Cheltenham Festival 2020

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Entries & Recent Form

The unsettled weather conditions mean that it has been very difficult trying to get an accurate gauge on the ground and therefore we were limited to just one racecourse representative on the flat at Bath last Monday. Indeed, last month was the wettest September we have had since we began recording the rainfall at Pond House in 2001. With 100mm of rain here during the 30 day period things have gone somewhat from the sublime to the ridiculous and it is hardly surprising that our local track Newton Abbot were forced to abandon their jumps fixture last Monday due to waterlogging. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Huntingdon seemed to have avoided the precipitation altogether with their fixture last Wednesday held on good ground.

With the ground turning, we have reached that crossover point of the season where the winter horses are beginning to come out and those that have been on the go throughout the summer are just about ready for a well-earned rest. Our winter runners are just a couple of weeks away from a run and we are extremely fortunate to have some very promising types for the core part of the season. With that in mind, I thought you would be interested to hear of some of my brightest hopes – six of the best hopefully!

We will start with Remastered. A lovely, strapping six year old gelding; he was a good winner over hurdles at Ffos Las for us last season on heavy ground on his seasonal debut. He wasn’t at his best next time at Exeter, but rounded off the season with an excellent second behind a rapidly improving winner at Newbury. He could be contesting some of the better handicap hurdles this term and will be seen to best effect when there is plenty of give in the ground. He will make a smashing chaser in time.

Eden du Houx (pictured above) is an exciting horse who won his only Irish point-to-point before joining us. He won a bumper at Plumpton in December before landing a Listed contest at Ascot, form which has worked out very well. He has strengthened up and looks well and should make an exciting novice hurdler for the season ahead.

Israel Champ is yet to make his debut for the stable but he looks to be an exciting prospect based on his impressive Irish point-to-point success. A big, strong four year old, he has done very well over the summer and will probably start off in bumpers. He will jump hurdles in time but is very much a chaser in the making.

Queens Cave looked very good when winning a Uttoxeter bumper and improved again when a narrow runner-up in valuable Sandown race in March of last year. She disappointed on her only start last term when pulled-up on her hurdles debut at Ayr but was found to have a fibrillating heart beat post-race. She has been given sufficient time to recover and has shown no recurrence since, so I am very hopeful that she will be able to confirm the high opinion I have always had of her.

First Lord de Cuet is part-owned by my father-in-law-to-be so I had to include him! In all seriousness though, he looks a very nice horse for the coming campaign. A winner of his second start for the stable when bolting up in a Plumpton bumper, he has really shown the benefit of a summer at grass. He will go hurdling this season and should make an exciting novice in that sphere.

Finally, I am looking forward to seeing how Know The Score (pictured below) gets on this season. A winner over hurdles at Hexham last season, he has always had the look of an exciting staying chaser and we will go down that route with him this season. He has schooled nicely over fences and will be at his best when the mud is flying.

Towcester Closure

On the national stage there has been plenty going on, sadly not all of it good, with the permanent closure of Towcester racecourse in Northamptonshire announced. Of course, it is of major concern when any racecourse faces closure and Towcester are the sixteenth to shut up shop since 1960 (although Hereford reopened in 2016). During that same timescale the only new courses to emerge are at Great Leighs (which closed and subsequently reopened as Chelmsford City) and Ffos Las.

It is a worrying trend and one that we cannot afford to see continue. Sadly, at the root of the issue as far as I can see is prize money. It is a vicious circle, but in order to attract racegoers the courses need to host competitive racing, and in order to hold better racing, they need to offer better money. Racing needs to find a different model for its funding rather than relying on the levy which comes from bookmaker contributions. With High Street betting shops also shutting at an alarming rate, I can only see the problem worsening.

Enable Unable To Make History

It was a shame that Enable could not make history yesterday by landing an unprecedented third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Paris Longchamp. Even so, she ran a tremendously brave race under Frankie Dettori, finishing second on ground that looked plenty soft enough for her. It would be great if we were to see her race again, although she certainly owes nobody anything with ten Group One victories to her name.

The Week Ahead

We start this week with a runner at Stratford this afternoon (Monday) where Ballard Down contests the 2m½f novices’ hurdle at 2.20pm. A very capable performer on the flat, he ran creditably on his hurdles debut when runner-up at Southwell in July and this softer ground should suit him better. He will have learned from that experience, but this does look a tougher race.

With no jumps fixtures tomorrow, our next runners could come at Wincanton on Wednesday where Percy Street is and intended runner in the 2m4f handicap hurdle and Midnight Magic is likely to contest the staying handicap chase. He has finished runner-up on his last three starts and I would dearly love to go one better for his owner/breeders.

Thursday looks like being a busy day for the stable with Airton, Teaser and Hot Ryan all intended runners at Exeter for their eagerly awaited first meeting of the new season.

Later in the week, old favourites Vieux Lion Rouge and Dell’ Arca hold entries in Chepstow’s veterans' handicap chase on Friday. Stream Lady is entered in the mares’ handicap chase whilst Queens Cave has a choice of engagements at Chepstow or Newton Abbot on Sunday.

Remastered is a possible runner in the valuable Silver Trophy handicap hurdle on Saturday, whilst former Irish point-to-point recruit Make Me A Believer is entered in the bumpers at Chepstow and Newton Abbot.

Velka Latest

Rathlin Rose will be heading out to the Czech Republic tomorrow ahead of his intended start in the Velka Padubica on Sunday where he will be partnered by James Best. It is a long journey that will take three days, including overnight stops in Germany at Cologne and Neumarkt.

Sadly, he will be travelling on his own as our other intended runner, Van Gogh du Granit suffered a fatal fall whilst schooling at a local cross-country course last week. Even though he had only been with us a relatively short time, Van Gogh was a great favourite within the yard and everybody at Pond House was very upset at his loss. He had a wonderful attitude and was tremendously brave and had done so much since his arrival; winning at Market Rasen and finishing runner-up in an Ascot veteran’s chase, as well as finishing in the frame on his last outing in the Grand Steeplechase des Flandres at Waregem, in Belgium.

Passing Of Mike Perry

Finally, I am greatly saddened to bring news of the passing of Mike Perry. Mike, who was a dear family friend, was also our helicopter pilot for many years after retiring as Lieutenant Colonel of the Army Air Corps.

During his time flying us, we got to know Mike very well. He was a tremendously kind man who had time for everyone he met. He took us far and wide and was unfailingly cheerful and always a pleasure to be around.

He had been bravely fighting illness during the past few years but was never self-pitying and was still in good spirits during his most recent visit to Pond House. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with his wife Sukey, his family and friends at this terribly sad time.

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