I write this on my way back from California, having run two horses in the Breeders Cup. Starlust was a fine third, but State Occasion (8th) was not quite good enough.
For us it has been an extraordinary year - I know it’s not finished yet, but Doncaster’s decision to switch their November Handicap meeting to Newcastle’s All Weather means it is really. The switch has been made despite a dry week forecast, creating scepticism on its own, but without any discussion on a possible switch to one of the other ARC turf tracks. We have wall to wall AW racing as it is, a third fewer horses can run because of the safety limit, and those aimed at Doncaster would have expected soft ground. Ffos Las and Chepstow both have NH meetings this week, and Yarmouth's last meeting was abandoned 18 days previously.
It’s funny the things that you remember, but Head Man Gary Plasted and I thought, when the unfancied Clan Chieftain won a Chepstow maiden in early June, that if we got it right this really could be a year to remember.
The highlights were obvious, Westover’s fine seconds in the Sheema Classic, King George and Arc de Triomphe, as well as his win in the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud will live long in the memory for us. I will always be proud of what he achieved, and the way he went about it. He has left for a stallion career in Japan where he will get every chance to be a success. Kinross was magnificent at York and Goodwood, unlucky at Longchamp and close to his best at Ascot. He will be back next year. Bluestocking has thrilled and frustrated us in equal measure; I am still not quite sure how she managed to throw the Irish Oaks away, and then failing narrowly on Champions Day when the race was definitely compromised by the switch to the inner track, but she’ll be back next year, and has the talent to redress the balance . The same applies to Remarquee who having finished second in both the Coronation and Falmouth Stakes, underwhelmed in the Prix Rothschild, and emerged with a wind issue that has been operated on. Angel Bleu was very tough when winning the Celebration Mile at Goodwood. He has left for a stallion career in France, it will be no surprise if he does well. Jimmy Hendrix and Sonny Liston's 1 - 2 in the Royal Hunt Cup was a memorable day for us and his owners, Chelsea Thoroughbreds, who can celebrate with the best of them.
The two year olds have shone, we have won 50 races with them, and the likes of Task Force, Macduff, Skellet, Classical Song, Valvano, Feigning Madness, Zoum Zoum etc promise much. We’ll see how it pans out in the spring, but we will be making a few entries for the classics, and hoping that a couple develop into contenders.
To date we have won 132 races in the UK. 11 seconds in Group 1's was a frustration, but means we have competed throughout at the top.. long may it continue.
It might be easy to become blasé or frustrated when it doesn’t come off, after a year like this. I hope that never happens, because when I started with a few horses 24 years ago this month, my only plan was to get through the following year.