It was a long journey to the north-east for Solomn Grundy at Newcastle last weekend but it proved more than worthwhile as he finished second in the novices’ limited handicap chase. He jumped well which was obviously a plus, and he continues to improve with every run this winter.
Our main focus at the weekend was understandably on Newbury where we had three in the Ladbrokes Trophy. Pilgrims Bay travelled in promising style through the race, and we were delighted with his performance to finish 5th in such a prestigious contest. We will look to drop him back in trip to 3m next time out, and he could now go to Kempton just after Christmas for a 0-145 handicap chase which we hope will play to his strengths. Carole’s Destrier was having his first run for almost a year, and with that in mind we were more than content with his performance. He was as fit as we could get him, but he should improve for the run, and he has been entered for the 3m handicap chase at Ascot on the 23rd December. It was disappointing to see Southfield Royale pulled up, and he will now go back over hurdles with the aim of rebuilding his confidence.
Moving on to Plumpton on Monday, we were happy with the display from Kristal Hart to finish 2nd in the 2m handicap hurdle. We knew the winner would be tough to beat, but our mare put in a strong run. Niblawi made his debut over hurdles at Haydock on Wednesday afternoon, where I enjoyed seeing him stay on again when finishing 2nd in the 2m contest. It appeared that he got caught for a little bit of speed when the winner kicked for home, but overall it was a satisfactory starting point over hurdles for him.
Walt again showed his consistency with another solid run, not beaten far to finish third at Chepstow on Saturday. His form now reads 32133243 since joining us and we'll keep going with him to try and get another victory by his name. We were greatly anticipating Doing Fine's run in the London National but it didn't look to be happening for him until he came with a storming late run up the Sandown hill to finish a never nearer forth place, only beaten five lengths or so. It was frustrating but also very encouraging, he is a true out and out stayer and that's how we'll campaign him going forward. The Scottish National could be on the agenda for him as a big end of season target and he may have a break to freshen him up over the Christmas period.
The ground went against The Young Master in the end at Aintree but he still ran with credit in the Becher, jumping a lot better with a clear round bar one mistake. He has come out of his race in good shape and we remain hopeful for the rest of his campaign. The next step for him could be at Cheltenham where I have a race in mind for him on New Years Day.
The cold weather has played havoc with the fixture list this week, but there is still plenty to look forward to over the coming weeks and months.
It was disappointing to have to withdraw Impulsive Star at Exeter last time, but he was slightly off colour and I felt it best to wait with him - the welfare of our horses always comes first. He seems to be fine at home now though, and could go to Catterick on Tuesday.
Espoir De Teillee could also head to the same venue as he looks to follow up an impressive debut success over hurdles at the North Yorkshire track. He came out of that race in fine form, and is certainly one we are looking forward to running again soon.
Elsewhere, Shantou Village is looking happy in himself at the moment, but is having a little break ahead of the second half of the campaign as we wait for the better ground. Our Punchestown Festival winner, Dead Right, banged himself at home which meant he has had a quiet first half of the campaign. He is coming along well now though which is excellent, and we hope to see him on the track towards the end of January.
Talking of JP McManus owned horses, we were delighted to see Chirico Vallis claim the novices’ chase at Bangor on Friday afternoon. He took a tumble last time out so it was reassuring to see him jump efficiently and with real confidence, plus it is always a thrill to have a winner in the famous green and gold silks.
Moving forward to the weekend, we only have two runners declared but we are excited to see both in action. Kalondra has been fantastic for us, and more than deserves his place in a competitive looking 2m5f novices’ chase at Cheltenham on Saturday afternoon. He performed well in a messy race at Wincanton last time out, and we hope he can make his presence felt. Lastly, Clondaw Cracker makes his seasonal debut in the 2m4f novices’ hurdle at Southwell on Sunday. He disappointed last season after performing well as a bumper horse, but appears to be in decent nick now.