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I was lucky enough to win a prize in the London Racing Club raffle last month, and the prize was a trip to Lucy Wadham's stable for a tour of the yard, and the horses. Perched in Moulton Paddocks, a leafy corner of Newmarket's Heath, the Wadhams' training centre is a quietly impressive setup overseen by the ambitious and self-assured Lucy.
Here is what she had to say about her team:
Amidon - An expensive (€85,000) purchase from Tattersalls Ireland last Summer, this 4yo son of Dom Alco is being targeted at a bumper before the NH season is through, and will be aimed at novice hurdles next year. He's one to watch out for in time, and is entered in a bumper at Towcester on Friday.
Artifice Sivola - Another 4yo son of Dom Alco, this chap passed through the ring at Arqana for €15,000, having raced four times (twice in bumpers and twice over hurdles). He's since had two novice hurdle runs in Britain as well and, despite having six completed starts, remains un-rated by the handicapper! He will go handicapping in due course, and should win races... depending on his ascribed perch!
Atwix - Cutely named juvenile filly by Sakhee out of Atwirl, she was very cheaply bought and might be a bit of fun for her owners. It's too early to gauge what level of ability she might have, as she's only just started in work.
Baby Shine - One of the stable stars, a winner of six races, the 8yo King's Theatre mare was seriously unlucky not to win a Grade 2 at Limerick last time out, falling at the last when in the lead. She goes on any ground, and is best at around two and a half miles. She has a good chance in a mares' Listed chase at Cheltenham on Thursday.
Bari - By Cape Cross, he's an unraced 3yo who might want a bit of a trip. He's had his niggles and Lucy was unsure as to what level this one might be capable. Very much a work in progress.
Canuspotit - 7yo Nomadic Way gelding, who ran at Stratford on Sunday but found the ground a bit too firm and the trip a bit too short. He's handicapped to win over two and a half miles on the soft side of good. Hurdles form is a bonus as he's seen as a nice chasing prospect for next season.
Courtsider - Well named, as he's owned by the syndicate that had their man arrested for 'coutsiding' in the Australian Open tennis! He's a juvenile by Kyllachy out of a Selkirk mare, and will start over seven furlongs in roughly July time. On breeding, he'll probably want a bit of juice in the ground.
Lady Tiana - 3yo Sir Percy filly, she was fourth in a Doncaster maiden and then third at Lingfield. She's a bit buzzy, and may be a candidate for the hood to calm her down. She's capable of winning from her current mark of 67 and could get further if she learns to settle.
Le Reve - 6yo Milan gelding cost a few quid (€140,000), and has some smart form in novice chases. Has been unlucky to tip up a couple of times, and has run against some of the top novices this season, largely on unsuitably soft ground. Should be a different proposition on good ground, and his rating of 129 is not overly punitive in the context of what he's achieved.
Mary Le Bow - Another Sir Percy filly, this lass was unlucky to be beaten a head in a mile and a half Kempton handicap in February. She'll be stepped up to a bit further, and may run at Redcar on 26th May in a 1m6 maiden handicap, a race which is tailor made for her.
Midnight Macarena - 97-rated chaser, she's got an entry at Southwell tomorrow, but is more likely to run at Chepstow on Easter Monday. Back to a winning mark, two and a half to three miles on ground between soft and good should be ideal.
Minstrels Gallery - Nominated by the trainer as a horse to follow, Minstrel's Gallery is rated 61 on the flat after a win and two seconds in his last three starts. Those are his only three runs for Lucy, and he was unlucky a) to get boxed in, and b) to run into a relative good'un behind Cathedral last time. This 5yo Refuse To Bend gelding is effective at between a mile and a mile and a quarter and could have as much as a stone of improvement in him on his home work.
Noble Silk - Another son of Sir Percy, owned by the same group, Noble Silk has been running really well in Class 2 all weather handicaps at two miles. He's been second the last twice, beaten a head and a half length, and - at the risk of repeating myself - can be considered unlucky in that context. He goes for the Queen's Prize, a valuable Class 2 handicap, on Saturday and has a fair chance of going one better.
Nullarbor Sky - Won two at Yarmouth last year on good to firm ground (1m3f), and will most likely go back there this season. Might go up in trip, he looks to need fast ground.
Pernica - Yet another Sir Percy in the yard, this 4yo filly won a Leicester maiden last season, and is another candidate for a slightly longer trip. She'll probably be aimed at handicaps between a mile and a half and a mile and three-quarters. Rated 73, that may not be beyond her if the longer trip ekes out a touch of improvement.
Rendezvous Peak - Cheaply bought son of Derby winner, High-Rise. He's been given a rating of 108, but may go to Towcester for a 2m5f maiden hurdle on Sunday before taking the handicap route. He wants a trip and good ground to be seen to optimal effect, so the conditions at Towcester could suit, though there are horses rated ten pounds higher in there.
Rising Teal - This fellow was outpaced in a two mile maiden hurdle last week, and wants a stiffer test of stamina to exacerbate a basic lack of gears. Two and a half might be his trip and he could get competitive in handicaps off his current rating of 103.
Road To Freedom - A nice 5yo son of Revoque, he ran third at Stratford on Sunday, despite the track being a bit too sharp for him. He'll be working towards a handicap hurdle when he receives an official rating, and will probably need around three miles. Seen very much as a chasing prospect for next season.
Songsmith - The owners, Team Supreme, have had to be patient with their 6yo Librettist gelding as he's had two years off with injury. He returned in good form, though, when a close second and third at Kempton and Uttoxeter. He's now cherry ripe for what has been his target all year, the Grassroots Final at Haydock on Saturday. It's a £50,000 race, and he goes there with a fighting chance: distance and going look spot on.
Spyder - Owned by Kate Austin, London Racing Club secretary, and Tina Blockley (who bred him too), this chap won a nice novice hurdle despite pulling quite hard in the early part of the race. He went to Fontwell last week and was out of his ground a little when stretching at the second last and coming down. He's fine after that spill and might have one more run before his summer break, but needs a bit of juice in the ground. Rated 124, he remains a lovely prospect.
Watered Silk - One of the most striking horses I've ever seen. A mottled grey, with white stars on his neck so clear they look templated, and giraffe markings on his legs, this fellow is well worth a look if you're ever at the races the same day he is! He's a talented boy too, as a mark of 80 on the flat and 117 over hurdles attests.
Wiesentraum - A nice stout German bred, he won a Class 2 and a Class 3 chase this season, and has been running consistently well on sharp tracks. Trips to Ascot and Aintree found him out, but he'll be a danger once more when reverting to tighter courses. Two and a half to three miles on decent ground could see him win again off 130.
Ziggy's Secret - Precocious enough to win a five furlong maiden as a two year old, this 4yo daughter of Sakhee's Secret was a bit disappointing in two runs last year. But she seems to be showing signs of enthusiasm again now, and many good juveniles 'miss' their vintage year but return to their earlier level at four. It's hope rather than confidence which fuels that perception, but if she shows anything on her seasonal debut, she may be worth following. Will be stepped up to a mile now.
Trainer's one to watch: Minstrels Gallery. Capable of a good bit of improvement on what he's achieved so far, and capable of winning a couple this season.
Matt's two to watch: Watered Silk. A gorgeous looking horse, he has talent as well. I love dual purpose horses, and this chap mixes hurdling and flat at a fair level. He looks sure to win through the summer. And Nullarbor Sky. Horses that act at Yarmouth are worth following at the track, and this chap has scope to improve for a slightly longer trip as well. That combination allied to the usual lightning quick turf there should see him bag a pot or two more.