Lady Buttons back in training – and may run before Christmas

Phil Kirby’s much-loved mare Lady Buttons has made a tentative return to training after a rare issue halted her second career as a broodmare.

Lady Buttons is already a multiple graded winner over hurdles and fences, having also been a useful bumper horse in her youth.

She went on to win both the Group Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster and the Listed Mares’ Hurdle at Wetherby twice – also finishing second in the latter in 2017.

Those runs were interspersed with impressive chasing performances, including victories in the Yorton Stallions Mares’ Novices’ Chase at Bangor in 2017 and the Listed Yorkshire Silver Vase Mares’ Chase in 2018 and 2019.

She was retired last September after sustaining a minor injury which would have seen her sidelined for most of the campaign.

Lady Buttons is owned by Jayne Sivills and was bred by her husband Keith, and it was their decision to call time on her career following the injury and instead send her to Coolmore’s Grange Stud in Ireland to be covered by Walk In The Park.

She did not conceive, though – and after blood samples were sent to America it transpired she had under-developed ovaries, an unusual and untreatable condition which means she would never produce a foal.

Lady Buttons and jockey Adam Nicol
Lady Buttons and jockey Adam Nicol (Richard Sellers/PA)

Lady Buttons was not far from the peak of her powers when retiring, so connections have opted to send her back to Kirby’s base for another season in training.

The North Yorkshire trainer has her return to the track pencilled in by Christmas – but there are no firm plans for her comeback date, and she will not continue to be campaigned should she fail to train or run at her previous level.

“It’s very much in the balance still – we haven’t decided one way or another,” said Kirby.

“There’s no rush, and we’ve no desperation to run. If she’s working as well as she was then we will – but if not there’s no harm done.

“She had under-developed ovaries, and that was preventing her from being able to have foals. It is what it is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Lady Buttons at Wetherby
Lady Buttons at Wetherby (Richard Sellers/PA)

“She was at Coolmore, so they’ve done everything they possibly can. We gave her every chance, and it’s just a shame, but we know she likes her work so we thought we might as well just see how she gets on.

“If she’s not as good as she was, she won’t be running again. That’s how we’ve left it, and we’re all happy with that.

“We’ll just see how she comes back – if her work is as good as it was then we’ll give it another go; if not then we won’t.

“I’d imagine it would be around Christmas time or November into December – she should be ready for about then.

“She’d have to be somewhere near her best to be running again, but there’s no desperate need to run her – and she’ll be staying with us, no matter what happens.”

Bushypark will be back for more soon

Bushypark may bid to continue his winning streak over the busy Christmas and new year period, after completing a 24-day four-timer at Doncaster last week.

Phil Kirby’s charge opened his account when landing a significant gamble at Hexham last month, and a 15lb rise in the weights was nowhere near enough to stop him following up in a conditional jockeys’ race at Haydock exactly a fortnight later.

The six-year-old completed his hat-trick back at Hexham the following week, and made light of a 48-hour turnaround when defying a 7lb penalty at Doncaster on Friday.

“He’s grand and has come out of Doncaster fine,” said Kirby.

“He’ll have a little break now. I haven’t even looked at the programme book, to be honest, but we’ll try to pick something for him over Christmas or early in the new year.

“He’s as hard as nails and doesn’t need a long holiday – he just needs freshening back up again.

“He likes racing at the minute – so while he’s well, we’ll keep going.”

Kim Bailey thrilled to see Balleticon back to winning ways after long absence

Kim Bailey was delighted to see Balleticon make a successful return from a 705-day absence in the 20K Owners Club Guarantee Maiden Hurdle at Southwell on Sunday.

Runner-up in two of his three bumper starts, the six-year-old had not been seen in competitive action since finishing fifth at Bangor almost two years ago.

Hot favourite Mocacreme Has loomed up looking a big danger to the front-running Balleticon before leaving the back straight, but the latter refused to yield and proved three and a half lengths too strong.

Bailey said: “I’m absolutely thrilled and a big thank you goes to my head lad George Savill. He rides this horse every day and he is far from an easy horse, I promise you.

“His bumper form is rock solid and he’s got stacks of ability, but he’s unbelievably fragile.

“Fingers crossed he’s in one piece tomorrow and I rather feel the same way about his owners, actually – this is their first winner and I think there’ll be big celebrations for them tonight!”

Ecossais justified 2-1 favouritism in the opening Download The Star Sports App Now! Handicap Chase.

Ecossais (centre) on his way to victory at Southwell
Ecossais (centre) on his way to victory at Southwell (Tim Goode/PA)

Oliver Greenall’s charge successfully followed up his course victory of last month with a near three-length verdict in the hands of 5lb claimer Ross Turner.

“I’m very pleased. He’s healthy and well and improving, so it’s all good,” said Greenall.

“I was a bit worried about the softer ground, but he seemed to handle it.

“He just seems uncomplicated, so it’s great.”

Debden Bank also obliged for favourite-backers in the Call Star Sports On 08000 521 321 Handicap Chase.

A promising third on his seasonal reappearance at Stratford last month, the 100-30 chance was fitted with cheekpieces for his latest assignment and they seemed to have the desired effect, with James Best’s mount powering 11 lengths clear of his toiling rivals.

Fame And Concrete made a seriously impressive start to his career in the Read Davy Russell’s Exclusive Blog Standard Open NH Flat Race.

Representing the father-son combination of Jonjo O’Neill and Jonjo O’Neill junior, the 7-2 shot took over the lead rounding the home and the further he went the better he looked – passing the post 13 lengths clear of Deeper Blue.

Phil Kirby’s Another Theatre was a surprise winner of the £10k Showtime Guarantee Mares’ Handicap Hurdle.

Formerly trained by Henry Oliver, the daughter of Shantou had shown precious little in her first two starts over fences for Kirby in finishing seventh at Perth before being pulled up at the same track.

Another Theatre was a wide-margin winner
Another Theatre was a wide-margin winner (Tim Goode/PA)

She was priced up accordingly for her return to the smaller obstacles at 28-1, but romped to an 18-length triumph under Tommy Dowson.

Kirby said: “Her form was good before we got her and the plan was to go chasing, but she’s just struggled.

“She’d schooled well at home, but hasn’t jumped particularly well at the races, so we just decided to go back to basics over hurdles and try to teach her to be a racehorse again, as she’d just lost her way.

“It’s a nice surprise to see her win today. Hopefully there’s more to come from her now.”

Oliver Sherwood and Brendan Powell combined to land the Pipped At The Post Offer EBF “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle with 10-11 favourite Ocean Drifter.

Lady Buttons retired following setback

Phil Kirby hailed Lady Buttons as “our horse of a lifetime” after confirming his star mare’s retirement because of injury.

While very much in the twilight of her racing career at the age of 10, the daughter of Beneficial was arguably better than ever last season – winning three of her five starts.

After successfully defending her crown in the Listed mares’ hurdle at Wetherby in early November, Lady Buttons finished a creditable fourth in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle before landing both a Listed mares’ chase and a Grade Two mares’ hurdle at Doncaster.

She could finish only seventh in an especially high-class renewal of the Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March, but Kirby had been looking forward to her return to action this autumn for one final season.

In an emotional statement posted on Twitter, the trainer said: “It’s been a significant morning here at the yard, and time has been called on a wonderful career. Our horse of a lifetime, and the people’s favourite, Lady Buttons, has been retired.

“Keith, Jayne (Sivills, owners) and all of us here would like to thank you so much for sharing her incredible racing story with us. What a legend she has been, and the decision to retire her this morning was typical of her devoted owners – putting the mare first.

“A small setback meant she would have been on the sidelines until Christmas, and a spring return would not have been in Buttons’ best interests.

“With a few months now to chill, her second career begins in the spring and we’re delighted that she will remain with us to become a broodmare.

“We can’t wait to see her in the fields with a foal by her side – one chapter is over but the next one begins.”

Lady Buttons won 15 of her 33 career starts, earning almost £300,000 in win and place prize-money.