Gavin Sheehan came in to school a couple of horses on Christmas Eve ready for their boxing day runs. Later in the afternoon I did the remainder of my Christmas shopping, leaving it a little late as per usual!
On Christmas Day we got the six horses out that were due to run over the festive period. We had hot chocolate with rum and mince pies in the tack room afterwards and everyone felt pretty Christmassy!
We had 18 people for lunch at the house, everyone joined in and we had a delicious lunch and a very good day.
On Boxing day I drove David Obree and Sam Waley-Cohen up to Wetherby, we had a good run and made it within three hours. Cedre Bleu ran in the Rowland Merrick, he travelled and jumped very well and looked like winning turning for home but eventually finished fourth. He ran a solid race and I would love to get him qualified for the Grand National.
Libeccio ran in the Juvenile at Fontwell over an extended two miles in heavy ground. Gavin had walked the course and picked the best ground to finish third only beaten 1/2l and a neck, he ran a good race and stayed on strongly. I think he will be better on better ground although he does go okay in the mud too.
We worked a few horses on Saturday. I was impressed by the young Brian Boru horse and Superb Story worked very well. Gowanauthat worked well, he is ready to run now and we still have a 1/2 share available in him. He was an impressive Irish Point winner in October in the fastest time of the day. He has a great attitude at home and seems like he will dig deep.
I was making plans to got to Leicester on Sunday but it was abandoned so only Cody Wyoming ran at Catterick. He ran a very solid race finishing second giving 19lbs to the winner. If he hadn’t have made a mistake at the last ditch he may well have won.
On Monday we had a very hard frost but luckily Newbury had their covers down and we were able to run Seventh Sky. It was a competitive novice handicap chase, Noel Fehily rode him to jump beautifully and pinged the last in front only to be beaten by 1/2l. We got him out this morning and you wouldn’t know he had a race.
We have had a run of seconds recently, they are all going well at home and on the racecourse but it would be nice to go one better! Champagne N Caviar will have to get his jumping on target to improve tomorrow at Warwick. Other possible runners include Superb Story at Mussleburgh on New Years Day, I would prefer not to head up there as there are a few winners in the race but it is the course with the best ground which I think he needs and I have to get a run into him soon. It would be nice to get the new year off to a winning one with him!
On Wednesday I was picked up by Michael Bowlby and Simon Marsh to go down to Dorset for a days hunting with the Portman. Michael Bowlby has been Senior Master with the Old Berks and was wearing his pink coat, Simon was very well mounted and I was on Katya’s horse JP. We got to the first hedge and rail where Bowlby’s horse refused much to our amusement, then we jumped a large wire fence on to a road and Marsh’s horse jumped big and left while he went right and ended up in the ditch. By this time I was in hysterics and was looking forward to the drive home with the two of them as my horse was jumping brilliantly and the day was continuing to go well for me. At one of the last covers we were in a wood when JP suddenly decided to take off with me, when a horse runs a way with you with you in a wood the one thing you do know is that with the law of averages you are highly likely to hit a tree. I ended up on the floor lying there feeling that I was dead, fortunately someone caught the horse and I got to my feet and back on board, I even had to jump a fence out of the wood we were in. We then went back tot he horse box for the most delicious tea from our hosts. During the two and half hour journey back I stiffened up so much I could barely walk to my front door.
On Thursday morning I couldn’t even get out of bed let alone go to the yard or the office. I was on a lot of pain killers and black and blue from my foot to my shoulder on one side. Unlike AP I don’t bounce as well as I used to. I managed to get out and about on Friday and watched two lots before heading to Ascot even though I was very stiff. We ran Bridal Suite in the first, he ran okay and will be better for a handicap mark.
I watched them work on Saturday morning, Superb Story went the best yet, he is improving every day. The young Brian Boru worked in the middle of two horses and is learning how to gallop. He is now a big horse and I like him very much. My secretary got run away with on the walking track down to the gallops so came up by herself rather red in the face!
I had a days shooting in Lambourn on Saturday with Charlie Nugent. I hobbled around the best I could but I was still rather sore which was a good excuse for my shooting!
On Sunday I went to Lingfield with Foxy. Portmonarch ran a fairly lifeless race to finish fourth after stopping three out. We ran a very nice bumper horse called Murray Mount in the all weather bumper, he ran a nice race to finish second after AP just got the run on us turning for home.
I watched two lots on Monday and took the kids Christmas shopping in Newbury. We had the lads and builders Christmas drinks in the house later that evening. Katya did a great job preparing some lovely nibbles and every one had a jolly time.
We did the declarations for Boxing Day this morning. Cedre Bleu runs at Wetherby with Sam Waley-Cohen up again. Sands Cove goes to Market Rasen, he has been dropped a class and is top weight in the handicap chase so our conditional Tommy Dowling will ride to take ten pounds off. Libeccio runs at Fontwell in the Juvenile hurdle with Gavin Sheehan, it is very soft there and over an extended 2 miles we will have to see if he gets the trip but he will be ridden more handy than his first run. Looking ahead at the weekend we might have a couple at Chepstow on Saturday then Cody Wyoming at Catterick on Sunday.
Last Tuesday was a very busy day with a host of photgraphers and models doing a photoshoot for Lavenham Jackets. They were in the yard and office all day and both myself and our lads featured in some of the shots! I am hoping we will have some nice pictures of the string going up the gallops, which you may see in time and even the models Camilla Henderson, Verity Murphy and Drew Holmes rode out with us.
In between shots we ran a nice mare called Native Explorer, she was having her first run over hurdles on very bad ground at Uttoxeter but managed a credible effort to stay on for fourth.
On Wednesday I watched the horses work, Murray Mount, Portmonarch and Superb Story all worked well together on the Back of the Hill gallop. After this I drove to Dorset for my ex-mother-in-laws memorial service. I bumped into a lot of old friends and it was a good turn out for her.
We only schooled a couple on Thursday with Noel Fehily and our conditional Tommy. Superb Story had his second pop over the big hurdles and was given a lead by the improving Portmonarch.
Katya and I went racing to Warwick on Thursday where we had three runners, we also had two runners at Taunton. At Warwick Libeccio was dropped in at the back of the field and was never really put in the race, he jumped well and should be more competitive next time. Attimo was very disappointing, I thought he was our main chance of the day. He didn’t jump and never looked happy which I put down to the ground which must have been too soft for him. We ran a lovely horse called Royal Redemption in a competitive novice hurdle, he ran a super race to finish second. He is a horse for the future and will come into his own on better ground and over a fence. On the way he should win a novice hurdle.
At Taunton Nimbus Gale ran a very good race to finish third in a three mile novice hurdle, he needed every inch of the trip and hopefully should be winning fairly soon. he jumps so well we are excited to seem him over a fence in time. Seventh Sky ran a really good race to finish fourth in an extremely competitive novice handicap chase, he was only beaten two lengths by the winner so I was happy with his performance.
On Friday we had a very busy day cleaning up around the new cottages I have built as the tenants will be moving in soon. I will be glad when it is all finished as it hasn’t been easy keeping the builders in check! In the evening we had a drink in the old Malt Shovel which is now called the Mill House, it has had face lift and should now be somewhere to take owners who come for lunch.
We had 3 red letter days and Richard and Penny Green in for breakfast and a morning on the gallops on Saturday, it was lovely day and all the horses worked well. Superb Story worked very well and Gowanauthat flew up. The unnamed Brian Boru has grown a lot recently and is definitely going the right way. Katya took Mr Big to Larkhill point-to-point for one of our lads Johnny to have his first spin round. Unfortunately they did not managed to get round after parting company at he fourth last, they would have been placed if they had completed as only four of the thirteen starters finished. Listening to Katya’s commentary over the phone it sounded like the Grand National!
We have had a lovely new French horse arrive from the Cheltenham sales, it has been sent to us by David Fox. He looks a nice type so hopefully we can do something with him and it is great to have David on board.
I rode out two nice horses on Monday, Murray Mount and Big Jer and again this morning on Gownaauthat and Superb Story. Yesterday I had lunch in the Outside Chance pub in Manton with some friends and then on to Toby Balding memorial service at Marlborough College Chapel. There was an enormous turn out and I am sure Toby would have been very pleased. He was wonderful man and he will be greatly missed.
We have a fairly quite week just with a Bridal Suite running at Ascot on Friday as his owner is hosting a Christmas works party which I am looking forward to! On Sunday it is likely that both Portmonarch and Murray Mount will run at Lingfield. With the lack of runners I may take the time to go hunting on Katya’s horse with Portman on Wednesday so I did a little bit of jumping practice this morning!
Superb Story will hopefully be out shortly and will run in the same colours as Verano pictured below at Cheltenham.
I went racing to Ludlow with Tony Stapleton and Barney Windsor-Clive on Wednesday to watch Sands Cove run. Barneys family not only own the course but they also have about 8,000 acres surrounding it so we had lunch in the Ludlow food centre and then had a tour around the estate. Sands Cove ran in the 2 mile chase, quite honestly he didn’t run as badly as we first thought, the ground was on the quick side and the distance to short but it was great to see his jumping back to its best.
Gavin Sheehan and Mark Grant came in to school some horses on Thursday morning. Cedre Bleu schooled over the practice national fences and was very good. The juvenile horses also jumped the big hurdles and have improved enormously.
On Thursday I met up with Jill Mayo and went to Leicester to watch Big Jer in his first novice chase. We weren’t expecting to much from him as he hasn’t run for almost two years. He jumped very well and under a lovely ride from Jason Maguire he managed to win by 2 lengths. A lot of credit for his win must go to Vasyl who has been riding him out every day. He is a massive horse who is only now looking as though he fills his frame, hopefully he will continue to improve with age.
Champagne N Caviar ran at Wincanton, I was hoping with the extra schooling we have done that his jumping would have improved but he still managed to demolish every fence dropping him back in the order to 6th.
We ran Lambro at Sandown on Friday, he pulled up as he bled quite badly. It is a concern but I hoping we can find away round it. I really like the little horse and I think we could still have some fun with him. He will have a little break and give him some time to get over his races and go from there.
On Saturday I was very lucky to get a lift up to Aintree with my jockeys parents in law! Bertie and Serena Ballin are Sam Waley-Cohens parents in law and live locally to me in Upper Lambourn at the foot of the gallops. I took a friend of mine down to the chair for the Beecher Chase as it is always the most exciting place to be as you can get very close to the action. We had Cedre Bleu running in the Grand Sefton so again I took his owners down to the chair for the race, I have never seen a horse stand so far off the fence and clear it by so far! He went round the rest of the course as though it was hurdle track! Sam gave him a beautiful ride, if you had thrown the kitchen sink at him after the last he wasn’t going to go any faster. He was a very good second, I wish there was a race over the fences every day of the year as I haven’t seen a horse jump as well as him. He will head back to Aintree in April for either the Topham or the Grand National itself, Sam will most likely keep the ride although I would be very tempted to get my license back out to ride him!
Bridal Suite also ran on Saturday at Chepstow, he looked a little one paced and couldn’t quite go with the leaders but he should get a handicap mark tomorrow and we will go from there.
We are sending Native Explorer to Uttoxeter tomorrow for her first hurdle race. She is a natural jumper but will have to handle the ground. I expect we will have a busy day on Thursday at Warwick and Taunton, where amongst the runners I hope to have Attimo and Nimbus Gale having their second outings.
We had a busy morning on Wednesday as we had a lot of owners for breakfast and in to watch second lot. Jenny Pitman was amongst them as she came to see the horses work as well. I used to ride for Jenny years ago so it was nice to get her down and show her the horses we have. She rang me up later that evening to say how impressed she was with the quality of the horses we have, it was a very nice phone call to receive indeed. Unfortunately I cant really report how the horses worked as it was so foggy. I only saw them for a brief moment but jockeys reported that they all went well despite almost going round the bowl due to not being able to see any of the markers!
On Thursday morning we schooled with Noel, David Crosse and Harry Bannister. They all jumped nicely and Noel gave Harry some advice on how to get Champagne N Caviar jumping well. We also schooled Super Story for the first time, he just had a pop over the barrels in the arena. He is a lovely French import who has run on the flat but seems to have picked up the jumping fairly quickly.
Later in the morning I drove to Taunton where Cody Wyoming won his second chase, he did however run very lazy in front almost giving the race away a couple of times. Jason Maguire gave him a good ride and it was the second win for our Racing Club Members. If you would like more details on the CMRC then please take a look at the dedicated page on our website. We still have members spaces available.
We had a busy day on Saturday with owners in for first lot and nine people for breakfast and a morning on the gallops. We had runners at two meetings, Foxy went to Bangor and I went to Newbury to watch Seventh Sky. I was disappointed in how the horse ran as he was just panicking a bit and ended up being pulled up. Cody Wyoming ran again at Bangor and although very soon after Thursday he was 1/2f in a three horse race so I had to take the chance. Unfortunately his previous race took effect on him turning for home and he only managed second place. We will see what the handicapper does with him on Tuesday but regardless I am sure he is capable of winning again. Portmonarch ran in the novice hurdle. He needs one more run to qualify for a handicap mark then he might be a bit more competitive.
It was great day for Lambourn on Saturday with Oliver Sherwood winning the Hennessy Gold Cup with Many Clouds. I was very pleased for all those involved with the horse, it was an extremely gutsy display in testing conditions. I sure everybody celebrated with some conviction and a few sore heads still this morning!