Entries & Recent Form

 

The trials and tribulations of being a National Hunt racehorse trainer!  Following a very dry Summer, you spend most of the Autumn praying for rain and then, when it does arrive, it is either so torrential that meetings are abandoned due to waterlogging, or the temperatures drop to leave the ground frozen!  I am not bemoaning my luck (it is the same for everyone afterall) but you do need to be part meteorologist if you want to succeed in this sport as you need a real awareness of what the ground is likely to be several days in advance of each fixture.

The elements conspired against us last week with a number of abandonments, not least Cheltenham’s Trials Day meeting.  It was very disappointing to lose this important fixture as we were due to have six runners, although at least plans are afoot to reschedule the principal races.

Make A Decision!

Sadly the trend for abandoned fixtures has continued today with Sedgefield failing their final inspection at 12.30pm (the intended off-time of their first race).  Whilst I appreciate course officials making every effort to get the meetings on, I do not agree with these ultra-late decisions.  Sedgefield is in excess of a 600 miles round trip for us and the horses need to be at the track well before the race time.  That means that we have made the journey for nothing and who has to foot the bill for it?  The owner of course.

During these times of global uncertainty, the last thing the sport should be doing is putting more undue strain on the people who are keeping their horses in training.  I am certainly not picking Sedgefield out, there are many courses that have been guilty of this of late – it is time course officials started making earlier calls.  Sometimes they will be right, sometimes they will be wrong, but at least everybody will know where they stand in good time without further needless waste being incurred.

Promising Performances

As a consequence of the inclement weather last week, we were limited to six runners and whilst we did not find the winners’ enclosure, there were some decent performances.  Poker Play took a big step back in the right direction when runner-up in the 3m1f handicap hurdle at Plumpton on Monday.  Conceding weight all round, he was only headed at the last but held on well for second behind a progressive winner.  He is well-suited to extremely testing ground and I am hopeful he can build on this now.  He certainly has the ability to be winning something similar and he will be out again shortly.

Grangeclare Glory also performed with credit when finishing third in the novices’ hurdle at Doncaster on Friday.  Prominent throughout, he kept on in dour fashion under testing conditions to post a promising effort.  He should now earn himself a handicap mark and looks well capable of winning over timber and is sure to be suited by further in time.

Bumpy Johnson disappointed earlier on the card in the 2m3½f maiden hurdle.  The convincing winner of a bumper on his debut for the stable, he was less than 2l behind the winner of this race last time but failed to land a blow on Friday.  His jumping was far from fluent and whilst that will have played its part, the ground (which was dead and extremely holding) may not have been entirely to his liking.  He is a horse we think a lot of and there will be other days for him.

The Week Ahead

With no jumps cards tomorrow on the turf, our next runners will come at Warwick on Wednesday at the earliest (pending a precautionary inspection, of course!).  Mr Clarkson is due to run there for the Pipe’s Prospectors.  He has been plying his trade over fences of late, but he is not the biggest and his form has been a bit hit and miss over the larger obstacles, even though he was unlucky on his penultimate start at Taunton where he looked sure to be involved in the finish until capsizing at the second last fence.  He should be suited by the return to hurdles and can compete from a lower mark.

We have plenty of entries at Wincanton on Thursday, including the exciting Gericault Roque, although that fixture is also subject to an inspection on Tuesday morning, as there is currently standing water on the track.  There are no plans for an inspection at Ffos Las on Thursday or Chepstow on Friday at present, although the ground at the Welsh tracks is sure to be bottomless and it must be a case of watch this space!  Mud lovers including Sexy Lot and Red Lion Lad hold entries at both fixtures.

Saturday sees plenty of entries at Sandown, including two in the staying handicap hurdle.  These are Main Fact and Brinkley who both love the testing conditions that we have everywhere at present.  Having nearly finished writing this blog I hear that there are talks of changing to an all-chase card at Sandown.  Although no decision will be made on this for at least 24 hours, I for one would be very disappointed should this be the case.  While I understand the need for some racing rather than no racing, with Main Fact’s intended race being abandoned last weekend I am very keen to get a run into him as soon as I can and there are very limited options available.  Fingers crossed if they do go down the route of an all chase card the BHA will think about getting on some hurdle race replacements elsewhere. I know it is not easy for anyone at the moment, but at the end of the day we need to try and look after our owners as without them we would be nowhere. 

Remastered, who is already a winner at the track, holds an engagement at Wetherby on Saturday in the Grade 2 novices’ chase.  He was purchased as a chaser for the future and has really started to come into his own since switching to the larger obstacles and deserves to take his chance in this higher grade.  Umbrigado is another promising young chaser engaged on the card – he is entered in the 2m3½f handicap chase, while Maggies Mogul and Red Lion Lad are also entered on the card.

Of course, all plans are pending the weather and the usual routine tests, so keep up to date with all the latest information in the daily news section.

Passing of Barry Rayner

Finally, I was greatly saddened to learn of the passing of former owner Barry Rayner last week.  Barry, who with his wife Celia owned Alderbrook at Pond House, contracted Covid-19 whilst in hospital and tragically passed away.  Barry was a lovely man; friendly and great fun and a pleasure to have involved at the stable.  Our heartfelt sympathy goes to Celia, their 2 sons and all of his family and friends.