This week's blog is by Assistant Trainer Ross Birkett:
John and Julia are enjoying a much-deserved holiday in Dubai this week and they were at the Dubai World Cup raceday at Meydan yesterday. I haven't heard a lot from them (I suppose that's a good thing!) but I think they're having a good time and they are surely enjoying better weather than us as it hasn't stopped raining since they left on Monday.
We have a great team at the yard so running the place has not been a problem - looking after the horses is easy, it's the dogs, birds and cat that are causing the headaches!
Julia is due back on Monday night so she'll be nice and fresh for a trip to Lingfield on Tuesday where we have two runners.
Sir Fred ran a much better race last time and looked like he had improved a lot since his debut. This will only be the third run of his career so he'll probably improve a bit more after it and he will qualify for a handicap rating after this when life will be much easier for him and he won't be up against some really well-bred horses like he is this time.
Owner Carol Bushnell will be doubly represented as she also has Our Cilla out that day. Cilla was the surprise package of last year after winning twice and she has taken her winter holiday very well. She isn't hard to get fit so is ready to run but both her wins came on the soft turf at Lingfield so running on the all-weather this time is an unknown. This certainly isn't her target for the year but it would be nice if she could kick her 2018 campaign off with a good run.
Wednesday will be a busy one with four horses entered but probably only three of them running.
At Southwell, Limerick Lord will hopefully be lining up after missing his race on Sunday due to transport problems. He was a winner at the track last time but does need everything to fall right for him to win and he isn't the most prolific of winners so I couldn't guarantee he'll get his head in front again but he seems very happy at home and another good run isn't out of the question.
At Kempton that same day we have a few entries with Terri Rules and Tallulah's Quest looking the most likely runners.
Terri showed plenty of promise at times last year but lost her way a bit towards the auntumn. She has freshened up after a winter holiday and her work at home suggests she should be able to win off her current rating. She seems plenty fit enough so hopefully she can start producing some results this year.
Tallulah's Quest was desperately unlucky not to win last year and she is a horse we have always thought a lot of. One thing we did learn last year though was that she is a big, stuffy horse who needs a run to get fully fit again so I expect her to improve for this outing.
Rounding off the week on Friday is hopefully our best chance with Candesta at Chelmsford.
He bumped into a well-handicapped winner when second there last time and is probably the only horse we have who seems to run well at the track - everything else seems to have the 'Chelmsford curse' and runs badly! Conditions are identical to last time and he should be in the thick of things once again.
Keep your Four To Follow entries coming in as the competition kicks off later this month. There is a fantastic prize to the winner and it is completely free to enter!