On Saturday, I was lucky enough to head down to Dorsetshire for a day at Anthony Honeyball's stables. He's had a cracking striker rate since 2008, and reckons he has his best squad yet, including a live Cheltenham Festival hope, for this season.
Below is my interpretation of the notes in his owners' catalogue allied to Anthony's comments in the stable parade. You'll note a horse named The Geegeez Geegee in amongst this list - he is a new syndicate acquisition running, strangely enough, in the geegeez.co.uk colours, and we're quite excited about him!
Anda de Grissay - Bought at the Arqana sale in France back in July, Anthony really likes this 3yo filly by Network (Sprinter Sacre's sire). She's an exciting athletic type and she'll be running in a juvenile bumper in about three weeks time, perhaps at Exeter on 22/10. Hopes are high for a winning debut.
As de Fer - A good horse that has suffered a fair few problems in recent times, and missed much of last season as a consequence. Now back and going well, he's expected to pay his way in soft ground staying chases (2m5f to 3m)
Chantara Rose - She's been waited with, and not rushed, and the team hope that will pay off, with her immediate future - starting at the end of October or thereabouts - expected to be in mares' only bumper races.
Chill Factor - A smart horse who hacked up in a Ffos Las bumper at the third time of asking, having been backward on his first two starts (both placed). He'll run in a bumper in a couple of weeks and then go novice hurdling, for which he's rated a "decent prospect".
Danimix - Out for the season with a split pastern.
Desert Queen - Granddaughter to the excellent chase mare, Dubacilla. She's one to watch in bumpers, but won't be rushed and may not be seen until next year.
Dorset Naga - Named after a locally grown very hot chilli, this chap might run as soon as next Saturday at Fontwell (where he has won before), and Anthony hopes he'll be able to win off his current mark of 115, and make up into a better horse than that over the rest of the season.
Double Accord - Still a baby and shown very little in three runs to date. Not sure where she'll go next but she may need time (and she may simply be no good)
Eleven Fifty Nine - Good enough to win the Listed mares' bumper at Aintree two seasons back, she was a bit disappointing last term, and has had a wind op since. She'll start out in mares' Listed hurdles and may go chasing at some point.
Estibdaad - Subject of a gamble last time out, the plot was foiled by a troubled passage, though a late lunge into the places saved the day from an each way perspective. The cat is out of the bag now, so he won't be much of a price next time, but should win very soon. Has entries for Kempton and Southwell this week.
Fountains Flypast - Four wins and two thirds from ten starts for the stable landed this chap a rating of 130. He got struck into on the last of those wins back in September 2011 and hasn't been seen on the track since. He'll start this term over hurdles before being "a certainty" for a beginners' chase in due course.
Fountains Mary - She's still a bit backward but was good enough to win a bumper on her debut last term. She'll go novice hurdling this term, and will probably be kept to mares races. Might need a bit of time to get it together.
Hes Our Lad - A strong traveller who is just a bit one paces / weak finisher. He travels so well that he's now racing off a mark of 133. Despite that he was able to win his last two races prior to a year off after an injury. Now back, he will continue to mix it between hurdles and fences at two miles.
Horace Hazel - A handy type who should make his presence felt in a bumper soon. He's a half brother to the stable's bumper winner, Taradrewe.
Jackie's Solitaire - She's been a good servant to the yard, winning four races including two nice chases last year. She'll be running in handicap chases this season and, if kept mainly to small fields, she could win again even though she's considered high enough in the weights just now.
Jaja de Jau - A short runner (just not quite lasting out) this Summer, she's now had a wind op and that - combined with a lowly rating of 91 - could be enough to see her scramble home in an ordinary low grade handicap hurdle. I actually quite like this mare, and I think she will win off her current mark.
Lily Waugh - Won an Irish point before being snapped up by AJH at the Newbury sales. She then finished second on her only start last term, in a Ffos Las bumper. The winner has won again since, and Lily could run as soon as next Saturday at Fontwell in a bumper. She's a "really nice mare".
Man Of Leisure - A beast. You know all about this fellow already. Bought as a 20 race maiden rated 95, he's now won five of seven hurdle starts - and been second in the other two - and is currently rated 139! That's a rise of 44 pounds, which is almost Hunt Ball-esque! (Actually, that one rose an astonishing 88 pounds in the weights, from 69 to 157. Incredible.) He's still a novice over hurdles, due to not winning before this season and Anthony may run him in a novice race at Cheltenham at some point, before reverting to chasing, where he's been intensively schooled.
Marie Des Anges - Won four last term and yet is still rated just 113. Anthony thinks that's a very fair mark and that she's really well handicapped. Wants it soft, and around two and a half miles is optimal.
Midnight Minx - A frustrating yet very talented mare, she'll be aimed at some of the better mares' novice hurdles, and might be out as soon as 13th October at Ffos Las if the ground is ok. She's expected to be up to Listed class by season end.
Move Along - Out of a decent mare (What A Mover), she's been placed in both her bumpers to date. She's another who will go the mares' novice hurdle route in due course, though ideally winning a bumper before then. Ready to run, having been given plenty of time since those two starts.
On The Move - Closely related to Move Along, and has two of her required three hurdle runs to qualify for a handicap mark. Should win in handicap company during the winter.
Oscarteea - An expensive purchase (€65,000), he's been a close second in two good bumpers. He's still a big baby and will make a lovely chaser in time. A lot more to come from him.
Regal Encore - The stable flag bearer after finishing second in the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival last term. Hopes are high he can take top rank in the novice hurdling division this year, but he'll likely start off in a little novice hurdle somewhere before moving up the grades. Will be ready to run within the next three weeks. Has schooled very well. Hugely exciting horse for the yard.
Rouquine Sauvage - A big horse who has had her problems. She might be worth the wait though, and with luck will be seen in a soft ground bumper before too long.
Royal Native - On the small side, he's struggled to find an elusive win after three seconds and a third from nine runs. The plan is to try to find a hurdle race for him, but he's one of the lesser lights most probably. Has three entries next week.
Royale's Legacy - Connections have been patient with this chap, who was ready to run at the end of last season. It was decided to keep him back and allow him to strengthen up a little more, and they will again bide their time with him this term.
Solstice Son - Very well regarded bumper prospect who was third to a highly touted Pipe horse on debut in heavy ground. He couldn't get going on that turf and showed a good bit more when second in a warm Wincanton bumper behind The Skyfarmer. Has improved a lot since then, and he's ready to run in a bumper soon. Shares available for £5,000 for an eighth (!)
Steady Girlfriend - Very lightly raced 8yo, with just two starts - both placed - on the board. She has plenty of options over both hurdles or fences, and will wait to see how she schools over the bigger obstacles before plotting a course for her.
Swincombe Stone - Won his bumper but was then a bit in and out before finishing third on his last hurdle start. He now has a handicap mark of 108, which is perfectly feasible... if he decides to put best hoof forward. One to keep on side.
Taradrewe - She's been disappointing after a decent bumper season (won and then fourth in Listed company). The up side is that she now has a lowly handicap rating, which - if the key can be found - will see her extremely competitive. Won't be rushed.
THE GEEGEEZ GEEGEE - Yes, a horse syndicated through my geegeez.co.uk website, this well bred son of Beneficial was bought at the Goffs Ireland sale. He's a compact athletic sort and has done everything asked of him so far. Will hopefully be running in a bumper before the end of the year.
Velator - Bought unraced at the breeze up sales in 21010, he's won four races, and was unlucky not to win at Cheltenham in April. He'll run in middle distance handicap chases this term and may start off at Wincanton on 17th October. Must have decent ground.
Vicator - Has a mark of just 81 after some lamentable efforts in bumpers and novice hurdles. Has been wind opped and, as he's a very good jumper, he may run in a novice handicap chase first time up. Could be useless, but handicapped to win if there's any ability there whatsoever..!
Victor's Serenade - One of the first store horse youngsters Anthony bought, back in 2009. He cost just five grand, and has won four and been placed in three more of his last nine starts. Had a nasty injury as a result of a poor jump when traveling very well off top weight in a good handicap chase at Chepstow in October last year, and has been off since. He's back to his best now, and the team are excited about a tilt at the Welsh National for this mud-loving stayer.
Wilde Oak - Another Goffs Ireland sale purchase, this 3yo son of Oscar will be given time to mature and may not even run this year. If he does, it will be a bumper probably in the Spring (unless he shows plenty before then).