Some of our horses went on hunger strike during the Christmas period but it didn’t stop us having a brilliant two days at Kempton.
We are not sure why a few of the horses left all their food but in most cases it it only lasted a day or two.The prolific Black Corton was one of those who was off his feed. On Christmas Eve my head lad Clifford Baker said he felt we shouldn’t be running him in the Kauto Star Novice Chase on Boxing Day. In the end we agreed to delay the decision for 24 hours and by then he was eating again. But Old Guard missed his race at Kempton because he didn’t touch his food.
Black Corton and Bryony Frost have really clicked this season. His rate of improvement since he won a little novice chase at Fontwell in the summer has astounded me and Bryony continues to impress every day she is riding. Top marks to her for becoming only the second female to ride a Grade 1 winner over jumps in England or Ireland on Black Corton in the Kauto Star. She deserves all the plaudits and I stand by my statement on the day that Bryony is as good as any girl rider that I’ve seen. She works hard on her fitness, works hard at home and is always looking at ways to improve and get better.
I told Bryony to be brave on Black Corton, bounce him out and try to make full use of his stamina and jumping ability and she did it to perfection. The horse has earned a little holiday now after a really busy time and will then probably go straight to Cheltenham for the RSA and on to Aintree.
Politologue capped a great two days for Team Ditcheat by landing the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase with plenty to spare on December 27. His task was made easier when his chief rival Special Tiara came down but he was travelling best at the time and though idling in front as usual he won as he liked. I am thrilled with his progress over the last nine months. But for unluckily tripping up on landing after the last fence at Aintree in April in the Grade 1 Novice Chase he would have won his last four starts against top opposition. Politologue will now have an easy fortnight before heading for the Betfair Exchange Chase, formerly the Game Spirit Chase, at Newbury in February which should put him spot on for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Festival.
Cyrname was another to shine at Kempton. He was much too free for his own good last season over hurdles, so was under the radar a bit while we tried to teach him to relax and settle in his races.
Now that the penny has dropped he is shaping as a chaser of some potential. He won nicely at Huntingdon, and then was second at Newbury, despite jumping badly right-handed, before showing what he can do going the other way round with an impressive victory from the front at Kempton with the help of a fine ride from Sean Bowen. Cyrname jumps for fun, stays well and could be one to follow.
We ended 2017 with a total of 148 winners over jumps and will be trying to improve on that figure in 2018 although we will be quiet in January as usual after giving 100 of our horses their winter flu jabs. While a lot of ours don’t seem to handle deep ground at this time of year we have around twenty five to run in the coming weeks.
They include Vicente and Silsol who head to Chepstow on Saturday for the re-arranged Coral Welsh National. A promising juvenile Sao might have his first start for us on the same day at Chepstow while Mont Des Avaloirs will have an entry in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown.
For all the latest news on my Saturday runners please turn to my Betfair column early on Friday evening.