Monday, 28 February 2011


Northern Flame (centre)
Routine Monday with all the horses working on the all-weather; entries made for Kelso on Saturday (Almost Blue, Twelve Paces, Isla Patriot, Commercial Express, Northern Flame) and Alnwick on Sunday (Skipping Chapel, Almost Blue, Commercial Express).  Local eventer in to give dressage to Daasij & Forcefield this afternoon, I find the horses we have that have learnt their trade on the flat struggle to use themselves properly and would like to help them a bit. Fallout from yesterday not too bad, apparently the course doctor arrived to witness the ambulance being towed into the middle of the course, realising it would therefore have to be towed off with a stricken rider he said racing couldn't go ahead, fair enough, but if someone had anticipated this it would have saved us all a lot of time and money.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

It's a long way..

to Murrayfield via Corbridge, and rather expensive when I've driven and seperately sent a horsebox with two staff to the point-to-point only for it to be called off at 11.30 because the ambulance couldn't get round the inside of the course (was it 4WD I ask?).
I sympathise with the organisers but after the previous weekend when frankly they shouldn't have been racing at all it just makes me want to stick to the racecourse and I am sure there are many other people thinking the same....
Luckily Mrs A was extremely kind and met me on the edge of Edinburgh with tickets for the Scotland v Ireland match and whilst initialy rather non-plussed by the amount of empty seats and Scotland's poor play the game came alive in the second half and Scotland played some superb uplifting rugby only just failing to catch Ireland in the closing stages thanks largely to the latter's heroic defending.
No racing until Saturday this week but a fine forecast so hopefully the flood water will eventually recede from my arable ground and we will be able to see if there is any of the (rather valuable) winter wheat left....
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Ho ho

I still find it a novelty to be able to actually do what we want with the horses and yesterday I had a particularly satisfying time working 10 of them on the grass gallops which were in fine shape, all seemed to work well and some of the young bumper horses are looking closer to a run.
Today Skipping Chapel and Commercial Express are heading down to the Tynedale point-to-point at Corbridge in Northumberland, both are due to be ridden by Kit, Lucy is booked to ride Minouchka in the Ladies Open, Commercial Express will only run if the ground has dried up a bit.
Aware that this blog is in danger of becoming dull I am working on some interesting new initiatives involving guest bloggers & a couple of new festival tipsters, much of the day-to-day news will be now be carried on the news section of the website.
Skipping Chapel

Friday, 25 February 2011

at the coalface..

a reasonably productive day at Ayr yesterday with all the horses running well; Daasij didn't seem to quite see out the trip on the testing ground but still made a promising debut finishing 4th, Forcefield was outpaced down the back straight but stayed on nicely to finish 5th, Seeking Power was also outpaced but kept on and also finished 5th - this was a much better effort that last time and I think he can win again given the right conditions, Noir et Vert put up a bold front running display but once again had to give best to the Cheltenham bound Special Portrait and in the bumper Four Fiddlers came 4th.  Not bad and a geat day out with Ayr's owners lunch and some surprisingly mild spring-like weather.
A mild blustery sort of morning today, most of them had a routine workout on the all-weather and then Northern Flame, Minimo and Twelve Paces worked on Lucinda's woodchip.
This weekend it looks like our only runner will be Skipping Chapel who will attempt to follow up his Lanark win in the Winners of One race at Corbridge, hopefully Lucy might have a ride or two also, thereafter next week is a quiet one in the North but we will be hoping to be busy again at Kelso on Saturday 5th where we are sponsoring.
Skipping Chapel

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Busy bees

Whilst I was sad to miss Kit's first winner I was pleased to note the "empties" on our return home, with minimal assistance from his abstemious sister (well, she was riding at Catterick the next day and the "limit" for jockeys whom they regularly test is half that for driving for some obscure reason) there was evidence of a good party.  I think his celebrations were spurred on after meeting his Godfather John C-J for the first time for a few years who happened to be presenting the prizes for the Open Maiden Race at the Dumfriess-shire & Stewartry point-to-point, unfortunately for John he was caught slightly off guard and when introduced to the winning rider he replied "that's funny, I've got a godson called Kit Alexander," "I know" replied Kit, "that's me"  - ouch!
We will be busy at Ayr today with five runners - Daasij makes his debut for the yard & a new partnership (comprising Messrs Liddle, Philipps, Robinson & Stanistreet) in the opener at 2.20, Paul Gallagher rides and the ground will be soft.  We hope this horse might prove to be well-handicapped but I am very uncertain as to whether he will handle the soft ground today, if he does he shouldn't be far away.  In the 2.50 Forcefield runs for the Earley & Macdonald partnership, Lucy rides, this trip might be on the sharp side, he is improving though he is likely to be seen in better light in handicap company.  Seeking Power runs in the 4.30, again Lucy rides, he ran no race last time in the visor but there may have been a few excuses that day and I am hoping for a much better effort.  Noir et Vert runs in the Hunter Chase with brother Jamie on board, only 6 run including the first three from the Men's Open at Lanark last week, he was 2nd then & if he handles the ground should improve for the more galloping track.  Finally Four Fiddlers runs for the Macdonald Earley partnership in the 5.30, Lucy riding, he is improving and the ground should suit but he has a lot to find with the top two in the market.
After that I think I shall need to lie down....

Forcefield at Haydock Park

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


We were back on the grass this morning which was refreshing for everyone including the horses who were all bucking and squealing as if they could smell spring round the corner, it was remarkable that all partnerships remained in tact, although the ground is soft the way we manage the grass gallops means that it hadn't been used since last March so it is pretty decent, certainly in comparison to most of the racecourses (see below!). It didn't appear in any way spring like driving through the snow to Carlisle (Monday) and Amulree didn't appreciate the heavy ground, she jumped round  in workmanlike fashion and it was a satisfactory enough introduction to chasing.  Signs of spring were also distinctly absent at the Percy point-to-point on Sunday where it was bitterly cold and the ground was, err, muddy? - this is the finishing post..
I'm always as keen as anyone to race and I am a tremendous admirer of all the hard work that has gone in to producing a really good track at Alnwick but I'm not sure they did themselves (or the course!) any favours by racing in these conditons, where do you draw the line?  At least we had made the sensible decision to leave ours at home.  Lucy had two rides, a third in the Ladies Open and a fall in the Restricted.  I received this photograph from her at 7.30am on Sunday morning (we were still making our way back from the Alps)
it is the "view from the horse" as she took Amulree out for an early morning exercise prior to departing for Alnwick, she had started feeding the 32 horses here at 5.45am. This had been her routine whilst we had been away relaxing on the ski slopes, as well as organising the daily exercise book (via a couple of calls each day with me), riding out and doing the morning feeds she had also been riding at Ayr, Lanark and Catterick - all to yield two pulled ups (for me!), two also-rans, two falls and a third.  A tough life and completely typical of the 24-7 dedication that applies to so many people in racing, she hasn't had a great time recently but  quite a few different people are giving her rides now, a good agent has taken her on and there is a chance of an attractive sponsorship deal in the pipeline; I am sure her luck will change shortly.
And now its Tuesday and I still haven't posted my blog!  Another very productive day with Noir et Vert and Twelve Paces schooling nicely over fences;  Northern Flame, "Alf," Isla Patriot, Minimo and Playing Footsie all working well on the grass, and Commercial Express, Buffalo Ballet and Little Glenshee having a good blowout on Lucinda's woodchip  
Buffalo Ballet (Lucy) and Little Glenshee (Amy)
We hope to be very busy this week at Ayr on Thursday, exactly what runs will depend on the weather, we have 8 horses entered, will keep anyone interested posted via this blog... 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

back in the groove..

well, back from an excellent week's skiing and off to Percy p2p at Alnwick today, we have no runners as the ground will be very soft and Amulree will instead head for the Mares Novice Chase at Carlisle tomorrow (2.40), Lucy rides, 8 run and the ground will be heavy. Whilst she would have had a better chance today I felt that the extended 3 miles on the ground would have knocked the stuffing out of her a bit, I am keen to have her back running under rules as soon as possible and 2m 4f round Carlisle is a nice introduction to chasing though we could do with things drying up a little.
After that we will hopefully be heading to Ayr on Thursday where we have plenty of entries, as ever what runs will depend on what the weather does....

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Off the mark...

A mixed weekend but one fantastic result with Kit recording his first winner on the home-bred Skipping Chapel in the 18 runner maiden at the Dumfriess-shire point-to-point today.  Earlier Uncle Jamie came a good 2nd in the Mens Open on Noir et Vert, Lucy took a fall in the Restricted and at the end of the day Commercial Express came 5th in the Club race, he was unsuited by the ground.  Not such a good day yesterday with neither Native Coll or Seeking Power running competitively and both pulling up.  I blame myself entirely, it's easy to get carried away when the horses are running well and with 8 of our last 10 runners having been placed I was keen to get a winner, with hindsight (which is always a wonderful thing...) neither of these horses should have been running, Native Coll had a hard race on heavy ground 10 days previously and clearly wasn't over it and Seeking Power had only finished a course of antibiotics for a lung infection five days previously - impatience - always a mistake and these two horses will now need a longer break to get back on the right track.
Never mind, a couple of good results and I was absolutely delighted that Kit got off the mark, he has been working hard at it and this horse isn't an easy ride.  I had the commentary to all 4 races relayed to me on the ski slopes which was great, yesterday however I was mid air when the two races were being run, it was a particulalry excrutiating form of mental torture...... tomorrow Lucy rides in the 2.50 and 3.50 at Catterick for Wilf Storey, I'll find a way to listen....

Friday, 11 February 2011


Twelve Paces (Lucy), Little Glenshee (Amy) and Almost Blue (Jamie) on Lucinda's woodchip this morning.
It has been a dull grey sort of a morning here but also a very productive one and two five year old unraced grey mares worked particularly well, Little Glenshee and Playing Footsie are both at that exciting stage in their careers when each piece of work becomes a revelation as the penny slowly drops with them that they are racehorses.  Playing Footsie worked nicely on the grass with Four Fiddlers and Forcefield (both of whom have shown ability in bumpers) and then later in the morning Little Glenshee did some excellent work at Lucinda's with Twelve Paces and Almost Blue (both multiple winners). Also working nicely here on the grass were Amulree and Minimo whilst the weekend runners just had a short sharp leg & lung stretch. 
Little Glenshee

Weather permitting we will have a busy weekend starting with two runners at Ayr tomorrow; Native Coll runs in the 2.50, Lucy rides and 10 run and Seeking Power runs in his first time visor in the 3.55, Lucy rides again and 7 run.  The ground is soft and will probably ease further as rain is expected, I would like to think both horses will run well.  Plans for the Lanark point-to-point will remain flexible but it looks likely that Jamie will ride Noir et Vert in the Mens Open, and Kit will ride Skipping Chapel in the Maiden and Commercial Express in the Northern Area race.  Lucy is riding for another stable and is also booked to ride for Wilf Storey at Catterick on Monday.
Mrs A and I will be away with the two younger children which is certainly going to test our powers of delegation and will no doubt provide a bumper few days for Vodafone.  No doubt we will be fretful and distracted but it on't be necessary as I have absolute confidence in the team here....

Playing Footsie

Thursday, 10 February 2011


I don't use "headgear" as much as many other trainers but on Saturday the plan is to run Seeking Power in a visor for the first time at Ayr, not because I think he doesn't try but more to make sure that he concentrates throughout the race as he does have a tendency to run in snatches being on and off the bridle, to prepare him for htat we schooled him over six fences this morning wearing a visor. I think it sharpened him up a little, who knows whether it will work in a race, hope so.  Also schooling were Native Coll over fences and Isla Patriot over hurdles.  The rest of the horses cantered on the grass, Grania our monthly physio was in and went through most of the horses with Gillian.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Northern Flame could never really get going in the mud at Carlisle today but he plugged on to finish 7th of 11, Paddy Aspell reported that he couldn't get out of a canter and he was beaten before they reached the first hurdle.  Hmm, I had said I wouldn't run him on heavy and what do I do?  This game can snooker you slightly sometimes, he was balloted out at Newcastle last week, his preferred engagement at Ayr earlier this week was abandoned, we could have waited until Kelso next week but there is a chance of frost returning, he badly needed to run... so, we run on heavy; he appeared fresh and well on his return home - hopefully no harm done and at least we now know for definite that he doesn't handle deep ground.  I will look for a race for him in 3-4 weeks time when things might have started to dry up a bit.
Another good day back here, able to work on the grass and Commercial Express, Isla Patriot, Buffalo Ballet, Seeking Power, Daasij, Skipping Chapel & Noir et Vert all seemed to go well; the rest worked in the school and on the all-weather and should get on to the grass tomorrow.
Noir et Vert
I walked the course at Lanark pre Sunday's point-to-point on my way home from Carlisle and was amazed by how well it had drained considering the rain they have had in the last week, the course is in good condition with well-prepared fences & I suspect they will have plenty of runners.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Much Better

A much better day & whilst the grass remains sodden we were able to use both schools and the all-weather and the horses did plenty of work. We run Northern Flame in the 1.35 at Carlisle tomorrow, 11 run, Paddy Aspell rides and the ground will be very soft.  This horse improved a lot on his second outing over hurdles at Ayr a month ago, he has to step up again & I suspect he will be better over further but it wouldn't surprise me to see him run a big race at long odds if he handles the conditions though ultimately tomorrow is about furthering his education.
I was delighted to be able to collect Isla Pearl Fisher from the Glasgow University veterinary hospital this afternoon, he seemed happy to be home and everyone here was happy to have him back.  It is worth mentioning how impressed I have been with the team at Glasgow in every aspect of the way they have handled this case, it also never ceases to amaze me how much more straightforward it appears to be to receive the right level of medical care and associated communication if you are a horse compared with being a human.

Monday, 7 February 2011

grimmer than grim can be..

This morning started with a text from Ayr stating that racing today had been abandoned due to an unforecast inch of overnight rain, luckily they let us know at about 6.20 so there was time to inform owners planning to attend before they had set off on their journeys, disappointing but conditions would have been a bit extreme and it will be in the better long term interests of both horses that today was called off; I will try to find an alternative engagement soon for our two intended runners, Northern Flame and Daasij as they both seem on particularly good form.  After an apallingly wet and windy end to last week it is unbelievable that today we have such grim conditions, heavy overnight rain turned to snow at dawn and has now turned back to freezing rain driven by a strong northerly wind, all ground surfaces are completely sodden, the horses hate it and the team of staff have to show great resilience to keep going back out into it.  It is tempting of course to say why not give the horses a day off and stick them on the walker but they did that yesterday (Sunday) and by giving them all 45 minutes of walking, trotting and cantering in the school (which is all we can do today), we are keeping them ticking over and will be able to work them properly as soon as the opportunity arises, as soon as you ease back off them you have to give them a little time to build up again or risk complications and I firmly believe that the effort put in on mornings like this will be rewarded with success later - but it really is tough for the troops and it is no coincidence that I have a quote on my desk for a roof for our round school which would give us a covered ride for next winter, it would make life easier on mornings like these and I will try to do it if I can put the funding together...
Northern Flame
Ah, the weather, a never-ending subject here, anyway... this week... if conditions allow we have Northern Flame in at  Carlisle on Wednesday, Seeking Power and Native Coll at Ayr on Saturday and most of the point-to-pointers in at Lanark on Sunday, time will tell what runs where.  I have just spoken to the surgeon that operated on Isla Pearl Fisher; his cast was taken off yesterday and he is very happy with him, he appears comfortable on the leg and can come home in a day or two... one or two minor things to be done to enhance prospects for a full recovery, so far things look pretty good so fingers crossed....  oh, and its now snowing heavily again... think we may have to admit defeat with 3rd lot...

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


After a remarkably quiet January weather-wise February has come in with a bang and we have strong westerly winds carrying plenty of blustery showers.  The long-term forecast is for much of the same throughout the month, not much fun but better than snow and ice so far as training horses goes. Native Coll put up a solid effort to finish 3rd at Newcastle today, he jumped well but appeared not to stay in a strongly run race with a very strong headwind, we may drop him back to two miles now but I am conscious that he lives next door to Seeking Power who I had to withdraw when he scoped badly yesterday afternoon.  He did beat the horse that won the last time he ran there (when he fell).  No more runners this week, next action will hopefully be at Ayr on Monday where we have Daasij and Northern Flame entered.
Isla Pearl Fisher
We suffered a serious setback on Saturday when Isla Pearl Fisher was found to be lame after returning from exercise.  Xrays diagnosed a hairline fracture to a hind pastern, he was transferrred to Glasgow University's Equine Hospital on Monday and operated on that afternoon.  Surgery appears to have gone well and the plan is that he will recuperate there until returning here early next week, Mrs Gammell went to see him yesterday and reported him to be in good heart.  Whilst this is distressing for everyone involved it is a common injury (and operation) amongst horses in training and, God-willing, there is no reason whatsoever why he won't be able to perform to his best again in the future.  There is a long way to go but I can assure everyone that he will receive the best possible care and attention, I can't wait to have him back here and will update on his progress next week.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Delighted with yesterday's runners who both put up career best efforts, Forcefield coming 7th of 17 at 100-1 and Four Fiddlers 3rd of 11 at 40-1.  It was a cold day but Ayr look after Owners very well so we were able to keep warm (just!).
This morning the recent runners had an easy day but 9 did fastish work on the grass and Almost Blue, Amulree and Daasij went to Lucinda's where they all worked well.  Tomorrow we run Native Coll in the 1.50 at Newcastle, Peter Buchanan rides and we will be hoping for a clear round now that he has fallen on his two most recent starts, he was always Peter's ride but Lucinda has normally run something against him, I am pleased that he is available tomorrow as he has done a lot of work with the horse here, 11 run and the ground is soft.  I felt he would have won last time, he still seems in good heart so let's hope we find out tomorrow.  Seeking Power is declared for the 3.50, 10 run and Lucy rides, his participation will be subject to a scope this afternoon.  Northern Flame was balloted out and will now head to Ayr on Monday or Carlisle on Wednesday next week.
Native Coll