First of all, a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all! I understand I am a bit behind the times, but it was my 15th Birthday and I’m getting a little forgetful in my old age! Cops got put through his paces by Santa on Christmas Day, and acquitted himself well – hopefully Santa left him an extra gear for 2019!
The Festive period has been a truly joyous one here at Castle Hill Stables, and to be honest we have all been celebrating far too much, leaving very little time to put hoof to paper! However, I am going to really enjoy writing this report as we are currently a bunch of happy, healthy, winning horses !
Our aim at the start of 2018 was to get to 100 winners and beat last years total of fifteen, and I think it is fair to say we smashed this with an excellent late year surge, particularly with our lovely National Hunt boys!
It was our stable star Castle Hill Cassie (right) who got the ball rolling at Wolverhampton, where she was lining up in a decent Fillies Condition race. This was the 2nd of her three runs she needs to qualify for the All Weather Championships, and first aim was getting her home safely with this in mind. As ever the underdog in the betting despite her consistency, she once again belied her odds to sweep through with an exhilarating late charge under Graham Lee to land the spoils by a head. I think it is fair to say that the celebrations from Head Lass Faye who looks after her were suitably over the top, and could be heard back in Middleham! We were delighted to see her claim victory for new owners David Howden, Steve Lock and David Redvers, and the handicapper rated it a career best performance, pushing her mark up to 100. She has since followed this up on the 2nd January with a very good 2nd after meeting some trouble, and will now have a short break so she can go to the Fillies and Mares Championship a fresh horse. Excitingly, she is also pencilled in to visit the very exciting Zoustar before this he has been setting the racing scene alight in Australia, and will now be having his first season shuttling to Tweenhills Stud.Typically, Cassie thinks he should be honoured to have her as his hot date and is rather shocked that he wants to see other mares at the same time!
December saw our green and gold boys for J.P. McManus absolutely excelling themselves, and they made Christmas an absolute joy. Bouvreuil (left) set off to Wetherby for his first start for us, and to be totally honest we weren’t sure what to expect. He clearly has a ton of ability in his homework, but is exceedingly soft, with even the slightest touch of wind being enough to send him into total meltdown! He was pretty much unconsidered in the betting in what looked a warm contest over 2 miles, and Alain Cawley was supersubbing in the saddle for an absent Richie McLernon. Plan A was to settle him out the back and get his confidence back after a couple of runs that went all wrong for him last year, but Bouvreuil as ever had his own ideas, and quickly pulled himself to the prominence. He was cantering all over his rivals at the last fence, before winning cosily by just over a length. He had an absolute ball, and thought he was King Kong after this! Thinks didn’t go quite his way in his run after Christmas, but he is likely to be put away now before a bigger target in the Spring.
Next up was Manamite (right), a horse we have all got very fond of here. Lightly raced, he has had problems with his heart fibrillating at his previous yard, but we have tried to keep him very chilled at home. His first run for us was in some ways disappointing, as he gallops like a very good horse at home, but in a much bigger picture fantastic, as his heart remained normal. After this run, he came to life on Middleham Gallops, and was a whole new horse to be around. Again unfancied, we were quietly hopeful that he has got back the confidence needed, and he quickly proved this to be true under an ice cool Richie McLernon. Finding the good ground to the outside, he travelled strongly, before getting into a right battle up the Hexham hill, claiming victory by a head for a very determined Richie! The two miles is probably a little sharp for him, but we were over the moon to see him break his maiden tag over hurdles, and are now very much looking forward to the future with him.
Finally for December, Rock On Fruity (left) headed to Newcastle, where supersub Alain was in the drivers seat once more. The most unfancied of the lot, you would have thought his leg had fallen off in the parade ring, but luckily Fruity had no idea of this insult!He travelled sweetly out the back, though Alain deserves a medal for sitting a few of the more interesting ‘jumps’ – like the girl with the curl, when hes good hes very good, but when hes bad hes awful! Coming round the home turn, we all started getting a bit excited, and were duly proved correct as he hosed up on only his second start for us. Grant, who rides him most days, was doubly delighted as he had kept the faith at 40/1! The handicapper has been a little cruel since, but hopefully he remains in good heart and will have gained some confidence from that.
So, the close of 2018 gave us plenty of satisfaction, and in our own little way it has been a bit of a breakthrough year: 20 winners, by far our best season prize money wise over both codes, and our first Listed winner! We are so grateful for all the support we have received from our wonderful owners this year, and hope we can continue to reward them for that support with plenty more winners in the future. A huge thank you to all our staff for working so relentlessly hard for us – it makes such a difference in a small yard when everyone pulls together, and this years results have been a real testament to the team at home.
Heading into 2019 felt a little nervewracking, as we are trying to set the bar a little higher each year, and you always have that slight panic about where your first winner is going to come from! We just hit the crossbar on the 2nd January when Cassie finished a gallant 2nd, but I am delighted to say we didn’t have long to wait to move off the big 0! Rey Loopy (right) went to Newcastle the same night, where we were hopeful of another good run after he finished 2nd there in the middle of December. Loopy is one tough, genuine boy, as he has had his own issues and has been a little below his former self his last few runs for reasons not of his own fault. However, he was looking a million dollars at home, and him and Andrew Mullen created magic together, coming off the pace to win by an effortless two and a half lengths. His owners Daniel Shapiro, David Clifford and Derek Barclay have been so patient waiting for him to come back to himself, and this performance was right back up to his best. They are also some of our favourite owners, and all know how to throw a good party, so we were delighted to have our first winner of the new year for them! It was a truly heartwarming start to the year, and if it continues in this fashion we will be a very happy yard indeed!
Until next time,