It has been a really interesting week, and I'm not just talking about the horseracing.
Those of you who know me will know that I have had involvement with racing syndicates for a number of years, starting off with the White Diamond Syndicate and a couple of their early horses, one of whom took me into the post-race enclosure for the first time at Plumpton - our little mare came 2nd. Then I was with Middleham Park Racing and a gelding bought at the Horses-in-Training sale called Almuheet. This gelding did everything bar win, and then - when we thought winning wasn't on the cards - up he pops and wins well at 13/2. It meant that when we sold him we recovered our investment, but I had hoped for a better ending.
Next on the cards was Cribbs Causeway who was introduced to me by Nick Bradley. and this filly took me to the very heights of racing, winning 5 times. I endeavoured to replace her with another filly, Great Dame, again provided by Nick Bradley, and she managed a couple of wins including the "Lily Agnes" Stakes at the Chester May meeting - what a day that was! I've struggled to find a replacement for Great Dame as - living in Brighton - I do like to be able to include stable visits and take part in life outside the racecourse, and Great Dame was trained in Yorkshire.
As such, last year I approached local National Hunt trainer Nick Gifford who trains on the South Downs at nearby Findon. He didn't have a space on the Racing Club (20 members only) at the time, but offered me a share - the last one - in a mare he had that was just about to run in her debut bumper at Warwick, Rose Of Aghaboe. I wasn't too sure, as the cost of the 5% share was more than I was expecting to make and thought I'd just wait and see how she got on. Wrong move! She only went and won at 40/1 - that share was well and truly sold before she'd returned to the winners enclosure. On Monday, Rose Of Aghaboe won again, only this time it was in the Josh Gifford Memorial Trophy race at Plumpton. In the past 12 months, she's strengthened-up and looks every inch a mare going places as she should with her dam being a half-sister to the Sussex National winner and winner of the Haydock Grand National Trial in 2013, Well Refreshed. And that came at the end of a fantastic few weeks for Nick Gifford, which started when Jungle Prose won at Warwick on 22nd September for the Nick Gifford Racing Club, which I was invited to join from 1st February this year. Jungle Prose has run again since, over hurdles at Exeter, showing great promise; and our other "club" horse Mystic Dreamer ran well despite not enjoying the ground at Lingfield on Thursday. Fingers crossed for their future. Trainers like Nick Gifford are the life-blood of the industry, and if you can support them, please do. There is nothing quite like going racing, and the camaraderie on-course between owners is unbeatable - there's no such thing as a loser!
I've also been involved in a bit of pinhooking, but more of that on another blog in the future.
Cheltenham on Saturday see's racing return to the epicentre of National Hunt. It's early days to be having a "proper" punt on the horses over jumps, but it's always worth keeping your eye in. My bread & butter is staying chases, and the 3m1f chase handicap at 3:50pm looks a cracker. Old favourite Frodon, still only 8yo, heads the field with 11st 12lb giving away 17lb the the next horse in the handicap, West Approach who was 2nd in this race last year. If West Approach could not win this off OR140 then I can't see him doing so off OR147. As for Frodon, I'm sure he will have his supporters, but he earned his OR164 rating racing over 2m5f and not 3m1f. Cogry, who was 3rd last year, also returns on a higher rating and I can't see the 11yo winning this. Bob Mahler pulled-up in this race last year, and he may again need the run, and I think his target this season is the Grand National, he looks perfect for it. Manofthemountain went into a lot of notebooks when he won LTO at Bangor, but the close 2nd and 3rd have both let that form down since, and for me there is a questionmark as to whether he was due another hike in the handicap to OR137. On Wednesday, I went through the form and came up with just the one horse who ticked all the boxes. He was 16/1 at the time, and I advised my close friends to take advantage of a chaser who has won at Cheltenham over 3m2f, has never fallen in 26 chase races, and while slipping from a rating of OR153 to OR140 he's still only 8yo. COBRA DE MAI was 6th behind The Conditional in the Ultima Handicap Chase at the Festival last March. In his 26 chase races, he's run over 3-mile (or further) just 7 times, and when rated below OR145 he's always been on the premises if not winning. He wsa given a pipe-opener at Fontwell over 2m5f and I think Dan Skelton has had this race in mind since March. He is the preferred ride of Harry Skelton, with Bridget Andrews taking the ride on Captain Chaos - who Harry Skelton rode last year!
I'm glad I took the 16/1 earlier this week on COBRA DE MAI, but I may have a forecast on the Skelton pair to finish 1st and 2nd as well. Good luck.