Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Although we were empty-handed on the week, it was good to see the horses performing well with the majority of our runners reaching the frame. The changeable weather during the middle of last week and the spontaneous downpours meant that some of the courses were offering noticeably softer ground than initially expected. Even so, looking at the forecast for the week ahead it would appear that we are in for another warm spell so the tracks will be drying up again rapidly and we will be monitoring the going carefully before making any firm plans (pardon the pun!).

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The weather continues to be fairly dry but we did have 8mm of rain at Pond House last night and we could get more this week so I am sure lots of the racecourse will be praying for their fair share of any drops that fall from above! The majority of horses our on their summer holidays now and they were all basking in the sunshine last week which is a great sight but we do have a few horses to run in the coming weeks.  This week looks fairly quiet but we have Work running on the flat at Chepstow on Tuesday evening with Pat Dobbs on board.  This is her first run on the flat for the yard and she runs in the final race, the 8.40pm over 2 miles.

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Wow! What a change about in the weather. The non-stop rain of the winter months seems an eternity ago now; indeed we have just had the second driest April since we started collating the Pond House rainfall almost 20 years ago, with just 16mm falling throughout the entire month. Whilst that is good for those that are already out enjoying their holidays, it is not so good for those that remain in training with the ground now unsuitably fast and leading to small fields on the jumps cards.

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There is certainly no rest for the wicked! The 2016/17 season has come to a close and following a day’s holiday we are back raring to go for the 2017/18 campaign. As I have said a number of times in the past, I am not convinced that one season following so hotly on the heels of another is the best way to go, but the days where there used to be a meaningful break of a month or more where jockeys, trainers, staff and most importantly the horses can recuperate are long gone.

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If any proof were ever needed (and I suspect it might not be) the success of Three Star General at Cheltenham last Thursday showed that a winner at Cheltenham racecourse is a victory to cherished, be it at the all-important Cheltenham Festival in March or a charity race in April where there is no prize money on offer. Just to walk in to the hallowed winner’s enclosure victorious is an experience that every owner, trainer and jockey in National Hunt racing craves.

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After the frantic few weeks surrounding the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals the programme begins to wind down, especially as the flat meetings rise to prominence and many of the jumpers who have been on the go throughout the winter months embark on their summer holidays. Unsurprisingly last week was a quiet one for the stable with all but one of our runners coming at the weekend. Unfortunately we were not able to add to our seasonal total although there were some creditable performances to take encouragement from.

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The major Spring Festivals are over for another year. A Cheltenham winner, places at Liverpool and another excellent run from Vieux Lion Rouge in the Grand National itself means that the Pond House team was once again well represented at the top table. I am pleased to report that all of our runners returned safe and sound and would like to congratulate Aintree on another excellent meeting.

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With Aintree week now upon us I am pleased to report that the stable is in good form heading into the Grand National. Three winners last week took our tally onto 58 for the season while there were other good performances from stable runners not to mention the jockeys; notably David Noonan who rode out his claim when successful aboard Mr Clarkson at Sedgefield on Wednesday (pictured above).

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It is very much a time of transition at Pond House at present with stable stalwart Dynaste retired earlier in the season and during the past couple of weeks we have called time on the careers of a few other notable campaigners who have been great servants to the team over the years. On Saturday Shotavodka (pictured above) was retired after the staying handicap chase at Newbury, while Gevrey Chambertin, Soll and Red Sherlock have also run their last races. It is sad to see these grand old campaigners retired but we have always tried to call it a day when the time was right for the horse and we have a proven track record of doing this as well as finding them loving and rewarding homes when their racing days are done.

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It is hard to believe that the Cheltenham Festival has been and gone for another year. There were plenty of thrills and spills and some amazing performances on the track, not least by our own Un Temps Pour Tout (pictured above) who became a back-to-back Festival winner by defying top weight in a thrilling finish to the Grade 3 Ultima handicap chase.

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