Seven Days and counting

Seven days to go until the greatest show on turf and fingers crossed we are set fair for a Cheltenham Festival which suffers zero interruptions from the current outbreak of coronavirus.

With any luck the relevant health authorities can get a strangle hold on the issue and ensure as few people as possible are affected, but in the meantime we continue as usual at the yard, doing our best to control the factors within our grasp and run as well as possible for the good of both horses and owners.

It’s obviously concerning from a sporting angle to see the likes of Serie A football in Italy as well Six Nations rugby having to make changes, while the looming threat to the Olympics in Japan would be a real blow. 

As I updated in last week’s bulletin, in our corner of North Herefordshire our stable star Happy Diva continues to thrive as we get her ready for her assignment in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate a week on Thursday (4.10pm).

She could be joined by Storm Control, an improving seven year old who is currently number 34 on the list of entries for the penultimate race on Tuesday’s opening card, the listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase (4.50pm). 

‘Storm’ won handsomely at Doncaster just before Christmas and has had valid excuses for running below that level the last twice.

It’ll be touch and go to see whether he squeezes into the final field at Cheltenham, plus he has options at other tracks including an entry at Hereford this coming Saturday (4.05pm), but his owners are fun loving and ambitious and would leap at the chance to have a crack at a big prize at the Cheltenham Festival if it looks as though we’re going to creep into the final field for the Festival option. Watch this space!

In other news, a belated welcome back to the consummate professional which is champion jockey Richard Johnson.

Four winners from his first seven rides since being off just 37 days with a broken arm suffered in a fall at Exeter made us all feel like he’d never been away, and though he’s got a gap of 19 winners to try and make up on Brian Hughes in the next few weeks, if anyone can, it’s him.

Based just down the road from me in our part of the world, Richard is a giant of the sport and won’t be giving up his jockeys’ title lightly, of that you can be certain. He’s as hungry and driven now as he was 20 years ago.

He’s ridden multiple winners for both myself and my Dad down the years, including a hat-trick of Grade 2 chases on our stable favourite, the evergreen and much loved Top Gamble.

Remarkably those successes came in three different countries, via victories at Ayr, Newbury and Fairyhouse. Great days all of them and we are always happy to have him on our side.

Let’s hope both men stay fit and injury free and we get to see a great tussle for the title right up until the final day of the horse racing jumps season.

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