Racing was back in business up at Newcastle this afternoon and it is a relief to say that we will be finally having runners again, with five heading to Kempton Park over the next two days. The COVID crisis has hit society hard over the past ten weeks and while the lockdown measures were necessary, it has been a hard time for everyone.
However we felt pretty fortunate to be here at The Paddocks, as it was a case of life goes on as the horses did not know there was a huge crisis going on in the world, they still needed to be looked after and exercised and they certainly provided some kind of normality.
We must thank our dedicated team of staff who have kept the show on the road and our wonderful owners, who have kept their horses in training during a time where there was not only no racing but also no chance to pop into the yard and see their horses. With a string of 45 in training, 25 of which are two-year-olds, there is plenty too look forward to in the summer.
Although racing returned today, it will not be racing as we know it. There are no spectators and for the time being, no owners able to go, there is no canteen for the staff, never mind bars on track and the bare minimum number of people needed to run a race meeting. Those that do attend are subject to health checks, must have undertaken a COVID seminar and enact strict social distancing measures which will not make the raceday experience a comfortable one. Hopefully these measures can be eased as soon as the government really gets hold of this virus but for now, they are a necessary evil to allow us to go racing and we cannot wait to see our horses on the track again.
Kempton – Tuesday
The old boy of the yard who is now nine years old but was as good as ever last season and looks in really good shape despite his advancing years. With the limited number of fixtures and competition for racing places, it is a case of running when you get the chance and ten furlongs on the tight inner track would not have been our first choice. A wide draw in 12 is not the end of the world as he is a slow starter but he will need a lot of luck to make his way through in the short straight but it will be great to get him back on track.
Both horses had good seasons last year, four wins for Singing The Blues and two for Master Grey and not much split them when they ran in the same race at Salisbury last year, just half a length the difference when they finished second and fourth. Twelve furlongs on the AW, a good draw and the fact you can ride Singing The Blues handy means that conditions would favour the son of Sir Prancealot and he is probably our best chance of the five runners over the next two days. You would struggle to find a gamer horse in training, having had 23 runs in 13 months without a break last year and he nearly always ran up to his mark. He has won at Kempton and is not badly handicapped off his current rating. Arguably Master Grey is the more talented of the pair and improved from three to four last season, so we hope for the same this year. However, he is one that needs to gain confidence by overtaking horses which may not be ideal when the polytrack is riding quite deep in the warm weather and he generally needs his first run of the campaign.
Kempton – Wednesday
It shows just how tough it is to get in races on resumption, as in a 53-72 Handicap, off a mark of 71 you would have expected Sir Roderic to be a certainty to make the cut but he only just scraped in at the bottom of the 12 strong field. He found his form last season again, winning once and placed in eight of his twelve starts. With a love of soft ground, the tremendous weather we have had in lockdown means he needs to return on the AW which might not be his ideal surface, although he was a very unlucky loser over course and distance two years ago. He seems in great form and it will be good to get him racing again as he is certainly fresh and well at home.
2019 was a successful year for the stable, with nearly every horse having a profitable spell but Sir Plato was one of the few disappointments as he did not really find his stride. However, his only run in Class 6 company saw him lose out by a painful short head at Bath in August which shows the will to win is still there. On the positives, those disappointments meant he has dropped 14lb in a year and is back in Class 6 company once again on Wednesday. Although he did make a winning return at Kempton as a three-year-old (the first of five wins that year) he may well be better on the turf nowadays and limited options have forced our hand for a return trip to Kempton but hopefully he can show some sparkle!