LIKE all of us, Alan will be glued to his TV set tomorrow night for the Breeders Cup – ok, so he'll set Sky-Plus - but there are more important issues for the Barbury team in the afternoon at Wetherby and Ascot, where jump racing definitely moves up a gear.
Looking at our runners before heading out on to the gallops, Alan, who will be heading off to Uttoxeter today where we have three runners, including Avispa, who makes her eagerly-awaited hurdling debut, said: "Medermit runs in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby, and he showed when fourth at Punchestown in April that he now wants three miles, so, though he is only two months off his 11th birthday, he hasn't got too many miles on the clock, so we hope there might be another good win in him. He has been in good nick at home.
"We also send Medinas up there for the West Yorkshire Hurdle. He was second in this race last year, and, with it having cut-up, hopefully he'll run well again. He falls between two stools in that he is not big enough to defy top weight in handicaps, whereas he is not quite up to beating the best, but this looks a good race to start him off.
"We have Shadarpour going for the finale. He was impressive at Exeter last time and a 6lb rise is fair enough, so, while it looks a competitive handicap hurdle, he is another who we hope will be thereabouts.
"Turn Over Sivola has topweight in the two-mile handicap chase. He found the ground too soft at Newton Abbot last time, but that first back will have knocked the cobwebs off him and he should be a lot sharper.
"We also have Smart Native heading up there for the novice hurdle, while we are in action at Ascot, too with Money For Nothing starting things off in the novices handicap hurdle.
"Manyriverstocross, who had a good season last year and finished second in the Scilly Isles at Sandown, runs well fresh, so hopefully he'll be competitive in the two mile Listed handicap chase, while Laser Blazer, who has won at Newton Abbot and Warwick, has taken a big hike up the ratings but deserves a shot at the £50,000 pot for the William Hill Handicap Hurdle, and Midnight Appeal has no weight in the United House Gold Cup and it's a 100 grand race, so it is well worth having a go with him, too."
TESTING ground has been order of the day for the Flat boys recently, but, while Alan would prefer a drop of rain this week, the drying autumn conditions that the jumpers are experienced played to the strengths of Pantxoa, who won the feature Desert Orchid Silver Cup at Wincanton yesterday.
Alan said:"Fast ground is the key to Pantxoa, and if it remains dry he could run again, but as soon as the weather breaks he will be off on his winter holiday.
"I was delighted for Tom Bellamy, who gave him a super ride. Tom has been going great guns for us, but he had a bad time at Chepstow on Saturday and took a heavy fall on Valdez when they were looking all over the winners at the second last, so this victory came as a timely confidence-booster."
Alan also had news of our two stable jockeys, Choc Thornton and Wayne Hutchinson.
He added: "Choc is due to have a scan on his neck at the end of the week so, hopefully, it will be good news, while Wayne, who suffered bruised ribs in a fall last week, will ride out for us again tomorrow and, all being well, could be back in action on Wednesday."
Reflecting on last Saturday when we had high hopes for many of our eight runners but came home without a winner, Alan said:"If Valdez had won it would have been a good day, so I can't be disappointed. Uxizandre ran a very pleasing first race, while I was also delighted with The Pirate's Queen, and, happily, they have all come back fine.
"Ideally, I'd like a bit of rain this week, but we have quite a few entered up and look like getting busier towards the start of next month."
YOU might have missed Alan's Stable Tour in Wednesday's Racing Post, so here are a few nuggets to digest in the coming months, excluding those who are running today. Sadly, we had to have the Five-to-Follow lists handed in before Alan's words fell on my desk, so I can't be accused of obtaining inside information before the deadline.
Avispa - "She was a smart bumper mare last year, winning at Aintree, and she will be aimed at the mares novice hurdles, possibly starting off at Uttoxeter next Friday. She has always been a good worker at home and has schooled well."
Balder Succes - "He did us proud last season, winning five, including the Grade 1 at Aintree. He did too much early on at Punchestown on his final run, but he has come back looking even better than ever and we might start him off in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. I hope he can compete with the best over two miles."
Carraig Mor - "We have some nice novices to go chasing, and this is one of them. He looked a world-beater early on last season but, like most of mine, he wasn't right mid-winter, though he ran ok at Punchestown at the back-end on ground which would have been plenty quick enough for him. He has chaser written all over him, and, happily, he is a little more settled than he was last year."
Chatez - "He is a very useful Flat horse, though he disappointed us at Ascot on Champions Day, running rather flat. He now goes juvenile hurdling and will be kept to the Kemptons and Huntingdons for the time being, though given time I think he will stay well enough to warrant a trip to Cheltenham. He has schooled well, loves soft ground and could be quite exciting."
Godsmejudge - "He was wrong for most of last season, though he came right at the back-end, finishing second in the Scottish National and third in the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown. Aintree is definitely Plan A this season, and we will work backwards from there, though he won't start off until December."
Grumeti - "We were banging our heads against the wall in Champions Hurdle trials last season, but he schooled well over fences and duly made a winning chasing debut at Bangor in the spring, That did his confidence the power of good, and he'll be aimed at the better two-mile novice chases."
Karezak - "He came from John Oxx and shrugged off a bout of second-it is from the Flat when making a winning debut over hurdles at Chepstow. I liked the way that he battled back after he had stumbled at the last, but he needed a couple of stitches for a cut afterwards, so we will take our time and maybe bring him back for the Hennessy meeting at Newbury. I hope that he will prove one of our better juveniles hurdlers."
Medermit - "For a 10-year-old, he has not got a lot of mileage on the clock, and he will start off in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby next week-end. He came back from injury last season and then pulled a muscle around Christmas time, but he showed that the ability was still there when finishing fourth in a Grade 1 at Punchestown in April."
Medinas - "He has been a star for us, but he struggled a bit last season and is not big enough to jump a fence. He falls between two stools in that he gets top weight in handicap hurdles, yet is not quite good enough to take on the best. He could go back to Wetherby on Charlie Hall day for the race in which he was second in last year, and if we go down the handicap route I might use one of my conditionals to claim off him."
Montbazon - "He'll go chasing and be aimed at the two and a half milers as he has lost a bit of his zip for two miles. He is much better on good ground than soft, and the rain came at the wrong time when he went to Market Rasen for their big handicap hurdle last summer."
Ned Stark - "He has schooled well over fences and we are looking forward to him. He was put away after winning his novice hurdle at Chepstow in the spring, but he'll start off his new career fairly soon over two and a half miles on easy ground."
Nyanza - "She won a couple for us on the Flat at Kempton and has schooled well. She could start off at Huntingdon next week-end, but her main target is the Listed fillies juvenile hurdle at Aintree in early December."
Ordo Ab Chao - "He won in a canter on his hurdling debut at Huntingdon recently and could go back there next week-end. He might be quite exciting."
Smad Place - "He finished last season on a high, being just beaten in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. He has summered well and looks stronger, so the plan is for him to go straight for the Hennessy at Newbury on November 29. We will space out his races, but he has been placed in two World Hurdles and is all class."
Walkon - "He ran well for a long way in last season's Grand National but then pulled up lame after slipping a tendon off his hock. He is fine again now but, though he seems to love the big Aintree fences, he does not stay extreme distances, so we might aim him at the Topham Trophy, in which he finished second a couple of years ago."
FRIDAY 24 OCTOBER
THINGS could hardly be going better just now with the stable having had two winners for each of the last two days. and while we will look back and reflect later, we always like to concentrate on what is in front of us, so let's have a quick peep on some of the big guns coming out tomorrow.
Alan said: "We have Barry Geraghty for Uxidandre in the Roan Chase at Aintree, and we are all looking forward to getting the horse rolling again.
"He enjoyed a terrific novice season, just being beaten at Cheltenham but going one better in the Grade 1 at the Aintree Festival.
"He definitely seems to have improved since we changed the tactics and rode him more aggressively, and left-hand track seem to suit him best, so this looks the ideal starting-point and we can then think about the Paddy Power.
"We also have Handazan going up the M6, together with Roberto Pegasus. Handazan has won there before and won't mind the ease in the ground, though his opening handicap hurdle looks competitive, while Roberto Pegasus, who knocked on the door all winter and came good when we stepped up to two and a half miles at Worcester, has benefited from his break and is ready to roll again.
"At Chepstow we have a couple of stars making their seasonal debuts in L'Unique and Valdez.
"L'Unique, who runs in the Silver Trophy, has shown herself a real spring mare and the David Nicholson, in which she was third to Quevega last year, is the ultimate target.
"But she has summered well so we hope that she kicks off better than she did last winter, when she struggled early on.
"Valdez has top weight in the two-mile handicap chase and I hope that the ground does not deteriorate as he won't want it too testing.
"He won his first three last year and ran a smashing race to finish fifth in the Arkle, but his jumping went to pot at Ayr on his final run and after a full MOT we discovered that he was suffering from a kissing spine. He had an operation on his back, and it will be good to get him started.
"We also have The Pirates Queen going for the Persian War Hurdle. She was second three times last season and deserves to get her in front."
THIS has been a good week with Miles to Memphis and Dusky Legend winning at Fontwell on Wednesday, and another twosome 24 hours later when Uriah Heep scored at Ludlow and Ridgeway Storm broke his maiden on the Flat at Kempton.
Reflecting on the successes, Alan said:"Miles to Memphis made an impressive winning debut over hurdles at Fontwell, and we think that he is very good.
"He took his time to get his jumping together, but he warmed to his task from half-way, and he'll improve as he gets more experience. We will look for another similar race and take it from there.
"I was also really pleased with Dusky Legend's first time out success in the bumper, She was green in the preliminaries, but she is a very uncomplicated filly who hopefully has a big future. She is another Midnight Legend and has already schooled well over hurdles."
Uriah Heep made a winning debut over fences at Ludlow, and Alan said:"He is not exactly bred to be a chaser, being by Danehill Dancer out of a Zafonic mare, but we schooled him at the start of the week and he absolutely loved it.
"Ideally, I would have looked for a two and a half mile race to start him off, but this was a decent prize so we took a chance over the two and it all worked out ok."
We also had a winner on the Flat when Ridgeway Storm took the maiden on the polytrack at Kempton, and owner Henry Ponsonby said::"He has schooled well and will go jumping, but he does not like soft ground so we will pick and choose our way through the winter, and in all probability we will take him back to Kempton to build his confidence up."
FRIDAY 17 OCTOBER
FOUR winners in the last five days confirms the well-being of Alan's team, and as we looked ahead to the week-end the guv'nor's smile was as wide as the M4.
He said:"Things are going great, and I was very pleased to see Hollow Penny get back on track at Wincanton yesterday under a fine ride by our new conditional jockey, Tom Bellamy.
"He has now won three of his last four, and Richard (Johnson) would probably be the first to admit that it was pilot-error rather than a mistake on the horse's part when they crashed out at Fontwell last time.
"Wincanton takes some jumping, but apart from the second last he put in a super round out there, which is very satisfying as I had no luck over fences here last season and don't recall even one of mine completing the course.
"I have actually been surprised how far Hollow Penny has progressed this season, and we will try and find another one before the ground changes as he definitely prefers the going to be on the fast side.
"I am also delighted for his owner David Sewell, who hasn't been too well, so this success came as a timely pick-me-up, while Tom Bellamy, who has not been with us long, sat tight when the horse belted the second last, and I could not be more pleased with how things are going for him. It definitely helps having a good 5lb claimer as so many of our horses are creeping up towards the top of the handicaps."
WEDNESDAY 15 OCTOBER
ORDO AB CHAO was an impressive winner on his jumping debut at Huntingdon today, being described by Alan as "our first proper runner of the jumps season".
We have been making hay with runners fit from the Flat recently, but Ordo Ab Chao, one of our best bumper horses last season, looked the real deal, though admittedly the race fell apart as three of the six declared pulled out because of the testing ground.
Alan said:"The plan originally was not to make the running, but when there was such a mass exodus we had a rethink and decided to take up the cudgels as we did not want another farcical crawl.
"It is a bit early for us and we won't really get going for another couple of weeks, but we need to test the temperature of the water with some of our better novices, and I have always thought that Ordo Ab Chao was one of our better ones. I certainly saw nothing to change my mind out there.
"The ground is the key to him. He likes a bit of cut and would not have run had it stayed at good to firm, which is what it was when I entered him, but it was a very pleasing start.
"He made just the one mistake at the second last, but they are all going to nudge one or two and overall I thought it was very satisfactory, though I don't know where we will go next as I need to sort through some of our other better novices and get them started."
WHEN we see Alan target the Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow's first October meeting those of us with long memories sit up and take notice, knowing that he used that race for a starting point for both Katchit and Franchoek.
So it was a case of "get out the readies" for the jumping debut of Karezak, and Max McNeill's youngster, backed from 9-2 to 3-1, duly delivered in style, surviving a hiccup at the last to beat Golden Doyen by a head, with the rest 22 lengths and more adrift.
Karezak, who had some useful form for the Aga Khan when trained by John Oxx last summer, has already run twice for Barbury on the Flat, being beaten at long odds-on at Kempton last time.
However, it was as a prospective jumper that Karezak was bought, and Alan, who has no doubt that he is a league above his dual winner Gimme Five, could not have been more delighted.
Speaking this morning, Alan said:"Karezak came back with a few cuts which necessitated a couple of stitches, but he'll be fine and it was a very pleasing start.
"He jumped well and really battled after stumbling at the last, so we might look at Newbury's Hennessy meeting as he seems the type who will always be best on a galloping track.
"I don't think he did too much wrong at Kempton - he just bumped into a good one."
He said:"We are gradually increasing the horses work-rate, and they are going up the hill three times twice a week, and I am very happy with their progress.
"Another boost has been the extension of our all-weather gallop in the summer. We have added another furlong at the top, and I am delighted with it.
"Both Choc Thornton and Wayne Hutchinson, who missed the summer months through injury, are back riding out again, and I would like to think that they would be passed fit to resume riding on the racecourse in early October.
"However, we won't be in any hurry with the horses. We did not get on the grass for the first time until October 26 last year, so there is plenty of time."
WE can forgive Cahill his disappointing run on the Flat at Chepstow last week "he hated that soft ground," reflected Alan, but Hollow Penny won his second chase this month at Newton Abbot yesterday and is proving a real good summer money-spinner for owner David Sewell.
Alan said: "Hollow Penny's Fontwell win got a form boost when the second won last Thursday, and, though our fellow was 9lb higher at Newton Abbot, he could not have done it better.
"He is only six and still improving, and he jumped super again and had the race sewn up at the third last and then found enough up the straight to repel the challenge of the runner-up."
Alan tells me that he is "just beginning to step up the work-rate of the jumpers", though, apart from Uriah Heep, who would have a squeak at Worcester today, he envisages "a quiet week", though we have one or two possibles entered up on the Flat at Haydock on Thursday.
ALAN was delighted with our two runners at Fontwell last night, Uriah Heep running a cracker with his double penalty to finish second to the improved My Generation in the novice hurdle, while Hollow Penny, who disappointed at Market Rasen last time, showed that form to be all wrong when winning his handicap chase in style.
We are back Flat racing today, with two-year-old Paddy's Runner making his debut in the Balder Succes colours and Kuda Huraa going for the staying handicap.
The kids might be in the middle of their summer holidays, but the equine army are returning in their droves at Barbury, and Alan already has more than 100 of his team back from their summer break.
HEAVY rain scuppered our chances of getting amongst the winners at Market Rasen's big meeting on Saturday, though Montbazon ran his heart out to finish fourth while Chatez also picked up a bronze medal on the Flat at Newmarket, where the ground proved a bit lively.
However, we were in gold medal position at Stratford yesterday with Laser Blazer winning easing down by 12 lengths at Stratford, and Alan said: "He had been placed at Kempton and Newbury so was dropping in class, and that victory will have done his confidence good. We can build on that now."
We are at Windsor tonight with Nyanza in the finale, and Alan added: "She produced a career-best performance at Newbury last time in finishing third so, though she is now 3lb higher, she is still improving, so we hope that she will again be competitive."
News has filtered through from Wayne Hutchinson that, following his hip operation during Royal Ascot week, progress is going well, though he envisages that it will be mid-September before he is back in the saddle.
If a jump jockey was told that he would be off games for 12 weeks, it's a fair bet that he would request June, July and August as the months he would prefer to miss, so Wayne is not exactly "walking his box" at the latest news.
He said: "The injury goes back to Stratford in the spring, and I suffered two tears in a capsule that runs around the outside of the hip joint.
"However, the scan also showed excess bone on the top of the femur, which limited the range of movement I was getting, plus the surgeon discovered that I shredded the meniscus as well.
"However, the operation went well, and then it was a just of regaining the lost muscle tissue.
"I could not put on any weight on the hip for the first three weeks so was on crutches, but we are now on to the next stage and I have made regular visits to Oaksey House, doing physio, and, while I was restricted to five minutes a day at the start, I have built that up to an hour a session for the last couple of weeks.
"The people and facilities at Oaksey House have been brilliant, and everything seems to be coming on well, and gradually we are increasing the exercise, doing squats and lunges.
"So if all goes well I will return to see the surgeon early next month and, while you have to do things by the book in these situations, I would like to think that come mid-September I will be back on a horse."
CAN'T quite imagine Alan being an avid fan of Uriah Heep, the rock band from the 70's, but the boss is certainly getting a soft spot for his horse of that name.
The equine Uriah Heep seems to like Stratford, and he clocked up his second success over the track when scoring comfortably there yesterday.
Though 9lb higher than for his previous visit, Uriah Heep, confidently ridden by Dickie Johnson, always travelled best and won with plenty in hand.
THINGS move up a gear at Barbury on the jumping front tomorrow morning with a dozen of the winter-performers returning from their summer holidays, but, meanwhile, Alan reports his small Flat team are "ticking away nicely".
He said: "I was really pleased how well King's Bayonet won at Chester on Friday night, beating two in-form horses in Xinbama and English Summer.
"Hayley Turner gets on particularly well with King's Bayonet, so, hopefully, she will be able to ride him again if we go to Glorious Goodwood at the end of the month.
"The Chester race was over a mile and a half, but he is versatile enough to go up or down in distance, so I am going to enter him for two races at Goodwood on the opening day (July 29), the £50,000 10-furlong handicap and the £80,000 handicap over a mile and six furlongs."
NO SUBSTUTE was the first winner Richard Johnson has ridden for us for five years when he scored at Uttoxeter on Sunday, but the jockey was not long in bagging another for Barbury, courtesy of Uriah Heep at Stratford last night.
One-time smart Flat-racer Uriah Heep was belatedly opening his account over jumps, and Alan said:"He chipped a hock at Taunton last year, and it took a while to get him back, but that victory will do a lot for his confidence and we will keep him going through the summer and maybe look to jump a fence in the autumn."
As for the reunion with Johnson, Alan added: "With Choc (Thornton) and Wayne (Hutchinson) both still on the sidelines, I needed a jockey, and who better to deputise than Dickie.
"We were together with The Duke (David Nicholson), so we go back an awful long time, and it is always good to team up with him again."
Alan hopes Montbazon and Ridgeway Storm will have each-way chances at tonight's Polytrack meeting at Kempton - "Montbazon ran really well to finish third at Haydock last time, especially as the ground would have been plenty soft enough for him, while Ridgeway Storm was another who does not enjoy soft ground and conditions went against him at Salisbury, though his Windsor third to Arod (fourth in the Derby) does not look too bad now, does it ?" - while we are also focussing on the level on Friday, when Ronaldinho runs in the finale at Sandown.
"Hughesie knows him well from Ronaldinho's days at the Hannons, and he rode him for us at Windsor last time, when they bumped into one (Jupiter Storm)," said Alan.
"The longer distance here should help Ronaldinho, but the ground at present is probably as quick as he would want, so a drop of rain would not go amiss," he said, looking disconsolately at the clearless blue skies.
Meanwhile, Tom Bellamy, who rode 13 winners in a three-year spell with David Pipe, has joined us as a conditional jockey.
Tom is the son of Robert Bellamy, clerk of the course at Towcester who was also with Nicholson in the halcyon days at Condicote and Jackdaws Castle.
PERSEVERANCE paid off for No Substitute at Uttoxeter yesterday, when he finally broke the ice in the maiden hurdle.
Alan said:"That was thoroughly deserved. No Substitute has finished second in a bumper, been twice runner-up over hurdles and also found one too good over fences, so he was not winning out of turn. I am pleased for his owner, John Hales, who has been very patient."
BLACK clouds replaced the blue skies over Barbury this morning, following news that Tiger Cliff suffered a fatal heart-attack after finishing fourth in the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot on Saturday.
Tiger Cliff started favourite and literally ran his heart out, finally giving best at the two-furlong-pole, and Alan said: "He collapsed after passing the post, and everyone in the yard is absolutely devastated.
"We did not have him long, but he quickly became hugely popular in the yard, and we were all excited about his future. Our thoughts are with Henry Ponsonby and his syndicate, who were naturally distraught afterwards."
Tiger Cliff, who was always the apple of Henry Cecil's eye, won the Ebor Handicap at York last August for the trainer's widow Jane, and he joined Alan in the autumn with a view to going hurdling.
That plan was put on hold when sickness knocked the stable for six in December, but he finished third in the Yorkshire Cup on his first run for us, and after a satisfactory dress-rehearsal in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown the syndicate were all geared up for a toppers 'n tails celebration. Sadly, it was not to be, and we shall all miss him enormously.
BARBURY felt more like Millionaires Row on Wednesday morning, with Betfred boss Fred Done on hand to present a cheque for £1,342,599 to 39-year-old wheelie bin cleaner Craig Brazier as one of eight winners of last week's Scoop6.
Craig, 39, brought his wife Tracy and daughters Casey and Jessica down from Mansfield, and one of Craig's first requests on arriving at the yard was to be able to meet Chatez, the sixth and final leg of his £2 life-changing bet.
Alan is away on holiday, but assistant trainer Ollie Wardle showed Craig and his family around at second lot, and Fergus Sweeney, who rode Haydock winner Chatez, was also here to ensure that it was a special occasions for the Braziers.
Craig said: "I just loved being given the opportunity to pat Chatez, the horse that made me a millionaire, and my daughters wanted me to give him a J20 as they felt he would need it after that run."
First thing that Craig plans to do is swap his two-up and two-down terrace house for a five-bedroom detached in the Mansfield area, and then he will be off to Florida for a family holiday at Disneyworld.
However, having always been an Alan King fan, he has promised to return to Barbury in the summer to have a chat to the boss with a view of "maybe taking a share in a horse for starters".
Meanwhile, the stable's good fortune continues, with King's Bayonet scoring a bloodless win in a three-runner race in testing ground at Leicester yesterday, while Turn Over Sivola finally shrugged off his bout of second-itis over fences, which included a Grade 1 at Aintree, by landing the odds at Huntingdon.
GRUMETI did not have to break sweat to open his accout over fences at Bangor last week, but we also have plenty to look forward to on the Fat, with Chatez the star of the show at Haydock last Saturday, when he captured the valuable Silver Bowl.
Before leaving for his summer break with the family, Alan King said:"It looked like it might dry up too much for Chatez, but the rain returned in time, and by the time his race came up it was riding soft again.
"Chatez has done us proud this season, winning at Newbury and Epsom, and Fergus (Sweeney) blames himself for getting narrowly beaten at Haydock last time, being adamant that he got there too soon.
"However, I thought he rode a lovely race this time, and, as he says, Chatez is a decent horse when he gets his ground.
"He won that off 91 and it was a career-best performance, but he has gone up another 7lb to 98, which guarantees him a place in the Britannia Handicap at Royal Ascot, though we would need it to be a wet June."
Wroughton | Swindon | Wiltshire SN4 0QZ
Tel 01793 815009 email email@example.com