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Bennachie follows up

Ten days after shedding his maiden tag over fences at Plumpton, Bennachie took advantage of being able to run off the same mark when landing a competitive handicap chase at Taunton yesterday evening under Alan Johns.

The win didn’t look likely on a couple of occasions through the race, but he does stay well and, having come back on the bridle exiting the back straight, he found enough in reserve to hold off the challenges of the two placed horses, with the rest well beaten off.

Having had two quick races now, we’ll look to give him three weeks or so before his next run, when hopefully he can make a very bold bid for the hat-trick.  Congratulations to his owners Oceans Racing!

We have only our third ever runner in Ireland this evening, with Dadsintrouble (pictures above!) running in the 3m handicap hurdle at the Punchestown Festival, the meeting at which Spirit Of Adjisa landed the Grade 1 Champion Novice Hurdle for us back in 2011.  Hopefully he can run a big race for owner Paul Bowtell, who is celebrating his birthday with a couple of days’ racing at Punchestown!


Aintree review

IMG_2049 Having finished a close third in the Grade 1 Sefton Novices’ Hurdle at the meeting last year, it has been a frustrating season for Debece, who had a couple of niggles before Christmas and therefore returned to Aintree this time around for what was a very belated seasonal reappearance.

Though it would have been lovely to see him win on his comeback, it was a hugely competitive Grade 3 handicap hurdle and, despite looking the likeliest winner entering the home straight and jumping the second-last a couple of lengths clear, he just got tired in the soft ground and faded between the last and the line to finish fourth.

Still, it was a fine effort and he appears to have taken the race very well indeed, so we will now look to give him another run over hurdles in a month or so before he heads out on his summer break.  That could come in the Long Distance Handicap Hurdle at Haydock on Swinton Hurdle day, Saturday 12th May.  Looking ahead to next season, I am really looking forward to seeing him over fences!

IMG_2030Point Of Principle was another to return to the meeting a year on, having finished a close seventh in the Grade 2 bumper a year ago, a race that worked out particularly well.  He showed himself to be a smart novice when winning at Ascot in February and went well for a long way in the Grade 1 Sefton here, though he was a spent force after the second-last.  A drop back to 2m4f may suit him better, especially on soft ground, and we may well look to give him one more run in novice company before the season comes to an end.  He has provided his owners Oceans Racing with some tremendously exciting days out and looks a smart prospect to go handicap hurdling next term.

A wIMG_2061ide-margin winner at Bangor in December, Bells Of Ailsworth had run the subsequent Midlands National winner close at Taunton on his next outing and we headed to Aintree full of hope that he could run a big race.  Unfortunately, a false start seemed to affect his concentration and he was very slow into stride when they did jump off, losing all chance.  It was a real shame and I felt very sorry for his owners Steve and Mick, but hopefully he can make amends next time.  He could head to Uttoxeter for the Staffordshire Plate at the beginning of May.

Finally, a very fond farewell to one of our former stars, with Saint Are having been retired by his connections after being brought down in the National on Saturday.  We were all hugely relieved to hear he had returned back to Tom George’s yard safe and sound after the incident and he fully deserves a long and happy retirement.  We won’t forget the two big days he gave us at consecutive Aintree Grand National meetings, especially our maiden Grade 1 win in the Sefton Novices’ Hurdle back in 2011, and that he went on to run in four Grand Nationals for Tom is a wonderful achievement and proof of what a tough, talented horse he is.



Bennachie adds fourth career success

Having had a break since going close at Huntingdon on Boxing Day, Bennachie made a winning return when running away with the 2m4f handicap chase at Plumpton yesterday under Charlie Deutsch.

Charlie’s only previous ride for us came on Makethedifference in the Listed Gerry Feilden at Newbury a couple of years ago, in which he finished third, but he had looked unlikely to be able to take up yesterday’s engagement after a heavy fall in the Grand National on Saturday.  However, National Hunt jockeys are made of stern stuff and, less than 24 hours after that tumble, he gave Bennachie an excellent ride yesterday, hitting the front at the last and bounding clear to win by seven lengths.

As it was a conditional jockeys’ contest, Bennachie would escape a penalty if running before a week Friday so we will probably look to have him out again next week.  Congratulations to his owners Oceans Racing.


Pieces work the oracle for Tara Mac

Tara Mac came into Saturday’s race with uninspiring form figures of FUP, but had won over fences on her reappearance in October and, with cheekpieces fitted and having her third run back over hurdles, she bounced back to form with a game success at Newcastle under promising 5lbs conditional Harry Reed.

Having travelled well through the race, she was briefly a little outpaced turning in, but kept on really strongly up the home straight to get the better of a protracted duel with the runner-up.  She is unlikely to go up much for that win and we also have the option of going back over fences, so hopefully she can add another win in the coming weeks for her owners Brian and Wayne Jones.


C’est Du Gateau off the mark

C’est Du Gateau has needed plenty of time, so it was very pleasing to see him reward his owners’ patience with a breakthrough success at Towcester yesterday under a good ride from conditional Richard Patrick.

Held up of a sensible gallop in what were very testing conditions, he made up ground from the home turn and, hitting the front before the last, he kept on to score by four lengths, despite idling a little late on.

We will look to give him another run over hurdles next, but we won’t wait long before sending him over fences in the spring.


Brian follows up at Ayr

43d9052d-6f5d-4f5e-b209-fd1cd23de5d2Looksnowtlikebrian is an exciting young staying chaser in the making and he coped with the drop back in trip when winning narrowly at Ayr yesterday, providing Richard Johnson with his 150th winner of the season!

Settled in second, Looksnowtlikebrian failed to jump with much fluency and, though he travelled well through the contest, those mistakes looked like they might prove his undoing as he duelled with the eventual runner-up from the home bend all the way to the line.  However, he definitely has a good engine and, despite losing ground over the fences, he had enough class to get the better of his main rival close home, following up his win at Ffos Las in December.

He’ll have plenty more schooling next week, but will be better suited when conditions are in his favour and he remains a progressive young chaser to follow.  Congratulations to his owners Steve and Reg Botham!


Norm wins at Southwell

DW45lIRWAAEB3_HHaving looked very unlucky not to win on his reappearance at Stratford in October, Normandy King atoned for his last-fence blunder that day when winning well at Southwell yesterday under Alan Johns.

He jumped really nicely in the main and was travelling best from some way out, and a slight mistake at the last wasn’t enough to stop him winning by just over three lengths.

He has always shown ability in his work at home and hopefully this win will represent the start of him fulfilling that promise on the racecourse.  I am delighted for his owners The 600 Club, who have been very patient with him.


Good luck Andrea!!!

The whole team will be keeping everything crossed for Andrea Kelly tonight as she is in the final three of the Leadership category for the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards in London!
Good luck Andrea

Andrea has been our Travelling Head Lass since I started training and she is, quite simply, outstanding. Her care for the horses is second to none, she is a wonderful example to others and I am sure every owner who has had an involvement with a horse at Pant Wilkin will agree that she thoroughly deserves the recognition she has received by being nominated and then shortlisted for this prestigious award.

Below is a recording of Andrea’s interview on Good Morning Wales this morning and hopefully there will be plenty more coverage of the big night tonight!  You can follow the awards ceremony on twitter by following @BHAPressOffice, on Instagram ‘britishhorseracingauthority’ and on Facebook @BritishHorseracingAuthority.

We are all incredibly proud of Andrea and wish her the very best of luck!


Point Of Principle impresses…and completes clean sweep!

We took two Oceans Racing horses to Ascot on Saturday and were delighted to come away with a winner and a fifth, Point Of Principle just getting the better of a ding-dong battle from the last, stretching his neck out to win by the minimum margin.

A smart performer in bumpers, his close seventh in the Grade 2 contest at Aintree last April has proved incredibly strong form and he went on to finish fourth at Cheltenham on his hurdling debut in October before finding only Silver Concorde too good at Musselburgh the following month.

We hold him in high regard, which is why he was pitched in a strong novice contest at Ascot, and he duly delivered with a tremendously game effort.  There is still improvement to be made in the jumping department (though he was very good indeed at the last two), but he has an engine and we may look to return to Aintree in April, with the likelihood of one more run in between.

I checked this morning and Point Of Principle’s win means we have now had a winner at every National Hunt track in the country, which is an achievement that we can all be very proud of!  Ticking off Cheltenham and Ascot (where we had a few close seconds, notably Rigidity in the Ladbroke in 2011 and Saved By John in a valuable handicap chase in 2013) this season means a lot to all the team and hopefully we won’t have to wait as long for our next winners at both tracks going forwards!

Laugharne ran a cracker on his first start for us, having been purchased for £15,000 at Ascot in November.  He was short of room on a couple of occasions and Alan just found himself a little further back than ideal when the race began in earnest, but he stayed on really nicely and I am looking forward to seeing him next time.  It was also pleasing to see Officer Hoolihan return to some form and I’m sure he can improve again when encountering spring ground in the weeks ahead.


Tanit back to winning ways

DWWHHqmW4AAf0LqTanit River is a real favourite in the yard and it was brilliant to see him bounce back to his best at Sandown Park yesterday, making most of the running under Alan Johns for a ready success in the 3m handicap chase.

He had shown signs of returning to form when fifth in the Mandarin at Newbury on his previous start in December and an interesting stat was highlighted by Tom Segal in the Racing Post, who noticed that Tanit’s record on his first start after Christmas is now four from four…I just hope the Welsh National gets moved to the first week of January now!!

DWWHK58WAAABZKKLooking ahead, we have for some time seen him as a potential Welsh National horse and it would be lovely to have him in the same form on the big day next season.  In the meantime, there is a good chance we will head next for the Challenger Staying Chase Series Final at Haydock Park on Easter Saturday.  His owners Brian Ead and Martin Moore are wonderful supporters of the yard and I am delighted for them.

Thanks to Fran Altoft for the use of the wonderful photos!