Donny - Again!

            Another early start for the update – last Sunday we headed to Stratford to see Greyval make her long awaited return to the track. First things first we had to negotiate our way on to the track, which found itself at the centre of a marathon course. Luckily the staff at the track had been on the case and sorted out a route in, and we got to the races in plenty of time. Greyval had not run since December due mainly to ground conditions – she really does not like soft ground – along with a couple of niggly little hold ups. The run up to this race had gone smoothly for once, and the ground was certainly the best she had encountered for some time. Her homework is very very good, and there is certainly some mileage in her handicap mark, so we headed to Stratford looking forward to a good show from her. Johnny Burke took the ride, on abright and sunny afternoon. Greyval can get ever so slightly revved up in the prelims – nothing over the top, but a little jig joggy, and she also seems to have an aversion to big screens, so we had decided to make use of a red hood to help keep her nice and quiet in the paddock and out to the start. That seemed to work OK, and she went to post nicely. The race was expected to develop with a strong pace, and Johnny had taken advice from, now retired, Paddy Brennan, as how to ride her, and settled in rear. As it happens, they went no pace at all which resulted in them being in the worst position from the outset. As the race developed, the pair was forced wide to make their challenge, which on a sharp track like Stratford is possibly the worst place to be – in the end, forced 4 wide into the short straight, she did her best and battled all the way to the line to be beaten just 1 ½ lengths into a close fourth. Possibly a case of one that got away – Johnny came back and said it was a ride he ‘wished he could have back’ and that given the chance to ride the race again there would certainly be a different result! That’s sport – these things happen – the race just didn’t pan out as expected, and there was no simple plan B. Greyval came out of the race fine, appreciated the nicer ground, will handle a step up in trip, and will be out again in a couple of weeks.

The Oakley Partnership were out in force to see Greyval

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Thanks to Debbie Burt for the wonderful Photos! 

            Monday started with the written race report for the members of The Oakley Partnership who own Greyval – nice to see her out again – and although beaten, she was unlucky, and we are all very much looking forward to seeing her our again soon – when Johnny will know her much better, and they can go well together!

Cloud Dancer had a couple of entries on Wednesday, and after a quick chat with Gary with less than 10 minutes to go until declarations closed at 10.00am – I left it to him to decide where he was to run. Taunton – his last chance to run in novice company, was on the right ground, but looked a fairly hot heat and he would have to shoulder a penalty – Uttoxeter, where the ground was soft, heavy in places only had five declared at the time, and looking at the forecast, it looked as though the ground would dry back slightly which would help. Gary plumped for Uttoxeter – I had suggested that we could wait with him for a couple of weeks, but he was keen to run Cloud Dancer as he had been in great form at home, and it had been a bit of a stop start season with him. In the end eight were declared in Uttoxeter.

Reflexion Faite was entered in a 7f handicap in Doncaster on Saturday evening. RF has been disappointing this spring – she has simply not trained on, and she would have to show significant improvement for the step back up in trip and the return to turf.

Late afternoon we made our way up the A1to Doncaster for the 57th year of the Doncaster Breeze Up Sale. The original Breeze Up Sale, and one with a tremendous record of producing 2 yr old Royal Ascot winners. They really are a ‘type’ that head to this sale – usually very precociously bred individuals, with very speedy pedigrees. They are usually ‘handy’ horses, not over big, but very strong and forward – horses selected to be very fast at 2 years old. It was late when we arrived, and we were lucky to make it to Whitbys Fish Restaurant just in time to grab a table and a bite to eat. Thanks to the staff that were very accommodating! Afterwards it was up to The Hilton, check in, and couple of pints and off to bed.

            Tuesday morning, and it was the day of the breeze – when all of the 200 odd horses that would be going under the hammer, gallop for 2 furlongs up the Doncaster straight in front of prospective purchasers. These breezes are timed, and the times poured over when published in the afternoon – a quick breeze can be the difference between an OK pay day, and a big one! The breeze takes place on the jumps track at Doncaster, and after all the recent rain it was riding very soft. With over 200 horses having gone up the track on Monday for their practice breeze, by the time the last breezers did their thing on Tuesday, the surface resembled a ploughed field. It would be a brave man who spent a lot of money based on the time of a gallop on that ground! The entire breeze was held in a bitter northerly wind, mixed with rain and drizzle, it was not nice for those who were out on the track watching them – we were not among their number.

            Wednesday – sale day – and a very selective market. There were quite a few stand out lots who made a lot of money, and their sales prices kept the average up, but the telling figure was the median, which fell significantly in comparison to 2023. This will be a sticky year in the bloodstock world, but possibly not as bad as first feared. It is a surprisingly resilient market! I can say one thing for certain, it was the coldest day I have ever spent at Doncaster Sales. We are there for every sale, including December and January, but have never had to resort to taking refuge in the cab on the lorry before – we spent much of Wednesday hiding away out of the bitter northerly wind.

It was a handy palce to keep warm on a bitterly cold day! 

It was good to catch up with Fergal O’Brien during the day – he reported that Intrepide Sud was A1 after his run in Exeter last week, and he would remain in training for another few weeks – with the plan to run him again should there be a race on suitable ground for him. If it dries back and the tracks are forced to water to maintain Good ground, he will head off for a summers break – as we do not want to risk him on ground that is too quick for him, after spending a lot of time, energy and money in getting him back from a injury he sustained nearly 2 years ago. He has proven that he will be heaps of fun going forward – no point in buggering it up now! Better to wait until the autumn and some nice ground for him. Fergal was also ringing with news – news that we were all expecting – that after the retirement of Paddy Brennan, Johnny Burke would be stepping into the role of first jockey at Ravenswell Farm. This is a great signing, as in my mind Johnny is one of the top four riders in the country, and he will surely take the team at Ravenswell up a notch. We are very much looking forward to seeing Johnny in our colours in the coming seasons!

Thrilled that we will be seeing Johnny Burke in these colour far more frequently in the future! 

I left Doncaster around 3.45pm and headed down to Uttoxeter to meet up with the members of The Keysoe Partnership who were there to see Cloud Dancer run. The rain on Tuesday had not helped at all, and their ground was still very deep – Gary felt that he could handle it, and he took his chance. He had been fitted with a visor for the first time, as he had schooled in one on Monday morning, and it had really sharpened him up. Niall Houlihan was on board, and we were about to find out for sure if he handled soft ground. Answer – No. He jumped and travelled fine, but just couldn’t pick up when the race began in earnest. He gave his all, and really knew he had had a race when he pulled up, but he soon recovered, and made his way back to the stables. It was clearly the wrong thing to do to run him – we know he is better than that.

Cloud Dancer in the paddock

            Thursday, Cloud Dancer came out of his run in Uttoxeter fine, and after a long chat with both Josh and Gary it has been decided to give him a break now. He has had a long winter, a number of niggly little hold ups, and I believe that part of the reason for his poor performance the previous evening was the fact that he needs a bit of R&R and time to let his whole system chill out and rid himself of a few aches and pains.  Cloud Dancer will now head off for a summers break, and we will regroup later in the summer/early autumn, when he will return to the track on better ground, and we will start with a clean slate. On his way to the field, he will have an overland scope to make sure that all is well with his wind, as the way that he ran, and the way he was after the race suggests that there may be something amiss with him – and if there is, he will have it rectified now, and have the summer to recover. As his overland scope will take place in Gloucestershire, he will spend the rest of the summer with Jason Maguire, who is very close to the vets, and where he can convalesce should he undergo any remedial surgery.

Nigel Tinkler declared Reflexion Faite in Doncaster on Saturday evening – hoping that she would show a bit more than she has done this spring.

            Friday – office day – bills to pay – monthly admin completed – always a fun day! Plenty of work to be done with Horsebox customers, the demand for those continues unabated, it had been a busy couple of days in Doncaster, and it looks like we will have plenty to do before we head up for a big three days at the Spring National Hunt Sale in May!

            Saturday – West Ham on the TV at lunchtime, a great afternoons racing from Sandown to close the season, and then a trip back up the A1 to Donny to see Reflexion Faite in the 8.15pm. I collected Matt and Nick on the way, and we headed north. Good to see a few of her owners – who had come from a variety of directions to see her run. Nick and Sam popping in on their way down from Blackburn where they had been to see Rovers draw 0-0 with Coventry. Sadly, Reflexion Faite did not surprise us and once again struggled to see out her race. She tries very hard but has just found herself in no mans land. Not fast enough for 5f at 3, and not strong enough to see out any further either. Although it was a fun night out, and we had plenty of giggles, we have to be realistic – she just has not trained on, and for that reason it does not seem right to ask her to continue to race, and her syndicate to continue to pay for her. She will be found a new home outside of racing, where she will have a long and happy life I am sure. She is a sweet filly and will make someone a lovely riding horse. She has come out of her race fine and Nigel has already started the rehoming process.  Although our time with N Tinkler has been short, it has been great fun – he is such a character! We are both keen to continue to work together, and I am sure RF will not be the last horse to run for Nigel in our colours.

Reflexion Faite in the paddock

Caption this!! 

Good of Gordon Elliott to be in Donny and support us! 

Reflexion Faite gets a pat from her trainer - she will head off for another career! 

            Around the remainder. Rockola is being gently let down, and as soon as we are no longer getting temperatures of -4 overnight she will be heading back to The Elms for her summers break. Ridin Solo is going through the same process with Will Kinsey in Cheshire. He spends the cold nights in his warm stable and heads out to the field in the day time. When the nights warm up, he will spend 24 hrs in the field. At Donald McCains – Old Blue Eyes is back cantering away – and when Donald feels he has done enough he will go out for a summers break. His illness has prevented him from getting to the track this spring, but it is likely to turn out to be a blessing in disguise as he is a lovely horse, that Donald did plenty with in the autumn, and who he found out plenty about. He is a horse with a lot of natural ability, and one we are very much looking forward to – he is a very exciting prospect. At Olly Murphys, Auditoria is in great form and is ready to run when jump racing resumes later next week. There are plenty of options for her, and after having a mid winter break, the plan is to run her right through the summer. Perfect for some summer fun for just £25/week – there are a couple of shares available. Itchy Feet is another that is heading out to the field on holiday – his season cut short by a small injury – he will be back in the autumn. Down at Ivy Lodge Farm, Tintagel Queen continues to rehab from the leg fracture she suffered at the turn of the year. She is a lucky girl to still be with us, and every care is being taken with her recovery. She still has a few more weeks on the walker before she can head out on holiday. Dino Bellagio has been ridden and is another one waiting for temperatures to rise so that he can get his break. His season was a disaster, but it is no secret how much Donald likes him, he is very talented, and we are hoping for a big 2024/25 season with him! Three year old ‘Barry’ has settled into his routine. He did get a bit fresh for a week or so, but he is as good as gold now, and his secondary school is going very well. When I saw Maguire earlier in the week, he gave me that knowing nod – ‘he’s all right’ – he likes him a lot, and having broken his half brothers he knows the family well! Fingers crossed he’s right! Maria’s Flame enters the last phase of her box rest at Connor Brace’s and will be checked over by the vet in the next few days, after which she should be passed fit to resume controlled exercise on the horse walker, before a short holiday – returning to training in July. At Ravenswell – Mamoon Star is ready to run and will be back on track in early May – he will have a summer campaign all being well. Fortune Forever, is still a bit sore after getting a small but deep cut on her last start a couple of weeks ago. The vet had another look at her this week and prescribed another week of box rest for her. Intrepide Sud will be out again in 2/3 weeks.

            The conclusion of a long, very wet and frustrating season – we had a great time of things during the 2022/23 season – where we had heaps of success at tracks that can produce decent ground in the depths of winter, multiple winners at the likes of Taunton, Huntingdon, Doncaster etc. This term, even they have struggled to get nice ground, and as a result, all of our lovely moving horses who don’t really like deep ground have struggled. It has been a season where we have suffered more than our fair share of bad luck – niggly injuries affecting running plans – season ending injuries for a few, and the sad loss of Blue Bikini – it has been a very long winter!  Like a lot of folks, we are very much looking forward to next term, when hopefully we do not suffer the deluge that we got this time round.

            Huge thanks to all of the trainers and their staff who have ridden and cared four the horses on our team throughout the wettest winter on record. Special mention to Olly Murphy and Fergal O’Brien. Olly broke the 100 winner ceiling for the first time and registered an impressive strike rate for the season, as did Ferg and his team, who although down on winners –he did break 100 – ending with 105, in a season that saw him have far fewer runners than last term.


            Sunday – Punchestown prep – really looking forward to the annual pilgrimage to County Kildare! It will be fun, it always is!

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