Despite being relatively quiet with runners throughout the Christmas period we have still had some great results and the performances from the horses who did not win were still, on the whole, very encouraging. The decision to run Smad Place in the King George was one that was not taken lightly and in what was a brilliant renewal of the race we were all immensely proud of his performance finishing a 16 length 4th. This was a big step up from the Hennessy and although he won in such fine fashion at Newbury we knew this was a much tougher proposition and we were all delighted with his performance.
Gibralfaro was making his awaited debut over hurdles at Kempton after recently arriving from France where he was unbeaten in his last 4 starts on the level. In what looked a strong heat Gibralfaro’s jumping gradually improved throughout the race and showed a great attitude and level of ability to rein in the Harry Whittington runner, who under a canny ride from Gavin Sheehan looked to have given the field the slip turning for home. Although showing signs of greenness approaching the last 2 hurdles Gibralfaro closed on the leader inside the final strides of the line, winning by 1/2 length without having to be asked any serious questions and with a previous winner 13 lengths behind in 3rd this was an extremely encouraging debut, and there should be plenty of improvement to come.
Newbury’s Christmas meeting was held in demanding conditions and despite finishing 13 lengths behind the exceptional Barters Hill, Label Des Obeaux lost nothing in defeat. Having had 3 runs in just over a month, with the last in very testing conditions at Sandown, he will now have a little break before looking for suitable targets in the New Year.
Willoughby Hedge was making a pleasing start on his chase debut untill sadly coming to grief at the 13th fence, up to that point he was running a lovely race, and luckily coming away from the fall unscathed, he will certainly be a horse to keep an eye on for the future.
William H Bonney was having having second run over hurdles after a good winning debut at Plumpton, this was a step up from his previous effort and he put up a good performance to finish 2nd behind a smart looking charge from the Nicky Henderson stable. Giving 5lbs away to the winner and being a year younger highlights the quality of this run and with the 3rd place horse 9 lengths behind we can hopefully look forward to a good novice hurdle campaign for the remainder of the season.
At odds of 1-6 it was a great relief to see Pemba come home an 82 length winner of her second start of the season at Doncaster yesterday, she will hopefully continue to provide the Million In Mind partnership with solid performances before she goes through the sales ring at Doncaster in the summer.
On the same card Ziga Boy was looking to recapture his form of old and duly obliged off a steadily decreasing mark of 117. He seemed to thrive off the change in tactics, being ridden more prominently and looked to be in great form throughout the race, jumping and travelling well, this should hopefully give him the confidence boost he has needed and he should build on this looking ahead for the remainder of the season.
All in all, a great Christmas period and plenty to look forward to in 2016 !!