses in an attempt to carry home the prize. Interestingly, Willie Mullins is not represented at all in this feaure Irish contest. One of the County Meath-based trainer's leading hopes is CAUSE OF CAUSES who won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase by twelve lengths last week at Cheltenham. The son of DYNAFORMER also has an entry in the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree but he may not get in as he is fifty-seventh on the list for that race so connections have decided to send him to the County Meath track. The local trainer is also giving MALA BEACH a run who looked like taking the At The Races Bobbyjo Chase but fell two out. BLESS THE WINGS, KILLER CROW, CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE, UNIC DE BERSEY, DEFINITE RUBY and RIVERSIDE CITY make up the rest of the Cullentra House Stables' contingent.

 

SURPRISE LUNAR LANDING

An unexpected victory was achieved by Ralph Beckett's progressive stayer in the 32Red All-Weather Marathon Distance Championships Conditions Stakes at Lingfield Park yesterday. MOONRISE LANDING, was given a patient ride by Jim Crowley. The duo then found themselves blocked behind a wall of horses as they neared the straight. The Ascot-born jockey kept his cool, however, and his patience was rewarded when a gap appeared, giving another son of DALAKHANI the chance for a late run to claim victory.

 

Jim Crowley commented afterwards: "I had traffic problems coming down the hill, the first two nipped up the inside but I was always confident I was within striking distance. It probably looked worse on the television than it felt."

 

FRIDAY 25th MARCH

BAN DISALLOWED!

Having pronounced last week that the country's two top amateur jockeys, Sam Waley-Cohen and Nina Carberry would be banned from riding on Grand National day, the British Horseracing Authority has had to get down from its high horse and admit that it was not entitled to enforce its bans on the day of the famous Aintree race. Apparently the mistake was due to a poorly worded rule. The organisation's rules stipulate that amateur riders must serve their bans on days when there is a steeplechase, a hurdle race or a bumper solely confined to amateurs and conditional jockeys. The officials obviously deemed that this included Grand National day because another race on the Aintree card is, in fact, a hurdle race for amateurs and conditionals. Bully for Sam Waley-Cohen for pointing this mistake out to the BHA who eventually conceded that such a race is somewhat different from the kind of event envisaged by the relevant legislation, so the rule cannot be applied.

 

The BHA commented: “While the intention of the schedule is to suspend amateur riders when races are taking place in which they can participate, the BHA accept that the various changes to the schedule over the years mean that the rule is open to different interpretation. The BHA would be changed to ensure future amateur suspensions correctly reflect the aforementioned intention”.

 

It goes without saying that this is very welcome news for Sam Waley-Cohen and Nina Carberry. The latter is very much in demand to ride in the National, having completed the course four times from five tries, last year on First Lieutenant. Sam Waley-Cohen hasn't got a ride at the moment as LONG RUN was immediately retired after the fateful race but he can expect to be booked because he has won six other races over the famous green fences.

 

A GIFT HORSE

For her outstanding success in the 'switching saddles' campaign, Victoria Pendleton is to be presented with a horse by her sponsor in this year-long challenge, Betfair. The thirty-five-year-old Olympic cycling champion will be presented with ACCORDING TO SARAH tomorrow, after she completes the ladies' open race at Kimble in Buckinghamshire aboard the eight-year-old mare. As is well-known, Victoria Pendleton achieved her objective of riding in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, finishing fifth in the amateur riders' Gold Cup on the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder. Twelve months ago she had not even sat on a horse but she progressed from a charity Flat race to amateur races last summer, then on to point-to-points and even won a hunter chase, appropriately named the Betfair Switching Saddles Hunters' Chase before going to Prestbury Park.

 

Barry Orr of Betfair commented: "She's fallen in love with According To Sarah. She's absolutely mad about the horse and we are making a present of her to Victoria and she will continue to ride her in point-to-points as she sees fit. She's completed the campaign in terms of the challenge we set out, but we will continue to have a relationship, for sure. I think it's fair to say it exceeded our expectations - it was such an audacious challenge, but with someone like her involved, and when you get the experts around, you give it every chance to succeed. She was the deciding factor in its success in that her commitment and dedication to the challenge was unwavering. She's been a fantastic ambassador for us, but she's also been a fantastic ambassador for women in sport.”

 

DOWN TO BUSINESS

It's the All-Weather Mile Championships Conditions Stakes at Lingfield today which sees a couple of rivals from last year coming back to have another go. One of them is the Roger Varian-trained MINDUROWNBUSINESS who only managed ninth in this race 12 months ago but he seems to have improved a lot since then. When returning from a break in November he clocked up a couple of good wins at Ligfield and Chelmsford. Then the son of CAPE CROSS probably found the extra two furlongs a bit too much in his next race at Lingfield, the Coral Conditions Stakes, and came third but last time at Wolverhampton at the beginning of February, in an extended mile contest, he was an easy winner. Trainer Roger Varian and Jim Crowley also make a good partnership as they both have over 30% plus success over course and distance.

 

THURSDAY 24th MARCH

YOU AINT SEEN NOTHING YET!

The National Hunt season has not yet concluded but the champion jockey-elect has already thrown down the gauntlet for next year. For the first time at Sandown next month, Richard Johnson is due to receive the coveted crown, after becoming only the third jumps rider in Britain to notch up more than two-hundred wins in a campaign. The 38-year-old has let it be known, however, that, after playing Number Two to Tony McCoy for almost twenty years, this is now just the beginning and he has already put a circle around Thursday, April 28th marking the official beginning of the new jumps season at Towcester. With just over a month to go before Sandown presents the season finale, the Hereford-born jockey, with 215 wins to his credit this season, is just coming around to the notion that he will, at last, become Champion Jockey 2015-2016.

 

Richard Johnson commented: "Hopefully we can say now that Aidan [Coleman] can't really ride 90-odd winners between now and then. I'm looking forward to it. Obviously it's something I've never done before and it's the one thing I've always wanted to do. I'm also looking forward to getting stuck in again the following Thursday. What I really want to do is maintain the winners and keep it all going."

 

LUCKY THREE

As a warm-up to his participation tomorrow in the All-Weather Championships at Lingfield, eight-time champion, Pat Smullen, carried off a 53/1 treble in Dundalk last night. The County Offaly-born jockey got cracking straight away in the first race of the evening, the two-mile Easter Eggstravaganza, riding the Dermot Weld-trained SIR RASTON who saw off, by half-a-length, Gordon Elliott's TIGER ROLL, the 2014 JCB Triumph Hurdle winner

 

After this victory the thirty-eight-year-old winning jockey commented: “We took a chance running him over two miles, but the steady pace was ideal for him. I knew if they went slow, his turn of foot would give him a great chance. I kept filling him with confidence and he picked up nicely.”

 

An hour later Pat Smullen was back in the winner's enclosure, after partnering the Prunella Dobbs-trained CARRIED to a front-running victory in the Champions Restaurant Easter Special Handicap.

 

The winning trainer commented: “Pat is an absolute master – everything was perfect. The visor helps him concentrate when he’s in front. This was a bit overdue – it’s his sixth run here this season and he’s been placed every time. We’ll keep going with him and we might go back over hurdles during the summer as he likes really firm ground.”

 

The treble came up in the last race, Follow Dundalk Stadium On Twitter Handicap when the James Nash-trained OUR MANEKINEKO found a gap between horses at about the furlong-marker and went on to win by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

James Nash commented: “I suppose he was a bit unlucky the last night, but at least it showed he was coming back to form,” said Nash. “I was happy he had improved from that last run. I have no big plans for him, but he’ll probably come back here, because he doesn’t handle the grass.”

 

UP THERE WHERE HE BELONGS!

It seems senior handicappers were so impressed by this son of KAYF TARA's performance at the Cheltenham Festival that they have rated him on a par with the great and the good. Accordingly, the Ryanair World Hurdle hero, THISTLECRACK, now ranks alongside the mighty BIG BUCK'S. The Colin Tizzard-trained eight-year-old increased his unbeaten run this season to four at last week's Festival, beating his rival, ALPHA DES OBEAUX, by an easy seven lengths.

 

Martin Greenwood, the BHA's spokesman, commented: He was as impressive as one could have wished for. Since the start of the Anglo-Irish Classification in 1999/2000, before my time at the BHB/BHA, the best staying hurdlers have ranged from 163 to 174 and included the likes of Baracouda (172), Inglis Drever (172) and the mighty Big Bucks (174 on five occasions, though ironically he was usually less impressive in the World Hurdle than on other courses). Where do I fit Thistlecrack into this list of hurdling titans? The five-year standards are suggesting an average of 173 and a median of 171 for the winner, though that doesn't include any extra added for ease of victory, and a time comparison with the Pertemps Handicap suggests a higher figure of 178. Of course the season is far from over with Aintree and Punchestown looming, so any short-term decision can be reviewed after those Festivals and at our annual Anglo-Irish meeting in early May. I was so visually impressed with Thistlecrack that I feel he deserves to be above both Baracouda and Inglis Drever, but have not yet propelled him beyond Big Buck's, whom I am happy to share the 174."

 

WEDNESDAY 23rd MARCH

GRAND DESIGNS

The County Carlow king came away with seven victories at the Cheltenham Festival but he is not resting on his laurels. Willie Mullins now has the Grand National in his sights and with that in mind he will be saddling four star horses on April 9. It looks like Ruby Walsh will decide to be aboard BOSTON BOB and Bryan Cooper will partner SIR DES CHAMPS, the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up. It is understood that his son, Patrick, will try his luck on the Gold Cup aspirant, ON HIS OWN. It is no secret that the champion Irish trainer has a strong desire to claim the Britain’s champion trainer's crown and become the first Irishman to to achieve that honour since Vincent O’Brien in 1954. The goal is within his grasp as his winnings are fewer than £140,000 behind Paul Nicholls in the title race.

 

Willie Mullins commented: “On His Own ran well enough at Cheltenham. He just did not fire over the first mile. I hope he will be more at home over the longer trip. Boston Bob won the Bobbjo Chase at Fairyhouse, which is usually a good pointer for the National. Sir Des Champs is in good form. He has a lovely handicap mark and if he can come back anywhere near his previous form he should have a great chance. We’ve been aiming Turban at the Topham Chase but Ballycasey is a nice jumper off a fabulous weight.”

 

At today's forfeit stage there are ninety-six horses listed for the the world-famous contest, twenty-two more than last year, which shows that million pound prize money and a considerably improved safety record are attracting a larger and better field of runners.

 

GOING FLAT OUT

The main National Hunt season is relentlessly drawing to a close. Where did the time go? Trainers are now looking for to April 2 when Doncaster hosts the Brocklesby Stakes, the traditional curtain raiser for the British Flat turf season. One trainer has already made his plans from far afield. Retired American Champion jockey and now trainer, Wesley Ward, has entered his two-year-old filly, CREATE A DREAM for this event. The forty-eight-year-old Washington-born trainer has already successfully raided the British racing scene with winners at Ascot such as ACAPULCO (Queen Mary Stakes 2015), NO NAY NEVER (Norfolk Stakes 2013) and JEALOUS AGAIN (Queen Mary Stakes 2009)

 

Wesley Ward commented: "The problem we have here is we don't have a lot of opportunities to run the two-year-olds with grass pedigrees in the early part of the year, because they've taken the Polytrack surface away at Keeneland. The Polytrack used to be a good leveller for the turf horses running against the dirt horses, but now we don't have that, it's pretty tough."

Ward added that he has high hopes for the filly. We're really excited about it and we're expecting big things from Create A Dream, bigger things than the Brocklesby, even though it is a historical race.”

 

A HOME FOR CHROME

Another world racing event on Saturday - the Dubai World Cup – and another American raider – CALIFORNIA CHROME, whose victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes of 2014 were unfortunately dwarfed by the Triple Crown heroics of AMERICAN PHAROAH. It is interesting to note that trainer, Art Sherman and connections seem also to be on some sort of charm offensive, probably hoping that a victory for their five-year-old son of LUCKY PULPIT in the world's most valuable race might also enhance the marketability of their star as a super stallion for one of the leading stud farms.

 

Art Sherman commented: “He looks tremendous right now, he really does. Every time you look at him it seems like he’s grown. And when you haven’t seen him for a month you can sure tell the difference. Either I’m shrinking or he’s getting bigger. He knew my voice when I went over there. I went, ‘Hey Chrome’, and he started nickering. He knew I had a couple of cookies in my pocket, he’s no dummy. It’s like when you see your children growing up, when they get to 13, 16, 17. It’s been a remarkable change. It’s just the way he has matured, he became a man. I had him since he was a two-year-old, we watched him progress every year after the Derby and being here last year. Now I look at him, watch him work. He amazes me, to tell you the truth.”

TUESDAY 22nd MARCH

CRACK ON!

There's a distinct possibility that the Ryanair World Hurdle winner, THISTLECRACK's next port of call could be the Aintree Festival next week and and Punchestown Festival, which starts on the twenty-sixth of April, according to his trainer, Colin Tizzard. The KAYF TARA colt is considered by many racegoers to be the horse who achieved the most impressive triumph of this year's Cheltenham Festival and certainly seems none the worse for the experience.

 

The Sherborne-based trainer commented: "As long as the ground is on the soft side of good and he's in good form, I don't see any reason not to take him to Aintree. I know he's had four races already but they have been nicely spaced out and he seems to have come out of Cheltenham very well. He could then go on to Punchestown."

 

IT'LL BE A GOOD GOOD FRIDAY!

Lambourn Open Day has come around again and many horse-racing afficionados will be heading there on Friday. Among the attractions will be the oportunity see up close the winner of last week's Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, SPRINTER SACRE who, among other notables, will be on parade there. The Nicky Henderson-trained son of NETWORK achieved what was probably one of the greatest comebacks in horse racing history when he triumphed in the prestigious two-mile contest. The ten-year-old will be accompanied by Cheltenham Gold Cup winners, LONG RUN (2011), BOBS WORTH (2013) and CONEYGREE (2015) in the parade of Equine Heroes on Friday afternoon.

 

Incredibly, this Berkshire charity bonanza is already in its 25th year and, as regular visitors already know, provides the unique opportunity for visitors to see what happens behind the scenes at some of Britain's top racehorse training stables, where they will have a chance to meet the trainers, staff and, of course, their equine stars of the day. It is expected that over twenty-five racing yards and horse exhibitions will be open on Good Friday morning, giving the public the opportunity to get first-hand experience of how top yards such as those of Nicky Henderson, Charlie Hills and Oliver Sherwood operate. Visitors will have the opportunity to pat equine stars such MANY CLOUDS, last year's Grand National winner, this year's impressive hero of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, ALTIOR and COLE HARDEN, the 2015 World Hurdle victor.

 

The undoubted main arena attraction this year has got to be the Musical Ride of the Mounted Regiment of the Household Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Gaselee, who is the son of Lambourn's Grand National winning trainer. Nick Gaselee.

 

BANNED!

Sadly two of jump racing’s top talented amateur jockeys will miss the Grand National this year because of bans they picked up in the last few days. Sam Waley-Cohen and Nina Carberry have both received week-long suspensions which means they will both be sidelined when the world-famous Aintree spectacular takes place. They have both done well in this great contest, although they have never won it. Sam Waley-Cohen has already begun an appeal against his seven-day ban at Carlisle on Sunday, when he deliberately eased down LONG RUN after the final fence and, thereby, lost an assured third place. The ban has aroused a certain amount of controversy with the jockey’s defenders maintaining that the rider was only acting in the best interests of his exhausted mount, who was returning to the track after an absence of two years. The chances of over-turning this ban do not, at this stage, however, do not look promising.

 

Sam Waley-Cohen commented: “It’s disappointing to pick up a ban and I am going to be appealing as I didn’t feel it reflected the situation fully. I think the main thing is to praise the horse, who has been great for racing for a number of years.”

 

Nina Carberry's ban is different, however. She contravened the whip rules on her winning ride aboard ON THE FRINGE in last Wedneday's Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and the seven-day suspension means she's definitely out of this year's Grand National.

 

MONDAY 21st MARCH

SO LONG! IT'S BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YA!

Five years after an impressive win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and even triumphing over the Paul Nicholls-trained dynamic duo, DENMAN and KAUTO in the blue riband, this son of CADOUDAL is to be retired. LONG RUN, formerly trained by Nicky Henderson, now by owner Robert Waley-Cohen, hadn't raced since a disappointing performance in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris at Auteuil in May 2014 and hopes were high that he would show signs of his earlier fire when he made a comeback yesterday at Carlisle in the Apollobet Bet On Lotteries Open Hunters' Chase. Clearly even the bookies thought they'd see a return of the old champion and sent him off as the 1-2 in a race with not too much serious talent. LONG RUN, in fact, made much of the running and it seemed as though he was back to his own form but he then weakened quickly in the straight, looking very tired. Nevertheless, he looked certain to finish third after jumping the final fence but then, unexpectedly, he slowed down to a walk on the run-in, beating only one of his rivals who had also tailed off.

 

Owner Robert Waley-Cohen was quick to comment: "I think he's telling us he's had enough, so we'll listen. He won't run again and will now do something he enjoys. Whether that's showing or eventing, we'll have to wait and see. He's been a fantastic servant. He's given everyone so much pleasure and it's remarkable to think it's eight years since he won his first Grade One. He's the only horse to have won a Grade One hurdle at Auteuil as a three-year-old and a Grade One chase at Auteuil is a four-year-old. He won the Feltham at Kempton as a four-year-old, he won two King Georges and a Gold Cup. We've had the most enormous fun, but while he looked magnificent in the paddock today, he told us on the track he's ready to do something different."

 

Unfortunately this sad occasion was made even sadder by the fact that, subsequently, the jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen, was found guilty of not doing all he could to obtain the best possible placing by failing to ride out on a horse that could have finished third. Accordingly the amateur rider was suspended for seven days.

 

NOT SO LUCKY JIM

Trainer, Jim Bolger, has won The Tally Ho Stud European Breeders Fund Maiden four times in the last ten years, notably in 2012 with champion DAWN APPROACH, so he must have been hoping to score again when he saddled INTENSELY FOCUSSED in the opening race of the Irish Flat season. But 'the best laid schemes of mice and men' etc - it wasn't to be. The most jockey Kevin Manning could do for his boss was to come sixth behind the Darren Bunyan-trained MISTER TRADER. The latter, ridden by Leigh Roche, was providing the Curragh-based winning trainer with just his twelfth success and it was clear that there is more to come from this HELLVELYN colt as he stretched clear in the final furlong for an impressive four-and-a-quarter length victory, resulting in a handsome pay-out at 25-1 for anyone who had the nouse to back him. This opening Curragh contest also witnessed the return of Kieren Fallon to race-riding in Ireland. The six-time British Flat champion jockey had announced last week that he would be joining forces with Curragh trainer, Michael O'Callaghan this season after his recent periods of riding in both Britain and the United States. The return wasn't particularly earth-shattering as the former retained rider for Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien, only managed fifth on TERRIFIC FEELING, who didn't perform so badly on his debut, though.

 

ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER NATIONAL

It's a 420-mile round trip from County Tipperary to Downpatrick but that didn't deter one Irish trainer. Enda Bolger took his FEDERICI there and claimed victory in the Ulster Grand National. Ridden by Adrian Heskin, the 7/1 shot son of OVERBURY revealed his supreme staying powers as he sealed his victory by five-and-a-half lengths ahead of the previous course winner, THE MOOCH. It was a good day for the County Limerick-based trainer as in the first race of the day, the Visit Saint Patrick's Country Maiden Hurdle, Adrian Heskin had also partnered LOFGREN to a five-length win. This double was an added bonus for Enda Bolger as at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday he celebrated a winner when the JP McManus-owned ON THE FRINGE triumphed in the Foxhunter Chase for the second year running, courtesy of the peerless equine skills of Nina Carberry.

 

SUNDAY 20th MARCH

UPS AND DOWNS

One moment up and the next down – that's about the size of it for National Hunt jockeys. No-one knows that better than Tom Scudamore, on a high when he rode THISTLECRACK to victory in the World Hurdle at Cheltenham on Thursday, suffered a fall at Uttoxeter yesterday and had to be taken to hospital. The mishap was even more galling as it was just half-an-hour after the thirty-three-year-old Gloucestershire-born jockey had partnered the Colin Tizzard-trained JUSTATENNER to a narrow victory in the two-mile Betfred 'Home Of Goals Galore' Novices' Handicap Hurdle. The disaster happened when he was aboard ABRACADABRA SIVOLA, trained by David Pipe. The six-year-old son of LE FOU seems to have lived up to his sire's name by falling at the seventh fence when well in the lead. Sadly Tom Scudamore was due to ride the Rebecca Curtis-trained PRESELI ROCK today at Ffos Las but now that's not to be.

 

Tom Scudamore tweeted late last night: "A few bumps and bruises. Nothing too serious but I don't know how long I'll be out for."

 

START STANDS

The horse that never got a chance to run in last Thursday's JLT Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, after unseating his rider, Davy Russell, before even taking a stride, possibly as a result of a confusing standing start, could have a chance to get his revenge at Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday. Both jockey and trainer, Andrew Lynch, are on record as being "deeply frustrated" by the incident, caused by an initial false start. It was additionally annoying for the County Meath-based trainer because the horse in question, ZABANA, was his only runner at the meeting and had been specifically prepared for the race. There was, however, an official enquiry afterwards, the conclusion of which was that there had been no breach of the rules and and that starting procedures had been followed correctly.

 

A dissatisfied Andrew Lynch commented: "Davy said the lad cracked the whip and my horse spooked, although it's my view that Ruby Walsh (on eventual winner Black Hercules) created the initial false start by coming in ahead of the others. On the second start, my horse was racing the other way, but he let them go. The rule saying they should jump from a standing start is ridiculous. Horses are not used to it. They need to be walked in from a 10 or 15-yard line and then break into the canter. The horse is fine and might now go for the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse, a valuable race for novices."

 

DEJA VU?

Another last-fence fall, reminiscent of CUE CARD'S mind-numbing nosedive in the Gold Cup, rapidly changed the result of the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter yesterday. Just when trainer Colin Tizzard must have been hoping to drown his sorrows in a victory, he experienced something of a 'Goundhog Day' when his GOLDEN CHIEFTAIN, with Brendan Powell aboard, clipped the top of the last obstacle and came down, when five lengths clear of the rest of the field, handing the race on a plate to the lucky Evan Williams-trained FIREBIRD FLYER. The eleven-year-old son of TIKKANEN also seems to be caught up in the 'groundhog' spell because he fell the last time out at Exeter.

 

The winning trainer was magnanimous in victory when commenting: "We got lucky. I think it's fair to say Colin's horse would have won. They've had two falls in the last two days that have cost them an awful lot of money. I really feel for them.”

 

SATURDAY 19th MARCH

THE DON TAKES HIS CUE

What could have been a fairy-tale ending for the Bishop family turned into a nightmare when the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD, ridden by Paddy Brennan, fell at the third-last fence when he seemed to have every chance of winning and also claiming the Triple Crown £1 million bonus, having triumphed earlier in the Betfair Chase and the King George VI Chase. However, one person's nightmare is another's dream. DON COSSACK claimed the Gold Cup and, thereby, gave trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Bryan Cooper their first blue riband triumph. The race changed dramatically when CUE CARD suffered one of the most expensive mishaps in racing history, leaving the nine-year-old son of SHOLOKHOV with the simple task of striding away to claim victory by four-and-a-half lengths.

 

The winning jockey commented: "Fair play to Gordon, he stuck by me, I had the hardest decision (riding Don Cossack rather than Don Poli) and he had him right for today. He never missed a beat. It was a hard decision to make, but there's a man up there looking out for me, Dessie Hughes."

 

It's been a week for trainers' tears and Gordon Elliott was no exception when he added: "I'm delighted for Gigginstown because they've supported me since I started. It takes a lot for me to start crying, I can't believe it. I've never been so nervous in my life, I'm just so happy for everyone - all the staff, my mother and father, everyone."

 

Owner Michael O'Leary said: "There was never a moment's worry. He jumped brilliantly and Bryan gave him a superb ride, he was always in control. He has so much natural pace but not a change of gear, it's a high cruising speed but he's a magnificent jumper and Gordon is a magnificent trainer. It was disappointing he got beat in the Ryanair last year but he's made up for it now, I'd swap a Ryanair for a Gold Cup."

 

COME FORTH, VICTORIA! AND SHE CAME FIFTH!

Successfuly switching saddles is one thing; achieving a clear round in the St. James's Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup at Cheltenham after only a year's training is reward enough but coming within strides of a place is nothing short of stupendous! That's what Olympic champion, Victoria Pendleton, achieved yesterday aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained PACHA DU POLDER. Many doubting Thomases expected the twenty-five-year-old had taken on more than she could handle but the former track cyclist steered the son of MUHTATHIR through the field with the confidence of a professional. The Stotfold-born rider had given her nine-year-old partner a very patient ride and was at the rear for the best part of the first mile. As the contest developed, however, she slowly began to move through the field with a certain style. One thing she could count on, at least, was that her mount was a reliable negotiator of fences. However, she still had plenty of horses in front of her as they turned into the straight but slowly the duo picked them off one by one and, who knows, had the distance been a furlong longer, the result could have been an official, not an honorary, place in the winner's enclosure. As part of the publicity deal, the cyclist turned jockey was, in fact, allowed into the winner's enclosure to receive her acclamation but, appropriately, the first thing she did was to dash over and congratulate the true heroine of the race, Nina Carberry, who rode the Enda Bolger-trained ON THE FRINGE to a second successive victory.

Victoria Pendleton commented afterwards: "I'm overwhelmed. It's one of the greatest achievements of my life."

 

THANKS A MILLION – SIXTY!

A Cheltenham festival that began with a break for the bookies when the heavily backed MIN suffered defeat in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle ended up being "the worst Cheltenham Festival for bookmakers ever". That's because three out of four of the favourites in the championship races won and the other big win went to second favourite SPRINTER SACRE. That means that nine confirmed favourites and one co-favourite triumphed in the total of twenty-eight races staged over the four days of the Festival. Following one of the most heavily backed horses, DON COSSACK'S success in the Gold Cup, the turf accountants confessed it had not been their best week.

 

David Stevens speaking for Coral: “One we won't forget in a hurry. We were already three-nil down going into the final day and, with Gold Cup day being the biggest betting day of the week, we knew we were either going to repair some of the damage or leave Cheltenham counting the cost of our worst-ever festival. When hot favourite Don Cossack landed the Gold Cup, followed by another winning favourite in On The Fringe, it put the seal on a most miserable week for the bookies, and one we won't forget in a hurry.

 

Liam Glynn of BoyleSports added: "Don Cossack lived up to expectations and proved why he is the highest-rated steeplechaser in Ireland and Britain. He added further salt to our wounds after the hit we got from punters throughout the week."

 

FRIDAY 18th MARCH

RUBY AT FIFTY

Appropriately on St. Patrick's Day, one of Ireland's most successful jockeys clocked up his fiftieth Cheltenham victory, thus establishing another career milestone. Ruby Walsh rode BLACK HERCULES to win in the first race of the day, the Grade 1 JLT Novices' Chase. The market was divided on the chances of the Willie Mullins-trained son of HERON ISLAND and Nigel Twiston-Davies' BRISTOL DE MAI but ultimately the eventual winner easily demolished a strong challenge from the Nicky Henderson-trained L'AMI SERGE and even a late rousing run from the Daryl Jacob-ridden son of SADDLER MAKER couldn't deny the the County Kildare jockey his Prestbury Park half-century of winners.

 

HE CRACKED IT!

It was Lucky 13 for this son of KAYF TARA in the Ryanair World Hurdle. The Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK cost the bookies a packet yesterday when he romped home to a seven-length victory in the twenty-four furlong contest, making it eight wins from thirteen outings. It was no secret that the Sherborne-based winning trainer was highly relieved that his eight-year-old stable star was able easily to brush off any challenges under the expert guidance of Tom Scudamore.

 

Colin Tizzard commented: “He is huge but was not always like that and he’s grown into himself in the last 12 months. He’s gone from nice horse to a superstar!”

 

Tom Scudamore added: “The thrill of a lifetime. He has improved with every run and I was always very confident. It was fantastic. Normally in championship races, I’m pushing, kicking and hanging on in there trying to stay in touch. To be able to ride a horse like that where, all the way through he makes very life very easy for me, is very special. I have never ridden anything quite like it. They went fast enough. At the top of the hill with Cole Harden up front, there were only three in it. Very quickly there was only one in it! He’s just outstanding. I see him as a World Hurdle winner. I’m sure he could jump a fence in time, but whether that’s what the owners want to do is up to them.”

 

CUE FOR A MILLION?

This year's Cheltenham Festival has been particularly rife with stories of equine and human drama and fortitude. Today continues in that vein. There could not possibly be a more popular winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup than the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD, who after claiming the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November and and King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, is now in line to win the Jockey Club's £1 million Triple Crown bonus if he can add the Gold Cup to his two previous victories. The story has more poignancy because the Kempton Park win came three days before the death of the charismatic Bob Bishop, joint owner with his wife Jean, of CUE CARD. In addtion to the prize money Mrs. Bishop will receive an additional £650,000 if her ten-year-old star chaser beats his eight rivals to the prize. Unfortunately to achieve this historic victory, the son of KING'S THEATRE will be taking on some doughty opposition in the form of the Willie Mullins-trained DJAKADAM and DON POLI and Gordon Elliott's champion, DON COSSACK. Added to that, statistics, (if they can be trusted!), reveal that it's been eighteen years since a horse aged ten or older has won the Gold Cup. The last one to succeed, in fact was Andrew Thornton-ridden COOL DAWN in 1998 and, furthermore, nine of the last ten winners have been aged between seven and nine. CUE CARD, however, is well known for succeeding against apparently insuperable odds so it's never say die!

THURSDAY 17th MARCH

SPRINTER SURPRISE

When it was announced that this 2012 Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase and the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase hero had suffered some kind of heart problem when running at Kempton in December 2013, the racing world could be forgiven for thinking that this was another champion they'd never see again. Yet, yesterday, the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, proved them all wrong. The Nicky Henderson-trained SPRINTER SACRE made an incredible come-back to reclaim his crown in the prestigious contest by an emphatic three-and-a-half lengths. Ridden by an intense-looking Nico de Boinville, this son of NETWORK seemed to be enjoying his return but no-one was prepared for what was to come. As was hinted yesterday, the drying ground probably didn't suit the leading Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX and that must have had something to do with because he began to tire from two out and in the final stages his stamina seemed to fail him altogether. Not so SPRINTER SACRE. He found more and more for Nico de Boinville as the winning post got nearer and his rival could do nothing about it.

 

The ecstatic and understandably tearful winning trainer commented: “To come back and do that after all that time – it’s incredible. The two years in the wilderness were dark days. It’s right up there with one of my best achievements. He’s been a very special horse. To have those two golden years when he was unbeaten was incredible – I always said I don’t think he’s got back there but maybe he has. He had to be as good as he was to do that today. There were days when we thought it was working and then when we didn’t. Caroline [Mould – owner] has just been fantastic. I was never under any pressure at all so we could just do our own thing and if it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. It’s been well worth it though. There was always something there. This is completely different to where he was a couple of years ago though. Everybody at the yard has put it all together. He still lives in that funny old barn at the back of the yard in the dark – that’s where he likes it. He doesn’t want to be promoted to another. He likes his little corner and likes doing his own thing. He’s just been so feisty all season. We knew he was a different horse this season when he came back in – he just looked so good. He didn’t need another race after Kempton and we didn’t even have a racecourse gallop with him. He’s just so big now – I’ve been looking at him every night for the last three weeks and he’s just so big. He is a treasure.”

 

As the beaten Willie Mullins generously added later: “This was a win for racing!”

 

PERTEMPS TO DREAM

It was good to see Aidan Coleman notch up another Cheltenham success yesterday in the tortuous Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. It is also interesting to see that the twenty-seven-year-old jockey from Innishannon has a ride today in the Pertemps Network Final (Handicap Hurdle. This is particularly poignant as today marks the seventh anniversary of his first big Prestbury Park triumph when he steered the Venetia Williams-trained KAYF ARAMIS to a two-length victory in this prestigious contest – an event he often lovingly refers to. Today he's aboard DUBAWI ISLAND, also trained by Venetia Williams, but the dream of a lucky seven may be hard to materialise as this son of DUBAWI is a 50/1 shot and is up against some tough opposition.

 

HAVING A CRACK

Today also has something special to offer. Another KAYF TARA son will be aiming to win the Ryanair World Hurdle. The lightly-raced THISTLECRACK, trained by Colin Tizzard, had something of a meteoric early career but it was only when he was stepped up to three-mile races that he really began to show what he was capable of. In his first such contest, the Grade 1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree last April he ran rings around his fifteen rivals and left them thirteen lengths adrift. Admittedly most of this eight-year-old's wins have been in testing conditions but the ground at Prestbury Park should'nt trouble the bay gelding, in the capable hands of Tom Scudamore, as he did come a creditable second to the Willie Mullins-trained KILLULTAGH VIC at Punchestown at the end of April when the ground was described as 'good to yielding'.

 

WEDNESDAY 16th MARCH

ANNIE GOT HER GUN!

When ANNIE POWER fell at the last in last year's OLBG Mares’ Hurdle that put paid to thousands of punters’ accumulator bets and saved the bookies £40 million. The eight-year-old made amends this time by claiming the Stan James Champion Hurdle with an incredible record-breaking performance. The bookies were once morel saved a multi-million pound mauling by another mass accumulator bet but more of that later. It was also an emotional moment for winning or jockey, Ruby Walsh, who dedicated the victory to Tim Brennan's (the Closutton stables' vet) seriously sick daughter, Annie, who had painted a picture of ANNIE POWER and pinned it to the mares’ stable door during the race preparations. The daughter of SHIROCCO's triumph took 3 mins 45.10sec – a record and established her as only the fourth mare ever to win this prestigious prize. This latest victory for this super-heroine seems to have put the idea into Willie Mullins' head of trying for a future Gold Cup in a bid to emulate his late father, Paddy, whose DAWN RUN won the Champion Hurdle in 1984 and the Gold Cup in 1986.

 

The County Carlow trainer commented: “I would love to have a go at it. When I bought Annie Power I thought this is the closest mare I have seen to Dawn Run. She is a big strong mare with speed and stamina. I thought Annie Power would run well but not did not think she would win like that after the preparation she has had. It will be discussed.”

 

THREE OUT OF FOUR. NOT BAD!

As mentioned earlier there was a massive accumulator bet hingeing on the success of Willie Mullins' four runners on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival. The afternoon started well.

In the Arkle Chase DOUVAN presented, as expected, a complete demolition job of, if it's not to unkind to say, an inferior opposition in the Racing Post-sponsored Grade One contest. The six-year-old was the shortest-priced winner (1/4) in the history of the £150,000 two-mile race and and he virtually had nothing to do but live up to his Sire's name, WALK IN THE PARK, to leave his rivals trailing seven lengths in his wake. Then in the OLBG Mares Hurdle later

another of Rich Ricci's stars lived up to her name and roared to victory by two-and-three-quarter lengths. VROUM VROUM MAG, with the ininmitable Ruby Walsh aboard, made it a never-to-be-forgotten treble for both owner and trainer, Willie Mullins. Yes a treble. The other one of the quartet that could have sent the bookies to the cleaners, MIN, surrendered by seven lengths to the Nicky Henderson-trained ALTIOR in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

 

NOT SO GUNG-HO FOR SCEAUX!

The Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX will now have to face the problem of fast drying ground this afternoon at Cheltenham and that is quite worrying for connections as the son of DENMAN RED prepares to take on the Nicky Henderson-trained SPRINTER SACRE in what is billed to be an epic Queen Mother Champion Chase. This NETWORK SON won the Arkle Chase last year but then had a lean period over Christmas at Leopardstown but he managed to put that behind him and triumph over SIRE DE GRUGY last time out at Kempton in December in the Desert Orchid Chase.

 

Part-owner Colm O'Connell commented: "The ground is drying all the time and my only worry is that at Punchestown last year he didn't enjoy it too much. Everything else is fine, he's travelled over great."

 

Willie Mullins added: "I thought it was the most mature performance I've ever seen him put in at Ascot. He was settling, looking at his fences and measuring everything. He had plenty in the tank to pull away at the end and I came home from Ascot much happier with how the horse is taking his races. What I loved about his win at Ascot was his style of racing. He switched off and sized up his fences instead of charging down and flying out over them."

TUESDAY 15th MARCH

 

A CERTAIN AIR

Well the Cheltenham Festival is here. Not much else in the racing news. As expected, the going at Prestbury Park is forecast to be good to soft which will suit most runners. Hogging the headlines is evitably Ireland's champion trainer's, Willie Mullins', bid to bag all the big prizes on the first day. On the one hand that would be a great achievement and well-deserved. On the other it all sounds too cut-and-dried and maybe it will not work out as planned. After all, this is horse racing where nothing is written. Take the first race of the day, for instance, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Here all eyes are on the County Carlow trainer's MIN who is tipped to claim the first victory. In all the hullaballoo perhaps one contestant has been overlooked – the Nicky Henderson-trained BUVEUR D'AIR, another French import. After winning two bumpers in France, this son of CRILLON got off to a good start promising start for his new trainer by giving Ben Pauling's BARTERS HILL a run for his money and only lost by three-quarters of a length in a listed bumper at Newbury. Admittedly he didn't match that form the next time out at Aintree when the same horse took his revenge. Since then, however, he has really been coming into his own, claiming his Maiden Hurdle at Newbury last November and the Racing UK Novices' Hurdle at Huntingdon at the end of January. Without the successes of some of his other rivals today, it might seem a tall order to take on the likes of Willie Mullin's MIN and the Dermot Weld-trained SILVER CONCORDE but currently third in the betting at generally 15/2, BUVEUR D'AIR might just be the value bet of the day.

 

A TOUR DE FORCE?

Another Willie Mullin's champion, VAUTOUR will now not go for the Gold Cup, as originally planned but is now destined for the Ryanair Chase on St Patrick's Day. The seven-year-old finished second, by a head, to Colin Tizzard's CUE CARD at Kempton on Boxing Day in the King George VI Chase. In the past two-years the son of ROBIN DES CHAMPS has also triumphed in the Supreme Novice's Hurdle and the Novice's Chase.

 

Owner, Rich Ricci, commented: "We've said in recent weeks that he hasn't been pulling up trees in his work, but he's been working better lately. We've decided now to run him in the Ryanair - he'll be declared in an hour or so."

 

VICTORIA GLORY?

The time has come also to find out whether the big challenge will be successful. The double Olympic gold medal winning cyclist, with support from Betfair and others, is attempting to become a successful National Hunt jockey, progressing from novice to competing at Cheltenham in a period of less than one year. Victoria Pendleton clearly has a lot to prove to many doubters. Apparently things didn't go so smoothly at first when she took up cycling so she must be used to being the object of much discussion. Her activities have, surprisingly, even sparked criticism from ex-champion jockey John Francome, who labelled her “an accident waiting to happen”. The thirty-five-year-old makes her debut at the Cheltenham Festival on Gold Cup day on Friday, aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained PACHA DU POLDER in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase.

 

Victoria pendleton had this to comment: “I’ve been underestimated my whole life. As a young cyclist I heard: ‘You’re too small, you’re too puny and you’re too emotional.’ Then, when I was older, I heard: ‘She’s past it. She hasn’t got the skill any more. Fail, fail, fail.’ If I listened to all these people I would never have amounted to anything. Life is about falling off. And if falling off is the price I have to pay for having this thrilling challenge, I’ll take the hit.”

 

MONDAY 14th MARCH

BANKER VERSUS BOOKIES!

Aah! The bookmakers are already dreading the Cheltenham Festival. A banker, with the apt name of Rich Ricci, could once more deprive them of a mound of moola on the very first day of the Prestbury Park pageant. The former Barclays executive, who has become a leading horse owner, holds five possible trump cards for tomorrow's opening card: MIN, DOUVAN, ANNIE POWER and VROUM VROUM MAG – all trained by Ireland's champion trainer, Willie Mullins. Five-year-old MIN is currently the 2/1 market leader, tipped to score in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, thereby kicking off what could be the punters' accumulator dream. DOUVAN is the slim 2/5 redhot favourite who will add to the turf accountants' torment if he wins, as expected, the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy. Next up is the eight-year-old ANNIE POWER, who has been the centre of attention since FAUGHEEN's withdrawal, who is tipped for the Stan James Champion Hurdle. Should the daughter of SHIROCCO make up for last year's disaster when she fell at the final flight by winning this prestigious prize, then it will be up to VROUM WROUM MAG, running in the the OLBG Mares' Hurdle to provide the four-time triumph that was denied connections last year. It will be a nerve-wracking day for both bookies and bettors.

 

David Williams, spokesman for Ladbrokes commented: "Ricci will become the most popular banker in history if he lands a record-breaking bonus for punters on the opening day. Last year we were staring at a £50 million loss on day one before Annie Power's unbelievable fall at the last hurdle. It was the most expensive fall in Festival history. This year it could be every bit as bad. If we find ourselves 3-0 down heading into Vroum Vroum Mag's race the bookies will be white as ghosts. If Ricci is grinning, we're sure to be suffering."

 

ALL CLEAR FOR CLOUDS

Victory in the tote Premier Chase at Kelso yesterday shows that by MANY CLOUDS is now up to the task of achieving the first back-to-back Grand National win since RED RUM forty-two years ago. Notching up his first victory since last April's Aintree spectacular, this son of CLOUDINGS didn't put a foot wrong and left his rivals trailing ten length in his wake in what was his final preparation run for 9th April. The Oliver Sherwood-trained nine-year-old was ridden confidently by Leighton Aspell and took hold of the race from the seventh fence and the result was never in doubt.

 

Winning trainer Oliver Sherwood said: “I’m chuffed to bits. It was just what the doctor ordered. He won’t do a lot for 10 days and then we’ll just build him up. He was pretty fit today.”

 

CLOTHES HORSE!

A specially hand-crafted Harris tweed suit has been designed for a horse in what is probably a world's first in equine fashion to give the Cheltenham Festival a special kind of send-off. The Brendan Powell-trained MORESTEAD was chosen as the model for the latest in stallion attire and the eleven-year-old, even though a son of TRADITIONALLY, seemed unfazed as he sported the unconventional garb, complete with collar and tie and matching flat cap. To make the image complete, aboard the chestnut gelding sat the recently knighted, Sir Anthony McCoy, also appropriately dressed in matching tweed suit and flat cap.

It may sound like a premature April Fool's joke but click here to see for yourself:

 

http://www.scotsman.com/webimage/1.4067935.1457914014!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/articleMaxWidth_620/image.jpg

SUNDAY 13th MARCH

FLY AWAY

A sad day. The Willie Mullins-trained record-breaking Champion Hurdler has finally left the County Carlow-based stables to continue his retirement at the Irish National Stud. Twelve-year-old HURRICANE FLY actually stopped racing last August, after a career that produced a record-breaking twenty-two Grade 1 victories and culminated in his becoming the first horse for thirty-eight years to regain the Champion Hurdle in 2013.This son of MONTJEU actually began racing on the Flat, winning twenty-four of his thirty-two starts before the owners, George Creighton & Mrs Rose Boyd, decided to let their bay gelding try his luck over hurdles. HURRICANE FLY will share the Kildare-based stud with a host of former champions, including MOSCOW FLYER, KICKING KING, BEEF OR SALMON and HARDY EUSTACE.

Willie Mullins commented: "It's the end of an era. Hurricane Fly has been a big part of our lives at Closutton for many years and I doubt we'll ever replace him. I'm sure he'll attract plenty of visitors to his new home."

 

GET MY DRIFT?

Despite a dramatic drifting across the track at Sandown yesterday the Warren Greatrex-trained THE NIPPER still won the EBF British Stallion Studs & TBA Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. The Gavin Sheehan-ridden mare took the lead from the start, hanging towards the hedge that lines the course along the straight and then, when that was no longer there, she veered even further to the left and eventually landed up on the rail. This unorthodox performance didn't seem to trouble this five-year-old daughter of SCORPION, though, as she went on to a narrow victory over the Fergal O'Brien-trained COLIN'S SISTER

 

The winning trainer commented: "We didn't want to win like that, I thought we gave everyone a bit of a chance. I don't know why she did that, we were thinking we had the hedge to help her, but when that went she gave away 10 lengths. It could be greenness as she has only run round Bangor twice, which is left-handed, and today she has had to face a big, wide-open space. But she is very, very good. As we have got La Bague Au Roi everyone seems to have forgotten this one, there is not a lot between them. She is just powerful and relentless, I know Gavin was niggling her turning in, but I didn't worry as he knows how to ride her. He knows her inside out. She is a relentless galloper, with an extremely bright future. In the paddock she stood out - she has got the X-factor and she knows she is good.”

 

KEY TO SUCCESS

The Jeremy Noseda-trained KEYSTROKE has attracted some ante-post betting after his win by a nose in the Lincoln Trial at Wolverhampton yesterday. The four-year-old son of PIVOTAL was probably the most unexposed horse in the twelve-strong field, having only raced on three occasions last season. (Doncaster, Windsor and Newmarket). His jockey, Jim Crowley was content to keep him handy in mid-division and allow the Ted Easterby-trained FATHER BERTIE to set the pace. Patience finally got its due rewards, however, as a gap opened up as the runners came around the home turn and KEYSTROKE didn't need asking twice to produce a dream dash up the inside rail for the narrowest of victories.

 

Jeremy Noseda commented: "If he doesn't get in at Doncaster we'll find something else. If he's as good on turf as he is on the all-weather he'll be something to look forward to. The owners are quite keen to go for the Victoria Cup (at Ascot) with him. I think he'll go on any ground."

SATURDAY 12th MARCH

THE FALL GUY

Information released in a blog on Paddypower reveals some crashing facts about a ten-times Irish National Hunt champion jockey. It appears that someone has done the sums and adding the distance of all the 946 career falls together, the result is an incredible 5,124 feet – that's five times the height of the London Shard (1,004ft) or three times the height of the Empire State Building (1,451ft)! This, according to the statistics, is what Ruby Walsh has had to endure in the name of the Sport of Kings, based on his 10,872 rides over 20 years.

 

The County Kildare jockey commented: “I’d rather not fall, but I’m not doing much wrong. It’s a bit unusual that a lot of them have come in a relatively short space of time, but overall I’d say it’s no different to any of the other top jockeys. For some reason, these things can be cyclical in racing. You sometimes go through spells when you fall more often than the average, when you win more than the average and even spells where you’re finishing second a lot, as happened with me at Naas on Sunday. We fall roughly once in every 12 rides and that’s fairly constant whoever the jockey is. I’ve certainly found it to be applicable to me in the long run. I do get a lot more attention than others because whether it’s in Ireland or the UK, I’m almost always riding favourites or well-backed horses who are in contention at the last.”

 

SCOOPING DEFEAT FROM VICTORY!

Spills and thrills in the two-mile novices' hurdle at Sandown yesterday. The Nicky Henderson-trained WHAT'S THE SCOOP was heading for certain victory after he took the final obstacle well in the clear of the tiny four-strong field. Then the unexpected happened. Doesn't it always in horse racing! The son of PRESENTING suddenly swerved abruptly to the left and came to to a virtual halt, re-offering victory on a plate to the Leighton Aspell-ridden STARVING MARVIN who had lost the lead just before the last hurdle. That was just one of the dramatic events in this contest. Earlier in the race the Harry Fry-trained AIR HORSE ONE had unseated Noel Fehily at the first hurdle after jinking to the left as he approached the obstacle.

 

The victory-deprived Barry Geraghty commented: "He jumped the last big and I knew he was having a look at the stands up the straight. It is a daunting place and he was having a big look when he got to the front. When the rail ran out he just turned left - I still thought if I could pull him back on course five or six yards from the stands rail he would still win. He just panicked as well as being a big baby. He is really intelligent - like his owner and trainer!"

 

A bemused trainer added: "He wouldn't have a bad thought in his head at home. He is just a big horse and still a baby."

 

WARREN PEACE

COLE HARDEN is in great form and and ready to defend his World Hurdle crown next week at Cheltenham – that's the calm calculation of his relaxed trainer, Warren Greatrex. In last year's renewal of this prestigious contest, the son of WESTERNER made all the running and beat the Paul Nicholls-trained SAPHIR DU RHEU by three-and-a-half lengths, giving the Hungerford-based trainer the biggest win of his career. The seven-year-old has only had two outings this season, coming third to THISTLECRACK at Newbury at the end of November and then repeating the placing at Cheltenham on New Year's Day, this time behind the Robert Walford-trained CAMPING GROUND in the Relkeel Hurdle. With the changing weather it looks like COLE HARDEN will have a much more favourable chance.

 

Warren Greatrex commented: "Last year he had four runs before Cheltenham and I thought that was pushing it. Last year I was trying to prove he was good enough, but I don't have to do that anymore. The weather looks like it's going to come right. If it's on soft ground, I would have very little chance, but on good ground, I think he proved last year, he is a tough nut to crack, and he goes out there and gives his all."

 

FRIDAY 11th MARCH

FIT FOR THE QUEEN

Previous winners of the Queen Mother Champion Chase are set to go eye-ball to eye-ball in next Wednesday’s renewal. The Willie mullins-trained favourite, UN DE SCEAUX is being targeted by Nicky Henderson’s 2013 victor, SPRINTER SACRE whilst trainer Gary Moore has every hope for his SIRE DE GRUGY, the 2014 winner, who may have blinkers on for the first time. Colm Murphy escorted his winner, BIG ZEB, into the winner's enclosure in the 2010 race and he will be looking to repeat the hounour with his SIZING GRANITE. This eight-year-old, owned by the Ann and Alan Potts Partnership, triumphed in the Grade One Maghull Novices’ Chase at Aintree last April when he was trained by Henry de Bromhead. This will be the son of MILAN's first outing for the County Wexford trainer who seems seems very optimistic for his 25/1 outsider.

 

Currently Ladbrokes’ odds are : 4-6 Un De Sceaux, 4 Sprinter Sacre, 10 Dodging Bullets, 12 Sire De Grugy.

 

RAIN, RAIN, GO AWAY!

There has been heavy rain at Prestbury Park but Simon Claisse, Cheltenham's Clerk of the Course thinks the ground will dry out slightly before the first day of four-day Festival next Tuesday. The official state of the ground was described as soft yesterday morning after rain the previous day. The forecast for the beginning of next week, however, is up-beat with temperatures set to get into double figures by the weekend. The ground should be fresh by Tuesday and possibly a blend of good to soft and soft.

 

Simon Caisse commented: “We had about half the amount of rainfall they experienced at Stratford on Wednesday. We’ve come through that deluge in pretty good shape. We would have raced [on Wednesday] with a few fences being taken out. The ground has taken it well. Having got to good to soft, good in places, we are now back to soft. I can’t find a forecast here at the moment that has got any rain in it at all between now and Friday week. They say on Gold Cup we might get a couple of millimetres, but it’s predominantly dry with the temperatures beginning to get up into double figures. The temperatures are creeping up, but they are only getting up slowly. We might get into double figures at the weekend. My hunch would be we’ll commence the meeting on a mixture of good to soft and soft, but quite which one is the predominate going, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess at this stage.”

 

IN THE PIPE LINE

A front-running victory in the ApolloBet Enhanced Odds Handicap Hurdle at Carlisle yesterday gave the David Pipe-trained GEVREY CHAMBERTIN the opportunity to make amends for his last three disappointing performances, following the high hopes raised by his eleven-length win at Lingfield in December. The eight-year-old has a lot to live up to as he is a full-brother to former stable star GRANDS CRUS and there were early signs that he could achieve similar successes. Since his big win at Haydock in the 2013 Fixed Brush Hurdle at Haydock, however, he has not lived up to expectations. With Tome Scudamore aboard, the son of DOM ALCO seemed to be a different horse, fair enjoying his front-running jaunt. Apart from a messy negotiation of the second hurdles from home, his jumping was fairly consistent and he claimed the prize with a thirteen-length victory.

 

Tom Scudamore said: "It's wonderful to have him back being able to do that again. It was only a few runs ago he won round Lingfield and he ran OK to a point at Chepstow last time.

"He has been an in-and-out performer in the past, but today he got his act together. He's a former Fixed Brush Hurdle winner at Haydock and he had some decent novice chase form in his younger days. He's always promised to be a decent horse, he's been a good servant over the years and hopefully he'll continue to thrive."

 

THURSDAY 10th MARCH

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Yet another Carberry to follow Paul, Nina and Philip. This time it was Cousin Megan flying the famous family flag. The Dublin-born jockey, who only took out her apprentice licence in 2011, notching up 20 wins from 140 rides during her first season riding in England, demonstrated her skills again yesterday at Catterick when she rode the Brian Ellison-trained FAIR LOCH to a fourtee-length victory in the Call Star Sports On 08000 521 321 Selling Handicap Hurdle. The twenty-three-year-old rider actually started her career on the Flat in 2014 riding for Brian Ellison but she has now found her niche over jumps and seems also to have been blessed with the skills of the Carberry dynasty.

 

Megan Carberry commented: "He was my first ride (over jumps) and I've ridden him three times now," Carberry told Racing UK. He jumps for fun and I just have to sit there looking pretty! We thought the ground had gone against him but I walked the track with Brian and we decided to run as we had the best of the ground. He really enjoyed it and jumped for fun at the last, which is always nice for the pictures! I've been hunting since I was six, done showjumping and pony racing and I always wanted to jump, and now, because of my weight, it's a perfect excuse. I hope I'm getting my weight more under control now, and hope to be back on the Flat in the summer."

 

GIRL POWER

Well, all the speculation is over. What was expected has happened. The Willie Mullins-trained ANNIE POWER was yesterday formally supplemented for the Stan James Champion Hurdle at a cost of £20,000. This contest is quite a tall order for the female of the equine species. Since 1927 when this Grade One event was first run, only three mares have won. One of them was DAWN RUN in 1984, trained by the champion Irish trainer's legendary late father, Paddy. It was another ten years before the Richard Price-trained FLAKEY DOVE entered the ranks. Now this task has been thrust on ANNIE POWER, perhaps a little unwillingly, due to the fact that her stable companion, FAUGHEEN, was withdrawn, at short notice, due to injury. It's also interesting to note that the only time this eight-year-old daughter of SHIROCCO showed the boys the way home was at Naas in February 2013 when she beat DEFY LOGIC, ridden by Tony McCoy, by three-and-three-quarter lengths and even DON COSSACK, the Gold Cup favourite, by eleven lengths in a Grade Two novices' hurdle at Doncaster.

 

THUS FAR BUT NO FATHER

Next week's Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival will now be run without the Gordon Elliott-trained OUR FATHER, who has apparently suffered an injury. The son of SHANTOU, fornerly at David Pipe's yard, hasn't raced since finishing second at Prestbury Park in January 2015 and it seemed on the cards that ten-year-old grey would make a positive comeback in next Thursday's event, for which he was the 6/1 ante-post favourite but it is now not to be.

Gordon Elliott commented: "I hope it is not too serious but he is out for the season."

 

WEDNESDAY 9th MARCH

HERE COMES JOHNNY!

This jockey was just 18 years old and still a claimer when in 2014 he replaced Andrew Lynch as the retained rider for owners, Alan and Ann Potts. Now two years later Jonathan Burke got a call from champion British trainer, Paul Nichollls, to ride TOMMY SILVER in the Triuph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. This must surely seem like the icing on the cake because he rode last year at Prestbury Park for Irish champion trainer, Willie Mullins. So yesterday, the now twenty-year-old rider, could be seen schooling the four-year-old son of SILVER CROSS at the Ditcheat yard in preparation for the great day.

 

Jonathan Burke commented: "It's a great chance to get. I spent time at Paul's during school holidays a few years ago when my father (trainer Liam) used to prepare his point-to-pointers, but I haven't ridden for him. Tommy Silver's owners (Potensis) also have Protek Des Flos in the Triumph. Maybe Noel Fehily will ride him, so I am provisionally booked for Tommy Silver. Growing up, you dream of riding for trainers like Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls, especially at the festivals, so it is a privilege to be involved in some way. Whether you are a trainer or a jockey or an owner or whatever, the whole year builds up to Cheltenham. It's what everyone aims for people take note of a winner at the Festival.

 

FROM YOU TO ME

Having not been on the track since his victory at Wetherby last November the Sue Smith-trained DE VOUS A MOI, with Danny Cook aboard, showed he hadn't lost any of his winning ways by claiming the Clara's Gallop Handicap Chase at Newcastle yesterday, making it three wins in a row. For most of this two-and-half-mile contest this eight-year-old son of SINNDAR looked more likely to only gain a place because James Revely had ridden SPECIAL CATCH into a good lead. Then, unexpectedly, the son of CATCHER IN THE RYE weakened when three fences from home. Needless to say, Danny Cook didn't need asking twice and urged DE VOUS A MOI on to win by five lengths.

 

The winning trainer commented: "He's done nothing wrong. He's had a bit of a break. He had a tiny little injury. He was second at Ayr, then he won at Wetherby, then he had a break and has come back here today. I don't think he's that in love with this ground, but he's a very genuine horse and a terrific jumper. He had a fair bit of experience over fences in France before he came over to England, but then he's just gone from strength to strength. I'd like to see him on a little better ground and possibly up to three miles."

 

OFF PAT.

It has just been announced that Pat Smullen, the Dermot Weld-trained FIRST FIGARO in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival. The thirty-eight-year-old seven times Irish champion Flat jockey finished fifth in the last two renewals of this contes so he is clearly hoping for a win this time.

 

Pat Smullen commented: "First Figaro is more of a Flat-type of horse and a bit of an outsider at the moment but the drier the ground the better he'll be - he looks a good ride. The undulations catch out inexperienced horses, and has them all at sea. It's a race I'd love to win - some very good horses have got beaten there. If anything comes close to it (Cheltenham) on the Flat, it's probably the Melbourne Cup. The atmosphere at Cheltenham is unbelievable, very special, and which, for me, is something the Flat lacks a bit."

 

TUESDAY 8th MARCH

IT'S KELSO - AGAIN

Grand National hopefuls have been given another chance to prepare their challenge. Last Saturday's fixture at Kelso, targeted by a few entrants, had to be cancelled due to the bad weather but has now been rescheduled for next Sunday. The day's card will feature the same races and is now open for entries. Originally the likes of last year's winner, the Oliver Sherwood-trained MANY CLOUDS was due to run in the tote-sponsored Premier Chase and the Premier Hurdle was to involve some really promising novices such as LA PREZIEN, MEET THE LEGEND and LAKE VIEW LAD. It looks like there's a chance they will still be in action.

 

Anthea Morshead, Clerk of the course commented: "We're absolutely thrilled, it's a great initiative from the racecourse, the BHA, race planning, Racing UK and the tote. We've had support from trainers and the card is the same as it would have been on Saturday. That was just bad luck, the rain which fell was far more than forecast, but if we can still have those races then that's fantastic.

 

"Stuart Middleton of the British Horseracing Authority added: "The forecast, crucially, is more benign. We're due a little bit of rain on Wednesday morning, but after that it is supposed to be dry and warm and by Sunday reach 11C. We were so upset to lose it, it is one of our biggest days, it was a bit like having a horse go lame the day before the Festival, but we're so pleased again - it has cheered everyone up massively."

 

MOVING ON

The open secret has finally been made official. Dual Irish champion, Joseph O'Brien, is to quit riding to devote more of his time to his new career as a trainer. It was already well-known that that the record-breaking jockey was getting more and more involved in the training side and is currently in the process of taking out a full licence. The twenty-two-year-old son of champion trainer, Aidan O'Brien, has recently taking up more and more of his time assisting his father with a large string of horses. It was also no secret that Joseph O'Brien, rather tall for a Flat jockey, always had a problem making the weights and sooner or later the battle would prove too much.

Joseph O'Brien commented "It's hard enough to make a decent job of one thing never mind trying to juggle two things so I'll be concentrating on training and won't be riding any more.”

 

HERE'S HEALTH!

From way back the Aintree Grand National seems always to have been associated with alcoholic drinks in one way or another. From the Eighties to the early Nineties it was Seagrams, the Canadian distiller, who then passed the chalice to cognac producer, Martell. From 2005 until 2013 it was the turn of the beer company, John Smith's, who were then followed by Crabbie's, makers of alcoholic ginger beer. The latter recently revealed that they would not be sponsoring the Aintree spectacular after this year. Now it seems, however, that the days of being associated with booze are over and the event will take on a more healthy image. Global healthcare company Randox Health wili be taking over a five-year sponsorship of the Grand National from 2017, including all three days of the National Festival.

 

John Baker, NW regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses, which runs Aintree, commented: "I am delighted to welcome Randox Health as our new partner from after the 2016 Crabbie's Grand National Festival. This is an incredibly exciting time to join forces with Randox because they are highly ambitious as a company and share our aspiration to promote the Grand National to the maximum number of people in the years ahead. We are already working closely with Randox Health and are excited both about their plans for the future and how they see the role of our partnership within that. Their vision, people and operation are very impressive, they love their racing and I am confident they will prove fantastic partners for our crown jewel."

 

MONDAY 7th MARCH

A ROYAL CELEBRATION

The famous Berkshire racecourse has just announced a re-naming of one its prestigious feature races. To honour the Queen's reaching her tenth decade on the 21st April, this year's Royal Ascot Gold Cup, to be run on 16th June, will be renamed the Gold Cup in Honour of The Queen's 90th birthday. This two-and-a-half mile contest became a royal prize when Her Majesty's ESTMATE won it in 2013

 

Johnny Weatherby who is Her Majesty's representative at Ascot commented: “The Queen is delighted by the decision. The Gold Cup, recently won of course by the Queen herself, is the historic centrepiece of Royal Ascot, and is very much the race which resonates most with the public."

 

HUGHES ON A DOUBLE

A close call but the Sandra Hughes-trained TOTAL RECALL, with David Mullins aboard, claimed by a neck the £19,000 Supporters Handicap Hurdle Naas yesterday. The 5/1 winner was inn a handy position behind the leader, the Alan Fleming-trained PISTOL PARK and went on to jump ahead over the last obstacle. The race wasn't over yet, however, as the Jamie Moore-ridden AENGUS produce a last-minute chalenge and the line couldn't come soon enough for the eventual winner. It turned out to be a good day for the County Kildare trainer as her SUB LIEUTENANT was the first half of a double on the day when he bagged the Grade 3 Naas Directors Plate Novice Chase also under the stewardship of David Mullins

 

Sandra Hughes commented: "He was late coming back this season so we decided to stay over hurdles and he can go chasing next season. He needs further and has been hanging terribly in his races, but he was straight as a gun barrel today. He needs to go left-handed. He'll step up in trip and we'll see what's available for him. He could go to Aintree."

 

WIN NOT DELAYED

Roger Varian claimed success yesterday when the Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum-owned POSTPONED notched up his first win in the Group Two Dubai City of Gold at Meydan yesterday, since switching from Luca Cumani's yard to Kremlin House Stables in Newmarket. Ridden by Andrea Atzeni, this five-year-old son of DUBAWI landed the mile-and-a-half contest by three lengths.

 

Roger varian commented: "He has come out of the race really well. I saw him in the stables before flying back and he looked as though he had taken the race really well. We have three weeks now and it is all systems go for the Dubai Sheema Classic. We were confident he would win, but I'll admit to having some nerves. You know that on form he was the best horse in the race, but they still have to go and do it. The second (Dariyan) is a good horse and it does not always go to script, so you can get nervous. You think 'he should win well', and to be fair, he did. I was delighted with him - I couldn't have been more pleased with him."

 

SUNDAY 6th MARCH

THE LAST WAS FIRST!

This son of FLEMENSFIRTH defied his name and unusual spelling to triumph in yesterday's BetBright Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster by ten lengths and, thereby established himself as a firm favourite for the Grand National. The Kim Bailey-trained THE LAST SAMURI, with David Bass aboard, systematically tracked the leaders and produced some solid jumping to place him in second place when reaching the fifteenth fence. The eight-year-old then easily went into the lead three from home and from there forged a firm run-in, even easing off in the closing stages as his position was unassailable.

Kim Bailey commented: “He was ready for today and I’m not going to say he’ll improve a stone fitness-wise, but I do think he’ll improve for better ground. Our job now is to keep him in one piece. There’s not much more to say as he did everything you would have wanted him to do. He jumped great and stayed on strongly. I think his last run at Kempton brought him on a lot mentally as he was so professional today. At home he can be a bit lively but when you bring him racing he’s so switched off that on the first circuit, you sometimes think he’s losing interest. Then, all of a sudden, you bring him alongside another horse and he comes alive.”

 

Winning jockey, David Bass, added: “He’s improved a hell of a lot from his last run and it’s very handy the (National) weights can’t change, as he’d get a fair hike for that. My only worry would be we were playing catch-up a bit early on but other than that he was perfect.”

 

WHY BLUE!

Pauline Robson's stable star hasn't had a win since a year last December but made amends by defying top weight and claiming the Watch Live Racing On BetBright.com Handicap Chase by four lengths at Doncaster yesterday. James Revely played the waiting game, keeping UPSILON BLEU patiently at the rear, content to allow the John Spearing-trained PEARLS LEGEND to battle it out with Venetia Williams' ASTIGOS. When he deemed the time right he allowed this eight-year-old son of PANORAMIC to take the lead from two out and it was all over bar the shouting.

 

Winning owner Raymond Anderson Green commented: "I don't know what happened last time but before that you could fancy him today. He's a front-runner but James soon realised they were going too quick. He'll go to the Scottish National meeting, and he might run over hurdles as he's better handicapped."

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

The Betway Supporting Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Chase at Newbury yesterday was won again by Wellington-based trainer, David Pipe. His ten-year-old SHOTAVODKA showed there was still life in the old boy yet (hasn't won since May 2014) by putting eleven lengths between him and his nearest rival, PETE THE FEAT, in a race that sadly saw 2014 Grand National winner, PINEAU DE RE end up some forty-one lengths in the rear. This son of ALDERBROOK was given a patient ride by Tom Scudamore, slowly making headway as the leaders turned for home and assumed a dominating position at the second-last fence. Ironically this victory will also enhance the attraction of another Grand National hopeful, SAINT ARE because he beat today's winner into fourth place at Doncaster last time out in February.

 

David Pipe commented afterwards: "He was good. Pricewise thought he’d run well and so did we, but I didn’t think he’d do that. He loves these conditions and will go for another veterans’ chase at Ascot at the end of the month."

 

 

SATURDAY 5th MARCH

A QUALIFYING RACE

Lingfield Park is offering an exciting race day and the appropriately named, RACE DAY, trained by Saeed bin Suroor will be going for the crown in the 32Red Spring Cup Stakes (Listed) (All-Weather Championship Fast-Track Qualifier). It was only last November that this 100-rated son of Dubawi secured a treble of victories at this track and will, undoubtedly, be fighting it out all the way to the line this afternoon, after take all advantage of his favourable stall 5 placing. The one the thee-year-old chestnut colt will have to watch out for is not one of the candidates in this year's Presidential election but the Jeremy Noseda-trained ABE LINCOLN, who, rated five pounds lighter, was only half-a-length behind when they last came up against each other. This contest was only the second career start for this son of DISCREET CAT, following an impressive eight-length victory in a maiden two months earlier. Add to that the fact that he has a good draw in stall 4, on the inside of RACE DAY, could provide jockey, Jim Crowley, the chance to even the score.

 

RICH RICCI TROUBLED BY POWER

It seems still on the cards that ANNIE POWER will suplemented for the Stan James Champion Hurdle field on Wednesday but owner, Rich Ricci, has a few qualms. This daughter of SHIROCCO still has other Cheltenham options but suddenly became a favourite for the Champion Hurdle after her stable companion, FAUGHEEN had to be pulled out due to injury

The Willie Mullin-trained eight-year-old mare lost her unbeaten record in the World Hurdle in 2014.

 

Rich Ricci commented: “If the race was tomorrow, yes we would supplement her. The thing I struggle with is we’d love the mare to win at Cheltenham, so there’s two things I think about when you consider the Champion Hurdle. One is the health and well-being of Vroum Vroum Mag (potential substitute in the Mares’ Hurdle), who is absolutely fine. If she is right does she have a chance to win that race? We think yes. If that is the case then you’d be more inclined to take your chance with Annie Power in the Champion Hurdle, because she is a horse of immense talent and this would be the year, I accept all that. But then we talk and I say to myself ‘how would I feel if we get beat in the Champion Hurdle and Vroum Vroum Mag doesn’t win the Mares’ Hurdle and we’ve left one behind? Maybe it is Annie Power’s last chance — that’s what we’re struggling with. If declarations were tomorrow I think we’d declare her, we’ve got until Wednesday and anything can happen between now and then. I haven’t talked to Willie, but that’s probably the direction we’ll travel. We haven’t had the conversation yet, we’ve talked generally about it but he’s got lots of things to get on with, we haven’t had a chance to catch up this week but I’m sure we’ll talk on Sunday.”

 

NOT TOO LATE FOR EIGHT

The StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup was inaugurated in 2004 and nine-times champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, has won it on seven occasions, including last year's with SOUND INVESTMENT. It looks like the Somerset-based trainer is hankering to score again as he plans to saddle two runners in today's Grade Three contest at Newbury. For one reason or another last year's winner will not be back to do it again but the two taking his place, SAMETEGAL and ART MAURESQUE appear to be more than up to the challenge.

 

Assistant trainer, Tom Jonason commented: "Art Mauresque is reasonably weighted. Noel Fehily rides him for the first time as Nick Scholfield is going to Kelso to ride Unioniste. I think he has got a massive chance, ground permitting. We've had this race in mind for a while. Although he handles soft ground a little bit better now, he wouldn't want it too soft. We've been waiting for better ground for him as he does need good ground, while the trip should be fine as he ran a good race in the Paddy Power over it. Sametegal is having his first run over fences in handicap company. Harry Cobden takes 7lb off, that will help him and put him on a smart weight. He just got collared at Musselburgh and he too wouldn't want it too soft. His win at Huntingdon came after a long lay-off and since then he has come up against some very good novices and has got some good form against them. Just stepping into handicap company over fences might be what he wants."


 

FRIDAY 4th MARCH

GOING FOR EIGHT

The StanJames.com Supporting Greatwood Gold Cup was inaugurated in 2004 and nine-times champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, has won it on seven occasions, including last year's with SOUND INVESTMENT. It looks like the Somerset-based trainer is hankering to score again as he plans to saddle two runners in tomorrow's Grade Three contest at Newbury. For one reason or another last year's winner will not be back to do it again but the two taking his place, SAMETEGAL and ART MAURESQUE appear to be more than up to the challenge.

 

Assistanttrainer, Tom Jonason commented: "Art Mauresque is reasonably weighted. Noel Fehily rides him for the first time as Nick Scholfield is going to Kelso to ride Unioniste. I think he has got a massive chance, ground permitting. We've had this race in mind for a while. Although he handles soft ground a little bit better now, he wouldn't want it too soft. We've been waiting for better ground for him as he does need good ground, while the trip should be fine as he ran a good race in the Paddy Power over it. Sametegal is having his first run over fences in handicap company. Harry Cobden takes 7lb off, that will help him and put him on a smart weight. He just got collared at Musselburgh and he too wouldn't want it too soft. His win at Huntingdon came after a long lay-off and since then he has come up against some very good novices and has got some good form against them. Just stepping into handicap company over fences might be what he wants."

 

RECORD BROKEN

The track record was broken last night at Chelmsford City in the two-mile totetrifecta Conditions Stakes. The exciting performance was provided by the Mark Johnston-trained NOTARISED with Joe Fanning aboard. The five-year-old son of Authorized triumphed in the final Fast-Track Qualifier for the £150,000 32Red All-Weather Marathon which means he automatically qualified to race in the two-mile race on All-Weather Championships Finals Day at Lingfield on Good Friday.

 

The winning jockey commented: "Notarised has come on for his first run of the year. They went a hell of a gallop and it suited him. He travelled well and this is the first time he has won at two miles. It is great for Notarised who won some good races (three handicaps including the valuable Old Newton Cup at Haydock Park) last year. Having won over two miles, there should be plenty of opportunities for him this year too. There is no problem with the trip now.

I am going to Dundalk tomorrow night to ride Watersmeet (stable companion who was second to Notarised in the Old Newton Cup and runs in another Fast-Track Qualifier), who has had a run already and hopefully he can win."

 

A COOL CAT!

After a two-year win-less period, a sixteen-length victory in the Forbra Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ludlow yesterday may have been enough to persuade trainer David Pipe that the son of KOTKY BLEU should be given a chance in the Cheltenham festival after all. TOP WOOD made up for his barren time by notching up this impressive three-mile success.

Affair. The nine-year-old, back in blinkers again, with Conor O'Farell aboard, kept up with the pace throughout the race which only four of the nine runners completed.

David Pipe commented: "We thought he had a good chance if he came back to his best form. He is a bit in and out, but Conor gave him a great ride. We tried him in a hood last time but that didn't work so we were back to the blinkers today, while the step up in trip helped. He is going to be reassessed now, so he will find it harder. I've got to speak to the owner. We may head to the Kim Muir as he is in that, but we will have a look at the Midlands National."

THURSDAY 3rd MARCH

SCU'S NEXT?

Chances are that last year's winner of the the Grade 3 Johnny Henderson Challenge Cup, renamed the A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase, will make another bid for this prestigious prize. The Michael Scudamore-trained NEXT SENSATION has just been allocated a weighting of 10st 11lb, which is, surprisingly, only one pound higher than last year. This handicap may be revised, however, if the current two top weights, TOP GAMBLE (11st 12lb) and SOMERSBY (11st 9lb) are pulled out.

 

The Ross-on-Wye-based trainer commented: “There’s no point thinking about it too much at this stage, otherwise you’d tie yourself up in knots wondering who is carrying what. We’ll just concentrate on getting him there in the best shape possible. His mark is only 1lb higher than last year, that’s the main thing. He’s in good form and I’m very pleased with him, at present. Cheltenham dries up quicker than anywhere and a bit of sun on his back has done him the world of good. If we get usual Cheltenham conditions, that should be fine. We had to try him over further earlier in the season as he’d gone up in the weights and he’d won a point-to-point, but he’ll be happier back over two miles. I’m very pleased with him, we’ve had a smooth run and, while it’s a big ask to do it again, he’s as well as he could be.”

 

 

A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH

Last October's Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes victor heads the current sixty-five entries for Newmarket's Qipco 2000 Guineas featured at the end of April. Following that impressive performance the Aidan O'Brien-trained AIR FORCE BLUE was voted Europe's Champion Two-Year-Old and the best juvenile since Frankel in 2010. The three-year-old son of WAR FRONT heads up a potentially unbeatable Ballydoyle battalion as he could be joined by HIT A BOMB, hero of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and JOHANNES VERMEER, winner of the Criterium International.

 

Rival trainer Charlie Appleby commented: "Air Force Blue was obviously very impressive in the Dubai Dewhurst but he's already been beaten once, so he's not unbeatable. Emotionless is in full work and is progressing weekly. He is coming on at such a pace that we could tip-toe him towards a Guineas trial but it wouldn't worry me if he goes straight for the 2000 Guineas as he is the type of horse that I know I can get fit at home. He had a knee chip in his top knee joint removed cleanly and successfully and has been in work since just before the New Year. I have also got Folkswood in the race. He won a nice maiden in early August and then got sore shins, so I backed off him and put him away. He has a lot to prove but we will look for a race for him in early spring to find out where we stand."

 

A GOOD TRAINER? HE'S A PAULING!

There's another rising star in the training world starting to make his mark. Ben Pauling comes from a farming family based in the Cotswolds, so he couldn't escape living and breathing horses. He did try to escape by taking a degree at Reading University in agricultural property but it soon became obvious to everyone around that point to pointing was his first love. Unfortunately that all came to an end when he suffered a serious accident to his right eye. That brought it home that he'd have to settle down to pursue a career more seriously and this was to be training horses. He spent nine months breaking in horses for David Redvers before getting lucky and getting a job assisting Nicky Henderson, with whom he stayed for six years or so, learning all he could about the business. He finally felt ready and able to go it alone in 2013. The current season has been something of a breakthrough for the Bourton Hill-based trainer. He twice notched up three Saturday doubles at Kempton Park and once at Newbury. The young trainer's dream has got to always have been to achieve a victory at his local track, namely at the Cheltenham Festival. He recently revealed his campaign to realise this.

 

Ben Pauling commented: “Barters Hill will run in the Albert Bartlett - he's honest, he stays; but he's not slow. He maintains a strong gallop, which is what you need for that race. A Hare Breath - he's in the County hurdle. He's going to be very competitive, and I think he's better over two miles than two and a half. Cyrius Moriviere will also be in the County hurdle. I can't say he'll win it, but he'll run well.”

 

WEDNESDAY 2nd MARCH

WILLIE, WON'T HE?

The Gigginstown Stud's retained jockey is spoilt for choice. Bryan Cooper has to decide between being aboard the two Willie Mullins-trained stars, DON POLI and VALSEUR LIDO or DON COSSACK. The latter's trainer, Gordon Elliott has admitted that he would not be surprised if the twenty-three-year-old Tralee-born jockey doesn't opt to ride his son of SHOLOKHOV in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

The County Meath-based trainer commented: "I don't know if Bryan is going to ride him (Don Cossack). I hope he does, but if he doesn't, I'll have my arm around him as he's a big part of our team. He might ride Don Poli, he might ride Road To Riches, he might ride Valseur Lido, I don't know. I wouldn't be shocked if he didn't ride our horse. The Willie Mullins factor is a lot bigger than the Gordon Elliott factor. No matter what anyone says, if Willie bounces out and has three winners on Tuesday, it has to be at the back of your mind. I think if the ground came up on the softer side, Bryan would definitely ride Don Poli. If he doesn't ride Don Cossack, Davy Russell is there, Barry Geraghty is there and there's Richard Johnson. All them lads don't have rides in the Gold Cup. Davy sat on him the other day and I wouldn't have any problem with him riding the horse. There was really nothing to him riding the horse the other day. It just made sense for Bryan to ride No More Heroes as he'll definitely be riding him in the RSA.”

 

CHASING THE DREAM

Love her or hate her, you can't ignore her! Racing journalists continue to be fascinated by the former dual Olympic champion cyclist's dream to ride in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in two weeks' time – a challenge she accepted just over a year ago. After undertaking a couple of rides on the Flat and getting involved in point-to-point riding, Victoria Pedalton – sorry - Pendleton rode her first race under Rules about two weeks ago when she partnered the Paul Nicholls-trained PACHA DU POLDER in a Fox Hunters' Chase at Fakenham. Unfortunately it wasn't a good day for the thirty-five-year-old Stotfold-born rider – she was unseated at the seventh fence. That result prompted a lot of divided opinion as to whether she is capable of tackling the amateurs' equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. There are still sufficient people backing her in her venture, though, and most importantly, the Ditcheat trainer, as he is allowing her to ride the son of MUHTATHIR again in today's Betfair Switching Saddles Hunters' Chase at Wincanton.

 

Victoria Pendleton commented: "There have been a few knocks and setbacks along the way and of course there was the fall at Fakenham. But being totally honest and realistic, I would be surprised if such setbacks didn't come with a challenge of this magnitude, and in the sport of horse racing! I love learning and improving, which is something I really missed when I finished cycling and that's exactly why I've been bitten by the horse racing bug. Rather than dwelling on one unfortunate incident. I have focused on listening to what the support team are telling me, analysing my performances and ultimately improving my skills and experience. I am hugely grateful to the amazing support team Betfair have put in place, without Alan and Lawney Hill, Yogi Briesner and Paul Nicholls none of this would have been possible. But for now, I'm focusing on Wincanton on Wednesday and I really can't wait."

 

NICK OF TIME

The son of NETWORK, apparently, doesn't need a racecourse gallop at Kempton as he's on the top of his form. So says trainer Nicky Henderson about his protégé, SPRINTER SACRE, who is due to have another crack at Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham in two weeks' time, a contest he made his own in 2013. The ten-year-old has triumphed in both his races so far this season, winning the Shloer Chase by fourteen lengths in November, followed by his defeat of SIRE DE GRUGY in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton just after Christmas. Connections have made no secret of the fact, however, that victory at Cheltenham would be the crowning glory.

 

The three-time British jump racing Champion Trainer commented: "Sprinter didn't need to come to Kempton as he is in great form. He really is in very, very good shape. He looks great and feels great. His work has been excellent. He just doesn't need to do any more," said the Seven Barrows handler. He will work again this weekend. He will have one more bit of proper work at home and that will be him done. He will probably just have a school as well."

 

TUESDAY 1st MARCH

A FILIAL FIX

Paul Nicholls has just revealed that he has resolved what was becoming a bit of a problem about who rides whom at the Cheltenham festival. His stable jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, will now partner his father's THE NEW ONE in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and the Ditcheat star resident, SAPHIR DU RHEU, in the Ryanair World Hurdle. Things got more complicated by the day as the Paul Nicholls-trained OLD GUARD started to show great potential for the Champion Hurdle, particularly after Sam Twiston-Davis elected to be aboard the son of NOTNOWCATO and not his father's son of KING'S THEATRE in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. In fact that was the first time in twenty-one outings that he had not partnered THE NEW ONE but he was re-united with him in January when he won the Champion Hurdle Trial.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: "I was thrilled by the way Saphir Du Rheu and Aux Ptits Soins worked together at Kempton. They showed they are bang on course for the World Hurdle. Nick Scholfield will now partner Old Guard in the Champion and Aux Ptits Soins in the World Hurdle”.

 

SIXTY CRACKS AT THE WHIP

WILLIE MULLINS, who saddled a record breaking eight winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival is not leaving anything to chance, it seems. He is shipping sixty horses to run at Prestbury Park in two weeks' time. The County Carlow trainer revealed that his DOUVAN is probably the star of the contingent.

 

Willie Mullins commented about his Arkle Chase hopeful: “I don’t think I’ve had a horse like him, maybe Hurricane Fly. He proved me to be correct last year in the Supreme Hurdle, let’s hope he can do it again. As for MIN, he’s certainly got a reputation. Nobody stops talking about him. Everything is fine with him but he’s not a Douvan.”

 

It is perhaps surprising that Willie Mullins has never won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and he will be trying to rectify this situation by entering five runners in this year's prestigious contest: VAUTOUR, DJAKADAM, BOSTON BOB, DON POLI and VALSEUR LIDO

 

Wilie Mullins added: “People have questioned Vautour's ability to stay the trip. After his second [behind Cue Card] in the King George. I didn’t think it was stamina that found him out. Traditionally our horses are not as fit as they are in March at Cheltenham. He’s never shone at Christmas but comes good at Cheltenham like he did last year in the JLT Chase. We’ll also change the tactics. Watching him work on the gallops he looks like a horse that stays.”

 

A ROYAL WITHDRAWAL?

It looks like trainer, Neil King, won't run LIL ROCKERFELLER in the Coral Cup because the impossible weight he will have to carry. Although bookies are offering as short as 10/1 onthe son of HARD SPUN for the two-mile-five-furlong handicap on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival, it looks like punters won't be able to take advantage of it. That's a pity as the five-year-old chestnut gelding has performed well this season, including an impressive nine-length victory in the Grade Two National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday

 

The Newmarket trainer commented: “He has been great this morning and is bright and fresh. He has eaten up and is sound as a pound. I think we will have to draw a line through the Coral Cup as with the weight he will get I think it would be an impossible task. I can’t say much more but there might be something new that has entered the equation. It is fair to say it was his best performance and if he had been beaten then I would have been an extremely unhappy person. What pleased me was the manner in which he did it. He is a very genuine and consistent horse that enjoys his racing. That was the biggest winner of my career and Trevor’s (Whelan) career. He gave him an excellent ride and used his head in the race. “He does not get the outside rides he deserves but I can’t speak highly enough of him. He knows Lil Rockerfeller inside out and he has got a really good rapport with him. He tries his hardest on every horse and always gives 110 per cent. He is a very underrated jockey.”

 

MONDAY 29th FEBRUARY

HORSES' DAY OUT

Sunday was the day for the customary post-racing gallops at Leopardstown. And what a show of equine excellence it was! The Gigginstown House Stud is certainly spoilt for choice for challengers for the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 18th March. That means their retained rider, Bryan Cooper, will have a difficult decision to make. Yesterday he was aboard DON POLI as he went through the workout in the company of the Willie Mullins-trained stable companions, VAUTOUR, PONT ALEXANDRE and BALLYCASEY and later went over a few jumps on the Gordon Elliott-trained NO MORE HEROES, a contender for RSA Chase.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: "The two of them were very good, I couldn't be happier. Davy said he (Don Cossack) could have gone round again, I thought the two of them worked very well. Davy sat on him there, Bryan has to make a decision on which one he is going to ride. I would have no problem with Davy riding him."

 

Willie Mullins added: "Vautour made a mistake at the first, I think he was just idling, but they all went well. They jumped eight fences and went about a mile and a quarter. It was just to get their eye in and have a day out rather than serious work, it wasn't a trial or anything. It was also for the riders to get a feel of them. Don Poli is a very lazy horse and takes every bit of work we can give him. Him and Pont Alexandre were upsides in behind and Ballycasey led Vautour.”

 

RUNS LIKE THE WIND

Even though the son of BOLLIN ERIC was defeated in last week's Veterans' Handicap Chase at Doncaster, his performance was so impressive, coming a close second to Grand National hope SAINT ARE, that his trainer wants him to have a go at the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham. The Charlie Longsdon-trained GRANDADS HORSE (no apostrophe!) has clearly benefited from a recent wind operation and is up to further challenges.

 

The Chipping Norton-based trainer commented: "He ran a cracker. He will improve for the run as well. He had a good blow after the race. Everybody said it was a good race and rode like one, and I think there is a bit of improvement in our lad. I was really pleased with him and the better ground is the key to him. He might well go for the Kim Muir again. He will go there fresh after his wind operation. Hopefully he can run into fourth or fifth maybe."

 

ROOKIE GOT LUCKY!

On her very first day with an official licence, this rookie Yorkshire trainer entered her only horse into a Catterick race at the end of January and won. Samantha Drake was clearly starting as she meant to carry on. This perfect beginning to her new career was brought about by STAR PRESENTER who won the Scorton Handicap Chase, following up his success just before Christmas, when handled by her father, Richard. The delight was two-fold a week later when RAKTIMAN triumphed in the Racing UK Anywhere Handicap Chase especially as he was ridden to the ten-length victory by by her fiancé Jonathan 
England. Two wins from four runs – an enviable strike rate for a new trainer. Then a few weeks later the twenty-eight-year-old came down to earth with a bump. She received her monthly statement from Weatherbys which informed her that she was £300 in debt, brought about by the cost of taking out a licence and complying with the various rules and regulations.

Sam(antha) Drake commented: “I was gutted. But you can’t worry about it. You have to have confidence in what you are doing – and just get on with it.”

SUNDAY 28th FEBRUARY

NEW STAR TAKES THE STAGE

The Grade 3 BetBright Chase Handicap at Kempton yesterday added another victory in the seemingly irrepressible Colin Tizzard season. Paddy Brennan was aboard another Venn Farm resident, THEATRE GUIDE, a stable companion of the winner of the King George VI Chase, CUE CARD, who was also at the Sunbury-on-Thames racetrack for a pre-race work-out. The focus this time, however, was on the other son of KING'S THEATRE who led his fourteen rivals a merry dance. A confident Paddy Brennan got the nine-year-old gelding settled early in the gang of six vying with each other over the first few fences and slowly but surely got his mount into contention. The thirty-five-year-old rider seemed uncannily to know that there was enough in reserve to go four wide round the field and even let the Lucy Wadham-trained LE REVE kick for home on the bend. It looked like it was developing into a two-horse race but the County Galway jockey seemed to know something the others didn't and, after the third last he mounted his devastating challenge and left any opposition floundering ten lengths in his wake.

 

Paddy Brennan commented: "It's a privilege to be in these colours and if it wasn't for Bob Bishop I wouldn't be here.( he was referring to the owner who died just four days after Cue Card's momentous victory at the same track.) I'm extremely grateful. Everything was right today. He loved the ground and loved the track and the pace of the race really suited us. I was hoping Harry Skelton would stay with me a bit longer but it didn't matter as he galloped right to the line.

 

Colin Tizzard added: "He's a Hennessy second and has always threatened to do this. He looks an absolute picture this year. He hit the first fence last time and in the Hennessy, so we jumped ten fences with him yesterday to get that bogey off his back and he was pretty good all the way round today. He won like a good horse today; I'm chuffed."

 

ANOTHER DAY ANOTHER DERBY

Somehow another Derby appeared without much of a fanfare. This time it was the Winter Derby at Lingfield Park and it like a re-run of last year's event except that yesterday's winner won it more decisively than twelve months ago. The Marco Botti-trained GRENDISAR ran a perfect race, surging up the inside in the final hundred yards to overtake the front-running Maverick Wave and win by a length-and-a-quarter. The latter John Gosden-trained son of ELUSIVE QUALITY seemed determined to improve his previous fifth slot and looked as though he might make it. It was not to be, however, when Adam Kirby was offered a gap up the far rail which enabled him to put the race to bed in style. John Gosden did receive another consolation for not bagging first place; a length-or-so behind in third position came his FURIA CRUZADA, on a maiden outing for the Newmarket trainer.

 

A GOOD BUY?

One thing the Aga Khan is good at, that's for sure, is breeding excellent National Hunt horses and this was clearly in evidence again yesterday at Kempton Park. ZUBAYR easily triumphed on his debut outing for Paul Nicholls in the Grade 2 Adonis Juvenile Hurdle. The consequence of that success means that the son of AUTHORIZED now heads the antepost market for the Triumph World Hurdle at Cheltenham. It is beginning to seem that the auction-topping sum of nigh on £300,000 that was laid out last July for this four-year-old gelding is beginning to pay off. Coincidently the Cheltenham feature race was won last year by another Aga Khan-bred champion, ZARKANDAR who is distantly related to ZUBAYR

 

SATURDAY 27th FEBRUARY

KEEPING YOU POSTED!

The Stobart Jockey of the Month is now looking forward to further triumphs at both Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot. Charlie Poste earned this prestigious award at Warwick Racecourse in the middle of January when he rode the Kerry Lee-trained 20/1 outsider, RUSSE BLANCE, to a three-and-three-quarter length victory in the £60,000 Betfred Classic Chase. The Warwickshire jockey nearly didn't succeed in this odds-defying triumph as his saddle slipped when forced to swerve violently to avoid a loose horse running wide on the track. Charlie Poste's cool, calm and collectedness under pressure, however, was recognised by the general public who, in collaboration with event organiser, Channel 4 Racing, voted for him to receive the prize.

 

The new title-holder commented: “Although I have already had around five successes at various races this year, to have won the Classic Chase is a significant achievement as historically it has been won by some very good horses. Currently, weather permitting, I am racing most days so I am hoping the Warwick Racecourse win will set the trend for the rest of the season as I prepare for more high profile races including Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival. To have received national recognition from public the UK over for the victory is really the icing on the cake of the season so far – it is so rewarding to see everyone’s hard work come to fruition.”

 

MICKY TAKING

This was week to remember when a conditional jockey presented this Middleham yard trainer with a treble at Sedgefield. Finian O’Toole's career has blossomed since joining Micky Hammond’s yard and is already giving strong signs of a possibly meteoric jumping reputation. It is interesting to note that the 24-year-old does not come from from a family with any racing connections and this was his first success in the UK, making it twelve so far. He has indicated that he feels particularly inspired by Ireland’s champion jockey, Davy Russell.

 

Finian O’Toole commented: “I was an amateur rider in Ireland and just kept tipping away. I was coming to 21 and nothing was happening. 
I decided to pull my finger out, get my weight in check, give it a proper go and see I can make it. I’m quite tall. I’m 5ft 11ins so I do lots of running and go the gym. I have to keep telling myself that I am an athlete. It’s a positive yard and going well in every respect. I had four good rides at Sedgefield and was obviously delighted to get one winner on the board. The next thing, I’m riding my first double. “And then a treble – it’s unbelievable.”

 

RICHARD GETS HIS MAIDEN

The champion jockey-elect notched up another landmark en route to gaining the title for the first time in twenty years of trying. (McCoy was always in the way!) At Warwick yesterday Richard Johnson achieved his maiden double century when he partnered the Claire Dyson-trained CHEAT THE CHEATER to victory in the Listers Audi Novices' Handicap Chase. It wasn't an easy ride by any means as the nine-year-old started to falter after doing well in the early stages of this three-mile contest. The race looked done and dusted when Danny Cook urged GLENDERMOT passed KAPRICORNE who had been the long-time leader. But then the seven-year-old son of PORTRAIT GALLERY started to put the brakes on two fences from home and Richard Johnson didn't need a special invitation and challenged and outran his fellow market leader to claim the prize. The winning jockey didn't rest on his laurels, however, going on to make it a double for the day on the Phili Hobbs-trained LITTLE MISS POET in the British Stallion Studs EBF Mares' Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race.

 

Richard Johnson commented: "The season has gone so well and to get to 200 has been amazing. I'll be here all day thanking all the people who have given me rides, and the support I've had from racegoers around the country has been amazing. Even when you have an odds-on shot it doesn't always go quite as planned, so you never take anything for granted. I'm lucky I ride fancied horses on a daily basis and so I was pretty sure I would get to 200 at some point, but you never quite know when. Being champion jockey has always been my goal since I was 19 and it's taken me a long time to get there. This year has gone so well and to get to 200 is an extra bonus, which I realistically did not think of at the start of the season. The championship was always the number one ambition for the season."

 

FRIDAY 26th FEBRUARY

CALIFORNIA, HERE I COME!

There's more than the Cheltenham Festival to look forward in the next few weeks. There's also the Dubai World Cup at Meydan on 26 March. No prizes for guessing who is the clear favourite to score - the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner, CALIFORNIA CHROME; even more so since his impressive victory in the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy Handicap yesterday. The son of LUCKY PULPIT was kept handy, a couple of lengths off the pace, out three wide to avoid any dirt kickback by his regular jockey, Victor Espinoza. When the latter decided the moment was right he pushed his five-year-old into the lead at the top of the straight and finished two lengths ahead of his two nearest rivals, STORM BELT and SUCCESS STORY. The Art Sherman-trained chestnut was also market leader for last year's Dubai World Cup but for some reason things did not go his way and he finished runner-up to the shock 15/1 winner, PRINCE BISHOP, trained by Saeed bin Suroor. After yesterday's triumph, however, CALIFORNIA CHROME is the clear 3/1 favourite and it's on the cards that he will be aiming to match the 2007 Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, CURLIN, who was entered a similar handicap race in preparation for his success in the 2008 Dubai World Cup then held at Nad Al Sheba.

 

The winning jockey commented on yesterday's race: “It was easy. The way he looks is the way he won. I didn’t want to do too much with him, as I know it is a short period of time to the next race. I didn’t want to empty the tank today. I got a good position on the first turn and from then on it was pretty much him all by himself.”

 

The delighted trainer, Art Sherman, added: “It was the perfect race. We were very satisfied and it’s really good with the $10m race coming up, he’s got a mile-and-a-quarter under his belt. We’re looking for the best, it’s going to be a great race here on 26 March, they’ve got a lot of good horses running. With that under his belt, he’s going to be devil tough, I think. If we can ever get lucky, he could wind up being the richest thoroughbred ever, passing Curlin, who is a great thoroughbred. It would be an honour for that to happen.”

 

THANKS A MILLION!

Owner, trainer, jockey and stable staff at Spurles Farm are probably watching the days tick by with bated breath as the Cheltenham Festival approaches. The Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD is being got ready for the third and final leg of The Jockey Club’s Chase Triple Crown. If the son of KING'S THEATRE is the hero of the day then all the aforementioned connections will share a bonus prize of £1 million. The ten-year-old gelding has already won the Grade 1 Betfair Chase, run at Haydock Park in November, the Grade 1 William Hill King George VI Chase, featured at Kempton Park in December, now what stands between him and the prestigious prize is the Grade 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup which will be run at Prestbury Park on 13th March. £650,000 of the £1 million bonus, if won, will go to CUE CARD's owner, Jean Bishop; the trainer will receive £150,000, his regular rider, Paddy Brennan, will be the happy recipient of £100,000 and the remaining £100,000 will be split between the stable staff at Venn Farm.

 

The Dorset-based trainer commented: “No one thought Cue Card would be coming back and doing what he has done this year. I thought he was on the wane. Everyone in the West Country loves him now more than ever. It will be lovely for the staff to have some money and I will be able to pay my mortgage off… a little bit!”

 

Paul Fisher, the jockey Club Racecourses' Group Managing Director added: “We’d really love it if Cue Card goes on to win the Chase Triple Crown and the £1 million bonus for connections that comes with it. It would be a fantastic achievement that all started back in November at Haydock Park and would see him emulate that great chaser of our time, Kauto Star, whose like I thought we may never see again. If Cue Card does win the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup he will deserve his place in the history books.”

 

STAYING ON

The At The Races Michael Purcell Memorial Novice Hurdle at Thurles yesterday was another nail-biting affair for jockey, Ruby Walsh, who has been the victim of a couple of high-profile falls just lately, but, on this occasion, managed to stay aboard, after a serious mistake at the last hurdle, and drive ACAPELLA BOURGEOIS to a five-length victory. The son of NETWORK was the 5/2 second favourite and Ruby Walsh was determined to dominate the contest and had an easier job than expected as the market leader, OUR DUKE ( mentioned in yesterday's RACING NEWS ) was pulled up. It looked at one stage that Barry Geraghty could snatch victory on the on Aidan O'Brien-trained EDWULF but, unfortunately, he fell when coming out of the back straight. There remained a battle royal between the eventual winner and Willie Mullins' NAMBOUR. ACAPPELLA BOURGEOIS was gaining the upper hand when, unexpectedly he just flattened the final flight but, as mentioned above, Ruby Walsh managed to stay in the saddle.

 

Sandra Hughes, who recently took over the training after her father, the legendary Dessie, passed away commented: "That was a very good performance having made a novicey mistake at the last; it was the fastest he had ever raced down to a hurdle. Ruby was impressed with him and he is a real big striding horse. This track wouldn't really suit him, but this was a good opportunity and we now have options with him. He's in at Cheltenham, but we could bypass it and go to either Fairyhouse or Aintree and he'll also be better on better ground. It's fabulous to win the race again and we're keeping it in the family. It's lovely and emotional, too."

 

THURSDAY 25th FEBRUARY

WE HAVE LIFT-OFF!

This Moone-based trainer is on her way to producing the best results for six years and is likely to confirm that with another win at Thurles today. The in-form Jessica Harrington has notched up thirty-nine victories so far with an impressive 21% compared with her former record which rarely rose above 15%. The figures are even more remarkable considering she has had to dispense with the services of her stable star, JEZKI, who is out for the rest of the season due to an injured foreleg. The dual-purpose County Kildare handler endured another blow earlier in the week when it was revealed that her regular rider on the Flat, Fran Berry, has decided to relocate to England and become Ralph Beckett's stable jockey (See RACING NEWS Tuesday 23rd). She seems to be taking everything in her stride, however, and still getting hits with her other regular rider, Robbie Power, who will be aboard CANDLESTICK and OUR DUKE today. It is perhaps the latter son of OSCAR, running in the five-strong At The Races Michael Purcell Memorial Novices Hurdle who has the best chance. The five-year-old probably needs to progress more, as it's only his fourth career outing but he won his maiden hurdle in style at Leopardstown last time out in January. This success has probably enhanced his talents even further and it would be no surprise to see him in the winner's enclosure later on this afternoon.

 

BACK FROM A BREAK

After a frustrating day on Wednesday when Ludlow's meeting had to be cancelled, Paul Moloney finally has the chance he has waited three months for, getting back into the saddle at huntingdon today. The Warwick-based jockey broke his leg in three places in a race at Ludlow in December and today, just 84 days later, he is due to ride HEIGHNOW in a Maiden Hurdle at Huntingdon. The thirty-seven-year-old rider, however, is no stranger to such dramas as a similar thing happened to him in Ireland fifteen years ago when he broke his pelvis in three places. Then as now, he returned to the track in three months instead of the expected six.

 

Paul Moloney commented: "I always had it in my mind that I had been able to prove the doctors wrong in the past so I set myself this target. With the help of all the staff at Hereford hospital and Oaksey House, and some real hard work personally, it's great to be in a position to return. I'm itching to get back into action. I was looking forward to Ludlow today as despite suffering the injury at Ludlow, it has been one of my luckiest tracks as I must have ridden more winners there than at most and I had two nice rides. It was disappointing it was off but I look forward to Huntingdon now. My main target is simply to stay in one piece and try and get going at the level I was at before the injury as things were going really well."

 

ALL SAID AND DON

Winner the 2015 Punchestown Gold Cup and with three wins from four starts to his credit, the Gordon Elliott-trained DON COSSACK is now set to prove that he can succeed at Cheltenham and, namely in the Gold Cup. The nine-year-old, however, didn't have much luck at Prestbury Park on his two previous visits. He fell in the 2014 in the RSA Chase and was third by some eight lengths last year in the re-named Ryanair Chase. The county Meath-based trainer has his fingers crossed that, if he is partnered by Gigginstown Stud's retained rider, Bryan Cooper, the son of SHOLOKHOV will put history behind him, have a good run and, with any luck, carry home the biggest prize of his racing career.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: "The track won't bother him. He's won right-handed and left-handed, he's won at Punchestown and Aintree. The first year at Cheltenham he was travelling well but just let fly at one from outside the wings and fell in the RSA and the following year he was running a lovely race at the top of the hill when he got brought to a standstill and then got squeezed out at the second last. I'm not saying he would have won but he'd have been a good second if that didn't happen. I'm not worried about the track, it's just if he's good enough. I don't know if Bryan will ride, Gigginstown could have four or five in it so it's a very difficult decision to make. Hopefully he rides him but if he doesn't there'll be plenty of good lads on the sidelines."

WEDNESDAY 24th FEBRUARY

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

The Count Carlow trainer is taking a few knocks just lately. A few days after announcing that his FAUGHEEN would not be able to defend his crown in this year's Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, he is now faced with an injured ARCTIC FIRE who will also be unable to be at Prestbury Park. Willie Mullins has just let it be known that the son of SOLDIER HOLLOW has a damaged sesamoid bone which would need to be removed. It normally takes up to four months for a horse to recover from such an operation. The seven-year-old was last seen on the Leopardstown track in January where he was runner-up to FAUGHEEN in the Irish Champion Hurdle and has four victories from eighteen career runs. That means there are still two Closutton stables' inmates with a fighting chance – the 7/4 favourite ANNIE POWER, who is expected to be supplemented and NICHOLS CANYON, who was third in the Champion Hurdle in January but he hasn't yet been officially declared.

 

'ALLO 'ALLO!

It's a hard act to follow but a French trainer has decided to come to the Cheltenham Festival and try to emulate his compatriot, Francois Doumen, who won five King George VI Chases and the 1994 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Not so many trainers from across the Channel seem to bother to make the trip nowadays. It was as long ago as 2005 that KELAMI won the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase and MOULIN RICHE triumphed in a Novices' Hurdle, both horses trained by Francois Doumen and ridden by Robert Thornton. This year Francois Nicolle, one of the most successful trainers in his country, has announced his intention to saddle LE CURIEUX in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle. The four-year-old son of LAURO is only on his fourth career run and hasn't had a win yet but did finish a creditable fourth in the listed Prix Robert Weill Handicap Hurdle last time out in November. There is a possibility that he will be accompanied in a two-pronged venture by last October's Prix de Besancon winner, THE STOMP.

 

The South West France-based trainer commented: "I think he has the right profile for racing over there. I have wanted to have a runner in England for a long time and he provides me with an opportunity. He is a good horse and, although we will have to see what weight he is given in the handicap, I think he should suit the race. He has plenty of pace. The Stomp is also a possible runner. He is rated 71kg in France and I don't know what the handicapper will give him in England. Everything will depend on what weight he gets. Two miles will suit him well as he has plenty of pace, but he is less likely to travel than Le Curieux who is almost certain to go."

 

MORE RACES FOR OLDIES

The three-mile Betbright Veterans Handicap Chase at Doncaster today looks like an interesting competitive ten-runner affair. County Cleveland-based Keith Revely plans to saddle his stable star, NIGHT IN MILAN, winner of the Skybet Handicap Hurdle at the same track at the end of January. Here the son of MILAN will come up against, among others, another ten-year-old, the Grand national runner-up, SAINT ARE. Keith Reveley is obviously hoping that the drying ground will suit his popular course specialist and enable him to produce fourth career win on Town Moor.

 

The Saltburn trainer commented: “These races are a godsend. At one time if you had an old horse at the top of the handicap, you had nowhere to go. It gives the old boys a chance. I think there should be more races and there should be some over two miles and two-and-a-half. At the moment, they’re three miles or three-and-a-quarter. I’ve got a grand old horse called Robbie. He’s 12 and doesn’t get three miles. I’m sending him point-to-pointing and hunter-chasing. I’m sure if they put on some two-and-a-half mile races, they would get well supported.”

 

TUESDAY 23rd FEBRUARY

ALL IN GOOD NICK!

The news that last year's winner, FAUGHEEN, is unable to defend his Champion Hurdle crown has certainly put the cat among the pigeons. Now Nicky Henderson has announced that he will be saddling all five of his top horses in the opening day feature race of the Cheltenham Festival. The Seven Barrows trainer is certainly not short of a few talented challengers with MY TENT OR YOURS, HARGAM, PEACE AND CO, SIGN OF A VICTORY and TOP NOTCH but it does seem a pity that the quintet should compete with each other rather gain individual glory in separate races. Perhaps the leading contender of the five is MY TENT OR YOURS, as he was runner-up to JEZKI in this contest two years ago, although he has been conspicuously absent from the track since coming third in the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr almost two years ago. Last year's Triumph Hurdle 1-2-3 trio, PEACE AND CO, TOP NOTCH seem certain to make their bid for the title but SIGN OF A VICTORY will only try his luck if the ground is good.

 

Nicky Henderson commented: "Michael Dickinson had the first five in the Gold Cup, but that won't happen. If it won't happen to Willie Mullins, it won't happen to us. The five that are still in are intended to run. Sign Of A Victory, I have to say, will only run if it's really good ground and, even if it threatened to get good, they will try and water it out, especially on the Tuesday, so we'd have to think about it. The Champion Hurdle has been MY TENT OR YOURS' objective all the way through. He's just had stupid little niggly issues, like a sore shin, but not sore shins, he just had one. We've just had to do two months' work in one, which is never great, but it's going well at the moment. My Tent Or Yours is the one horse who's got Champion Hurdle form, apart from Faugheen, and it's not surprising they're thinking about switching Annie Power there as well, but we've got form with a lot of the others. If you take Top Notch's Fighting Fifth run (second to Identity Thief), he doesn't have to prove himself to be very far away from the top of that issue. He would love it soft and Hargam would like it good. There was nothing between them as four-year-olds, and Peace And Co as well. We'll have a go. It opens it up without Faugheen, there's no doubt about that, but we were going to run with or without Faugheen."

 

A STABLE JOB

It has just been announced that one of Ireland's leading Flat riders for many years is saying goodbye to his native Kildare and off to Kimpton Down Stables, Andover. Fran(cis) Berry, son of former champion jump jockey Frank, has landed the top job with Classic-winning trainer, Ralph Beckett, as stable jockey from 2016. The 35-year-old rider, who passed the 1,000-winner mark last year, rode his first Group One success aboard the Jessica Harrington-trained on PATHFORK in the National Stakes at the Curragh in 2010. Trainer Ralph Beckett saddled SIMPLE VERSE to victory in last September's English St Leger at Doncaster but has, surprisingly, been without a stable jockey since Jim Crowley decided to go freelance in 2014.

 

Ralph Beckett commented: "I am delighted to announce that we have come to an arrangement with Fran Berry to ride as first jockey at Kimpton Down. He and his family will relocate to this area early next month, and he will be riding out here on a daily basis. At times, I have found the last 18 months frustrating without a first-choice rider. Fran, at 35 years old, is in his prime, and as a Group One-winning rider with international experience, this is an ideal solution."

 

GOING DUTCH

Another success story for a stable jockey. After returning from riding in such far-flung places as South Korea and most recently Mauritius, Darryll Holland has now settled in as retained rider for Charlie Hills, whose father, Barry, gave him first job when he was fifteen years old and was rewarded yesterday with his first UK success at Lingfield Park. The Bet And Watch Every Race At Unibet Maiden Stakes was a close-run affair, though, as the three-year-old KYLLUKEY, just headed the Dandy Nicholls-trained PHANTOM FLIPPER in the final strides.

 

The Manchester-born winning jockey commented: “It's good to be back. The horse was very game. It's nice to ride my first winner for Charlie. Getting the first winner, the pressure is off a little bit. Charlie has got plenty of horses. I think he's got 180-plus so there's plenty to look forward to in the coming season. The offer came out of the blue. Charlie rang me just before Christmas and asked if I'd like to ride for him. It was a dream at the twilight of my career, at the age of 43, to get such a big job like that. It's good to be back on home soil. I'm based in Newmarket but I'll go down to Charlie's in Lambourn two or three times a week, if and when he needs me, so it's not really a problem. You don't mind driving for good horses.”

 

MONDAY 22nd FEBRUARY

A ZAYF BET?

Following his return to the track twenty-four days ago when he was an impressive runner-up in the BC Events Handicap Hurdle at Uttoxeter, the Michael Scudamore-trained ZAYFIRE ARAMIS is going to strike while the iron's hot. The seven-year-old is scheduled to run in tomorrow's Racing UK Club Day Here Today Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle at Wetherby. This contest is over two miles, almost four furlongs shorter than his last race but connections are confident that the son of ZAFEEN has the stamina and speed to handle it. After all, his sire won both the Irish 2000 Guineas and the St. James' Place Stakes - both mile-long contests. ZAYFIRE ARAMIS will be partnered on this occasion by the highly thought-of Conditional jockey, Tom Garner, now attached to the Oliver Sherwood yard, who is hot from riding RAYVIN BLACK to victory for the Lambourn trainer on Saturday in the Bathwick tyres Kingwell Hurdle at Wincanton.

 

GEM OF A RIDE

Yesterday the feature race at Sha Tin was the Hong Kong Classic Cup and the world's number one itinerant jockey claimed the prize. Ryan Moore's was back in the limelight again at one of his favourite foreign tracks, riding the John Size-trained SUN JEWELLERY. The market had thought that WERTHER, trained by another Moore, John (no relation) and ridden by top Australian jockey, Hugh Bowman, would be victorious. However, they hadn't counted on the resilience of the three-time champion jockey, who battled it out to the bitter end, having managed to extricate his mount from being boxed in and gallop up the inside to win by a whisker. The thirty-two-year-old Brighton-born rider thereby assured that the four-year-old chestnut gelding became only the second horse to win both the Hong Kong Cup and the Classic Mile.

 

Ryan Moore commented afterwards: "Sun Jewellery's a class horse and class usually tells over a distance. He's probably just got a class edge on these horses and that allows horses to stay a little bit further than you think they would."

 

The winning trainer added: "He settled nicely today, went to sleep in the run, then picked up and sprinted when Ryan wanted him to and it looked a very determined effort. He's very competitive every time he races. The 2,000m is a different kind of race, he has to go around another bend and past the post the first time, so they're things he has to deal with. The distance doubt is always there but I don't think about it - we just roll on to the next race and hope he gets it. Like most good horses, he does a lot of things right, his temperament makes him manageable in a race and determined in a finish so they are attributes you'd love to have in every horse."

 

A DREAM HORSE

The winner of the Betfred Masters Handicap Chase at Sandown at the beginning of February is down the weights for the Grand National, having only been allotted ten stone eight pounds. This has encouraged his trainer to think more seriously about the £1 million Aintree extravaganza on Saturday April 9. Early in January the Lucy Wadham-trained LE REVE, was runner-up to Philip Hobbs' KRUZHLININ in the William Hill – Bet on the Move Handicap Chase at Kempton Park.

 

Lucy Wadham commented: "I was very happy with the weight of 10st 8lb which was allotted to Le Reve. It gets us into the race and is a nice racing weight. "We might go for the BetBright Chase at Kempton (February 27) beforehand with him. The owner (Pat Betts) is not completely sold on the idea of going to Aintree, so that is still slightly a work in progress and if Le Reve didn't go for the National, he would go back to Sandown for the bet365 Gold Cup. I wouldn't be worried about the ground for him as he is very versatile. We gave him a little wind operation after his first two runs this season and it has just taken him a little bit of time to get his confidence back but his form is working out well and I am very keen to get him to Aintree. He is only an eight-year-old and entitled to improve a bit more."

 

If Lucy Wadham does manage to persuade the owner to go to Aintree and the outcome is successful then she would become only the fourth female trainer to saddle a Grand National winner following the footsteps of Jenny Pitman (Corbiere, 1983 & Royal Athlete, 1995), Venetia Williams (Mon Mome, 2009) and Sue Smith (Auroras Encore, 2013).

 

SUNDAY 21st FEBRUARY

A LOT OF LEEWAY

And the hits just keep on coming for the rookie trainer from Bell House Stables on the Shropshire and Wales border. Kerry Lee, who took over from her father, Richard, only last July, scored again yesterday at Haydock. Following last Saturday's triumph with TOP GAMBLE in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, the Presteigne-based handler saddled BISHOPS ROAD, ridden by the champion jockey elect, in the feature race of the day, the Betfred Grand National Trial. This three and a half mile race was of a different order to the Berkshire experience. For one thing the ground was heavy and only four of the eight starters were still in any shape to contest the outcome as they neared the final turn with two hopefuls, GAS LINE BOY and RIGAUDIN DE BEAUCHENE giving up the ghost in the back straight. Richard Johnson, however, seemed unperturbed leading the way with the David Pipe-trained BROADWAY BUFFALO in hot pursuit. The latter, however, with Katie Walsh aboard, didn't handle the second-last fence very well, giving the son of HERON ISLAND a chance to mount a serious challenge and he did just that, finding hidden reserves and running on strongly to win by nine lengths.

 

The jubilant winning trainer commented: "It's just amazing. I'm very lucky. I bought this horse and he'll go straight to the National now. I'm so lucky to have a fantastic assistant who trained so many winners. He's a huge part of the team as is mum and my brother Tom in terms of race planning and placing. I have a lot going for me in that respect. It's a dream to have a runner in the Grand National and that's where he's going. I don't think the heavy ground suited him, but he'll go to Aintree whatever we get."

 

Richard Johnson added: "He got into a lovely rhythm and it helped him see the trip out. He won over two and a half the last day and today he's shown he can stay the Grand National trip. Hopefully slightly better ground might help him, but he's done it well in those conditions today."

 

TIZ EASY FOR COLIN!

An eleven-length winner gave this Sherborne trainer one of the easiest victories at Wincanton yesterday. The Colin Tizzard-trained FOURTH ACT, partnered by Paddy Brennan, dramatically brought the curtain down on the Bathwick Tyres Taunton Handicap Chase leaving the other players trailing eleven lengths in his wake.

 

Colin Tizzard commented: "We gave him a bit of a break following his last run at Chepstow after which he was a bit shinny (shin sore). We sorted that out and I thought this looked an easier race. He's been a very good horse for me and when Bob and Jean Bishop thought he was too light-framed, I was able to keep him within the fold as he's now owned by Wendy and Malcolm Hezel."

 

That wasn't the end of celebrations for the Dorset-born sixty-year-old, however. In the later race, the Bathwick Tyres Salisbury Handicap Chase, his ULTRAGOLD , also ridden by Paddy Brennan, mounted a stellar performance to trounce his rivals by an amazing seventeen lengths.

 

The Venn Farm handler added: "We always thought he was going to be a good one. After this we'll have to give him an entry for the Grand Annual and the Festival Plate, as Paddy says he's not short of gears."

It could have been a treble on the day but for the fact the Con Club-owned TIKKAPICK, well in contention in the Bathwick Tyres Bridgwater Handicap Chase, fell three fences from home.

 

THE AGE-OLD STORY

The winner of the Betfred 'Home Of Goals Galore' Hurdle at Haydock Park yesterday allowed neither age nor weight to deprive him of victory. The Nick Williams-trained REVE DE SIVOLA, the oldest horse in the race by two years, put his last disappointing performance at this track in January behind him, and showed some of his former true grit. The son of ASSESSOR, in the capable hands of Richard Johnson, went off in the lead, as is his wont, and was encouraged to go at a sensible gallop, bearing in mind the heavy conditions. The six-strong field bunched up a little as they approached the top of the straight but one by one they fell victim to the testing ground. REVE DE SIVOLA then surged forward by several yards after jumping the last obstacle and won by the narrow margin of three-quarters of a length.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He's very similar to Anzum (Stayers' Hurdle winner), both really good stayers, you know the more you ask the more you'll get. He finds as much off the bridle as he does before. To look at you'd think he was a chaser, but for some reason he's a much better hurdler."

 

Nick Williams added: "He got a good jump over the last three. If he had put down at the last, we'd have been in trouble. It looked like we were holding the runner-up from the last until the last 50 metres when he closed. He doesn't owe anybody anything. He's won so many good races. He's not a World Hurdle horse. We've had a go and were fourth one year. I'm not sure what we'll do now. He won't run for at least six weeks. He's had a hard race, carrying 11st 10lb on that ground.”

 

 

SATURDAY 20th FEBRUARY

HE COULD STEAL THE SHOW!

The shock announcement that FAUGHEEN is injured and will not be able to defend his Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival has caused quite a few trainers to review their chances. The betting market seems to have assumed that his stable companion, ANNIE POWER, is the natural heir to the crown, particularly after her decisive victory at Punchestown three days ago. One trainer is not so sure about that. Henry de Bromhead now firmly believes his IDENTITY THIEF to be a strong contender for the two-mile contest and the six-year-old KAYF TARA son, now an attractive 6/1 shot, proved it by winning the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November and coming an impressive second to the Willie Mullins-trained NICHOLS CANYON in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown just after Christmas.

 

Former Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey, Davy Russell, who is now Betway's brand ambassador commented: "Almost as soon as the Mullins team announced the setback that will see reigning Champion Hurdler Faugheen miss this year's race, they unveiled a genuine replacement in classy mare Annie Power. Of course losing Faugheen so close to the Festival is a blow to the stable, but that's racing. The good news is that it sounds like he'll be back as good as gold next season. The betting suggests that Willie will saddle a 1-2-3, but I think everyone is underestimating Identity Thief. I'm a huge fan of this horse who is improving at a rate of knots. He'll relish the better ground at Cheltenham and I'm convinced he's the one they all now have to beat."

 

DAD'S SURPRISE

Sandown Park was the scene of an emotional victory yesterday when a daughter was desperate to compete in this race in her family's colours, possibly for the one and only time. Brodie Hampson was aboard JENNYS SURPRISE in the Royal Artillery Gold Cup but in the early stages there seemed no chance that she could fulfil her ambition just to ride, let alone win, in a race watched by her terminally ill father, Mark. The latter was a sergeant in the 47 Regiment Royal Artillery for 22 years which meant his daughter was eligible to take part in the contest. Unfortunately it looked like the daughter's dream would not be realised as the Fergal O'Brien-trained daughter of HAWK WING looked well and truly beaten, but surprisingly, kept finding more and somehow rallied all the way to the line.

 

Brodie Hampson's father, given a month to live at the beginning of December, commented afterwards: "I made sure I held on to watch. It's a dream come true. I'm absolutely chuffed for my daughter. Chuffed to bits. When they turned in I was hoping for third, then second, and then she ran through to win. I'm so proud of her."

 

The delighted winning jockey added: “They just quickened away and I couldn't go with them, but she stays well and I thought they might come back, so I was just hoping for the best. It wasn't far from the winning line that I realised I was getting there. It's a dream come true. Dad has been up and down, with good days and bad, but thank God today was a good day - the best day ever. To get him here was just amazing. Dad's always wanted to see me ride in this race, in his colours, and I hadn't yet had a winner in them despite a lot of attempts, so to do it in these colours in this race and win it like that is a dream come true."

 

WING AND A PRAYER

Today Haydock hosts the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and the Greystoke-based trainer, Nicky Richards, has a strong hunch that his BAYWING has got what it takes to defy the heavy ground and his three rivals to claims the spoils. The seven-year-old son of WINGED LOVE is seeking a fifth victory in a row. Having started off his his winning streak last November on a mark of 89 he has now graduated to 135 which, therefore, gives him the chance to compete in this two-mile-six-furlong Grade Two contest.

 

Nicky Richards commented: “He's had a fantastic season from where we have started to where he is now. I hope it doesn't end. He'll love the ground, he seems very well in himself so it will be very interesting. It's another step up the ladder. He loves the ground and that's a great benefit to him. I'd say if you took Philip (Hobbs') horse (Duke Des Champs) out there isn't a lot between the other four in the race. It will be the boys that can handle the ground that best and I have a fair idea which one that will be."

 

FRIDAY 19th FEBRUARY

TOP NOTCH !

The Nicky Henderson-trained son of POLIGLOTE was clearly out to make amends for his disappointing performance in the two-and-a-half-mile Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. The short odds-on favourite, TOP NOTCH was using the Timeform Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso as a preparation for his, it is to be hoped, victorious return to Prestbury Park in March. This particular race doesn't hold very pleasant memories for the three-time Champion trainer, if one recalls the 2010 renewal when he also had a very short odds-on favourite (1/14!!), ZAYNAR who was left trailing some thirteen lengths behind the winner. This five-year-old gelding was a successful juvenile last season and was unlucky to be narrowly denied last year's Triumph Hurdle prize by his stable companion PEACE AND CO before going on to be runner-up by a neck in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle eleven days later. TOP NOTCH proved his credentials this time under Daryl Jacob, however, and put the contest to bed by twelve lengths.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He travelled really nicely and jumped really nicely. It's very hard work out there - it's very gluey. He generally loves it, but in some parts even he was getting stuck in it. I was very happy. He had plenty of zest and he's won really nicely. You're hoping these trial races for Cheltenham go smoothly, but sometimes they don't. It was nice it was plain sailing. He had two hard races against Irving and Identity Thief in the space of two weeks and it was hard work at Cheltenham and he was probably a little bit flat. Nicky's freshened him up and he felt really good all the way around.”

 

LOCKOUT BAD LOOKOUT FOR FESTIVAL

The sponsors of the Cheltenham World Hurdle for the last decade have shut up shop. In response to the Jockey Club's recently introduced ABP scheme (Authorised Betting Partners) Ladbrokes, who have so far refused to join, after being denied further sponsorship of the prestigious event, have locked up their two betting shops on Cheltenham racecourse. As there is little hope at this late stage of finding a replacement company to take them over, it looks as though this might cause quite an inconvenience for visitors to the Festival. One of the Ladbrokes' shops is based in the Cheltenham’s Centaur centre and is recognised as ‘probably the busiest betting shop in Britain during Festival week’. Ladbrokes has now been replaced by Ryanair as sponsors of the World Hurdle, which is the latest development in the bitter row between horse racing and the betting industry in the negotiations to reach some kind of agreement on levy payments on bets placed online and processed overseas. So far only Betfair, Bet365, 32Red and Fitzdares have agreed to such a deal. The Jockey Club, which owns Cheltenham race track, is sticking rigidly to the rule and will not enter into any new commercial agreements with non-ABP companies. It seems, paradoxically, that Ladbrokes was told they cannot sponsor the World Hurdle but could carry on running the betting shops.

 

A Ladbrokes' spokesman commented: That is not something we can justify to our board. It does not make sense to us. We will be stripping the shops of Ladbrokes livery before the Festival and operate where we are welcome. We absolutely wanted to sponsor the World Hurdle and run the shops. This makes us a combination of sad and angry but under the circumstances we cannot envisage becoming an ABP.”

 

LEARNING OFF PAT

An eleven-time Champion jockey and three-time Derby winner is to be honoured by having a prestigious race name after him. Ascot has announced that the Listed Winkfield Stakes, the opening race on King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes day on July 23, has been permanently renamed the Wooldridge Group Pat Eddery Stakes. The late County Kildare rider, who died last November, is generally recognised as one of the greatest jockeys of all time. Apart from his being crowned champion jockey eleven times, he also won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes on four occasions, triumphed in fourteen British Classics, and clocked up over 4,600 victories before he retired in 2003. On the day of the race, the late Pat Eddery's two daughters, Natasha and Nicola, together with other members of the family, will be present to award the winner's trophy.

 

Natasha Eddery commented: "As a family, we all agreed that our fondest, most cherished memories of Dad's incredible racing career were at Ascot racecourse. While Dad had so much success all over the world, Ascot was one of his favourites by far. We are all so grateful that Ascot has chosen to honour his legacy on King George day. Dad would be so very proud."

 

THURSDAY 18th FEBRUARY

ANOTHER 'SCU' JOINS THE CLUB!

What have Sir Tony McCoy, Richard Johnson, Richard Dunwoody, John Francome and Stan Mellor in common? They all passed the thousand winner mark. Who's Stan Mellor? - the first jockey to ride 1,000 winners and was Champion Jockey three years in a row from 1960 to 1962. And today a member of a distinguished racing family joined them. Tom Scudamore reached this landmark aboard the David Pipe-trained IMPULSIVE AMERICAN in the racinguk.com/anywhere Maiden Hurdle at Musselburgh yesterday, in what was his only ride of the day. Making a powerful challenge from from two hurdles out, the evens favourite son of AMERICAN POST took the lead after jumping the last and galloped effortlessly on to leave his nearest rival, (on this occasion the wrongly named!) SOME ARE LUCKY, trailing some eight lengths in his wake. Actually it was the thirty-three-year-old jockey's 990th win over jumps. The other ten were accumulated on the Flat.

 

Tom Scudamore commented: "I was told a few weeks ago when I was at Pond House that I was getting very close to 1,000 winners and from then on I've been aware of it. It's something that's very special. When you set off on our career the first thing you want to do is to ride one winner and go from there. The names of those who have ridden 1,000 winners is just phenomenal. I've been very fortunate with the people I've ridden for. The one biggest highlight would be winning on Next Sensation at the Cheltenham Festival for my brother, Michael (trainer). I think whatever I achieve in the future will never match that. To ride a winner for my brother there owned by some very close family friends - it means an awful lot.”

 

A SHOCK NON-RUNNER

Willie Mullins' eight-year-old star will not now be defending his Stan James Champion Hurdle title at the Cheltenham Festival next month. It has been revealed that FAUGHEEN has a suspensory ligament problem, which means he cannot possibly run at Prestbury Park or anywhere else for a while. The son of GERMANY was the universal odds-on favourite to notch up back-to-back victories in this Champion Hurdle, particularly after this season's stunning triumphs at Kempton in the Christmas Hurdle and in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

 

The County Carlow king commented: "He was just a little bit sore and our vet confirmed he had a small suspensory (injury) and I didn't want to risk going any further. I just took a view that it was better to stop now and he'd be back for next year. It's something like what happened to Hurricane Fly going to Cheltenham and he came back and was as sound as a pound for five or six years after. We think the prognosis is very good and he should be back as good as new next year."

 

STREETS AHEAD WITH MICHAEL SCU

 

Have you seen the young trainer

Working in Eccleswall Court Stables

Handling all the horses

Just like his grandpa before?

In his eyes you'll see the will

The Scudamores all have it still

A determination to triumph and always come back for more.

 

So how can you say you you're not a wi-i-nner,

And that for you the sun don't shine?

Michael Scu has scored today

And did it with your STREETS OF PROMISE

Showed Towcester track his determined winning way.

 

Have you seen how Liam Treadwell

Rode this seven-year-old bay mare

Making virtually all

From the start of the race?

In his eyes you see the pride.

Hand held loosely at his side

No need for whip 'cos they've got seven lengths of space.

 

So how can you say you you're not a wi-i-nner,

And that for you the sun don't shine?

Michael Scu has scored today

And did it with your STREETS OF PROMISE

Showed Towcester track his determined winning way.

 

**Acknowledgement: Ralph McTell - Streets Of London 1969

 

WEDNESDAY 17th FEBRUARY

ISN'T IT GRAND!

The Cheltenham Festival hasn't taken place yet but already Grand National fever has gripped the headlines. The sports' papers are abuzz with speculation as to whether last year's winner, MANY CLOUDS, can become the first horse to achieve a back-to-back renewal since RED RUM in 1973 and 1974. The Oliver Sherwood-trained nine-year-old is certainly still the favourite for the Aintree spectacular even though it was announced yesterday that he is the top weight of eleven stone ten pounds. That means the son of CLOUDINGS will have to carry one extra pound more than last year when he claimed off the prize. The handicapper has clearly recognised that eleven stone nine pounds was significant enough a burden.

 

Jon Ivan-Duke, spokesman for William Hill commented: “Many Clouds has many of the attributes you would associate with Red Rum; he stays, he jumps well and is courageous.”

 

DON'T LET FALLING GET YOU DOWN!

It's not, on the face of it, the luckiest of times for Ruby Walsh. On Sunday at Navan, just when it looked as though he had the Ten Up Novice Chase all done and dusted, his mount, BLACK HERCULES, clipped the top of the last fence and buckled on landing, sending his rider sprawling onto the ground. To add insult to injury, that fall followed a similar incident eight days ago when the County Kildare jockey was unseated by VALSEUR LIDO at the final fence in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. Of course, falling is a jump jockey's stock-in-trade. It's not surprising, therefore, that the records show that Ruby Walsh, since the beginning of 2005, has suffered sixty-eight falls or unseats when negotiating the last obstacle and thirty-one of these, unfortunately, when victory was in his grasp. This figure compares with forty-eight for AP McCoy and thirty-seven for Richard Johnson. Overall, from Ruby Walsh's total of 6,505 rides, he has hit the deck at the last 1.04 % of the time. That compares with Tony McCoy's 0.53% from 9,085 rides and Richard Johnson's 0.51% from 9,474. Ruby Walsh is, however, an undisputed top jockey and has many sympathetic supporters who will rally to his side, including former champion jockey and trainer, Peter Scudamore who is particularly keen to stress that the rider should not start to doubt his own ability as he is sure that the 45-time Cheltenham Festival winner will be back on top again at Prestbury Park.

 

Peter Scudamore commented: "I remember having two or three falls in a row at the last but these things happen. Ruby is one of the best jockeys I've ever seen. It just happens - it's like a great batsman having a run of LBWs and I can't see it worrying him too much. To me, when Annie Power fell, she picked up at the shadow of the hurdle, so that wasn't his fault. If I felt he was doing something wrong technically I would say so, but I really do think he's one of the best we've ever seen. You see some jockeys making mistakes or changing their mind at fences, but he isn't doing that. Every time you fall you feel like you should have done something different, but technically he's doing nothing wrong. The worst thing that could happen is if he got it into his head that it's all down to him. He just has to remain positive - it's not his fault."

 

APOLOGIES TO COLE!

 

It's the top!

It's the Kelso race track.

It's the top!

They all keep coming back.

Figures show at the Roxburgh venue

Numbers are up over 12 per cent

And of all the five Scottish race tracks

Kelso's Heaven sent!

 

Kelso's the top!

Better than Hamilton Park.

Kelso's the top!

Leaves Ayr and Perth in the dark.

For the economy of Scotland

This popular spectator sport

Produces 173 million pounds

So if Musselburgh is the bottom

Kelso's the top!

 

 

TUESDAY 16th FEBRUARY

TRAINER'S MAD

Who'd be a trainer trying to plan the next race? First it's VIOLET DANCER, winner of last Saturday's Kingmaker Novices’ Chase, who, in the process, sadly sustained a hind leg fracture; then it's AR MAD, who was the easy victor in the Novices' Limited Handicap at Plumpton yesterday but is now on painkillers after it was discovered afterwards that he was lame. So within the space of twenty-four hours trainer Gary Moore’s hopes of taking on the hot Irish favourite, DOUVAN, in the Arkle Novices’ Chase are looking slimmer by the minute. The son of TIGER GROOM had already gained his place as one of Britain’s leading contenders for the prestigious race after proving himself in the Henry VIII and Wayward Lad Novices’ Chases at Sandown and Kempton, respectively. There may be further news about the six-year-old's condition today which may shed further light on his chances of appearing at the Cheltenham Festival.

 

Trainer Gary Moore commented: “Any horse when it is lame is concerning. We don’t know the severity of it at the moment. He has travelled home bandaged up and he has been given painkillers for the night. We will deal with it in the morning but, at the moment, I don’t know what he has done. It is amazing something has happened because he basically just had a canter round.”

 

LORD KNOWS!

The 2013 winner of the Scottish Grand National has had an unimpressive couple of seasons since that victory. GODSMEJUDGE, however, now trained by David Dennis, (previously Alan King) did give a hint of getting back to some kind of form when coming second in a Handicap a Handicap Chase at Doncaster at the end of December. On the strength of that result and, obviously other signs of improvement in training, the Worcester-based trainer has decided the time is ripe to let his son of WITNESS BOX have another crack at the Ayr extravaganza on 16 April. Before that, the ten-year-old may well go back to Doncaster and run in the BetBright Best For Festival Betting Veterans’ Handicap Chase on 24 February.

 

ADDRESSING DRESS

After the successful campaign to stop the publication of the Sun's Page Three, it's now turn of the Ladies Day at the Grand National Festival. Aintree, following Royal Ascot’s lead, is bringing in a new dress code for women. No longer will the newspapers be full of indecorous, sometimes indecent, photographs of women parading (even falling over!) around the enclosures wearing dresses several sizes too small for them, revealing often what would be better concealed. The general plan seems to be to ban mini skirts and unnecessarily low cleavages. It is clearly a necessary move because, it may be an obvious thing to say, racing is all about the horses and their trials and tribulations when trying to win a race. It's also about the jockeys, the trainers and the stable helpers who work tirelessly long hours in an effort to get their charges ready for a contest. Horse racing is a serious business. Huge sums of money are won or lost on the result of one race. Yet still at quite a few race tracks, including Aintree and Ascot, too many of the visitors don't seem to even notice the horses. They seem to think it's about dressing up (or 'undressing !), getting drunk and making a spectacle of themselves Many even just stay in the bar and cast maybe a cursory glance at the TV screen when a race is taking place. It is certainly high time that Aintree made a stand because the signals are already there. Ticket sales are decrease every year on Ladies Day. If Merseyside racetrack's new dress code isn't effective then more and more real racing fans will vote with their feet.

MONDAY 15th FEBRUARY

IT'S LEFT, RIGHT?

Today's fixture at Plumpton features an interesting contest, although it has the fewest entries. Clearly trainer Gary Moore is using Download The At the Races App Novices' Limited Handicap Chase as a Cheltenham Festival preparation for his star novice chaser, AR MAD. Since being soundly beaten on his debut over fences, the son of TIGER GROOM has produced a trio of triumphs, two at Sandown Park and one at Kempton. The important factor today will not be the class of the opposition, which should pose no problems but the direction of the track. The six-year-old is also a strong contender for the Racing Post Arkle at Cheltenham and, therefore, needs to be able to handle left-handed courses, as all his wins have been over right-handers.

 

The West Sussex-based trainer commented: "He's been as good as gold. He had a bit of a break after Kempton. The timing of the race is good and it will be interesting to see how he handles going left-handed. If it all works out well and he comes out of the race OK he'll head to Cheltenham."

 

ANNIE'S ON SONG

The Willie Mullins-trained daughter of SHIROCCO, who hasn't been seen on track since her Grade One victory at Punchestown last May, is scheduled to make her seasonal return on Wednesday's in the punchestown.com Mares Hurdle. Eight-year-old ANNIE POWER will also be seeking to make amends for her fall at the last fence in the Grade 1 OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last March. Apparently the County Carlow trainer had intended to run his star mare earlier on in the season but injury put paid to that idea. It had also been suggested that she might head straight to the Festival but connections obviously are pleased with her progress and that is why they are considering a run in this two-and-a-half-mile event.

 

Willie Mullins commented: "I think she will run at Punchestown. I'm happy enough with her, and she's been working nicely."

 

BLACK DAY FOR RUBY

Just when Ruby Walsh must have been thinking he was having a successful day, things went pear-shaped. The afternoon had started well for the County Kildare jockey. He had already steered the Willie Mullins-trained SAMBREMONT to victory in the Grade 2 Flyingbolt Novice Chase earlier in the day. He was now looking forward to the Ten Up Novice Chase when he would be aboard the 4/11 favourite, BLACK HERCULES, who had already triumphed in his first two chases at Navan and Warwick in December and January, respectively, even beating his stable companion, SAMBREMONT, by twelve lengths on his debut. As the race progressed, all seemed to be going well. Ruby Walsh kept his son of HERON ISLAND in a handy position throughout the three-mile race and seemed to be travelling the best of the field. Approaching the last all looked plain sailing but it was not to be. The seven-year-old crashed through the fence and fell, leaving another stable mate, MEASUREOFMYDREAMS, to claim the spoils.

 

SUNDAY 14th FEBRUARY

OBEAUX BACK IN TUNE

Betfair Super Saturday at Newbury is one of the Jump season’s most-anticipated race days and a great chance to see some of horseracing’s top performers, both equine and human. This time the occasion developed into a triumphant day for the distaff side. The first sign that it was going to be a special day for the ladies was when the Venetia Williams-trained HOUBLON DES OBEAUX won the Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase by twenty-eight lengths, with the likes of ROCKY CREEK and THE GIANT BOLSTER trailing exhaustedly in his wake. The son of PANORAMIC, sporting cheekpieces for the first time, went into the lead approaching the end of the back straight on the final circuit and jockey Aidan Coleman had no worries from then on as he established an unassailable distance between him and his rivals. It was good to see the nine-year-old gelding back to his form of old, as he hasn't won a race since the Listed Mappin & Webb Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in December 2013.

 

A delighted Venetia Williams commented: “I’ve been wondering how long it was going to take me to put cheekpieces on him and I thought now’s the time - with a relatively small field on a racecourse where he’s done really well in the past. I’m thrilled to bits. If you go back to his form in this race last year, what was there to beat him? But we haven’t seen so much of ‘Houby’ since then.”

 

KERRY ON WINNING

In the very next race, the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase female force flourished further. Kerry Lee, who only took over training from her father, Richard, last July, saddled TOP GAMBLE who, with champion jockey elect Richard Johnson aboard, put paid to any aspirations by last year's Champion Chase winner, the Paul Nicholls-trained DODGING BULLETS and gave the Byton-based trainer another high-profile triumph, following on from her victory with MOUNTAINOUS in the Welsh National .

 

An over-the-moon Kerry Lee commented: "You have to respect the champion chaser, but if you are not in it you can't win it and he wouldn't have won a fifty grand race standing in his box. It was a thrilling race to watch and Richard [Johnson] knows him so well and gave him a lovely ride. I think he might actually really suit Punchestown, as he's more likely to get his ground and it's a nice big galloping track. I wouldn't be mad for the Ryanair, because of trip and ground, but I wouldn't rule it out.”

 

BARING ALL

After the two female trainers it was the turn of a female jockey to make her mark. Lizzie Kelly, who made history by becoming the first female jump jockey to land a Grade One winner at Kempton in December, went on to win the most valuable handicap hurdle run in Britain, the Betfair Hurdle by eleven lengths. Her mount, the 16/1 outsider, AGRAPART, trained by her step-father Nick Williams, gave the twenty-two year-old jockey her 12th triumph of the season and only the 28th of her jump riding career. Yesterday's win also added another big handicap success to her victories, after last year’ s triumph in the Lanzarote Hurdle on TEA FOR TWO and victory aboard AUBUSSON in Haydock's Betfair Fixed Brush handicap Hurdle in 2014 .

 

Lizzie Kelly, who could not hide her delight, said: “I think I am better on these big occasions. I worked better under pressure and respond to the bigger days. I am a bit more of a warrior about it. You have to celebrate these occasions. I could run round the paddock naked at the moment!’

SATURDAY 13th FEBRUARY

MORE AFTER FOUR?

Last year's Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey is still riding high after scoring a quartet of triumphs at Kempton yesterday. Nico de Boinville will be heading across to Newbury today, hoping his red-hot winning streak prevails. He kicks off the day aboard the Nicky Henderson-trained ARGANTE, who has only two official career runs registered in the UK, coming third last time out in September in the This Is The Ladbroke's Life Handicap. The son of SINGSPIEL did, however, produce some better form on his four outings in France, where he was runner-up on each occasion. There is market support for the seven-year-old but his odds are currently going out and he will be up against a much more favoured EMERGING TALENT, trained by Paul Nicholls. The North Hampshire-born jockey will have another chance to make good an hour later when he rides the Rebecca Curtis-trained BOB FORD in the Betfair Denman Chase but he will be up against stiffer opposition in the the form of ROCKY CREEK whose odds are coming in by the minute.

 

After yesterday's staggering success Nico de Boinville commented: "It's been a great day and I've never ridden more than a double before so I am a happy boy. I'm very lucky that I've been supported by nice trainers and horses. It's all about getting on the right ones.

 

HOBBS' CHOICE

Philip Hobbs – three; Jonjo O'Neill – three and Willie Mullins – five. That means that fifty percent of the runners in today's Betfair Hurdle at Newbury will be saddled by those three trainers. On the face of it, one of the County Carlow king's entries, BLAZER, stands a good chance of claiming the prize as he is the clear favourite with shortening odds. However, two of Philip Hobbs' runners, STERNRUBIN and WAR SOUND are attracting a lot of interest in the market, partly due to the fact, perhaps that the Minehead-based trainer, is enjoying a very fruitful season. Added to that, the former mentioned, the son of AUTHORIZED dead-heated for the Ladbroke Hurdle in December while the latter, a son of KAYF TARA, bagged the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on his last time out, albeit some nine months ago. The third hopeful from the Sandhill Racing Stables is the 33/1 shot, CHELTENIAN, who hasn't scored since last April, even though he is the the top weight at 153.

 

Philip Hobbs commented: "Cheltenian is very consistent but is up against it with his weight. War Sound could be an improver as he has not run for a long time. Sternrubin has gone up in the handicap but if he has improved he can hopefully be competitive."

 

ROCKY ROAD

This Newbury race with historic connections has strangely only attracted seven runners unlike the twenty-two participants in the afore-mentioned Betfair Hurdle. The Betfair Denman Chase does, perhaps, does substitute quality for quantity. Connections of one horse, in particular, are surely hoping that this contest will get him back on track. The Paul Nicholls-trained ROCKY CREEK hasn't had a win since last February in the Betbright Chase and, in his support, the ten-year-old son of DR MASSINI did come an impressive second in the 2013 Hennessy Gold Cup and and fifth in last year's Grand National. This season hasn't started too badly, discounting a couple of pull-ups, because he was runner-up to Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Don Cossack at Down Royal last October.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: "This race has been his aim for a long time. He was second to Don Cossack in the Grade One at Down Royal and ran really tidy that day. He then went to Aintree and ran really poorly in the Grand Sefton Chase - we have fairly well worked out that he is not in love with jumping the Grand National fences. He always goes well at this time of year. Last year he won the big three-mile handicap chase at Kempton and he has such a high handicap mark now that I thought it would be nearly impossible to run in that race again, hence the Denman Chase bid. He is a good, solid staying chaser. He is also in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but is very unlikely to run in it as there are other races for him."

WEDNESDAY 10th FEBRUARY

COMMANDER IN CHIEF

Runner-up in his first two chase outings at Kelso in December and at Ayr in January, this son of DR MASSINI could provide Lucinda Russell with a well-deserved win in the Lloyds Lawn And Leisure Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Carlisle today. In fact the Kinross-based trainer saddles two horses in the Cumbrian fixture, fortunately spared cancellation after a dry night, so she could have two bites at the cherry with MISS TIGGY and KILBREE CHIEF. The latter eight-year-old, however, although he missed well over a year's racing before tackling fences again at Kelso in December, has only two rivals to beat in his contest. Although

soundly beaten by eleven lengths last time out, the bay gelding hinted at latent abilities in the way he stayed and finished. So today could be his day.

 

KEEPING AHEAD OF THE GAME

In earnings Paul Nicholls is over £200,000 ahead of his closest English rival, Philip Hobbs and a good £800,000 ahead of, the man they all fear, Irish trainer, Willie Mullins but that doesn't stop the champion Somerset-based handler from a certain amount of self-doubt, particularly if the County Carlow king is as successful as he is expected to be at the four-day Cheltenham Festival next month. Clearly winning the championship title again is something he would obviously welcome, but Paul Nicholls was to keen to stress that it wouldn't be the end of the world if it didn't happen.

 

The Ditcheat trainer commented: "We've had a bit of a slow start, but then if I've had a slow start everybody must have had a slow start as I'm still £200,000 in front. We've got loads and loads to run through the spring. We probably haven't got the stars that we had for the big races and we are probably going to have to wait a couple of years for that. If Willie wins all those races - the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, all those big races - then it's going to clearly be impossible to beat him, but at the end of the day what will be, will be. He is a good guy and I was in that enviable position a few years ago and I was full up of all those superstars and it makes it tough for everybody else. I've been lucky and I've been there and now we've got to rebuild and try to find some to take him on. He has got a fantastic squad and if they all run up to their best they will be hard to beat. At the end of the day no one ever believes me that I'm not just doing it to be champion trainer - I'm trying to bring along those young horses.

 

NOT KNOWING WEATHER

This Lambourn-based trainer is playing it safe and covering his options by entering the same horse in two fixtures on the same day. The Kingmaker Novices' Chase is due to take place at Warwick on Saturday but the weather forecast is not looking promising so, just in case, Nicky Henderson has also entered his L'AMI SERGE in the Game Spirit Chase featured at Newbury on he same afternoon.

 

Racing manager for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede Anthony Bromley, commented: "We've put him in the Game Spirit just as back up, but there are so few options for novices rated over 140 in February. He needs the experience, we're keen to get that third run in but there are literally no other options this month until Fontwell on February 28 and I'd say if you're aiming at that you're not running in the Arkle. We're now in the situation that if Warwick is off we'll have to take on Dodging Bullets in the Game Spirit, having not seen another horse in two runs over fences. Ironically there are plenty of options this month for three-mile novices -Towton, Reynoldstown and races at Warwick and Newbury this week - just nothing for two-milers.”

TUESDAY 9th FEBRUARY

GORDON, NOT BILLY, TAKING THE RIGHT STEPS!

When one name dominates the Irish trainers' championship, it's easy to think that no-one else can hold a candle to him. He may be going on for a million pounds in prize money behind Willie Mullins but Gordon Elliott, about the same amount of money ahead of his nearest rival, Henry de Bromhead, is definitely being considered as a potential threat to the County Carlow king's domination. What is more this County Meath-based trainer is planning to saddle in the region of twenty runners in next month's Cheltenham Festival, after his latest success with JETSTREAM JACK at Musselburgh yesterday. The latter will now be in line for the conditional jockeys' handicap. The pick of the bunch has got to be the nine-year-old DON COSSACK, a highly-rated chaser, who is currently is a joint-favourite for the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: "We gave him a break for a couple of weeks after his run at Thurles and we haven't decided if we will put cheekpieces on him. If the ground dried up, we'd leave them off. If it became a bit of a slog, we would put them on to help him through the race. He might have a little racecourse gallop around Leopardstown, but he's plenty fit. As for NO MORE HEROES, we'll see what weight he gets. He'll be a nice horse when he jumps fences."

 

TRAFFIC UPDATE

The Galloping On The South Downs Partnership-owned TRAFFIC FLUIDE won't be galloping anywhere for the rest of the season due to injury, it has been announced. The six-year-old put up a creditable performance on his first appearance of the season in the Grade 1 Sodexo Clarence House Chase in January when he was only beaten by a short-head by rhis stable companion SIRE DE GRUGY who was runner-up to the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX.

 

His regular jockey, Gary Moore commented: "I'm really sick as he ran so well at Ascot. He had a hold up at the start of the season and it's a similar problem. He recovered so well it's hard to take, we just won't have enough time to get him ready for anything. The plan was for him to run this weekend in the Game Spirit. He's got age on his side at least, he's only six, but it's very annoying. Hopefully he'll be back before Christmas, we'll maybe aim for Exeter (Haldon Gold Cup)."

 

THE NUMBERS GAME

Saturday's £155,000 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury may well have 31 confirmations, including vying favourites, WAR SOUND, the Philip Hobbs-trained son of KAYF TARA and the JP McManus-owned MODUS but the same can't be said for three other top chases being held at the weekend. The Betfair Denman Chase, Betfair Game Spirit Chase and Kingmaker Novices' Chase all failed to attract the minimum number of ten entries by the close of yesterday and have been re-opened until today. The Grade 2 Betfair Denman Chase, disappointingly, got only four entries; the Grade 2 Betfair Exchange Chase only did slightly better with seven and the Better Odds With Betfair Novices' Chase attracted nine entries. Newbury wasn't the only track to have problems with numbers. The Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices' Chase at Warwick was also re-opened, as well as two other races on the card, after it received only seven entries.

 

MONDAY 8th FEBRUARY

NOT FORTY. TWO WERE ENOUGH!

Musselburg racetrack witnessed scenes of great family joy yesterday when father and son scored in the toteexacta Scottish Champion Chase with the willing assistance of their chestnut gelding. The South Yorkshire-based trainer, Peter Winks, took on top trainers Nicky Henderson and David Pipe with his CHESTNUT BEN, ridden by his son Ryan, and triumphed. His eleven-year-old was by far the strongest contestant in the fifteen-furlong race and, in fact, the two horses of both the Southern opposition were pulled up, leaving the son of RIDGEWOOD BEN to win by three-and-a-half lengths.

 

The over-the-moon winning jockey performed a flying dismount à la Frankie, even grabbed a microphone and entertained the delighted racegoers with his rendition of ‘We Are The Champions’, later commenting: “This is a big day. It’s Scotland’s Champion Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day and we’ve won, I can’t believe it.”

 

Trainer Peter Winks added: “He’s in the form of his life, I knew he was. (Ed:I think he means the horse! ) This win means the world to a stable like ours, it’s our biggest win by a long way.”

 

FLOODS OF TEARS

A Somerset-based trainer had to face a very different kind of challenge on Sunday morning. Paul Nicholls' Ditcheat stables were deluged by a flash flood over Saturday night and it was all hands on deck Sunday morning to get the yard back into operation again. All in all, fifteen horses had to be rescued from their stables as the water kept on rising. Happily by Sunday morning it appears that the worst was over and the water was beginning to recede and eventually the dispossessed horses were able to go back to their homes.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: "It was a great effort by the staff. It was very wet down here, I think Somerset had about 14 flood warnings out and you've never seen water like it. We must have had about 4ft of water in the yard and we had to move out 15 horses and find them somewhere else to go but it's all gone this morning. In some of the stables, it was literally 3ft deep, we've never had anything like it before, so we just moved some horses out to different places around the village. It's just been a big clear up this morning, getting rid of all the wet bedding, replacing them and getting the horses back. It was a bit of a nightmare but it's just one of those things. The rain was just unbelievable. We were driving back from Sandown and it was just raining more and more and more."

 

NICKY ON TRIAL

The Cheltenham Trials Day at Musselburgh didn't go badly for one Southern trainer. Lambourn-based Nicky Henderson returned home with two winners who would be Cheltenham Festival-bound next month. O O SEVEN, his three-mile novice hurdle winner, with Andrew Tinkler aboard, claimed the Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial by three-quarters of a length, denying victory to the Gordon Elliott-trained FAGAN, looking for four wins in a row. This six-year-old son of FLEMENSFIRTH is now reported to be booked into the Neptune Hurdle at Prestbury Park. In the last race of the day, the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) Barry Geraghty partnered the clear favourite, the seven-year-old CUP FINAL to a one-and-a-half length victory.

Nicky Henderson commented: “He probably had to win to get in, so at least he should now,”

As for Peace And Co, we’ll look at his breathing apparatus. I’ve not seen anything else untoward, he might have made a little noise. Peace And Co will come on an awful lot – he was big and burly – but he’ll have to, of course.”

SUNDAY 7th FEBRUARY

A DREAM OF A WIN

This son of MILAN confirmed his love of Sandown Park by notching up a second successive triumph in the Betfred Masters Handicap Chase. The Lucy Wadham-trained LE REVE appeared none the worse for the fact that he had had a tough contest just the previous Saturday in the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster. The eight-year-old, first time in blinkers, always looked good and seemingly effortlessly, when the time was right, moved up to join the long-time leader PETE THE FEAT at the last-but-one fence, ready to assert his domination. Ultimately victory wasn't as difficult as it might have been as the twelve-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE, with the next champion jockey, Richard Johnson, aboard, fluffed it at the last fence and the Harry Skelton-ridden LE REVE didn't need asking twice to go on to score by two-and-a-quarter lengths.

 

The winning jockey commented: "It was a good spare ride to get. The horse loves it round here and I've just got on him at the right time. Lucy said to me this morning she was kicking herself for running him last weekend. He made a bad mistake at the first and was never in the race. He jumped like a buck and I was very conscious that I didn't want to take on Dicky Johnson (Pete The Feat) too soon. When I set him about his business he picked up well. Lucy said she'd just put the blinkers on to help him find a bit of focus and I think they must have helped. That's the way it is with these older horses - sometimes they just need something to help them concentrate."

 

A DOUBLE FOR HIS TROUBLE

It's good to see persistence rewarded when a jockey who has had a bit of a quiet time of it recently comes up trumps with a double. Aidan Coleman, who put down his marker as future champion jump jockey when, in July, he became the retained rider for John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed’s bloodstock adviser, went to Catterick for only two rides and came home with a double. His first success came with JALEO in the racinguk.com Juvenile Hurdle which the four-year-old son of NEW APPROACH took easily by elven lengths

 

Aidan Coleman commented: "He was a bit fresh early but he was just very well after a bit of a break. I was a bit worried as he was a bit exuberant, but he's got a nice nature and after a few furlongs he dropped the bit and was back on an even keel. He's a joy to ride, horses like him make my job easy. He could be a Fred Winter type, he's two from three now but got stuffed at Newbury. He's hard to judge."

 

The twenty-seven-year-old Innishannon-born rider's second victory came in the European Breeders' Fund 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle when he partnered the David Dennis-trained WADE HARPER to three-quarters of a length win but had luck to thank for the victory as the eventual runner-up, DOUBLE W'S had completely lost his momentum having been almost brought to a standstill when Jonjo O'Neill's BEGGARS CROSS came down at the seventh hurdle.

 

HE DOES IT AGAIN!

It was a case of déja vu in yesterday's Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown when the John Kiely-trained CARLINGFORD LOUGH claimed the prestigious prize again in an heart-stopping climax. Up to the last jump, it looked like Willie Mullins' VALSEUR LIDO would take home the spoils as he had been travelling the strongest but then the unexpected happened. The seven-year-old son of ANZILLERO dramatically unseated Ruby Walsh bringing about the surprise result. Last year's winner handed any lucky punter a 20/1 bonus.

SATURDAY 6th FEBRUARY

I DREAMED A DREAM ...

What is the attraction this week-end of this East Lothian racing venue six miles East of Edinburgh? The big guns from British and Irish racing such as Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, David Pipe and Gordon Elliott have all sent runners to Musselburgh because tomorrow is Scottish Cheltenham Trials day. Nowadays the pulling power of the Prestbury Park Phenomenon is so irresistible that that it seems like the whole of the jumps season revolves around those four days in March when owners, trainers and jockeys dream of fame and possibly fortune. The dream of equine success is not, of course, restricted to the high and mighty. Smaller and lesser-known trainers will be there such as Stuart and Lesley Coltherd, who operate their training yard alongside their sheep farm in Selkirk near the Scottish Borders. This married partnership will be hoping that their DAMIENS DILEMMA will be provide them with a ticket to the Festival when he tries his luck in the Northern Area point to point Scottish Foxhunter. This eight-year-old son of WAREED, only brought over from Ireland last January, has oon established himself as a force to be reckoned with, finishing last season as the Northern Area champion novice pointer, notching up four wins from seven starts. An added delight for the Midlem-based training duo was that their son, Sam, at the same time claimed the novice rider’s title.

 

Stuart Coltherd commented: “He wasn’t a dear horse to buy and we just started with him and he kept on improving. He won four from seven starts and he was beaten in a photo-finish as well. This is the next step up and we’ll just see how far he can go. We don’t know quite how good he is and this will tell us more. He’s happy just bowling along in front and jumps away. That’s how he’s gone in the past but he would be happy enough to drop in as well. I think he’ll enjoy the course at Musselburgh, it should suit him, and we know he’s up against better opposition but some of them are getting a bit older now and it depends on how much ability these horse retain. We’re just looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

 

SOUND AS A BELL

The Willie Mullins-trained BELLSHILL, winner of each of his three starts over hurdles so far this season, runs in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown today and will be out to prove that he is every bit as good as his connections believe. The County Carlow trainer has already confirmed that the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle is the probable target at the Cheltenham Festival and this six-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE is at the moment second-favourite behind the Alan King-trained YANWORTH who demolished any opposition last week at Prestbury Park.

 

Patrick Mullins, the champion trainer's son and assistant, commented: "Bellshill seems to have improved a lot from last season. Going jumping seems to have helped him and he looks to have got quicker as well. When I rode him in bumpers he was a galloper, but he has a turn of foot now and Ruby (Walsh) was very happy with him when he rode him earlier in the week.

"I thought Yanworth was very impressive at Cheltenham last weekend. He must be a very good horse to do what he did to those good horses. We're hoping for a big performance from our fellow on Saturday, but I think whatever he does, he'll be a better horse in March."

 

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER

One of the highlights today is Leopardstown's Irish Gold Cup where the Gigginstown Stud-owned VALSEUR LIDO has been backed as short as 8/1 from an original 20/1 and racing manager, Eddie O'Leary, is even as confident to believe that this son of ANZILLERO will claim the prize.

He commented: "I was very surprised to hear about the money for Valseur Lido. He's a very good horse in his own right but he's a fair bit short of the mark required for a race like this. I'd be very surprised if he finished ahead of Road To Riches. We'd have won a Thursday Gold Cup. Road To Riches has been a super horse for us and he'd have won the Gold Cup if it was run on Thursday last year. Unfortunately rain got into the ground and played to the strengths of Coneygree and Djakadam, whereas we'd have preferred much better ground.

 

FRIDAY 5th FEBRUARY

ARK ROYAL

It's difficult to keep the County Carlow king out of the news. Willie Mullins was back in top form again yesterday at Clonmel when his six-year-old ARKWRISHT, with Ruby Walsh aboard, put the Surehaul Mercedes-Benz Novice Hurdle to bed in no uncertain fashion. The 12-1 outsider was one of three runners entered by the owners, the Gigginstown House Stud. There were also in contention stable companion, STONE HARD and ROMAN GOLD, in the hands of a rival trainer, Gordon Elliott. Unluckyily for retained rider Bryan Cooper he ended up making the wrong choice. The two-mile-six-furlong Grade Three contest was unexpectedly run at a rather slow gallop for quite a while until Ruby Walsh clearly ran out of patience and and went for home down the back straight, clearly hoping to run the legs off his six rivals. Bryan Cooper tried to get STONE HARD into contention but he just seemed to lose it in the final straight and the son of LAVIRCO took the final hurdle with ease to make it a two-and-a-half-length victory.

 

Willie Mullins commented afterwards: "He didn't jump great but he stays all day and is improving with every run. He could go for the Purcell Hurdle at Thurles or maybe the Albert Bartlett (at Cheltenham). It would be an extra quarter-mile but that was like three miles on the ground. I'm very happy with him. I was very disappointed with Stone Hard. He had worked well during the week but it's back to the drawing board with him."

 

SANDOWN'S LOWDOWN

A former Winchester University student now turned jockey thinks her Kempton champion and Sandown's so-called 'railway' fences are made for each other. At least that's what Lizzie Kelly believes and she should know more than most as she hit the headlines on Boxing Day when she steered TEA FOR TWO, trained by her stepfather Nick Williams, to a four-length victory in the Kauto Star novices' Chase at Kempton. The twenty-two-year-old, who made history by becoming the first female jockey to win a Grade 1, is now hoping to score again on the this KAYF TARA son who is the ante-post favourite for the Betfred TV Scilly Isles Novices' Chase on Saturday.

 

Lizzie Kelly commented: "It's a bloody hot race but you wouldn't expect anything else in a Grade 1. Sandown's chase course rewards good jumpers and Tea For Two's jumping is so good I like to think they are made for each other. I'm very excited - I've only ridden over the Sandown fences once before and I'm looking forward to Tea For Two."

 

WHITTINGTON TURNS AGAIN!

Another horse that will not gracing the Prestbury Park terrain in March is the Harry Whittington-trained ARZAL, who, connections have decided will bypass the Cheltenham Festival in favour of the Aintree's Grand National at the beginning of April, even though the six-year-old is a highly considered contender for the Racing Post Arkle Trophy and the JLT Novices' Chase. The son of VENDANGEUR lost out by three lengths to the Nicky Henderson-trained VANITEUX in the Grade Two Lightning Novices' Chase at Doncaster last Saturday.

 

The Lambourn-based trainer commented: "He's come of the race well. We were very happy with him at Doncaster, to give Vaniteux 4lb and only just be beaten was a good run," Whittington said. I think we will miss Cheltenham, with the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One (Manifesto Novices' Chase) at Aintree the plan, with a possible prep race over two miles and three furlongs at Doncaster at the beginning of March. We just think the undulations at Cheltenham might catch him out and he is really suited by galloping, flat, left-handed tracks, like Doncaster and Newbury. The Arkle looks a very hot race this year and we could go for the JLT, but sharp tracks and undulations are not ideal for him. It is a big call to miss Cheltenham, especially for a small yard like ours, but we like to think outside the box a bit here and I've spoken to the owners and they seem happy to go to Aintree fresh. We are keen to have the best chance of running a big race in a Grade One."

 

THURSDAY 4th FEBRUARY

A COOL CUSTOMER

The Dubai World Cup Carnival kicks off today at Meydan Racecourse today and two of the runners are expected to be the main contenders for this year's Dubai World Cup set to be run next week. The highlight of the day is the Al Maktoum Challenge R2 Sponsored By Ega - Group 2 Stakes – Dirt which has attracted a field of nine top-quality contestants, such as the Godolphin-owned FROSTED, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. This son of TAPIT has mainly associated with the best-class horses in his short career, winning last year's Grade 1 Wood Memorial Stakes April and then completing two legs of the American Triple Crown wher he came fourth in the Kentucky Derby and runner-up in the Belmont Stakes. The four-year-old, ridden this time by Godolphin's retained jockey, William Buick, clocked up nine races last year, registering, including a second win ictory in the 2015 Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.

 

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin commented: "Frosted has settled in really well and is training great," said McLaughlin. "He has been off the track for a while but looks fit and ready to go. We think he is ready for a big effort in what could be the first of three Meydan outings. We will seriously consider Super Saturday and the concluding round of the Maktoum Challenge but wait and see how he gets on Thursday and how he comes out of the race."

takes the ride.

 

OH DOUBLE SEVEN!

It's been ten years since this County Kildare trainer won the Grand National and he's now aiming to do it again. Martin Brassil plans to saddle the JP McManus-owned DOUBLE SEVEN in the Aintree spectacular. This son of MILAN, third in the 2014 Grand National won by Dr. Richard Newlands PINEAU DE RE, didn't run the whole of last season but, nevertherless is currently joint-favourite for the coming contest. As a preparation the ten-year-old bay gelding returned into action over hurdles at Punchestown in December and January but didn't achieve anything to write home about but that probably wasn't the plan. He joins thirty-eight other Irish hopefuls in a bumper list of 126 for the race that takes place on April 9th, making the biggest entry for the world-famous extended four-and-a-quarter-miler since 2008 when 150 put their name down.

 

ANOTHER TWO ON TRACK

If you go racing at the Leicester and Stratford tracks next year it won't be at the races! Or rather 'it won't be At The Races'! That is because Racing UK are planning to take over the broadcasting rights of these two Midlands' venues. The deal is probably connected with the activities of RUK's parent company, Racecourse Media Group, who recently agreed a betting shop picture rights deal signed with SIS (Satellite Information Services) which come into effect from next year until 2023. SIS, in fact, already handles the broadcasting services from the Leicester and Stratford tracks to betting shops. These two planned acquisitions will increase RUK's portfolio to thirty-six British courses, including big names such as Aintree, Ascot, Cheltenham, Goodwood, Newbury, Newmarket and York. ATR are currently providing their services at twenty-five British tracks. The loss of Leicester and Stratford will be compensated somewhat by the re-opening of Hereford later this year after being closed, with Folkestone, since 2012.

 

WEDNESDAY 3rd FEBRUARY

ON A HIGH

Victory in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at the Festival Trials Day at Cheltenham on Saturday has changed everything for the Alan King-trained YANWORTH. Connections had probably been hoping that their son of NORSE DANCER, whom they always thought a lot of without making too many demands, could quietly head off to the Cheltenham Festival without attracting too much attention. Not any more! After the JP McManus-owned chestnut gelding's commanding seven-length triumph at Prestbury Park, he couldn't escape the clutches of the official BHA handicapper who was clearly impressed by the performance and obligingly rated the six-year-old at an initial high mark of 158. To put that rating into perspective. When the Dermot Weld-trained WINDSOR PARK won it last season he was rated 146 NICHOLS CANYON was the highest rated of his nine rivals at 149. When Willie Mullins' FAUGHEEN claimed the prize in 2014 he was on a mark of 152.

 

Alan king commented: "He's frightening - in a good way - and he could be very special. I don't know how good he is - he's never come off the bridle in four runs this season. I don't think I've trained anything like it. I'm sure he'll be a better horse in better ground. He was certainly visually impressive but testing ground can often exacerbate winning distances and, consequently, the impression created.”

 

The BHA handicapper, Martin Greenwood, explained:"Yanworth already had the edge on form with a rating of 148, compared to the next best Shantou Village on 146. While the latter almost certainly justified his rating in finishing second, he was absolutely blown away by Yanworth, who like Thistlecrack, was barely off the bridle and was value an awful lot more than the official seven-length margin. It is hard to crab this performance in any way and I have settled on a new mark of 158. This may undervalue him but given he is the best novice hurdler full stop so far this season it is largely academic short term, and surely the Festivals will establish quite how good this fellow is."

 

WINNING FRENCH COCKTAIL

After a first victory on British soil following a decisive victory in the Pierre Cypres Hurdle in Auteuil last September, this grey mare has caught the bookies' eye. The Nicky Henderson-trained BLOODY MARY put down her English marker in the Openbet Novices' Hurdle at Taunton yesterday and consequently will not be such a value bet for the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. The debut race was a fairly humble affair for the five-year-old but there was one worthy rival in the form of the Philip Hobbs-trained BANYU. It was clear that jockey, Barry Geraghty was determined to get his 4-6 favourite off to a good career start this side of the Channel. Everything didn't go entirely to plan, however, as the son of DYLAN THOMAS, also a French import, started to become something of a threat as they raced between the final two flights and the County Meath rider had to take a strong hand with the JP McManus-owned mare to ensure that she made it to the line with a two-and-a-quarter-length advantage.

 

Frank Berry, the owner's Racing Manager commented: 'It was nice to see her continue her winning run, it can only help her confidence. She was workmanlike, but she likes that soft ground. The pleasing thing was how well she jumped British hurdles on her first run over them as sometimes it can catch the French types out. She's got a lovely way about her. She was very game and she's an interesting type going forward.'

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

A West Sussex-based trainer is aiming at Fontwell's National Spirit Hurdle at the end of this month for CANNON FODDER. The petite nine-year-old, who was bought for the princely sum of £980, has rewarded her connections with interest and then some, having notched up just over £62,000 from three Wins, eleven Seconds and four Thirds from thirty-two career rides. The plucky bay mare showed she means business when she came third behind the Willie Mullins-trained VROUM VROUM MAG in the Grade Two OLBG.com Mares' Hurdle at Ascot in January.

 

Trainer Sheena West commented: "Cannon Fodder is really well and she came out of the Ascot race fine. She is just so easy to train and we never have a problem with her. She was best of the English runners in that race at Ascot so we were very proud of her. Some mares can be a bit quirky, but she has not got a quirk about her. All she wants to do is gallop and when it gets a bit tactical in those lesser races, it doesn't favour her. Those better races have got more pace in and it allows her to bring out her qualities and best attributes. We will do what we did last year and go for the National Spirit at Fontwell (February 28) as there are no handicaps for her. The ground will be disgusting and she was third in it last year, while traditionally you don't get too many runners in it."

TUESDAY 2nd FEBRUARY

GROUNDHOG DAY - AGAIN!

 

SECOND TO NONE!

No shame whatsoever in coming second, as all connections of ZAYFIRE ARAMIS will readily agree after his impressive runner-up success on Saturday! One can't help feeling, though, that Anthony Curran expected a bit more from his FLEMENSTAR in the Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown on Sunday. The son of FLEMENSFIRTH took the lead from four fences out but was eventually overtaken at the last and, although he put up a valiant counter-attack, he was denied victory by one-and-three-quarter lengths by another Willie Mullins marvel, FELIX YONGER and now it looks very doubtful that he will appear at Cheltenham

 

Anthony Curran scommented: “He is fine; he is in great nick. He ran his race and we have no complaints. He ran up to his form at Christmas. We will give it another week or so before we make any plans. Cheltenham would be very doubtful because of the ground, he has to have soft ground. There is a race at Navan after Easter, but we are not really sure, we will give it until the end of the week before we make any plans for him.”

 

2016'S TOP SPRINTER?

The year is only one month down the line but there are those who are adamant they know already who will be acclaimed the best sprinters in the world. This conclusion is based on watching the New Zealand-bred AEROVELOCITY perform in Sunday's Centenary Sprint Cup in Hong Kong. The seven-year-old Paul Sullivan-trained gelding absolutely dominated the six-furlong sprint, cruising majestically into the final straight showing no mercy to the powerful opposition in the form of Group 1 winners GOLD-FUN and PENIAPHOBIA. As a result of this success the son of PINS has been given an RPR of 125 which ranks him on top of the world aand it's only the beginning of February. Hopes of seeing such equine excellence in in Europe this year were firmly dashed when his trainer responded "no chance - we'll keep him in Asia.", when asked if there were a chance of a Royal Ascot appearance.

 

A SINISTER MOVE

Trainer Gary Moore has changed his mind about the next step in his plan to prepare AR MAD for the Cheltenham Festival. What seems to be on his mind is the course direction. Of the six tracks this son of TIGER GROOM has raced on in England since leaving France, four of them are right- and two left-handed. The six-year-old bay gelding is clearly more comfortable negotiating right-hand courses, having secured two victories at Sandown and one at Kempton. Cheltenham is a left-handed track, however, and although AR MAD won in this direction at Plumpton last April, when he returned there in October he didn't find the going easy as 'the comments in running' clearly illustrate: “jumped right, held up towards rear, headway to chase leaders and mistake 5th, led 8th, jumped right and headed next, jumped right 3 out, weakened next”. Therefore Gary Moore is planning to give his star novice chaser another run on the sinister side at Plumpton later this month.

 

The West Sussex-based trainer commented: "Ar Mad will come here (Plumpton) in a fortnight's time. He was going to have a racecourse gallop, but we thought if we are going to find out if he can go left-handed we might as well test him properly. If all goes well he will then go to the Arkle."

 

MONDAY 1st FEBRUARY

FELIX KEPT ON ...

In an exciting BoyleSports Tied Cottage Chase at Punchestown yesterday FELIX YONGER notched up another winner for the Willie Mullins' team. This ten-year-old son of OSCAR was, quite naturally, sent off the evens favourite but was seemingly in no hurry to claim the spoils and his jockey, Ruby Walsh was quite happy to let him trundle along in the rear at an obviously generous pace set by stable companion TWINLIGHT. The Anthony Curran-trained FLEMENSTAR, fresh from victory at Leopardstown just after Christmas, was jumping with his customary conciseness when jockey Andrew Lynch decided it was time to make for home as they reached the final bend. Ruby Walsh was more than ready for that move, however, and fortunately so was his mount who had enough stamina left to put the race to bed by a length and three-quarters.

 

The winning jockey commented: ‘‘He surprised me with the turn of foot he showed going to the last to go by Flemenstar, it was a good performance. I thought it rode a good race. I’d say the Champion Chase would be the place to go, he is a Grade One winner over two miles so it would look the obvious the thing to do.”

 

Willie Mullins added: “Ruby said he’s still improving, and I’d imagine he’ll take up his entry in the Champion Chase. The other option is to go for the race in Japan that Blackstairmountain won, but I’ll have to talk with Graham Wylie. It’s very expensive to run in, but there is big prize-money. We always thought he was better on better ground, but he seems to be handling this ground. If he went to Japan that would rule out Cheltenham.”

 

HE KNOWS HIS PLACE

After the Alan King-trained SMAD PLACE's staggering twelve-length victory in the Betbright Trial Chase on Saturday it has probably come as no surprise that it's now destination Cheltenham Gold Cup. The nine-year-old grey is also entered for the Ryanair Chase, but the Swindon-based trainer has now confirmed that Prestbury Park is where he's going.

 

Alan King commented: "I think it was decided last night that he will run in the Gold Cup. I spoke to (owner) Peter Andrews last night and again this morning and as long as he's fit and well, he will run in the Gold Cup. I would be inclined to put a line through the King George. I think he's a better horse on a more galloping track for one thing, I think Cheltenham suits him a lot better than Kempton. I think we would be running him pretty handy (in the Gold Cup). I was very touched yesterday, the reception he got coming into the winner's enclosure, it was like a Festival reception. It means a lot. I don't know whether it's his colour or his style of racing but the public seems to have got behind him."

 

A PEACE OF THE ACTION

The Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham is another tempting target and the Nicky Henderson-trained PEACE AND CO looks like he will be having a crack at it. Of course, everyone's rooting for FAUGHEEN, who's on the top of his form and will take some beating. A closer look at the son of FALCO, however, reveals a five-year-old who offers a bit of betting value, as they say, available as he is at the moment at 14/1. The rarely-run bay gelding has been in cracking form, with only five career runs to his name and winning one of those at Clairefontaine as long ago as June 2014, one at Doncaster at the end of the same year and two at Cheltenham in 2015. Clearly the successes at Prestbury Park will stand PEACE AND CO in good stead because he will be comfortable with the tricky terrain. Two other important factors are that trainer Nicky Henderson is no stranger in the Festival winning enclosure and Barry Geraghty, who rode PEACE AND CO to his two victories at Cheltenham, is likely to be aboard again. So it's on the cards that another Champion Hurdler might be crowned on St. Patrick's Day.

SUNDAY 31st JANUARY

GETTING SECOND WIND

On the face of it nothing seemed to have changed in yesterday's BC Events Handicap Hurdle at Uttoxeter for the Michael Scudamore-trained ZAYFIRE ARAMIS, making a return to racing after 344 days' absence. Therefore connections would have been forgiven for being a little nervous in the early stages of the race as the son of ZAFEEN seemed to be playing his usual game of taking a keen hold at the back of the field and giving his jockey, Liam Treadwell for the first time, plenty of work to do. He wasn't too fluent over the sixth hurdle, either, but that didn't seem to bother him this time as he soon made up for lost ground. He even made a mistake at the third from home that must have raised pulses slightly. When the seven-year-old then moved into third position before the last obstacle, connections must have been getting that 'deja vu' feeling, experienced in previous contests. They must have thought that their mount would soon be throwing up his head and slowing down as if he had problems breathing, a phenomenon not taken seriously until the last of his six career races. But no. Not this time. ZAYFIRE ARAMIS seemed to be moving more confidently and comfortably than on previous occasions and even then went on to challenge the leader, the Lucy Alexander-ridden MARLIE MASSIE on the extended run-in. Had the race been a furlong or two longer, it's a fair bet that the already weary eventual winner could not have held off the challenge of the seemingly tireless budding star of Eccleswall Court, Ross-on-Wye.

 

TIZZARD TO GET IT RIGHT BUT NOT FOR COLIN!

Meanwhile over at Cheltenham another member of that legendary racing family made his mark in the Grade 2 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle. Tom Scudamore, aboard the Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK, previous winner of the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury and the Long Walk at Ascot, proved the critics wrong who doubted the ability of this KAYF TARA son to handle the tricky undulations of the Cheltenham track after a heavy defeat on his only previous visit to Prestbury Park. The thirty-three-year-old jockey from Condicote in Gloucestershire was quietly confident as he kept his eight-year-old gelding comfortably cruising in the slipstream of the Leighton Aspell-ridden CAMPING GROUND and then it seemed no problem at all to put twelve lengths between him and his nearest rival, the Paul Nicholls-trained PTIT ZIG, now back over the easier obstacles after having problems with fences.

 

The winning trainer commented: "I didn't quite think I had him in the same form as Ascot but he was brilliant. He kept galloping up the run-in without even checking. He powered up the hill against class opposition. It's a World Hurdle qualifier and he has won it by 12 lengths without coming off the bridle. At home he works like that. He is big and strong and one day he will make a damn good chaser, if he ever goes that way. That is three times on the trot he has won like that and he doesn't need to get any better to win the World Hurdle. I don't know how good he is. He is a fantastic specimen of a horse - he is big, strong and cocky.

 

An obviously delighted Tom Scudamore added: "He's laid down a pretty big marker ( for the World Hurdle). That was a tremendous feeling, hopefully we can do the same in five or six weeks' time. You can ride him however you want to ride him - he gives you so much confidence. He's just fantastic."

 

A MAN BORN TO BE KING

Just when it looked like all the top prizes at the Cheltenham Festival would be this Irish trainer's for the taking, the apple cart got well and truly upset. The feature event, the Betbright Trial Chase, provided the drama of the afternoon when the Willie Mullins-trained DJAKADAM, confidently ear-marked as the winner of the Gold Cup, did the incredible by falling at the tenth fence. That disaster gave the opportunity to the Alan King-trained SMAD PLACE, the Hennessy Gold Cup winner, ridden by Richard Johnson, to seize the day and put this contest to bed by twelve lengths. His Swindon-based trainer wasn't complaining as he suddenly had an added bonus to his other four winners of the day and the only enviable problem he has now is which festival race to run his star in: The Gold Cup or shorter Ryanair Chase, which may be an easier option?

 

The winning trainer commented: “I was confused before the race and even more confused now. Was that a Gold Cup performance? Djakadam was a faller and, as good as they are, are Smad Place and Many Clouds, that class?”

King was also successful with impressive Yanworth and Annacotty at Cheltenham as well as McCabe Creek and Ziga Boy at Doncaster.

 

SATURDAY 30th JANUARY

TODAY!

 

Zayfire Aramis runs in the 4:35 BC Events Handicap Hurdle at Uttoxeter

Ridden by Liam Treadwell.

 

LIGHT ZAYFIRE!

 

Come on Liam, light Zayfire!

Come on Liam, light Zayfire

Try to set the race on fire ...

 

What Zayfire Aramis has had to go through.

Near the end of a race it would transpire

That air wasn't getting through

And his breathing then became quite dire.

 

So, come on Liam, light Zayfire!

Come on Liam, light Zayfire

Try to set the race on fire ...

 

In the six races he has run

Only one of them as we would desire.

Came third at Wetherby - that was well done

We are hoping now to more he'll aspire.

 

So, come on Liam, light Zayfire!

Come on Liam, light Zayfire

Try to set the race on fire ...

 

At Uttoxeter is his race today,

First run for a long long time.

All the Scudamore team now hope and pray

The son of ZAFEEN's going to be fine.

 

So, come on Liam, light Zayfire!

Come on Liam, light Zayfire

Try to set the race on fire ...

 

The time for doubt is well behind

No time for living in the past

The seven-year-old's now got to find

That he's going to be a winner at last.

 

So, come on Liam, light Zayfire!

Come on Liam, light Zayfire

Try to set the race on fire.

 

A CRACK IN TIME

There is no doubt in Tom Scudamore's mind that this KAYF TARA son is going to do as well today at Cheltenham as he did at Ascot and Newbury before Christmas. The Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK is scheduled to run in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle this afternoon. The Gloucestershire-born jockey shrugs off the eight-year-old's disastrous performance last year in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, prepared to put it down to an 'off-day'.

 

Tom Scudamore commented: "He's a horse I've always thought a lot of and he'd obviously improved a good deal from Newbury to Ascot. I hope he'll step up again but he was very impressive at Ascot. Reve De Sivola at Ascot in deep ground has been nearly unbeatable. He'd won three Long Walks so we were very pleased but I wouldn't say we were surprised with how he did it. "To beat him like that was very impressive. I don't think anything about the Cheltenham form. He's only run there once and it was just an off day, he was just below par, simple as that.”

 

Colin Tizzard added: "I think he's going into the race like the one at Ascot. He is a big, strong horse that has been brilliant the last four races and I can't see a reason why he can't run a big race. Camping Ground, to be fair, gave us a stone when he beat us in the Imperial Cup but I think Thistlecrack has improved three stones over his next four races since going over three miles. I think Camping Ground will have to be a very good horse to beat Thistlecrack. That is just not the trainer saying it, but it is from everyone who has seen him do in his last four runs."

 

A GIRL CALLED SUE

The Bingley Moor-based trainer has joined the elite equine club, having saddled the magical number of 1,000 winners. Former international show jumper, Sue Smith, now half of a very respected partnerships, producing successful staying steeplechasers, the other half being Harvey Smith who needs no introduction. It's twenty-five years since her first winner in 1990 when AFRICAN SAFARI won the Hurst Park Novices' Chase by six lengths. Since then she has gone from strength to strength and is currently on a seventeen percent strike rate.

 

The West Yorkshire trainer commented: “I couldn’t get up in the morning with nothing to do. It’s our life – and Harvey’s just as horse mad as I am. I just love horses. I don’t know anything but horses. To see happy, healthy horses going to the races and winning races... it’s what we do.”

 

IT'S ALL IN THE HEAD

The International Concussion and Head Injury Research Foundation is due to publish the results of a recent study. One area that this organisation was keen to investigate was horse racing, particularly National Hunt. The screening process focussed initially on over 200 retired jockeys from Europe, which included the likes of Richard Dunwoody, Peter Scudamore, John Francome and Stan Mellor, former champion jockey three years in a row from 1960 to 1962. The area of research concentrated on the correlation between those in sport that are susceptible to receiving blows to the head and long-term damage to the brain.

 

One jockey, prone more than most to such injuries is the now-retired 20-times champion jockey, recently knighted, Sir Anthony McCoy and he is quite naturally eager to discover what the organisation's findings are as to the effects of delayed concussion.

 

The man from Moneyglass commented: "There were times when I think that I got delayed reactions from concussions. There were times when I got up from the ground and my head was spinning, yet I knew where I was. But then half an hour later you could feel the effects of it. That's an important thing - to try and analyse what may bring on delays to concussion. The last time I was officially concussed was 1997 and I've had a lot of bangs to the head since then. You become aware of your reactions and what you need to do to survive."

 

FRIDAY 29th JANUARY

THERE IS NO MOORE!

Another trainer calls it a day. Middleham-based George Moore, a household name in the Northern racing world for more years than he cares to remember, is due to saddle his final runner today at Doncaster today when WOLF SHIELD lines up in the Sky Bet Handicap Hurdle. A trainer of two winners of the Northumberland Plate, a Finale Juvenile Hurdle and at Royal Ascot, George Moore was equally at home producing three-mile chasers as he was handicap sprinters. He says he leaves the sport with “no regrets”, but does confess that the job is completely different to what he started in 1984 when he first took out a licence.

 

The retiring trainer commented; “There’ll be mixed emotions, that’s for sure. We’ll be staying in Yorkshire as we’ve got grandchildren in Hartlepool and Ripon, but we don’t know where as yet. We decided three months ago this would be it and the hardest part was telling the owners, as some have supported us for 30 years. You’ve got to have the horses to make you get up in a morning and we’re slightly down on numbers, I didn’t want it to become a struggle and thankfully it never has been - we’ve always had good payers. When I hear some of the stories of how some owners carry on I don’t know how people survive. The simple fact is that all the rich owners live down south and a lot of very good trainers up here have sadly passed, Gordon Richards, Arthur Stephenson and the Dickinsons.

 

A SMASHING WIN

Favourite-backers had a bit of a fright yesterday at Thurles during the running of the Thurles Racecourse Supporters Club Chase, with only four runners. The Henry de Bromhead-trained SMASHING was sent straight into the lead by jockey, Davy Russell, replacing Jonathan Burke who had had a fall in the first race. This proved the right move as the seven-year-old grey's jumping was very positive for much of the two-and-a-quarter-mile contest. Then the unexpected happened. The Willie Mullins-trained AVANT TOUT, who looked as though he was going to make a fight of it, suddenly fell three fences from the finish, seemingly leaving an easy win for the son of SMADOUN but he, too, misjudged the second-from-home and all looked not assured. The seven-year-old, however, fortunately managed to get over that shock and romped home to a five-length victory, even having the luxury of easing off in the final few yards.

 

Henry de Bromhead commented: "Its a shame Johnny missed the ride and hopefully he'll be OK, but Davy was a great sub and gave him a great ride. I was delighted with the way he did it, apart from the last two, but it was a competitive race. We've waited for the race since Christmas and I'm delighted we did wait as it was cancelled twice. We'll look at the options, but the Ryanair Chase looks a bit steep. I ran him in the wrong race last year in the Arkle, as he was lost on the better ground. The handicaps at Cheltenham are almost like conditions chases now and we'll stick to either Grade Twos or Threes or handicaps."

 

SHOULD PUNTERS GET WIND OF IT!

An interesting point was raised by Bruce Millington in the Racing Post yesterday, particularly as the Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner and keen punters are busily studying form to improve the profitability of their activities. They will take into consideration all sorts of things such as blinkers, tongue straps and any other device that a horse may be wearing for the first time in an effort to improve the performance. One development that is, so far, completely ignored is the increase of surgical procedures, such as wind operations, which, so far, do not have to be publicly declared. It's fair to assume quite a few of the horses that will be competing at Cheltenham are being checked into equine clinics with a view to performing some kind of remedial work that may very well, for example, rejuvenate previous slow-finishers. That's good, of course, for the horses and owners but what about the gamblers who won't know about this. Sure, from time to time, trainers may mention beforehand that a horse had his wind problem treated or perhaps that will only be revealed in the winner's enclosure. It now seems that great minds think alike as it has just been revealed that the BHA also thinks that this is an issue worth examining. There is now an exercise in progress to decide whether any procedure, not just a wind operation, should be legally required to be made public. All concerned, racing professionals, owners, trainers and jockeys, (and why not punters?) are being consulted and there may be an announcement some time later this year. Of course any decision to make new procedures available to the public will have to be taken with caution. The thought of traditional race-cards festooned with all sorts of additional abbreviations will make a form-reader's life more complicated than ever, so whatever is decided must be useful and of positive value to the reader. It is interesting to note that in Germany breeders are legally not permitted to breed from mares who have a history of breathing problems. Will such a rule come to the UK one day?

 

THURSDAY 28th JANUARY

DAY TO MAKE WAY FOR KNIGHT

Former seven-times champion jockey, John Francome, who has been President of the Injured Jockeys Fund since 2012 is stepping down in favour of Sir Anthony McCoy, who was previously a vice-patron.

 

The recently ennobled jockey commented: "The Injured Jockeys Fund's work is so important to racing. Now I've retired I'm really enthusiastic about taking on the role, as well as honoured to be asked, and just hope I can add something to the fantastic work the fund does in helping injured jockeys and their families."

 

The outgoing president added: "I have very much enjoyed my time as president since succeeding Lord Oaksey, but when the opportunity arose for AP to take over it seemed sensible. It's important to keep younger people involved in the decision-making and he will be much more in touch with today's jockeys."

 

IJF's Chief Executive, Lisa Hancock, said: "We couldn't be happier that Sir AP McCoy is to take up the role. His contribution to racing has been so significant already and the whole team is looking forward to working with him. "John has done a brilliant job as president and it was his idea that AP should now take over and spearhead the fund's next 50 years."

 

A CRACK AT THE WORLD

Trainer Colin Tizzard is never one to say die. Even after a disastrous performance on his only visit to Cheltenham in the Neptune Investment management Hurdle on 24th January, THISTLECRACK is still to compete in the World Hurdle. Before that, though, the KAYF TARA son will be mixing it with some of the best in the Grade 2 galliards.com Cleeve Hurdle. The eight-year-old is the solitary favourite for a championship race at the Festival who is not being saddled by the County Carlow king, Willie Mullins. Already this season, THISTLECRACK has demonstrated his prowess in the Long Distance and Long Walk Hurdles and is deservedly top of the market at 8/11 for Saturday's contest. Although there are question marks over his ability to deal with the Cheltenham undulations after his last performance the Dorset-based handler poured water over any doubts about his horse's chances, commenting: "I don't know why [he ran so badly] but I have absolutely no concerns about Cheltenham. We're running because it's the perfect prep for the World Hurdle," he said. There must have been something wrong that day but I don't know what it was, nothing came to light. You never know, it might have been the course, but he was beaten a mile out. He was done so early I don't think you could say it was the course, and he was right back to his best next time. He's very fit. On his last four runs he's the one they all have to beat and he's in very similar form to how he was going into Ascot. This is another big race and we want to win it and he's very fit. It's a proper prize and there will be no excuses afterwards. We're not going there to put him right for March - we're going to try to win."

 

KAYF HAS IT TO A T!

KAYF TARA never seems to be out of the news these days. The twenty-two-year-old son of SADLER'S WELLS is on a high again this season with the successes not only of THISTLECRACK, mentioned above, but with the likes of IDENTITY THIEF and TEA FOR TWO. No wonder then that County Kildare-based bloodstock agent, Brendan Bashford, thought it was worth forking out, on behalf of his client, Tim Hyde, the sum of 38,000 for a yearling of the twice Ascot Gold Cup champion at the one-day DBS January Sales yesterday. Standing at Overbury Stud for the last sixteen years since he was retired, KAYF TARA now commands a fee of £5,000.

The new owner commented: "He's a lovely foal who's a great mover and has a great pedigree. He was born in May last year so I think he'll grow into a nice horse. Kayf Tara is having a great time at the moment and he's a very sought after stallion. He's really grown into his own in the last couple of years and has a lot of good horses around."

 

WEDNESDAY 27th JANUARY

BREATHING SPACE

Almost a year since he appeared on a racetrack, this son of ZAFEEN is scheduled to be back in the line-up for the last race of the day at Uttoxeter on Saturday. A lot has happened in ZAYFIRE ARAMIS' life in the absent 344 days. Before getting on to that, a closer examination of his previous performances seems to shed some light on what was destined to be. In all his races he ran very well in the early stages of the contest but when it came to the final half mile or so, he seemed to be struggling to make the distance yet that seemed to be out of character. The now Michael Scudamore-trained seven-year-old has had only six career starts, coming third in one of them. The comments in running provide some interesting clues as to what may have been the problem. In his first race, ZAYFIRE ARAMIS 'led briefly and then one pace'; in his second 'weakened quickly 4f out'; in the third he -'tailed off three from home'; in the fourth - 'he weakened quickly, tailed off when pulled up before 2 out'; in the fifth - 'effort before three out, driven and beaten' and in his sixth race - 'weakened before 2 out'. No serious comment was really made about these results until ZAYFIRE ARAMIS moved to Michael Scudamore's yard at Eccleswall Court when brother Tom rode him a couple of times and may have hinted at the possible cause of the weakening performance. It probably wasn't, however, until Andrew Tinkler rode him at Exeter last February that serious consideration was given to the chestnut gelding's breathing problems and the necessity for what is known colloquially as a 'wind op'. As keen racegoers are aware, a wind operation is a corrective surgical procedure to tackle a breathing problem usually associated with bigger horses. If successful, the operation can help a horse to breathe better - especially when under stress as in a race. Most horses make a good recovery from such an operation and go on to achieve great things. Well, ZAYFIRE ARAMIS underwent his 'wind op' in July, followed by recuperation in the field, has been gently but firmly re-introduced to his training programme and showed good progress as can be seem from the numerous equine pictures of health and comments that have been published on Twitter and on the Aramis.com website. So now comes the test. The Ross-on-Wye trainer has entered him for the Bc Events Handicap Hurdle and, although the distance is a little on the short side, all connections will be 'holding their breath' for a perky performance and a hint of better things to come

 

HIS FELLOW AMERICANS!

A certain amount of confusion has surrounded a favourite for the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham on 18th March and, unusually, punters were warned not to back him, even though some bookies were offering 25-1 and 33-1 until Monday afternoon. Sky Bet, one of the firms quoting 33-1, said that they had received a few inquiries at the beginning of the jumps season and therefore, quite naturally, they had decided to offer a price.

 

The Aidan Obrien-trained JOHN F KENNEDY has not raced since September in Leopardstown when he only managed third, some eleven lengths behind the winner. It now seems that this son of GALILEO will not be pursuing a career over the larger obstacles. In fact he may not be racing at all.

 

Coolmore's representative, Richard Henry, commented: "John F Kennedy has been sold to an Argentinian bloodstock company and will stand as a stallion over there, although he may race in the US before then."

 

HE KNOWS WHO HE IS!

The six-year-old KAYF TARA son who won by a neck of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle at the end of November will not now be running in Sunday's Irish Champion Hurdle, so his trainer, Henry de Bromhead, has decided. Instead IDENTITY THIEF will wait until the the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March to go eye-ball to eye-ball with the Willie Mullins-trained trio, FAUGHEEN, NICHOLS CANYON and ARCTIC FIRE.

 

Henry De bromhead commented: "I'm very happy we missed that (Irish Champion Hurdle). He'd had three runs already and had a pretty hard race the last day, so we backed off him and he seems in really good form," de Bromhead told At The Races. We're aiming straight to the Champion Hurdle. Probably his best form is on better ground and it was pretty testing in Leopardstown. He put up a good performance in the Fighting Fifth and he's a horse that's improving. He's a very exciting horse."

 

TUESDAY 26th JANUARY

WIND OF CHANGE

Almost a year since he appeared on a racetrack, this son of ZAFEEN is scheduled to be back in the line-up for the last race of the day at Uttoxeter on Saturday. A lot has happened in ZAYFIRE ARAMIS' life in the absent 344 days. Before getting on to that, a closer examination of his previous performances seems to shed some light on what was destined to be. In all his races he ran very well in the early stages of the contest but when it came to the final half mile or so, he seemed to be struggling to make the distance yet that didn't seem to add up. The now Michael Scudamore-trained seven-year-old has had only six career starts, coming third in one of them. The comments in running provide some interesting clues as to what may have been the problem. In his first race, ZAYFIRE ARAMIS 'led briefly and then one pace'; in his second 'weakened quickly 4f out'; in the third he -'tailed off three from home'; in the fourth - 'he weakened quickly, tailed off when pulled up before 2 out'; in the fifth - 'effort before three out, driven and beaten' and in his sixth race - 'weakened before 2 out'. No serious comment was really made about these results until ZAYFIRE ARAMIS moved to Michael Scudamore's yard at Eccleswall Court when brother Tom rode him a couple of times and may have hinted at the possible cause of the weakening performance. It probably wasn't, however, until Andrew Tinkler rode him at Exeter last February that serious consideration was given to the chestnut gelding's breathing problems and the necessity for what is known colloquially as a 'wind op'. As keen racegoers are aware, a wind operation is a corrective surgical procedure to tackle a breathing problem usually associated with bigger horses. If successful, the operation can help a horse to breathe better - especially when under stress as in a race. Most horses make a good recovery from such an operation and go on to achieve great things. Well, ZAYFIRE ARAMIS underwent his 'wind op' in July, followed by recuperation in the field, has been gently but firmly re-introduced to his training programme and showed good progress as can be seem from the numerous equine pictures of health and comments that have been published on Twitter and on the Aramis.com website. So now comes the test. The Ross-on-Wye trainer has entered him for the Bc Events Handicap Hurdle and, although the distance is a little on the short side, all connections will be 'holding their breath' for a perky performance and a hint of better things to come

 

DOWN BUT NOT OUT

Ironically, following on the Racecourse Association's recent announcement that the number of racegoers in the UK has inreased dramatically, Horse Racing Ireland has just released the sport's figures which show that fewer people went to races in Ireland in 2015 even though there were four more fixtures on the calendar. The figures also highlight the fact that there are fewer numbers of owners and horses in training. 351 race days were held in 2015, compared with 347 the previous year but that didn't stop attendances falling to 1.28 million ( a 0.7 per cent drop). Bad weather was cited as the major deterrent as it seriously affected such festivals as those at Punchestown, Galway, Killarney, Listowel, Leopardstown, Limerick and the second leg of Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown. However, it has been revealed that there was a sharp decline in the number of horses in training last year. 2014's annual figure of 8,613 decreased by 4.6 per cent to 8,214 and, consequently, the number of owners fell by 2.6 per cent from 3,706 in 2014 to 3,609. All in all there about sixteen fewer new owners 2015 - down from 660 in 2014 to 644 in 2015. All these came about despite the fact that there was a prize money increase of €5m in 2015, which will be augmented again by a further €3.1m in 2016.

 

Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland's CEO, commented: "We continue to focus on improving the horses in training and ownership figures and the decline of recent years has started to slow down, which is positive. With additional increases in prize-money, further reductions in administrative costs and enhanced supports for trainers, we expect to see real progress in 2016."

 

GOFFS MEDICINE

Good news for Irish racing, though. The prize money for the Goffs Vincent O'Brien Stakes, held at the Curragh on Irish Champions Weekend, will be injected with more cash, increasing it to €350,000 (£280, 000 in real money!) this year. Europe's top two-year-old race has had such legendary winners as DUBAWI, DAWN APPROACH. MASTERCRAFTSMAN, POWER, GLENEAGLES and recently AIR FORCE BLUE

 

Henry Beeby, Chief Executive for Goffs chief commented: "Following the tremendous success of the Goffs Thyestes Chase last week at Gowran Park, we are delighted to further demonstrate Goffs' support of Irish racing by increasing our commitment to what is undoubtedly one of Europe's premier two year old races. Since Goffs began this sponsorship in 2011 the prize fund has grown from €200,000 to €350,000, which underlines the calibre of this world-class race. The timing of the Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes in mid-September is a perfect fit for Goffs and our flagship Orby Sale, and we look forward to watching potential entrants emerge as the season unfolds."

 

MONDAY 25th JANUARY

THAT'S A BIT RICH!

He could be the best the best horse to run in my colours”. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? This is ex-Barclays banker, Rich Ricci, speaking about his six-year-old gelding, DOUVAN, the hot favourite to win the Arkle Trophy, after winning the Leopardstown equivalent yesterday by fifteen lengths. The son of WALK IN THE PARK has now triumphed in all seven contests, including last season's Supreme Novices' Hurdle, since arriving in Ireland from France in November 2014.

 

The delighted owner commented: “I think Vautour will improve for that run and with another summer on his back he could be anything. He looks to be the horse with the most potential we've ever had. He does things so effortlessly and has a great demeanour. He's something else now. It's great to see that and we're very lucky to have him. I can't wait for Cheltenham now. It's the Arkle, still. I'm sure even the opposition from Willie's yard as well as from England will all show up and want to take us on and try to do it to us. We'll have to see, but he just seems to have the right profile and I'm very hopeful he'll get there and put his best foot forward. I don't think he needs to lead. He's got a good turn of foot and has got unbelievable ability. I think he can win from anywhere.'

 

FAULTLESS FAUGHEEN

His stable companions, ARCTIC FIRE and NICHOLS CANYON, could do nothing but watch him go in yesterday's Grade 1 BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle as the winner accelerated away to win by fifteen lengths. This was another class act by the Willie Mullins-trained FAUGHEEN, with his regular jockey, Ruby Walsh aboard, throwing one more gauntlet down for glory in the National Hunt racing’s top prizes at the top Cheltenham Festival. The eight-year-old son of GERMANY provide racegoers with a faultless performance and also furnished the County Carlow king with his sixth successive victory in this Irish equivalent of what he will be facing at Prestbury Park. Following this impressive victory, bookmakers William Hill commented: “Faugheen is a near certainty to win the Champion Hurdle. He’s thumped his nearest rivals and done it without exerting himself.”

 

CHELTENHAM CLASH

The Clarence House Chase winner at Ascot on Saturday so impressed this Hungerford-based trainer that he can't wait for the Cheltenham Festival. The immaculate win by the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX only served to strengthen Nicky Henderson's desire to see his Desert Orchid Chase champion, SPRINTER SACRE, show the son of DENHAM RED that he won't have it all his own way. UN DE SCEAUX, following this five-length win over the 2014 titleholder SIRE DE GRUGY at the Bekshire track, has now well and truly re- staked his claim to be the number one contender for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. SPRINTER SACRE had already established his credentials by beating the Gary Moore-trainerson of MY RISK in the post-Christmas contest. So March 16th seems destined for a humdinger of a two-mile clash in what should be a classic renewal of the Champion Chase.

 

Nicky Henderson commented oon the condition of his 2013 Champion Chase winner: “He’s great. He won’t run before Cheltenham. There’s no need to run him again. There’s no need to. He’s actually in excellent shape. He’s cantering away and he’ll start his build-up in about 10 days’ time. I thought Un De Sceaux was great (at Ascot). It was a good race. He was very impressive. It’s exciting and it should be some race at Cheltenham.”

SUNDAY 24rd JANUARY

MAKE WAY FOR THE CHAMP!

Usually whoever comes first steals all the glory from those who follow but becoming only the the second jump jockey in history to notch up 3,000 winners in Britain and Ireland still makes the news as an incredible achievement. Richard Johnson did just that yesterday at Ascot yesterday when he steered the Philip Hobbs-trained DUKE DES CHAMPS to victory in the EBF Stallions 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle. Inevitably throughout the thirty-eight-year-old Hereford-born jockey's career his accomplishments have had to live up to comparison with the legendary Tony McCoy who beat him to this landmark and many others in equine history. Now the man from Moneyglass has retired, however, Richard Johnson will now get some of the rewards that have been denied him in the shadow of Tony McCoy. He is now on his way to gain his first-ever Stobart British champion jockeys' title, having achieved 178 winners for the season, 72 ahead of nearest rival Aidan Coleman. With yesterday's score Richard Johnson officially attains the same score as the now Sir Anthony McCoy, who, however, got there seven years earlier in February 2009. It's got to be on the cards now that Richard Johnson's next target will be to end the season with 231 winners for the campaign which is what the great McCoy recorded in his concluding season in 2014-15.

 

Richard Johnson commented: "When I got to 2,000 winners I never thought I would get to 3,000, so hopefully this isn't the last milestone I achieve. It's so hard to put into words - it means an awful lot," said Johnson. I've been really fortunate over the last 20 years to ride so many nice horses for so many nice people and it is great to reach this landmark. I'm the lucky one really - I get a lot of nice rides and I am regularly busy. There's lads in the weighing room who work just as hard, if not harder, and are not as fortunate so I count my blessings that I'm so lucky to ride these calibre of horses week in week out."

 

Twice winner of theGrand National, Leighton Aspell, perhaps delivered the most fitting tribute when he commented: "He's been an ambassador for the sport. Every year he gives it 200 per cent. Whether he turns up on a wet Monday for one or a busy Saturday at Ascot, you'll meet the same Dickie Johnson. He'll give everything the best ride possible and the owners will go away felling they got great value for money."

 

BID FOR THE TOP?

It's difficult to keep the County Carlow trainer out of the news particularly when he pocketed in the region of £100,000 from his two winners at Ascot yesterday. Willie Mullins did it again and no doubt sent shivers down the spine of bookmakers and trainers alike as to what impact such a triumph will have on the Cheltenham Festival in March. It was almost as if it were written that UN DE SCEAUX and VROUM VROUM should win their respective contests and, what is more, lead several Turf Accountants to mention Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls in the same breath when it comes to winning the British trainers’ championship. This is a feat that hasn't been accomplished since Vincent O'Brien's success in 1954. Willie Mullins notched up a record eight winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and looks like achieving double figures this time around. Certainly VROUM VROUM MAG's easy victory will ensure that the Closutton team will land up with a major runner in the World Hurdle and the Festival’s Grade One event for mares. UN DE SCEAUX, on the other hand, is now the odds-on favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, particularly as the son of DENHAM RED was more than usually careful yesterday over the first few fences, perhaps recalling his fall last time out at Leopardstown, but the conclusion was never in doubt as he flew over the last and left SIRE DE GRUGY, the 2014 Champion Chase winner, trailing five lengths in his slip-stream.

Willie Mullins commented: “Unfortunately he had a fall the last day, but he’s probably got a lot more respect for fences now,” Mullins said. You could see him pricking his ears going to a fence and sorting out his stride and that’s what he needed to learn. He was a lot more settled today, he was in his own rhythm and jumping in his own time. Ruby [Walsh] just sat there and let him sort himself out. We’re probably happy leaving it at that [before Cheltenham], I wouldn’t be looking for a race anyway. “

 

SHOULD'A GONE TO HAYDOCK!

The NRC Cheltenham Preview Night Here Handicap Hurdle at Haydock yesterday was a red letter day for the Nicky Richards-trained BAYWING who made it four wins in a row. Understandably owners, David and Nicky Robinson, couldn't be in two places at once and they had naturally opted to be at Ascot to watch their SIMPLY NED run in the Grade One Sodexo Clarence House Chase where unfortunately he came last out of five. To compensate for that disappointment, their Haydock hero, who was on a mark of 89 when he began his winning streak ended it on 125 but he still found a five-length victory no problem.

 

Winning jockey, Ryan Day, commented: "That was a pleasure, I just steered him. At one point I didn't think I was going that well, but when we turned into the straight he was like being sat on a tractor in the mud, he ploughed through it. He's a very progressive horse, he hasn't been asked a question yet and there's no telling where he could go."

SATURDAY 23rd JANUARY

A DREAM OF A BET

It's just over four years since this son of ASSESSOR stopped jumping fences, a period of activity that lasted just over one year from 12th November 2010 to 17th December 2011, ten races producing one first and three thirds. Then, intriguingly, the Nick Williams-trained REVE DE SIVOLA was not seen on the racetrack for a whole year until he re-appeared at Newbury over hurdles, finishing runner-up to BIG BUCK'S, albeit nine lengths adrift. Since then the now eleven-year-old has stuck to the gentler obstacles on nineteen occasions, notching up five wins and a few good placings. Now connections have surprisingly decided to run their star staying hurdler over fences again in today's Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock. On closer consideration, perhaps it's not such a bad idea, after all. At least REVE DE SIVOLA will have the advantage of running twenty-one pounds lighter than when over hurdles, giving him twenty pounds' advantage over the favourite, the Paul Nicholls-trained VIRAK. He performed acceptably well over fences as the above record shows. Another couple of pointers in the bay gelding's favour are that he'll love the three miles on heavy ground and the jumps at Haydock somehow don't seem as tough as the old days.

 

ON THE RIGHT TRAIL?

The staggering thirty-six-length victory at Chepstow a couple of weeks ago didn't do the the Venetia Williams-trained son of HERON ISLAND any great favours, as the the handicapper subsequently raised his weight by thirteen ponds which means he won't be entered in such races again in a hurry. That's why the Aramstone-based handler appears not be getting too excited about OTAGO TRAIL's careful progression up the career ladder when he shows what he can do in the Start Your RacingUK Free Trial Now Novices' Chase also at Haydock. There are only six runners in this Grade Two contest, which has distinguished itself in recent years by producing such dazzling winners as DIAMOND HARRY, MY WAY DE SOLZEN and TAQUIN DU SEUIL, and last year's winner, the Sue Smith-trained WAKANDA who has gone on to even greater things in the North this season.

 

Venetia Williams commented: "That was only a handicap at Chepstow and now he is stepping into a very hot Grade Two. He's obviously got a lot more on his plate, but he was impressive. The handicapper chose to put him up by 13lb and was basically trying to entice us to run in this. It's very competitive, you couldn't rule anything out."

 

A TOUGH ENCORE

Ascot's bet365 Handicap Chase today will demand the utmost effort from the Anthony Honeyball-trained REGAL ENCORE if he is to succeed in this twenty-one furlong, eleven-strong field. The ne thing his Beaminster-based handler worries about is the fact that the eight-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE's hopes of triumphing in this two-mile-five-furlong have had the kibosh put on them by the uncompromising handicap of 144 he has been landed with on his first outing in handicap company over fences.

 

Anthony Honeyball wasn't slow in coming forward with his views: "I think he has been set a stiff task by the handicapper to make his handicap chase debut off 144. Looking at it from a numbers point of view he is up against it. We thought we would try him in the race as it is quite valuable and it will be a good experience for him in a race of that nature. He was second in a Champion Bumper and from time to time, like at Plumpton last time, when he does win he can take you back. "He is fit and well and we are still excited about the horse as he is a nice horse to have in the yard."

FRIDAY 22nd JANUARY

WHO'S COUNTING?.

A stewards’ inquiry has been called, not into some alleged malpractice on the racetrack but because of the number of career victories that the 10-times Irish champion jumps jockey is claiming. Ruby Walsh, after winning the Langton House Hotel Maiden Hurdle aboard the Willie Mullins-trained AU QUART DE TOUR at Gowran Park yesterday afternoon, is reported to have said that it was his 2,500th., his first being back in July 1995, riding SIREN SONG for his trainer father, Ted. To substantiate his claim, the County Kildare jockey cites 1,738 wins in Ireland, 754 victories in Britain and six triumphs in France. To that number he adds two more successes, the Australian Grand National riding BASHBOY last August and earlier the Nakayama Grand Jump, Japan’s biggest jumps prize, when he partnered BLACKSTAIRMOUNTAIN in 2013. When pressed to comment more precisely about his current total, Ruby Walsh said: “I’m not counting. I’m still a long way behind Dicky (Richard Johnson) and a very, very long way behind AP (McCoy).”

 

SPUD U LIKE

The prestigious Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park yesterday afternoon was a turnip for the books when a 16/1 outsider denied victory to the well-backed favourite. The Liam Burke-trained MY MURPHY, with Robbie power aboard, succeeded in holding off the late challenge of the Gordon Elliott-trained MALA BEACH and thereby fulfilled a lifetime ambition for the Curraglass handler. The son of PRESENTING, a winner of a Grade 3 hurdle when he was younger, ran in this race last year and was an impressive runner-up to

DJAKADAM who went on to score in the following Cheltenham Gold Cup.

 

The obviously delighted winning trainer commented: “I’ve won the Galway Plate and the Irish Arkle, but this is the one that pleases me most. When I was a young lad, this was the one race I always loved, and wanted to win. I remember listening to it on the radio when The Godfather won it and that’s not today nor yesterday. He won’t travel in amongst horses, he has to have clear daylight in front of him, and Robbie (Power) was able to do that today. He got a bad fall in Navan one day, and got a kick in the head. It frightened him and he was never the same among horses after that. This win is all down to Robbie, he knows the horse inside out and gave him a super ride. And the horse deserved to win one like that, he has been knocking on the door, and was second here last year. When he got under the third-last, I thought ‘oh no, here we go again”.

 

BACK ON TRACK

A distinguished 245-year-old racetrack is to open again next October. Hereford, owned by Herefordshire Council and leased by Arena Leisure and Northern Racing was controversially shut down in 2012 after a dispute over the lease. There has been some equine activity such as Arab racing and point-to-pointing but jumping under Rules is to be re-introduced on October 6 after it was agreed to transfer a fixture at Worcester to the Roman Road venue. Further races will be arranged for late October with a switch of location from Southwell, late November from Fontwell and mid-December from Lingfield. Thereafter Hereford will be entitled to participate in the BHA's annual fixture allocation process in 2017. The aim is to present around a dozen days of racing a year, mainly in the middle of the jumps season between between October and April.

 

Martin Cruddace, CEO for ARC commented: "We are delighted to be reopening Hereford racecourse, which has long been popular with racing fans. We hope this will be seen as a positive development for both the local community and British racing as a whole. Today's announcement confirms our long term commitment to grassroots jump racing in Great Britain. I would like to thank Herefordshire Council and the BHA for their ongoing assistance and we are grateful for the help and support we continue to receive from both organisations.

"We look forward to welcoming owners, trainers, jockeys, stable staff and racing fans back to Hereford racecourse in October to enjoy jump racing."

 

THURSDAY 21st JANUARY

WORTH SEEING THOUGH.

So Barry Geraghty's seven-minute car ride to work paid off yesterday at Fairyhouse. Aboard the Eddie Harty-trained UAINTSEENOTHINGYET the County Meath-born jockey presented the owner, J P McManus with another win and furthered the winning streak of the County Kildare trainer. The impressive five-year-old son of YEATS didn't seem to have much trouble securing this maiden hurdle, his first victory in just three career runs.

 

The winning trainer commented: “He’s a lovely, big horse. He’s a baby, still very raw, but he’s nice. He has enough toe for two miles, but will probably get further than this (two and a half). We won’t be in any hurry with him. But chasing is where his future lies and we can look forward to that next season.”

 

IRISH RAIDERS BACK

It's probably no surprise that ante-post betting for the £400,000 Stan James Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March is dominated, as usual, by Irish horses, even though this is the smallest contingent headed to the Festival since 1995. Numbers reached twenty-one in 2010, and at this time last year there were twelve. As expected, the Willie Mullins-trained reigning title-holder, FAUGHEEN, heads the overall list of 19 raiders. The eight-year-old son of GERMANY is already the 4/7 odds-on favourite to claim the prize again, although others from the Closutton yard have been pencilled in to compete, including his stable companion, ARCTIC FIRE, who came second last year. A challenge could also come from NICHOLS CANYON, the only one to have beat the champ. These are the first three in the betting for the Champion Hurdle and punters will have a chance to see what the outcome might be as this trio are entered to appear in a dress rehearsal on Sunday in the Irish equivalent contest at Leopardstown, the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle. The fourth runner in the County Carlow king's quartet is SEMPRE MEDICI, a winner at Naas on Saturday.

 

GORDON'S QUARTET

Another Irish trainer on a mission is County Meath-based Gordon Elliott who will be saddling four runners today at Gowran Park in a bid to claim today's coveted €100,000 Goffs Thyestes Handicap Chase – a race he has never yet managed to win. Two of his runners, UCELLO CONTI and MALA BEACH are well favoured, particularly the latter who was last seen at Ascot a week before Christmas when runner-up to the Phillip Hobbs-trained ROYAL REGATTA. This talented eight-year-old son of BENEFICIAL will be going for his sixth start over fences, running in a handicap for the first time. Besides giving the trainer a much-desired prize, victory by the 8/1 second favourite, UCELLO CONTI, would also do his jockey, Jacques Ricou a a great favour by giving him a first high-profile win in Ireland since coming over last month for what he calls ' a winter stint' with Willie Mullins. The French jockey almost made it last time out at Leopardstown when he rode the Susannah Ricci-owned KALKIR in the Coral.ie Hurdle, and before that finishing second aboard Ucello Conti in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase at the same track before Christmas. Gordon Elliott's other two hopefuls are UNIC DE BERSY and NICKNAME EXIT.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: "Ucello Conti ran a blinder in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown last month. He's gone up 6lb since but he's very well and will love the ground. The trip was a bit sharp and the ground not testing enough for Mala Beach when he ran second at Ascot last month. He's in good form and the ground and the trip will suit him a lot better this time. The other two are well and are low in the weights. They'll stay the trip, so we're letting them take their chance."

WEDNESDAY 20th JANUARY

WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN

Never mind the spelling just look at the rating a panel of international handicappers have handed out to the Bob Baffert-trained four-year-old, officially confirming him as the world's best racehorse of 2015. That means that, on a mark of 134, AMERICAN PHAROAH is deemed significantly superior to our home-bred European champion GOLDEN HORN who was rated at 130, which matches that of the 2014 top scorer, JUST A WAY and the 2013 joint champions BLACK CAVIAR and TREVE. This international accolade was awarded in London yesterday to America's first Triple Crown hero for thirty-seven years at the Longines World's Best Racehorse ceremony. This followed a similar ceremony on Saturday at the prestigious Eclipse Awards when the son of PIONEER OF THE NILE was also unanimously voted Stateside Horse of the Year, the first US-trained world champion since CURLIN in 2008 to be so honoured.

 

WINNING WINDSOR

It's a sport that raises the ethical hackles from time to time particularly with regard to such races as The Grand National but that doesn't dampen the enthusiasm of its followers. The Racecourse Association (RCA) has recently released figures that indicate that attendance across Britain’s racecourses across the country increased by 5.3% last year, surpassing the six million visitors mark for the first time since 2011. Furthermore of the fifty-nine UK racecourses Royal Windsor notched up the fourth biggest rise with an increase of 16.4%. Admittedly the course offers many other attractions besides racing including the inevitable celebrity DJs with live music and, significantly, free entry for the under 18s. The RCA states that it was not possible to pick out one particular highlight that was a major factor in the West Berkshire's success but one of them had to be the free Monday night season opener, which brought in 9,700 spectators, many of whom watched a horse race for the first time.

 

RCA's CEO, Stephen Aitken commented, “It’s once again very pleasing to see a significant rise in the total and average attendance at racecourses in 2015. The figures highlight the huge popularity of racing in Britain and the importance of each and every racecourse to its community. As highlighted by the 2015 RCA Showcase & Awards, racecourses do a huge amount of work to attract customers and promote racing which in turn helps to boost local economies. All of them deserve enormous credit for helping us to hit the six million mark.”

 

JUST DOWN THE ROAD

As journeys to work go, they don't come much shorter! A former Irish Champion jump jockey lives just down the road from Fairyhouse racecourse, about two miles or seven minutes by car. He could even walk it! Barry Geraghty will make this short trip today for just one ride. At 14.25 he will be partnering the Eddie Harty-trained UAINTSEENOTHINGYET in the seventeen-strong Next Racing At Fairyhouse Saturday January 30th Maiden Hurdle. It looks like it will be a job worth getting up for as it's a fairly undistinguished card and the County Kildare trainer is chasing his best results this season. The only fly in the ointment is that the son of YEATS has only had two career runs to-date and is still looking to break his duck. So he has so far lived up to his name

TUESDAY 19th JANUARY

SCEAUX WHAT?

Equine stars from the stables of an Irish trainer and an English trainer are likely to be the highlights of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on 16th March but, in the meantime, Willie Mullins' UN DE SCEAUX and the Gary Moore-trained SIRE DE GRUGY, are two of the confirmed entries for Saturday's Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot. The disappointing news is that dual Cheltenham Festival hero, SPRINTER SACRE won't be there but Nicky Henderson has hinted that he'll probably run CAPTAIN RONAN, in his stead, in the Grade 1 seventeen-furlong challenge. All eyes will certainly be on the County Carlow king's son of DENHAM RED, with the hope that he can build on the success he had in the early part of last season when he triumphed in the Racing Post Arkle on the first day of the Prestbury Park party although he didn't exactly cover himself with glory at Leopardstown over Christmas when he fell two fences from home in the Paddy Power Chase when the race seemed in the bags. Never one to leaving anything to chance, the Closutton-based handler will also be saddling stable companion, FELIX YONGER, last year's winner of the Grade 1 BoyleSports Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival.

 

GOING TO THE DOCTOR'S

A jump jockey struggling to rebuild his riding career after suffering horrendous life-threatening head injuries in a fall at Perth in July 2013 is to become a doctor's assistant. Brian Toomey, who has not ridden a winner since getting back in the saddle in July is to become assistant trainer for the Worcestershire-based Dr. Richard Newlands from the beginning of February. The Limerick-born rider, who previously worked with Phil Kirby in North Yorkshire and latterly with David Pipe, is to continue race riding for the time being, as well as carrying out his duties for the ex-GP handler who saddled the winner of the 2014 Grand National, PINEAU DE RE.

Brian Toomey commented: “I had hoped to get going a bit more but it’s been hard. I’m starting off as assistant trainer there and will remain riding for a bit longer. He doesn’t have many horses, but what he does have are decent.”

 

PEDALLER AND PACHA

The dream of riding in the St James' Place Foxhunter Chase at the Cheltenham Festival got one step closer yesterday. Former double Olympic cycling champion, Victoria Pendleton, has been offered the services of PACHA DU POLDER. This son of MUHTATHIR came second in the Crabbie's Fox Hunters' Chase at Aintree last year when trained by Paul Nicholls and is already qualified for the amateur riders' Gold Cup at Cheltenham. The nine-year-old Andy Stewart-owned gelding, now handled by Chloe Roddick, should be the source of much-needed race-riding experience for pedalling Pendleton as she prepares herself for one of the the biggest events in the jumps calendar. She will now have intensive work-out sessions with the Somerset-based trainer, whilst continuing her regular visits to the Hill stable and she could well be back in the saddle this weekend at a point-to-point meeting.

Victoria Pendleton commented: "I'm delighted that Andy Stewart has kindly made Pacha Du Polder available for point-to-points and potentially Cheltenham. It's great that an owner of Andy's stature is putting his faith in me to ride one of his horses."

 

Owner Andy Stewart added: "The Stewart Family are delighted that Victoria will be riding Pacha Du Polder for us in point-to-points, and who knows maybe even at Cheltenham. It was thrilling at Aintree as he looked the winner until Nina Carberry joined him at the last and JP McManus' On The Fringe beat us, so this year it might be a women's race. We are very excited about the coming months."

MONDAY 18th JANUARY

VICTORY SNATCHED FROM JAWS OF DEFEAT

In the Novice Chase at Leopardstown yesterday a son of OLD VIC and his jockey staged a dramatic comeback performance. The Willie Mullins-trained KILLULTAGH VIC, with Ruby Walsh aboard, was six lengths clear halfway into the nineteen-furlong contest, although this was reduced to four when the second from home was reached and victory seemed in the bag. But chickens are not counted before they're hatched, certainly not where horses are concerned! Unexpectedly the seven-year-old gelding sprawled badly when landing after jumping he last fence, causing his rider to fly into the air and, in the process, dropping back to third behind BLAIR PERRONE and LORD SCOUNDREL who were quick to take advantage of their rival's relapse. Then nothing short of a miracle happened. The air-born, Kill-born Ruby Walsh, against all odds, managed to get back into the saddle, albeit minus the right iron and, never say die, urged his mount to set off after the leaders. Luckily KILLULTAGH VIC complied and, amazingly, accelerated from a standing start and caught and passed the two runners as they made for the line to deny them victory by three-quarters of a length.

 

Ruby Walsh commented afterwards: "It was a good performance to get back up and win wasn't it? He's got some turn of foot and that's with me flapping up and down on him. I was nearly off him. He just pinged it and pitched. I think he's a little bit the forgotten horse, with the bookmakers anyway, and when you look at what he's done, he's beaten Thistlecrack and Shaneshill at Punchestown, and in the Martin Pipe he beat Roi Des Francs, the form is rock solid. He's a good horse. You'd have thought the JLT would be ideal but who knows - I just hope he stays away from [Arkle favourite] Douvan anyway."

 

An obviously delighted Willie Mullins added: "Ruby gave him a squeeze and there's so much under the bonnet he's just took off with him and jumped too fast. He's a fantastic jumper and always was. That was an Arkle Chase performance and we know he stays three miles. I'm looking at the JLT because we have Douvan in the Arkle and I think the JLT will suit him better."

 

JUST YOU WAIT 'ENRY 'IGGINS!

One owner wasn't leaving anything to chance in his quest to win the Coral.ie Hurdle at Leopardstown yesterday. JP McManus' green and gold colours bedecked no fewer than eight of the twenty-three runners. It had obviously been expected that the six-year-old AFTER RAIN would claim the prize as the 9/2 favourite was partnered by retained jockey, Barry Geraghty, bearing the white cap of the owner's first silks. For some reason, however, the son of AL NAMIX couldn't seem to get his act together, probably because of the lack of pace. Then by the time the field reached the top of the home straight, it looked as though the Jacques Ricou-ridden KALKIR would do the honours. But that wasn't to be, either. It fell to the Charles O'Brien-trained HENRY HIGGINS, ridden confidently and patiently by Robbie Power, to carry home the spoils.

 

The winning jockey commented: "Charles gave me great confidence about the horse and text me to say 'I think you're on the right one.' He travelled super the whole way and we didn't go a mad gallop. He's got loads of gears and my main concern before the race was the ground. He's got loads of pace and barely stays two miles."

 

BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT!

The jockey, generally considered to be one of the world's finest Flat riders failed to make his mark at Sha Tin yesterday. Ryan Moore already has a host of global accolades to his name, including the Hong Kong Vase and Hong Kong Mile on HIGHLAND REEL and MAURICE at the Hong Kong track before Christmas.The three-time UK champion jockey in Britain, who is planning to stay in the 'Fragrant Harbour' until the end of next month had eight rides on the ten-race card, failed to score and had to be content with five placed results. Ryan Moore's didn't manage to outshine Joao Moreira, who has been called 'Magic Man' by his faithful fans. The thirty-four-year-old Brazilian jockey duly obliged by notching up a treble which means his current total of seventy-nine winners in the title race is virtually unassailable but

the Brighton-born rival, who also won the Hong Kong Cup on the Ed Dunlop-trained SNOW FAIRY will no doubt make his usual impressive impact.

 

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club commented: "Few would forget Ryan's top performances at Sha Tin last month when he swooped the Hong Kong Vase and Hong Kong Mile with Coolmore's young prospect Highland Reel and Japan's ace Maurice. These have all but further enhanced his burgeoning profile and reputation, and could well explain why he has attracted such strong expectations on his first ever riding stint in Hong Kong on this occasion."

 

A proud father, Gary, added: "He's very lucky he's got a talent other people haven't got and he's very intelligent as well. To me he's the Messi ("Leo" Messi Argentinian professional footballer ) of racing, different class."

 

SUNDAY 17th JANUARY

HE'S A WINNER ALL WHITE!

Just seven days after claiming the Coral Welsh Grand National this Powys-based trainer was in the winner's enclosure again with a victory in a major staying handicap chase. Kerry Lee who only took over from her father, Richard, in the middle of last year, notched up a win this time with a rarity in the equine world – a white gelding, appropriately named RUSSE BLANC, who triumphed in the £60,000 Grade 3 Betfred Classic Chase by three-and-three-quarter lengths, denying victory, by a brilliant leap at the last, to MIDNIGHT PRAYER. The Charlie Poste-ridden 20/1 outsider's win was something of a miracle into the bargain as his saddle had slipped earlier in the race. Add to that the fact that Alan King's second runner, who is known for his remarkable stamina, looked every inch ready to bag the prize but the final fence was the decider.

 

The winning jockey commented: "Unfortunately because of a loose horse running wide going down to the last down the back, my horse has gone with him and the saddle has half gone around his belly. We had to jump the last down the back with it halfway around, which was a bit hairy, but luckily I got my weight right and back where I wanted. This lad really wants it. He got a really good jump at the last; he came up for me big and bold and from then he wasn't going to be denied. He stays all day and is as tough as old boots. I don't know if we've got to the bottom of him yet. Credit to Richard and Kerry - they've given him all the time to mature and it's come to fruition now."

 

Kerry Lee added: "A lot of hard work has gone into this horse. The girls at home have done a fantastic job with him. Dad spotted him at the sales as a three-year-old and thought he was a really nice model. It was Dad's eye that bought this horse and Mark also fell in love with him when he came to see him."

 

NH MOPS CLEAN UP

An impressive thirteen-length victory by the Harry Whittington-trained WOOLSTONE ONE in the fillies' bumper at Wetherby yesterday marked her out as the first winner of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association National Hunt Mares' Owner Prize Scheme (NH MOPS). This initiative, launched only in December, offers prizes of £10,000 to owners and connections of eligible fillies who win Class 1-4 novice hurdles and novice chases or Class 1-2 mares' open hurdles and chases. There is an additional prize of £5,000 for qualifying winners of mares' bumpers. The scheme applies to British-bred fillies starting from the year 2012 and also includes fillies born outside of Britain but whose sires are based in Britain.

 

The BA National Hunt committee' chairman, Bryan Mayoh commented: "After all the work that went into developing MOPS, obtaining the agreement of the BHA and the Horserace Betting Levy Board to support it, and finally getting it up and running just a few weeks after approval, it is great to see the first prize won; we expect to see many more in the future. I hope that, as owners and trainers note the significant boost to prize-money that can now be won by British-bred or sired National Hunt mares, which are generally much cheaper to purchase than geldings, they will search out MOPS-eligible fillies and race them. With a MOPS filly you can not only win good prizes early in her career but when they have finished racing the best ones have an excellent resale value as broodmares."

 

A FRIEND'S SURGE TO VICTORY.

Yesterday's Live Betting At 188bet.co.uk Novices' Chase, also at Wetherby, proved to be the stiffest test of stamina yet for the Nicky Henderson-trained L'AMI SERGE which he, however, passed with flying colours. Second favourite for the Arkle, this son of KING'S THEATRE could now appear at Warwick next month, although there have been hints from Anthony Bromley, his owners' racing manager, that he might have a crack at the JLT in March. Immediately on the cards seems to be the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices' Chase in February which has established itself as a reliable forecaster of future Arkle contenders.

 

Anthony Bromley commented: "That was very good. It wasn't the plan to make the running, he was a hold-up horse over hurdlers but he jumped well. Nicky [Henderson] wanted to get three runs into him before Cheltenham so this race fitted in well and he'll now go back to two miles for the Kingmaker at Warwick in four weeks' time. That win showed us he got this trip so it gives us the option of the JLT. I'm not saying he'll run in it, the Arkle is still a possibility, but we now have the choice of the two races."

 

SATURDAY 16th JANUARY

SUCCESS AND A PRAYER

It's the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick today and one trainer has strong claims for the crown – Alan King! The main person who strongly believes that the Swindon-based trainer ticks all the boxes is, quite naturally, his principal stable jockey, Wayne Hutchinson who will be aboard, SEGO SUCCESS. The thirty-four-year-old had a choice of mounts. He could have elected to partner MIDNIGHT PRAYER, whom he rates just about as highly so he is just hoping he's on the right horse. That means that conditional jockey, Tom Bellamy will ride the eleven-year-old son of MIDNIGHT LEGEND, securing a useful three-pound reduction.

 

Wayne Hutchinson commented about the eight-year-old son of BENEFICIAL: “We’ve been very happy with him. He’s gone up 7lb for winning at Doncaster where he seemed to benefit from a positive ride as he jumped a lot better than he had been doing, he could be prone to making a few errors. It was a pleasing run, he’s probably got a bit more on his plate and with the weights going up he’s got top weight. We know he stays, he’s won at the track and he’ll go on the ground. He won a Listed chase on this card last year and on his best form he’s bang there. I was always going to ride this lad to be fair, but with Midnight Prayer as well we’ve got a few bases covered. As Sego won last time it was logical, but Midnight Prayer has been given a chance by the handicapper so hopefully we’ve got two good chances.”

 

Trainer Alan King added: “Sego Success is 7lb higher than he was on Town Moor, but he was so much more polished there and whether it was the front-running tactics or the fitting of cheekpieces, maybe a bit of both, I’m not sure, but it certainly worked. He won the novice chase on this card last year so the track should suit him and we have no worries on the score of stamina as he finished fifth in the four-miler at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. It might have been a blessing in disguise that Midnight Prayer had to miss Chepstow as he would not have enjoyed that testing ground last Saturday, but he has stopped coughing and scoped fine earlier this week, so we are happy to take his chance.

 

GIVE'EM MORE STICK!

The British Horseracing Association (BHA) named two of the five leading National Hunt jockeys who didn't fall foul of the use of whip regulations for the whole of 2015; one was Brian Hughes, the other Sam Twiston-Davies. Nevertheless the former hopes to persuade the sport's governing body to increase the number of times a jump jockey can use the stick from eight to ten. The twenty-nine-year-old North Yorkshire-based rider thinks there is still more work to be done to improve the current rules which mean that a stewards' review is forthcoming if a jump jockey strikes a horse more than eight times, (seven on the Flat).

 

Brian Hughes commented: "I think it's a bit ridiculous we're only allowed one extra hit in a three-mile chase in deep ground at Haydock or Sandown compared to a sprint or mile race on the Flat. It's just not realistic. That needs adjusting and if they relaxed the guideline number to ten hits you would see even fewer bans. I'm not really a stick jockey and never have been. I have gone over the limit a few times in the past but I'm someone who picks up the stick as a last resort because I know suspensions are costly. In general I don't think jockeys are being harder on horses in big races," added Hughes. I think on the whole the changes to the whip rules have been generally positive. If the whip is used in the high teens that's stupidity. Jockeys who use the whip that many times will be punished and they deserve to be punished."

 

PADDYFAIR AND BETPOWER

The well-advertised merger between Betfair and Paddy Power got through its last legal formalities yesterday and it looks like the deal will be agreed early in February. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority cleared the new arranegement last month so shares in Paddy Power Betfair from 2nd February. The £5 billion-plus merger between Betfair and Paddy Power was publicised in August, shareholders of both companies giving their firm approval in December. Investors in Paddy Power will hold 52 per cent of the new business, with the remainder being held by Betfair shareholders. Breon Corcoran, Betfair's CEO, is to assume a similar role in the combined group, thereby going full circle as he he used to wwork for Paddy Power as chief operating officer for. The forty-four-year-old Irish businessman joined Betfair three years ago and brought about a remarkable turnaround in the comany's fortunes. The new CEO of the newly-merged company will be Andy McCue, Paddy Power's former chief executive.

 

FRIDAY 15th JANUARY

WHAT A CHEEK !

After an expected easy victory in yesterday's Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles the Gordon Elliott-trained son of SHOLOKOV is now, it seems, due to don cheekpieces for his assault on the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary's DON COSSACK put behind him the fall last time out in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and got back into winning ways. Surprisingly the 20/1 shot, RUBI LIGHT, trained by Robert Hennessy, set the early gallop in the quartet of runners and Bryan Cooper was content to let him do the work but then found his nine-year-old gelding needed a bit of stirring up when they were nearing the third fence from home. Suddenly, however, DON COSSACK seemed to realise he had a job to do and, by the time he took the second from home, he assumed command, jumping well clear over the last obstacle to put nine-and-a-half lengths between him and his nearest rival, the Noel Meade-trained WOUNDED WARRIOR.

 

Gordon Elliott explained afterwards: "He worked in cheekpieces the other day and flew in them and while there was no point having them on today, he'll have them on in the Gold Cup. Bryan said from the second-last to the line he was only getting going. He was free and exuberant in the early days and while it's not good to look at, the last quarter (of his races) is his best now. He's a better horse in the second half of the season and with a bit of better ground and cheekpieces, the Gold Cup is the plan."

 

STEPPING INTO TRAINER'S SHOES

An amateur jockey is hanging up his saddle to concentrate on being one of the youngest fully-licensed trainers in the country. Tom Weston has decided to give up race riding and strive to make a success of his Worcester-based yard, training National Hunt horses. The twenty-nine-year-old recently gained his licence and, on doing so, became only the eleventh trainer under the age of 30 to be on the National Trainers Federation’s books, containing more than 500 members. The decision to give up racing was perhaps accelerated by the fact that the young jockey suffered a bad fall at last year's Cheltenham Festival and was hospitalised for some time with two punctured lungs.

 

Tom Weston commented: “I am 29 so I am fairly young but I wanted to concentrate on it as soon as possible. I could have carried on riding for a bit longer but it would have been to the detriment of the training, which I wanted to crack on with. For a long time, all I could see myself doing was riding but when you get a bit older you realise that if you want to stay in racing and make a living from it, then you can do that with training. You can’t be a jockey forever and as I was only amateur I wasn’t making any money from it either, so training seemed a better bet than riding. I just want to build it up, have plenty of winners and make a real success of it.”

 

A WINNING SPELL

A ten-year-old veteran sprinter showed the youngsters in the nine-strong field how to run a race in the Listed Dubawi Stakes at Meydan yesterday and, thereby secured his chance for a crack at the Group 1 US$1m Dubai Golden Shaheen. The Satish Seemar-trained REYNALDTHEWIZARD defied the years to claim this race for second year running, making it three out of four. Initially it looked to be going Oliver Wilson's way as he established a cracking pace aboard LETSGOFORIT but Richard Mullen was not disconcerted and settled his son of SPEIGHTSTOWN comfortably just behind, finding, when required, plenty of room to manoeuvre when a number of rivals went wide on the turn in. For a moment it looked as though the contest would go to the Swedish-owned colt but Richard Mullen wasn't about to give in that easily and bagged the prize two-hundred yards from home with a two-and-three-quarter-length victory

 

The winning jockey commented: "He just loves it around here at Meydan and goes well fresh," said Mullen. "He shows nothing in his work at home but we thought he was in great form as he has been bucking and kicking in the mornings. It is a great team effort and he is a special horse to me having provided my first Group 1 winner. I assume we will go for the Al Shindagha Sprint, perhaps Super Saturday with the intention of another crack at the Golden Shaheen."

 

THURSDAY 14th JANUARY

A WINNING LESSON FROM THE DON

The Ladbrokes Ireland Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles only has four runners and one of these is the Gordon Elliott-trained DON COSSACK, who ran in and won this Grade Two event last year as a preparation for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March. The nine-year-old son of SHOLOKOV, winner of three Grade Ones and third in the Ryanair, is quite naturally the short odds-on favourite in today's two-and-a-half mile contest. The only rival who might just keep the favourite on his toes is the Noel Meade-trained WOUNDED WARRIOR. The other two runners are at odds of twenty plus so are not likely to cause any problems.

 

The County Meath-based trainer commented: "I didn't want to go to the Irish Hennessy, I thought it might be a bit too close (to Cheltenham) and have too a hard race, we'll let him take his chance at Thurles, hopefully he'll have a clear round and run a good race and that will be it for the Gold Cup. Looking at the re-run of the King George, I don't think he got the best run through the race, he never got into a rhythm, he was in, he was out, he was up, he was down - he never got into a rhythm. I'd loved to have been training him three or four years ago, the Gold Cup looks as hot this year as it has in a long time. But we've got the highest-rated horse in England and Ireland last year and I think he is a better horse come that time of the year - I don't think he is a real mud-lover, so I hope it dries up come Cheltenham time. He doesn't need quick ground, but the better the ground the better chance we have."

 

CHANGE OF PRESCRIPTION

The 2014 Grand National winner will probably not now take part in the the Pertemps Network Final at Cheltenham in preparation for regaining his Aintree accolade in April. Trainer Dr. Richard Newland usually opts for this livle challenge to sharpen up the performance of his 13-year-old PINEAU DE RE but this time li looks like things will be a little different.

 

The former GP commented: “Pineau De Re is very well and we have just given him a mini-break but he is back in full work now. He will run at the end of February in a Pertemps qualifier at Chepstow, but he probably won’t get entered in the final at Cheltenham this season. He will definitely be trained for the National and hopefully he will get in on a more realistic mark this year.”

 

SHE'S A PAYNE!

The first female jockey the Melbourne Cup at Flemington in November aboard the 100/1 outsider, PRINCE OF PENZANCE has discontinued her association with the winning trainer. Ithas been announced that Michelle Payne and trainer Darren Weir are going their different ways, mainly because of the increased demand for the thirty-year-old's services from around the world after her history-making accomplishment. The Ballarat-born rider is due to ride in the Shergar Cup at Ascot in August. Next weekend she'll be off to New Zealand where she takes a ride in the Group 1 Thorndon Mile at Trentham. The day after that she will participate in the prestigious Karaka Million sales race meeting before heading off to be a special guest at the New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale on January 25. Because of these additional demands on her time, Michelle Payne has not ridden for the Miners Rest-based trainer since last November 21, prompting the champion trainer to confirm that she no longer connected to his stable.

 

Darren Weir commented: “I have no stable rider. There's no drama but the people who do the work are the people who get the rides around here - simple as that. I chop and change riders all the time. I have no stable rider. Michelle's no different than the others."

 

 

WEDNESDAY 13th JANUARY

SHOULD'VE, WOULD'VE, COULD'VE

Throughout history there have been many stories of performers or sportsmen being overshadowed by another overwhelming talent. It is often speculated that if only they had been born earlier or later they would have been immediate stars in their own right. There is something of that in Richard Johnson's racing career. Born three years after Tony McCoy, his career was dominated by this great rival from Moneyglass, County Antrim, who, incredibly, occupied the championship slot for twenty consecutive seasons, while he had to be content with being runner-up on no fewer than 16 occasions in the jockeys’ title race. It's been along wait but Richard Johnson edged a step closer to achieving his long-dreamed-of first championship, after notching up his 3,000th winner under National Hunt rules, riding the Philip Hobbs-trained GARDE LA VICTOIRE at Ludlow yesterday. It was also fitting that this landmark was achieved aboard the seven-year-old son of KAPGARDE, bedecked in the two-tone blue colours of Diane and Grahame Whateley who have long been instrumental in providing the champion jockey-elect with countless big-race wins. Significantly also, this victory puts the Hereford-born jockey on the 176 mark for the current season, more than seventy clear of his nearest rival, Aidan Coleman. Only one other jockey has partnered more horses to victory over fences. You guessed it – Tony McCoy!

 

Richard Johnson commented: “It’s been amazing. I can’t believe I reached this number. The Whateleys have been fantastic owners, but all the owners have been very supportive. There are owners that when I started out were at David Nicholson’s and are now at Philip’s. My family have been very supportive, from Mum and Dad to my wife and three children. They are very understanding and they don’t see me much, but they are the ones who let me do what I love doing and they are always there when it doesn’t quite work out.”

 

KNOCK, KNOCK GINGER!

Doubts have now been cast about the sponsorship of one of National Hunt racing's internationally famous extravaganzas. Halewood International, the owners of Crabbie's Ginger Beer, current sponsors of the Grand National, have just reported a pre-tax loss of £8.4m for the year to June 2015. In fact, the company accounts reveal a dramatic downturn in sales since 2012, the year there was a pre-tax profit of £15.1m. On that high, a three-year sponsorship deal for the Grand National was agreed and this period concludes with this season’s renewal on 9th April. The interest in this Aintree spectacular comes from the fact that

Halewood International is Merseyside-based and its founder, the late John Halewood, owned AMBERLEIGH HOUSE, the 2004 Grand National winner. So it's no wonder that this world-famous race was considered a perfect arrangement for Crabbie's when they took over sponsorship from John Smith’s. Ironically this development comes when the Grand National has emerged from one of the most difficult times in its history. After a couple of fatalities in 2011 and 2012, modifications were made to to the course and the last three years have passed serious accident-free for the first time since the early 1990s. In addition the television audience for the Grand National rose to an impressive 8.8 million last time.

 

John Baker, regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses, which includes responsibility for the Grand national commented: “We still remain in discussions with Crabbie’s. It’s always nice to go into one year [of the Aintree Festival] knowing that the next year is sorted out and that will be our aim for sure. But we maintain a huge amount of confidence in the National Festival. There’s a real feelgood factor back about the Festival and the National itself. We’ve enjoyed a fantastic relationship with Crabbie’s and going into 2016, it’s all systems go. They are very much engaged in the history and tradition of the race and committed to making the 2016 National the best ever. They came in at a slightly difficult time for the National and where they’ve taken the race has been pretty exceptional. If it does end up as just being a three-year period, which obviously we hope it doesn’t, it’s been a fantastic partnership.”

 

WAITING FOR THE LEVY!

A revised offer has been made by a leading bookmaker in the continuing row over the recently introduced ABP policy ( Authorised Betting Partner). Coral has just announced that it will now pay a levy of 7.5 per cent on its winnings both in betting shops and online. At the same time Coral's CEO, Carl Leaver describes the new policy as “draconian” and a “blunt tool”, claiming that it was “neither fair nor sustainable”. The 7.5 per cent rate offered by Coral matches what bet365, Betfair and 32Red, three firms already given ABP status, now contribute from their online British racing revenue. There is no doubt that Racing’s ABP policy has muddied the waters between racing and a number of major bookmakers who are threatening to review their sponsorship arrangements. Racetracks owned and run by Arena Racing Company and the Jockey Club fully support the new policy but other major racecourses such as Newbury and Goodwood have failed to comply. Even such prestigious venues as Ascot and York have only given conditional backing to the scheme.

 

TUESDAY 12th JANUARY

LUDLOW, RIDING HIGH

The champion jockey-elect has three chances at Ludlow today to clock up his 3,000th National Hunt victory. Richard Johnson needs just one more winner to reach the landmark. His first opportunity comes in the first race when he rides ITSHARD TO NO for last Saturday's Welsh Grand National trainer, Kerry Lee. This son of HELISSIO got off the mark over hurdles in the Lazy Sunday Maiden Hurdle at Downpatrick in August, his only success in eleven outings. He came a disappointing fifth last time out at Uttoxeter so Richard Johnson will probably need more than his fair share of luck steering the seven-year-old into the frame. As the thirty-eight-year-old jockey's last ride of the day is aboard the five-year-old bay mare, HANDPICKED, who is still struggling to win a bumper, the market seems to be of the general opinion that 3.00pm Racing UK Winter Season Ticket Novices' Chase provides the best chance for the Hereford-born rider to make his mark. Here the Philip Hobbs-trained GARDE LA VICTOIRE, whom Richard Johnson has ridden for all-but-one of his fifteen rides, will make his Cheltenham Festival bid when he takes on just three rivals this two-mile event.

 

Richard Johnson commented: “Garde La Victoire is in great form and the plan is simply to get more experience into him ahead of Cheltenham. All being well, this run will be one of two before the Festival. As for whether he lines up in the Arkle or the JLT — time and, more importantly, the ground will decide that.”

 

REET PETITE!

The six-year-old son of GREAT PRETENDER will be switched back to hurdles in an effort to overcome his growing reputation as a 'great pretender' over fences. The Paul Nicholls-trained PTIT ZIG, winner of three Grade 2 contests unseated his jockey, Sam Twiston-Davis three days ago at Kempton and fell at Huntingdon at the beginning of December in the Peterborough Chase. In both of these races the seven-year-old was probably not going to win but he seemed scheduled for a place. So the Somerset-based trainer has decided to call a halt on what looked like a promising chasing career for his bay gelding and is probably considering the Cleeve Hurdle at cheltenham on 30th January.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: “It was disappointing to see Ptit Zig depart at the second last fence at Kempton and I'm afraid he has never been the most natural over fences. He got away with it in small fields last season but despite loads of schooling at home he tends to get into the bottom of his fences when he doesn’t meet them spot on. It’s so frustrating as he has loads of talent. While I will still give him an entry in the Ryanair Chase I plan to switch him back to hurdles next with the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham an obvious option.”

 

ASCOTTA BE GOOD!

Prize money for this year's Royal Ascot will be raised by one million smackers, which means that a record £6,580,000 will be up for grabs over the five-day event which runs from 14th to 18th June. What is more, this will be the first time that there will be a prize pot of £1m on offer every day of the meeting. Winners of the thirty races will carry home no fewer than £80,000 compared comapsre to last year's £60,000. The main races to benefit from this increase of funds will be the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (up to £750,000 from £525,000), the Queen Anne Stakes (£600,000 from £375,000) and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (£600,000 from £525,000). The Berkshire racecourse has already announced the building of a new purpose-built unsaddling enclosure, planned to be ready for the start of the 2016 Flat season. The idea behind this new £700,000 development is to be able to give better accommodation the number of horses that participate in such contests as the Wokingham and the Royal Hunt Cup more comfortably.

 

Guy Henderson, Ascot's CEO commented: “In making £1m more prize money available at Royal Ascot, over and above last year’s total prizefund, we are acting to remain as competitive as we can both at home and overseas.”

MONDAY 11th JANUARY

SOMETHING'S AFOOT

David Ashworth, writing in the Racing Post yesterday, raises an interesting issue that appears not to have been given too much serious consideration up to now. Is the size of a horse's feet important in today's increasingly wet and muddy racing conditions, such as witnessed on Saturday in the Welsh Grand National? Many breeders have long held the view that horses with large feet like heavy going. So perhaps the question on everyone's ('chapped'!) lips should be: 'How large are the feet of the Kerry Lee-trained MOUNTAINOUS who battled on to claim Wales' richest race prize when ten of his rivals were pulled up, three unseated their rider and the other one fell? It seems to make sense that in sloshy circumstances big feet should have the advantage over small ones. After all, human beings use snow shoes to spread their weight when crossing over soft snow. So from a scientific perspective, the pressure per square inch must be less and, therefore, a horse's hooves will not sink so far into the ground, making it easier to negotiate any muddy surface. In fact, in the book, '150 Professional Horse Racing Systems' there is System 68, called 'Big Foot' where it says: 'Big strong horses have big feet. Bet on the biggies to grab the money in the mud'.

 

So the answer must be that MOUNTAINOUS has big feet, as it stands to reason that a runner with small feet could not have successfully negotiated the Monmouthshire muddy marathon. Accordingly, David Ashworth concludes in his unusual witty slant on horse racing that perhaps trainers should be required to provide information about on the size of their horses' feet. He suggests that horses with big feet should have the letters BF (Big Feet) and SF (Small Feet) against their names on the racecard, which will clearly be of importance to punters when there are betting on horses running in conditions similar to the other day's.

 

NEARLY THERE!

Yesterday's Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse was claimed by the Sandra Hughes/Barry Geraghty partnership when NEARLY NAMA'D past the post four-and-a-half lengths ahead of his nearest rival, the Willie Mullins-trained MOZOLTOV. The JP McManus-owned gelding thus added to his last victory at this County Meath track towards the end of November. Once more the son of MILENARY began to assert his supremacy when negotiating the last fence, when his stable companion GUITAR PETE decided to go for it but appeared not to be as well-tuned as the eventual winner who was travelling to fast to handle.

 

The winning trainer commented; "He's a lot stronger than last year and Barry said he noticed a big difference in him from the last time he rode him. He needs that soft ground. He wasn't handling the ground in the summer so we let him off."

 

SHOWING HIS METAL!

The 2014 winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes who failed to take the Triple Crown showed he still has what it takes at Santa Anita yesterday. The Art Sherman-trained CALIFORNIA CHROME was on the track for his first competitive race since coming second in last year's Dubai World Cup. In the meantime he had made a wasted journey to England last summer to participate at Royal Ascot but was pulled out at the last minute. His regular rider, Victor Espinoza handled the ride with his customary aplomb, confidently allowing the son of LUCKY PULPIT to cruise in the slip stream of the pacesetting ALFA BIRD before giving his five-year-old his head as they came round the home turn in the lead.

 

Art Sherman commented: "I thought, when he went to the lead, he had a lot of horse. He Victor Espinoza) just waved the stick at him and I knew he would respond. You have to go by him to beat him and I didn't see anybody. They were closing, but he had a little left in the tank. We've got to pack our bags. We'll be over there(Dubai) for almost three months. He'll be a different horse after this race and that's why I was a little nervous (today). After a nine-month layoff, his first race back, we didn't really crank the screws on him."

SUNDAY 10th JANUARY

 

MOVE OVER, DAD!

Regular readers of this column will remember the piece on 21st December ( 'All she wants for Christmas') about the Powys-based trainer, who only succeeded her father last July, and was already notching up a 21% strike rate. The trainer-in-question, Kerry Lee, was hoping that she could emulate her father, Richard, by winning the Coral Welsh Grand National with the horse he saddled to victory in 2013. Well she had to wait a bit longer, as Wales' richest race had to be re-scheduled due to water-logging and took place yesterday. Apart from that, the dream came true. MOUNTAINOUS, ridden by Jamie Moore, defied the extremely heavy conditions and pouring rain to lead home the remaining 'five men standing' (out of 20) by two-and-three-quarter lengths. The son of MILAN is only the second horse in more than fifty years to triumph twice in this prestigious contest, the last time being the Martin Pipe-trained BONANZA BOY in 1988 and 1989.

 

In the heavy rain, the jubilant winning trainer commented: “It was actually one of those things that we’ve dreamt about. We both held up very well. You’ve got to be tough in this game. I’ve always helped Dad at the yard, I’ve always been assistant trainer, riding out from an early age. I’ve always wanted to be a trainer, lifelong ambition.”

 

A proud father, Richard Lee added: “I can’t believe it’s happened, to be honest with you. But the champagne will have to wait. I drove the horsebox to the track and I'll be driving it back again!”

 

TOM TOM TRIUMPH

Another success story mentioned on Friday. Tom Marquand who is in Australia as part of a jockey mentorship scheme set up by the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies, put down an early marker. The seventeen-year-old jockey is riding for training partners Tom Dabernig and David Hayes and justified their confidence in him by claiming his first victory aboard the four-year-old TASHBEEH at the Caulfield track

 

Joint trainer, Tom Dabernig, commented: "It was a good ride. He got the job done. I thought often the horse on the outside here at Caulfield could get over the top of them but he fought on well."

 

Tom Marquand added: "He's a simple horse to ride but he's got plenty of class about him as well. He was only beaten a length and a bit in a Listed race and that race wasn't run to suit. Everyone has been fantastic to me. To be getting opportunities to get to ride horses like these on days like this, you couldn't dream of it."

 

NOT A MIN TO LOSE!

Cheltenham Festival's Supreme Novices' Hurdle favourite strengthened his claim even further with an easy, nine-and-a-half length win in the Sky Bet Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday. The Willie Mullins-trained MIN was well supported before he even appeared at the County Kildare, having trounced the opposition by fourteen lengths there on 10th December. The son of WALK IN THE PARK, stepping up to Grade Two company for the first time, was emulating his stable companion stars, VAUTOUR and DOUVAN who scored inn this race before going on to excel at the Cheltenham Festival in the following March.

 

Winning jockey, Ruby Walsh, commented: "I didn't have much of a say in that, he took a fair grip and was pinging his hurdles so I couldn't pull him back. I slowed it up running to the second-last, hoping to get a breath into him but they were on my tail pretty quickly so I had to go again. But he quickened up really impressively and won comfortably. He's learning as he goes, but you never want to get left behind at Cheltenham anyway as you'll never get back into the race. I think he's like Vautour and Douvan, raw and immature, but he's doing his talking on the track."

 

Willie Mullins added: "You could not ask for any more, and he's living up to all the chat about him. He does his best work at home on better ground, so to do that on this ground is a big plus. I don't know if he will run again before Cheltenham, probably not. He's a very easy ride at home, but he seems to grow horns or wings on the race track. He took a hard hold today. I was very impressed that he could pull so hard early on, then Ruby gave him a breather and when the other two came to him I said 'we'll see what's in the tank now'. But he just eased right away."

 

SATURDAY 9th JANUARY

MAKE IT THREE!

What MINI SENSATION did in 2002 and SYNCHRONISED in 2011 Jonjo O'Neill is fervently hoping he can repeat in today's Welsh Grand National and make it a hat-trick. The County Cork trainer will be saddling UPSWING in the excessively testing conditions at the Chepstow racetrack. The son of BENEFICIAL has already made his mark this season with a six-length victory in the Richard Davis Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Worcester in October and was even more impressive when finishing runner-up to the Philip Hpbbs-trained SAUSALITO SUNRISE the Grade 3 Murphy Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham in the middle of November. The JP McManus-owned eight-year-old will have his work cut out but under Barry Geraghty's expert stewardship and reasonably treated by the handicapper there is every reason to expect him to be in the frame.

 

Jonjo O'Neill commented: "We decided to go for this race after his last run at Cheltenham as he jumped and stayed very well and he fits into this category of race well. The ground we don't know about, to be fair, but I'd think he would go on it as he won on heavy up at Carlisle."

 

A TWO-PRONGED ATTACK

Trainer Gordon Elliott has firmly set his sights on the Underwriting Exchange Dan Moore Memorial Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse tomorrow and, not leaving anything to chance, he will be mounting a two-pronged attack. First he will be saddling his six-year-old CLARCAM, well used to Graded company, having, among other successes, secured an assertive victory in the One Magnificient City manifesto Novices' Chase at Aintree last April, tehn under Ruby Walsh. The top-weight son of CALIFET will tackle his first handicap over fences, ridden by leading French jockey, Jacques Ricou. The other Cullentra House hopeful is BRIGHT NEW DAWN, dropping down in trip on this occasion, who produced solid results when finishing second in the Clonmel Oil Chase in November and following that up with a similar result in the Kerry group Hilly Way Chase at Navan in the middle of December. Clearly his trainer is hoping for great things from this nine-year-old son of PRESENTING as he has booked leading conditional jockey, Jack Kennedy to take the ride.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: "Clarcam is coming back to a handicap and obviously has plenty of weight. The ground wouldn't be ideal for him, but he's in good form and we'll let him take his chance," said the trainer. Bright New Dawn has been running well and the ground will definitely suit him better. We've got Jack Kennedy taking 5lb off his back and the horse is in good form, so he should have a decent chance."

 

WILLIE, WON'T HE?

The County Carlow king is dropping broad hints that his stable star could challenge his two stable companions for supremacy in the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown in two weeks' time. The impressive Christmas Hurdle winner, FAUGHEEN, could go eye-ball to eye-ball with the Ryan Hurdle victor, NICHOLS CANYON, and ARCTIC FIRE who won a Grade 1 Hurdle at Fairyhouse at the end of November. The interesting fact is that the son of GERMANY does not normally have outings between between December and the Cheltenham Festival. Well, he hasn't done so for the past two years but, who knows, things could be different this year.

 

Willie Mullins commented: "There is every chance that Faugheen will run. We'll also have Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire in the race and as of now all three owners are very keen to run their horses. Faugheen went straight to Cheltenham last year after winning the Christmas Hurdle and this time Rich [Ricci - owner] is bursting to run him in the Leopardstown race. That's the way it's looking although we'll review the situation closer to the race."

 

FRIDAY 8th JANUARY

COULD BE A GRAND DAY!

Barring further storms, Wales' richest contest seems now due to take place tomorrow at Chepstow, albeit an hour-and-a-half earlier than originally scheduled. The Welsh Grand National, previous abandoned on 27th December due to waterlogging, will now be run as the third race of the day at 1.45pm. Conditions at the Monmouthshire track are still extremely testing but, for some reason, it is thought that running the prestigious event earlier will provide a better chance of better ground.

 

Keith Ottesen, who is Clerk of the Course, commented: “Saturday’s meeting at Wincanton being off has given us the chance to change the running order and ensure the Welsh Grand National is run on the best ground on the day. It will now be the first chase on the card and the third race overall. It will also be the first televised race on Channel 4. We had 16 millimetres of rain overnight and the ground is heavy, but the track is raceable. We’re forecast a dry day for the rest of today and there might be a shower or two around tomorrow, but nothing too serious. There are then a few showers around on Friday night into Saturday morning before a more organised band of rain comes on Saturday afternoon, but it’s difficult to be too precise about when that will arrive. At the moment things are looking very positive, but we obviously need to keep an eye on things and we’ll keep everyone updated as best we can.”

 

A NEW APP FOR DOWN UNDER

The recent winner of the Stobart Apprentice Jockeys' Championship is now trying his luck Down Under. Tom Marquand is in Victoria for a month's riding experience and tomorrow at Caulfield, where he will be aboard the David Hayes and Tom Dabernig-trained TASHBEEH

in the $80,000 Swettenham Stud Summer Championship Heat 7, for his first race in Australia.

The Woodmancote teenager will be kept busy by this trainer duo throughout the month, dividing his time between their two stables in Euroa and Flemington. Tom Marquand, who was last week chosen to join a new jockey mentorship scheme recent established by the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies, has not been shy in coming forward about his chances of victory on his first ride.

 

The BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year nominee commented: "Tasbeeh looks to have a brilliant chance and it's a big thrill to have been given such a great opportunity by David Hayes and Tom Dabernig to ride for Sheikh Hamdan. I've spoken with Oisin Murphy who was very successful out here and he's taken it home and has ridden a lot of winners and Kieran Shoemark who is out here at the moment and they've both been helping me and giving me plenty of tips. I've never been to Australia before and that's why I thought it would be a brilliant idea to come here and learn something new. Obviously riding in the UK is very different to Australia and I think it should stand me in good stead. It's a very different style of racing to in England and the tracks are obviously very different so it should be interesting. I think being a good rider is all about different experiences on different tracks, in different countries and different styles of racing which can only stand you in good stead for the future."

 

TESTING TIMES

A runner in the Totepool Handicap at Chelmsford City last night had to have a blood sample taken just 40 minutes before he was due to race and, understandably, his trainer, James Tate, a qualified vet, was angered by the timing of the random testing which he thinks could have had an effect on the performance of his chestnut colt, CRACK SHOT. It is generally accepted that blood and urine testing takes place after a race but, for some reason, this option was withdrawn by the BHA vets and a sample was taken from the son of LOPE DE VEGA beforehand. Whether this procedure affected the result of last night's race will probably never be established. In the event, CRACK SHOT finished fourth, five lengths behind the winner. Sporting Life's commentary on the event was that the four-year-old, 'after remaining in mid-division for some time, started to make some headway over two furlongs out, chasing the leaders when one furlong from home but was never a threat'.

 

Trainer James Tate commented: "At 7.15pm this evening I was called by Chelmsford steward Robert Sidebottom and told that Crack Shot would be tested at 7.30pm, just before he was to be tacked up. I was more than annoyed as he's a nervous, highly strung horse who doesn't like needles and has to be sedated even to be be plated, and I asked if he could be tested two hours afterwards in the usual way. After this was agreed, this offer was for some reason then withdrawn and I was told Crack Shot had to be tested pre-race. I know that they are out to get people they suspect are using 'milkshakes'*, and I know it's only the 8.10 at Chelmsford, but would they test the favourite for the Derby only 40 minutes before he was to run at Epsom? I think not.”

 

Robin Mounsey, spokesman for the British Horseracing Association added: "The stipendiary stewards discussed the issue with James after he raised his concerns. He made the decision to run the horse after the test was successfully completed without the horse becoming upset. We understand the point James is making, but it is routine for horses to be tested pre-race and to the timescales employed last night."

 

* The banned 'milkshake' referred to is probably a mixture of sodium bicarbonate which apparently restricts the spread of lactic acid in a horse's stomach and so slows down the rate that they become tired.

 

THURSDAY 7th JANUARY

OK DUDE!

Ross-on-Wye-based trainer, Michael Scudamore, is reasonably confident that his eleven-year-old MONBEG DUDE will be fit and ready to run in this year's Grand National. He does admit, however, that at the moment he has another kind of race – a race against time - to get his Oydunow-owned gelding ready for the Aintree extravaganza on 7th April, after being out of action since sustaining a tendon injury during the same last year, when he, nevertheless, creditable, gained third place. The Welsh National and Cheltenham Festival winning trainer does, however, feel that things are looking up for his horse to return to action at this year’s National.

 

He commented: “Things are looking positive. He’s up and cantering and everything is going the right way. We must obviously take things step by step, but we are quietly hopeful (he will make it to Aintree) without getting too carried away. We would look to go down that route (a run over hurdles) or a racecourse gallop three or four weeks before the National. It’s just about progressing through the gears with him.”

 

TRIUMPH THIS TIME?

Japan never gives up hope of winning Europe's most valuable race but has had to overcome many daunting obstacles over the years even to have an eligible entry. EPIPHANEIA, winner of the Japan Cup was retired to stud after straining a tendon last year whilst connections of ONE AND ONLY have declared that they plan to go for the top races at home this year and not make any tiring trips to Europe. So it seems for the 2016 renewal of the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe there is just one possibility on the cards. The Noriyuki Hori-trained DURAMENTE, last year's victor of both the Satsuki Sho (2,000 Guineas) and the Tokyo Yushun (Japanese Derby), appears to have recovered completely from the multiple fractures that sidelined him for the rest of the year. Undoubtedly Japan's best three-year-old last season is, according to his owners, the Yoshidas' Sunday Racing Club, is back training at Northern Farm on Hokkaido and will soon go back to his trainer's yard at the Miho Training Centre and the prestigious Paris prize is the long-term objective.

 

Shunsuke Yoshida, speaking for the owners commented: "We will enter him for the Dubai World Cup meeting. I think we will run Real Steel in the Dubai Turf, so Duramente would be Sheema but we will discuss it with their trainers."

 

THREE-WAY TUSSLE?

The Sodexo Clarence House Chase at Ascot in two weeks' time promises to be a real cracker. National Hunt Racing's three top two-mile chasers could be eye-balling each other at the off. If all goes according to plan, the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX will take on SPRINTER SACRE and SIRE DE GRUGY, two of this country's greatest former two-mile champion chasers, an event which, in turn, could well be a scene-setter for the Cheltenham Festival Queen Mother Champion Chase in March. So far there are eight entries for this £125,000 Grade One contest. Willie Mullins, who recently dropped hints that he might go for this season's British trainers’ title if he has a good outcome at Cheltenham. The County Carlow king will also be keeping his fingers crossed that the sometimes error-prone UN DE SCEAUX can get his act together at Ascot and make up for his his fall when he last raced at Leopardstown.

 

The Nicky Henderson-trained SPRINTER SACRE also seems to be back on his top form after a long lay-off, cause by heart fibrillation. Gary Moor's SIRE DE GRUGY featured in one of Christmas's celebrations, the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton but lost out to Mrs Caroline Mould's son of NETWORK by three-quarters of a length, attributed by his trainer to the last-fence error.

 

Gary Moore commented: “If he hadn’t got in tight to the last it probably would have been a different result. He’ll come on again for that run, I’m sure. He improves with racing. He’s all set for the Clarence House. It can’t be soft enough for him so I hope it carries on raining. When we had Sprinter Sacre off the bridle I thought we had him beaten because all his winning had been done on the bridle. Fair play to him, though, as he showed he can also battle to win.”

 

WEDNESDAY 6th JANUARY

GOING DUTCH

Gary Moore and George Baker team up at Kempton Park tonight where they will be hoping that DUTCH GOLDEN AGE, who joins handicap company for the first time in the Good Luck On Your Adventure Greg Handicap. The lightly-raced son of KODIAC, only on his fifth career start, won the 32Red Casino Maiden Stakes last time at this track, his first victory after promising runs at Chelmsford and Lingfield, producing a second and a third respectively. The West Sussex-based trainer has been in unusually good form over the past couple of weeks with a 34.4% strike rate, more than three times his annual performance so he will be looking to build on that success. Jockey, George Baker, will also not be the one to let the side down as his statistics of 15.2% is better than he could have expected, having won at Lingfield yesterday on the George Peckham-trained LOUDLY.

 

WELSH WORRIES

Worryingly, one of the most prestigious jump fixtures of the season in the UK and the richest race in Wales, having been rearranged from 27th December as the track was waterlogged, looks threatened again. The fate of the Coral Welsh National, due to be run on Saturday, hangs precariously in the balance today, as the track is still being bombarded by heavy rain. Everything that is humanly possible is being done to keep the fixture alive for the weekend but the situation looks grave as the weather forecast has fluctuating outcomes.

 

Keith Ottesen, Clerk of the Course, commented: "We had nine millimetres ( third of an inch!) of rain on Tuesday evening which we didn't envisage and hasn't helped. We've got some horrible, deep heavy ground but it hasn't rained since midnight so we would be racing today. Tonight there is another band of rain forecast then we get a break tomorrow as it is set to be dry. We're all desperate to get it on."

 

THE RIGHT PRESCRIPTION?

Another notable event takes place at Kempton Park on Saturday - the Lanzarote Hurdle. This contest is just what the Doctor has ordered for his promising son of WESTERNER. The Dr. Newland-trained WESTREN WARRIOR will take his chances in the twenty-strong field. He may be a seven-year-old but the bay gelding is only on his fifth career start. On his first time out in August he took the GAA Race Day 18th August Maiden Hurdle at Sligo by five lengths. In November he came into the good doctor's care and unfortunately had to be pulled up in the Bathwick Tyres Bideford 'National Hunt' Novices' Hurdle at Exeter at the beginning of that month. He made amends next time, however, by performing up to expectations and coming second in the Arc Supporting The 2015 ROA Awards Novices' Hurdle. Just before Christmas WESTREN WARRIOR fully exonerated himself, taking the Money Back 2nd At titanbet.co.uk Novices' Hurdle by an astounding twenty lengths. All eyes will certainly be on this, maybe slightly unpredictable, patient.

 

TUESDAY 5th JANUARY

CHAMPING AT THE BIT

The new champion jockey-in-waiting, the first new incumbent for twenty years after Tony McCoy's long tenure, reached another significant landmark in his riding career yesterday. Richard Johnson notched up his 3,000th win at Ludlow aboard the Philip Hobbs-trained ST SAVIOUR. Fittingly the Hereford-born jockey achieved this result riding for his Minehead-based boss and it didn't seem a difficult task. The four-year-old son of DANEHILL DANCER proved a convincing winner in the Best Wishes For 2016 Juvenile Maiden Hurdle, claiming victory by twenty-one lengths.

 

The next target on the agenda for the the 38-year-old rider is to win four more times to make it 3,000 successes over jumps, Tony McCoy being the only other jockey to add that to his credit. Richard Johnson's career total comprises 2,977 jump wins in the UK, 17 in Ireland, four Flat wins and two international victories, making a total of 16,744 rides altogether. He rode his first horse to victory under rules at Hereford on April 30, 1994 aboard RUSTY BRIDGE, then trained by Susan Johnson. He reached his 1000th riding the Richard Price-trained QUEDEX at Stratford in April 2003 and his 2,000th win came up in December 2009, when he rode FIGHTING CHANCE for Richard lee at Newbury in December 16, 2009.

 

Richard Johnson commented: "It's great to get to the 3,000 mark. We knew we were getting close. I don't actually keep a record of every single one, so I was hoping someone would tell me when I got there! I really must say that I'm only as good as the horses I ride and the trainers and owners I've been associated with. I'd like to thank all the people I've ridden for over the past 22 years and obviously my agent Dave Roberts who has done such a fantastic job. My first winner was Rusty Bridge at Hereford for my grandad, Ivor. At that stage I thought I was just going to be an amateur jockey riding a few point-to-point winners. It's been an amazing experience and I've been very fortunate to work with so many great people over the years."

 

WORLD'S END?

There's only two months to go for the running of jump racing’s biggest week featuring the World Hurdle and this world-class event doesn't have an official name because it doesn't have a sponsor. Well it did for the last ten years and the name inextricably associated with this race was Ladbrokes. The problem is that the Harrow-based bookies haven't joined or made any noises about joining the new Authorised Betting Partner policy adopted by horse racing. Now The Cheltenham Festival has become the focal point for a show-down. It seems that both sides are hoping that the annual deal may be renewed but the problem is that, in order to become ABP approved, Ladbrokes would have to agree to pay racing an agreed amount of any online profits from betting, as Betfair, Bet365 and 32Red have already done. What is more, the owners of Cheltenham, the Jockey Club, has agreed not to sign or extend any sponsorship deals with bookmakers who are not accredited ABP members. Together with other major bookmakers, Ladbrokes has not welcomed to the ABP policy, which was announced in October. Matters got worse on Sunday when Ascot became the latest racecourse that offered only partial support for the new scheme and seemed to be leaving open the possibility that it might accept a sponsorship from a non-ABP firm.

 

David Williams, Media Director for Ladbrokes commented: “The ambition, the appetite and the budget are all firmly in place for us to sponsor the race this year. It is certainly our hope that we will sponsor the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. This is a race that we’ve worked hard with Cheltenham in recent years to develop from its former position as a shoulder race on Gold Cup day and we believe that both Cheltenham and Ladbrokes have benefited from those efforts.”

 

Nick Rust, BHA's CEO added: “The proof is in what actually happens. We haven’t seen one racecourse saying: ‘We will ignore this concept and vehemently disagree with it.’ Ascot want to be able to foster a positive relationship with betting operators, as do we. I think they want to work behind the scenes to make sure we get these people onside and York is the same. They very much want to be in a position where their major sponsors can come forward and reach a fair agreement with racing.”

 

DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW

Newmarket doesn't seem to have benefited hugely from the new four-year deal which will terminate Channel 4’s handling of the TV rights after 31 years. By all accounts the only prestigious race that features at the Berkshire track that will be screened on ITV’s main channel wil be the 2,000 Guineas in 2017. It was announced the other day that the new contract included the Cheltenham, Grand National and Derby festivals, Royal Ascot, Glorious Goodwood, the Ebor festival, St Leger and Champions Day in the main channel coverage. In addition, however, it seems another detailed schedule has been drawn up to present the 1,000 Guineas, the July Festival and all Newmarket’s autumn programme, including the Future Champions meeting, Cambridgeshire and Cesarewitch, on ITV4, the Television Company's digital, satellite and cable channel. As Newmarket, in fact, puts on more Group races than any other British Flat track, its officials still very much hope for more of its fixtures to appear ITV’s main programme.

 

Amy Starkey, who is the regional director of Eastern Region Jockey Club Racecourses commented: We very much welcome the new ITV deal, which we are confident is a great move for the future of our sport. It is premature to speculate on Newmarket scheduling because 34 days on ITV is the minimum. There are lots of things to be worked through as part of discussions and in line with the 2017 fixture list and, of course, Newmarket stages quality races on days ITV is provisionally scheduled to be broadcasting that we can expect to feature.

We’ll be working hard for Newmarket to secure as many ITV main channel days as possible.”

 

MONDAY 4th JANUARY

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF GRADE ONES!

Willie Mullins' tally of Irish Grade One races increased to nine out of fourteen over the weekend and rhe eceived the proverbial new hat, traditionally awarded from the late 19th century to a bowler taking three successive wickets. In this instance the County Carlow king batted for three impressive victories at Naas over the weekend. The six-year-old YORKHILL got the ball rolling on Saturday when he scored in the Grade 1 32Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown Park. Then the Closutton clan hightailed it over to County Kildare where, twenty-four hours later, two more challengers stepped up to the crease, both partnered by Ruby Walsh. First it was the seven-year-old SHANEHILL's turn in the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Novice Chase which he claimed easily by four-and-a-half lengths and then it was up to BELLSHILL to prove himself which he did, admirably, by putting five lengths between him and his nearest rival in the Grade 1 Lawlor's Hotel Novice Hurdle.

 

NEARLY TWO AND SIX NOUGHTS!

For the first time, 2015, well on the way to two million racegoers attended the fifteen racecourses owned by the Jockey Club. To be precise, the exact total was 1,946,644 people who enjoyed the 336 organised fixtures last year. That's a a year-on-year increase of 8.5 per cent on 2014. The average number per fixture was 5,794, an increase of 16.9 per cent. And what is more, these statistics do not take in the crowds at The Hill at Epsom for the Derby meeting, when 53,475 paid to watch but there was an estimated number of at least 100, 000 'freebies'. If these are counted then the total figure would definitely have been over two million. The Jockey Club's attendances had previously only come anywhere near this record in 2011 when the audited figure was 1,897,453 racegoers at 365 fixtures.

 

Paul Fisher, group MD for the Jockey Club Racecourses commentedd: "More people than ever before went racing with the Jockey Club in 2015 as a result of efforts to promote our thrilling sport and the experience we offer nationwide, and then giving people an excellent day out when they come racing with us. We must credit the horses and horsemen at the heart of our sport at the same time as our hardworking teams whose efforts allow us to reinvest all profits from staging our racedays back into British racing to support its long-term health. There are many local or event-specific reasons for such a strong overall performance in 2015.

That ranges from the economic recovery in Ireland and the hospitality resurgence helping to achieve a record crowd for the festival at Cheltenham right through to the scramble to see AP McCoy’s final day in the saddle at a sold-out Sandown Park for the Bet365 Jumps Finale in April. No single event has caused it.”

 

ASCOT TO BE DIFFERENT

Britain's most important independent racecourse hasn't quite given one hundred per cent backing to the new authorised betting partnership scheme which requires bookmakers to pay a share of their offshore profit or be barred from racecourse sponsorship, launched recently by the BHA. Yesterday Ascot seems to have withheld its full support whilst still giving favourable treatment to those bookmakers with who do, in fact, have ABP status. The Berkshire track will not go as far as to rule out deals with non-ABP firms. At the end of last years a number of prominent tracks added their names to the agreement, including Fakenham, Newton Abbot and Pontefract which is backed by Britain's two main racecourse operators, Jockey Club Racecourses and Arena Racing Company.

 

A statement from Ascot's officials states: "Betfair, Bet365 and 32Red already qualify and any other bookmakers who agree terms with the BHA will be equally recognised at and by Ascot. Ascot wishes to recognise the contribution to central funding made by digital levy paying bookmakers by introducing bespoke rights for them, to include on and off course promotional activities, and will work with bookmakers to achieve this for new deals and renewals."

 

BHA's CEO, Nick Rust added: "The authorised betting partner kitemark is awarded to betting operators who make a fair and sustainable contribution to British racing from bets accepted through their digital businesses. It is designed to recognise such operators and to begin to create awareness amongst betting consumers as to which digital operators are making a contribution to the wellbeing of British racing. It is pleasing to see that a number of racecourses and racecourse groups are offering commercial benefits to such operators. We are pleased that Ascot has announced it will recognise those betting operators who achieve authorised betting partner status, and will offer commercial packages and benefits to such operators. Ascot is an iconic racecourse with a strong brand, and its approach in recognising ABPs will carry significant weight."

 

SUNDAY 3rd JANUARY

OLD'UNS BUT GOOD'UNS!

An eleven-year-old son of PRESENTING, with only nineteen career starts to his name, came back for another bite of the cherry yesterday in the 32RedSport.com Veterans’ Handicap Chase Final, the inaugural running of this veterans' chase series. at Sandown Park. This new eries was set up as a showcase for the talents and longevity of the sport's senior equine citizens and it got off to a well-earned start. The David Pipe-trained SOLL, who finished absolutely caked in mud, had to did deep to hold off his rival in the final strides. With Tom Scudamore on board for the fifth time, the chestnut gelding was a handy third as he jumped the second-last fence and irrepressibly, slowly but surely, got the better of the Venetia Williams-trained AACHEN, who was denied his hat-trick by a neck.

 

The thirty-three-year-old winning jockey was in hot water again, however, as he was deemed to have broken the whip regulations and picked up a seven-day ban, which will keep him off the track from 16- 22 January 16-22 and fine of £1,150. This was the second time in a week that a major whip controversy had dogged the son of the illustrious racing family

 

PRETTY POLLY

The Nicky Henderson-trained POLLY PEACHUM narrowly reaped her three-pennyworth when she took the 32Red.com Mares' Hurdle at Sandown yesterday ridden by David Bass. Part-owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, the daughter of SHANTOU, because of the heavy conditions, took the longest route throughout, staying close to the understandably slow pace esyablished by the favourite, the Willie Mullins-trained GITANE DU BERLAIS. All things considered the eight-year-old bay mare handled the ground very well and with one quick leap over the last-but-one flight, assumed the ascendancy as the long-time leader flagged. Another challenger presented herself in the form of Dr. Richard Newland's GOVANESS who followed through swiftly, posing a threat right up to the line but the eight-year-old KAYF TARA daughter was thwarted in the final strides and victory went to the Nicky Henderson team.

The Govaness (7/1) followed her through and loomed large, continuing to throw the gauntlet

 

The winning trainer commented afterwards: "She finished second in the Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham last year and she will end her career in that race before going to the paddocks. She looked like she was going to be second to Annie Power in the race, then she fell, but another one of Willie's [Glen's Melody] came and mugged us - morally it was probably the right result, but it was still a bit heartbreaking. She is so tough. She hates this ground. Everybody hates this ground, to be honest. I love her to bits, but I wouldn't fancy her if she was a human because she would be too tough for me. You have to be brave in that ground because she hates it, but she'd still die for you."

 

TAKE A TIP! READ THE GUARDIAN!

The Racing Post’s Press Challenge follows the fortunes of every tip that is listed in the national daily newspapers and also keeps an eye on a couple of its own tipsters. It then publishes its findings at the end of the year. Perhaps unexpectedly, the paper that has come out with most successful results for 2015 is the former 'Manchester' Guardian. Last year tjis newspaper’s tips produced a staggering 93.55% return, more than 2% better than its closest rival. The Guardian ended up with 2,368 winning tips over the year, producing a strike rate of 26%. Their wins included coming up with four of the first five winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Guardian’s lead tipster for the past three years, Chris Cook commented: “It’s been a real team effort. Greg Wood and Tony Paley have done plenty of tipping, as always, and we also had winners from John O’Hara and Chris Corrigan. It’s really pleasing to have won and an indication of how consistent our tips have been. We went to the top of the table in late March and I believe we’ve been there every day since. After we’d been at the top for a few months, we all started to think about how depressing it would be to get run down close home after leading for so long. But fortunately there was no one playing Red Rum to our Crisp on this occasion.”

SATURDAY 2nd JANUARY

CAME IN EARLY

The Sandy Thomson-trained SEEYOUATMIDNIGHT came home about ten-and-a-half hours early when he won the The Dipper Novices' Chase yesterday afternoon at Cheltenham. With

the twenty-nine-year-old Brian Hughes aboard, considered by many to be the leading jockey in the North of England, the son of MIDNIGHT LEGEND put on a front-running performance that marked him out as the one to watch at the National Hunt Festival in March.

The North Yorkshire-based jockey, who notched up his first hundred winners in the 2014-15 season, urged his mount onto a number of spectacular jumps on his way to a three-and-three-quarter lengths' victory. There was a brief moment when looked as though Ryan Hatch was mounting a substantial challenge on BLAKLION but the final fence was dominated by the eventual deserving winner.

 

An obviously delighted winning jockey exclaimed: “It was a bold shout by Sandy coming here, but he loves that ground. He was probably getting a bit lonely in front, but it’s a fair performance on his third run over fences. He’s an out-and-out three-miler.”

 

CHANNEL 4 SHOWN THE DOOR

It's all change on the racing front 2017 as the televising of British horse racing, including the jewels in the crown, the Grand National, Cheltenham Festival, Derby and Royal Ascot, will be handled by ITV, who have taken over the mantel as the sport's new champion. A long period of intense negotiations by the bosses of ITV has resulted in an exclusive contract whereby the sixty-year-old organisation will pay about £30 million over a four-year period for the television rights of a sport it last presented some 31 years ago. More dramatically Channel 4's three decades of continuous racing coverage will come to an end when the network puts out its final coverage of the Newbury's Challow Hurdle fixture on last day of this year. Barely twenty-four hours later ITV will be back in the proverbial saddle, presenting Cheltenham's New Year's Day card. Channel 4, in a controversial decision, took over the televising of racing at the beginning of 2013, becoming the only remaining presenter but, unfortunately, was progressively plagued with terrible ratings, particularly during the last two years of their tenure. It is on record during this time that Royal Ascot lost fifty per cent of its audience; the viewing figures for the Derby reached an all-time low and the number of those watching British Champions Day dropped to a depressing 367,000 compared to 1.1 million when the BBC handled the operation. Clearly Jockey Club Racecourses, Ascot, British Champions Series and Arena Racing Company are praying that their ortunes will be revived by getting rid of Channel 4 and transferring the transmissions to a more popular mainstream channel.

 

UP THE HILL!

The son of PRESENTING had quite an unpresuming start to his racing career – he unseated his rider. Then the six-year-old YORKHILL gelding went on to win the next four races in a row, including last time at Punchestown when he conveyed Ruby Walsh to an impressive eight-and-a-half-length victory in a maiden hurdle and, thereby, earned his wings for a step-up to to Grade 1 company in today's 2Red Tolworth Novices' Hurdle at Sandown. Ruby Walsh takes the ride as usual and he and trainer, Willie Mullins are confident that their charge is up to the challenge of a superior class of rivals.

 

Ruby Walsh commented: "I'm looking forward to running Yorkhill and it will be a stiff two miles around Sandown on that ground, so I don't have any worries about bringing him back in trip. It's going to be a tough race, so it will give us an idea what he's going to do for the rest of the season. He hasn't run in Grade 1 bumpers, but he shows plenty at home, so we're looking forward to him.

 

FRIDAY 1st JANUARY

NO TIME TO RELAX

It's barely a week since this jockey made history by becoming the first woman to a ride a Grade One jumps winner, aboard TEA FOR TWO. Lizzie Kelly will not have had much time to take in this momentous achievement or partake much in any Christmas and the New Year festivities, for that matter as she is on call again today at Cheltenham. The twenty-two-year-old rider will be aboard another horse trained by her stepfather, Nick Williams in the Dipper Novices’ Chase. AUBUSSON, whom she rode at the beginning of November in the Grand Prix Automne Grade 1 Hurdle, lost out to the Willie Mullins-trained THOUSAND STARS by just a nose but made up for it with a four-and-half length victory in the Douglas Family Novices' Chase at Uttoxeter last month. The extended two-and-a-half miles would normally be a bit tight for the seven-year-old son of BALLINGARY but the heavy ground conditions should present enough of a challenge to give Lizzie Kelly the chance of another appearance in the winner's enclosure

 

COOL HAND LUKE

Sylvestre De Sousa may have been awarded the BHA’s Flat jockeys’ title but he wasn't the most prolific performer of the year that has just ended. That honour goes to twenty-seven year-old Luke Morris. The thing is they changed the championship qualifying period this year. It used to be based on the most wins between 1st January and the 31st December but is now from 2nd May 2 to 17th October. The Oxford-born jockey scored 189 times from 1,500 races and accordingly claimed the new award, sponsored by the Stobart company, in recognition of riding the most winners in a calendar year. Not only did Luke Morris ride more winners but he also participated in over 400 more races than any of his weighing-room rivals, notching up over £1.5 million for racehorse owners.

 

Luke Morris’ agent, Neil Allan, commented: “Luke is the ultimate professional, never looks back and always wants to win. He is very lucky to have a good core of trainers who continue to support him with Sir Mark Prescott his main backer. He’s a pleasure to work with, he’s still young and hopefully the winners will keep coming.”

 

BIG DADDY!

Two senior Sires battled it out in 2015 for the honour of being the stallion whose progeny have have produced the most prize money. In the left-hand corner was the eighteen-year-old GALILEO, standing at the Coolmore Stud and over in the right-hand the fourteen-year old,

Dallam Hall Stud-based DUBAWI. The son of SADLER'S WELLS claimed this title for the last four years. This time, however, things changed. It was decided to give the award to DUBAWI, in recognition of the remarkable success of his offspring around the world, not only on the racetrack but in the auction ring. The son of DUBAI MILLENIUM produced no fewer than eleven stars in 2015, including AL KAZEEM, ARABIAN QUEEN, NEW BAY, NIGHT OF THUNDER, POSTPONED and PRINCE BISHOP. The former Saeed bin Suroor-trained stallion also sired the colt bought for £191,000 at the Arqana August Yearling Sale, smashing the previous long-standing record, not to mention the top-selling filly who was acquired for a cool 2,100,000gns. A worthy recipient, it seems.

 

THURSDAY 31st DECEMBER 2015

A GOOD DAY'S KNIGHT

The 20-times champion jump jockey who scored 4,348 times from 17,546 rides (nearly 25% strike rate!) to his credit has been ennobled in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for his services to horse racing. If you were to ask the now Sir Anthony Peter McCoy, however, what he rates as his greatest achievement of his career the response would be quite simple. He wouldn't even mention all those championship titles and victories nor the total number of rides that would just about have taken him about twice round the world. What the Moneyglass-born rider, who claimed his first title in 1996, would cite as his most satisfying success happened in April 2002 when he passed the record of 269 wins in a season established by the only other jockey ever to receive a knighthood - Sir Gordon Richards.

 

Sir Tony McCoy commented: “It is an unbelievable privilege and honour to receive a knighthood. I certainly wasn’t expecting it.”

You can say that again!

It is an unbelievable privilege and honour to receive a knighthood. I certainly wasn’t expecting it.”

 

MAKING ENDS MEET

According to another champion - this time on the Flat – any jockey notching up fewer than 100 wins a season has a tough time of making ends meet. The Brazilian-born rider, Silvestre de Sousa, who is off to Hong Kong for a three-week riding stint in January, claimed his first jockeys' title this year when he rode 132 winners between May and October and 155 winners during the calendar year. Silvestre de Sousa, however, whose thirty-fifth birthday is today, thinks that prize-money in Britain is so low that jockeys have to score at least a hundred times just to make a fair living – something he admits to having achieved over the past five years. Flat jockeys get are paid a fee of £118.29 for each ride and are also awarded a percentage of any prize-money when they win. This extra remuneration ranges from about seven per cent for a winning ride to 3.5% if they secure a place. There is also a compensatory payment of £47.32 if their horse is declared a late non-runner. Out of these earnings jockeys, of course, have to pay out for such items as valets, on-course physiotherapy and travel expenses.

 

Sylvestre De Sousa commented: "At one time you probably needed 50 winners to break even, but you need a lot more than that now. The prize-money is so low now. I thought if I had 100 winners [this season] and made a good living, I'd be happy. So to be champion jockey and have 132 winners was more than I could have hoped for."

 

Looking at other jockeys' results so far it becomes clear that Classic winning jockeys such as Martin Dwyer, Ted Durcan and Tom Queally are just three of many riders who will not make a hundred wins this season. Of course, the situation is different for top riders such as of Ryan Moore and Frankie Dettori, who, though they both rode fewer than 100 winners, made up for that by winning big-races with large prize-money funds.

 

OFF THE RECORD.

Another record remains equalled but not beaten. As reported in Tuesday's Racing News, trainer, Richard Fahey needed only one more win on his current tally of 235 to beat Richard Hannon Senior's record number of winners in a calendar year. The Malton-based trainer, however, had to keep his fingers crossed for another day as his three entries at Southwell failed to cut the mustard runners, only one of them, MITRE PEAK, making the runner-up slot in the Ladbrokes Maiden Stakes. All seemed to be going well for the daughter of SHAMARDAL as she came strongly into the home straight, steered by Tony Hamilton, but when push came to shove the three-year-old filly couldn't beat off the challenge from the William Haggas-traine KARMADAL who soared away to a convincing four-and-a-half length victory.

 

Richard Fahey had another chance yesterday at Wolverhampton to go down in the record books when he had three more runners. Perhaps his best chance was HUTTON in the 32Red Jack Hobbs Maiden Stakes but that wasn't to be because the two-year-old son of LAWMAN

who had gained a place on his two previous starts at Wolverhampton and Chelmsford, was withdrawn. His stable companion, COSMIC STATESMAN retained her maidenhood by only making it into third position in the 32Red Casino Handicap and the last of the trio ABBEY ANGEL failed to sprout wings and finished well outside the frame in the Bet In Play At Coral Handicap.

 

WEDNESDAY 30th DECEMBER 2015

A TAUNTON FIRST

You'd think the County Carlow king must have been to every racetrack in the British Isles in his almost thirty years of training. Today, however, will be a new experience for Willie Mullins when he visits Taunton race course for the first time to saddle just one horse in the seven-race fixture. His regular jockey, Ruby Walsh will be aboard MYSKA in the Happy New Year From totepool Mares' Novices' Hurdle. The five-year-old has only had a trio of career starts to-date, the first being a runaway victory in her bumper debut at Clonmel in the Spring, followed by her impressive win at Thurles in November in the Thurles Mares Maiden Hurdle. So the DAUGHTER OF PRESENTING is aiming for three in a row this afternoon.

 

The Manager for the owning syndicate, the Supreme Horse Racing Club, Steve Massey, commented: "It's good to get her going again. She travelled over on Monday morning and arrived there about lunchtime. She was impressive in her bumper and we were delighted with her first run over hurdles at Thurles. She's a smart mare and it will be interesting to see how she goes in what looks a strong race."

 

NOT A RUN-OF-THE-MILL STABLE, THEN!

Sun Hill stables, at Constable Burton, in Wensleydale, made a lot of significant modifications. Not only has trainer Ann Duffield almost doubled her string of horses to seventy but she has installed the latest equine technology in the form of an Aqua Equine Treadmill to strengthen her trainng facilities at her North Yorkshire yard. The Liverpool-born daughter of a bookmaker, married to former classic winning jockey George Duffield, is one of only two English trainers to possess this state-of-the-art piece of technology, the other being owned by Nicky Henderson. This water treadmill was designed in Ireland by equine chiropractor Rory Deane. One of its main features is that 200 kilos of Epsom salts are mixed with every 250 gallons of water. A lot of research has been conducted into the benefits of Epsom salts, for both horses and humans, particularly the calming effect that the magnesium in the salts has on horses after being absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream. An additional benefit comes from the inhalation of the vapours which can alleviate sinus and lung problems.

 

Ann Duffield commented: "It's an important addition to the facilities at Sun Hill because it doesn't just help with rehabilitation, it's great for core fitness. It helps the horses' build extra muscle and strength, improves posture, movement, cardiovascular fitness, and is very good for joints. It will help us get them fitter, avoid injury and, when injury does occur, it will rehabilitate them much faster, ensuring fewer days racing are lost."

 

DON'T PANIC!

Paul Nicholls has clearly been a little ruffled about comments in the press about the recent, seemingly, declining form at the Ditcheat stables. The champion trainer who went through the whole Festive Season without a win to his name stated yesterday there was no cause for alarm over yard's performance. The stable did get four runners-up at Newbury yesterday but its last number-one triumph was on December 19. Despite the current situation, the fifty-three-year-old Gloucestershire-born trainer is still £200,000 clear of his nearest challenger, Philip Hobbs, in the trainers' championship and has notched up more than £1 million in prize-money for this campaign the bbokies still seem to favour him to stay top of the trainer league. , and is 1-3 with bet365 and Betfred to retain his crown.

 

Paul Nicholls commented: “Everyone expects us to be winning all the time and we can't always be winning. Nothing is wrong and I'm top of the trainers' table. We're just having one of those quiet spells. I didn't have a winner at Kempton this year, but in the last ten years there I've won seven King Georges. I just haven't quite got some of those horses. I just smile to myself that I've been very lucky to have had a brilliant time at those big meetings. We've lots of horses to run in the spring that want better ground. One or two aren't performing quite at their best and some aren't good enough, it's as simple as that. We're very open. If we had horses that were sick we'd say so, but that's not the case. It's been a bit frustrating but we'll be fine."

TUESDAY 29th DECEMBER 2015

IT NEVER WANES BUT IT POURS!

One Somerset-trainer is going through a disappointing season and must be wondering whether his star is on the wane. For the first time since 2004 top trainer Paul Nicholls didn't score at Kempton's two-day Christmas fixture, where SILVINIACO CONTI, the defending King George VI Chase champion, was pulled up when bidding for a ta humble third and his stable stars, OLD GUARD and AS DE MEE came nowhere in their Grade 1 runs. The Ditcheat trainer also failed to saddle a winner on Boxing Day in the seven fixtures across Britain. His strike rate is a disappointing ten per cent this month, compared with his season-wide figure of 21 per cent and this represents his worst performance for the last five years. These figures make for depressing reading compared to last season when the Paul Nicholls' bandwagon notched up a host of top prizes. There appeared to be a lack of confidence in the fifty-three-year-old trainer's yard when confronted by the official stats that December winners and strike-rate are considerably down on the four previous seasons. One result of this is that the yard is at least £200,000 down on its usual prize-money total at this point in the season. Even his level-stakes profit and loss is running at minus £52.25 for the month which represents his worst monthly figure for five seasons. Nevertheless, despite these recent setbacks, Paul Nicholls is way ahead at the top of the trainers' championship and is still the only handler to have broken through the £1 million prize-money barrier.

 

Harry Derham, Paul Nicholls' nephew, commented: "Following a really happy and satisfying Christmas day, sadly [the] hasn't been a great deal of subsequent Christmas cheer at Ditcheat.

For reasons we haven't yet found, the majority of our horses are performing at a level lower than expected, something which is giving us plenty to ponder. The frustrating thing is that, although some are running below par, as a group they look fantastic and nothing obvious is coming to light. "On the back of a season beyond anyone's wildest dreams things were always going to be difficult to reproduce, but rest assured we are all doing our absolute best to make sure the horses will return to form before long."

 

LEXUS AT LAST!

The Lexus Chase must have been one of the races the County Carlow had nightmares about as he had never managed to win it – until yesterday. Willie Mullins has tried to add this prestigious prize to his list of triumphs for more years than he will care to remember and it was clear that he was determined to make it this time as half of the six runners were his. The one that did the honours, however, was the Gigginstown Stud-owned DON POLI who managed to shrug off the last-minute challenge by Michael 'Mouse' Morris's FIRST LIEUTENANT to win by half-a-length. A win is a win but it was not particularly something you would write home about as the son of POLIGLOTE went off the bridle when halfway down the back straight for the final time and, although he claimed the prize, bookies were not particularly impressed by his performance and were only offering in the region of 6/1 for the six-year-old gelding's chance of scoring in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.

 

JOCKEY GETS A CENTURY

Aidan Coleman, who gained his first Cheltenhan victory on KAYF ARAMIS in the 2009 Pertemps Final, has just notched up his 100th winner of the season. This time it was courtesy another KAYF TARA offspring, TARA FLOW, who triumphed in the Leicestershire Bronze Fox Handicap Hurdle by no fewer than twelve lengths. The Venetia Williams-trained mare seemed to have little trouble in maintaining her unbeaten record over fences in this easy victory. The twenty-seven-year-old Innishannon-born jockey has, up to now, benefited from many winners provided by the Newmarket-based trainer, John Ferguson, for whom he was stable jockey but that arrangement, which only began in July, is about to come to an end when he takes up a new role with Godolphin at the end of the season.

 

JUST ONE MORE

A North Yorkshire-based trainer has just equalled the British record for most Flat winners in a year and he did it in style by claiming a double at Lingfield Park. Those wins took Richard Fahey's current tally to 235 which means he only requires one more victory over the next three days to top Richard Hannon Senior's record number of winners in a calendar year. The Malton handler saddles three runners at Southwell today, THRAYA QUEEN, MITRE PEAK and SPIRIT OF ZEB, all ridden by Tony Hamilton and the same number tomorrow at Wolverhampton, COSMIC STATESMAN, HUTTON and ABBEY ANGEL, again with Tony Hamilton aboard.

 

Richard Fahey commented: "We've got bits of pieces of chances and we'll be giving it a go, but at this time of year you have no idea how they are going to run. We have a chance of beating Richard, but I'm comfortable enough joining him. I have so much respect for him and for what he achieved that it's a privilege just to be mentioned in the same breath."

 

Achieving this latest record will be considerably enhanced by the fact that the jockey, Tony Hamilton, is also riding high and reached a career best of 100 wins in a season.

 

The thirty-three-year-old jockey from Hartlepool added: "It's great to get to 100 for the first time. I'm lucky to have the support of a very good stable, and I think more than 80 of my winners have been for Richard, but my agent Niall Hannity has done a very good job for me over the last 18 months or so too."

MONDAY 28th DECEMBER 2015

HE'S ALL HEART!

A nine-year-old son of NETWORK who had to be pulled up in this race two years ago, and afterwards diagnosed with a fibrillating heart, came back to Kempton yesterday to complete his unfinished business. The Nicky Henderson-trained SPRINTER SACRE, who had already demonstrated he was back on form by winning the Shloer Chase by fourteen lengths at Cheltenham in the middle of November, confidently took on the Queen Mother Champion Chase hero, SIRE DE GRUGY in the williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase and claimed the prize by three-quarters of a length. It was clear that Jamie Moore wasn't taking any chances with Nicky Henderson's favourite and made a conscious move to stretch out the field by sending the son of MY RISK into the lead as the runners came out of the back straight but Nico De Boinville was more than a match for that and got his mount to slowly overhaul SIRE DE GRUGY. The race was well and truly in the bag, however, when SPRINTER SACRE produced a dream leap over the last and just had to gallop to the line

 

The winning jockey commented: “It was a very gutsy performance. We were spot-on at the last and Jamie just missed it. He’s a great horse. I’d say we were a bit below the [form of the] Cheltenham run, but still he showed he’s got heart as well as class.”

 

A delighted Nicky Henderson added: “Today he had to be a completely different Sprinter. Two miles round here is just sharp enough for him, he had to go and lock horns with him at the last down the back and you couldn’t just swing straight past him like he can on a stiffer track. There was just that concern about coming back to Kempton, but you’d have to say his heart and everything was in that all right. He was really good and Nico gave him a lovely ride.

They had to be very brave at the last, but he’s that sort of horse — he’s got the class but sometimes you have to tough it out as well. It’s all a step forward, but an entirely different step. The other horse looked to be getting the better of it, but the way he’s kept on you’d have to say there wasn’t a lot wrong. There was the ‘coming back to Kempton’ thing, but he certainly hasn’t remembered what happened.”

 

A STAR IN ASCENDANCE

Leopardstown was the scene for another comeback star who hadn't won a race since November 2013, although gaining some promising placings recently. The Tony Curran-trained FLEMENSTAR was triumphant in yesterday's Paddy Power 'So Quick, So Easy iPhone App' Chase (Grade 1), perhaps giving connections the hope that his injuries were a thing of the past. The ten-year-old son of FLEMENSFIRTH was riding high three years ago when he was in the hands of Peter Casey. Then disaster struck and he looked a shadow of his former self on his return to the track, after which he was sent to be be trained by Tony Curran, son of the gelding’s owner, Stephen Curran. Yesterday's contest wasn't the easiest, as all eyes were on the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX, the long odds-on favourite, who, as usual, went off into the lead from the off and dominated the proceedings. This Arkle winner was bowling along a good eight lengths clear as the runners turned down the back straight but this time maybe the son of DENMAN RED hadn't done enough to secure victory, as his five rivals, led by the Andrew Lynch-ridden FLEMENSTAR, gradually closed the gap. Still in the clear, however, and preparing for the final surge, the favourite, with Ruby Walsh aboard, for some reason, put in an extra stride as he approached the second-last fence and got to close, so, with an audible gasp from the astonished onlookers, crashed to the ground. The eventual winner managed to nimbly sidestep the faller to win by one length, after SIMPLY NED, who had taken advantage of the fall to slip through on the inside to go into the lead, seemed to run out of steam after jumping the last.

 

A delighted Tony Curran, who only took his licence out in the summer and has just three horses in training, commented: “I hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s great to get my first winner in a Grade 1. It was a long battle to get him back. He broke down badly, and it took a year of walking and trotting before he even cantered. It’s been a long way back, but it’s been worth it. Danny Hand rides him at home every day and has him switched off, which is a great help. I thought Simply Ned had the race won going to the last, but I knew our horse was fit – as fit as he had been in a long time - and he’s all heart.”

 

THE MULLINS AND MULLINS SHOW

The County Carlow trainer may have disappointingly only gone home with one Kempton victory on Saturday but he was soon back in business at Limerick yesterday. Willie mullins saddled OUTLANDER and AVANT TOUT in the Shannon Airport Novice Chase and, guess what, they came in one and two. However the task wasn't as easy for jockey, David Mullins as expected. The son of STOWAWAY may well have been sent off the 1/2 favourite but his stable companion, in the hands of another Mullins, Danny, proved to be a doughty opponent but, somehow, when push came to shove, he lacked sufficient stamina to finish what he had started.

 

The winning jockey David Mullins, commented: "He jumps and stays well and went on today's ground, but I think he's better on better. When he runs in a more competitive race on better ground he could be an RSA horse and could have a big shout to going to Cheltenham this year."

 

SUNDAY 27th DECEMBER 2015

WINS ON CUE AND GETS RED CARD!

Yesterday's William Hill King George VI Chase proved to be a nail-biting three-mile battle right to the line with the outcome having to be settled by the judge. As a result the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD claimed the prestigious prize on his fourth attempt. As they came down the back straight it did not look like the nine-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE could dominate the six-year-old son of ROBIN DES CHAMPS, particularly as he fluffed his last jump but he was given a second chance when his Ruby Walsh-ridden rival also failed to clear the obstacle fluently.

 

Winning jockey, Paddy Brennan, commented: "That's the best feeling of my whole career. He's beaten one of the best horses in training, I've beaten one of the best jockeys I've ever ridden against. I'm so proud. It's the best day of my life. People said he didn't stay, but it's taken him to the line to get there. It was a true race, I'm not going to lie and say there was loads there, I got to the bottom of the tank."

 

Unfortunately spoil-sport stewards poured cold water over the County Galway's jubilation immediately afterwards, however, by fining him £4,200 and handing out an 11-day ban for excessive use of the whip. Perhaps an indication of how ferocious the final hundred yards were is that the runner-up, VAUTOUR'S jockey, Ruby Walsh, also collected a two-day exclusion for his efforts.

 

A defeated Willie Mullins commented: "He did everything right bar the last 20 yards. He probably didn't jump the last as efficiently as he could have. It probably looks like his stamina ebbed away. We'll wait and see what we have to run in it [the Gold Cup]. I won't be taking him out because of that."

 

ANOTHER FIRST LADY

It was also momentous occasion for female jockeys at Kempton yesterday. In the Kauto Star Novices' Chase twenty-two-year-old Lizzie Kelly, riding the Nick Williams-trained TEA FOR TWO, went down in the racing history books as the first lady rider to win at Grade One contest in British jump racing. This triumph brought a fitting climactic close to a year that had seen Australian jockey, Michelle Payne, become the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup and Katie Walsh play her part for the distaff side by clinching the Irish Grand National. Lizzie Kelly is one of the few female jockeys who compete professionally over jumps and, a nice touch, her victory was aboard a horse trained by her step-father.

 

The Kempton heroine, notching up her 11th victory of the season from forty-nine rides, commented: 'It is massive for me to say as a jockey I won a grade one. I have come third before but there are always stories about people nearly achieving something. I have actually done it and we have done it as a family which mean a hell of a lot more. It just doesn't get any better. It is important for people to see I can do it. We (female jockeys) are getting something and people are getting more accepting of it. The ambition is now to win another one.'

 

Her mum, Jane Williams had the last word: “We came here today not 100 per cent confident Tea For Two would get the three-mile trip but because we wanted to make some history. We thought we'd give it a go. It is a brilliant day. Elizabeth has been riding racehorses since she was tiny. All she ever wanted to do was be a jockey and win the Grand National. We haven't managed the National yet but we are on our way. Isn't it great to be part of her career and watch her progress? We are thrilled. It is a family business. Everything is done in-house. It is great Elizabeth has made a success of it.”

 

A F******* VICTORY!

The County Carlow trainer, Willie Mullins, didn't go away completely empty-handed after all his endeavours. He had the pleasure of seeing FAUGHEEN get back to something like his former form by triumphing in the Christmas Hurdle with the help of his regular jockey, Ruby Walsh. Having failed to continue his unbeaten record last time out at Punchestown when he was beaten by his stable companion, NICHOLS CANYON, in the Morgiana Hurdle, connections were not sure what to expect from their seven-year-old. Ruby Walsh was clearly anxious to show that the son of GERMANY still had it in him and took the lead from the off. He didn't manage to shake off his four rivals completely, though, and it looked anybody's race as the field came out of the back straight very closely grouped. Then, almost without being asked by his County Kildare companion, FAUGHEEN forged ahead and suddenly the outcome was not in doubt.

 

Ruby Walsh commented: "We went a good gallop, when I gave him a squeeze turning in he started to extend and when I really got hold of him going to two out he pinged it. He quickened really, really well. It was a really good performance. I'm delighted. The turn of foot he showed today at the second-last he didn't show at Punchestown. When all is said and done he has beaten those, whether he's capable of beating Nichols Canyon only time will tell."

 

TUESDAY 22nd DECEMBER 2015

HE KNOWS HIS PLACE

Until yesterday trainer Alan King didn't seem too keen for his eight-year-old grey to run in Saturday's William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton but there his name is among the ten remaining entries at the Monday call. It now looks like SMAD PLACE, the Hennessy Gold Cup winner at the end of last month will go for this contest rather than take his chances in a month's time in the Cotswold Chase. The colour of this son of SMADOUN will doubtless take older racegoers back twenty-five years to the 1990 renewal of what was then called the King George VI Rank Chase when a legendary grey carried off the prize by twelve lengths. The flamboyant front-running style with which SMAD PLACE cruised to victory, also by twelve lengths, must tempt his connections to dream that their grey gelding can emulate the achievement of the great DESERT ORCHID.

 

The Wiltshire-based Alan King commented: “He schooled grand and Wayne (Hutchinson, jockey) was very happy with him. He's been confirmed for the King George and, at this stage, everything is going according to plan.'

 

Connections of two Irish challengers will, however, be willing their charges to make their own bit of history, if either the Gordon Elliott-trained DON COSSACK or Willie Mullins' VAUTOUR can become the first contestant from the Emerald Isle to win this prestigious prize since the Barry Geraghty-ridden KICKING KING came home by a neck in 2005.

 

BOXING CLEVER

The day after Boxing Day is the big feature that many trainers have been preparing for – the Coral Welsh National at Chepstow. At the five-day stage thirty-three horses have been confirmed, including two previous winners, the Venetia Williams-trained EMPEROR'S CHOICE who was victorious in the 2014 renewal and proved he has not lost any of his winning ways by scoring at Haydock five weeks ago. The other horse, mentioned yesterday, is MOUNTAINOUS who delighted the Monmouthshire track in 2013 when the son of MILAN was handled by Richard Lee, from whom daughter, Kerry, took over the reins in July at the the family's Presteigne-based stable and will be seeking to emulate her father's success. The rookie trainer will be having two cracks at the whip, so to speak, as she has also entered RUSSE BLANC, winner of the Celebrate St. Patrick's Day Handicap Chase at Carlisle last March.

 

NO FISH OUT OF WATER

Victory in the David O'Halloran Memorial Rated Novice Hurdle at Thurles may have persuaded the trainer and connections that their son of TURTLE ISLAND is ready for another shot at the Grand National. The Ted Walsh-trained SEABASS came third in the 2012 renewal of the Aintree spectacular and way down the field a year later under the same jockey, Katie Walsh. The twelve-year-old seems to have had a number of problems over the years but seems to have put them behind him with his recent successes. Hence the thoughts of a come-back. The Gunners Syndicate's gelding seems now to be following a similar course to his 2011-12 campaign with a run at Limerick over the Festive Season, followed by an appearance at Leopardstown towards the end of January 24, both of which he won when he was three years younger.

 

Pat Glynn, one of the owners, commented: "Ted said he'd been working well at home and had been showing great spark. We were expecting a good run from him, but not quite that. He finished full of running and he was so fresh in the winner's enclosure afterwards. He had ligament trouble as a five-year-old and was pin-fired and he had tendon trouble the last time. He's a tough horse and Ted's got him back now in top shape. He may go for a winners' hurdle race at Limerick over Christmas or if not the Tim Duggan Memorial Chase at the same meeting which he won four years ago. He'll then go back to Leopardstown for a chase at the end of January he won in 2012. Fingers crossed, if he stays right he'll go for the Grand National. It will probably his last year for it.”

 

MONDAY 21st DECEMBER 2015

FOUR TO GO!

Nine-hundred-and-ninety-six - that's the current tally of the West Yorkshire trainer married to a former show jumping champion, Harvey. Sue Smith, who got her full licence in 1990, moved one nearer to her 1,000th winner when WAKANDA claimed the Sodexo Silver Cup at Ascot, making it a hat-trick for the son of WESTERNER. The improving six-year-old had already added to his credit the bet365 Handicap Chase at Wetherby last October and the At The Races Rehearsal Chase the following month at Newcastle. From the off the bay gelding took the lead in a field that included such notables as David Bridgwater's THE GIANT BOLSTER, Paul Nicholls' UNIONISTE and VIRAK and from two out looked in danger of being engulfed by a host of challengers but Danny Cook kept his nerve and steered his mount to a one-length victory.

 

The winning trainer commented: “We are delighted with him. The horse has improved so much. He is a very economical jumper and him and Danny Cook are like coffee and cream. He is a very tough, game little horse. He is going to have a break now as he has run three times and won three times. He will probably come back in February time but there is nothing mapped out for him. He does need soft ground, though.”

 

ALL SHE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS

The Powys-based trainer who only in July took over the reins from her father, who claimed two Coral Welsh Grand Nationals, is planning to have her family name up in lights again on Sunday for the renewal of this challenging Chepstow contest. Kerry Lee, on a 21% strike rate since succeeding her father, Richard, in July will be saddling the 2013 winner, MOUNTAINOUS with the hope that the ten-year-old son of MILAN can do it again and provide her with the perfect Christmas present as her first big-race triumph.

 

Kerry Lee commented: "Having won it with Le Beau Bai and Mountainous and it would be great to run well in it. Chepstow's one of our favourite courses and is a good, fair, galloping track and you always get nice, soft ground. Mountainous is a great flagbearer for the stable and he's a kind of celebrity. He does require soft ground and an extreme trip. Three miles five is his minimum I think. He's down 5lb from when he won the Welsh National and I think he's as good. The London National was a very big ask on good-to-soft ground - it wasn't really soft enough - and he'll definitely improve on heavier ground."

 

JOCKEY MAY BE OFF GUARD

Another late Christmas present for racegoers could be the surprise entry of the Paul Nicholls-trained OLD GUARD who is entered for the Williamhill.com Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day. The improving son of NOTNOWCATO will be looking to add another victory to his last three unbeaten outings to Cheltenham this season, the latest of which was nine days ago when he took the Stanjames.com International Hurdle by one length.

Entries for this Grade 1 Kempton contest have to be in by today.

 

Co-owner Andy Stewart commented: "He might run in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton if the race cuts up big time, it would make sense for the horse to be there in that case. I might actually fly back from Barbados and go to Kempton to see the race as I really enjoy those two days over the Christmas period at the course as they do a very good job."

 

An interesting clash of interests arises as Paul Nicholls' stable jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, is committed to ride THE NEW ONE, if he runs, for his father, Nigel, so a plum ride could be up for grabs.

 

On this score Andy Stewart added: "I would let Sam decide which horse he wants to ride as I have an enormous amount of respect for him, but we'll have to cross that bridge if a clash arises. We'll stick to our original plan if the Christmas Hurdle is going to be eight or nine runners - if that is the case then Old Guard would be an absentee."

 

SUNDAY 20th DECEMBER 2015

HEATS ON AGAIN!

After last week's fiasco at Lingfield when the wrong result was called, officials at Ascot can be forgiven for their not wishing to rush into a decision about the result of the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle yesterday. With the this Grade 3 contest's running five minutes later than last week's bumper at the Surrey track, where poor light was partly blamed for the mistake, Ascot judge, David Hicks, took about ten minutes to decide he was not able to split the pair in a photo-finish and, therefore, declared the result a dead-heat. So JOLLY'S CRACKED IT and STERNRUBIN were duly announced as this season's joint-winners of the feature two-mile handicap race. The Harry Fry-trained six-year-old son of ASTARABAD, with Noel Fehily aboard, was actually the 7/1 joint-favourite alongside Alan King's WINNING MASSAGOT and it certainly looked on the cards that his connections would pocket the £85,425 first prize, as he overhauled the long-time front-running STERNRUBIN. All credit, then, to jockey, Richard Johnson, who refused to accept defeat and powered his four-year-old son of AUTHORIZED back into contention and held on to bag, as it turned out, half the prize on the line. There were no recriminations this time or threats of appeal, though. Both jockeys, as they circled round on the track, awaiting the official decision, signalled their satisfaction with a joint win and Noel Fehily even put his arm in the air when the result was announced.

 

Harry Fry commented: "All credit to Sternrubin as he blazed a trail and still got back up to force a dead heat - Noel actually thought he had been nutted right on the line. He has run a career-best race and put in the best round of jumping I have seen from him. He will stay over hurdles this season and go chasing in the autumn."

 

Philip Hobbs added: "I thought Richard had gone too quick(ly!) but he seems to have got it spot on - perhaps he did not go fast enough. A dead-heat is probably the fairest result as both horses have run cracking races. Sternrubin has always been a free going horse so we have to ride him from the front."

 

TOM CRUISES TO VICTORY

The fates were on Tom Scudamore's side this week. Not only was he successful in his appeal against a careless riding ban so was able to ride at Ascot yesterday but he was also offered the ride on the Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK rather than on his more regular partner, David Pipe's DYNASTE. So the thirty-three-year-old Somerset-based jockey enjoyed an eight-length victory aboard the son of KAYF TARA in the JLT Long Walk Hurdle. This victory followed the winning gelding's triumphs in the Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle and the Newbury bet365 Long Distance Hurdle last time out at the end of last month, where he effortlessly defeated the reigning World Hurdle champion, COLE HARDEN.

 

Tom Scudamore commented: "He's given me an awful lot of pleasure today. It was very, very tough to get off Dynaste and I'm very grateful connections allowed me to do it. It was very special today and that shows you how special I think he is. He gets a little wound up in the preliminaries but is fine once he's up and running. He jumped very well in the main. I'm very, very pleased and he's improved since Newbury and is a Grade 1 winner again."

 

Th winning trainer, Colin Tizzard added: "He was tanking wasn't he and jumping well. He met every hurdle right and he was not for stopping. I saw the third horse was miles back and I said to Nick Williams [trainer of Reve De Sivola] that his horse has run another great race but he's run into a very good horse. He's potentially frightening. We'll look at the races Big Buck's used to go for. There's the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and I think he'll go there. He was short of work at Newbury and he is a beautiful horse. I'm so pleased to have him and Cue Card in our stable."

 

NO TOUR DE FORCE!

Many punters stayed with their popular successful County Carlow trainer and why wouldn't they? Willie Mullins won the first four races of the day at Fairyhouse yesterday and anyone with an accumulator bet could be forgiven for thinking that this was their day. But shades of ANNIE POWERS' fall at the final hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, the last obstacle proved one-to-many for AU QUART DE TOUR who duly plonked Ruby Walsh unceremoniously on the deck. The son of ROBIN DES CHAMPS appeared on course to give his fifty-nine-year trainer a fab five in a row, and was narrowly ahead as he approached the last in the Fairyhouse Membership 2016 Maiden Hurdle but, for some reason, the Rich Ricci-owned five-year-old mis-judged the hurdle and came crashing down. Both horse and jockey were up on their feet immediately afterwards.

 

SATURDAY 19th DECEMBER 2015

DREAM OF A RACE

A Grade 1 race, first run in 1965, named after an avenue of trees in Windsor Great Park, takes place at Ascot today. The Long Walk Hurdle, despite its name, will be run at cracking pace over the three-mile course. One of the contenders hoping to claim the prize for the fourth successive time is the Nick Williams-trained REVE DE SIVOLA who showed he still has what it takes when competing in the Grand Prix d’Automne at Auteuil in November. Connections are no doubt hoping that their son of ASSESSOR can live up to his name and produce a dream conclusion today by matching the great BARACOUDA's four-time record achieved between 2000 and 2004.

 

Owner, paul Duffy, commented: “It would be a fantastic achievement if he could win it four times. He’d get the credit he deserves,” said the owner. He acquitted himself well in his last race in Auteuil and the ground wasn’t wet enough for him. We’re hoping it’s going to be soft to heavy at Ascot. The more it rains, the better for us. It tend to come up soft, the course suits him so we’re just hoping for a good run. I think the competition is hotter this year, but he’s well and hopefully he’ll run his normal decent race. He’s the horse they will have to catch.”

 

Despite the ten-year-old's impressive record at this Berkshire track, he ranks only third in the betting. Two tough rivals aiming to claim the prize are the Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK and Paul Nicholls' SAPHIR DU RHEU who soundly beat REVE DE SIVOLA in last season’s Cleeve Hurdle.

 

NO SMALL FRY!

In-form trainer Harry Fry will be looking for another triumph in Ascot's last race of the day, the Ladbroke Handicap Hurdle, where he will be saddling his six-year-old, JOLLY'S CRACKED IT, who has demonstrated his fondness for the Berkshire racecourse by clocking up two impressive victories, Ascot Racecourse Novices' Hurdle and the Felix Rosenstiel's Widow & Son Introductory Hurdle, both in November 2014. Since that time the Beaminster-based trainer seems to have purposely kept his son of ASTARABAD in reserve ready for what is expected to be a fiercely-competitive contest.

 

Harry Fry commented: "We have purposefully saved Jolly's Cracked It for this given he goes so well at Ascot, we didn't want to run him since his last race there. It's obviously very competitive, but we're hoping he's still handicapped well enough to go close given his love of Ascot."

 

THE LADIES ARE TOPS!

It's not only on the racetrack where the ladies are leading the way. The Turf Club has just announced that it has appointed its first female senior steward. Meta Osborne takes over from

Neville O’Byrne in the top slot and her position as deputy senior steward will be taken over by Harry McCalmont, who, if all goes well, will automatically inherit the top job in two years’ time. Meta Osborne qualified as a vet in 1983 and created Tinnakill House Stud in 2012.

 

She commented: “It has been a great year for women in Irish racing and it is nice to round it off! It’s also a great reflection on the Turf Club, which is the oldest continuously operating regulatory body in the racing world. I am thrilled and honoured. There are challenges, but I have a good team around me. Every organisation must look at itself and what it does and ask, does it carry out its remit? It is exciting to be part of it.”

FRIDAY 18th DECEMBER 2015

GETTING A LIFE

What do you give a man for Christmas who was crowned champion jump jockey for twenty successive years, won the Grand National, all the biggest races at the Cheltenham Festival and

was elected BBC Sports Personality of the Year? Well the BBC has come up with something special. He's only 41 years old and may yet go onto greater things in the second half of his life but, on Sunday, Auntie Beeb will present Tony McCoy with a Lifetime Achievement award. The man from Moneyglass was named Sports Personality of the Year after winning the 2010 Grand National on Don't Push It, marking the first time a jockey has ever received this prestigious BBC award. By the time he retired last April the 20-time champion had notched up 4,348 British and Irish jumps winners.

 

Tony McCoy commented: "To be receiving the Lifetime Achievement award is a big highlight of what has been an incredible year. It's a huge honour and I'm thrilled to be accepting it so close to home in Belfast. I'm looking forward to what will be a very special night."

 

Barbara Slater, BBC Sport director, added: "A previous Sports Personality of the Year winner and widely regarded as one of the greatest jockeys of all time, AP was the biggest superstar of racing until his retirement. It's an honour to celebrate his illustrious career here in Belfast, Northern Ireland, his home nation, with the Lifetime Achievement award."

 

SHOULD'VE GONE TO SPECSAVERS!

The result of last Saturday's bumper at Lingfield, decided by a photo-finish has been changed. The British Horseracing Association has now decided the winner was the Jonjo O'Neill-trained QUARENTA and not, as announced, Mick Channon's 5/2 favourite, THE BLUE BOMBER. The BHA seems to have belatedly become involved as a result of comments on Twitter and Facebook that the judges may have got it wrong. Admittedly the last race of the day at Lingfield, the At The Races 'Junior' Standard Open NH Flat Race, was run as twilight fast approached but if you look at the photographs printed in the press, they look more like products of a 1900 Brownie box camera than the shots from the hi-tech equipment one expects at today's race tracks. On further examination of these grainy pictures and also after observing a video of the race, it was decided to reverse the result, awarding the prize to Jonjo O'Neill's three-year-old son of VOIX DU NORD by the narrowest of margins – a nose. Backers of THE BLUE BOMBER will not be happy bunnies, however, because the original result stands for betting purposes, although some bookies have agreed to pay out on the amended result.

 

A BHA spokesman commented: "The BHA has been in discussions with racecourses, including Lingfield Park, where concerns have been held over the quality of the photo finish produced where the image is impacted by distance and deteriorating light. These discussions are ongoing with a view to finding a reasonable solution as soon as possible. Additionally, the BHA will consider the processes and practices adopted by judges where the quality of the photo produced is such that it should not be relied upon alone."

 

OLE KING COLE

The first day of 2016 at Cheltenham will now include the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle,

a Grade Two contest usually run at The International in mid-December. The news is that the Warren Greatrex trained COLE HARDEN, the World Hurdle champion, will be lining up for the two-and-a-half mile race. The six-year-old son of WESTERNER reappeared for his run at Newbury in November, when he finished third behind THISTLECRACK in the Grade Two Long Distance Hurdle.

 

The Upper Lambourn-based trainer commented: "Cole Harden will be heading to the Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham on New Year's Day. He came out of his run at Newbury very well and looks great. I am very happy with him. He was third in the Relkeel last year and, fingers crossed, he can go a bit better this year. The plan at the moment will be to run on New Year's Day and then go straight for the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. We want the tank full for March."

 

THURSDAY 17th DECEMBER 2015

A DOUBLE, BY GEORGE!

A welcome double was enjoyed by a Slad-based trainer at Ludlow yesterday. Tom George, with the help of Paddy Brennan, got his hands on a fair slice of the £100,000 prize money on offer. First off the mark, in the Alfa Aggregate Products Novices' Limited Handicap Chase, was DOUBLE SHUFFLE, who, after a couple of earlier creditable performances at Cheltenham, showed he was worthy of appearing for a second time in the winner's enclosure. The five-year-old son of MILAN's first victory was at Doncaster back in February.

 

The winning trainer commented: "He was a bit headstrong but now he's really progressing and is going the right way. I would have preferred better ground, but he coped with it and is a nice horse. I might aim him at a novice handicap at one of the festivals. He's only five and will keep on improving. We'll look after him and look forward to the spring."

 

Perhaps the Stroud-based trainer's star performer was in the next race, the Tanners Wines Handicap Chase, when top-weight, SIR VALENTINO, again with Paddy Brennan aboard, proved his fondness for the Shropshire track by outpacing his closest rival, JAYO TIME and winning by a length and three-quarters.

 

Tom George added: "This has been our plan with him all along and it's great when it comes right. He's paid his way and where we go from now I'm not sure as he's going to be into the high 140s now so he won't find life quite so easy."

 

CUE FOR A WIN

Paddy Brennan was also in the news in connection with the forthcoming William Hill King George VI Chase. Everything seems up for grabs after the shock announcement that the Mark Bradstock-trained CONEYGREE will be absent due to injury but the County Galway jockey is adamant that the Betfair Chase hero, CUE CARD, is a strong contender for this Grade 1 prize on Boxing Day. The Colin Tizzard-trained nine-year-old has proved his weight in gold this season, bagging the Haydock Grade 1 and Grade 2 bet365 Charlie Hall Chase, and will be running in this festive feature for a fourth time, although the closest to victory he has come was runner-up, three-and-a-half lengths behind SILVINIACO CONTI in the 2013 renewal of the three-mile contest.

 

Paddy Brennan commented: "Everything is in his favour. Kempton suits him well as he's got all the gears you need around the track. He's really going to be favoured by the way the race will be run. There may be question marks over whether the other horses underperformed at Haydock, but the way he did it was so impressive and the times don't lie. He ticks all the boxes for me. All good horses go on any ground and over any trip and he fits right into that bracket - there will be no excuses.”

 

THAT'S MY BOY!

This eight-year-old son of OSCAR managed to reproduce the pizazz that he had when claiming the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival over a year ago. The Rebecca Curtis-trained O'FAOLAINS BOY successfully put behind him the disappointing performance at Ascot last month when he was pulled up in the Stella Artois 1965 Chase.

 

The winning Newport-based trainer commented: "He's back to his best, hopefully. He should come on again for that considering it was his first run back - you can forget Ascot. After the RSA we hoped he'd be a Gold Cup horse so we can go down that route, although I think he's on a nice mark for the Welsh National. If he happened to be very fresh next week we'd think about that, then there's the Denman [Chase] back here and he'll definitely get a National entry - his jumping was very good."

WEDNESDAY 16th DECEMBER 2015

BAY WATCH

It can be a precarious business owning racehorses. One minute they are are literally riding high and the next they're out of action. The latest victim is Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, CONEYGREE. The Mark Bradstock-trained son of KARINGA BAY looks like missing out on the rest of the season due to an injury. The impressive eight-year-old, with nine wins from eleven outings, came back with a vengeance last November at Sandown, when, leading from the off, he won, virtually unchallenged, the 188Bet Future Stars Chase by no fewer than twenty-five lengths. Connections were eagerly looking forward to seeing their champion race over the Festive Season, either in the King George VI Chase at Kempton or in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown but it seems they are to be disappointed on both accounts. The Wantage-based trainer has had a severe set-back to his plans as CONEYGREE has suffered what are medically called 'slab fractures' in both hocks. Enforced rest seems to be the order of the day. Research indicates that 71% of horses with such an injury return to racing in time. How much time is not clear but, sadly, it rules out any bid for a second Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

 

ANOTHER MCCAIN IS ABLE!

The granddaughter of the legendary Ginger McCain, who died four years ago, did the family name proud yesterday at Catterick when she achieved her first career success. Abbie McCain, aboard DANCEINTOTHELIGHT, won the racinguk.com Amateur Riders' Handicap Hurdle for her father, the Grand National-winning trainer, Donald McCain, and by a staggering twenty-five lengths. It didn't seem a difficult race for the 16-year-old Cheshire schoolgirl who made most of the running in the two-mile-plus contest.

 

The winning jockey commented: “Just about the best day of my racing life. It was amazing. He just jumped so well and travelled like a dream. He picked up when I asked him to, better I than expected him to. He seemed to really enjoy it and was pinging his hurdles. It's best to let him do his own thing and he jumped really well. I'm hoping to point-to-point through the winter and ride in amateur races as I've got another year in school, then I'm staying on to do A-levels. I'll just ride when I can.'

 

THE RETURN OF THE KING?

It seems that, understandably, trainer Philip Hobbs is not too keen on running his stable star again in the Grand National. BALTHAZAR KING fell heavily at the eight fence (First Canal Turn) and sustained broken ribs as a result of being crashed into by another horse. The son of KING'S THEATRE spent some time at the University of Liverpool’s equine hospital and thereafter a long spell recuperating from his awful injury. It now seems more likely that the eleven-year-old will take on the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

 

The Minehead-based trainer's wife, Sarah, commented: “He has arrived back in the yard and we’re all very happy about that as we’re all very fond of him. The aim will be Cheltenham in March and then we’ll look at taking him back to France again as he really enjoyed that. The Cheltenham race is a conditions race this season, which will suit him much better than it being a handicap.

We might give him an entry in the National but after what happened to him I don’t know if we’d be too keen on taking him back. I know it was bad luck what happened, but he did fall first and then another horse ran into him. We’ll just have to see on that front.”

 

TUESDAY 15th DECEMBER 2015

NOT APPEALING

The result of the Tingle Creek at Sandown Park stays, as it has just been announced that the trainer and connections of SPECIAL TIARA have decided not to appeal the stewards' verdict. That will no doubt come as a relief to the SIRE DE GRUGY team. The eight-year-old son of KAYF TARA was seriously hindered at the final fence when the Gary Moore-trained nine-year-old crashed into him. There was a lengthy stewards' enquiry but the three-quarters of a length victory was upheld.

 

Henry De Bromhead commented: "We have decided not to appeal. We got a lot of advice and we came to the conclusion that there was no point in appealing given the way the rules are, even though the rules are bizarre if you ask me. Special Tiara definitely won't run over Christmas," De Bromhead said. "We will back off him a bit now and give him a breather. He will probably come back for the Tied Cottage and then onto Cheltenham. He ran a cracker at Sandown and it confirmed that he is a top-class two-mile chaser."

 

Two to jockeys , Richard Johnson and Ruby Walsh also had their say about the incident. Whilst agreeing that the stewards had applied the rules correctly, they were of the opinion that perhaps the rules, themselves, needed to be updated.though Walsh questioned whether the rules needed to be addressed.

 

Ruby Walsh added: "I don't think rules in any sport should favour the offender rather than the victim and our rules certainly favour the offender in all cases at the moment."

 

HURDLES NO OBSTACLE!

A possible duel is hotting up in preparation for Saturday's Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. The David Pipe-trained DYNASTE could be lining up alongside Paul Nicholls' SAPHIR DU RHEU. So far this season the son of AL NAMIX has lost twice to the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD, the last time being when he came third in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. As a result of this failures over fences, it looks likely that the nine-year-old will go back to run over hurdles, with his 2012 defeat in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle still fresh in racegoers' minds.

 

Trainer Paul Nicholls commented: "He schooled over hurdles this morning and he went well. The intention is to run in the Long Walk on Saturday and after that we'll have a better idea as to which direction we go in for the rest of the season," Nicholls said at a William Hill King George VI Chase media event on Monday. He came out of the Hennessy fine but he's not that easy to place at the moment. Obviously people are talking about him being a World Hurdle horse but we'll get Saturday out of the way first. If he's competitive and towards the head of the market for the World Hurdle then we'll probably go that way."

 

ABP? THEN WE'LL AGREE!

The controversial authorised betting partner scheme (ABP) has been backed by another racetrack. NEWTON ABBOT has decided to join Arena Racing Company, Jockey Club Racecourses, Scottish Racing and Chester in supporting this new policy. Under ABP rules, racecourses will no longer strike commercial agreements or sponsortships with any bookmaker that has not agreed to make a contribution to racing's finances from any of their on-line activities.

 

Pat Masterson, Newton Abbot's MD commented: "At Newton Abbot racecourse, we recognise the long term value of British racing to betting operators and as such, we are pleased to support the authorised betting partners initiative. Horseracing is the second largest spectator sport in the country, so it's vital that British racing and betting operators work together to ensure the sport receives the funding it needs to continue to provide excellent entertainment and value. We are looking forward to working with other parties in the sport to help establish a long term viable relationship with betting operators and this is an important step forward. We're glad to lend our support for this initiative."

 

MONDAY 14th DECEMBER 2015

A GRAND WINNER

It seems hard to believe but it's been twelve years since a Grand National winner has gone on to win another race under Rules. In fact the last horse to achieve this was the 2003 Welsh National hero, BINDAREE, who won the Aintree spectacular the year before. Now an incredible 103 horses later, along comes the Doctor Richard Newland-trained PINEAU DE RE, last year's Merseyside master, and wins the three-mile-plus Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier) by four lengths at Carlisle yesterday. This was no mean feat as the ground was heavy and required real stamina to make any progress. The son of MARESCA SORRENTO, with Richard Johnson aboard,however, was never far removed from the action and went for gold two furlongs from home. The victory was even more remarkable as the twelve-year-old only ran at Aintree last weekend in the Betfred Becher Handicap Chase on the National course, where, sadly, he came a cropper at the second fence.

 

John Provan, an obviously delighted owner, commented: "It was good to get it (another win after the National) on the board, a bit more history with the horse. Since we got him we thought he acted a bit younger than his years, he felt more like an eight-year-old as a 10-year-old, so we're hoping we've still got a lot to come from this horse. I think he could be back in the National and hopefully run a big race there. It would be exciting just to go back again. He's on a mark over fences of 141, which would be a nice mark for the National, so we'll try to look after that mark if we can. We'll possibly run him over hurdles until then, he might have a short break now and then bring him back to go to Cheltenham and then the National."

 

TWICE DOWN. ONE TO GO?

There he was, eight lengths clear after the last hurdle, cantering home in the Flames Of Newark Novices' Hurdle with the prize for the taking, when suddenly he's on the ground. That's what happened to the unfortunate jockey Sam Twiston-Davies when he was unseated by the Paul Nicholls-trained HAWKHURST in the last moments of the contest. It appears that the JP McManus-owned son of FLEMENSFIRTH attempted to buck and jinked, causing his rider to become unbalanced. Ironically it was the second time this week that Sam Twiston-Davies had come off, the first being last Friday at Cheltenham, when novice hurdler, POLITOLOGUE, swerved abruptly to the right just when launching a challenge.

 

The obviously humbled twenty-three-year-old rider commented: “Apologies to all with Hawkhurst today. I can only say sorry. An error on my part, I’ll be working hard to make sure it never happens again. Things had not been going quite right. It had been a frustrating for a couple of weekends. You try to find reasons why horses get beaten and end up doing things you would not normally do.”

 

SOUND AS A BELL

The new favourite next March's Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle is the Willie Mullins-trained BELLSHILL who made easy work of the Navan Novice Hurdle yesterday in the hands of Ruby Walsh. Things were considerably easier for the son of KING'S THEATRE after his stable companion, STONE HARD, who was heavily backed before the off, ditched his jockey, Paul Townend, along the back straight on the final circuit. At that moment Ruby Walsh realised he had to take his chance and urged the five-year-old into the lead, approaching the fifth hurdle from home. The only possible challenger by now was the Gordon Elliott-trained TYCOON PRINCE. The County Kildare jockey proved that his mount was more proficient over the second-last and took charge from thereon to put a comfortable twelve lengths between him and the Bryan Cooper-ridden son of TRANS ISLAND

 

Ruby Walsh commented afterwards: "It was probably a hindrance [Stone Hard falling] as Paul [Townend] was going a lovely gallop in front and it left me in front. I was then betwixt and between about what to do. He jumped lovely and showed a good turn of foot down to the second last and away from it. He really quickened well today which he didn't do in his bumpers; it's a good sign. Hopefully he's improved since last year and I like this fella."

 

SUNDAY 13th DECEMBER 2015

MOORE FROM RYAN

Winner of the the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington and third in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley, HIGHLAND REEL has now won the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin, thus adding another Group 1 prize to trainer Aidan O'Brien's already long list. Ryan Moore didn't waste any time getting the son of GALILEO out in front with last year's victor, the Andre Fabre-trained FLINTSHIRE, looking a potential threat in fourth position. When they reached the beginning of the home straight the race looked up for grabs, particularly when Vincent Cheminaud urged his five-year-old son of DANSILI powerfully down the centre in a strong bid to retain the prize. Ryan Moore was ready to meet that challenge, though, and produced a final dash from his three-year-old to wrap it up easily in the last furlong.

 

Ryan Moore commented: “He gets away well this horse and is very professional. He was going quite well down the back and the Harbour Master wanted to get on with it and I had to change the plan a little bit. But when I got him balanced in the straight, as soon as he got in a battle he really wanted it. Flintshire is a very high-class horse and he takes some beating in these races and I think it was a very good performance by my horse."

 

WAYNE WAXES STRONG

The last four races of the day at Doncaster were claimed by Wayne Hutchinson, just two weeks after winning the Hennessy Gold Cup. Appropriately the first two successes, and, were for trainer Alan King, for whom he is stable jockey. First off, in the bet365.com Handicap Chase, SEGO SUCCESS staked his claim for the Coral Welsh National by winning this three-mile contest by five lengths. The half-an-hour later the bet365 Summit Juvenile Hurdle gave WHO DARES WINS the chance to do even better than that. The three-year-old son of JEREMY took that contest by twenty lengths. That would a been a good day for most jockeys but Wayne Hutchinson got lucky due to the misfortune of a colleague. As a result of an injury from a fall earlier in the day, Bryan Harding couldn't be aboard the Neil Mulholland-trained SOUTHFIELD ROYALE in the next race so the ride was picked up by our man of the day and he rode the son of PRESENTING to another clear win, this time thirteen lengths. The day wasn't yet over. There was still the bet365 Handicap Hurdle to come and a ride on the Lucy Wadham-trained MINSTRELS GALLERY who duly gave Wayne Hutchinson his fourth win of the day.

 

The winning jockey commented: "That's my second four-timer - the other one was here as well. It's special - they don't come round very often. It's just one of those days. I was fortunate to pick up a spare."

 

Henry Ponsonby, owner of WHO DARES WINS, added: "Alan wanted to bring his stamina into play and he's a very good horse. He's now won five of his last six races and Richard Hughes sent me a text saying he always thought this horse would be top class. He's obviously a Triumph horse and he's going to be campaigned on the Flat next year as well. He's got serious form and is improving all the time."

 

WILD ABOUT HARRY

It was a good day for a young trainer at Cheltenham yesterday. The Harry Fry-trained UNOWHATIMEANHARRY carried off the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle in style, easily beating off any challenge from the Daryl Jacob-ridden FINAL NUDGE.

 

The winning jockey, Noel Fehily commented: "He's not very big, but he's all heart. He's a grand little horse. I took a chance going hard down the inner and not many horses would chance that, they'd duck out, but he's so genuine. I was planning to take a lead for long enough, but I got a bit excited and got there too soon. "Harry has placed him well and hopefully there'll be more success to come for the horse."

 

Harry Fry sadded: "His form was there as he won a bumper first time out and although he was a maiden over hurdles when we got him some horses when they get their head in front get their confidence up. I'd never planned to run him in this race, it was only when it reopened on Tuesday that I put him in, as we were going to go to Wincanton on Boxing Day for a Pertemps qualifier. Obviously with him only being a novice we've got the option of mixing between novice and handicap company. We won't rule anything out at this stage, but at the same time we won't get carried away. We'll take it one race at a time and see where we end up. Noel was a bit critical of himself, saying he got there too soon, but it was a brilliant ride, he nicked ground up the inside all the way round."

 

SATURDAY 12th DECEMBER 2015

ORDERS OF THE DAY

The Enda Bolger-trained JOSIES ORDERS, ridden by Nina carberry, claimed the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase yesterday at Cheltenham yesterday following up his Prestbury Park debut victory at the Open meeting in November. The JP McManus-owned seven-year-old started to assert his authority after jumping the third fence from home and tirelessly tracked the two leaders, SIRE COLLONGES and BALLYBOKER BRIDGE, as they came round the final bend making for the winning post. The former was just ahead over the last fence but the son of MILAN tackled the notorious climb home with great power and left his rival two lengths in his slipstream.

 

The winning jockey commented; "I just let him do his own thing and he's starting to really enjoy it now. He's waiting for the next jump and waiting for the next turn. He always keeps a little bit for himself and stuck it out well. I'm delighted. Enda's done a great job with him."

 

Trainer Enda Bolger added: "We're all wise afterwards - he must have been some certainty the last day! What can I say? Nina knows that track so well and took her time. We were afraid about Any Currency with the weights, but he (Josies Orders) is a pretty good horse and he's only seven, so hopefully we'll be able to keep coming back with him. JT McNamara recommended this horse to JP when he was a young horse and whatever JT says is never far from being right."

 

UP FOR ANOTHER CUP

The Paddy Power Gold Cup winner is aiming to do it again in today'se in Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham this afternoon. The Alan King-trained ANNACOTTY, formerly handled by Martin Keighley, seemed to be drifting towards the end of last season but a change of trainer appears to have done the trick as he showed with his victory at Prestbury Park last time out. A number of old rivals will be gunning for him today such as BUYWISE who was a close second in the Gold Cup and the Paul Nicholls-trained SOUND INVESTMENT (third) but his trainer, who also saddles TURN OVER SIVOLA, is very confident that his son of BENEFICIAL could become the first horse to win both of these Cheltenham features since Jonjo O'Neill's EXOTIC DANCER in 2006

 

Alan King commented: “If anything I think he’s come forward for his run in the Paddy Power. You could say the New Course might suit him better than the Paddy Power track. Up until then his best form was on the new track. It’s more galloping, so we’ll see. I’m happy with him but whether he can do it a second time, time will tell. There’ll be no excuses anyway.”

 

SOLID AS A ROC.

Nicky Henderson was in luck yesterday at Bangor when his hurdler, VYTA DU ROC, successfully claimed his debut appearance over fences in the Stella Artois Novices' Chase. The son of LION NOIR, was the odds-on favourite for this just-over-two-mile contest. Daryl Jacob duly took command on the six-year-old grey in this three-strong field but it didn't all go easy. Approaching the second last obstacle the Jonjo O'Neill-trained THE SAINT JAMES decided to take up the gauntlet. All looked to be settled by VYTA DU ROC but Joshua Moore wasn't about to give up so soon and made another challenge at the last but Nicky Henderson's star bravely persevered and claimed the prize by half-a-length.

FRIDAY 11th DECEMBER 2015

JUST A MIN!

After his first two career starts in France, which weren't 'grand chose à écrire à la maison' this four-year-old son of WALK IN THE PARK, with Ruby Walsh aboard, belied his sire's name and romped home by fourteen lengths in the Festive Maiden Hurdle at Punchestown yesterday. The four-year-old, with the unusually short name of MIN, owned by Susannah and Rich Ricci, is now 5/1 for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham next year, for which he carries the hopes of his connections that he can give them their third successive victory after VAUTOUR in 2014 and DOUVAN this year

 

Trainer Willie Mullins commented: “The rumours are true! He looks to have plenty of gears as I thought they were going a good gallop and yet he took off around halfway. He jumped very well for a horse having his first run on an Irish racecourse, and we will plan for something in the New Year. The first race that comes to mind is the race that Vautour and Douvan won here next month (Grade Two Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle).”

 

TESTAMENT OF YOUTH

This year's champion Flat apprentice has made the final three nominations in the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award. Seventeen-year-old Tom Marquand is certainly a strong contender for the prestigious prize. Nominations were made by sports governing bodies via the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with Blue Peter and a shortlist was compiled by a special panel. The winner will be announced live on December 20, when Belfast hosts Sports Personality of the Year 2015. The other two hopefuls in the running are a sixteen-year-old gymnast, Ellie Downie, and Tulla Kearney, an eighteen-year-old para-swimmer.

 

Tom Marquand commented: "It's been brilliant to get the support from everyone within the sport and the wider public as well. It would mean the world to me (to win), this would top the whole thing off. It's an award which lots of top sports personalities have won - Wayne Rooney - and to be anywhere near the ranks of them is a fantastic thing.

 

Whatever happens, there's never a dull moment for the Cheltenham-born young champion rider. He's off to Qatar to ride one of Richard Hannon's horses on Christmas Eve' followed by a month's trip to Australia to hone his equestrian skills.

 

Will Roberts, assistant director at Youth Sport Trust, added "It is really inspiring to see such great talent coming through in the world of sport. We had a difficult time narrowing the list down from ten to three as all of these young sports men and women have a dazzling future ahead of them and have shone brightly in 2015. We wish them all the best of luck for the night."

 

RACING FOR A TENNER!

Fancy a trip to the races for a tenner, including a drink and a bet? This major new initiative launched by Jockey Club Racecourses, is available all the year round at the more than 300 race meetings hosted country-wide by the fifteen racecourses owned by the Jockey Club, which include Aintree, Cheltenham‎, Epsom Downs and Newmarket. There's just one major condition, however. The offer is only available to students between the ages of 18 and 25. The overall aim of the initiative is to make it more affordable for students to enjoy horse racing and to build up the next generation of racegoers, into the bargain. All British students qualify for the offer and to avail themselves of it, they just need to register their interest on a dedicated website to book their trip in advance.‎ Indirectly the money raised will go towards supporting an important British sport, as The Jockey Club reinvests any money it receives into creating new and better facilities for customers as well as adding to the available prize money to support the livelihoods of those working in the sport.

 

The Group MD of Jockey Club Racecourses, Paul Fisher, commented:‎ "The Racing Union is an invitation to students across the UK to come and enjoy some cracking sport as part of a great social experience at top racecourses all over the country.‎ We think we're offering real value at £10 for entry, a drink and a bet, and perhaps many of the next generation of racing fans will catch the bug this way."

 

THURSDAY 10th DECEMBER 2015

OK PARTNER!

The new Authorised Betting Partners and sponsorship policy, introduced by British Racing recently, seems to have put the cat among the pigeons and appears to be open to different interpretations. 'Authorised Betting Partners' are those deemed by British racing to have a "fair and mutually sustainable funding relationship with the sport" in relation to offshore digital operations. Jockey Club Racecourses, owners major tracks such as Aintree, Epsom, Cheltenham and Newmarket, support the concept of ABPs, as does the largest racing organisation in the UK, the Arena Racing Company.

 

It has recently been revealed that the independent York racecourse has decided that, although it will not enter into any new sponsorship deals with bookmakers who have not signed up as ABPs, races on the Knavesmire may still be sponsored bookmakers who have already have their names associated with existing events. This will be welcome news to top bookmakers such as Betfred and Sky Bet who have not yet signed up as ABPs, for whatever reason. York is, in fact, the first of the four big independent courses to make such a stand with Goodwood, Ascot and Newbury yet to make up their minds.

 

In a statement the racecourse commented: "York racecourse remains committed to the principle that the sport generates a return from all bets that are placed on the sport. As an independent track, York wishes to work with the governing body of the sport and others towards this objective. York welcomes both the positive action already taken by some digital bookmakers to sign up as ABPs, as well as the support York receives through the strong, long-standing partnerships that already exist with bookmakers who sponsor at York. Whilst working to deliver for its existing and valued bookmaker sponsors, the course hopes that it can encourage them and other betting companies to reach a wider settlement with the racing industry. As agreements for 2016 are already in place, there are no renewals pending with non ABP bookmakers.

 

GO EASY ON ANDY CAPP!

Cumbrian-based Nicky Richards, is one of a number of National Hunt trainers who support the idea that official handicappers for the BHA should rate Northern-based horses more leniently than their Southern counterparts. The thinking behind this is that, whereas Northern yards that train horses to run on the Flat are thriving, with the likes of Richard Fahey and Mark Johnston finishing in the top five of the trainers in last season's championship league, national Hunt trainers are having a hard time. Nicky Richards is of the opinion that punitive ratings are a big obstacle to competitiveness.

 

The Greystoke stables handler commented; "Trevor Hemmings supports the north, but perhaps not quite as much as he used to. A man like him might look at the race programme and see there aren't the races for his type of horse. There are a lot of meetings with handicaps where I can't make an entry for ours because the race isn't there. But if you go down South with a horse who might be rated 130 in the North, it won't have a hope in hell. 'It gets very hard to go down South and compete'

 

Top Northern jockey, Brian Hughes, currently fifth in the league table with sixty-three winners so far this season, added: "There are horses who are good enough to go down South but they are few and far between - and sometimes the handicapper over-rates some of the performances in northern novice races. You might win by ten lengths but you've beaten nothing and then it gets very hard to go down South and compete. The rating isn't realistic."

 

CUE TIZZARD'S STAR

The William Hill King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day may well delight racegoers with the participation of the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD, who is reported to to have worked out very well yesterday morning. The nine-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE worked out alongside THEATRE GUIDE, who was runner-up in the Hennessy Gold Cup, with the trainer's daughter Kim Gingell aboard.

 

Colin Tizzard commented afterward: "We have had no hold ups with the horse since he won the Betfair Chase at Haydock and we are anxious to hold our nerve and stick to our routine with him. We do not want to be doing anything differently two weeks away from the big race and I am absolutely delighted with the way the overall build up has gone so far. He looked awesome at Haydock as very few horses have won that race in the style of which he did. The fact of the matter is we have got Cue Card where we want him ahead of the Kempton and, although he is nine going on ten, he seems as good as he was when winning the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham almost two years ago."

WEDNESDAY 9th DECEMBER 2015

TIM FOR A CHANGE

The Cheltenham Gold Cup has a new backer. The prestigious award was, until recently, sponsored by Betfred, who acquired it when they gained control of the Tote in 2011. Three weeks ago, however, this UK-based bookmaker decided to cancel this arrangement due to a disagreement concerning the new policy of Athorised Betting Partnerships, introduced by the Jockey Club. Now it has been announced at the eleventh hour that a new four-year deal has been struck in time for the Festival in March with the Battersea-based telecommunication Service Provider, Timico. This is certainly a good boost for Cheltenham as this company has a strong racing link through its Chief Executive, Tim Radford, who owns a number of good horses, including the 2013 Haldon Gold Cup Chase winner, SOMERSBY and his stable companion, SGT RECKLESS.

 

Ian Renton , Cheltenham's Regional Director, commented: “We approached Timico amongst others when we heard Betfred were not going to renew. We are very pleased to have cut a deal so quickly.’

 

INTERFERENCE RULES. OK!

A top Irish rider has added his own two-penneth to the continuing dispute about the results of the stewards' enquiry at the conclusion of the Tingle Creek Chase last Saturday. Ruby Walsh doesn't take so much the stewards' decision to task but the rules on interference by which they have to abide. The basic problem is that SPECIAL TIARA's chances of victory were thwarted when leading SIRE DE GRUGY jumped to his left over the last fence and bumped into him. The enquiry concluded that the interference was accidental and had not bettered the position of the eventual winner. As a result, connections of SPECIAL TIARA are considering whether to appeal the result. The County Kidare jockey is of the opinion that the interference rules, as the stand, favour the offender and suggests that perhaps they should be amended more in favour of the offended.

 

Ruby Walsh commented: "The interference at the last will cause plenty of debate. As the rules are written, I didn't think the stewards would change the result. The stewards have applied the rules correctly. Are the rules written correctly, though? I'm not sure. I don't think rules in any sport should favour the offender rather than the victim and our rules certainly favour the offender in all cases at the moment. All any steward can do is apply the rules as they are written but there is a line in the interference rules that tries to make the stewards play god, and they can't do that. Nobody can be absolutely certain that the winner would have won anyway. It is almost impossible to change the result and that is not right."

 

These comments followed closely those of British Champion jump jockey-to-be, Richard Johnson who had written earlier: "What happened at the last fence was unfortunate, but there was no intent there. Sire De Grugy always jumps a bit to the left. If you owned or trained the second, you'd be a little disappointed but, although it stopped his momentum, I don't think it cost him the race. It was right to leave the result as it was."

 

THE FRENCH HAVE A WORD FOR IT.

Irish top trainer's County Carlow stables will soon be echoing to the strains of the French language. Leading French jockey, Jacques Ricou, has decided to take on a Winter session of riding out for Willie Mullins and is due to arrive in Closutton in the next few days. British and Irish racegoers may recall that his successful mount, JAIR DU COCHET, sustained a fatal injury when preparing to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2004. Jacques Ricou scored his first winner for the Irish trainer when riding GITANE DU BERLAIS in the Prix Juigne over hurdles at Auteuil in March.

 

Jacques Ricou commented: “I take the boat to Ireland later today and will arrive tomorrow afternoon. It’s very exciting. I have never been to Ireland before so I want to learn more about the country and hopefully improve my English. I’m very happy to go and work for Mr Mullins. For me, he is the best trainer in Europe. I have ridden for Mr (Guillaume) Macaire and some of the best trainers in France, so I wanted to work for the best trainer in Ireland and I think I am a very lucky man. It will be very good to work with Ruby Walsh, who is an amazing jockey. It will be a great experience for me. I am not going to Ireland planning to ride in races. I’m going just looking forward to riding out every morning for my pleasure and my personal enjoyment”

 

TUESDAY 8th DECEMBER 2015

AND THE WINNER IS …

Leopardstown Racecourse hosted a reception yesterday for the announcement of the 2015 Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) Awards, now in its thirteenth year. This time there joint winners of the Horse of the Year Award: DON COSSACK, trained by Gordon Elliott and FAUGHEEN, Willie Mullins' stable star. The Champion County Carlow trainer was back again to collect the National Hunt Award, recognising his hugely successful season at the Cheltenham Festival, where he notched up a record-breaking eight winners and at the Punchestown Festival, where he claimed no fewer than ten Grade 1 wins. In addition his thirty top-level victories worldwide were also honoured. Also in the limelight was Pat Smullen who received his first Flat Award, the culmination of a successful season when he was crowned champion jockey for the eighth time, after accumulating 103 winners.

 

The complete list of winners was:

 

Horse of the Year Award: Don Cossack and Faugheen (joint)

National Hunt Award: Willie Mullins

Flat Award: Pat Smullen

Contribution to Industry Award: Des Scahill

Outstanding Achievement Award: Jonathan Burke

Point-To-Point Award: Enda Bolger

Racecourse of the Year Award: Leopardstown

 

CAVIAR FOR STARTERS

Saturday's Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham looks set to be the attraction of the day when the first three home in the Paddy Power Gold Cup – ANNACOTTY, BUYWISE and SOUND INVESTMENT will be going eyeball to eyeball. The result of the withdrawal of SMAD PLACE and WISHFULL THINKING, after yesterday's confirmations, means that the weights have been increased by six pounds for this £100,000 handicap chase over two-and-half miles. The Paul Nicholls-trained SOUND INVESTMENT will carry the top weight of 11st 12lb and Alan King's ANNACOTTY will have the same weight as the Evan Williams-trained BUYWISE. Interestingly the market leader in the eighteen-strong field, is at the moment Cheltenham Festival champion, IRISH CAVALIER AT 6/1 followed by LITTLE JON and SOUND INVESTMENT on 8/1.

 

HE'S A STAR!

It may be the last race of the day at Southwell but it certainly isn't the least. The Coral Handicap sees the Don Cantillon-trained LA ESTRELLA back at his favourite track, bidding for a record twenty-seven all-weather wins. Fifteen of these victories have been achieved at this Nottinghamshire location where the twelve-year-old last ran in March when he was, however, denied the record by two lengths. After an eight-month holiday the son of THEATRICAL was back in action two weeks ago at Wolverhampton where, ridden by Graham Lee, he only managed fifth slot in the 32Red Handicap. A star by name and deed, LA ESTRELLA, matched the champion, STAND GUARD's record of twenty-six wins at Lingfield last January and now has to outrun eight rivals today to go down into the history books.

 

Trainer Don Cantillon commented: "He's in great shape. He's come out of the Wolverhampton race well, had a couple of workouts and I'm very pleased with him. Southwell is definitely his favourite course because it's the most gruelling of the all-weather tracks. It's the combination of the Fibresand and long run-in that suits him. I'm hopeful he'll finish in the first three. You have to remember that these days he should be running in claimers and sellers, but unfortunately there are none of those races available to him at the moment. However, the handicapper has given him a bit of a chance by dropping him a couple of pounds."

 

MONDAY 7th DECEMBER 2015

BROOKE NO DEFEAT!

The Betfred Becher Chase is a recognised trial in the run-up to Aintree spectacular, the Grand National and included such big guns as the 2014 winner, PINEAU DE RE and he fell at the second fence. In the event it took a 20/1 outsider to show his sixteen rivals how to run a race. The James Moffat-trained HIGHLAND LODGE, ridden by Henry Brooke, returning to the winner’s enclosure for the second time in a week, put on a classy display of jumping to win the three-mile-plus contest by two-and-a-quarter lengths. This striking win also marked the progressive return of a former champion conditional jockey who, as he admitted himself, had had a problem handling the pressure when he joined the ranks of the senior jockeys. In many ways it might be said that the Merseyside track owed yesterday's victory to the Middleham rider after his 2014 Grand National experience when, riding well clear of the rest of the field, he was hampered by a stray horse and denied the prestigious rize.

 

The winning jockey commented: “Absolutely unreal. I’m absolutely buzzing. That was unreal. Unreal. Up the run-in, I thought ‘God, I might actually win this’. I can’t tell you what it means. I did think he might have a chance with bottom weight on ground that testing. My only mistake is I forgot to record the racing on television. Hopefully, I can kick on again from this,” he added. It’s awful when you lose your claim. I had a good start to this season but then it had just slowed down. Now this. I’ve won a Grade Two race before but this is special. Unreal. Those fences, they still take some jumping.”

 

SPECIAL APPEAL

Despite yesterday's headline in RACING NEWS, someone did, in fact, begrudge Sire De Grugy the Tingle Creek victory. It soon became apparent that not everyone rejoiced in Gary Moore's nine-year-old's claiming the prestigious prize. The connections of SPECIAL TIARA, beaten by three- quarters of a length after being hampered by the son of MY RISK at the final fence, are considering whether to an appeal against the result of the subsequent enquiry.

 

Henry de Bromhead, trainer of the KAYF TARA gelding commented: “I think we would have won but for getting a bad bump and that we were unlucky not to get the race. I’ve spoken to Sally Rowley-Williams, Special Tiara’s owner, and we’re thinking about lodging an appeal.”

 

DJAK'S ALL RIGHT!

Trainer Willie Mullins bagged a one and two yesterday in the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase. The horse that really impressed, however, was DJAKADAM, runner-up in the Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cup, who, making his Grade 1 debut, gave Ruby Walsh a dream of a ride. It was obvious that some of the County Carlow trainer's trainees were at the fixture to get their first run in but the son of SAINTS DES SAINTS make easy work of it as he powered to a twelve-length victory.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He was very good and jumped super. The trip was ideal for his first run of the season."

 

Willie Mullins added: "I'm absolutely delighted with that performance considering I was a bit worried about him during the week. Had the race been in England he wouldn't have travelled, but with Punchestown being so close to home I decided to run him. That was an electric display. I'm not sure where he'll go next but that was an excellent start to his season. Valseur Lido ran a good race and will appreciate going back up in trip."

SUNDAY 6th DECEMBER 2015

TWO FOR @MICHAELSCU

A couple of happy owners will have drunk a toast or two to this Ross-on-Wye trainer last night after their respective horses triumphed at Chepstow. With only thirty or so horses in training at his Eccleswall Court yard, Michael Scudamore upheld the the legendary family name by gaining a double at the Monmouthshire track. First off was the nine-length victory by the Adam Wedge-ridden KINGSWELL THEATRE, owned by John Murray, in the Angela Nettlefold Memorial In Aid Of SSAFA Novices' Limited Handicap. The six-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE seemed outpaced early on in this contest when in fourth position but managed to close up and surge into the lead between the last two obstacles, holding on confidently to claim the prize. The double came up quickly in the very next race, the Glamorgan Law Handicap Hurdle, when Brendan Powell went on to score by three-quarters of a length aboard five-year-old DAN EMMETT, owned by Mrs Lynne Maclennan, making it the five-year-old's second win from fifteen starts, although he has clocked a couple of close-run results recently.

 

DON'T BEGRUDGE DE GRUGY!

It looked like the Tingle Creek Chase was going to be a disappointment after the celebrity contestants started pulling out at various stages in the past week. The result, however, gave racegoers a kind of a fairytale ending when the Gary Moore-trained SIRE DE GRUGY got his act together and triumphed in this Grade 1 feature race. The victory was somewhat marred afterwards by the request for a stewards' inquiry, to investigate an alleged bumping at the last fence with the eventual runner-up, Henry De Bromhead's SPECIAL TIARA, but, after a ten-minute deliberation, the nine-year-old son of MY RISK was proclaimed the winner, thus regaining the crown he last claimed as his own in 2013.

 

Winning jockey Jamie Moore commented; "In my mind, this is the best day. Everyone makes Cheltenham the be all and end all, but to me this is as good as winning at Cheltenham and to bring him back just makes it that bit more special. Dad gets horses rated 90 back so I knew he could do it. He's not in a routine any more, I wake up and I think what shall we do with him today. As long as I keep him fit then I can do something completely different to what he's used to doing. We've just sweetened his mind up, he's a very genuine horse - he just needed a sharpener."

 

Owner Steve Preston added: "He was back to his very best and our faith in him has paid off. Gary's brilliant. So's Jamie. They've tried every single thing they can to get him back. I thought he had a chance today if he put his best foot forward and he truly delivered."

 

AND SWIFTLY FLOWS THE DON

This year's Grand National winner has raised a few questions as to his chances of adding the Cheltenham Gold Cup to his list of credits after his four-length defeat in yesterday's Betfred Lotto '100k Cash Giveaway' Chase. The Oliver Sherwood-trained MANY CLOUDS seemed to be responding well to jockey Leighton Aspell's encouragement after the last fence and the ultimate winning distance gives no real clue how difficult it was for the winner, the Willie Mullins-trained DON POLI to get the better of the son of CLOUDINGS in the final hundred yards or so. But that ultimately takes nothing away from Bryan Cooper's success, triumphing as he did, despite, as he stated afterwards, a slipped saddle. The Tralee-born jockey was clearly delighted with the return to form of the undoubtedly classy Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old.

 

Bryan Cooper commented: "He did it well. He's always going to come out better at the end of a battle. He's tough. He's never going to look impressive in what he does but it was his first run - Many Clouds had had a run - and my saddle slipped, which had to have an effect. It must have been pinching him. I knew after going a circuit it was gone but you can't be pulling up and I had a breastplate, which helped. That was a grand start back for him."

 

Oliver Sherwood added: "I hate finishing second but he travelled and jumped and I thought we had the winner beaten going to the last. We were giving 5lb away and every pound counts. I'm delighted with his enthusiasm and there is plenty of petrol there, he'll probably come on for that again. He loves his race, he wears his heart on his sleeve and he'd go through a brick wall for you. There are loads of opportunities for him, the Cotswold Chase is a possibility or the Denman - we'll go back and have a think."

SATURDAY 5th DECEMBER 2015

ITCHING TO GO IN THE TINGLE!

SIMONSIG has been scratched from today's Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown park because he is lame. As a result, Barry Geraghty has now switched mounts to be aboard MR MOLE, trained by Paul Nicholls, who also has the ante-post favourite VIBRATO VALTAT, last year's Henry VIII Novices' Chase winner. The Ditcheat-based trainer will be hoping that one of these two entries can present him with a tenth Tingle Creek success. With the withdrawal earlier in the week of Willie Mullins's Arkle hero, UN DE SCEAUX, this leaves Gary Moore's 2013 winner, SIRE DE GRUGY, in the seven-strong line-up. All eyes will be on the two-time runner-up, the Mick Channon-trained SOMERSBY, particularly because Nina Carberry will be in the saddle, aiming to claim this Grade One race for the first time for a female jockey. After having to withdraw SIMONSIG, Nicky Henderson still has one last hope for victory with JOSSES HILL.

 

A DASHED DREAM

To be in the lead when jumping the last fence at Sandown is something an amateur jockey must dream about but for Tom David it was no dream. This was really happening in yesterday's John Dunsdon Memorial Cup. Then, as often seems to happen in night-time reveries, things started to go wrong. The twenty-five-year-old rider suddenly became unbalanced and then fell of his mount, SILVERGROVE, on the run-in. That was after the amateur rider had worked very hard throughout the race and managed to persuade his seven-year-old son of OLD VIC to make the ultimate daring jump in a bold attempt to fend off the late challenge by Katie Walsh aboard the favourite CONAS TAOI. All this was to no avail, alas, as, it seems, faulty tack caused the saddle to slip, giving the rider nowhere to go but ground-wards.

 

Trainer Ben Pauling commented: "At first glance it looks as if Tom has just fallen off, but the saddle tree broke. He'd given it a great ride to that point but at the Pond fence the webbing that holds the stirrups in place came loose. The leather didn't break, but effectively it was a see-saw action with the stirrups sliding under his weight. You can clearly see them go - it was a real shame. Tom put his weight back onto his left foot and you can see them give way. When he put his weight back on to his other side, he had no chance of staying on."

 

OBEAUX IN TUNE

The Alan King-trained LABEL DES OBEAUX, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, produced a career-best performance to win the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle at Sandown Park yesterday by one-and-a-half lengths, beating off any challenges from market leaders, CAPTAIN CHAOS and FRANCIS OF ASSISI. It now looks as though the four-year-old son of SADDLE MAKER will go for the Betfred Challow Hurdle at Newbury on at the end of December.

 

Trainer Alan King commented: "It was a good performance and he will either go for the Challow or go to Cheltenham on Trials day. That might be better as it'd give him a little longer and give him a bit of Cheltenham experience. When he came back in after the summer I was very worried for the first couple of months as he was showing absolutely nothing and I actually warned David and Terry [Sewell and Warner - owners] that he might not be any good. Then things just clicked, he probably got used to all the hills, and we thought he'd run a good race at Ascot and he did, he may have won but for the mistake at the last. I was a bit worried about the quick turnaround, but we were happy with him at home and he's a proper soft ground horse so we thought we'd let him take his chance. He seems very straightforward and he loves soft ground, which I think that's the key to him."

FRIDAY 4th DECEMBER 2015

MORE TO COME

According to trainer Richard Hannon his entry in next week's Longines Hong Kong Mile is shaping up fine but he admits it could be a tough challenge, particularly as there is a strong local favourite to confront, in the form of a six-year-old son of SHAMARDAL. The Godolphin-owned TOORMORE, winner of this Summer's Lennox Stakes and Topkapi Trophy will arrive at Sha Tin on Saturday, accompanied on the flight from Heathrow by the David O'Meara-trained MONDIALISTE, runner-up in the Keeneland Breeder's Cup Mile at the end of October and a challenger for the Longines Hong Kong Vase, Sir Michael Stoute's CANNOCK CHASE, whose last victory was in the Patterson Canadian International Stakes, also in the same month. A couple of bookmakers can't quite agree on the son of ARAKAN'S chances. Sky Bet have him at 20/1 but Paddy Power are a little more cautious, offering a pared-down 11/1 for the four-year-old. The local favourite, albeit from Australia, mentioned above, is the highest-rated Hong Kong horse of all time, six-year-old ABLE FRIEND, leading the betting at 5/4, pretty common amongst Bookmakers.

 

Richard Hannon, saddling his first runner at Sha Tin, commented: "He's in great form and will like the track out there. The ground shouldn't be a problem. Fingers crossed he'll run well, but it looks a very good race."

 

OWN UP! HE'S A WINNER!

“ …. and the 2015 racehorse 'Owner of the Year' is Anthony Oppenheimer!” The latter received this accolade and two other awards from the members of the Racehorse Owners Association (ROA) at their 34th annual awards, sponsored by Weatherbys, held last night in London. The recipient, among other ventures, owns the Hascombe & Valiant Stud near Newmarket, where he bred the John Gosden-trained GOLDEN HORN, winner of four Group One races, including the Investec Derby and Europe's richest race, the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The three-year-old son of CAPE CROSS was also awarded the 'Outstanding Middle Distance Horse' prize.

 

The final list of awards was:

 

Weatherbys Horse of the Year: Golden Horn

Racing Post Owner of the Year: Mr A E Oppenheimer

The Pantechnicons Outstanding Novice Hurdler: Douvan

Racing UK Outstanding Hurdler: Faugheen

Rewards4Racing Outstanding Novice Chaser: Coneygree

Channel 4 Racing Outstanding Chaser: Coneygree

ARC Outstanding All Weather Horse: Tryster

Tattersalls Outstanding Juvenile: Air Force Blue

Darley Outstanding Filly and Mare: Simple Verse

Crimbourne Stud Outstanding Sprinter: Muhaarar

Betfred Middle Distance Horse: Golden Horn

Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Outstanding Stayer: Brown Panther

Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder Outstanding Miler: Solow

Racing FX Special Achievement Award: Wishfull Thinking

 

FAIR'S FAIR

Three online betting companies have been registered as the first official authorised betting partners for British racing. Betfair, bet365 and 32Red were already recognised as having a "fair and mutually sustainable funding relationship with the sport" even before the controversial policy was first officially announced in October. It has already been revealed that Betfair has made a three-year-deal and the other two other companies, it seems, are committed to similar terms and conditions but no details have yet been released. Betfair's arrangement means that the world's largest Internet betting exchange will contribute an agreed percentage of the racing revenues from its exchange and sports book for three years from next April. The new percentage rate has been worked out by the BHA, the Racecourse Association and Horsemen's Group.

 

Nick Rust, BHA's CEO commented: “We are delighted to have signed up our first authorised betting partner under a multi-year deal, and welcome the enlightened approach taken by Betfair. They clearly value our sport and recognise the interdependence between racing and betting, as well as the benefits associated with being an authorised betting partner, in particular from the commercial parties in British racing that are signing up to the model. It is vital for the sport, and the tens of thousands of people deriving their livelihoods from it, that we move our funding from our biggest customer group on to a more sustainable footing, including taking the necessary steps prior to the introduction of the horserace betting right to incentivise digital businesses to make a contribution back to British racing."

 

THURSDAY 3rd DECEMBER 2015

SCEAUX WHAT!

The Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on Saturday may have lost one of its star entries on the withdrawal of the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX but racing fans have the consolation that Nicky Henderson's Arkle Chase Trophy winner, SIMONSIG, making his first run over fences, will be among the challengers. Many bookmakers were alarmed by this sudden pull-out and have now rushed to make the Paul Nicholls-trained VIBRATO VALTAT their market leader. There alternative for SIMONSIG was the Betfred Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon on Sunday but trainer Nicky Henderson announced last night: "We had been leaning towards running Simonsig at Sandown anyway, but we have now started leaning much further."

 

Mick Channon-trained SOMERSBY, who was second behind SIRE DE GRUGY two years ago and runner-up again last year behind DODGING BULLETS, has also been confirmed to run, steered by Nina Carberry, whose biggest win so far was her victory on ORGANISEDCONFUSION in the 2011 Irish Grand National.

 

The County Meath-born rider commented: "I can't wait. It's a good opportunity, so hopefully it will go well. I'm sure Somersby will run his race. He's finished second the last two years, and second in a Champion Chase as well, so he should definitely be bang there and run a good race."

 

FLUSHED WITH ANTICIPATION!

This dual course winner hasn't scored since November 2013, although he has been runner-up on a number of occasions, is to return to Cheltenham to bid for the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

THOMAS CRAPPER, trained by Robin Dickin, will be looking to improve on his last two appearances at the Festival when he had to settle for second slot. The eight-year-old son of TAMURE is mooted to have got back some of his old form and has a fair chance of bagging the £100,000 Grade 3 handicap chase.

 

The Warwickshire-based trainer commented: "We gave him an outing over hurdles at the October meeting and his blood was only 50-50 at the time. It was not quite how you would like it but I thought he was well enough to run. We missed the Paddy Power because his bloods were upside down, but they are all right now. He did a serious piece of work on Tuesday morning and went nicely, so I'm hoping he is back on song. He just loves it around Cheltenham. He has run some massive races there and hopefully will do so again next weekend."

 

A REEL CHANCE!

The Irish top trainer, Aidan O’Brien, is hoping to score his first victory at the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races when he saddles HIGHLAND REEL in the HK$16.5 million LONGINES Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in ten days' time. The GALILEO son has already displayed his superior talents by front-running the G1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in the middle of August and winning by an impressive five-and-a-quarter lengths. Next time out he came fifth in the September G1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, a race won by the John Gosden-trained GOLDEN HORN. The three-year-old colt has European credentials, too, having had three starts in European Classics so far this season.

 

Aidan O’Brien commented: “Highland Reel was a little unlucky not to be second in the Cox Plate but we were very happy with his run and he’s been in good form since. To be honest, I think he is equally effective over a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. He is a very uncomplicated and tactically versatile horse, which makes the jockey’s life a lot easier. I think both the likely ground and the track at Sha Tin should suit him well. From day one, we have always thought a huge amount of him and nothing has happened in the meantime to alter that view.”

WEDNESDAY 2nd DECEMBER 2015

ANOTHER HURDLE TO CROSS

The twenty-two length defeat in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last Saturday has persuaded trainer and owner to change direction for their six-year-old. Paul Nicholls and Andy Stewart have announced that SAPHIR DU RHEU will now revert to hurdling. The six-year-old grey will most likely be prepared for a crack at the Ladbrokes World Hurdle in March and not the Cheltenham Gold Cup as originally planned and maybe resume over the larger obstacles again next year. Connections are probably envisaging a similar scenario to what happened to BIG BUCK'S. The twelve-year-old son of CADOUDAL unseated Sam Thomas at the last fence in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup, went back over hurdles and had eighteen straight wins thereafter, only missing out on the last two races (third and fifth) before he retired. Another contributory factor must be that SAPHIR DU RHEU was a decisive runner-up to the Warren Greatrex-trained COLE HARDEN, leaving a host of top-notch talent in his wake, including ZARKANDAR, AT FISHER'S CROSS and UN TEMPS POUR TOUT.

 

MANY, HAPPY. RETURNS!

This year's Grand National winner is firing on all pistons according to his trainer. The Oliver Sherwood-trained MANY CLOUDS will be taking on Saturday’s Betfred Giveaway Chase at Aintree.

The Lambourn-based trainer commented: “I’m expecting him to run a big race. I would rather not see Don Poli in the race, but I will be disappointed if we’re not bang there at the finish. The race we run in will have only half a dozen runners. I don’t want him having a hard race but I want him to be competitive. He’s ready to rock n’ roll. Bindaree, the winner of the 2002 National, they tell me is the last horse to go on and win another race. I want to get that monkey off his back. I was initially disappointed with his comeback run at Wetherby last month. But reflecting on that performance, he was bang there with Cue Card at the second-last fence then he blew up. He’s not missed a beat since that run. He’s schooled well last week with Leighton Aspell [who rode him to win last year’s National] and did his last bit of serious work this morning.”

 

THANKS A MILLION (OR TWO)!

A three-year-old daughter of KODIAC was snapped up by Coolmore yesterday for 2.1 million guineas (£2,105,000 in real money!) at the December Mares Sale at Tattersalls. The former Richard Hannon-trained TIGGY WIGGY, who failed to get into the winner's enclosure last season, was, nevertheless, the 2014 heroine of the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in November. In a very busy racing career she was successful in all but two of her eight starts. She was, however, retired after her disastrous run in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock when she came last.

 

Trainer Richard Hannon commented at the time: "She owed us nothing - we said through the winter that if she never won again it would not matter a jot as she had done us proud - and now she can look forward to a new career."

 

John Magnier, Ireland's leading thoroughbred stud owner, added: “She was a great race filly, and she will go to Galileo. She is a lovely mare and the Hannons have done a very good job with her.”

 

TUESDAY 1st DECEMBER 2015

IT'S LATER THAN YOU THINK!

One of the racing calendar's biggest and most popular event will be late next year, at least later. It has been decided to run the 2016 Grand National at 5.15pm. instead of at 4.15pm, which has been this equine extravaganza's starting time since 2006. The reason for the change is that Aintree officials are hoping that this later scheduling on Saturday, April 9 will attract more TV viewers. The race was televised by Channel 4 for the third time this year and produced viewing figures of 8.8 million, better than last year but considerably lower than the last BBC televising that notched up a record eleven million viewers. This new off time is expected to be confirmed this morning during the Grand National launch at Oliver Sherwood's stables in Lambourn. On the whole it looks like the bookmakers will be in favour of this change.

John Baker, MD of Aintree racecourse, was quick to deny that Crabbie's, the current sponsors of the Grand National, have decided not to continue their three-year deal after it runs out next year. He maintained that negotiations were still continuing with the ginger beer manufacturing company who, to their credit, raised the value of the Aintree race to £1million for the first time.

 

NO CONTEST

Disappointingly, Saturday's Tingle Creek Chase will lack one eagerly awaited contest between the Willie Mullins-trained UN DE SCEAUX and Nicky Henderson's SPRINTER SACRE who, it has just been announced, has been withdrawn. The Count Carlow king's seven-year-old, winner of his last four starts over fences, including the Arkle Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival, now tops a field of ten runners. The son of DENMAN RED is also a popular ante-post favourite for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and is now 4/7 for his reappearance in the two-mile Grade One on Christmas festival Saturday at Sandown Park. UN DE SCEAUX may be odds-on favourite but he might not necessarily have an easy time of it as he will be up against some strong opposition, including the 2013 winner, the Gary Moore-trained SIRE DE GRUGY. In addition, even though he has removed his star from the contest, Nicky Henderson still has a couple of aces up his sleeve. There's SIMONSIG who followed up his 2013 Arkle victory when finishing a creditable runner-up to his stable companion, BOBS WORTH in the Betfred Hurdle at Aintree at the beginning of last month. Then there's JOSSES HILL to watch out for. He came third behind UN DE SCEAUX in the Arkle Challenge Trophy at Cheltenham in March.

 

A MERRY DANCE

Yesterday's 188BET Novices' Chase at Plumpton was something of a rout. There were only three runners and the winner scored by twenty-two lengths. This is not to say that the Gary Moore-trained VIOLET DANCER, winner of the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February, is not developing into an impressive chaser as he hones his jumping skills over fences, making this his second victory from three starts. Supporters of this son of BERTOLINI would have only got the shortest of odds, 1/5, but their money was safe and they never had any anxious palpitations as jockey, Joshua Moore, gave the five-year-old his head, allowing him to romp comfortably home.

The winning jockey commented: "He was probably a bit flat in places. He wasn't quite his usual self, but he's done the job and that's all that matters. All he had to do was pop round, but at times he didn't have his usual zest. Two weeks ago he ran a brilliant race here and it probably took its toll a little bit. It doesn't matter, he's done what he's had to do. I think he'll be a fair chaser. There's a nice race for him over fences, for sure."

MONDAY 30th NOVEMBER 2015

THAT'S CHAMPION!

A champion stayer on the flat, winner of the Ascot Gold Cup (2), Irish St. Leger (2), Yorkshire Cup and Goodwood Cup, is now the six-time Champion National Hunt sire and could make it seven-time by the end of this season. KAYF TARA, standing at Overbury Stud in Gloucestershre, founding sire of the Aramis stud, which includes none other than the Cheltenham champion, KAYF ARAMIS, is now in third position, behind Glenview Stud's PRESENTING and Grange Stud's MILAN, in the stallion league table for producing active jump sires in Britain and Ireland and has notched up 46 winners this season and earned £642,450 from stud fees. The now 21-year-old son of SADLER'S WELLS added to his impressive record over the week-end, when two of his sons, IDENTITY THIEF and THISTLECRACK, triumphed in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and Grade 2 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, respectively.

 

NICE TRY!

The twice Olympic track cycling champion made a tentative start to her ambition to ride in the Foxhunters' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. Victoria Pendleton was aboard the Alan Hill-trained MINELLA THEATRE on her first time over fences yesterday in the Black Forest Club Members at Black Forest Lodge Point-to-Point near Exeter. From the outset it seemed that the twelve-year-old son of KING'S THEATRE was having a job keeping up with the rest of the field and eventually the would-be jump jockey had no option but to pull him up.

 

Alan Hill said afterwards: “It was very pleasing. It was a competitive little race. She gave him a very good ride and she pulled up two out, which was very sensible. She rode him sensibly, the ground was a little soft for him, but, having said that, he jumped brilliantly. She enjoyed it and it was a very good start for her first ride over fences. I should think we will look at entering horses in the next couple of weeks. Now we've got the first ride under the belt which is very important, I should we'll be looking at a couple of weeks to see if we can get her on a racecourse again and have another go in a point-to-point. The most important thing was that we got her good race experience. The horse jumped well, she rode him well and now we've got that first ride under her belt. That will be our aim - to have another run in a point-to-point in the next couple of weeks.'

 

A HERO'S WELCOME

Gordon Elliott's yard is riding high so far this season and, as the weeks go, the results get better and better. The County Meath-based trainer wasn't taking any chances in the Grade One Bar One Racing Drinmore Novices’ Chase as he had three entries. The original favourite was his FREE EXPRESSION, ridden by Barry Geraghty, but, for some reason, the market went off this son of GERMANY and plumped for the Bryan Cooper-ridden NO MORE HEROES. The market's instincts were subsequently justified as the son of PRESENTING showed himself to be a class above his rivals when he took this two-and-a-half mile contest comfortably. The third Cullentra House runner, CAPTAIN VON TRAPPE, obviously was not well tuned in to the sound of music and soon weakened and finished last.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: “It’s been a lucky race for us. Five years ago Jessies Dream was my first Grade One winner when winning this, and this is our third win in the race. No More Heroes is a good horse. He’s tough, he stays, he jumps, does everything. Over hurdles he spent a lot of time in the air, but it looks like chasing is his game. I’d say the further he goes the better he’ll be. I’d imagine he’ll run again at Christmas, and I wouldn’t rule out Kempton (Feltham Chase), we might bring him over with Don Cossack to keep him company.”

SUNDAY 29th NOVEMBER 2015

'S MAD PLACE, ALL RIGHT!

The Alan King-trained SMAD PLACE, with Wayne Hutchinson aboard, showed the other fourteen runners how to win a race in yesterday's Hennessy Gold Cup, when the dynamic duo triumphed by twelve lengths ahead of the nearest challenger, Colin Tizzard's THEATRE GUIDE. The son of SMADOUN dominated the race 'early doors' and, being better in control of his jumping than most of his rivals, the outcome seemed never in question. When the field reached the cross fence, only two of the big names, FINGAL BAY and the long-time favourite SAPHIR DU RHEU seemed to be travelling well enough to still have a chance. The more their jumping skills failed to live up to expectation, however, the more SMAD PLACE improved and he then just surged away from them about three out to claim the prestigious prize.

 

Winning trainer, Alan King commented: "We hoped for a good run but that's taken my breath away. He (Hutchinson) was very brave, but I'm not sure that they were the tactics we discussed. We thought he had a great chance last year but I was trying to be very clever and we came here without a run. This year we went to Kempton first and he was a different horse. I learnt from my mistake last year and Kempton helped get his confidence back. e loves to be up there and he deserved to win a big race as he'd been knocking on the door. He pricked his ears early on and was so relaxed within himself. From three out I thought they are not travelling and I knew it would only take a silly mistake to stop him, but he met the last few on a good stride."

 

So after all the pre-race hype, SAPHIR DU RHEU was fifth, BOBS WORTH sixth and THE GIANT BOLSTER seventh. Also a sad result for amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen who was given the chance to ride in this esteemed event by his father, Roger, and was unseated by YOUNG MASTER at the first fence.

 

A CRACKING RACE

A KAYF TARA son duly announced his appearance on the long-distance scene by taking the bet365 Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury yesterday by six lengths. The Colin Tizzard-trained THISTLECRACK, with Tom Scudamore in the saddle, took on hardened campaigners such as Nicky Henderson's WHISPER and Warren Greatrex's COLE HARDEN in this three-mile-plus Grade Two contest and beat them at their own game.

 

Tom Scudamore commented: "He was unlucky not to win two Grades Ones last year. He travelled very well in the race and hopefully there's more to come. It was very straightforward, really."

 

Colin Tizzard added: "As Tom said, he's grown into a big, strong horse now. To be honest, I told everyone he would need the run, but that he might be classy enough to win. He jumped and never missed a beat and travelled strongly, and I'm sure he'll improve massively for that.

We don't have to decide (about going over fences) yet, but we thought we'd give him a couple of runs over hurdles to see if he is good enough to challenge for the World Hurdle.”

 

FORGOTTEN DREAMS

Well. They went the distance and it didn't ease the pain! As mentioned yesterday, TRIP TO PARIS was sent off to run in the Japan Cup in an effort to provide some sort of consolation for the owners and connections of the late RED CADEAUX. Unfortunately the Ed Dunlop-trained four-year-old only managed fourteenth slot. That said, the first 15 horses in the race were within four-and-a-half lengths of the winner, SHONAN PANDORA, who, stepping up to a mile-and-a-half for the first time, succeeded in keeping the Japan Cup on home ground for the tenth year in a row. The four-year-old daughter of DEEP IMPACT is the seventh filly to win Japan’s biggest international race, even though she had never won outside Grade 2 company before. It looked for a while as if Ryan Moore, one of Japan's favourite foreign jockeys, might seize the day on outsider LAST IMPACT but victory was snatched by the local femme fatale in the last 50 yards.

 

Ryan Moore, who claimed the coveted Cup on GENTILDONNA in 2013 commented: “He ran a very brave race, and it’s a shame for his trainer Mr Matsuda, who’s retiring at the end of the season, that he couldn’t have just held on.”

 

SATURDAY 28th NOVEMBER 2015

STEADY AS A ROCK

ROCK ON RUBY's victory in last week's Coral Hurdle at Ascot has turned out to be his final appearance on the racetrack. In the process of securing his two-and-a-half length win the 10-year-old suffered a severe injury to a tendon, necessitating his retirement. Among many sucesses ROCK ON RUBY got the better of OVERTURN in the 2012 Champion Hurdle and, although he was officially trained by Paul Nicholls, much of the credit for the victory was laid at Harry Fry's door who supervised the yard where the son of OSCAR was trained.

 

Trainer Harry Fry commented: "It is with great sadness we would like to inform you that our superstar hurdler and horse of a lifetime Rock On Ruby has been retired. There were quite a few tears shed by our staff in the tack room this morning when I told them the news. No wonder, because he is a much loved character and a bit of an institution here at Seaborough. Ruby suffered a tendon injury after his win in the Coral Hurdle at Ascot on Saturday. If he was a younger horse we might have considered treating the injury and bringing him back a year or more later. Ruby is 10 now and his owners have generously given him to my wife Ciara who adores him, and has always looked after him at home. She will ensure that he remains the elder statesman of the yard for the rest of his life. It is quite fitting that, like a true champion, he bows out at the top of his game. What a phenomenal athlete."

 

THE DAN AND HARRY SHOW

The Newbury Grade 2 Fuller’s London Pride Novices’ Chase saw the Dan Skelton-trained THREE MUSKETEERS gain his first victory over fences in style. The son of FLEMENSFIRTH only managed third on his first attempt at the bigger obstacles at Huntingdon in the 32Red Novices' Chase but that run seems to have brought him along. Harry Skelton supervised a skilful demonstration of clean jumping and rode his mount to beat the favourite, the Harry Fry-trained ACTIVIAL by four-and-a-half lengths. The Skelton brothers were also successful in the first race of the day, the Associates Juvenile Hurdle, when the French horse, KASAKH NOIR, made an impressive hurdling debut, beating off any challenge to win by sixteen lengths. It looked like it could be a treble for the lodge Hill brothers but in the end they had to settle for runner-up slot for their favourite, UPEPITO in in the bet365 Open Handicap Chase.

 

FIELD OF DREAMS

'Go the distance' and 'Ease his pain' are quotes straight out of the film, Field of Dreams, with Kevin Costner but they seem highly appropriate for trainer Ed Dunlop and his team at this particular time. The Newmarket-based trainer and connections are still coming to terms with the recent sad loss of RED CADEAUX just a week ago, after suffering a fatal injury in the Melbourne Cup. So it seems to help with this period of grief, it has been decided to make the trip to the Land of the Rising Sun for tomorrow's Japan Cup at Tokyo racetrack. The four-year-old won the Ascot Gold Cup in June and made it to fourth place in the Melbourne Cup last time out - the very race that resulted in the demise of his illustrious stable companion. Along the way the son of CHAMPS ELYSEES has notched up the Chester Cup. So it is hoped that the new star of the la Grange Stables can bring a little joy to the end of a difficult week.

 

Ed Dunlop commented: "It has been a difficult week following the devastating news last weekend, but our memories of Red Cadeaux will be cherished forever. Thank you to everyone who has offered messages of condolence and support - we appreciate these greatly and they help to ease the burden during dark times. Red Cadeaux is irreplaceable, but we are fortunate enough to have another horse capable of competing on the international stage and Trip To Paris continues on his global adventure in the Japan Cup.”

FRIDAY 27th NOVEMBER 2015

 

A BOOST FOR 'BRIDGIE'

David Bridgwater firmly believes his ten-year-old 40/1 shot for tomorrow's Hennessy Gold Cup will fly in the face of the bookies' estimate of his chances of victory. THE GIANT BOLSTER, admittedly, hasn't savoured success since January 2014 when he won the Argento Chase at Cheltenham by seven lengths but did subsequently produce a couple of good Prestbury Park placings after that. His last appearance was at the end of April in the Punchestown Gold Cup when he suffered a heavy fall two fences from home. The son of BLACK SAM BELLAMY seems, however, to have got over that mishap and has moved on in his preparation for this prestigious early-season contest.

 

David Bridgwater commented: "The Giant Bolster's preparation has gone well - he came in earlier from his summer break and is in really good order with himself. I don't think he was particularly right last season. Punchestown hasn't affected him - I just think it was one of those tired falls. We have left the headgear off on Saturday just to do something different and I’m hoping for an encouraging run. Tom Scudamore came into school him this morning and, Tom will tell you himself, it was the best the horse has jumped since we can't remember when. I see the likes of Bobs Worth and Smad Place are well fancied and if you fancy them you have got to fancy us because on our day, like a few in there, we are a good horse on a decent mark."

 

MADE OF STERN STUFF

The Philip Hobbs-trained STERNRUBIN gave Richard Johnson an impressive front-running ride when he claimed the Bet365 Intermediate Hurdle by four lengths at Newbury yesterday. The four-year-old was well clear coming into the back straight and even had a chance to catch his breath for a moment or two around the final bend but then had enough in reserve to accelerate away when the rest of the field got close to him again before three out. All the son of AUTHORIZED had then to do was beat off a non-too-convincing challenge from the Evan Williams-trained JOHN CONSTABLE which he did comfortably.

 

The winning Minehead-based trainer commented:"He's always taken a keen told, which is why he still wears the hood, but today, once we went around the bend by the winning post, he gave himself a chance which last season he didn't. He's a bit lucky he's still a novice for this season. He won a very small race at Exeter but it was in May. He seems to cope with soft ground, but two miles in novice company is what he'd enjoy."

 

NEW TALENT ON STREAM

The 6/4 favourite was beaten into second place by an 8/1 shot in the Grade 2 bet365 Novices' Chase at Newbury yesterday. The Colin Tizzard-trained NATIVE RIVER surged past the long-time leader, David Pipe's UN TEMPS POUR TOUT, ridden by Tom Scudamore, to score by three-and-three-quarter lengths. The Dorset-based winning trainer last claimed this Grade 2 novices' chase in 2007 when JOE LIVELEY won by an incredible eighty lengths after Paul Nicholls' NEVADA ROYALE fell at the last and the Philip Hobbs-trained MINELLA TIPPERARY unseated Tom O'Brien at the fourteenth, leaving just two horses standing. Colin Tizzard must now be hoping that his stable has a new promising talent to take them on to other victories.

 

Garth Broom, who is Garth part-owner of NATIVE RIVER commented: “I though if he'd finished fourth we'd be delighted. He was the only five-year-old in the race and and I thought we were mad trying to give 7lb to the French Champion Hurdle winner. I'm a little shell-shocked to say the least. We always thought a bit of him and we wanted to find out more today. It looks like he might be going that way [to the RSA Chase] and we might look at the Feltham next.”

THURSDAY 26th NOVEMBER 2015

AINT THAT A SHANE?

The first race of the day, the Killinan Beginners Chase, will be the fencing debut for the Willie Mullins-trained SHANESHILL who hasn't been seen on the track since April when he won the Coolmore N.H. Sires Leading Light & Ocovango Novice Hurdle by an amazing thirteen lengths. Three weeks later the County Carlow king decide to try a little experiment and see whether the son of KING'S THEATRE could handle an extra four furlongs and run in the three-mile Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle. The result was a near-disaster when the six-year-old faded fast, clearly having nothing left, two from home. So today's two-and-a-quarter event should be a breeze, giving his jockey, Ruby Walsh, the chance to show off his mount's superior jumping technique.

 

WORLD OF A DIFFERENCE!

Most horses are remembered for their racing skill; a minority for their quirkiness and unruly behaviour on the racetrack. The Emma Lavelle-trained SEE THE WORLD so far belongs in the latter category. In his debut race at Wincanton at the end of January this son of KAYF TARA went into a clear lead four furlongs out but then hung badly left and off course when he was passed that he dropped back fifteen lengths behind the leader in fifth position. Then wonders will never cease, the five-year-old managed to recover and get back into contention one furlong from home and powered down the last hundred yards of the home straight to win by four-and-a-half lengths. It remains to be seen how SEE THE WORLD handles his jumping debut this afternoon at Newbury.

 

The winnng Andover-based trainer commented: "It was entertaining all round! He seems in very good form. He's been away for a racecourse gallop and he's had plenty of schooling. I'm not saying he won't improve for the run, but he's in good shape. I'm not sure if two miles is his correct trip but he's got a really nice cruising speed. There are only six runners so it's a lovely starting point. His jumping is very good. He's done a lot of schooling over fences because he's a big horse and he doesn't respect hurdles as much at home. He schooled super this [Wednesday] morning so we hope he'll be the same on the track. There has been no sign of any wayward tendencies.”

 

HE'S WORTH IT!

As CONEYGREE is out of the Hennessy Gold Cup, that means that Nico(lai) De Boinville is free to ride BOBS WORTH on Saturday. This will be welcome news for the twenty-six year-old North Hampshire-born jockey, who has been riding high after claiming the Gold Cup aboard CONEYGREE at Cheltenham in March. Although Nicky Henderson is always quick to stress that he has a good team of jockeys, it will not have gone unnoticed that Nico de Boinville has notched up twice as many wins for the Lambourn stable as any of the other members of the “team of jockeys” this season, particularly since Barry Geraghty left to be the stable jockey for JP McManus. The son of BOB BACK is now the 6/1 second-favourite for the Newbury event, although the betting scene is changing rapidly now the big favourite is not running.

 

Trainer Nicky Henderson commented: “Nico will ride Bobs Worth. Nico has ridden him before and won on him at Aintree. We’ve been very happy with Bobs Worth. Everything has gone well and his schooling has been brilliant. He’s in good form, but wouldn’t want a lot of rain.”

WEDNESDAY 25th NOVEMBER 2015

A RISK TOO FAR

Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury will not now be honoured with the presence of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, CONEYGREE, after a less-than-satisfactory work-out yesterday, mooted to be due to foot pain. The schooling session had been planned as the final decider whether he would run or not, with his regular jockey, Nico de Boinville, aboard. It has now been revealed that his owners are not satisfied with his performance and have decided not to risk it.

 

Sara Bradstock commented: “I'm afraid we're not running. He just didn't school well enough. He overreached which he's never done before which suggests he's not comfortable. He didn't jump badly but for him, it wasn't him. We've always said if there was any residual pain left we weren't going to take a risk. He definitely wasn't himself. Obviously the prime thing is to get him feeling absolutely on top of the world and not worrying about his foot. We've got a month to either the King George or the Lexus.”

 

WEIGHTY CONCERNS

One of the consequences of CONEYGREE's withdrawal from the Hennessy Gold Cup is that the Paul Nichols-trained SAPHIR DU RHEU'S will have additional weight to carry, now 11stone 12 pounds, which will be a distinct disavantage when confronted with his two most feared rivals, BOBS WORTH and SMAD PLACE. It seems training has been proceeding according to expectations for the now top-weight son of AL NAMIX.

 

Owner, Andy Stewart commented: "Sam (Twiston-Davies) schooled him yesterday over 40 obstacles and he didn't fluff his lines in the way he did as a novice," said Stewart. "Tomorrow he will be jumped over three or four along with the other horses going to Newbury. Paul Nicholls would tell you it doesn't matter, but the weights are going up 9lb, which I think helps the Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth, who I was very impressed with on his return after having gone through a difficult patch. If you think he was only beaten four lengths by Big Buck's in the World Hurdle before he took to fences, then why we're 3-1 favourite and he is a much bigger price is beyond me."

 

Ruby Walsh, who has ridden many times for the Stewarts, including being aboard the legendary Big Buck's, concurs that the increase in weights will present additional present problems but added: “Saphir Du Rheu will have to put up a Denmanesque performance to win on Saturday. His style of racing should help though as he likes to be ridden relatively close to the pace, jumps well and stays strong. If he wins with top weight on his back - he'll be a serious contender in the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture."

 

BACKING LOST FOR DERBY

Another withdrawal of sponsorship in the news. This time it concerns Yarmouth racecourse and their staging of the 2016 East Anglian Derby. Racing officials have been informed that after two years, Totepool will discontinue its backing.

 

Simon Franklin, a Yarmouth director commented: “I’d like to thank Totepool and Betfred for their sponsorship. There’s no doubt that the profile of the competition has been raised over the past couple of years. 2016 will be the 70th running of the East Anglian Derby and I hope we can continue that trend by maintaining the prize money levels [Do It For Twiggy picked up £15,000 for his win in September] but whatever happens the competition will go ahead."

TUESDAY 24th NOVEMBER 2015

LIFE OF BRAIN!

The Coolmore EBF Stallions "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle at Kempton was the scene for the Nicky Henderson-trained BRAIN POWER to stage his winning seasonal return to the track under the stewardship of Peter Carberry. The son of KALANISI, last seen not in his best light in a Grade Two bumper at the Aintree festival in April, following a victory in a two-mile National Hunt flat race at Newcastle in February, was clearly intending to show off his jumping skills in this two-mile contest. The race was progressing at what seemed a gentle pace so the four-year-old was urged to overtake the Nick Gifford-trained THEO'S CHARM when they went over the second-last from home and even build up a decisive lead. This situation did not go unchallenged by Dan Skelton's TWO TAFFS who threw down the gauntlet after the final jump but perhaps left it too late to stop the Michael Buckley-owned gelding from stealing the show by a length.

 

Winning trainer, Nicky Henderson commented: "This race has been a bit of a 'Jonah'. West Wizard started off odds-on in it twice and got thumped every time. We were going to run William Henry but he will go to Newbury on Friday instead. It was a slightly messy race and I don't think we learnt a lot but he is a nice horse. They've absolutely crawled, which is a shame. He has got lots of pace and he will quicken well off a good pace. I think he would enjoy himself more if they were going that little bit quicker."

 

A WALK IN THE PARK

The Supreme Novice Hurdle winner and Punchestown Champion Novice, DOUVAN, made light work of his nine-and-a-half length victory in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Beginners Chase at Navan, won last year by stable companion VAUTOUR, marking a successful transition to his career over fences. The son of WALK IN THE PARK was favourite for next March's Arkle before this result and this win has consolidated his position as the 7/4 favourite.

 

Trainer Willie Mullins was obviously delighted with the win: “He jumped well – I don’t think we learned anything except that he’s able to jump fences. We probably learned he’s able to handle himself when he stood too far back off the [last] fence. He was cute enough and got his two feet out and recovered well, which is a good sign in a horse. The Racing Post (Novice Chase) at Leopardstown would look the next race. I don’t think we’ve got time to put another run in. He’ll probably just have a good schooling session somewhere.”

 

VAIN GLORY!

Another runner also had a successful debut over fences and that was the Nicky Henderson-trained VANITEUX, who who won the two-mile Starlight Novices' Chase by no fewer than nineteen lengths at kempton yesterday. With twenty-six-year-old jockey, Nico de Boinville, aboard, the son of VOIX DU NORD seemed hardly to break a sweat when achieving this impressive victory. Richard and Lizzie Kelvin-Hughes's gelding proved he was a good hurdler seasons ago, but, for some reason, his connections decided not start him chasing last year and he continued over hurdles, coming second in both the Greatwood and International Hurdle at Cheltenham.

 

The winning Lambourn trainer commented: "Vaniteux has been as natural as you can get. He nearly could have been doing this last year after being third in the Supreme - he had a tough year but a very productive year without winning over hurdles. Something like the Wayward Lad back here over Christmas could be his next race as the ground is always as good as anywhere for the time of year. He will get further but doesn't need it as he has got plenty of gears - he took a blow at the last on the far side and Nico sat still but then kicked on around the bend. That was just the job."

 

MONDAY 23rd NOVEMBER 2015

MORE WHERE THAT CAME FROM!

A Japanese favourite won the Grade One Mile Championship at Kyoto racecourse. In this case I mean the jockey and not the horse. A frequent popular visitor to Japan, Ryan Moore claimed the esteemed prize aboard the Noriyuki Hori-trained MAURICE. The Mile Championship is one of the most prestigious autumn grade-one events for milers, established in 1984. The four-year-old son of SCREEN HERO, winner of the Grade One Yasuda Kinen at the track back in June, dominated in the early stages and, when asked, produced a powerful run just about a furlong from home, leaving his nearest challenger, FIERO, one-and-a-quarter lengths behind.

 

Ryan Moore commented: "I knew that he was probably going to be the best miler in the race and it was just a question of getting a clean trip and hopefully if we kept things straight forward, he would be able to show that he's the best horse, and he did. He showed a really good turn of foot in the last 400 meters. I rode him when he was a two-year-old but he's developed into a fast, strong horse."

 

CHASING A FAIR DEAL

Using its new status as an 'authorised betting partner' Betfair has been announced that it has struck a new two-year deal to sponsor the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, thus expanding its sponsorship portfolio with the track's owners, Jockey Club Racecourses. This follows on from last month's publicised JCR initiative that they would only accept new commercial arrangements with what are now termed authorised betting partners, that is, those companies who are credited with making a fair contribution to British Racing through the necessary funding agreements. Betfair and JCR have agreed on an initial two-year partnership deal providing secure naming and branding, also including the three-mile-five-furlong £40,000 Betfair London National, both of which will be held on December 5.

 

The Jockey Club's group chief executive, Simon Bazalgette, commented: "Betfair is a major supporter of British racing and The Jockey Club is delighted to expand our relationship together on account of their status as a founding authorised betting partner of our sport. This is further endorsement of that initiative so soon after its introduction. Through its long-term commercial arrangements with British racing, Betfair has recognised the importance of the sport receiving fair returns and the resulting benefits this, as well as opportunities such as race sponsorship, provides to their business."

 

Betfair's CEO, ,Mark Brooker, added: "As a long-standing commercial partner of racing we are proud and excited to announce our sponsorship of the Tingle Creek, a race that is synonymous with excellence. The Tingle Creek's place in the calendar complements our existing marquee races such as the Betfair Chase and Betfair Super Saturday, so it is a welcome addition to our National Hunt sponsorship portfolio. Racing is part of our company DNA and we have always sought to work with our racing partners in a structured and mutually beneficial manner, this sponsorship has come as a result of working together in that spirit."

 

ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES …

Events at Navan yesterday played out a little too harshly for the Gowran Park hero of the day before. Things didn't get off to good started from the very first race of the day, the I.N.H. Stallion Owners E.B.F. Maiden Hurdle, when Bryan Cooper was aboard the Willie Mullins-trained POTTERS POINT, who made good progress and was ahead before the fourth obstacle out. Then the son of ROBIN DES CHAMPS seemed to have nothing extra to give, as the runners entered the straight and, although still in the lead two out, the five-year-old was passed at the last and dropped away to third position some four lengths behind the winner. As if that wasn't disappointment enough, the horse who claimed the £7,000 prize, was Jessica Harrington's WOODLAND OPERA, ridden by none other than - you guessed it - Robbie Power, the jockey Bryan Cooper saved from potentially serious complications when his leg became entangled in the stirrups as his horse came down. Then, to add insult to injury, the twenty-three-year-old jockey from Tralee, could only make fifth position aboard the Gordon Elliott-trained COGRYHILL in the next race. Then just when he must have been thinking that things couldn't get any worse, his mount in the fifth race, EMPIRE OF DIRT, fell three fences from home when disputing the lead!

 

SUNDAY 22nd NOVEMBER 2015

HERO OF THE DAY

What better way to herald Betfair’s National Jockey Day at Haydock today than the wonderful example of selfless conduct demonstrated between two rivals during a race at Gowran Park yesterday. The two jockeys concerned were competing in the Join Gowran Park Golf Club For 499 Novice Hurdle and both fell at the second fence from home when GUNNERY SERGEANT, ridden by Bryan Cooper, fell and bumped into NEVERUSHACON, with Robbie Power aboard, bringing him down, too. As he fell the latter's leg got tangled up in the stirrups and the rider was left dangling helplessly from his horse. Bryan Cooper fortunately noticed this and immediately took action. After separating himself from his own fallen horse, he rushed to grab hold of his colleague in an effort to stop his agitated mount from galloping off with his rider in such a dangerous position. If the horse had managed to get away there is no doubt that Robbie Power would have sustained serious injuries. Not only did the Tralee-born jockey save Robbie Power from any serious harm but he also stayed on hand until the endangered jockey could get completely free with the help of others at the track. No wonder Bryan Cooper was hailed as a hero on Twitter!

 

WINNING ON CUE

Already a winner of this prestigious prize in 2013, though failing to impress in it last year, CUE CARD got back to his previous form and won again, leaving his old rival, SILVINIACO CONTI, trailing seven lengths in his slipstream. This is the contest that these two sparring partners have called their own, taking over from where KAUTO STAR left off and, to be sure, his trainer, Colin Tizzard, will be hoping that his nine-year-old will be able to match the record three wins established by that legendary Paul Nicholls-trained champion. An added dream for the owner and connections of the son of KING'S THEATRE would be that CUE CARD could go on to claim the King George VI Chase at Kempton next month, followed by the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, which he has won twice already, then this Venn Farm superstar would also win the £1 million bonus attached to the three races by Jockey Club Racecourses this season.

 

The winning trainer commented: "Why would we run away from Kempton? There is no reason not to go there. If he is in the form he is in now he would run in the Gold Cup, that is the ultimate race and he has proved he stays. He did it easier today, it was always going to happen, I thought. It is lovely to have him back. We thought Wetherby was brilliant but we were getting the conditions of the race and today he was taking them all on and he has done it really well. That is class horses for you. They say class is permanent, form is temporary. We have had to deal with his little problems and now he is back to his very, very best, it is fantastic for us. "If you had seen him on the gallops this week, he wants to get to the top of that gallop every day. Today he is not a tearaway liked he used to be, you can ride him anywhere you like now, he has got really mature."

 

It was a good result, too, for the jockey, Paddy Brennan who hasn't won a Grade 1 contest for four years, despite notching up eight top-level wins. He was obviously delighted to be back with big-time victory when commenting: "Unbelievable. After Imperial Commander I never thought I would get the chance to sit on something as good or a Gold Cup horse. The way Cue Card went around there today he felt like a Gold Cup horse."

 

Touchingly and typically the winning jockey wasn't just thinking of himself on this occasion when he added: "It's a big win on a big Saturday and I'd like to dedicate this win to the people in France, in Paris. I've been lucky enough to ride some winners in Auteuil and I just want to let them know we're all thinking about them."

 

STEADY AS A ROCK

A ten-year-old showed his five junior rivals how to run a race at Ascot yesterday when he won the Coral Hurdle. The veteran in question was ROCK ON RUBY, with Barry Geraghty aboard, who demonstrated that he still had plenty of form by outrunning his nearest rival, COURT MINSTREL, by two-and-a-half lengths. The conclusion never really seemed in doubt, although theoretically all the six contestants had a chance as they pulled round the home turn and galloped hell for leather for the line. Fortunately Barry Geraghty knew his mount still had something in reserve and when the leading Alan King-trained GRUMETI blundered badly at the last hurdle and dropped dramatically away, that left the son of OSCAR firmly in charge.

 

Winning trainer, Harry Fry, commented: "They've let a Champion Hurdle winner dictate off a slow pace. Although we have been running him over these sort of trips and three miles last time out, he is still not a slow horse. Barry (Geraghty) dictated it and he quickened when he needed. It shows how much difference the ground makes as that real soft ground Wetherby he couldn't jump out of it, but today he jumped out of Barry's hands. Barry described him as terrier-like when the others came at him. Coming over the last, all he did was battle. He has been fantastic with us from the start.”

 

SATURDAY 21st NOVEMBER 2015

SIMONSIG ON SONG

A tingle in his fingers and a tingle in his feet, SIMONSIG is going to Tingle Creek! Well that's what a delighted Nicky Henderson hopes after witnessing a successful schooling session yesterday morning. The winner of the Arkle Trophy two years ago proved that there could still be more to come when he showed up at Aintree in the first week of this month to take on the Betfred Hurdle. Ultimately the nine-year-old son of FAIR MIX had to settle for the runner-up slot as his on-form stable companion, BOBS WORTH, was not to be denied the prize. His trainer seemed delighted with the performance as a preparation for the planned return to Grade One chasing.

 

Nicky Henderson commented: "Simonsig was very good this morning. He jumped 10 fences and was very good, very quick and very slick. I think we're still going to the Tingle Creek, but there is the Peterborough Chase the following day. Jeremiah McGrath rode him this morning, as he does every day at home, and he's done a brilliant job with him as he's not the easiest, as you saw last time at Aintree."

 

NATIONAL JOCKEY DAY

A second Betfair’s National Jockey Day will be held at Haydock tomorrow and building on the success of last year's event, the organisers are hoping to raise at least £50,000 for the Injured Jockeys Fund. This year the activities are being linked to the Betfair Chase Festival at Haydock and are also being supported by campaign ambassador Mick Fitzgerald and Champion trainer Paul Nicholls and a host of racing personalities, including Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton, now training to become a Jockey, Ryan Moore, Sam Twiston-Davies and Nick Scholfield.

 

Naomi Totten of Betfair commented: "Jockeys are undoubtedly some of the hardest working elite athletes in sport and they deserve a day of recognition for their unwavering efforts. By once again partnering with the Injured Jockeys Fund, we hope this year’s campaign can go one better than last year and enable us to give an even greater amount to an integral industry charity. Whether you work in the industry or you’re simply a racing fan, we urge people to get involved and support the campaign by sharing #NationalJockeyDay via social media.”

 

The CEO of Injured Jockeys' Fund, Lisa Hancock, added: “The Injured Jockeys Fund is delighted to be part of National Jockey Day which is going from strength to strength since its inception last year. "It’s a fantastic idea from Betfair and a great way to recognise the dedication and commitment of jockeys at all levels while at the same time raising funds to help those who inevitably get injured along the way.

 

DOWN AND OUT?

David Redvers, whose employer, QIPCO, signed this year the biggest ever sponsorship deal in British racing's when it continued its support of the British Champions Series and British Champions Day, doesn't mince his words. He blames Channel 4's racing coverage for diminishing numbers of television viewers who watch horse racing. This is rather a crucial time to be making such a criticism as there could possibly be a strong challenge from ITV for the rights of covering this plum of a top racing event from 2017. The British Champions Series, sponsored by QIPCO, added its name to the four-year Channel 4 deal, joining the likes of RMG, Jockey Club Racecourses and Ascot. New figures released reveal that the number of TV viewers for the Qipco British Champions Day has dropped 67 % from the 1.1 million in 2012, when the BBC used to present it, to 367,000 of Channel 4' coverage in 2015.

David Redvers, wearing his Qipco hat, commented: "I do not think it's racing's fault. I believe racing provides the storyline. How the storyline is used, produced and sold to the masses is the job of the broadcaster. The problem I have had for some time is Channel 4 seems to be far too interested in portraying racing solely as a betting medium and it thereby marginalises half the audience. We have some of the most fascinating, exciting, hairs-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your neck stories generated by any sport. However, there seems to be a reluctance by some at Channel 4 to tell those stories in its morning and afternoon racing programmes. What got Sheikh Fahad into racing in the first place is he loved the chat, banter and storylines on The Morning Line when it was produced by the old team. It was great television and it sucked him into the sport. Now it is a complete yawn as it seems to be almost entirely devoted to the betting on the racing that day. There have also been some fantastic racing documentaries and promotional advertising of the Grand National, but not across racing as a whole. I understand betting is a large part of racing and must be referenced, but not to the almost total exclusion of the equine and human storyline."

 

FRIDAY 20th NOVEMBER 2015

EASY PEASY, JAPANESY!

The Mile Championship at Kyoto on Sunday welcomes back a Japanese favourite on the racetrack. Ryan Moore, on one of his many returns to the Land of the Rising Sun, will ride the Noriyuki Yoshida-trained MAURICE in an attempt to append yet another Grade 1 victory in Japan to his racing record. He already has two QE II Commemorative Cup wins on the Ed Dunlop-trained SNOW FAIRY in 2010 and 2011, the Japan Cup aboard Sei Ishizaka's GENTILDONNA in 2013 and the Asahi Hai Futurity which he won on the Takahisa Tezuka-trained ASIA EXPRESS. The Brighton-born jockey will be challenged by seventeen rivals, the largest field yet, in a race that is worth 208 million yen (£1.1m/€1.5m). There are no international runners in the race, but Andrea Atzeni, also based in Newmarket will be riding RED REVEUR for trainer Naosuke Sugai.

 

Atsunori Hashimoto, assitant trainer for Maurice, commented: “グレード1の一時解雇をオフに来てすることは容易ではないだろう. しかし、私は彼が良い形でゲートに行くと思います” which roughly means something like: "A Grade 1 coming off a layoff won't be easy but I think he'll go to the gate in good shape.”

 

A FIELD DAY FOR SIR!

Another champion's return was welcomed at Thurles yesterday when the Willie Mullins-trained SIR DES CHAMPS got back into the winner's enclosure after nearly two years' absence. The son of ROBIN DES CHAMPS hasn't been seen since December 2013 when he managed fourth place to BOBS WORTH in the Leopardstown Lexus Chase at in, almost mirroring the result having in the Cheltenham Gold Cup earlier in the same year. The race chosen for his comeback was the Listed Boomerang Animal Bedding and Boomerang Horse & Country Store Chase where he duly obliged by putting two-and-three-quarter lengths between him and his nearest rival. Bryan Cooper was having his first ride on the nine-year-old was still a good twenty lengths adrift of the eventual runner-up at the top of the track and he managed to put some fire into his mount when they turned into the home straight. SIRE DES CHAMPS then went second at the last-fence-but-one and from there the result outcome never seemed in doubt.

 

Winning trainer Willie Mullins commented: "I'm very happy with that. He loves racing like that and it took him a mile and a half, or two miles, to warm up.”

 

HORSES' NIGHTMARE!

Bookies could have been waking up in the middle of the night, screaming “Wincanton, Lingfield!” if this nightmare of a gamble had come off yesterday. They would have been liable for a multimillion pound payout had the four Sheena West-trained horses won. But they slept easy in their beds last night as not one of the 'Fab Four' came anywhere near to the pre-race hype that had built up during the day. Not only that. Not one of them even got into the frame. Of the two Wincanton wonders, FINTAN was pulled up and LANDSCAPE came last of nine, at least one-hundred lengths behind the winner. Of the Lingfield laggards TEE IT UP TOMMO made ninth from ten runners and WELL PAINTED was a well-beaten sixteenth of sixteen runners.

 

Jon Ivan-Duke of William Hill commented: “The bookies had huge liabilities on the outcome of these four horses, which is a massive amount for a supposedly quiet Thursday. To say we are relieved that the gamble failed is an understatement. It appears that punters have read rumours on social media sparking a betting plunge, but the gamble faded in to tweet nothing. We ended up quids in.”

 

The day worked out well, however, for one savvy punter who laid all four flops for a place and this what he had to say: ““They were ropey and out of form, hence their opening prices on Betfair of 20-1 (Landscape), 14-1 (Tee It Up Tommo and Fintan) and 8-1 (Well Painted). It’s hard to imagine a race weak enough for any one of them to be 6-4, let alone all four on the same day. And I laid them all for a place – Fintan at 1-2!”

 

THURSDAY 19th NOVEMBER 2015

JOCKEY IN A COLLISION

Retired 20-times champion jockey was involved in another riding incident yesterday. This time, however, it wasn't on the racetrack but the M4. Tony McCoy was driving along the London to South Wales motorway when his car was involved in an accident, in which neither he nor anyone else involved was injured. It seems that the incident affected three vehicles and resulted in the road being closed for a while as emergency services dealt with the situation.

 

AP McCoy commented: "A van collided with a car in front of me and I had nowhere to go. I'm fine and and everyone else involved is good, which is unbelievable really, as it was a fair old impact. The three vehicles are gone (written off), but it's nice to walk away from something like that."

 

D & B FOR DP!

Saturday’s £200,000 Betfair Chase at Haydock will feature two hopefuls from David Pipe's stables. It has now been confirmed that the runner-up in the Grade 1 in this contest in 2013, DYNASTE and last year's Byrne Group Plate winner, BALLYNAGOUR, will be in the line-up. After failing to score ( the first time since 2007) at last week's Cheltenham Open the Somerset-based trainer must have been relieved to, at least, get a winner at Fakenham on Tuesday when Tom Scudamore rode eight-year-old KATKEAU to a one-and-a-quarter length victory in the Weatherbys Hamilton Beginners' Chase.

 

David Pipe commented: “The plan is to run Dynaste and Ballynagour. I don’t know the jockey situation just yet – Tom Scudamore hasn’t made up his mind. Dynaste likes it round Haydock and he enjoys the mud. There is no reason why Ballynagour won’t like the track either. They are third and fourth in the market and that seems to represent their chances. The top two [Silviniaco Conti and Cue Card] are obviously the ones to beat. I was very impressed with Cue Card at Wetherby the other day, but this is another championship race and all it takes is one mistake and you’ll get a different result. I was pleased to get that winner at Fakenham and now we’re focusing on the Betfair Chase at the weekend.”

 

ONCE MORE INTO THE BREACH!

It now looks like Barry Geraghty and not his regular jockey, will ride ROCK ON RUBY for Saturday's Grade 2 Coral Hurdle at Ascot. Noel Fehily has been aboard the son of OSCAR for all of the sixteen races since the partnership claimed the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2012. Ruby Walsh has ridden the 10-year-old just twice before in February and March 2010 when they won the bumpers at Taunton and Newbury, respectively. The problem is that the County Cork jockey is booked to be aboard the Paul Nicholls-trained SILVINIACO CONTI, whom he has ridden thirteen times before, in the Betfair Chase at Haydock, so it appears that Barry Geraghty will have to step into the breach (after stepping into the breeches!).

 

Trainer Harry Fry commented: “Noel obviously has to go to Haydock as he’s committed to riding Silviniaco Contiid trainer Harry Fry. The plan at the moment, all being well, is that Barry Geraghty will ride. It’s not 100 per cent, but that’s the idea at the moment. With the Relkeel Hurdle being moved from the December meeting to New Year’s Day this season, we were keen to find him another race in between Wetherby and Cheltenham, and this looked the obvious opportunity.”

WEDNESDAY 18th NOVEMBER 2015

MAKING LIGHT WORK

This year's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury will feature the son of ECHO OF LIGHT ridden by leading amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen. That is no surprise as his father, Robert Waley-Cohen, Chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse, recently bought a half-share in the Neil Mulholland-trained THE YOUNG MASTER. The six-year-old gelding was in the news for the wrong reasons last November when it turned out that he wasn't eligible to participate, as he had previously only run twice instead the required three times over fences and was, therefore, disqualified from first place in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton. The winning slot was given to Emma Lavelle's COURT BY SURPRISE - and she certainly was! The bay gelding's last outing was at the beginning of the month at Carlisle when he was runner-up in the Colin Parker Memorial Chase.

 

Robert Waley Cohen commented: “I don’t care what critics say, my son deserves to ride in the Gold Cup. The Young Master will also be entered in the Welsh National, but Neil feels that he won't go for the Grand National this season. He is a 150-rated six-year-old who has still got some physical development in him and the 3lb he will have off him in the Hennessy will probably be quite useful. Neil has done a great job with him.

 

Sam Waley Cohen added: "He is very straightforward and is a big, proper chaser. He has been really progressive and to win the Hennessy you have to be progressive.”

 

OUT FOR THE CONTI

The seven-strong Betfair Chase to be run at Haydock on Saturday will include last year's winner, SILVINIACO CONTI. The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old is said to be fit and well and raring to take on familiar rivals such as Colin Tizzard's CUE CARD, David Pipe's DYNASTE and the Philip Hobbs-trained MENORAH, whom the son of DOM ALCO left trailing two lengths in his wake in last year's contest. The challenge may not be as cut and dried as it appears, though, in this small but talented field. Colin Tizzard's son of KING'S THEATRE is champing on the bit after staging an amazing comeback by winning the Grade 1 Charlie Hall Chase, three-and-three-quarter lengths ahead of DYNASTE, a race in which MENORAH was pulled up.

 

The Ditcheat-based trainer commented: “He ran well at Kempton the other day and he’s shown enormous improvement. A flat track and soft ground are made for him.”

 

ONLY HERE FOR THE BEER!

There are nine runners listed for Saturday's Stella Artois 1965 Chase, including a couple of big names, none more eye-catching, perhaps, than the Willie Mullins-trained VAUTOUR, with eight wins from none runs. The six-year-old son of ROBIN DES CHAMPS who scored at the Cheltenham Festival for the second year in a row. His last outing was, in fact, at Prestbury Park in March when he trounced the rest of the field by fifteen lengths, including another contender for Saturday's set-to, PTIT ZIG who ended up fifth, some nineteen lengths fbehind the winner. The latter's trainer, Paul Nicholls, has scooped this prize four times from the last five renewals, including MASTER MINDED and AL FEROF, who both notched up back-to-back victories. This time, however, the Ditcheat handler's only hope is PTIT ZIG who is the heaviest in the field, conceding even five pounds to the County Carlow king's challenger.

TUESDAY 17th NOVEMBER 2015

JOURNEY TO JAPAN

TRIP TO PARIS is going on a trip to Tokyo at the end of November where he will be joined by three other European entries to take part in the £3.35 million Longines Japan Cup. The Ed Dunlop-trained Gold Cup winner was last seen two weeks ago at Flemington, Australia, when he finished fourth, just two lengths behind Michelle Payne's historic victory on PRINCE OF PENZANCE in the Melbourne Cup. Before that he came a creditable second in the BMW Caulfield Cup. The four-year-old son of CHAMPS ELYSEES, unfortunately, suffered a leg injury the last time out but everyone concerned seems fairly optimistic about his going to Japan. The last time a British-trainer horse claimed this prestigious prize was ten years ago when the Luca Cumani-trained ALKAASED, ridden by Frankie Dettori, just got his nose in front.

 

ALLONS ENFANTS!

The annual Anglo-French race meeting at Plumpton next Monday will have added poignancy following the terrorists attacks in Paris three days ago. The French flag will fly at half mast and jockeys will all wear a black armband in memory of the victims on the day when the Sussex track plays host to a racecourse delegation from Pompadour, which is twinned with Plumpton. Pierre Lachaud, Pompadour racecourse's Director, will actually be there on the day to present the trophy to the winners of the Sicame Amateur Riders Handicap Hurdle.

'Welcome visitors'

 

Kate Hills Plumpton's CEO commented: "Every year there is an Anglo-French raceday at each course and Pompadour's is during the summer. We are really looking forward to welcoming our French visitors and are glad they had a safe journey to us from Paris."

 

LORD KNOWS HOW!

Tomorrow's all-weather meeting at Kempton will be even more attractive because connections decided to bring GORDON LORD BYRON all the way from County Tipperary to run in the the Listed £40,000 EBF Stallions Hyde Stakes. The son of BYRON, already a three-time Group 1 winner, tops the bill in a ten-strong race, which also serves as a qualifier for the Ladbrokes Mile scheduled for the Lingfield All-Weather Championships finals day at in March. Trainer, Tom Hogan, will also be using the contest as a preparation for next month’s international meeting in Hong Kong, where GORDON LORD BYRON raced for the last three years.

 

The Nenagh-based trainer commented: “He has good form over a mile in Hong Kong and the configuration of Sha Tin is almost identical to Kempton, so he should act well on the track," the trainer said. He will hopefully be off to Hong Kong again for the international meeting in December. If he was to win on Wednesday, we will definitely consider finals day because there isn't that much for him at that time of year. The five furlongs at Dundalk was too sharp for him. He needs slower ground to perform over five but it was a decent run," added Hogan. He's had his ups and downs mid-season but he seems in pretty good nick at the moment."

MONDAY 16th NOVEMBER 2015

ONLY ONE SHOOTING STAR

This son of NETWORK hasn't had a win since St. George's day 2013, with a couple of PUs along the way but he certainly seems to have put all that behind him at Cheltenham yesterday. The Nicky Henderson-trained SPRINTER SACRE had the crowds cheering when he entered the winner's enclosure after a resounding 14-length victory in the Shloer Chase. It remains to be seen whether the winner of five Grade One chasers in a row in the 2012/13 season can reclaim such heights again.

 

The now nine-year-old, for sure, didn't hold out much hope last season when he was soundly beaten in three contests and even was pulled up in the Queen Mother Chase, a race he had made his own by 19 lengths in 2013. One thing is for sure. If SPRINTER SACRE hadn't delivered the goods yesterday, a minimum of four pounds lighter than four of his five rivals, then he could have been heading for the proverbial pipe and slippers. Now his trainer suddenly finds himself making plans for what's next, which could which could include next month’s Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown, where the nine-year-old could aim to get back his Champion Chase crown, being the 4/1 second favourite behind UN DE SCEAX, the Willie Mullins-trained Arkle Chase winner.

 

A clearly emotional Nicky Henderson commented: “It has been a long, uphill battle since Kempton. If you keep falling standards and expectations, the doubts come in. I have doubted myself at times but this horse looks so much different to last season. He was back as if he was king. We are not all the way there but we are going in the right direction.”

 

Nico De Boinville was just the work-out jockey in the good old days but he is now in the top slot after Barry Geraghty became the No 1 rider to JP McManus.

 

He commented: ‘I wouldn’t go so far as to say he is back but that is the closest to being back as we are going to get.’

 

FAUGHEEN, the second superstar of the day, on the other hand, lost his unbeaten record at Punchestown when stable companion, NICHOLS CANYON was the undisputed victor in the Morgiana Hurdle. The Champion Hurdle winner seemed to be on form, travelling well, in the early stages but all appeared not to be going to plan as Ruby Walsh steered the son of SIRE into the home straight. David Mullins on NICHOLS CANYON saw his chance and confidently urged his mount into the lead and the gamble paid off as the result was a half-a-length win for the five-year-old son of AUTHORIZED. This shock result caused ripples of surprise among the racegoers and certainly can't have done Willie Mullins' heart any favours.

 

The County Carlow king commented afterwards: “That worked out completely different from the way they worked on Tuesday. Faugheen left Nichols for dead – maybe he left his race behind? I don’t know. Nichols won four Grade Ones last year and he’s no back number by any means. He looks like a Champion Hurdle horse now, rather than the stayers. Faugheen was a little disappointing. Ruby said he hung, but horses hang when they get tired. Maybe he just met a good horse. We’ll see how they come out of the race and they’ll be entered in all those races that Champion Hurdle horses should be in.”

 

V FOR VICTORY!

In the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices' Chase at Cheltenham yesterday champion jockey-elect Richard Johnson steered the Philip Hobbs-trained GARDE LA VICTOIRE to a two-and-a-half length victory, making it two in a row over fences. There was a last-minute battle but the 8/15 favourite, six-year-old bay gelding dominated in the final 100 yards, following up his Uttoxeter triumph two weeks ago.

 

The winning jockey commented: "He was very good. The ground is a bit dead which he doesn't really like and he was just a bit sloppy at one or two. Hopefully there's more to come. When they're starting out they have to learn from their mistakes and hopefully he will improve. "If anything, he's a bit too good with his jumping. He's always been a very scopey horse, but he probably needs to learn to fiddle and get in short when he has to, but I'm pleased with that."

 

Philip Hobbs added: "He had much more respect for his fences today than he did at Uttoxeter, as he was a little bit over-brave. Today he was much more accurate. He has probably improved on the jumping front. At the second-last he had to dig quite deep, but he stayed on well and he looks like a horse that wants two and a half miles. I imagine the Arkle will be the plan and I'd say you need a horse to stay two and a half to win that. He's a good brave horse. He always had a go and it's a big relief to get today over with.”

 

ABOUT THE SIZE OF IT

This Grade One-winning novice hurdler at Punchestown in April came back to the County Kildare track to build on his success by winning the Ryans Cleaning Craddockstown Novice Chase by eight lengths. SIZING JOHN had to do battle from the off with the Gordon Elliott-trained LORD SCOUNDREL in this four-runner contest over two miles but the Henry De Bromhead five-year-old was on the top of his jumping and presented his jockey, Johnny Burke, with an easy ride to a victorious finish.

 

The winning trainer commented: "I'm delighted with that. It was a super ride by Johnny and he jumped great. That wouldn't be his preferred ground, but it was good to see him working through it and I'm very happy all in all. He lost the bit of company, but Johnny said coming to the last he thought the race was over. He beat a good horse there and he won on heavy ground, so we're happy. He'll get an entry now at Leopardstown at Christmas. That looks the natural progression. We'll see what we meet there - maybe some old foes.”

 

SUNDAY 15th NOVEMBER 2015

STAR-STUDDED SUNDAY

A special Sunday at two top racetracks offers racegoers the pleasure of seeing two superstars in action, one at Cheltenham and the other at Punchestown. At Prestbury Park on the final day of the Cheltenham Open Meeting, Nicky Henderson's SPRINTER SACRE is out to prove that he has put his last two disappointing seasons behind him when he takes on five rivals in the Shloer Chase. Luckily the conditions remain unchanged after Day Two so it looks like rain will not dampen the return of this champion as Nicky Henderson had already made it clear that he wouldn't risk his two-mile champion on testing ground.

 

Meanwhile over in Ireland, the Willie Mullins-trained FAUGHEEN, with ten wins from ten starts to his credit, will run in the Morgiana Hurdle and at 1/4 odds-on, it seems no-one is expecting a defeat. His jockey, Ruby Walsh, for one, seems to have no doubt that the unbeaten Champion Hurdle winner will kick off his season in style, even claiming that the son of GERMANY is going even better than when he returned to racing last season.

 

The County Kildare jockey commented: “Disappointed if he doesn't extend his record. He worked really well on Tuesday morning, we couldn't be happier with him, so fingers crossed things will go to plan. I'd say he's definitely more forward going to Punchestown than he was going to Ascot for his first run of last season.”

 

ONE HAPPY HANDLER

Another first but this time for a trainer. A delighted Stuart Edmunds bagged his first Graded winner, the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial, when WOLF OF WINDLESHAM, with Joshua Moore aboard, came home with just half-a-length to spare. The young jockey seemed to have everything under control as his three-year-old challenged for leadership when the five-strong field descended the Prestbury Park hill. All he then had to do was ask and the son of MASTERCRAFTSMAN duly delivered a narrow but convincing victory.

 

Joshua Moore commented: “I’m over the moon. He shows plenty at home, but to be fair I would have gone to Ludlow on Thursday – it was the owner, Michael Lawrence, that wanted to come here. It was a bold move from him, and fair dos.”

 

GIVE ME A BREAK!

A jockey who last year broke his collar bone twice, followed by cheekbone and chin, deserved another kind of break and he got it yesterday. Ian Popham enjoyed probably the greatest day of his racing career winning the £160,000 Paddy Power Gold Cup aboard the 12/1 shot, ANNACOTTY, trained by Alan King. When the field turned for home it looked anyone's race but the son of BENEFICIAL, on his first start for the Swindon-based trainer, proved he had the stamina and the determination to outstay his rivals who initially appeared to be travelling stronger. In an exciting climax the seven-year-old defied the fast-finishing BUYWISE and claimed the coveted Cup by half-a-length.

 

Ian Popham commented afterwards: "That was the most incredible feeling, because I thought my career was on its backside. At the end of last season I was riding just moderate horses with no results and it began getting to me. I broke my collarbone last November and again in December, then I had a bad fall at Market Rasen on Boxing Day where I broke my cheekbone and chin. I missed both Cheltenham and Aintree. Riding in the Paddy Power was miles away a few months ago, as all I was riding were 100-1 shots around Plumpton and Taunton, but you have to take the rough with the smooth when you are trying to get back on track."

SATURDAY 14th NOVEMBER 2015

THE KINGS BACK FOR THE CROWN

David Pipe has fingers crossed that his son of KING'S THEATRE who four out of his six races on previous visits to Cheltenham can turn the page back to his winning ways when he takes on today's Paddy Power Gold Cup. The successful Somerset-based trainer is quite frank when he admits that KINGS PALACE hasn't really impressed anyone back home recently with his jumping skills. There was even consideration whether to bother to enter his seven-year-old in the prestigious event but, then, he performed very positively in a work-out with Tom Scudamore, just back from injury, that it was decided to give the bay gelding the benefit of the doubt.

 

David Pipe commented: “Kings Palace has not been as exuberant in his schooling as he was last season and I’ve been keen for Tom to school him, which he hasn’t been able to do for a while because of his knee. But he schooled him earlier in the week, Tom was pleased and that was the final piece of the jigsaw. If the real Kings Palace turns up, we think he’s capable of running a big race.”

 

 

THE GIRLS CAN TAKE IT!

The day after former champion jockey, Tony McCoy, made the daring suggestion that female riders should have the benefit of a weight allowance when competing, top amateur jockey, Nina Carberry, already sceptical about the idea, was even more so after notching up a double at Cheltenham yesterday, both of which involved tough competitive gallops to the line. The County Meath-born jockey, in fact, displayed into the bargain superb equestrian skills, just managing to stay aboard under a difficult ride on the Enda Bolger-trained JOSIES ORDERS in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase. She even surprised many by succeeding in rallying the seven-year-old son of MILAN to a one-and-quarter length victory. And the thirty-one-year-old rider was back in the winner's enclosure just over an hour later when she partnered the Mick Channon-trained KNOCK HOUSE to a narrow victory in the Cheltenham Club Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase.

 

Nina Carberry was asked whether she would be in favour of receiving an allowance against her male rivals and she commented: "I'd take the 3lb if he [McCoy] was giving it to me! I can understand where he is coming from, but I don't know whether it would create more opportunities. It wouldn't get any more girls involved but it might help girls who have lost their claim. It's all down to ability really. It's the same with a lad. If he doesn't have the ability he won't make it."

 

MORE OF THE SAME

Yesterday's winner of the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase has caused quite a stir in the betting market where there is now speculation that he could go for the RSA Chase at next year's Cheltenham Festival. Jonjo O'Neill-trained MORE OF THAT, who won last year's World Hurdle, retrurning from nearly a year's lay-off due to injury, seemed to have regained some of his former class on his debut over fences, ridden by Barry Geraghty. Clearly the bookmakers, particularly William Hill, who proceeded to make the son of BENEFICIAL the favourite for the March event, pullin him back from 11/1 to 7/1. Paddy Power has since gone one better by offering 6/1.

 

Owner JP McManus, commented afterwards: "We'd have been disappointed if he hadn't gone close as Jonjo had been giving off good vibes about the horse as he had schooled well. We'd have to be very satisfied with that win. It's nice to have one that produces his best on the track. Barry said he had a little blow but that's no surprise considering it was his first run for a long while. I'm delighted he's back."

FRIDAY 13th NOVEMBER 2015

LUCKY 13!

A five-and-a-half-storey grandstand, the final part of a £45m redevelopment of Cheltenham race course, will be unveiled today of all days, Friday 13th , by Princess Anne. The new development includes not only better viewing and special areas for owners and trainers and annual members but will also have two new bars, the next stand will host two new bars. One of these is situated on the ground floor named in honour of Lord Vestey, a former Cheltenham chairman and the other, situated on the first floor. A champagne bar, will bear the name of the four-times World Hurdle winner, Big Buck’s.

 

Owner Andy Stewart commented: “We feel very privileged to not only own him (Big Buck's) but the honour of having this fabulous new bar at the best racecourse in the world named after him.”

 

EX CHAMPION WEIGHS IN

The former 20-times champion jockey has added his weight to the subject of female jockeys. Tony McCoy has come up with the idea that women jockeys should receive a weight allowance when they compete against men. Already under racing rules certain apprentice and amateur jockeys get thebenefit of a weight concession to make up for their inexperience and even fillies and mares quite often carry less weight than male horses in mixed-sex races. The subject of male chauvinism in horse racing hit the headlines again recently when Michelle Payne, after becoming the first female jockey o win the Melbourne Cup, told her critics to "get stuffed", claiming there was more to riding than brute strength. But the rider from Moneyglass insists that strength is an important issue and puts forward the case for giving women riders a special allowance to even things out a bit.

 

Tony McCoy commented: "It was brilliant for Michelle Payne to win the race and tactically she gave Prince Of Penzance a brilliant ride. But I'm not sure that was the time to call racing a chauvinistic sport. The female jockeys are very, very competent riders but perhaps a woman should receive an allowance like a filly does in a race. It's a very physically demanding sport and they're not going to be as physically strong as a bloke. They can't be. Tactically they can be as good but if it comes down to strength in a finish, a woman is not going to be as strong as a man. There aren't many sports where women compete against men and on a day to day basis are women as physically strong as men? No they're not. It's just fact."

 

Top female jockey, Cathy Gannon, disagrees, however: "I don't think it would be fair. We want to compete with the boys on a level playing field and it would cause ructions if we were given an advantage. We've been trying to say we're as good as the boys for years so it would be a backward step in my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I'd love a 5lb allowance, but there'd be a few in the weighing room who wouldn't be happy about that."

 

Grade One winner in France last, Lizzie Kelly, added on Twitter: "I hope this doesn't happen, I wouldn't do any of the weights!"

 

Sophie Doyle, the sister of top British rider James Doyle, is currently riding high in America put it more strongly on Twitter: "Why? We have already proven ourselves, it comes down to being educated and dedicated about fitness as an athlete in this sport!"

 

A KAYF TARA KID

The now 21-year-old KAYF TARA is back in the news again. One of his sons was bought for €53,000 (£37, 500 in real money!) and was top sale on the last-but-one day of the Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt Sale yesterday. The colt was acquired by the prolific buyer, Joseph Collins, who had been busy all week and has made fourteen purchases over the last four days, including a colt from the Cleaboy Stud which went for an even higher price. The fourth foal out of a half-sister to the Grade 1-winning Accordion Etoile, the Kayf Tara kid was considered to one of the best ones on offer for the day and Joseph Collins proved it by shelling out the staggering amount.

 

The happy buyer commented: "He was the best colt here today. He's a lovely horse by a good stallion and he's from a good family too. We'll get him home now and hopefully he'll be back for the Derby Sale as a three-year-old."

 

THURSDAY 12th NOVEMBER 2015

FIT FOR A KINGS

It was a close run thing! With Cheltenham's three-day Open meeting starting tomorrow Tom Scudamore finally got the news he had been waiting for. The specialist he visited yesterday pronounced him fit to ride. The Gloucestershire-born jockey has been absent from the track since the middle of October due to a knee injury sustained at Huntingdon. He has been riding out again in preparation for getting back to race riding. The thirty-three-year-old rider hasn't any rides booked for Thursday, Friday but, if all goes well he may well ride the David Pipe-trained KINGS PALACE in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday.

 

Tom Scudamore commented: "I went to see the specialist today and all the paperwork should be through in time, I'm just waiting to hear back from Dr Hill's office (British Horseracing Authority chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill). It's been just over month, that's behind us now. I was back riding out on Sunday and have been schooling all week, with plenty of rehab beforehand. I can kick on now, this is a good time of year and hopefully I can hit the ground running this weekend."

 

HORSE AND CARTIER

The John Gosden-trained son of CAPE CROSS has won one of the most prestigious prizes in horse racing. GOLDEN HORN was named Cartier horse of the year at the 2015 Cartier Racing Awards. Bred by owner, Anthony Oppenheimer, the three-year-old was originally sent for auction at Tattersalls Newmarket Sales but, ironically, he failed to meet his reserve so was sent to be trained at Clarehaven Stables instead. The other irony is that it wasn't originally planned that GOLDEN HORN would run in the Derby as there were doubts that he could handle the mile-and-a-half distance. Then after his resounding victory in the Dante in May, his owner forked out the necessary £75,000 cost to enter his the colt at the last minute in the Epsom epic. Not only did he go on to score by three-and-a-half lengths in that contest but, for good measure, he added the Sandown Coral-Eclipse, the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe to his successes this season. GOLDEN HORN's last appearance was in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland at the end of October, which did not furnish him with the expected fairytale ending to his meteoric career but he finshed a creditable second. The unsold Tattersalls yearling now retires having earned more than £4.4m and, what is more, as the second-highest rated horse in the world after the US Triple Crown hero American Pharaoh.

 

A GEM OF A HORSE!

The John Spearing-trained PEARLS LEGEND could be running tomorrow at Cheltenham in the £45,000 two-mile Paddy Power Handicap Chase. The son of MIDNIGHT LEGEND has had quite a successful run since February when he triumphed over fences for the first time in the Ubique Handicap Chase at Sandown. The eight-year-old return to the same track three weeks later to claim the SSAFA Forces Family Handicap Chase by four-and-half lengths. PEARLS LEGEND then missed out on a hat-trick by making a close third a month later in the Surf And Turf in the Grade Three Red Rum Handicap Chase at Aintree, followed by a runner-up slot in the seventeen-furlong Listed Byrne Group Handicap Chase at Ascot at the end of October.

 

The Worcestershire-based trainer commented said: "Pearls Legend is under consideration for the Paddy Power Handicap Chase. We always do blood tests the day before the race and providing all that comes back OK, he will run. I was very pleased with his comeback at Ascot. We thought he would be a three-mile horse when we first got him. He has run plenty of good races over two and a half miles but as soon as we dropped him back to two miles, he started winning. That has been the key. He ran very well at Aintree last year on the flat, sharp Mildmay track and that was probably a career best. He has kept up with the handicapper until now and hopefully he can keep it up.”

WEDNESDAY 11th NOVEMBER 2015

KNOWING OFF PAT

An eleven-time champion jockey and a real legend of the Turf has died, aged 63. County Clare -born Pat Eddery with 4,633 winners to his name, including fourteen Classics, has left the racing world stunned with his relatively early death. Older race-going fans will recall the titanic battle between Steve Cauthen and Pat Eddery for the jockey championship in the late 1980s, when the former just made it by just two winners on the last day of the season at Doncaster.

Richard Hughes remembers that Pat Eddery was on top of the racing world when he moved from Ireland to England in the mid-1990s to continue his riding career and recalled a perfect gentleman.

The jockey now trainer commented: "It's a great shame. His greatest attribute was that I never once saw a horse pull with him on the way to the start – he had such great hands and was a perfect build. He was the same with everybody, It didn't matter who you were, a claimer or a champion. I never once heard him moan to anybody about getting tightened up or whatever else happened out on the track. It's a sad day as he was a good friend.

Steve Cauthen added: "He was very strong but though his style was unusual, horses responded. He was really good at getting them to relax and come with one run. I remember that at the beginning of the season we both decided we wanted to win I (the championship), and from mid-season there was never more than half a dozen in it and it went right to Doncaster on the last day. It was a great battle and he was the kind of guy to be the first one to say, 'Well done'. He was a fun guy to be around. He was never jealous of anybody and then when he got the Juddmonte job he was so powerful and rode some great horses and won some great races. In the big races, when the pressure was on, he never panicked. He was a legend that will be greatly missed by all that had the pleasure of knowing him."

 

MONBEG TO DIFFER

The Ross-on-Wye-based trainer is still no wiser as to whether his Grand National third-placed runner will be ready to have another crack at the Aintree contest. The Michael Scudamore-trained MONBEG DUDE ran a creditable race in April, even though he was more than seven lengths adrift of the winner, MANY CLOUDS and runner-up, SAINT ARE. Afterwards it was discovered that ten-year-old son of WITNESS BOX had suffered a tendon injury from his efforts.

 

Michael Scudamore commented: "Monbeg Dude is still on the sidelines not doing much. We are taking it day by day and the vet is due to look at him in a couple of weeks' time. Whether we get him back for the National is still up in the air. If everything continues to go well, then we have a chance of making it."

 

FAUGHEEN TO BE SEEN?

A successful work-out yesterday by Champion Hurdle hero has convinced Willie Mullins that he could be ready for a comeback in the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on Sunday. The unbeaten seven-year-old, FAUGHEEN, is one of eight entries at the five-day stage for a race that includes his stable companion, NICHOLS CANYON, who is a four-time Grade One winner in his own right.

 

Willie Mullins commented yesterday: "Faugheen did a piece of work this morning and he worked well. In fact, I'd say he worked very well. I was very happy with what I saw so all roads leads to Punchestown on Sunday for the Morgiana. I'll run as many as I can and I'd say at this stage Nichols Canyon is very likely to run. He was due to have worked this weekend anyway so we may as well run him when the race is there for him."

TUESDAY 10th NOVEMBER 2015

TOM HANKERS TO BE BACK

David Pipe's stable jockey has been out of the action since the middle of October after sustaining a knee injury at Huntingdon. There's a chance, however, that Tom Scudamore will get back in action on Thursday with a view to riding KINGS PALACE in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham on Saturday.

David pipe commented on his website: "Stable jockey Tom Scudamore is facing a well-publicised race against time to be back in the saddle ahead of the Open meeting following a tumble at Huntingdon last month but I am pleased to report an upbeat bulletin of his progress as he seems to be making a good recovery. Tom has been riding out for the last couple of mornings and is gradually doing more each day, including sessions on our mechanical horse, workouts in the gym and swimming pool, and he looks to be in fine shape. He will be doing some schooling later in the week, including aboard ante-post Paddy Power favourite Kings Palace. We will see how that goes before deciding on his (Kings Palace's) participation for Saturday's big race after that. Of course, Tom still has to pass the doctor before he is allowed to race ride again, although he is hopeful of being back to ride at Taunton or Ludlow on Thursday. I am sure a look at the entries for the weekend will be more than adequate incentive for him!"

CAN'T KEEP A GOOD MAN DOWN!

Another of racing's walking wounded is Gary Moore, who was only discharged from hospital on Sunday after surgery and treatment for multiple serious injuries. The 59-year-old

Lower Beeding-based trainer, however, was back on the gallops, keeping an eye on his horses the next day, already planning where his string would run.

 

Gary Moore commented: "It all happened very quickly. The horse that kicked me was a new horse that we had only had a few days and seems to have a bad attitude. He perhaps doesn’t like having other horses around him, but I suspect he’s not a nice person as he meant it - he got me square in the back. I’m all right. I’m doped up, not strapped up, and I’ve just got to rest up and avoid doing anything stupid. I’d probably find that difficult normally, but I can’t do anything stupid now as it would be too painful. I watched the horses canter this morning and then came in the office, where I’m making a nuisance of myself trying to find races that aren’t there for the horses."

 

It's been an exceptionally tough year for the Moore family as regards injuries. Apart from father Gary's broken ribs and punctured lungs, his youngest son, Josh, broke his collarbone and damaged his shoulder when he fell from SIRE DE GRUGY at Aintree in April. Then brother, Jamie had a double whammy, breaking his leg in April and then his hip. The eldest brother, Ryan, didn't escape either. He was out of action from July until September after suffering a neck injury in the stalls at Newmarket in July.

 

DON'T AGREE ON CONEYGREE!

The ante-post market for the Cheltenham Gold Cup has got it all wrong. Neither Willie Mullins's VAUTOUR nor Gordon Elliott's DON COSSACK should be figuring at the top of the betting. It should be Mark Bradstock's CONEYGREE. Well, that's top jockey, Bryan Cooper's view, anyhow and he'll be aboard one of the rivals! Despite last year's victor's making a successful return to action by winning the 188Bet Future Stars Chase by twenty-five lengths at Sandown two days ago, he is still a 7/1 shot with the bookies, whereas VAUTOUR is the 4/1 favourite. As the number one rider for the Gigginstown House Stud, the 23-year-old Tralee-born jockey has two options in the race,: DON COSSACK and DON POLI.

 

Nevertheless Bryan Cooper commented: "I think Coneygree should probably be favourite more for what he achieved last season than what he did at Sandown, where he won unchallenged. He's done it and there is no reason why he cannot improve from last season, whereas we still have to find out whether Vautour, who was very good in the JLT, is a horse for three miles-plus."

 

MONDAY 9th NOVEMBER 2015

MORE THAN WELCOME

On the very day of release from hospital after sustaining a serious kick this West Sussex trainer scored a treble which should boost his recovery. Gary Moore, whose multiple injuries included damaged ribs and fluid on his lungs, was in intensive care just three days before and then was greeted by the news that the 16/1 outsider, AR MAD, 14/1 shot, DAREBIN and the shorter odds, VIN GRIEGO all triumphed giving the 59-year-old trainer an incredible 1,529/1 treble.

His son Josh, who was aboard AR MAD in the Free Bet At 188Bet Beginners' Chase commented: : "He's feeling much better and is coming out of hospital now. He's rough and sore but has no major injury. We'll be keeping him in the house so he doesn't do any more damage to himself!"

Jamie Moore, who rode to victory both DAREBIN in the Premier League Betting At 188Bet Juvenile Hurdle and VINO GRIEGO in the Bet.co.uk Veterans' Handicap Chase added: "He broke five ribs - which will have been very painful - had a punctured lung and bruised his spleen. He is back home surrounded by the family and the grandchildren will be keeping his spirits up."

OLIVER WANTS MORE!

The Oliver Sherwood-trained DEPUTY DAN gets a chance today to prove that his jumping has got back to normal in the Weatherbys Bank Graduation Chase at Carlisle. Somehow the son of WESTERNER lost the plot a bit over fences recently, despite claiming his first decisive victory over the bigger obstacles in the SIS Live Novices' Chase at Plumpton a year ago. Unfortunately he subsequently rather blotted his copybook by unseating his jockey, Leighton Aspell, in the Betfred TV Ltd Novices' Limited Handicap Chase at Uttoxeter. The Hungerford-based trainer is surely hoping that his six-year-old will be able to put into practice the excellent schooling received at the Rhonehurst stables and perhaps get back to the top-notch form he displayed as a novice hurdler when he went on to win the Leamington Hurdle at Warwick and be runner-up in the Albert Bartlett at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

 

Oliver Sherwood commented: "He had his issues at the back end of last season. His jumping wasn't up to scratch having started so well," said Sherwood. I've always felt Carlisle was a course for horses that have lost their confidence a bit. That's the reason for going up there and the ground will be superb. He'll need his first run, he's in good form and his schooling has been good at home. The proof of the pudding is going to be on the track. On his best hurdles form he'll take a lot of beating, but it's a look and learn exercise."

 

TAKE IT AS RED!

According to his trainer, Ed Dunlop, RED CADEAUX is "well on the mend", recovering from surgery made necessary by the injury to the fetlock that he sustained when attempting a fifth shot at winning the "race that stops a nation" last Tuesday. The Newmarket trainer has recently been holding discussions with Australian officials with a view to transferring the three-time Melbourne Cup runner-up to "Living Legends", which is both a tourist attraction and home of rest for top racehorses.

 

Ed Dunlop, commented: "I spoke with my travelling head lad Robin Trevor-Jones this morning and he said he's happy with Red Cadeaux and how he's come through his surgery and he's well on the mend. I can't stress enough the role the vets at Flemington racecourse as well as the University of Melbourne Veterinary Centre played and well done to all. Obviously his rehabilitation is ongoing and it will be some time until he's ready to be moved. We have been inundated with offers from all over the world to re-home him and it's important for all concerned that he's found a decent home after his achievements in which he won just shy of £5 million. We are in discussions to transfer him to Living Legends which is near Melbourne and where hopefully he will prove a popular attraction."

 

SUNDAY 8th NOVEMBER 2015

JUST ONE MORE!

Her training career started with two winners from her first two runners and it's fingers crossed that Lady Cecil, who saddled her last horses this week in Britain, can terminate on a high, when she runs her last entry, WESTERN RESERVE, in tonight’s Grade 2 Autumn Stakes at Woodbine in Canada. Compared with other long-serving handlers who have recently retired, Lady Cecil's spell as a trainer lasted only about two-and-a-half years since she took over Warren Place from her late husband, Sir Henry. She decided, however, to have one more shot a gaining a winner by flying to Canada to oversee the final preparations of the Khalid Abdullah-owned son of INDIAN CHARLIE.

 

George Scott, the trainer’s assistant commented: “He’s an improving horse who has really come to himself towards the backend of this year. He should be suited by the Polytrack and as long as he travels over well we hope he’s up to this level. He’s by an American stallion [Indian Charlie] and likes real top of the ground, so he’ll transfer to America after this run.”

 

George Scott also had a few kind words to say about his retiring boss and friend:“I’m very thankful for all she’s done for me. It’s been a privilege to work alongside her. She should be enormously proud of what she’s achieved, on and off the track, and she has been a brilliant boss to her staff. We’ll no doubt stay in touch as she begins a new chapter in her life.”

 

NOT SO SIMPLE SIMON!

970 days of non-racing doesn't seem to have dampened the spirit of the Nicky Henderson-trained son of FAIR MIX who put on a bold display of jumping but he failed on his comeback by one-and-a-half lengths. The 2013 Racing Post Arkle winner, SIMONSIG, parnered by Barry Geraghty, seemed no worse off from his lengthy lapse but had to make do with second position behind his stable companion, BOBS WORTH the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner but that was no discredit. After the Rebecca Curtis-trained ROYAL BOY took a dive at the fourth all eyes turned to the eye-catching grey who drew level with the ten-year-old son of BOB BACK in the final circuit. There were fleeting moments when it looked as though SIMONSIG had got the measure of his stable rival as they approached the final flight but BOBS WORTH, responded immediately to jockey, Nico De Boinville's efforts to beat off the challenge and made it first passed past the post, assisted by the sudden lack of energy of SIMONSIG.

 

BARRY Geraghty commented: "That was a great run back after two and a half years. Simonsig travelled great but I knew jumping the cross hurdle three out that I didn't have an awful lot in the tank. It was a great run by the winner too."

 

Nicky Henderson added: "It has been a long time trying to get them both back. If I had said the two of them where going to jump the last flight upsides together in a class 2 hurdle you'd have said 'Henderson, you have lost it, you are barking'. It was probably a bit far for Simonsig in that ground, but Bobs Worth stays. The idea was to get a run into him for the Hennessy. I would like to go back over fences with Simonsig but you can see how keen he is and we had to take the freshness out of him, that was the objective."

 

SECOND TO NONE

The retiring Nottinghamshire-born female jockey didn't get her fairy-tale ending as her last-ever race ride. Hayley Turner was aboard the Declan Carroll-trained Ebor winner, BUONARROTI who was out to dominate in the Betfred November Handicap. A bit of magic to finish off the Doncaster day looked on the cards when the four-year-old GALILEO son went ahead of the 22-runner field with just two furlongs left to run, but George Baker had other more down-to earth plans as he steered joseph Tuite's LITIGANT over the line, four-and-a-half lengths clear of his nearest challenger.

 

Disappointing as it may have been a winner on her last competitive ride, hayley Turner treated her fans to a fine display of equestrianship when she brought her mount with a well-timed run from the rear of the field, giving him every chance of claiming the prize.

However, Litigant proved a clear class act in the field, storming away from his rivals inside the final furlong and a half to win eased down by four and a half lengths.

 

The thirty-two-year-old rider didn't seem to be too upset, however, as she smiled a lot and seemed to be enjoying her last day. Earlier in the day, Sammy Jo Bell, who joined Hayley Turner and Emma-Jayne Wilson at Ascot in August when The Girls bagged the prestigious Shergar Cup commented: "She's been a fantastic inspiration. Even when I was in Ireland, Hayley was the person I looked up to and the person I wanted to be like. She's been great this year and I'll miss her in the weighing room."

SATURDAY 7th NOVEMBER 2015

WISH UPON A STAR!

When the big stars begin appearing on the track in November, it's a sure sign that the National Hunt season is really getting going. Today Aintree is the centre of attraction and will give racegoers a chance once more to see a couple of Nicky Henderson champions in action. One of them hasn't been seen since winning the 2013 Arkle Chase at Cheltenham. This afternoon nine-year-old SIMONSIG is back at the Merseyside racecourse, aiming to make it seven wins in a row by claiming the Betfred Hurdle ridden by his usual jockey, Barry Geraghty.

 

The Seven Barrows trainer commented about his son of FAIR MIX: “I’m very happy with him and the idea behind running him over hurdles it just to try and get some of that freshness out of him. This looked a good place to start, but I would have preferred a bigger field as the idea was to get him to settle and there’s not going to be much cover with just the five runners.”

 

The other big attraction of the day is the 2013 Gold Gup winner, BOBS WORTH, who has been around more often but has run disappointingly on the last four occasion, including a devastating result in the Gold Cup Chase at Sandown Park in April. The son of BOB BACK will be partnered by regular jockey and work rider, Nico De Boinville, who will hope to give his mount his first victory since the Lexus Chase in 2013

 

Nicky Henderson added: “Bobs (Worth) is in good form and I was always quite keen to give him a run over hurdles first time out. The trip will be on the short side for him, but it’s a good place for him to start on nice ground and hopefully it will lead him nicely into the Hennessy.”

 

DERBY DOUGH INCREASED

Next year's lucky Derby winning owner will pocket 13% more in prize money after it was announced from Epsom that the amount had been increased to £1.5 million. The event is already Britain's richest race, ahead of the Qipco Champion Stakes, which is worth £1.3m.

 

Andrew Cooper, Clerk of the course at Epsom, commented: "We are proud the Investec Derby is the most prestigious Flat race in the world and the one owners, trainers and jockeys want to win. We are continuing to invest in its status and one aspect of that important both to us and to our long-term partners, Investec, is to ensure the Classic remains the richest race in Britain. Therefore, we have decided on a sizeable prize-money increase of just over 13 per cent to £1.5m for 2017, the first year we can act because of the unique yearling entry system for the race. The cost of entering a horse for the 2017 Investec Derby as a yearling by December 1 rises to £560 (from £500)."

 

LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS!

Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne sure put the cat among the female pigeons when she complained last week about male chauvinism in horse racing. Two females who certainly do not go along with her views are Irish jockeys, Katie Walsh and Jane Mangan who fervently refute that this is the case in the Emerald Isle or anywhere else for that matter. Katie Walsh should know what she's talking about as she was triumphant in the Irish Grand National and was also the highest-placed female finisher in the 2012 Grand National, coming third on Seabass.

 

Ruby Walsh's sister commented: "I cannot speak for what happens in Australia but I can talk about what happens in Ireland and I cannot emphasise enough that it's a level playing field. The fact that it's a minority sport for women is nobody's fault. It's simply because most women don't want to go down the horse racing route. It has nothing to do with opportunities. I've never felt unwanted or undervalued because I'm a woman and whether it's at home in Ireland or over at Cheltenham or anywhere else in Britain, I have always felt that I have got fair treatment."

 

Fellow Irish jockey Jane Mangan agreed: "I have to admit I was shocked to hear what she said and this was after she had just won the Melbourne Cup. She had been given the opportunity to ride a horse in one of the world’s biggest races and she took it. If you can show your skill, trainers and owners will use you in Ireland. It's as simple as that and that is always the way it has been as far as I'm concerned. I feel we all get equal opportunities and it's just a case of whether we take them or not."

 

FRIDAY 6th NOVEMBER 2015

HAIL AND FAREWELL TO HAYLEY!

It's one of life's ironies that in the week when one woman jockey wins one of world’s top races, the Melbourne Cup, another decides to give up the struggle of trying to succeed in what is generally considered a man's world. Thirty-two-year-old Hayley Turner dons her boots and riding gear for two final rides at Chelmsford City today. The Nottingham-born rider's score card since her debut at Southwell in March 2000, records 770 winners (her latest on Tuesday), generating £6.7m in owners’ prize money, which makes her, by far, the most successful female jockey in Britain. A year into her career she began a 12-year partnership with trainer Michael Bell and four years after that she became the first girl champion apprentice. Sometimes described as British racing's 'pin-up girl', she somehow never managed to secure any Classic race victories but Group One wins came thick and fast, bagging the July Cup and the Nunthorpe in just a six-week campaign in 2011. In 2012 she extended her reputation to Arlington Park when she claimed the Beverly D Stakes. The following year, however, the daughter of a riding instructor suffered a serious setback in her career when she broke her pelvis in a heavy fall in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster and was never really the same again. Her successes dropped dramatically, more than halving from 100s to 40s. Hayley Turner has now admitted what is already common knowledge, whether we like it or not. Horse racing is a tough, sometimes brutal, environment more suited to men and success stories such as Hayley Turner's are the exception rather than the rule. A jockey's life consists of a 6am start on the gallops, often followed by rides at two race fixtures with the working day not finishing until after midnight. Such a regime can be seven days a week and even 365 days a year. The reward for this hard labour is £118.29 a ride. You've got to be super determined and disciplined to succeed and hats off to Hayley Turner for gracing the track with her special combination of feminine charm and professional riding skills. May she end her career today with a winner!

 

THREE TIMES A LADY

Another representative of horse racing's distaff side was firing on all pistons on the first day of Musselburgh's Autumn jumping campaign. The Kinross-based Lucinda Russell continued her successful season with a treble. The Racing UK Available Anywhere Novices' Limited Handicap Chase proved to be a good choice for the fences debut of COBBLER SWAYNE who went on to leave any possible challenge struggling eight lengths in his slip-stream.

 

The delighted winning jockey, Peter Buchanan, commented: "I'm really pleased with that. He was a bit keen over hurdles and tackling fences seem to have made him settle better. Chasing can take these point-to-pointers to a different level and he's a horse to look forward to. He enjoyed the ground and the track and we might come back here as the prize money is good too!"

 

This success was added to an hour later in the Interactive Handicap Chase when conditional jockey, Derek Fox partnered COBAJAYISLAND to a narrow victory. In the very next race, the Watch On The Racing UK App Handicap Hurdle the same rider proved his first success wasn't a fluke by riding the five-year-old MARAWEK to a three-length win.

 

Lucinda Russell added: "We're just trying quietly to push Derek up the conditional ladder. He works ever so hard at home and he has a great feel for a race as he always puts the horses in the right place."

 

CELEBRATE THIS GUY'S DAY!

A racing legend reached a landmark age yesterday, Guy Fawkes' Day. Most people, even if they do not know much about horse racing will know the name Lester Piggott, who has just turned 80 years old. The Wantage-born jockey notched up 4,493 British winners over his lon riding career. His successes include nine Derbys, eight St Legers, six Oaks, five 2,000 Guineas, two 1,000 Guineas and 116 Royal Ascot victories. At nearly 5ft. 8in in height, Lester Piggott is unusually tall for a Flat jockey and consequently had the nickname of the “Long Fellow“, but, unlike other tall riders, he seems to have always managed to keep his weight down to 8st 5lb. Incredibly he won his first race on the Flat at Haydock Park in August 1948 when he was just 12-years-old, and coincidentally his last win was also at the same track.

Lester Piggott made history when making a comeback in 1990, at the age of 54, by winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

 

Time to wish an 80-year-old racing legend: “Happy Birthday”!

 

THURSDAY 5th NOVEMBER 2015

YA WIN SOME, YA LOSE SOME!

One lady had a fairytale day ending in the Melbourne Cup, another lady was denied such a happy conclusion to her training career. The scene was Kempton Park; the race, the Listed Floodlit Stakes; the horse HAMELIN; the jockey Stevie Donohoe and, specially, the trainer was Lady Cecil, who was saddling her last runner before retiring. The Athlone-born rider seemed to do nothing wrong as he was determined to make all the running in the one-mile-four-furlong contest and looked as though it was going to be another magical climax but the five-year-old son of CAPE CROSS wasn't able to do enough to fend off the advances from the James Fanshawe-trained bay mare, MISSED CALL, whom Tom Queally drove past the post a mere neck ahead. Interesting to note that an even grander lady had a disappointing day. The 15/8, DARTMOUTH, owned by the Queen and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, had to settle with a third, having failed to find any extra in the final yards.

 

A DAY TO REMEMBER

Yesterday's Kempton fixture may not have been good for the ladies but one particular trainer was very glad to be there. In the first race of the day, the 32Red On The App Store Handicap, the DUCHESS OF MARMITE gave Richard Hughes his first winner as a trainer, after retiring from race riding in the Summer. The three-year-old daughter of DUKE OF MARMALADE was the 9/4 favourite, after finishing a creditable third at the same track just a week ago. It also turned out to be a significant result for additional reasons.

 

Richard hughes commented: "My father (Dessie Hughes) trained his last winner on this day last year and my sister (Sandra Hughes) had a winner at Fairyhouse today as well. I believe in fate and things happen for a reason. We only moved into the new yard at Weathercock House on Saturday, so to have a winner already is a great omen. I'm delighted for all my staff who have worked so hard in the last month or so with the move and everything else. They've worked all hours and gone above and beyond the call of duty. I took a bit of a chance running the filly back so quick, but it didn't look a great race and she did it well in the end."

 

40,000/1 BET!

Twenty pence doesn't buy much these days but one fortunate Sky Bet customer turned his heptagonal coin into over eight grand after landing a big each-way accumulator yesterday. In fact the lucky person notched up £8,659.81p, having splashed out on a 10p each-way nine-fold on nine consecutive races. No. I don't understand the mathematics of that, either!

 

Michael Shinners commented for Sky Bet spokesman: "We thought we might be in for a tough afternoon with plenty of favourites going in around the country, but nobody saw this bet coming. To roll up such a decent win off such a small stake in less than an hour takes some doing!"

WEDNESDAY 4th NOVEMBER 2015

DOUBLE? NO TROUBLE!

Just when things seemed a little quiet in the Aramastone stables, Venetia Williams produced a double at Exeter yesterday. No time was wasted either. In the very first race of the day, the Bathwick Tyres Bideford "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle, YALA ENKI, in only his second race in this country, with Aidan Coleman aboard, ran his rivals into the ground, with a sixteen-length victory. The potential runner-up for champion jockey title sent the five-year-old straight into the lead and there the duo stayed for the rest of the contest. The champion jockey in-waiting, Richard Johnson managed to urge the Philip Hobbs-trained DUKE DES CHAMPS through the field but the son of NICKNAME wasn't to be caught.

 

Venetia Williams commented: "He has been ready for a couple of weeks but we have been waiting for this soft ground and it promised to rain. Aidan (Coleman) made the running as he wanted to make sure it was a true-run race as he will stay three miles. I entered him in the three-mile fixed-brush race at Haydock, which is later this month, so I was kind of hoping he would win."

 

The second win came two hours later for this trainer and jockey partnership in the Smith And Williamson Handicap Chase. Eight-year-old SAROQUE made all the running in this three-mile contest and and managed to thwart the threatening Neil King-trained DELGANY DEMON's claim for glory a length-and-a-quarter .

 

The First Lady of Aramstone commented: "The ground had gone soft, which in his favour, but to make all (the running) first time out he was entitled to get tired near the end. I was very bold and have put him in the Hennessy, but he might have to win two before he goes there - that is one down."

 

TROUBLE AT T' MILL!

The BHA and the two biggest British racecourse owners, Arena Racing Company and the Jockey Club caused a few ructions when they announced recently plans to ban bookmakers from sponsoring races unless they contribute more to the sport. Paddy Power, for one, wasn't amused and has written letters to the bodies concerned expressing legal concerns as to whether these plans didn't constitute a breach competition law. The letters do not yet seem to threaten any legal action but they do call into question the intention to introduce authorised betting partners. This action by one of Britain's biggest bookmakers coincides with the break-down of talks between racing and betting operators over the question of funding for the sport and just ten days before the beginning of the Jockey Club-owned Cheltenham's Open meeting, sponsored by no other than, you guessed it, Paddy Power.

 

GOT YOU COVERED!

Cheveley Park Stud have just published their fees for next season. Owners looking to add a champion to their name may take advantage of the unchanged fee of £45,000 for the services of their legendary PIVOTAL. The 22-year-old son of POLAR FALCON has produced a raft of classy performers this year, including EAGLE TOP for one. DUTCH ART, who sired DUTCH CONNECTION, winner of this year's Jersey Stakes and runner-up in the Prix Jean Prat, can be hired for the same fee as last year, £40,000. KYLLACHY, son of the Cheveley Park Stud star remains on £15,000, despite a memorable year when his three-year-old offspring, TWILIGHT SON scored in the Haydock Sprint Cup and another son, SOLE POWER, won the valuable Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan and then went on to land the Group 2 Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh in September.

 

Chris Richardson, the Stud's MD. Commented: "At Cheveley Park Stud we have always aimed to offer our breeders the very best stallions at tremendous value and in an effort to help breeders further in 2016, we will be improving our October 1 nominations terms from free return to special live foal. This means that a full refund will be paid in the event the mare does not produce a live foal. We have huge faith in our current roster of stallions and we will continue to support them with our own mares, as well as making them available at great prices to our customers."

TUESDAY 3rd NOVEMBER 2015

PAYNE-KILLER

The 'race that stops a nation' did just that yesterday but not in the way everyone expected. The 2015 Melbourne Cup was won by a female jockey for the first time in the race’s 155-year history. Michelle Payne went into the record books at Flemington Racecourse by riding the 100/1 outsider, PRINCE OF PENZANCE to victory. The thirty-year-old Ballarat-born rider gave an exhilarating exhibition aboard the six-year-old son of PENTIRE, making a late challenge down the home straight, denying fast-finishing MAX DYNAMITE the prestigious prize by three-quarters of a length.

 

The winning jockey commented: “It’s like a dream come true, this horse is awesome. What he has been through, unbelievable training to get him here like this today. This is everybody’s dream as a jockey in Australia and now probably the world. Racing is such a chauvinistic sport, a lot of the owners wanted to kick me off. Everyone else can get stuffed [who] think women aren’t good enough.”

 

OH BROTHER!

A thirteen-pound concession to a younger challenger proved too much for the 2013 and 2014 King George VI Chase winner at Kempton Park yesterday. SILVINIACO CONTI just couldn't match the speed of the Philip Hobbs-trained BROTHER TEDD when push came to shove as they came into the hone straight, though the oldest horse in the field wasn't about to capitulate to his juniors and battled on gamely in the final hundred yards to reduce the ultimate winning distance to four-hundred yards, a head in front of David Pipe's LOW KEY. The Paul Nicholls-trained son of DOM ALCO was first time back on the track since winning the Betfred Bowl Chase at Aintree in April, again beating by a head another of David Pipe's mounts, BALLYNAGOUR

 

Paul Nicholls commented; "Philip's horse was always going to win, but he has done the job we wanted. He has had a really good blow and has run better than he did first time out last year - we've now got just over two weeks to get him right. Noel was thrilled with him. He will come on for that a lot just because of the circumstances - we've had problems with him. He is bound to improve and that will put him bang-on for Haydock. He is a three-mile chaser and what he wants is to be jumping and galloping.”

 

Sarah Hobbs, wife of the Minehead-based trainer added: "Brother Tedd has been the party pooper again! He beat AP (McCoy) on his last ride at Sandown and this time Silviniaco Conti has been beaten by him. He is coming along the right way and he has done it nicely. Richard came down to school him the other week and we were quite confident. Having a stone less (than Silviniaco Conti) helped, as well. He sliced through them and even when he was close, he was clever and he will make a nice chaser.”

 

NO CHARGE

Nottinghamshire police has announced that the potential runner-up for this season's champion jockey title has decided to drop the case against the individuals who attacked him in the weighing room at Southwell last month. The mindless attack on jump jockey, Aidan Coleman, stunned the racing community and forced racecourses up and down the country to carry out an urgent review of their security arrangements to stop anything like that ever happening again. So far no-one has been charged over the incident, although two men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage with a second woman being arrested on suspicion of obstructing police. These four have been released on bail while further investigations are carried out.

 

Aidan Coleman, who required some dental work after the incident commented:"Us jump jockeys are a tough bunch and a slap from a drunk wouldn't be enough to stop us going back two work. As far as I am concerned a line has been drawn under the matter and it's time for everyone to move on."

 

MONDAY 2nd NOVEMBER 2015

HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE A ...”

Whilst musing on the amazing achievement of America's latest Triple Crown wonder horse who also won the Breeders' Club Classic, spare a thought for a little-known trainer who saddled RUNHAPPY to a track-record victory in the in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint and then got the sack. Maria Borell, who handles just three horses, was notching up only the sixth winner of her short career with victory in this $1.5 million contest. Barely 24 hours after after this fabulous feat, the thirty-two-year-old former equine vet learned that the three-year-old son of SUPERSAVER would be taken away from her stables. The Syracuse-based operation had recently hit the headlines for making a stand on the use of any kind of drug in training, even permitted ones such as lasix. It's fair to say that this news may have gained more popularity due to the fact that Maria Borell was also styled as 'The Girl with the Horse Tattoo' as she has a picture of a Kentucky Derby winner etched between her shoulder blades. The official word is that the decision to remove RUNHAPPY from Maria Borell's small stable was the result of a disagreement on Sunday morning between the trainer and Laura Wohlers, who is not only the owner's Racing Manager but sister-in-law.

 

The situation may have come to a head after Maria Borell tweeted: “Runhappy had fill and heat in an ankle this morning, Laura wanted to send him to the track. “Now she tells me I'm gone.”

 

Laura Wohlers, the previous trainer of the three-year-old colt, commented: “The decision to move in a different direction was not made today. This morning there was no filling. I've checked horses 100,000 times in my life. He had some heat, but nothing more than any other horse who ran 1m08s and change. We jog him after races to get rid of lactic acid build-up and she has disagreed in the past.”

 

LUCKY 13

Two wins and two seconds were enough to establish this Englishman as the most outstanding jockey of the 2015 Breeders' Cup World Championships at Keeneland Race Course. Ryan Moore was accordingly awarded the 13th Bill Shoemaker Award, after victories on FOUND in the Longines Turf and HIT IT A BOMB in the Juvenile Turf with second place on ALICE SPRINGS in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and LEGATISSIMO in the Filly & Mare Turf. The Brighton-born rider now has eight Breeders' Cup wins to his name but it is the first time he has won the Shoemaker Award which named after some one who is considered to be one of the greatest jockeys in the history of Thoroughbred racing. Bill Shoemaker won the Kentucky Derby four times and notched up over 8,800 races in a forty-year career, the highlight of which was surely his winning of the Breeders' Cup Classic in 1987 when he was 56 years old. .

 

CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

The son of the Ballydoyle master recorded his first success as a registered point-to-point trainer yesterday. The Joseph O'Brien-trained MINELLA FOR ME, previously unraced, was steered to victory by James 'Corky' Carroll. The Dual Irish champion jockey, who has not yet got an official training licence to race horses under Rules, is, nevertheless, registered as a trainer with the Irish Turf Club and so can saddle runners in point-to-point races. Joseph O'Brien said last month he plans to scale back his riding commitments next year and concentrate more on training.

SUNDAY 1st NOVEMBER 2015

THANK CUE!

Two years and seven races after winning the Betfair Chase, the Colin Tizzard-trained CUE CARD finally got his act together in the Charlie Hall Chase and produced almost a mirror image of that 2013 triumph with his old sparring partner, DYNASTE, following him home in second place, this time four-and-half lengths adrift. The son of KING'S THEATRE usually likes to assert his position from the front of the field but this time it didn't quite work out that way. Paul Nichols' SAM WINNER took over the leading slot early on and wisely, Paddy Brennan, aboard the nine-year-old for the first time, decided that it was more important to get his mount in a good jumping frame of mind and so was content to allow others to determine the pace. This proved to be a sound strategy. Sean Bowen, riding the son of MARTALINE, proceeded at the head of the field but at a pace that was just right for the eventual winner, who seized the initiative and was not to be denied victory, despite all the efforts of the David Pipe-trained pair, DYNASTE and BALLYNAGOUR.

 

Trainer Colin Tizzard commented: "Last year he was troubled by a trapped epiglottis, which was so bad he could hardly trot up our gallop without gurgling. So it is wonderful to see him back to something like his best. We brought him in a month early this time and he's been brilliant all the way through. We'd had two or three horses blow-up first time out this season, which was the reason I gave him a two-mile gallop around Wincanton. We couldn't risk bringing him here unless we were convinced he was fit. It probably stood him in good stead. He's in the Hennessy and on Tuesday morning he'll also be entered in the Betfair Chase, so we've got options."

 

AIDAN'S NOT LOST

Much of the pre- Breeders' Cup hype centred on the the John Gosden-trained GOLDEN HORN who was aiming for a fifth Group/Grade 1 win from seven starts this season, so, as a result, the victor of the Longine Classic slipped under the radar. Aidan O'Brien, however, never lost faith in his Galileo filly and yesterday FOUND proved him right and seized the prestigious prize. In almost a copy of Friday's success Ryan Moore had once again a wide draw (9) to contend with but managed to get into a good mid-field position on the outside. When the runners to turn for home he had managed to edge up to fourth position but still some lengths adrift of Frankie Dettori. The latter seized his moment as the pacemaker, SHINING COPPER, at one stage a good 15 lengths clear of the rest of the field, slowly drifted back to the following pack. GOLDEN HORN urged to the front and it looked as though nothing could challenge the battle-hardened son of CAPE CROSS. The strategy would have worked except that Ryan Moore, who had followed the move closely, decided to make his bid just seconds before his rival, This meant that Frankie Dettori was denied the expected advantage and there ensued an eyeball-to-eyeball exercise of trying to outrun each other and it was Ryan Moore, recently assuming the best-in-the-world mantle, who prevailed.

 

Joint owner, Michael Tabor commented: "To see that race and the way Ryan rode the animal, and Aidan's great training feat to get her here after such a long season, is very special and to beat a very good colt that has won everything in Europe just shows it was a great performance."

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

At Hallowe'en all manner of spooks and spirits are supposed to be abroad. For the jockey bidding to finally gain the champion jockey's title for the first time, after being runner- up an incredible 16 times, there is one ghost that drives him on in his endeavours. Richard Johnson, who is certain to secure his first-ever champion jockey title this season, with 118 winners since the start of the National Hunt season in April, has admitted that he is driven by the vision of his former rival’s drive and dedication.

 

Richard Johnson commented: “Even though he’s not riding, he’s still driving me on because I want to be champion and he set the standard. His work ethic was amazing and that stays with you. He set such an example to the younger lads that they all want to be like him which is good for racing. It’s nice to be part of a sport and industry in which people care about everyone so much. We all have good and bad days, the nice thing is you never get too big for your own boots because you never know what is around the corner.”

 

SATURDAY 31st OCTOBER 2015

ONLY HERE FOR THE BEER

Ayr Racecourse's final Saturday session will be a seven-card event sponsored by Tennent, the iconic beer brand, who are at the beginning of a five-year deal whereby lager and other associated brands will be on sale at Scotland’s premier racecourse. The prize-money has been augmented to £82,000 from last year's £66,000 and the feature race of the day will be the two-mile Class 2 Tennent’s Cup Handicap Hurdle, offering a prize of £20,000. This fixture has attracted eleven runners, a favourite of which is GLINGERBURN, the brilliant hurdler trained by Nicky Richards. This winner of this contest will also be presented with an annually awarded trophy, The Tennent's Cup, the beginning of a new policy of the feature races at bigger meetings at Ayr being raced for trophies.

 

SUCH STUFF AS DREAMS ARE MADE ON

Tonight's the night there could be an addition to American folklore. AMERICAN PHAROAH, the first horse for 37 years to claim the much-sought-after TRIPLE CROWN bids to bring his charismatic career to a magical climax by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. Trainer Bob Baffert wants this particular triumph to, in a way, settle an outstanding score. Last year he missed out by the narrowest of margins when the Jamie Osborne-trained TOAST OF NEW YORK pipped his BAYERN at the post.

 

Bob Baffert commented: “It (Triple Crown) had eluded me all these years, so my life is fulfilled – I just need another Breeders’ Cup Classic! He has speed and the acceleration to get him out of a jam. It’s like being stuck in traffic and you are driving a Ferrari – you can manoeuvre a bit easier than the other people. He gives the jockey a lot of confidence, he knows he’s sitting on something really special. He’s made a lot of people feel really great as people had been waiting for the Triple Crown in America. It’s still an honour to have a horse like that. He’s at his peak, he’s happy and he’s doing really well. He’s going to come out of there running.

 

TWO-YEAR-OLD FIREWORKS

Talking of the Breeders’ Cup, the first day got with a bang when Ryan Moore rode HIT IT A BOMB in a last-to-first charge in the Juvenile Turf, claiming his seventh Breeders’ Cup winner and making it a ninth for trainer Aidan O’ Brien, who was landing this particular race for a third time. He scored in 2011 with WROTE and 2012 with GEORGE VANCOUVER. There was an added touch to the victory as the two-year-old son of WAR FRONT is owned by Evie Stockwell, Coolmore Stud boss John Magnier's 92-year-old mother.

 

The winning trainer commented: “He won his maiden at the Curragh and Ryan loved him even though he only just won. Then he won a Listed race at Dundalk and Ryan said he was very good. We were looking forward to coming here but when we saw draw 14 and the ground changed we were very worried. Ryan said he was going to let him relax in the first half of the race and see what happened. He gave him a marvellous ride and when he asked him to quicken he really flew. Better ground will suit him. I’d say he is a classy miler and we’d be looking at Classics.”

 

FRIDAY 30th OCTOBER 2015

A WEIGHT OFF HIS MIND

One of the leading contenders in the Breeders’ Cup Classic had his first run on dirt at the Keeneland track yesterday and his rider appeared pleased with the outcome. Joseph O’Brien, who took GLENEAGLES, trained by his father, Aidan, out on a brief canter on this typically American surface, did say, however, that it is wasn't possible to predict how the GALILEO colt would ultimately handle the ground. Another imponderable is the distance, ten furlongs, because the three-year-old's speciality is seven furlongs although he has won twice over a mile, although he did finishes a disappointing sixth over that distance last time out in the Queen Elizabeth 11Stakes at Ascot.

 

Joseph O’Brien is no stranger this unique American scene. He claimed his first big victory on the international stage riding his father's ST. NICHOLAS ABBEY in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf. Four years later he has won two Derbys and a host more Group One events. What the nearly six-foot tall jockey has made no secret of in recent months, though, is that he is aware that his top-level riding career is coming to an end. This was clearly in evidence yesterday in Kentucky. The twenty-two year-old rider is only there to see that GLENEAGLES is ready and settled for his big challenge. On the big day it will be Ryan Moore in the saddle seeking for glory. The top Irish trainer's son, however, seems to be taking things in his stride and even seems ready and happy to move on.

 

Joseph O'Brien commented with wisdom beyond his years: “I’m not going to kill myself worrying about my weight. I’ve been riding for five or six years and I’ve been so lucky to have the rides and the winners that I have had; it’s unbelievable. I can’t ride forever and I never thought that I would be able to ride forever, so the time comes when it’s best to see what happens. Nine stone was tough at the end of this season, so I don’t know if I’ll do nine stone next year. I’m not going to put myself under pressure always watching my weight and I’ll see how I’m going in February or March.”

 

MORE THAN THE GLORY

Transport company Stobart Group has generously injected a further £65,000 into the annual jump jockey championship, meaning that the winner will not only enjoy the glory but will also reap some financial reward. Stobart, also sponsor of the Flat jockeys' title race, has got together with a group of racing organisations, including Great British Racing, the Jockey Club and Arena Racing Company, to present a £15,000 prize to the jockey who wins the championship in April. After discussing with with the Professional Jockeys’ Association and its members how best prize-money should be distributed, it was decided that the top five jockeys in the title race will receive cash prizes, while the champion conditional jockey will get £5,000. An innovation is that there will be a Northern jump jockey of the year award, made possible by Arc, Scottish Racing and Wetherby racecourse, and will be awarded to the jockey who scores the victories at the 15 racecourses North of and including Market Rasen.

 

Richard Johnson, the heir apparent to the jump jockey title 2015 commented: “When the proposal of prize-money was first suggested, the jockeys agreed that this should be spread right across the weighing room, acknowledging as many as possible for their efforts throughout the season. It’s a tough lifestyle and it’s good to see that the first five in the championship will reap rewards, as well as the champion conditional and it’s good to see the new northern prize."

 

Rod Street, GBR's CEO added: “Having launched the Stobart Flat jockeys’ championship earlier this year, it was always our intention to provide financial rewards for the jump jockeys. They are tremendous athletes and we want to create more opportunities to promote them. By raising their profile and billing them as the stars of our sport, they can help us broaden racing’s audience. Rewarding them for their success is part and parcel of making more of them as professional sportsmen.”

 

GOLD STANDARD

A racecourse in Devon has been named one of best in Britain for racehorse owners after once more achieving the Racehorse Owners’ Association (ROA) Gold Standard award. Newton Abbot is one of 12 racecourses of the 60 in the country to receive this accolade, alongside Hamilton Park, Kempton Park and Market Rasen. The Gold Standard is aimed at recognising top service for owners at each racecourse in the country and, thereby, yearly improve that experience.

 

Patrick Masterson, Managing Director of Newton Abbot Racecourse commented: “At Newton Abbot, we place great importance on ensuring that racehorse owners experience nothing but the best when they race at our course. After all, it is the racehorse owners that help to attract the crowds and we have had the support of very well-known owners in the sport over many years. We constantly endeavour to ensure that they have a great experience each and every time. This year we have added even more of a focus on the owners’ experience, with a clear, dedicated section on our website, clear signage for owners on racedays and excellent catering. We’re delighted to receive the Gold Standard from the ROA for the fourth year running. It really makes the hard work of our team worthwhile to know that owners enjoy visiting our racecourse.”

 

THURSDAY 29th OCTOBER 2015

 

'AIR HORSE ONE'

In June, this three-year-old became the first colt to win the prestigious Triple Crown since AFFIRMED claimed it back in 1978. That title conceals a wealth of talent, toughness and tirelessness necessary for a horse to triumph in the stamina-busting trio of contests: the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes run over a gruelling five-week period. It was this momentous achievement, alone, that won back the hearts and minds of the American sporting public who had become disenchanted with horse racing after so many scandals, particularly involving drugs. So popular and compelling was AMERICAN PHAROAH's winning of the Triple Crown, in fact, that Burger King was even prepared to pay handsomely for their mascot just to stand in TV range when trainer Bob Baffert was being interviewed. Just like a President of the United States the son of PIONEEROF (sic) THE NILE was given the full works when he was transported to Kentucky from his Southern California stables in a plane that has been dubbed 'Air Horse One' and, on arrival at his Keeneland training base, National Guards, dressed in camouflage fatigues, stood watch outside his box.

 

Trainer Bob Baffert commented: “Racing has been under a dark cloud over the last few years and has not got a lot of good publicity. This horse came at the right time and picked spirits up.

I have had horses which have been fast but their window of sustaining top performances was short. He is like the old-time thoroughbred which you could run every week. The special horses do it effortlessly.”

 

WATCH OUT, MATE!

Saturday's bet365 Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby looks set to have two stable companions from David Pipe's yard vying with each other. DYNASTE and BALLYNAGOUR do have alternative entries – the former in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal and the latter in the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle also at Wetherby card - but it seems more probable that they will battle it out in the three-mile chase. Both horses were last seen on the track in France at Auteuil. DYNASTE came ninth a couple of weeks ago in the Prix Camarthen and BALLYNAGOUR came fifth behind another stable companion, UNTEMPS POUR TOUT in the Grande Course de Haies d'Auteuil Hurdle the first week in June.

 

David Pipe commented: "Dynaste and Ballynagour will run in the Charlie Hall, ground permitting. Dynaste came out of France fine and Ballynagour seems in good form as well."

 

CURRAGH CHANGES

Someone from Horse Racing Ireland must have read Racing News yesterday when publicity was given to trainer Gordon Elliott's comments that Irish race tracks needed to “up their game massively”. The governing body has suddenly revealed a €65million plan to redevelop the Curragh racecourse, which will include a new grandstand, weigh-room, parade ring and a museum of Irish racing. The plan involves completely refurbishing the existing stable yard. A separate investment programme will be necessary to overhaul the training ground.

 

The project will be financed jointly by HRI and a number of private investors, including the Aga Khan, Eva-Maria Bucher Haefner, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, John Magnier, Godolphin Ireland and JP McManus..

 

Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Food, the Marine and Defence, commented: “This Government continues to support Irish racing which is a high-value contributor to the rural economy and a generator of inward foreign investment, competing with and beating some of the biggest players internationally. The Curragh is the heart of Kildare, the thoroughbred County. It is an acknowledged centre of excellence in every aspect of the thoroughbred industry and this project will secure its place as the keeper of Ireland’s racing traditions and a welcoming host of some of Ireland’s best sporting and social occasions. I am particularly grateful to the private investors for their support of the project, an investment which will be matched by the State through Horse Racing Ireland.”

 

WEDNESDAY 28th OCTOBER 2015

SEEING DOUBLE

Mullins and Mullins bagged the second race of the day at Punchestown yesterday when the 9/1 chance, BOWENSCOURT, won the Betdaq Serious About Sport Maiden Hurdle by a length, denying Gordon Elliott's WOODFORD ISLAND the limelight. This time it wasn't the ubiquitous Willie who entered the winner's enclosure but the County Kilkenny-based Mags (Margaret) Mullins with her jockey son, Danny. The winning daughter of WESTERNER easily won a Clonmel bumper at the beginning of September and followed that success with two creditable performances over hurdles at Clonmel and Gowran Park.

 

Mags Mullins commented: "I'm delighted with her. She's an improving filly. It's nice to come up here and do it. She was in on Thursday but I was afraid the ground might go. It's a good, galloping track here and fresh after the summer. She's a good stayer. She had two runs over hurdles and improved each day. We'll see how she comes out of this."

 

Just to prove it wasn't a fluke, Danny Mullins went on to make it a double, by winning the next race, this time for trainer, Desmond McDonogh, whose REALTA RATHCABHAIN was triumphant in the betdaq.com 2% Commission Handicap Hurdle.

 

JOE'S NIPPON FOR A WEEK

A Japanese-born jockey, with 400 worldwide winners to his credit, plans to spend a week riding out for Newmarket trainer, Roger Varian, to get the feel of what it's like to ride in this country. “Joe” Kanichiro Fujii has has never ridden in his homeland, having travelled to Australia as a teenager to train as a jockey and so far he has failed to pass the JRA jockey exam that would permit him to ride in Japan. So his main successes have been in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. with most of his big wins coming from races in the latter country where he claimed the 2013 Korean Derby and Oaks the 2012 Grand Prix Stakes and became only the third ever foreign rider to reach 100 winners in South Korea. One reason why this successful Japanese jockey has chosen the Kremlin House Stables for his week's ride-in could be that Roger Varian has a Japanese wife, Hanako, who just happens to be the Newmarket-based director of Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Japan breeding operation.

 

Joe” Fujii commented: "I visited Newmarket last year and met a Japanese friend of mine who works over here and they introduced me to Roger's wife (Hanako). Newmarket is where horse racing started from. It has got all the history. I like watching Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore ride and I really wanted to experience it once in my lifetime. The English way of racing is a lot different to Japan, Australia and Singapore. I believe that the more experience I have riding in different countries will make me a better jockey. Although I have to get a permit first before I can base myself here I would like to ride here in the future."

 

A DIG AT THE IRISH

It seems Irish racetracks are not a patch on their British counterparts and need to "up their game massively". Well, that's what Gordon Elliott thinks anyhow. The County Meath-based trainer made these comments just after he had saddled five runners at the recent Cheltenham two-day meeting. The Grand National-winning trainer didn't mention any particular track in Ireland for his surprise criticism and seemed to suggest that across-the-board improvements would be necessary to attract more British owners and trainers to go over to the Emerald Isle. What may have prompted him to make these remarks may have been that he was impressed that Cheltenham's first fixture of the season featured the opening of part of a £45 million redevelopment incorporating a new grandstand.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: "Last week, I was at Cheltenham and the difference between the way the racecourses in the UK and Ireland are run is night and day. We'd like to get a lot more English owners over to Ireland but the Irish racecourses need to up their game massively. I think the way owners are looked after in England is second to none. You go to courses such as Ayr and Cheltenham where owners get a free meal, free entry to the track and more and I think the Irish racecourses need to step up to it."

 

TUESDAY 27th OCTOBER 2015

EVERY COMES TO HIM WHO WAITS

Destiny Awaits Jack Steel and Fagan. No it doesn't! Destiny awaits Richard Johnson! These were the three winners at Ayr yesterday that set the thirty-eight-year-old jockey on his unstoppable path to gaining the Champion jockey's crown, an honour that was denied him for the twenty years that king Tony McCoy occupied the throne. This treble victory means that Richard Johnson is now on 111 wins for the season, well clear of his nearest rival, Aidan Coleman, who has 74. This seems to be the season for 'the man who would be king', who attained his fastest 50 on July 3.

 

It looks like he has a number future winners in the pipeline, commenting: “Garde La Victoire is one of our big hopes and could run at Uttoxeter on Friday if the predicted rain arrives. He was a highly rated hurdler last term and, from what we’ve seen at home, he could well turn out to be as good over fences. I’m really looking forward to Wait For Me too. He was very impressive on his debut at Ascot before running really well to finish third in the Champion Bumper at the Festival. He’s very exciting and I’ll be disappointed if he isn’t right up there with the best of the novice hurdlers.”

 

NOT CRIQUETTE!

The five-year-old superstar of French racing, twice winner of the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, is now set to assume a new life as broodmare at the Haras de Bouquetot stud in Normandy, headquarters of her owner, Sheikh Joann. The “Criquette” Head-Maarek-trained TREVE claimed victory in nine of her thirteen starts with half-a-dozen of these at Group One level, including the prestigious Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2013 and 2014. Along the way she earned more than £6million in prize-money for her connections. Sadly the daughter of MOTIVATOR was denied the chance to end her triumphant racing days on a high by winning Europe's premier middle-distance contest at Longchamp for a record-breaking third ime earlier this month, finishing fourth behind John Gosden's champion, GOLDEN HORN.

 

As her heroine finally left her Chantilly stables, trainer Christiane “Criquette” Head-Maarek commented; "She left on Monday morning and has gone to Sheikh Joann's farm. It was an emotional farewell but we are used to doing that. She has done so much for us and I think she deserves to go to stud now.

 

NOT THE END OF THE RAINBOW.

The 2012 winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham and his last victory,

the Melling Chase at Aintree in the same year, has successfully started a new career hunting. The 12-year-old, FINIAN'S RAINBOW, is now with the Marchioness of Blandford.

 

Lady Blandford commented: “It’s an honour just to sit on him, let alone hunt him. He is an absolute gentleman – he’s huge, a gentle giant – and it’s very flattering to have him. I took him show jumping to pop him over a fence before taking him hunting, and he has an unbelievable jump, as well as being very well-schooled. He has had one day’s autumn hunting with the Heythrop so far and will go again quietly like this week. We had a little trouble getting him to eat when he came, and now he has a glass of cider in his feed, night and morning, which he absolutely loves. He’s a lovely horse.”

 

MONDAY 26th OCTOBER 2015

 

DEAD UNLUCKY!

It was a sad day for one Sky Bet customer at Aintree yesterday. He or she only won £27,000 for a one pound bet instead of £56,000! The problem was that all the punter's selections on the seven-race card won but one of the contests was declared a dead-heat. Such a result is recorded as only happening forty-five times since 1801 but seems to be getting more frequent, as it has occurred seven times already this year; the last time was at York in August. This time it involved the Jonjo O'Neill-trained OPTIMISTIC BIAS and Philip Hobbs' SYKES in the Liverpool Horse Show January 2016 Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. After a photo-finish, the judge, after several minutes of deliberation, was unable to split the two. The winning punter got an early bet on Jonjo O'Neill's six-year-old son SAYERSHAN, who eventually was sent off the 4/1 Favourite and, had he been awarded the race, the winning reward would have been double. There again, if the judge had given SYKES the victory, then a puny pay-out would have amounted to £52.90 for the place part of the bet.

Can't win'em all!

 

HE'S OFFALY GOOD

Leopardstown closed its gate on the Flat season yesterday after the coronation of this season's Champion jockey. The winner was no stranger to the occasion as he had won it seven times before. The County Offaly-born Pat Smullen fittingly rounded off his tremendously successful year with a win in the very last race of the season on CHINESE LIGHT, trained by Dermot Weld, for whom he is stable jockey and who has provided him with so many winners. The thirty-eight-year-old rode his 100th winner in Ireland on Friday night at Dundalk and having made a century in 2014, he becomes only the second jockey on the Flat to accomplish this feat since Michael Kinane in 2003. His final score for 2015 was 103 winners ahead of last year’s Champion Apprentice Colin Keane.

 

IF WISHES WERE HORSES ...

The very name of this son of ALTFLORA was not a good omen for yesterday's result at Aintree. Philip Hobbs clearly had high hopes that WISHFULL (sic) THINKING could repeat last year's twelve-length victory in the Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase but the wish was in vain. The Paul Nicholls-trained 7/1 shot, SOUND INVESTMENT, with Nick Scholfield aboard, made an unstoppable last-minute bid for leadership before the last fence and held on to win by half-a-length. Last year's winner valiantly tried to beat off the challenge but seemed to find the top weight, seven pounds more than the winner, too much, even in thehands of top jockey, Richard Johnson.

 

Paul Nicholls' assistant, Tom Jonason commented: "This has been his aim all season. We weren't expecting great things in the Silver Trophy at Chepstow as he's a chaser rather than a hurdler - that was all about giving him a prep run. The run brought him on and we expected him to run well, but it would have been ambitious to say he'd definitely win as it was such a competitive race. I thought he could run a great race and finish second or third. He'll probably get an entry for the Paddy Power (Cheltenham) - he'll have to be aimed at those big handicaps now.

 

SUNDAY 25th OCTOBER 2015

RUSSELL IN A BUSTLE

Six races at the Kelso Halloween meeting and three of them were won by the trainer, Lucinda Russell and jockey, Peter Buchanan partnership. The added delight was that all three are owned by Deborah Thomson. The Kinross-based stables got off to a flying start when BIG RIVER, looking to add to his bumper victory at this track in March, scored by two lengths in the first race of the day, the Carnacrack National Hunt Maiden Hurdle.

 

Lucinda Russell's commments after this success: “He’s a really nice horse - very athletic - and he could be one of our nicest novice hurdlers this season,” enthused Lucinda of the 13-8 fav. He might go over 2m 4f soon, and he´ll be even better over fences.”

 

I was just half-an-hour later that she and her stable jockey took their places in the winner’s enclosure again, when 4/1 shot, ONE FOR ARTHUR, claimed the Clifford & Martin Firth Memorial Novices’ Chase, also by a winning distance of two lengths. This six-year-old son of MILAN demonstrated his winning ways by notching up three hurdle successes last season.

 

The Arlary House trainer only managed a third in the next race with BALLYBEN but thirty-five minutes later she did it again with the assistance, once more, of Peter Buchanan who partnered ALIZEE DE JANEIRO in the Sir Maxwell Harper Gow Memorial handicap hurdle race, winning this time by three-and-three-quarter lengths.

 

ARE YOU CRAZY?

Meanwhile down at Newbury John Gosden was having a wild time. After winning a Newmarket maiden on his first time out at Newmarket, CRAZY HORSE lived up to his name and snatched the Worthington's Whizz Kidz Horris Hill Stakes by a nose. The son of SLEEPING INDIAN, owned by the trainer's wife, was placed straight into this Group Three contest after his first humble victory and managed to control his inexperience and, although staying out wide in the middle of the track with most of his rivals staying on the far side, the two-year-old bay colt held onto the narrowest of leads in the final strides.

 

John Gosden commented: "It's great fun, he's a home-bred from a cheap mare. He was still very green but he stuck his neck out. He's been a slow learner."

 

VICTORIA FALLS

On her third ride under Rules at Newbury, the former Olympic cycling champion, had a devil of a time at Newbury yesterday. Victoria Pendleton had a fall just before the winning post in the Rayner Bosch Car Service Handicap for Lady Amateur Riders, after being unseated by the Phil Middleton-trained SATANIC BEAT. The newly-trained rider had manoeuvred the six-year-old horse into an advantageous position for most of the race and was even briefly second in the first part of the straight but the son of DARK ANGEL ran out of steam even before the unfortunate upset. The thirty-five year-old Bedfordshire-born rider, however, seemed none the worse for wear as she walked away from the scene.

 

Victoria Pendleton commented afterwards: "I'm fine. I lost my balance and couldn't regain it. It's so annoying but it won't put me off."

 

SATURDAY 24th OCTOBER 2015

THE NUMBERS GAME

Is National Hunt Racing losing some of its appeal? Only 59 horses ran in seven races at Cheltenham yesterday. That's an average of eight a contest. Even that puts a rosier picture on the situation than it was. The opening race, the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle had only six horses competing and, as there was prize money on offer down to sixth place, each got a pay-out, ranging from £10, 635 for the winner and £197 for number six who was some eighteen lengths adrift. The situation was slightly more bizarre in the next event, the squareintheair.com Novices' Chase which was contested by only three geldings and there was also prize money for three more vacant places. Happily the important series qualifier for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle was a more exciting spectacle with eleven runners intent on getting into the final next March. It is interesting that the two fixtures that attracted the highest entrants were for amateur and conditional riders and so over half of them went home happy with extra cash in their pockets. The prospects for today's racing is slightly better with 76 runners and over half of these will win a prize.

 

DAMPING FACTOR

Doncaster had a dry night but rain is still on the cards and that is of concern for at least a couple of trainers, particularly Aidan O'Brien. The Ballydoyle trainer has won the Racing Post Trophy seven times already and he is hoping for another win from one of his three runners, DEAUVILLE, JOHANNES VERMEER or PORT DOUGLAS. The first of this trio has the greatest chance, if the ground is right, as the Group 3 winning GALILEO colt was only three-quarters of a length behind the John Gosden-trained odds-on favourite, FOUNDATION, in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented: "He did win his maiden on testing ground but the rain they are expecting wouldn't be an advantage as he prefers better ground.

 

John Gosden said much the same thing about the son of ZOFFANY: "He worked nicely on Wednesday but my main concern would be the weather as we wouldn't want too much rain for him. A slog in testing ground wouldn't be an ideal scenario."

 

INTENT ON WINNING

The eight-year-old son of DESERT PRINCE could be the dark horse in next year's Champion Hurdle or so Barry Geraghty strongly believes. The Nicky Henderson-trained MY TENT OR YOURS was off the track most of last season due to injury but he only lost out by a neck to JEZKI in the 2014 contest. In the meantime Willie Mullins' FAUGHEEN dominates in in this division.

 

Barry Geraghty was quite positive, however, commenting: "He seems in good shape. I schooled him a few weeks ago and he felt well. He didn't have a serious injury so hopefully he can retain a lot of his ability as he was a good second in a Champion Hurdle. With age, he should learn to settle a bit and I'd say that would be the key to him. If you're looking for something to take on Faugheen, he was only beaten a neck by Jezki and he pulled like mad that day so he definitely has the ability. If you're looking for something to take on Faugheen then he definitely has the ability. He was only beaten a neck by Jezki [in the 2014 Champion Hurdle] and he pulled desperately hard that day. With age, if he learns to settle a bit that will be key for him."

 

FRIDAY 23rd OCTOBER 2015

 

THE JOCKEY VANISHES

A six times champion jockey between 1997 and 2003 has gone missing without trace. The plot thickened yesterday after his agent said that she had not been in touch with the jockey for some time and had no way of making contact with him but she thoughts he was still in Britain but couldn't be sure. The mystery surrounding Kieren Fallon's absence from riding deepens as it has been revealed that 50-year-old from County Clare has currently no rides booked. The last time he appeared on the track was at Redcar three weeks ago when he partnered three horses without success. Then the next day Kieren Fallon failed to show to take up his two scheduled rides at Tipperary. He also didn't turn up at Catterick two days afterwards. Later an explanation was given that a delayed ferry had made it impossible for him to get to Tipperary and illness had prevented him from riding at Catterick.

 

Kieren Fallon commented: “I went to have some blood tests. I shouldn’t even be riding. I told Gloria to take me off my rides. I have lost a lot of weight and don’t feel right.”

 

His agent, Gloria Charnock added: “I’ve no idea when he will be back [riding]until I speak to him. He’s not been too well the last couple of weeks but I can’t say any more than that at the moment. As far as I know, he is [in the country]. I got a text from him the other day, but that’s about it and that number isn’t working now so I have no way of contacting him. I’ve just got to wait until he contacts me.”

 

FOUR ON DEMAND

Championship-chasing jockey, Richard Johnson, added to his score by notching up a fantastic four-timer at Carlisle yesterday. The thirty-eight-year-old had to endure the fate of sixten times finishing runner-up to the legendary, Tony McCoy. Now that the man from Moneyglass has finally retired, the Hereford-born rider is long odds-on to finally achieve his ambition of becoming the champion jockey for the first time. He kicked off his day's successes with a six-length victory aboard the Charlie Longsdon-trained WESTERN MILLER in the ApolloBet Online Games And Casino Novices' Hurdle. The future champion Johnson did it again in the very next race, the ApolloBet Beginners' Chase, partnering the Brian Ellison-trained THE GREY TAYLOR to an even more impressive winning distance of ten lengths. Number three came an hour-and-a-half later in the ApolloBet Inplay Handicap Hurdle when Jimmy Moffatt's 2/1 favourite AMUSE ME did just that for many punters by leaving his rivals trailing ten lengths in his wake. Richard Johnson then finished as he had begun his triumphant day at Carlisle by taking the bumper, the ApolloBet Follow On Twitter And Facebook Standard Open NH Flat Race on MONBEG CHARMER, again by eight lengths.

 

THE SUN PROTOCOL

There has been a marked increase in the number of races delayed or even cancelled because of the affects of the low sun and the BHA has decided to introduce new rules in an effort to minimise the solar complication. Courses particularly affected by this phenomenon last season were Aintree and Cheltenham, with sometimes so many fences being removed due to the low sun that they were almost turned into Flat raes.

 

Paul Barton, the BHA's head of stewarding commented: "Being 'too sunny' is not something we often associate with the British winter, but it is fair to say that the sunshine caused us one or two issues through the last jumps season. This was because we saw a sharp rise in the number of races being affected by low sun, causing hurdles or fences to be omitted as the jockeys were deeming them unsafe to jump. We are not sure what caused this. It seems unlikely that 2014 was an exceptionally sunny year - it certainly didn't feel that way. We have discussed this with the PJA and some of the jockeys and we just don't know for certain what caused it. What we and the riders agreed, however, is that something needed to be done about it. As such we have initiated a new protocol for riders and officials to follow when low sun looks like it might be an issue."

 

The new list of rules is:

 

If riders consider there may be a problem they should inform the stipendiary stewards as soon as possible, who will then inform the clerk of the course.

 

Riders should ride past the obstacle(s) that they have concerns over on the way to the start.

If riders still have concerns when arriving at the start, they should inform the starter who will radio the stipendiary stewards.

 

The stipendiary stewards will then liaise with the clerk of the course to consider alternatives to removing obstacle(s).

 

If obstacle(s) have to be removed an announcement will be made.

 

If there are further races remaining on the card then the process above should be repeated for each race.

 

THURSDAY 22nd OCTOBER 2015

A NEW GROG INGREDIENT

It seems that three times champion jockey, recently turned trainer, will have his next full season on the flat strongly supported by the Goodwood Racehorse Owners’ Group (GROG) who are proposing to buy a horse at the yearling sales and send it off to Richard Hughes's newly established base in Hampshire. This syndicate plans to keep GOODWOOD ZODIAC in training with William Knight. Why wouldn't they? The two-year-old son of KODIAC has had a successful season for the Littlehampton-based trainer, winning a maiden stakes at Brighton and a nursery handicap at Epsom in August and September, respectively.

 

GROG's racing manager, Gail Brown, commented; “We have had another strong season – it is incredibly difficult to buy just one horse a year and end up with a dual winning two-year-old. I am delighted for everyone and this has further strengthened our already impressive statistics. With Goodwood Zodiac, trained by William Knight, to savour as a very promising three-year-old for next year, our members can look forward to experiencing ownership with Richard Hughes, whose name is of course synonymous with Goodwood, in his first full season. William has done a terrific job with Goodwood Zodiac this year and he will continue to train him next year. The addition of a second trainer will give GROG membership a huge boost and enhance the experience for Members, who will be able to watch their horse ‘work’ on turf and take in the breath-taking set up where Richard is embarking upon his training career at Stockbridge.”

 

Richard Hughes added: “I was fortunate to have a great deal of success at Goodwood as a jockey and it is exciting to be training a horse for the owners there now.

 

OFF TO KENTUCKY!

It's now decided, it seems. The John Gosden-trained Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner will make a bid for Keeneland Breeders’ Cup. GOLDEN HORN will be for racing for the last time as he throws down his European gauntlet to possibly twenty-eight rivals in at the Lexington venue. Even by Amrican standards, the Keeneland track, staging the Breeders’ Cup for the first time, is a small, tight circuit. That does not seem to have put off the significant entries from European stables. As well as john Gosden's champion the Britistish raiding party includes two more English Classic winners. Aidan O'brien's winner of the 2,000 Guineas winner at Newmarket in May, GLENEAGLES, will be running in the dirt Classic on dirt and the David Wachman-trained winner of the 1,000 Guineas. LEGATISSIMO, will line up for the Filly & Mare Turf over an extended nine furlongs. Other group One winners such as MAKE BELIEVE, MONDIALISTE and ESOTERIQUE are expected to race in the Mile.

 

John Gosden has been top trainer in the current British Flat season, setting a record of becoming the first trainer to win £5 million at home. If GOLDEN HORN presents him with another victory this would take his overseas prize money to well over £4 million.

 

The Clarehaven Stables' handler commented: “Golden Horn worked this morning on the long gallop [in Newmarket] and Frankie was pleased with him. The plan is for him to head out on Saturday, all being well. He has held his condition extremely well. He put the weight back on to what he was before the Arc five days after the race. He has some constitution and that is the one thing that gives us hope racing this late in the year with him.”

 

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME!”

The 2016 National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse will see some changes to the race programme. An important modification is that the time between races will be increased to forty minutes with the aim of giving racegoers more time to enjoy the experience. The third day of the Festival will include a new Grade Two Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, registered as the Dawn Run Novices’ Race. There are also changes in the conditions for entry into the Pertemps Final and the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase. From next year horses will only be able to enter the Pertemps Final if they have finished in the first six in any of the qualifiers that are staged across the season. In addition the he Cross-Country event is planned to be run off level weights.

 

South West Regional Head of Racing for Jockey Club Racecourses, Simon Claisse, commented: “We are pleased that we have been able to work with partners such as Channel 4 in order to be able to introduce a 40-minute gap between all races at The Festival. This will allow those that are involved in the preparation of horses more time to get them to the pre-parade ring and parade ring in sufficient time for racegoers to see them. The decision has also been taken to provide our racegoers with more time to use our facilities, including bars and toilets, between races. A full crowd here at Cheltenham, which is nearly 70,000 people, can see a lot of pressure being put on facilities and it is expected that an additional five minutes between races will have a significant impact on our customers’ experience. We would also like to thank the BHA and other courses that race over these four days for their help on this matter.”

 

WEDNESDAY 21st OCTOBER 2015

LANDMARK LANDED

Yesterday, Exeter provided the last two wins needed to achieve a landmark of 2,500 career successes for this Somerset-based trainer. Only two runners were saddled by Paul Nicholls but, luck was with him, and both scored. In the first race of the day, the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Amateur Riders' Novices' Hurdle, THE EAGLEHASLANDED, with William Buick aboard, hardly justified his 4/7 favouritism when he scraped home by a neck. Later on in the Racing UK Anywhere Novices' Hurdle, odds-on at 2/13, gave Sam Twiston-Davies an easier time and romped home by eight lengths.

 

Paul Nicholls commented afterwards: "I had half an idea in the Summer that I was near doing it. My assistant Tom (Jonason) has been keeping it up to date and I knew I only needed two today. They were both odds-on, but it wasn't as if I went today knowing it would happen, so it's nice that it has. Abidjan is only a novice until November 1 and the plan was always to go chasing this season with him. I might just have a look at a nice handicap first, I'll see what mark he gets."

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

There's an outside chance that a regular visitor to Prestbury Park could be in line to defend his unbeaten record on the first day of Cheltenham's Autumn action on Saturday when he goes for £50,000 winner.co.uk Handicap Chase. The Jonjo O'Neill-trained JOHNS SPIRIT has bagged this race, or its equivalent, twice before but, to make it a hat-trick, the son of GOLD WELL will have to tackle nigh on sixteen furlongs, a distance he hasn't run for three years, as he's now used to races half-a-mile longer. In fact the seven-year-old has acquired something of a reputation as a Prestbury Park practitioner. It isalso on record that Jonjo O'Neill uses this particular event as a warm-up for the Paddy Power Gold Cup that takes place later in November. The Christopher Johnston-owned gelding is also entered for the Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase a day later at Aintree so it will not be a surprise if the Temple Guiting-based trainer eventually prefers his bay gelding to join graded company over a distance he's best at.

 

WILLIE WOULDN'T MAKE IT.

Despite regularly dominating the Cheltenham Festival and saddling more and more runners in Britain every year, bringing over top horses such as FAUGHEEN, ANNIE POWER and VAUTOUR, the top Irish trainer would nevertheless have a hard time taking on the likes of Nicky Henderson and the current champion title holder, Paul Nicholls, in a bid for the prestigious trainer's title. That's what Willie Mullins' top jockey, Ruby Walsh thinks, anyhow.

 

Ruby Walsh commented: "There is lot of good prize-money in Ireland and we want to win that first. That said, we will have more runners in the UK this season as there are many good races there. We have the horses so why not have a go? I can't see Willie being champion trainer in the UK as I don't think he would have volume of runners. It would surprise me anyway."

 

TUESDAY 20th OCTOBER 2015

HE'S ONE FOR THE FILLIES!

Not for the first time has Ralph Beckett demonstrated his particular training talent for producing successful fillies. The Andover-based trainer is set to make his mark again at Windsor this afternoon where his latest two hopefuls will try to stop being maidens. In the first race of the day, the British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies' Maiden Stakes the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing-owned SACRAMENT, who came third on her debut at Chepstow last month, should give her jockey, Harry Bentley a good ride. The daughter of ACCLAMATION stands a good chance of victory as none of her possible rivals, who have the advantage of having a prior run, seem to pose any threat. The other Kimpton Down Sables' entry is two races later, the Breeders Backing Racing EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes when the twice-raced GOLDEN STUNNER, also ridden by 23-year-old West Sussex-born jockey, will be taking on eleven rivals, of whom six are making their debut. The daughter of DREAM AHEAD came second at Carlisle at the beginning of September, just two lengths adrift of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained THETIS so this could be her day.

 

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

One filly worthy of note in the aforementioned two-year-old maiden at Windsor is a John Gosden-trained daughter of DUBAWI. SO MI DAR is the second foal out of Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber's star performer, DAR RE MI, who went on to great things at the highest level for the Newmarket-based trainer. In fact the mare's second foal, DE TREVILLE, has produced two victories at Group level in France for Andre Fabre. Jockey, robert havlin, who has a sixteen per cent strike rate with two-year-olds will be hoping that his young partner is on song today.

 

MAIDENS OVER?

Two-year-old maiden races that have been a regular feature of British Flat racing for yonks, could be a thing of the past next season. The British Horseracing Authority announced yesterday a pilot scheme which has the objective of boosting field sizes as well as increasing the competitiveness of the Flat programme. From the beginning of the 2016 season a good 90% of the proposed maiden races will be changed to “novices”, not unlike National Hunt fixtures that offer novice hurdles and novice chases. This means that inexperienced horses or those making racecourse debuts will come up against rivals who have already produced wins. Existing Flat racing schedules do, in fact, already include a small number of novice races for two-year-olds that have won a maiden. Despite the small number of these events, they are unfortunately poorly subcribed. For instance the last two seasons had an average of just under five runners. Such contests are also usually dominated by a short-priced favourite, making them not very appealing to punters.

 

Ruth Quinn, the BHA director of racing development, commented: “The idea of taking this significant step to convert a proportion of maiden races to novices effectively replicates the approach to the novice hurdle programme, where winners, maidens and unraced horses compete against each other on a regular basis. We accept that this is a major change and therefore potentially a brave move. However, only by making such a significant change does the BHA feel that it can offer a meaningful improvement to the programme for winning horses whilst also reducing the number of small-field races at a time when this is such an important issue for the sport. The changes we make will be on a trial basis at first and we will monitor the success of the trial before committing to anything in the longer term.”

 

MONDAY 19th OCTOBER 2015

 

TOM TOLD'EM!

The £1 million triple crown bonus announced last Tuesday by the Jockey Club Racecourses hasn't been well received by one particular jump jockey. The decision to revive this incentive for any horse winning the Betfair Chase, William Hill King George VI Chase and Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup during the 2015-16 season, has been publicly denounced by Tom Scudamore. David Pipe's stable jockey makes a valid point when he states that this huge sum of money could have been put to better use somewhere else.

 

Tom Scudamore commented in his blog on the Coral website: “I think this triple crown is a load of nonsense, frankly. If you are going to spend a million quid, why give it to the best horse who’s already won those three big races. That’s good enough in itself. If the bonus was put up by a bookmaker that’s fair enough, but for Jockey Club Racecourses to put it up is a load of nonsense. It made me really angry seeing that. If they have got that kind of money why can’t they put on some big handicaps for a hundred grand? Spread it out a bit rather than aiming it at one horse.”

 

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!

It's taken six weeks for the winner of the Doncaster St. Leger to receive her just rewards. The Ralph Beckett-trained SIMPLE VERSE, who, as the Racing Post's comments in running puts it: 'finished 1st, disqualified and placed 2nd, later reinstated as winner', was finally awarded her trophy. The daughter of DUKE OF MARMALADE was first past the post on 12th September but her jockey, Andrea Atzeni, was found guilty of careless riding and had, consequently, to cede her victory to Aidan O'Brien's BONDI BEACH. The BHA, however, reversed this verdict after an appeal.

 

Trainer Ralph Beckett, hardly able to hide his disappointment that his original big day was ruined, commented: “It is a terrific gesture by Doncaster and Ladbrokes and much appreciated. She has now won a championship race as well as a Classic and it does not get much better than that. She will hopefully progress again over the winter and be better again next year. I would love to run her in the King George. She is not ground reliant and handles anything.”

 

GOT ME BEAT, BROTHER!

Top Irish jockey, Barry Geraghty, was upstaged by his, perhaps lesser known, younger brother, Ross, who claimed the American Grand National at Far Hills aboard the Cyril Murphy-trained DAWALAN, enjoying his second run in America. The son of AZAMOUR made his US debut at Belmont Park on 24th September coming a creditable third only one-and-a-half lengths behind the winner, BOB LE BEAU. Big brother had to settled for second place on the Gordon Elliott-trained ESHTIAAL after striking for home in the closing stages but being gradually reeled in by the eventual winner. Last year's winner DEMONSTRATIVE unfortunately spiked his chances by making a bad mistake at a crucial stage in the race and came last.

 

The winning trainer commented: "I thought we had to beat Demonstrative. If we could beat him, it was going to take a very good effort to beat (Dawalan)."

SUNDAY 18th OCTOBER 2015

STONE ME!

The Dermot Weld-trained FASCINATING ROCK won the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot yesterday. The four-year-old didn't let his trainer down when staking his claim to the Group One prize and, thereby, proving better than everyone's favourite, John Gosden's JACK HOBBS, who only managed third, two lengths adrift. Admittedly the latter's trainer had severe misgivings about his champion's wide draw and he was not proved wrong. Although the son of HALLING got off to a swift start and managed to settle comfortably behind pacemaker MAVERICK WAVE, it looked like his jockey, William Buick, was pushed to his limits. When coming in to the home straight, however, in this mile-and-a-quarter contest, there seemed to be nothing left. So sadly, in circumstances beyond his control, the three-year-old stared disaster in the face approaching the final furlong, as Pat Smullen confidently assumed control aboard the patiently-ridden FASCINATING ROCK. The latter didn't let up all the way to the line and had enough left to hold on to a length-and-a-quarter victory.

 

The winning trainer commented: “This has been the plan for about six months. This was the race I thought would suit him best. Usually the ground is on the slow side. He loves it soft and he’s a very good horse in the autumn. He ran flat at Windsor (Winter Hill Stakes). He was not as sharp as he should have been, but that was his first run for four months. He was very good at Leopardstown when he won by six lengths and I think he’ll make a lovely five-year-old. Hopefully he’ll be back here next year to defend his title. I’ll talk to the owner and see what he thinks.”

 

GOT IT WRONG!

When your star performer finishes sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, what can you say? Trainer Aidan O’Brien, at least, had the good grace to admit that the gamble with GLENEAGLES didn't work out. The son of GALILEO had already scored in three Group 1 races this year, although being forced to miss a few high-profile contests due to the wrong conditions, as he performs best on fast ground. Right to the last moment it was never really certain that the three-year-old would even take part in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, after his trainer checked the course on Friday night before making up his mind. So it looks as though the Ballydoyle master made a wrong decision for once, because GLENEAGLES didn't seem in any position to challenge SOLOW's inevitable triumph.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented afterwards: “With hindsight we probably shouldn’t have run him but it’s a big day. We’ll have to see about the BC Classic.”

 

OVER THE HILL'S!

Envigorated after a run of three Group 1 wins, beginning with the Royal meeting in June in the Commonwealth Cup, the Charlie-Hills-trained MUHAARAR won the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in style yesterday. Paul Hanagan managed to get his mount clear inside the last furlong, pulling two lengths ahead of the previously unbeaten Group-1 winner TWILIGHT SON. It is interesting to note that such winning distances are more usual in jumps races at Ascot rather than in sprints, where it is more commnon to read about winning distances such as noses, heads and necks separating the first few horses past the post.

 

The winning jockey announced: "I'm so delighted for everyone and it's a great effort by Charlie and the whole team. He's got such a fantastic temperament. I always thought he wanted a bit of cut in the ground and the race was never in doubt. His owner Sheikh Hamdan all but ruled out trying to add the Breeders' Cup Mile due to the tight turns. This is a special day for the horse and for the crowd. Thank God he's proven he was a very good horse”.

SATURDAY 17th OCTOBER 2015

SHE AINT HEAVY!

The David Barron-trained PLAY NICELY passed the post first two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of his fourteen rivals in the female amateur riders' handicap, Watch Racing UK Anywhere at Redcar yesterday but was promptly disqualified and placed last. The problem was that his jockey, Amie Waugh, was a masssive twenty-one pounds lighter lighter than when she weighed out, going from 9st 9lbs to 8st 2lbs. Her troubles, it seems, started not long after the start when she urged the 11/2 joint-favourite into the lead. As she did so the son of NAAQOOS's saddle slipped forward, followed soon thereafter by the loss of the weight cloth. She may well be an amateur but Amie Waugh was a real pro in the way she kept her mount going despite sitting half-way up the chestnut gelding's neck. After the race, of course, the weight discrepancy was recorded in the wighing room.

 

Amie Waugh commented: "I didn't actually feel the weight cloth go, but I thought it might have done given where the saddle was and that when I looked down all I could see was the number cloth."

 

YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE HEART!

The one-time Nicky Henderson-trained OPEN HEARTED, now with Dan Skelton, thrilled the racegoers at Fakenham yesterday when clinching the October Handicap Chase by a breath-taking three-quarters of a length, disappointing the many backers of the 10/11 favourite, KNOCK HOUSE. This was only the son of GENEROUS's second outing for his new trainer, having come second in a handicap chase at Bangor at the beginning of the month.

Brian Hughes, aboard KNOCK HOUSE, appeared to think that the race was his for the taking as he seemed to be just cantering in the final two furlongs. Harry Skelton, on the other

hand seemed to have his work cut out keeping his mount on the job. An important factor in his favour, however, which gave him a slight advantage was that he had the rail when the two rivals was battling it out in the final stages.

 

The winning jockey commented: "We didn't think the track would suit, we took a chance coming here. He did win over hurdles here, but he's older now. The other horse hadn't had a run and I was conscious of that on the final circuit, I wanted to get him at it. The owner, Craig Buckingham, has been a good supporter of Dan's and it's nice to reward him with a win and this was decent prize-money. He only had three runs last year, so I hope he can keep progressing."

 

OPEN THE DOOR RICHARD!

A quick double at Wincanton yesterday gave Richard Johnson his century for the season. The first success came when the Neil King-trained REGULATION won the Horsington Handicap Hurdle by ten lengths. There was no wasting time for the 38-year-old Hereford-born jockey, however, as he repeated the exercise in the very next race, when aboard Phillip Hobbs's HE'S A BULLY in the Shepton Mallet Novices' Handicap Chase, winning this time by nine lengths.

 

Richard Johnson is a comfortable 33 winners ahead of his nearest rival, Aidan Coleman, in the champion jockey stakes and, failing any unexpected injury in the winter, should deservedly claim the prestigious prize for the first time. The bookies certainly think so as they are offering a miserly 1/12 odds on this eventuality.

Richard Jouhnson commented wryly; "I want to be champion jockey this season - well, I've been wanting that for the last 22 years!"

SUNDAY 25th OCTOBER 2015

RUSSELL IN A BUSTLE

Six races at the Kelso Halloween meeting and three of them were won by the trainer, Lucinda Russell and jockey, Peter Buchanan partnership. The added delight was that all three are owned by Deborah Thomson. The Kinross-based stables got off to a flying start when BIG RIVER, looking to add to his bumper victory at this track in March, scored by two lengths in the first race of the day, the Carnacrack National Hunt Maiden Hurdle.

 

Lucinda Russell's commments after this success: “He’s a really nice horse - very athletic - and he could be one of our nicest novice hurdlers this season,” enthused Lucinda of the 13-8 fav. He might go over 2m 4f soon, and he´ll be even better over fences.”

 

I was just half-an-hour later that she and her stable jockey took their places in the winner’s enclosure again, when 4/1 shot, ONE FOR ARTHUR, claimed the Clifford & Martin Firth Memorial Novices’ Chase, also by a winning distance of two lengths. This six-year-old son of MILAN demonstrated his winning ways by notching up three hurdle successes last season.

 

The Arlary House trainer only managed a third in the next race with BALLYBEN but thirty-five minutes later she did it again with the assistance, once more, of Peter Buchanan who partnered ALIZEE DE JANEIRO in the Sir Maxwell Harper Gow Memorial handicap hurdle race, winning this time by three-and-three-quarter lengths.

 

ARE YOU CRAZY?

Meanwhile down at Newbury John Gosden was having a wild time. After winning a Newmarket maiden on his first time out at Newmarket, CRAZY HORSE lived up to his name and snatched the Worthington's Whizz Kidz Horris Hill Stakes by a nose. The son of SLEEPING INDIAN, owned by the trainer's wife, was placed straight into this Group Three contest after his first humble victory and managed to control his inexperience and, although staying out wide in the middle of the track with most of his rivals staying on the far side, the two-year-old bay colt held onto the narrowest of leads in the final strides.

 

John Gosden commented: "It's great fun, he's a home-bred from a cheap mare. He was still very green but he stuck his neck out. He's been a slow learner."

 

VICTORIA FALLS

On her third ride under Rules at Newbury, the former Olympic cycling champion, had a devil of a time at Newbury yesterday. Victoria Pendleton had a fall just before the winning post in the Rayner Bosch Car Service Handicap for Lady Amateur Riders, after being unseated by the Phil Middleton-trained SATANIC BEAT. The newly-trained rider had manoeuvred the six-year-old horse into an advantageous position for most of the race and was even briefly second in the first part of the straight but the son of DARK ANGEL ran out of steam even before the unfortunate upset. The thirty-five year-old Bedfordshire-born rider, however, seemed none the worse for wear as she walked away from the scene.

 

Victoria Pendleton commented afterwards: "I'm fine. I lost my balance and couldn't regain it. It's so annoying but it won't put me off."

 

SATURDAY 24th OCTOBER 2015

THE NUMBERS GAME

Is National Hunt Racing losing some of its appeal? Only 59 horses ran in seven races at Cheltenham yesterday. That's an average of eight a contest. Even that puts a rosier picture on the situation than it was. The opening race, the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle had only six horses competing and, as there was prize money on offer down to sixth place, each got a pay-out, ranging from £10, 635 for the winner and £197 for number six who was some eighteen lengths adrift. The situation was slightly more bizarre in the next event, the squareintheair.com Novices' Chase which was contested by only three geldings and there was also prize money for three more vacant places. Happily the important series qualifier for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle was a more exciting spectacle with eleven runners intent on getting into the final next March. It is interesting that the two fixtures that attracted the highest entrants were for amateur and conditional riders and so over half of them went home happy with extra cash in their pockets. The prospects for today's racing is slightly better with 76 runners and over half of these will win a prize.

 

DAMPING FACTOR

Doncaster had a dry night but rain is still on the cards and that is of concern for at least a couple of trainers, particularly Aidan O'Brien. The Ballydoyle trainer has won the Racing Post Trophy seven times already and he is hoping for another win from one of his three runners, DEAUVILLE, JOHANNES VERMEER or PORT DOUGLAS. The first of this trio has the greatest chance, if the ground is right, as the Group 3 winning GALILEO colt was only three-quarters of a length behind the John Gosden-trained odds-on favourite, FOUNDATION, in the Royal Lodge at Newmarket.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented: "He did win his maiden on testing ground but the rain they are expecting wouldn't be an advantage as he prefers better ground.

 

John Gosden said much the same thing about the son of ZOFFANY: "He worked nicely on Wednesday but my main concern would be the weather as we wouldn't want too much rain for him. A slog in testing ground wouldn't be an ideal scenario."

 

INTENT ON WINNING

The eight-year-old son of DESERT PRINCE could be the dark horse in next year's Champion Hurdle or so Barry Geraghty strongly believes. The Nicky Henderson-trained MY TENT OR YOURS was off the track most of last season due to injury but he only lost out by a neck to JEZKI in the 2014 contest. In the meantime Willie Mullins' FAUGHEEN dominates in in this division.

 

Barry Geraghty was quite positive, however, commenting: "He seems in good shape. I schooled him a few weeks ago and he felt well. He didn't have a serious injury so hopefully he can retain a lot of his ability as he was a good second in a Champion Hurdle. With age, he should learn to settle a bit and I'd say that would be the key to him. If you're looking for something to take on Faugheen, he was only beaten a neck by Jezki and he pulled like mad that day so he definitely has the ability. If you're looking for something to take on Faugheen then he definitely has the ability. He was only beaten a neck by Jezki [in the 2014 Champion Hurdle] and he pulled desperately hard that day. With age, if he learns to settle a bit that will be key for him."

 

FRIDAY 23rd OCTOBER 2015

 

THE JOCKEY VANISHES

A six times champion jockey between 1997 and 2003 has gone missing without trace. The plot thickened yesterday after his agent said that she had not been in touch with the jockey for some time and had no way of making contact with him but she thoughts he was still in Britain but couldn't be sure. The mystery surrounding Kieren Fallon's absence from riding deepens as it has been revealed that 50-year-old from County Clare has currently no rides booked. The last time he appeared on the track was at Redcar three weeks ago when he partnered three horses without success. Then the next day Kieren Fallon failed to show to take up his two scheduled rides at Tipperary. He also didn't turn up at Catterick two days afterwards. Later an explanation was given that a delayed ferry had made it impossible for him to get to Tipperary and illness had prevented him from riding at Catterick.

 

Kieren Fallon commented: “I went to have some blood tests. I shouldn’t even be riding. I told Gloria to take me off my rides. I have lost a lot of weight and don’t feel right.”

 

His agent, Gloria Charnock added: “I’ve no idea when he will be back [riding]until I speak to him. He’s not been too well the last couple of weeks but I can’t say any more than that at the moment. As far as I know, he is [in the country]. I got a text from him the other day, but that’s about it and that number isn’t working now so I have no way of contacting him. I’ve just got to wait until he contacts me.”

 

FOUR ON DEMAND

Championship-chasing jockey, Richard Johnson, added to his score by notching up a fantastic four-timer at Carlisle yesterday. The thirty-eight-year-old had to endure the fate of sixten times finishing runner-up to the legendary, Tony McCoy. Now that the man from Moneyglass has finally retired, the Hereford-born rider is long odds-on to finally achieve his ambition of becoming the champion jockey for the first time. He kicked off his day's successes with a six-length victory aboard the Charlie Longsdon-trained WESTERN MILLER in the ApolloBet Online Games And Casino Novices' Hurdle. The future champion Johnson did it again in the very next race, the ApolloBet Beginners' Chase, partnering the Brian Ellison-trained THE GREY TAYLOR to an even more impressive winning distance of ten lengths. Number three came an hour-and-a-half later in the ApolloBet Inplay Handicap Hurdle when Jimmy Moffatt's 2/1 favourite AMUSE ME did just that for many punters by leaving his rivals trailing ten lengths in his wake. Richard Johnson then finished as he had begun his triumphant day at Carlisle by taking the bumper, the ApolloBet Follow On Twitter And Facebook Standard Open NH Flat Race on MONBEG CHARMER, again by eight lengths.

 

THE SUN PROTOCOL

There has been a marked increase in the number of races delayed or even cancelled because of the affects of the low sun and the BHA has decided to introduce new rules in an effort to minimise the solar complication. Courses particularly affected by this phenomenon last season were Aintree and Cheltenham, with sometimes so many fences being removed due to the low sun that they were almost turned into Flat raes.

 

Paul Barton, the BHA's head of stewarding commented: "Being 'too sunny' is not something we often associate with the British winter, but it is fair to say that the sunshine caused us one or two issues through the last jumps season. This was because we saw a sharp rise in the number of races being affected by low sun, causing hurdles or fences to be omitted as the jockeys were deeming them unsafe to jump. We are not sure what caused this. It seems unlikely that 2014 was an exceptionally sunny year - it certainly didn't feel that way. We have discussed this with the PJA and some of the jockeys and we just don't know for certain what caused it. What we and the riders agreed, however, is that something needed to be done about it. As such we have initiated a new protocol for riders and officials to follow when low sun looks like it might be an issue."

 

The new list of rules is:

 

If riders consider there may be a problem they should inform the stipendiary stewards as soon as possible, who will then inform the clerk of the course.

 

Riders should ride past the obstacle(s) that they have concerns over on the way to the start.

If riders still have concerns when arriving at the start, they should inform the starter who will radio the stipendiary stewards.

 

The stipendiary stewards will then liaise with the clerk of the course to consider alternatives to removing obstacle(s).

 

If obstacle(s) have to be removed an announcement will be made.

 

If there are further races remaining on the card then the process above should be repeated for each race.

 

THURSDAY 22nd OCTOBER 2015

A NEW GROG INGREDIENT

It seems that three times champion jockey, recently turned trainer, will have his next full season on the flat strongly supported by the Goodwood Racehorse Owners’ Group (GROG) who are proposing to buy a horse at the yearling sales and send it off to Richard Hughes's newly established base in Hampshire. This syndicate plans to keep GOODWOOD ZODIAC in training with William Knight. Why wouldn't they? The two-year-old son of KODIAC has had a successful season for the Littlehampton-based trainer, winning a maiden stakes at Brighton and a nursery handicap at Epsom in August and September, respectively.

 

GROG's racing manager, Gail Brown, commented; “We have had another strong season – it is incredibly difficult to buy just one horse a year and end up with a dual winning two-year-old. I am delighted for everyone and this has further strengthened our already impressive statistics. With Goodwood Zodiac, trained by William Knight, to savour as a very promising three-year-old for next year, our members can look forward to experiencing ownership with Richard Hughes, whose name is of course synonymous with Goodwood, in his first full season. William has done a terrific job with Goodwood Zodiac this year and he will continue to train him next year. The addition of a second trainer will give GROG membership a huge boost and enhance the experience for Members, who will be able to watch their horse ‘work’ on turf and take in the breath-taking set up where Richard is embarking upon his training career at Stockbridge.”

 

Richard Hughes added: “I was fortunate to have a great deal of success at Goodwood as a jockey and it is exciting to be training a horse for the owners there now.

 

OFF TO KENTUCKY!

It's now decided, it seems. The John Gosden-trained Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner will make a bid for Keeneland Breeders’ Cup. GOLDEN HORN will be for racing for the last time as he throws down his European gauntlet to possibly twenty-eight rivals in at the Lexington venue. Even by Amrican standards, the Keeneland track, staging the Breeders’ Cup for the first time, is a small, tight circuit. That does not seem to have put off the significant entries from European stables. As well as john Gosden's champion the Britistish raiding party includes two more English Classic winners. Aidan O'brien's winner of the 2,000 Guineas winner at Newmarket in May, GLENEAGLES, will be running in the dirt Classic on dirt and the David Wachman-trained winner of the 1,000 Guineas. LEGATISSIMO, will line up for the Filly & Mare Turf over an extended nine furlongs. Other group One winners such as MAKE BELIEVE, MONDIALISTE and ESOTERIQUE are expected to race in the Mile.

 

John Gosden has been top trainer in the current British Flat season, setting a record of becoming the first trainer to win £5 million at home. If GOLDEN HORN presents him with another victory this would take his overseas prize money to well over £4 million.

 

The Clarehaven Stables' handler commented: “Golden Horn worked this morning on the long gallop [in Newmarket] and Frankie was pleased with him. The plan is for him to head out on Saturday, all being well. He has held his condition extremely well. He put the weight back on to what he was before the Arc five days after the race. He has some constitution and that is the one thing that gives us hope racing this late in the year with him.”

 

A CHANGE IS GONNA COME!”

The 2016 National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse will see some changes to the race programme. An important modification is that the time between races will be increased to forty minutes with the aim of giving racegoers more time to enjoy the experience. The third day of the Festival will include a new Grade Two Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, registered as the Dawn Run Novices’ Race. There are also changes in the conditions for entry into the Pertemps Final and the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase. From next year horses will only be able to enter the Pertemps Final if they have finished in the first six in any of the qualifiers that are staged across the season. In addition the he Cross-Country event is planned to be run off level weights.

 

South West Regional Head of Racing for Jockey Club Racecourses, Simon Claisse, commented: “We are pleased that we have been able to work with partners such as Channel 4 in order to be able to introduce a 40-minute gap between all races at The Festival. This will allow those that are involved in the preparation of horses more time to get them to the pre-parade ring and parade ring in sufficient time for racegoers to see them. The decision has also been taken to provide our racegoers with more time to use our facilities, including bars and toilets, between races. A full crowd here at Cheltenham, which is nearly 70,000 people, can see a lot of pressure being put on facilities and it is expected that an additional five minutes between races will have a significant impact on our customers’ experience. We would also like to thank the BHA and other courses that race over these four days for their help on this matter.”

 

WEDNESDAY 21st OCTOBER 2015

LANDMARK LANDED

Yesterday, Exeter provided the last two wins needed to achieve a landmark of 2,500 career successes for this Somerset-based trainer. Only two runners were saddled by Paul Nicholls but, luck was with him, and both scored. In the first race of the day, the Racing UK Profits Returned To Racing Amateur Riders' Novices' Hurdle, THE EAGLEHASLANDED, with William Buick aboard, hardly justified his 4/7 favouritism when he scraped home by a neck. Later on in the Racing UK Anywhere Novices' Hurdle, odds-on at 2/13, gave Sam Twiston-Davies an easier time and romped home by eight lengths.

 

Paul Nicholls commented afterwards: "I had half an idea in the Summer that I was near doing it. My assistant Tom (Jonason) has been keeping it up to date and I knew I only needed two today. They were both odds-on, but it wasn't as if I went today knowing it would happen, so it's nice that it has. Abidjan is only a novice until November 1 and the plan was always to go chasing this season with him. I might just have a look at a nice handicap first, I'll see what mark he gets."

 

THAT'S THE SPIRIT!

There's an outside chance that a regular visitor to Prestbury Park could be in line to defend his unbeaten record on the first day of Cheltenham's Autumn action on Saturday when he goes for £50,000 winner.co.uk Handicap Chase. The Jonjo O'Neill-trained JOHNS SPIRIT has bagged this race, or its equivalent, twice before but, to make it a hat-trick, the son of GOLD WELL will have to tackle nigh on sixteen furlongs, a distance he hasn't run for three years, as he's now used to races half-a-mile longer. In fact the seven-year-old has acquired something of a reputation as a Prestbury Park practitioner. It isalso on record that Jonjo O'Neill uses this particular event as a warm-up for the Paddy Power Gold Cup that takes place later in November. The Christopher Johnston-owned gelding is also entered for the Monet's Garden Old Roan Chase a day later at Aintree so it will not be a surprise if the Temple Guiting-based trainer eventually prefers his bay gelding to join graded company over a distance he's best at.

 

WILLIE WOULDN'T MAKE IT.

Despite regularly dominating the Cheltenham Festival and saddling more and more runners in Britain every year, bringing over top horses such as FAUGHEEN, ANNIE POWER and VAUTOUR, the top Irish trainer would nevertheless have a hard time taking on the likes of Nicky Henderson and the current champion title holder, Paul Nicholls, in a bid for the prestigious trainer's title. That's what Willie Mullins' top jockey, Ruby Walsh thinks, anyhow.

 

Ruby Walsh commented: "There is lot of good prize-money in Ireland and we want to win that first. That said, we will have more runners in the UK this season as there are many good races there. We have the horses so why not have a go? I can't see Willie being champion trainer in the UK as I don't think he would have volume of runners. It would surprise me anyway."

 

TUESDAY 20th OCTOBER 2015

HE'S ONE FOR THE FILLIES!

Not for the first time has Ralph Beckett demonstrated his particular training talent for producing successful fillies. The Andover-based trainer is set to make his mark again at Windsor this afternoon where his latest two hopefuls will try to stop being maidens. In the first race of the day, the British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies' Maiden Stakes the Highclere Thoroughbred Racing-owned SACRAMENT, who came third on her debut at Chepstow last month, should give her jockey, Harry Bentley a good ride. The daughter of ACCLAMATION stands a good chance of victory as none of her possible rivals, who have the advantage of having a prior run, seem to pose any threat. The other Kimpton Down Sables' entry is two races later, the Breeders Backing Racing EBF Maiden Fillies' Stakes when the twice-raced GOLDEN STUNNER, also ridden by 23-year-old West Sussex-born jockey, will be taking on eleven rivals, of whom six are making their debut. The daughter of DREAM AHEAD came second at Carlisle at the beginning of September, just two lengths adrift of the Sir Michael Stoute-trained THETIS so this could be her day.

 

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

One filly worthy of note in the aforementioned two-year-old maiden at Windsor is a John Gosden-trained daughter of DUBAWI. SO MI DAR is the second foal out of Lord and Lady Lloyd-Webber's star performer, DAR RE MI, who went on to great things at the highest level for the Newmarket-based trainer. In fact the mare's second foal, DE TREVILLE, has produced two victories at Group level in France for Andre Fabre. Jockey, robert havlin, who has a sixteen per cent strike rate with two-year-olds will be hoping that his young partner is on song today.

 

MAIDENS OVER?

Two-year-old maiden races that have been a regular feature of British Flat racing for yonks, could be a thing of the past next season. The British Horseracing Authority announced yesterday a pilot scheme which has the objective of boosting field sizes as well as increasing the competitiveness of the Flat programme. From the beginning of the 2016 season a good 90% of the proposed maiden races will be changed to “novices”, not unlike National Hunt fixtures that offer novice hurdles and novice chases. This means that inexperienced horses or those making racecourse debuts will come up against rivals who have already produced wins. Existing Flat racing schedules do, in fact, already include a small number of novice races for two-year-olds that have won a maiden. Despite the small number of these events, they are unfortunately poorly subcribed. For instance the last two seasons had an average of just under five runners. Such contests are also usually dominated by a short-priced favourite, making them not very appealing to punters.

 

Ruth Quinn, the BHA director of racing development, commented: “The idea of taking this significant step to convert a proportion of maiden races to novices effectively replicates the approach to the novice hurdle programme, where winners, maidens and unraced horses compete against each other on a regular basis. We accept that this is a major change and therefore potentially a brave move. However, only by making such a significant change does the BHA feel that it can offer a meaningful improvement to the programme for winning horses whilst also reducing the number of small-field races at a time when this is such an important issue for the sport. The changes we make will be on a trial basis at first and we will monitor the success of the trial before committing to anything in the longer term.”

 

MONDAY 19th OCTOBER 2015

 

TOM TOLD'EM!

The £1 million triple crown bonus announced last Tuesday by the Jockey Club Racecourses hasn't been well received by one particular jump jockey. The decision to revive this incentive for any horse winning the Betfair Chase, William Hill King George VI Chase and Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup during the 2015-16 season, has been publicly denounced by Tom Scudamore. David Pipe's stable jockey makes a valid point when he states that this huge sum of money could have been put to better use somewhere else.

 

Tom Scudamore commented in his blog on the Coral website: “I think this triple crown is a load of nonsense, frankly. If you are going to spend a million quid, why give it to the best horse who’s already won those three big races. That’s good enough in itself. If the bonus was put up by a bookmaker that’s fair enough, but for Jockey Club Racecourses to put it up is a load of nonsense. It made me really angry seeing that. If they have got that kind of money why can’t they put on some big handicaps for a hundred grand? Spread it out a bit rather than aiming it at one horse.”

 

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER!

It's taken six weeks for the winner of the Doncaster St. Leger to receive her just rewards. The Ralph Beckett-trained SIMPLE VERSE, who, as the Racing Post's comments in running puts it: 'finished 1st, disqualified and placed 2nd, later reinstated as winner', was finally awarded her trophy. The daughter of DUKE OF MARMALADE was first past the post on 12th September but her jockey, Andrea Atzeni, was found guilty of careless riding and had, consequently, to cede her victory to Aidan O'Brien's BONDI BEACH. The BHA, however, reversed this verdict after an appeal.

 

Trainer Ralph Beckett, hardly able to hide his disappointment that his original big day was ruined, commented: “It is a terrific gesture by Doncaster and Ladbrokes and much appreciated. She has now won a championship race as well as a Classic and it does not get much better than that. She will hopefully progress again over the winter and be better again next year. I would love to run her in the King George. She is not ground reliant and handles anything.”

 

GOT ME BEAT, BROTHER!

Top Irish jockey, Barry Geraghty, was upstaged by his, perhaps lesser known, younger brother, Ross, who claimed the American Grand National at Far Hills aboard the Cyril Murphy-trained DAWALAN, enjoying his second run in America. The son of AZAMOUR made his US debut at Belmont Park on 24th September coming a creditable third only one-and-a-half lengths behind the winner, BOB LE BEAU. Big brother had to settled for second place on the Gordon Elliott-trained ESHTIAAL after striking for home in the closing stages but being gradually reeled in by the eventual winner. Last year's winner DEMONSTRATIVE unfortunately spiked his chances by making a bad mistake at a crucial stage in the race and came last.

 

The winning trainer commented: "I thought we had to beat Demonstrative. If we could beat him, it was going to take a very good effort to beat (Dawalan)."

SUNDAY 18th OCTOBER 2015

STONE ME!

The Dermot Weld-trained FASCINATING ROCK won the Qipco Champion Stakes at Ascot yesterday. The four-year-old didn't let his trainer down when staking his claim to the Group One prize and, thereby, proving better than everyone's favourite, John Gosden's JACK HOBBS, who only managed third, two lengths adrift. Admittedly the latter's trainer had severe misgivings about his champion's wide draw and he was not proved wrong. Although the son of HALLING got off to a swift start and managed to settle comfortably behind pacemaker MAVERICK WAVE, it looked like his jockey, William Buick, was pushed to his limits. When coming in to the home straight, however, in this mile-and-a-quarter contest, there seemed to be nothing left. So sadly, in circumstances beyond his control, the three-year-old stared disaster in the face approaching the final furlong, as Pat Smullen confidently assumed control aboard the patiently-ridden FASCINATING ROCK. The latter didn't let up all the way to the line and had enough left to hold on to a length-and-a-quarter victory.

 

The winning trainer commented: “This has been the plan for about six months. This was the race I thought would suit him best. Usually the ground is on the slow side. He loves it soft and he’s a very good horse in the autumn. He ran flat at Windsor (Winter Hill Stakes). He was not as sharp as he should have been, but that was his first run for four months. He was very good at Leopardstown when he won by six lengths and I think he’ll make a lovely five-year-old. Hopefully he’ll be back here next year to defend his title. I’ll talk to the owner and see what he thinks.”

 

GOT IT WRONG!

When your star performer finishes sixth in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, what can you say? Trainer Aidan O’Brien, at least, had the good grace to admit that the gamble with GLENEAGLES didn't work out. The son of GALILEO had already scored in three Group 1 races this year, although being forced to miss a few high-profile contests due to the wrong conditions, as he performs best on fast ground. Right to the last moment it was never really certain that the three-year-old would even take part in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, after his trainer checked the course on Friday night before making up his mind. So it looks as though the Ballydoyle master made a wrong decision for once, because GLENEAGLES didn't seem in any position to challenge SOLOW's inevitable triumph.

 

Aidan O'Brien commented afterwards: “With hindsight we probably shouldn’t have run him but it’s a big day. We’ll have to see about the BC Classic.”

 

OVER THE HILL'S!

Envigorated after a run of three Group 1 wins, beginning with the Royal meeting in June in the Commonwealth Cup, the Charlie-Hills-trained MUHAARAR won the Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in style yesterday. Paul Hanagan managed to get his mount clear inside the last furlong, pulling two lengths ahead of the previously unbeaten Group-1 winner TWILIGHT SON. It is interesting to note that such winning distances are more usual in jumps races at Ascot rather than in sprints, where it is more commnon to read about winning distances such as noses, heads and necks separating the first few horses past the post.

 

The winning jockey announced: "I'm so delighted for everyone and it's a great effort by Charlie and the whole team. He's got such a fantastic temperament. I always thought he wanted a bit of cut in the ground and the race was never in doubt. His owner Sheikh Hamdan all but ruled out trying to add the Breeders' Cup Mile due to the tight turns. This is a special day for the horse and for the crowd. Thank God he's proven he was a very good horse”.

SATURDAY 17th OCTOBER 2015

SHE AINT HEAVY!

The David Barron-trained PLAY NICELY passed the post first two-and-a-quarter lengths ahead of his fourteen rivals in the female amateur riders' handicap, Watch Racing UK Anywhere at Redcar yesterday but was promptly disqualified and placed last. The problem was that his jockey, Amie Waugh, was a masssive twenty-one pounds lighter lighter than when she weighed out, going from 9st 9lbs to 8st 2lbs. Her troubles, it seems, started not long after the start when she urged the 11/2 joint-favourite into the lead. As she did so the son of NAAQOOS's saddle slipped forward, followed soon thereafter by the loss of the weight cloth. She may well be an amateur but Amie Waugh was a real pro in the way she kept her mount going despite sitting half-way up the chestnut gelding's neck. After the race, of course, the weight discrepancy was recorded in the wighing room.

 

Amie Waugh commented: "I didn't actually feel the weight cloth go, but I thought it might have done given where the saddle was and that when I looked down all I could see was the number cloth."

 

YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE HEART!

The one-time Nicky Henderson-trained OPEN HEARTED, now with Dan Skelton, thrilled the racegoers at Fakenham yesterday when clinching the October Handicap Chase by a breath-taking three-quarters of a length, disappointing the many backers of the 10/11 favourite, KNOCK HOUSE. This was only the son of GENEROUS's second outing for his new trainer, having come second in a handicap chase at Bangor at the beginning of the month.

Brian Hughes, aboard KNOCK HOUSE, appeared to think that the race was his for the taking as he seemed to be just cantering in the final two furlongs. Harry Skelton, on the other

hand seemed to have his work cut out keeping his mount on the job. An important factor in his favour, however, which gave him a slight advantage was that he had the rail when the two rivals was battling it out in the final stages.

 

The winning jockey commented: "We didn't think the track would suit, we took a chance coming here. He did win over hurdles here, but he's older now. The other horse hadn't had a run and I was conscious of that on the final circuit, I wanted to get him at it. The owner, Craig Buckingham, has been a good supporter of Dan's and it's nice to reward him with a win and this was decent prize-money. He only had three runs last year, so I hope he can keep progressing."

 

OPEN THE DOOR RICHARD!

A quick double at Wincanton yesterday gave Richard Johnson his century for the season. The first success came when the Neil King-trained REGULATION won the Horsington Handicap Hurdle by ten lengths. There was no wasting time for the 38-year-old Hereford-born jockey, however, as he repeated the exercise in the very next race, when aboard Phillip Hobbs's HE'S A BULLY in the Shepton Mallet Novices' Handicap Chase, winning this time by nine lengths.

 

Richard Johnson is a comfortable 33 winners ahead of his nearest rival, Aidan Coleman, in the champion jockey stakes and, failing any unexpected injury in the winter, should deservedly claim the prestigious prize for the first time. The bookies certainly think so as they are offering a miserly 1/12 odds on this eventuality.

Richard Jouhnson commented wryly; "I want to be champion jockey this season - well, I've been wanting that for the last 22 years!"

FRIDAY 16th OCTOBER 2015

HE VANTS TO BE NUMBER VAUGHAN!

From stables in the village called Cowbridge, in the Vale of Glamorgan, two horses have made the hundred-mile journey to Wincanton to try their luck in today's fixture. Trainer Tim Vaughan will be rooting for his RUSTAMABAD ito break his duck in the last race of the day, the Redlynch Maiden Hurdles. The son of DYLAN THOMAS gained places in three of his four bumpers. He switched to hurdles at Southwell at the end of September when he made a third and, although he was some 15 lengths adrift of the winne, revealed a certain amount of potential over the two-mile contest. The ground is listed as good to firm so that theoretically could be a problem for RUSTAMABAD. The five year old will be in the capable hands of Richard Johnson and so, despite possible tough opposition from a couple of rivals, the Pantwilkin Stables staff will be keeping their fingers crossed. Tim Vaughan's other hopeful for the day is KOULTAS KING, ridden by Mchael Byrne in the Shepton Mallet Novices' Handicap Chase. This eight-year-old, sired by the unfortunately named EXIT TO NOWHERE, has only neen in the winner's enclosure twice from 22 outings and is carrying top weight so will probably have a lot on his plate.

 

FIT FOR PURPOSE

Trainer Gordon Elliott thought his son of SHOLOKOV wasn't really fit enough for the task before he won the Grade 3 Irish Daily Star Chase yesterday at Punchestown. DON COSSACK proved him wrong by trouncing some of the highest-rated chasers in the business. If he can do that when not one hundred per cent fit, then he could be on track to fulfil his connections' dreams of winning next year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. The eight-year-old was given a calm ride in the early stages by his jockey, Bryan Cooper, and repayed him with some accurate fence work as he slowly but surely overhauled his rivals going into the lead in the straight. When the time came for action nothing needed to be done. The Gigginstown House Stud gelding just left the rest of the field, including his stable companion, ROI DU MEE, trailing twelve lengths in his wake, and thereby presented his trainer with his fifth consecutive win in this contest.

 

Gordon Elliott commented: “It’s grand to get it out of the way. I’d be nervous watching a 0-90 hurdle and you’d have to be nervous with him because he’s the highest rated horse in Ireland and Britain, is the second or third favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and I don’t have too many like him at home. I knew there was a lot of improvement in him. Bryan said he had a bit of a blow at the back of the fourth-last so he just sat on him. It mightn’t have been the best of races but you have to start somewhere. “He may be very good, but it’s not good for my heart. He’s been the apple of my eye since he was a bumper horse. He has shown us how good he is and if he stays in one piece hopefully we’ll have a marvellous year with him. I believe he’s a better horse on this type of ground, and I have to thank Punchestown for the job they did on watering the track. Only for them the horse wouldn’t have run.”

 

TOMORROW'S CHAMPIONS

It's a big day for champions tomorrow at Ascot for horses and the crowning of the Stobart Champion Flat Jockey, silvestre De Sousa. But let's not forget it's also a big day for the closingstages of the Stobart Champion Apprentice contest. It looks like Tom Marquand has enough in hand to hold off his nearest rival, Jack Garritty. The former managed to extend his dominance to lead to three when he scored again at Brighton yesterday and noneother than his boss, Richard Hannon, believes his apprentice is already the winner.

 

The marlborough-based trainer commented: "To have come so far in such a short space of time is a terrific achievement, and normally these young jockeys who do reach the top as quickly as he has done prove to be the very best.”

 

Not one to give up so easily, Jack Garritty will again be aboard the Richard Fahey-trained EASTERN IMPACT in tomorrow's Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes looking to narrow the lead in the contest.

 

Richard Fahey said of Jack Garrity: "He knows it's going to get tougher soon. But he's got his feet on the ground, he's a very polite lad with a good head on him and for as long as keeps riding like he has been doing, there will be more rides for him from me and plenty of others I'd imagine!"

 

THURSDAY 15th OCTOBER 2015

THE BOY'S FROM BRAZIL

The Brazilian contender for the champion jockeys' crown will not be lacking supporters when he jumps aboard ARABIAN QUEEN at Ascot on Saturday. Family, including wife Vicky and son Ryan, mother and sister from Brazil, countless friends and his agent Shelley Dwyer, will be present to join in the celebrations on Qipco British Champions Day when Silvestre De Sousa will receive the prestigious prize for the first time. The 34-year-old rider has come close to receiving the Stobart-sponsored riders' title before but never quite made it, so it is understandable that he played down any early speculation from the press and particularly bookmakers who gave him a 33/1 chance at the beginning of the year, reducing it to long-odds-on in August. At last the São Paulo-born jockey can really relax, knowing that, with 36 wins clear of William Buick, with only another three days to go, his lead is unassailable. Somehow Ascot seems the entirely appropriate location for his comeback, as it was here, just a year ago, that he lost his secure stable jockey position with Godolphin which initially seemed to condemn him to obscurity.

 

Silvestre De Sousa commented: "I've been close before and it didn't happen, but this is a nice position to be in now and I can enjoy it. My mother and sister are over here and we're all looking forward to Saturday. Arabian Queen is the one I'm looking forward to most. It was a messy race in France and I just hope the ground is a bit drier than it was there. She's more of a good-ground horse, but at this time of year it's hard to get."

 

A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK!

Speculation is increasing that the dual Irish champion Flat jockey and son of Irish champion trainer will not have many more rides and follow in his father's footsteps. It is well-known that Joseph O'Brien has faced an uphill struggle with his weight and even missed the beginning of the this year's Flat season because of this problem. Interestingly it has been confirmed by the Irish Turf Club that the twenty-two-old jockey has become a registered trainer and, although he is not yet able to train runners for the official racing circuit, he can saddle horses in point-to-points. So that is what is gong to happen Joseph O'Brien's first official runner as a registered handler at the Galway Blazers point-to-point meeting at Loughrea on Sunday is set to be MINELLA FOR ME in the Pier Head Bar & Restaurant 5yo Geldings Maiden.

 

Joseph O'Brien commented: “Basically, the operation isn't changing. I'm just going from being a permit holder to being an owner and the horses will run in my name. There's around 10 point-to-pointers to run during the autumn and spring and they're all horses that will hopefully be sold at some stage. Minella For Me is down to run this weekend, but we're having summer weather here at the moment and we wouldn't want to run him on real good ground.'

 

Bookmakers William Hill aren't wasting any time getting into the act. With the expectancy that Joseph O'Brien will take out a full National Hunt licence in the not too distant future, they are already offering odds-on 1/10 that he he will come up trumps for a JP McManus-owned horse next year and 8/1 for Cheltenham Festival winner by the end of the 2017 meeting.

 

TOM'S SORE

The third-generation British flat and steeplechase jockey, son of eight-time champion jockey, and whose grandfather won the Grand National in 1959, is hoping to be back in the saddle in a few days. Tom Scudamore injured his knee when falling from the David Pipe-trained IMPULSIVE AMERICAN when closing in on the leaders two from home in the 32Red Casino Handicap Hurdle on Tuesday. This meant that the 33-year-old Gloucestershire-born jockey had to forgo his rides at Worcester yesterday.

 

Tom Scudamore: commented: "I am going for scans on the knee later today. I am just sore and probably won't be riding for the next couple of days. "The horse rolled over me in the fall and I probably got the knee caught up and hopefully it is just twisted."

WEDNESDAY 14th OCTOBER 2015

A ROYALE OCCASION

A steeplechase debut in the Watch On The Racing UK App Novices’ Chase on the opening day of the new Wetherby’s season will give this son of PRESENTING the chance to enhance his growing reputation. The Neil Mulholland-trained SOUTHFIELD ROYALE scored in three out of six over hurdles last season.

 

The Limpley Stoke-based trainer commented: “Everything is good with Southfield Royale. He has had a good Summer break and has been schooling well over fences. We were minding him last year with a view to chasing and I was really pleased with what he achieved over hurdles. We are hoping he keeps progressing this season, just as Midnight Chase and The Young Master did. He laid a good foundation last year and now he needs to build on that, but we think he can and Noel Fehily is very keen on him.”

 

The highlight of today's fixture, which is also Spinal research’s annual charity day, is undoubtedly the £10,000 Bobby Renton Handicap Chase. The latter is organised in memory of the Ripon trainer who won the 1950 Grand National with FREEBOOTER.

 

A MILLION REASONS

In memory of the late KAUTO STAR a £1million bonus is on offer by the Jockey Club Racecourses to any horse who triumphs in the Betfair Chase, King George VI Chase and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham. These three contests have been re-named races as the 'Chase Triple Crown'. The Paul Nicholls-trained KAUTO STAR claimed these three Grade One chases in the same season in 2006/7 and won the £1million bonus which Betfair made available then. In addition to the winning of prize money for the three prestigious challenges, the bonus will be shared between the winning owner who will receive 65 per cent of the sum (£650,000), with the successful trainer getting 15 per cent (£150,000). The remaining £200,000 will be shared equally between the jockey and stable staff.

 

LOVE ACTUALLY

This Saturday's Champions Day at Ascot, featuring the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes has the Hugo Palmer-trained COVERT LOVE heading the betting at 9/2 in the 16-runner field. The daughter of AZAMOUR, heroine of July's Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh and the Group 1 Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp ten days ago, is said to be in good form after the French contest and her Newmarket-based trainer seems confident about the three-year-old filly's stepping back up to a mile-and-a-half for this Group 1 challenge.

 

Hugo Palmer commented: “She’s been amazing since the Prix de l’Opera. I’m bowled over by how fresh she’s been since she came back. She went to Paris and had what looked like a tough race and but she barely blew afterwards. She lost 8kg in the whole thing and you can lose more than that racing at Newmarket. She’s taken everything well and is eating up. She’s certainly outstayed Jazzi Top and I think if we’d had another half a furlong we’d have won more easily. I have no concerns coming back to a mile and a half. She worked this morning [Monday] and worked well. We’re very happy with her. We run. We know she’s beaten the colts but running against her own sex is the key to running in this race [instead of the Qipco Long Distance Cup]. I think she’s improved as the year has gone on – she’s battle-hardened and a mile and a half won’t hold any concerns.”

TUESDAY 13th OCTOBER 2015

FEWER HORSES FOR COURSES!

A Grand National-winning trainer is to lose over fifty horses from his Cheshire stable. Donald McCain who trained 52 mounts for Paul Rooney last season has been informed that the main owner, Paul Rooney, has decided to pull out all his horses. This dramatic news is yet another unwelcome development for the already non-too-healthy Northern jump racing, particularly as most of the horse are going to be placDe in Southern stables, including those belonging to including Kim Bailey, David Pipe, Philip Hobbs, Ben Pauling and Ireland-based Gordon Elliott. The dividing of the ways could also affect the future relationship between the Cholmondeley-based trainer and his stable jockey, Jason Maguire who also serves as Paul Rooney's racing manager to Rooney and last season organised the withdrawal of horses from Scottish trainer, James Ewart.

 

Jason Maguire, who won the 2011 Grand National on McCain’s BALLABRIGGS, commented: “There have been disagreements. They are being moved. They are going to be spread across a lot of trainers. Mr Rooney has had all his eggs in one basket and he wants to spread the risk. Gordon Elliott and Ben Pauling already have horse for Mr Rooney. Kim Bailey and David Pipe will have some horses as well as Philip Hobbs. It will be a variety of trainers. The horses have not moved yet.’

 

Donald McCain added: “It is obviously very disappointing the ways things have happened. I honestly don’t know what will happen. They have decided to move on. There have been no disagreements from my end. It is tough. I have had a lot of nice horses for Clare and Paul. We have trained them plenty of winners and they will have plenty more. We had a quiet season last season but we trained them 40 winners making the third winning-most owners in the country. It is what it is and we move on.’

 

JUMP TO IT!

Talking of struggling Northern jump circuits, next Easter Saturday Haydock Park is to stage five new Jumps Series for mid-tier Jump horses each culminating in £50,000 finals day to be shown live on Channel 4. This initiative came from Jump Racing Review and it is hoped that it will provide a boost to owners and trainers in that location. There will be a so-called “Challenger Series” which is a further expansion of the already successful and popular Grassroots Jump Series which was initiated in 2011/12 season. From this November 2015 the series will be expanded significantly and held at all of the British Jumps courses. The new Challenger Series will consist of five separate Series that allow horses with a rating of up to 135 to qualify via a total of 75 races for the ultimate Finals Day to be promoted on Easter Saturday awill be on offer. There will be an additional bonus fund of £50,000, available on Challenger Series Finals Day for any horse who wins a Qualifier and then goes on to win the Series Final at the same distance. Any horses who achieving this feat on the day will share this £50,000 prize.

 

Paul Fisher, Group Managing Director of Jockey Club Racecourses, commented: “Challenger Series is designed to support a very important level of our sport. We've been delighted by the response to the Grassroots Series run at Jockey Club Racecourses and it's great the expanded Challenger Series will be spread across even more Jumps courses in Great Britain.”

 

NOT A HAPPY EASTER!

Not such good news from North of the border. The officials of Musselburgh racetrack have confirmed that next year's Easter Sunday fixture will be cancelled as a result of the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB) funding, due, it seems to Musselburgh's failure to access the HBLB bidding process for fixture funding which took place on September 25.

 

Bill Farnsworth, Musselburgh's General Manager, commented: "It's very disappointing, but it's not anybody's fault really. It's just been a case of a sequence of events going against us. We ended up not getting access to the bidding process for funding, which would have meant us taking a £35,000 to £40,000 hit. It was then a question of how we could reduce expenditure and the prize-money would have been the easy one. We could probably save somewhere between £15,000 to £20,000 by running Class 6 races with the minimum value, but we didn't really want to go down that road. The costs for racing on Easter Sunday are quite high and we didn't really want to cut back on the entertainment. We didn't want to have a nice day with lots of families and children coming to the racecourse, only to find it wasn't as good as usual. On balance we felt it was better to be up front about the situation and, regrettably, racing won't happen on Easter Sunday next year.”

 

MONDAY 12th OCTOBER 2015

A LIMERICK FOR LIMERICK!

 

At Munster t'was National Handicap day

Sixteen runners were all on display.

SADLER'S RISK for de Bromhead

Made bad mistakes but soon led

And by a length-and-a-half claimed the day.

 

The event was an action-packed race.

O'Brien's CARRIGANOG going apace.

He was ahead in the straight

But sadly suffered the fate

Of unseating Niall Madden in disgrace.

 

That wasn't the only tale of woe

Barry Geraghty had his to undergo.

When riding SHANPALLAS

Was so hampered that alas

Earthwards was the only way to go.

 

Nor did the SADLER'S WELLS' son get it right.

His jumping was blight after blight.

But he stuck to his task

And when his jockey did ask

He went hotfoot for home like a light.

 

The winning trainer was quite quick to say

That his 7-year-old almost lost the day.

But despite an error-full ride

With Andrew Lynch as his guide.

He kept all his rivals at bay.

 

EXPERT LEARNERS

Forget the professionals. It's the apprentice championship that's causing currently all the excitement. The contest might even only be settled on the very last day of the season. The two leading contenders, Jack Garritty and Tom Marquand, are separated by just two wins as they enter the final week of flat racing. The dynamic duo will be off on their travels from North to South of the country, chasing winners that will secure them the Stobart-sponsored title and the honour of joining the Hall of Fame, populated by such great riders as of Oisin Murphy, Martin Harley, Ryan Moore and Paul Hanagan. There was a similar close-run challenge in 2008 when William Buick and David Probert tied for the title and such a result is not out of the question this year.

 

Seventeen-year-old -year-old Tom Marquand has been going great guns this season after only coming up with one winner from 14 rides in 2014. Everything's changed this season, however. He has emerged as a hot favourite, thanks in no small way to trainer, Richard Hannon, who has booked him for more rides than any other trainer.

 

Nineteen-year-old Jack Garritty has caught up with Tom Marquand in recent weeks. After being five