It took a bit longer than usual but we were finally off the mark for the year this week after Spirit Of Sarwan defied a six month break to make a winning return to action at Lingfield on Friday.
Sent off the 11/1 outsider of three runners, he upset the big guns and nipped up the inside to get his head in front in the shadow of the post. It was a lovely ride from Shelley Birkett and it was great that the whole Bhatti family could be present to see their boy win a valuable class 3 handicap.
After such a great season in 2016, we always expected to be down on winners this year as the horses are high in the handicap due to last year's success. However, we do have a lot of three-year olds (including Sarwan) coming through the ranks and they are all exciting prospects. Some gained experience last year on the track and have improved since whilst there are still a few yet to race who could develop into anything. I'm looking forward to unleashing them over the coming months!
Tattersalls held their February Sale this week and I was delighted with the pair of horses I came home with. I'm pleased to welcome back long-standing owner Peter Foster to the yard after he bought a lovely filly from Juddmonte called Avocet. Previously trained by Criquette Head in France, she has had three promising runs at a time that her yard was suffering from a virus. She looks just the type of filly that we do well with.
The second new face is three-year old gelding Oceanus. By Born To Sea, he showed useful form early last year, finishing third to Frankel's son Cunco on debut. He was campaigned quite hard after that and my source at Ed Dunlop's yard says he was never given the time he needs to develop as he has always shown plenty of ability at home. Thankfully we have plenty of pasture for him to grow so he will be given a break to freshen up and then be ready to hit the track when the turf season kicks off in April. He will be available for syndication and details will be up shortly.
We've had plenty of runners over the last fortnight so it's no surprise that this coming week will be a bit quieter with just a trio of entries.
Limerick Lord is in at Chlemsford on Wednesday and it looks as though he should make the ballot. Things have to go his way perfectly to win and they haven't really done that for him recently but he's well handicapped as a result. As soon as things fall right for him, he will be winning again.
I was lucky enough to find a small field race for Spirit Of Sarwan's comeback and he may be out again quickly if the same happens for a second time as he is entered in another race at Newcastle on Friday which attracted very few entries. Small fields are common at this time of year as some of the all-weather campaigners start to come to the end of their tethers whilst the turf horses are being saved for the green stuff. I'm not complaining though and hopefully we can make the most of things. I'll see how Sarwan is during the week before deciding whether to run.
The following day we have Veeraya entered at Wolverhampton. He enjoys a good break between races as he gets quite stiff so it's frustrating when a run is a waste of time like last time when he got shuffled back through the field and could never get involved. He won the time before that and seems very happy at home so hopefully he can bounce back.