A big race double at Wincanton took my score at my local track to 350 winners since I started training in 1991.
We’ve enjoyed so many top days there down the years and the success of Present Man in the Badger Ales Chase was up there with the best of them. Seeing him triumph in the colours of his joint owner Mark Woodhouse, who is the chairman of the race sponsors Hall & Woodhouse, was the culmination of an eighteen month project. I remember ringing him suggesting he buy the horse who had always shown promise despite taking an age to get the hang of things. One day, I suggested, Present Man might improve sufficiently to earn his place in the line up for the Badger Ales Trophy.
Long terms plans in jump racing don’t always come off but I was thrilled for everyone involved that this one did as Present Man became my eighth winner of the race. While I knew he would go in the ground I was worried about him getting the trip as the going turned softer by the minute.
But he looked outstanding in the paddock, travelled and jumped beautifully and was given a brilliant, intelligent ride by Bryony Frost who controlled things in front and kept enough up her sleeve for the finish. I might look at the Ladbroke Trophy Chase (formerly the Hennessy) for him next provided he squeezes into the race with the help of a 5lbs penalty. Further ahead I’m already looking forward to running Present Man in the Grand National. It is the obvious target for him.
I was also pleased with Southfield Theatre keeping on to finish fourth on his first run of the season but I’m afraid Mr Mix had one of his moody days and sulked. I am not convinced he wants the ground so testing.
Earlier Modus had given Team Ditcheat our tenth success in the Grade 2 Rising Stars Chase with a fluent display of jumping. The faster they went the better he jumped. He is one of several smart novices we have for chasing this season. His victory prompted someone to post a tweet asking which were the best two novices we’ve produced from the yard. I was amused by one answer which nominated Dan Skelton and Harry Fry! It wasn’t a bad suggestion considering that Dan enjoyed a double on Saturday while Harry did even better with a treble.
Nor should we forget Tom Jonason who left eighteen months ago after six years as my assistant to pursue a career in commerce. I cannot speak too highly of Tom, a lovely lad who was an integral part of our team for a number of years and had a great attitude. He was never going to train so I am thrilled to hear that he has just been appointed head of business development at Weatherbys Bank after a spell working for Racing FX.
Politologue got our week off to a perfect start on Tuesday with a superb victory in the valuable Haldon Gold Cup from his stable mate San Benedeto who almost certainly put up a career best performance. Politologue looked every inch a top class chaser before tiring slightly on the run-in which didn’t surprisingly surprise me as he came in a few weeks later than most of our horses.
He settles a bit better now he is more experienced and runs next in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown while San Benedeto might appear next in a valuable handicap at Ascot.
Jumping is the name of the game and we had a couple of reverses, too, with Topofthegame tipping up at Newbury in midweek at the cross fence when travelling strongly and Mont Des Avaloirs an unlucky faller in front at the final flight on his hurdles debut at Wincanton. They were both fine afterwards and will have plenty more schooling before they run again.
This weekend we will be taking a strong team to Cheltenham with Le Prezien and Romain de Senam likely contenders for the BetVictor Chase while Old Guard and Amour de Nuit are pencilled in for the Greatwood Hurdle.
For all the latest news of our weekend runners please turn to my Betfair column on Friday evening.