Travel – not necessarily of the glamorous variety – is a huge part of the job as a trainer, but a lengthy journey as a passenger in a horsebox is the ideal time to get up to speed with entries, talk to owners on the phone, or in this instance update my FansBet blog.
Since we last spoke much of the chatter in the racing press has surrounded the size and stiffness of the fences at Haydock Park last Saturday, a fixture which drew a massive 11,500 crowd for their feature Grade 1, won once again by the superb and curiously underrated Bristol De Mai.
He had no problems jumping them, but much was made of the test posed by the obstacles out on the chase track.
Frankly, I think we need to stop being soft and ask, why all the suggested tinkering?
Seasoned, experienced chasers really ought to be able to jump around a course big fences – it’s their job after all. Nobody I promise you is more concerned than me about equine wellbeing and care, but I’d be more than happy to ask one of mine to perform around there – indeed the obstacles were within the guidelines of the size limits and by being large make the horses jumping them concentrate.
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You must remember that in the rush to make things ‘safe’ we are actually in danger of doing the absolute opposite, in that we will in fact encourage more not less fallers if we make the fences smaller. Why? Simple: going flat out over them and failing to show the fences the required respect would be the pitfall.
I never want to see any horse fall, but in trying to do right there’s a clear danger of the sport coming up with a kneejerk reaction which is wrong.
Anyway, the highlight at Haydock was a superb race – aside from the winner, huge credit should go to Colin Tizzard for bringing Thistlecrack back after 11 months away from the track to run an eye-catching third, one place behind his stablemate Native River.
That was a Saturday treat in the north, and we look set for another one seven days on, with something bordering on a miniature Champion Hurdle in store if the principals all show up for this weekend’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle (2.05pm).
It’s hard to know what to make of Samcro after his defeat at the hands of Bedrock at Down Royal, but dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air is a class act and will clearly be hard to beat as he looks to take this for the second time.
The fly in the ointment?
Maybe I’m a bit biased, but Tom George’s runner Summerville Boy will be a massive danger to the pair of them if his jumping has improved again and he’s ready to go.
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We chased him home in Grade 1’s at Sandown Park and Cheltenham last season, so I’m well placed to comment on his quality, especially his speed.
He’s only six and could easily develop into a Champion Hurdle horse. I notice FansBet were offering 3/1 for him to win at Newcastle as I was travelling on Wednesday morning – that seems a very fair price about an exciting horse.
Last but very much not least, that brings me onto Kalashnikov as we build up to his second run of the season, which all being well will be at Plumpton on Monday in the 2m 1f Novices Chase at 1.00pm.
I’m happy to report his work has been fabulous. He completed his preparation on Wednesday morning when Jack Quinlan partnered him over nine furlongs, I rode the lead horse and Kalashnikov produced his best piece of work of the season to date.
There are some strong potential opponents among the entries for Monday’s race so if some of those turn up it’ll be a proper test, but he’s exactly where we want him and it’s all systems go.
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