I went to an NTF meeting at Newbury racecourse on Tuesday as I am a member of the council. The usual topics came up, mainly prize money!
Mark Grant and Peterjon Carberry came in on Wednesday morning to ride work. Mark rode Elmore Back and was very happy with him so I declared him for Taunton. Seventh Sky worked really well but needed it. The new horses are all cantering away now; Dragon City, Portmonarch, Verano, Sureness and Almost Gemini, I have to say they are a nice bunch of young horses. They have some size about them and look as though they will all do a job. Later that evening Nicky Henderson very kindly gave me a lift to another meeting, this time for the local jump trainers held by Aintree racecourse. They wined and dined us while we discussed health and safety issues. There was a good turn out and much frivolity! We were all quite amused when we left the restaurant as Jonjo O’Neill’s wife Jackie was waiting in the car in the car park acting as his chauffeur for the evening. I wish my wife had waited for me like that!
We schooled 4 horses on Thursday. Verano had his first proper school over hurdles and was brilliant, Noel Fehily really liked him. We let Ben Ffrench-Davies school Mr Big over the National fences – he nearly fell off at the second fence, hopefully he will learn to let his irons down! Especially as this morning he got dropped when one whipped round!
We ran two horses at Taunton on Thursday, Elmore Back ran a blinder in his first novice hurdle. He finished 3rd to The Skyfarmer which is fairly decent horse of Philip Hobbs. Airmen’s Friend came fourth on his first start for about 500 days. It was a promising run from him. Mark Grant then gave me a lift back to Membury services where I met Iffy with my car and he drove me to the Savoy Hotel in London for a Charity Dinner for young sports men and women, I didn’t get home till 2.30am! But I can safely say there is more of a chance of selling a horse in the Savoy than sitting at home.
I rode Portmonarch this morning, I thought he was a lovely horse despite his feet not touching the ground till after the first canter! Low Gales ran today at Doncaster, although I knew he would need it he ran a really good race to plug on and get 4th, he will come on no end for it.
I have a full house for breakfast tomorrow before everyone heads off to Newbury for the Hennessy, I am sure I will get asked by all who I think will win! Highland Lodge would be the one I fancy.
We schooled 6 horses on Thursday, Bill Brindle came in to watch Elmore Back. Everything jumped really nicely. We also schooled 3 of the new horses in the loose school. Verano was brilliant, he showed a lot of natural ability. Almost Gemini and Sureness both took to it well too.
We ran two horses at Market Rasen that day, Area Access and Greyfriars Drummer. Unfortunately the ground was no good for either of them.
We ran Lord Of House at Ascot on Friday and had high hopes for him. He jumped well when he got into a rhythm but struggled to go with them into the home straight. It seems he did not get the trip, he needs 2m on soft ground.
We had 10 in for breakfast on Saturday so it was a very busy morning. Elmore Back worked very well around ‘back of the hill’ gallop with Mark Grant. Seventh Sky worked really well on the ‘bank’ gallop, he came from 6 lengths off the leading pair and flew passed them, I struggle to find anything good enough to work with him!
I gave Lucinda Green and Tim Thompson-Jones a lift to Ascot n Saturday. Attimo was disappointing in the first. He blew for a while so needed the race again. Shockingtimes unluckily almost got bought down and unseated Mark at the 4th Fence in the second race.
On Sunday I drove to Towcester and walked the course with Harry Bannister, to give him the benefit of my experience! Unfortunately it was to no avail, Always Smiling got stuck in the ground and although she tries very hard and jumps well she needs better ground. I hurried back to Lambourn for an 80th Birthday lunch at Oaksey House and watched Sands Cove at Exeter who managed to fall at the 2nd last fence. Noel Fehily said he would have won and I think he probably would have. So all in all it was a fairly frustrating weekend.
We have got Seventh Sky in the Gerry Feilden at Newbury on Thursday, he would have to get in to the h’cap to run. Elmore Back has an entry at Taunton on Thursday where he might take his chance.
On Tuesday morning I rode out two lots, one of these I sat on was a new horse called Almost Gemini. He is a lovely horse to sit on and rides more like a jumper than a flat horse. He won his first 3 races on the flat this year and looks to be a really nice type, I am quite surprised that we still have 1/4 share in him left to sell.
Later on Tuesday I drove down to Windsor and had lunch with Tony and Rita Stapleton, Tony then kindly drove me to Lingfield racecourse. We ran a nice young filly called Plum Stone in the mares bumper, I thought she was quite nice at home but I didn’t know she was as good as she is. She won very well by an eased down 6l, she looks a really nice horse for the future. She was bred by Sue Welch who owns her and part of her is leased to some friends and family of mine. The plan is to run her in one more bumper in the new year and then head to Aintree for the Mares Bumper.
We had 5 jockeys in for first lot this morning, D Crosse, M Grant, D Elsworth, T Garner and P Carberry. First lot worked up back of the hill and 2nd lot worked up the bank. The two horses that really caught my eye where Elmore Back and Seventh Sky, both doing a lovely bit easily on the bridle.
We are sending two up to Market Rasen tomorrow. Area Access in the novice hurdle and Greyfriars Drummer in a valuable h’cap hurdle. Area Access seems to have come on since his last run but is still green. It will be Greyfriars Drummer first run back since his injury at the end of last summer so we will know more whether his injury has effected him once he has run.
We ran a couple of horses on Thursday at Taunton and Ludlow, Western King was 5th with AP McCoy on board. I think the handicapper put him up to much and he struggled to finish his race after the last. I ran Low Gales at Ludlow, I have previously avoided soft ground with him so if I had known the ground was as bad as it was I would not have run him. As it was he hated the going and also slipped on the bend not helping his cause.
I went to Cheltenham on Friday and thoroughly enjoyed the racing from the comfort of Lycetts Box. Later in the evening I went to the Brightwells select sale and tried to buy a horse. They all made far to much money and I came away empty handed. I returned home to a house full of people for supper, including my sister Caroline and her husband Mark, and my brother Robbie and his girlfriend Emma. Saturday morning was fairly hectic with 14 people for breakfast included Tom Swerling who I haven’t seen for a while.
Shockingtimes worked really well and Attimo impressed too. We managed to make it to Cheltenham in good time where we had a box for the day. We had 20 odd people in the box for drinks and lunch. It worked really and an everyone enjoyed themselves, it was a great opportunity for a lot of our owners to meet one another. We also managed to get a winner at Uttoxeter with Duke Of Monmouth plugging on in true trying fashion to win by a neck. The handicapper gave him a good chance by dropping him 8lbs last week so we took advantage of this but he also jumped very well and was given a great ride by Dominc Elsworth.
I was rung up by an Irish man as I arrived at the racecourse on Saturday offering me horse that tried to buy the night before, after a lot of haggling I managed to buy Breezy Kin who won a p2p last Sunday in Ireland and although he may not be a world beater he has very consistent form, he has been brought for Harry Bannister to ride.
When we got back from the races on Saturday evening we jumped in the hot tub for an hour and drank some very nice wine, before going to Simon Beccles and Marie Ellis for a lovely dinner.
On Sunday morning my family left to go back to Edinburgh and I went out for lunch to Kim Meehan, where I watched Who Owns Me come 3rd at Fontwell, he made a mistake both times at the downhill fence which knocked the stuffing out of him. He was unsuited by the quick early pace and tired quickly in the heavy ground.
This morning we cantered a lot of the new horses for the first time, the horses spirits were high but there was some rather nervous looking faces on my staff! I watched from the car as my secretary Rose had a rather hairy time and very almost got thrown off a couple of times, she very quickly retreated to the office when we got back so not to have to sit on another one!
As we had no runners today I decided to take Mr Big hunting with the VWH, he jumped the first 5 or 6 fences fine and then decided he would not jump a small post and rail, at the 3rd time of trying he dumped me in the biggest muddiest puddle he could find and on top of that I lost my watch. I spent the next twenty minutes looking for my watch by which time the hounds had disappeared, luckily I found my watch but Mr Big behaved very badly and we went home – I will have to get this sorted before the next time we go out as its not the first time he has done it! He has claimed 4 rider falls in 3 meets!
Plum Stone runs at Lingfield tomorrow in a mares bumper, she is a nice filly and the All Weather surface should suit her. I plan to run Greyfriars Drummer on Thursday at Market Rasen as I had to take him out of Cheltenham on Saturday as he bruised his heel, Area Access may also go there. Lord of House will go to Ascot on Friday. Shockingtimes and Attimo will go to Ascot on Saturday and Always Smiling at Towcester on Sunday.
I had a very good weekend as Fine Parchment won at Sandown on Saturday and my team Newcastle beat Spurs on Sunday!
We had just the one runner at Sandown on Saturday but plenty of supporters! I walked the track with Harry Bannister beforehand and under instruction he made most of the running, bar Tingle Creek I have never seen a horse jump so well round that track as Fine Parchment did. In fairness to Harry he let the old boy do as he pleased and gave him a very good ride. Harrys parents and his brother Archie (who was also celebrating his birthday) were there so it was a big family occasion.
We went to Cath Walwyns 85th birthday party yesterday, there were lots of familiar racing faces there. The other highlight of course was the football, our goal keeper made 14 saves which is premiership record!
This morning I rode Shockingtimes who is in very good form, I then thought I would have a quiet canter on Western King. He all but ran away with me up the ‘home’ grass gallop, then on the way back he reared up (very uncharacteristic!) and lost his footing on the grass and we both fell over! Oliver Sherwood who was up there schooling a couple had to give me a leg back up! I am not sure who was more shocked between him and I as he stood whinnying while I caught him. I hope to run him on Thursday as he is obviously very well still.
I have entered Greyfriars Drummer at Cheltenham on Saturday where he is likely to take his chance. I have also entered Duke Of Monmouth & Who Owns Me on the same day at Uttoxeter. On Sunday we have Low Gales entered in the boys race at Cheltenham but this is speculative. Who Owns Me has two entries at Fontwell on Sunday and Shockingtimes and Lord Of House have an entry to.