A year ago today, we were stood in the paddock at Aintree, cheering on Point Of Principle in the Grade 3 handicap hurdle. Charlie Price gave him a great ride and together with an enthusiastic bunch of Oceans Racing owners, we were all getting quite excited, but the pair were reeled in close home.
It’s a shame he got caught and slightly surprising too, given we used to be quite good at training winners on 5th of Aprils. And 4th of Aprils too. And doubles. George Woolf (R Johnson) and Swift Escape (R Kirk (5)) combined for a double at Exeter on 4th April 2012, whilst we also had a double on the 5th in 2010, courtesy of Jimbatai (R Johnson) and Kilmore West (M Murphy (5)) at Chepstow, though we had to wait a few months for the latter to be awarded the race having originally finished second.
The 5th of April also saw the debut of one of the most promising horses we have had in the yard, the very sadly ill-fated Aland Islands (right, M Byrne). A lovely horse and much-missed, he made a winning debut at Exeter that day, subsequently became the first horse we had in training for JP McManus and went on to win three of his next five starts, before suffering a fatal fall in 2012.
Paul Bowtell’s Dadsintrouble (pictured left, A Johns) was sent off at 20-1 for his handicap debut off a mark of 109, which seems quite big looking back at it now, particularly as he was rated 25lbs higher by the following spring.
Like Point Of Principle, he went on to place in a Graded handicap at the Aintree Grand National meeting, as did First Fandango (pictured right, but at Cheltenham), who finished third in the same race as Dadsintrouble, but back on 4th April 2013, in the hands of Bradley Gibbs.
I suppose having some time off from racing gives us time to study what we have done right and what we’ve done wrong in previous years. So I’ll take the following notes for the 4th/5th April next year;
1. Run more horses in bumpers. We seem to have a better strike-rate on 4th/5th April than any other day.
2. Ensure at least two horses at each meeting, to give us the chance of a double.
3. If at Aintree, prepare for the horse to run well in defeat (thankfully, the dates for next year are 8th-10th April)