Monday, 21 December 2009

the view from the cab

down the gallop was rather snowy at 3pm this Monday afternoon. Despite the absence of racing we have 12 horses that we are keen to run in January, so far we have had no problem keeping them working, both on the gallop and in the circular sand school where they can do plenty of steady cantering and jumping.

We "re-backed" a couple of youngsters (by Kayf Tara and Terimon) that are due to come into training and Lucy re-acquainted herself with Contendo's jumping. She is due to have two medicals in Edinburgh tomorrow that will determine when she can have her licence to ride back.

We will hopefully be back racing at Musselburgh and Ayr in the early days of 2010, I hope everyone has a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year; that, of course, assumes anyone is actually reading this, if so, thank you...

Monday, 14 December 2009

All fired up...

With nowhere to go; racing at Ayr today was abandoned yesterday afternoon as the course was frozen after a couple of nights of sharp frost. Whilst it is frustrating and racing must always be given every chance an early decision is most welcome if there is obviously no chance of racing. Fearless Footsteps, Skipping Chapel and Contendo were our intended runners and they had a spin on the all-weather yesterday morning (pictured), it is taking the frost well which is good news. Skipping Chapel will now be aimed at Newcastle on Saturday, Contendo will go to Carlisle on Sunday where he will hopefully be joined by racecourse debutant Papamoa if conditions are suitable. Fearless Footsteps will probably head to Ayr on 2nd January (she'll be 6 by then and it would be nice to have managed one run as a five year old, I'll have a hunt around for something....)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Slim pickings....

for the hens in the weak afternoon sun.

For once things went to plan on Wednesday and Seeking Power had a good school round in the mud at Hexham, finishing 3rd of the 4 starters. He was beaten a long way by two decent horses but collected some good place money and can hopefully go handicapping now which will be much more his scene.

We hope to be heading for Ayr on Monday where we have entries for Skipping Chapel, Contendo, Fearless Footsteps and Papamoa.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Seeking Power

We run Seeking Power in the 2.50 at Hexham tomorrow, the ground will be heavy, Peter Buchanan rides and 5 run. It's his first run over fences but he has had five point-to-points so should take to the larger obstacles. We have found it very difficult to get the weight off him and despite our efforts and two races he is still a massive 625kg, perhaps I should stop feeding him! Whilst he will be trying hard he has little chance at the weights with two of the runners so we will be hoping for a clear round and might pick up some worthwhile place money as it is a valuable (£14k) contest.
This is the horse that lost its bridle with Lucy on board in March this year, Peter will be pleased to hear that we now plait the top of the bridle into the horse's mane hopefully ensuring no repeat of this rather alarming incident
Lucy meanwhile is making a steady, if slow, recovery; she aims to be riding at Ayr on January 2nd but will have to undergo one or two tests first. Otherwise with Lucy off and Jacqui still off with her trodden-on arm the team here are flat out, they are doing a marvellous job; let's hope we can put some better results together to reward the effort

Friday, 4 December 2009

thank goodness...

as I write Mrs A is fetching Lucy from Ayr hospital, she is still quite sore, dazed and asking some slightly odd questions, but her main focus seems to be on telephoning the BHA's chief medical officer, Dr Michael Turner, to find out when she can start riding again - not too soon I hope. It will be good to have her back home for a few days rest as Ayr isn't terribly handy for visiting, particularly with the seemingly permanent snarl-up that afflicts central Scotland's road system every afternoon.
We are bypassing Kelso on Sunday but we might take Skipping Chapel back to Musselburgh on Monday, he didn't seem quite himself after his last run there a week ago but he did a nice piece of work this morning on the grass & if we are happy with him over the weekend he will take his chance. Hopefully Fearghal Davies will be in on Monday morning on his way to Musselburgh (well, we're not quite on the way from Penrith to Musselburgh but near enough!), the plan would be to school Contendo & Seeking Power over fences prior to running them at Hexham on Wednesday - time to stop messing about over hurdles with these two I think!
First lot reaches the top of the gallop just as the sun comes up this morning - rain again tomorrow, have to enjoy the nice mornings!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A longish sort of day...

hmm, things aren't really going our way at the moment, Contendo, having won the best turned out award (about the only thing we seem to have won in living memory), stepped at the 3rd hurdle and fell sending Lucy into the ground at some speed; she took the full impact with her head and was unconscious for a few minutes, further to examination in the racecourse medical room she seemed quite badly concussed and was then transferred to Ayr hospital where she will spend a few days under observation. Luckily Mrs A was present so she was able to accompany her to hospital while I nipped home with the horses, scooped up some bits & bobs and went back to Ayr to deliver them and collect Rose, Lucy seemed a bit better by that stage though still had her face covered in racecourse mud, I spoke to her this morning and she seemed a bit brighter however she needs to have a few easy days and despite her protests, she is best to stay where she is, the horse on the other hand has already been up the all-weather three times this morning and may now go to Kelso on Sunday.
It had been a delight to walk the course earlier in the afternoon and find the track back in such good condition, Scotland's grade one course needs a grade one surface and it was immaculate which is quite the revers of what it was like a year ago, let's hope the weather isn't too unkind to it this winter. All-in-all the racecourse & medical services responded very well to our little drama, there is something appallingly helpless about having to stand and watch as an incident like this is dealt with, I think Mrs A and I probably feel about 10 years older today (we're not used to late nights!) - Lucy has shown a glimmer of interest in going on a Ski Instructor's course after Christmas, right now that seems like a brilliant idea to me..

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


..we run Contendo in the 2.25 at Ayr, 12 run the ground is soft and Lucy rides, a nice little race for this horse, 2m 4f Novice Handicap Hurdle, competitive but it is his grade and he competes off a 10lb lower mark than when beaten a neck on this course in the past. He has a visor on for the first time, something I have been itching to do for some time so I hope it will sharpen him up a bit though I imagine there will be improvement to come for this second run of the season as he is 15kg heavier than when he won in February this year.

Miss Colima did not really handle the very wet conditions at Carlisle on Sunday and pulled up three out.

The new website is complete and ready to launch, it just requires yours truly to find a bit of time to bring some of the content up to date, hopefully I will manage this before I completely forget what I learnt at my training session last week.....

Friday, 27 November 2009


Well, not entirely satisfactory, Skipping Chapel was gassy and keen pulling hard over the first few fences, the jockey dropped him back to try to get him to settle and then just as the race began to get serious he was badly hampered by some carnage 4 out, Paddy then hunted him home and he finished a tailed off last of the 8 finishers. Not sure what to conclude really, he jumped well enough but wasn't travelling as well as I would have liked him to be when he met the trouble.
I think we'll say that he'll come on mentally for the run and also improve fitness wise so we will try to find something for him soon, he was very bright after the race.
Miss Colima lines up at Carlisle on Sunday at 3.35, Lucy rides, 12 run, the ground will be heavy (inspection 8am Sunday), it won't be ideal but its an ordinary little contest and we just need her to show us something & improve on her last run.


We run Skipping Chapel in the 1.10 at Musselburgh today, 13 run, the ground is on the soft side of good and Paddy Aspell rides. He hasn't run for nearly a year but seems fit and well. When he last ran he was suffering from paralysis of the larynx which didn't help much; we subsequently operated on this and from what he has done at home the operation appears to have been successful, we won't really know until the last furlong of a race though and he is effectively having his first run over fences. Despite these two fairly major caveats I am hoping that he can put up a good show as he showed plenty of promise in his younger days, if the operation has been successful he is well handicapped and he should handle the track and ground.
On Sunday we hope to run Miss Colima at Carlisle, Contendo will miss Newcastle tomorrow and go to Ayr on Wednesday.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

A glimmer of hope...

Seeking Power was flat to the boards all the way at Kelso on Friday but he stayed on to finish 5th of 12 which was pleasing in the circumstances and gives us a glimmer of hope that he might be OK when he goes over fences. Mrs A was in attendance, we're not the most relaxed couple to meet when the daughter is riding, memories of the drama that ensued when Seeking Power's bridle came off in March have been re-ignited by the publication of the annual point-to-point bible, Mackenzie & Selby, last week which contains rather a graphic description of the event together with a photograph of a rather forlorn daughter returning to the weighing room with breeches & silks shredded by the barbed wire, still, the elation when the race is over almost makes up for the agony before.

I was very pleased to meet our "digger man" Jimmy at the top of the gallop when riding out this morning (Sunday), he seems to have become almost as obsessed about its well-being as me; its been a bit of a battle keeping it in good order over the past few days (I literally went straight from the lorry onto the tractor on my return from Kelso on Friday afternoon) but we won the battle and have managed to keep the horses working hard, let's hope it pays dividends at the end of the week when we hope to run Skipping Chapel at Musselburgh on Friday and Contendo at Carlisle on Sunday... if Carlisle racecourse is still there.....

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Oh Noah where art thou....

Golly, I can't think what on earth we have done wrong to deserve quite such a soaking; I am sure we have never had as wet a three weeks as we have had since those balmy days of the Indian summer we enjoyed in October, it's incredible the sheer volume of water that has landed and its still falling, oh deary deary me, it makes the job quite tricky when everything is so sodden.

Never mind, onwards & upwards and if by any chance it is fit to race at Kelso tomorrow wheels will roll just after 7.30am and Seeking Power (who loves mud) will head down the road with his merry band of supporters. The race is at 12.15 and 13 run, Lucy rides and the going will be more suitable for ducks.

It's only 11 days since his seasonal debut but we have to give this horse three runs to attain a handicap mark and the quicker we do that the better. The nature of the programme book means that if you want to come into steeplechasing directly from point-to-pointing you effectively have to run three times over hurdles on the way; hurdling is a waste of time for this horse but we need to do it and he will come on a bundle fitness-wise each time but he won't be troubling the judge unless it turns out he's the only one with webbed feet!

Here he is with the jockey's uncle on board after his last piece of work on Tuesday - was it really sunny that day, seems an age ago. And if anyone says he looks a bit tubby I shall assume they are talking about the horse..

And here is Fearless Footsteps on the same morning with Shellie Wilson on top, hopefully she will make her racecourse debut before Christmas..

Sorry but I have to look at these pics of sunny days to remind myself that it doesn't always rain

Most exciting though is the news that the brand spanking new Kinneston website will be going live on Monday 30th November, designed by Scotland's best digital media agency it will have several new features..... just hope we can manage to keep it up to date.
Drip, drip.....

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Big Ben...

It will be an early start tomorrow to ensure that Seeking Power arrives at Carlisle in good time to run in the 12.50 tomorrow where the ground will be soft and holding, 9 run and Lucy takes the ride, it will be her first ride against the professionals so let's hope all goes smoothly. This horse is very big in every sense of the word and will come on a lot for the run tomorrow, he has shown a bit of form in point-to-points but he is up against some classy & expensive opposition tomorrow and although I hope he will run well it is really an educational exercise all round. We were hoping that he would be joined at Carlisle by Miss Colima but at this stage she looks doubtful as she has some heat in her foot, we will take a late decision but it looks like she will have to wait another week or two.

Yesterday at Kelso Smart Cavalier ran well enough for the first part of his race but started jumping rather timidly as if something was amiss, he was quite stiff this morning so we will need to establish what is troubling him, he ate up and seems happy enough so hopefully it is nothing serious.

I was a little weary this morning after staying up to watch a scintillating performance by Zenyatta in the $5m Breeders Cup Classic, her 14th consecutive win was stunning - would she have beaten Sea the Stars though - who knows, and I for one will be perfectly happy never to know the answer to that question. Any tiredness was soon dissipated by watching this lovely young 4yo by Luso quicken up on the grass gallop, he has real potential, let's hope he's lucky..........


Tuesday, 3 November 2009


Well, we wanted a decent drop of rain at Carlisle but the Good Lord rather over did things and conditions at Carlisle, en route and back here were simply shocking. Contendo waded round for 2 circuits before the conditions/lack of match fitness cut in and he ground to a halt on the run-in. We knew he was going there a "bit short" and the conditions certainly emphasised this, I was happy enough with him though and hopefully no harm done.

Back here our gallop suffered somewhat from the 50mm of rain that was delivered in about 8 hours and we are having to be a little more innovative in our training this week as we wait for little Jimmy to arrive with his digger to carry out some remedial work.

It's here already!

Today we are taking a few round to our neighbour Lucinda's gallop for a stiff piece of work.

Conditions permitting we will then head to Kelso on Saturday where hopefully the ground will be perfect, the intention is to run Smart Cavalier and Skipping Chapel. Then it might be back to Carlisle next Monday where Miss Colima and Seeking Power could make their seasonal reappearances....

Despite the horrible weather I did rather enjoy my trip to Carlisle, trucking down the M74 in the rain I was happy as Larry really to be going racing with a runner again, I was very hospitably treated on arrival with gin courtesy of Mr Peter & delicious pea & ham soup and pork rolls courtesy of the racecourse, they treat connections very well there; less so the lady jockeys who were forced out of their changing room by the overflow of males and had to put up with sporadic use of the medical room.... not very comfortable particularly in the the extreme weather conditions.


Monday, 31 August 2009

There's nae stopping him....

well, the day finally came and Jock aged 82 retired on Friday after 54 years working here. I was therefore slightly surprised to hear him call up the office stairs to me at 7.15 this morning to say he couldn't find reverse in the new tractor and get it out of the shed! Speaking of the new tractor, a certain amount of research has gone into its purchase and I was delighted when it eventually arrived on Friday, the best thing is that it came with a set of overalls - although they perhaps exagerrate my rotundness somewhat I do think they will add a lot to my credibility in the neighbourhood, problem is though that everyone elses' tractors are so much bigger than my tiny little "groundcare" machine, still, got to start somewhere.

On Sunday morning we took our two most forward horses (Foodbroker Founder and Fearless Footsteps) to Lucinda Russell's gallop for a serious piece of work, partly to bring them on and partly to see exactly where we were with them. I was very pleased with the former who really perked up for an away-day and will either run on the flat at Beverley on 22nd Sept or at Perth later that week, Fearless Footsteps just failed to really let herself down on the different surface but her wind sounded good and all being well she will run in the bumper at Perth on Thursday 24th. My intention is that both of them will be ridden in their races by daughter Lucy, she has worked hard throughout her gap year and spent many months with two of the world's great trainers in Aidan O'Brien and Michael Stoute, she did well with both of them and rode work with champion jockeys past, present and future. I hope to give her lots of chances this season as I am confident she will maintain her fitness and focus whilst studying at Edinburgh University.
Much of family life is presently focussed on driving lessons and tests etc, I am afraid I couldn't conceal my delight when Mrs A sat the theory test online and failed - tee hee hee - she has been known to criticise my driving from time to time, completely unjustified of course....
We are stepping up another gear this week with a couple more horses in and looking forward to the arrival of the new assistant trainer next weekend

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The joy...

of training the horses at this time of year usually stems from the perfect late summer days, the slight crispness to the early morning air as the sun comes up and bathes the golden stubble fields in light. The warmth quickly breaks through, the horses coats gleam and the cold wet days of winter seem a distant memory..... aha, not so today or yesterday or virtually any day this damp August. I have seldom been as soaked through as I was after first lot this morning, there was a cold easterly wind driving the rain and everywhere is completely sodden. Still, at least we were able to use the grass gallops, usually too firm at this time of year they are riding perfectly now, our half dozen most forward horses did plenty of work on them this morning though I am beginning to worry that their regime is being determined by how much the trainer can manage rather than how much the horses can manage, they have been doing a lot of hill work and are very strong when given their heads on some flatter grass. 2nd lot were jogging on the all-weather and I caught this damp but cheery(?) bunch with my camera coming down the gallop later on

They are, in front from the right, Miss Colima (Shellie Wilson), Smart Cavalier (Emma Dick), Forcefield (Lucy Alexander) and an un-named Accordion 4yo (Kit Alexander), perhaps we should call him Indian Summer.....

Tuesday, 11 August 2009


Although we haven't had a runner since Almost Blue won at Kelso in May we have been busy, we managed to turn most of the horses away to grass whilst the stables were all disinfected and repainted, more rubber floors were installed and all the water drinkers renewed. We now have 8 horses back in work, a couple more came in from Doncaster Sales last week and with one or two other things going on we look like being up to about 18 horses in training for the winter.

With the stable expanding I have been preoccupied throughout the summer with trying to appoint our first head lad/assistant trainer, I have been looking for a proper horseman with a real depth of experience in racing gained at the highest level. I received a massive number of applicants from, thanks to the internet, all over the globe which have taken a bit of sorting out. I now have verbally agreed terms with a man that I am greatly looking forward to working with, more about him later...

He will be in charge of our core team of 3 girls, Jacqui, Emma and Shellie all whom have now been here for at least 3 years and are extremely able and dedicated to their horses. They are supported by our long-standing work rider James and old fatso here who has also resumed riding out. Our pupil assistant Douglas has left to study to be a vet at Edinburgh but is still hoping to travel the horses to the races when available.

The biggest change of all though will be the imminent retirement of Jock who aged 82 and after 54 years of continual service at Kinneston finally sidled up to me and asked would I mind if he "finished up." His long service was marked in suitable fashion at Kinross Show on Saturday when he was presented with a long service medal by the Royal Highland Agricultural Society in front of a huge crowd enjoying glorious weather, it didn't stop him being out moving haylage at 6.45am on the Sunday morning though.....


Friday, 15 May 2009


Well, the sun shone for two days of good racing at Perth with a big crowd yesterday but sadly we have a return to February style conditions today, grim indeed. Things got off to a poor start for us at Perth on Wednesday evening with Amulree becoming worked up in the preliminaries before running with the choke out for a mile prior to weakening rapidly. Its very difficult to assess a horse properly when they behave like that but nevertheless it was disappointing. Smart Cavalier ran an allright sort of race and we learnt a bit more about him in his first handicap for us, likewise Foodbroker Founder who travelled and jumped well prior to being anchored by his top weight when the quickened for home. Yesterday Almost Blue put up a good effort to finish 3rd in his first race on the racecourse proper, he was always going to find 2m4f on the sharp side on quick ground round Perth but he ran well and would have been closer had he not clouted the second last. Sadly the ground had dried out too much to let Fearless Footsteps take her chance in the last.

With the weather remaining unsettled we will keep 5 horses on the go for another couple of weeks, running them wherever we can (Kelso on Wednesday I hope) before they join their friends out at grass.

Friday, 8 May 2009



After an all too brief glimpse of spring the weather has been grim this week and this morning was just about the first time all winter that I had to delay first lot and put the horses on the walker whilst a storm abated - winter? - apparently it's May and needless to say I have already turned half a dozen horses out - they may need to come in again at this rate and plans to turn more out are now on hold.

Weather conditions were not dissimilar when we made our first ever raid on a Yorkshire area point-to-point earlier this week on Bank Holiday Monday, a long way it was too to Witton Castle but we were almost rewarded with a winner when Almost Blue came with a strong late run to finish 2nd in the Intermediate race, another 50 yards and I think he would have nailed the winner but it was great to see him continue in such good heart in what was I think his 7th run in 10 weeks. Foodbroker Founder then took little interest in the Ladies Open, finally dumping Lucy on the ground at the 3rd last - a completely different horse from the one that turned up 9 days earlier to win at Fife, most puzzling. The day before we had also been travelling with Contendo finishing 4th of 14 at the Lauderdale and Torche finishing down the field, retirement beckons for the latter.

This weekend we will have soft ground for the first time for a while and needless to say it is the wrong horses that are ready to run, nevertheless Smart Cavalier will probably take the long and winding road to Aspatria in Cumbria tomorrow and hopefully the ease in the ground will enable us to have a handful of runners at Perth next week - Wednesday evening and Thursday afternoon, it's meant to be spring but wrap up well.

So the stockmarket is up again this morning and has risen 10 out of the last 12 trading sessions, the man on Radio 4 tells me we are back in a bull market, hmmm, it would be nice to think so but we are only back where we were on the 1st of January and at that stage the market had risen by a similar percentage since the gloom of early November, I don't remember many people calling a bull market then. The uniformity of the optimism emanating from financial commentators is now almost as deafening as the doom they were forecasting when the market was 25% lower two months ago which does make me nervous, however at least now we have had a "double bottom" and the mood in the media is greatly changed, however much one resents the media one cannot deny (unfortunately) the power it holds over the national psyche.... fingers crossed......


Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Happy days....

Mrs A seemed very pleased to make off with her loot after her horse Foodbroker Founder won the Ladies Open under daughter Lucy at the Fife point-to-point on Saturday. It has taken us a little bit of time to work out this quirky little horse and he came from well off the pace to win cleverly; having lain for dead at the last fence in the same race last year it was a huge relief that he finally came good and particularly pleasing that he did so at our local track. This horse that was engaged in the 2003 Derby has a little bit of history, trained by David Elsworth he won on the flat, was beaten a short head at Royal Ascot, became Desert Orchid's travelling companion and soul-mate, won a couple over hurdles and the last jockey to sit on him prior to Lucy was AP McCoy.... hopefully he can progress from here on the pointing circuit but we also fancy giving him a couple of spins on the flat through the summer.

Earlier in the afternoon Almost Blue was a comfortable winner in the Members Race, brother Jamie recording his 7th (a record surely?) win in the race in a match against his niece Lucy riding for the Normile stable.

It was a good afternoon's racing in glorious sunshine and much needed having withdrawn our horses at Perth due to the ground being a little bit quick. We did manage to give a couple of promising youngsters a racecourse gallop on Friday evening but the ground frustrations continue this week with Amulree and Fearless Footsteps having to bypass their intended engagements at Kelso this evening. I am sure it will rain sometime but probably not until I have finally thrown in the towel and turned the horses out for a summer break.

Last Saturday represented the formal end of the 2008/9 National Hunt Season. Reflecting on our stats I see that we had 4 winners & 6 seconds from 51 runners. All the winners came in the pointing field and thank goodness for that as we had very little luck on the track with several horses going wrong and some of them not being quite right in the middle of the winter. Whilst it is undeniably easier to win in point-to-points with an ordinary sort of horse, it is still very competitive and you have to be fit, healthy and lucky. The problem on the track is that until you get into handicaps you are generally competing against some very expensive horses and, with us, our handicappers either went wrong or just weren't up for it.

The great thing about racing is one is always looking forward and we have some very nice young horses to look forward to next season and a few old favourites coming back from injury so we will hopefully make a bit more of an impact on the track this time round.

I say "next" season but it has of course already started and we intend to be in action on Sunday at the Lauderdale point-to-point, as mentioned we have bypassed Kelso today but we have other options at Hexham on Saturday evening and Witton Castle (wherever that is) on Bank Holiday Monday - it would be highly satisfactory if we could start off where we finished, with winners!


Friday, 17 April 2009

back into action... will be 3 weeks since we had a runner when we finally swing back into action this weekend, frustrating when we have 7 horses primed and ready to go but it has been astonishingly dry and as a result the ground has been very firm. All being well the watering will have done its job though this weekend at Corbridge; Almost Blue and Foodbroker Founder will hopefully line up on Sunday afternoon, both are in great form and put up career best efforts last time out so fingers crossed, thereafter we have 3 nice horses to run at the Perth Festival next week where I am sure there will be nice ground.

With an absence of racing opportunities I took the opportunity to nip over to my beloved Murren for a couple of days skiing in the week running up to Easter; the advantages of being fairly stout came into play when I collided with an unfortunate Mancunian at full speed on part of the famous "Inferno" run, whilst we both had the wipeout of a lifetime and I am still nursing a sore shoulder he was rather more immediately inconvenienced by regurgitating on impact the spinach soup he had just had for lunch which upset him somewhat, fortunately my "bratwurst mit katoffelsalat" was rather more solid and remained in situ.
We were in need of a diversion with Northern Dusk having to be euthanased during Aintree week. Apart from the pain of losing a lovely horse that had become a real friend it is a major strategic blow to a small yard like ours.

In the summer of 07 a very good friend had indicated that she would like a share in a good long term National Hunt prospect and with a decent budget in hand we headed off to Doncaster Sales, we drew a blank and then headed to the Newmarket Horses in Training Sales where we again drew a blank. By this time we had the irrascible Irish bloodstock agent, Gerry Griffin, in tow and he set about finding us something privately in Ireland. I was laid up with my broken hip when he called having found this good prospect down in Co Wexford, unable to travel we had to take his word for it and in early December he arrived at Kinneston. He wasn't the most impressive horse when I first saw him and having only just been backed he had a few behavioural issues as well and he was clearly going to need a bit of time.
We gave him just that and over the next fifteen months he gradually learnt his job, stopped galloping like a kangaroo and overcame his phobia of being near other horses. What was really exciting about him though was his acceleration, the first time we asked him to quicken I was left with my mouth hanging open and after that every time we gave him a little squeeze to see what would happen the power that he showed would literally make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up; he kept me awake at night. As well as that he grew into himself, developing a self-belief that translated itself into his whole demeanour - he knew he was good.

After one or two false starts we eventually arrived at the racecourse on Friday 20th March this year and trainer was definitely nervous, I didn't expect him to win as I knew there was plenty still to work on, he would be green and there would be limitless improvement to come. He ran a brilliant race but faded slightly in the closing stages and as soon as he eased up I could see there was a problem. The rest, as they say, is history, but he was well looked after in Hospital and seemed content when I visited him. Having initially diagnosed a fractured pastern further investigation revealed multiple fractures in his knee, at the end of the day his legs weren't strong enough for his heart and I am afraid to say that to succeed as a good racehorse they need to be. It is disappointing for me and a big blow for the owners but most of all I feel for all those in the yard here that looked after him so well and turned him from the slightly plain nervous animal that came off the lorry from Ireland into a good-looking racehorse with real presence and talent.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Sometime around this time last year Kit decided he would like to emulate his elder sister and do a bit of race-riding. It wasn't exactly the news Mrs A and I wanted to hear but we managed to send Lucy out on a winner first time (just) so we set about finding him a decent horse. By August we hoped we had the right one in the form of Commercial Express, a reasonably experienced steeplechaser that had normally been ridden by Kit's favourite jockey, Timmy Murphy. We almost had it ready to run in January when it started to suffer a series of minor setbacks which basically kept it off work for a month; despite the interruptions we thought we had it ready so took it to the Lanark point-to-point on Saturday.

After all the waiting... the anxious connections...

on board at last...

Sent off at an unfancied 6-1, Kit's instructions were to "ride him like Timmy" ie wait out the back and come with a late run. He carried out the instructions to perfection (almost) in that he waited, waited, waited and came with a tearing run round the home bend, over the last two and just failed by a head to nail the even-money favourite. One bookmaker in particular was most relieved (having given the connections 10-1) and a head seemed so desperately close to pulling it off after a year of plotting but it was a wonderful first run, problem is I think he wants to have another go.....

2nd was going to be the theme of the weekend as we headed to Alnwick on Sunday where brother Jamie on Almost Blue was just pipped by top amateur Tom Greenall on an odds-on favourite, going down by a neck in a driving finish and then Lucy on Foodbroker Founder was beaten into 2nd by another southern raider in the Ladies Open.
Considering "Foodie" failed to complete last season this was good progress but that's five 2nds this month from 12 runners..... talk about hitting the crossbar!

I am glad the horses ran well over the weekend because I started Saturday morning in very poor shape having finished up late on Friday evening at the Large Animal Hospital near Edinburgh after our promising youngster Northern Dusk injured himself seriously on the run-in in the last race at Kelso. This horse has been the apple of my eye through what has been a long and sometimes difficult winter, seeing him quicken up on the gallops never failed to set my heart racing and I was pretty certain I might finally have found a decent horse to take us somewhere. Everything he did on the day confirmed my hopes, he looked really striking, had poise, presence and was completely relaxed. He was an utter professional during the race and was just coming to mount his challenge on the run-in when his stride faltered slightly and he appeared to be running on empty, he still finished 6th but pulled up very lame and was taken off the course by horse ambulance prior to being transferred to the LAH where x-rays diagnosed a fractured pastern. A full recovery is possible but not certain and it was a bitter blow that having been so patient he should be injured on his racecourse debut, there was heaps of improvement to come and I just hope we can get him back to fulfil his potential for his loyal owners. Earlier in the afternoon Miss Colima ran a poor race in the staying handicap hurdle, she was a bit stiff afterwards and may not have liked the ground, I will turn every stone to make sure there is no underlying problem. On Thursday at Ayr Whispering Moor put up a lacklustre effort despite looking well, he just doesn't seem to want to get competitive.

A real roller-coaster of a weekend and it doesn't seem to stop as we run Smart Cavalier in the 5pm at Sedgefield tomorrow with brother Jamie on top, the ground will be fast and 14 run, if he can repeat his good 2nd at Kelso last time out he should go close.

I think I'll be lying in a dark room somewhere...

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Whispering Moor...

....waits to go onto the lorry prior to heading off to Ayr this morning

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

This week...

After what has seemed like an interminably long winter the sudden arrival of spring is most welcome in many respects, it is a joy to go out in the mornings, the farm is busy and there is a tremendous lustre in the horses' coats. It does mean that conditions on the tracks are drying up very fast and we hope to have a busy weekend, starting tomorrow at Ayr when Whispering Moor is going to run in the 2.20, only 6 run, James Halliday rides, the ground will be soft still and we are just hoping that he shows us some enthusiasm. On Friday we head to Kelso where the ground will be good, we hope to run Miss Colima in the 3.25 with Fearghal Davies on board and Northern Dusk in the 5.40 with Peter Buchanan. Saturday sees us at the Lanark point-point where we hope our elder son Kit will have his first ride on board Commercial Express, Lucy should be in action on Foodbroker Founder and possibly Contendo whilst Jamie looks like waiting till Sunday at Alnwick where Almost Blue should have a good chance.

I am pleased to report that last weekend was much less eventful than the previous one with Almost Blue finishing a good 3rd of 14 in the Restricted race and Seeking Power 3rd of 14 in the maiden, sent of favourite he was only beaten 3l by the winner and would have gone very close had he not blundered badly at the 4th last. After a winter when we really struggled to get into the money it has been heartening that over the last month 6 of our 11 runners have been placed, including a winner and two 2nds - long may it continue!


Sunday, 8 March 2009

If ever...

I could write a book about a horse it would be about the giant Seeking Power (pictured) but I hope not too many chapters will read like yesterday. It's just as well I'm not a betting man because if I was I would have got seriously stuck into Seeking Power at the Cumberland Farmers yesterday. Sent off the 5-2 joint favourite of 16 runners he had everything in his favour, everything finally appeared to have fallen into place, however not in my wildest dreams (nightmares?) could I have imagined what unfolded. He was a little bit keen running into the first fence, put in a very big jump and pitched on landing, his head hit the ground and in the process he managed to pull his bridle off, pragmatically Lucy would have been better to have fallen off however she sat tight, they lost little momentum and as they galloped towards the 2nd fence Lucy found herself still holding the reins but with the bridle flapping between the horses knees; unrestrained he accelerated past the rest of the field and the aghast crowd, he ran off the course and headed at full speed towards a wood, only stopping at the very last minute to hurl Lucy at full velocity into the barbed wire fence, leaving her strung up upside-down like a rag-doll in the rows of barb, he cantered off into the distance. Fortunately this happened close to the crowd and more importantly the paramedics who were on-hand very quickly, after an interminable few minutes they managed to extract her from the fence and miraculously she walked into the ambulance. Apart from torn colours and shredded breeches she got away with about 20 cuts and punctures to
her legs none of which are serious (some pictured - with apologies!). It was a truly heart-stopping 30 seconds though, really lucky that no serious injury resulted and if Mr & Mrs A decide to give up racing horses it won't be because we don't like getting up in the morning!

Luckily the day had started on a much better note when Contendo (below) finished a good 2nd in the Intermediate race to a highly regarded horse from Yorkshire, he had several multiple winners behind him so showed that his maiden win was no fluke.

We were all set to head off again today when I noticed that our intended runner Amulree had some gunge coming out of her nose so I had no option other than to withdraw her, most frustrating but better to have found out now than after the race; hopefully I will be able to sort her out and she can go to Kelso on Friday 20th. All being well we will head South tomorrow for a 48 hour busman's holiday at the Cheltenham Festival; the Irish can't see Cousin Vinny being beaten in the opener on Tuesday, they are probably right but the odds will be skinny and I prefer 25-1 each way about Copper Bleu. In the Champion Hurdle there will be another hot favourite but one could do worse than another good priced outsider in the mare, Whiteoak. On Wednesday Diamond Harry looks very decent whilst later in the week last year's Gold Cup winner Denman looks outstanding value at 6-1. If a horse called Madison du Berlais hadn't turned up at Kempton last month Denman would be odds on favourite.... We have a new arrival here in the form of this smart colt foal by top class Derby winner Generous, our 8th foal out of Harrietfield..... hope springs eternal..... We have entries at Sedgefield on Tuesday, Hexham on Thursday and the Duke of Buccleuch's point-to-point on Saturday - I think I'll recover from yesterday though prior to firming up plans.

Monday, 2 March 2009

the next best thing...

... to winning on Saturday was to come second and we were all delighted when Smart Cavalier put up a bold effort to finish 2nd of 10 under brother Jamie at Kelso; considering the race came only 6 days after his seasonal debut and the ground was too soft it was a huge run. He was tired afterwards (the horse) so will need a week or two but with luck we should have some fun with him through the spring.

This week we have entries at Ayr on Friday & Saturday, the Cumberland point-to-point on Saturday and Kelso on Sunday, it is likely that we will be at the latter two but will be watching the weather closely...


Monday, 23 February 2009


.. after longer than I care to remember we were back with a winner yesterday when Contendo won the 11 runner Maiden race at Lanark, idling in front he prevailed by 3/4 of a length from the hot favourite confirming the promise shown a few weeks ago. He was named "Contendo" (which means "to strive/struggle/hasten" in Latin - his sire is Classic Cliche) by daughter Lucy when she was studying Latin at school a few years ago and whilst I'm not sure he has always lived up to his name it was thoroughly appropriate that she was on board for his first victory, hopefully he can progress from here now the penny has finally dropped. (2nd left below - he looks bored...)

Otherwise it was a mixed sort of day, Almost Blue put up a very promising effort in the opener, catching the eye with late progress to finish a close-up 5th of 13. Foodbroker Founder also put up a decent effort (and his first clear round over fences) to finish a close 5th in a high class Ladies Open and will be seen to much better effect when the ground dries up further. Smart Cavalier led them a merry dance in the Men's Open before fitness told 3 out, he will come on for the run and may make a quick reappearance at Kelso on Saturday. Torche unfortunately burst a blood vessel in the final race on the card, this is not the easiest thing to remedy but I will do my best.
We are unlikely to have any other runners this week unless it rains whereby we may be represented at the Tynedale point-to-point at Corbridge in Northumberland....

Thursday, 19 February 2009

yo ho ho...'s off to Ayr we go today where Whispering Moor runs for the Stanistreets in the 2.10, Fearghal Davies rides, 12 run and the ground will be soft and sticky. It's not a perfect race for him in that it is back over hurdles and it's 2m4f rather than 3m but I felt it was the best race on the card for him and I was hesitant about running him over 3 miles as he might just be a little stuffy after the fortnight's freeze up; he's had plenty of work this week though and I hope he will run a decent race to give the stable (and owner!) a boost after such a frustrating winter.

We also hope to have a handful of runners at the Dumfriesshire point-to-point on Sunday which has been relocated to Lanark this year, the horses all seem in good order and may have benefitted from an enforced relaxation in their schedule due to the weather; the team here did a marvellous job whilst we were enjoying -25c in the Alps, about half a metre of snow fell producing fantastic conditions but golly it was cold......


PS the aptly named Northern Dusk is in great form after a short lay-off and will hopefully make his racecourse debut soon. He's a lovely horse with a good pedigree, we've been very patient with him and he is showing plenty of ability, the sort of horse to keep a trainer awake at night!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

all fired up....

for the first time this season the weather has started to beat us and it is only possible to canter steadily on the "all-weather" so last night we organised ourselves for an early morning sortie to the beach at St Andrews for a serious workout... however it started snowing as I fed the horses just after 6 and by 7.30 things were clearly a "no-go"

tempted as I was to give it a try I opted for more of the slow steady work at home, yet another wintry morning....

Who knows what is going to happen on the racing front but we have Smart Cavalier entered at Musselburgh on Wednesday, Whispering Moor at Kelso on Thursday and the point-to-pointers at Alnwick on Sunday 15th. We are heading to the Alps tomorrow for 5 days skiing which seems quite a sensible thing to do in the circumstances though the forecast tells me to expect -22c tomorrow night.. brrrrrrr.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

turning the corner?

the point-to-point season kicked off yesterday with good competitive racing at Kelso in remarkably benign conditions. Although we didn't come home with much I was delighted with our three runners; Torche ran a very solid race for brother Jamie in a high class Mens Open race, he was lying in 4th (of about 16) and closing on the leaders when J felt him take a couple of false strides so quickly pulled him up, he seems fine though and this was a most encouraging effort. Contendo ran in the "Restricted" race with Lucy on board, there were about 14 runners and he was moving up nicely through the field alongside the eventual winner (well done Cornelius!) when he was brought down 6 out, Lucy took a bit of a kicking but was most encouraged by the way the horse jumped and travelled. She also rode Seeking Power in the Maiden and finished 4th of 16, not beaten far this was most encouraging for his first race for 2 years. Most importantly for me though, the horses proved themselves fit and healthy and I needed what I was seeing at home confirmed on the track.

The grannies appeared to have found something to smile about.....

....not so sure about the anxious parents briefing the jockey

it may only be 4th in a maiden point-to-point but it was a relief to be back in the winner's enclosure with our old friend Seeking Power.....

This week we may be in action at Carlisle on Wednesday though I suspect the weather will play havoc across the country

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Two Fat Ladies....

.... make a crowded house. Although we escaped the worst of the horrendous weather this weekend the forecast looks dire so I though it would be kind to bring the two broodmares in from grass as they are nearly due and it is time they had their rugs off; having not seen them without a rug for several months I am always rather surprised by how large they are and this year was no exception - Harrietfield on the left is due to Generous in about 4 weeks and Berkeley Run to Desert Prince, both mares have already produced winners so fingers crossed.

The only barn I had to put them in was currently occupied by brother Jamie's temporary residents so we hastily assembled two "stables" for them, they needed to come off straw as they are due to run soon, I think they appear a little bemused by their new lodgings.

Despite the bitterly cold wind and sodden ground we took the opportunity to pop two of our own point-to-pointers over the schooling fences, Commercial Express (last seen at Perth in the summer) leads the "late-maturing" home bred Seeking Power (last seen in Co Meath two years ago) - they are likely to be among our next runners at the West Percy point-to-point a week today (Sunday 25th), we won't have any runners on the track this week.....

Friday, 9 January 2009

In the bleak mid-winter...

...trainer can get a little tetchy as plans are continually changing and every way we move we seem to be frustrated by the weather one way or another, it's a challenge keeping the 17 horses fit, healthy and sound with the goalposts continually shifting. Unlike many other yards our horses have missed no work and this morning was a joy as for the first time for what seems like months (but is only actually 10 days or so) we were able to gallop on grass again which they all seemed to enjoy.

After many abandonments we are eventually going to be racing again tomorrow when Art Investor lines up in the 4pm at Ayr, 11 run, Fearghal Davies rides and the ground will be very soft as the forecast is stormy. I had always presumed that this horse wanted good ground but he hasn't been showing much and we feel its worth a try on soft given the limited opportunites around at the moment.

I was hoping to have had a few more runners but the ground is going to be very testing and I just want to avoid that with most of them, we hope to have a couple of runners at Newcastle on Wednesday next week where conditions seem a bit better.

Please apologise for the poor quality of the two videos below but I just wanted to see whether I could master the technology.... here is 2nd lot this morning quickening up on the grass, Northern Dusk is the one at the front, he is ready to run in a bumper but has been frustrated by the weather...

and here is Skipping Chapel making a bit of a din coming up the all-weather, that's why he is avoiding the heavy ground at Ayr tomorrow

It will be interesting to see if I have mastered the technology, if so the potential is limitless!