We saved the best until last on Saturday with As De Mee giving an exhibition of jumping the National fences with a stunning victory in the Grand Sefton Chase and Rocky Creek showing a welcome return to form in the London National as dusk beckoned at Sandown.
It was a magical way to end a day which saw the stable’s earnings edge past the £1 million mark for the season. Our horses have been on such a tremendous roll these past few months that, weather permitting, I am keen to reach 100 winners before the year is out. With normal luck it should be possible as the pleasing success of Aux Ptits Soins at Kelso on Sunday moved our score on to 85.
I thought As De Mee was awesome at Aintree. Although he sulked the previous time at Cheltenham I knew he was in good form at home and was confident that the National fences would bring out the best in him. I doubt I’ve ever seen a novice jump better round there. We’ll keep him to novice company now with the long term target the Topham Chase at Liverpool in April.
Rocky Creek astounded me at Sandown because he’s become so hard to predict and seemed to have lost his old appetite for racing.
But from the minute he set off at Sandown he was full or himself, jumping for fun, bowling along in front. Then just when it looked as though he would lose his place towards the end of the back straight and drop away he rallied enthusiastically and stayed on bravely to see off the strong challenge of Doing Fine on the flat. Rocky looked amazing in the paddock and has clearly benefited from a few days hunting ridden by Millie Orttewell with the Blackmore and Sparkford Vale pack. We’ve also treated him for a minor back issue. He’s been increasingly in and out over the past 18 months but was definitely on a going day this time. I’ll try to keep him in the same form for the valuable Veterans Chase Final at Sandown on January 7.
Marracudja just came up short in the Henry V111 Chase on ground that was more tacky and testing than he enjoys. He prefers bouncing off genuinely good ground and I also suspect he didn’t quite run up to his best against top-class opposition.
Le Mercurey excelled himself at Aintree in finishing a close second to the 2015 Grand National winner Many Clouds in the Class 1 Listed Chase. Now we know he stays well it opens up more options for Le Mercurey who will definitely be given an entry for the National.
On Friday More Buck’s took another step forward with his latest success at Sandown. He jumps for fun and is on course for a novice handicap chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. He is another of ours I could see running in the Grand National one day. Antarctica De Thaix came agonisingly close to giving us a double at Sandown on Friday before being edged out by Pilgrims Bay who drifted sharply left across her in the closing stages. Most pundits seemed to think we would get the race in the stewards’ room and I agreed with them so it was a bit of a surprise that the result wasn’t changed. Antarctica jumped well, stayed on strongly from the last and will win races as she learns to settle better in front. She could run in a mares novice chase at Wincanton on Boxing Day.
This weekend Frodon and Bouvreuil are on course for the Caspain Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham and could be joined by Art Mauresque if he recovers quickly from the little foot problem that prevented him running at Huntingdon on Sunday.
In addition Old Guard returns to Cheltenham in a bid to try to win the International Hurdle for the second consecutive year.
For all the up to the minute news of our running plans at the weekend please turn to my Betfair column at the end of the week.