I must start this week with reflections on the Grand National, in which we were hopeful that The Young Master could put in a big display, so naturally we were disappointed to see him come down at the 6th fence. He seemed to be going well up until that point but races don’t come any tougher to win that the Grand National and unfortunately these things do happen in racing. Thankfully, the horse has returned home in good health, and I’m pleased with myself that I gave him a back-up entry for the Bet365 Gold Cup! He won the race at Sandown last year, and there is no reason why he can’t go back there on the final day of the season and put in another strong showing. At just eight there is still plenty to look forward to with this horse, and fingers crossed we can also make it back to Aintree for another tilt at the National in 2018.
Despite the disappointment of The Young Master it has still been an excellent week, with the winners starting to flow once again. We were delighted to give Mark Quinlan a double on his final day as a jockey at Sedgefield on Friday. Mark joined the team as my Assistant Trainer a few months ago, and it was lovely to be able to give him a couple of winners before he waved goodbye to the weighing room.
Supplying the ammunition for his double on the day, Cesar Et Rosalie impressed when winning the 2m1f novices’ hurdle, and he continues to improve. Similar comments apply to Master Burbidge, as he jumped fantastically on his chase debut to claim the win in the 2m5f novices’ limited handicap. Master Burbidge has been in excellent form of late, and he will be a lovely ride for Alice Plunkett in the charity race at Cheltenham in a couple of weeks’ time.
I was over the moon on Sunday as Espoir De Teillee won the bumper at Ffos Las to bring up our century of National Hunt winners for the campaign. It was especially good to see this young horse run so well after he disappointed on debut back in January. He travelled well before showing plenty of battling qualities on the run-in which was exciting to see, and we hope that he is a novice hurdler to look forward to in the autumn. We always aim to improve each year but I never dreamed we could reach 100 winners this season. Having not come from a racing background it was always going to be tough to make it as a trainer in England, so this winter has really exceeded all expectations.
Moving on, we were very happy with Shantou Village at Fontwell as he made a winning return to the track in the 2m5f novices’ chase. The Sussex course was the ideal venue for him to learn ahead of some tougher tests at the end of the month, and we were delighted with the way he tackled his obstacles. He will have an entry for Punchestown, but at this stage the novices’ handicap chase at Sandown on the final day of the season is the more likely target. The Galway Plate is a possible aim for him in the summer but we will take one race at a time with him before making any final decisions.
Elsewhere, we were delighted to have another winner on the Flat this week with Willygolassiego claiming the 1m4f apprentice handicap in exciting fashion at Lingfield. She really hit top gear in the straight to pick up the leaders inside the final furlong under an excellent ride from Hollie Doyle and we hope there is more to come from her next time out.
Looking ahead to the busy Easter weekend, and we have plenty of horses entered up at this stage. We are yet to make a final decision on where Most Celebrated will run, but he will take his chance at some point over the bank holiday. Wherever he goes, we hope he will perform well given the way he has improved recently, and we would love to be able to get another win beside his name. Fingerontheswitch ran well at Haydock on Challenger Final Day last year, and we are hopeful he can put in a strong display in the handicap chase equivalent on Saturday. Noel will take the ride and it would be a nice pot to win, so hopefully we can see the best of him. Baltimore Rock and Rossetti are both entered in the Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton on Sunday, although the former could go to Ayr during the Scottish Grand National meeting so we will make a late decision. Finally, Doing Fine is highly unlikely to make the Irish National field so he could go to Cheltenham next Wednesday for a 3m4f handicap.