Wednesday, 30 November 2011


Northern Flame
Bright, breezy and cold this morning, the first dusting of snow at the top of the all-weather where most of the horses worked, it has dried out (a bit).  Another trip to Lucinda's woodchip, this time the turn of Forcefield, Northern Flame and Seeking Power all of whom have important engagements in the next 10 days.  Off to a meeting at Perth Racecourse and staggered by the flooding, the River Earn has burst it's banks in a big way.  Useful meeting at Perth regarding our media deal for the next five years, I hope all the courses are about to see similar increases in their income and see fit to pass a fair percentage on to the owners via prize money, we could be looking at quite a different situation in 12 months time, it certainly needs to change.  No luck for Lucy down at Catterick, I hear her car arriving home now exactly 24 hours after she left, her commitment is admirable - in the second half of last week she did round trips to Wetherby, Musselburgh, Newcastle and Carlisle, yesterday she was up at 6am, fed 34 horses, went to Lucinda's to give the Buffalo his final prep for his first run on Monday, came back here to ride Academy, prepared all the evening feeds, did the bandaging & left here at 6.30pm to drive 3 hours to spend the night at her grandparent's in Northumberland, up at 5am to be at Alan Swinbank's to ride 3 lots prior to going to Catterick for 3 rides then driving 4 hours home... an average week, no more than what every successful National Hunt jockey does but I feel exhausted just writing about it, they really are a breed apart..

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Ayr abandoned and very wild here this morning, didn't stop us taking Isla Pearl Fisher, Here's to Harry and Buffalo Ballet to Lucinda's woodchip, all worked well, I love watching the bumper horses develop as they work with a good yardstick like IPF, these two both look pretty decent.  Going on our own gallop changed from marshmallow to porridge thanks to another inch of rain overnight but nice on the old turf and all the horses here cantered 3 times up the grass banks.
Buffalo Ballet and Isla Pearl Fisher on the woodchip a week or two ago
Tomorrow at Catterick Lucy rides Secret Desert for Ferdy Murphy in the 12.30, Emotive for Barry Murtagh in the 1.00 and Jan Smutts for Wilf Storey in the 1.30, some interesting comments in the latter's form on the flat, hmm. We will be quiet until Sunday when our only likely runner will be Forcefield at Kelso, winner last time at Newcastle he will go there with a leading chance and 5% shares are available for a mere £595 at  - roll up, roll up!

Monday, 28 November 2011


Bright, cool and breezy here today, 21 horses ridden, all seem well, last 7 brought in from grass - forecast pretty rough all week and whilst the horses seem fine it seems kinder to have them in, 4 pensioners and 3 youngsters, that will mean 34 needing breakfast in the morning! 
First jumps action of the winter at Ayr tomorrow, ground is soft and we run Sydney Cove in the 2.40, Keith Mercer rides, 9 run, I think he will like the ground and the step up in trip.  Lucy rides Alexander Oats in the 1.35 for Robert Goldie,  however if the forecast is correct the meeting will be abandoned as they are due about 2 inches of rain in the next 24 hours, that will mean no racing at Ayr this side of New Year - grump, grump.  
Lucy stands up for one of The Paddy Premium's less elegant efforts at Musselburgh last week (pic from Dennis Penny)

Sunday, 27 November 2011


As wild a night as I have known last night, gusts of 94mph recorded at local weather station and well over an inch of rain.  There is always a certain amount of trepidation when one heads outside to feed the horses after a night like that but to my amazement there appears to be no damage, these ancient buildings must have been cleverly built.
Initial reaction has to be an ordinary couple of day's racing for the yard, that's the nature of the game, there will be plenty of them for various reasons but that reaction soon overtaken, firstly by the magnificent Overturn who became the first horse to complete the Northumberland Plate/ Fighting Fifth hurdle double in front of a rapturous Geordie crowd all of whom appeared to have backed him, great stuff, and then sitting in the car waiting for the jockey I opened my ipad to discover the wonderful news that Carruthers had won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury; after last Saturday's great win by Kauto the sport was again united in celebration, this time for a struggling but talented journeyman jockey gaining the biggest win of his career aboard a horse owned, bred and trained by the Oaksey family.  The manner in which Mattie Bachelor's weighing room colleagues celebrated this success with him sums up everything that is good about the sport, to quote Oaksey himself - "the brotherhood of hazards shared" - is one of the great but unsung qualities of National Hunt racing.  And of course, a wonderful victory for Lord Oaksey - sadly too frail to attend but hopefully aware of this great victory through the mists of old age, most of you will be aware that he founded the irreplaceable Injured Jockeys Fund which has done so much for so many people and was himself a thoroughly accomplished journalist and amateur rider, in the latter role giving my father his greatest moment as a trainer when winning the Aintree Foxhunters for him back in (dare I say it!) 1967.
Today Lucy rides at Carlisle, Red Tamber in the 1.20 for Bruce Mactaggart and Proud Times in the 1.55 for Alan Swinbank, we hope to be back in action at Ayr on Tuesday then Kelso on Sunday.
A day in the sun, Mattie Bachelor aboard Carruthers

Friday, 25 November 2011


Filthy morning here, cold, windy & wet.  Not ideal for schooling but with Kit home from Uni for a day needs must and we popped the pointers over the fences and a few over the hurdles, bad ground, but mission accomplished.
Capital Venture on a brighter morning!
Tomorrow at Newcastle re run Ocarina in the 12.35 and Capital Venture in the 2.55, Lucy rides both and the ground is good to soft, both seem in good heart.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


Isla Patriot
It's a blessing that I cut short my career in the City, I could have done a lot of damage judging for my propensity to press the wrong button on the computer, fortunately today it only resulted in Buffalo Ballet being declared by mistake for Musselburgh tomorrow.  He is fit and ready to run well but for a variety of reasons would be better to wait another week or so, banned for 6 days now but not missing anything.  We do run Isla Patriot in the 12.10, this is a good race for him despite a minor setback earlier this week, Lucy rides, 8 run and it is on the quick side of good but rain forecast tonight.  We also run The Paddy Premium in the 2.25, 7 run, Lucy on board, he will hopefully benefit from the drop back in trip and Lucy's claim. Lucy also rides Red Lite for Wilf Storey in the 12.40, King's Chorister in the 2.55 for Barry Murtagh and All American for Alan Swinbank in the 3.30.
Tomorrow also sees the launch of our new ownership concept - have a look and do contact us if you are interested or know of anyone that might be.........

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Awesome Kauto
Cold and blowy up the all-weather this morning, pleased to be using it though, it has undergone a minor refurbsishment this week and Holly described it as like riding on marshmallows- perfect. 

Buffalo Ballet (Holly), The Paddy Premium (Lucy H) and Ocarina (Gemma) after their work on the grass yesterday

closer inspection of The Paddy Premium reveals why everyone might be quite happy to have the all-weather back!
Sedgefield has never been my luckiest track, best moment cheering on brother Jamie to win there a few years ago from the bar at Cheltenham, broken a couple of nice horses down at the track, yesterday the starter screwed up letting them go before Sydney and another were even on the track, they had an inquiry into it and have referred to to the BHA, too late for Sydney, at least he's back home in one piece having run a decent enough race to finish a never nearer 5th.
Today Lucy has two long-priced rides at Wetherby, I Got Music for Keith Reveley in the 12.25 and Jan Smuts in the 2.35 for Wilf Storey. Our next stop is Musselburgh Friday followed by Newcastle Saturday all being well, and big excitement is making first entries this winter for Ayr, too late though, they should have starterd there at least a month ago...

Monday, 21 November 2011


Sydney Cove
Fair and mild still here, plenty of schooling and cantering this morning.  Tomorrow we run Sydney Cove in the 3.30 at Sedgefield, 14 run, ground good and Keith Mercer rides - this is a good race for the horse but the soft ground and steep hill sorted out the opposition when he won at Hexham last time, I'm not sure this will suit as well but he's in good order.  Lucy rides Farm Pixie in the 1pm for the Hamiltons, such are the timings of the day that three vehicles will leave Kinneston for Co Durham tomorrow morning - something wrong there!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Mighty, mighty Kauto

Standing in a dank Perthshire wood on a dull November afternoon I was transported to a different place listening to the commentary of Kauto Star's magnificent victory over the heirs apparent at Haydock yesterday.   Seldom have I felt so overwhelmed with excitement listening to a horserace, no money involved, I don't know the connections, essentially it should have meant nothing to me but it meant everything thanks to the pure admiration I have for one utterly exceptional steeplechaser.  It was an iconic victory and united the fractured world of racing in rapturous praise, we all wanted to see him do it just once more, we all thought maybe the lights were dimming but doubts were swept aside, fantastic.. this is what it is all about, the horses, they are humbling in their ability to transcend.
Kauto Star
Well, back down to earth, another gentle Sunday morning in the office making plans, this week it looks like Sedgefield Tuesday (Sydney Cove and possibly Amulree), Musselburgh Friday (Isla Patriot, the Paddy Premium and possibly...... the Buffalo) then Newcastle and Carlisle next weekend.
Lucy will be in action on a few of the above and hopefully at Wetherby on Wednesday, Los Nadis ran well for a long way in the big hurdle at Haydock, great experience for Lucy to ride in a top class race like that with all the top jockeys, onwards & upwards! 

PFN greets the mighty one, how proud he must be

Friday, 18 November 2011

A bigger stage...

Well, after the usual 30 minutes box-walking trainer decides not to send Buffalo Ballet down to Haydock for his debut tomorrow, too far to travel for his first run ("didn't you know where Haydock was when you entered?" says Mrs A), it was a close decision because he is becoming scary at home, I have never seen a horse put in so many huge bucks whilst cantering round our BGF (big grass field) this morning, Holly did very well to stay put, he will now be entered for Musselburgh next week, he needs to run.  Lucy though has headed off down the motorway to Haydock where she rides Phoenix Returns for Alan Swinbank in the lucky last at 3.40.  Another step forward for her tomorrow when she has two rides at the big Saturday meeting at the same venue, Pokfulham in the 12.40 and then Los Nadis in the 2.30, an £85k race live on Channel 4, I am delighted that Jim Goldie has entrusted her with these two important runners.  The latter race is the precursor to the best chase of the season so far when a cracking field line up for the Betfair Chase including the mighty Kauto facing up to the great young pretender Long Run, Diamond Harry might just steal their glory, could now be the moment to back him for the big race in March?  
Seeking Power towers above his rivals at Hexham

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Any five mile races anywhere?

Well, all three runners from yesterday jogged up sound and seem bright and well, can never be taken for granted, always a big relief.  They ran well, all looking like they needed further, unfortunately Seeking Power was running over 4 miles, ground was soft with heavy places, bit sharp for the old boy, expanding middle-aged girth meant they couldn't find one (a girth) big enough for him (sounds familiar), late out, trainer narrowly avoided fine.  He ran to his form, improved actually to beat Matmata on 3lb worse terms than in the spring, only a short head away from 4th, will be better when the ground is really deep, also lower class race would suit.  Capital Venture ran well enough considering the ground, track and trip didn't suit - he was outpaced early on but stayed on stoutly, should be plenty more to come from him.  Papamoa was great, I thought he would run well, I actually thought he might win, I still thought he would win coming over the last hurdle, but he ran into a very well-hadicapped horse.  A horse now with a good northern trainer that has the benefit of a southern handicap mark earned whilst with an average trainer, there we go, just as well I'm not a gambler.  He was well clear of the remainder including 4 horses that had won their previous races, this was an excellent run from such an inexperienced horse, we just have to hope the handicapper isn't too hard on him.
Fun here this morning, weather OK, some jumping, some on the all-weather others hacking about.  Big decision required as to whether to send the Buffalo south to take on the big guns on his first start on Saturday, otherwise Sedgefield Tuesday the next stop.
Oh, and let's not forget the fixture list, announced yesterday and looks fine...... 

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Capital Venture
A grey sort of week here so far, quiet and mild though so long may it last.  Horses mostly been on the all-weather here and a sortie to Lucinda's woodchip this morning involving The Paddy Premium, Here's to Harry and Amulree.  After a couple of winners the yard feels busy and industrious, lot of people working hard, plenty of visitors and the horses appear in good order.
We have 3 runners at Hexham tomorrow, Lucy rides them all and the ground is soft with some heavy places on the chase track and good to soft places on the hurdle track.
Capital Venture runs in the 1.40, 8 run, 2m NH Novice Hurdle, a few decent looking horses and I'm not sure he will like the ground much however the small field and stiffish track should suit well and he is ready for a run. 
Papamoa runs in the 2.10, 2m 4f handicap hurdle,12 run, ground should be perfect for him will improve when he goes up to 3 miles but the testing conditions and uphill finish will play to his strengths and he seems well.
Seeking Power runs in the 2.40, 4m handicap chase, 10 run, conditions to suit and horse in great form but is 6lb out of  the handicap and would have a better chance carrying more weight against lesser horses, can expect a big run if they go a gentle pace.
Lucy then rides Boston Court in the 3.40 for Wilf Storey.
Seeking Power just denied for the 2nd time last season by Matmata de Tendron, they meet again tomorrow - 3rd time lucky?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Slow Sunday

Seeking Power (Kelly)
Ah, the delight of a 7am alarm rather than the standard 6am, horses always especially pleased to see me on a Sunday, breakfast is late, Forcefield bucking in his stable waiting for his, a sign that he is over his exertions on Friday.  My own breakfast spent watching yesterday's racing from Cheltenham, unlucky Noble Alan, fantastic for the Pipes and the shrewd Ferdy nearly pulls it off, was that really the same horse that pulled up at Carlisle less than a fortnight ago?  Morning in the office, weekly reports to owners, plans to be made, potter about the yard taking time to look at a few issues that might have been puzzling me. Friends for lunch, Cheltenham on TV, when will we be playing on this stage?  Before too long I think.  Time at last to talk to Lucy about last week's rides, where she is going this week, what she thinks about my plans for the horses, little things to tweak the routine and facilities here.  Not much racing up here this week, its a shame, November produces nice ground but there is a dearth of fixtures, plenty in December and January but always the dreaded weather hanging over us by then; we are heading to Hexham on Wednesday where we have Seeking Power, Papamoa, Capital Venture and Sydney Cove entered, hope to run the first three, might leave Sydney for another week.  May make a specualtive entry for Haydock's big meeting on Saturday, the Buffalo is nearly ready to rumble, can't decide if he's feeling one of his shins a little bit though, something for me to go and puzzle over....

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Boom boom

Ho, ho, another memorable winner yesterday when Forcefield came good in the 3m handicap hurdle at Newcastle yesterday, backed in from 28-1 to 14-1  he crept into the race under a supremely patient and confident ride.  It was Lucy's first winner for the yard since Feb 2010 since when we have had 14 winners ridden by other jockeys, so you can understand it was quite an important monkey to get off our backs and we then had the fun (?) of giving a live TV interview together for the first time, nice for me to creep back into the limelight!  
Back down to earth with a bump when Lucy came off Isla Pearl Fisher at the third last in the 3m handicap chase, he was unsighted by the horse in front veering across him going into the jump causing him to blunder badly.  He was travelling well at the time and clearly going to play a major part in the finish, frustrating but hugely encouraging to see that the horse has clearly retained all his ability and no harm was done, he's as bright as a button this morning.
 Today Lucy rides two at Wetherby, in the 1.45 she rides Panthers Run and in the 2.25 she rides Oniz Tiptoes. I shall be listening from my phone on the touchline of Merchiston vs Glenalmond U14s, that strange man on his phone jumping up and down gesticulating again........

Thursday, 10 November 2011


Forcefield & Isla Pearl Fisher take each other on in the surf at St Andrews late last year
So, quiet week weather-wise, fair and mild, and tomorrow its off to Newcastle for their inaugural jumps fixture of the winter.  We run Forcefield in the 1.35, 17 run, and then Isla Pearl Fisher faces 8 others in the 3.20, Lucy rides both and the ground should be generally good.  Forcefield was 3rd off a 13lb higher mark at the track in March, that was 4f shorter on much softer ground and he appears to have lost his way since but he seems well at home and could put up a decent effort in this sort of race.  Isla Pearl Fisher has been off since injuring himself at the end of January, prior to that he was progressive and his form stacks up well;  he seems fit and ready so let's hope he can continue from where he left off.....
Meanwhile Mr & Mrs A are practising being "empty-nesters" and earlier this week we had our 2nd night alone at home in the last 21 years, time to revert to type and head off to the local curry house to fill up, tremendous, and Mrs A has lost none of her ability to down pints of Cobra just as quickly as me, 25st here I (we?)  come....... and then last night (Lucy back so lettuce back on the menu)  the wonderful Frozen Planet, perhaps the best wildlife doc ever? I think so, and David A's narration is made perfect by his silences letting the animals take over - did you see those terns attacking the polar bear? wow........  

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


Ah, human again today, yesterday I felt as though I had spent the weekend being run over by a very slow moving steam roller.  "Dreich" weather, whole country apparently, at least it will prevent the ground drying up at Newcastle before Friday.  Important final piece of work on the grass for the potential runners this morning and very pleased with Capital Venture, Isla Pearl Fisher, Forcefield and Isla Patriot. Lucy good 2nd in the last at Sedgie, remains in England riding out for another day or two. Interesting trend developing in people ringing me up and congratulating me on Lucy's success but completely failing to mention my runners, even when they win and that includes my own Mother who I had to politely ask if she had managed to watch the 2.10 at Hexham, "oh no" she siad, "did you have a runner?" - think I better get used to it........

Monday, 7 November 2011

Humdrum Monday

Cold and foggy today, horses mostly exercised in the school and on the all-weather, no joy for Lucy at Carlisle, tomorrow she rides at Sedgefield, Bunacurry in the 3.30 and Stanley Bridge in the 4.00, both for Barry Murtagh.  No runners from here until Newcastle on Friday, Four Fiddlers continues to improve rapidly which is excellent news.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Taming Lions

Four Fiddlers runs into the back of Dark Glacier when he slammed the brakes on going into the first at Kelso

Lucy is subsequently ejected from the saddle
Another favourite expression, Ferdy Murphy's saying that "this game tames lions" sprang to mind after a roller coaster day at Kelso yesterday; at the first hurdle in the first race a horse I adore Four Fiddlers had a nasty collision with the well-backed favourite leaving Lucy on the ground, he galloped loose for two circuits then pulled up lame, he had a painful swelling on his side and after another 30 minutes could barely move at all, he was transferred to the RDVS Equine Hospital for further examination and kept in overnight; I was hugely relieved to be advised that there is no internal damage just bad bruising leading to a large haemotoma, I collected him this morning and he is already on the road to recovery - phew!
Happier times, Lucy drives Storm Surge clear
Later in the afternoon Lucy had her third winner in three days when Storm Surge romped home in the 2 mile handicap chase, on the ground one minute, cloud nine the next!  Tomorrow at Carlisle she rides Battle Honour for Susan Bradburne in the 1.20 and Ballycarberry in the 4.05 for Lucy Normile, we have Sydney Cove in at Sedgefield on Tuesday and will see how he is tomorrow before deciding on a quick reappearance, otherwise next runners likely to be at Newcastle on Friday.
All smiles now!
It had been quite a day, celebrations on Friday evening after a long day had left me feeling slightly bleary first thing and this wasn't helped by the lights fusing as I was feeding the horses at 6.15am, I then managed to bog my car when out trying to follow first lot and had to abandon it and borrow Mrs A's to rush to Kelso and then all of the above happened, it was wonderful after all of that to be able to head off to a local party with a blond bird in the evening....
The Alexander house party for Mr David Stanistreet's 50th Birthday Party assemble before departure

Friday, 4 November 2011

Boom boom

Sydney Cove
The little fish are sweet, as the great WA Stephenson said as he watched The Thinker win the Cheltenham Gold Cup from his beloved Hexham, and right now for me there is no little fish sweeter than Sydney Cove who battled bravely to win his first race today under Keith Mercer.  Sheikh Mohammed bred "Sydney" and until today he has lived very much in the shadow of his Group winning siblings but, whilst it was a lowly race, I can assure you the pleasure he gave his connections today will have matched anything his illustrious brothers have achieved.  It is deeply rewarding to win a race with a horse other trainers have given up on and Lisa Ogilvie deserves credit for giving this horse another chance to shine and taking time to work him out; another colourful chapter in the book could be written, it was a team effort and particular credit should go to our physios Grania and Gillian as well as Gemma and Lucy who have done most of the work with him at home, he is not straightforward! It was of course a shame that Lucy was not on board and therefore all the more pleasing that she had a good winner later in the afternoon on Danny John Boy,  I was on my way home by then but am hoarse from shouting at my hands free as "Tommo" called her home, haven't seen it yet but it sounded like a tremendous ride, something to enjoy this evening when the "man from Beijing" arrives.  It is also worth pointing out (and I hope the owners won't mind) that the last three horses to win for this stable have cost an average of just under £2500......   
Four Fiddlers
Tomorrow we run Four Fiddlers for Dan and Michelle Macdonald in the 12.25 at Kelso, Lucy rides, 14 run, ground easy side of good, this is a decent horse but this looks competitive and I am uncertain whether the extended trip will be a help or hindrance........ will know tomorrow!

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Bizarrely mild this evening and I am informed that children were bathing in the sea at my golf club's beach this afternoon. I've certainly never been as warm jump racing at Musselburgh, only 2 nights ago it was cold enough for us to be doubling up the horses' rugs - what is going on? Rather wish I had stuck with my original decision re running today, neither horse was suited by the race, too sharp for Ocarina and The Paddy Premium was right up there turning for home before appearing not to stay, back to 2 miles for him. Nevertheless at least my indecision produced a handy dividend in the form of an excellent winner for Lucy on Fred Bojangles, delighted, but all too much going on for me! Early starts all round tomorrow, 4.45 am for Lucy as she heads to ride out for Rose Dobbin on her way to Hexham where she has no less than 5 rides and 5.30 for me as Sydney Cove will need an early brekkie prior to his journey to Hexham, he runs in the 2.10, 12 run I think, good to soft ground, Keith Mercer rides, Lucy otherwise engaged....

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


The Paddy Premium enjoys his pre-race bath this morning
Hmm, after deciding not run at Musselburgh tomorrow further consideration of the likely ground and a bit of rain in the forecast forced an about-turn and we run two in the 3.30, a 2m 4f Handicap Chase. Ocarina with Harry Haynes on board and The Paddy Premium with Wilson Renwick, ground should be good - I will walk it on arrival - 10 run including Fred Bojangles ridden by Lucy who I had unfortunately released imagining we weren't participating.  Lucy also rides All American in the 4.00 for Alan Swinbank; Alan is widely regarded as one of the best bumper trainers in the country and I am delighted that he has the confidence in Lucy to put her up on these decent un-raced horses.
Buffalo Ballet (Lucy) with Isla Pearl Fisher (Amy) on Lucinda's woodchip last week
Another fine morning back here and a really useful one with plenty of them working on the grass, catching the eye was Buffalo Ballet........ he's going to start keeping me awake at night!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Whip again!

Decent sort of weather today and a busy one, this morning some of them did quicker stuff on the all-weather, Here's to Harry, Seeking Power and Forcefield worked on Lucinda's woodchip (here's to Harry particularly impressive) and Peter Buchanan was in this afternoon to teach some of the youngsters to jump including one of last week's recruits, Goldtrek who was a natural. Peter reported that he picked up the first whip ban of his 7 year career last week at Uttoxeter, not for excessive use but for a technicality that had changed (unbeknown to him) regarding the time a horse should be given to respond to the whip. Peter is a superb horseman and for him to be banned for what is effectively a welfare issue indicates to me that the new rules are profoundly flawed, lots of us, including many jockeys have failed to pick up on the minutiae of the changes and clearly my initial welcoming of the changes was misplaced, though I was always disappointed by the manner of their introduction.

Here's to Harry (Gemma)

Anyway, enough of that, not sure I will be declaring anything for Musselburgh; good, good to firm in places is probably a bit quick for me so it looks like Hexham Friday and Kelso Saturday, excellent card at the latter which I expect will draw another huge crowd - where does all the money go?