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."
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Alan added:"We have Midnight Appeal and Ulzana's Raid going to Cheltenham. Both will improve for their first run, but they won first time out last season, so, hopefully, both will be straight enough to do themselves justice.
"Obviously, we'll all be rooting for Chatez in the valuable mile handicap at Ascot. He won the Silver Bowl in similar ground at Haydock but then found the going a bit too fast at Royal Ascot and Newmarket, so we gave him a holiday and aimed for this big pot."
Alan's 'Stable Tour' will be published in The Racing Post next Wednesday, but, allowing us a sneak preview, he said:"I was planning to start back Uxizandre at Cheltenham tomorrow, but carrying 11st 12lb and giving weight to some decent horses was a big ask first time out, so we have decided to wait for the Old Roan Chase at Aintree next week-end.
"Balder Succes will be kept to two miles for the time being at least, and he could kick-start his season in the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter, though if we think he needs a bit longer we might target the Paddy Power meeting at Cheltenham.
"We have pencilled in the Welsh National as an early-season target for Midnight Prayer, and the plan is to find one race before Chepstow."
TUESDAY 14 OCTOBER
UXIZANDRE could well kick-start his season at Cheltenham on Saturday, but for once the stable's Flat racers take centre-stage this week-end, with the mud-loving Chatez aiming to land Alan his biggest pot as a trainer in the £250,000 Balmoral Handicap at Ascot's Champions meeting.
Bookmakers have Chatez favourite for the big mile cavalry charge, and Alan said: "He worked very well this morning, and all his best form has been in the mud so I was delighted to see Ascot getting all that rain.
"Chatez ran a blinder in the Britannia at Royal Ascot, but we gave him a summer holiday and he has come back bouncing.
"Win or lose at Ascot, he will then be going jumping. We have already schooled him, and he has taken to the hurdles very well, so he could be an exciting prospect if he stays.
"He is a 8f-10f horse on the Flat, but there is plenty of stamina on the dam's side of his pedigree, so I'd be hopeful that he will stay."
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."
TWO winners at Exeter yesterday continues our excellent recent strike-rate, and Alan is hoping that the good run is maintained this week-end.
Reflecting on the successful Haldon duo, Alan, who paid 18,000gns for dual winner Shadarpour in the summer, said:"It was great seeing him win for us at the first time of asking. He has not been here long, but he seems to go on all types of ground as he has won in the soft in the past and coped with that faster ground at Exeter with no problems.
"I was also delighted that Tom Bellamy had his first winner for us in the finale. He has joined us as the stable conditional this season, and it was a great start.
"Prettyasapicture certainly deserved to get her head in front as she has been peppering the wire. She is leased by the Lets Live Racing syndicate, and this success will have increased her value as a broodmare."
Alan is back down the M5 today, with Turn Over Sivola making his seasonal debut in the novice chase at Newton Abbot.
Alan added:"Turn Over Sivola has plenty of experience over fences and, though he was second in a Grade 3 at Aintree's Grand National meeting, it was not until Huntingdon in May that he finally opened his score. He has done well through the summer and we are looking forward to getting him going again.
"Soft ground won't worry King's Bayonet up at York, and he was unlucky not to win at Haydock last time, twice being denied a run and yet still being beaten only a couple of lengths.
"Hayley Turner gets a good tune out of him, and he'll have an each-way chance in what looks a competitive race.
"We also run Nyanza at Wolverhampton. She looks to have a bit on her plate against the in-form High Secret, but she has won twice on the polytrack and if she handles this tapeta surface as well she ought to run well."
Finally, we run Karezak in the Juvenile Hurdle at Chepstow tomorrow. Alan said:"He came from John Oxx and has run twice for us on the Flat, finishing second both times. He was bought for jumping and has done plenty of schooling, so it will be good to get him rolling over hurdles."
EVERYTHING is tickite-boo down Barbury just now - of our last 11 runners three have won and all the others finished in the frame apart from Hollow Penny, who tipped up, so no cause for complaints from Alan.
Gimme Five kept the ball rolling when defying his penalty at Huntingdon on Sunday - a first winner back for Wayne Hutchinson after a frustrating summer with injuries.
He said:"It was great to get back on track, and Alan found the perfect race for Gimme Five. The strong gallop suited him, and he found a bit more when the second eyeballed him up the straight."
Alan hopes to be able to work horses on the grass by the end of the month if the weather forecast for further rain this week materialises, and he is starting to look for races for some of the higher-rated horses, with both Uxizandre and Turn Over Sivola having entries at Newton Abbot on Friday. Whether they run will depend on how they work and what the ground seems like.
Mark Ball, who runs the successful Lets Live Racing syndicate, tells me that he took 30 owners down to Barbury last Saturday, and, despite filthy wet weather, everyone came away feeling positive.
He said:"We saw Our Phylli Vera do her first bit of proper fast work since her summer holiday, and Alan was very pleased.
"The mare won't be ready for another three weeks but seemed very well in herself. She did us proud last season, winning twice, but Alan has not yet decided whether to give her a run on the Flat or go straight back over hurdles.
"Prettyasapicture has never finished out of the frame in seven races, and, despite things not going right for her at Plumpton last week - she was blinded at a couple of flights - she still managed to finish second, and, hopefully, she'll go one better soon.
"Sadly,Tickity Bleue will have to miss this season. Time is the only healer for a tendon injury, but Jeremy Swan (Alan's vet) was pleased with the latest scan and gave us good cause to be patient.
"Tickity Bleue showed so much promise early on and is big enough to jump a fence, but we'll wait for nature to take its course and bring her back into training next July. She has won a bumper and a hurdle race and will hopefully return as good as new, but come what may she will make a lovely broodmare."
ALL smiles at Warwick yesterday with Laser Blazer scoring his second win in four days and Wayne Hutchinson giving the thumbs-up after finishing third in the same race on stablemate Uriah Heep.
Alan said:"I don't usually like running horses twice in a week, but Laser Blazer won so well at Newton Abbot on Monday and with the extension of this fast ground, which suits him so well, it was worth rolling the dice again. He'll have a break when the weather changes.
"It was also good to see Wayne back in action. He has had a tough summer on the sidelines, but he is riding out regularly again and that blow-out will have done him good.
"Wayne is at Fontwell for us today on Kuda Huraa in the handicap hurdle. He ran well at Stratford last time and is in good form.
"We also send Hollow Penny down there for the handicap chase. Richard Johnson, who won on him here and at Newton Abbot, keeps the ride, and, though they are now 8lb higher, he is progressing nicely and will hopefully again be competitive in what looks a stronger race."
WE have a couple of runners at Plumpton today - Fighter Jet and Prettyasapicture - while hat-trick seeking Hollow Penny, who has been making hay while the sun shone through the summer, has been given an entry at Worcester on Friday.
It will probably be October until Alan really gets going with his jumpers, but the tempo has certainly been stepped up in the mornings at Barbury recently, and I caught up with the boss for a brief update.
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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