Martin’s Blog 29th January

Not the day we planned at Sedgefield on Sunday with all three horses pulling up. Both Bobble Emerald and Gold Mountain were returning after over 400 days off and in the horrendous winds their breathing found both of them out and Ben Brain will have a look at both of them in the next few days. All three blood tested perfectly the day before so we knew to look elsewhere for their poor performances. Young Phoenix was making his fencing debut and maybe the softened ground wasn’t in his favour. We’d gone there for decent ground but by the time we arrived it had gone soft.

A character building day but Bobble Emerald won best turned out so his groom Kathy, who is his biggest fan, so well done to her. All home safe.

The rest of my family had a fun day out at Cocklebarrow Point to Point and were there to cheer on Freddie’s best friend Richard Cook who was 2nd in his pony race and the boy’s great friend Fern O’Brien who as also 2nd in hers. Apparently a great day with a huge variety of food & drink stalls, a heated marquee and lots of friends – highly recommended for next year where maybe Freddie will be in a pony race too.

Henry Oliver’s £140 fine for waving his hands in the air hoping to encourage his runner to leave the Start and race on Saturday has made lots of headlines since then with AP, Nicky Henderson and now Alan King voicing their opinions in shock at the BHA’s knee jerk reaction where they feel a ‘word in his ear’ would have sufficed. I’m afraid we have been on the wrong end of a couple of, what we feel, hugely unfair BHA decisions lately which has proved very costly.

Firstly we omitted to realise that a youngster that arrived in the yard already castrated in Ireland had not had his passport stamped to say that he was now a gelding and we also didn’t realise on entry that it said ‘colt’ not ‘gelding’. Therefore on his racecourse debut he arrived with less than the vets expected him to (!) and, although they allowed him to race, we were called in front of the Stewards and fined £140? What on earth justified that amount of money? A simple ‘don’t do it again’ would have sufficed.

Recently Belinda woke in the middle of the night and worried that she hadn’t declared on our BHA site that the next day’s runner had undergone a wind operation. As soon as she could get onto her laptop she declared it (6.30am) and she then rang Weatherbys as they opened at 8am. However they still felt the need to interview our Assistant, Foxy, at the races and, after hearing his honest feedback, still fined us £290. The horse in question was well beaten when he fell at the last hurdle. I’m not sure what justified a £290 fine – we owned up after all. It would have been cheaper to declare him a non-runner.

We feel heavily penalised and punished for our honesty. It’s so hard to make a living as a Trainer anyway and to be fined £430 for two silly mistakes potentially takes any profit away from that month. What a shame we couldn’t have just been told off and advised not to make those mistakes again or we’d be fined £290/£140 next time……? It seems all they want to do is fine us for any single thing we do wrong….Leaves a very sour taste….

Whilst thinking of the above Freddie tells me his best friend 11 year old Richard Cook was making the running on his new pony in the 148cm Pony Race at Cocklebarrow on Sunday. However, turning for home he went around a fence instead of inside it and, although he finished 2nd past the post, he came in concerned he was going to be disqualified. However, it was the first pony race of the season, common sense prevailed – he owned up but they sensibly told him that if it happens again he should expect to be disqualified but, quite rightly allowed him to keep his well earned 2nd place. As I say, common sense prevailed. Well done to Cathy Twiston-Davies and her Pony Racing Team.

On a positive note we had a visit from Liz Juckes from the British Racing School this morning with her mobile mechanical horse and she video’d the team on the gallops. Jockey Coach Nick Bentley joined us mid morning and gave the team individual tuition on the mechanical horse whilst they watched the video on a screen of them individually cantering up the gallops. A hugely worthwhile morning and so kind of Liz and Nick to generously give up their time to help our team – they all got so much out of the morning and we are very grateful to them both.