Wednesday, 31 December 2008

I quite often think I am blessed with a near perfect life being able to spend the majority of my time indulging my passion for training horses; the last few weeks have put that to the test somewhat. Firstly having set myself a target of 10 winners for the season I find that Xmas has been and gone and we have been nowhere near hitting the scoresheet, secondly with several horses ready to run we now find the country frost bound with the prospect of things remaining the same for the next ten days and actually getting colder next week. It will be a real challenge now especially with last season's main earner, Native Coll, being out of action having only notched a couple of thirds, however we have 17 horses in work at present, much the busiest we have ever been and although two of them are only here temporarily I will be very disappointed if the other 15 can't produce a good few wins between now and the end of April.

I was laid low with the lurgy and couldn't get to Newcastle to watch Whispering Moor run on the Saturday before Xmas but despite me having him in the wrong race he still put up a lacklustre effort, I had been concerned that he wasn't quite in the same form as he had been a few weeks earlier. Skipping Chapel having pulled up at Sedgefield earlier in the month came back coughing and as he goes out in the field every day with WM I have to assume that something is bugging the latter - they have both been treated accordingly and are being freshened up ready to run again as soon as the weather relents.

Having so many horses all fired up with nowhere to go adds an extra level of challenge to the job, particularly with the weather limiting the variety of work we can give them, one doesn't just want to gallop them into the ground, pounding up the all-weather every day, we need to try to have them very fit but a little bit fresh and its a difficult balance to strike especially when one's recent runners have given so little indication as to exactly where we are with them. So we are just keeping our heads down and doing the best we can, the amount of work and rising at six every morning when the rest of the world appears to be on holiday can appear a little futile when the racing isn't actually happening but I am incredibly impressed by the determination of my staff who have all appeared on time at 7 every morning despite often only going to bed about 90 minutes earlier! I am amazed how they do it but they can be a little wooden-headed as a result vexing the (slightly) grumpy trainer somewhat.

I whitter on too much; in summary we have 4 horses ready to run at Ayr this week that are unlikely to get a run due to the weather, they will divert to Musselburgh and Kelso next week but they also looks dodgy, thereafter who knows but I guarantee that no yard in the country will be trying harder to have them spot on when they get their chance...

Sorry, one more thing, another dilemma I have is that I am not sure that these emails should really go on my public blog, in many ways they are a personal catharcism that hopefully gives a frank and ocassionally amusing insight into the ups and downs of training racehorses. I'm not convinced that I want any old Joe to be able to go in and read them and I don't want to feel overly self-conscious when I write them, they mustn't turn into a marketing exercise or that will completely switch off the loyal few who actually read them, hmm, I'll probably stick it on the blog anyway and hope for the best.....

Happy New Year!


Monday, 8 December 2008

a dog called Joey

Fearghal Davies came to school some of the horses over fences this morning, most particulary Skipping Chapel who had to prove himself if he was to be declared for Sedgefield tomorrow; he did the job well and I hope he will make a good steeplechaser, essentially everything he has done so far has simply been in preparation for tomorrow's test. Fearghal also jumped Amulree over the smaller fences in preparation for her debut over obstacles next Monday at Ayr, two of the pointers - Commercial Express & Seeking Power were also very good which was a huge relief, I find schooling stressful as it is so easy for things to go wrong.

Fearghal stayed on Sunday night and I was interested to hear how he had ended up working as a jump jockey for Nicky Richards at Greystoke; he comes from a town in Co Tipperary. Mad about horses and racing he had managed to pick up a few rides in point-to-points, when he was 18 and still at school he had a "real bad fall" which left him unconscious for 3 days and knocked all his front teeth out, he had such bad concussion that he was unable to take his leaving certificate and was faced with either repeating his last year at school or going off to work in racing; he chose the latter and went to work for Charlie Swan, he then managed to get a job at Greystoke and his first public ride there was on a horse owned by some of us called Seeking Shelter at Ayr, she was swinging off the bridle turning for home when her pelvis fractured causing her to crash through the wing of the third last hurdle, it was the best part of a year before he had his next ride, he kept grafting though and has now established himself as a good jockey in the North, still only 22 he is tremendously hard-working and I suspect his story is typical of many of the Irish lads in racing, what impresses me most is his incessant optimism - let's pray he's lucky and gets the success he deserves. If not though he already has his second careeer lined up as he swears he would be a shoe-in for the X Factor, we didn't get to hear him singing....

Mrs A has just taken delivery of her Xmas present, a very inquisitive Jack Russell called....... Joey... hmmm

Friday, 5 December 2008

Like all busy Mums Mrs A is the ultimate multi-tasker but I think she excelled herself by taking this photograph of the farm on her mobile from her para-glider on a frosty Sunday morning. Apart from that the big excitement here is the return of daughter Lucy from her sojourn in Tipperary working for Mr O'Brien; she has been there since early August and I am sure will have an abundance of helpful tips for Dad.......

Well, much as I hate the expression I have decided to start a "blog." In the unlikely event that you would like more regular updates on the fortunes (and, indeed, misfortunes) of the yard then please feel free to have a look at - I will use it to keep those who follow the stable up to date on a more regular basis & it will also feature the odd picture and possibly video if I can grapple with the technology successfully. These emails will be posted there as well, to be notified when the blog is updated you will need to click on "follow this blog" and if you don't have a google account you will need to go through a very simple registration process which only involves giving an email address and password, the whole process should only take about 30 can also be accessed via the website

In the meantime I shall continue to use these emails to notify runners and give my excuses as to why they didn't win.....

If weather conditions allow Miss Colima will run in the 12.20 at Kelso on Sunday, 13 run, Fearghal Davies rides and the ground is heavy. This race has been her target for a couple of months but I am apprehensive about her ability to handle the ground if it is very deep, it's her first handicap and she wants soft but I am concerned that frost and melted snow might have created rather extreme conditions (there we go... excuses again... sorry!) - anyway she is in good form and at least it is the first race.


Thursday, 4 December 2008


... it feels like the coldest spell of weather we have had here for some time and although it is milder today it is still only just above freezing. We have had a dusting of snow for about ten days now with several very hard frosts. There has been plenty to do trying to keep the horses exercised, fed and watered and I am pleased to say that thanks to rigorous harrowing of the all-weather no work has been missed and we have several due to run imminently when I will be very much hoping for some improved results.

The plans are that Miss Colima and possibly Skipping Chapel will run at Kelso on Sunday, they are both also engaged at Sedgefield on Tuesday. Art Investor is an intended runner at Musselburgh on Monday (back to 2 miles after failing to stay over 3 miles last week) and Amulree and Whispering Moor go to Ayr on Monday 15th, let's hope the weather relents...

Friday, 21 November 2008

What is a blog?


It has occurred to me that the drivel I have been producing about the stables might qualify as a blog and that a better way to host this on our website, and hence keep the website up to date, would be to write these emails as a blog - hence this experiment!