Irving’s spirited victory in the Grade 1 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle on Saturday was a tremendous result given all his problems this season.
He is a horse with legs of glass and I can remember telling Axom’s Dan Downie early this Autumn that he was such a nightmare to train I was worried we would not get anywhere with him. Dan kindly texted me back “If anyone can do it you can”. I can’t say I shared Dan’s confidence but somehow we managed to do plenty with Irving to get him mega fit without galloping him. He has basically done three steady canters up our hill every day with the odd little half speed on our flat gallop and only one schooling session over hurdles because we couldn’t take any chances with him. So I was thrilled and a bit surprised to see Irving win the Fighting Fifth for the second time though he looked to be struggling when he made a mistake four out. He then stayed on well to lead before the second last but was all out to hold the strong late challenge of Apple’s Jade by a whisker.
Top marks to his young jockey Harry Cobden for an excellent ride and to the horse who was happy as a lark turned out for an hour on Sunday. He was just a bit stiff, as usual. That’s him but he’s basically fine. It just shows that you don’t have to gallop them hard all the time to get them fit. Irving will have a little break now while we freshen him up so he us unlikely to run anywhere until after Xmas.
With Clan Des Obeaux putting in an awesome display in his second chase on Friday and several more running well including Ibis Du Rheu and Warriors Tale the team’s earnings for the season are within a few pounds of £900,00 which is very pleasing. We’ve enjoyed a brilliant run and to have had 80 winners at this stage is quite something when you realise that last season it took us until February 11 to get to 70.
Clan Des Obeaux is one of a number of youngsters including Politologue who with normal luck I hope and believe can progress to be Grade 1 performers in the future if we don’t rush them.
There were disappointments at the weekend, too, most notably Saphir Du Rheu and Vicente both falling in the Hennessy Gold Cup. Saphir Du Rheu’s early exit was so frustrating because he is a decent jumper but we will not be giving up on him as he has loads of talent while Vicente was staying on steadily when he clipped the top of the second last and come down.
I’m delighted to say that Sam Twiston-Davies will be back riding for us again in mid week after missing the best part of two months with a spleen injury. He has been champing at the bit, raring to go, riding out here twice a week and working out in the gym every day so he certainly will not lack for fitness. We will give Sam a gentle introduction on Wednesday or Thursday ahead of a busy weekend when we will have interesting runners at Sandown, Chepstow and Aintree. One race where we don’t have an entry is the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase in which we have a terrific record. It will seem strange watching Saturday’s race without any involvement.