With the Cheltenham Festival less than one month away this is a relatively quiet period for the stable as all the big guns have had their prep races and it’s just a case of keeping them happy and ticking over until next month.
ALTIOR was simply sublime in the Game Spirit at Newbury last week and has come out of the race in great form. I know everyone is eager for him to take on Douvan and I would say it’s 99% certain he will NOT be running in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I should think the only way he will run in that race is, if for any reason, god forbid, something happens to Douvan. At the end of the day anything can happen to any horse at any time and that is what people must understand. I have got to get Altior there myself so it’s no point setting plans in stone. Looking further down the line this season, who knows, and I’m sure Willie Mullins would say the same, because nobody makes plans after Cheltenham. I was asked by @hayd_28 on Twitter ‘How has Altior developed since I’ve had him and whether he’s always looked special?’ and I can tell you the big change we’ve seen in him is since last summer when he definitely grew again and that was what confirmed to us that we’d go chasing rather than leave him over hurdles. He’s always looked and shown us that he is a special horse and it has been the case ever since he was very young.
Many people have been enquiring about PEACE AND CO and JENKINS on twitter so I thought now is a good time to issue an update. I am very happy with Peace And Co and he’s going to work again tomorrow and in all probability he’ll have a racecourse gallop at Kempton next weekend. We are making significant progress with him although I don’t know where or what he is going to run in just yet but he is coming along extremely well and I’m very pleased. The Imperial Cup is a possibility or the County Hurdle at Cheltenham might do as well; we’ll wait and see but he’ll be pitching up in something like that.
On the other side of the coin, I have to admit we are struggling with Jenkins. He is in work, yes, but it’s not work that is enough at this stage. He’ll gallop tomorrow and I’ll do as much as I dare to do but whether he’s going to make Cheltenham I have no idea as we are fighting against time. He’s fine and looks fantastic and is moving well – he’s got no injuries, but it’s just a bit of a struggle.
Just a quartet flying the flag for @sevenbarrows this weekend at Ascot but some good chances among them and my thoughts are outlined below:
1:15 BEYOND CONCEIT (Novice Hurdle)
He won very nicely on his hurdles debut, and first run for me, at Newbury last month after being off for yonks and while he was fully tuned up for that run, he is sure to have come on a fair bit too. We were going to go straight to Cheltenham but with the ground as it is, we thought we might as well roll the dice again as he should really appreciate the going and I want to try him over 2m4f which will give us a better idea of whether to run in the Supreme or Neptune. He stayed well on the flat so should get it but I also don’t think he’s a slow horse so we should learn more here. This is a much more difficult race to the one he won at Newbury but he is in great form and of all our runners he is the one I am most looking forward to seeing if he is up to booking his Cheltenham ticket.
1:50 LAURIUM (Reynoldstown Novice Chase)
I probably wouldn’t normally run him on ground like this but I don’t think it looks the most competitive Reynoldstown, it’s wide open, put it like that. He’s the type that will run well on ratings as it’s a tight little heat. He won very nicely at Exeter on his penultimate start which has given him confidence and I’m happy with him at home.
3:00 OSCAR HOOF & DIVINE SPEAR (Handicap Hurdle)
Oscar has been off for some time but was a very good horse and I always thought he wanted better ground so I’m not sure how he’ll handle this, but he’s got to start somewhere and is particularly well at home. He’s fit to run but will obviously improve upon it. In a less competitive race you can sometimes get away with it and they win but this is a hard contest! Divine Spear is stepping up in trip which will really help him as he was staying on beautifully at Cheltenham last time and on that effort you would have to give him a decent chance off the same handicap mark.
My @sevenbarrows twitter account has been awash with questions this week, many of them begging me to run Altior in the Champion Chase…so I’ve ignored those and answered the sensible ones!
When will we see CHARLI PARCS?
The Adonis at Kempton next Saturday, then we will have to start thinking about shuffling the pack and decide whether it’s the Triumph or Supreme as JP has lots of entries in both races. He will be working tomorrow.
Is RATHER BE heading to the festival and if so, which race?
I don’t know as he keeps coming back from his races with funny little wobbly problems which hold us up again. He ran very well at Sandown the other day and perhaps the EBF final at the same course might be the race for him, but I’ve got quite a few for that at the moment, so something like the Martin Pipe Conditionals race at Cheltenham could come into the equation as that will suit him.
Is MY TENT OR YOURS an intended runner in the Stan James Champion Hurdle?
Yes, that is the plan, as I said in my blog last week. He did his first proper piece of work on Saturday and will do another bit tomorrow before having a gallop at Kempton in ten days’ time. The Stan James Champion Hurdle is most definitely the plan (all being well) where I see the sponsors have him way over priced at 40/1 – He wasn’t that a year ago!
Anything for the Pertemps?
No – absolutely nothing!
Anything for the Champion Bumper and should we give up on CAPTAIN WOODIE?
Captain Woodie will not run in the Champion Bumper. He’s a lovely horse and one I’m particularly looking forward to next year with. If we are represented in the race it will be with DAPHNE DU CLOS who won at Newbury last weekend. Now she is a good filly! If we don’t go to Cheltenham with her we’ll head to Aintree and have a go at the Mares’ bumper that Kayf Grace won last season.
Any concrete Cheltenham plans for OO SEVEN?
I would think it will be the RSA although we will put him in a couple of Handicaps as well.
Could CONSUL DE THAIX go for the Coral Cup?
He’ll be entered in it, but also the two Novice races and the County. It was frustrating he was forced to miss Newbury last week but he’s fine now and will work tomorrow. He won’t run before Cheltenham.
Is BEWARE THE BEAR set for the National Hunt Chase? If so have you got a jockey in mind?
I’ve got two or three in this race and we’re not decided on Bear yet. His owners are away at the moment and we’ll discuss if when they get back but that sort of race may just come a year too soon for him, but PREMIER BOND will quite likely run and is the most probable at this stage. Jockey-wise, it’s too early to say at this stage.
Aside from Barry and Nico, how do you allocate the rides to different jockeys in the yard?
It pretty much goes on who knows what horse the best. David Bass rides Laurium because he knows him well and they got on together. Jerry McGrath does well on this, that and other plus some owners prefer one jockey over the other and then of course some have their own retained jockey anyway so it’s all very easy really!
Are you really looking at the RSA for WHISPER? After his latest run the JLT looks perfect.
The JLT is where I would say he’ll be heading. I’m going to talk to Davy Russell (who rides for the owner – see above!) but at the moment that looks the best option and it will be the same for TOP NOTCH.
How many horses in total are you planning on bringing to the Festival?
We usually aim to have around 35 so if 50% of them can win that would be ok!