WE end 2020 in not quite the way we started it or more significantly expected it and I can only hope that 2021 is a much better year for us all. Covid has taken its toll on everyone, but we are extremely lucky that racing has managed to continue throughout it all which is testament to the great work by the BHA who have done a fantastic job proving that we can cope safely and effectively under such difficult circumstances and they should be commended for their efforts. Often it feels like we take one step forward and then two steps back and it is very frustrating, but hopefully things will turn once we approach spring time and racecourses can welcome owners and members of the public back again because I for one have missed having all of you there so fingers crossed we’ll meet again very soon. In the meantime, I’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year and hope 2021 brings you health, wealth and happiness.
Moving on to the horses; I know a lot of you have been asking about Champ and I’m pleased to say that he is in excellent form and the obvious race would be the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day. It might have to be for Santini as well, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it because there’s also the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. Champ is coming along great and Nico had a spin on him on Christmas Eve and he’s been jumping very well. There is nothing else before the Cotswold Chase so I’d imagine he’d have a racecourse gallop beforehand which should put him spot on. It’s a similar story with Buveur D’air who is doing really well and coming along very nicely. He’ll almost certainly have an away day and then head to Sandown for the Contenders Hurdle.
Chantry House has also attracted plenty of interest and I can report that he had a problem with his back which has now been dealt with. He had a little bit of surgery, but nothing major, and he’ll be back cantering away again next week so I hope to get his career back on track.
Allart has come out of his Ascot race very well, but I still haven’t really thought about where to go next. He’s probably only going to have one more run before anything big but ideally I wouldn’t mind another two because he needs experience so we’ll see what’s available over the next couple of weeks.
Shishkin has come out of Kempton very well and I’m extremely happy with him. I want to give him one more run before the Arkle and it will be in either the Kingmaker at Warwick or Game Spirit at Newbury but I also have Altior pencilled in for that. Altior is fine and there is nothing else to report except to say he will most certainly not be retired and you didn’t see the real him the other day. He’s probably getting to that stage where he may be losing a bit of that speed that has always been so potent but the way he jumps at home you’d have no reason to think he’s slowing down – he’s still like a rocket. I would think there is every possibility that he will be given an entry in the Ryanair Chase but we haven’t really discussed it and at the moment the Champion Chase remains the goal.
I’m afraid you won’t be seeing Dusart for quite a while because we’ve had a very unfortunate set back and for the time being we’ll have to consider he is out of action. Without going into all the unnecessary gory details, he had an accident at home and is still at the equine hospital, but he’s doing well and will definitely be back although I cannot say if he will be back this season or not.
The vets are all pleased with his progress and hopefully he will be coming back to Seven Barrows next week but it’s definitely to early to be issuing a prognosis on it and I’ve got to say it’s very doubtful that he will be going to Cheltenham. He’s a big, big baby of a horse and I’ve spoken to his owner, Ronnie Bartlett, and we both considered that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we missed out the rest of this season and brought him back next year because he’s still got plenty of maturing to do. Obviously it’s very unfortunate for everyone but he is going to be very good and has chaser written all over him. Who knows, he might recover very quickly and be ready in time for the spring but it’s just to early to say and at this stage I would say it’s unlikely he’ll make March.
SANDOWN – SATURDAY
Valtor (Daryl Jacob) & Gold Present (Nico de Boinville)
This is a great race and a big thank you to Unibet for sponsoring it once again! These sort of races give the older guys a chance to win a race against their own type and not prove vulnerable to something unexposed. Gold Present will be getting plenty of cover and is in great form at home but I can’t really see him being in love with the ground because it really will be like a bog. Valtor shouldn’t have any issues with it and ran well last time so goes there with a decent chance but it’s going to be a war of attrition so I couldn’t be overly confident they will both relish it.
Questions to @Sevenbarrows
When do you think we will get to see Marie’s Rock next?
Unfortunately she was one of many of our horses who had a dirty trachea wash last week so we couldn’t run her but she seems over that now and will be ready very soon.
Happy New Year Nicky. My question would be, so many horses, so many different races, just how difficult is it and how many people are involved in planning what happens and how far ahead do you and the team tend to look?
To be fair, I do all the race planning and entries (well, Carolyn actually clicks the buttons on the computer!) in conjunction with some of the owners who might suggest a certain race which we’ll then look at. Anthony Bromley does a lot of the work involving the horses that run in ‘double green’ but the majority of owners leave it entirely up to us. I set aside two and a half hours from 6:00pm until 8:30pm every night when I lock myself in the office and spend time speaking with my owners and planning ahead with the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door!
Any news on Pentland Hills and if you had to pick one for this season’s Supreme who would it be? Dusart or Lecales Article?
Pentland Hills is out for the season but will hopefully be back for next and I shouldn’t imagine Lecales Article being a Supreme horse because I suspect he wants further than two miles. To be honest he doesn’t even need to go to Cheltenham this year. As for Dusart, please see above.
When is My Whirlwind, Giant’s Table and Gallyhill running?
My Whirlwind was due to run the other day but had a dirty trachea wash. Giant’s Table has been retired and Gallyhill is a lovely horse who was not far off a run but gave a few coughs so we eased off him. He’s back now and looks absolutely fantastic and we’re just starting to do a little bit more with him. He is a very exciting horse.
When will we see Flinteur Sacre again? Was a little disappointed with him at Newbury but Sprinter was beaten first time out over hurdles, so I think he can still be the real deal.
He could definitely still be the real deal but he just didn’t settle at Newbury so we are doing lots of work to try and make sure that doesn’t happen again. I’ve got plans to ensure he relaxes but he certainly won’t be on a racecourse any time soon.
Who is the horse with the cheekiest personality at home?
Santini is a very happy horse at home and likes a buck and a kick but Janika can throw a few shapes when he wants to as well!
Is Dame De Compagnie still in training?
She most certainly is and is fit and fully schooled to start her chasing career. She is electric over fences and I might even drop her back down to two miles because she enjoys it that much and is so quick. She’s ready to run.
Has Jonbon arrived at Seven Barrows and if so when are we likely to see him out?
Yes he has arrived and took a bit of time to settle in but is fully at home now and I like everything I see. I’m not in any rush and would imagine he’ll probably have one start in a bumper and we’ll leave him until next season.
What effect has Covid had on the number of horses and owners in racing?
I can only speak for myself and luckily I am very fortunate that we have not been adversely affected. I have good owners and a strong team but that not to say it’s like this for everyone and I have no doubt that lots of trainers are affected. It’s such a difficult situation and unfortunately it’s a case of sitting and suffering until this blows over, which it will, but if we lose even one owner because of this, it is definitely one owner too many. I didn’t buy as many store horses this year as I’d normally do because selling might not be the easiest in this current climate and prize money has obviously been affected so we can only hope and pray that we all get through this together.
How is Ballingers Corner at the moment? I am a friend of her previous owner and they cannot wait to see her again. She was mightily impressive at Market Rasen and could be a nice prospect going forward.
She is a lovely prospect and did exactly what we thought she’d do at Market Rasen but it did take quite a lot out of her and she took a while to get over it so we gave her a bit of a break. She’s back in now and looks great.
What race is I Am Maximus being targeted at please?
He went straight home after his bumper win for a short rest but he’s back now and looks well. He’ll stick to bumpers for this year but I’m not a fan of the Cheltenham race so I suspect he won’t end up there, although I will speak to Mike (Grech, owner) and discuss it all.