Cheltenham Festival 2018

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What an amazing week it has been! Although we were only represented by a handful of runners, a couple of high-profile winners certainly do no harm for morale. The Haydock Grand National Trial success of Vieux Lion Rouge means that we now have the ante-post favourite for the big one at Aintree in April, while Rathlin Rose’s Royal Artillery victory at Sandown under the amazing Captain Guy Disney was a poignant and emotional occasion and helps to bring a sense of perspective to everything.

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With only four weeks to go until the Cheltenham Festival, the finishing touches to preparations are well underway. The entries for the championship races have closed and the handicaps close next week and I am sure there will be plenty of entries from the Pond House team. Great importance has always been placed on the Festival but now, more so than ever, success for a trainer is measured as much by the ability to turn out winners during these four days as at any other time during the season. Indeed, it is the pinnacle of our sport, the Olympics of racing if you like and the pressure to perform is immense.

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Unsurprisingly given the changeable weather conditions (seemingly only changing from wet to freezing!), last week was a quiet one with only a handful of runners. Nevertheless, the horses that did compete continued to run creditably and I was pleased to get in the winners’ enclosure with Abracadabra Sivola at my local track of Taunton on Sunday.

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The relentless countdown towards the 2017 Cheltenham Festival continues and following trials weekend at the track, there are only six weeks remaining. There was some fascinating action, although the feature race produced drama for the racegoers and heartbreak for the connections of Many Clouds.

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Even though the weather has started to play havoc with the fixture list once again, there was no shortage of racing during the early part of last week and I was pleased to get three winners on the board before the frost intervened. Our seasonal tally stands at 47 winners and it is good to have the team in good order with the Cheltenham Festival just around the corner…did I mention there are just 50 days left?!

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It was a big week for racing with the shock news of the proposed sale of Kempton Racecourse by the Jockey Club as part of a proposed plan to reinvigorate the sport for future generations. You can read my thoughts on that a little later. While that was going on, it was a relatively quiet week for the stable with only nine runners although they performed consistently well without quite getting their heads in front.

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I could not start this week without reflecting on the retirement of stable favourite Dynaste over the weekend.  Our popular 11 year old grey ran his last race in the Veteran’s Final at Sandown to finish a gallant seventh and the decision was made there and then that he had run his last race.  He has always had a few niggly problems throughout his career and it his testament to his character that he stayed at the top for as long as he did but things just seemed to be catching up with him more in recent times.  It was a decision owner John White and I had been considering for a little while.  

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