What a season! There have been immense highs, sad lows and incredible performances by the human and equine participants – Altior and Paul Nicholls to name a few.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the season. I posted a ‘20 To Watch Blog’ with, you guessed it, twenty horses who I thought would do well this year. Some blew my expectations out of the water but with others my confidence may have been a but misdirected. Overall, I’m extremely proud of what they’ve achieved.
No1 on my list was Le Richebourg. In training with Joseph O’Brien, he won two novice chases which earned him a place in my list. He went on to finish second to subsequent Punchestown Festival winner Delta Work in a grade one. Then he won the Racing Post Novices Chase and the Irish Arkle over the same course and distance. An injury cut his season short in February but he has a big future next term.
Ms Parfois made her seasonal debut on the first of December in the Ladbrokes Trophy when finishing sixth. We then didn’t see her until the Saturday after Cheltenham when she nearly made all to win the Midlands Grand National. It was expected that she’d go to the Grand National but it was announced that she would be retired due to a reoccurring injury. I look forward to what her foals will do on the track.
Castletown Quary was very busy for the first half of the year. He was well beaten on all starts after his maiden hurdle fourth but sadly lost his life on the 17th March which I didn’t know about until a week ago. Its devastating news to hear especially as I’ve tracked his progress all season. Rest In Peace <3.
Vinndication and First Flow are from Kim Bailey’s yard and were set to go novice chasing but only Vinndication took that up. Unbeaten over hurdles, he won his first two chases in nice style and then he was third in the Scilly Isles behind Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation which is good form. It was touch and go whether we’d actually see him at Cheltenham but he ran well to be fifth in the JLT. First Flow won his three races before pulling up in the Supreme last year and was fifth on his only start of this season in the Imperial Cup. If the ground is soft enough and he stays sound, he’ll have a very successful first chasing season next year.
Cheltenham was an incredible week. We saw some fabulous performances by exciting horses like Altior, Paisley Park, Klassical Dream and Frodon. The blog had two runners on day one – Lalor and Mulcahys Hill. Lalor has a really emotional story and he kicked off his novice chase campaign in incredible style in a grade two on his first try but didn’t show that spark when he ran in the Henry VIII Novices Chase. He pulled up at Cheltenham in the Arkle and finished six of seven at Aintree. Hopefully he can give many more good days to Bella, his trainer’s daughter, who adores him.
Mulcahys Hill (cover photo) was a 40/1 shot for the National Hunt Chase but fell in a race which was marred by just four horses finishing. He was sixth on chase debut and second next time. He was then beaten twenty five lengths in the Scilly Isles Novices. I went to the Lambourn Open Day and absolutely fell in love with this boy even more! He was so lovely and cuddly. He can still be a novice next season so should be winning soon. Now a firm favourite.
The Wednesday of Cheltenham was the best day for my 20 To Watch Blog. City Island put his unbeaten record on the line in the Ballymore. He’d won his two lower grade hurdle races in really good fashion and he led narrowly turning for home at Cheltenham. Champ gave backers a scare when he loomed up but, eventually, City Island won by two lengths. I was ecstatic! He wasn’t an obvious choice at the start of the year but he won at the Cheltenham Festival! He ran at the Punchestown Festival last week but finished sixth. The trip arguably wasn’t his true running. He’ll be back.
Topofthegame and Drinks Interval ran in the RSA. The mare Drinks Interval took them along and looked to be having a great time considering she is a chancey jumper. She fell at Market Rasen at the start of November and placed in two mares listed races. She couldn’t last home in this championship race and pulled up. She fell next time at Ayr and then pulled up in a listed race. Topofthegame was so consistent at the top level this season. Paul Nicholls’ giant Fleminsfirth gelding was second on chasing debut behind Defi Du Seuil and then was second to La Bague Au Roi on Boxing Day. We didn’t see him until Cheltenham when he stayed on well to just deny Santini and Delta Work. He ran in the Mildmay at Aintree but was no match for Lostintranslation who’s rivalry with Defi Du Seuil this season has been incredible.
Terrefort and Footpad had an extraordinary novice chase season in 2018. Terrefort boasted a three from four record over fences until this season when he was a short price in a listed chase but ended up last of four. It came out that he sustained an injury and we didn’t see him for two months. He followed in two smart horses in the Cotswold Chase and Denman Chase. Footpad went unbeaten from November 2017 to the end of April 2018 and in his novice chase season, which included major victories at Punchetown and Cheltenham. He fell first time out this season and then was a half length behind Simply Ned. Both Terrefort and Footpad ran in the Ryanair but to no success – Terrefort pulled up and Footpad was last of the finishers.
On the Friday of Cheltenham, Commander Of Fleet ran in the Albert Bartlett. He won on debut at Punchestown in a bumper that always works out well in May 2018. He won his maiden hurdle in very classy style in November and then ran at Fairyhouse in early December over two miles in a grade one. That trip was much too short and sure enough, two months later, he won a grade one over two miles six at Leopardstown. I could see him getting beaten in the Albert Bartlett but he did by 50/1 Minella Indo. He was given a great ride by Rachel Blackmore these two met again at the Punchestown Festival and Commander Of Fleet pulled up lame. I know there is much more to come from him.
I’m extremely proud of Getaway Trump. I was hopeful he’d be good at the start of the season, especially as I know someone with a share and he surprised me how good he was. He was a very keen horse in bumpers and was on his first hurdles start too. Next time, he ran at Plumpton and won by five lengths, with the rest strung out. He followed it up well next time at Exeter. He was then pitted into top company in the Challow Hurdle and finished a creditable second to subsequent Aintree Festival scorer Champ. He then put in two below par runs but came good at Ayr. He ran on the final day of the season at Sandown off top weight. He gave 11lbs to his nearest rival but bolted up really convincingly. It was an incredible performance and great for his owners!
Pearl Of The West has to be my fafavourite mare in training. She concluded her season with a fabulous win in the Grade B Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, staying on. I’ll admit, I shed a few tears of joy. She’s just everything a racehorse should be. She won a nice hurdle race at Cheltenham in October and we didn’t see her for a while after that until she had a prep for the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Dundalk. She went of at 25/1 but finished a close second. Then she came over for the race at Ayr but didn’t handle the firm conditions – she gave it a good go though. I’m so proud of her and I wish the team lots more good days with her!
Carefully Selected only made his seasonal debut in mid March and that was also the first time he jumped a hurdle in public. He did it well and won by three quarters of a length. He ran in the Grade One Novice Hurdle at Punchestown and ran against Commander Of Fleet. He ran an odd sort of race. He looked beaten from a long way out but knuckled down to be a good third. He’s got a lot more to come over staying trips.
A horse who didn’t quite do what I wanted them to was Rocklander. I think a lot of him – I always have. Sadly, he’s shown barely anything for all season – last on seasonal debut, fourth in a competitive handicap, fell at the first in the Tommy Whittle, pulled up in a Veterans chase and last in a Hurdle. He’s dropping in the handicap but I’m losing hope.
There have been a few who we haven’t seen very much this season. Dinsdale hasn’t made a racecourse appearance at all and apparently switched yards. Jack Regan ran once on the flat after I mentioned him and then he came fourth in a flat race. Connections then sold him to Australia. Clara Sorrento ran just once for the blog and was a really good second in November to a horse who’s form has worked out well since. For whatever reason, we haven’t seen him for a while but he could be well handicapped.
Overall, my ’20 To Watch’ Blog has worked out really well. The have ran seventy two times between them, won nineteen races, come second thirteen times and finished third six times. A £1 win stake on them would return with a £20.57 profit.
I look forward to next season immensely! It’s going to be AMAZING!!