Last Season at a Glance
We started last season by capitalizing on some excellent prize money provided by numerous Summer Jumping tracks such as Perth and Stratford etc. Summer Jumping has really come of age as watering regimes have improved, and there are some very decent prizes to be won. Although we have more horses for the traditional jumping season from autumn to spring, it’s great to be able to rack up significant winnings by the end of the summer. Thus, we enjoyed a good start to the season with winners throughout May-September whom provided us a terrific platform to go into the autumn in fine form.
The Chepstow October meeting is the traditional start to the jumps season. It is a track that we do notoriously well at with 7 winners last term from just 17 runners. The team there have put a huge effort behind their Season Opener, with over £200,000 on offer. I’ll certainly be aiming a few horses at the two days this year, and it looks like a fixture that can legitimately set the autumn alight, with more than just one or two valuable races.
The first big winner of the season was Sir Valentino in the highly competitive Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. Sir Valentino put in a really gutsy performance to win by a short head from Garde La Victoire. He competed at the highest level throughout the season, being beaten ½ l by Special Tiara in the Desert Orchid at Kempton over Christmas, and third to the same horse at Cheltenham in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. His season was one to be proud of: running 8 times and notching up 2 victories, earning a significant £113,000 for the team.
Our other 2-mile specialist, who enjoyed such a memorable end to the 2015-16 season at Aintree and Punchestown is God’s Own. He is the highest rated horse in the yard, at 166 and continued to put his best foot forward in six Graded races. Starting at Ascot in November and concluding at Punchestown in April, where he finished 2 ¼ l third to Fox Norton in the same race he won the year before. With the exception of Aintree, he was never out of the money, and beaten just 14 ¾l in total over those five races. He will again be targeted at the numerous graded races over the forthcoming months.
The Worlds End showed considerable improvement over the course of the year and is another one of our horses that has been successful at the highest level. Back to back wins at Chepstow set him up nicely to step up to graded company in the Albert Bartlett Prestige Hurdle at Haydock in February. Where he stamped his authority and was an impressive winner, earning himself a rightful spot at Cheltenham. Unfortunately, he tipped up 2 from home when going strongly under Adrian. Consolation was quickly to hand at Aintree in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices Hurdle, making him our top performer over hurdles, winning £83,337 for the McNeill family. His chasing career will be put on hold, to see if we can find further improvement over hurdles and aim for the Stayers Hurdle.
Haydock’s Challenger Series card at the end of March has been a welcome innovation and we’ve been more than happy to support it. This year, we were able to make the long drive back down the M6 a little easier with the £30,950 earned by Stamp Your Feet in the 2 mile hurdle series final. He’ll be going for middle distance handicaps this winter.
Although this year, we’ve had a significant number of horses rated 140lbs or more by the official handicapper, we’ve taken great satisfaction from young improving horses. Of special note are Singlefarmpayment, who came to us in October and saw himself narrowly touched off by a short head in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival. He started the season on 129 and improved 21lbs to 150. Rocklander is another whose improvement was remarkable, starting last summer at 113, and rising to 140, with two wins and no less than five runner-up positions. Noche de Reyes completed 5 runs and never finished less than second, picking up £23,315 in place prize money alone. Double Shuffle showed further improvement from last season when being stepped up in trip and adopting more positive tactics. He won a valuable handicap chase at Kempton’s 32 Red Winter Festival and was subsequently touched off when 2nd in the Racing Post Chase at the same track after making a bad mistake 3 from home.
As ever we had numerous runners in Bumpers, a perfect way for your horses to develop their experience. Our very first runner in a bumper last season was the ever impressive Sumkindofking for David Fox of PP Control & Automation. He then went on to win a novice hurdle impressively at Southwell and consistently ran well in competitive handicap hurdles throughout the rest of the year. We were double handed in the champion bumper at Aintree with the two impressive winners of their racecourse debuts Black Op and Clondaw Castle. They both ran creditably and finished upsides one another, surely being destined for further improvement this term in the novice hurdle sphere. On Grand National Day we enjoyed a double in both divisions of the bumper at Chepstow, ridden by Noel George. Forgot to Ask won the first division with ease by 12 lengths, providing the young sire Ask with his first winner under rules. Truckers Lodge showed game attitude to win by a wide margin in the second division. Both demonstrating huge promise for the coming season. The home-bred Air Navigator by the ever popular sire Yeats won a competitive bumper at Exeter for his owner-breeder Lady Cobham and looks destined for a prosperous career, particularly when shown a fence.
The old timers in the yard have recently been handed a new lease of life in the Veterans handicap chase series initiative concluding with a 100k final at Sandown in January. This enables horses aged 10 and over to compete against one another for extremely good prize money. Something that Forgotten Gold took advantage of when winning the 25k veterans chase at Leicester early on in the season. Notable horses in the yard that racked up prize money in this sphere are No Duffer, Saint Are and Whats Happening.
No season review would be complete without a mention of our Grand National contender. Second 1 ¾l to Many Clouds in 2015, 8 ¼l third this year to One for Arthur, St Are has been lifted 23lbs in the official ratings between the two races, yet continues to compete at the highest level in big staying chases. He’ll go Hunter Chasing after Christmas, with the plan being another tilt at the Grand National. Module, our other Graded winner of 2015-16, will also join him in Hunter Chases.
There have been some very memorable moments over the past year, and highly personal ones for the family too. Noel continues to develop as an amateur rider, and it warmed the heart to see him get Olofi back on a winning path in a Novices’ Hunters Chase at Leicester in February, one of 4 winners last term in 19 rides, and to ride Big Fella Thanks into third in the Aintree Foxhunters. With school behind him, Noel is joining the yard and eschewing the dubious benefits of a large student debt for the time being in favour of a career in racing! Archie is starting his A Levels and remains a key member of the Tattersalls Society at Radley College.
Our appointment of Adrian Heskin as stable jockey continued to go from strength to strength as the season progressed. Adrian rode 54 winners overall last season, 46 for us. Based at the yard, he brings huge experience despite his youth. Paddy Brennan continues to ride for us, and schools once a week, whilst Ciaran Gethings will be our conditional jockey riding out four mornings a week. James Best will also pick up some rides.