No, I wasn’t imagining it. For the second time in 15 days, a concluding bumper on a Taunton card was dominated by a female horse trained by Anthony Honeyball and ridden in’s red, black and white colours by Rex Dingle, writes Tony Stafford.

On Saturday January 18, Coquelicot, third time out, had come wide of her Taunton field and drawn five and a half lengths clear of a Paul Nicholls runner. Yesterday, newcomer Windswept Girl travelled the 26 miles from her Dorset base near Beaminster to the Somerset course, this time scoring by 13 lengths.

The only difference this time was the margin as Dingle, sporting breeches denoting his sponsorship by the owner, produced an effort from his five-year-old partner that typified the Honeyball pattern.

Coquelicot had been somewhat atypical, as six of Honeyball’s other eight bumper winners this season had won first time, including Belle de Manech, who beat Coquelicot by almost two lengths when the pair made their debuts at Warwick back in November. She then went on to another second at Newbury before breaking her duck two weeks ago.

Windswept Girl is not the widest-margin debut winner for Honeyball this season. Kid Commando, a point winner, won his first bumper by 18 lengths from the Nicholls-trained Threeunderthrufive at Fontwell. He then was beaten despite running creditably twice in more competitive affairs at Ascot before putting in another wide-margin successful intro, this time in a Plumpton hurdle race. The Fontwell runner-up duly won next time at Chepstow last month, but surprisingly is one of only two Nicholls bumper winners from 27 starters in that sphere this campaign.

Windswept Girl comes second in the Honeyball wide-margin hierarchy. Then it’s Kilconny Bridge, by 12 lengths at Plumpton in December and, since then, already an 11-length hurdle winner second-time over jumps at Chepstow. Midnight Callisto won by eight at Fontwell and You Caught My Eye by seven at Uttoxeter. In all 24 Honeyball bumper runners this season have yielded nine victories at 30 per cent. Only one trainer boasts a better percentage this term. David Pipe has won seven from 21 for 33.3 per cent while only championship leader Nicky Henderson, with ten wins from 38 (26 per cent) has won more races in the category than Honeyball.

The irony of this second bumper win in short order will not have been lost on Matt Bisogno, owner of this site and the supremo of the ownership group. We met, as I related two weeks ago, a few days before Coquelicot’s victory when he was talking about drastically reducing the numbers and stressing “I won’t be buying any more stores”. Well the five-year-old mare Windswept Girl couldn’t have been much more of a store, having only once gone through a sales ring in November 2016, more than three years ago, and leaving it unsold at €5,000.

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I can’t be sure exactly when she became a part of the geegeez team but I seem to recollect a conversation with Matt just after he had agreed to buy her. [June 2018, Ed.] With a couple of wins from the Mick Appleby-trained Forseti also in the bank in the last fortnight, the geegeez boys are certainly flying.

In comparison to Honeyball, some of the top jumps trainers are finding NH Flat wins elusive. Among the beaten horses yesterday, there were runners trained by Harry Fry (two wins from 18), the one-time almost-unbeatable in bumpers Warren Greatrex (three from 27) and, most surprisingly, Colin Tizzard and Philip Hobbs, both winless from nine and 21 runs respectively.

Greatrex has had a quiet winter but victories for Bob Mahler (Saturday) and Gangster yesterday on the valuable two-day Musselburgh card, will have boosted confidence for the remainder of the season.

He was also represented by the tough La Bague Au Roi in Ireland yesterday, and while the mare has not yet come back to her earlier eminence which includes a previous win at Leopardstown, she was far from disgraced in the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, feature event on the two-day Dublin Festival there.

In the leading group throughout, La Bague Au Roi was still in contention coming to the second fence from home. From here she struggled but held on for fifth as Delta Work (Gordon Elliott) beat Kemboy (Willie Mullins) in a thrilling finish with Presenting Percy a revived third and the outsider Jett fourth.  Possibly unlucky when third in the RSA Chase behind Topofthegame (Tizzard) and Santini (Henderson), Delta Work could be the pick of that changing-of-the-guard trio and offers of around 5-1 for next month do not look unrealistic.

Gordon Elliott was also in the winner’s circle after another Gigginstown horse, Darling Daughter, also carrying the first colours but a 25-1 shot despite being an easy winner on bumper debut behind fellow Elliott inmate Bigbadandbeautiful, had too much under Lisa O’Neill for Politesse. Bigbadandbeautiful was carrying the well-known colours of Jupiter Island’s owner, then known as the Marchioness of Tavistock, but now the Dowager Duchess of Bedford.

Yesterday’s favourite had won three times since finishing second in the corresponding race 12 months previously and the owner was logged on the card as Andrew Bedford. Andrew, a long-standing director of Tattersalls, succeeded his late father as the 15th Duke of Bedford and runs the family’s beautiful Woburn Abbey estate as well as the bloodstock interests.

There was another Gigginstown runner, this time trained by Joseph O’Brien, and also at much shorter odds than the winner. Castra Vetera, a winner on debut at Fairyhouse in November, disappointed in eighth place.

It is interesting to compare the bumper statistics for the three leading Irish trainers this term. Normally Willie Mullins is almost invincible so for him to have dropped below his five-year strike-rate of more than 30 per cent, down to 25 with 17 wins from 69 runs is almost unconscionable. Elliott has the most bumper wins this season, but his 24 victories from 125 representatives is a relatively low 19 per cent. The best percentage figure is held by Joseph O’Brien. His 16 wins from 51 runners are marginally better than Honeyball’s UK figure, 31 compared to 30.

Saturday at Leopardstown had been a celebration with some of the best Irish candidates for Cheltenham showing their credentials. Chacun Pour Soi, Notebook and Honeysuckle all won, although the unbeaten Honeysuckle’s narrow margin of success over the outsider Darver Star did not please every onlooker. A quick perusal of Darver Star’s rapidly-improving profile for trainer Gavin Cromwell reveals it almost uncannily echoes the quick rise last season of the ultimately ill-fated Champion Hurdle winner Espoir D’Allen. I wouldn’t mind, in a confused market, a little of the 25-1 about him.

A string of long-priced winners wrapped around Delta Work and the day’s most generously-received winner, the 12-year-old Faugheen, forging a new career as a chaser with a characteristically-gallant win over Easy Work in the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase. If he could go on to Cheltenham and win, five years on from his Champion Hurdle victory, there won’t be a dry eye, or throat, in the house.

For the rest it was 14/1, 12/1, 33/1 and the concluding 25’s. Let’s hope the boyos saved a little for next month!

- TS

Never say never. I had lunch last week with a good friend, who also happens to be the owner of this website and editor of these weekly offerings, writes Tony Stafford. Analysing the state of play with his various syndicated horses, he said: ”Over the next few months we will be cutting back and moving on most of the horses. Recently one was put down and another retired. One thing I can tell you, I won’t be buying any more stores.”

Project forward a few days and at Taunton on Saturday, the four-year-old filly Coquelicot (French translation “Poppy”) started 1-2 for the concluding bumper and romped away from 13 opponents to win by five and a half lengths. The daughter of Soldier of Fortune, bought by his trainer Anthony Honeyball with Matt Bisogno (Italian translation “need”), as well as Ron Huggins and Ryan Mahon on the inspection committee, as a yearling at Arqana in November 2017 for €26k has probably caused some re-evaluation after this spectacular win.

I say spectacular advisedly. The runner-up was a Paul Nicholls debutant, a year older than Coquelicot and almost three times (68k) as costly. The extended distances back to the fifth in a field of 14 were 4.75, 7 and 5.5 lengths.

The form of her first two runs, second places at Warwick to a stable-companion and then Newbury in fillies-only Junior bumpers, has not been endorsed by either winner on their next starts; but, in fairness, in each case running with promise stepping up to Listed class. But the third horse from Newbury, Hughie Morrison’s Maridadi, five lengths behind the Honeyball horse over a mile and a half, won by that margin at Wetherby last weekend.

Maridadi’s victory was one bright note in Matt’s gloomy mood when we met in time for the special breakfast menu in the Well Street Kitchen, London E9, just before the 11 a.m. cut-off point. (I note McDonalds have now altered their Breakfast times to 11 a.m. to fall in line with the Kitchen).

When Matt first told me about that purchase and the fact he was syndicating her among some of his usual adherents, he was particularly excited about her pedigree and the fact that she would have a residual stud value even if she proved to be of limited ability.

She is a daughter of the dual purpose, Ireland-based Coolmore National Hunt stallion, Soldier of Fortune, himself Irish Derby winner and Arc third for Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien. His best two Flat-race products are both owned by Alan Spence. Fire Fighting and Soldier In Action were (and in the case of the former, still is) trained by Mark Johnston. Soldier In Action also took high rank as a young hurdler with Nicky Henderson.

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The real gem in Coquelicot’s pedigree is the fact that she is half-sister to Heartbreak City, the four-length winner for Tony Martin of the 2016 Tote-Ebor and then next time out runner-up by a head to Almandin in the Melbourne Cup in which Big Orange and Wicklow Brave finished miles behind.

There are plenty of jumping performers close up in her pedigree and I’m sure Matt and his cohorts, not least the trainer who does so well with bumper horses, will have ambitions of bigger and better things. The way she strode on up the home straight at Taunton suggests, when she goes hurdling, two and a half miles will not trouble her, but she looks to have the speed to cope with shorter. Who knows, maybe she could even switch over to the Flat later in her career. I’m sure Matt wouldn’t mind winning a million-pound Ebor in a couple of years.

As I said earlier, Matt, never say never. As Mr Bisogno hovered over the counter while generously settling the bill on our departure from the Kitchen last week, he confided that while bisogno means “need” in Italian, it is more colloquially the term used when a person is desperate for the toilet. Matt seemed desperate for a change of luck with his horses. He got it. Poppy was certainly a friend in need.

As is often the case with my peregrinations, I happened totally accidentally on Coquelicot and her race and wouldn’t have noticed it (didn’t see it live) if I hadn’t been on an early-morning quest to get translations for some of the more obscure French names, usually for the AQPS-bred animals that are so liberally sprinkled in UK and Irish jump racing.

It was sparked by the clash between Defi Du Seuil (Challenge of (or on?) the threshold) and Un De Sceaux (One of the seals, no not the mammal) in the Clarence House Stakes. I agree with most received wisdom that even if Altior can be brought back from his mid-season misfortunes, I’d expect Defi Du Seuil to beat him in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. We also had Domaine De L’Isle (self-explanatory) winning at Ascot for the underrated Sean Curran while the disappointing Pic D’Orhy (snow-covered peaks of Mount Orhy in the Pyrenees) flopped behind Thomas Darby.

Over at Haydock, Le Ligerien (person from the Loire basin in France) won the opener from Flamboyant Joyaux (we can all work that one out) with Vengeur (avenger) De Guye (who knows who that is?) a well-beaten fourth.

Then yesterday at Thurles, perhaps my favourite of the weekend’s Frenchies, La Lavandiere (the washer-woman) was unplaced.

It’s one thing to have French horses running. It’s another to pronounce the names through a two-mile race with any degree of accuracy. Simon Holt, as one would expect, was spot on with Sceaux and Seuil, but others on the BHA commentating strength are less secure. No names, as Mr Bolger might have observed.

One name I will put forward for special admiration is Sky Sports Racing’s French expert Laurent Barbarin, whose knowledge of the sport in his native country is exceptional. He is the biggest plus – apart from the wonderful Alex Hammond – of the deal which prised Irish racing away from At The Races (now Sky) forcing them to put major emphasis on France. He is clearly vastly experienced in all facets of the sport and his initial hesitancy in his use of English is now much more assured, at the same time highly enjoyable with his semi-Inspector Clouseau delivery.

This morning I was recapping an event of January last year when the horse that according to Barbarin was “France’s best four-year-old hurdler of 2018” came to Plumpton and won in a canter. Unfortunately Master Dino, sportingly aiming at Cheltenham after a stellar two seasons’ racing in France – 18 races and nine wins exclusively at Auteuil – suffered an injury during the race and has not been sighted since. Can you imagine, running a top-class horse 18 times over jumps in 20 months? Still it was shocking luck for Guillaume Macaire and Messrs Munir/Souede that one run outside his comfort zone would have such repercussions.

Next Saturday all roads as the clichés always used to say, lead to Cheltenham and the Trials Meeting. This is my time for the annual homage to Tangognat’s win in the race which is now all of 34 years ago. Sadly he never reached his full potential, but I noticed that Terry Ramsden, who bought into the horse with me before the race, had his 68th birthday yesterday so hopefully is still going strong though no longer participating in ownership.

Did I hear you say: “That’s nothing?” Well, amazingly, nowadays it isn’t. Two Kentucky stud owners of my acquaintance, Alice Chandler of Mill Ridge Farm (at whose pre-Keeneland sales party I first met Virginia Kraft Payson, owner of St Jovite) and Josephine Abercrombie of Pin Oak Stud, both celebrated their 94th birthdays on the same day last week.

Without my meeting Alice, Jim Bolger would never have trained Virginia’s 12-length Irish Derby and six-length King George hero. Ms Amercrombie had success with some classy horses trained by Sir Mark Prescott. Earlier in her varied life she had been a highly-successful boxing promoter in the United Stakes. Two (or if you add their younger counterpart Virginia) three formidable women and all breeders of top horses. Long may they enjoy their later years and they certainly give hope to those of us coming up in the fast lane towards that time of life!

- TS

A little later than planned, I'm delighted to share this comprehensive tour of the Anthony Honeyball yard's horses for the 2018/19 National Hunt season. As always, Anthony - whose yard sponsors - was extremely generous with his time, and his extensive thoughts can be found below. He has a really promising group of horses, with a focus on quality over quantity and an individual eye to detail across the entire team.

Plenty of tracker types, starting with last year's excellent bumper horse...

Acey Milan

AJH:                   Yeah. Obviously, he's a lovely horse. He's got two listed wins, fourth in the champion bumper, and they don't come much better than him in bumpers.We've done plenty of schooling with him. We're hoping to hit the season running with him in a maiden hurdle. We know he goes on soft ground, so we'd rather keep him on nice, safe soft ground through the best part of the season.

Our dream is that he goes and wins a novice or a maiden and then, come Christmas time, we go for the Challow hurdle at Newbury would be our plan, but just because he's a very good bumper horse, it doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be a top hurdler. But I think he should make the transition very well and I think early season target is the Challow if we can get him out and, like I say, hit the ground running and show us that he's a decent horse straightaway.

MB:                    How's he taken to hurdles?

AJH:                   Yeah, very well. We did a lot of… We did plenty of slow, background stuff, like going outside, lots of poles in the indoor school just to get the technique really solid and he's very… Yeah, he's one that he'll certainly have a go and then he's not going to be afraid to do the job. He's brave, so we're just kind of giving him… Getting his technique as good as possible in the indoor school and then now we're coming to the point where we're just doing plenty of schooling outside. This will be his second school outside in the autumn.


AJH:                   The dam, Eleven Fifty Nine, meant a hell of a lot to us. We won a Listed bumper at the Aintree Grand National festival with her. His dam won a listed race there, she was third in a Listed race at Sandown as well, so we picked him up as a foal. We'll just see what we've got. We're hoping to run him in a juvenile bumper and if that happens, that'll be great, and if it doesn't, we'll get him in a normal bumper, but he couldn't be doing any more than he's doing at the minute. He's just doing two canters and the odd bit of work here and there just to sharpen him up and letting him tell us when he's ready to really put him out there. I know he probably wants an away day some time to go somewhere else and go and have a gallop just to get a bit more experience. But he's very interesting, yeah.

MB:                    Good. Looking forward to him for obvious reasons. [He’s a syndicate horse]


AJH:                   Yeah, we don’t yet know much about her. Her dam normally liked a bit of decent ground. Quite an attractive mare, quite an athletic mare. Only came to us a couple of weeks ago. She just had her first time today and she ran quite nicely in one of her bumpers and showed a little bit of promise. Yeah, so it's a new owner and we'll get her schooled up to go novice hurdling now.

MB:                    And she's a four-year-old, is she?

AJH:                   Yes, she's four.

Avoir de Soins

AJH:                   Yeah, he's… We bought him, we paid quite good money for him at a breeze up sale at Cheltenham. Actually, the same day Ms Parfois won at Cheltenham, so our blood was up when we went to the sale! But he was, fortunately, he was the first one out in the sale. Big, sort of wishy-washy chestnut colour, similar to Ms Parfois, and he was sort of solid and just looked… His breeze was quite good and he just looked a powerful horse by Flemensfirth. Well, we certainly haven't been disappointed with what he's done so far.

I've not seen him do necessarily a serious piece of work with the likes of someone like Ms Parfois, but he's definitely… He's powering off up the gallops and we're quite excited by him. He jumps very well, so he’s got to have a future. I don't know how good a bumper horse he is. I'd say when the mud is flying, he might have a chance of winning a bumper in the deepest, darkest winter with the mud flying as I say, but certainly novice hurdling and chasing will be his game. He's quite nicely bred, he’s out of a sister to a few black type performers. I think he'd be the first runner out of the dam. I don't think there's any relatives going to run before him at the minute, so, yeah, he's very interesting.

MB:                    And who owns him?

AJH:                   Richard Smith, who's a new owner to us. Saw him on the website. We buy a lot of horses on specs and sometimes for quite a lot of… Well, we are afraid to, but if we're not afraid to buy them. Sometimes we're afraid to buy them for quite big money, but at the same time, we just saw that there's lots of good owners out there and we just thought we’ll buy a horse like him on spec and Richard Smith, he came along just at the right time to take it. Took him to view and he was just what he was looking for, so it's very good for everyone. He's got another one that we'll mention later as well.

Déjà Vue

AJH:                   Yeah, Déjà Vue, she's a fantastic jumper at home, she schools very well. She's like a lot of them, she's having a school tomorrow outside on the grass, but her hurdling, she's got very good technique, she really knows what she's up to. Won a point-to-point, won nicely. Just trying to make the decision now, along with the new owners, as to whether we go for a bumper first, which has kind of always been the plan, or whether we use her jumping straight away in the novice hurdling. There's no real right or wrong decision there; it just depends what comes along. She’s by Fame And Glory, and looks a good prospect.

Drops of Jupitor

AJH:                   Yeah, she's a really interesting mare. She won a bumper at Musselburgh, we bought her off the back of that. Had shown a tendency to sort of race off a bit keen and then fall in a heap certainly in her point-to-point, like, the one behind Finian's Oscar. He actually won her point-to-point and she did very well for a long long way and then just stopped very quickly. She went too quick in that. Yeah, she's got that slight tendency. We managed her last season, got a really good win at Exeter, Noel Fehily got a hell of a tune out of her that day, got her really switched off. We've put a lot of time and effort into getting that sorted, but even with that sorted, the problem is these novice hurdles, not many of them are run to suit because they went quite steadily and she had to get involved and then got too involved too early in the race and then fell in a heap at the end of the race. So almost tailor made for a well-run handicap she is, really.

That's why we tried at Sandown and she ran okay in a 50 grand handicap there. That's kind of found her level a little bit, so we're trying this season to kind of let her have own way, pop her out in front. She does jump very, very well. Hopefully, a fence is just what she needs and she sort of just backs off a bit and save a bit of energy.

MB:                    I was going to say that, actually. It might just take the edge of her fizziness with a fence.

AJH:                   Yeah, definitely. She loves the jumping. She's very good at it, technically very good. She might be too good. You hope she kind of goes on and kind of balloons a couple and just kind of settles herself a bit, but it'll be very interesting. She's a hell of a sight, a lovely, big, grey mare, and she'd be some sight over a fence, so we're really looking forward to that. Being that we found her kind of level last season a little bit, we feel that we're more inclined to just let her… We've given her a bit of a chance and educated her, but now we should just let her bowl on and see what she can win doing that really.

MB:                    Yeah, when you say she might be a bit too good, do you mean she's quite economical over her fences?

AJH:                   Yeah. She might just be real flippy. I'm not worried… Well, touch wood, I'm not worried about her getting lower, I just think she might just be just very, very good at it. She's very slick. That's a good thing. You can look at it the other way, if she's very, very slick, she's not going to be backing off and necessarily settling as well. What I really mean is she goes in a bit novicey, hopefully, she jumps well, but she might just back off from them a little bit and just give herself a bit more of a chance. I'm thinking she might just say, "I know what I'm up to here," and just be very quick and sharp, but on the other hand, if she is like that, she'll allow you to buy yourself a breather then you're getting an advantage all the way and you can get a breather somewhere and it can be very tough for novices to go with her. So we'll just see anyway. It should be a bit of fun. Yeah, interesting.

Duhallow Gesture

AJH:                   Yeah, I love her to bits. She's lovely. Really hardy mare. She's won a point-to-point. She did quite a bit of schooling last season, really, early on until we decided she was an out-and-out bumper horse for the rest of the season. Yeah, very good season and probably not thinking we've had a better mare for bumpers than her. Not everything was in line for Aintree, but it was as good as we could get it at the time, but we just didn’t have a clear run with her really. It was quite an effort there.

Anyway, novice hurdling this season and, hopefully, she'll jump. There's a lot of good mares now running in mares, maiden, and novices and we saw the other day at Chepstow you know sort of 16, 18 runner races absolutely littered with really good mares in there. So not going to be so straightforward, but hopefully, we're very hopeful, as the season goes on, she can take high rank amongst the mares over hurdles. And she will jump a fence as well, but I think probably, looking at her, she's not the biggest, so you say hurdling for her is going to be key really.

MB:                    When might she start out?

AJH:                   We're just kind of fine-tuning what we are going to do. There's a dry week ahead, so I suppose it's going to… I'd love to think around the corner, she's pretty much ready to go, but sort of early to mid-November I suppose, depending on weather. [Duhallow Gesture ran 3rd in a smart mares’ novice hurdle at Newbury on 8th November, after this was recorded].

I'm probably being a bit blinkered, I don't have to go against mares, but I just feel with a good mare like that, you would want to really keep to the mares if we can. And so there are some nice… There's a nice race at Newbury over two miles for her, followed up by another one at I think the Ladbroke meeting. Two miles probably isn't her job, but we'll see. We might not get as carried away as that. We might just go for the other opportunities towards Christmas. There's a nice one at Haydock, so we can probably get some experience and then go there, probably be the more likely way we'd go with her.

MB:                    They're both good galloping tracks anyway, aren't they? Two miles just feels a bit further anyway.

AJH:                   Yeah, you can be positive. She's very straightforward, she's very amenable. You can go a good gallop in front or you can drop in a bit. She's very straightforward like that so it makes it easier. It makes it easier if you’ve got a good mare that's versatile and they can win… Of course, she can win one over two miles, so her optimum is going to be two and a half. I don't know about three, but certainly two and a half.


AJH:                   Yeah, bought for hurdling from Criquette Head in France. She's a good solid galloper, was always very handy in those races and just kept on. A little bit one paced, but a good class one pace for sure. Ran well in a Listed race, looked like she'd win it, half a furlong out, and then got swamped late on. So we haven't had her long, like a month now, and again, she’s obviously going hurdling.

She's sister to I think two Group 1 winners. She's half-sister to them and a full sister to a horse that's actually with Neil Mulholland and got to a mark of around 118. So quite a good family, a very good family and sort of jumping form there as well. So yeah, just don't know really. Just got a bit of size and scope to her and start off in mares’ novice hurdles. As I say, she'll probably get three miles but certainly start around two.


AJH:                   Gustavian, yes. We bought him in Ireland over the summer. Yeah, he's a Mahler. There's not much really we can go on at the minute. He's got a sort of reasonable background pedigree-wise. Doing nothing wrong at home, working with Aminutetomidnight. So they're on the same type of path, like they would run in a juvenile, but obviously you’ll run out of time for that quite quickly.But we're hoping we can get them to those types of races. The one at Wincanton springs to mind over two miles; I think it's early December. That might be one we're aiming Aminutetomidnight and Gustavian at and we'll see if they get there. If both get there, then we'll probably let them both have a run for the experience. So we're looking to get them tuned up for those types of races. He was quite forward. Normally, with a lot of the three-year-olds… With Aminutetomidnight, we had him since he was a foal, so we've done a lot with him early in life so we thought we can get them to juveniles. Gustavian, he seemed quite forward when we broke him in over the summer so that's why he's going to be fast tracked a bit more than some of the other three-year-olds.

Hideaway Vic

AJH:                   Yeah, he's a lovely horse. He's probably a mirror-image of the owner's last good horse, Victor's Serenade. They're very similar, they're real mud larks, good stayers. He did better in bumpers. He's not really a bumper horse but he's won a bumper and he was second in two and we just felt that although he wasn't a bumper horse, there's so much heavy ground around and so many bumpers cutting up, we just thought we'd just as well do that within this season and then we’ll know where we are for hurdling this season. So we've looked after him, he jumps great. He's very much a chaser really, long-term, but he's got a good eye for an obstacle and just sort of jumps bold and a bit cocky, but he's a good solid jumper. You can imagine him winning sort of a two mile five maiden hurdle around Towcester in deep ground or something like that.

House Island

AJH:                   I don't know that much yet other than he's done nothing wrong at home, he's working nicely. He is brother to a five furlong group placed, I think Group 1 placed horse, so that doesn’t really… It tells me there's some winners in the family; it doesn't really help me work out whether he's going to win in a bumper or not, but he seems like a bumper horse. He travels okay, he steadies on quite nicely in his work and so we are hopeful. He runs on 9th November at Fontwell. Wouldn't mind good ground. He'd be one of my bumper horses that I would run on good ground, good to soft ground. I'd definitely take the chance then and he probably does want reasonable ground. So yeah, he's going along going well enough so looking forward to running him.

MB:                    He's a four-year-old, is he?

AJH:                   Yes, he's a four-year-old.

Indian Brave

AJH:                   He was with Neil Mulholland before he came to us. He'd run some good races and got some education… He'd learned a lot there and he got some placed efforts. We had him for a short time from Neil and then sort of got him ready for the back end of the season, soft ground maiden hurdle. Had a few issues through the season with Neil, and Neil told me the problems he's had and everything seemed fine and so we ran him once and he won really nicely. And then he had, as soon as we got him back… Well, like a week after we got him back, he did a couple of canters and he got a tendon strain. We gave him, because he's shown us… Because he seemed like quite a nice horse, we thought it's not the end of the world. He probably needs time anyway. These things happen for a reason sometimes, we just thought, all right, we'll take it on the chin; gave him over a year off.

He's come back now, had a few little hiccups along the way over the last few weeks, but he's sound and cantering now and no more tendon issues or anything like that. Just had a few hiccups. But he's a lovely big horse and he probably still wants… Biding his time really. But he'll go straight novice handicap chasing because that's going to be what he's best at and I don't want to waste time risking him over hurdles anymore. We still don't know what we've got. If we go over fences, at least we'll know if there's any other hiccups, at least we'll know what he can do. Certainly, I've had in my head that he could actually be a really decent staying handicap chaser when the mud's flying. He's certainly one that should win over fences.

He's got the biggest feet. I think our farrier commented on it as well. I think he said there's one horse at Colin Tizzard’s that could even hold the likes of him in terms of how big his feet are.

MB:                    Shoe size.

AJH:                   Yeah. I think there's one there that's nearly got as big. He's got massive great feet. As I say, he's got a reasonable set of legs, but compared to the feet, the feet are massive.

MB:                    Is there any truth in that saying that big feet go through heavy ground or is that a load of codswallop?

AJH:                   No, I think it's a myth.

MB:                    Okay. We'll find out maybe.

AJH:                   Maybe big… Yeah, I think it's a bit of a myth. I don't know, we've had all sorts, to be quite honest. We've had all sorts. We've had horses with tiny little feet that don't really look like the type of horse that would go on heavy and they absolutely relished it. We've had horses with big feet that have absolutely hated anything, especially when it got gluey. You think when it gets gluey ground… I suppose when it's wet ground, maybe a big strong horse with big feet might be a thing, but when you get tacky ground, of course, they’ve got big feet to drag out of the mud.

MB:                    Like suction cups!

It's a Lily

AJH:                   I don't know much, but I know the dam. Kevin Glastonbury, he's had quite a lot of success with his horses, they’ve all tended to have wins and, again, the dam he was involved with, the dam in her career, I think she won five. Got to a reasonable rate, she won five and he’s bred this Sulamani filly. She's quite pretty, she's quite athletic, reasonable size, athletic, quite a nice body. She's well made, she's well put together, athletic. Other than that, I don't know a lot, but she's going outside and I think she'll probably be a racehorse. Certainly pleased to have her around and I think she's a nice mare for bumpers this season.


AJH:                   Jepeck, yes. Won 10 point-to-points. Hasn't actually won under Rules but has run very well in defeat, third in the Devon National last season, which actually, I thought was quite a solid race for a 0-125. A good solid race over an extended trip, so three miles six and a half, I think nearly four miles. He's run well in a few of those off of 110. He should be able to win, we might just even go simply just three mile 0-115. Not that big, so even though he’s a small horse, he's a strong medium-sized horse, but he won't be a big horse and carrying big weights. So whether that would work, but you could go sort of 0-115, 0-120 and see if we can go and win one. He's certainly done more than enough already to win one, just hasn't quite had his day. But he'd be one that you would like to maybe do that and then go back to something like the Devon National; have a lofty valuable target to go for after we get an initial win with him really. He goes on soft being by Westerner. As I say, he's had a good career really. He just should have won under Rules, he just hasn’t had that bit of luck.

Le Coeur Net

AJH:                   Yeah. He's coming on well. He schooled really well and he's always jumped well. It’s early days with him still, he didn't quite have the confidence, but he got better and better last season and more consistent. Albeit we've handed him a lot of good opportunities, but they were about and those two mile events for the soft heavy ground horse, which he seems to cope with, which, again, he'd be hardy enough to get through heavy ground, but he quite likes the tempo of the race on heavy ground. Anyway, he jumps well, he did well last season. What gives me a bit of encouragement is the fact we've had a bit of fun for the two or three seconds and a win and there's plenty of those races around again this season and we're still off a mark of 105. So if you add sort of not really necessarily need to, but at some stage, we add in Rex Dingle, our stable conditional’s seven pound allowance, which we'll have most of the season probably, that's a very workable mark.

MB:                    I'm not sure how to put this. He can be quite a hard horse to win with, can't he? He travels well in his races.

AJH:                   Yeah, he would be. When he won, he looked like it was very easy because they all sort of stopped in front of him. Noel Fehily just sort of moseys his way around, never put the ultimate pressure on him and he just let the race come back to him. Ideally, that's what you do every time but, unfortunately, all of these races are different. When Aidan Coleman rode him at Plumpton, we got left in front at the ditch and he went sort of three or four lengths on, looked like the job was done, and then he kind of realised where he was. I'm not saying he wouldn't necessarily have pulled himself up in front, it's just that as soon as you chuck the reins at him, he just seems to curl up under pressure sometimes. I think he's going to get better at that. I think he's going to get… The last one at Taunton, he got passed out into the background at third, I think, that day and then went with the other horses, stopped, but he kept on well enough to actually regain second on the line, so I thought that was a really pleasing effort. Yeah, he's a nice horse to have a bit of fun with over the winter.

MB:                    Yeah. Touch wood he stays sound because, so far, he has. He seems to have been around forever, but he's still only a six-year-old, so there might still be a bit of improvement to come.

AJH:                   And he’s soft as you like. Last season, he got tougher and he took plenty of races and became more consistent and more reliable that he was going to give a good run. Yeah, he is an interesting horse. He might get up to be a 120 horse. If he is and he can then that's going to give us a lot of fun.

Lechlade Magician

AJH:                   Imploded after his easy bumper win but we know why. He had stomach ulcers and we just slightly misjudged it. We had a bit of a look around at horses, particularly him, but there were a few of our horses early season last season. We found he was really bad, which didn't surprise us; that's why he was on the list to look at. We nailed that for his first run and he ran brilliantly and won really well, like a proper horse and then we… We kept a check on him and we kept him on the same regime, but one way or another, they got back on top of him and when we checked him again after Newbury, they were there again and we just never really got on top of the situation after that is the long and short of it.

We're clear at the minute and he's just one you've got to keep a very close eye on, really, for that. We've got him in a good routine at the minute and we think we've got on top of that; he's looking well. He did have a breathing op prior to his racing career, full stop. He did a little bit harsh like that, in his wind, but it doesn't seem to affect him and, as I say, really the only reason he was a disappointment last season was because he obviously… We think he's a half decent horse. A maiden hurdle, goes on heavy ground and loves it and travels well on it and he's a very interesting horse for a maiden hurdle. He's probably a decent horse.

MB:                    Obviously, got to wait for the rain to come with him.

AJH:                   Yeah. He'll run fine on good to soft, he wouldn't care, but it's just to get everything to be more confident, heavy ground and we feel comfortable he'll run on that.

Marilyn Monroe

AJH:                   Sister to Regal Encore and The Organist and so, obviously, you see why we were kind of interested in her. Went up to Cheltenham and she was on the sales list to look at. She wasn't an oil painting, she sort of turned her foot slightly and had a few… Well, she's looks a really nice athletic racey mare, but she's got a few confirmation issues that kind of dragged her points down a little bit. But of course, we were well bought into her before we went there really because of Regal Encore being with us and we know how good they are. That family is a very decent family and so we were very keen to pick her up and we've got her and I paid £50,000 for her and we've syndicated her. She's working nicely, improved beyond all recognition physically, just from the extra time, and we've got her in a good routine and we just got weight on her, and muscle on her, layer upon layer of muscle on her. Delighted with her. She's going very well and they all seem to be smart horses form that pedigree, and we’re just hoping she can be another one.

MB:                    She'll go down to the mare's bumper route, will she?

AJH:                   Yeah, we're definitely going to bumper her this season. I think definitely to start with anyway and we'll have to make a quick switch if she's not quite doing the job. She's won a point-to-point.

MB:                    Regal is fine on top of the ground, isn't he? Would you have a view on her ground preference?

AJH:                   Yeah, we definitely think she's going to want - I think all the family do - on their best day, it's probably sort of good, good to soft, soft at a stretch. Regal's last win at Ascot, a very good valuable race, they called it soft, heavy in places, but it wasn't in a million years soft heavy in places because Ms Parfois got trounced by Black Corton. He goes on rough ground but he really wants good to soft. We think that’s the sort of ground she's going to want. No extremes, she'll be fine.

Your first 30 days for just £1

Midnight Callisto

AJH:                   Yeah, one of Gary Moore's horses, Benatar, is like an uncle to her. We bought her as a two-year-old and loved the pedigree. Ryan Mahon, the agent, was, at one time, The Geegeez Geegee's winning jockey.

MB:                    Indeed. Top lad.

AJH:                   Yeah, he's a top lad. I took him to look at a bunch of two-year-olds there and he said, "This is the only one I'd kind of put forward to you," and so we were delighted when we saw her when she got back to the yard. Nice pedigree. Actually, we may well, because obviously, Midnight Legend, you can't go far wrong normally with Midnight Legend there, had a lot of success with him. She'll go for a bumper and it won't be an early bumper, but it will be a bumper in January, February, March. I think she could be quite decent. We're really quite excited about her.

The other thing we're quite excited about is we may, not confirmed yet, we may be getting her sister, her half-sister by Malinas. She won a point-to-point bumper at Stratford.

Midnight Tune

AJH:                   Again, we bought her privately. Rachael did really. A chap called Paul Forman, a very good man, very good judge of horses, he sort of brought her to our attention as a youngster and we went and looked at her with Rachael and we liked her. I got dragged along kicking and screaming and had a look and she's done remarkably well, really well. We sort of thought we had her at her level and then, last season, she just shocked us really. We ended up stumbling across the fact that she actually handled heavy ground and then she was, obviously, in her element last winter and she's just gone from strength to strength. We thought we were going okay with her, she'd schooled this time last year over fences. We though she was definitely going chasing, that we definitely knew what she was over hurdles, hoping she'd make a much better chaser. Still loved her, but just thought “she is what she is”, she's a 110 horse and she might improve. Then she shocked us when she went over hurdles.

So some really good wins last season, best of which was a Grade 2 at Sandown. Mares’ novices chasing this season and, hopefully, she might like the soft ground and be a really good mare to go mares’ only chasing with. Hopefully, we start that way as we did with Ms Parfois and she might actually open up into then regular novice chases and just start racing against geldings. She might do. She certainly should be very good against the mares anyway.

MB:                    Like you say, she was a big improver last year and that Sandown run was rock solid. She goes from the front a fair bit, doesn't she?

AJH:                   She does and she sat second at Sandown for a fair bit of the race. She's not thrifty like that. She's got her gear and she's happy in that gear wherever that might be in the field. She did achieve more than Ms Parfois as a hurdler against the mares, so there is a chance that she could go the same way. Whether she could ever hope to be as good as Ms Parfois over fences, it's probably asking a lot, but she's as good, at the minute, at the same stage.

MB:                    I think she'll be a very exciting mare to watch anyway, if she's allowed to bowl along in front. If she jumps sort of 80% as well as Ms Parfois, she'll be hard to catch.

AJH:                   Yeah, definitely.

Milan in May

AJH:                   Three-year-old. One we're taking our time with, as is mostly the case with the three-year-olds. Gorgeous horse. He’s obviously by Milan. Out of the, I think he's either out of or his brother is a black type horse. I think he's got a sibling that's a black type horse. And so, really, a reasonable performer in the family, so just a very nice horse and we're just taking him steadily. Wouldn't know anything about him, but he does jump well. We do a lot of jumping with them and when we broke him in, we carried on the education with the jumping and he'll come back to that soon while the pressure is off a bit and then we're getting ready to run in February or March.

Mont Segur

AJH:                   Brother to… Well, a serious pedigree. The sire, French Fifteen, is still unproven, he's probably not necessarily going to get a chance to prove himself in a big way. He's a good horse but it's mainly all about the dam really. The dam was a black type performer. I think she won six. She's produced like six or seven winners, one of which is Terrefort, the Grade 1 winner for Nicky Henderson. Another one is Vino Griego, which is with Gary Moore. I don’t know if he's retired yet, but he's been a very good horse. He came in about last season. He's been a very good horse to them, so another winner, so really serious pedigree.

Again, broken in jumps, taking our time, January, February, March debut. Hope to get a debut January, February because then we're entering the heat qualifiers for the Doncaster Sales Bumper, which is a £50,000 bumper, I think for 24 March. So we'd hope to run him in that event and it's quite a costly process entering that, so we ended up paying £500 if he runs. So they're paying out £150 as we go, a couple of deadlines along the way, and I suppose our aim would be to run him there. I wouldn't be scared to run him in it first time out if we got the education into him. We've done that before and been placed in it, so that's sort of the goal but then have to get a debut into January, February time.

Ms Parfois

AJH:                   Still a touch wishy-washy regarding plans. I'm tempted, if it's heavy ground, I'd be tempted to run her in the Betfair chase only if you can take the quality out of race. Obviously it’d still be a quality race, but if you could take the speed and the quality out of the race and just make it an end to end gallop, a bit of a slog, over three miles on heavy ground, then that might be a good £200,000 race. Small field, might be a race we'd take in as a sort of win-win really. If she goes and does win or finishes second or third, we've picked up big prize money and so what if we go up the handicap a bit? And if she doesn't get that competitive, she'll probably stay off her mark and it'll be a good prep run for the Welsh National. That's half the plan.

The other half is to run her in the Ladbroke, possibly first time out, straightaway in the Ladbroke and then you've got the option of Welsh National, but it's not likely that you can… It has been backed up before, but you would, obviously, take… I'd just be very happy, and obviously if she could finish in the frame or win Ladbroke, I wouldn't be worried about if she's going to go in the Welsh National. But we can tie those two December races within that timeframe. There's the Becher Chase at Aintree on 8 December as well.

There's so many around that time, it's just hard. There's a lovely 30 grand mares’ race at Newbury, the one she won last year, which was novice last year, now it's the normal mares’ Listed event over three miles at Newbury and I'm now probably pencilling in Midnight Tune for that this season if I can get her there, but that's another race for Ms Parfois and it all comes at the same time, so it's going to be hard to sort of keep going through. Definitely want to make her seasonal debut in November and that might just end up at the Betfair. It depends what the ground does really, if we don’t get the ground there. But we might wait that one out and head there and then if it doesn't come right, we might wait the extra… We'd have to wait another week or so and we can get the Hennessy… Sorry, the Ladbroke. So that might be, the Ladbroke chase, might end up being the target.

MB:                    I think most people would know, when you say the Hennessy, they know what you mean. When you say the Ladbroke, they're less certain of what you mean.

AJH:                   I know. We've got to train ourselves to say the Ladbroke now.

MB:                    Beyond, potentially, the Welsh National between Christmas and New Year, there are no thoughts for the second half of the season? I guess just see how it goes?

AJH:                   No. Obviously, we're a little bit blind to the second half other than the fact that we know that the Midlands National is going to be after the Cheltenham meeting, so that would be another race for her. We know there are races out there, I think, I'm not quite sure where it falls, probably around the 24th January, is like the Betfred Classic chase, three mile five…

MB:                    So Warwick?

AJH:                   At Warwick. She won a Listed chase at Warwick last term. It doesn't matter if it doesn't happen early season. We'd like to run well in those sort of races like the Betfair, obviously. The two races that make the most sense are the Ladbroke and the Welsh National. Make absolute sense, head screwed on sense, but then people go, "I don't blame you for wanting to go, but it's not really the right thing to do with a horse rated 146”, but I'm only thinking about that if it's a bog, like it was last season, where Cue Card and another good horse, they were fighting it out…

MB:                    They were a mile behind Bristol de Mai, weren’t they?

AJH:                   It was painful to watch and we might be a mile behind Bristol de Mai, too. We might actually come second, which I think is around a potential £40,000 and it's a good prep run for… Probably we wouldn't damage our mark and it's a good prep run for a handicap. You could certainly call it that. We're just trying to be as sensible about it as we can. Don't want to risk our mark because I think 146, actually, you could say she's quite well handicapped with that, but you would certainly think it's workable in those races, so looking forward to it.

MB:                    You could say, if you thought she was a better mare than that, then you could say she was well handicapped off that.

AJH:                   Yeah, I never thought she was going to be doing what she did last season. She went to Cheltenham, where she ran first time out, she was third of four at Uttoxeter in the same race is in the book for this season and then, obviously, there, I actually really fancied her that day and she was going really well but she was a very ordinary third, very ordinary and they dropped her to… I can't remember the number, like 126 or something like that. We ran at Cheltenham and it forced us to handicap because we went to Cheltenham for a handicap off her… I did think she's well handicapped then for sure, but once she started winning listed novice chases, I didn’t think she'd be doing that. Maybe against mares but not when she started doing it against the geldings. So I don't know, she's taken me further than I thought she would this summer. We'll see.

MB:                    Yeah, she's been a fantastic standard bearer and, hopefully, will be fantastic to see her extend that into this season.

AJH:                   Well, she certainly looks like she could. She probably is bigger and stronger. She schooled brilliantly the other day and went to Lambourn for a jaunt, a day out and bit of work, and Noel Fehily rode her. She's as good as ever anyway.

Mystical Knight

AJH:                   Yeah, he's certainly worked very well at home. Again, he went out to Lambourn for a jaunt and did a bit of work and a school and he worked very well up there. He goes well at home and we're very happy with him. We just sort of had… I suppose the plan is just to go and get him winning. He finished fourth of 11 last time out at Newbury, ran a good race. Probably we'd look to ride him handy in something like a 0-120, 0-130 event. He’s dropped a lot from where he was, looking smart off 139 at one point. Probably look to go in and around his mark and carry the weight to start with and then we sort of have lofty aspirations beyond that but we've got to get that done first. It'll be very exciting if we could… And to be fair, you were talking about price, there's lots of very valuable events at 0-125, 0-130 level, so we could probably go and try one of those first and then see where he is at.

MB:                    He was a bit of a gamble, wasn’t he? So far, he looks like it might pay off. It's reasonably promising and I guess he won't be too far away from going out there and trying to prove his mettle.

AJH:                   Yeah, that's it. When he gets back into a rainy period of time, then he will be ready.

Nocturnal Myth

MB:                    In normal British weather, we should be fine. One that probably hasn't quite lived up to the hopes of the Potwell team is Nocturnal Myth. Certainly, not so far anyway.

AJH:                   No. Actually, by normal standards, he's done perfectly well but it's just he went so well at home, an absolute flying machine, relaxed, easy sort of ride, do whatever you asked, and just never found anywhere near the tank empty at home. Probably the first time out was the problem because, although we'd taken him away and done other things at other places, when he did get across the bridle and a little bit tired, he wasn't quite sure what to do. He'd never been tired and in that situation and he… We brought him back home anyway and he just went through the motions and finished.

At the time, everyone said that was a red-hot bumper. I don't know how it's worked out so far, but we went to Plumpton thinking it would be a penalty kick next time out and probably found the best Plumpton bumper you could possibly find and was on the pace all the way. Probably a bit keener than we had been used to have been, up near the front, and just melted away. Still finished fifth of about 14 or 15, didn't run badly, but we weren’t really happy about that. We did investigate a few things and tweak with his wind although it never really worried us before that.

Again, we investigated for ulcers and found a little bit of an issue there and then we didn’t get the chance to really prove him again. I don't know, the ground went at a crucial time so we didn’t run him. But he's schooling brilliantly. Lovely horse, he jumps beautifully and works beautifully and does everything right, so we'd be very hopeful. And even if he became a bit of a handicap project and he ran in two novice hurdles, he'll certainly be going on in a maiden hurdle somewhere and we’ll try and prove him straightaway; but if it ends up that all he ends up with is a handicap mark, then he should be competitive with any mark around even in the 100s, 110s, 115s, I still think he'd have a decent mark. See where he takes us really, this fellow.

MB:                    So still very hopeful for him. I know that he is very popular at home.

AJH:                   His dam won us four… I think she won us four, definitely won us four races and was a serious jumper and a serious mare. Wasn't much of a bumper mare, so that gives you…  We’ve still got the mare now and she was one of our best early horses.

MB:                    That's Gan On, is it?

AJH:                   Yeah. Got to 134, won over fences and hurdles.

Pure Vision

MB:                    Very good. He's definitely one to keep an eye on anyway. One I've been keeping an eye on for a season now, and he's definitely a horse I'd be very much looking forward to this year, is Pure Vision, who I'm sure has got a decent handicap chasing him at some point.

AJH:                   Yeah. We've been talking over with Frank Berry, the race manager, and he's still very burly, but he's… He was out schooling today and he looked very good. We just kind of feel like there is a decent… He is 132, we're going to be aiming at some nice handicap chases. We're just hoping, again, I don't know how far he can take it. If he could just win one really good one for the season, he'll have done his job really. Obviously, we want more than just that, but just that would be brilliant I think. And we'll certainly give him the chance in some of the races and see what he's made of. He ran very well in a sort of reasonable level competitive race at Cheltenham last summer. Barry Geraghty thinks he wants decent ground. I'm buying into that gradually. I wasn't sure at the time. I knew he'd go on it, but Barry was adamant, on better ground, that would be a much better horse. So far, it looks like he's right.

MB:                    That would have been his best run, wouldn't it, that run in April at Cheltenham?

AJH:                   Yeah, definitely. Really good effort. I'm really pleased with the run – so frustrated not to win – but it was a really good run. I think he’s gone up about three or four pounds for that.

MB:                    Was that about three miles?

AJH:                   Yes, that was three mile one I think. We won it with Solstice Son a few years earlier, that race, novice handicap there. I think there's some good races in him and he just might end up a really decent handicap chaser, but I don't know. He's at that crossroads in his career now: is that his career in a nutshell or… He's had a few wins over hurdles and over fences, got 132, not bad. He's a good horse, but it's just where we take the next step now and go and win a really decent race or two.

MB:                    Yeah, he's one of those horses. There's not really any particular reason for it, but he's just been on my radar for a couple of years and that last run at Cheltenham, all he was doing was finishing his race off there, and he just said, "I've still got more to show you." I'll be really quite excited about him this season. Hopefully, Pure Vision is one to note. One who is probably your best horse since you’ve been training is Regal Encore.

Regal Encore

AJH:                   Yeah, him definitely. He's been a great horse through his career for us. Gradually, bit by bit, he's actually fulfilled his potential. Yeah, after he was second in the Grade 1 champion bumper, you want him to be the next Gold Cup, Cue Card or something like that, King George or whatever, but he was never a big scopey animal anyway, so he's actually… He went and got through the stage and actually he's made a much better… He's made, certainly, I wouldn't say much better, but he has made a fair bit better chaser than he was hurdler and that's not what you would have thought: you’d imagine that he would have been a really sharp, really top hurdler. That career just didn't fall into place, but certainly, his chase career, bit by bit, has fallen into place. A £100,000 race he won at Ascot, £75,000 race last season at Ascot, third in the Ladbroke chase, third in a £250,000 race.

He's had a lot of Ps next to his name. We've always known he was genuine, it was just, I suppose at that level, you don’t have to have much out of sync whether it would be ground, whether would be tactics on the day, whether it would be hitting the fence or whatever but he's usually jumped well. He has got low the odd time and that's cost us the odd race and then he got nearly brought down in two races, at least, he's been all but brought down, so it's all kind of happened that way. And he's run in a National. Was given a very, very nice ride, but just he was a long way out his ground that day and he still stayed on right to the end, probably picking up the pieces a bit that day. Anyway, great career really, he's been a great horse for us. I hope there's more to come. At home, he seems as sprightly as ever, like a seven-year-old.

MB:                    Would the National be the target again?

AJH:                   Yes, I guess so. So much luck involved in the race, I just think if we end up there, he would be fantastic. But we're not targeting it as such because I just think off his mark, there's always going to be something that's coming through younger, fresher legs, off 138, where he was. It's going to be a tough handicap mark. The only thing is, with something like the Ladbroke, he still has to have a really strong constitution and he's really proven. He did that off 150, remember, last season, so it's not like he was in there off 10 1/2 stone. He did it off 150.

He came out a serious horse out of the Ladbroke, so on that basis. We think we have him ready enough now. Then there's another race at Ascot later on, but I just feel that, at the minute, I'm thinking we should be going for some of the graded events at Ascot, Aintree in December as well. I just wonder if we keep…. If he goes and wins one somewhere along the line, then fantastic. He seems to be faster than ever now and perhaps if we went to some of these six, seven, eight runner Grade 2s, we might get lucky in one of those.

MB:                    Yeah, so there's still plenty of fire in the belly of Regal Encore.

AJH:                   There's masses of fire and he's working as well as ever.

MB:                    That's really heartening to hear. He's a fantastic servant to the yard. Represented has been running in bumpers. What's his next job?


AJH:                   We had a little bit of a blip with him recently… He was due to run, basically, last week on the last of quick ground. Schooled electric, to be fair, other than the slip he had, but he's still electric after that and just a bit more cautious. He's won his bumper, he's been a bit disappointing since but he won his bumper. I know he was a good second at Fontwell in another bumper, got lumps of weight that day and I thought he did run a good race, and the winner looks decent

At home, he is a little bit tricky to get right. I'm disappointed with his last run at Worcester. Felt we had him in good shape. Little bit disappointed with that. Anyway, we're going hurdling now. I think that will happen, hopefully, sooner rather than later and he might make up into a nice little handicapper. I think there's a bit of untapped potential there. We just can't manage to get things right with him because he seems a bit soft.

MB:                    He wants top of the ground, doesn't he? He wants good ground probably.

AJH:                   He does, yeah. You wouldn’t want to be trying to run him on good to firm, to be quite honest. You never quite know with that. And you’ve obviously got places like Taunton. That’s why we’ll keep him going, get him 100% right now, just, literally, fine tune his schooling, which is pretty much there now, and then you've always got Taunton in December, you can always get that decent ground. We will set up shop at some stage during the winter and then we'll have a review and see if he's showing us enough and, hopefully, he might be wanting to come back in the spring or summer.

Sam Brown

MB:                    Great. One who definitely doesn't want good or good to firm is a very exciting prospect called Sam Brown.

AJH:                   Yeah, he is one I really am in a bit of a… I'm not quite sure where we go with him. He's going to school over hurdles, probably have a pop over a fence tomorrow as well, and that might just tell me what I'm going to do with him.

MB:                    So you might go straight chasing with him?

AJH:                   Yeah. He's not one to keep over hurdles for too long. We had a nasty setback with him last season. He had a fall over in the field. Just a week before he was due to come back into training, he had a fall just playing around in the field, no more than that. No one saw it, but we know that's what happened. That really ruined his season but, somehow, he came back to show what he could do at Plumpton. It was remarkable to run as well as he did there and then, of course, he came out of that not quite right in the end. After a few weeks, we realised he’d had a setback. Couldn't get him back, so we've given him loads of time and he is working nicely now, something like the big £100,000 handicap hurdle at the Haydock Betfair meeting. That might be worthy of going for as a first run, but of course he won his novice, so he's now sort of conditioned towards the competitive handicaps. If I was actually doing my homework, he might even not be qualified for that. We'll probably have to have another run at a hurdle before he is allowed to run in that big hurdle.

MB:                    So he's got a mark, but you've got have three runs to get in that one?

AJH:                   Yeah, but either way, there's a £50,000 handicap hurdle on the same card and it's two and a half but will feel more like three miles if it’s heavy ground.

MB:                    If it came up heavy, that would be ideal, wouldn't it?

AJH:                   That would probably be a more sensible option. I haven’t looked at the history of it, but I suspect that it would probably come up as an eight, nine runner affair rather than the 18 runner affair of the fixed brush. That might be a halfway house, then going on to chasing, so I'm warming to that. If he schools well over a fence, then we might think again and just go that way because that's probably what he's going to be best at long-term. He's still won two bumpers, looked a top end bumper horse really, and he's won his novice hurdle, which isn't really going to be has ball game anyway. So you could argue it’s time for chasing, but we haven't really fulfilled all his potential over hurdles.

MB:                    He's basically three from four lifetime, isn't he? You can't really crab that and the races he's won, he's won by daylight as well.

AJH:                   Yeah, he's a big horse.

MB:                    It's still all in front of him. He's a really exciting horse. Shapiro is the next one on my list. What can you tell us about him?


AJH:                   She's a really solid fit filly. She really enjoyed that bumper run at Uttoxeter. Probably didn't live up to that level outside of that, but that didn't matter. That was probably when we had our yard and her in tiptop condition. She really ran well. She ran really well that day in Plumpton, and probably wants really heavy ground, sort of two and a half mile mares’ maiden hurdle around somewhere like Uttoxeter again, or anywhere on that type of ground would be her ball game. Her jumping is coming together. Should be spot on by the time she hits the track. Won't hit the track until it rains. And actually, to be honest, she's still very burly, so that works out fine anyway. It will take a couple of months to get ready and it might even be we need to run to get ready because, obviously, you don't like to keep pounding them at home day in, day out. Actually, sometimes you are better just to have that run even though she just might need it a little bit. I know it's an expensive to way to do your job, but sometimes it's actually better for the horses to have that run. So we'll see, but she's coming on well.

MB:                    Okay, good. One of your Getaways that only got away to the track once last season but was really promising is a gelding called Sojourn.


AJH:                   Yeah, we love this horse. We think he's quite a good horse. Not sure where we have him yet, how good we have him, but we do think he's quite good. Very lovely, gentleman of a horse still, does his job professionally, jumps well. I think probably try one one more bumper – maybe a lot of people wouldn’t, but we’ll try to get that win [won at Aintree on Saturday]. But because he is very much a chaser in the making, we just thought we'd do one more early season just to see if we could end up with a Listed bumper at Ascot in December and if not, not at all worried about that; still could be a very good horse. Just probably start somewhere in November in a bumper and then that will tell us about the rest of the season after. But he'll be quick to transfer to hurdling. Soon as we've got that out of our system, he'll be quick to do the hurdles. Literally, we don’t know what he might be yet.

Solstice Son

MB:                    One who's coming back, he seems to have been around forever, is Solstice Son. He's given his owners a lot of fun down the years and there's life in the old dog yet.

AJH:                   There is. It's probably wearing thin now, I think they're being very patient and I think we need to get back on track pretty soon, literally. He ran very well at Cheltenham end of last season and then stopped. Sort of found out the issue behind that was, again, ulcers. Be that as it may, to be fair, he might just have blown up as well. It might just have been a lot of factors that day. Ran very well and jumped unbelievably well.

MB:                    Yeah, he was brilliant that day, wasn't he? Just got very, very tired.

AJH:                   Yeah, but ran too well to be sort of badly handicapped or not good enough for any of that. He just ran so well to that point, he just lost the field and jumped him into the ground. So definitely worth a few runs in this autumn/early winter and we'll see. He's one of those you really want… He can't stick it good to firm, but he doesn't want it to too soft, so find a happy medium and it'll be lovely. Have a couple of runs in autumn and maybe draw a line under his career and, for that, get point-to-pointing and he'll just have a nice sort of semiretirement.

MB:                    He's been a really good horse for the yard, but especially for his syndicate owners. They've had a lot of fun. As you say, they have had to be patient.

Solstice Twilight

MB:                    Solstice Twilight is one you’ve had a couple of seasons now I think. I don't know too much about this filly.

AJH:                   No, just one season with her. Her bumper run at Wincanton was decent, then I don't think we've quite had her right after that. I think she got on quite well in a novice hurdle at Fontwell and she just didn't… Sort of halfway, she wasn't getting anywhere. So then it kind of looked like all we can do now is just run her into more novice hurdles, hope for a reasonable handicap mark and hopefully, then, she will be competitive. She ran off 95 in her first handicap, when we went to Exeter and I thought she ran a really good race, her last one. A lovely way to sign off and finish and go all right then. They're moderate races, but there's lots of owners out and on her first bumper run, 93 looked very workable and I think we could just be getting her back to that form. I'm very happy with her at the minute. She's checking out A1 every time we check her, which we believe is something to do with the last season. They're all bang on the mark, so I think she could run right back to that run at…

MB:                    At Exeter?

AJH:                   At Exeter, yeah. She's definitely able to win one of those 0-100, maybe a couple in that range.

MB:                    Just looking at her form, it looks like she ran on heavy a few times and she may just have been all at sea on that.

AJH:                   No, I actually think she might want that. I might be proved wrong; I'm quite happy to be proven wrong, but I actually think… I'm waiting for that for her.

MB:                    Oh really?

AJH:                   It was very soft at Exeter that day and it was very, very soft at Wincanton and everything in between. I think we've got away with it a bit really. All it did was sort of get her a handicap mark. Little bit better at Wincanton, but it was a brutal sort of… We were well beaten in that race at Wincanton, there was a little bit of promise in that, and I just felt that she just wasn't quite right in the middle part of the season. I think we just didn’t quite have her right. Early season, we definitely had her right and the last one, we had something right.

MB:                    She might be reasonably handicapped if you've got her right now.

AJH:                   Yeah, that's it. That’s what it boils down to.


MB:                    And another one, I'm not sure what you… Why don't you tell us what you make of his mark, Soulsaver?

AJH:                   Soulsaver, he seems a really fun horse actually. I always say in and around 100, even if it's 102, taking Rex Dingle’s [conditional jockey] seven off or something like that, 102 in a 0-100. If he was 103, in a 0-110, I'm not so confident, but he might just prove me wrong.

He worked very well with me the other day. I was on a lead horse and he really worked better than his mark I felt and he's always threatened to get out of that range and he's on 105 now. I think he's good enough to win off 105. Well, we wouldn't be bothering and the owners wouldn't be bothering if we didn't think he could. I still don't feel we've really got all of his potential out of him. He ran a good race last time out and we just thought we'd sign off after that really. He had a blip over fences, thought he was going to really take to that at one point, and he really didn't. But I don't think we should give up on that. I think that's an option definitely, but where we were in the season, we just kind of chopped and changed it and thought we didn’t like that so leave that on the backburner for a minute, but we'll have another concerted effort going over fences once we've had one more run over hurdles.

MB:                    He's only six, so he's still got some scope.

AJH:                   Yes, he's a lovely horse to have about. If worst comes to worst and he ends up back in the 0-100, I'm sure he'll win again this season.

MB:                    Yeah, he's won two and he's been in the frame six out of his 15 starts, so he's been a pretty consistent horse and a winner twice as well. You'd be happy if they were all like that.

AJH:                   Yeah, and remember, I always think he's only just got three or four runs at that flat rate because what chance did he have against 120, 130 horses in novice hurdle off level weights? They were a waste of time, those ones, but he had to get the experience and he had to show what he could do.

MB:                    Talking of showing what they can do, perhaps the most interesting dark horse in the yard this year is a recruit from France called Sully d'Oc.

Sully d’Oc AA

AJH:                   He's very difficult to gauge; only that he won four in France, and was second in two more. I think he looks a very exciting horse on paper, very lucky to have a horse like that sent to the yard. We sort of had a bit of a prod at a handicap mark in that he seems to think around 136 is what he wants to run off. Very much a chaser on paper, and his work wouldn't tell you anything at home. I mean, he went away as well to Lambourn but you wouldn’t really learn much of value. He's not working badly but he's not showing you anything sparkling either. He’s shaping like a chaser so we’ll probably go novice chasing..

MB:                    And trip-wise, where would you be trip-wise? I can't remember what his hurdles were.

AJH:                   I think we would normally probably start at just about two miles to start with and then build into the season really. He's going to get further than that, but don’t necessarily need further than that. He's certainly not slow. He's got a good cruising speed and if he jumps slickly, he might even be a top-class novice over two this season. We just don’t know.

MB:                    Has he schooled okay?

AJH:                   Yeah, he schooled very well when we took him away the other day. Rather than the hurly-burly of the handicap hurdle, we're thinking more towards novice chases.

MB:                    Yeah, and will he be early or late?

AJH:                   As soon as the ground is ready, he's ready. He's not ready as in… He's just ready to have a run really. Not ground up to the eyeballs, but he's got plenty of time to show what he can do.


MB:                    Great. Really looking forward to him. I'm looking forward to loads of these, to be honest, but really looking forward to that guy. A mare who did pretty well, possibly better than expected last season, was Tacenda.

AJH:                   She's run in one bumper and we bought her off the back of that. She finished third in a novice chase, got an injury, didn't run again that season at all, so that was all her experience. We then went to Fontwell. Had never schooled her before, put Noel Fehily up. Here you go, best of luck going around the figure-of-eight down there and have your fun down the downhill fences, and all that sort of thing. And by the way, you’ve got to make the running as well.

He went out there and controlled the race in front. She absolutely loved it. We'd done loads of prep, we were confident to ask her to do all those things, but to be fair to Noel as well, he really just let her get on with it and rode her with loads of confidence. Like he said afterwards, she's run to some level for her first run over fences and her first run over obstacles. She'd run to around 130 instantly. Again, that was very good really. And then we thought, right, she's had her bad injury, we're in one piece, why don't we race her? We went up to Carlisle, bumped into the David Nicholson winner...

MB:                    Benie Des Dieux

AJH:                   Yeah. She bumped into that, never even close to giving it a race but finished second and got her black type and we went and took on Ms Parfois at Newbury. Very happy to go for that and finished fourth in that. Actually, finished fourth behind the horse she had beaten in her novice chase at Fontwell and we never felt like she really… She wasn't quite right after that, just had a foot issue, and didn't run a race. But still ran okay, she definitely ran okay. And then thought we had her back in decent form, went back to Wincanton in a two runner race and just never really… It wasn't competitive enough, never really got herself into racing mode. She did come back from there with an injury, which stopped us running her again last season. I think we might go for the race at, not for sure by any means, but we might go for the rescheduled one at Fontwell last season, the National they have there early November.

MB:                    Sussex National.

AJH:                   Yeah, three mile three.

MB:                    You can't have enough Nationals. You can't have too many Nationals you know.

AJH:                   I know. She might even be for the Devon National at one point, we'll see how she goes. She’ll have her career at stud as well, which she has a value for that as well. Things like the Tommy Whittle, Peter Marsh, they'd be on the radar, if we have a bit of luck with her, she can actually run well in those. But she loves to go running on heavy ground. Confusingly, she actually ran one of her best races on goodish ground at Fontwell that day so we mustn't write that off as well. Mustn't be too blinkered that she's just a heavy ground mud lark.

MB:                    She's pretty unexposed, isn’t she? She's only had the six runs.

AJH:                   Yeah, she is. She's not handicapped badly. I fancy her to go for that race that Ms Parfois won at Cheltenham. I think she's around about 127 now. It's funny how some horses don't do a lot wrong in your eyes, and yet you end up on a workable mark and other horses, you think they deserve to have a bit of help from the handicapper and they don't get any and it's just so bizarre. She's actually not done a lot wrong.

MB:                    If you take that match race out, she finished second to the mare's… She finished eight lengths behind the Mares’ Hurdle winner off level weights, and she finished eleven lengths behind the National Hunt Chase second off level weights.

AJH:                   When she wasn't on her game. She didn't run a race that day, but we just felt that there had been a little issue leading in and leading out of that race, just a corn in her foot and we were managing it but it was such a good race for her we had to go for it. She was well able to go for it. We found, on the actual day, that it was going off on the day she had to come to come right and then, afterwards, she'd, obviously, run with it up again. So you put an argument to say that she could have been better.

MB:                    But with that form in the book and if you had to guess what her mark was, after hearing that form, you'd probably say mid-130s - 136, 137.

AJH:                   Yeah, probably not more than that.

MB:                    And she's 127, so you would have to think that she's reasonably well handicapped at the moment.

AJH:                   Yeah.

MB:                    Very interesting. Tara West, I understand she might have met with a bit of a setback.

Tara West

AJH:                   She's had a bit of a setback, but then she's actually entered in the Sales bumper at Newbury on 24 March. She's a big mare, she jumps superbly, might be a chaser in the making. She's only four now, so I'm not too concerned about that. It is a bit annoying to not be running this month. But all being well, we're hoping to be able to run her later this season in a bumper and then lead our way into the Sales Bumper. And if she's not a bumper horse, she's had a bumper run, maybe a couple, and then we've got all next season hurdling her and then all the following season chasing her, so that’s sort of the backup plan at the minute. But we'll see what happens. We don't know anything at the minute, but she is definitely still worth a mention.

MB:                    Yeah, she is an exciting one. We might have to bide our time waiting for her.

MB:                    Okay. Two more on my list, the first of which is I think it was a Uttoxeter winner, Urca de Lima.

Urca de Lima

AJH:                   Yeah, she's an interesting mare. We were very lucky with the mares last season: they pretty much all did well and she's just one that came back from some early season niggles but didn’t fire. We got her back and she was in good order we thought, but she just didn't show up. We ran her up at Hexham and I thought she ran a bit better there. The form doesn’t look very good, but she actually galloped over the line there. So don't worry about that, she's run a better race, so we put her away after that. There was nothing we could do then. Big long summer and she is looking better now. Doesn't show a massive amount at home, but when she's on the track, before her bumper when she showed us an enormous amount, so hope she'll come back to that sort of level in due course. So she's a mares’ maiden hurdler for now.

MB:                    Okay, good. She's interesting. She's got a little bit to prove maybe on the back of her last couple of runs, but on her first run, she was very, very good that day. And last on my list, but I really hope not least because this is another Geegeez syndicate horse, is a three-year-old Getaway filly called Windswept Girl.

Windswept Girl

AJH:                   Yeah, dam by Old Vic, won six times, including picking up plenty of black type. She's a lovely mare, really genuine. She's got a really genuine outlook on life and just, again, we don't know a lot yet. She's just bubbling along outside happily, done the odd bit of sharper work, went up three times once or twice. We sort of held off, before we begin their harder work, where we just don't bully them too much, her and the other juvenile prospects. She's showing a good attitude and is straightforward and that’s as much as I can say at the moment. We gave her a sharp bit of work on Saturday and then just give-and-take really as and when she can take it. She's certainly eating well and taking her work well at the minute, so she's not giving us any reason to back off at the moment, so we're keeping her going. We'll hope to have her ready for a juvenile bumper, ideally a fillies’ juvenile bumper, but otherwise a juvenile of some sort of description before we get to January 1. And if not, then she's a lovely mare with a weight concession in a mares’ bumper later on.

MB:                    Very good, brilliant. In many ways, it's a very new team you've got for this season. It seems to be a lot of untried stock or second season horses as well as some proven older horses and that, hopefully, will be a really potent combination for the season to come. Very exciting times ahead and thanks a million for taking time out to tell us about them, Anthony.

Tuesday's Result :

1.00 Southwell : Mach One @ 5/2 BOG 3rd at 11/8 Slowly into stride, held up, ridden over 3f out, headway 2f out, pressing for 2nd inside final furlong, not trouble winner, kept on.

Next up is Wednesday's...

7.40 Kempton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.


Black Prince @ 7/2 BOG

A Class 6, 3yo+ Handicap over 2m on Polytrack worth £2,588 to the winner...

...and a 3yr old who has made the frame in 5 of his last 7 outings, including each of his last three starts and his record in A/W handicaps currently reads 331, including a win and a place at today's 2m trip.

His trainer, Anthony Honeyball, is in absolutely excellent form of late, having clocked up...

  • 11 from 33 (33.3% SR) for 12.23pts (+37.1% ROI) over the past month
  • 5/15 (33.3%) for 0.82pts (+5.5%) over the past fortnight
  • and 3/8 (37.5%) for 1.92pts (+24%) in the last week

He is, admittedly, better known to most as a National Hunt trainer, but does run a few on the Flat/AW and often to good effect. To this end, he is 2/4 (50%) for 25.3pts (+882%) no the A/W this year and in non-NH contests at 1m6f to 2m2f his record stands at 4 from 16 (25% SR) for 6.82pts (+42.6% ROI), from which...

  • handicappers are 4/15 (26.7%) for 7.82pts (+52.1%)
  • at 2m to 2m2f : 3/10 (30%) for 8.68pts (+86.8%)
  • at Class 6 : 2/8 (25%) for 8pts (+100%)
  •  and this year = 3/7 (42.9%) for 8.64pts (+123.4%)

Black Prince is also Anthony's only runner on the Kempton card today and since 2008 when sending a solo runner to a track, the yard has landed the spoils on 109 of 562 (19.4% SR) occasions, netting profits of some 265.7pts (+47.3% ROI) along the way, from which...

  • males are 63/332 (19%) for 168.9pts (+50.9%)
  • handicappers are 65/294 (65/294 (22.1%) for 151.2pts (+51.4%)
  • Class 6 runners are 19/87 (21.8%) for 76.8pts (+88.3%)
  • and in December : 13/68 (19.1%) for 100.5pts (+147.8%) us... a 1pt win bet on Black Prince @ 7/2 BOG which was widely available at 9.30pm on Tuesday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply... here for the betting on the 7.40 Kempton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!


Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats above are to Betfair SP, as I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you. I always use BOG bookies for SotD, wherever possible, but I use BFSP for the stats as it is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns I use to support my picks. If that's unclear, please ask!

News finally emerged this week of the BHA's intention to record surgical interventions to improve horses' breathing. Commonly known as wind operations, these have been contentious in the punting domain largely because of the frequency with which good animals who'd lost their way stepped forward after a subsequently declared tie back/palate fire, etc.

Along with many others, I've been blethering on about the need for transparency on such matters for years (see for instance this eye-opening post from January 2015). And, more recently, I've been able to support the Horseracing Bettors' Forum push for this information to be presented in the public domain as a member of that group.

Now let's get this straight: when the information appears on racecards from 19th January next year, we should not all be charging to back any horse which has received an epiglottal intervention. A breathing op cannot make a slow horse fast. That's not the point.

The point is that all data are good data inasmuch as they extend the knowledge vista of punters minded to engage. In plain English, we get to know trainers who are selective with their calls to the vet, and those who have the surgeon on speed dial. We get to know how much, if at all, on average a wind op improves a horse. We get to know whether it improves a horse on its very next run, or subsequently. We get to know if it improves a horse at all!

So this will be no panacea. But, of course, you knew that already, right? Moreover, the information will be generic, making no account of the severity of the procedure. It seems sensible to trust the vet/trainer/owner axis to make the right call on the appropriate operation.

By the end of next year, we'll have a view on plenty of things in this space, with the utility of that new information not solely confined to bettors. No, the owner, trainer and breeder communities - those crying foul right now - all stand to benefit in time from better awareness of exactly what they're buying. Sure, in the short term it could show certain stallions in a poorer light. But, by the time most sires have come into and gone out of fashion, there will be evidence to support breeding and buying decisions. That has to be a good thing, regardless of the myopic outpourings from some stakeholder groups this week.

As a punter, I welcome this news. As an owner, I welcome this news. As a purchaser at sales, I welcome this news. As for trainers or consignors, they may be less open-armed but that may be because they have something they'd prefer to hide. And they may not. Ahem. will naturally be displaying the wind op 'W' on our cards as soon as we have the data to do that. It has been suggested that the notation will only appear on the first run after an op, but we will likely indicate how many runs since an intervention. I'm thinking we'll probably also make it clear in the full form of a horse when a wind op (or multiple ops) has/have happened.

And, in time, we'll add this to our Query Tool, allowing users to interrogate data pertaining to trainers, stallions, whatever. This information will not be useless: no information is useless. But it is very likely to have less 'point and shoot' utility than some hope for. After all, if it did, it would be immediately factored into market prices, further improving some mugs' ability to find winners at the expense of profit. No, time will tell how we can best engage with the data. But not having the data has ceased to be an option.

Let us also hope this is the beginning of a more open information age in British racing. HBF - and others - have been asking for more on race mares in foal, horse weights, and for the tightening of data collection and dissemination around such as going readings and race distances. Perhaps one day horses off the track for, say, a year or more will be required to be entered with a reason for their absence; and maybe all surgical interventions will be declared.

That's for another day. For now, we as punters - but also as owners, trainers and breeders - should be pleased that we have more information on which to base our investment decisions.


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Anthony Honeyball is a trainer in form right now. Five winners from his last six runners, comprised of a first career treble and a double, have hinted at a better standard of horse in the yard this term. But it is perhaps the breadth of job those horses do which has been most heartening: a juvenile hurdle, a staying handicap chase, a handicap hurdle, a novice chase, and a National Hunt Flat race comprised that recent quintet of victories.

Anthony, whose yard is delighted to sponsor and to support with runners, is a very smart operator. Since 2009, his record in all handicaps - ALL handicaps! - is a 20% win strike rate and a profit at SP of 107.61 points. That's from 554 runners making an ROI of 19.42%. At starting price. It is hard to argue with such consistent performance over such a long time, and there remains, bizarrely in my opinion, value in betting his runners.

Anthony actually started training at around the same time geegeez' forerunner, Nag Nag Nag, first appeared on computer screens, back in 2006. This website began in 2008 and moved into the racecard/form tool game in 2013. So we're still pretty new to it, but I hope we've made some very solid progress since inception. There is much more I/we want to do, most of it suggested by you, our loyal subscriber.

Away from the form book functionality, sponsorship is important in establishing 'the brand' to the wider racing world, on racecourses. All of Anthony's horses are decorated with the logo, either on the breast of the jockey's silks or on the paddock sheets and rugs the horses wear in the parade ring before and after racing or, in most cases, both.

We also sponsor a couple of flat jockeys. David Probert has recently signed up for another three years, and he's an excellent ambassador for us. David rides around 800 horses a year, each time flashing the geegeez red, white and blue to a racecourse and specialist TV - in homes and betting shops - audience. Moreover, he rides a lot of winners: 92 so far this year and counting. That puts him in the top 15 jockeys, by number of winners, in Britain, ahead of the likes of Jamie Spencer, William Buick, and Frankie Dettori, and on a par with Paul Hanagan (former champion jockey) and Andrea Atzeni.

David is an excellent jockey who, as well as riding for Andrew Balding, is called upon by Godolphin, Sir Michael Stoute, and many of Newmarket's other biggest guns. A dedicated professional who gets his head down in an unfussy way, he arguably should get more opportunities. Be that as it may, he's an asset to the sport and I'm delighted that we're able to support him, and he us. has also just agreed to extend Mitch Godwin's sponsorship agreement for another year. Mitch has ridden 25 winners so far this year, and is on the 54 winner mark overall. He'll receive a three pound claim until hitting 95 career winners, and I'm personally looking forward to seeing how he'll improve next year. Mitch is undoubtedly a better rider now than a year ago, and there's every likelihood we'll again be able to say that in twelve months' time.

From a personal perspective, it's an absolute pleasure to work with such dedicated professionals, to support them, and to enjoy their support of the brand. With their, and your, help we'll keep growing.


I sloped off to France earlier in the week. Somewhere between a jolly boys' outing and a business trip, I met up with Anthony Honeyball and Jeremy Blackburn, husband of Anthony's racing secretary and keen supporter of the yard, at Portsmouth Harbour. The overnight ferry beckoned with its welcoming bar and less hospitable 'executive chair' sleeping arrangement.

The purpose of the trip was to scout the middle day of Arqana's three day sale at Deauville. Our itinerary was set: alight the ferry at Caen, drive the hour to Deauville and, specifically, to Chez Huggins. Ron is best known as owner of the fantastic Ascot Gold Cup and three-time Goodwood Cup winner, Double Trigger. But he's had plenty of other good ones, including a nice juvenile hurdler called Jukebox Jive, which formed the opening leg of Anthony's Sunday triple at Fontwell.

Over coffee and pastries - oh, go on then, just one more - we discussed Ron's shortlist, slavishly arrived at through consideration of dam sires, dam's progeny and the likelihood of the sire being dual purpose (flat and jumps). For someone who has a pretty good handle on the form book but barely a toehold on the pedigree book, this was a masterclass delivered by an experienced - and proven - practitioner.

Armed with the subset of the catalogue of most interest to us, we headed to the sales yard to inspect the possibles. This is where Anthony took centre stage, examining limbs, gaits, and conformation. Ron is no slouch in this department either and made an ideal foil. From the shortlist of fifteen, just three were deemed worthy of a bid. This trio was arrived at over an excellent lunch where we were emboldened by a couple of bottles of claret, and the presence, to our immediate left, of racing royalty: Freddy and Criquette Head. It was a thrill to relive a couple of their finest memories - Goldikova's third Breeders' Cup Mile, Treve's second Arc - and they were generous with their time and gracious in their 'fan management'. [Incidentally, I remain primarily a fan of the sport, in spite of how business has interloped]

Lunch eaten - drunk mainly, in truth - the bidding began. Anthony was interested in the very first lot, but was outbid by the vendor. Offered the horse later at his closing bid, he decided to keep counsel until all of the lots holding our interest had passed under the hammer.

The proud acquisition, a gorgeous yearling filly by Solider Of Fortune out of Heartbreak City's dam

The proud acquisition, a gorgeous yearling filly by Solider Of Fortune out of Heartbreak City's dam

A short time later came lot 320, a cracking little filly yearling by Soldier Of Fortune, out of a dam called Moscow Nights. Dad has shown himself to be the epitome of a dual purpose sire, and has plenty of good ones both on the level and over hurdles, including most recently Soldier In Action, who won a Class 2 two mile handicap last night off top weight and a mark of 106.

Mum was owned by the Wildenstein ecurie, and stayed well. She is most notably the dam of Heartbreak City, winner of the Ebor and an agonisingly close second in the Melbourne Cup last year. Those high profile, and extremely lucrative - the Ebor is Europe's richest handicap - flat performances followed a win in a competitive Galway Festival handicap hurdle. This was precisely the sort of dual purpose pedigree we were searching for.

Bidding was keen in the early go, with probably half a dozen hands moving the price to €20,000. That was a ceiling for most, but the filly continued to ascend, up to €25,000. One more nod of the Honeyball head was enough to seal the deal, however, and this little charmer will be heading to Potwell Farm at the earliest opportunity, knocked down for €26,000. I'll be syndicating her shortly, with - as always - first priority going to existing syndicate members.

The plan will be for her to have a run or two next year prior to a full flat campaign as a three-year-old and then go juvenile hurdling. Thereafter, we'll see where she takes us. If she's within a furlong of her half-brother we'll have a lot of fun!

Ron was less fortunate. He sold one for little more than he'd have kept her for, and failed in his attempts to secure a couple of others, out-funded by the bottomless pockets of Highflyer Bloodstock, who were extremely active.

A very enjoyable dinner in Trouville - and more wine - was followed by the ferry bar and that 'executive chair' for a far less enjoyable kip: the imperfect end to what was a fantastic jaunt.


How much bad luck can a man have? In the case of Ruby Walsh, at 38, surely at a stage when yet another serious injury, this time a broken leg, might potentially be career threatening, apparently any amount, writes Tony Stafford. Reassuringly, his surgeon seems to think that Ruby will be fit in time for the Cheltenham Festival.

Having waited almost two years for the return from injury of the 2015 Champion Hurdle winner, Faugheen, Walsh suffered his broken leg the day before that one’s planned reappearance at Punchestown. Faugheen had been absent since his 15-length January 2016 romp over Willie Mullins stablemates Arctic Fire and Nicholls Canyon in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown.

Faugheen returned in the Morgiana Hurdle, the same race in which he suffered his sole defeat, narrowly, by Nicholls Canyon. It might only have been a four-runner affair yesterday, but Paul Townend on his first ride on the brilliant jumper, set him off in front and he beat Jezki, his 2014 predecessor as Champion Hurdle victor, by 16 lengths. Swamp Fox, assuredly a handicapper, but one good enough to win the Naas November handicap on the Flat this month, was 37 lengths back in third.

Walsh has had more than his share both of injuries and spills. His injury at Leopardstown came on the last of four rides after an 11-day absence due to a hand injury. He rode one short-priced winner for his boss, but had three falls, the last and most costly on Let’s Dance in a Listed mares’ hurdle for which she started odds-on.

Now, as in all good long-range dilemmas, the attention will switch to another Champion Hurdler, the reigning champ Buveur d’Air, who, like Faugheen, has a single jumping defeat on his curriculum vitae. He is set to return in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday week.

The Nicky Henderson-trained six-year-old also suffered his only loss to a stable-mate and in a championship race, the 2016 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham when only third to Altior. After two novice chase wins, Henderson, with one of the intuitive decisions that mark him out as an outstanding handler, decided to send him back to hurdling.

That decision was presumably prompted by the fact that he had already moved Altior to chasing when, for many, he had been the more obvious Champion Hurdle contender for the stable. Then again, Altior would not have to worry about the likes of Faugheen – at the time still on target to regain his crown – if he went over fences.

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Both decisions proved far-sighted and until Arkle winner Altior recently suffered one of the all-too-frequent wind problems that seem to assail top jumpers, few would have looked past him for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next March.

I can understand the trainer’s irritation that when he finally released the news last week, having taken a couple of veterinary opinions and consulted owner Patricia Pugh, unnamed (but only just, according to the trainer) members of the media criticised what they saw as his handling of the issue.

Nicky Henderson grew up and learned his trade under Fred Winter in the age of the great stables where journalists cowered and gratefully sought out trifles while lauding their achievements.

Social media has ended that climate, not just in racing, but in all walks of life and where once there was deference from the media, now there’s intrusion, with the general belief it is justified. The BHA and its attitude to trainers and what is perceived as their duty to keep the betting public informed has played its part in that process.

One BHA decision that has caused general derision was when Raul da Silva was given a ban for throwing a handful of Chelmsford’s Polytrack surface sand onto the hind quarters of his mount, Sandkissed, to encourage her into the stalls before a race last week.

Considering all the horses running round each of the all-weather surfaces are expected to cope with copious amounts of said surfaces being thrown up into their eyes every time they run, such pernickety officialdom seems out of proportion. For me, it is merely another instance of present-day political correctness.

Anyone who has seen horses going to a sale showing their displeasure at coming off a lorry down a ramp will realise stable staff can have an unenviably dangerous job. The same goes for stalls handlers and when a jockey shows a little invention to ease what could become a bigger problem on the day, such an extreme reaction is embarrassing.

The sad death last week of Alan Potts, the surviving half of the Ann and Alan Potts ownership team who battled with the big battalions with such success over the past few seasons, will not apparently stop the success of the green, yellow and red colours.

There were two wins at Cheltenham over the weekend, via the impressive pair Finian’s Oscar and Fox Norton and I hope the story I heard about Alan Potts is true. It seems shortly before he died, so the story goes, he made provision for all the training fees in the future careers of his family’s horses to be secured. No doubt Colin Tizzard, who trains both winners and, among others, Jessica Harrington, trainer of Gold Cup hero Sizing John, will know whether that is true or just a racing urban myth.

I’m not sure if the Potts’s had any horses with Dan Skelton, but Mrs Richard Kelvin Hughes certainly does and her North Hill Harvey, owned in partnership with Mrs Widdowson, impressively won the Arkle Trial at Cheltenham yesterday, to put the trainer onto 99 for the season.

Skelton may still be trailing the likes of Henderson, Mullins and Gordon Elliott with potential big-race contenders, but the efficiency with which he churns out the winners is a reminder of the halcyon days of Martin Pipe. Only Joseph O’Brien, Melbourne Cup and umpteen victories over jumps just in the past month, among youthful trainers, is keeping pace with Skelton’s rapid rate of progress.

I managed to sneak into the owners’ room at Cheltenham on Friday courtesy of Alan Spence whose On the Blind Side was an impressive winner of his second hurdle race when stepping into Grade 2 novice class. I had a brief chat there with Anthony Honeyball, his wife Rachael and their 18-month-old son who I can report enjoys eating cream, some of it not going onto his face.

Two days later the trainer had a treble at Fontwell in which the most significant for the future was the victory of Jukebox Jive, a 97-rated Flat-racer, in the juvenile hurdle, beating the Kelvin-Hughes home-bred Lisp. Success was hardly a surprise first-time-out for Ron Huggins’ also home-bred son of Jukebox Jury, whose former owner Alan Spence will tell you is a much-underrated stallion – evidence his Dominating, winner of six races for Mark Johnston this year.

It was also Johnston who handled Huggins’ best-known and much-loved stayer Double Trigger and it would hardly be a shock were Jukebox Jive to take high rank as a staying hurdler who could double as a potential Cesarewitch winner next year. I’d love him to do that.

- Tony Stafford

British Champions' Day is behind us and, for me, it was a bit of a bloodbath punting-wise. Such is the nature of the big meetings, especially towards the end of busy campaigns. Too many horses I wagered were either over the top or couldn't handle the presumed sticky, drying ground at Ascot. It's my contention that the going was what is known in France as 'holding', i.e. gluey.

Holding is called soft or occasionally good to soft here because it is when wet ground dries out. But it is very different from soft or good to soft when dry ground is rained upon. The absence of an additional going description for this is bonkers to me, and a change is long overdue. We are simply betting blind in such circumstances, as nothing in the form book can help us know if a horse will act on a surface on which - heavy and firm aside - the fewest horses can act.

If that sounds like whining, well, I guess it is to a degree. But too many of the top horses underperformed at the weekend to be easily written off as merely being 'over the top'. BCD's slot in the diary means it will always be prone to meteorological inclemency, but this is not about that: it's a more general point about the accuracy of going descriptions.

Frequently I - and many others with more experience and/or acuity than me - believe the clerks of courses mislead with their official going descriptions. Happily, measures are being taken to more closely scrutinize what is reported versus what comes to pass. But here, clerks are totally exonerated on the basis of their hands being tied to a band of descriptions which is insufficiently broad for its role. I don't see any change on this in the near future, but it is something I'll be raising with HBF.

As an example of 'breakout' thinking, the excellent Andrew Cooper, clerk at Sandown and Epsom, described a meeting as soft (holding) in March of this year, and went on to offer a very good description of it in this clip on RUK:

If only clerks were actually 'allowed' to offer such information officially. Closer to home, if only could afford to hire a daily race reader to add an unofficial going description to our results and form. Sigh.


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Before we move on, there has been much animation regarding the performance of Cracksman in Saturday's Champion Stakes. His seven length victory over Poet's Word and Highland Reel was impressive, but arguably less so than has been reported in some quarters.

My view is that the run, whilst clearly extremely meritorious, was not superlative form to that offered consistently by Enable all season. That is not a view shared by one major ratings agency, who immediately put Cracksman at the head of their seasonal ratings.

His overall form creaks - Group 2 wins over second tier horses, defeats in two Derby's - in the context of Enable's thorough demolitions of genuine proven Group 1 animals all season long. Moreover, the horses he beat on Saturday are either just below top class themselves or were ill at ease on the ground, or over the top.

Highland Reel, a class horse and genuine marker on quick, but one that hates such turf, plugged on for third, nearly snatching second from Poet's Word. Poet's Word, for his part, brought dubious top table credentials to the party: second to Decorated Knight in a very weak renewal of the Irish Champion Stakes earned him a six pound elevation to an official mark of 119. Any belief that he ran to 119, and Cracksman should be rated on a line through him, is madness to my eye.

There is little doubt John Gosden's three-year-old colt has improved as the season has progressed, but so too did his three-year-old filly. The depth of Enable's form in multiple Group 1 processions stands far closer scrutiny to the single G1 stroll of Cracksman, at this point in time and in the eye of this player, at least!


Moving on, and the jumps season really ratchets up a notch in Britain today. Across the Irish Sea, the dogs have already been barking for exciting novices Death Duty and Samcro but, at Exeter this afternoon, it's the turn of an established player, Alan King's Yanworth, to shake off the last vestiges of his aestivation as he embarks on a chasing career in Exeter's Best Mate Beginner's Chase. He has a stone and a half class edge on his rivals on hurdle ratings, and I'm not seriously suggesting he'll get beaten today. But it will be interesting to see how this sometimes awkward hurdler traverses larger obstacles. Hopefully it will be the making of him.

Elsewhere, Anthony Honeyball, whose yard sponsors, takes the wraps off the first of his young team for this term. Anthony has his biggest and best squad for the forthcoming campaign, and syndicates have two horses in training with him this season, East Wing and My Dance. Today sees Acey Milan make his debut in the 'junior' bumper at Exeter, and it will be exciting to see how he goes.

Anthony was kind enough to do a full stable tour 'podcast' with me a month or so ago where he discussed his entire team. You can - and should! - check that out here. He has plenty more runners to unleash in the coming days and weeks, many of which are unfamiliar names, so do check that post out and arm your tracker accordingly!


Finally, while turf flat racing in Britain and Ireland is all but over for the year, the international bandwagon rumbles on. For the first time for a few years, we have a correspondent covering the Melbourne Cup; and as always I will be covering the Breeders' Cup, which is now just ten days away.

Breeders' Cup 34 will be hosted for the first time in Del Mar, north of San Diego, on the left coast of America. The cast looks excellent - genuinely deep and cosmopolitan - and finding winners will be the usual challenge.

For those who like to play the meeting, I will have a Breeders' Cup Compendium available. It's a product packed with data, factoids and opinions, and you'll be able to get a copy in a day or two.


The nature of the beast - with information coming through bit by bit - means the BC Compendium will be released in stages, as and when pre-entries, draw positions and final preferences are known. Rest assured it will be the best Breeders' Cup product this side of the pond!

Enough for now - enjoy the racing at Exeter. What a fantastic time of the year this is.


The nights are drawing in, the St Leger is behind us, and thoughts are turning to the winter code of racing. With that in mind, I recently spoke to the consistently excellent Anthony Honeyball about his team for the upcoming season.

The audio is supplemented with form histories for the horses being discussed, and there is a chronology beneath - including snippets from Anthony's recent stable day - in case you are interested in specific horses.




00:50 - Acey Milan

02:33 - Act Now

05:16 - Black Prince

08:00 - City Supreme

10:15 - Coeur Tantre

13:51 - Cresswell Breeze

15:45 - Don Lami


18:00 - Drops Of Jupitor

20:09 - Duhallow Gesture


25:38 - East Wing - Geegeez syndicate horse

28:15 - Fact Of Life

29:43 - Fountains Windfall

32:33 - G For Ginger

34:21 - Gift From God

35:50 - Hideaway Vic

37:50 - Le Coeur Net

39:22 - Lechlade Magician

42:12 - Midnight Tune

43:49 - Mozo

45:31 - Ms Parfois

47:12 - My Dance - Geegeez syndicate horse

51:00 - Nocturnal Myth

51:54 - Our Sox

53:23 - Pure Vision

56:03 - Regal Encore

58:59 - Represented

59:42 - Sam Brown

1:01:58 - Shapiro

1:03:10 - Sojourn

1:04:08 - Solstice Son

1:05:50 - Solstice Twilight

1:07:25 - Soulsaver

1:08:26 - Tacenda

1:11:25 - Urca De Lima



Friday's Result :

7.45 Newcastle : Scala Regia @ 11/4 BOG 4th at 4/1 Tracked leaders, outpaced over 2f out, kept on without threatening inside final furlong

Saturday's pick goes in the...

3.25 Bangor...

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.


Cresswell Breeze7/2 BOG


A 6 yr old daughter of Midnight Legend trained by Anthony Honeyball. I could stop right there to be honest! Both sire and trainer are profitable to follow, but let's at least do some digging.

Anthony is in great form, with 6 winners from 16 in the last 30 days, 5 of his last 18 chase entries have been winners and since the start of 2009, his handicap chasers are 42/211 (19.9% SR) for 63.6pts (+30.1% ROI).

No filtering, no exceptions, just blindly back them and you make money.

The same can be said (and I have done many times!) about the offspring of Midnight Legend. I'll spare you the whole gamut of my MidLeg micro-systems, but it's worth noting the following...

...his female chasers are 51/285 (17.9% SR) for 103.8pts (+36.4% ROI), from which...

  • those racing over 2m6.5f to 3m2f are 22/123 (17.9) for 86.6pts (+70.4%)
  • on Good to Soft / Soft : 22/120 (18.3%) for 61.9pts (+51.6%)
  • at Class 3 : 15/57 (26.3%) for 90.5pts (+158.8%)

Throw into the mix, a very talented jockey in the form of David Noonan who is excellent value for his 3lb claim and...'ve got...a 1pt win bet on Cresswell Breeze 7/2 BOG which was available from Betfair Sports & Paddy Power at 8.35pm on Friday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply... here for the betting on the 3.25 Bangor

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!


Here is today's racecard

P.S. all P/L returns quoted in the stats are to Betfair SP, as (i) I NEVER bet to ISP and neither should you and (ii) although inferior to the BOG odds we secure, BFSP is the nearest approximation I can give, so I actually expect to beat the returns quoted.

Saturday's Result :

3.20 Uttoxeter : Kayfleur @ 5/2 BOG fell at 2/1 Held up in touch, tracked leaders 7th, went 2nd 5 out until outpaced after next, 3rd and looked held when fell 3 out

Monday's pick goes in the...

3.50 Plumpton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.

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Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG


This 7 yr old gelding is in top form at present, finishing 161231 in his last six outings, of which 61231 is his record since the switch to chasing. Conditions look set to suit him today, as from that 2/5 record over fences, he is 2/3 over soft ground and was a winner last time out a fortnight ago over this course and distance on similar ground under today's jockey at this same grade.

Further assistance comes in the retention of the blinkers he wore for the first time during that race and he seeks to improve an already very impressive record of trainer Anthony Honeyball, whose NH handicappers are 95/454 (20.9% SR) since the start of 2010 and a straight £10 bet on each of them (no filtering!) would have netted you a cool £2040 profit at an ROI of some 44.9%.

That's just from blindly backing all of Anthony's handicappers, but if you wanted to reduce the number of bets, here are nine (yes, just nine!) profitable angles for you to consider, all of which are relevant/pertinent to today's race...

  • 5-10 yr olds are 92/418 (22%) for 225.1pts (+53.8%)
  • those rated (OR) 85 to 135 are 90/384 (23.4%) for 196.3pts (+51.1%)
  • males are 58/280 (20.7%) for 142.3pts (+50.8%)
  • chasers are 36/189 (19.1%) for 53.7pts (+28.4%)
  • at Class 4, it's 44/183 (24%) for 84.7pts (+46.3%)
  • using a jockey's 3lb claim : 24/102 (23.5%) for 17.2pts (+16.8%)
  • on Soft ground : 22/87 (25.3%) for 77.5pts (+89%)
  • those ridden by the talented Harry Cobden are 20/78 (25.6%) for 43.8pts (+56.1%)
  • and those who ran in the previous 6 to 15 days are 17/74 (23%) for 57.2pts (+77.3%) us...a 1pt win bet on Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 5.45pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply... here for the betting on the 3.50 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!


Here is today's racecard

Saturday's Result :

3.20 Uttoxeter : Kayfleur @ 5/2 BOG fell at 2/1 Held up in touch, tracked leaders 7th, went 2nd 5 out until outpaced after next, 3rd and looked held when fell 3 out

Monday's pick goes in the...

3.50 Plumpton :

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.


Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG


This 7 yr old gelding is in top form at present, finishing 161231 in his last six outings, of which 61231 is his record since the switch to chasing. Conditions look set to suit him today, as from that 2/5 record over fences, he is 2/3 over soft ground and was a winner last time out a fortnight ago over this course and distance on similar ground under today's jockey at this same grade.

Further assistance comes in the retention of the blinkers he wore for the first time during that race and he seeks to improve an already very impressive record of trainer Anthony Honeyball, whose NH handicappers are 95/454 (20.9% SR) since the start of 2010 and a straight £10 bet on each of them (no filtering!) would have netted you a cool £2040 profit at an ROI of some 44.9%.

That's just from blindly backing all of Anthony's handicappers, but if you wanted to reduce the number of bets, here are nine (yes, just nine!) profitable angles for you to consider, all of which are relevant/pertinent to today's race...

  • 5-10 yr olds are 92/418 (22%) for 225.1pts (+53.8%)
  • those rated (OR) 85 to 135 are 90/384 (23.4%) for 196.3pts (+51.1%)
  • males are 58/280 (20.7%) for 142.3pts (+50.8%)
  • chasers are 36/189 (19.1%) for 53.7pts (+28.4%)
  • at Class 4, it's 44/183 (24%) for 84.7pts (+46.3%)
  • using a jockey's 3lb claim : 24/102 (23.5%) for 17.2pts (+16.8%)
  • on Soft ground : 22/87 (25.3%) for 77.5pts (+89%)
  • those ridden by the talented Harry Cobden are 20/78 (25.6%) for 43.8pts (+56.1%)
  • and those who ran in the previous 6 to 15 days are 17/74 (23%) for 57.2pts (+77.3%) us...a 1pt win bet on Royal Salute @ 5/2 BOG which was widely available at 5.45pm on Sunday. To see what your preferred bookie is offering, simply... here for the betting on the 3.50 Plumpton

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!


Here is today's racecard

One of the great things about the geegeez community is that it is now starting to have more of a direct impact in the sport we all love. Having begun from very humble beginnings, we have developed relationships with all parts of the sport, whilst retaining the personal touch in all dealings with our readers and subscribers.

In recent times, I've been keen for us to extend our 'brand presence' (yuk!) on the track. Put in more palatable terms, I think what we're doing at geegeez is pretty cool and I'd love for more people to know about us. As well as you lovely guys and girls sharing your experiences, it is important for us to try to force the name into the wider racing consciousness. We do this in a number of ways:

Racehorse Syndication

Geegeez syndicates a number of horses at any given time. Currently we have three in training with Anthony Honeyball - The Geegeez Geegee, Dragoon Guard and East Wing - as well as a yearling in his care. The Geegeez Geegee is a three-time winner who will be back on track in the coming weeks; Dragoon Guard has finished in the frame in three of his last four starts. East Wing is a full brother to the decent pair, Coeur Blimey and Just Get Cracking, and he should be making his debut in the four to six weeks, all being well.

Table Manners wins - at 25/1 - at Newcastle earlier this month

Table Manners wins - at 25/1 - at Newcastle earlier this month

We also have a filly called Table Manners in training with Wilf Storey. She easily won her most recent start, at Newcastle... at 25/1! She's being aimed at another race at the track towards the end of the month: it will be a step up in grade but she's earnt it with the manner of her recent win. Until recently, we had another lad with Wilf, called Nonagon. You may have read about his very sad demise in this post, and he was a horse who, when conditions came right for him, looked a good bit classier than the bare numbers. He won two for us and was in the process of winning again when injury struck.



I've just taken an option on 75% of a two-year-old filly with Wilf, half of which is syndicated already to myself and a couple of regular syndicateers, Jim and Pete. That means there are three 1/8th shares available.

Here's the deal in case it might be of interest to you...

The filly is well bred, by Dutch Art out of winning sprinter, Catfish, and is available on a free lease. That means there is no 'up front' payment, but it also means that if she turns out to be very good, there will be no sale dividend at the end of her racing career. The balance of probabilities is that we are getting the best of that proposition.

She was owned, like Nonagon and Table Manners before her, by Raymond Tooth and, like that pair, was considered not good enough to stay in training for her previous trainer, in this case, Mark Johnston. He has to fill his boxes with his next crop of expensive yearlings, and some need to make way. In the case of the two before her, it was simply immaturity that precluded their winning on the track: most horses are not bred to be precocious enough to win at two.

Catskill has had sore shins in training this season, often a sign of being asked to do too much too soon. But what it does mean is that she's been broken, ridden, has done stalls work and gallops: in other words, she's quite close to a run. Her shins have settled down fine and we're not expecting any recurrence of the growing pains she endured earlier in the year.

According to Wilf, who is enough (and more) of a gent not to offer me a horse he doesn't think can cut it on the track - he has 100% winners to runners on the two he's sent our way so far - she's pretty nippy and she's almost ready for a run. He feels she'll be on the track at Newcastle before the turn of the year.

This then is a 'no money down' lease opportunity in a filly who will be racing within four to six weeks for a very affordable £135/month, plus racing expenses. "Racing expenses" are such as race entry and jockey riding fees, and amount to something in the region of £200 per race. So if the filly ran once a month, it would work out at £25 per syndicateer in racing expenses and £160/month all done. That's a pretty good budgetary mark from which to work.

You would obviously be eligible for 1/8th of any and all prize money won. You'll also have owners' badges each time she runs, affording you a more pleasurable experience as befits your status as owner! The initial syndicate term would be for one year, with an option to continue at the end of that time.

This will suit readers who live in the north of England, or possibly the south of Scotland as, for the time being at least, most of the opportunities will be at Newcastle. Obviously that will change when the flat turf season returns but, again, she's likely to race in the north of England and in Scotland almost exclusively.

If this might be of interest, please drop me a line. But be quick as there are only three places available 🙂


Trainer and Jockey Sponsorship

Another thing I've been keen to do since the emergence of Geegeez Gold is to support trainers and jockeys. Geegeez is delighted and proud to sponsor Anthony Honeyball Racing, with the vast majority of his horses carrying the logo across the chest on the silks of their jockeys.

Geegeez also sponsors two jockeys now. The first name on our sponsorship roster was the excellent, and somewhat under-rated, David Probert. He joined forces with us early in the flat season and, though injury - a broken wrist - curtailed his year by two months, he is now back in the saddle, as evidenced by this snap when on duty at Lingfield for the boys in blue earlier in the week.

David Probert riding for Godolphin at Lingfield
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David Probert riding for Godolphin at Lingfield

Mitch Godwin has joined the sponsored jockey ranks

Mitch Godwin has joined the sponsored jockey ranks



In addition to David, I'm delighted to welcome Mitch Godwin to the fold.

Mitch will be a new name to many of you, but he's ridden 24 winners in 2016 so far. Attached to the Silvester Kirk yard, Mitch is hoping to have a good crack at the apprentice title in 2017 and, while that might be a tad ambitious, it's good to aim high. Who knows? With a solid work ethic and some breaks along the way, he has a shot.

He's already ridden out his seven pound allowance but still offers trainers a handy five pound concession when legging up on their horses.

Here's Mitch in his catalogue pose modelling the breeches and under-vest.

Both Mitch and David have sloped off for a bit of sun - Mitch to Santa Anita for a week, David to a jockeys' challenge in Barbados - but both will be back soon to boot home winners through the winter.

Keep an eye out for these two jockeys if you're going/watching racing on the all weather in the coming months, and cheer on those lucky pants!










Freddy Tylicki and Injured Jockeys Fund

One of the side effects of sponsoring jockeys, particularly a jockey who had a nasty fall earlier in the season, is a keener appreciation of the dangers they face on a race to race basis.

As punters it is easy for us to forget, ignore or otherwise overlook that daily peril - perhaps because the consequences can be too grisly with which to wrestle in our leisure time.

But we were all forced to put aside any preference to deny the existence of danger in the aftermath of the terrible injuries suffered by Freddy Tylicki in a fall at Kempton recently. He has serious paralysis and the prognosis, physically, is not good.

Thanks to you, we were able to help Freddy - and the Injured Jockeys' Fund - in a small but significant way by sending a donation of £3,015 representing 75% of the revenues from my recent Breeders' Cup Compendium report (the remaining 25% will cover some of the associated VAT, tax, payment processor and affiliate fees that are incurred in selling stuff online).

On behalf of geegeez readers, for your kindness I received this short message of thanks from the IJF:



Since receiving that note a couple of days ago, Freddy has left intensive care and has transferred to the general spinal unit at the hospital. That is good news, though the road ahead is no less fraught for him and his family.

I don't really want to write anything more about this, because - in truth - aside from being a kindred compassionate soul like so many of you, it's none of my business. I know we all wish Freddy and his family every strength.


Why am I writing all of this? Well, apart from the horse syndicate opportunity above - let me ASAP please if you're interested - no major reason, except that a) you might be wondering why you've seen on a jockey's kit - or might want to look out for them in future, and b) to demonstrate, in a variety of different ways, the commitment that makes to putting back into the sport.

Your Geegeez Gold subscriptions are re-invested into the development of new tools and features - some quite big news coming soon on that score - and, beyond that, to telling people about us whilst helping individuals like David, Mitch and Anthony. And, of course, being able to facilitate a sizeable charitable donation on behalf of our community is my privilege. has no shareholders, we are still a small team (but growing), and we remain commited to both your enjoyment and to the sport we all love. Which is pretty cool!

So, in case I haven't said it for a week or two, THANK YOU very much for your continued support.

Best Regards,

It started pretty well: 6th March 2015 and an unconsidered rag called El Mundo – sent off at 33/1 – was delivered with a textbook waiting ride to land the Thrusters Hunters’ Chase at Leicester. In spite of his fledgling 100% record, plenty remained unaware of the rising talent doing the steering that day.

Rachael Honeyball, nee Green, was already a convert having legged young Harry Cobden up on eleven winners between the flags in the 2014/15 point to point season. That was enough to confer champion status on both – Rachael as Leading Small Trainer, and Harry as Leading Novice Rider – with all the wins being provided by two horses, Cock Of The Rock and Silver Token.

Cobden, like 2015 Apprentice Series winner, Tom Marquand, and 2014/15 Conditional Series winner, Sean Bowen, is a graduate of the Pony Racing scene, and he put that experience to good use with a flying start under Rules.

It took just two more rides to record a second Rules victory, this time for Champion Trainer, Paul Nicholls. Such lofty early support was a tremendous vote of confidence in the young conditional, and Cobden has since ridden 63 more times for his now guv’nor, scoring on a round dozen to date.

Other major supporters of Harry’s progress include Anthony Honeyball, for whom he’s ridden nine winners from 24 runners (37%, +10.58); Michael Blake (7/24, 29%, +6.93); and Ron Hodges (3/23, 13%, +10).

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It was the last named who provided Cobden with his fiftieth winner under Rules, on Sunday at Kempton, just eighteen months after his first. The half century could hardly have been reached more fittingly, as the well-named Miss Tenacious gave the partnership its third victory from 16 starts together, a sequence that includes five further placed efforts. Harry has been riding out for Hodges, Miss Tenacious’s trainer, since he was eleven years old!

Harry’s trajectory looks set to remain upward, a statement lent credence by a run of eight wins from 30 rides since the start of September, and he looks set to go close in the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship.

His main rivals there are David Noonan, Tom Bellamy, and another Harry, Bannister. Each is a fine talent, but no other can boast the potential firepower of a large stable; perhaps David Noonan, like Cobden affiliated to the Honeyball yard, but whose employer is David Pipe, will be his main challenger.

Indeed, Cobden and Noonan finished first and second – in that order – in the 2015/16 Conditional Hands and Heels Series. Former top level rider, and now one of the BHA’s jockey coaches, Rodi Greene, offered the highest praise, saying, “Harry has come a long way in a short time, he is a gifted rider who should go all the way. Harry reminds me of Ruby Walsh in the way he lets horses jump for him without moving around too much and also his riding of a finish is good and he can use his whip in both hands”.

Undoubtedly the biggest win of his career so far was aboard the Grade 3 Greatwood Hurdle winner, Old Guard, at last season’s Cheltenham Open meeting, but he’s been knocking on the door plenty in a number of other big races.

Silver medals in the Rehearsal Chase, the Peter Marsh Chase (both on Virak), and the bet365 Gold Cup Chase – still known to many as the Whitbread – have been frustrating and promising in equal measure. That each of those races was over the bigger obstacles may not be mere coincidence given Cobden’s patient prowess in the pointing sphere.

The numbers back up that impression, with Harry currently batting at 24% in chases for a level stakes profit of 14.74. Those figures do not include his 32 points profit from two rides in hunter chases, courtesy of the aforementioned El Mundo.

Hurdle performance is not far behind. Cobden has 32 winners over hurdles so far, at a 21% clip, for a profit of 22.5 points to date. Curiously, he is still to ride a National Hunt Flat race winner, though this is more likely a function of a small twelve-race sample and big-priced mounts than the absence of obstacles. A rifle through the records reveals that just two of the dozen bumper rides were sent off shorter than 9/1, Cobden achieving placed finishes on a pair of 50/1 chances.

So what of the immediate future? With Paul Nicholls’ retained jockey, Sam Twiston-Davies, unfortunately sidelined by a nasty injury to his spleen, Harry looks set to be a significant beneficiary at Team Ditcheat in the short-term, perhaps beginning this weekend at Cheltenham’s season-opening Showcase meeting.

One thing is for sure: Harry Cobden is a name to follow this jump season. And you’ll be able to do that more closely than you might have thought, because he’ll be penning a weekly diary right here on

Monday's Result :

4.00 Ayr : Dark Crystal @ 20/1 E/W BOG 7th at 16/1 (Chased leading pair, ridden to challenge over 1f out, weakened inside final furlong)

Tuesday's pick goes in the...

5.30 Fontwell:

Before I post the daily selection, just a quick reminder of how I operate the service. Generally, I'll identify and share the selection in the evening before the following day's race and I then add a detailed write-up later on that night/next morning.

Those happy to take the early price on trust can do so, whilst some might prefer to wait for my reasoning. As I fit the early service in around my family life, I can't give an exact timing on the posts, so I suggest you follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook for instant notifications of a published pick.


Dragoon Guard at 7/2 BOG


Now this 5yr old gelding may well be owned by one of the Geegeez racing syndicates and is trained by the Geegeez-sponsored Anthony Honeyball, but I assure you there's no nepotism or proprietary issues going on here at all.

Geegeez sponsor the Honeyball yard partially because we believe it's a yard going places and Anthony's runners are in fine form indeed. Over the last month, his 10 representatives have returned with 4 wins and 4 places and according to the excellent Horseracebase site, of all the trainers with runners at Fontwell today, Anthony is the most successful!

His record here over the last two years stands at 12 winners from 33 (36.4% SR) for 20.9pts (+63.4% ROI), with the following of interest today...

  • in handicaps : 8/21 (38.1% SR) for 19.3pts (+91.9% ROI)
  • at Class 4 : 5/17 (29.4% SR) for 7.5pts (+44.2% ROI)
  • and over hurdles : 516 (31.25% SR) for 3.8pts (+23.7% ROI)

But the above track success is no real surprise if you look at his more general record in handciap hurdles contests, where he has 56 winners from just 225 (24.9% SR) runners since the start of 2010 that have generated very healthy level stakes profits of 151.4pts at an ROI of 67.3%. Of those 225 runners...

  • class 4 runners are 27/99 927.3% SR) for 59.4pts (+60% ROI)
  • 5yr olds are 20/58 (34.5% SR) for 44.8pts (+77.2% ROI)
  • whilst back here at Fontwell, they are 8/19 (42.1% SR) for 9.4pts (+49.3% ROI)

...meaning today's play is a 1pt win bet on Dragoon Guard at 7/2 BOG which was widely available at 8.55pm. For your pick of the bookies, simply... here for the betting on the 5.30 Fontwell

Don't forget, we offer a full interactive racecard service every day!


Here is today's racecard...

Fifteen or so members of's Anthony Honeyball syndicates gathered this weekend at the trainer's Potwell Farm yard to inspect the horses.

As well as receiving a guided tour of the equine team, including youngsters who could be the stars of next season, we watched The Geegeez Geegee and Dragoon Guard work up the gallops.

Below are some photos of various members of the syndicate squad.

East Wing, who is out of training until late July, relaxing in his box

East Wing, who is out of training until late July, relaxing in his box


It's all too much for TGG, as he unleashes a monumental yawn. Time for a winning nap...!

It's all too much for TGG, as he unleashes a monumental yawn. Time for a winning nap...!



Harry, the latest member of Team Honeyball, on the gallops

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East Wing pops out to say hello

East Wing pops out to say hello


Our Malinas foal, not yet a year old, enjoying life in the paddock

Our Malinas foal, not yet a year old, enjoying life in the paddock


In the video below, TGG (ridden by Sally) leads a very nice youngster called Tacenda (Sarka), Horace Hazel (Danni), with Dragoon Guard (Stuart) bringing up the rear.


Big thanks to all the people who attended, but especially to Anthony, Rachael and their wonderful staff for taking time out, both on Friday night and Saturday morning, to make us feel extremely welcome. Nothing is too much trouble for these guys, and they're a pleasure to have horses with.

Special mentions on the catering front to Richard at Oscar's - I'm still full now (Sunday night!) - and Sue Willetts, whose chocolate brownies were exceptional (I probably didn't need the fourth one...)


p.s. Anthony mentioned a couple of horses that he's syndicating into tenths.

Tacenda unseated in her maiden point when clear and likely to win - you can see the video of that, as well as her pedigree, here.

The second is a machine of a home bred. He's by top stallion, Midnight Legend, out of a four-time winning mare called Gan On. For those of you who like to see how racehorses become racehorses, this video of the horse, from birth to now, is the answer.

These are high class animals, and they cost a little more than the average syndicate to get involved. However, once you've covered the initial capital outlay for the horse, the training costs are just £180/month. As I've said above, if you don't know already, Anthony and Rachael are great people to deal with and, obviously bloody good trainers (we wouldn't have four horses with them if they weren't!)

If either of these prospects - both expected to make their debuts in bumpers around October/November time - might be of interest, please check this page on Anthony's site for more details. I know that Anthony has very high hopes for this pair.