Monday 16 December 2019

No resting on our laurels as fever builds

With no racing down south during the week, Grancore Girl was our most recent runner at Clonmel last Sunday.

She stayed on to take third in the maiden hurdle, but she has had her problems and isn't quite fulfilling the potential she showed as a dual bumper winner a couple of years ago.

Because she is a scratchy mover and has been kept busy over the past few months, I decided on the way home from Clonmel that a bit of swimming might help her cause. I have what you could call a natural pool, dug out of the ground and filled by a river that runs through the farm.

We haven't used it for six months though, so the first job was to clear the entrance to it. I could tell you that involved sending in the hired labour with a strimmer, but the truth is I had to go at it myself with an old-fashioned slasher -- the glamorous life of a racehorse trainer!

Anyway, I tore into that on Tuesday, and it was well worth doing as I am anxious to get more of them swimming now that we are into spring. Jagoes Mills is one that will get great use out of it. He ran a bit flat when second to Kempes at Thurles last week, so the pool will freshen him up and keep him ticking over.

Sinead, my head girl, was afraid the Thurles race would come a bit soon for him after his Fairyhouse win, and we went into it ready to take our beating if it came.

So it did, but we have plenty time now to get him right for the Powers Gold Cup in April.

On Wednesday, the weights for the Cheltenham handicaps were published. I have Preists Leap and Tawnies entered in the cross-country race, and I was happy with what they got. Preists Leap has 10st 13lb, while Tawnies only needs a few to come out to get a run off bottom weight.

Tawnies has run well around the course before, while I'd just like to see Preists Leap enjoy himself and show a bit of form in advance of another crack at the Aintree Grand National.

He ran a super race until he weakened from the second last at Liverpool 12 months ago; the handicapper has dropped him five pounds this year, so I'm looking forward to having another crack at it.

At Fairyhouse last time, Preists belted the first fence and unseated Philip Enright, but he's always capable of that kind of blip. He did the same with Nina Carberry in the Paddy Power Chase before he won last year's Thyestes, and it just means that we have to give him a bit more intensive schooling, which was on the cards anyway with Cheltenham and Aintree around the corner.

In fact, I've spent a lot of the week out collecting laurel from the local woods. Most of the cross-country fences at Cheltenham are stuffed with laurel, so I'm doing the same at home in an effort to try and teach Preists to brush through it rather than over it. Having said that, after what he did at Fairyhouse, jumping through fences isn't going to be a problem!

We actually schooled all the horses yesterday that didn't run last week. Every now and then schooling sessions can be entertaining, shall we say, and so it proved yesterday. Sehar, who is from Pakistan and has probably only ever schooled once before, threw some of the more interesting shapes on one of the old handicappers. Star shapes, I think they are called.

In fairness, at least he managed to stay on, which can't be said of poor Grace. It's very undignified to take pleasure in someone else's misfortune, but Sehar wasn't half pleased with himself when he realised that the loose horse careering round the field wasn't his.

Joking aside, the rest of session went well, and I was especially pleased with the way Castleview Mills jumped under Sinead. He runs in the Tetratema Perpetual Cup Hunters' Chase at Gowran Park tomorrow -- I'm expecting a big performance.

He finished fifth at Clonmel last time, but the ground was practically unraceable that day and he couldn't jump out of it. When he worked up our grass gallop on Wednesday morning, he looked in great nick, so he should go close.

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