With fuzzy heads following a fun Friday evening at Cheltenham (and a quick lunch break to catch up with the Badminton XC action!) we headed to Hackwood Park evening meeting on Saturday 5th May to kick off the busy bank holiday weekend!
Our first of 11 runners over the weekend was According To Trev in the Novice Riders race under our novice rider Sam Burton. The gelding loved the faster ground and ran a much better race, with Sam giving him a very sensible ride. He jumped great and was always sat there, finishing a fair 4th. The trainer was happy with the better performance from the horse and we will keep running him whilst it is dry!
The next runner was Ladies Open debutante Broken Eagle, under Izzie Marshall for the first time. It was a fast pace race, with the lighter weight and shorter distance of 2½ miles which didn't suit the gelding as he was out of his speed comfort zone and unable to dominate. He was under pressure from a previously successful handicap chaser over that distance who went on to win, but we were pleased with Eagle's efforts, who, when looking beaten at the last, fought hard to get 2nd by a head. Although it was disappointing not to win there are positives to be drawn from the race and Izzie gave him a great ride. He hopefully heads to Kingston Blount this weekend.
Our final runner of the evening was Heather Munn and Diana Clark's Changeofluck whose season hasn't gone quite as smoothly as it did last year, but that wasn't going to stop him tonight! The gelding went to post as favourite of the five runner Conditions Race and keen to back up his previous victory on his last outing. During the first circuit his jumping was a little ponderous and the gelding didn't appear to be running into his bridle as well as we would have hoped, however going out for the last time his jumping became electric and gained him ground at every fence. Heading down the back straight jockey Zac Baker closed the gap and turned into the home straight three lengths down and gaining. Zac got a lovely run out of the horse to wing the final two fences and win by 12 lengths! It was a great display from the 10 year old and a great ride from Zac. We will now aim for the Fontwell Hunter Chase evening in a weeks time.
"Changeofluck improved as the race went on and finished extremely well to take the win and finish 12 seconds faster than anything else on the day!" Zac Baker
On Sunday 6th we had four runners at two different meetings so it was all hands on deck! Firstly we had Man Of Steel at Dingley who ran in the Midlands Area feature race which was a Mixed Open over a distance of four miles. Jumping off second favourite at 5/2, Gina Ellis kept the gelding on the outside as he isn't the biggest horse and likes his room and light at his fences. He was always travelling well and never looked like he was going to get beat, happily jumping away and was produced to get to the front at two out. Three horses jumped the last upsides before he went on to win by an official 2½ lengths easily. It was fantastic to see the horse win so well and great excitement for the locally based owners Toby Hunt, Scott Steward and Andy Dickins!
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"I had a great ride off Man Of Steel; he was always jumping and traveling well and seems to love long trips! Great to have another win on him!" Gina Ellis
Images kindly provided by Neale Blackburn - Chasdog photography
Gina also rode our other runner Inmyday in the Restricted at Dingley. Following his heavy fall on his last outing the plan was to regain his confidence, allowing plenty of space and light to his fences, which Gina executed perfectly whilst sat in a held up position. Just as he was getting into the race he stumbled on landing at five out, costing him three lengths but Gina gave him time and he came again at the penultimate to run on and finish a fair 3rd. Perhaps had he winged the last he may have been in with a chance but the seven year old provided a pleasing run and gained a number in his form. He will now be turned away as he needs wetter ground and a summer to grow into his large frame will be beneficial!
"It was a much more encouraging run from Inmyday at Dingley. We tried more patient tactics and it seemed to work well, with him finishing his race much more positively. Having had a really nasty fall last time out it was great for him to regain his confidence and battle to the finish" Gina Ellis
We also had two runners at Aldington on Sunday. First to run was owner ridden Smadynium under Pytchley huntsman Dan Cherriman. It was a six runner Mens Open with two useful opponents, but we were positive for a good run from the grey gelding. There was no gallop for the first two miles, with Dan sat tracking the leaders, and when they quickened for the final mile our runner looked in with a chance of winning. However, he was slightly out-sprinted due to the slow gallop, and finished 3rd but gave Dan a great ride and we will look for a winning opportunity before the season is over!
Our other runner was For 'N' Against who has been unlucky this season with a few hiccups along the way but has come into his own in recent weeks and was ready to put in a good performance. Izzie Marshall followed instructions and held up the gelding for the first circuit of the Conditions race, before taking up the lead heading out for the final circuit. Although having probably hit the front a bit soon, Izzie's riding did not disappoint the horse and he travelled much better with more room and light to his fences, before going on to win the race by an impressive 15 lengths, beating hot favourite Indian Chance. This was a great result for the gelding as he has deserved a victory and it was great to see him back to his best. This win also put Izzie in with a chance of the South East Ladies Champion title, now sat only four points behind Rose Grissel, so the campaign continues this weekend at Peper Harrow.
"It was lovely to see Dave (For 'N' Against) looking and feeling himself again on Sunday. He has really come out in his coat and felt awesome in his work leading up to Aldington. The horse to beat was Indian Chance of David Phelan's, which has three wins under his belt this season. Dave's jumping put the Phelan horse under pressure and allowed him to go 10 lengths clear of the field easily. He quickened the pace and never looked back - a joy to ride!" Izzie Marshall
After a successful and sunny weekend we headed to Mollington on bank holiday Monday with a treble under our belts and three yard favourites, all bidding for some big results. First to run was Alan's own Velvet Cognac in the seven runner Conditions race, who jumped off as joint favourite. The trainer decided to go for a change of tactics following Godstone, so Gina Ellis dropped him in as instructed. However, this didn't suit the gelding who never ran with enthusiasm and his jumping slightly letting him down which is unheard of. Gina gave him a seriously good ride to gain 2nd behind her brother Jack. The trainer (and owner) put his hands up confessing his error and stated the jockey did a great job to gain the result she did on the honest horse,.
Images kindly provided by Neale Blackburn - Chasdog photography
Next up was family favourite Ravethebrave, hot off his victory in the Kingston Blount Scurry! Izzie was on board the 14 year old in the six runner Skinner's Ladies Open, and up against hot favourite Ellis trained Blue Mountain Boy. The race was a cat-and-mouse affair, with Izzie following tactics to sit in and get a lead so that Rave couldn't run too free like he had at Kimble. The gelding popped away and settled for the first circuit, before quickening through the crowd to gain the perfect position for the quickening pace. Coming down the hill the final time the gelding was stalking the favourite as planned, and Izzie pulled wide to jump the penultimate fence before challenging the favourite and going on to win by two lengths! It was a very polished ride from Izzie and a brilliant run from the veteran to beat an up-and-coming horse 8 years his junior. It's great to see Rave looking and feeling as well as ever and clearly still loving his racing! It was an emotional victory for the horse who just keeps giving and we can ask no more from! A legend of his time!
"Rave is one of my favourite horses in the yard. After winning at Kimble so impressively by 20 lengths on the bridle I couldn't have asked for anything more from him, but he tries his heart out time and time again. Blue Mountain Boy seemed the one to beat and it was a matter of playing the waiting game with Rave. I made a move coming to the penultimate fence and he never looked back! It was so lovely to be sat on Rave feeling his best; a real yard superstar!"
Our final runner of the weekend was the Sunday Night Partnership's Pride of Parish in the other feature race of the day, the Claydon Horse Exercisers Mens Open over a shorter distance of 2m4f. Again the yard representative was second favourite, this time to useful pointer Brackloon High. We employed similar tactics in the six runner race, allowing Dale Peters to sit and stalk before challenging in the final stages. Dale rode to perfection, and despite a slight mistake four out, the jockey sat confident allowing a nice run down the hill from the gelding before coming to challenge the favourite at two out and going away to win by 10 lengths! It was great for the gelding to back up his winning form after a shaky start to the season and a great training performance from Alan to win both feature races with non favourite runners. Pride will now head to Stratford for the Hunter Chase evening next month.
As weekends go it doesn't get much better! The yard produced 11 runners, of which five came out on top and another five finished in the first four, with a Cheltenham runner chucked in also; a sterling training effort from Alan providing a 45% winning strike rate just this weekend. It would not be possible without the amazingly dedicated team we have at Woodway, who work tirelessly to meet exceptional standards which allow us to keep producing winners, week in week out. Alan is currently sat on 25 winners for the season, just six behind current national leader Philip Rowley, and with our penultimate home meeting this Sunday at Kingston Blount he is keener than ever to close the gap! Win, lose or draw, so far it has been an exhilarating season, with ups and downs aplenty for both horses, trainer and jockeys, but with weekends like this it makes it all worth while! Just over a month of the season left and I'm sure I'm not alone in saying what a relief it is to finally put the hideously long winter behind us and what an achievement made by all across the country to produce runners and keep meetings going ahead despite the odds. We look forward to what always promises to be a great afternoon of sport at this weekends Kimblewick Hunt meeting and encourage everyone to come along! Tickets can be purchased on the gate; for more information click here and take a look at the official preview here. Big Al has been working tirelessly on the course to provide perfect going and keeping us all up-to-date with his videos from the tractor drivers seat! We hope to see you all there!