08 Mar Dancer’s Diary – Week 67
So I have been utterly useless so far this year, but you must excuse me as I have been very busy celebrating 2019 really very hard!! The team here at Castle Hill have been working their socks off, and boy is it paying off on the racecourse. I am delighted for each and every one of them, and there have been plenty of brandy’s raised in the local pub in recent weeks (Grant!)
After Rey Loopy got the ball rolling for us at the very start of January, he swiftly followed up at his second home, Newcastle, again under Andrew Mullen, 20 days later, fitting a neck 2nd in between the runs. He has now run five times this year, finishing in the first two in all of those starts, which is quite an incredible effort. He is the true testimony to the patience of his owners Daniel Shapiro, David Clifford and Derek Barclay, and we owe him an awful lot at this yard as he can always be relied upon to tough it out and give his all. Hopefully one day he will go to a turf track and get his ground and be able to add to his admirable all weather record – until then I foresee a few more chilly Spring evenings at Newcastle racecourse!
Another testament to Daniel and David’s (and Jane and John Feeney’s) patience came next, again at our beloved Newcastle, when our dream/nightmare filly Porrima made her first appearance of the year. Very disappointing in 2018, having broken her maiden early before being plagued by a multitude of issues, part owner the trainer’s wife made the executive decision to let other people ride her in the fear she may have been slightly mollycoddling her… Expectations were mixed coming into this 7 furlong fillies event, but us of little faith were swiftly proven wrong as she and the fabulous Andrew Mullen swept through the field to a convincing victory. The screams from her owners were louder than any Newcastle nightclub, and it was probably one of the most satisfying winners we have ever trained. Unbelievably she followed up six days later, leaving us all rather stunned that she had slammed in two wins by the start of February, despite her best efforts to unship Andrew at the start of the race! A bit of a tart at the best of times, we decided to reward her with a trip to Cheveley Park’s stallion Twilight Son, and am delighted to report we are now due a mini princess! She celebrated by finishing 2nd next time out, and will have a couple more starts before going off to enjoy motherhood.
Potential broodmares are rather a theme round here at the moment, and our other mare set for the breeding shed, Castle Hill Cassie, also added to her tally of wins in January, claiming a very smart win in the Class 2 fillies handicap at Wolverhampton. Giving lumps of weight away to her rivals, and trying a mile this time, it was one of her most convincing victories and her and Graham Lee looked different gravy coming past the winners post. She has been for her date with Tweenhill’s exciting Australian import Zoustar, and will now be aimed at the All-Weather Championships for owners David Redvers, David Howden and Steve Lock. We are all very excited to be part of this huge day, and are sure she will do us proud win, lose or draw. We will certainly miss her when she goes to stud.
A very joyful January continued, again at Newcastle, but this time on the jumps track rather than the all-weather. Rock On Fruity returned to the scene of his December victory, 9lbs higher in the handicap and up in trip. He looked a million dollars in the parade ring, and him and Richie McLernon got on like an absolute house on fire, producing by far his best round of jumping for us to date. He won a tad cosily in what was a career best performance, and its been a delight to see this lovely horse heading in the right direction. He has since performed with great credit in the Eider, looking very exciting three out before he didn’t quite stay the trip, but I am sure he will provide plenty more fun for owner J.P. McManus in the future.
Bringing up the fantastic five for January, and back on the Newcastle all-weather, came our wonderful older sprinter Epeius, who has really provided our new syndicate, The Ben Haslam Racing Syndicate, with loads of fun this winter. Visors on for the first time, he travelled well under apprentice Seb Woods, but had us all panicking a furlong out when it looked like no gaps were coming – so often his fate with his out the back running style. It looked mission impossible with the leader miles in front, but Epeius sprouted wings and flew past to claim a neck victory. The celebrations were impressive, and we still can’t quite believe just how exciting January had been – and felt February would struggle to keep up!
How wrong we were, with Porrima going in on the 1st, before Epeius also doubled his tally for the year, again at Newcastle over the 6 furlongs, this time under a power packed Andrew Mullen. We were absolutely delighted for his syndicate and him as they truly deserve it. He ran over 5 furlongs since which didn’t suit, but will be seen back at his best trip soon.
We returned to the jumps at Musselburgh, this time with Call The Cops and Manamite, both for J.P. McManus. Cops is a real favourite here, being one of the biggest characters in racing, but I think it is fair to say not everything has been straightforward for him since his 2015 Cheltenham Festival win for Nicky Henderson. Niggles and issues have plagued him, but he has blossomed in recent weeks, and showed us light at the end of the tunnel when finishing 2nd at Newcastle in January. Upped to three miles here, and about as far from Cheltenham as we could drive him, he pulled like a train for Richie McLernon in the early stages, before getting a belter of a ride after the last fence, claiming a neck victory (Cops doesn’t like to be too flamboyant..) The trainer’s wife was probably the happiest she’e ever been, the trainer was as relieved as hes ever been, and the jockey – well, the jockey was the reason he won. Cops is delighted with himself and has been parading round the yard like he owns it, and pulling harder than ever on the gallops. Again, and a theme of the year – patience pays.
Manamite was next, and he looked seriously good pre-race. Another horse who has had his problems, we were over the moon when he won in December, before he finished an OK 4th at Sedgefield in January. However, he felt to have improved a ton at home, and he certainly showed that here, skipping across the faster ground and jumping with zest behind a field of horses going flat to the boards. Richie and him were in no rush to join the charge until the last, where they bolted through the pack to win by a convincing 6 lengths. This was our first ever double for J.P. McManus, and a really special day for the whole yard.
Finally for February, we had nice three year old gelding called Sandret make his debut for The Ben Haslam Racing Syndicate, again at Newcastle over 6 furlongs. His lad Grant thinks the world of him, and kept telling anyone who would listen that it would win first time out. Going off at 20’s, he duly obliged the faith, and was given a peach by Cam Hardie to leave a good impression on anyone watching. He has taken his time, but we are looking forward to the future with him, as he is still quite a frame of a horse. Exciting times!
So, 11 winners by the start of March. A huge thank you to Darren, Grant, Faye, Martin, Mia, Callum, Rabjohn, Graham, Claire and Sophie who have made it all happen. Lets hope the rest of 2019 continues at the same pace!
Until next time,