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  1. With racing returning to Newmarket, the 2021 season steps up a gear and I expect us to have a few runners over the coming week. Our horses have wintered well and, on the whole, they seem more forward this year than they have been for the last season or two. They are in good health and appear to be training well, and so all that is left is to put it to the test on the racetrack. We’ve got a nice team to go to war with this year and I’ll be hoping that as well getting something like our normal number of winners, we might be able to win one or two nicer races along the way if things drop right. The horses have done plenty of groundwork and they should be fit enough to do themselves justice on their return, although they are sure to improve for a run or two.

    We have two runners at Newmarket on Tuesday, starting with DOUBLE OR BUBBLE in the 7f handicap and she’s been going well. We would be keen to go for some Black Type with her this year and, as there are one or two of those events that come up quite early, it is important to get this run into her. It should tell us where we stand and whether we should go down the Black Type route early on or, alternatively, stay in handicaps to begin with and step up in class later on.

    Also on Tuesday HAN SOLO BERGER runs in the 5f handicap having run very well at Kempton on Easter Monday where he got a bit interfered with at the start when the horse on his inside stumbled coming out of the stalls. That put him to the back of the field in a race that was tactically run. By the time Jack was able to extract him and get him running down the outside, he was left with a little bit too much to make up but ran on really well to finish 3rd.

    MUSTAZEED is entered at Kempton on Wednesday evening but we’ll have to see whether he gets in his race. Like a lot of novice and maiden races at this time of year, this is going to be very competitive. His future is in handicap, where I think 7f or 1m will be his thing. He needs one more run to get his handicap rating. 

    DIVINE COMEDY is entered at Newbury on Friday and she is a possibility although this maiden is often a very strong race. I may prefer to wait another week and send her up to Wetherby for a fillies’ maiden. She’s getting ready for a run, but I’ll need to keep an eye on the ground for her. Although she doesn’t need a lot of rain and slow ground,  some tracks could be getting quite quick by the end of the week if the forecast is right.

    Looking ahead to the weekend, BUCEPHALUS may have his first start for us at Nottingham on Saturday evening. We still need to learn about him and the sooner we can do that the better. MODERN BEAUTY is also a possible for Nottingham although wouldn’t want it too fast. Finally, MANGO BOY is a possible for a Newbury maiden that will now take place on Sunday although I am leaning towards waiting to run him at Yarmouth next week. 

  2. We finished 2020 with a handful of runners in December, beginning with CHEESE AND WINE in a 12f handicap at Wolverhampton at the beginning of the month. She was well positioned through the race and had everything going for her but, once into the straight, emptied out fairly quickly, eventually finishing 6th.  Turning for home, I thought she might hit the frame and so that was a bit disappointing. We can’t find anything wrong with her and so this remains a bit of a puzzle. 

    We were back at Wolverhampton in the middle of month, firstly with FRONT OF LINE who finished runner-up a 7f novice. She ran well but just bumped into a good one on the day. We were tracking the leaders, following the eventual winner through, and looked briefly at the top of the straight as though we might get to the front. When the winner found its stride, however, we were never going to beat it. Still, she ran a solid race in defeat and certainly up to her best. 

    A few days later POET’S PARK ran in a 1m½f novice. Her previous race at Doncaster on bad ground had been very disappointing but on a sounder surface and upped in trip, she ran a much better race here to finish 5th. That was much more promising and being a biggish filly, gives us encouragement for the coming season. 

    As for January, the only horse like to run is FRONT OF LINE. There is a race for her at Kempton on Saturday and we’ll have a look at the opposition there before making a final decision about that. 

    The other horses are back from their winter break and so we’re all systems go, getting all the preparatory work going. Other than a couple of the yearlings that will be with us shortly, I think we’ve got our full complement in. All those that have had a holiday will be doing plenty of trotting over the next few weeks. We usually start them off in the indoor ride but try to get them out onto the Heath if we can. We’ll then start cantering them in early February, weather permitting.