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    We had our second runner of the year when SPIRITUALLYran at Kempton on Monday in a 5 furlong novice event. She jumped very awkwardly out of the stalls and managed to get quite a nasty cut on her leg, although I don’t know if that was self-inflicted or whether something jumped into her. She didn’t really like the track at Kempton, which was riding on the slow side. There was a lot of kickback and, when she was in behind, she was struggling to get her action. She had run a much better race on a sounder surface at Chelmsford on her previous start and I think that is where we need to be with her.

    Later in the week, PENTLAND HILLS, a former inmate, won the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham for his new connections, following in the footsteps of another former inmate, Mysilv, who did exactly the same thing back in 1994. Pentland Hills was a bit of a character but a nice horse, and it was lovely to see that he has gone on to do something. He was a horse we always held in a bit of regard. He wasn’t fully developed as a three-year-old and wanted a bit of cut in the ground, which was a problem for much of last year, but he progressed well, winning twice and finishing in the places four times. 

    With the new season just around the corner, work is stepping up. We started doing some half speeds and getting on a bit with a group of horses. I would have thought that we are likely to have our first runners on the turf during Craven week in the middle of April. Horses like HAN SOLO BERGERICE LORDBLACK LOTUS and FOLLOW INTELLOare all horses that appreciate a bit of juice in the ground and seem to be fairly forward, so they are obvious ones to push on with. There are also a few unraced three-year-olds that we are moving on a bit at the moment as we would like to get a run or two into them, get some experience and allow us to learn a bit about them as soon as we can. These include CARLEENWALK IT TALK ITCAPLA HUNTRESS and SMART SAMBA, although the latter probably doesn’t want the ground too soft. We are all looking forward to getting going soon.

  2. We had first our first runner of the year on Thursday evening when SPIRITUALLY was dispatched to Chelmsford to take part in the novice event over 6 furlongs. She had shown a bit of promise on her debut at Newcastle in November, but we had then been held up with her as she had a bit of ringworm. The Newcastle race hadn’t looked a particularly strong event at the time but there have been some winners come out of it and so it was obviously a decent enough contest. At Chelmsford, I thought she did everything right. She broke nicely, tracked the leaders and then looked a bit of threat when they straightened up turning for home. The winner making its debut was well touted and the second had form and experience, so to end up finishing third was a promising effort in her first real go on the racecourse. This performance gives us some encouragement that she wouldn’t have to improve an awful lot to win a little maiden on the all-weather and we’ll look for another opportunity in a few weeks. My impression is that she just gets 6 furlongs and that 5 furlongs, at least on the all-weather, might be a bit sharp for her. However, we’ll keep our options open and get her entered up with the aim of finding a winnable option somewhere.

    As for the others, the older horses returned to the yard in the first week of January and have been doing plenty of trotting around the heath to build them up and get them stronger. We’ll start cantering next week and go from there. I am pleased to say that the horses have done well for the break and have come back looking well. They are relaxed and happy, and ready for another year ahead. Other than Spiritually, I am not planning to run anything else before the start of the full season at the end of March. However, there are one or two that we’ll be looking to run early in the season.

    We’ve got two more two-year-olds arriving this week and then that’s our team up to a full complement. At the moment they are doing lots of educational work which includes teaching them to canter upsides and walking through the stalls. We need to do this groundwork before you think about training them hard. I have to say that they look quite a nice bunch of juveniles this year, probably the most promising bunch of youngsters that we have had for a season or two. We’ve got a couple that might be two-year olds along with others that will be slower maturing types and be aiming more towards their three-year-old careers.

    The staffing issues facing the industry are well documented but I am glad to say that, although we could do with a couple more people, we’re not in bad shape and are able to do things the way we like to do them. As for riding plans, George Wood rode Spiritually at Chelmsford and he’ll be aboard plenty of ours this year as I think he’s a promising young rider. I would like to get someone else who is also available to come in and rides of bits of work. I’m giving that some thought at the moment but, otherwise, we’ll continue to use the best riders available.