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  1. Last week’s action began on Tuesday with a trip up the A1 to Pontefract where MARILYN ran very well in the Pipalong Stakes. This was a big step up in class for her into Listed company and she acquitted herself very well. Usually you are quite pleased to be drawn one but she’s a filly that doesn’t like being crowded. As a result, I would have preferred to have been drawn a few stalls out wide so she could have sat handy on the outside as opposed to having to make the running. She got to the front but when you are wanting to get a little breather into her before coming up the hill, she was just being pushed along to maintain the pace. She paid the price late on and, having initially looked like she might hang onto a place, she tired quite noticeably in the closing stages. Nevertheless, this was a good effort and pleasingly shows she can compete at this level. We’ll now review our options with her with the aim being to see if we can nick a bit of black type somewhere.

    JUMPING CATS raced very lazily in the novice event over 10 furlongs on the same card. He ended up at the back of the field and with nothing around him, didn’t seem to put much effort into it despite Tom Queally’s urgings. So a lacklustre performance and, although this was his third run, the handicapper will rate him on what he achieved on his first and second starts. He’s a horse that has been progressing the right way and is going to want a trip of some sort. We’ll await the handicapper’s verdict on Tuesday and make a plan from there.

    Onto Wednesday and HAN SOLO BERGER stepped up on his two previous starts for us when finishing second at Kempton. We bought him at the Horses in Training sale last autumn and, reviewing the tapes, he always seemed to ping the stalls and get a good position but on his last two starts, he has been a bit sluggishly away. We had wanted to sit handy here and, although he didn’t break the stalls slowly, he is just taking a while to gather his stride. We were the only 3yo in this race of older horses and, of course, they are a bit more streetwise than him and go a bit quicker from the gates than he is used to. That said, I don’t know if he would have beaten the winner anyway who looked like he won fairly cosily. We were a good second, however, staying on. He’s a horse that has showed us plenty at home and, following two bad draws, it was good to see him begin to show on the track what we know he can do at home.

    At Doncaster on Thursday, I suspect SEYASAH was being a bit of a naughty girl. The race wasn’t run at a particularly strong pace early on and it turned into a bit of a sprint, but she was travelling really well two furlongs out and looked as though she could go on to win. When Tom Queally said ‘go’, however, she looked rather disinterested and so I think she could be heading for the application of some headgear to help her to focus on what she has to do. 

    Onto Saturday and we had two runners in the Bunbury Cup at the July Meeting. Originally, I didn’t expect either to make the cut and, even at the close of declarations, we had one in the Bunbury Cup and the other in the consolation event. At the last minute, a few came out which meant ICE LORD joined MOUNTAIN RESCUE in the main event. We were drawn on either side of the track and, the way the race was run, being out on the flanks was not the place to be. Mountain Rescue ran well to finish 8th, only beaten 4 lengths, and so that was another good effort from him. Ice Lord raced down the stands rail, which really wasn’t the place to be. Going into the Dip, he looked as though he could take a hand in the finish but didn’t quite get home. He was a bit fresh and full of himself having not run for a while, and so he over-raced a little bit in the early part of the race. Also he would have preferred softer ground although I have to say Michael Prosser and his team had done an excellent job on the ground throughout this meeting, which was as good as you could get at the moment.

    Our final runner of the week was ZEYZOUN at Ascot but that turned out to be a bit of a waste of time. He’s a horse that wants to be held up and found cover, but they went no gallop at all here. It was the last race on the card and, fair enough nothing wanted to go on, but it was really frustrating that the jockeys didn’t even seem to know where they wanted to race on the track. Anyway, he pulled hard and gave himself no chance, so I’m afraid this really was a bit of a non-event.

    Other news from last week was that we said ‘Cheerio’ to FLOOD DEFENCE who was sold at the July Sales. She’s gone to Rebecca Bastiman and so will continue her career in the north. She won a couple of races for us last year but hasn’t raced much this year as she wants cut in the ground.  We wish her new connections well. 

    Looking ahead to this week, OH SO SASSY is entered at Yarmouth on Wednesday but Bernie’s Boy, the horse who beat her at Windsor last time, is also in the same race and I don’t know if I would want to take that one on again. DECIDING VOTE also has an entry at the same meeting because there had been a bit of rain forecast but that seems to have evaporated.

    We have a couple of our 2yos entered up in various places but SPIRITUALLY has had a little niggle since making those entries and so is unlikely to run this week. PURGATORY is another one who could do with a little bit more rain and so I might hold off with him for a later date, we’ll see.

    PENTLAND HILLS in at Doncaster on Thursday but that is looking a fairly competitive affair and so, unless the race looks like it will fall apart, I suspect we’ll wait with him. BLACK LOTUS has entries at Haydock and Pontefract on Friday but, again, both look forward fairly competitive and so she may wait. More likely to see action is SEYASAH, who we may bang out again quickly at Newmarket on Friday evening.

    Looking ahead to the weekend, FIRST SITTING could run in a Listed race at Newbury on Saturday. He seems to have recovered from his problems at Sandown and so is a possible to return to the track here.  On the same afternoon, SYRIAN PEARL may run at Newmarket in a qualifier for the Jockey Club Grassroots Sprint Series.

  2. Things weren’t particularly busy last week with just four runners, starting with ATLANTA BELLE, who ran very well at Yarmouth on Thursday. She wasn’t able to dominate from the front end as we would have liked her to have done as it helps her to relax out in front. Instead she had to dispute the lead with another one but she battled on well. I initially thought she had seen off the challenge of the other leader, only to be overtaken by the eventual winner. She was running out of puff in the last fifty yards and finished fifth, but she was beaten less than a length. That was a good effort and, if she can maintain that level of form, I would have thought her turn is not too far away.

    Onto Friday and FIRST SITTING was due to run at Sandown. He’s a pretty laid-back horse and doesn’t tend to get worried about anything. Unfortunately, he travelled down to the racecourse very badly, which is not like him. He got very sweaty, had been unsettled in the lorry, banged his head, and got a swollen eye and a few cuts and bruises around his forehead. We got the vet to look at him at the racecourse and he quite rightly said that we shouldn’t run him. Even coming home he got pretty stressed out, sweating up. Whether it was just the heat that upset him, I don’t know. It was disappointing but he’s ok now and there is nothing wrong with him that won’t improve within a few days.

    We had three runners on Saturday starting with DECIDING VOTE at Leicester. She’s being a tricky filly to get right this year. She’s doing everything right at home but not on the racecourse. I thought she had run a better race at Kempton last time where she threatened to be competitive but on this occasion, she was never going to be competitive. She fell out of the stalls, was at the back, didn’t travel with any purpose, was under pressure a long way out and didn’t pick up or respond. It probably wasn’t a race she was entitled to win but I thought she was good enough to be competing for a place. I couldn’t really blame the ground and so it is back to the drawing board with her, and we’ll try to find the key to get her doing things a bit better.

    Later on the Leicester card, PENTLAND HILLS ran very well. Stepped up to one mile and a half, it wasn’t necessarily the plan to make the running but I wanted him to be in a good position because sometimes he is a little slow to respond. Also on the day, it didn’t seem like anything was coming from a long way back and you needed to be well positioned. He actually got the message and was sharp away to the point that he ended up in front, making the running. He did just race with the choke out for the first furlong and a half before he relaxed. That might have cost him a little bit in the closing stages although I wouldn’t want to take anything away from the winner. That was winning its fourth race and so knows how to win. We’re still learning to do that but this was another good run, finishing runner-up for the second race in a row. He clearly goes on fast ground and stays 12 furlongs, and I shouldn’t think his turn is too far away.

    It was on to Nottingham in the evening where LUCKY CHARM was well behaved and took the preliminaries well. For a filly that has given us trouble at the stalls and was withdrawn on her previous visit to the racecourse, she loaded well, stood calmly and was in the stalls a long time, which was not good for the trainer’s blood pressure. In the race, she ran a little bit on her nerves in the early stages not helped by the fact that she was on the outside and it took George Wood a bit of time to get some cover for her and to drop in and relax. That cost her late on as she had travelled well, began to move up and looked as though she would stay on for a good third, but tired quite noticeably inside the final furlong. She finished fifth but this was a satisfactory start and a lot of things went right. Hopefully we can build on this and I’d like to think that if we can find the right race next time, she’d go close.   

    Looking ahead to the coming week, we’ve thrown MARILYN in at the deep end at Pontefract on Tuesday. As a potential broodmare, she’s not going to have any real value without Black Type. This is obviously a big step up from winning a Class 5 but she’s not got a lot more to prove in handicap company. It is just about the last of the 4yo+ Listed races, she goes on fast ground, is in great form and I just thought that now is the time to give it a go. We might not get the Black Type and blow her handicap mark but that’s a gamble you’ve got to take with a filly. JUMPING CATS will also run at Pontefract. He needs another run to qualify for a handicap rating although I would expect him to run ok here as he’s not be running badly in his maidens. He doesn’t mind fast ground and so he should run competently.

    On Wednesday night, we’re going to run HAN SOLO BERGER at Kempton. He’ll hopefully get a decent draw as he has had two rotten ones so far and been stuck on the wide outside. I hope he gets the chance to show what he can do and be competitive.

    I would like to run SEYASAH somewhere on Thursday and she has options at Newbury and Doncaster.

    At the backend of the week, we have MOUNTAIN RESCUE and ICE LORD entered in the Bunbury Cup at the July meeting. I don’t think they’ll get in the main race but they should get into the consolation race on Friday. The ground might prevent both of them from running, however, as neither of them are really are top-of-the-ground horses although Mountain Rescue has got away with it once this year. He didn’t really enjoy it at Ascot last time though and I don’t want to over-expose him to that. So we’ll be monitoring what goes on over the next few days.

    I’m not expecting that we’ve got much for next weekend but we’ll have to  see.