Cheltenham Festival 2018

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With jumps cards still a little thin on the ground last week, I took the opportunity to get a few days respite from the day to day grind by taking Leanne and the children on holiday to Portugal. It is a country we have been to several times before and one that we enjoy enormously – it is very beautiful and the climate is just right – bright and sunny without being overwhelming. The kids had a nice time which is the main thing, while I feel rejuvenated (or at least as much as you can do at my age!) and looking forward to getting the horses back from their holidays and kicking on.

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With the summer months well and truly upon us, it comes as no surprise that National Hunt racing (quite rightly) very much takes second fiddle to the flat. Even so (and I have said it time and again) the programme book gets decidedly patchy now with only a few jumps meetings scattered here and there before we get a week off in August. Indeed, this week there are fixtures at Worcester today, Uttoxeter tomorrow and then nothing until Sunday when there are no fewer than three jumps meetings…what is the idea of that?!

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This week marks Racing Staff week in the industry with charitable organisation Racing Welfare and the Racehorse Owners Association promoting the workers that tirelessly toil behind the scenes to bring you the great racing that we all enjoy on the racecourse and television. Our sport would be nothing without those operating at grass roots level in the stables and it is a great initiative to bring them some recognition and appreciation. Consequently today we have hosted a barbecue for the staff and owners at Pond House and it was a great fun afternoon and very good for morale.

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Ascot were blessed with some glorious weather last week for their Royal meeting and while the warm, dry conditions were good for the racegoers, it did mean that prevailing ground conditions were very quick on course. I say conditions were good for racegoers, although I was somewhat surprised the dress code was not relaxed a little on the first day when temperatures hit 33°c. Unsurprisingly we were very quiet with just three runners, including one at flat racing’s centrepiece.

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Wow! Following a soggy start to the month, we have now gone over a week without any rainfall at all. With temperatures also reaching in excess of 30°c, the ground is drying out quickly and despite the best attempts of the ground staff and their artificial watering techniques the going is unsurprisingly on the lively side at most tracks. Consequently we only had a handful of runners last week, although a yield of 2 winners from 6 runners is not a bad return.

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It was another quiet week on the racing front with just a handful of runners and it looks like being a case of more of the same during the week ahead. It is a good job we have the politicians to keep us entertained while there is a dearth of National Hunt fixtures! Don’t worry though, enough has already been said about the General Election without me adding to it.

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Although the winners are proving somewhat elusive at present, it is good to see the horses continue to run well and through the first few weeks of the new jumps season, over half of all of our runners have reached the frame. Of course, summer is traditionally our quietest time of the year and with the ground very fast up until the weekend’s downpours we have had relatively few runners. Even so, there is plenty going on away from the track and I was at the sales again last week securing some nice new recruits to bolster our string ahead of the core campaign.

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