What’s not to like about jump racing? If you’re struggling to answer that question I’d suggest typing ‘Native River’ into your search engine and watching Colin Tizzard’s evergreen 11-year-old slam his classy opponents in a compelling renewal of the Cotswold Chase at Sandown on Saturday. The former Gold Cup and Welsh Grand National hero has been lightly-raced in recent years and, by their usual high standards, the stable have hardly enjoyed the best season but Richard Johnson’s mount wears his heart on his sleeve which is what makes his achievements so meritorious; he does it the hard way – goes out in front and says ‘catch me if you can’ and on 14 occasions so far his rivals have failed to do so. It was a great spectacle that featured so many equine favourites and one shouldn’t forget about fellow stalwart Bristol De Mai who made a real race of it and showed that he’s not just a one trick (Haydock) pony. The gallant grey has given his owners, Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, so much fun down the years and Nigel Twiston-Davies’ inmate now looks a real live candidate for the Grand National in April, unlike Native River who hasn’t even been given an entry and the plan remains trying to snatch another Gold Cup – a race he was forced to miss last year. The ground will have a major say, and there’s no doubt the dashing chestnut is at his very best when the mud is flying but whatever happens at Prestbury Park, his victory at the weekend was spine tingling and should be applauded and appreciated in its own right and not thought of as a prep for chasing’s Blue Riband. As we’ve said on these pages before, it’s not all about the Cheltenham Festival!
It must have also been a welcome relief for the Tizzard team whose string have struggled to get their heads in front but the tide has now seemingly turned and with a bit of luck they’ll enjoy a successful second half of the season.
Horses like Native River who turn up to the party year in year out are what makes National Hunt racing so special and it’s such a shame there were no crowds on course to cheer him home because you can guarantee the Sandown management might’ve been getting quotes for a new roof for their grandstand if that would have been the case!
It was a great day all round for Richard (Dicky) Johnson who enjoyed a terrific treble after galvanising Sporting John to claim what was a tremendous edition of the G1 Scilly Isles Chase and Deise Aba in the three mile Handicap which is further proof, if indeed it was actually needed, that the former champion jockey is still as good as any other rider in the weighing room and continues to perform at the very top of his game. Johnson may be in the twilight stages of his career, and I should imagine the bones and muscles probably ache a little bit more than they did 15 years ago, but there’s absolutely no doubt he’s still got it!
With the snow coming down as I write this, it’s fairly obvious that the weather is going to have quite a say on what racing does or doesn’t take place over the next few days but thankfully it hasn’t stopped us seeing our colours carried to victory and we enjoyed a double at Lingfield on Tuesday with Galileo Silver and Docte Dina scoring for Potter Group & Walters Plant Hire and James & Jean Potter Ltd. The former has been a model model of consistency since joining Sam Thomas and has won or finished second on all bar one of his six starts for his very talented trainer and that victory will no doubt have given his confidence a boost so fingers and toes crossed he can continue the winning trend if/when the ground dries out and he can get back on the green stuff; mind you, his breeding isn’t too shabby so perhaps we have a smart flat horse on our hands. 😉
Nico de Boinville gave Docte Dina a very positive ride to guide the Nicky Henderson inmate home to score a decisive success and put her disappointing display at Ludlow the time before well and truly behind her. Underfoot conditions were obviously much kinder here and she looked to really enjoy herself so it’s likely that her races will be suitably chosen to find the best possible ground and with a bit of luck she can carry on our good run of form.
On the subject of mares, we were delighted with La Reine Poutine who ran an excellent race at Warwick last Wednesday in what is sure to end up a very good Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Sam Twiston-Davies gave her a very patient ride and allowed her to settle into a nice rhythm before gradually easing into the race to finish fourth and defy her 40/1 odds! That was her third run over obstacles so it will be interesting to see what mark the Handicapper decides to give her, anything under 100 would be great….
Jack Sharp is a horse we are beginning to get pretty excited about and he once again put up a very bold show to finish second at Doncaster on 29th January. As you all know, his brother is Mister Fisher so he’s always going to attract plenty of attention, indeed we had a message from @Curtis13784566 on Twitter asking if we could send him a picture of Jack Sharp to use as his social media profile picture! so he’s certainly got a few fans already and had he not made a mistake at the penultimate flight, who knows what might’ve happened. That race was over two miles but judged on his two starts to date, it’s looking likely that he’ll be much better suited by a step up in trip in the future.
Welsh Saint and James Bowen navigated their way around Ffos Las on Thursday to finish third in the feature Novices’ Chase. In reality it was his first start of the season, having got no further than the second fence at Exeter the time before, so hopefully there will be some improvement to come fitness-wise and the more experience he gets over the fences, the better he should become.
With two winners and four places from just seven runners, it’s fair to say the horses are in good shape and we hope that can continue into the weekend where Patroclus is entered in the Racing TV Novices’ Hurdle over 2m5f at Warwick on Saturday. Once again, the weather is going to have a say on proceedings but the step back up in trip would appear to suit judged on his victory at Exeter last time but we’ll wait and see how things pan out later in the week.
Two Taffs also has an entry at Warwick on Saturday but is in at Kempton the following Saturday and Inclusion, owned by James & Jean Potter Ltd, has an engagement in the Bumper at Huntington on Thursday.
We popped down to Donald McCain’s stable last week to check on the progress of Milans Edge who was purchased at the Goffs UK Point to Point Sale at Yorton Farm Stud in November and we are delighted with the way she is progressing. Her trainer says she’s not far off a run and is showing plenty on the gallops at Bankhouse. She has the option of a Bumper or going straight over hurdles and is seemingly very straightforward so we’re looking forward to seeing what she can do on the track.
As we all continue to cope with lockdown restrictions and search for things to do, why not head over to potters.co.uk where you’ll find much more on our horses including trainer/jockey interviews and race replays and also the opportunity to learn a little more about Potter Group itself.
Have a great week everyone; keep safe 😷 and keep warm! 🥶