Friday, 29 October 2010

the times they are a changin…

We run Native Coll in the 1.30 at Carlisle on Sunday, 13 run, Lucy rides and the ground will be soft.  He is running back over hurdles for his seasonal debut and is stepping up to 3 miles for the first time, I think the handicapper has been quite generous in allotting him a mark 13lb below his chase mark and if he stays the trip (which I believe he will) then he should go well, there are a couple of unexposed sorts in the race though and he is a big tank of a horse who takes a while to get fit but I am obviously encouraged by Isla Pearl Fisher's effort confirming we are ahead of where we usually are at this time of year, no doubt we will be brought back down to earth on Sunday though...


Lucy is also on Knock Three Times for Wilf Storey in the 5.10 at Wetherby tomorrow, it put up an improved effort to finish 5th at long odds at Kelso last time but this is Wetherby's big day of the year and it looks predictably competitive.  On another note, after careful consideration Lucy has started the process of withdrawing from her course at Edinburgh University; she is absolutely determined to give riding as a jockey a proper go, she is under no illusion about how tough it will be but she wants to give it her best shot and the plan is that she will ride out here 3-4 days per week and make herself available to ride out for other yards in Scotland and the North of England on the other days.  Essentially she is too impatient to put her career on hold to spend four years at University to come out with a fairly ubiquitous degree, no money and probably facing a higher tax rate; it's difficult to argue with that and having thought about it carefully and seen how focussed and hard working she is, Mrs A and I will give her our full support (although she will only ride for the yard when I consider it appropriate).

I feel a little wistful about this as I had such a good time at University for four years and would have happily stayed there for forty, times have moved on though and I think that the dilemma faced by Lucy will become increasingly commonplace, it seems crazy now that I enjoyed a tax payer funded four years of hedonism in the early 80's.  I am sure I could have learnt what I did in a much shorter timescale (four months perhaps?), it was very interesting though but the only useful thing that I got out of it was a jolly good wife (I wonder if that feeling is reciprocated?) and I suppose I had the chance to experiment with a few recreational substances without having to worry about getting up in the morning....

One other item of news is that we have parted company with Dougie who had been driving the lorry and done a wonderful job here over the summer as facilities manager.  Fortunately Jim Barclay, who worked here for many years and has just given up training in his own right, has volunteered his services and he will help out with driving the lorry and looking after the facilities for a couple of hours each day - I hope he can put up with my fastidious approach...

Sorry for rambling on, the weather here has been pretty rough this week but if it hadn't been I would be moaning about the ground being too firm, everyone's been working very hard, so have the horses and they seem in good order, roll on Sunday (and we even get an extra hour in bed - what could be better than that...)

Friday, 22 October 2010


It isn't only the horses that can become a little uptight prior to their first run after a break, trainer can be prone to a little tetchiness as well and I went through the race a hundred times in the early hours of yesterday morning, thinking how I would like Isla Pearl Fisher ridden and how I hoped the race would pan out; it rarely goes to plan but yesterday "Surf" appeared to have read the script as I had the joy of watching the race pan out in front of my eyes exactly as I had hoped.  As agreed Paddy Aspell dropped him out stone last for the first circuit then gradually crept into contention on the second before winning shaken up and going away providing a wonderful day for all connections, most particularly his owner Philippa Gammell who has had the patience and vision to give the team here the time to let the horse come to himself . 


He was a picture of calmness and to my great relief the changes that I have witnessed recently held good on the day, the handicapper will now have his say and although we won't risk undoing everything by being greedy and going back too quickly I believe he can prove progressive now that everything has clicked.


All in all a fantastic start to the season, it's good to know that some of the changes we have made at least haven't done any damage and hopefully we can build on this, we didn't declare for Aintree on Sunday, ground wouldn't have been soft enough and no point getting carried away!


Pictured here are Mrs Gammell, Isla Pearl Fisher, Amy McGregor and Paddy Aspell just some of the team responsible, special mention though should go to James Barclay who has been riding the horse most of the time at home and has played a big part in helping him to relax and Lucy A who has been schooling the horse over fences.  There is a big story about the breeding, upbringing and naming of this horse - suffice it to say that it was distinctly auspicious that Classic FM chose to play Bizet's duet after which he is named to Mrs G on her journey from Glen Isla to Carlisle... happy days..


Wednesday, 20 October 2010

the waiting is over….


It seemed appropriate on a cold frosty morning with the first proper snow dusting the hills of Northern Perthshire that I made our first declaration for the winter 2010/11 National Hunt season.  We run Mrs Gammell’s Isla Pearl Fisher in the 5.00pm at Carlisle tomorrow, 9 run, Paddy Aspell rides and the ground will be on the quick side of good.

It took "Surf" a while to settle in last season and we didn't really train him very hard to begin with, then the big freeze came along and his preparation was far from perfect.  We concentrated on trying to understand one of the best looking but enigmatic and puzzling horses that we have had here, he was quite tricky to train last winter, he has inherited a lot of Strong Gale "quirkiness" through his dam and was highly strung both out at exercise and in his stable.  For the last couple of months however he has been much more straightforward and we have been able to train him properly, he is a much better horse now in every way and he is on very good terms with himself.  Whether this translates into an improved performance on the track depends entirely on how he reacts to being back at the races, he is trying three miles for the first time and if he gets buzzed up and races freely he won't stay the trip, being his first run for six months this scenario is quite likely but I have every confidence that in time he will learn to settle in his races in the way that he has at home and when that happens he might just appear quite well handicapped....

Fingers Crossed!



Saturday, 2 October 2010

Nearly there…..

A magnificent sporting weekend and whilst the main focus will be on France and Wales the Northern jumps season is gradually wakening up with Hexham’s season starting yesterday and Kelso’s tomorrow.  Although we are still a couple of weeks of having any runners Lucy has a ride in the 2.25 on Knock Three Times for Wilf Storey and we are busy here preparing the horses.  
This includes trips around the Lomond Hills to use Lucinda’s first class woodchip gallop and today it was the turn of Native Coll (Kit), Northern Flame (Lucy) and Seeking Power (James).  Earlier in the week Isla Pearl Fisher, Papamoa and Forcefield were there and hopefully next week those six will go again as will Isla Patriot and Four Fiddlers.  Taking the horses away and giving them a strong piece of work on another gallop has a number of different benefits and this season I aim to give all of them 5 or 6 away days before they actually line up to race.  The whole routine at the moment is working very well and although I’ve been training horses for a year or two I am amazed how exhilarated I feel watching them progress each morning. 
Of course it's not all a bed of roses, I have gone to particular effort this autumn to have our own feed mixed and have sourced ingredients from the far reaches of the British Isles, the first (large) batch arrived 10 days ago and I have been gradually introducing it; most of the horses love it and tuck in with their usual zest however there are one or two fusspots who seem to have decided that I should never have been allowed in the kitchen and simply stare at me balefully.  I ignore them and creep back in a little later to check and, woe betide, the feed is still lying untouched on the floor.  At that stage my resolve cracks and I give them a bowl of their old nuts and worry my way back to the office.  Another vexing issue is a new habit of the yearlings up the hill, that of chasing me on the quad bike, luckily they are a bit faster than the quad but
this is no consolation when  they are hurtling around in the wet, heels flying and me cowering and shouting.  Additional stress is introduced when I have been too lazy to climb off the quad and close the gate.... hmm.. mustn't forget to mention the weather of course which has already given us a few extra challenges - there is no doubt that I am guilty of a little schadenfreude when observing the problems faced at Celtic Manor, particularly by the USA team waterproofs. Chuckle.
Whatever the weather throws at us they are exciting days, we just need to do our best to ensure they remain healthy and sound…