Everything is gearing up for the Cheltenham Festival now. We are off to Cheltenham’s Festival Trials Day tomorrow and it looks like there will be a lot of rain which would have been ideal ground conditions for Reve De Sivola if he had been running in the Cleeve Hurdle. Everybody is expecting Colin Tizzard’s talented horse Thistlecrack to win. A couple of years ago the great veteran Knockara Beau gave Big Buck’s supporters a shock and won at long odds. Maybe he will do the same again tomorrow! I am not quite sure who to cheer on. In the juvenile hurdle we will definitely be hoping that Duke of Medina will run a big race as he is owned by a friend of Graham’s.
We went to Haydock last Saturday to support Reve De Sivola in the Peter Marsh chase. Haydock provide a great facility for their owners with a three course lunch which included sticky ribs for Graham and my favourite parsnip soup! We had a nice chat with some other owners on our table as well as partners in Reve De Sivola. Racing opinion was divided due to this being Reve’s first run over fences for four years. Although he was placed in some big races as a novice he just did not take to the larger obstacles. Hard to believe for a horse that stands over 17 hands high. Out trainer, Nick Williams, felt that as Reve is more mature now and has a handicap mark so much lower than his hurdles rating it was worth another try. He was at the bottom of the handicap with 10 stone 4 pounds and our very tall jockey, James Reveley, spent time in the sauna to do the weight. I had to take a photo of his saddle as it was so small the stirrups were the biggest part, the rest of the saddle being just a means to enable those stirrups to be attached!!
Reve looked fantastic with a gleaming coat that you would expect to see on a hot summers day, not a cold winters day in January. I had to laugh when at the start of the race Reve put his ears back and tried to bite the other horses. I think he has become more grumpy in his old age! He lobbed around in the middle of the pack and came home in his own time for 5th place, not really showing the ability that he clearly has. He takes too long to clear his fences and so does not get into the same rhythm that he is able to achieve over the smaller hurdles. Graham and I are just happy that he came home safe and sound and we would very much like to see him being allowed to finish the rest of his distinguished career over hurdles.
It has been a quiet time for us since Christmas. Mainly we have been watching the racing on Channel 4 from the comfort of our sofa! Kerry Lee has won two prestigious Class 1 long distance chases, the rearranged Chepstow Welsh Grand National with Mountainous and the Betfred Classic Chase with Russe Blanc at Warwick. Both were run in typical January heavy going and the two venues did a fantastic job to get the racing on. We were present at Warwick 5 years ago when Russe Blanc won his bumper, also on heavy going, and so it was great to see him win on Saturday. He is the only registered ‘white’ horse in training as they are usually called ‘grey’.
We visited Cheltenham on New Year’s day and that was a very busy and cold day. The wind was whistling around the stands and we were all huddled together
for comfort. The new stand and walkways allow better access for the crowds but I do find all the steps a bit frustrating. I have had mobility issues for some time now and Cheltenham is not the best place when you are limping! When I could not walk very far last year I found I had to use my fathers old wood walking stick, but don’t worry he can still get about as he has loads of them sitting in a huge old china vase by the front door! That year Reve won his third Long Walk Hurdle and I found Ascot so much better when you have a mobility issue, more gently sloping ramps and helpful officials directing me to the lifts. I was a bit vain though trying to hide my stick when photos’s were taken.
Well done to our jockey Lizzie Kelly who won the Channel 4 Jockey of the month for December 2015 for her ride on Tea for Two at Kempton. She became the first lady jockey to win a Grade 1 chase in Britain and Ireland. Even though fame beckons Lizzie still helps the stable out and I got a lovely picture after Reve’s 2nd at Ascot in the 2015 Long Walk Hurdle in which she is giving him a well deserved drink.
I titled this Reve De Sivola as Graham and I are very nervously looking forward to Reve running at Haydock on Saturday, assuming the racing will be on. There have been a lot of cancellations lately with the rain and frost. On our trainers recommendation the majority of partners agreed that Reve should go back over fences. It is hard for older horses over hurdles with new younger, more dynamic, counterparts taking them on each year. Reve has had loads of schooling over the larger obstacles and over the last 4 years lots of practice over show jumps and dressage in the practice arena. I am sure he is getting more bendy and according to our trainer, Reve may even have learned to see a stride at his fences so hopefully his obligatory blunder over the hurdles will be a thing of the past! His old ally James Reveley will be on board. We just want Reve to come back safely and he will get a huge big hug from me on Saturday. Good luck Reve.
I was reminded the other day that I had not blogged for some time, over a year and a half. I had not realise how long it was!
We have had an exciting time with the horses. Reve De Sivola our Paul Duffy Diamond partnership horse has won three Long Walk Hurdles in a row at Ascot and was only just denied a fourth by the exciting hurdler Thistlecrack. I have updated the ‘About The Horses‘ page to show our three partnership horses Cabernet D’Alene, Culture De Sivola and After Eight Sivola. Minty has now won three races for us. Culture has already won one and come an excellent fourth in a listed fillies juvenile race at Aintree in December. Cab is just starting out for us and had his first run over Christmas. The race was a strong one with some Triumph Hurdle types and so we will be looking for an easier one next time.
Happy New Year to you all.
Sandown on Saturday 26th April was the finale of the 2013-14 British Winter Jumps Season. Our trainer, Nick Williams, had the one runner Dolores Delightful who came a close 5th in the juvenile hurdle. The highlight of the day was a win for ‘Horse of the Year’ Sire De Grugy in the Grade 1 Celebration Chase. Tony McCoy was champion jockey for an amazing 19th year, with Gavin Sheehan Champion conditional jockey, JP McManus Champion owner and Paul Nicholls Champion trainer.
In the British Jumps Trainers Championship Nick came 28th winning £309,874 in prize money. He had his highest number of winners in a season with 23 out of 129 runners which is an 18% win rate. In the same period in France he accumulated €331, 050 with 5 winners out of 42 runners which is a 12% win rate. The total for the UK and France combined is £582,479 and 28 winners. If it had all been won in the UK this would have put Nick as high as 16th in the British Championship. In addition Nick and Jane won the 2013 Crystal Cup Cross Country Series for the second year in a row with winners and placed horses in the UK, France and Italy.
Reve De Sivola was the stables highest earner with £185,813 and two Grade 1 hurdle wins at Ascot in the Long Walk Hurdle and Auteuil, France in the Grand Prix D’Automne. Nick achieved a third Grade 1 win during the season with Le Rocher in the Finale Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow in December. To finish a quality season both Le Rocher and one of his other young juvenile hurdlers Fox Norton also won Grade 2 hurdle races at Cheltenham and Doncaster, respectively.
Graham and I finished the season by watching the Sandown finale on the television with Channel 4 Racing. However, we did manage some excellent days at the races at Cheltenham and Newbury in April. Admittedly Newbury was on the flat but we had the thrill of seeing The Queen in the paddock watching her horse run that day. Cheltenham was a good last visit of the season for us with lots of great racing and easter eggs all around for the children (we managed to eat some chocolate egg having pinched it from the unsuspecting daughter of one of our friends!). Cheltenham is changing with lots of old buildings having been demolished in preparation for building work to start on their new stand. We had a look at the changes as well as an enjoyable visit to the centre of the racecourse where we watched the horses jump the final steeplechase fence at close quarters. The speed at which they travel is amazing!
With just a few days break before the British Summer Jumping Season starts we are looking forward to Punchestown in Ireland where their big season finale will boast many a re-match of champions from the Cheltenham Festival. Reve De Sivola is due to run in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle on the Thursday and Fox Norton in the juvenile on the Saturday. Beau De Tabel is then due to start racing next week at Newton Abbot in a 2 mile 3 furlong maiden hurdle. Roll on the summer jumping!
A final note to say I have just spotted in the press that our favourite jockey Daryl Jacobs has announced he will go freelance when he returns from injury. We wish him all the best and hope that he will ride many more horses for us in the future.
Well I haven’t blogged for a while and during that time the racing world has staged two great Festivals at Cheltenham and Aintree.
We visited Cheltenham in person but watched the Channel 4 coverage of Aintree’s famous Grand National. I hope that we can manage a visit to Aintree next year as it is one of the most exiting meetings on the racing calendar. We were lucky enough in 2007 and 2008 to have a runner called Philson Run in the Grand National. In 2007 he finished a spectacular 4th followed by an unseat at The Chair in 2008. One of the things I remember most about the National is watching all the jockeys and horses coming back home with tales of what if this and that hadn’t happened! This year’s renewal was full of drama and produced another great story with Dr Richard Newland winning with his horse Pineau De Re. He trains as a hobby with his main job being a GP. Stories such as this are what make the Grand National so great.
We had a wonderful week at the Cheltenham Festival in March. None of my tips won which is why I don’t bet as a rule as I am so bad at it! My favourite winner was Sire De Grugy in the Champion Chase. He ran so well during the season and was really under rated by the press. It was good to see him follow up all that promise by winning the Champion Chase in majestic style.
On Wednesday we were invited for hospitality by our friends at French Racing (FRBC) and enjoyed a fantastic view over the paddock that day. We met lots of interesting people and were treated to a day of food and drink whilst enjoying the racing. On Thursday Reve De Sivola ran in the World Hurdle and made all of the running. However, he just does not seem to be able to cope with the good ground at this time of year and came in a gallant 8th. He may run at Punchestown at the end of April but it will all depend on the weather and whether he gets his favoured soft ground. He should then have a well deserved summer break before going back to France in November to defend his Grade 1 Grand Prix D’Automne hurdle title.
Our trainer, Nick Williams, continued his run of bad luck at the Cheltenham Festival with no winners. His best hope Le Rocher was not declared for the Triumph Hurdle on the Friday as he was found to be lame. Reve came 8th and Diamond Harry was pulled up in the Cross Country Race on Wednesday (the winner of that race, Balthazar King, came 2nd in the Grand National giving me a rare eachway win with the bookies). There is always next year and maybe After Eight Sivola (Minty) will be the one to break Nick’s duck.
A great way to finish off the Cheltenham Festival week is to make a visit to Uttoxeter racecourse to watch the Midland Grand National. Our old horse Philson Run won the 2005 renewal of this race and so I don’t need much of an excuse to travel there at the end of a busy Cheltenham week. This year Alfie Spinner was racing for the ‘Beard Brothers.’ There was a good crowd in attendance along with many friends to chat to about our betting losses (or even wins!) from the past week. Unfortunately, Alfie was not able to finish the race having had a long hard season and has now joined our youngster Minty out at grass for a long summer break.
Our other Larkhills horse, Beau De Tabel, has now come back into training having recovered from all his various problems. With the winter jumps season drawing to a close at the end of April we are looking forward to the summer jumps season and seeing Beau run on the better ground in about a month or so time.
With Cheltenham fast approaching the rain has decided to stop! Our horses have run all winter on rain sodden ground and now it looks like The Festival will be run on good ground. To win at The Festival a horse will need to be really versatile being able to race on any going and so prove itself a true champion.
Racing at Cheltenham started on the flat in 1815 on Nottingham Hill. It was moved to the current location at Prestbury Park in 1831 after the Parish Priest preached the evils of horseracing resulting in disruptions at the 1830 race meeting and the grandstand subsequently being burnt down! Steeplechasing followed flat racing moving from Andoversford to Prestbury Park in 1898.
Much has changed over time with Graham remembering racing in the 1960’s when the horses even used to race behind the stands. His first memory of the Cheltenham Festival was the 1965 Champion Hurdle when his horse, the Fred Rimell trained Spartan General, came second. I have some fond memories with one of my favourite days spent cheering the great grey Dessert Orchid (Dessie) to victory in the 1989 Gold Cup. The following year I even managed to back the 100-1 shot Nortons Coin. Since Graham and I started to go racing at Cheltenham both the course and stands have undergone considerable change. The next phase being the construction of a new stand which will start once the 2014 Festival has finished.
In 2014 we will of course be following our trainer, Nick Williams, horses with great interest. He still has 5 entries. Un Bon P’Tit Gars on the first day, Tuesday 11th March. On the Wednesday he has Diamond Harry and Shalimar Fromentro in the Cross Country race. Thursday is Reve De Sivola day in The World Hurdle and Friday Le Rocher is due to run in the Triumph Hurdle. Because of the size of entries and limited places Un Bon P’Tit Gars and Shalimar Fromentro may not get a run. We will know the day before their races when declarations are made. For Reve and Le Rocher declarations are made 48 hours before as they are running in Championship Grade 1 races.
Although we own a share in Reve I am being a bit disloyal and think Le Rocher has the best chance of winning! However, I have been looking at Reve’s past form on heavy ground compared to good ground. He has mainly won on soft or heavy ground and so most people think that the heavier the better for Reve. Three other runs stand out when he won his only chase on good ground at Cheltenham in December 2010. In his 2009/10 novice hurdle season he won at Punchestown in the Grade 1 Cathal Ryan Memorial Champion Novice Hurdle and came a close second in the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. He may have lost a bit of speed as he has got older but I am hopeful that the better ground will allow him to get up that steep Cheltenham finish in top gear!
Other horses that I am looking forward to are the Jeremy Scott trained Melodic Rendezvous in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday and the David Pipe trained Red Sherlock in the Neptune Investment Management Novice Hurdle on Wednesday. I now have a favourite horse for each day of the festival. Graham will have as many as there are races with maybe the odd added extra!! Roll on Tuesday.
After Eight Sivola (Minty) was given another run at Warwick on the 21st February 2014. Our Trainer, Nick Williams, made the entry in the hope that a good run would increase Minty’s handicap mark by enough to get a run in the Fred Winter juvenile hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
We arrived at Warwick to be greeted by beautiful blue skies and a chill in the air requiring everybody to be wrapped up warmly. We enjoyed hot beef pie and creamy gnocchi in the owners and trainers bar but then struggled to move around afterwards due to very fully tummies! Minty’s race was 5th on the card and I was volunteered to hold him whilst he was saddled. I always get quite nervous when our horses run which is not a good thing when holding a young horse as they can tell how you feel. Luckily, Minty has grown up a lot since his first run and behaved impeccably even allowing me to give his velvet nose a kiss!
During the race Minty was held up in midfield until showing a great turn of foot down the back straight to catch up with the two leaders. Unfortunately, Minty is still quite weak and he ran out of puff as he turned into the home straight to come 7th of the 11 runners. After the race we had a long conversation with Nick and our jockey, Richard Johnson. We came to the conclusion that at this stage in his career Minty still needs to grow and strengthen up and would not have a handicap mark high enough to run at Cheltenham. Therefore, we have decided not to run Minty again this season but to give him a nice long break out at grass. The intention is for him to come back into training again in about June ready for a novice hurdle campaign early next season.
Minty has now briefly joined Beau De Tabel out at grass. I say briefly as we hope that Beau will be back in training again soon to take advantage of some better spring ground.
Our previous partnership horse, Diamond Eclipse (Lark), on the other hand continues to thrive in point to points in the Devon area. On the 16th February 2014 his new trainer, Emma, entered Lark in a maiden point at Buckfastleigh in South Devon. At the age of eight and after five seasons racing Lark at last got his handsome nose in front! Everybody is thrilled with this achievement and there are some great photos of him winning on the fantastic Turfpix website. (Nick and Jane’s son Chester Williams also had a winner that day on Babeny Bridge (Jerry). By coincidence Jerry is part owned by one of Lark’s previous owners!) Congratulations to Emma, Lark and all of his new owners.
Since my last blog our trainer, Nick Williams, has had a further 2 winners with Abracadabra Sivola and, Minty’s half brother, Veauce De Sivola both having their first wins at Haydock and Taunton respectively. Nick has now earned £269, 255 prize money this season with 18 winners and is 23rd in the British Trainers Championship. Roll on Cheltenham Festival where I think Nick’s best chance of a first Festival winner is either Reve De Sivola or Le Rocher.
With Huntingdon managing to pump the water off their course After Eight Sivola (Minty) was declared to run in their juvenile hurdle on the 6th February 2014.
Huntingdon is quite a small racecourse with a very friendly atmosphere. On arrival we warmed up with a nice chicken casserole and dumplings in the owners and trainers bar. We soon met up with our trainer, Nick Williams, and 3 other owners who had managed to make the trip. In addition Minty’s friend Alco Sivola was running in the same race and it was great to catch up with his owner Sally. We all hid away in the owners bar until the time of the race when we ventured out into the cold rain. Minty was saddled in the racecourse stables with Alco being saddled in the boxes by the parade ring. You can see us in the photo sheltering for as long as possible out of the rain!
During the race Minty and Alco were held up to try and get them to settle as they are still inexperienced horses. We were really pleased with Minty as he settled so much better with our jockey, Richard Johnson, confirming that he hurdled very neatly. Minty kept up with the pace until the leaders drew away 2 hurdles out staying on well to come 5th with Alco 6th. With each run his confidence has grown and he has finished closer to the leaders. Having had 3 runs the handicapper has now allocated him a handicap mark of 117. This may not be quite high enough for him to get a run in the big juvenile handicap, the Fred Winter, at the Cheltenham Festival but Nick will make an entry and we will see what happens.
Beau De Tabel in the meantime did not run at Taunton as it was called off with water logging. Since then it has been decided to give Beau a few weeks off as he is a bit under the weather.
Diamond Eclipse (Lark), our first partnership horse, had his first point to point run for his new owner Emma at Black Forest Lodge in Devon. He was ridden by Lucy Gardner. The Gardners live very close to Emma and Lark trains on their gallops. The going was good to soft, soft in places and Lark was running over 3 miles having been used to running on firm ground over 2 to 2 and a half miles. However, he is actually bred to run extreme distances so it was no surprise to see him running very keenly and just weakening at the last fence to come a fantastic 3rd by 4 and a half lengths. He was one of only 4 to finish out of 12 runners which shows how gruelling the ground was. Everybody was thrilled with his run and he has another entry this Sunday at Buckfastleigh in South Devon.
Nick has not had any winners since my last blog with few runners due to abandonments. Tomorrow he has 2 good runners at Haydock with Abracadabra Sivola in the Juvenile and Horatio Hornblower in a handicap hurdle. Haydock are hopeful of the card going ahead but the ground will be very testing. We are looking forward to watching the racing on Channel 4 from the comfort of our armchairs.
The rain continues to pour down and cause numerous abandonments. It is getting very frustrating for the National Hunt community as we are all trying to get runs into our horses. For the fans of racing it is also hard as planned days out get cancelled.
The racecourses are doing a great job of getting racing on when they can. Saturday was a good example with all three jumps fixtures at Weatherby, Sandown and Ffos Las going ahead. Along with racing fans Channel 4 had four options in place for their days broadcast with the last one being all jumps racing being called off and a visit to Lingfield on the all weather! I think we all expected this option to come into place and gave a cheer of delight as one by one the three jumps fixtures declared themselves fit to race. Sandown had to juggle their card more than the other two. As with nearly all jumps meetings there is a mixture of hurdles and steeple chases. The hurdles course at Sandown Park was more waterlogged than the chase course and so they put in place an all chase option. This clever foresight saved their days racing as on Friday morning the continuing rain meant they were forced to make the decision to put the all chase card into place.
For us the abandonment of the hurdles at Sandown meant that After Eight Sivola (Minty) did not get a run. He was entered in the juvenile race along with his old friend Alco Sivola. One of our partners did not think that this was a bad thing as he thought the two horses may have stopped half way round for a chat!
Beau and Minty had also been due to race at Ludlow last Wednesday and again that meeting was called off due to water logging. This was especially disappointing for us as we were looking forward to Jane Williams daughter Lizzie riding Beau for us in an amateur hurdles race. Our trainer, Nick Williams, has now made further entries on Thursday at Huntingdon and Taunton. I am not quite sure how we will split ourselves in half as one horse is entered at Taunton and the other at Huntingdon. Oh to be able to afford a helicopter! However, with the usual downpours and the river already rising towards the track at Huntingdon we may not need to make that decision.
On a more positive note Nick has had 2 winners since my last blog including the amazing Le Rocher who romped home in the JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial on the 25th January at Cheltenham. With his owners at our lunch table we celebrated by consuming rather a lot of champagne and wine. Unfortunately, I think this meant that I accidentally breathed too many fumes over my gorgeous boy Reve De Sivola who struggled up that sharp Cheltenham hill in the Cleeve Hurdle. I must say though that it was great to see the veteran Knockara Beau and the youngster At Fishers Cross getting their noses in front of the long time hurdle champion Big Bucks. Reve’s owners now hope for a bit of sun to get a gleam in his coat and a bounce in his stride ready for his next race in the World Hurdle at The Cheltenham Festival in March. Maybe I will suggest Nick sends him on a holiday to France as I think he would love the trip!
And finally, Diamond Eclipse (Lark) who we sold in September, is due to have his first point to point run today at Black Forest in Devon for his new owner Emma Loosemore. I will let you know the result in my next blog.
After Eight Sivola (Minty) made his return at Kempton last Saturday after a month lay off to recover from his sore shins.
He had entries at Sandown and Ludlow but both were called off with the continuing bad weather. Kempton on Saturday the 11th January 2014 was the first to survive the rain. I did plenty of research to make sure we didn’t accidentally take a route through the flood water but travelling solely on the motorways proved no problem at all. To make doubly sure we left even earlier than usual and actually arrived before Minty and our trainer Nick Williams! The entrance wasn’t even open but the lovely lady in charge of the owners desk made a special trip to the racecourse office to get our badges so that we could go in an have a nice warming cup of coffee.
Kempton have refurbished their owners and trainers bar since we last visited and it is more comfortable and spacious with a great view of the parade ring through large glass doors along the length of one wall. Surprisingly it was quite a warm day and we enjoyed sitting with the sun warming our backs. Most of the partners in Minty arrived before the race but the two who used the train got caught in the floods and unfortunately missed his race.
Nick saddled Minty in the racecourse stables to keep him calm and maybe I should have taken note (betting wise) when Nick said he struggled to get the girth around the horse. He is quite a big horse, just like his brother Reve De Sivola, but after being out eating grass for a month I think he still had a small belly to work on! However, he did look great walking round the paddock and cantering down to the start. During the race he ran enthusiastically from the front having a good look at a few of the hurdles but in the main he jumped better than on his first run. Coming into the home straight he tired and came 5th of the eight runners. His jockey, Richard Johnson, said that he is still learning and needs to get used to hurdling at speed (basically gallop and hurdle at the same time). He will get loads of schooling over the hurdles again before his next run. This was a much improved run and he is definitely a horse for the future.
We had a long chat with Nick after the race and agreed racing plans for the future. The aim is for Beau, who has recovered from his hoof abscess, to be entered in an amateur handicap hurdle at Ludlow in a couple of weeks time. Minty is also due to accompany him that day to run in a juvenile hurdle.
While we were at Kempton we learned that one of our favourite jockeys Daryl Jacob was not being given the ride on Big Bucks. Graham and I give Daryl our full support and I think that Daryl was very dignified in his comments whilst his trainer needs to learn to be more tactful in the way he makes announcements about his riding arrangements.
In the British Trainers championship Nick now has 14 wins this season with £208,022 in prize money. Being an accountant Nick targets the prize money and regularly has a much higher ratio of prize money to wins than other trainers. Since my last blog Hint of Mint won at Leicester and Jane’s daughter Lizzie was unlucky not to win on Shalimar Fromentro at Ludlow when he hung badly at the end and go caught just before the line. Diamond Harry and Minty’s half brother Veauce De Sivola both took crashing falls at Catterick on the 9th January. I am pleased to say that although a bit sore both horses and their jockey, James Reveley, got up and the horses are safely back in their stables in Devon.
Other winners of note today at Haydock include the Jeremy Scott trained Melodic Rendezvous in the StanJames.com Champion Hurdle Trial and Wychwoods Brook in The Peter Marsh Chase. Jeremy we always follow as we have a small share in a horse trained by him called Mystic Appeal. Wychwoods Brook owner Kevin Glastonbury is a close neighbour who we met through the local athletics club. Well done to Kevin and Anne on their biggest win to date and well done to Graham for having a nice bet on this winning outsider!