Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Big Day

The first bale from a new sward of Kinneston haylage
Call me sad but one of the main excitements this morning was unwrapping the first bale of haylage from this year's crop taken from a new field.  Sown in April 2010, topped in June 2010, intensively grazed by sheep through last autumn, rolled and fertilised this spring, cut, turned, baled and wrapped in a little window of weather at the end of June then left to mature for two months..... aah, the smell of spring - perfect colour, texture, moisture, hmm what fun it must be to be a vigneronne..... it's only the first bale but if they are all like this the horses will surely thrive on it. Just in case I am losing my marbles it will be sent off for full nutrional and mineral analysis & compared with over 20 other results from here and leading commercial brands.
The equally exciting first batch of this year's Kinneston mix, a unique hard feed put together for us by Medlock & Medlock in Laurencekirk
Big debate over last few days has been Lucy's amateur status and after lengthy conversations with a number of people her application for a professional licence to ride as a conditional over jumps and an apprentice on the flat has been submitted to the BHA Licensing Committee today.  It's a big step, there are only two other professional female jump jockeys in the UK and if the licence is granted I suspect she will be the first one ever from Scotland, as they say...... a lonely furrow.  She will be missed in the pointing field but we do have last season's Northern Area champion novice rider in the stable to fill her shoes........
Oh and funnily enough I do have surplus top quality haylage for sale (£30 per bale ex farm) and plans are underway to market the special mix in the big Southern training centres, it will not be available in Scotland! (sorry, grubby commerce creeps into blog, may I be forgiven) 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Stamina.... ????

Sunday 28th August, Edinburgh, 5.15pm, height of the festival - it's 9 degrees and raining - the good old Scottish summer draws to a close....... anyway, progressive day with the horses yesterday, won the golf, Lucy was a good 3rd at Redcar and Newcastle beat Fulham 2-1 to go 3rd in the Premiership - lacklustre to begin with but there seemed to be a really good team spirit and maybe they can make something of their season despite Mr Ashley flogging the crown jewels during the summer.... a bit much for some though, stamina questionable! 
The train back from St James's Park....

Friday, 26 August 2011


The Paddy Premium on the Riverbank earlier this summer - no dust now!
Busy week, horses all going really well, now doing 3 7f canters on the the riverbank sand gallop combined with steady stuff on the all-weather; weather permitting we will have a 6f round gallop harrowed on the stubble later today, then we can really push on, just at that exciting stage when the young horses from last year are showing themselves to be much stronger and focussed. Otherwise a real treat from Mrs A when she took me to see the opera Semiramade at the Edinburgh Festival last night, she thought a 6pm start time would be perfect for going out to supper afterwards, she didn't realise it lasted four and a half hours, hmm, actually it was marvellous and we both stayed the trip but SHE was the one that nodded off, not me, despite a busy day involving guests for first lot and a whistlestop trip to Aberdeenshire for the opening of the magnificent new Scottish SPCA animal rescue centre at Drumoak - superior stamina I say.  A fun weekend beckons with golf on the Old Course this afternoon after a light lunch at the R&A, harrowing the gallops this evening, hopefully a productive Saturday morning with the horses then catching up in the office pm prior to watching Lucy ride Sartingo for Alan Swinbank in the 5.20 at Redcar then out to dinner followed by a trip to St James's Park on Sunday to watch Newcastle thrash Fulham (ha ha) - a 1pm kick-off, how civilised, will be back home for evening stables on Sunday night.

Monday, 22 August 2011


A splendid and historic days racing at Perth on Saturday with Royalty blending seamlessly with numerous stag & hen parties, all enjoying perfect weather with some good racing. Another lovely late summer's day here today, horses have all now had routine examinations from the physio & dentist and have had 4 - 6 weeks of build up work, another week or so and we will be able to get serious!
Lucy has had a marginally frustrating patch, Pete withdrawn from Market Rasen on Saturday morning and today at Hemilton horse reared and went through front of stall necessitating withdrawal, she will be hoping for a more productive time at Redcar or Cartmel on Saturday

Friday, 19 August 2011

Early autumn..

Team Photographer
Rather perversely one of the aspects to training horses I enjoy most is feeding them early in the morning, I find it an invaluable part of the process of coming to know the horses and them coming to know me, I often spot subtle changes in their demeanour.  This morning many of them appeared wild; increased feeding and fitness combined with a crisp air indicating a change in the season had sparked them up and some were bucking in their boxes ready to take a chunk out of trainer if he didn't deliver a bowl of nuts with haste; my pleasure and a good indicator that they are ready to take on more work. 
Lobbing round the stubble
No luck for Lucy at Epsom and sadly she will be absent from Perth tomorrow opting for Market Rasen instead where she rides Pete for Barry Murtagh in the 7.30.  A splendid 8 race card at Perth with the highlight being a highly competitive summer handicap champion hurdle which has attracted an excellent field, much credit must go to Sam Morshead for for producing such a fantastic race for the time of year, I just hope that the weather and racegoers behave for our royal visitors, both have been quite iffy so far this summer!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Pressing on

Full steam ahead now with 15 horses in full work, most of them cantering steadily for 2 -3 miles on the stubble fields each day, no problems with firm ground this year and by all accounts it was rather good timing for Mrs A to have organised the family holiday to Italy last week.  
An August morning on the stubbles
As an extra celebration and to avoid the nightmare of Pisa airport on a summer Saturday we flew to Venice on the Friday and as ever I was struck by how the modern Venetians are just as good at emptying travellers' pockets as their ancestors. After a 4.30am start I was hot and thirsty by the time I reached our room (or cell), for many generations used by Nuns the convent on the Giudecca has been converted into a hotel and I did wonder what the previous occupants would have made of the 7euro charge the hotel wanted for a bottle of mineral water from the mini-bar, never has water tasted so, err, expensive. The "free" glass of Prosecco in reception half an hour previously had been slightly spoilt by Lucy's mobile going off and a top flat trainer coming on to offer a good ride at Beverley the following Thursday, oh dear, what was she going to do, obvious really and in the afternoon I found myself in the hotel's business centre printing off a rather pricey boarding pass for Lucy for the Ryanair flight from (guess where?) Pisa to Edinburgh on the following Tuesday... ah well, an early start and after a long drive on the Tuesday morning I was heading back to our holiday house when a text from Lucy arrived to tell me the horse hadn't been declared on account of the rain-softened ground, that's racing I suppose but it didn't leave me in the greatest of humours - I suppose that without her single-minded devotion to the cause she wouldn't have made the progress that she has to date. Still a shame to foreshorten her first holiday for two years and another transfer of cash from my pocket to greedy O'Leary, he is as good as the Venetians at that job but certainly lacks their style! Funnily enough I nearly bought a horse from him two weeks ago however it was lame, his brother tried to convince me that I was hallucinating and then the horse made a startling amount of money in the ring, fishy business I say.

Family Alexander await their taxi
Many apologies for the rambling, well over a month before we will have any runners but Lucy remains busy and today she rides Daytime Dreamer in the 5pm for Martin Todhunter and James Callow, then in the 5.30 she rides Deferto Delphi for Barry Murtagh - both should go well. Tomorrow she rides at Epsom in the Ladies Derby at 6.15; her first ride for Mark Johnston and her first ride in the Maktoum colours - should be tremendous to experience that unique track. Saturday will hopefully be either Perth or Market Rasen.
Plenty of racing news for me to bore on about, Howard received the inevitable career-ending ban - I think everyone in racing (apart from PF Nicholls) is disappointed about how unimaginative Mr Wylie was in his choice of new trainer, it's unhealthy for the sport when so many top owners migrate towards one trainer, disappointing for the North as well. Changing the Grand National, well, my view is the main thing they need to do to minimise the risk of fatalities is stop the ground riding too fast, making the fences more straightforward is liable to have the reverse effect of that intended by increasing the speed of the race, as for the PR disaster of last year's race - the responsibility for that lies solely with the BBC who played it up big time.
And now York, sadly too much on here to make our annual pilgimage and "Frank" appears to have taken umbrage at his cousin's Gordon's  "Glorious Goodwood" so no tips (phew)
Who does this new quad belong to?

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Easy for some..

Wet again everywhere today but very warm at Doncaster Sales on Tuesday where we had a productive day buying the horse we wanted within our budget - Massini Man arrived here yesterday evening and will now have a short spell at grass.  Harvest looked like it was almost complete in Yorkshire, we hope for  few dry days so we can get started, can't help thinking they have it a bit easier - noticed they were baling all their rape straw, we used to do that now and again, don't grow rape any more, bad for the horses, hmm.  Lucy has completed her spell with Kevin Ryan and will now ride out for a few different people until our horses are doing a bit more, we have started some gentle cantering, very happy with the stage the horses are at, will keep stepping things up.  It was wet by the last race at Carlisle on Monday night and Lucy's dramatic last gasp victory was nearly followed by a tumble when the horse slipped, captured on camera......not sure how she recovered from this one!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


5-1 to the amateurs at Carlisle last night in the Ladies Pro-Am and a great night for Lucy coming 2nd on Bandamanan for Alan Swinbank and then winning the last at 25-1 on Daytime Dreamer for Martin Todhunter and James Callow, ironically beating her boss Kevin Ryan's horse by the narrowest of margins in a thrilling finish. The evening seems to have been a tremendous success with over 95 runners contesting the six races and a massive crowd raising plenty of money for breast cancer charities, hopefully it will be repeated.