Cheltenham Festival 2018

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Entries & Recent Form

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Following the frantic goings-on of the Cheltenham Festival, last week was just the opposite with only three runners. It was still very productive nonetheless with two of them winning (both in the hands of man of the moment Conor O’Farrell).

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Connections with Minella Four Star and the
rather sizeable Midlands National Trophy
 Following all of the preparation and efforts of everyone at the yard it is difficult to believe that the Cheltenham Festival is over for another year. Once again we had a wonderful time of things with two winners as well as numerous placed horses over the course of the four days, and just when I thought that things couldn’t get any better, we won the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter on Saturday with 25/1 chance Minella Four Star.

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I hope you will excuse me if this weeks’ blog is slightly shorter than usual, as I am sure you can understand with the Festival now only 24 hours away I have many things to oversee and arrangements to make.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the best four days of jump racing in the world and we will be represented by three runners.   Great Endeavour goes in the Stewart Family Handicap Chase, Dan Breen in the Arkle and Swing Bill in the Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase. Timmy Murphy will partner the David Johnson owned pair, while Tom Scu gets the leg-up in the Arkle.

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Last week certainly had its share of highs and lows. The obvious high was my son, Jack’s first birthday on Wednesday – we hosted a little party for him with some of the local little‘uns from around the yard and village in attendance. Jack received his first rocking horse, so he will be getting an early “leg-up” – it’s just as well that A P McCoy is from a different generation…I bet he would be shaking in his boots otherwise! It was a great afternoon, but I am glad that birthdays only come around once a year…I thought that training racehorses was difficult enough, but trying to keep tabs on a bunch of little people makes it look like the proverbial child’s play!

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It has been a hectic week and I was pleased to see the rescheduled Totesport Trophy at Newbury go off without any problems on Friday following the tragic events of the previous weekend. We were represented by Notus de la Tour who ran a bold race under different front running tactics to finish a valiant and close third behind Recession Proof. As the meeting was rescheduled from the previous weekend sadly the prize money suffered and so we took the decision to re-route Ronaldo des Mottes from the Totesport to the Bathwick Tyres Kingwell Hurdle and he too performed creditably to finish third behind Mille Chief.

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I cannot write this week without first making reference to the terrible events at Newbury on Saturday that led to the death of two horses in the parade ring before the first race. An investigation is currently underway to discover what caused the horses to collapse and die, although at present electrocution is looking by far the most likely cause. I was present first hand to witness it, and I have to say that I have never seen anything like it before – I actually helped to subdue one of the stricken horses and it was an extremely distressing experience. My thoughts and condolences go to Jonjo O’Neill, Andy Turnell and the connections of both animals.

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Well, I did say that we might have a surprise or two in store for you following the Grand National entries, and I can reveal that rather than the original five entries, we now have six of the best for the world’s most spectacular horserace. I am very grateful to the new Swiss owners of Or Noir de Somoza for sending him to me to prepare for Aintree’s great race. The nine year old gelding is a winner of sixteen of his thirty six races (including three Grade One’s) and well over £1 million in win and place prize money. We have had Or Noir de Somoza in the yard before and he finished fourth in Ascot’s Victor Chandler Chase behind Master Minded. He stays very well and I have always thought that he looked like an ideal Grand National candidate. I am delighted to have him and he is a very exciting addition to our team of entries for the big race that consists of I’msingingtheblues, Comply Or Die, Piraya, Faasel, and Junior.

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Grands_Crus_Cheltenham1                         Grands Crus returns to the winner's enclosure at Cheltenham on Saturday

Just one word to sum up the weekend - Wow!

I have been waxing lyrical about the potential of Grands Crus for sometime now and while he bolted up in two valuable and competitive handicaps at Cheltenham and Haydock within the space of a week in November, it was his performance in Saturday’s Cleeve Hurdle that announced his arrival on centre stage to those in attendance.

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It’s been another busy week and I am pleased to say that the horses are still running well and we are still among the winners.

On Monday, Mamlook our Chester Cup winner made a smooth transition to fences when scoring on his chase debut at Fakenham under champion jockey A P McCoy. It was only a three runner race, but I was delighted by the way that he jumped and he quickened up well in the straight to win the race. Despite the ground probably being softer than ideal, the experience will have done him good and he looks sure to go on to better things over fences.

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Well, what an exciting week, culminating in a fantastic card at Kempton on Saturday which featured the rescheduled Christmas Hurdle and King George VI Chase. We kicked off the meeting with a winner when Kazzene made a successful hurdling debut for the yard in the opening juvenile hurdle. Beforehand the race had looked quite a decent contest on paper with the ante-post favourite for the Triumph Hurdle in the line-up, and despite the analysts casting doubt over the form, I have no doubt that Kazzene is a nice prospect.

I see that many bookmakers have already installed him prominently for the Triumph Hurdle ante-post markets and he will certainly be out again before that race in order to gain further experience. The hustle and bustle and likely fast pace of the race should suit him, although he will also likely be given an entry in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

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