Alan looks ahead to what looks a busy Christmas on the track
Alan returned from a short break in Dubai on Wednesday, having been out there with his wife Rachel to see their daughter Georgia, who has been gaining valuable experience on a three-month stint riding out for Bhupat Seemar, champion trainer in the UAE last season.
In great contrast to Dubai, Alan, frustrated by the unprecedented dry spell which the UK has experienced this year, was greeted by heavy rain on his homecoming.
And, with the mud-loving Edwardstone running next Tuesday at Kempton in the Desert Orchid Chase, Alan could not have been happier to see the umbrellas up when he arrived at Heathrow, and the rain has continued through the week.
The ground at Kempton is likely to be a mixture of ‘good to soft’ and ‘soft’, which will suit Edwardstone ideally. The official handicapper reckons Barbury’s stable-star has at least 5lb in hand over his rivals, so here’s hoping he’s right and that the impressive Tingle Creek Chase winner can turn on the turbo again at Kempton.
Successful in six of his last seven races – the one blip came when he was beaten at Aintree in April – Edwardstone was victorious at this meeting 12 months ago, winning the Wayward Lad Novice Chase by 10 lengths, and he seems in top form at home.
Alan said:”Edwardstone has come out of Sandown great, and this race fits in perfectly time-wise as it will enable him to then have a break through January before returning for his Queen Mother Champion Chase prep in the Game Spirit at Newbury in February.”
Alan has almost worn out the tape of the Tingle Creek, and, reflecting on that demolition job, he added:”It really did blow me away. I knew that Edwardstone would run well, but wasn’t expecting a performance like that first time out. He travelled and jumped super, but it was the manner in which he shot clear after the second last that took my breath away. It gave me a real buzz.”
Once we get the final declarations for Tuesday, we’ll take a look at the impressive supporting cast which will also be leaving Barbury for the races that day, but obviously Boxing Day is also going to be very busy, with our eight runners being split around, at Kempton, Huntingdon and Wincanton.
Looking ahead to Monday, Alan said:”I am not expecting Sceau Royal to win the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, but, besides us, only three other horses take on Constitution Hill, so there is plenty of prize money up for grabs.
“Sceau Royal has deliberately been kept fresh for this since his run at Wincanton in November, and he has shown he likes Kempton, winning twice in three completed starts, finishing a good third in this race in 2019 when he was giving weight to the first two.
“We run three at Wincanton, including Passionate Pursuit, who should have a good chance in the mares hurdle. She was only just worried out of it on the run-in over the course last month on what was her first run over hurdles. She has since been given time to strengthen and is a mare I like.
“Wynn House is 2-2 over hurdles at Wincanton and hopefully will again go well in the novices handicap chase there. She jumped well first time over fences at Huntingdon, which was only two weeks after her seasonal debut, so she should be able to build on that.
“Hall Lane is a fine stamp of horse who can only get better in time, and he runs in the novices hurdle at Huntingdon. He travelled well on his jumping debut at Wetherby, and found plenty when challenged after the last. He now has a penalty and takes on two other previous winners, but he, too, is a horse we’ve always liked.
“Gavin Sheehan rides Hall Lane, and he also partners our two other runners at the meeting, Crystal Moon and Pumpkin’s Pride.”
Crystal Moon was a bit unlucky when runner-up on his chasing debut at Ludlow, his first run of the season, while Pumpkin’s Pride, who ran too free before unseating at Southwell, goes back up in trip in the handicap hurdle.
Our other Monday runners are Fidux in the Pertemps qualifier at Wincanton – he seems to be enjoying being back over hurdles – and Jay Bee Why, who needed his Kempton comeback, his first run since May, but might be interesting back in the Sunbury course finale.