Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Just in case you hadn’t already noticed, it’s cold…really cold! Even so, Newbury racecourse did a great job for racing to go ahead last weekend and they should be applauded for their efforts in covering the entire track to protect the ground from the snow and frost. Not only were we able to enjoy a cracking race for the Hennessy, but they were also able to hold the Fighting Fifth hurdle after Newcastle were forced to abandon their fixture.


Just as last week, I am pleased to kick off by saying how pleased we were to gain another big race success on a Saturday by winning the Listed “Fixed Brush” handicap hurdle at Haydock. Once again, the honours went to Grands Crus who followed-up his Cheltenham success in even more facile fashion under a 6lbs penalty.

I remember going travelling over to the French sales at Saint-Cloud a couple of years ago with Roger Stanley (part owner of Grands Crus) and he helped to pick out the grey son of Dom Alco as an unraced three year old.


As usual, The Open Meeting at Cheltenham provided three days of top class racing and our horses ran very well.   Grands Crus was an impressive winner of the 2m5f Intermediate handicap hurdle on Sunday, while we also had a number of others finish in the frame including Swing Bill, Dynaste and Junior, while Peut Etre Sivola followed up last year’s success in Fontwell’s Southern National under Johnny Farrelly.

Grands Crus became the first Cheltenham winner for his owners Roger Stanley and Yvonne Reynolds and I couldn’t be happier for them. They have been tremendous supporters of the yard for many years now and they look to have another nice horse to look forward to. He is entered again at Haydock on Saturday and could well run there under a 6lbs penalty for his Cheltenham success. It is a valuable race, so we will see how he is over the next few days before deciding what to do with him.



It’s been an exciting culmination to the flat season with the Breeder’s Cup taking place over in America, while on these shores we had a photo finish in the jockey’s title with Paul Hanagan just edging out Richard Hughes by 191-189. It is a shame that anybody had to lose the jockey’s championship – these guys have put in an awful lot of effort and it will have taken plenty out of them physically (especially Richard Hughes who has to waste a lot harder to do these weights owing to his height) as well as leaving them mentally exhausted.



It’s been a busy old week, and I was thrilled when Massini’s Maguire topped it all off with a fantastic performance to land the Listed United House Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot on Saturday. It was a really gutsy effort from him to rally on the run-in when joined, and he is a lovely horse to have in the yard and I must thank owner Alan Peterson for sending him to us. Alan enjoyed a day to remember as he completed an across the card double when his Fair Along scored at Wetherby.



As Chester has already alluded to, I will be up at the Newmarket Horses In Training Sales all week looking for some potential jumps stars of the future.  It is a hectic time, with plenty of preparation to be done before the start of the auctions - going through the catalogues, looking up form, pedigrees etc for nearly 1600 horses in order to make an informed choice.  We purchased four horses at last year's sales and have so far been successful with three of those, so that is not a bad strike rate.  I will be at the sales every day, but am always available to speak with regard to prospective purchases.


It was good to be back at Cheltenham for the new season with their Showcase Meeting on Friday and Saturday. We had a number of runners that performed with credit without quite getting their heads in front. Swing Bill (2nd in the handicap chase), Raslan and Battle Group (3rd & 4th in the handicap hurdle) all ran well to reach the frame.

On Sunday Woodlark Island scored his first chase success at Kempton with a well deserved and battling ¾ length victory over Cortinas. He showed a really willing attitude and has been a star for connections. Incidentally, it was the first time that that both William and Robert who form the Eminence Grise Partnership have both been to the races together in five years! They had quite a few guests with them and I believe the celebrations went on well into the night. If this is the result when they go racing together, I am going to have to arrange for it too happen a little more often!