Well…one of us was sober enough to get up and go to the yard yesterday! No Peter or Ber; Peter had flown to Newmarket on a 6.15am flight as Alton Bay was running in the Cambridgeshire Trial and Ber had a big scout weekend looming large. I tell you: those two never stop. We were out until 11.30pm with them on Friday; an early night as Peter needed to leave the house around 4am the next morning. The ¾ inch of rain on Friday didn’t help Alton Bay’s chances as he needs it like a road but , eve so, he ran well to finish 4th.
The horse looked in great form yesterday. As soon as his lad, Gavin, let him out in the field , he was rolling in mud and bucking and kicking. He really hadn’t lost any condition with his win and seems to have taken the race in his tride; a far cry from after his race at Galway last year when looked like the proverbial ‘bag of bones’ the next day.
We did quickly discuss running plans on Friday. Our thinking is that he needs a bit of time between races and/or some time just enjoying himself in a field. He doesn’t take much getting fit so we can afford to leave him a field for a few weeks. He had six weeks break after Galway and that feels about right. The problem with the Irish race program is that there are precious few opportunities for novices who have won a race.; in particular for horses who need around 3 miles to be at their best. In fact, there is not a single 3 mile novices chase until 29/12 and that is a Grade 1 at Leopardstown; that’s way too long to wait and it’s a real reach to think he is up to anything like that standard.
We did discuss a2 ½ mile novices chase at Cork on 16/10 mainly because there isn’t much else until November for him to run in. That race is a possibility but we have some concerns: it’s a shorter distance than ideal (we would rather go up in distance , not down),and Cork is a pretty quick track that doesn’t place much emphasis on stamina, Cork is also right-handed and, while there’s no conclusive proof that he doesn’t act as well that way around, we do at least know he goes well left handed. At this stage, and given his inconsistency, we are reluctant to add any further intangibles into the equation as we will forever be making excuses without any real sense of what may be causing him not to run well. On that basis, we would like to go 3 miles, left-handed on a course we know he likes – if he loses to a better horse then so be it but , at least, we would know it’s not the distance, direction or track causing him to lose. That’s the theory at least.
There is a valuable race at Wexford on 31/10 which is open to horses who have not won over fences before 3/5/2015 ; basically, second season chasers. It’s over 3 ¼ miles and has several things in it’s favour : the distance, the course and the likely small number of runners (last two seasons have seen an average of 5 runners). On this last point, a number of trainers are not keen on Wexford for their better horses as it’s pretty tight and also undulating. That attitude may be changing now that it is left-handed (having been right-handed for years until 2014) but it is still likely to have a field slightly lower in quality than the race may deserve. That being said, it is a race that Willie Mullins has targeted and I would fully expect him to do so again (a horse like Westerner Lady would be a likely runner this year, for instance).
The irony is that I am in Ireland anyway from 16/10 – 24/10 (so could go to Cork) but would have to go back to the US and then return for the Wexford race on 31/10. At this stage though while the Cork race is more’ convenient’ the Wexford race may be the one to go for. There are a couple of other 2 ½ mile races come November as well as a 2 ¾ mile race at Punchestown but that is a Grade 2 and, almost certainly, a little too tough at this stage (it’s also over two months away)
He needs the experience and I will let Peter decide. He is the boss and, while I do voice my opinions, he is in charge at the end of the day and I trust him totally.