We have 16 runners heading to Sandown for the NH Finale as well as MIGHT BITE, SPRINTER SACRE and BUVEUR D’AIR all parading before racing so it will certainly be a busy day for all of us @sevenbarrows.
We are all quite tense, excited and emotional in equal measure as we bid to regain our Championship crown because we have got this far and it would be sad to lose out on the last day. There is a real buzz around the yard as everyone is pulling out all the stops to try and make it happen and logistically it’s very difficult as there are 19 horses travelling to Sandown tomorrow with runners and those parading plus all our representatives up at Perth and all over the country today so as you can imagine it’s very much hands on deck. We’re not even sure we’ve got enough bridles and staff!
So, here you go – 16 runners all out tomorrow to give the whole team @sevenbarrows that coveted 4th Trainers’ Championship and here’s what I think about their chances:
1:50 JUVENILE HURDLE
CALL ME LORD
This is a fact finding mission as he hasn’t been with us all that long having come over from France but I very much like what I have seen so far. He’s coming in off a very high rating, like a lot of ex-French horses, but this is our last and only chance to give him a run before he goes home for the summer and so that Daryl can have a sit on him. That said, I do like him a lot and he’s doing plenty of good work at home so could easily defy his rating.
2:25 OAKSEY CHASE
He just can’t go left handed, let alone around Aintree, he absolutely hated it there, so will be much happier going this way round. It’s a longer trip, too, which I think will enjoy as he want to get up there and enjoy himself and I don’t think this is the strongest G2 in the world. I can see him running a big race.
3:00 CELEBRATION CHASE
It all rests on this chap and it’s obviously the most interesting race of the day. It is a small field but San Benedeto and Special Tiara are no slouches, neither is Vaniteux so we are set for what could be a real thriller. With Special Tiara in the field we can see how the race would set up, you would think, so at least it shouldn’t prove tactical. ALTIOR seems in great form and has been nicely freshened up since Cheltenham. The last three weeks have gone very well and there is nothing more I can do, it’s up to him now. As you know, we have always thought the world of this horse and it would be brilliant if he can end the season on a high.
He won nicely at Ayr last week in first time cheek pieces and has suffered no ill effects so might as well come here for some prize money. He’ll be dropped out.
VYTA DU ROC
We have kept him especially for this race and he arrives her nice and fresh having missed Cheltenham and Aintree which is a major plus point at this time of the year and I think this race will really suit him, as will the better ground, and he doesn’t look too badly handicapped either.
I really fancied him to run a big race in the Scottish Grand National last week but he got no further than the first fence so my hopes were very quickly dashed! He’s well though and is another of mind who will like the better ground so might as well go again, I’m very happy with both our runners and believe they have strong each way claims.
4:10 G2 SELECT HURDLE
This horse is on the upgrade and I was very pleased with what he did at Aintree last time. He was in the Handicap Hurdle later on the card but would have had top weight so we decided to come here. I’ve always thought him a very capable horse and he has good course form having finished second earlier in the season. He will go novice chasing after this.
He is coming back after a huge layoff having suffered lots of silly issues but we’ve finally got there and there is nothing else for him now. We were looking at Punchestown but he would have had to be taking on the likes of Unowhatimeanharry et al on his first run back which simply wouldn’t be fair. He’s a very happy, healthy and fit horse but I cannot believe he won’t need this outing; it’s just nice to get him back on the track.
He never got into the race at all last week at Ayr and it was a very peculiar contest where they didn’t go the gallop we expected so it developed into a sprint and he just never had the chance to get out therefore never really had a race and ended up just going for a canter round, so I’m drawing a line through it. On his County Hurdle form he would have a great shout and he’s been cantering away happily at home this week. It’s worth having another go and I don’t think he’ll be inconvenienced by the step back up in trip as long as Daryl can just hold on to him for as long as he dares!
VOLNAY DE THAIX
He’s had a torrid winter after picking up lots of silly little problems which have hindered his training but he’s back in solid form now and did a very encouraging piece of work last week. He is slightly up against it here though.
4:45 JOSH GIFFORD NOVICE CHASE
This horse has been absolutely amazing and did so well at Ayr last week. This will be his third run in just seven days but he’s done nothing at home and has just been enjoying a few easy days. He loves the ground and is bouncing so we might as well have another roll of the dice before he goes on a well-deserved holiday.
He ran a very respectable race behind Yorkhill in the JLT and has already beaten As De Me this season so there are plenty of positives with him. He comes back into this Novice Handicap which is a good race for him and I can see him going well. He’s a lovely horse with a touch of class and in good shape.
5:20 HANDICAP HURDLE
He’s a real character, but one we love, and to be honest he didn’t get much of a run at Aintree when he was probably a little too far back and got into all sorts of trouble which did him no good but he stayed on to finish very strongly. I’m happy with him and this is the ideal race for him. In fact, for all of our four runners here, they aren’t just running because of the Championship, they’re here because there is obviously nothing else after Saturday and they are suited to the conditions of the race so it makes sense to run. We’ll probably ride Thomas a little handier this time and I think he is more than up to being bang there.
I’ve always had a lot of time for this person, he’s lovely and won very nicely at Kempton last time but has been put up 9lbs for the privilege! There is still a bit of improvement in him and he’s been in good shape since his last run.
He’s better off at the weights with STOWAWAY MAGIC so is entitled to reverse the form and he’s only having his third run of the year. To be honest I can see him running a big race; he’s no slouch and has spent plenty of time in the wilderness and is just about fit now!
He’s been improving all the time and Hugo Hunt gets on well with him. We’re backing him up quickly after Cheltenham last week but he’s another who has done nothing at home since and the 4lbs rise looks fair.
This will be my final @Stanjamesracing blog for a while and a big thank you to everyone who has read the blog and interacted via out @sevenbarrows twitter account. It has been great fun and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. A special Q & A is below!
You would have to go back to that dreadful weekend in November when we had to retire Sprinter Sacre and lost dear old Simonsig. That was undoubtedly a weekend we all regret; we lost two of our best buddies there.
The two that rose above expectations would have to be MIGHT BITE and TOP NOTCH. We always knew they were decent horses but it has come as such a pleasant surprise to see what they have achieved over fences, certainly Top Notch who was never built to jump the big ones!
MOST IMPROVED HORSE?
It would have to be MIGHT BITE and TOP NOTCH, as above, to be honest, but BRAIN POWER would figure as well. He got better and better over hurdles and will be very exciting over fences next season!
There are plenty of those; it’s not all plain sailing as many might think. It was a massive disappointment that we couldn’t run DAPHNE DU CLOS in the Champion Bumper because of an injury – I really thought she’d be up to winning that!
Obviously it was also very disappointing that we didn’t get to see Sprinter race again.
MOST EMOTIONAL MOMENT?
Again, it’s that horse Sprinter Sacre. I was terribly emotional that Sunday when we announced his retirement. I remember coming into the Stan James box and almost fighting back the tears as so many people offered their kind words about him. There was definitely a lump in my throat, that’s for sure. Indeed every time he parades it’s always a special moment when you witness the applause and admiration he receives from the crowds. With him, it has all been about highly charged emotions.
MOST SATISFYING MOMENT?
Probably ALTIOR. It was a tough decision to go straight over fences and he justified our feelings to go that route with him. We could have looked very silly if it had all gone wrong. I also take great satisfaction with what we achieved with BUVEUR D’AIR – it was a bold move to switch back to hurdles and thankfully it proved the correct one!
It wasn’t really a decision, more like one we were forced into, but it was a no brainer to retire Sprinter after he had achieved so much for us. I’m sure we could have put him away and tried to bring him back a year later, but he owed us nothing so that was never going to happen.
To switch BUVEUR D’AIR back to Hurdles. A lot of thought went into that and it was very tough to decide. It could have all gone very wrong. Luckily he won a Stan James Champion Hurdle so it was clearly a good decision in the end!
MOST FRUSTRATING MOMENT?
MIGHT BITE – Feltham Novice Chase - Kempton – Boxing Day – 2016!
It was also very frustrating that we never got to see KAYF GRACE again after her Hurdles debut win. I was hoping to get her back for Punchestown but we ran out of time – and she’s also lost her Novice status for the future!
Look forward to speaking to you all again soon!