Haydock Park, Saturday 3rd June 2021, Bet365 Lancashire Oaks and Old Newton Cup Day

Rausing Lancashire Success For Alpanista

It might be highly unlikely that Kirsten Rausing celebrated with a plate of Lancashire HotPot added with slices of Bury Black Pudding and then maybe for the odd treat dipping into a quarter of Uncle Joe’s but the Lancashire Red Rose was very much the order of the day for the Sir Mark Prescott trained Alpanista as she finally gained a much deserved Group win in the Group 2 Lancashire Oaks under Luke Morris

With two wins at Listed level to her name Alpanista has been very highly tried in the big races but hadn’t quite been able to reach that next level, this afternoon though she did just that and in fairly testing conditions Alpanista had to work for it but her class told as she powered away fairly readily in the end.

Possibilities for her next race will probably be either the Lily Langtree at Goodwood although another crack at the Yorkshire Oaks in August would be the more favoured option for this 4yo filly who will be going into that race with connections very much full of confidence after this win.

Alounak Takes Main Course

Originally on Thursday seventeen horses were declared but due to the overnight rain on Friday night this led to five horses being taken out of the Old Newton Cup which meant just twelve horses took part in Haydock’s oldest and most famous race.

The King Power owners are used to lifting famous cups aloft nowadays and the Old Newton Cup will join that list as Alounak under Silvestre De Souza came home a very nice winner to finally land his first win in England since switching to the Andrew Balding yard last summer, he’s been dropping slowly down the handicap and went in here off 102 so how the handicapper will react now will be very interesting indeed.

He could have a crack at the Ebor which would be of interest for sure if the ground came up soft but maybe visits over the water to France might be better as he could be tricky to place from now on.

Tashkan Very Impressive

Brian Ellison looks to have a very nice staying horse on his hands as Tashkan showed true grit and determination to land a very competitive 1m6f handicap for the 3yo in good style.

Under apprentice Harry Russell whose 5lb claim came in very generously he was kept away from the early exchanges but towards the business end picked his way through and came down the near side rail to easily hold off Summer’s Knight by 1.5 lenghts.

Winning this off 86 will mean he should get into the Melrose if that’s where he ends up and at the moment staying races do appear to be his forte and could even end up in the Cesarewitch if he keeps on improving.

Tashkan

Elsewhere on the card Sir Titus took the concluding 5f handicap for 3yo under an enterprising Graham Lee ride as he ploughed his own furrow over on far side keeping him racing by his own, winning off 79 he isn’t quite ahead of the handicapper but most definitely has another race or two in him.

Finally the old boy Danzeno won a very tight looking 6f Conditions race and despite only three runners being in the field he showed that even at the age of 10 he still has a love of the game, he is entered in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood at the end of the month although he will probably find things that little bit tricker this win will have improved his confidence no end for sure.

Another Oaks and Cup Day has come and gone, as usual the crowd was capped but with restrictions slowly coming to an end this will mean that Rose Of Lancaster Stakes Day next month will see a much bigger crowd of racegoers coming back through the gates, the course has handled things really well since May and hopefully things will start going back to normal.

From your now double vaccinated reporter, Goodbye

Haydock Park, Saturday 29th May 2021, Betway Bank Holiday Saturday

Much nicer weather ensured a decent turnout for Saturday’s Bank Holiday meeting at Haydock, some decent racing including some Group and a Listed race along with traditionallly tricky handicaps including one which had a sixteen runner field on television!

That said let’s take a look at the best of the action from yesterday afternoon

Kinross Lands First Gaunt For Frankie & Ralphy

It is very rare that Frankie Dettori would only have two rides on a Saturday afternoon especially when making the long trek from his Newmarket home to Haydock but of those two races he had mounts in he made sure that he didn’t go home empty handed as he rode Kinross for Ralph Beckett to land the feature race of the afternoon the John Of Gaunt Stakes.

A very strong looking Group 3 over 7f he came through to lead just as the furlong pole came in sight and from that Kinross began to pull readily away, fresh from an unsuccessful visit to Dubai in the winter Kinross had been given plenty of rest and subsequently gelded, he looks an out an out 7f horse so looks likely to be aimed towards Goodwood in the summer and maybe France too.

Chasing him home in second was the Jessica Harrington trained Njord who gave a very good account of himself and it won’t be long before he lands a nice race back at a mile, Glorious Journey was also eye catching in third and will come on plenty for the run.

Popular Haydock horse Safe Voyage ran another poor race finishing out at the back, he doesn’t seem the same horse at the moment and he may be giving signs that he fancies retirement.

Flying Frankie!

Royal Winner For Murphy

Oisin Murphy may well have been suffering from toothache but that didn’t stop last seasons top jockey from drilling home the Queen’s King’s Lynn from getting the better of Moss Gill in the Listed Achillies Stakes over 5f to give himself the perfect anaesthetic although the only crown Oisin may be getting at the moment will be from the riding dentist Sam Waley-Cohen as opposed to Her Majesty.

On paper a very wide open race with eleven horses rated 87 to 107 and King’s Lynn who came here having chased home El Astronaute at Chester reversed the form and in what has been very tricky times for Her Majesty this will have certainly put a smile on her face and also make her need to find a bit of space for the glass jug given as her owners prize along with the £16487 for first place.

A visit to Royal Ascot might be on the cards for the Kings Stand next month although having to get the better of Battaash will be asking for even more improvement but this 4yo hasn’t had much racing and still has more to give off this running.

King’s Lynn

Candy Sweet On Lune

A return visit to Haydock in July is almost certain for La Lune as she followed up her recent win in the Nottinghamshire Oaks by breezing home to land the G3 Pinnacle Stakes over 1m4f.

Certainly not a strong renewal of this race by any means but La Lune is far better form than last year and this 5yo mare made it two from two this season to give her some more black type and to put her in the picture for the Lancashire Oaks in which would be the more logical choice of race.

Always travelling easy behind the pace she only had to be pushed out to win with a bit in hand under David Probert.

La Lune

Best Of The Rest

Mo Celita won her fifth race on the bounce for trainer Adrian Nicholls as she did a carbon copy of last weekends course and distance win, raised 7lb from last week but with Laura Coughlan’s very useful 5lb claim the pair at the moment have a great partnership and both could well be York bound in a fortnight for the big 6f sprint for 3yo’s and another alternative is for the owners to swap the flat caps for top hats and have a go in the Jersey Stakes over 7f.

In the opening 1m4f handicap Quickthorn in the colours of Lady Blyth won a tricky looking race fairly easily under Oisin Murphy, making his season reappearance he should have more to offer this summer and it’d be no shock to see a hurdling career in the offing later on.

Blackthorn

Another Super Saturday of excellent racing at Haydock Park, considering this is the traditional time when we have the Derby coming up before Royal Ascot the quality of the racing did hold up nicely as a crowd of 3,000 had a relaxing afternoon in the sun.

After two successive Saturday racedays we now take our usual June break unless anything else comes in so until next time do tske care and stay safe.

Haydock Park, Saturday 22nd May 2021, Casumo Temple Stakes Day

Finally after a long fifteen month absence during which the world as we know it had a bit of fisticuffs with a virus that could potentially have wiped humanity off the face of the earth, racegoers finally returned to the North West as Haydock Park opened the gates to a decent seven race card on day two of the second May meeting.

Beach Asscends To Temple Summit

John Quinn has been no stranger to the Haydock winners enclosure in recent years and this afternoon proved no exception as his 4yo filly Liberty Beach put in a power packed performance to land the feature G2 Temple Stakes over 5f, straight out from the stalls she was head down and went through the soft Haydock ground at full pelt, she did have to fend off the attentions of Ainsdale in the last half furlong or so but the line just came in time win by a diminishing neck.

Liberty Beach,2021 Temple Stakes

She will most definitely head off to the Royal meeting next month for a face off with Battaash in the Kings Stand and while she has a few lengths to make up on him from Goodwood last year she will give a good account of herself but ground wise Liberty Beach definitely prefers some juice in the ground, Longchamp in October will also be another main aim for her in the autumn.

Ainsdale back in second was very unlucky not to get up on the line just going down by a neck and can certainly take a hand in the big sprints this year although going off this race he will be far better at 6f.

Rohaan Hits The Note In Sandy Lane

To those probably of a more younger generation Rohaan is a musician from Manchester whose links to his very good tunes can be found here in this link https://linktr.ee/rohaanmusic

On the equine front Rohaan was very lucky not have been robbed of the Sandy Lane Stakes as he made it a second turf win of the season just hanging on from the fast finishing Dragon Symbol in a thrilling finish.

David Evans is always someone who can produce a quality horse when given one and Rohaan was following up from his recent win in the G3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot, sadly he isn’t eligible for the Commonwealth Cup due to being a gelding but other options will certainly be available later on with possibilities of the Wokingham and the Jersey Stakes being mentioned in dispatches.

Rohaan, 2021 Sandy Lane Stakes

Jack Bowls Perfect End In Bowl

Haydock’s Silver Bowl is always a competitive race for three year olds and this years proved to be just that as Roger Varian landed his second winner of the meeting here with Raadobarg who made his handicap debut a winning one with an excellent win in the race, always going kindly in the heavy ground he put the race to bed in the last two furlongs keeping runner up Seasett firmly at bay.

Already a winner of two novice events at Leicester and Thirsk this term Raadobarg is clearly worth more than this winning mark of 88 and will be in the mid 90s for sure when he gets reassessed, Royal Ascot looks to be his next stop for the Brittania should the rain keep itself in the UK and still being an entire some black type will be sought after too.

Raadobarg, Silver Bowl winner

As for the best of the rest, Oisin Murphy rode a double on the day in the first two races, in the opening 1m4f handicap for 3yo he rode Classic Lord to victory in what looked a tight race then thirty minutes later performing miracles to get Molls Memory on the line in the 7f handicap and in the staying handicap over 2m jockey Jason Hart who was successful in the Temple Stakes landed the spoils on Frankenstella.

For sports fans from this part of the world though it was just good to be back on a racecourse again, it will be a long way till full normality is resumed but with the vaccination programme going great guns at the moment then come mid summer more people will be allowed to dig out the summer dresses and smart suits which for most of 2020 were all stuck in hibernation and saw less daylight than Count Dracula on a summer holiday in Ibiza!

Providing the weather stays good after a deluge that sent the local animals down to the local DIY centre to start building a big ship and put an advert out for experienced sailors, we will be back at Haydock next Saturday afternoon, till then goodbye and it’s just sooo good to be back!

The End Is In Sight!

Monday 17th May 2021

A date which to many is just another date like any other, the 137th date in the Gregorian Calendar in 1850 Anne Of Denmark was crowned Queen of Scotland, in 1955 the actor Bill Paxton was born as was Andrea Corr in 1974 but for the many millions of people in the UK it means only one thing.

Crowds can return to stadiums,theatres,cinemas and go to the pub!

Now it’s been a very long time in the wilderness for many of us, in fact when we do set foot on the racecourse for the first time (mine will be Haydock this upcoming Friday and Saturday) it will almost certainly seem different from the last time we were all on one.

Hopefully this resumption will be a successful one and while it won’t be quite the same due to certain things like only being allowed to have a beer sat down which is no bad thing as it will definitely discourage the rowdy behaviour that has creeped into the sport over the years especially the summer.

What is important is that this must go ahead without a glitch, the sport has had mixed news coverage this spring such as the behaviour of a certain Gordon Elliot but most notably with Rachael Blackmore who has been a shining beacon of light for us all looking for a positive in the sport and yes viewing figures during lockdown on ITV have been increasing and hopefully will continue to do so.

Like many others i am eager to set foot back on my local, on Monday at 1pm Carlisle will probably experience a mini Cheltenham like roar as jockeys and most notably quite a lot of the horses running over the next few months will experience the sound of the crowd like it’s something new, it’s important that we all play our part in how we behave and act on the course so that rather than have a drop in standards we can become the higher standard that other events with crowds will look up to.

It’s been over 15 months since a meeting was last reviewed on here too so like many i will almost certainly come on for the run next weekend.

Enjoy the resumption wherever it is that you go and wether it’s a racecourse, theatre, rugby stadium or the Dog & Duck let’s let this be the one and only time that crowds had to go through a lockdown!

Getting To Know You, Sarah Kinsella

Hello and i hope you’re all managing well in what has been for all of us a period of time that has been far more testing than the ground in the Welsh National and more trickier than trying to solve the fields of all the Pertemps Qualifiers combined.

In this feature called Getting To Know You my special guest is Sarah Kinsella, Sarah who is Dublin based currently works as the PR Executive for BoyleSports and with a love of our equine and canine friends on the track along with a passion for the arrows, Sarah also writes a weekly column in the Irish Daily Star giving her selections for the greyhounds.

So without further ado lets Get To Know Sarah Kinsella.

Q1 Favourite Racecourses?

Cheltenham, Killarney, Leopardstown & Bellewstown

Q2 Favourite Racehorses

Past – Don Cossack & Apples Jade. Present – Envoi Allen, Presenting Percy, Honeysuckle, Frodon & The Storyteller

Q3 Favourite Race meetings?

Cheltenham Festival, Killarney July Festival & Leopardstown Christmas.


Q4 Favourite Jockeys?

Davy Russell, Rachael Blackmore, Mark Walsh, Kevin Manning & Harry Cobden

Q5 Favourite post race pubs?

I’m usually always working at race meetings so rarely go to the pub after racing but the Speak Easy in Killarney is hard to beat. Ryans in Ratoath after Fairyhouse was fantastic but unfortunately closed now.  

Q6 Favourite journey to a racecourse ?

I love heading down to Killarney to all three of their festivals in the summer. It’s a magical place that is close to my heart. Dad and I stay in Killarney for the Listowel Festival too. It’s a long drive down from Swords but I enjoy it as the craic is great, you know everyone there, huge selection of pubs to go after racing and places to eat. Just a perfect place to have a race meeting as you can walk there from the town. It has beautiful scenery and on a sunny day with a glass of prosecco in your hand, there is no where else you would rather be!

Q7 Favourite place for a breakfast?

My mammy’s kitchen haha! McSweeney’s hotel where I stay in Killarney in AMAZING. Clayton hotel Galway is pretty good too.

Q8 Favourite bands you’d like to see play a racecourse concert?

Coldplay, The Weekend, Becky Hill, Calvin Harris, Sharon Shannon, Damien Dempsey.

Q9 Favourite biscuit to go with a brew?

Tough one. Love a Rich Tea, Ginger Nut, Custard Cream, Chocolate Kimberley & Marks & Spencer Cookies

Q10 Favourite sports teams?

Dublin footballers. Just won six All-Ireland SFC in a row and the ladies team won four in a row this weekend too, outstanding. Fav football team, Liverpool. Fav hurling team, Limerick. Love New Zealand rugby team just for the haka haha!

Sarah with a Kemboy facemask

Q11 Favourite movies?

Way too many. Pulp Fiction, True Romance, 300, all the Marvel movies, Saving Private Ryan, Lord of the Rings, A Star Is Born, Sin City, Sherlock Holmes. Taken, Kiss The Girls, Along Came A Spider, Man On Fire, Eat Pray Love.

Q12 Favourite comedies?

Friends, Superbad, Bridesmaids, Jane The Virgin, Bridget Jones Diary, Schitts Creek, The Grinch, Father Ted, Step Brother, anything with Will Ferrell I love him

Q13 Favourite ways to unwind outside racing?

Greyhound racing is my passion in life. After a long busy day at work or when things get on top of me, the best medicine is to put the leads on the greyhounds and head over the fields. I live on a farm (we like to call it a ‘little bit of heaven’). I’m extremely lucky to have grown up here so the cows and greyhounds keep my sane but also broke as they are expensive to keep!! But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love a Jameson or glass of red wine in the evenings especially the winter when the fire is lighting. I also love heading to my favourite spa in Wexford twice a year to unwind. 

Q14 Favourite races of all times?

Don Cossack winning the Gold Cup at Cheltenham was magical as it was my first time to head to Prestbury Park. Honeysuckle winning the Mares’ Hurdle at this year’s festival was brilliant along with Envoi Allen winning the Ballymore. Frodon winning the 2019 Ryanair was awesome. Faugheen winning at the Dublin Racing Festival this year, that was magical day. Apples Jade winning the 2017 Mares’ Hurdle and of course Tiger Roll winning both Grand Nationals. What an achievement. 

Q15 Non racing sporting events you’ve attended?

As mentioned I love greyhound racing so the BoyleSports Irish Greyhound Derby is my favourite meeting of all time. We also sponsor the Grand Slam of Darts and the World Grand Prix and I have attended both and absolutely loved it. The National Coursing meeting in Clonmel is like nothing else in this world. Watching Dublin win the All-Ireland SFC at Croke Park and Tipperary winning the hurling with my dad was brilliant too. 

Q16 Favourite place to go for a meal?

The Ivy on Dawson Street. The food is unreal and the cocktails too ha. FX Buckley’s in Dublin city for a steak, it’s the best steak I’ve ever had. Pasta Castello in Donabate as a local restaurant, I just love Italian food, pasta all day long! My mammy’s roast dinner is my number one choice. 

Q17 Favourite towns and cities?

I love Dublin. I love it’s history and it’s vibe. The hotels and restaurants are great and with Croke Park, Shelbourne Park, the Aviva, 3 Arena, RDS and the theatre, you are never stuck for entertainment. Killarney is my second favourite. A wonderful place to get away from it all. I worked in Brighton for a while and really enjoyed it there. Cheltenham is great, the Cotswolds. Beautiful. 

Q18 Favourite races you wished you had been on course for?

Tiger Roll winning both Grand Nationals. Wish I was around for Arkle and Dawn Run too. 

Q19 Choose your own favorite of anything?

Accordello winning the Ladbrokes 600 in 2019. It was my dad Lar’s biggest success ever. €35,000 to the winner and it was live in RTE. It was the best day of my life. Unless I win the Derby some day, I don’t think it will ever be beaten. We still have Accordello at home as a retired racer, he turned 14 last month and it loving life. 

Gordon Elliott Fallout

THE BRAIN SEES WHAT IT IT WANTS TO SEE.

Now that isn’t a typo but it’s something written on copies of the DVD of the acclaimed movie of the very popular play Ghost Stories.

At this moment you’re probably wondering why I’ve began with that at the start, well Saturday night as we all know saw a photo released on social media of Gordon Elliott seemingly sat on a dead horse on the gallops at his stables in Ireland and quite rightly it has caused quite an eruption in the racing and non racing world.

How does this relate to the above wording in capital letters?

Well naturally everyone who saw it wanted to believe it was a fake photo that someone made up and released it onto twitter with the joke hopefully being that Gordon caused the horse to have collapsed from having him sat in the saddle.

Why would we want to believe it to be true? Why would a trainer be sat on a horse that had just died and lay prostrate on the gallops?

Sadly it wasn’t to be, it was true and most of Sunday and today, Monday 1st March has had racing fans and professionals venting their anger such as much respected former jump jockey and pundit Mick Fitzgerald who looked visibly upset on Sky Sports Racing and as a man who has worked with some of the top trainers in the game he knows only too well the care and attention given to these wonderful equine athletes.

It is for sure absolutely baffling why a man who is responsible for some of the finest national hunt bloodstock in Ireland thought posing for a photo or just sitting on a dead horse would be a funny thing to do?  Was it work place “banter” or was it something else that we’ll never know or understand?

At the moment the BHA have banned Gordon Elliott from having runners in the UK till the Irish authorities have done their investigations and brought about a punishment they feel suited to the incident concerned and this potentially could mean a whole host of horses including Envoi Allen missing out on competing at the Cheltenham Festival unless he gets switched to a new stable which his owners are perfectly entitled to do so at any time.

For sure it is always the case that a few seconds of stupidity can cause a lifetime of regret, anybody reading this and i put myself in this too has done,said or typed something on social media which has gone wrong and either upset someone or made us look stupid leading to rifts and arguments, we can’t change what we did but hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and i hope Gordon does the same too.

Owners pay good money for their horses and for them to be trained, and as such we know that in training they are given love,care and respect but this is something all owners would expect to be given in a horses death too wether it be on course, at the stables or elsewhere while in the trainers care.

As for Gordon we can only speculate what will happen, already Betfair have withdrawn from sponsorship with him, Cheveley Park Stud are keeping an eye on how it develops which makes sense because with Cheltenham coming up you don’t want to disrupt your star horses chance of festival glory with a very late switch of trainer and Micheal and Eddie O’Leary, owners of Gigginstown House Stud have gone on record continuing to support him as they are perfectly entitled to do so.

Something has to happen though, the sport has had a huge battle since Cheltenham last year when it was unfairly and wrongly blamed for being a Covid superspreader which it certainly was not and after much hard work,blood,sweat and tears the sport has made huge strides of latewith increased viewing numbers on television coverage plus ITV having it’s popular “Reliant On Racing” segment on the weekend shows but with two weeks before a behind closed doors Cheltenham Festival we get this happening!

Personally i think Gordon Elliott needs to be suspended from training, not indefinitely unless anything else comes out of the woodwork because it always appears to be the norm especially in the celebrity world to bay for blood and make sure someone gets literally everything taken from them, think Roxanne Pallet in Celebrity Big Brother when she lost her radio job and potential acting work from a moment of madness in that famous house and the public seemed to lust for her losing everything she had worked for because of it.

What he did was absolutely beyond the pail of trust between an owner and trainer, if i had horses with him and one of them died and it was that horse he had the photo taken with i would be bloody furious and most likely would find a new trainer for them very quickly indeed, it’s something like this which only gives the anti racing brigade more ammunition for the crusade to see all equine pursuits stopped.

I hope the relevant authorities in Ireland do what they believe to be the right thing as regards sanctions for Gordon Elliott otherwise it will show a lack of leadership and lack of not giving a toss and that is something the sport cannot be seen to have!

It’s important to finish on a positive note on a sad day for racing, one thing which has brought many smiles to people is the huge number of horse photos from owners,trainers,stable staff and racing fans of horses they either look after or simply love and want to show them off so people know that these animals are so well cared for, it reminds of this video below on YouTube, James May with his take on why we are lucky to have these magnificent beasts on this planet with us and what makes the racehorse the athlete it is today

Grand National early picks.

Grand National Day last year was certainly different for all of us compared to a normal one!

In an ordinary year my normal routine of form studying in the morning before the usual battle with the once a year visitors to the betting shop was instead replaced with a walk upto the town of Golborne with my brother where we stopped off for a sausage barm before a gentle stroll back home for an afternoon of watching Premier League football……..from Belarus.

Come 5.00pm and ITV was switched on as Nick Luck from the comfort of his favourite arm chair in the front room home  presented the Virtual Grand National which was commentated on as usual by Stewart Machin who had to swap his usual position of the Aintree commentary box for a laptop and dictaphone, It was fun to watch although jockey Charlie Deutsch was definitely kicking his dustbin at 5.35pm when Aso came down at the second last.

This year and probably behind closed doors unless you develop the same body movements as Inspector Gadget it looks like we will have a Grand National and the weights were unveiled around lunchtime on the 15th February so let’s take a look at some of horses who have caught my eye to back and to leave alone.

Naturally the one horse drawn to almost everyone is of course Tiger Roll, dual winner in 2018 and 2019, he was being trained for the big race when Coronavirus caused racing and all sport to be suspended and so the chance to equal Red Rum’s record was put on hold for a year, alloted 11st 9lb he is 5th in the weights but may potentially move up, with two races so far this season, one on the flat and the other at Cheltenham where he pulled up after never really travelling he will probably be retired at the end of the season but i don’t think the three timer will be landed myself.

Willie Mullins has a real live chance with Burrows Saint who is 14th on the list and won the Irish National in 2019 beating some decent horses in the process, at time of writing he needs to run in a steeplechase to make the qualification to run, he holds a Gold Cup entry and with time slowly running out he will probably go down that route, his weight is 10st 13lb which is very nice and despite only having eight races over fences he does have big field experience so the hustle and bustle of Aintree should not be an issue, he is definitely one with a live chance.

In the summer Trevor Hemmings announced he was going to sell some of his horses due to the current financial climate but did keep a decent string too, one of those who remained in his ownership was Cloth Cap who is trained by Jonjo O’Neill, already a far better chaser than a hurdler, he put in one of the performances of the season when he landed the Labrokes Trophy at Newbury in November where he bowled along from the front and bolted up by 10 lengths, he will be dangerous if allowed to lead again plus stamina is assured as his Scottish National third will testify, definitely one to put on the shortlist.

Course form always counts for plenty at Aintree and the Tom Lacey trained Kimberlite Candy is certainly the sweet diamond at Cottage Field Stables, from finishing runner up to Walk In The Mill in the 2019 Becher Chase he then landed the Classic Chase at Warwick a few weeks later and although the algorithms of the Virtual Grand National had him down the field he began this season with a second place behind runaway winner Vieux Lion Rouge in the 2020 Becher, unraced since then he may have a prep run beforehand and alloted 10st 10lb he is on a very honest rating and should go close.

One horse i totally adore is the 10yo Bristol De Mai, having seen him race at my local course Haydock many times, although sadly i had to see his third Betfair Chase win from the sofa as opposed to being in the stands, he is reportedly heading straight to Aintree and is set to carry top weight of 11st 10lb, after his Haydock win in November he then ran a cracking race behind the evergreen Native River in the Cotswold Chase at Sandown, that was a very good performance on the whole but there has to be a doubt to him of a race of this nature, He is the class act for sure but i think the National might take him of his feet a bit and with plenty of pace in the race he could be scared off and find himself dropping down the field a bit from which he may drop the anchor early so for me while i love BDM to bits i think this won’t be his day.

Finally we come to a horse who definitely deserves plaudits to his trainer for the way he has been campaigned this season, i doubt very many Grand National winners have ever visited the Knavesmire on the road to Aintree glory but owner and trainer Ronan M P McNally has done just that with The Jam Man, York in October saw this horse win a 2m handicap on the Knavesmire before going on a month later to land the popular Troytown Chase over 3m at Navan where he beat Roaring Bull (i know you screeched that name out loud) by 18 lenghts, after that he was 6th in Haydock’s valuable 3m Hurdle in November before finishing 12th at Leopardstown in a similar contest this month, he has a unique profile for sure and looks to be a traditional plot job by a smaller trainer for a race like this and should not be underestimated at all.

So to sum up here are my recommendations for this years renewal.

Burrows Saint,Cloth Cap,The Jam Man ✔

Tiger Roll, Bristol De Mai ✖

Something New?

For the past few years now in the glorious world of jump racing two of Scotland and Ireland’s most famous cities in Edinburgh and Dublin and played host to two exciting weekend racing festivals aimed at having top class racing whilst also acting as Cheltenham trials at Musselburgh and Leopardstown respectively,

Both of these have regular television coverage and also they fit in with other sports too as they are alongside the opening weekend of the Six Nations and depending on the kick off times and how the fixture list has been worked out, many will tune in to continue the festivities for a proper sporting weekend.

Here though in England due to Mother Nature getting in the way and causing plenty of abandonments the sport actually could have something new in the offering and a chance for a mini two day festival that could well be worth doing again in the years to come.

This weekend upcoming Ascot will be hosting it’s last Saturday jump meeting of the season with Ascot Chase Day alongside the Reynoldstown Chase too in a real top class day of racing, the day after is the rescheduled Betfair Hurdle Day at fellow Berkshire course Newbury, two top class courses with two top class racedays following on from each other

Now it can often be a case that from bad things, in this case it’s the weather that something good can come and as the recent two day meetings at Musselburgh and Leopardstown have shown maybe having Ascot and Newbury having a little weekend Berkshire Racing Festival could be something worth sticking with in the future?

I’ve been to both courses and each time I’ve bedded down in Reading for the duration, it’s got good transport links to both courses with some decent hotels, plus it’s a short train ride out from Paddington.

Today at time of writing the Racing Post carried an article about how to try and not make the whole jumps season all Cheltenham centric and it is something i try to do, come Festival time i try treat it as just another meeting the same that i do on the flat with Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood for example.

Many may say it’s a good idea and others might mock it, everyone is entitled to their view and so that should be, but imagine a nice two day jumps festival like this, competitive racing that falls ideally before Cheltenham and can be a stand out one in it’s own right, you never know it might just work!

Royal Ascot, The future?

To say that Royal Ascot 2020 was different is a bit of an understatement to say the least!

No crowds, No Royal Procession, No fashion, No celebrity spotting in the hospitality areas and even more so No betting on what colour hat Her Majesty will have on!

The meeting last summer came three weeks into a very truncated 2020 turf flat season and to begin with the whole event had a totally different look compared to normal, The first two Classics had been run first and the Royal meeting had taken place in its original and intended date, just two weeks later we had the Oaks and Derby both on the same day but on the first Saturday in July with the Eclipse at Sandown the day after and despite some big races which had fallen by the wayside it looked that the season would be back on its proper tracks to the end which thankfully it was.

As for Royal Ascot well what can i say?

In all honesty despite the huge alterations to the meeting i loved every minute of it, we all know it had a different feel and if anything felt more like a “proper” race meeting as opposed to how it actually is in a conventional year.

For once the stripped back nature of the meeting actually made the racing feel like the main focal point as sometimes it can often get ignored for things like fashion,food and celebrities as can often happen for a meeting of this nature but this one was 100% pure horse racing.

And what racing we had bestowed upon us, from the brilliant Battaash on opening day to Hello Youmzain on the Saturday with Stradivarius getting his third Gold Cup on Thursday with many other things of note such as a 150-1 winner of the Coventry Stakes, Hollie Doyle breaking her Royal Ascot maiden tag in what became her most successful season to date and of course we can’t and indeed dare not mention The Queen also adding to her Royal tally.

ITV to their credit kept the show on the road with presenters, pundits and commentators all socially distanced to keep the outdoor broadcast within the rules which felt far better than the earlier shows which meant seeing Ed Chamberlin in his box room at home, a few elements came in for criticism such as during the week when chef James Martin showed us how to make a Scotch Egg, that recieved plenty of unwarranted abuse on social media but you have to accept that when you are showcasing your sport to the nation you have to have other things to keep the audience switched on.

Keeping a home audience entertained especially in these testing times for about four hours or so for five consecutive days is no mean feat and while you must always make sure the owners who couldn’t get on the track this year were included with the use of Zoom (I’m sure Ed must have had a bet on how many times he can say it in every show!) you have to make sure it’s an all inclusive broadcast so non racing people feel much a part of it too.

One thing that did make me pause for thought at one point during the week and it is a bit of a morbid one but here goes.

What will the future hold for the Royal meeting?

The Queen who like the rest of us had to settle down in front of the telly, is going to be 95 years old in April and sadly she will not be around forever although her late mother kept going till 101 so like Stradivarius she has plenty of staying power but at some point we will have to say goodbye to her in the saddest of circumstances.

Prince Charles who is 71 and serving the worlds longest apprenticeship will become King, now Charles has attended many race meetings as an owner, very briefly as a jockey and been in the Royal Procession many times over so when time comes he will be the main person in the first carriage when he becomes King.

However when Charles himself makes good his departure from this planet we then hit a tricky spot so to speak.

Prince William who is next in line is more known for his love of ball related sports being President of the FA and the Vice Royal Patron of the Welsh RU, although he has attended Royal Ascot on the occasional works outing with Kate in the Royal Procession and plays Polo, he doesn’t seem to have the same interest in racing as the Queen so that could pose a few questions over the next few years.

Royal Ascot is famous not just for some of the worlds finest bloodstock galloping up its famous green sward but also for the pomp and ceremony that draws in non horse racing fans too and if the next two in line to the throne aren’t really interested then their is every chance the summer sporting spectacle that is the Royal Ascot could end up being repackaged into something totally new for the years to come.

For all of us this is all we’ve ever known of this meeting, whatever the weather is, come 2pm each day the Golden Gates at the top of the Hunt Cup Course are opened and the Royal Procession enters with those beautiful Windsor Greys at the head of affairs bringing the party down then at the 1f pole it’s Hats Off as “God Save The Queen” gets played by the band and sang aloud from the stands by the most patriotic crowd in sport

Hopefully all this will still happen post C-19 and in the years to come but we must always keep an eye on the future as we also keep an eye on the present.

Haydock Park, Saturday 15th January 2020, Unibet Grand National Trial Day

Stepper Smooth In Trial

Testing conditions on course and the little addition of Storm Dennis couldn’t stop the show as Smooth Stepper used his experience under Harry Bannister as he overhauled in form course specialist Lord Du Mesnil in a real slog up the Haydock straight to land the feature Grade 3 Grand National Trial

With silks getting increasingly mud splattered just like many local rugby league games have been around these parts it all looked over bar the shouting as Lord Du Mesnil came to the last but the 11yo Smooth Stepper who slowly picked his rivals off up the straight and went past the 7yo on the run in whose petrol gauge slowly went into the red zone to land the big race of the day.

Alex Hales has been having a really good season and while Smooth Stepper wont be at Aintree he should pop up at Uttoxeter next month for the Midlands version, one who most certainly will is Yala Enki who ran a solid enough race back in third but got a tired like many horses did this afternoon.

Smooth Stepper

Emiton Bounces Back

After a poor reappearance at Cheltenham back on New Years Day, Emitom regained the winning thread when hacking up in the Grade 2 Rendlesham Hurdle, held together nicely by Gavin Sheehan he stayed on in good style to hold Donna’s Diamond easily in the end, he could head off to the Festival to take on Paisley Park in the Stayers or wait for the Liverpool Hurdle at Aintree in the spring.

One horse who put in a poor show was favourite The World’s End who was pulled up, he made a couple of errrors but this was not his showing.

Double For Nicholls

Paul Nicholls seldom leaves Haydock empty handed and he looks to have a couple of nice types for Cheltenham and Aintree as the stable lorry made the journey back to Ditcheat with two nice winners on the afternoon.

First of all Sir Psycho proved to be ready for a crack at either the Triumph or the Fred Winter with a very impressive display in the Victor Ludorum Hurdle, travelling nicely under Bryony Frost he was very slick at his hurdles and is coming along nicely as a jumper.

Sir Psycho

The second winner for the yard came in the finale which was run in near darkness, the Walrus Hunter Chase in a race that only had four runners but Alcala was much the best here as the 10yo began his new career in style under jockey Mr Angus Cheleda who himself was riding his first winner for the master of Ditcheat, currently not qualified for Cheltenham he would be better off waiting for Aintree over the same trip as this and tackle those fearsome Grand National fences

Alcala

Ramses Has His Chips

Not many horses use a 3m Novice Hurdle and a Grade 2 one at that to get ready for a crack at the Grand National but Ramses De Teillee looks likely to head down the East Lancs in April to line up as he bolted up in attrional conditions to take the Grade 2 Albert Bartlett Prestige Novice, already a winner of two races over three miles this seson including the River Don before this he should have as good a chance as any.

Back in second was Kalooki from the Philip Hobbs yard, he was simply beaten by a much more experienced horse but is one to keep in the trackers and has a nice future ahead of him

Henderson At The Double

Nicky Henderson had a double on the day too, first up Caribean Boy took the opening novice handicap chase over 2m4f in conditions that were far from Carribean but he jumped nicely and has a fair future ahear of him over fences on what was his second run over fences since moving here from France.

In the second part of the double saw Welsh Saint set up a possible tilt at the Pertemps Final as he landed one of the final qualifying races here pretty nicely, although he would want a very soft surface come the final he is developing into a nice type