Mental Health- What can be done?

By Evie

“The BHA recognizes the responsibility to the workforce and the communities that it operates in and is committed to raising awareness around mental health.”

The death of Richard Woollacott at the hands of mental health problems all but springboards the issue further into our minds.

In 2016 Kieren Fallon, six times champion jockey and winner of 16 British Classics, retired caused by his struggle with mental health. His condition went back as far as 2007 when Fallon was one of several men prosecuted in a race-fixing trial that later collapsed.

And this is not the first case. In 2015 an unpublished survey of 122 jockeys stated that up to 49% had symptoms of clinical depression.

Sport psychologists state that jockeys are more vulnerable that other athletes to mental health problems due to the challenges faced in work- from keeping weight at a low level to the uncertainty of employment and the long hours and significant travel that is needed to be successful in the sport.

Also a significant factor is that horse racing is not a team sport, so there are often not team mates to discuss issues with.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, and this is reflected among jockeys and other members of the sport.

“We need to put together a dedicated team or unit that would offer the psychological interventions that would help them, they need to be helped more systematically and consistently.” – Dr Costas Papageorgiou

Weight control for jockeys is also significantly damaging, with the chance that strict weight control can cause a multitude of eating disorders, which can in turn created physical health effects.

In Victoria, Australia a different survey was carried out, that shows that 75% of jockeys reported regularly skipping meals, 29% of jockeys used sauna-induced sweating, and 22% of jockeys used diuretics to aid in weight loss.

The number of jockeys that have eating disorders is not known, presumably due to the stigma associated with eating disorders.

Eating disorders such as bulimia can lead to mental and physical health problems, ranging from tooth decay, osteoporosis, heart arrhythmia, gastrointestinal damage, electrolyte abnormalities and kidney failure.

“Especially in our job you get patches when things just aren’t clicking, you can get down and it can be frustrating. We notice if someone isn’t as chatty and often use car journeys to pick each other up.”- Richard Johnson for Time to Change

Many jockeys have begun to support mental health charities, such as Richard Johnson and Aidan Coleman who got behind Time for Change’s campaign.

“We’re all self-employed but in a weird way we’re one big team and we do look out for each other. It’s often little things you notice which make you realise someone’s not at their strongest.”

This campaign promoted mental health among men, and aimed to improve attitudes towards mental health in the racing community, jockeys, racing grooms and supporters.

“We all know that we’re 30 minutes away from another fall so we never get too big for our boots and we’re good at being there for each other.”

Racing Welfare is a charity created by the Jockey Club to help support people in racing. They primarily help with support, creating opportunities to make life skills, and can create housing for the elderly. They also have a 24/7 helpline, manned by welfare officers. This helps support anyone that is going through mental health problems, or can be used to alert someone about another person who may be at risk.

“We’re not a team sport but in some ways we are, in the weighing room we have other jockeys and even the valets who are there to notice if someone’s having a hard time.  We might have a quiet word and say, “I was feeling like that last week, I know how you’re feeling” and that can really help. Ups and downs are part of our job and everyone knows that.”

Overall it is clear to see that mental health in the sport is well support, with facilities and welfare officers available at any time. However, there is more that can be done. Through recent cases it is clear to see that mental health is still stigmatised, through the Media’s want to avoid talking about it.

Perhaps a rehabilitation house, much like Oaksey House or Jack Berry House, but for victims of mental health issues. It is clear that support for sufferers is avaliable, but not as readily as it should be.

Places to seek help:

Racing Welfare’s 24/7 Helpline: 

0800 6300443

Racing Welfare’s Website:

http://www.racingwelfare.co.uk

Sources: 

https://www.eatingdisorderhope.com/information/body-image/the-dark-side-of-horse-racing-weight-control-in-jockeys

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/jul/04/kieren-fallon-retires-from-racing-mental-health-issues

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/news/jockeys-champion-campaign-men-mental-health-mates-inyourcorner

https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2014/02/04/researchers-tackle-issues-jockey-diets/

#ManyCloudsWeek

Leighton Aspell shoot with Oliver Sherwood 05 03 2015  Many Clouds (Source: Horse & Hound)

 

12 months ago today, racing lost a real life equine superstar, Many Clouds. The 2015 Grand National victor and 2014 Hennessy Gold Cup Champion, lost his life in a brave battle up the Cheltenham hill against the mighty Thistlecrack, who was had previously been imperious until that fateful day. Jubilation soon turned to grief when Many Clouds collapsed after winning the race by a head and sadly died of a suspected heart attack. His final bow was taken in arguably the best performance of his illustrious career. His trainer, Oliver Sherwood, praised him as “the horse of a lifetime” and he said that, “he died doing what he loved- jumping and racing.” And indeed he was correct. Many Clouds had the attributes of a true old-fashioned chaser. He never wanted to be passed and on that day, Thistlecrack stood no chance when he stuck his head down and fought.

On tragic days like these, even the most passionate of racing fans can question why they bother, but this week we remembered why we love this sport so dearly. He may have lost his life but people from all over the UK and Ireland came together online to commemorate the wonderful life of Many Clouds, using the hashtag #ManyCloudsWeek. Most people expressed their love and admiration for a horse that never stopped giving, others tweeted photographs of Many Clouds with fond memories attached to them and some even wrote poems like Catriona Smith (@Caitrinarose on twitter). Catriona’s final lines of the poem read:

“And now as he sleeps, we remember his name

How his story began, and the Hero he became.”

 

Plenty have said it, but Many Clouds really was a very special horse. He had such character and was loved by everyone. He was the center of the public eye and he was truly adored by every one of Oliver Sherwood’s team.

Today there was an area behind the rails by the winning post at Cheltenham where people came to lay flowers for ‘The People’s Horse’. In my eyes, this really symbolizes the love that we all share for one outstanding racehorse. Many Clouds truly was magnificent.

‘Gone but never forgotten. Always our Hero.’

 

*MANY CLOUDS*

April 21st 2007 – January 28th 2017

MC 2     Many Clouds and Trevor Hemmings (Source: The RadioTimes)

-Lois x

Cheltenham Trials Day 2018

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Many Clouds (Leighton Aspell) and Thistlecrack (Tom Scudamore) jump the last together.

By Samantha

Last year, Cheltenham’s Trials Day was a moving one. The sadness came in the Cotswold Chase. It was a high-class renewal containing two Hennessy Gold Cup winners in the form of Smad Place and Many Clouds, who won the Grand National. Smad Place led until Many Clouds passed him at four out. He jumped well but King George winner, Thistlecrack appeared at his girths. It was a head to head battle from the last. They jumped it together and as they galloped up the run-in, Thistlecrack looked to be in the lead. But Many Clouds said no. He battled on under Leighton Aspell’s strong drive- fighting like a boxer, pushing himself to the limits all the way to the finish. It was a photo. Many Clouds pushed himself too hard. In the shadow of the winning post, Clouds collapsed. The result to the finish came through. He had won. Then the news came through that he had died. There was a strange atmosphere around the course. Spectators had witnessed one of the most spectacular horse races in history and yet it had concluded with a tragic end. In an interview after, Clouds’ trainer Oliver Sherwood said, “I always said he would die for you and he’s died for me and the team today, doing what he does best. He wanted to win that race. He was beaten and then fought back to win in the last fifty yards to win.”

Hopefully, no sadness comes out of 2018’s Trials Day, only joy at the incredible performances that we will get to see.

The Races

JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (Grade 3)

Nicky Henderson, who is enjoying a great time of it at the moment, has Apple’s Shakira in this Grade 2 that kicks off the card. She is current favourite for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. She’s won her last two by a combined twenty and a half lengths, both were at Cheltenham. Look My Way comes to this race of the back of a win at Ludlow and a second to Act of Valor, who hasn’t done anything to help the form, on his first start. Elixir De Nutz has a brilliant jumping pedigree and it is interesting that he is making his debut in a Grade Two event so he must be held in high regard at home.

Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase

This race could go to Colin Tizzard once again after he won it with Royal Vacation last year. Here he has Sizing Tennessee. The gelding put up a brilliant performance in defeat behind Yanworth on heavy ground over two miles five. Ballyandy was beaten eleven lengths in that race in forth. Previously to that, Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge beat Duel At Dawn the only other finisher and that horse was beaten into second last weekend by progressive Ms Parfois in a Listed race. The youngest runner in the race, Mister Whitaker, ran well last time out behind nice-looking Hell’s Kitchen. They pulled readily clear from Touch Kick, nineteen lengths back in third. Previously to this run, Mister Whitaker won at Carlisle, beating Solstice Star, who re-opposes in this race.

Crest Nicholson Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

Ballyhill won last time out at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, beating in form Shantou Flyer, who had a return to form on that run due to cheek pieces. The latter is four pounds better off than the former and, if his cheek pieces work for a second time, he could turn the tables on Nigel Twiston-Davies’ gelding. Frodon had O O Seven behind him last time out when they were behind Gold Present, who managed to turn the tables on Frodon, after he won a Grade Two at Kempton in February of 2017. Paul Nicholls’ charge has been in the top three on his past four starts. The only problem is that he has to carry a big weight. Lightly-raced Pressurized comes here off the back of a nice win at Chepstow, where he bolted up by fifteen lengths. Coo Star Sivola is having his first start in a handicap so that could be interesting and Ultragold, who was a good second over the National fences last time out, tends to pop into the winners enclosure when it is least expected.

Betbright Trial Cotswold Chase (Grade 1)

Bristol De Mai’s performance in the Betfair Chase could arguably be one of the best of the season if not ever. He won that race by a whopping fifty-seven lengths. He had nine times Grade One winner Cue Card in second as well as Outlander and Tea For Two filling the other places. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey was well-fancied to win the King George but failed to fire in Kempton’s big race and it was later discovered that he had suffered from stomach ulcers but now he’s back and on a retrieval mission. Tea For Two is a good horse in his own right and has danced in all the major dances this season. He ran very well for third in the King George. Definitely Red was favourite for the Grand National last season but was pulled up after a tack malfunction. This season he was third to Bristol De Mai in the Charlie Hall Chase and franked that form by following it up with a win at Aintree in impressive style. His old foe, The Last Samuri, has been second on both starts this season. His last run was over Grand National fences and he was beaten by Blaklion.

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Mulcahys Hill (left)

 

Ballymore Classic Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)

Mulcahys Hill looked a nice sort when finishing second to Poetic Rhythm in the Grade One Challow Hurdle. Adrian Heskin kicked for home on the home turn and went very far clear at Newbury but the horse got very tired on the run-in but rallied back to be beaten only by a short head. Nicky Henderson is double handed in this race; he has Pacific De Baune won first time out in a maiden hurdle by seven lengths and has the possibility to be anything but Santini seems to have the better form because he won in December at Newbury by four and a half lengths and the second has won twice subsequently. Tikkanbar won on both starts this season. His most recent was a listed contest where he beat Aye Aye Charlie into forth. Slate House is rated 1lbs lower than Tikkanbar and he won his first two for trainer Colin Tizzard but found three horses too good last time out.

Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)

It would be very emotional if Beer Goggles was to win this race after his trainer passed away on Tuesday. His win last time out beating the likes of Unowhatimeanharry and Thistlecrack came as a complete surprise but he won really nicely. His main threat could come from Wholestone, who won the previous race on the card last year. He comes into this race off the back of a smart win at Cheltenham beating Agrapart and Colin’s Sister. That was Agrapart’s only run in this country this season and could be thereabouts. Finian’s Oscar comes into this race off the back of a relatively successful bout over fences, where he won two of his four starts. Over hurdles, he won the Tolworth on his second start and the Grade One Mersey Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree’s Grand National meeting. Consequently, he has to be respected on his return to the smaller obstacles. The Worlds End hasn’t shown much this season but he won four of his six starts last season so could return to form. It is also interesting that Saint Are has been brought back over hurdles considering he is usually up in the front ranks in most of the Grand Nationals from the past few years. He last ran in 2017’s Grand National and was second last time out but he hasn’t ran over hurdles, over which he won a Grade One, since 2011.

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Beer Goggles and Richard Johnson

 

Steel Plate and Sections handicap Hurdle

Our Merlin ran well in defeat behind Call Me Lord, who looks smart, after completing a three-timer. He’s gone up four pounds for that but he looks to have more class than the rest. Remiluc could go close as he has been running consistently well and knocking on the door lately. He was second to Old Guard on the Ladbrookes Trophy card at Newbury and the third horse ran well in defeat behind Jenkins last time out. Dino Velvet was forth in that race and his only win to date has come over one mile seven furlongs and has gone close over two miles. Recently, he has been running over two and a half miles, which has seemed a bit far for him, so this drop down should suit. Huntsman Son is a model of consistency and he has only been out of the top three on one of his five starts. The forth came last time out where he was comfortably in third when Brave Eagle shot past them to win well. Clondaw Castle could be a smart hurdling prospect as he has won two of his three starts over obstacles and he won by four lengths last time out so he could be one to watch for the future.

Millionaires In The Mud

By Samantha (20/1/18)

tno
Public’s favourite The New One has over £1,000,000 in prize money to his name.

 

On Friday evening, the rain came in buckets, showering Ascot in the South and Haydock in the North. The rain called off Newcastle’s Sunday meeting but not the two main meetings on this dismal, mid-January Saturday. Racing viewers who tuned in to ITV4 were treated to a lustrous afternoon of racing containing six Graded races and a high-class handicap as well as being able to watch two of the best, most determined horses in training.

The mainstream televised races at Ascot kicked off with the Grade 2 OLBG.com Mares’ Hurdle. La Bague Au Roi was a short-priced favourite to land the £28,000 winners pot. The highest-rated of the 5 runners, Warren Greatrex’s seven year old won her last three starts but Greatrex admitted there were question marks about whether she would handle the extremely soft ground. She did and in spectacular fashion. Midnight Tune, a gutsy front runner, went off in front attempting to make all and set a good pace considering the ground but she wasn’t jumping with her usual fluency and seemed to be struggling to get away from the rest. At four out, La Bague Au Roi did a spectacular leap and hit the front. Midnight Tune faded very quickly and Noel Fehily’s mount galloped away from Sainte Ladylime, who made a few little jumping errors on the first circuit, looking like she had joined the race at the top bend. She won incredibly well. Graceful Legend came in 13 lengths behind her and seventy three lengths back was long-time leader Midnight Tune. Outsider, Hitherjaques Lady was pulled up after making a strange noise. As she crossed the line 16 lengths in front of the rest, La Bague Au Roi instantly got quotes for the Mares’ Hurdle and Stayer’s Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. Trainer Greatrex said that she would most likely go to the Stayer’s after her spectacular performance.

Cameras then went up North to Haydock. The first race being televised was the Supreme Trial for the Cheltenham Festival. Current favourite is Getabird, who won impressively at Punchestown on Saturday. This race attracted some smart novices this time around like in previous years. The top two in the market, Waterlord and First Flow, had won their last two starts and all of the runners had won their last start barring one. That horse, Midnight Shaddow, chased home smart Mont Des Avaloirs last time out. Waterlord led from the beginning but was headed by eventual winner and favourite First Flow. In the hands of David Bass, Kim Bailey’s charge strode clear and won by ten lengths, with Midnight Shadow in second and one of the outsiders Lisdoonvarna Lad in third. Kim Bailey, the winner’s trainer, said after the race that this run would probably be the son of Primary’s last start for the season but, even still, he is around a 33-1 shot for the Supreme.

jenkins
Jenkins

 

Next, it was back to Ascot, where the majority of the jockeys were claiming. The top three horses in the market were ridden by some of the most promising young conditionals. Crossed My Mind came over from Ireland having been third on both starts this season. He was four and a half lengths behind A Hare Breath at Sandown when other market rival Jenkins was far back in the field. He had only won once and was partnered by Jonjo O’Neil Jr, who took 7lbs of his back. Oxwich Bay, who won a maiden hurdle by three and a half lengths and had to face a large step up in class in the race, was also partnered by a conditional in the form of Mitchell Bastyan, a claimer of 5lbs. Jenkins seems a new horse now the team have put blinkers on him. He won impressively last Saturday and got an 11lbs rise for the win that Welsh Grand National winning jockey, James Bowen took down to 6lbs using his 5lbs claim. The horse, who comes from Nicky Henderson’s stable, that have collected over one and a half million pounds worth of prize money this season, raced quite prominent from the off, looking a bit keen and eager to get on with the task. Night Of Sin led up until before the seventh when Air Horse One came up on the outside and took the lead. Also at that hurdle, Oxwich Bay had a crashing fall, luckily him and Mitchell Bastyan were both okay. At four out, Jenkins began to strut his stuff and lengthened into the lead. He was joined in the front at two out by stable companion Burbank but Jeremiah McGrath’s mount and second placed Air Horse One couldn’t get to Jenkins, who asserted his dominance on the field up the run-in. That gave James Bowen his third consecutive winner on a Saturday on ITV after winning the Welsh National and Lanzarote Hurdle.

Fifteen minutes later, they were off in the Champion Hurdle Trial, where the first of the equine millionaires- The New One- was on show. The ten year old gelding, who hails from Nigel Twiston-Davies’ yard, broke the £1 million prize money barrier when a runner-up to Champion Hurdle favourite, Buveur D’Air, in December. He ran from the front followed by outsider Unison, second-favourite and good hurdler in his own right Ch’tibello and Clyne raced in-touch but never seemed to look comfortable. At three out, Ch’tibello loomed up next to The New One, who was attempting to win the race for the fourth time. They battled all the way to the line and Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount looked momentarily beaten after the last but fought on to win. There was an almighty cheer as race goers forgot the dismal weather as The New One warmed their hearts with his brilliant win. After the race, winning jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies said, “He’s nearly paid my morgage- I’ll have to rename my house! This horse means the world to me since day one and he’s still doing it now on the big stage.” He is likely to go straight to the Stayer’s Hurdle at Cheltenham and stands a good chance of winning due to the currently wide-open market.

Six horses went to post in the next at Ascot, after the two highest-rated horses were pulled out. Guitar Pete was undoubtedly lucky to win a Grade Three contest at Cheltenham after the Starchitect sustained a fatal injury, leaving the Ryan Day ridden grey in front. The favourite, Acting Lass (a gelding) was stepping out of Novice Company for the first time after he won well at Leicester and Market Rasen on his previous two starts. For the first half of the race, the Harry Fry-trained gelding jumped left but Noel Fehily let him get on with it and eventually he jumped a lot straighter. At the tenth fence, Guitar Pete unseated Ryan Day and the race seemed to change shape there. Acting Lass went to the front and jumped well apart from pecking on landing at three out. Kilcrea Vale ran on and tried to get to the leader but was outpaced and could only manage second. Fortunate George and Minella Daddy finished far behind.

The Peter Marsh came next at Haydock. Last year, it was won in stupendous style by super star grey Bristol De Mai, who is a Haydock specialist. The Dutchman led most of the way and he was not looking at all tired on the run up to the second last under Harry Cobden. He made a little error at that fence but didn’t lose much momentum and galloped on strongly to the last where Captain Redbeard tried to challenge but couldn’t get passed Colin Tizzard’s gelding. He jumped it well and lengthened away from the others. Captain Redbeard stayed on for second and the favourite, Hainan, battled past runners to grab third. Whether the winner will go on to be as good as Bristol De Mai, remains to be seen but the three times winner looks to be one that will be in the Winner’s Enclosure again sometime soon.

undesceaux
Un De Sceaux winning under Paul Townsend.

 

That race was just the starter to a scrumptious main course. Un De Sceaux, seven times Grade One winner over chase fences from nine starts, was attempting to break the £1 Million barrier by winning the Clarence House Chase for a third time. His main rival was seen to be Brain Power, an exciting novice who unseated last time out, from Nicky Henderson’s yard. In all the papers, it was deemed to be a two horse race between the Irish Champion Trainer and English Champion Trainer’s charges. Despite this, the other runners have some class. San Benedeto and Kylemore Lough both have form in Graded races and Speredek could, arguably, be one of the most progressive handicappers this season. At the start of 2017 he was rated 115 but, currently, he’s rated 135. He won last time out and was looking for a five timer on his previous start when second. Sean Bowen set a blistering pace out in front in the mud on Nigel Hawke’s son of Kapgarde for the Kapinhand Partnership. He began to struggle to keep it up on the final bend when Un De Sceaux loomed up and took the lead from two out when in behind Brain Power had a crashing fall. Luckily, he was okay and got up. Un de Sceaux was never challenged from two out and was kept up to his work by Willie Mullins’ go to man at the minute, Paul Townsend. “I rode my horse to suit him and the further we went, the more confident I was getting.” Townsend explained after the race. There were emotional scenes from his band of owners, who were out in full force as they celebrated in the winners enclosure. It looks like he will probably go to the Ryanair Chase again, Mullins said from Navan, where he also had runners. The ten year is at around 5/2 for the race and a 12/1 shot for the Champion Chase behind the likes of Politologue, Douvan and Altior.

So despite the clouds, rain and mud, some of the most heart warming performances were seen. We saw a top-class equine millionaire run and another horse become one, in a day full of happy stories, summing up what National Hunt racing is all about.

Toast Of New York: Against the Odds

Toast Of New York

By Niamh Townsend

In March 2015 the news broke that Toast Of New York, the runner up in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic, was to be retired to stand at stud in Qatar after an injury blow ruined his connections’ hopes of adding the Dubai World Cup to their trophy cabinet. Who could’ve thought that two years later he would be brought back into training with Jamie Osborne in Lambourn and less than one year after that he would be lining up in the second running of the world’s richest race: the Pegasus World Cup.

It seemed that the synthetic surfaces of the UK’s all-weather racecourses and the international dirt tracks of both Meydan and the USA would bring out the best in this son of Thewwayyouare from an early age when he was easily beaten on his first run on turf before being switched to the all-weather and making a big splash at the end of his two year old season.

The admirably tough ‘Toast’ spent the remainder of the first act of his career racing on the international stage with an impressive win in the UAE Derby at Meydan in March. Back when the last football World Cup was held was when Toast Of New York was campaigned in the USA with three starts over the remainder of the year. An excusable poor run in the Belmont Derby could be forgiven as he returned to form a month later with an excellent run behind the brilliant Shared Belief in the Pacific Classic. Up next came what would turn out to be Toast’s last run of the first half of his career and his finest moment when he finished a short head second to Bayern in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, beating California Chrome and Shared Belief in the process. The day after the race, trainer Jamie Osborne explained how Toast Of New York had ‘the potential to be one of the highest-earning horses in the world’. You could imagine how disappointing it was when a soft tissue injury forced Toast Of New York into an early retirement.

But as luck would have it Jamie Osborne would get a second chance to train the horse who has really defined his career and no less than 1,331 days after his herculean effort at the Breeders’ Cup Toast returned to winning ways in a conditions event at Lingfield where he was partnered for the first time by Frankie Dettori. This meant that Toast Of New York and the team behind his success could set their sight higher – sky high to be exact as they looked to chase down the richest prize in the racing world.

If ever there was an underdog story this is it, and the difficulty of the task ahead of Toast Of New York must not be underestimated as the insanely talented Gun Runner looks to add one final success to his career before retirement, not to mention the fact that the Lambourn-trained globetrotter is now a seven year old. Only a mammoth effort will propel Toast Of New Yorks into the history books next Saturday, but this horse is all heart and if anhas really defined his career and no less than 1,331 days after his herculean effort at the Breeders’ Cup Toast returned to winning ways in a conditions event at Lingfield where he was partnered for the first time by Frankie Dettori. This meant that Toast Of New York and the team behind his success could set their sight higher – sky high to be exact as they looked to chase down the richest prize in the racing world.

Long may his remarkable story continue and whatever happens at Gulfstream Park next week there will be a whole hoard of fans cheering on Toast Of New York at home. If he and Jamie Osbourne can pull off a victory then surely it will be up there with the best comebacks the racing world has ever seen.

Best of luck Toast Of New York!

MAKING THE SWITCH

Finians-Oscar-1200x800
Finian’s Oscar

By Samantha

This week, there has been news of some of the best Novice Chasers possibly switching back to hurdles to contest the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. The Thursday showpiece, which seems to be extremely open at present, has a total prize money fund of £325,000.

Connections of last year’s Tolworth Hurdle winner Finian’s Oscar have announced that the son of Oscar will return to hurdles for the remainder of the season. The gelding has run four times over chase fences and won twice – a novices’ chase around Cheltenham and a listed race on his chase debut at Chepstow, beating Tintern Theatre who won a Class 2 Handicap Chase at Cheltenham a couple of weeks ago. Finian’s Oscar’s trainer, Colin Tizzard, said of the switch, ‘He jumps fences adequately but I don’t think he’s that brave.’ If everything goes to plan, he will go to the Cleeve Hurdle but if he gets beaten in that, he could revert back to chase fences for his run at the festival.

Similarly, Yanworth has won twice over fences but he has picked up some bigger prizes. Alan King’s charge was second to Willoughby Court when Ben Pauling’s gelding won the Grade Two Berkshire Novices’ Chase. The pair reversed form in the Grade Two Dipper Novices’ Chase when Yanworth won and Willoughby Court could only make third behind Sizing Tennessee who was in second. It may come as a relief for racing viewers that Yanworth is reverting to hurdles for the remainder of the season as his jumping is quite hair raising to say the least with lots of will-he-wont-he fall moments that could give a punter a mini heart attack. At the end of last season, the gelding won the Ryanair Stayers Liverpool Hurdle with Supasundae back in second. The beaten horse ran in behind super mare Apple’s Jade over in Ireland. Trainer Alan King says that this gives him a good chance in hurdling company this season.

L’Ami Serge, a French Champion Hurdle winner, is going to warm up for the Stayers by going the opposite way to the others by going to the SkyBet Chase to see if he’s improved as a chaser. Interestingly, Isaac Suede and Simon Munir’s gelding, who is trained by Nicky Henderson, was entered into the Ryanair Chase on Tuesday but is currently 12/1 for the Stayers Hurdle.

_samspinner_getty
Sam Spinner and Joe Colliver (not our photo)

 

At the minute, the favourite for the Stayers is progressive Sam Spinner. He won the Grade One Long Walk Hurdle beating L’Ami Serge and Unowhatimeanharry for Joe Colliver and Jedd O’Keeffe as well as the Haydock version of the Stayers Hurde by a whopping seventeen lengths. Supersundae is also being backed after his galliant effort in defeat behind Mares Hurdle challenger Apple’s Jade.

For the JLT Novices’ Chases at the Festival, Willoughby Court is a short-priced favourite and progressive Irish horse Footpad is about a 7/1 shot but his main focus for the festival seems to be the Arkle. Despite the news that he’s most likely moving back over hurdles, Yanworth is highest priced 10/1.

WHAT A CHRISTMAS!

Buveur-D-Air-Cheltenham-867140
Buveur D’air galloping to victory. (not our photo)

          By Samantha

Christmas Day came and went and Boxing Day arrived. The day most National Hunt fans look forward to and in some cases enjoy more than Christmas Day itself. The Christmas Period can be used to attempt to untangle the strings that lead to the Cheltenham Festival and find the winner of each race at the meeting. In some ways, things have become clearer but in other ways, it has made it a lot harder to work it out.

The Boxing Day coverage of ITV Racing began with the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton. Black Corton, a six year old son of Laverock out of Video Rock, won the Grade One race under Bryony Frost, giving the 3lbs claimer her first Group One victory. The gelding, who is trained by Paul Nicholls, reversed form with Elegant Escape who beat him into second on his previous start and this time around, Black Corton beat Colin Tizzard’s charge into second by one and a half lengths. The festival aim for the Jeremy-Kyle-owned gelding seems to be the RSA Chase and he enters the betting picture at around 25/1.

Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls’ main title challenger, struck back at Nicholls’ Grade 1 win with a win in the next race, the Unibet Christmas Hurdle. Last years Champion Hurdle winner, Buveur D’Air, galloped strongly to the finish, adding over £68,000 to his trainer’s pot for the season, under Barry Geraghty. The New One was second and the two outsiders finished with a four length gap between them.

Next was the King George VI Chase. It was a high class renewal containing last year’s winner Thistlecrack, Charlie Hall and BetFair Chase winner Bristol De Mai and quirky RSA winner Might Bite. Bristol De Mai made all until the tenth when when he made a mistake and Might Bite went to the front. At four out, Might Bite headed Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey and went on. After jumping the last, 50/1 outsider Double Shuffle mounted a challenge on the son of scorpion but he repelled the challenge and won by a length under Gold Cup winning jockey Nico De Boinville.

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Footpad is a short price for the Arkle. (not our photo)

Meanwhile, over in Ireland, racing fans witnessed a very exciting Novice in the form of Footpad. Owned by Isaac Suede and Simon Munir, the gelding went on in the final straight taking the last with ease and won the race by eleven lengths. His trainer Willie Mullins said afterwards, “He’s electric. From the first day at home that I saw him jumping over fences I thought he was the best I’ve seen for a long while. He was good on his debut at Navan but today he was just awesome. He gained lengths at his fences and he’s one to really look forward to.” Lots of people agreed with the Champion Trainer and consequently, his price has been slashed for the Arkle.

On the 27th, the card at Chepstow, containing the Welsh Grand National, was abandoned but that didn’t put a dampener on the days racing. ITV showed two Grade Twos from Kempton Park and both of these were won by Paul Nicholls. The supporting card at Wetherby contained some good races. The first Group Two shown was the Wayward Lad Novices’ Chase. Sean Bowen steered Cyrname to win the race by seven lengths to 6/4 favorite Shantou Rock. The second leg of the double was the Desert Orchid Chase, Sam Twiston-Davies piloted Politologue to win the Desert Orchid Chase by thirteen lengths. 2017 Champion Chase winner Special Tiara crashed out at the eighth fence leaving Politologue in front. It was Sam’s first winner since breaking his elbow in a fall. He followed up that success by winning the next race with Titern Theatre for his father Nigel.

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Politologue and Sam Twiston-Davies (not our photo)

Over in Ireland, there was one word to describe the racing at Leopardstown- DRAMATIC! In the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase, Min and Simply Ned were neck and neck as they ran up the run in but Min repeatedly pushed against Simply Ned causing him to loose his momentum. Despite crossing the line in front, Min was relegated to second after the race going to the stewards room. That concluded what was a good December for trainer Nicky Richards as he won the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup with Guitar Pete on the sixteenth. In the next race, evens favourite, Megli Khan, ran out through the wing of the third last fence unseating Jack Kennedy. Before viewers could process that, the last fence came and two Willie Mullins horses were in front, Real Steel and Shajar but they both horses fell, leaving Whiskey Sour in front. Patrick Mullins and Paul Townsend were clearly angry after hitting the deck at the last.

On Thursday, the main jumps racing action was at Leopardstown and Limerick. In the Christmas Hurdle, super mare Apple’s Jade stormed to victory for Davy Russell and Gordon Elliot. Her victory was marred by the untimely death of Nichols Canyon. He won the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and a Listed race on the flat when he was trained by John Gosden and ridden by William Buick.

The main race of the day was the Christmas Chase also at Leopardstown. Sizing John, Gold Cup winner, was favourite to win the Grade One chase in a race that was also contested by Willie Mullins’ Djackadam and Yorkill and many Grade One winners. From quite far out, Sizing John and Djackadam were looking out paced and not comfortable. Before the last, Djackadam was pulled up with Sizing John and Yorkill toiling at the back of the field. At that fence, Road To Respect shot into the lead and battled up the straightto win by one and a quarter lengths with Balko Des Flos in second. It was a 1-2-3 of Gigginstown owned runners. Sad news came after the race that Grade One winning horse Zabana was put down after falling.

Most of the horses at the head of the market for the Gold Cup had performed unlike themselves over the christmas period and this sent the betting market into turmoil. No one knew who would win. The only horses that could be bet on with confidence at that time were King George winner Might Bite and unraced this season Native River. Since then, reasons have come out about the strange behavior of the horses, including Bristol De Mai being found to have stomach ulcers which were hurting him when he ran and Sizing John having a hint of hyperthermia.

Hurdler Faugheen took to the stage to show off his season’s credentials in the Grade One Ryanair Hurdle on Friday. Viewers did not get to see the winning spectacle they wanted though. He led up until three out and then faded very quickly. Paul Townsend dismounted him and led him back, saying that he didn’t feel like himself. The gelding passed all his post race checks. So maybe he was having an off day? Who knows. We just have to hope and pray that he won’t be ruled out like Douvan for the rest of the season and will bounce back and contest the Champion Hurdle in a duel against Buveur D’air.

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Neck-and-neck! (Not our photo) 

The centre piece of the racing shown on ITV on Saturday was the Challow Hurdle. It was an exciting race to say the least with Adrian Heskin taking the bull by the horns and making the race a staying test in the bottomless ground. Aboard Mulcahys Hill, the 16/1 outsider, Heskin kicked for home before three out and went clear. His mount and Poetic Rhythm jumped the last together and fought it out to the line to loose out by a short head.

It’s safe to say the Fergal O’Brien team went bonkers. ‘Gorgeous George’ as Poetic Rhythm is known at home was rushed to an equine hospital in early December with colic but now at the end of the month he is a Grade One winner! Just shows the hard work put into these horses by the people at home.

All in all, the week has been full of ups and downs and confusing moments but has truly summed up the spirit of horse racing. Bring on The Festival!