It’s time to get back blogging.
The Flat season is done and dusted, well almost, just keeping an eye on those AW maidens especially runners from the Gosden, Haggas and Varian yards.
I decided this year that I would see the Flat season through until the end and start my National Hunt season with Clonmel Oils day and the Cheltenham November (Open) meeting when there may be some relevant form available. I am going to post this blog on simplesimonsays49.wordpress.com and on startracking.wordpress.com and then all my jumping blogs will be on the latter site.
Train of Thought
The upcoming three days at Cheltenham and two days at Punchestown signal the start of the “core” jumping season and I expect still to be writing more in my Notebook than on betting slips. Every race will be reviewed through the prism of the Cheltenham Festival. Many trainers will be looking to get their face on TV to raise their profile and spout on about their latest “live Festival chance” but obviously they will “take it one race at a time”! Here is my take on where the leading trainers are and what their targets are for this season.
Willie Mullins Simple. He HAS to be Champion trainer in Ireland. His Closutton stables still have the greatest depth of serious all round talent. It’s Achilles heel may be the three mile chase division but I’m sure he’ll rectify that in the next couple of seasons. He will target four major meetings, Leopardstown at Christmas, the first weekend of February for the NH version of Irish Champions weekend plus the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. How close the pesky Gordon Elliott is at the end of March will decide whether he goes to Aintree. Huge assets in Ruby Walsh and Paul Townend and the return of Faugheen and Douvan’s trip the major talking points.
Gordon Elliott A serious player where ever he turns up. With the support of the Gigginstown Mounted Cavalry he is very strong in the 3m+ chase division and the supply pipeline to get there, so bumpers, staying novice hurdles, novice chasers from 2m4f upwards with other stars including Apples Jade, Cause of Causes and Petit Mouchoir. He will target the same four meetings as Mullins plus the Irish Grand National is a big race for Gigginstown.
Nicky Henderson Traditional, orthodox, vastly experienced and often an iron fist in a velvet glove. He has a solid all round team with three big guns in Buveur D’Air, Altior and Might Bite.
Paul Nicholls The man is driven. I wouldn’t want to even play Scrabble against him, he is competitive with a capital ‘C’! This season he has a large squad of novice chasers as he searches for the “next big thing”. Has a formidable team of jockeys in Sam Twiston-Davies, 19yo Harry Cobden, Sam Bowen especially at 10st and claiming 7lbs, Bryony Frost.
Philip Hobbs 100 winners and a £1 million in prize money, regular as clockwork. This season will be spiced up by Defi du Seuil and possibly Gumball and Hobbs will want a Festival winner.
Alan King 100 winners and a £1 million in prize money but I just have a feeling Mr King has developed a taste for the Flat? Big handicaps and a Festival winner high up his targets.
Nigel Twiston-Davies Hardly ever out of form who just churns out winners all season. Would love to have a Saturday horse or two to back up Bristol de Mai. Healthy competition in the shape of Fergal O’Brien across the road!
Dan Skelton He isn’t hungry for winners, he is ravenous. A chunky chip off the Nicholls block. 100 winners and a £1 million in prize money was the target but he could do that by Christmas! He wants to be in amongst Henderson and Nicholls. Pressure to get a Festival winner. Busy yard, where most horses are ridden by the trainer’s brother, Harry, and the trainer’s girlfriend, Bridget Andrews!
Harry Fry All about quality this yard. Patience is the by word. Fry and Fehily are a perfect match. American and UnowhatImeanharry are the stables leading lights. Not afraid of a handicap or two.
On the Up
Neil Mulholland – Tom George – Ben Pauling – Fergal O’Brien
Solid, competent yards who are media savvy and I would expect all four to do better than they did last season. Quite willing to take on the Powerhouses, can think outside the box and place their horses well.
Dr Richard Newland – Kim Bailey – Graeme McPherson
Make the most of what they have. Dangerous men when the money is down.
State of Flux
Colin Tizzard Last season he was on the verge of joining the Powerhouses but the recent deaths of leading owners Ann and Alan Potts will make this November Cheltenham meeting emotional as we wait for news of the top notch Potts horses. Cue Card has been a wonderful servant but is close to a final hurrah, Thistlecrack is on the way back from injury. As far as I am concerned the sooner Joe Tizzard takes over at the helm the better. Stable strength would be much reduced without the Potts aeroplanes.
David Pipe Just 80 horses at Pond House these days. Currently the yard is in good form but the Saturday winners have dried up. Moon Racer and Un Temps pour Tout are still in the yard but the Tinsdall money has not reaped the rewards! Stable jockey Tom Scudamore seems to be making new connections plus plenty of outside rides and is the writing on the wall?
Jonjo O’Neill My winter version of Mark Johnston!!! Can’t read him at all. Has just about the best facilities in Britain, a McManus conveyor belt of top horse flesh but seems to be in form for four days a year, maybe. I’m not Barry Geraghty’s biggest fan either. Anyone who could give me “Ten Jonjo horses to follow” is a friend for life!
Warren Greatrex – Charlie Longsdon – Donald McCain – Sue Smith
McCain is fighting his way back to the top table and I think best when sending his horses north from his Cheshire yard.
Longsdon was almost at top table four or five years back but just doesn’t have the owners. JJ Burke signing as stable jockey should be a positive. Whole set up lacks ‘X’ factor.
Warren Greatrex could have gone in the “On The Up” pigeon hole as well as the Shrewdies section and is surely just a couple of top horses from cracking it. The Worlds End? Any yard that has Tessa Greatrex/Highflyer buying for it, the McNeill family among the owners and Richard Johnson and Gavin Sheehan riding for it surely has to be taken seriously!
The Smiths are terrific with Danny Cook’s aggressive style in the saddle a good fit. They jump and they gallop but some would say they could benefit with a bit more time between races.
I will come back to this theme of Trainers targets, aims and ability. Yet to mention the “Taffia”, the Girls, the dual purpose boys and the resurgent North!