It was a Very Good Year

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Hugo Palmer may be about to have his last British turf runner of 2015 but it's still busy at his Kremlin Cottage base with new yearlings arriving ahead of the new season. The young trainer announced himself to the wider public this campaign with two Group Ones, both courtesy of super filly Covert Love, and plenty more success in stakes races while Gifted Master's win in the last Tattersalls Millions helped him pass one million pounds in British prize money this season. In his last blog for StanJames.com, Hugo looks back on a wonderful year.

 

The Week That Was

It never stops here. I've been in the rain with six yearlings who have just had their trots and are about to go through the practice starting stalls and then they'll have a little canter. It's the permanent flow of the racing season and it's very exciting. We've got a lot of yearlings for next year by a wide variety of stallions but, for the first time, we've been asked to train some Galileos and Dubawis and Shamardals, some of the world's best stallions. So it's a really exciting time of year them coming in and getting to know them. Galileo Gold's full-sister came into work yesterday and she's done really well since the sale. She went out for a little trot with one of the lead horses this morning. So it's really exciting - every trainer in the land has the Coventry winner in their stable on Christmas morning. If you don't have that dream, it's a very long winter.
 
Mengli Khan never ran a race at all in the Racing Post Trophy last Saturday. He was beaten after about 300 yards. He never travelled and he never looked comfortable. He's come back and his blood picture wasn't perfect but it wasn't perhaps wrong enough to completely make an excuse of, so I think he might just not have been quite 100 percent. Added to which, I wonder whether he wants ground quite that soft. I know he won a maiden at Nottingham but we've no idea how good the maiden was and he beat horses that hadn't had a run and he of course had. He didn't look entirely comfortable on the ground that day, it's only because he's big and strong that he handled it and it's one thing doing something in maiden company and it's a completely different thing doing it in Group One company. I think maybe it was just not to be his day.
 
He's 17 hands and he'll be a lovely horse for the future. Of course, it was disappointing to see him finish last but we've all seen enough disappointments in our lives to be able to take it on the chin. He seems absolutely fine afterwards and he's enjoying the start of his winter break now and we'll work towards, I hope, something special next year.
 
We Are Ninety made a winning debut at Wolverhampton on Tuesday. I've always loved her. She's very much next year's filly and she's a big filly. I've got to be very careful about drawing similarities to Covert Love but she looks very like Covert Love in that she's very much the same shape and same colour and has the same markings on her face, the same white legs in the same place as well. She's always been very much a horse for next year. Of course, Covert Love didn't manage to win at two but We Are Ninety has.
 
She's beautifully bred from a really good family and I'm just delighted she could make a winning debut. You won't see her on the track now until the spring but I'm absolutely thrilled for her. Lady Manton is John and Peter Magnier's mother's sister and it was her 90th birthday present from Peter Magnier. She's by Thewayyouare, which is why she's called We Are Ninety, and a lovely birthday present to get her to win. She was very pleased and so am I.


I thought Twitch ran really well to finish sixth at Lingfield yesterday. The funny thing is she's been absolutely great at home, no problems at all. hen she went down to the start and she came heavily into season and stood there with her tail to the side. She was very difficult to get into the stalls and was quite sluggish out of them. We wanted to lead which was rather why she was pushed along but I thought she ran really well. She was only beaten three lengths in a listed race, she ran much above her mark, and there's a similar listed race on turf at Saint-Cloud in just under three weeks' time and we'll see if that will be her final run. It will certainly be her final run this year.

One Winner To Come?

Peru runs in the Montrose at Newmarket tomorrow. She's certainly improved a huge amount since her last run and I've been pleased with her. She looks tremendous, she's still got her summer coat and she's in very good form. It's a big step-up in class and the Montrose, historically, is a really pretty good race. Irish Rookie won it last year and she went on to be second in the French Guineas, I remember Hughie Morrison won it with Coquet who was placed in the Oaks so it's a good race.
 
If she could run well, it would be very exciting because it would really open up possibilities for her next year. I'm sure she'll get a mile and a half, she's by Motivator. I hope she'll handle the ground tomorrow. I think it'll be autumn ground that won't be desperate ground. It's been drizzling here in Newmarket this morning today but it's not desperate by any stretch of the imagination and it's due to be dry tomorrow. She'll be our last turf runner of what's been a wonderful year so it'd be really fantastic if she could cap it off.
 
 
The Year In Review
 
There have been so many wonderful moments really, and in many ways right from the start with that first day at the Craven meeting with Home Of The Brave and Gifted Master
winning, and New Providence almost winning. I suppose the absolute highlight has to be Covert Love winning the first Group One in the Irish Oaks.
 
I said at the beginning of the season that the main thing I wanted to do was make progress. I wanted to train more winners, I wanted to win more prize money, and the specific aims were we wanted to get past the half-million mark in UK prize money and I wanted to win a Group One, and I wanted to have a treble. Well, New Providence at the Craven meeting was the closest we got to a treble when she was beaten a nose in the Nell Gwyn after Home Of The Brave and Gifted Master won so we haven't kicked that goal. But the other two - we wanted to win a Group One and we've won two, we wanted to win half a million and we've won a million. So we've surpassed both those aims.
 


The problem is now that as each year goes by, it's going to get harder and harder to do better and to keep moving forward. Next year I want to train more winners than this year. With the two in Ireland, Covert Love at Longchamp and Walpole under National Hunt rules so far we're up to 36 winners this year which is 12 more than last year so we've won 50 percent more races which is very exciting. And obviously prize money of over a million but definitely Covert Love's Irish Oaks has to, without a doubt, be the highlight. Winning a Classic is different to any other race and there's not many of them. I think Julian Muscat wrote that there are only eight current British trainers that have won a major European Classic in the last 10 years. It's really quite a small group of people because all the best people are in Coolmore and other places like that. It was a real dream come true really for the yard and for me and I'm delighted that Covert Love stays in training next year.
 
Looking Ahead
 
As for Classic winners next year I've got to hope so, haven't I? This year's two-year-olds again were a lovely bunch. Galileo Gold and Hawksmoor are both going to be aimed, most likely at the French Guineas as they both need cut in the ground. They'll be entered in all the Guineas and they'll be aimed wherever it rains. Mengli Khan was disappointing at Doncaster but he's a lovely big horse. He could even be a St Leger horse by the end of the year. I'm sure he stays, he's got a big galloping stride and he handles a bit of cut in the ground. They Seek Him Here is finished for the year now but you never know what he could turn into next year as well. And of the ones that haven't won. To Be Wild ran a race full of promise first time out at Newmarket and he has a Derby entry and he'll get an Irish Derby entry as well. I just think he could be a very serious three-year-old next year after just one run this year. It was important to get the run into him.
 
And of course, the wonderful fillies. We Are Ninety joins a little list of two-year-old maiden winners that will stay a mile and a half next year. There's her, there's Architecture, there's Nessita, there's a nice filly that will have one run and then be put away called Fifty Shades Of Pink, so we've got some lovely horses to take forward. We've got the horses that have already shown Group form and we'd be very hopeful that, beyond that, we can find some Group form with some of the others.
 
There's a big gulf between just running in a Group race and being Classic contenders but that's what my team and I dream about having so we'll very much be looking that way and we'll see how they develop and change over the winter. Not all of them will realise their potential, unfortunately, and that's a fact of life in humans and horses. But we'll certainly be looking for that spark that excites us in the spring and I hope that at the very least some of them line up in Classics when the time comes.
 
Before all that, I can't wait to go to Australia on Monday and I think Trip To Paris is going to win the Melbourne Cup. He produced a hell of a run in the Caulfield Cup and I think any horse that has the speed to run that well over a mile and a half in an Australian race - and we know how well he stays two and a half miles - I think he goes to the Melbourne Cup with the most extraordinary chance. The only argument I've heard put against him is from Robin Trevor-Jones, Ed Dunlop's travelling head lad. He said, "It's all very well saying Trip To Paris will win, but he won't beat Red Cadeaux."
 
 

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