31 December 2015 by Ed de Giles
2015 draws to a close so we look back on what has been yet another great year for the team. I am not sure that I set an official target of winners this year but obviously I had hoped we would have similar or better to last year. I did however think that with the mix of horses we had that we might struggle. We had a fair few older horses that appeared fully handicapped at the end of 2014 and a very nice bunch of 2 year olds that were not necessarily going to be at their best until they were 3 year olds. In 2014 we had 26 Flat winners and one National Hunt winner and for 2015 we have had 25 Flat winners and 1 National Hunt winner (50% strike rate!!).
We reached October with 17 winners and 27 seconds! Normally the ratio is much closer and we were going to keep a few on the go into the winter and they duly obliged narrowing the gap to 2 with 25 winners and 27 seconds!
I will mention a few of the horses and give my thoughts.
Kingsgate Choice who was one of the fully handicapped horses I mentioned. He has been extremely hard to keep sound since last year. He had a nice comeback run at York and then went to Musselburgh where I think you can excuse his run for a catalogue of reasons. He then went to Newmarket and just got touched off in a very competitive sprint finishing 2nd by a head which was frustrating to say the least! However it showed our perseverance was worth it. Unfortunately at Ascot next time his old injury flared up so we have given him a long break and will have one more crack next year.
Croquembouche is another that one might have thought was fully handicapped coming into the season off 85 at the age of 6 but he still managed a win and 2 seconds picking up £25k in prize money. I do feel that he has been slightly cheated coming 2nd in 2 valuable handicaps, so next year he will get his reward I am sure. He rather frustratingly had June and July off due to a slight niggle but we kept him going by swimming him which enabled him to pick up £10k in prize money later on in the season.
Shades of Silver came to us half way through the season on an all-time high of 82 and ran twice for us. He won at Kempton with a Timeform rating of 91+ and finished 2nd at Goodwood with a Timeform rating 97. It was great that he continued his ascendency in the handicap. I am sure we will have a lot of fun with him next year.
Prendergast Hill is a smashing horse that we had to be patient with as he was too backward as a 2 year old to run and it paid off. He had three runs this year finishing 4th, 2nd,1st, in that order! I am really excited about him for next year and am sure he will end up on a higher mark than 85!
Bazooka picked up a slab fracture as a 2 year old and we were very patient with him and he rewarded us this year by being placed 4 times and winning a nice prize up at Hamilton. He was unfortunately claimed at Windsor which was a shame.
Akavit has been an absolute star this year winning 4 races on the Flat and 1 over hurdles. He is a quirky horse who has run the occasional bad race but you can’t knock him with that record. His second run over hurdles up at Wetherby was a winning run which I think was a remarkable effort on ground that would not necessarily have been in his favour. He was still very green but his actual jumping was much improved albeit from a strange path to each flight! We have given him a small break and I hope to have him out in early February. The handicapper has pencilled in 121 for him so another win or good run in a decent race might get him to a Fred Winter mark which would be great, but let’s see.
Frosty Berry has been an absolute superstar for us this year. She arrived in the summer on a mark of 61 having rather lost her way. She is a lovely imposing horse who I might have earmarked as replacement for Ajzal further down the line had she not progressed (Julie might have had something to say about that!). I somehow don’t think that will be happening now!! She has now won 4 on the bounce for us and is on a mark of 82. We were very busy with her over the Autumn/Winter so she is now having a few easy weeks with lots of hacking around the farm which she is loving. She certainly likes to get her toe in hence soft ground at Redcar and the Southwell surface have suited her perfectly. We have a plan in place but that will entail running her on a surface that might well not suit but until you try you just don’t know and then we have the option of two larger pots, which route we take depends on how she goes next time. We had schooled her before she started winning which she loved but I think now we must stick to the flat as she deserves to have a crack at some bigger pots. She really is a nice broodmare prospect further down the line.
Operative is a smashing horse who I think will be better next year. He has to go down as being unlucky having been beaten by Orvar 101rated listed winner on his first run and then finishing 3rd beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Guitaifan who is now rated 115 on his 2nd run. He didn’t run a bad race apart from the York Sales race, but he had his excuses.
Marcle is a smashing little horse who was 2nd twice then lost his maiden tag in a Nursery. He is a tough little nut and will; I am sure give us a lot of fun next year.
Wakame continued to improve winning on his 6th time of asking. He will definitely go on next year.
Chilli Jam is a lovely big horse that improved with each run. He was never going to do a lot this year so I am very excited about him for next year.
Carcharias was beginning to get the hang of things and was certainly better than the bare result on his last run! Some of you will know my true feelings about that day! He will be a fun horse next year.
Swanton Blue aka “Chubbs” is a cracking little horse and really deserved to win this season, he did however manage 3 seconds. I think things didn’t go his way on his last run and it probably came a bit quick. He has had a nice break and looks to have eaten one too many mince pies! I am sure he will give us a lot of fun next year and certainly get that much deserved win to his name.
Tea Gown is a lovely horse who I think is more than capable of winning off her mark. I always excuse one poor run which was her last one. She has had a little break and is back bouncing and will hopefully be out in 10 days’ time.
Quantum Dot has won two races both this year and both for us which is great. He is a fun little horse who needs to dominate which is why he didn’t follow up last time. I may well step him up in trip at some point.
Bella imperatrix had a minor setback but is back and in great order. She definitely has ability and I will be surprised if we don’t see her winning in 2016.
Wind In My Sails did well enough this year winning at Leicester and two seconds at Lingfield and Goodwood (unfair not to get the race in the Stewards room in my opinion!!). He didn’t progress as much as I had hoped but still had a respectable season. He has now been gelded and I am sure can move on next year.
Tijuca sustained a pelvic injury at Wolverhampton last year so we gave her time and brought her back slowly. She is now running better than ever and has won a total of 3 races. I am sure there is another win in her. I will probably retire her in the spring and possibly breed from her.
Cay Location finished fairly early on and we brought him back in early. He has grown up a lot and I am sure once the penny drops there will be fun to be had with him.
Zlatan – we haven't quite worked him out yet but we will, and he is wintering well so I am sure that he will reward us at some point next season.
Both Twenty one Choice and Go Nani Go managed to score this year which was great considering Nani’s age and Fish’s problems! We will play around with them next season, they will be good work horses for the rest of the yard and if a suitable race pops up we will let them have a run.
Panko and Incus were both big backward babies this season and already look far bigger and stronger. I am sure they will both come good next year.
We didn’t run two 2 year olds as they just were not ready. Wassail, a Shamardal Filly, and Arquus, a Lilbourne Lad colt.
Arquus showed plenty of ability in the little bit of work we did and has filled out nicely. He is out of a Rainbow Quest mare and I am sure he will be a cracking horse on the flat who could well make up into a juvenile hurdler. He is for sale!!
Wassail is a magnificent looking horse who has so much scope, but she was just very weak and backward. This is no longer the case and I am particularly excited about her for next year.
We have a very nice bunch of 2 year olds that are progressing nicely.
Last winter we had to endure a building site as the construction of the new barn and pool went on. I don’t think I could have handled that again this winter, as no matter how good the builders are the mess and noise is just not what you need when working away through the winter months! Thankfully we don’t as it was all done by May and I could not be more pleased with the finished product. The horses love the new barn all with “a room with a view” and the pool has been unbelievable. Sounds like a 5 star Hotel!
We have put a lot of horses through the pool over the summer, some more than others. It has just enabled us to keep horses going that have had various issues which may have been as innocuous as a stone bruise, a Splint or sore shins that invariably 10 days rest from the gallops would help to settle, or more pressing injuries that you just could not continue to canter or gallop for longer periods eg. injuries to the MCP/MTP joints, due to fetlock hyperextension at high speed that need a break for a few weeks post medication, or Tibial bone stresses – an injury that frequently occurs in young racehorses. It is a result of repeated stress cycling to the bone during training. The stress process is necessary for the bone to adjust and become strong enough to take the stresses of racing but it’s a fine balance between the stressing to strengthen and stressing that causes fatigue and potential bone stress. The prognosis from this injury is excellent but it takes time and if you are able to swim the horse to maintain fitness while you wait for it to be ready to start exercise again you will save time and money getting the horse back on the track.
Another common cause of lameness in flat horses is Subchondral bone pain which is a result of a stress adaption mismatch injury involving the condyles of the third metacarpal/metatarsal bones, caused by focal compressive forces that occur during exercise, in simple terms the cannon bone joining the lower joint. Quite often this presents itself not in lameness but a shortening of stride so you can imagine a reduced performance. There is an increased risk to joint injury with cumulative high speed exercise. So I think swimming horses has two roles, firstly prevention of injury and secondly cure of injury.
With a sound horse if we can replace one piece of work a week we are going to prolong the racing life of the horse, and with horses that have incurred an injury rather than giving the horse time off, which costs the owner money and causes frustration, we can keep the horse at a level of fitness until it is ready to resume work and racing.
Tendon injuries are thankfully less common in Flat horses but they do occur and only time will give the leg a chance of standing up to racing. It takes a lot of work to get a horse back to full fitness after a long rest period and tendons after injury will only take so much stress, so again the pool can help with fitness while not putting a tendon under any pressure, thus giving the horse a much better chance of making a successful return to the track.
I think the pool has contributed to at least 20% of our winners this year. Bazooka is the most notable, not necessarily in prize money but just by the nature of his injury. As I explained earlier he suffered a slab fracture to his knee on his last run as a 2 year old. This was pinned and he was given plenty of time. We brought him back into work slowly and every time we were ready for fast work, he would display low grade lameness. We swam him for 3 months with the occasional piece of work thrown in. He ran 6 times of which he was placed 4 times and won once. He was 100% sound throughout. So the patience was well worth it.
Training racehorses is all about keeping them healthy and keeping them sound. I know some of you might think I am going on a bit, but maybe I am trying to justify the huge capital expenditure that has gone into the yard over the last 5 years, not least with the pool, and I am 100% convinced that we have done the right thing, which has been reflected in our success this year.
Much to the horror of Claire we are not stopping there! We will take delivery of a high speed treadmill in a couple of months that will complement the pool and gallops in keeping our horses sound and have them winning plenty of races going forward. I am sure that we, as a yard, will continue to go from strength to strength. I could not have achieved any of this however without the support my wonderful staff, owners, family and of course the tough horses we have here. Well done and thank you to all. I am really looking forward to 2016.
I also have to mention the New Year’s Honours list. If one person this year deserved a Knighthood it has to be A P McCoy. What an inspiration he is and a fantastic advertisement for racing. Great stuff!
Happy New Year.