I'm delighted to say that the winners have kept flowing into the backend of the turf season and it was Divine Queen's turn to get her first career win at Windsor on Monday. It was a perfect reward for her owners who have been very patient since we bought her from James Tate last autumn. She is a very well-bred filly but was big and backward as a two-year old so she is one horse who definitely benefitted from the lockdown as it gave her more time to develop. The wet autumn has helped a lot too as she handles soft ground really well and everything came together perfectly last week with jockey Tyler Heard doing a great job in the saddle.
We've got to make the most of the current soft conditions with the horses who like it as the turf season is drawing to a close and opportunities are drying up. That means that Divine Queen will be in action again on Tuesday as she is declared for Yarmouth. She hasn't been reassessed by the handicapper so carries a 6lb penalty but I don't think that should be a problem and hopefully she can go in again.
Raha will be going racing that day too and will also be bidding for back to back wins. She is a big filly who needed the run badly first time after her holiday and she improved loads to win at Salisbury last time. I think she will have improved a little bit more since then too so fingers crossed she can go close as well.
Wednesday sees the debut of two-year old Fen Tiger at Newmarket. He has taken a while to mature and will be an even better horse next year so this run will be very much for education and then we will put him away for a winter break.
Joanna Vassa didn't run too badly on her debut for us last time and she goes back to Chelmsford on Thursday. The trip was a bit sharp for her last time so stepping up to one mile will help and she should be a bit sharper having had a year off before her last run.
As I said earlier, fixtures on the turf are coming to an end so that means we will probably run War Empress and Paintball Wizard in the same race at Newbury on Friday. Empress didn't have much luck at Newcastle last week when she was held up off a muddling pace so hopefully they go a stronger gallop this time. Paintball Wizard run much more encouragingly last time and we will try the positive tactics with him again and see if he can last home.
A busy week rounds off with two entries at Chelmsford on Saturday.
Winter Snowdrop had a terrible draw and could never get a good position last time so you can ignore that run. With some more luck this time hopefully she can reproduce the form of her win the time before.
Productive will hopefully have his first run for us that night too. We bought him in August and have had him gelded since then which has made him much more focussed on his work. We will learn plenty about him from this run but hopefully he can show some promise.
Newmarket has been a busy place over the last fortnight with the yearling sales in town and, looking at the figures, you wouldn't even think there is a global recession as the prices stayed high and there was plenty of money changing hands for young horses. We will be looking to buy a couple of horses for syndicates at the horses in training sale in two weeks time but I was more than happy to buy two yearlings for owner Carol Bushnell and they have settled in well. Both are grey (obviously!) with a strong colt by first season sire El Kabier and an athletic filly by Juddmonte's Time Test. They will begin their pre-training on Monday and there can be plenty of dreaming of what they might achieve over the winter!
Thankfully last week was a quiet one for us runners-wise which gave us a chance to build the Ark we will soon need if it doesn't stop raining! There hasn't been a single day in the last two weeks when it hasn't rained and everywhere is pretty soaked with all the grass gallops now closed because they are too soft. Usually we are one of the driest parts of the country so it was a big surprise to see Chepstow in Wales go good to firm in places yesterday - a tale very much of to halves in this country at the moment. The weather has definitely affected running plans with no declarations from us being made at Nottingham and Goodwood last week because of the heavy ground.
Very surprisingly, it is also heavy at Yarmouth and that is very rare considering it is a sand-based turf track which normally drains very well. I've got four runners there on Monday and I think they should all handle the conditions but you never really know until the day. One who I thought wouldn't like them is new boy Productive so he will have to wait a bit longer to make his debut for us, probably on the all-weather.
Kicking off Monday's runners will be stable star Gas Monkey. He has been the braidmaid all year with three second places but did run well in a Class 2 race last time. He is up against some unexposed three-year olds here which won't be easy but he always tries his best and you never know what might happen on this ground.
One horse who has won on soft ground is Oud Metha Bridge and everything looks primed for him to run a big race. He is a bit quirky and a lot does depend on which side of the bed he gets out of but he seems in good heart at home and is down to a winnable handicap mark now so things look in place for him to go well.
I don't know how Valletta Sunset will handle the ground but I hope he can put in a bit more effort than last time when even Hollie Doyle in the saddle couldn't get him to show any interest in racing. He'll be wearing cheekpieces this time and he's had a pop over some hurdles at home to wake him up since then so hopefully that can get him more motivated and show the ability we know he has.
Completing the quartet of Yarmouth raiders will be Spanish Mane. Again, I don't know if heavy ground will be to her liking but she has won in softish conditions before so it is worth a go. She has had a great time of things recently with three wins on the board and anything else will be a bonus. She likes the course and still seems well in herself so fingers crossed she has a bit more improvement left in her.
As if that wasn't enough, we also have Divine Queen at Windsor on Monday. The big 'if' though is if racing actually goes ahead as the ground is heavy there too but anymore rain will likely see things abandoned as it does flood easily at the Thames-side track. If racing does take place, she should have a great chance judged on her last run where she looked the winner before not quite staying the seven furlong distance. Dropping back to six furlongs here looks ideal.
There is a back-up plan with Divine Queen though as she is also declared for Newcastle on Tuesday, again over six furlongs.
Also going up north will be War Empress who has shown ability on her most recent starts and looks ready to win when things go her way. She needs a fast pace to chase and some luck in running so I'm hoping the uphill finish at this course can see her coming with a late rattle.