Young Guns Show the Way
Written by George Gorman, Monday 12th November 2018
After having such a great season with our novice and juvenile hurdlers last winter, it was all the more encouraging last week to see that we are not short of human talent here Cisswood Stables either. Our young apprentice Rhys Clutterbuck came painfully close to gaining a first career success aboard Ban Shoof on Monday night at Kempton. Having done very well to hold onto the free running son of Shirocco, he came with a seemingly very well timed run to take up the lead with just under a furlong to run before being mowed down late by the fast finishing Topology. Ban Shoof has now placed on every start except one since winning his last race in December, as frustrating as this might feel for Tommy Ware and Bob Pettett this is the closest he’s come in a while and must be a sign that this horse will be in the winner’s enclosure again soon. For Rhys this was the second time in his short career he’s been beaten by such a small margin and yet he continues to carry himself with dignity as he is driven to work even harder for that first winner. Although he has only had ten rides, the improvement he has made already is vast and when a winner does come it will be richly deserved. Fast forward to the weekend and Niall Houlihan was preparing for his first ride on UK soil just days after returning from his conditional licence course at the British Racing School. Any excitement he already had at riding Eragon De Chanay at a Grade One track must have been heightened as the rain began to fall through much of Friday and Saturday afternoon and as the ground turned from soft to heavy, his price in the betting began to tumble. Having seemed run off his feet first time out at Cheltenham this season, a step up in trip, a pair of visors and a ten-pound claim were all enlisted to try and coax this horse back into the form we have become used to with him. Employing similar tactics to those that saw this horse finish second in a very good juvenile hurdle at Ascot last year, Niall was alive to the early lack of pace and began to steal a lead heading into the fourth hurdle. Due to the heavy going many of the other riders seemed reluctant to close down this lead, allowing Niall to get the smallest of breathers into his mount as he rounded the far bend. As he met the rising ground Niall kicked for home and was never getting caught from the moment he pushed the button. Hopefully Eragon De Chanay can go on from here and have another good season, however the handicapper is unlikely to be kind due to the wide winning margin and this must be taken into account when finding his next task, particularly if we decide not to claim off him. As for Niall, it was fantastic to see a hard working lad get a day in the sun like that and he has made a big impression at the yard, despite being here such a short time. We hope to give him many more winners this season and intend to use his ten-pound claim to good effect whilst it lasts.
On Tuesday we have six runners split between Huntingdon and Lingfield, the pick of which must be our Timeform Horses To Follow 2018-19 featured horse Et Moi Alors. He will be competing in a competitive looking National Hunt Novices Hurdle where we hope he can confirm the promise he showed us early last year. The forecast doesn’t look too bad so we should be able to avoid heavy going but it will undoubtedly be on the soft side of good. This is easier than the tasks he’s faced so far so we will be going into the race with high hopes. On a side note, on Tuesday afternoon Hector Crouch will be taking a different course to the one he’s used to riding at Lingfield as he takes on the Flat Jockeys Hurdle Race aboard Argyle. His mount was in pretty good form when last seen over hurdles, including finishing second in this race last year under Shane Kelly, but has an aborted novice chase campaign and a few uninspiring flat performances to overcome if he’s to win this. Either way it will be a great experience for Hector and we hope all of the jockeys taking part enjoy themselves and come back safe. All Currencies will also be swapping one code for another this week as she holds an entry in a Listed Mare’s Novice Chase at Bangor-on-Dee on Wednesday. This might not come as a total shock to her as she won her only start in a point-to-point in Ireland over two years ago but she’s done plenty of schooling just in case she has forgotten! It looks as if it’s shaping up to be a very hot race but this horse’s hallmark last year was raising herself to the level of her rivals and, with a large array of mare’s races in this year’s calendar, we very much hope she can grab some black type before the season’s end.
Fluide Provides the Fireworks at Ascot
Written by George Gorman, Monday 5th November 2018
It might be November but we were kept warm at Cisswood this week by a succession of sensational performances from our more established residents this week. Knocknanuss set the ball rolling on Wednesday all the way in Norfolk as Fakenham hosted their Greene King IPA sponsored meeting. The eight-year-old had something to prove this time having raced too keenly on his novice chasing debut at Plumpton nearly two weeks previously before capsizing at the fifth fence. There was to be no such incident this time however as the son of Beneficial jumped from fence to fence without issue. He still seemed to take a good grip under Jamie Moore but this time Knocknanuss seemed a great deal more managable. He was left clear from the eighth fence and from there he put himself out of reach of the remainder of his pursuers, eventually running out a twenty-one length winner. There are many options for this horse now and a return to Plumpton to qualify for the £10,000 Plumpton-Cheltenham Festival bonus could be on the cards. As mentioned on this blog last week, on Saturday Traffic Fluide contested the Grade Three Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot. The son of Astarabad was placed perfectly throughout the race by Joshua Moore and came out on top in an extended battle over the last three fences, despite being briefly headed after the last. It’s fantastic to see this horse finally finding some consistency and becoming the horse we always knew he could be. Given that it’s unusual for a horse to win this race off top weight, further improvement might not be out of the question. Better ground seems to be key for him as he actually has a lot of pace for a three miler, many people may have forgotten that he actually finished third in a Clarence house chase at Ascot, only a short head behind Sire De Grugy! This race is traditionally used by trainers as a spring board for a Grand National challenge and we’ll certainly bear that in mind as an option but it’s a long season of possibilities of Traffic Fluide before that. Happily, the weekend’s fun was not over yet as the supremely consistent Darebin made the journey to Huntingdon on Sunday for the Macer Gifford Handicap Chase. To put his consistency into perspective, Darebin ran eleven times last year, recording two wins and five placed efforts. In this time his mark stayed between 117 and 123 and has done so for over a year (two if you include his hurdle starts). On that basis it’s fair to say that he really deserved this, even more so when you consider he looked held three fences from home before rallying to run down two tiring rivals on the flat, recording his first win of the new season for owners Chris Stedman and Mark Albon.
We’re back at our spiritual home Plumpton on Monday where Royal Hall looks likely to start favourite in a three runner event looking to extend his sequence of wins over hurdles. Firstly, it’s worth noting that the three runners are very closely matched and that Royal Hall’s wins had at least two months and some unsuccessful flat starts between each of them as it would be easy to look at the bare form and think this is a penalty kick, it is not. He is now twenty-one pounds higher than when reverting to hurdles in May, which will be quite some rise to overcome. Having said that, his most recent win was by far the most impressive to date. Stepping up in excess of half a mile, he seemed to be slightly idling when dismissing subsequent Aintree winner Exitas at Plumpton three weeks ago. This time he reverts to his preferred trip and attempts to overcome the five-pound penalty inflicted on him for that success, he’ll have to improve but on recent form that is not out of the question. On Wednesday Early Du Lemo makes his chasing debut in a two-mile Novice Handicap Chase at Chepstow. This is a horse we have raced very sparingly, running just twice in juvenile hurdles in his first season with us, where he was distantly placed twice including in a Grade Two. Last season he was again raced on only two occasions in handicaps, finishing a three length second behind Sizing Granite in a class two at Newbury before finishing down the field in the Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton. We are hoping now that our patience will be rewarded as the larger obstacles were always to be this horses calling. From the looks of the entries it should be a competitive event no matter how many declare and we hope this talented grey can put in a clear round and give a good account of himself for both us and owner Ashley Head.
Diakali Dominates at Cheltenham
Written by George Gorman, Monday 29th October 2018
The new National Hunt season continued to pick up steam last week as several horses exceeded expectations. Royal Hall was the first to get on the score sheet this week at Plumpton on Monday. This was his third win since joining us nearly two years ago, however given both his other wins have come since May and that he is now on a career high mark it would be fair to say that he is a horse on the up. He was produced from midfield by Jamie Moore to challenge approaching the last and from then on was always doing enough to repel his only challenger in Exitas. Even more encouraging is the fact that Exitas was turned out quickly to run in the veteran’s chase at Aintree on Sunday, where he decimated a strong field to win by eleven lengths. Owner Ashley Carr will have taken great delight in Royal Hall’s win and we all hope that the huge subsequent run from the horse he conquered on Monday is a sign of things to come. The best for the week was yet to come though as Diakali picked up where he left off on Friday at Cheltenham despite a 133 day break since he was seen decimating a reasonable field at Newton Abbot. The competition was slightly stiffer on Friday, albeit only slightly on ratings, but the result was the same nevertheless. Yet again we all breathed a sigh of relief when he consented to jump off, yet again his jumping took our breath away and yet again he immediately drew out a huge advantage. However this time, perhaps due to a lack of match fitness, he was joined two fences from home and the two battled together all the way to the last. It was at this point that One For Billy jumped the tape on the run in and was therefore disqualified. Many seem to think that he would have beaten Diakali but I personally saw two horses that had been neck and neck for over a furlong, with neither showing any sign of giving an inch. He may not have won but I don’t think you can definitively say he wouldn’t have and besides, you can only beat what’s put in front of you. Diakali has now done that conclusively on all of his three chase starts and we, along with owner Nick Peacock are thoroughly looking forward to seeing what the rest of the season holds for this tough nine year old.
On the subject of thing’s we’re looking forward to this season, we are delighted to say that three of our horses have made it into Timeform Horses To Follow 2018-19. Et Moi Alors, Dell Oro and Benatar have all made it into this prestigious list of the 50 horses that respected form analysts Timeform consider to be of note for the season ahead. Should you want to read their professional opinions on our three worthy inclusions to this list there is a link below to the Timeform website where the book is for sale.
This leads nicely into our next section where I look at some of our more interesting potential runners for the week ahead. The reason being is that the aforementioned Et Moi Alors holds his first entry of the new campaign at Ascot on Saturday. Having fallen when well in command at the same track last year, it became apparent in his subsequent second at Sandown that he may be unsuited to very soft ground at this point in his career. This meant that he then wouldn’t run again until the Grand National meeting in a Grade One at Aintree where a lack of maturity and match practice found him out. However this season provides us with a chance to press the reset button on his career and give him a chance to fulfil his potential. A massive point in his favour is that he’s still a novice and will be a year older than most of his contemporaries. Once you add this to the fact that the ground is unlikely to be soft at Ascot and that we have him ready much earlier this season we are extremely hopeful that he will live up to his billing in Timeform’s top 50 horses to follow. In Graded action on Saturday we have Traffic Fluide taking on the Grade Three Sodexo Gold Cup Handicap Chase. He got off to a much better start than last term when going down narrowly to a very well handicapped rival at Chepstow a few weeks ago. Having seemed to lose all confidence in soft/heavy ground last year, he managed to round off the campaign with a huge effort to win a Grade Two at Cheltenham. As a big horse it was encouraging to see him start the season so well this time from both a fitness perspective and a confidence perspective.