A little later than planned, I’m delighted to share this comprehensive tour of the Anthony Honeyball yard’s horses for the 2018/19 National Hunt season. As always, Anthony – whose yard geegeez.co.uk sponsors – was extremely generous with his time, and his extensive thoughts can be found below. He has a really promising group of horses, with a focus on quality over quantity and an individual eye to detail across the entire team.
Plenty of tracker types, starting with last year’s excellent bumper horse…
AJH: Yeah. Obviously, he’s a lovely horse. He’s got two listed wins, fourth in the champion bumper, and they don’t come much better than him in bumpers.We’ve done plenty of schooling with him. We’re hoping to hit the season running with him in a maiden hurdle. We know he goes on soft ground, so we’d rather keep him on nice, safe soft ground through the best part of the season.
Our dream is that he goes and wins a novice or a maiden and then, come Christmas time, we go for the Challow hurdle at Newbury would be our plan, but just because he’s a very good bumper horse, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be a top hurdler. But I think he should make the transition very well and I think early season target is the Challow if we can get him out and, like I say, hit the ground running and show us that he’s a decent horse straightaway.
MB: How’s he taken to hurdles?
AJH: Yeah, very well. We did a lot of… We did plenty of slow, background stuff, like going outside, lots of poles in the indoor school just to get the technique really solid and he’s very… Yeah, he’s one that he’ll certainly have a go and then he’s not going to be afraid to do the job. He’s brave, so we’re just kind of giving him… Getting his technique as good as possible in the indoor school and then now we’re coming to the point where we’re just doing plenty of schooling outside. This will be his second school outside in the autumn.
AJH: The dam, Eleven Fifty Nine, meant a hell of a lot to us. We won a Listed bumper at the Aintree Grand National festival with her. His dam won a listed race there, she was third in a Listed race at Sandown as well, so we picked him up as a foal. We’ll just see what we’ve got. We’re hoping to run him in a juvenile bumper and if that happens, that’ll be great, and if it doesn’t, we’ll get him in a normal bumper, but he couldn’t be doing any more than he’s doing at the minute. He’s just doing two canters and the odd bit of work here and there just to sharpen him up and letting him tell us when he’s ready to really put him out there. I know he probably wants an away day some time to go somewhere else and go and have a gallop just to get a bit more experience. But he’s very interesting, yeah.
MB: Good. Looking forward to him for obvious reasons. [He’s a geegeez.co.uk syndicate horse]
AJH: Yeah, we don’t yet know much about her. Her dam normally liked a bit of decent ground. Quite an attractive mare, quite an athletic mare. Only came to us a couple of weeks ago. She just had her first time today and she ran quite nicely in one of her bumpers and showed a little bit of promise. Yeah, so it’s a new owner and we’ll get her schooled up to go novice hurdling now.
MB: And she’s a four-year-old, is she?
AJH: Yes, she’s four.
Avoir de Soins
AJH: Yeah, he’s… We bought him, we paid quite good money for him at a breeze up sale at Cheltenham. Actually, the same day Ms Parfois won at Cheltenham, so our blood was up when we went to the sale! But he was, fortunately, he was the first one out in the sale. Big, sort of wishy-washy chestnut colour, similar to Ms Parfois, and he was sort of solid and just looked… His breeze was quite good and he just looked a powerful horse by Flemensfirth. Well, we certainly haven’t been disappointed with what he’s done so far.
I’ve not seen him do necessarily a serious piece of work with the likes of someone like Ms Parfois, but he’s definitely… He’s powering off up the gallops and we’re quite excited by him. He jumps very well, so he’s got to have a future. I don’t know how good a bumper horse he is. I’d say when the mud is flying, he might have a chance of winning a bumper in the deepest, darkest winter with the mud flying as I say, but certainly novice hurdling and chasing will be his game. He’s quite nicely bred, he’s out of a sister to a few black type performers. I think he’d be the first runner out of the dam. I don’t think there’s any relatives going to run before him at the minute, so, yeah, he’s very interesting.
MB: And who owns him?
AJH: Richard Smith, who’s a new owner to us. Saw him on the website. We buy a lot of horses on specs and sometimes for quite a lot of… Well, we are afraid to, but if we’re not afraid to buy them. Sometimes we’re afraid to buy them for quite big money, but at the same time, we just saw that there’s lots of good owners out there and we just thought we’ll buy a horse like him on spec and Richard Smith, he came along just at the right time to take it. Took him to view and he was just what he was looking for, so it’s very good for everyone. He’s got another one that we’ll mention later as well.
AJH: Yeah, Déjà Vue, she’s a fantastic jumper at home, she schools very well. She’s like a lot of them, she’s having a school tomorrow outside on the grass, but her hurdling, she’s got very good technique, she really knows what she’s up to. Won a point-to-point, won nicely. Just trying to make the decision now, along with the new owners, as to whether we go for a bumper first, which has kind of always been the plan, or whether we use her jumping straight away in the novice hurdling. There’s no real right or wrong decision there; it just depends what comes along. She’s by Fame And Glory, and looks a good prospect.
Drops of Jupitor
AJH: Yeah, she’s a really interesting mare. She won a bumper at Musselburgh, we bought her off the back of that. Had shown a tendency to sort of race off a bit keen and then fall in a heap certainly in her point-to-point, like, the one behind Finian’s Oscar. He actually won her point-to-point and she did very well for a long long way and then just stopped very quickly. She went too quick in that. Yeah, she’s got that slight tendency. We managed her last season, got a really good win at Exeter, Noel Fehily got a hell of a tune out of her that day, got her really switched off. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into getting that sorted, but even with that sorted, the problem is these novice hurdles, not many of them are run to suit because they went quite steadily and she had to get involved and then got too involved too early in the race and then fell in a heap at the end of the race. So almost tailor made for a well-run handicap she is, really.
That’s why we tried at Sandown and she ran okay in a 50 grand handicap there. That’s kind of found her level a little bit, so we’re trying this season to kind of let her have own way, pop her out in front. She does jump very, very well. Hopefully, a fence is just what she needs and she sort of just backs off a bit and save a bit of energy.
MB: I was going to say that, actually. It might just take the edge of her fizziness with a fence.
AJH: Yeah, definitely. She loves the jumping. She’s very good at it, technically very good. She might be too good. You hope she kind of goes on and kind of balloons a couple and just kind of settles herself a bit, but it’ll be very interesting. She’s a hell of a sight, a lovely, big, grey mare, and she’d be some sight over a fence, so we’re really looking forward to that. Being that we found her kind of level last season a little bit, we feel that we’re more inclined to just let her… We’ve given her a bit of a chance and educated her, but now we should just let her bowl on and see what she can win doing that really.
MB: Yeah, when you say she might be a bit too good, do you mean she’s quite economical over her fences?
AJH: Yeah. She might just be real flippy. I’m not worried… Well, touch wood, I’m not worried about her getting lower, I just think she might just be just very, very good at it. She’s very slick. That’s a good thing. You can look at it the other way, if she’s very, very slick, she’s not going to be backing off and necessarily settling as well. What I really mean is she goes in a bit novicey, hopefully, she jumps well, but she might just back off from them a little bit and just give herself a bit more of a chance. I’m thinking she might just say, “I know what I’m up to here,” and just be very quick and sharp, but on the other hand, if she is like that, she’ll allow you to buy yourself a breather then you’re getting an advantage all the way and you can get a breather somewhere and it can be very tough for novices to go with her. So we’ll just see anyway. It should be a bit of fun. Yeah, interesting.
AJH: Yeah, I love her to bits. She’s lovely. Really hardy mare. She’s won a point-to-point. She did quite a bit of schooling last season, really, early on until we decided she was an out-and-out bumper horse for the rest of the season. Yeah, very good season and probably not thinking we’ve had a better mare for bumpers than her. Not everything was in line for Aintree, but it was as good as we could get it at the time, but we just didn’t have a clear run with her really. It was quite an effort there.
Anyway, novice hurdling this season and, hopefully, she’ll jump. There’s a lot of good mares now running in mares, maiden, and novices and we saw the other day at Chepstow you know sort of 16, 18 runner races absolutely littered with really good mares in there. So not going to be so straightforward, but hopefully, we’re very hopeful, as the season goes on, she can take high rank amongst the mares over hurdles. And she will jump a fence as well, but I think probably, looking at her, she’s not the biggest, so you say hurdling for her is going to be key really.
MB: When might she start out?
AJH: We’re just kind of fine-tuning what we are going to do. There’s a dry week ahead, so I suppose it’s going to… I’d love to think around the corner, she’s pretty much ready to go, but sort of early to mid-November I suppose, depending on weather. [Duhallow Gesture ran 3rd in a smart mares’ novice hurdle at Newbury on 8th November, after this was recorded].
I’m probably being a bit blinkered, I don’t have to go against mares, but I just feel with a good mare like that, you would want to really keep to the mares if we can. And so there are some nice… There’s a nice race at Newbury over two miles for her, followed up by another one at I think the Ladbroke meeting. Two miles probably isn’t her job, but we’ll see. We might not get as carried away as that. We might just go for the other opportunities towards Christmas. There’s a nice one at Haydock, so we can probably get some experience and then go there, probably be the more likely way we’d go with her.
MB: They’re both good galloping tracks anyway, aren’t they? Two miles just feels a bit further anyway.
AJH: Yeah, you can be positive. She’s very straightforward, she’s very amenable. You can go a good gallop in front or you can drop in a bit. She’s very straightforward like that so it makes it easier. It makes it easier if you’ve got a good mare that’s versatile and they can win… Of course, she can win one over two miles, so her optimum is going to be two and a half. I don’t know about three, but certainly two and a half.
AJH: Yeah, bought for hurdling from Criquette Head in France. She’s a good solid galloper, was always very handy in those races and just kept on. A little bit one paced, but a good class one pace for sure. Ran well in a Listed race, looked like she’d win it, half a furlong out, and then got swamped late on. So we haven’t had her long, like a month now, and again, she’s obviously going hurdling.
She’s sister to I think two Group 1 winners. She’s half-sister to them and a full sister to a horse that’s actually with Neil Mulholland and got to a mark of around 118. So quite a good family, a very good family and sort of jumping form there as well. So yeah, just don’t know really. Just got a bit of size and scope to her and start off in mares’ novice hurdles. As I say, she’ll probably get three miles but certainly start around two.
AJH: Gustavian, yes. We bought him in Ireland over the summer. Yeah, he’s a Mahler. There’s not much really we can go on at the minute. He’s got a sort of reasonable background pedigree-wise. Doing nothing wrong at home, working with Aminutetomidnight. So they’re on the same type of path, like they would run in a juvenile, but obviously you’ll run out of time for that quite quickly.But we’re hoping we can get them to those types of races. The one at Wincanton springs to mind over two miles; I think it’s early December. That might be one we’re aiming Aminutetomidnight and Gustavian at and we’ll see if they get there. If both get there, then we’ll probably let them both have a run for the experience. So we’re looking to get them tuned up for those types of races. He was quite forward. Normally, with a lot of the three-year-olds… With Aminutetomidnight, we had him since he was a foal, so we’ve done a lot with him early in life so we thought we can get them to juveniles. Gustavian, he seemed quite forward when we broke him in over the summer so that’s why he’s going to be fast tracked a bit more than some of the other three-year-olds.
AJH: Yeah, he’s a lovely horse. He’s probably a mirror-image of the owner’s last good horse, Victor’s Serenade. They’re very similar, they’re real mud larks, good stayers. He did better in bumpers. He’s not really a bumper horse but he’s won a bumper and he was second in two and we just felt that although he wasn’t a bumper horse, there’s so much heavy ground around and so many bumpers cutting up, we just thought we’d just as well do that within this season and then we’ll know where we are for hurdling this season. So we’ve looked after him, he jumps great. He’s very much a chaser really, long-term, but he’s got a good eye for an obstacle and just sort of jumps bold and a bit cocky, but he’s a good solid jumper. You can imagine him winning sort of a two mile five maiden hurdle around Towcester in deep ground or something like that.
AJH: I don’t know that much yet other than he’s done nothing wrong at home, he’s working nicely. He is brother to a five furlong group placed, I think Group 1 placed horse, so that doesn’t really… It tells me there’s some winners in the family; it doesn’t really help me work out whether he’s going to win in a bumper or not, but he seems like a bumper horse. He travels okay, he steadies on quite nicely in his work and so we are hopeful. He runs on 9th November at Fontwell. Wouldn’t mind good ground. He’d be one of my bumper horses that I would run on good ground, good to soft ground. I’d definitely take the chance then and he probably does want reasonable ground. So yeah, he’s going along going well enough so looking forward to running him.
MB: He’s a four-year-old, is he?
AJH: Yes, he’s a four-year-old.
AJH: He was with Neil Mulholland before he came to us. He’d run some good races and got some education… He’d learned a lot there and he got some placed efforts. We had him for a short time from Neil and then sort of got him ready for the back end of the season, soft ground maiden hurdle. Had a few issues through the season with Neil, and Neil told me the problems he’s had and everything seemed fine and so we ran him once and he won really nicely. And then he had, as soon as we got him back… Well, like a week after we got him back, he did a couple of canters and he got a tendon strain. We gave him, because he’s shown us… Because he seemed like quite a nice horse, we thought it’s not the end of the world. He probably needs time anyway. These things happen for a reason sometimes, we just thought, all right, we’ll take it on the chin; gave him over a year off.
He’s come back now, had a few little hiccups along the way over the last few weeks, but he’s sound and cantering now and no more tendon issues or anything like that. Just had a few hiccups. But he’s a lovely big horse and he probably still wants… Biding his time really. But he’ll go straight novice handicap chasing because that’s going to be what he’s best at and I don’t want to waste time risking him over hurdles anymore. We still don’t know what we’ve got. If we go over fences, at least we’ll know if there’s any other hiccups, at least we’ll know what he can do. Certainly, I’ve had in my head that he could actually be a really decent staying handicap chaser when the mud’s flying. He’s certainly one that should win over fences.
He’s got the biggest feet. I think our farrier commented on it as well. I think he said there’s one horse at Colin Tizzard’s that could even hold the likes of him in terms of how big his feet are.
MB: Shoe size.
AJH: Yeah. I think there’s one there that’s nearly got as big. He’s got massive great feet. As I say, he’s got a reasonable set of legs, but compared to the feet, the feet are massive.
MB: Is there any truth in that saying that big feet go through heavy ground or is that a load of codswallop?
AJH: No, I think it’s a myth.
MB: Okay. We’ll find out maybe.
AJH: Maybe big… Yeah, I think it’s a bit of a myth. I don’t know, we’ve had all sorts, to be quite honest. We’ve had all sorts. We’ve had horses with tiny little feet that don’t really look like the type of horse that would go on heavy and they absolutely relished it. We’ve had horses with big feet that have absolutely hated anything, especially when it got gluey. You think when it gets gluey ground… I suppose when it’s wet ground, maybe a big strong horse with big feet might be a thing, but when you get tacky ground, of course, they’ve got big feet to drag out of the mud.
MB: Like suction cups!
It’s a Lily
AJH: I don’t know much, but I know the dam. Kevin Glastonbury, he’s had quite a lot of success with his horses, they’ve all tended to have wins and, again, the dam he was involved with, the dam in her career, I think she won five. Got to a reasonable rate, she won five and he’s bred this Sulamani filly. She’s quite pretty, she’s quite athletic, reasonable size, athletic, quite a nice body. She’s well made, she’s well put together, athletic. Other than that, I don’t know a lot, but she’s going outside and I think she’ll probably be a racehorse. Certainly pleased to have her around and I think she’s a nice mare for bumpers this season.
AJH: Jepeck, yes. Won 10 point-to-points. Hasn’t actually won under Rules but has run very well in defeat, third in the Devon National last season, which actually, I thought was quite a solid race for a 0-125. A good solid race over an extended trip, so three miles six and a half, I think nearly four miles. He’s run well in a few of those off of 110. He should be able to win, we might just even go simply just three mile 0-115. Not that big, so even though he’s a small horse, he’s a strong medium-sized horse, but he won’t be a big horse and carrying big weights. So whether that would work, but you could go sort of 0-115, 0-120 and see if we can go and win one. He’s certainly done more than enough already to win one, just hasn’t quite had his day. But he’d be one that you would like to maybe do that and then go back to something like the Devon National; have a lofty valuable target to go for after we get an initial win with him really. He goes on soft being by Westerner. As I say, he’s had a good career really. He just should have won under Rules, he just hasn’t had that bit of luck.
Le Coeur Net
AJH: Yeah. He’s coming on well. He schooled really well and he’s always jumped well. It’s early days with him still, he didn’t quite have the confidence, but he got better and better last season and more consistent. Albeit we’ve handed him a lot of good opportunities, but they were about and those two mile events for the soft heavy ground horse, which he seems to cope with, which, again, he’d be hardy enough to get through heavy ground, but he quite likes the tempo of the race on heavy ground. Anyway, he jumps well, he did well last season. What gives me a bit of encouragement is the fact we’ve had a bit of fun for the two or three seconds and a win and there’s plenty of those races around again this season and we’re still off a mark of 105. So if you add sort of not really necessarily need to, but at some stage, we add in Rex Dingle, our stable conditional’s seven pound allowance, which we’ll have most of the season probably, that’s a very workable mark.
MB: I’m not sure how to put this. He can be quite a hard horse to win with, can’t he? He travels well in his races.
AJH: Yeah, he would be. When he won, he looked like it was very easy because they all sort of stopped in front of him. Noel Fehily just sort of moseys his way around, never put the ultimate pressure on him and he just let the race come back to him. Ideally, that’s what you do every time but, unfortunately, all of these races are different. When Aidan Coleman rode him at Plumpton, we got left in front at the ditch and he went sort of three or four lengths on, looked like the job was done, and then he kind of realised where he was. I’m not saying he wouldn’t necessarily have pulled himself up in front, it’s just that as soon as you chuck the reins at him, he just seems to curl up under pressure sometimes. I think he’s going to get better at that. I think he’s going to get… The last one at Taunton, he got passed out into the background at third, I think, that day and then went with the other horses, stopped, but he kept on well enough to actually regain second on the line, so I thought that was a really pleasing effort. Yeah, he’s a nice horse to have a bit of fun with over the winter.
MB: Yeah. Touch wood he stays sound because, so far, he has. He seems to have been around forever, but he’s still only a six-year-old, so there might still be a bit of improvement to come.
AJH: And he’s soft as you like. Last season, he got tougher and he took plenty of races and became more consistent and more reliable that he was going to give a good run. Yeah, he is an interesting horse. He might get up to be a 120 horse. If he is and he can then that’s going to give us a lot of fun.
AJH: Imploded after his easy bumper win but we know why. He had stomach ulcers and we just slightly misjudged it. We had a bit of a look around at horses, particularly him, but there were a few of our horses early season last season. We found he was really bad, which didn’t surprise us; that’s why he was on the list to look at. We nailed that for his first run and he ran brilliantly and won really well, like a proper horse and then we… We kept a check on him and we kept him on the same regime, but one way or another, they got back on top of him and when we checked him again after Newbury, they were there again and we just never really got on top of the situation after that is the long and short of it.
We’re clear at the minute and he’s just one you’ve got to keep a very close eye on, really, for that. We’ve got him in a good routine at the minute and we think we’ve got on top of that; he’s looking well. He did have a breathing op prior to his racing career, full stop. He did a little bit harsh like that, in his wind, but it doesn’t seem to affect him and, as I say, really the only reason he was a disappointment last season was because he obviously… We think he’s a half decent horse. A maiden hurdle, goes on heavy ground and loves it and travels well on it and he’s a very interesting horse for a maiden hurdle. He’s probably a decent horse.
MB: Obviously, got to wait for the rain to come with him.
AJH: Yeah. He’ll run fine on good to soft, he wouldn’t care, but it’s just to get everything to be more confident, heavy ground and we feel comfortable he’ll run on that.
AJH: Sister to Regal Encore and The Organist and so, obviously, you see why we were kind of interested in her. Went up to Cheltenham and she was on the sales list to look at. She wasn’t an oil painting, she sort of turned her foot slightly and had a few… Well, she’s looks a really nice athletic racey mare, but she’s got a few confirmation issues that kind of dragged her points down a little bit. But of course, we were well bought into her before we went there really because of Regal Encore being with us and we know how good they are. That family is a very decent family and so we were very keen to pick her up and we’ve got her and I paid £50,000 for her and we’ve syndicated her. She’s working nicely, improved beyond all recognition physically, just from the extra time, and we’ve got her in a good routine and we just got weight on her, and muscle on her, layer upon layer of muscle on her. Delighted with her. She’s going very well and they all seem to be smart horses form that pedigree, and we’re just hoping she can be another one.
MB: She’ll go down to the mare’s bumper route, will she?
AJH: Yeah, we’re definitely going to bumper her this season. I think definitely to start with anyway and we’ll have to make a quick switch if she’s not quite doing the job. She’s won a point-to-point.
MB: Regal is fine on top of the ground, isn’t he? Would you have a view on her ground preference?
AJH: Yeah, we definitely think she’s going to want – I think all the family do – on their best day, it’s probably sort of good, good to soft, soft at a stretch. Regal’s last win at Ascot, a very good valuable race, they called it soft, heavy in places, but it wasn’t in a million years soft heavy in places because Ms Parfois got trounced by Black Corton. He goes on rough ground but he really wants good to soft. We think that’s the sort of ground she’s going to want. No extremes, she’ll be fine.
AJH: Yeah, one of Gary Moore’s horses, Benatar, is like an uncle to her. We bought her as a two-year-old and loved the pedigree. Ryan Mahon, the agent, was, at one time, The Geegeez Geegee’s winning jockey.
MB: Indeed. Top lad.
AJH: Yeah, he’s a top lad. I took him to look at a bunch of two-year-olds there and he said, “This is the only one I’d kind of put forward to you,” and so we were delighted when we saw her when she got back to the yard. Nice pedigree. Actually, we may well, because obviously, Midnight Legend, you can’t go far wrong normally with Midnight Legend there, had a lot of success with him. She’ll go for a bumper and it won’t be an early bumper, but it will be a bumper in January, February, March. I think she could be quite decent. We’re really quite excited about her.
The other thing we’re quite excited about is we may, not confirmed yet, we may be getting her sister, her half-sister by Malinas. She won a point-to-point bumper at Stratford.
AJH: Again, we bought her privately. Rachael did really. A chap called Paul Forman, a very good man, very good judge of horses, he sort of brought her to our attention as a youngster and we went and looked at her with Rachael and we liked her. I got dragged along kicking and screaming and had a look and she’s done remarkably well, really well. We sort of thought we had her at her level and then, last season, she just shocked us really. We ended up stumbling across the fact that she actually handled heavy ground and then she was, obviously, in her element last winter and she’s just gone from strength to strength. We thought we were going okay with her, she’d schooled this time last year over fences. We though she was definitely going chasing, that we definitely knew what she was over hurdles, hoping she’d make a much better chaser. Still loved her, but just thought “she is what she is”, she’s a 110 horse and she might improve. Then she shocked us when she went over hurdles.
So some really good wins last season, best of which was a Grade 2 at Sandown. Mares’ novices chasing this season and, hopefully, she might like the soft ground and be a really good mare to go mares’ only chasing with. Hopefully, we start that way as we did with Ms Parfois and she might actually open up into then regular novice chases and just start racing against geldings. She might do. She certainly should be very good against the mares anyway.
MB: Like you say, she was a big improver last year and that Sandown run was rock solid. She goes from the front a fair bit, doesn’t she?
AJH: She does and she sat second at Sandown for a fair bit of the race. She’s not thrifty like that. She’s got her gear and she’s happy in that gear wherever that might be in the field. She did achieve more than Ms Parfois as a hurdler against the mares, so there is a chance that she could go the same way. Whether she could ever hope to be as good as Ms Parfois over fences, it’s probably asking a lot, but she’s as good, at the minute, at the same stage.
MB: I think she’ll be a very exciting mare to watch anyway, if she’s allowed to bowl along in front. If she jumps sort of 80% as well as Ms Parfois, she’ll be hard to catch.
AJH: Yeah, definitely.
Milan in May
AJH: Three-year-old. One we’re taking our time with, as is mostly the case with the three-year-olds. Gorgeous horse. He’s obviously by Milan. Out of the, I think he’s either out of or his brother is a black type horse. I think he’s got a sibling that’s a black type horse. And so, really, a reasonable performer in the family, so just a very nice horse and we’re just taking him steadily. Wouldn’t know anything about him, but he does jump well. We do a lot of jumping with them and when we broke him in, we carried on the education with the jumping and he’ll come back to that soon while the pressure is off a bit and then we’re getting ready to run in February or March.
AJH: Brother to… Well, a serious pedigree. The sire, French Fifteen, is still unproven, he’s probably not necessarily going to get a chance to prove himself in a big way. He’s a good horse but it’s mainly all about the dam really. The dam was a black type performer. I think she won six. She’s produced like six or seven winners, one of which is Terrefort, the Grade 1 winner for Nicky Henderson. Another one is Vino Griego, which is with Gary Moore. I don’t know if he’s retired yet, but he’s been a very good horse. He came in about last season. He’s been a very good horse to them, so another winner, so really serious pedigree.
Again, broken in jumps, taking our time, January, February, March debut. Hope to get a debut January, February because then we’re entering the heat qualifiers for the Doncaster Sales Bumper, which is a £50,000 bumper, I think for 24 March. So we’d hope to run him in that event and it’s quite a costly process entering that, so we ended up paying £500 if he runs. So they’re paying out £150 as we go, a couple of deadlines along the way, and I suppose our aim would be to run him there. I wouldn’t be scared to run him in it first time out if we got the education into him. We’ve done that before and been placed in it, so that’s sort of the goal but then have to get a debut into January, February time.
AJH: Still a touch wishy-washy regarding plans. I’m tempted, if it’s heavy ground, I’d be tempted to run her in the Betfair chase only if you can take the quality out of race. Obviously it’d still be a quality race, but if you could take the speed and the quality out of the race and just make it an end to end gallop, a bit of a slog, over three miles on heavy ground, then that might be a good £200,000 race. Small field, might be a race we’d take in as a sort of win-win really. If she goes and does win or finishes second or third, we’ve picked up big prize money and so what if we go up the handicap a bit? And if she doesn’t get that competitive, she’ll probably stay off her mark and it’ll be a good prep run for the Welsh National. That’s half the plan.
The other half is to run her in the Ladbroke, possibly first time out, straightaway in the Ladbroke and then you’ve got the option of Welsh National, but it’s not likely that you can… It has been backed up before, but you would, obviously, take… I’d just be very happy, and obviously if she could finish in the frame or win Ladbroke, I wouldn’t be worried about if she’s going to go in the Welsh National. But we can tie those two December races within that timeframe. There’s the Becher Chase at Aintree on 8 December as well.
There’s so many around that time, it’s just hard. There’s a lovely 30 grand mares’ race at Newbury, the one she won last year, which was novice last year, now it’s the normal mares’ Listed event over three miles at Newbury and I’m now probably pencilling in Midnight Tune for that this season if I can get her there, but that’s another race for Ms Parfois and it all comes at the same time, so it’s going to be hard to sort of keep going through. Definitely want to make her seasonal debut in November and that might just end up at the Betfair. It depends what the ground does really, if we don’t get the ground there. But we might wait that one out and head there and then if it doesn’t come right, we might wait the extra… We’d have to wait another week or so and we can get the Hennessy… Sorry, the Ladbroke. So that might be, the Ladbroke chase, might end up being the target.
MB: I think most people would know, when you say the Hennessy, they know what you mean. When you say the Ladbroke, they’re less certain of what you mean.
AJH: I know. We’ve got to train ourselves to say the Ladbroke now.
MB: Beyond, potentially, the Welsh National between Christmas and New Year, there are no thoughts for the second half of the season? I guess just see how it goes?
AJH: No. Obviously, we’re a little bit blind to the second half other than the fact that we know that the Midlands National is going to be after the Cheltenham meeting, so that would be another race for her. We know there are races out there, I think, I’m not quite sure where it falls, probably around the 24th January, is like the Betfred Classic chase, three mile five…
MB: So Warwick?
AJH: At Warwick. She won a Listed chase at Warwick last term. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen early season. We’d like to run well in those sort of races like the Betfair, obviously. The two races that make the most sense are the Ladbroke and the Welsh National. Make absolute sense, head screwed on sense, but then people go, “I don’t blame you for wanting to go, but it’s not really the right thing to do with a horse rated 146”, but I’m only thinking about that if it’s a bog, like it was last season, where Cue Card and another good horse, they were fighting it out…
MB: They were a mile behind Bristol de Mai, weren’t they?
AJH: It was painful to watch and we might be a mile behind Bristol de Mai, too. We might actually come second, which I think is around a potential £40,000 and it’s a good prep run for… Probably we wouldn’t damage our mark and it’s a good prep run for a handicap. You could certainly call it that. We’re just trying to be as sensible about it as we can. Don’t want to risk our mark because I think 146, actually, you could say she’s quite well handicapped with that, but you would certainly think it’s workable in those races, so looking forward to it.
MB: You could say, if you thought she was a better mare than that, then you could say she was well handicapped off that.
AJH: Yeah, I never thought she was going to be doing what she did last season. She went to Cheltenham, where she ran first time out, she was third of four at Uttoxeter in the same race is in the book for this season and then, obviously, there, I actually really fancied her that day and she was going really well but she was a very ordinary third, very ordinary and they dropped her to… I can’t remember the number, like 126 or something like that. We ran at Cheltenham and it forced us to handicap because we went to Cheltenham for a handicap off her… I did think she’s well handicapped then for sure, but once she started winning listed novice chases, I didn’t think she’d be doing that. Maybe against mares but not when she started doing it against the geldings. So I don’t know, she’s taken me further than I thought she would this summer. We’ll see.
MB: Yeah, she’s been a fantastic standard bearer and, hopefully, will be fantastic to see her extend that into this season.
AJH: Well, she certainly looks like she could. She probably is bigger and stronger. She schooled brilliantly the other day and went to Lambourn for a jaunt, a day out and bit of work, and Noel Fehily rode her. She’s as good as ever anyway.
AJH: Yeah, he’s certainly worked very well at home. Again, he went out to Lambourn for a jaunt and did a bit of work and a school and he worked very well up there. He goes well at home and we’re very happy with him. We just sort of had… I suppose the plan is just to go and get him winning. He finished fourth of 11 last time out at Newbury, ran a good race. Probably we’d look to ride him handy in something like a 0-120, 0-130 event. He’s dropped a lot from where he was, looking smart off 139 at one point. Probably look to go in and around his mark and carry the weight to start with and then we sort of have lofty aspirations beyond that but we’ve got to get that done first. It’ll be very exciting if we could… And to be fair, you were talking about price, there’s lots of very valuable events at 0-125, 0-130 level, so we could probably go and try one of those first and then see where he is at.
MB: He was a bit of a gamble, wasn’t he? So far, he looks like it might pay off. It’s reasonably promising and I guess he won’t be too far away from going out there and trying to prove his mettle.
AJH: Yeah, that’s it. When he gets back into a rainy period of time, then he will be ready.
MB: In normal British weather, we should be fine. One that probably hasn’t quite lived up to the hopes of the Potwell team is Nocturnal Myth. Certainly, not so far anyway.
AJH: No. Actually, by normal standards, he’s done perfectly well but it’s just he went so well at home, an absolute flying machine, relaxed, easy sort of ride, do whatever you asked, and just never found anywhere near the tank empty at home. Probably the first time out was the problem because, although we’d taken him away and done other things at other places, when he did get across the bridle and a little bit tired, he wasn’t quite sure what to do. He’d never been tired and in that situation and he… We brought him back home anyway and he just went through the motions and finished.
At the time, everyone said that was a red-hot bumper. I don’t know how it’s worked out so far, but we went to Plumpton thinking it would be a penalty kick next time out and probably found the best Plumpton bumper you could possibly find and was on the pace all the way. Probably a bit keener than we had been used to have been, up near the front, and just melted away. Still finished fifth of about 14 or 15, didn’t run badly, but we weren’t really happy about that. We did investigate a few things and tweak with his wind although it never really worried us before that.
Again, we investigated for ulcers and found a little bit of an issue there and then we didn’t get the chance to really prove him again. I don’t know, the ground went at a crucial time so we didn’t run him. But he’s schooling brilliantly. Lovely horse, he jumps beautifully and works beautifully and does everything right, so we’d be very hopeful. And even if he became a bit of a handicap project and he ran in two novice hurdles, he’ll certainly be going on in a maiden hurdle somewhere and we’ll try and prove him straightaway; but if it ends up that all he ends up with is a handicap mark, then he should be competitive with any mark around even in the 100s, 110s, 115s, I still think he’d have a decent mark. See where he takes us really, this fellow.
MB: So still very hopeful for him. I know that he is very popular at home.
AJH: His dam won us four… I think she won us four, definitely won us four races and was a serious jumper and a serious mare. Wasn’t much of a bumper mare, so that gives you… We’ve still got the mare now and she was one of our best early horses.
MB: That’s Gan On, is it?
AJH: Yeah. Got to 134, won over fences and hurdles.
MB: Very good. He’s definitely one to keep an eye on anyway. One I’ve been keeping an eye on for a season now, and he’s definitely a horse I’d be very much looking forward to this year, is Pure Vision, who I’m sure has got a decent handicap chasing him at some point.
AJH: Yeah. We’ve been talking over with Frank Berry, the race manager, and he’s still very burly, but he’s… He was out schooling today and he looked very good. We just kind of feel like there is a decent… He is 132, we’re going to be aiming at some nice handicap chases. We’re just hoping, again, I don’t know how far he can take it. If he could just win one really good one for the season, he’ll have done his job really. Obviously, we want more than just that, but just that would be brilliant I think. And we’ll certainly give him the chance in some of the races and see what he’s made of. He ran very well in a sort of reasonable level competitive race at Cheltenham last summer. Barry Geraghty thinks he wants decent ground. I’m buying into that gradually. I wasn’t sure at the time. I knew he’d go on it, but Barry was adamant, on better ground, that would be a much better horse. So far, it looks like he’s right.
MB: That would have been his best run, wouldn’t it, that run in April at Cheltenham?
AJH: Yeah, definitely. Really good effort. I’m really pleased with the run – so frustrated not to win – but it was a really good run. I think he’s gone up about three or four pounds for that.
MB: Was that about three miles?
AJH: Yes, that was three mile one I think. We won it with Solstice Son a few years earlier, that race, novice handicap there. I think there’s some good races in him and he just might end up a really decent handicap chaser, but I don’t know. He’s at that crossroads in his career now: is that his career in a nutshell or… He’s had a few wins over hurdles and over fences, got 132, not bad. He’s a good horse, but it’s just where we take the next step now and go and win a really decent race or two.
MB: Yeah, he’s one of those horses. There’s not really any particular reason for it, but he’s just been on my radar for a couple of years and that last run at Cheltenham, all he was doing was finishing his race off there, and he just said, “I’ve still got more to show you.” I’ll be really quite excited about him this season. Hopefully, Pure Vision is one to note. One who is probably your best horse since you’ve been training is Regal Encore.
AJH: Yeah, him definitely. He’s been a great horse through his career for us. Gradually, bit by bit, he’s actually fulfilled his potential. Yeah, after he was second in the Grade 1 champion bumper, you want him to be the next Gold Cup, Cue Card or something like that, King George or whatever, but he was never a big scopey animal anyway, so he’s actually… He went and got through the stage and actually he’s made a much better… He’s made, certainly, I wouldn’t say much better, but he has made a fair bit better chaser than he was hurdler and that’s not what you would have thought: you’d imagine that he would have been a really sharp, really top hurdler. That career just didn’t fall into place, but certainly, his chase career, bit by bit, has fallen into place. A £100,000 race he won at Ascot, £75,000 race last season at Ascot, third in the Ladbroke chase, third in a £250,000 race.
He’s had a lot of Ps next to his name. We’ve always known he was genuine, it was just, I suppose at that level, you don’t have to have much out of sync whether it would be ground, whether would be tactics on the day, whether it would be hitting the fence or whatever but he’s usually jumped well. He has got low the odd time and that’s cost us the odd race and then he got nearly brought down in two races, at least, he’s been all but brought down, so it’s all kind of happened that way. And he’s run in a National. Was given a very, very nice ride, but just he was a long way out his ground that day and he still stayed on right to the end, probably picking up the pieces a bit that day. Anyway, great career really, he’s been a great horse for us. I hope there’s more to come. At home, he seems as sprightly as ever, like a seven-year-old.
MB: Would the National be the target again?
AJH: Yes, I guess so. So much luck involved in the race, I just think if we end up there, he would be fantastic. But we’re not targeting it as such because I just think off his mark, there’s always going to be something that’s coming through younger, fresher legs, off 138, where he was. It’s going to be a tough handicap mark. The only thing is, with something like the Ladbroke, he still has to have a really strong constitution and he’s really proven. He did that off 150, remember, last season, so it’s not like he was in there off 10 1/2 stone. He did it off 150.
He came out a serious horse out of the Ladbroke, so on that basis. We think we have him ready enough now. Then there’s another race at Ascot later on, but I just feel that, at the minute, I’m thinking we should be going for some of the graded events at Ascot, Aintree in December as well. I just wonder if we keep…. If he goes and wins one somewhere along the line, then fantastic. He seems to be faster than ever now and perhaps if we went to some of these six, seven, eight runner Grade 2s, we might get lucky in one of those.
MB: Yeah, so there’s still plenty of fire in the belly of Regal Encore.
AJH: There’s masses of fire and he’s working as well as ever.
MB: That’s really heartening to hear. He’s a fantastic servant to the yard. Represented has been running in bumpers. What’s his next job?
AJH: We had a little bit of a blip with him recently… He was due to run, basically, last week on the last of quick ground. Schooled electric, to be fair, other than the slip he had, but he’s still electric after that and just a bit more cautious. He’s won his bumper, he’s been a bit disappointing since but he won his bumper. I know he was a good second at Fontwell in another bumper, got lumps of weight that day and I thought he did run a good race, and the winner looks decent
At home, he is a little bit tricky to get right. I’m disappointed with his last run at Worcester. Felt we had him in good shape. Little bit disappointed with that. Anyway, we’re going hurdling now. I think that will happen, hopefully, sooner rather than later and he might make up into a nice little handicapper. I think there’s a bit of untapped potential there. We just can’t manage to get things right with him because he seems a bit soft.
MB: He wants top of the ground, doesn’t he? He wants good ground probably.
AJH: He does, yeah. You wouldn’t want to be trying to run him on good to firm, to be quite honest. You never quite know with that. And you’ve obviously got places like Taunton. That’s why we’ll keep him going, get him 100% right now, just, literally, fine tune his schooling, which is pretty much there now, and then you’ve always got Taunton in December, you can always get that decent ground. We will set up shop at some stage during the winter and then we’ll have a review and see if he’s showing us enough and, hopefully, he might be wanting to come back in the spring or summer.
MB: Great. One who definitely doesn’t want good or good to firm is a very exciting prospect called Sam Brown.
AJH: Yeah, he is one I really am in a bit of a… I’m not quite sure where we go with him. He’s going to school over hurdles, probably have a pop over a fence tomorrow as well, and that might just tell me what I’m going to do with him.
MB: So you might go straight chasing with him?
AJH: Yeah. He’s not one to keep over hurdles for too long. We had a nasty setback with him last season. He had a fall over in the field. Just a week before he was due to come back into training, he had a fall just playing around in the field, no more than that. No one saw it, but we know that’s what happened. That really ruined his season but, somehow, he came back to show what he could do at Plumpton. It was remarkable to run as well as he did there and then, of course, he came out of that not quite right in the end. After a few weeks, we realised he’d had a setback. Couldn’t get him back, so we’ve given him loads of time and he is working nicely now, something like the big £100,000 handicap hurdle at the Haydock Betfair meeting. That might be worthy of going for as a first run, but of course he won his novice, so he’s now sort of conditioned towards the competitive handicaps. If I was actually doing my homework, he might even not be qualified for that. We’ll probably have to have another run at a hurdle before he is allowed to run in that big hurdle.
MB: So he’s got a mark, but you’ve got have three runs to get in that one?
AJH: Yeah, but either way, there’s a £50,000 handicap hurdle on the same card and it’s two and a half but will feel more like three miles if it’s heavy ground.
MB: If it came up heavy, that would be ideal, wouldn’t it?
AJH: That would probably be a more sensible option. I haven’t looked at the history of it, but I suspect that it would probably come up as an eight, nine runner affair rather than the 18 runner affair of the fixed brush. That might be a halfway house, then going on to chasing, so I’m warming to that. If he schools well over a fence, then we might think again and just go that way because that’s probably what he’s going to be best at long-term. He’s still won two bumpers, looked a top end bumper horse really, and he’s won his novice hurdle, which isn’t really going to be has ball game anyway. So you could argue it’s time for chasing, but we haven’t really fulfilled all his potential over hurdles.
MB: He’s basically three from four lifetime, isn’t he? You can’t really crab that and the races he’s won, he’s won by daylight as well.
AJH: Yeah, he’s a big horse.
MB: It’s still all in front of him. He’s a really exciting horse. Shapiro is the next one on my list. What can you tell us about him?
AJH: She’s a really solid fit filly. She really enjoyed that bumper run at Uttoxeter. Probably didn’t live up to that level outside of that, but that didn’t matter. That was probably when we had our yard and her in tiptop condition. She really ran well. She ran really well that day in Plumpton, and probably wants really heavy ground, sort of two and a half mile mares’ maiden hurdle around somewhere like Uttoxeter again, or anywhere on that type of ground would be her ball game. Her jumping is coming together. Should be spot on by the time she hits the track. Won’t hit the track until it rains. And actually, to be honest, she’s still very burly, so that works out fine anyway. It will take a couple of months to get ready and it might even be we need to run to get ready because, obviously, you don’t like to keep pounding them at home day in, day out. Actually, sometimes you are better just to have that run even though she just might need it a little bit. I know it’s an expensive to way to do your job, but sometimes it’s actually better for the horses to have that run. So we’ll see, but she’s coming on well.
MB: Okay, good. One of your Getaways that only got away to the track once last season but was really promising is a gelding called Sojourn.
AJH: Yeah, we love this horse. We think he’s quite a good horse. Not sure where we have him yet, how good we have him, but we do think he’s quite good. Very lovely, gentleman of a horse still, does his job professionally, jumps well. I think probably try one one more bumper – maybe a lot of people wouldn’t, but we’ll try to get that win [won at Aintree on Saturday]. But because he is very much a chaser in the making, we just thought we’d do one more early season just to see if we could end up with a Listed bumper at Ascot in December and if not, not at all worried about that; still could be a very good horse. Just probably start somewhere in November in a bumper and then that will tell us about the rest of the season after. But he’ll be quick to transfer to hurdling. Soon as we’ve got that out of our system, he’ll be quick to do the hurdles. Literally, we don’t know what he might be yet.
MB: One who’s coming back, he seems to have been around forever, is Solstice Son. He’s given his owners a lot of fun down the years and there’s life in the old dog yet.
AJH: There is. It’s probably wearing thin now, I think they’re being very patient and I think we need to get back on track pretty soon, literally. He ran very well at Cheltenham end of last season and then stopped. Sort of found out the issue behind that was, again, ulcers. Be that as it may, to be fair, he might just have blown up as well. It might just have been a lot of factors that day. Ran very well and jumped unbelievably well.
MB: Yeah, he was brilliant that day, wasn’t he? Just got very, very tired.
AJH: Yeah, but ran too well to be sort of badly handicapped or not good enough for any of that. He just ran so well to that point, he just lost the field and jumped him into the ground. So definitely worth a few runs in this autumn/early winter and we’ll see. He’s one of those you really want… He can’t stick it good to firm, but he doesn’t want it to too soft, so find a happy medium and it’ll be lovely. Have a couple of runs in autumn and maybe draw a line under his career and, for that, get point-to-pointing and he’ll just have a nice sort of semiretirement.
MB: He’s been a really good horse for the yard, but especially for his syndicate owners. They’ve had a lot of fun. As you say, they have had to be patient.
MB: Solstice Twilight is one you’ve had a couple of seasons now I think. I don’t know too much about this filly.
AJH: No, just one season with her. Her bumper run at Wincanton was decent, then I don’t think we’ve quite had her right after that. I think she got on quite well in a novice hurdle at Fontwell and she just didn’t… Sort of halfway, she wasn’t getting anywhere. So then it kind of looked like all we can do now is just run her into more novice hurdles, hope for a reasonable handicap mark and hopefully, then, she will be competitive. She ran off 95 in her first handicap, when we went to Exeter and I thought she ran a really good race, her last one. A lovely way to sign off and finish and go all right then. They’re moderate races, but there’s lots of owners out and on her first bumper run, 93 looked very workable and I think we could just be getting her back to that form. I’m very happy with her at the minute. She’s checking out A1 every time we check her, which we believe is something to do with the last season. They’re all bang on the mark, so I think she could run right back to that run at…
MB: At Exeter?
AJH: At Exeter, yeah. She’s definitely able to win one of those 0-100, maybe a couple in that range.
MB: Just looking at her form, it looks like she ran on heavy a few times and she may just have been all at sea on that.
AJH: No, I actually think she might want that. I might be proved wrong; I’m quite happy to be proven wrong, but I actually think… I’m waiting for that for her.
MB: Oh really?
AJH: It was very soft at Exeter that day and it was very, very soft at Wincanton and everything in between. I think we’ve got away with it a bit really. All it did was sort of get her a handicap mark. Little bit better at Wincanton, but it was a brutal sort of… We were well beaten in that race at Wincanton, there was a little bit of promise in that, and I just felt that she just wasn’t quite right in the middle part of the season. I think we just didn’t quite have her right. Early season, we definitely had her right and the last one, we had something right.
MB: She might be reasonably handicapped if you’ve got her right now.
AJH: Yeah, that’s it. That’s what it boils down to.
MB: And another one, I’m not sure what you… Why don’t you tell us what you make of his mark, Soulsaver?
AJH: Soulsaver, he seems a really fun horse actually. I always say in and around 100, even if it’s 102, taking Rex Dingle’s [conditional jockey] seven off or something like that, 102 in a 0-100. If he was 103, in a 0-110, I’m not so confident, but he might just prove me wrong.
He worked very well with me the other day. I was on a lead horse and he really worked better than his mark I felt and he’s always threatened to get out of that range and he’s on 105 now. I think he’s good enough to win off 105. Well, we wouldn’t be bothering and the owners wouldn’t be bothering if we didn’t think he could. I still don’t feel we’ve really got all of his potential out of him. He ran a good race last time out and we just thought we’d sign off after that really. He had a blip over fences, thought he was going to really take to that at one point, and he really didn’t. But I don’t think we should give up on that. I think that’s an option definitely, but where we were in the season, we just kind of chopped and changed it and thought we didn’t like that so leave that on the backburner for a minute, but we’ll have another concerted effort going over fences once we’ve had one more run over hurdles.
MB: He’s only six, so he’s still got some scope.
AJH: Yes, he’s a lovely horse to have about. If worst comes to worst and he ends up back in the 0-100, I’m sure he’ll win again this season.
MB: Yeah, he’s won two and he’s been in the frame six out of his 15 starts, so he’s been a pretty consistent horse and a winner twice as well. You’d be happy if they were all like that.
AJH: Yeah, and remember, I always think he’s only just got three or four runs at that flat rate because what chance did he have against 120, 130 horses in novice hurdle off level weights? They were a waste of time, those ones, but he had to get the experience and he had to show what he could do.
MB: Talking of showing what they can do, perhaps the most interesting dark horse in the yard this year is a recruit from France called Sully d’Oc.
Sully d’Oc AA
AJH: He’s very difficult to gauge; only that he won four in France, and was second in two more. I think he looks a very exciting horse on paper, very lucky to have a horse like that sent to the yard. We sort of had a bit of a prod at a handicap mark in that he seems to think around 136 is what he wants to run off. Very much a chaser on paper, and his work wouldn’t tell you anything at home. I mean, he went away as well to Lambourn but you wouldn’t really learn much of value. He’s not working badly but he’s not showing you anything sparkling either. He’s shaping like a chaser so we’ll probably go novice chasing..
MB: And trip-wise, where would you be trip-wise? I can’t remember what his hurdles were.
AJH: I think we would normally probably start at just about two miles to start with and then build into the season really. He’s going to get further than that, but don’t necessarily need further than that. He’s certainly not slow. He’s got a good cruising speed and if he jumps slickly, he might even be a top-class novice over two this season. We just don’t know.
MB: Has he schooled okay?
AJH: Yeah, he schooled very well when we took him away the other day. Rather than the hurly-burly of the handicap hurdle, we’re thinking more towards novice chases.
MB: Yeah, and will he be early or late?
AJH: As soon as the ground is ready, he’s ready. He’s not ready as in… He’s just ready to have a run really. Not ground up to the eyeballs, but he’s got plenty of time to show what he can do.
MB: Great. Really looking forward to him. I’m looking forward to loads of these, to be honest, but really looking forward to that guy. A mare who did pretty well, possibly better than expected last season, was Tacenda.
AJH: She’s run in one bumper and we bought her off the back of that. She finished third in a novice chase, got an injury, didn’t run again that season at all, so that was all her experience. We then went to Fontwell. Had never schooled her before, put Noel Fehily up. Here you go, best of luck going around the figure-of-eight down there and have your fun down the downhill fences, and all that sort of thing. And by the way, you’ve got to make the running as well.
He went out there and controlled the race in front. She absolutely loved it. We’d done loads of prep, we were confident to ask her to do all those things, but to be fair to Noel as well, he really just let her get on with it and rode her with loads of confidence. Like he said afterwards, she’s run to some level for her first run over fences and her first run over obstacles. She’d run to around 130 instantly. Again, that was very good really. And then we thought, right, she’s had her bad injury, we’re in one piece, why don’t we race her? We went up to Carlisle, bumped into the David Nicholson winner…
MB: Benie Des Dieux
AJH: Yeah. She bumped into that, never even close to giving it a race but finished second and got her black type and we went and took on Ms Parfois at Newbury. Very happy to go for that and finished fourth in that. Actually, finished fourth behind the horse she had beaten in her novice chase at Fontwell and we never felt like she really… She wasn’t quite right after that, just had a foot issue, and didn’t run a race. But still ran okay, she definitely ran okay. And then thought we had her back in decent form, went back to Wincanton in a two runner race and just never really… It wasn’t competitive enough, never really got herself into racing mode. She did come back from there with an injury, which stopped us running her again last season. I think we might go for the race at, not for sure by any means, but we might go for the rescheduled one at Fontwell last season, the National they have there early November.
MB: Sussex National.
AJH: Yeah, three mile three.
MB: You can’t have enough Nationals. You can’t have too many Nationals you know.
AJH: I know. She might even be for the Devon National at one point, we’ll see how she goes. She’ll have her career at stud as well, which she has a value for that as well. Things like the Tommy Whittle, Peter Marsh, they’d be on the radar, if we have a bit of luck with her, she can actually run well in those. But she loves to go running on heavy ground. Confusingly, she actually ran one of her best races on goodish ground at Fontwell that day so we mustn’t write that off as well. Mustn’t be too blinkered that she’s just a heavy ground mud lark.
MB: She’s pretty unexposed, isn’t she? She’s only had the six runs.
AJH: Yeah, she is. She’s not handicapped badly. I fancy her to go for that race that Ms Parfois won at Cheltenham. I think she’s around about 127 now. It’s funny how some horses don’t do a lot wrong in your eyes, and yet you end up on a workable mark and other horses, you think they deserve to have a bit of help from the handicapper and they don’t get any and it’s just so bizarre. She’s actually not done a lot wrong.
MB: If you take that match race out, she finished second to the mare’s… She finished eight lengths behind the Mares’ Hurdle winner off level weights, and she finished eleven lengths behind the National Hunt Chase second off level weights.
AJH: When she wasn’t on her game. She didn’t run a race that day, but we just felt that there had been a little issue leading in and leading out of that race, just a corn in her foot and we were managing it but it was such a good race for her we had to go for it. She was well able to go for it. We found, on the actual day, that it was going off on the day she had to come to come right and then, afterwards, she’d, obviously, run with it up again. So you put an argument to say that she could have been better.
MB: But with that form in the book and if you had to guess what her mark was, after hearing that form, you’d probably say mid-130s – 136, 137.
AJH: Yeah, probably not more than that.
MB: And she’s 127, so you would have to think that she’s reasonably well handicapped at the moment.
MB: Very interesting. Tara West, I understand she might have met with a bit of a setback.
AJH: She’s had a bit of a setback, but then she’s actually entered in the Sales bumper at Newbury on 24 March. She’s a big mare, she jumps superbly, might be a chaser in the making. She’s only four now, so I’m not too concerned about that. It is a bit annoying to not be running this month. But all being well, we’re hoping to be able to run her later this season in a bumper and then lead our way into the Sales Bumper. And if she’s not a bumper horse, she’s had a bumper run, maybe a couple, and then we’ve got all next season hurdling her and then all the following season chasing her, so that’s sort of the backup plan at the minute. But we’ll see what happens. We don’t know anything at the minute, but she is definitely still worth a mention.
MB: Yeah, she is an exciting one. We might have to bide our time waiting for her.
MB: Okay. Two more on my list, the first of which is I think it was a Uttoxeter winner, Urca de Lima.
Urca de Lima
AJH: Yeah, she’s an interesting mare. We were very lucky with the mares last season: they pretty much all did well and she’s just one that came back from some early season niggles but didn’t fire. We got her back and she was in good order we thought, but she just didn’t show up. We ran her up at Hexham and I thought she ran a bit better there. The form doesn’t look very good, but she actually galloped over the line there. So don’t worry about that, she’s run a better race, so we put her away after that. There was nothing we could do then. Big long summer and she is looking better now. Doesn’t show a massive amount at home, but when she’s on the track, before her bumper when she showed us an enormous amount, so hope she’ll come back to that sort of level in due course. So she’s a mares’ maiden hurdler for now.
MB: Okay, good. She’s interesting. She’s got a little bit to prove maybe on the back of her last couple of runs, but on her first run, she was very, very good that day. And last on my list, but I really hope not least because this is another Geegeez syndicate horse, is a three-year-old Getaway filly called Windswept Girl.
AJH: Yeah, dam by Old Vic, won six times, including picking up plenty of black type. She’s a lovely mare, really genuine. She’s got a really genuine outlook on life and just, again, we don’t know a lot yet. She’s just bubbling along outside happily, done the odd bit of sharper work, went up three times once or twice. We sort of held off, before we begin their harder work, where we just don’t bully them too much, her and the other juvenile prospects. She’s showing a good attitude and is straightforward and that’s as much as I can say at the moment. We gave her a sharp bit of work on Saturday and then just give-and-take really as and when she can take it. She’s certainly eating well and taking her work well at the minute, so she’s not giving us any reason to back off at the moment, so we’re keeping her going. We’ll hope to have her ready for a juvenile bumper, ideally a fillies’ juvenile bumper, but otherwise a juvenile of some sort of description before we get to January 1. And if not, then she’s a lovely mare with a weight concession in a mares’ bumper later on.
MB: Very good, brilliant. In many ways, it’s a very new team you’ve got for this season. It seems to be a lot of untried stock or second season horses as well as some proven older horses and that, hopefully, will be a really potent combination for the season to come. Very exciting times ahead and thanks a million for taking time out to tell us about them, Anthony.