Ocean Heights Winner at Kempton

We had a winner under each code last week from just a handful of runners and it was nice to keep the score board ticking along.  Ocean Heights was our final flat winner of 2023 and became the first of 2024 at Kempton last Wednesday evening.  He has shown a real liking for the track having run well there on every start recently.  He enjoyed stepping back up in distance and was given a lovely front running ride from apprentice Aiden Brookes.  We didn’t really want to make the running but to ensure a true run race we decided to make our own pace and he controlled it very well from the front.  We will wait to see what the handicapper does to him on Tuesday but hopefully he won’t put him up too much and we can head back to Kempton for a similar race at the beginning of March.  I think he will improve more for stepping up in trip in due course but he is a strong traveller with a good attitude and it is brilliant to have him such good form at present.

Heure De Gloire was another to receive a good front running ride from her jockey, Ellis Collier to win at Ffos Las on Wednesday.  Ellis has been riding out for a few weeks at Pond House since Gearoid got injured and it was a nice sensible ride and she won impressively.  She had finished fourth at Uttoxeter on the Saturday but she had come out of that race so well we decided to let her take her chance again quickly and thankfully it paid off!  She revelled in the more testing conditions at Ffos Las and jumped really slickly at the front of the field, her rivals couldn’t get close enough to challenge and she won eased down.  This was Ellis’ first winner for the yard and although Gearoid is nearing a return to action I am sure there will be more opportunities for him in the future.  He is based with Christian Williams and his good value for his seven pound claim. 

We nearly had a double on the day at Ffos Las with Pachacuti leading over the last fence but he just wasn’t quite able to hold off the challenge of the favourite on the run in.  It was probably his best run over fences to date and Nick Scholfield felt he would stay all day and some of these long distance marathon chases could be on his agenda going forwards.  Manuelito made a promising hurdling debut after being a little green early he stayed on nicely to be third and Lady Balko also improved for stepping up in distance to be second at Leicester.  Her winning turn is surely not too far away, perhaps even over slightly further again.

This Week

We start this week on the flat at Southwell on Monday evening.  Pub Crawl makes his second start for the yard have run okay on debut at the course previously.  He was slowly away that day and then got hampered so did not have the run of the race but was not beaten that far in the end.  He is down in class, wears first time blinkers and steps up in trip so hopefully this combination might help him achieve his first career victory!

On Tuesday we just have the one runner, Neon Moon at Taunton and he runs in the Arthur & Peggy White Memorial handicap chase and I would love to win this race sponsored by the White family who have been terrific owners at Pond House for many years.  Things haven’t gone quite right for Neon Moon since and impressive win at Ludlow on his seasonal reappearance but he did not enjoy the soft ground at Newbury last time when he rained a lot on race day.  He ran well at this track last season and will appreciate the better ground.  The handicapper has given him a bit of help and this represents a slight drop in class from his previous races.  He carries top weight and was out with the hounds yesterday – something he loves and hopefully that has put him spot on for this.

Wednesday is a blank day on the runner’s front for us but things get busier towards the end of the week with entries at Doncaster on Thursday, Bangor and Kempton on Friday, Newbury and Uttoxeter on Saturday and Exeter on Sunday.  Keep checking the Daily News on the website for the latest news on the stable runners.

Saturday at Newbury is Betfair hurdle day and we will be represented by Jilaijone in the big race.  It is fiercely competitive but we have a nice weight of 10s 11lb and Jack Tudor will ride.  He has run really well without winning this season and if he hadn’t disappointed at Sandown on his last run before Christmas there would be no way he would be 40/1 in the betting.  He hated the ground at Sandown that day which was attritional and will appreciate the better going at Newbury.  We have given him a break and freshened him up since then wit this his target so hopefully he can put up a bold show.

Gearoid Harney

Gearoid has been back at the yard and riding out for about a week now and can’t wait to get back on the racecourse.  He is fit and raring to go but just waiting to pass the doctor and then he will be back in action.

Peter Deal Funeral

I shall be attending the funeral of Peter Deal on Thursday this week, a private service for close family and friends.  Peter passed away last month following a battle with cancer at the age of 84.  He was a great supporter of racing and of Pond House but above all he was a great friend to the family.  He had 85 winners as an owner, most of them trained by dad and the biggest of course being Make A Stand winning the 1997 Champion hurdle.  Blowing Wind did the Imperial Cup, County hurdle double for the £50,000 bonus in 1998 and came back to win the Mildmay of Flete four years later at the Cheltenham Festival.  There were many other great horses who carried the famous blue and yellow silks and Mamlook was probably the best I trained for him and the Hollway’s hurdle at Ascot and the Chester Cup with Richard Hughes riding were two of his most notable victories.  Peter was also involved in racing in many other ways which included being president of the ROR for several years where he helped increase funding for the charity in looking after retired racehorses and help it reach the level it has today.  An incredible man, my thoughts are with his wife Pam and daughter Michelle at this time.

Racing Community

I like many of you, will have been shocked and devastated to hear of the death of young west country point to point rider Keagan Kirkby following a fall at Charing point to point on Sunday 4th February.    We all know what can happen riding horses but thankfully it is extremely rare and it does seem rather surreal at present.  Racing is a close knit community and while I didn’t know Keagan personally it is clear from all that knew him what a nice young, well liked and well-respected chap he was.  Several of my staff knew him quite well through point to pointing and seeing him at the races and we can only imagine what the Paul Nicholls team are going through right now.  Our thoughts are with them and all of Keagan’s family and friends at this difficult time.