He has fewer than 20 horses in training, yet Lambourn based Harry Whittington continues to rack-up the winners and has a number in the yard capable of competing at a very high level.
There’s little doubt that Arzal remains the star of the show and is proving to be one of the outstanding two-mile novice chasers. A stunning success at Newbury’s Hennessy meeting was followed by a cracking run at Kempton over Christmas, when he chased home Ar Mad and Vaniteux. He found Henderson’s chaser a little quick for him again at Doncaster in January, but remains a chaser with a bright future.
I’d hoped that the six-year-old would take his chance in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham, as he looked a tasty each-way proposition. However, Mr Whittington informs me that the target is Aintree, and the horse will contest the 2m4f Manifesto Novices’ Chase, won last year by Clarcam. He kept on well last time at Doncaster, and the extra half mile should prove well within his compass.
Last Saturday proved another terrific day for the yard when Affaire D’Honneur ran a mighty race in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury. He’d got a shocker of a start and was second-last turning for home, but absolutely stormed up the straight to finish fourth, and would have been second in another 50 yards. It was a sensational performance from the French import, and he now heads for the Imperial Cup at Sandown. He’s by no means huge, but does look to have the scope to become a chaser. He jumps his hurdles like fences, and is a terrific prospect.
One that will be heading to Cheltenham is the juvenile Duke Of Medina. He’s set to run in the Fred Winter having come up short at Cheltenham last time in testing ground. He’d come within a whisker of beating Alan King’s exciting juvenile Gibralfaro at Kempton over Christmas. Should the rains ever abate in the lead to the Festival, he would get the decent ground that looks sure to suit.
Another Hill Barn inmate with plenty of potential is the suitably named Emerging Force. The huge son of Milan looks every inch a chaser in the making. He was brave last time, when getting up late to win a staying hurdle at Doncaster. He’s now two from three under rules, but remains a raw looking individual and another summer out at grass should do him the world of good.
The yard also has an exciting young mare on their hands with Pink Play successful in her last two starts. The five-year-old won under a penalty at Wetherby earlier in the month when given a smashing ride by Nico de Boinville. She’s slick over the birch and being by King's Theatre should find decent ground to her liking, though she has coped admirably with testing conditions during the winter.
Whittington only started out in September 2012 and the progress during this campaign has been quite startling. The yard now has 18 wins from just 63 runs, at a stunning strike rate of 29%, with prize money of more than £127,000. The team are heading in the right direction. The future at Hill Barn Stables looks an exciting and prosperous one.