I’M afraid I am under lock and key and self isolating at home at Seven Barrows after catching the dreaded Covid which means unfortunately I will be unable to attend Sandown on Saturday for Unibet Tolworth day which is a shame because I was rather looking forward to presenting the trophy to the winner of the Read Nicky Henderson’s Unibet Blog Handicap Chase!
It might seem a nice idea watching all the action on the television but I can tell you, in reality, it is most definitely not fun and it’s fair to say I am doing lots of box walking! Thankfully I am not unwell and feel fine but it’s important to do the right thing so you won’t see me around until next week.
Charlie and Billy, along with the rest of our brilliant team, are doing a marvellous job keeping the show on the road which means everything can carry on as normal and the horses aren’t effected one iota.
Speaking of which Shishkin has come out of the Desert Orchid Chase in excellent shape and while I have now learnt to never rule anything in or out, if he is still showing me the same signs in a week’s time we might seriously consider running in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot on 22nd January. He either has the option of that or the Game Spirit at Newbury on 12th February, so we aren’t short of options, but, as I say, Ascot is a strong possibility if he remains in the same form as he is at present.
Jonbon is also in fine fettle and will have one more run before Cheltenham. Where that will be hasn’t entirely been decided but favourite at the moment is looking like Haydock on the 22nd for the G2 Rossington Main Novices’ Hurdle. There’s also the Listed Sidney Banks at Huntington on 10th February but I think we’ll save Balco Coastal for that race instead.
Chantry House was disappointing in the King George but I suppose we always ran the risk of him not liking Kempton and to be honest he was never really happy and playing catch up all the way round. That was his first proper test against experienced chasers and I just don’t think he handled the track and the pace of the race. That’s not to say anything bad about Kempton, it’s one of my favourite courses, but some horses handle it, some don’t and I’m afraid, at this stage of his career, Chantry House didn’t. All is not lost, however, and he is absolutely fine at home and the intention is to run in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham on January 29th.
There is still no decision where Champ is concerned and as you know, he was put in the Gold Cup this week but we also have the option of the Stayers’ Hurdle. He’s obviously a big price for the Gold Cup and almost favourite, or perhaps even favourite, for the Stayers’ which I suppose tells its own story but I’ll sit down with JP, AP and Frank and we’ll make a decision. Wherever he goes, it was great to see him back to his best.
Epatante will go straight to the Cheltenham for the Unibet Champion Hurdle because I don’t see any point in running her beforehand. JP said to me at the beginning of the season, “we have two goals, one is the Fighting Fifth, the other is the Christmas Hurdle” and I think we achieved what we set out to do. I must admit however, we are all quite bullish about her because she is in excellent shape and seems almost a different horse this time around. Whether she can beat Honeysuckle is obviously a very big question but, at the moment, we have her right where we want her.
Mister Fisher ran a very good race in the King George on what was his first start of the season so he was always going to be up against it, especially over that trip on that ground, but he’s also come out of Kempton flying and if we can get some good ground there’s every chance he could run in the Denman Chase at Newbury next month.
Constitution Hill (Nico de Boinville)
Everything has gone well since Sandown last time and he’s done everything we’ve asked of him at home. This is, however, a big step up and I’m under no illusions as to the task he faces. Gary Moore’s runner, Shallwehaveonemore, beat one of ours (Walking On Air) in a Bumper at Kempton last March and to be honest we really thought we’d win it, so I know how strong that form is and Gary’s horses are in very good shape now. We’ve won this race five times before, twice for Michael Buckley (New York Rainbow and Royal Boy) so the Unibet Tolworth has been good to us down the years and hopefully this chap can do the business once again.
Clean Getaway (James Bowen)
I must admit he’s been rather disappointing because he’s much better than he’s shown so far and while he has to step up on recent runs I wouldn’t be at all surprised to him run well on ground he’ll like.
Blue Stello (James Bowen)
He ‘won’ in rather controversial circumstances at Warwick last time but I must admit I was still very surprised by the way he came with a late wet sail because I thought he’d definitely need it and was happy to accept third, but as it is he now has to carry a penalty, although I think there’s more improvement to come.
Blairgowrie (James Bowen)
He probably did a bit too much from the front at Uttoxeter last time so we’ll try and ride him a little more conservatively here and I think he could be quite well treated off 112 on his handicap debut. The track, trip and ground will suit so he has every reason to go well.