Cheltenham Festival 2020

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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.

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Following a quiet start to the week, the action came thick and fast from Friday onwards! We attended the McCoy Awards at Cheltenham on Friday evening where our own Suzanne Lower was nominated for an award (more of that later!), whilst our first runners from the stable came at Worcester earlier that day.

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Last week was a quiet one with only a handful of runners, our first not coming until Newton Abbot on Friday and it looks like being a similar story this week. Indeed, with only limited opportunities early and a couple or midweek fixtures at Perth, Britain’s most northerly track, the next runners from the Pond House team may not be until Worcester on Friday.

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Like any sport and life in general there are ups and downs and horse racing is no exception. Last week was a tough one. We began with high hopes last Monday but it ended in tragedy with the loss of Timeforben and Noel’s Boy at Newton Abbot. Both were freak accidents with no one to blame, these things do happen, it was just particularly sad and very unusual for it to happen twice on the same day. Monday proved to be one of the hardest days I have ever had on the racecourse. My thoughts and sympathies are with their owners and my staff for whom it has been particularly difficult, especially Debbie and Bex who looked after them. These horses become members of our extended families and an empty stable the next day is one of the worst feelings in the world. The yard had a sombre feel to it the next day but we have some fond memories to cherish.

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      Stream Lady has taken to Fences

We were fairly quiet on the runners front last week with only a jumps card at the northerly venue of Hexham on Monday, no jumps fixtures at all on Tuesday and Friday and a dearth of runners at Sedgefield last Thursday (where there were just twenty runners in total throughout their final six races) due primarily to the prevailing fast ground.  We more than make up for it today with in fact six runners at two meetings.  Stream Lady has headed to Perth where she looks to follow up her victory at Sedgefield last time.  She seems to have improved for a switch to the larger obstacles and her jumping is her biggest asset.  She faces two rivals this afternoon (after one non-runner this morning) and fingers crossed she looks to have a good chance with David Noonan in the saddle although we would have preferred the rain to have stayed away! 

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Although we did not have a lot of runners last week it was still a busy one for the stable, not least because we were racing at Waregem in Belgium on Tuesday where Van Gogh du Granit was contesting the Grand Steeplechase des Flandres (or the Belgian Grand National). Our well-travelled veteran ran his usual honest race to finish a good fourth, picking up some decent prize money, whilst on the home front the horses continued to run well with the successes of mares Miss Tynte, Stream Lady (pictured above) and Hot Ryan.

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There was a notable event last week which was brilliant news for the whole team at Pond House. I am delighted to announce that W & S Recycling, who have been our stable sponsors for the past three years, have agreed to continue their most generous support of the yard for a further three years from 1st October.

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There was plenty to cheer about last week with jump racing returning from its enforced summer break with midweek meetings from Newton Abbot and Worcester last Wednesday whilst the action resumed in full force on Saturday afternoon. Even better, the stable was among the winners again with the success of Hot Ryan at Worcester on Wednesday evening taking our seasonal tally to 20, which puts us well ahead of last year’s schedule.

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It is amazing how much you miss something when it is not readily accessible! Some people have suggested that there is too much racing these days and that we have reached a saturation point. They point to uncompetitive field sizes and prize money compared to the model employed in Ireland where there are far fewer meetings. However, I have really missed the opportunity to compete over the jumps over the past week and look forward to getting back racing when local track Newton Abbot and Worcester host meetings on Wednesday.

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The mandatory summer holiday from jump racing commences today meaning that there is no National Hunt action to look forward to all this week, whilst next week sees only a couple of midweek fixtures on Wednesday before racing recommences properly a week on Saturday. The break does give the jockeys a chance to recharge the batteries for a day or two, although the horses still need to be exercised, fed, groomed and mucked out daily so they are ready to go when racing resumes. Thus, we need a full complement of staff at Pond House and day-to-day life in a busy racing yard continues very much as normal.

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