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   Champers On Ice after Winning at Newbury

 I thought this week I would pick out a few key moments and horses from the past season which has been a good one for the yard.  We enjoyed a fine season with 64 winners and a good ninth place in the trainer’s championship.  We sent out more winners than the likes of Colin Tizzard, Jonjo O’Neill and Donald McCain despite considerably fewer runners.  I was particularly proud of our winners to runner’s ratio this term.  With 49% of the horses to have run for us during the season winning at least one race we boasted a strike rate higher than any other stable in the top ten of the championship, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls included. 

While everyone would like a stable full of potential Gold Cup winners and stars we of course all know this is not possible.  We all dream to win the biggest races, the Saturday races but we all love our sport because everyone can be involved at different levels and with a bit of luck you may be competing in some of the top races with a chance.  Owners, jockeys and myself get a buzz from a win at any level while there is then a desire and hunger then get more success, winning is a bit like a drug, you always want more which is what keeps you going. 

 LOTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO

I have a very exciting team of young horses now, probably the most exciting I have had for several seasons and who knows how good some of these can be?!  I certainly cannot wait to find out.  They are probably the nicest bunch since I have had since when Vieux Lion Rouge was starting as a three year old and Kings Palace first arrived.  Exciting times. 

However, this week and probably next, I want to particularly mention a few horses that I would probably like to call the team players of the stable, the real engine and heart of the yard.  They are not necessarily the household names to the general racing public but they are stars in the eyes of me and their owners in their own right.  Without them all playing their part we would not be in the lucky position of having had so many winners through the season.  I certainly cannot mention all of them right now but I have started with a few this week.

MAIN FACT

The first one I would like to mention is Main Fact.  He is one I look back on with great pride for what he achieved.  Having bought him for £6,000 from Doncaster’s Spring sales in 2018 we discovered soon afterwards that he had a tendon problem.  With a year off he returned last summer and my main hope was keeping him sound and in one piece!  He was going okay but nothing electric at home before he had his first race at Exeter in December.  I was delighted with his first run where he finished a close third beaten less than half a length but in hindsight, how did he get beaten off a mark of 98?!  In truth, he probably just needed it a little fitness wise!  The handicapper put him up four pounds for that effort and we gave him a bit of time to get over it and his next run was at Warwick on 22nd January.  He won by 4.5 lengths and what was impressive was his ‘turbo’ kick at the end, something that has become synonymous in all his races since and it is quite thrilling to watch.  This was the first leg of what became a hat-trick of wins in nine days.  Tom Scu was on board at Warwick, Ben Hicks rode at Uttoxeter and then our amateur Fergus Gillard was on board at FFos Las.  We gave him a little break after three quick runs and we knew life would be tougher off his new handicap mark of 123.  His next run was at Wetherby at the beginning of March.  I was actually at Robert Alner’s memorial service that afternoon and did not get to see the race live; I did not really believe Leanne when she phoned to say he had won again! 

When running over two miles he seems to have one or two moments during the race where he races a little lazily and I always knew he would appreciate a step up in trip at some point.  He was favourite for the Imperial Cup at Sandown and unfortunately that meeting was lost due to waterlogging and then he did not make the cut for the County hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.  The next plan was Uttoxeter for the valuable handicap hurdle on the Saturday following Cheltenham.  Over 2m4f this day he travelled like a dream and put up his best performance yet off a mark of 132 beating Kateson by 15 lengths with Fergus Gillard in the saddle.  Having started the season off 98 he finished on a rating of 147 and who knows if he has finished improving yet?  He loves soft ground and I hope there is more to come.  He is a little quirky with a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde character but he has lots of talent that we have had to nurture.  He is now out enjoying a summer holiday and I am already thinking the Welsh Champion hurdle at Ffos Las could be a suitable comeback race if conditions are right in the autumn.  The dream for his owners, the Munrowd’s partnership is still very much alive and there will be plenty more fun to be had with our seven year old.


    Main Fact after Winning at Wetherby

TREBLE WINNING HORSES

So, Main Fact won five races last season, an incredible achievement.  We also had several horses that managed three wins in the season which is equally fantastic.  Teaser, Malangen, Ramses De Teillee and Buster Edwards all fall into this category and while Ramses De Teillee is the most high profile of these it is a brilliant achievement by all.  Teaser and Malangen were both only four year olds, both bought out of sellers on the flat relatively cheaply and have given their owners so much fun and pleasure while Buster was also a good value purchase from Cheltenham sales.  His owner has had to be patient as he had more than a year off through injury but thankfully he has been more than worth the wait.  With three wins over hurdles, including a win at Haydock that looked very unlikely as he traded at 999/1 in running! 



   Buster Edwards after Winning at Haydock

I will talk a bit more about some of these horses over the coming weeks and there are several horses that have won twice who also deserve a mention but the truth is that every horse in the yard has a story.  Like humans, it could be of hardship or what they have come through in adversity to get to that winners enclosure or sometimes it’s not even about winning it’s about making it to the track carrying the colours of their loving owner. 

CHAMPERS ON ICE RETIRED

One horse that falls into this category is Champers on Ice who we have just retired and he has gone off to his new home.  He is has been a fantastic horse for owners Bryan and Caroline over the years but unfortunately injuries have played a large part in his career.  He was of course third in the Albert Bartlett novices hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in his younger days before injuries halted his career but we did however get him back this season for two brilliant wins at Ffos Las and Newbury along with a super run at Cheltenham as well.  This was particularly pleasing and rewarding for everybody.  You can read below a tribute from Gemma to his career below.

THANK YOU

I have a fantastic group of loyal and supportive owners which makes my job so much easier and for which I am particularly grateful for at this difficult time.  While no racing is giving me more time to reflect I am very excited and positive for the season ahead and can’t wait for some normality to return whenever that might be.

While there is plenty of work still to do at home it is great to spend more time with the children.  Stay safe and well everyone.  Thank you to all the key workers and NHS staff.  We will all get through this together and hopefully be celebrating in the winner’s enclosure again soon.

 

CHAMPERS TRIBUTE

Champers On Ice has left Pond House in recent days to start is new life in retirement with Clare Poole.  He will catch up and be living with old friends Moon Racer and Un Temps Pour Tout who are already in Gloucestershire with Clare.  They are both doing so well in their new careers that Champers’ owners, Bryan and Caroline wanted to see their ten year old grey share in their enjoyment.

Champers on Ice was pretty lightly raced for his years.  Injury has sadly played are large part in him perhaps not fulfilling his full potential although he has had a cracking season this time and it was brilliant to have him back to somewhere near his very best.  Unfortunately rumblings of old injuries resurfaced with his run at Haydock in January this year and it meant we had to call time on his career.

Champers on Ice is a stunning grey gelding by Robin Des Champs out of a mare called Miss Nova.  He was purchased from Cheltenham sales in March 2015 after winning his second start in an Irish point to point.  He unfortunately unseated his rider at only the third fence on his debut.  He settled in really quickly to life at Pond House and was impressive in his homework from the very start, so much so that David decided to send him to the Punchestown Festival to make his yard debut in a bumper.  We secured the services of Jamie Codd to ride and after he tremendous tussle up the home straight he prevailed by a head beating First Figaro to the sheer delight of everyone involved.

After a summer at grass he made his hurdling debut at Cheltenham’s November meeting in a novice hurdle over 2m4f.  He ran well and finished second behind Shantou Village.  He went to Newbury later that month and made all to win with Tom Scudamore on board.  He returned to Cheltenham on New Year’s Day 2016 and followed up that success with another battling win under a penalty.  Next stop was a return to Prestbury Park at the end of January for trials day.  He put in another good performance to finish third but was ultimately well beaten by Yanworth.  He then headed for the Cheltenham Festival in March where he was stepped up in trip to contest the Albert Bartlett novices hurdle over three miles.  He ran a cracker to finish a very close third behind Unowhatimeanharry beaten less than three lengths.  He had every chance at the last hurdle and stayed on really well up the hill.

That was it for him that season and after a summer holiday he was prepared for a novice chase campaign.  He made his chasing debut at Uttoxeter in December 2016 and it was a winning start at odds of 1/5f as he won like he should.  It was then onto Warwick in January 2017 to contest a listed novices chase.  He finished second to American and while everyone was a little disappointed at the time, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it was not a bad run at all as American turned out to be a very useful horse although relatively unknown at that time.  Rated 157 he was sent off only 5/1 for the Hennessy later that year.  Champers dropped back in trip for his next start at Cheltenham over fences just two weeks later but he got outpaced and was never involved although he did stay on well towards the end and finished sixth beaten 20 lengths.  He ran in the four mile amateur national hunt chase at the Festival but things did not go to plan and he was pulled up.

Although built like a chaser Champers did not seem to enjoy the bigger obstacles as much as we hoped and expected he might and so it was decided to return to hurdles the following autumn.  He ran okay in the listed hurdle at Haydock to finish fifth behind Sam Spinner and then he had one more run at Cheltenham that year after which tendon issues kept him off the track for 15 months.

He returned to action in February 2019 at Haydock in a Pertemps handicap hurdle qualifier.  On ground that was probably not soft enough he ran a cracker to finish fourth.  I remember the day well as I went to Haydock with David in the car and lead him up!  He is a complete gentleman to do and look after but he does need a capable rider in the saddle at home on the gallops.  Rosie Clarke looked after him all the time he was at Pond House and she used to ride him every day as well.  He ran in the Pertemps final at the festival last year but once again the ground was not soft enough for his liking and he was never really going so Tom Scu looked after him and pulled him up.

After a summer out to grass he returned to training and was showing the sparkle of old at home and we were delighted that he showed this on the racecourse as well by winning at Ffos Las on his return to the track in November.  He made all and stayed on well to win off a mark of 132.  He went to Newbury later that month and put in a brilliant front running display to win a very competitive handicap hurdle by ¾ length.  He made it three good runs in a row at Cheltenham’s December meeting.  Although he didn’t win he finished a very close third, beaten less than 3 lengths running off a mark of 140 staying on well to the line.  His final outing was in the Peter Marsh chase in January of this year.

Champers on Ice only ran 20 times in his career, he won seven races and was placed a further six times.  Rated 146 at best he won over £86,000 in prize money.  He was a dark iron grey when he arrived but he leaves us pretty white!  We hope he really enjoys his new career and we look forward to hearing how he gets on in the future.