BATTERIES fully charged after his family holiday, Alan returned in time to enjoy "a smashing four days at Royal Ascot made even better by two winners on the all-weather."
Alan, who headed off today for the Tattersalls Derby NH Sale in Ireland, said:"Precision Five gained her just reward when winning at Lingfield last Saturday. She seems to love the all-weather, and, having been pipped in a couple of close finishes, she got back on track with what was a convincing success.
"And 48 hours earlier Mystery Code gave the Barbury Lions their first winner as owners when breaking her maiden at Chelmsford.
"The mile and a quarter would have been sharp enough there, but Fergus (Sweeney) felt that once he got into top gear in the straight he was always going to get there.
"It was the perfect start for the Barbury Lions, a 20-strong syndicate who also have a couple of two-year-olds, Jim Dandy and Master Blue Eyes."
The Barbury Castle Stud have a two-year-old making his debut in the opener at Salisbury tomorrow, Cosmeapolitan, a Mawatheeq gelding, while Max McNeill's French-recruit Oceane, who won a 9f maiden at Marseille-Borely last autumn, should relish the mile and a half when he has his first run for us in the Bibury Cup.
ALAN will shortly embark on his traditional family holiday - he always makes sure he's back for Royal Ascot - and as he reflects on the jumping season which is now but a distant memory he can congratulate the team on another terrific winter's work.
Remarkably, we finished the season with 75 winners, the same as the previous winter, and our prize money haul of £1,140,598 is up by 28 grand, echoing the consistency of the Barbury squad.
That never-to-be-forgotten Cheltenham success with Uxizandre, a marvellous farewell Festival triumph for AP McCoy in the JP McManus colours, was obviously the highlight, but now most of the jumpers are out at grass enjoying their summer break.
However, we still have a couple of runners at Southwell today and also two on the Flat at Chelmsford, where the new polytrack surface has been met with mixed reviews.
Both ours, trying the surface for the first time there, run in the finale, and Alan said:"Hughesie rides Mystery Drama, and they were only beaten a neck together the last time they teamed up at Salisbury in August.
"Mystery Drama is now 2lb lower, while Our Phylli Vera (Pat Dobbs), who was disappointing over hurdles last winter, has the ability if things drop right for her, and she, too, has dropped a couple of pounds since she last ran on the Flat last September at Newbury, where she finished third under Megan Nicholls.
"Howwrongcanyoube, runner-up at Market Rasen, makes his first appearance in a handicap at Southwell, while Daydreamer, who has run respectably on the Flat, will appreciate this dryer ground than the soft which he encountered on his jumping debut at Kempton."
THERE was an inevitable glum feeling around Barbury on Sunday morning following news that Balder Succes, who took a crashing third fence fall in the Melling Chase at Aintree on Friday, had lost his battle to recover.
Drawing a blank over the three days meant nothing to the stable compared to the tragedy which befell Balder Succes, and Alan said:"He had been at the Leahurst Equine Hospital since Friday, but they were unable to save him.
"We lost him this morning. He damaged his right shoulder, and it proved to be irreparable.
"It is devastating for the owners and everyone in the yard. It's a hell of a blow as horses as good as him don't come along very often.
"Balder Succes won 12 of his 30 races, including two Grade 1's, the Maghull Novices' Chase at Aintree last year and this season's Ascot Chase, and he will be sorely missed by all of us."
WE might have drawn a blank with the jumpers over the week-end, but Ridgeway Storm again showed his liking when capturing the once prestigious Queen's Prize on the Flat at Kempton on Saturday.
This two-mile race was the Easter Monday turf showpiece in yesteryear, but, though it is relegated to the polytrack and run as the last race of the day in these modern times, it still carried a first prize of more than 12 grand, and owner Henry Ponsonby, who won it with Captain Miller 15 years ago, was delighted to pick up the trophy for his enthusiastic syndicate.
The Queen's Prize has often proved a stepping-stone to greater things - dual Chester Cup winner Anak Pekan and Cesarewitch hero Inchcailloch both were victorious at Kempton en route to the top - and Ponsonby was delighted to see what was a long-term plan prove successful.
He said:"We had our eye on the race for some time, but off 82 it was just a question of whether Ridgeway Storm would get in.
"Kempton suits him so much better than Wolverhampton did as he is a long-striding horse, and provided he comes out of the race alright the plan is to send him back there on Wednesday week.
"On pedigree – he is by Hurricane Run out of a Slip Anchor mare - there is a chance he would stay the two and a half miles in the Ascot Stakes, but he would need to climb further up the ratings if he is going to make the cut at the Royal meeting, so we might as well make hay while the sun shines.
"Ridgeway Storm has been schooled over hurdles and seems to love his jumping, as befits a half-brother to Grade 1 winner Hollow Tree, so we might well switch codes in the summer as he will enjoy the ground. Cheltenham is the long-term dream, though only a dream at this stage."
Ponsonby revealed that Kings Bayonet is likely to revert back to hurdling - "he might just be well handicapped," observed the owner - while First Mohican, who only just missed a place when staying on strongly at the end at Doncaster last week, could now take his chance in the Aston Park Stakes at Newbury on Saturday week. He finished third in the race last year.
CHATEZ landed a valuable handicap at Haydock last summer, and the four-year-old again delivered on the big stage yesterday, winning the £50,000 added Betway Spring Mile at Doncaster.
The plan had been to run Chatez in the Lincoln, but he narrowly missed the cut, so Alan re-routed him to the sponsors consolation race on Town Moor,
Jockey Fergus Sweeney confessed that he feared the ground had dried up too much as cantered the mud-loving Chatez down to the start, but he need not have worried, because the gelding was always going like a winner and he flew home in the last furlong to hit the front 100 yards from the line and win by three lengths.
Before heading off to Ascot this morning, Alan said:"It was a smashing performance from Chatez and he has come back fine.
"He travelled well throughout the race and really quickened when Fergus popped the question.
"Everyone knows how highly we thought of him early on last winter, and after his first couple of wins he looked one of the best juvenile hurdlers around, but he then twice disappointed, so we had his wind done.
"You never know whether such an operation will be a success until the horse races again, but as far as Chatez is concerned it looks as if it has worked."
Alan will wait and see how the handicapper reassesses Chatez on Tuesday before making future plans, but the Newbury Spring Cup on April 18 would look an obvious target, and in all probability he would also get his ground there.
Wroughton | Swindon | Wiltshire SN4 0QZ
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