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

Haydock Park, Saturday 18th January 2020, Peter Marsh Chase Day

Sam Supreme and Champion in Trials

As the last meeting proved, funny things can happen on Haydock’s run in on the hurdles course and on a sunny and crisp winter afternoon in this part of Lancashire that very much proved to be the case as trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies along with jockey and son Sam went back down the M6 and M5 to their Cheltenham yard with two victories in the meetings two feature hurdle races which were both won with the very last stride.

First up came Stolen Silver in the Supreme Trial over 2m who looked booked for third place jumping the last flight but clearly Sam’s partner, flat jockey Nicola Currie had been playing him her wins on Raising Sand at Ascot as he kept Stolen Silver in full overdrive to go past market protagonists Edwardstone and Thebannerkingrebel to land the pot right on the line.

This was seriously impressive and now looks to head to Newbury for next months Betfair Hurdle where he has a serious chance especially with his turn of foot on that long run in, it’d be a surprise if he heads to Cheltenham as Aintree would suit him far better.

Stolen Silver

Next up came the Champion Hurdle Trial over 2m and while all talk was about Pentland Hills getting to put his credentials on the line he didnt expect to be mugged on the line but here he was as Ballyandy who amazingly began his season at Wetherby in the West Yorkshire Hurdle over three miles decided that two was plenty as he nicked the race right on the line by a few pixles to take the bragging rights back to Naunton.

Pentland Hills did look all over the winner jumping the last under Nico De Boinville but certainly didnt expect Ballyandy to be

joining him, he like Ballyandy will line up in the big Championship race in March although wether or not he goes to Wincanton beforehand for another race is probably in the air.

Ballyandy

Clouds Cooks Another For Smith

Sue and Harvey Smith were notable non runners this afternoon but fear not, they were simply having some warm weather training in Spain on a winter break but both would have had the telly tuned into either RTV or ITV 4 to see Vintage Clouds give them a third win in five years in the big staying chase of the day, the Peter Marsh Chase.

Right from the front under Danny Cook who himself is no stranger to landing this, Vintage Clouds put in an exemplary round of jumping, considering last month in the Becher at Aintree he looked pretty shaken the staff at the yard in Bingley have done a super effort getting him back to his best, Aintree will be a No No for him but a return visit for next month’s Grand National Trial looks on the cards before heading up to Ayr in the spring for the Scottish equivalent.

One horse who ran a very good trial in second was Definitly Red who was staying on all the time, he looks set for a Kelso visit to put the finishing touches on him before a crack in the big Aintree race.

Vintage Clouds

Brown Hits The Right Note

Saturday’s final Grade 2 of the afternoon came in the Patrick Coyne Altcar Novices’ Chase and last year this race provided the winner of the slightly reduced now Four Miler at the Festival and it’s just possible this could occur again as Sam Brown who looked very much like his namesake in that he wanted to Stop going round the far turn but found his second wind up the straight to end up breezing away fairly effortlessly to route Knight Of Dubai by 15 lengths.

Although the whole field did make jumping errors, most notably Windsor Avenue who took a bad fall at the second last but got up ok this was a tight race on paper but the winned made it look easy in the end, ideally suited by much further Sam Brown is proper stayer as he showed first time out over fences at Lingfield, despite not holding any Cheltenham entries he probably would go for the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree instead and go there a much fresher horse.

Round up

A decent enough afternoon of quality jump racing, the main star of the show being Sam Twiston-Davies who yet again showed his talent in the saddle.

That Haydock run in over hurdles can change the fortunes of a race many times over and today proved to be no exception.

Next up we return here all depending on things like the weather for the Grand National Trial, till then goodbye

Haydock Park, Monday 30th December 2019, The Last Fling Raceday

Lord Reigns Over Haydock

Nine days after his emphatic Tommy Whittle win here at Haydock, Lord Du Mensil once again became everyone’s Christmas cracker as he followed up with a very easy win in the Last Fling Chase over the marathon trip of 3m4f .

In conditions which werent as testing as in previous meetings here but still tough none the less, Lord Du Mesnil jumped out with the same intention as last time to make all which he duly did getting a few of them off the snaffle mid race and in a race which saw six start only three of them completed this long distance test.

Things are certainly clicking with Lord Du Mesnil at the moment and still looks a horse ahead of the handicapper, he looks likely to get a National entry but as he will be only a 7yo come 2020 that may be too soon so while a return visit here in February might be ideal he would probably be aimed at the Midlands or Scottish Nationals as his big end of season targets.

Last months course winner Perfect Candidate came second and debspite approaching 13, he still retains his love for the game.

Jewel Hits Bookies For Six

Nick Alexander is always a trainer to watch at Haydock and with his daughter Lucy in the saddle they set back off back up the M6 to Kinneston with some New Year dreams in both their heads after Ebony Jewel ran out a nice winner of the 2m novice hurdle, although he had a bit of a battle with First Lord Du Cuet up the straight he rallied under Lucy Alexander to land the spoils by three parts of a length.

This race was a qualifier for the EBF and while thats a decent prize in its own right it’s possible that his trainer may want to target a local prize so something like the Festival trials at Musselburgh or the Premier Hurdle at Kelso might be under consideration but Ebony Jewel certainly looks like sparkling plenty more times.

Photo courtesy of Steve Mullington

Buster Robs Again

It’s fair to say that Mattie Batchelor has already improved the security on the cupboard which as his ‘Jump Ride Of The Year Award’ it because there is every chance that Jack Tudor is currently planning a Todd Unctious style attempt to nick it after his amazing ride on the David Pipe trained Buster Edwards who came from another parrish in a ride which has to be seen to be believed when landing the opening 3mile Handicap Hurdle for Conditional Jockeys.

On what looked a competitive race on paper, Buster Edwards was already under the kosh from halfway but thanks for Jack Tudor’s persuasion and never say die atitiude he came thundering home on the long run it to finish like Hello Youmzain did in September’s Sprint Cup.

Without doubt one of the standout rides of the season so far, Jack Tudor is one jockey clearly going places.

Bee Gets The Honey

Finally Fergal O’Brien looks to have a very nice prospect on his hands in the name of Ask A Honey Bee who left all his owners and backers buzzing as he won his second bumper on the bounce in the finale.

On what looked a nice race on paper with some good sorts on show, last months Southwell scorer ran away in emphatic style here finishing 11 lenghts of the runner up Kiriglote, this was as strong a bumper performance as youre likely to seel all season and looks set to take his chances at either the Cheltenham or Aintree in the spring, he should make into a very nice novice hurdler next season for the Cheltenham based master of cakes and jumpers.

Final round up

Another racing year comes to an end, in what’s been a very enjoyable one going from as far north as Carlisle to as south as Epsom we have been treated to some of the finest that this sport can offer.

Personal highlights for me include seeing Pinatubo and Defoe wining at Epsom, Battaash at Haydock and York, Stradivarius at York and last but no means least Tiger Roll with his second Grand National victory and who knows maybe come April we may see history in the making.

Until next time, may i wish you all a very Happy New Year for 2020

Haydock Park, Saturday 21st December 2019, Betway Tommy Whittle Chase Day

Hobsons’s Choice For Lord Prooves Right

Owner Paul Porter will have enjoyed driving home for Christmas yesterday after his Lord Du Mesnil put in a top quality round of jumping under Paul O’Brien for Cheltenham based trainer Richard Hobson.

From the release of the tapes he set out in front and never saw another rival over the stamina sapping 3m1f trip on heavy ground coming home plenty clear from runner up Calipso Collonges.

Three weeks ago he broke his maiden tag at Newcastle and finally looks to be going the right way, his next port of call after a little rest according to his trainer will be the 4 mile marathon Eider Chase back at Gosforth Park in mid February and looks well ahead of his race winning mark here of 127, soon to turn 7 he could be a Grand National horse in time.

Desaray Strikes In Abram

Phil Kirkby has another useful mare by the looks of things as Desaray Girl fought tenaciously up the long Haydock run it to nick the Listed Abram Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle from Rosie And Millie right on the line in a fairly competitive looking event.

Rosie And Millie tried to make all and was still ahead on the run in but Desaray Girl fought like a tiger here and showed real grit, longer trips look to be her forte here so expect her to be kept to 2m4f and maybe further, only a 4yo she has plenty more still to come.

Bingley Bells All The Way

After a slow start to the season things have certainly cranked up a notch or two for the Sue Smith yard and Yorkshire’s finest and most famous couple headed back to the White Rose side of fhe Pennines with a couple of nice winners.

First up Joke Dancer certainly had plenty smiling faces rewarded for keeping the faith as he picked up the 2m Handicap Chase, although he went out to the right at a few fences and nearly did a copycat version of what Diego Du Charmil did at Ascot last month at the second last he readily routted a fair field by 11 lenghts ahead of Chambard, he looks another Haydock specialist.

The stables other win came in the last race of the afternoon when Captain Moirette took the salute from the crowd in the 2m3f Handicap Hurdle, back over smaller obstacles after a couple of fair runs over fences this did his confidence the world of good and should be back over the larger jumps next time, a big grey horse he has more to offer one would think.

Another year of racing slowly coming to an end, we race again here at Haydock on Monday 30th December on what is always an enjoyable family day of racing designed to blow the cobwebs away.

From myself may i wish you all a Merry Christmas and enjoy the holidays

Aintree Races, Saturday 7th December 2019, Randox Health Becher Chase Day

Another Walk For Mill

Let there be no doubt that the Aintree Factor really does exsist as Walk In The Mill broke history by becoming the first dual winner of the Becher Chase as just like last year under James Best he romped to victory over these famous green spruce fences.

A quality field lined up for this Grade 3 staying test which was run at a good clip as you would expect for a race of this nature and Walk In The Mill sat in the pack of the early exchanges before picking up the lead at the second last from where James Best simply kept him up to his work, he relishes these fences and will be in the shake up come April.

Runner up Kimberlite Candy ran a very sweet race back in second place staying on all the time under Richie McLernon, expect him to be laid out for the National too as he would have a great chance and should get a fair weight when they get announced come February.

Johnson Sails Away On River

Native River began his campaign in what became nothing more than a glorified schooling session in the end as he had a a gentle Saturday afternoon potter around the Mildmay course to land the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase.

Over the first three fences with old adversary Might Bite it looked like we were due a proper repeat of the 2018 Gold Cup, sadly at the fourth fence he decided to shove Nico De Boinville out the side door which left Native River plenty clear from Black Corton and Outlander who had their own private battle as he sauntered home by 33 lenghts.

This was a nice confidence boost for Native River who could head to Chepstow now but also if the ground at Cheltenham came up very soft then we could have a new version of Kauto v Denman if he were to take on Lostintranslation in the Gold Cup then a return to Aintree for the National in which he would carry top weight no doubt is also the main reported target.

Might Bite does need a confidence race now, you couldn’t rule out a return to hurdles maybe with his hurdle mark of 148 quite exploitable if the correct race is found.

Hogan The Hero

Jamie Snowden’s horses continue in great form and Hogan’s Height certainly reached new heights by landing the other race over the big greens, the Grand Sefton Chase.

Fourteen went to post and he jumped away nicely staying in the pack before making headway across the Melling Road to swoop around the outside to over the second last from where he increased his lead and ran away a very impressive winner.

Fair to say that April’s Topham Trophy will be his main target from here as he seemed to enjoy this test and although that race can be slightly classier than this one, he does have that Aintree factor which is always worth a few pounds extra.

Best Of The Rest

Jockey Tom Cannon had a day to remember with three winners, most notably with Hogan’s Height but also with Midnights’ Gift who won the 3yo Fillies’ Listed Hurdle after taking full advantage from challenger Galice Macalo crashing out at the final flight of hurdles.

Already successful at Fakenham on her hurdling debut she looks a useful recruit to jumping and with a flat rating of 78 means she could be one to mix the codes when the bad weather comes, Galice Macalo showed good improvement and despite the fall has a good future too for the Jane Williams team.

Finally Carlisle’s loss was Aintree’s gain with the Listed Houghton Mares’ Chase being transferred from last Sunday’s abandoned meeting and Nicky Henderson will have been delighted with Casablanca Mix running out a ready winner here over the 2m4f trip to supplement her Summer Plate win back in July, despite being a bit unsettled in the early part she served up the good when needed, time between races in essential for her but another black type win will been very much welcome here