Entries & Recent Form

The Cheltenham Festival is over for another year and I am sure there will be plenty of trainers on this side of the Irish Sea who will be glad to see the back of it.  Whilst we drew a blank at the meeting, most of our runners performed creditably.  Adagio (pictured above) ran an excellent race to finish second in the Triumph Hurdle and we finished the week with a winner at Chepstow on Sunday which took us to the half century for the season.

Cheltenham 2021

Despite the incredibly wet winter, the sun came out at just the wrong time for the majority of our Cheltenham runners.  Remastered ran a sound race in the 3m6f National Hunt novices’ chase on day one, jumping with aplomb and leading into the straight before tiring in the closing stages to finish fifth.  The longer trip was a step into the unknown and may well have been a shade too far, whilst all of his best form had come on much softer ground and the drying surface wouldn’t have helped much either.  Eden du Houx travelled well for a long way and appeared to enjoy the ground, more than suggesting that he should be winning races over fences.

Brinkley was prominent for much of the way in the Pertemps handicap hurdle final on Thursday but is another that would have preferred much softer ground, a comment that also applies to Main Fact who contested the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Eamon An Cnoic was far from disgraced returning to fences in the Paddy Power Chase, tiring only approaching the last.  He clearly remains in good form and there will be other opportunities for him over hurdles or fences.

Leoncavallo ran a good race in the Martin Pipe conditional jockeys’ handicap hurdle, finishing a gallant sixth.  The trip may just have found him out in this company but he acquitted himself very well all the same and there should be some nice races in him.

Adagio ran an absolute cracker to finish runner-up in the Grade One Triumph Hurdle behind Quilixios, once again showing himself to be the best juvenile in Britain.  Always well positioned, I thought for a stride or two after the last that he may pick up the winner, but he held on well for second.  Given his interrupted preparation (he had suffered from a bout of colic in the weeks leading up to the Festival) this was an amazing performance.

We purchased Adagio cheaply from a claimer on the flat in France last August, but he continues to improve with each run over hurdles and has given his owners no end of joy.  He is yet another great value buy by the Pond House team and demonstrates that you do not need to spend a King’s ransom to compete.  Indeed, if you would like to join the ranks of owners at the stable do get in touch.  We have a nice selection of horses for sale or, alternatively we can buy to order to suit your needs.

50 Up!

We finished the week off with a winner at Chepstow on Sunday when Duc de Beauchene (pictured below) landed the 2m3½f novices’ chase under Tom Scudamore.  Our eight year old jumped much better on this third start over fences and he seemed to enjoy the better ground too.  He battled on really well in the closing stages to prevail by a head and in the process bring up the half century of winners for the season.  Given the delay to the start of the current campaign owing to the Covid pandemic, I believe this to be a good effort and with another six weeks of the season remaining, I hope to be able to add a few more to that tally.

The Week Ahead

After the Cheltenham Festival, things are looking a lot quieter this week and we start with runners at Huntingdon and Taunton tomorrow (Tuesday).  The first of those is Heure de Gloire who makes her debut for the stable in the juvenile fillies’ hurdle at Huntingdon at 2.05pm.  She looked very good when winning her only start to date in an excellent time at Pau on Christmas Eve and she has pleased me with everything she has done since arriving.  Fergus Gillard is in the saddle and takes 5lbs off her back.  She possesses plenty of ability, has a good attitude and is currently for sale.

Over at Taunton, Miss M returns to the track having had a little break.  She started off well earlier in the season, winning her first two starts prior to disappointing last time.  This is her first start in a handicap and the assessor has not taken many chances with a mark of 117.  She is a likeable sort though and we will see how she gets on.

Rathlin Rose contests the staying handicap chase at 4.15pm and is capable of going close, whilst Shoot To Fame took a step in the right direction when third at Exeter last time and I hope she can improve again in the 5.15pm race, a 2m3f hurdle.

That is it then until Sunday when Iron Heart is engaged in the 1m7½f juvenile handicap hurdle at Ascot.  He did well to win at Newbury last time and is progressing well over timber.  He won’t mind any drying in the ground and these juvenile handicaps are very good opportunities for the youngsters to scoop a nice pot.

A Little Good News

I was pleased to hear that owners will be allowed back on the racecourse from next Monday, 29th March.  It has not been the same at the track without the crowds, but at least this is a step in the right direction.  Hopefully that will go well and we can show that a meeting can be conducted responsibly and safely with a view to allowing more people on track sooner rather than later.

Farewell To A Legend

Finally, you will probably have heard by now of the passing of Chester Barnes at the age of 74 in the early hours of Friday morning from a heart attack.  We are all shocked and saddened by the news.  Chester had been an integral part of the Pond House story as assistant trainer during my father’s days training, travelling with him to the races, saddling runners, communicating with the owners and of course, helping to plot the next winner.

Chester had lived a very full life and some of his tales were scarcely believable.  He was a tremendously gifted table tennis player from an early age and quickly developed into the best in Britain, winning the first of his five English Championships at the age of 16.  He became a household name for his exploits, appearing in television programmes such as a A Question of Sport and Superstars, whilst his exhibition matches at Trevor Hemmings’ holiday camp resorts around the country were tremendously popular.

A shrewd businessman, he had modelling and equipment endorsement contracts and he even owned his own pub in the East end of London where Rod Stewart and Faces would practice in one of the back rooms.  The Kray brothers were also known to be patrons of his hostelry.  Chester seemed to know everybody and everyone knew and loved him.

Chester was a keen racing fan and he became great friends with my father, who by total coincidence loved table tennis.  Chester became assistant trainer at the yard and they had many amazing times from the early Carrie Ann gamble to Cheltenham Festival success with Baron Blakeney in 1981 and all the successes thereafter.  Chester was there for them all.  Even when things weren’t always going so well, Chester would be on hand with a laugh and a joke that would brighten any atmosphere.

Following the retirement of my father in 2007, Chester remained a part of the team, penning his daily musings with “Chester’s Chat” on my website, whilst he would still make the odd journey to the races, particularly the Cheltenham Festival where he was always keenly greeted by our owners and members of the racing club in our hospitality marquee.

Chester always had time for everyone and was unfailingly kind and polite to all.  Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that I recall he was chatting away with a club member at Cheltenham when Penny Lancaster came looking for him as Rod Stewart was asking for him!  Chester was a larger than life character and his passing will leave a huge void at Pond House.

Chester with Rod Stewart at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival

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