Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Following a few enjoyable days away in Cornwall I am fully recharged and looking forward to the week ahead.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) marks the beginning of Ascot’s Royal meeting and we will have a runner in the 5.00pm race, the Ascot Stakes. Junior, runaway winner of the race last year bids to follow-up under top-weight and he will be partnered by former champion jockey Ryan Moore. We have a good record in the race having finished third with Royal Rationale and second with Mamlook, before Junior provided me with my first Royal Ascot success last year under a positive ride from Seb Sanders – fingers crossed that he will be able to follow-up.

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I am making the most of there being not much racing this week and having a few days away with my family in Cornwall. It has been a pretty hectic time with work to be done at home and the sales so it will be nice to have a little break. It was great to have a winner over the weekend and Spirit of Barbados won the opening contest on the card at Worcester yesterday under Conor O’Farrell. He ran so well behind a JP McManus handicap good thing at Bangor last time it was nice to see him get his head in front for the first time. He is a lovely young horse who I hope will progress further. It was particularly nice for his owners, the Peterson family, who were celebrating their Ruby Wedding anniversary yesterday. Many Congratulations to them. I was unfortunately not there to celebrate with them as myself and dad flew to Perth to see our runners up there. It worked out very well as we were able to fly up and back to Edinburgh in the day from Exeter Airport, even though there was a slight delay on the way home everything went smoothly!

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We picked up four new horses from the sales at Doncaster last week - they are all good looking types and I am very pleased with them. It would be amazing if they could do as well as recent purchases Junior, Minella Four Star and Street Entertainer.   I will be thumbing through the catalogues again shortly ahead of the Arqana Sales at Saint Cloud in France at the end of June. It was here that we purchased Grands Crus as an unraced three year old and I will be hoping to unearth some more potential superstars then.

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Although we are now in what is generally considered to be our quiet time of the season, the past week has certainly been an eventful one!

I travelled over to France last Tuesday to saddle Notus de la Tour in the Prix Melinoir at Auteuil and he certainly didn't disappoint. Putting up a bold front-running performance under French jockey Anthony Lecordier, he led until collared by the favourite in the dying strides. He kept on gallantly under top weight and had the remainder of the field well beaten off and picked up just shy of £10,000 for finishing runner-up. Notus has earned a nice rest now, but could well make another trip over to France next season prior to commencing his career as a novice chaser. He looks to be the type to make a high class novice and remains an exciting prospect.

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It’s great to get off to a good start for the new season and already we have enjoyed five winners (as well as our Punchestown success). Indeed, three of those victories came on the same day last Wednesday as we completed an across the card treble at Wincanton and Fontwell.

Businessmoney Judi got the ball rolling under a canny ride from Conor O’Farrell in a race that developed into a sprint. Conor never panicked when the favourite came past her at the second last and he had enough up his sleeve to get back up by ¾ length. She has now won both starts since joining us at Pond House and is an improving mare. It was a special day for owner Bob Le Froy who was completing a notable treble – winning owner, his birthday and wedding anniversary!...I am sure days don’t get much better than that!

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I was pleased to arrive back from my trip to Punchestown in one piece and very happy to have saddled my first winner in Ireland. I thought that Street Entertainer put up an excellent performance in the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle on Wednesday under A P McCoy. He has now won two of his four starts over hurdles since we bought him cheaply from the Tattersalls Horses in Training Sales in October. Indeed, he has already more than covered his purchase price so is proving a bargain. He was also providing AP with a nice 37th birthday present – it is amazing to think that he has already managed to accumulate sixteen jockey's titles, and there is no sign of him letting up just yet.

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What an amazing weekend of action on the flat! I couldn’t help but be awestruck by the performance of Frankel in the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday. The way in which he dismantled a field of Group One calibre horses was something that I hadn’t seen in a Classic since Slip Anchor won the Derby in 1985 – and this was only over a mile! I was thrilled (as I think everyone in racing is) for Henry Cecil…this horse looks like a monster and I will be fascinated to see how he is campaigned. It would be some spectacle to see him take on the best of the older generations over a mile against the likes of Canford Cliffs and Goldikova – I certainly wouldn’t want to be opposing him after the way he won on Saturday, especially with the promise of further improvement to come!

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Saturday marked the end of the 2010/11 National Hunt season and as is traditional, the Bet365 Gold Cup (formerly the Whitbread) at Sandown saw us out in fine style. We had a brace of runners in the season finale and Faasel came very close to landing the big prize that his talent so richly deserves. Young Conor O’Farrell was aboard, and he looked as though he was going to continue his excellent run of form, until collared within the last half furlong. We were of course thrilled for David Johnson, who owned the winner Poker de Sivola – he came from the clouds to beat us under a finely judged ride from Timmy Murphy.

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It’s back to the grindstone for the final week of the 2010/11 National Hunt season following a very enjoyable three days racing spent with Leanne and Jack up at Ayr where we were looked after in fine style by Sean and Josie Tracey. I would like to congratulate Ayr racecourse on the fantastic job they did to make the meeting such a success. Clerk of the course Emma Marley and her team should be applauded for providing beautiful, safe jumping ground, while their hospitality team provided a first class service for owners and trainers. I was extremely impressed by the entire operation and Ayr should be very proud of themselves – a number of other racecourses could certainly learn a thing or two from them.

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What an extraordinary week, culminating in the Grand National at Aintree on Saturday and a fantastic victory for the Donald McCain trained Ballabriggs, ridden by Jason Maguire. It is great for them both, as well as owner Trevor Hemmings, although I am especially pleased for Donald – I know what a relief it is to be able to say that he has won a Grand National like his father! I am pleased to say that despite a horrible looking fall for Or Noir de Somoza at Becher’s Brook on the first circuit, all three of our Grand National runners have come back safe and sound.

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