THE yard was in fantastic form over Christmas and Dad’s been having a well-deserved hot streak of his own in Barbados!
Clifford runs the show in his absence and, as always, he’s done a cracking job.
It’s around this time of year when most of our horses have their flu jab.
They obviously need a couple of weeks before they can come back to full work, but when they do they’re recharged and ready to go in time for the big festivals.
It seems to work well every season and gives Dad the perfect opportunity to take a little holiday.
For those that are running this week and next, they’ll have their breaks in the near future as their targets have already been planned out.
Today, we’re again taking on Altior with Diego Du Charmil in the Clarence House at Ascot.
Obviously, our lad will be up against it as the favourite is an incredible horse and we couldn’t lay a finger on him at Kempton last time.
It’s difficult with him now as he’s rated so high – either we target this kind of race or we carry top-weight in a handicap.
The prize-money here for finishing second is as good as you’d get in any handicap, so going for this is a bit of a no-brainer.
And I’d say we have a big chance to get some runner-up dosh if we can get the better of Fox Norton. He’s no mug, but neither is our fellow.
Earlier on the card, we run Risk And Roll in the amateur race at 1.15.
He’s a funny horse who’s not the easiest to win with, but is usually there or thereabouts.
I think a small field will help as it might mean he won’t sulk quite as much, which he can sometimes do.
This is the right kind of grade for him and he’s got a really good rider on board in Bryan Carver.
He’s full-time with us now after working with point-to-pointers alongside Will Biddick last year.
He’s a really good lad who works hard and rides very well. He’ll potentially turn conditional next year and it’s great to have him on board.
His 7lb claim is gold dust!
I’m looking forward to seeing If You Say Run in the Grade 2 Mares’ Hurdle at 1.50.
She’s a very talented filly but is also very quirky.
She’s thrown races away a couple of times by hanging towards the centre of the racecourse and we’ve been trying to get that out of her.
It’s easy to blame the jockeys when that happens but it’s sometimes not easy to correct their waywardness.
At home she’s been in cracking form and if she puts her best foot forward then she has the ability to be bang there.
It was great to ride Dark Alliance to victory last week.
He got some lovely splits at the right times and won nicely in the end.
He sees out his races really well and it was great to get his head back in front. If there’s another suitable race in the next few weeks then we’ll go to the well again.
I ride Tuscany for the first time in the 4.40 for Grace Harris at Wolverhampton tonight.
It’s a competitive little apprentice race – they usually are – and it’s his first start for the yard after moving from Paul Cole’s.
He often runs well fresh and has good course and distance form so conditions should suit.
Hopefully the change of scenery will freshen him up.
Djingle (2.25) is a horse that came with a big rep from France but hasn’t been the easiest at home.
He’s quite highly strung and it’s taken a while for us to get to grips with him – sometimes horses need to adjust when moving countries.
He was way too keen at Warwick last time and since then we’ve gone back to square one.
Alex Thorne has ridden him at home for a while now and as done a great job in getting him relaxed.
Now we’ll try to do that on the racecourse, this time under Lorcan Williams.
Lorcan did a great job getting Darling Maltaix to relax, and hopefully he can do the same thing here.
Under the radar
We took ten horses to gallop around Wincanton this morning and all but one is yet to see a racecourse for us.
They were a mix of juvenile and novice hurdlers – Miranda and Ashutor were among them – and they’re an exciting group that went nicely.
In the next couple of weeks you should be seeing some new faces!
Cyrname goes in the valuable handicap chase at 3.00.
He was one of the star novices last year but has just found the step into open company slightly tricky.
Unfortunately, when you’re as good as he was then you either have to go for the top races or get lumbered with big weights in handicaps (just like Diego Du Charmil).
It’s not been easy so far but it can take them time to rediscover their ability and hopefully we’ve got him back now.
He’s a much easier ride than he used to be and on his best form he should be more than capable off this mark.
San Benedeto also goes in the race. He’s been an absolute legend for the yard, winning a Grade 1 alongside plenty of other good races.
He should love this better ground and he goes back over fences which should also suit. It would be nice to see him bounce back.
Over at Taunton, there’s a classy little contest at 2.50 where we run Present Man.
He has to carry 11st 2lb but he seems as good as ever.
We’ve given him plenty of time since his 8th in the Becher and he’s nice and fresh now.
The better ground will be ideal and I can’t see a problem with him staying, particularly on this sharper track.
If everything goes his way then he should run a big race.
Vicente doesn’t have to carry a penalty which will help him as he’s not the best jumper – even though he’s won the Scottish National twice.
This is his first run back but he’s been in great heart at home. Hopefully he can run a nice race with Ayr again the aim in April.
Ellarna goes in the last and she must have a big chance. She was third on racecourse debut and looked unlucky that day.
She’s a big, big filly who’s taken a bit of time and it seems to have paid off judging by her first outing.
She gets a first-time tongue-tie which will help her breathing.
At Exeter on Sunday we run Saint Du Reve in the bumper. He’s a big horse that’s needed plenty of work and you can put a line through his debut.
He could be a nice one.