Friday, 29 June 2012

Rain, rain, rain

Just keeps pouring down, some are much worse off but it is tiresome.  Still difficult to take in the dreadful news from earlier in the week, so many wonderful tributes but such a terrible waste, its going to be tough for lads in the weighing room at Perth next week but I am sure Campbell would have wanted them to crack on and get on with it, a poignant winner for Arlary at Hamilton last night, so pleased for them and am sure they will pull together, incredibly difficult though.
Paddock at Newcastle yesterday afternoon.......
Be nice if it dries out a bit for Perth, we have five entered but they could all do with reasonable ground, meanwhile I am going to make a fleeting visit to Musselburgh this afternoon to watch Lucy ride Illustration in the 4.20 and Stormont Bridge in the 4.55 - both outsiders but riding on the flat is keeping her very fit (and light!).
Goodness gracious me, the sun has just come out, I must be hallucinating...........

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Darkest of Days

What started off as a normal sort of morning was brought to a shuddering halt with the awful news that Campbell Gillies had died whilst on holiday in Greece.  Campbell was an immensely talented young jockey with his career ahead of him, it is impossibly tragic that it should be cut short in this way and our deepest and heartfelt sympathies go to his family and friends together with Lucinda and Scu and the whole team at Arlary.  
I loved the way horses appeared to flow for him, they ran naturally, as if he wasn't there, he became part of them; he combined that with balance, strength and a sense of rhythm and timing to be a rare talent, a natural horseman nurtured and enhanced by the trainers that supported him and gave him the chance to shine. The racing world is a small one,  news travels fast and black armbands were being worn by the flat jockeys at Brighton this afternoon, tributes will flow and everyone will pull together in shared emotion but there is simply nothing  that can lessen the intense grief that will be felt by those closest to him. For them time will heal very slowly indeed but eventually some solace will be found in being grateful for the wonderful memories and a rare talent that had the chance to dazzle so brightly, albeit far,far too briefly.  
Campbell Gillies on Brindisi Breeze

Monday, 25 June 2012

Summer returns...

The mighty Frankel, improving with age!
A glorious morning, what a difference a few days makes, farm sodden on Saturday morning but two fine drying days and all seems well again; forecast pretty reasonable for the week by recent standards.  Wonderful racing at Ascot, so much class and so much drama; somewhat less edifying spectacle at Hexham -  who could have believed they would have been so unlucky as to have to race on very heavy ground for all three of their meetings in June, well done them for getting it on and shame we had the wrong horses turned out in the field, never mind, Perth next week - they must be due some better ground.
Plenty going on here as we try to juggle 7 horses still in work and 3 invalids with power-washing and repainting all the stables, construction work due to begin on six new boxes and major refurbishments being undertaken in the schools and then the all-weather, lots of staff on holiday so those here busier than ever!
My favourite photgraph from a great week, The Queen admires Black Caviar

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Royals...

Very damp this morning but milder and the wind has dropped, going round the horses yesterday evening was unreal, lashing rain and gales, fortunately our turnout fields have plenty of shelter - surrounded by woods with trees overhanging the fields under which they can take cover, amazingly they often choose to graze out in the open despite the conditions.
A splendid 24 hour trip to Royal Ascot, glorious weather, lots of partying and tremendous racing made all the sweeter by a 16-1 winner courtesy of Tom Tate and the gnome of Durham - same tip saw me secure the very worthwhile box sweep, not like me at all.  Followed up yesterday with a slightly fleeting visit to the Royal Highland Show, yet another splendid occasion somewhat blighted by this persistently awful weather.  Makhzoon balloted out of Royal Ascot tomorrow (phew?) and much indecision regarding whether to run Northern Flame at Hexham on Sunday, we've been waiting for better ground and it looks like being very soft again, options however, are running out.... if we declare Lucy will ride, she is at Market Rasen today where she rides Secret Desert in the 5.20 for Ferdy Murphy  
Makhzoon - the ballot has denied to happy couple on the right the chance of  Ascot  glory (pic courtesy of John Grossick)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

There is a creature...

... in my log-burning stove, very difficult to see what it is through the glass, probably a bird, perhaps a bat, maybe even a rodent, definitely quite scary; needs released but that will be into the office and will present another problem, a quandary, perhaps the moment to ask Mrs A very nicely if she could clean the ash out...
Mahkzoon, bred for the flat but unraced on the flat...yet
Well, I thought Hexham was going to be our only possible destination this week, that was before the intrepid "Ladies Who" rang me on my way to the Kelso Trainers Meeting and suggested that Makhzoon as a strong stayer in good form would be well suited by the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday if the unsettled weather returned as is possible, so, an entry, seems slightly bonkers to be have our first ever runner on the flat with a horse that itself has never run on the flat at one of the world's biggest meetings but there we go, in at the deep end one could say, he will only run if it is properly soft as we have other aspirations that shouldn't be jeopardised.

Monday, 18 June 2012

At last...

... the sun is shining, after days of interminable rain, wind and drizzle we have a glorious morning with a better forecast for the week ahead, fun in prospect with the two "Royals" - Ascot and Highland - planned for Wed & Thurs, only entries next Sunday at Hexham and a quieter week at last for Lucy, though she has plans to rack up a bit of mileage later in the week riding out.  Six horses left in work, on the all-weather today and I will then be trying to resuscitate the riverbank gallop after the monsoon.  Trainers meeting at Kelso this afternoon, an excellent initiative that all courses should follow, at least it should shut us up for another 12 months!
Northern Flame - penciled in for Hexham on Sunday

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Some pictures from first lot at a rainy Kinneston this morning...

Sheep sheltering from the weather

The Paddy Premium and Northern Flame head down for an "extended" third time up

And scatter the sheep, by going to the bottom of this grass field we can extend the gallop by 2f making it a 5f gallop with a 400 feet climb

Off and away up the all-weather

Makhzoon spared the last time up casts a lonely figure "cooling off"

Heading home...

Friday, 15 June 2012

Oh summer, where art thou?

Horses a bit wild at early morning feed today, they could feel the storm coming, I am amazed at their sensitivity to imminent weather and it duly arrived mid-morning, heavy rain and strong easterly winds, hard for the horses outside and hard on those that have spent months working hard preparing outdoor summer events.  No declarations at Hexham tomorrow, heavy ground with an inspection planned, wrong horses on the go; next entries Hexham Sunday 24th, I think we are due some high pressure next week - let's hope so.  Lucy one ride at Aintree tonight, Lord Usher in the 9.20 - very late home after that then, if it's on, back down to Hexham tomorrow - Pete in the 3.35 and Almutaham in the 4.35 then to Doncaster for Bailey's Agincourt in the 2pm on Sunday.
Black Caviar in her travel suit
Golf last night, second game of the year, this time at the picturesque Rosemount, perfect weather, great fun, followed up with Guinness, burgers and sticky toffee pudding, waddle waddle.  Hugely enjoying all the hype re Royal Ascot and Black Caviar in particular, 40 journalists out on Newmarket Heath at 4am to see her, extraordinary and love to see racing in the limelight; making a rare foray to Ascot ourselves next week, thought I'd better see if I can still squeeze into my seldom used morning coat, oh dear, only just, diet this weekend, but the mystery was my top hat, either it has shrunk or my head has grown.... ??

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Summer racing?

A fine sunny morning if a little cool for the time of year but a summer storm looms and if the forecasts are correct Hexham will end up either heavy or abandoned, those in training did plenty of work yesterday and are enjoying a long hack round the farm in the sunshine this morning.
Makhzoon (Lucy and Emma) courtesy Dennis Penny
Plans to be made, more need a break others could keep on running but we are left with the tricky fixture situation that we face each summer in the North, after this weekend a total of 15 days jump racing spread out between now and 25th September, it's tricky to justify keeping horses going in these circumstances; we could travel, and it made more sense to do so when prize money was reasonable, but as most of the Midlands tracks are in the hands of Northern Racing we are faced with very poor returns, total prize funds this evening at Uttoxeter for instance in the two handicap hurdles of £2600, I admire those prepared to do so but I am sure it is just due to lack of alternatives, you need very sporting owners to go for that as even if you win you are going to struggle to break even on the day.
Luckily Perth and Cartmel put up excellent money so we have a few horses that we will keep going but I suspect field numbers will suffer and these fixtures may end up an "Irish Benefit,"  we will also be hoping to have one or two runners on the flat (gulp) - that should be great fun, I am looking forward to doing that and will be hoping not to make too much of a fool of myself, I think to keep a horse going through the summer it only makes sense if it is a dual purpose type. 
Makhzoon - could he make his flat debut as an 8yo?
Now that the courses have become so good at watering I think summer jumping has much to offer but a fuller fixture list would make it more worthwhile and would end up producing much more competitive racing, such a sporadic arrangement is tough on the jockeys too, they can't let themselves down but struggle to make ends meet; Lucy has one ride at Uttoxeter this evening (Itstooearly 8pm), one possible at Aintree tomorrow, maybe a couple at Hexham on Saturday and one probable on the flat at Doncaster on Sunday, she would much rather be doing this than not riding but she will burn a lot of diesel and after this weekend it becomes very patchy for three months....

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Zoom, zoom, Makhzoon....

Makhzoon flies the last on the way to a memorable win at Perth
Slightly brighter here this morning after a few cool, dull and occasionally rainy days.  Exciting winner on Sunday at Perth when Makhzoon made all to win in front of a huge crowd at Perth, a big relief that he hadn't regressed since arriving at Kinneston!  Earlier on the card Academy put up an improved display to finish 5th, more to come I hope.  Lucy at the British Racing School in Newmarket on an Advanced Conditionals Course, six young jockeys are there for what looks like an excellent intense schedule over three and a half days, then she heads to Uttoxeter on Thursday evening.
The debrief

New jackets.............. new sponsor!

Academy, hurdles well but unsuited by soft I feel
Pictures courtesy of Frank Cornfield, others in his online gallery......

Friday, 8 June 2012

Stormy Summer

Cool, damp and breezy today so I have succumbed to temptation and lit the log burner, high summer supposedly, at least it's not just Scotland suddering.  Some easy stretches on the all-weather for the weekends runners, a great winner for Lucy late last night on Allanard at Wetherby not home until 2am but easier after a winner.  If they don't get too much rain we will run Northern Flame in the 3pm at Hexham tomorrow, 12 run, Lucy rides and the ground is soft at present, he will stay at home if it goes any softer. Lucy also rides Ounaben in the 1.50, Wave Power in the 2.25 and Red Kingdom in the 4.40.  Then on Sunday, Perth Gold Cup Day, we run Academy in the "Silver Plate" at 3.40, 12 run, Lucy rides, conditions should be fine, trip might be on the sharp side but I am hoping he can be progressive. Makhzoon then makes his stable debut in the 4.40, it looks like he prefers three miles and this is very competitive but we need to start somewhere, Lucy also rides Freddie Brown in the 2.40 and Zitenka in the big race at 4.10 - let's hope the weather cheers up.........  

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Back on track

Dull here today and forecast looks pretty grim for the time of year, casts uncertainty over weekend running plans but we are used to that, work today again for Academy and The Paddy Premium, this time in the school and on the all-weather, others having an hour's hack.
A welcome winner for Lucy yesterday, 50-1 shot in the opener at Cartmel, extraordinary but needed and a big relief after drawing a blank in May, a good 2nd in the feature race also and both for trainers who hadn't put her up before, at Wetherby tonight to ride Srimenati in the 8.15 and Allanard in the 8.50.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A weighty problem....

Damp this morning, planning final pieces of work for this weekend's three intended runners - riverbank gallop looks in superb shape if we can nip in there ahead of the rain, a straight mile of deep sand, another four having a decent canter, nearly there with a couple of youngsters, more to grass next week I hope.  Early start for Lucy, off to school first thing in deepest Cumbria prior to heading to Cartmel where she rides Itstooearly in the 2.10 (probably exactly what she was thinking when her alarm went at 4am!), Heezasteel in the 3.50 and Stanley Bridge in the 5.25, on to Yorkshire after that, schooling there in the morning then Wetherby tomorrow night. 
One for the anoraks - turning over the calendar for June I am greeted by picture of The Paddy Premium winning at Perth this time last year, having a slightly frustrating time getting him "sharp" enough this time round, he was 493kg on the morning of his race last year, 10 days ago he was a similar weight, I thought it would be good for him to have a couple of hours in the paddocks each afternoon, he clearly overdid himself a bit, going into last Saturday's race he was 506kg, trainer a bit horrified, 24 hours later he was 494kg, the race and 8 hours on the lorry had done some good but by last night (another 48 hours later) he was 509kg, aaargh! grazing now restricted to 45 mins and lots of work continuing to come his way, but he is 12, perhaps middle age spread is catching up with him..... (like trainer like horse!)
Been quite busy in the office over the long weekend and lots of visitors but did enjoy dipping into the BBC's coverage of the festivities in London from time to time; wonderful stuff, so well organised and creating a fantastic atmosphere of formality combined with genuinely happy celebration, the Royal Family have assumed a new relevance in straightened economic times and they, most particularly the Queen, give so much pleasure to so many, three cheers say I..... somewhat unusually I think I feel proud to be British, I am sure many others feel the same.   

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Quiet Sunday ??

The long journey to Cartmel passed quickly thanks to Fivelive's excellent coverage of the racing at Epsom and a stunning Group 1 double for team Ballydoyle, our own evening slightly less productive with The Paddy Premium finishing 7th and Flaming Thistle 6th, the former was the victim of (another) bedraggled start whilst the latter struggled to go the pace on ground that was quicker than ideal for him, I always seem to come away from Cartmel smiling though despite a late evening and a long drive home, it's just that sort of place. Weary today but horses seem fine and "Blue" about to hit the road for Hexham..... not me I am sorry to say, a lot to catch up with here, meeting with builder this morning re a few new boxes and plans for the summer to be made.  Lucy back down the road to Cartmel tomorrow where she rides Srimenati in the 2.10, Lutin du Moulin in the 3.10 and Shooting Times in the 5.30 - she could do with a winner, creeping up the "cold" list, keeps hitting the cross bar but riding well so sit tight and they will come....... a few pics from yesterday thanks to my new camera (thank you Mrs A!)
Kit dodges the autograph hunters after his first ride against the "pro's"

Sister and brother head back to the Weighing Room, unplaced but unscathed!

Flaming Thistle cools off..............

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Topsy Turvy again!

Freezing two weeks ago, roasting last week and today I find myself looking longingly at my log burner - a sharp air when feeding the outside horses this morning and ground frost mentioned in forecast again, all very puzzling but I have seldom seen such a strong flush of spring grass and the 18 horses out 24-7 seem to be thriving despite the topsy turvy weather.  Just a couple of lots this morning and the only two doing serious work were Academy and Makhzoon, a good pairing and both worked well, disasters permitting they will line up next week at Perth. 
Wheels will roll shortly for the long road to Cartmel, lorry leaving at 12 noon, I will be bringing the two jockeys down at 2pm, big excitement will be listening to the Derby on Five Live, can the Ballydoyle bandwagon keep rolling, I'm not sure they really get enough credit for their extraordinary achievements, whilst they have exceptional resources there are others with a lot more horses and a lot more money that can't quite compete, having been lucky enough to spend a few mornings there with the quiet genius I'm not really surprised, genuinely inspirational both in terms of the approach to training and the modest reaction to their success, go Camelot! 
Academy, like Camelot, a son of Montjeu
Hopefully home shortly after midnight, long day for Amy who is going with the horses and she will be in again early tomorrow as she is kindly taking Almost Blue down for his last run of the season at Hexham under Jamie, reminds me that after another late night home on Tuesday I failed to report on our three Hexham runners, pleased with them all; Balwyllo put up a much improved effort to finish 4th, Northern Flame built on his recent point-to-point success to also finish 4th, his best run over hurdles and he will now go chasing and Isla Patriot came 6th having been badly bumped and nearly brought down in the middle of the race.  After tomorrow our next runners should be at Hexham and Perth next weekend, Lucy will most probably be at Cartmel on Monday and Wednesday but after doing three return trips in five days this time last year I'm not particularly disappointed to be staying at home to catch up for a few days and enjoy the Diamond Jubilee, let's hope it kicks off in fine style at Epsom this afternoon........ happy holidays!

Friday, 1 June 2012

and now Cartmel....

Kit on Flaming Thistle
So, it comes round again, racing at the country's most idiosynctratic course, Cartmel, a long drive but usually worthwhile and a big day for Kit tomorrow when he has his first ride against the professionals in the 7.45 on Flaming Thistle, the ground should be good, 13 run and it's bound to be fast and furious, the horse ran well in the race last year for his previous trainer but if I'm being honest he's not an obvious Cartmel type (being rather big and a bit slow), Lucy rides Sam D'Oc in the same race.  Earlier we run The Paddy Premium in the 7.15 with Lucy on board, again 13 run, I think the track might suit him well, Lucy also rides Adios Saffron in the 8.50 having been at Pontefract tonight where she rides Shadowtime in the 6.30