Back to the very early morning shifts this week (as opposed to the just early one!) as the horse flies have recovered from their near drowning on Friday and are back with avengance. Everything in in the day now as they were being driven nuts by the horrible little creatures, and then happy to be turned out in the cool in the evenings.
We have a new member of the team as our farrier Arlo who has been with us for several years has moved to Dorset, and Charlie Sands who has been Arlo's cover has taken over the shoeing full time. We welcome Charlie and his team - and have requested winning plates only!
The boys were busy yesterday as everything had at least front shoes on, in readiness to make a start on the walking. They will have a few days going on the walker as they start this years fitness campaign. The horses have all done very well with all the grass this year, and there are several who will be working hard to get their figures back!
The only other bonus of 5am is that is so beautiful up here at that time - 'mist in the hollow fine day to follow' is ceratinly true and it was stunning this morning.
Very warm at Stratford races last night - and Spurned Girl running a decent race. Much improved on last time, after a little adjustment to her wind, she jumps very well, and now looks to be really enjoying her racing. Once she gets a handicap mark she should go close. ground fast enough but with a good grass cover, and happily SG fine this morning.
Its supposed to be a quieter time of year for us, but although the horses are mostly on holiday we still have 18 in and there seems to be a milllion jobs to do as well! Steam cleaning finished for another year - more successful this year with a machine from Fosseway Hire as opposed to the disaster that was HSS last year!
Just the wooden boxes at Labrador to oil and 'housekeeping' done. Happily Hill Farm only needs the steamer!
The team all trying to get their holidays in which involves a lot of juggling with plenty still to ride, on top of which Holly 2 (Spivey) has been called for jury service for the last two weeks. It appears that like degree courses, trials could cost a lot less if they just got on with it and had less breaks!
As usual at this time of year its either all or nothing on the runners front. Paige and I made the three and a half hour trip to Fontwell with Autumm Spirit and our new addition Tommy, who was making his maiden voyage. Tommy has stepped into Toby's shoes as chief travelling companion, and did not put a tiny hoof out of line. A nervous day for the Lordy Partnership as Fizz has had a long break with several 'issues' to contend wit - Brian Wilson looking particularly green before the race. She ran well for a long way, and jumped for fun - just got a bit tiredup the straight - the race will bring her on.
Robin, Kelly, and Toby made the considerably shorter trip to Worcester where Queen of the Stage and Playing with Fire both ran. Wayne Kavanagh on PWF, probably made too much use of her, and did not really see the trip out. Joe Palmowski on QOTS, who ran a super race first time over hurdles to finish fourth.
Robin and I then had a couple of days in Devon which was lovely, and great weather, sadly not long enough!
Back to the fray with three greys at Southwell. Playing with Fire staying on and looking as if needing further, having not got home previously! Mrs Merry has decided to retire her from racing now, and she will resume her stud career. A change of tactics for The Absent Mare,and and 'up front' clearly suiting her. she ran easily her best race to date, jumped for fun, and finished a good third. Pleased with her.
Bally Lagan, favourite after his Worcester win was travelling like the winner at the last down the back, when he was on his nose for a stride! Joe did well to keep the partnership together, and they finished fourth. Three miles in a furiously run race proabably not ideal for BL, but still not out of the first four over fences is not a shabby effort!
Not long now before everyone in from their summer hols. The flies are starting to be a problem so they will be glad to get into the cool of the stables during the day.
Apologies for a lack of news - I have been in Ireland for a few days as support crew (general dogsbody) for Harriet who was doing Tattersalls International Horse Trials. Odd to see the sale ring turned into an eventing venue, but great fun, and the jockey and horse both performed extremely well. Back on the night ferry on Sunday, which is not to be recommended, as I drove back up the drive at 4.45 AM on Monday morning!! The team in flying form with our first winner of the season, and a first win for the yard for our Conditional Jo Palmoski. Bally Lagan has been knocking on the door in all of his runs over fences and in fact has not been out of the frame, without that important number one slot! However that was put right at Worcester last Thursday. Plenty of the Park Lane team on hand to share in the heart failure as Joe and BL were left in front far earlier than they wished, after the leader, who they were tracking, fell. Well clear at the last, BL was getting a bit lonely in front and JUST held off a late run from the second horse (one more stride and it might have been another story, but who cares!!)
Sad news this week, as we had to have poor Toby pony put down after 20 years of devoted service to us and the horses. Everyone knows Toby, from owners to the horses and most of the racing community and I hate to think how many miles he covered whilst on duty keeping some of the 'silly billies' company on the lorry and at the races - or how many different tracks he visited! Toby arrive 20 years ago from Martin Charles who had bought him for his children, to live with a horse that 'box galloped' (a step on from box walking!) and then despite a couple of interludes to teach a few children to ride has never been far away. Our most valued member of staff and a great (sometimes stroppy) character he and Harriets' old pony Trendy have lived like an old married couple for years now - devoted to each other and basically free range here at Alne Park - they were always back in time for tea!
No pause for breath from one season to the next these days, and after the excitement of Sandown it was a change of code two days later and Storming Harry making his debut at Windsor. A son of Miss Pebbles who we trained back in the day, and a very exciting day for Nigel & Jenny Thick who bred SH. A lovely introduction for him, he behaved perfectly and ran a nice race to be fourth. Another making a debut - this time over hurdles was Spurned Girl, another homebred - this time by the Hitchman family. SG had had some runs on the flat, and I think it fair to say that she had not covered herself in glory! She came with a few 'issues' and all credit to Malcolm who has quietly put up with her tantrums, and persuaded her that civilised behaviour is best! SG did not put a foot out of place at the track, and ran a decent race, jumping really well and seeming to enjoy the experience. She will come on for the run.
Well we have come to the end of another season, and what away to finish! The first night racing of the season for us on Friday night at Chepstow, Entertain Me up 15 lbs for her win at the previous meeting, and running what was probably a career best, to finish second only beaten a neck. A brave run from her, sadly Mrs Merry not there to see her but cheering from afar! Dancing Daffodil again disappointing - blood vessel issues for her and a holiday beckoning - she will be be back!
Home at eleven o'clock and then on the road again by ten on Saturday, Holly and I off to Sandown with the boys - Restless Harry and Kitegen for the final day of jumping this season. The Bet365 Gold Cup for Harry - a top quality race and one that was run at breakneck speed - Harry a bit outpaced on the first circuit and made a couple of small errors, which did not help our blood pressure, but Charlie doing sterling work and had him back where he wanted him as they went out for the second circuit. As they came to the pond fence Harry started to make ground and two out he was right there. The rest of the race was a bit of a blur, only clearer after watching the replay a few times, Harry fought SO hard and ran the race of his life to be fourth only beaten three and half lengths. None of us had any voice left afterwards, and it is difficult to put into words how proud we are of him.
A proud day for the yard the other day at Newbury races when Malcom, who has been with us for a year now went to collect his award for Student of the Year at the British Racing School. The Twelve Club present the award every year to the best male and female student. I am not sure how many students would pass through in a year, but its a lot, and for Malcom to win the overall prize is a huge accolade for him. His family also came to see him receive his prize, and enjoy a day at the races - many congratulations in order.
Another big day for a member of the team yesterday when Holly Rooney went for what proved to be her final X ray on the femur she broke so badly back in October. The team at the Walsgrave happy with the leg now and signed her off! Happy days.
A really busy Easter weekend for us, Haydock on Saturday, with Kitegen and Garrahalish. Kitegen ran a blinder to finish second in a race run 8 seconds faster than average. Only small he jumps like a bunny, and Charlie came in full of praise for him. Garrahalish who also jumps brilliantly sadly was completely mugged by a faller early in the race - tripping him up and ejecting poor Charlie into outer space. Happily both were OK - Gary a bit stiff for a couple of days, but no lasting damage. Very Annoying as the race turned into a real staying contest which he would have loved.
Where to start this weeks ramblings?? Priority I think must be given to our landlord Nic Allen who completed the London Marathon on Sunday in a very respectable time. To do the race at all leaves me in awe (knees would definitely not permit!) but to do it having had a week in bed with a stomach infection is something else. So huge congratulation to Nic who has been raising money for Cancer Research.
Personally feeling as if I have run a marathon or two this morning, but I think its just a case of 'Lorry Lag'. Robin and I set off in 'Precious' (big lorry) on Friday night and caught the 2.45am ferry to Rosslare from Pembroke - nice! Then drove to Cork to watch Harriet compete on Saturday and Sunday, then back to pick up three new horses in Wexford on Sunday evening. All going well until we pulled into Sean Doyle's yard, dropped the ramp, walked back around to the front of the lorry to see water pouring out of a pipe in the engine - not nice! Finding a mechanic in the middle of nowhere on a Sunday evening was a complete non starter, but the lads at the yard came up trumps, and John (not an official mechanic, but soon turned into one!) and Mr Doyle senior saved the day by fixing offending water pipe, whilst we all retreated to the pub! An extra night in the lorry, and then a nervous run to the ferry early yesterday morning with everything crossed that the mending would hold up at least enough to get us back over the water followed. All was well though and the mend held up with no problems even with the four hour drive back from Pembroke. Very glad to see the end of our drive, and very glad to get into my own bed last night!
After the excitement of the super double last week, it was back to reality on the Monday with five runners, split between Southwell and Kempton.
Paige, Toby and myself headed off to Southwell, with Robin and the Hollies off to Kempton. Southwell, as usual devoid of much atmosphere, although the facilities for owners and staff OK. Troyan was first up and ran a nice race to finish fifth not suited by the track but not beaten far. Valrene ran a hugely better race greatly appreciating the better ground, finished flying, and won't be far away next time.
Playing With Fire having her second run back, behaving really well in all the preliminaries (not always the case!!) jumped well, probably just needing the race again, but again, should not be far away next time.
The less said about the weather the better really! Everywhere off for us last week, except the all- weather, but then miraculously the Saturday meetings managed to be on!Graylyn Ruby was back to Kempton on Wednesday, unfortunately with a terrible draw on the wide outside. He ran a really good race to finish fifth, not beaten far, Luke Morris completely blamed the draw, and is confident he will go close again next time. Saturday saw 'Girls on Tour' - Holly & Myself - off to Ascot with Restless Harry, Toby pony and Garrahalish (plus four dogs). I can honestly say it was probably the worst lorry trip I have ever had, and I must have driven around the world a few times by now! The wind on the M40 was hitting us square on the right hand side and I don't think I managed to get above 45 mph all the way there. Pretty scary at times and the steps into the living kept blowing out so running improvisation on the hard shoulder with string and dog leads required! We were very glad to land at Ascot!
The weather is now becoming more than tedious, with more and more meetings being cancelled due to water logging. Hard to keep the horses all dressed up with nowhere to go, so good to see Kempton putting on a jumpers bumper meeting last week. Running on the flat and on the all weather not a first choice for our runners but at least it got a racecourse gallop into them.Be My Witness and Miss Morn both having there first ever runs, both ridden by our conditional Joseph Palmowski, and both running well for a long way, on terms coming out of the back straight, they both then found the speed up the straight a bit much, but lots to like and they will both come on for the run.
Rain, rain and for good measure a bit more rain! Several meetings off already this week, and heavy everywhere that is on. A pretty quite week on the runners front with only Badgers Cove & Restless Harry out this week. Badgers Cove to Southwell on Wednesday, in ground that he certainly did not relish. He made hard work of it, but looked as if he was hating the bog! A few very untypical jumping errors did not help, although turning in and hot on the heels of the leader I thought we might get there. Unfortunately the leader kept finding a bit and try as he might Charlie could just not rein him in. A good second though, and the third horse 28 lengths behind him. Better ground will help next time.
Great to start another entry here with a winner. The New Year has brought so much rain that runners have been a bit thin on the ground, and coupled with a few coughs and colds, has seen only a few runners in the first couple of weeks of the year. A couple of pulled ups from Graylyn Amber (hated the very soft ground) and Garrahalish (dirty scope) did nor cheer us up much, but Cornish Ice running his usual solid race at Exeter on Tuesday to finish fourth. If ever a horse deserved to win it's him (along with Tom O'Tara) he has not been out of the first four this season, but just can't get his head in front. Richard Whitehead absent for the first time ever due to ill health.