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City Dreamer heads to Doncaster for the better ground

December 15, 2017

Nothing of the calibre of Sceau Royal this week-end, and we are relatively quiet with just the two runners tomorrow, both at Doncaster.

Alan said:”City Dreamer goes for the Grade 2 Summit Juvenile Hurdle. He won well at Fontwell and Market Rasen and was not at all disgraced in going that was too soft for him in the Wensleydale at Wetherby. The handicapper clearly thinks a bit of him as he has him on a mark of 132, and I hope he’s right, but the better the surface the better his chance.

Sego Success, who runs in the three-mile chase, has run some of his best races on Town Moor, so, hopefully, he’ll again be competitive. He was an excellent second under a big weight on his comeback at Warwick, and, though he’s been off since with a bout of ringworm, he is ready to roll again now.”




Super Sceau Royal stakes Arkle claim

December 10, 2017

A decade has passed since Voy Por Ustedes and My Way de Solzen gave Alan back-to-back victories in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, but over the next three months the Barbury team will be dreaming about being back on the glory trail with Sceau Royal, who was simply magnificent in capturing the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown yesterday.

“The Arkle is the aim and I wouldn’t be worried about going straight there, but we’ll discuss our options and he could have one prep after his break,” said Alan as he stood proudly in the Esher winner’s enclosure.

Reflecting on Sceau Royal’s success over what was a high-class field, Alan added:”Granted, there was carnage behind, but I always thought that we had them all well covered, and he was very good at a track which takes some jumping.

“Sceau Royal might have been around 7lb short of the best over hurdles, but he was always so slick at his obstacles and it has been the same story from the very first time we schooled him over fences. He’s been electric from day one.

“Daryl (Jacob) was taking a pull all the way round, but even at the second last I was saying ‘wait, wait’, though once he let him go Sceau Royal really powered up that hill.

“Warwick gave him so much confidence, and, though he was taking on the big boys at Sandown, we weren’t going to make any excuses as I knew that I had never had him better.”

Jacob was similarly enthusiastic and said:”Sceau Royal was awesome and he really pinged his fences, so much so that I got to the front too soon and had to take another pull. We have brought him along slowly and it is starting to pay off.”

Perhaps the only surprise was the fact that Sceau Royal started the complete outsider at 11-1, and, while he could not bridge the gap with the best over hurdles, the sky’s the limit now.




Sceau Royal dips his toes in deeper waters at Sandown

  Friday December 8

We could have done without Thursday’s rain for Sceau Royal, who jumps up in class for the Grade 1 Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown tomorrow, but the forecast is for the Esher area to remain relatively dry for the rest of the week and maybe even a spot on sunshine for Saturday, so all is not lost for the Barbury youngster, who is at his best on a decent surface.

Sceau Royal, a smart hurdler who has taken well to fences, winning two of his three races over the larger obstacles and finishing a good second in the other, is a quick horse, so, while he does act in the soft, he will always be more effective on decent ground.

Alan said:”Sceau Royal only won a ‘match’ at Warwick last time, but he has come out of that race fresh and well and his confidence is sky-high.

“Trying to give 5lb to North Hill Harvey at Cheltenham previously was probably a nigh impossible task, so, though he is again mixing it with the big boys, he is in good order and we just want that rain to stay away.”

Alan pulled Fidux out of Newbury last week to wait for the Listed handicap hurdle at Sandown. “He’s run well the twice he’s been to Sandown and would have finished either first or second had he not unshipped his rider at the final flight there last time,” said Alan, adding: “We also run William H Bonney who finished behind our own Elgin in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham last month. That was an encouraging start to the season and he travelled really well through the race and just got tired up the hill.

“The Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February is a race we have our eye on and we are working backwards from that, but I remain convinced that there is a big handicap in William H Bonney somewhere along the line, so we go there with two decent chances.

“We also run Awesome Rosie in the mares handicap hurdle. She had been due to switch to fences, but we had a little blip with her at home so we’ll stay hurdling for the time being. She ran well under a big weight at Southwell last time and the ground should suit her.”

Rain earlier in the week has prompted us to declare Chatez for the two-mile handicap hurdle at Huntingdon on Sunday. Alan said:”He loves soft ground and, given his history, he will always need that word in the going report. He was a smart juvenile hurdler, winning two of his four races and he then won the Spring Mile at Doncaster in 2015, but he was off the track for more than 900 days until running a cracker to finish second on his comeback at Leicester last month. He’s been working well at home and is ready to resume his hurdling career.”

Remember, Alan, who incidentally has also declared Sula Island for the maiden on the tapeta surface at Wolverhampton tomorrow night, is again the weekly winter columnist on The Racing Post Weekender, so in case you missed his last two offerings here are a couple of nuggets that might interest you.

There has been much talk about trainers having to declare wind operations in future, and Alan’s view was as follows. “I have no issue with the BHA’s request, but I would warn punters that for every one operation that works there are probably five or six that don’t. Nine times out of 10 the reason a horse doesn’t win is because he or she isn’t good enough.”

On a sadder note, Alan revealed the death of one of heroes from yesteryear, Crystal d’Ainay, who has died from colic just a month short of his 19th birthday.

Alan said:”It was a great shame for everyone, especially Charlotte Burke, my PA who has had him since his retirement and absolutely adored him. She had hunted him and done some team chasing with him.

“Crystal d’Ainay won eight races, five over hurdles and three over fences, and was one of our first high-profile horses here. He beat dual Champion Hurdler Hardy Eustace in the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham and was also third in a Stayers Hurdle, not to mention several epic battles he had with Baracouda.”



Yanworth “learning all the time”

  Saturday December 2

Understandably, Alan was disappointed that Yanworth could not win at Newbury yesterday, but, having made a couple of mistakes, he did well to get within three lengths of the smart Willoughby Court so we live to fight another day.

The blunder at the fourth from home looked to have cooked Yanworth’s goose, but he showed admirable battling qualities to come there with half a chance after the last, and Alan was proud of his performance.

He said:”Yanworth will need to jump better to compete with the top horses, but it was only his third run over fences and he is learning all the time. He got round and was very competitive, and remember Newbury’s fences are some of the biggest around so this was a good test for him.

“However, Yanworth has a few nasty over-reaches, so we will have to see whether they need stitches before we make plans. Ideally, we’d like to go again somewhere over the Christmas or New Year period, but we’ll have to wait for things to pan out.”

Barry Geraghty said:”Apart from two fences, I thought Yanworth jumped well, and those mistakes probably took their toll. He’ll have learned from that experience.”



Memories of Smad as Label des Obeaux aims for a second ‘Hennessy’.

  Friday December 1

Inevitably, tomorrow’s big race at Newbury will always be referred to by the professionals as the Hennessy – Ladbrokes have taken over sponsorship of the £250,000 staying chase which is the highlight of the jumping season at our local course – and, despite the fact that there will be no cognac thrown in should Label des Obeaux emulate Smad Place and bring the prize back to Barbury, Alan will be delighted if history repeats itself.

So how does Alan rate Label des Obeaux’s prospects? “He showed he had come on for his first run back when performing creditably against the King George favourite Might Bite at Sandown, but he needs to improve again so we schooled him in cheekpieces recently and they seemed to sharpen him up.

“My fear is that Label des Obeaux has too much weight. We always felt that Smad Place was on a handy mark, but this fellow has enough for a second season novice.”

Alan also suspects that Coeur de Lion, who runs in the two and a half mile handicap hurdle, is also in the grip of the handicapper. He added:”I reckon he has 10lb too much, but I do think stepping up in trip might bring about a bit of improvement and when the ground was so bad at Haydock last week we decided to wait for this. He ran as well as we could have hoped in the Elite Hurdle at Wincanton, where the race conditions were all against him.”

“We also run Dino Velvet in this race. He would have been placed in the Fred Winter at last season’s Cheltenham Festival but for that mistake at the top of the hill and I was happy enough with his comeback run at Chepstow. He had a slight setback after but seems fine now and he will appreciate this trip.

Cosmeapolitan lacks experience, having had the just one over hurdles so far, which he won here at Newbury last December and then missed the rest of the season with a stress fracture. He’s run ok on the Flat since so it will be good to get him back over jumps in the Listed Gerry Feilden Hurdle.”

We also have two runners at Doncaster, and Alan said:”Deyrann de Carjac is a lovely horse who had a stress fracture last winter, but he did really well physically through the summer and has schooled well. His bumper third at Chepstow is good form and he’s ready to start off over hurdles in the opener, while the consistent Lord Huntingdon will hopefully again be competitive in the handicap hurdle, as will Stylish Moment at Bangor. She showed promise first time out and ought to go well in the bumper.”