Royal Mer Leicester Winner

I have only had six runners in the last week, but it was good to add to the winners tally with Royal Mer winning at Leicester on Friday. Our six-year-old was winning for the third time this season over fences and we teamed up with Harry Cobden with Jack at Exeter.  It was another great local win for his owner Sam Sutton and our grey did not mind dropping back in trip to 2 miles.  When we first started out this season, I thought staying trips would bring out the best in him but despite winning twice over 2m3f and 2m4f, when we have gone up in trip further, he has not quite seen out the extra distance. I think the key to him is the ground and it cannot be soft enough and he showed plenty of speed, travelling powerfully in his races and scoring quite impressively this time.

Jumping is also a key asset of his and he has been very consistent all season. He won this race off a mark of 101 and I do not think the handicapper can put him up too much for this victory.  As long as the ground remains in his favour I’m sure he’ll be out again relatively soon and continue to give us a lot of fun.  Walkadina also made a promising stable and rules debut at Hereford on Saturday to be second in a bumper at Hereford. I think it was above average race for the track and while disappointing not to win I think the first three home are potentially nice types. She was a little bit keen in the early stages which did not help her chances late on, but it was still a good performance and I can’t wait to get her over hurdles next season.  She may well run in another bumper before her summer holiday.  Activist went for a quick three timer at Exeter and unfortunately, it did not pay off. He seemed fine at home but was beaten from a very early stage in the race on Friday. Hindsight a wonderful thing and maybe we should have waited a little longer but we do know the run is too bad to be true.  He seems in good form at home since the race but we shall freshen him up before we see him out again.

We are of course on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival and while I am only likely to have a couple of runners there later in the week, I shall be in attendance every day. We have our usual David Pipe marquee at Prestbury Park where we have approximately 100 guests each day. We run through the card giving tips before racing and I have a few names like Matt Chapman and jockeys lined up to help me. The marquee offers our racegoers somewhere to escape from the hustle and bustle of a busy Cheltenham and it is a great location not too far from the paddock or the course itself.

Fighter Allen will run in the Plate handicap chase on Thursday and Jack Tudor will ride.  This will be his stable debut after we purchased him from an online sale out of the Willie Mullins yard. He is half-brother to the mighty Envoi Allen and has some good form in the book. He won his last race in Ireland over fences and has a rating of 137 and as you may expect for a horse with that rating, he does go nicely at home. He appears to have a big engine and a good attitude and I think there is plenty of fun to have with him going forwards.  He was not always the best jumper in Ireland, but we have put a lot of work into that area so I hope that will stand in good stead in this competitive race. He is a good each way price of 33/1 and hopefully will give us a good run for our money and whatever happens this week I think he can do well for the stable in the future.

Jamaico has three options later in the week at Cheltenham, the Brown Advisory novices chase over three miles on Wednesday and then two races on Thursday, the Turners novices chase over 2m4f and also the Plate handicap chase as well. This will be our five-year-old stable debut having been bought from France last summer. He won his last start at Auteuil over fences and remains very lightly raced. He is a gorgeous big horse that has ability and while it is asking a lot of him this week it will be interesting to see how he gets on. He had a little setback in the autumn, which is why he has not been seen on the English racetrack yet, but he has had a good run since the turn of the year and it is has been all about getting him ready for March. At the moment, I am favouring the Turner novices chase on Thursday as his intended target. While is a big price, I think the smaller field in novice event will suit him better than the hustle and bustle of a competitive handicap at this stage of his career . I hope that he can have a nice run round and you never know what may happen, we have had big price festival winners in the past. Who can remember Western Warhorse winning the Arkle at 50/1 under Tom Scudamore.  Whatever happens this week, he will be a lovely horse for chases in the future.

We start this week with three runners at local track Taunton on Monday afternoon, which includes First Lord Du Cuet, Lady Balko and Lock Out. Lady Balko would be my best chance of the day as she is seeking a hat trick of wins. She was a course and distance winner last time out and hopefully the handicapper has not caught up with her yet. While First Lord Du Cuet has not managed a win over the large obstacles so far, I hope he has a good chance in the 3m4fr handicap chase.  His last two runs have been good and this looks a suitable opportunity for him.

There are no runners at Cheltenham on day one for the yard but we are have runners on the all-weather at Southwell tomorrow evening. Kintaro tackles two miles for the first time with John Egan on board, while Rebel Angel returns from a wind op to run in the 1m4f handicap with Aiden Brookes riding. Kintaro is yet to set the world alight but Rob Hornby felt he was definitely worth a try at this distance on the flat. He gets his opportunity here and we have added cheek pieces. We do intend to run him over hurdles but are waiting for the ground to dry out a little. 

Rebel Angel is a multiple winner on the flat in England and France already and we thought this was a good opportunity on her way back to running over hurdles again shortly.  She runs off a mark of 71 and the jockey claiming five and I hope that would give her a good chance in this race. She has a likable attitude and I cannot wait to get a back over hurdles now she has a rating but hopefully she can run well in this in the meantime. Later in the week, we have entries away from Cheltenham with Hexham and Fakenham possibly on the cards; keep checking the daily news on the website for more news of the stable runners.  

Horses will be far from my mind come lunchtime today as I am attending the funeral of Liz Allsop partner to Merv Woodward who rides out at Pond house. Liz passed away very suddenly in February at the age of 45, and it is her funeral today at Kentisbeare church. Leanne and I will be driving Merv and his son Oliver and our thoughts will be with him and all of his family on this difficult day.  Liz was a lovely lady who did lots for the community teaching riding to hundreds of young children over the years involved in pony club and in the wider area. Days like these help to put everything into perspective.

I was due to have a point-to-point runner at Buckfastleigh on Sunday, but unfortunately, that meeting was abandoned due to water logging. Lots of rain fell with us on Saturday evening and I felt for the course as this was the fourth meeting to be lost this winter due to the wet conditions. It is one of the best courses in the West Country and so it is a shame there has been no racing there this season. Castle Daragh was due to run in the restricted with young, Luke Morris having just his third ride. We will enter again for next weekend at Kilworthy.  There was point-to-point action at Cothelstone on Saturday which is also not too far from us.  Gerry Supple was starter for the day (assisted by Ashley Farrant) , following in the footsteps of brother Robbie, who will be starting at Cheltenham this week. There will be lots of pressure on Robbie Supple this week at the start, but hopefully everything will go smoothly and we will hear that famous Cheltenham roar!

I have done a few Cheltenham preview evenings in the last week, which have been very enjoyable so I hope you all feel ready for the week ahead and everyone can find some winners. It is bound to be a good week for the Irish but I hope us Brits don’t let them have it all their own way! Enjoy all the action everybody from where you may be watching either at home or on the track, and let us just hope it is a good week for racing.