Martin’s Blog 20th October

Three runners today at two different meetings. Ballymountain Boy (Leighton Aspell) runs at Kempton Park in a Novices’ Handicap Chase over 2m 2f – his chasing debut. He’s been a horses I’ve always thought a lot of winning his bumper and winning twice over hurdles including at Kempton two years ago however he’s had more than his fair share of niggly problems. He will have come on for his return from a lay-off last time and I’m hopeful he will take to fences as he won his point to point well and looks a chasing type. His patient owners deserve a bit of fun now!

I’m at Sedgefield where our first runner is Solstice Star who won three times last season, once over fences and twice over hurdles all under Richard Johnson, today’s jockey. He’s back after 186 days off the track but seems in good order at home – it’s a competitive race today but we’d be thrilled if he was thereabouts again for the Foxtrot Racing Team who are continuing to have an extended purple patch.

Finally we run Matt Capp’s Robsam in the bumper. His debut at Plumpton in March was simply too bad to be true as he’s a horse that does things nicely at home albeit he was a big baby last season. He seems much more forward this time and, whilst there are some nice looking types in there today, I’m hopeful of a much more encouraging run as long as the soft ground doesn’t become too hard work. Whatever he achieves today though he is a long term project with a good attitude.

We’ve had quite a few visitors recently with Jonathan Bagg from NAF bringing one of their clients from Oman in to see us on Friday. They thoroughly enjoyed their visit and it was good to meet them both and show them around our facilities in the stunning part of the Cotswolds we are lucky enough to live in. TopSpec’s Will Humphries has been in too along with Ollie Garner from Cotswold Forage. It’s so important to have good relationships with these professionals as all these things – hard feed, haylage, supplements, bedding etc. etc. are part of the jigsaw that hopefully keeps our horses in top condition and able to perform to the best of their ability for us as long as possible and helps keep our owners happy and enjoying our wonderful sport.

I mentioned earlier in the week that Chairman Jon Hughes has re-invented himself as a painter & decorator and handyman. From a top businessman he’s started at the bottom in his new career and has cleaned and then painted our new Owners’ Cloakroom (loo) so do have a look at his handywork when you next visit! He was back in again yesterday afternoon to finish off and is now assisting with the re-decoration in our Owners’ Room too – he’d be in line for a pay rise if he was indeed being paid at all!!

Seriously though we are so lucky to have people as dedicated as Jon, his wife Jack and also Paul Davis as part of our team – now Paul has ‘retired’ from his job in Switzerland we are keeping him as busy as we can! Indeed today he is on duty at Kempton Park leading up Ballymountain Boy under my Assistant Trainer Foxy’s watchful eye! He not only has a share in Bally but he runs the syndicate that own him too – that’s commitment for you!

Our youngest son Harry returned home from his 5 day Outdoor Pursuit trip with the school on Friday night and the house is noisier again! We missed him but whilst other children not used to playing in mud returned with clothes that were hardly recognisable, Harry’s weren’t too bad at all which was a relief to Belinda. He made us very proud yesterday as he had a brilliant game of football for his Northleach Junior Team playing in goal for the first two 1/4’s and making some great saves. After sitting out the third 1/4 he returned to score a hat trick helping his team win 6-1 and earning himself Man of the Match. Well done Harry! One of his best mates in the team is Event Rider Jonty Evan’s son Charlie and Jonty doesn’t usually approve of their crazy post goal scoring celebrations but even he approved yesterday!