I joined the COVID vaccination club this week after getting my jab done on Tuesday and I'm pleased to say that is was a very straightforward process with no after-effects. I was worried that it would make me ill as I have heard from some people but I bounced out of bed on Wednesday and never felt better (except for my bad hip and dodgy back!). The government seems to be rattling through the vaccination schedule which hopefully means that the country will be in good shape for the end of March when restrictions are planned to be eased. As part of this, owners will be allowed to attend the races again and we'll be able to have visitors to the yard too so I have all my fingers crossed that that can happen and the people who have kept this sport going (the owners) can finally get to enjoy their passion once again.
The ease in restrictions will coincide with the start of the turf season and I think a lot of my team will be ready for action by then. The horses who had a winter holiday are now doing faster work and will be galloping next weekend so it all looks good. Some have come to hand earlier than others but we won't rush any of them and the horses tell you when they are ready to do more work.
We have just a handful of entries this week starting with Sir Gregory on Wednesday at Lingfield. He is quite an immature horse who will come on a lot mentally for his first run so it will be a good education for him.
Smokey Malone couldn't make it back to back wins last week at Southwell but the drop back to 7f seemed to catch him out so hopefully stepping up to a mile again on Thursday will see him get back to winning ways. He is a super-tough horse who takes his racing well so should be fresh enough to do himself justice. He's had three days out in the paddocks since his run which freshens him up mentally but also keeps him active as the horses are always running about out there so he is kept fit without even knowing it.
Also that day we will have Saray Prince at Chelmsford in the evening. He has had his three novice runs and got a sensible rating. He looks in need of this step up in trip and we'll also put some cheekpieces on to perk him up a bit. He is a better horse going right-handed so the track isn't ideal but there wasn't a single suitable race for him at the correct track so he's got to run on a left-handed track this time. I'm just hoping he can start to get competitive now he is in the right grade.
A week has made a big difference in the weather having been wrapped up to the max last Sunday as an icy arctic wind hit the country, this Sunday we could turn some of the horses out in the paddocks without a rug on as we enjoyed some spring-like sunshine. It's probably too early to say that winter has gone but hopefully that is the last of the really icy conditions of the season and the ground can finally get some recovery after a battering from frosts and rain recently.
The better conditions meant that we could get plenty of the team out on the grass gallops this weekend including the horses who all had a winter holiday. They have been gradually working their way back to fitness since the new year and the plan is to have them all ready for the start of the turf season in April. Everything looks rosy at the moment so hopefully they can all stay in one piece and stick to the plan.
We have a quiet start to this week before a few days of consecutive runners to end it.
The best chance looks to be on Wednesday as Smokey Malone bids to make it back to back wins. Everything was in place for him to win last time and thankfully he did just that. He is running under a penalty here and, although we won't know his new rating until Tuesday, I think he's due to go up six or seven pounds so it makes sense to run. He has been fresh and well at home since last time so I don't see a reason why he shouldn't run well again.
We're back at Southwell the following day with Raha. She has been a bit disappointing the last twice at Kempton where she lacked an extra gear in the finish. It may just be that she doesn't have the turn of foot for that surface so hopefully the more galloping nature of Southwell will see her fare better. It's always an unknown when you run there for the first time as horses either love it or hate it but she has the attributes of a horse who should handle the surface.
Valletta Sunset has had a bit of a break to freshen up and he's back on track at Lingfield on Friday. He hasn't been showing the ability we know he has on the racecourse but we'll try a few different things and hope it sees him fare better.
Rounding off the week will be Engrave at Chelmsford on Saturday night. She has been running ok at Southwell but is probably a better horse at Chelmsford so the return there is a bonus. A low draw is crucial over the 1m2f distance there so fingers crossed she can get that and be competitive.