Entries & Recent Form

There seems to have been an abundance of bad news of late and sadly that trend continued last week as the racing industry lamented the loss of two notable characters. Gold Cup winning trainer Robert Alner passed away at the age of 76, whilst former jockey James Banks was just 36 years old.

The unexpected passing of James Banks at such a tender age is a real bombshell for the sport. He was found at his Naunton home near Cheltenham last Monday. He was well liked and respected by his colleagues in the weighing room and he enjoyed a successful riding career, recording successes in several different countries. He was an accomplished horseman and I will always remember his triumph in the amateur riders’ chase at Cheltenham’s November meeting in 2010 where he got the better of our popular chaser Swing Bill aboard Rustarix. Racing is a tight knit community and I know that James’ tragic passing has stunned everyone within the sport.

Robert Alner was an inspiration to everyone in racing. A Dorset dairy farmer who turned trainer to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cool Dawn in 1998, he beat the odds to survive a horrendous car crash in 2007 which left him paralysed from the neck down. Even so, he never complained and continued to train horses with his wife Sally until 2010. A genius with a horse, he was an unfailingly kind man and will be missed enormously. The loss of both men means that the sport of racing is much the poorer this week and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with their families.

Onto the horses and it was a quiet start with our first runners not hitting the course until the latter part of the week. I headed across to Kempton on Friday where we had three runners but sadly I was unable to come away with a birthday winner. Yaa Salaam performed best, finishing a close third in the conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle under Jack Tudor, doing all of his best work in the closing stages. He was a good horse on the flat in Germany at distances of around a mile, so it is somewhat surprising that he would appear to want more of a test of stamina over hurdles. He has run well to reach the frame on four of his five starts to date and he should be winning over timber sooner rather than later.

Dell’ Arca defied his odds with a good run in the staying handicap hurdle at Newbury on Saturday. Our eleven year old stayed on well in the closing stages to grab third under Fergus Gillard. He continues to show all of his old enthusiasm and I am hopeful that he is capable of adding to his tally.

Delface was a good second at Uttoxeter in the 2m handicap chase. He jumped really well in the hands of Conor O’Farrell and was only headed at the last. He has now finished in the frame on three of his four starts over fences and has shown more than enough to suggest that he can land something similar. He may have his limitations, but the last time he finished out of the prize money was in 2017!

Buster Edwards also ran a solid race when third at Warwick in the 3m2f handicap hurdle. Having lost his prominent early position, he stuck on well in the straight. He has won three times this season and is now on a career high mark so he has done very well. Things are obviously a lot harder now, but he has an abundance of stamina and can continue to be competitive.

I was pleased to see Captain Guy Disney at Pond House on Saturday morning. He came in to school popular veteran Rathlin Rose. You may recall that Guy partnered Rathlin Rose to win two Royal Artillery Gold Cups and a Grand Military Gold Cup at Sandown and the plan is for the pair to take in those races once again, the first of which is takes place this Friday.

Storm Ciara certainly caused havoc with the racing calendar over the weekend, wiping out all of the meetings scheduled in this country, including at Exeter (where we were due to have four runners) and Southwell.

Paricolor ran at Plumpton on Monday afternoon but was disappointing on the very testing ground. He has done well since switching to hurdles, winning twice and only a four year old, there will be other days for him.

The weather has played havoc with plenty of the fixtures this week. Lingfield has already fallen foul of the weather tomorrow, whilst Wetherby have abandoned their meeting scheduled for Wednesday. We have plenty of entries for later in the week with Eden du Houx, Taj Badalandabad, Orchard Thieves and Shoot To Fame all engaged at Ascot on Saturday.

Ramses de Teillee has a choice of the Grade 2 novices’ hurdle at Haydock on Saturday or the Grand National Trial on the card. What a marvellously versatile horse he is. Duc de Beauchene is entered in the Pertemps Qualifier on the same card.

Night Edition, who was runner-up in the Grade 2 Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham last time, rounds out our entries at Market Rasen on Sunday in the maiden hurdle. A repeat of his latest effort would make him very difficult to beat.

High Profile Addition

I was delighted to welcome a high profile addition to the Pond House team earlier in the week. Panic Attack (pictured above), winner of her only start in a Market Rasen bumper was purchased and sent to us by new owner Bryan Drew and I couldn’t be more pleased. The form of her Market Rasen success looks strong and she has been prominent in the betting for the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival ever since.

Bryan joined us on Thursday to see his new purchase in action and I hope he was happy with what he saw. She is a lovely type to have in the yard and we look forward to learning more about her.

Festival Preview Nights

As you will be aware by now, the Cheltenham Festival is like the Olympics of our sport and with the meeting only five weeks away it is that time of the year when the Festival Preview evenings are starting. I have committed to a couple (so far) and will be appearing on the panel at Exeter racecourse after racing on Tuesday 3rd March and at Tiverton Golf Club on Thursday 5th March. The event at Tiverton is to be held in aid of Childrens’ Hospice South West so do try to get along if you can. They are a bit of fun, in aid of a good cause and who knows…we may just find you a winner or two!

Farewell Andrew!

Finally, the team are saddened to bid farewell to Andrew Pratt, our colourful Accounts Supervisor of the last six years. Andrew is leaving for pastures new and we will be sorry to see him go as he has proven to be a popular character around the yard during his time with us. He hates having his picture in any publication so I am delighted to include this one of him looking fabulous! Good luck Andrew, we will miss you.

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