The jumps season is now fully into gear and as the ground softens up we’re getting to see the better quality runners strut their stuff. Wincanton staged the biggest meeting of their season on Saturday and while there was no equine rep for Potter Group or James and Jean Potter Limited in the G2 Unibet Elite Hurdle, it was still fantastic to see the form of the Potter Group Welsh Champion Hurdle given a further boost when Sceau Royal followed up with success at the West Country track and in the process regained his winning crown after scoring in 2016! Alan King has his team in terrific shape, and we’ve already waxed lyrical about his talents as both a jumps and flat trainer as victory in the November Handicap at Doncaster the same day will testify, so we don’t need to bang on about it but suffice to say we were all hoping that King’s reign would continue in the Badger Ales Trophy with Potterman who carried the familiar silks of James and Jean Potter Ltd and despite looking well beaten approaching the final three fences, the homebred son of Sulamani, out of Polly Potter who is loving life at James and Jean Potter’s Yorton Stud, got a second wind and actually hit the front after jumping the last, but sadly the winning post didn’t come quickly enough and Tom Cannon was left to rue his luck and succumb to the late challenge of El Presente who nabbed him on the line by a short head! Obviously it was very frustrating to come so close but it was a career best effort and the tentative entry Alan King made for him in the Ladbrokes Trophy now actually looks quite appealing! The Handicapper will clearly make a few adjustments ratings-wise but he looked to get the trip on Saturday and we look forward to an exciting season with him.
A MATTER OF TIME FOR MIDNIGHT
Sam Thomas continues to have his string in brilliant shape and currently boasts a 29% strike rate but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to help Before Midnight who nevertheless put up another blinding performance to finish third at Newbury on Thursday and if any horse deserves to get their head back in front it’s him, although it’s fair to say if he’d heard us screaming, shouting and riding a finish from the arm of our sofa he’d have won doing hand stands! The Handicapper will probably have his say and Midnight might find himself a victim of his own consistency, but there is undoubtedly a decent prize in him and Sam and his team are doing a fantastic job keeping him happy and healthy at The Hollies.
Exelerator Express was ultimately a little disappointing up at Sedgefield on the same day but Neil Mulholland reports him to have come out of the race in good shape and has suggested a 0-120 Handicap over two miles at Wetherby on 25th November. He’s won around Doncaster so the track will definitely suit and we expect plenty of improvement fitness-wise.
BRONZE FOR SILVER
Stolen Silver had his second chase start at Warwick on Friday for Potter Group and Walters Plant Hire in what was a very hot novice featuring Allmankind who was making a quick reappearance after disappointing over Hurdles at Cheltenham two weeks prior. It was an extremely shrewd decision by the Skeltons to send their runner straight over fences and take advantage of the four-year-old weight allowance, but there was only ever going to be one winner after Harry Skelton made every post a winning to score impressively. Dear ‘old’ Silver was never really comfortable and got quite outpaced down the back straight but we loved the way he plugged on dourly to snatch third place in the final strides and a step up in trip looks certain for him where he’ll be able to get into a nice rhythm and enjoy himself. He’s a lovely horse and a real favourite of us all, including Alice who rides him at Nigel’s every day and absolutely adores him.
Miss Gold Den, owned by James and Jean Potter Limited, made her racecourse debut in the bumper and we were extremely encouraged with her performance where she finished a staying on third under Richard Johnson. She’s another well-bred mare from the family of Denman so there is plenty of stamina in her pedigree and judged in her effort last week, she’ll be seen in a much better light when tackling hurdles over 2m4f plus. Either way, it was a very bright start and her trainer Olly Murphy was particularly pleased after the race.
Looking ahead to the future and Sam Thomas decided to swerve Bangor on Wednesday with Mario De Pail which means he could take up an engagement at Wetherby on Saturday where he’s second top rated (133) so could potentially end up carrying top weight if Lord Lamington doesn’t run.
Sir Valentine could also head up to Yorkshire but Nigel Twiston-Davies has entered him up at Cheltenham as well. Don’t Shout is in at Ludlow on Thursday and The Hoax has been entered in a Maiden Hurdle at Taunton. Docte Dina may travel to Uttoxeter on Saturday and Vienna Court has been declared in the Mares’ Novice Chase at Bangor on Wednesday on what will be her first run over fences.
Some very sad news to report and unfortunately It’s Probably Me suffered a fractured pelvis after putting up a great effort to finish fourth in the Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at Wincanton on Saturday and is currently under observation at the Three Counties Equine Hospital. It’s a massive blow to everyone involved with her including all the team at Henry Daly’s who have done such a fantastic job looking after her over the past two years. She had an extremely bright future and it’s such a shame her career on the track has come to an abrupt halt but hopefully she’ll recover well enough to join our group of Broodmares at Yorton. We also sufffered the worst possible scenario at Market Rasen on Thursday when Temple High fractured a hind leg. We are all completely devastated and her loss will be felt by so many close to her but we’d like to thank those who very kindly sent messages on Twitter and Instagram offering their condolences. Sadly, instances like this do not get any easier to cope with.