ALAN felt early on in the season that his bumper horses could be an above-average crop, and his view has looked spot on with two more winning at Newbury last week, Katie Too and Miss Crick.
The years looked to be catching up with West End Rocker in the veterans chase, and First Mohican again failed to fire in the handicap hurdle, but the bumpers allowed Alan a smile as he left the Berkshire course, and, reflecting on the twosome, he said:"Both could go on to Aintree. Katie Too is a sister to The Pirate's Queen and it is a talented family, while, though Miss Crick is no relation to Oh Crick, she carries the same colours, those of David Sewell, and we always felt that she was the right one for the mile and a half bumper."
Alan is looking forward to Inner Drive at Huntingdon today, observing:"He is a point-to-point winner who showed promise in bumpers, and, though he has had a few niggles so might need his first run in the maiden hurdle, he is a horse we have always liked and, in fact, he is still entered in a couple of the novices at Cheltenham, though they may come too soon."
Alan was delighted with Godsmejudge's run at Kempton last Saturday and reports everything on target for a tilt at the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree.
He added:"It was a big step forward from Doncaster, and he will come on again from Kempton. I thought it was an excellent trial.
"He got outpaced down the far side, but what pleased me was how well he stayed on up the straight to snatch fifth place on the line. He might have one more race if I can find a suitable one, but if not we'll take him for a couple of away days."
The step up in trip seems to have been the making of Balder Succes as the seven-year-old landed the second Grade One success of his career in the Ascot Chase on Saturday. Nicky Henderson’s Ma Filleule tried to make a race of it approaching the final fence, but Balder Succes always had her measure and sealed the prize with another fluent leap at the last.
“That was exactly what I was hoping for,” proclaimed a delighted trainer. “In fact, it was actually a little bit better than I expected. They just seem to go that half-stride steadier over this extended trip and that’s really helped him. He hasn’t run badly all season, it’s just he’s been out of his comfort zone when chasing those good two-milers over the minimum trip”.
Looking ahead towards the Cheltenham Festival, Alan appears to be leaning towards a tilt at the Ryanair Chase. “After that performance it would appear that the Ryanair looks the most sensible option”, he said. “However, I need to talk things through with the owners, but I’d imagine that’s the route we’ll go down”.
Alan is also unfazed by Balder Succes’s poor Cheltenham record where he has failed to complete the course in three visits: “I’m not too worried about heading back to Cheltenham as he’s had genuine excuses for those poor shows. There was a false start in the Triumph Hurdle that caused him to boil over and drop out at half way and on his second start he was bolting up when he was blinded by the sun and came down”.
One week on from receiving the news that Medermit had run his last race, it was all smiles again for the Dunkley and Reilly Partnership when their Ned Stark battled gamely to land the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby. The seven-year-old saw off the challenge of Kaki De La Pree to win by a neck and could now head to the Cheltenham Festival.
Alan said: “We looked to be in a bit of trouble leaving the back straight, but he’s seen it out really nicely and I’m delighted to win the Towton again. I’ll guess we’ll have to wait and see what the handicapper does now before making any plans. That said, I’m sure he won’t hammer us as we’ve only just got up and they are all much of a muchness. The three-mile handicap on the first day might be a possible.”
Over at Sandown and Pain Au Chocolat ran out an impressive winner of the opening juvenile hurdle. The Million In Mind Partnership-owned four-year-old had seven lengths to spare over Old Guard at the line and is another who could now head to Cheltenham for the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Alan said: “He did it nicely and we’re definitely now thinking about the Triumph Hurdle after that. I’ve never been afraid of running good horses at Plumpton (where he won last time) and let’s hope he’s good.”
Medermit – ‘we will miss him’
IT’S always sad to call time on the racing career of a stable star, but sadly Medermit damaged a suspensory pretty badly at Doncaster last Saturday and he has run his last race. “Horses like him are hard to find and we’ll miss him”, reflected Alan. “He’ll go back to his owner’s stud now as he wants plenty of rest. He’s been a marvellous servant – he was second in a Supreme Novices’, third in a Ryanair and won the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter. He rarely ran a bad race.”
SMAD PLACE may have lost out to Many Clouds in a titanic battle for the BetBright Cup Chase on Saturday, but the eight-year-old will head back to Cheltenham in March for the Gold Cup. A satisfied Alan King said: “He had a real hard race in the Hennessy at Newbury and I’m delighted with how he’s run today. I know we were getting 8lb from Oliver’s horse, but the plan is very much to come back here in March. In fact, I watched the race with Oliver and we have made a pact to find a little corner and watch the Gold Cup together too”.
Things got even better for the team just over an hour later when Ordo Ab Chao got up late on to land the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. The 16/1 shot caused an upset by holding off 11/10 favourite Value At Risk in a pulsating finish, but his victory wasn’t a surprise to his trainer. Alan said: “I’ve always thought he was one of our best novices and what he’s done today shows that. He won his first two novices impressively, but we never did put a finger on why he bombed out at Sandown. He went from travelling brilliantly two out that day to stopping in a matter of strides. He did a serious gallop this week and that told us he was back. Looking ahead to March, he’ll have entries for both the Neptune and the Albert Bartlett”.
Two-time Grade 1 winning hurdler Walkon has been retired after being pulled-up at Cheltenham on Saturday. Alan King trained the ten-year-old to win five of his 24 starts over hurdles and fences and feels that the time is right to call time on a wonderful racing career. “He’s been a grand old servant and has been an absolute pleasure to train. I’ve spoken to Max and we agreed to retire Walkon because he’s had enough. He’s been a loyal servant to us and owes us nothing.”
HAYDOCK will have to pass an inspection at 8am on Saturday, but fingers crossed the meeting gets the green light as we have both Araldur and Carraig Mor heading up the M6.
Alan said: "Carraig Mor runs in the graduation chase. He unshipped his rider at the eighth at Kempton over Christmas, so we are just trying to get his season back on track. He had looked good previously at Newbury and he should relish the testing ground.
"Araldur runs in the three-mile handicap hurdle. He was second over the course and distance before Christmas and is off the same mark, so, hopefully, he will again be thereabouts."
It was nice to see Balder Succes get back to winning ways in the Listed Chase at Kempton and Alan felt that the step up in trip was the key: “This is definitely his trip and I’m delighted with that as he wouldn’t have been spot on as he only cantered on Tuesday and breezed on Thursday. If he has another run before the Ryanair at the Festival it will be the Ascot Chase. He wasn’t ready for Cheltenham last year and the owners didn’t really want to go, but it worked out well as we ended up winning at Aintree. They want to go to Cheltenham this year”.
The Festival is now also very much on the agenda for Warwick winner Sego Success who battled to a brave victory in the three mile Listed contest. The boss had been worried about the ground for the seven-year-old, but in the end it was his stamina that proved crucial as he wore down Grand Vision. Reflecting on the victory, Alan said: “It looked hard work out there with the ground pretty testing and Tom said that he hit a flat spot. However, he’s a sound jumper who stays, so the fact that they started to race a long way out certainly played to his strengths. He looks the right type for the National Hunt Chase at the Festival”.
JANUARY will be a quiet month for us but we have a fist full of runners tomorrow and I’ve pinned Alan down to five of them.
Focusing on Warwick’s card first, Alan said: “We are all looking forward to running our great old favourite West End Rocker in the Classic Chase at Warwick. His victory in the Veterans’ Chase at Lingfield last time was the first time he’d run since finishing third in the Midlands Grand National. He won this race four years ago and though he’s now 13, he’s in the same good form at home that he was then. Having only gone up 4lbs, we are looking for a big run and Tom Bellamy, who rode him at Lingfield last time, rides again.”
“We hope that Sego Success might be one for the four miler at Cheltenham and we should know more after he’s run on same card in the Listed Novices’ Chase. I was pleased with how well he jumped at Wetherby, but the ground is a worry.”
Over at Kempton, Balder Succes heads our team of four when he steps up in trip in the 2½ mile Chase. Alan added: “It’s been the plan to go further with him for a while and we had the option of this race or the Ascot Chase. He seems in good form and with just two rivals it was too good an opportunity to miss.”
“Daydreamer, who won a couple on the flat for William Haggas, is a nice juvenile hurdler we introduce in the opener on the same card. He was always very free on the level, and although he has plenty of ability, he’ll need to switch off, but we do like him.”
Midnight Appeal goes in the penultimate race and Alan said: “He was in good form before Christmas and has thrived on the little break we have given him. That said, the handicapper has him high enough, but he is consistent and won’t be far away.”
GRUMETI and Pain Au Chocolat were our only two runners on Sunday, but both left rain-soaked Plumpton with wins under their belts. There may have only been a field of four for the novices’ chase, but Grumeti had to dig deep to see off hat-trick seeking Chris Pea Green and the well-regarded Sail By The Sea. Our Grade One-winning hurdler was bouncing back from a disappointing run at Warwick in November and showed real bravery to see off all challengers in a gruelling finish.
Reflecting on the win, Alan said: “I’m delighted with the way he jumped as that really wouldn’t have been his ground. You’ll see a better horse when we get some better ground, but I’m delighted with that performance.”
Looking ahead to the Cheltenham Festival, for which Grumeti now qualifies for the SIS sponsored £60k bonus should he win any race at Prestbury Park in March, Alan is still keeping his options open: “He’ll have an entry in the Arkle, but we’ll also have a look at the races over further including the handicaps.”
Pain Au Chocolat had earlier justified favouritism in the opening juvenile hurdle at the East Susses track. The four-year-old was getting off the mark at the second time of asking having previously been touched off on his debut at Market Rasen.
FIRST things first - Alan asks me to send everyone his good wishes for a Happy New Year, and, being a proud Scotsman, Hogmanay celebrations are very important in the King household.
However, a bigger priority would be a flying start for 2015, and, with runners at Cheltenham and Exeter tomorrow, we have fingers and toes firmly crossed that we'll get lucky.
Ned Stark leads the charge in the Grade 2 Dipper Novices' Chase at Cheltenham, and. assessing his chance, Alan said:"He has won both his races over fences so far in good style, and, though this is a big step up in class, I am keen to get him some experience of Cheltenham and this test should tell us just where we stand with him."
Taking a spin through our other runners, Alan added:"Ulzana's Raid carries topweight in the three-mile handicap hurdle. He has won his last four races, including two over the track, and, though 4lb higher than when he scored here three weeks ago, he is progressing all the time.
"We also run Elkstone in the bumper. He is a horse we have always liked and he showed plenty of promise first time out at Huntingdon, and, though we are dipping our toes into deep waters here, he is against his own age group."
Moving on to Exeter, Alan said:"We run two in the Thurlestone Hotel Handicap Hurdle. Shadarpour won over the course first time out but then disappointed us when we stepped him up in class at Wetherby. However, he has since run well on the all-weather in blinkers, so, hopefully, they might have woken him up. Hindon Road has sharpened up for his comeback run, but he will improve again on what he achieves here, though I hope the forecast rain does not make its way down the M5.
"We run Ballochmyle in the bumper down there. He finished fifth in a mile and six bumper at Huntingdon and should be suited by the step up in trip, though he is still on the weak side and not yet the finished article.
"Finally, I am looking forward to a day's shooting on Friday, though I will also have one eye on Wolverhampton as we run Ridgeway Storm in the two-mile handicap there.
"He found the mile and a half a bit sharp the last time he went to Dunstall Park, but he got the two miles well enough at Kempton last time and is only 2lb higher. He is in good form."
LIGHTNING rarely strikes twice and Medinas was always up against it in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, but Alan and his team still had plenty to celebrate at last night's staff Christmas party, The Pirate's Queen winning at Haydock, plus excellent silver medal performances from Araldur and The Tourard Man.
Reflecting on The Pirate's Queen's success in the Listed Mares Hurdle, Alan said:"We were worried how she would cope with the testing conditions, but she got away with it.
"She is definitely more effective on better ground, so she should be one for the top mares races in the spring, and I thought Denis O'Regan gave her a lovely confident ride. She has to be delivered late and his timing was inch-perfect."
ST ANDREWS day might not be until Sunday, but for one Scot the celebrations started early this year, with Alan beaming "this is as good as it gets" after winning with all his three runners on day one of Newbury's Hennessy meeting.
Carraig Mor, Ned Stark and Yanworth all did the business in style, and, reflecting on the day, Alan said:"It was very special, and it's days like that which make this job worthwhile.
"We did well at the Hennessy meeting last year and the three days offer races which suit our horses, so we were hopeful that we would do well again.
"Carraig Mor's cause was not helped by a slipping saddle, but he does jump right and I think he will be better going the other way round.
"He is a big horse, not yet the finished article, but he was much better than he was at Exeter and seems to be growing up.
"I am not sure that he is ready for something like the RSA Chase, but he is an exciting prospect and we might have a look at the Feltham at Kempton over Christmas.
"I would think Ned Stark will also be in action around that time, too. I was very pleased with how well he won. This three miles on a galloping track was always going to suit him so much better than two and a half around Huntingdon.
"We have always loved him, and he was an embryo three-mile chaser from day one. He winged those fences and was clever enough to pop the last when he was on the wrong stride, so, while he is tall and narrow, he is strengthening up all the time, so we will give him a little break and look for something around Christmas or the New Year period.
"Finally, Yanworth never broke sweat to win the bumper. We did not learn much as he was never off the bridle, but he could not have done it any better in ground that was very testing, and I would think we might try and find one more bumper before he goes hurdling."
However, it has not been a case of high-five celebrations all this week, following news that both Valdez and Montbazon are on the injury list until next season.
Alan added:"Valdez was shaping so well until tipping up at the last at Chepstow and looked a real promising two-mile chaser, but we have discovered that he has a tendon injury, so he has been injected and he will now need time and controlled exercise so that we can get him back next season. It is very frustrating, but he is a young horse so hopefully he'll come back as good as new.
"Sadly, Montbazon also has a tendon. He finished third in the County Hurdle last season and had been schooling over fences, but he, too, will be off games until next winter.
"It is disappointing for the whole team at Barbury, and, in particular, the owners, but at least injuries that happen before Christmas gives you a chance of getting them back early next season."
WAYNE HUTCHINSON admits it will be frustrating "twiddling my thumbs" as Smad Place and co strut their stuff at Newbury on Hennessy day, and, like Choc Thornton, he does not know just when he will be declared fit to return from injury.
He said:"I had a scan and they tell me that I have strained the medial ligament in my knee, and that I will need to give it another three or four weeks to heal.
"I have been carrying the injury since I had a fall at Southwell last month, and when I had another fall at Doncaster last week it opened up the knee and stretched the ligament more.
"There is no good time to be on the sidelines, and with Alan's horses running so well and the Hennessy being followed by the Tingle Creek, it's tough sitting things out, but I need to get the problem sorted out, and the specialist said that if I carried on and didn't give the injury a chance to heal the recovery could take longer.
"I am having acupuncture which seems to help, but I just want to get back riding as soon as possible."
ALAN has made no secret of the fact that we have some lovely young prospects for the winter months, and two of them, Karezak and Mirkat, fly the flag for us on day two of Newbury's Hennessy meeting.
Assessing their prospects, Alan said:"We are looking forward to Karezak reappearing in the opening juvenile hurdle. He showed plenty of spirit to win first time over jumps at Chepstow, and with the runner-up, Golden Doyen, having won twice since, the form is looking rock-solid.
"The third was 22 lengths back, so, hopefully, they were two decent juvenile hurdlers, and, though Karezak picked up a nasty cut and needed several stitches, he is fine now, and we think the galloping track will suit him well.
"We then have a break until Mirkat makes his jumping debut in the maiden hurdle, the last race on the card.
"He is a brother to Katchit, but they are totally different in that this one is big and backward. However, he has started to strengthen up recently, and he did improve physically through the summer, so, having shown promise in a couple of bumpers last season, it will be good to get him started.
"We also have Dundee going to Doncaster for the novice handicap chase. He was disappointing on his chasing debut at Bangor, but it might have been a combination of the testing conditions and the fact that we left the cheekpieces off. I have schooled him in blinkers since and, hopefully, the ground will also be better, so fingers crossed we get an improved effort."
Both Smad Place and Midnight Prayer have been declared for Saturday's Hennessy. Tom Bellamy rides Midnight Prayer, with Denis O'Regan replacing the injured Wayne Hutchinson on Smad Place,
NEWBURY this morning was the place to be for those looking for clues on what might win the Hennessy Gold Cup on Saturday week, with Smad Place impressing not only the invited press battalion but also many racefans visiting the 60 tradestands at the Christmas Fair in the Berkshire Stand.
Smad Place covered a full circuit together with stablemate and fellow Hennessy runner Midnight Prayer, and Alan expressed himself “delighted” with both horses.
He said: "Neither of them have been on a racecourse since March, and the exercise did them the world of good.
"It was not serious work, but it gets the adrenalin flowing coming here in the horsebox and experiencing the atmosphere of being at the races.
"The ground out there is heavy, so we were never going to do too much, but they cantered a mile and six furlongs, quickening up slightly turning into the straight and then breezing together from the two-pole, and neither horse had a hard blow which is just the way we wanted it.
"The Hennessy has been the plan for Smad Place since last season's Cheltenham Festival, where he ran such a great race in the RSA Chase.
"I thought he had that race won jumping the last, but he just got run out of it close home.
"However, he has enjoyed a good summer, and we feel that he has strengthened up. He has always been a little bit light and narrow, but he looks a stronger horse this season and he is also working better than he was this time last year."
Asked whether he felt that Smad Place, who is a 10-1 chance for the Hennessy, could develop into a Gold Cup horse, Alan added:"That is the dream, but he will need to be running a massive race off a mark of 155 if he is going to make a Gold Cup horse. If we have one in the yard it is him, but who knows whether he will prove good enough. The Hennessy should answer a few questions.
"One thing is certain Smad Place will give his all. He has been to three Cheltenham Festivals and been placed each time, so we know he'll run right to the line."
Reverting to Midnight Prayer, Alan added: "He is a decent staying chaser and he improved throughout last season, winning the four-miler at the Cheltenham Festival.
"I am not frightened about dropping back to three and a quarter, especially as the ground looks like being soft, but the Welsh National at Chepstow is his main target for the first half of the season, and this looks the perfect prep-race for that."
Alan stressed that Medermit is "only a possible" for the race, explaining:"He is entered, but I would rather run him at Haydock this week-end and we'll have a chat with the owners in the morning before making a final decision."
However, it is not all about the Hennessy, and Alan hopes to bring a strong supporting team to Newbury next week.
He said:"We were lucky enough to have three winners at the meeting last year, and, though, apart from Uxizandre, we were quiet at Cheltenham last week-end, it has always been in the back of my mind to keep a few back for Newbury.
"We will run Karezak in the juvenile hurdle on the Friday. He won his jumping debut at Chepstow, and the form received a boost when the second won at Cheltenham over the week-end, so we are very encouraged by him.
"We also have Avispa going for the Listed Mares Novices' Hurdle on the Saturday. She was a smart bumper filly last year and she made a promising start over hurdles when second in tiring ground at Uttoxeter last month.
"We also have Mirkat going for the maiden hurdle on Friday. He is a full-brother to Katchit, and, though he ran well enough in a couple of bumpers last season, he has really grown up through the summer and is one we like.
"We also have a few others pencilled in, but obviously there are a couple of important work days before we finalise plans."
Sadly, Invictus, who had to be put down after sustaining a serious injury in last year's Hennessy, his first race after 21 months off, is no longer with us, but the likes of Uxizandre, whom Alan reports as having come back from Cheltenham on Sunday "busting, in great form, so brave after winging the last two fences", gives the trainer plenty of reasons to smile. Now he just wants to win the Hennessy.
LADY LUCK was on the other side of the net yesterday when Prettyasapicture tipped up two out at Taunton when looking the winner, but, hopefully, we can get back on track this weekend.
It's maybe surprising that we don't have a runner on the first day of Cheltenham's Open meeting, but we will be there on both Saturday and Sunday, with Uxizandre confirmed as a runner in the Shloer Chase on the final day rather than in tomorrow's Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Uxizandre drops to two miles for the first time over fences, but it will be easier employing the front-running tactics in this small field than in a competitive handicap like the Paddy Power.
Alan said:"AP always felt last year that the trip would suit him, and he has come on for his seasonal debut at Aintree, where he finished fourth in the Old Roan Chase.
"Barry (Geraghty) loved him that day, and more aggressive riding tactics seem to have made all the difference to the horse. We have the cheek-pieces back on, and I hope he will run very well."
Tomorrow we have just the two runners, and Alan added:"Fighter Jet goes for the three-mile handicap hurdle. He has been second in his last two races and is in good order, but, though he is genuine enough, he can be a bit lazy, so we are putting a pair of blinkers on to sharpen him up.
"We also have Dusky Legend going for the mares bumper. She won eight lengths first time out at Fontwell last month and, while I am not sure how strong the race was, she could not have done it any better. This is a step up in class, but she has worked well since and deserves a crack."
THERE is always a doubt in the mind when a good Flat horse tries his hand at jumping - how will he adapt to the hurdles and will he stay the trip - but Chatez could not have done the job any better at the first time of asking at Bangor yesterday.
Successful in the valuable Silver Bowl at Haydock in the summer, Chatez was suited both by the soft ground and the slow pace, and his class did the rest.
He jumped well all the way round, and Alan said:"Chatez has looked a natural from day one. He loved it the first day we took him on the schooling grounds and seem to get the trip well enough at Bangor, so I could not be more pleased.
"It always helps when a horse has the right attitude and Chatez is bombproof in that sphere, and he will have learned a lot from that first race.
"Who knows whether he will prove to be a Triumph Hurdle horse, but I might well keep him away from Cheltenham until the Festival, and I think we'll now find a race to run him with his penalty and then take him to Kempton for the Christmas meeting and maybe go back for the Adonis Hurdle in February."
TWO and a half miles around a sharp track like Huntingdon was never going to play to Ned Stark's strengths, but he is one of Alan's big hopes for the winter months and his class got him home on his debut over fences there yesterday.
Three lengths down and in only third place going to the last, Ned Stark, who had jumped super all the way round, knuckled down on the Flat and got up on the line.
Alan said: "Ned Stark is a gorgeous horse, and we think he could be quite exciting.
"He'll definitely be better at three miles, but two and a half was a good place to start and I was very pleased with that. We'll be taking the softly softly approach, but we do like him."
THEY say that "second sucks", but Alan clearly does not agree with that sentiment, expressing himself "well satisified" with Balder Succes's comeback run in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter today, despite the fact that he went under by five lengths to God's Own.
Alan said:"We were beaten by a good horse, but we were giving him 7lb and, like all of mine, Balder Succes will come on a lot for his first run.
"He finished his race off well and has had a good blow afterwards so, hopefully, we'll eke some improvement in time for the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown on December 6."
A mistake three out did not help Balder Succes's cause, and, similarly, Carraig Mor's jumping was a little slip-shod in the novice chase, in which he had to play second fiddle to Carole's Destrier.
Alan added: "He, too, will improve for his first run and he is very much a work-in-progress."
NO winners last Saturday, though, apart from Manyriverstocross, whose performance left Alan somewhat bemused, the boss was pleased how well they all ran, and, happily, they have all come back safe and sound.
Even better, we celebrated two winners at Huntingdon yesterday, with Nyanza making a winning jumping debut and Ordo Ab Chao bolting up at the course for the second time in 19 days.
Alan said:"It was a very pleasing start for Nyanza. She has already won twice for us on the Flat, and she jumped well first time out and went away up the straight. The plan has always been the Listed Juvenile Hurdle for fillies at Aintree on December 6, and I am not sure whether or not she will have one more run on the way.
"We have all loved Ordo Ab Chao from day one, and he likes Huntingdon (3-3) so we took him back there to give him more experience. He'll have a break now because we don't want to overdo things as he is ultimately a three-mile chaser."
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."
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