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Fri Sep 21
Newton Abbot
Sun Sep 23
Plumpton, Uttoxeter
Tue Sep 25

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The final week of the 2017/18 National Hunt season is now upon us and I am pleased to be heading for the new campaign with the horses in good order. The victory of Moon Racer last week at Ayr (pictured above) and the good performances of Taj Badalandabad and Dell’ Arca at Cheltenham illustrate the decent form of the yard at the end of what has been a frustrating season.

The fixture at Cheltenham was their last of the season and Taj Badalandabad backed up his fine fourth in the three mile Pertemps handicap hurdle final at the Festival with a similar effort over course and distance on Tuesday. He ran a cracker, but unfortunately he finished lame with a tendon issue. He has been a marvellous horse to have in the yard, winning on 7 of his 18 rules starts, while finishing in the frame on a further six occasions.

Dell’ Arca is another old favourite within the yard and he too produced a good effort at Cheltenham on Tuesday. He had been in fine form during the early part of the season, winning over timber at Newbury and the return to some decent ground saw an improved performance returned to fences. The trip of 3m2f was the longest that he had ever attempted, but he saw it out well, only giving best after the last. He will be kept on the go for the time being while in such good order and hopefully he can pick up another nice prize before too long.

Following a nightmare journey which included two cancelled flights, an unscheduled overnight stop in Manchester and a two hour taxi ride, the trip to Ayr seemed as though it was doomed from the start and after the disappointing effort of Vaniteux I was feeling a little despondent. Fortunately, the effort was made worthwhile with the performance of Moon Racer in the 2m5½f handicap hurdle. Tackling further than 2m1f for the first time in his career, he saw out the extra distance really well. His ears were pricked on the extended run-in and he was not doing a tap in front, but still had enough in reserve to comfortably repel the challenge of Sky Khan. He has had well documented issues down the years but Moon Racer has always been a quality horse and so I was delighted to get him back into the winners enclosure. He relishes this good ground and now that we know he stays further, it does open up a whole host of other options to him. As for Vaniteux, he looks likely to be suited by more of a test these days and could tackle a longer trip next time. He is another one who we will keep going with in the short-term.

While we were at Ayr we bumped into former Scottish forward and Talksport host Alan Brazil. Bryan Drew and I shared a celebratory glass of champagne with him, while my other half Leanne shared a cuddle too (below). He didn’t ask me for one…I can’t think why!

Looking to the week ahead, there are no runners from the stable this afternoon but we will be back tomorrow with a couple of runners; Tis What It Is and Whitley Neill at Exeter tomorrow. River Dun is an intended runner in the 3m mares’ handicap hurdle at Taunton on Wednesday evening.

Celestial Path holds an entry in the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle at Kempton on Thursday and he would be well suited by the good ground that is being currently described. On the same afternoon, Abracadabra Sivola is engaged at Warwick, while we have several entries at Chepstow on Friday including Purple ‘N Gold, recent Ludlow runner-up Dauphine Ereine and Delface, who is a likely runner in the 2m handicap hurdle.

The final day of the season at Sandown sees Friday Night Light entered in the extremely valuable novices’ handicap hurdle final over two miles as well as the 2m4f (0-145) handicap. Meanwhile, the highlight of the card is the Bet365 Gold Cup (formerly the Whitbread) and at the latest stage we have confirmed both Rathlin Rose and promising novice, Daklondike. The ground at Sandown is being described as good and while there are a few showers forecast, both could do with it! Daklondike also holds an entry in the 3m6f handicap chase at Punchestown on Saturday. The Irish are always fantastic hosts and look after us very well and there is also the small matter of a trainers’ championship to be decided, so it should certainly be an interesting fixture.

Finally, I was saddened to learn that Olympian has passed away at the grand old age of 31. You may recall that he won many races for my father; most notably when completing the Imperial Cup, Cheltenham Festival double in 1993 with the Coral Cup the second leg. He was a great favourite around the yard at Pond House and was as tough as teak. I am delighted that he enjoyed the long and happy retirement that he so richly deserved.

After Saturday the scores will go back to zero and I will be glad to get the new campaign underway. This season has been a trying one and the extreme conditions have not suited a lot of ours. These are comments that apply not just to me, but also to a number of my contemporaries. Still, I am lucky to have a nice string of horses for the coming season with a good mix of youngsters and more experienced types so we are looking forward to it.

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