You always leave home with a bit of trepidation when heading off on a long journey to go racing as you wonder if the trip will be worth it. We went agonisingly close to having a good time in Wales when Tallulah's Quest was beaten a head at Ffos Las in the summer so it was with mixed feelings that Zoe and I took followed the A1 for five hours up to Newcastle on Wednesday.
On paper, it looked to be worthwhile with both Casey Banter and Pitch High single-figure prices with the bookies for their respective races. However, after Casey ran well below par and finished lame, I wondered whether it would be another long journey disaster.
Luckily it wasn't and Pitch High finally got his head in front under a very sensible front-running ride from Milly Naseb to land the last race of the evening.
After finishing fourth on debut at Sandown as a two-year old, we didn't think we'd have to wait until the following year to win with him but several issues set him back and thankfully his loyal syndicate of owners could be rewarded.
Not that many of them could be there to enjoy the moment as various commitments had ruled some out from going but Robert and Linda Wright made the journey up and they were given the best result. We were all staying over that evening near the racecourse and I must thank them for treating Zoe and myself to a lovely dinner - we had reason to celebrate!
Going back to Casey Banter, she was given pain relief by the vets at the course and we initially thought that she had pulled a muscle however further inspection at home revealed that she has a hairline fracture on her pelvis. It is not an uncommon injury in young horses and will require plenty of rest. She will be on the sidelines for the rest of the year but has a good chance of being back on the track next spring.
As we drove back down the A1 the following day, we passed owner Jerry Jakes and Ross going the other way up the road to Southwell with Thursday's runner Gatillo. A change to hold-up tactics had seen him to better effect recently and, although that isn't the best thing to do at Southwell, we hoped he could sit mid-division. However, the pace was very strong and he was a distant last for most of the way before plugging on up the straight to finish a fine third. A step up to one mile is on the cards next time and should see him finish even closer.
We'll just have one entry this week with Best Example at Wolverhampton on Saturday. He too has done well since switched to hold-up tactics and I think he is a better horse on the all-weather where things usually go more to plan with him. He has had a short break and freshened up so goes to the track in good heart. He needs luck in running but a bit of that will see him in the shake-up.
Our yearlings are starting to take shape now and the two fillies who had been at pre-training at the British Racing School came back this weekend.
Every year the school prepares two yearlings for us as part of the education they offer a group of Korean students who come over to learn for a month. Under the guidance of ex-jockey Michael Tebbut, they do a very thorough job and our pair of fillies have come back looking fantastic. They will get their first taste of the Heath when we ride them this week.
Meanwhile, Carol Bushnell's Dick Turpin yearling which we are pre-training ourselves is coming along great and was ridden for the first time last week.
Chloe was the brave one to be the first on board and then soon after became the first person to fall off him! Luckily she is fearless and got straight back on. The pair have been getting on great since. He too will be out on the Heath next week.
FOUR TO FOLLOW LEADERBOARD
Julia Feilden 95
John Chalklin 90
John Tucker 87
Christine Sparham 87
Kevin Case 87
Paula Smith 86
Colleen Pyrke 85
Clare Peacock 84
Trevor Mather 83
Martyn Clark 82
Annette Hall 81