As I mentioned last week, this time of year is usually a bit of a quieter one in the yard with a number of horses now done for the season and enjoying a winter break until the new year but it does mean we can focus on other things and one of those is the process of starting the yearlings in their training.
It is not just a case of jumping on young horses and riding them from the start, it takes a process of gradual introduction to each phase of riding to get them used to being handled. You start off by lunging them and our new sand pit is ideal for that as it provides a safe environment to exercise horses in whilst also being enclosed from distractions outside.
After the horse has built up a bit of fitness and is comfortable with being trotted in both directions, 'long reins' are then introduced. This is effectively a way of steering the horse from behind using the reins without actually being on the horse. You stand a couple of metres behind the horse with a rein in each hand and guide the horse in front of you. This is how you develop the horse's steering and brakes. Once the horse has got the hang of that, you then find a brave volunteer to get on board!
Again, this is done gradually with at first laying across the saddle without actually going all the way up. Then you will eventually get the rider fully on board and have them steadily ride the horse away. From then on, all the work is done with a rider on and they gradually build up to exercising on the Heath and are near-enough ready to be a racehorse!
A lot depends on the individual but the two fillies who have just graduated with us went from nothing to ridden in two weeks - they were a pleasure to deal with and I'm looking forward to training them for next season when the two-year old races begin in the spring.
Despite a good load of the horses being on holiday, we still have some left to run and we'll be busy enough with them this week. I will be staying in Newmarket though as this week also sees the annual Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale take place which is a huge dispersal sale for many of the big yards and has been a happy hunting ground for us in the past. We picked up Oud Metha Bridge there for just 10,000gns last year and he has done really well since then so hopefully we can get lucky again. I've been asking around in all the yards to get the low-down on plenty of horses and it is just a case of finding good value that others may have missed. I'll keep you posted on any new stars I can find.
On the racetrack, we have Candesta heading to Chelmsford on Monday. He is a hard horse to get fit at home so you can forgive him his last run where he got very tired. He's fitter this time but will still improve for the race so he is probably best watched for now.
Then on Wednesday we'll be represented at two tracks. Up at Nottingham, Telekinetic makes her flat debut after not showing much in a bumper earlier this month. She seemed slow before then but has really sharpened up since and I think this 1m6f trip this time might be a bit too far for her. Her work at home has been a lot better recently and she is one to watch when going handicapping in a couple of months time. Also entered there is Sunset Bounty. She has far more ability than her rating suggests but it is so hard to get her in a race at the moment with most races oversubscribed. When she does get a run, I think she will surprise a few people as 1m2f is probably the right trip for her now.
Later that same day we have Wilson at Kempton. He was rated a bit high when he first came to us and our plans to run him over a bit further proved no good as he didn't stay. The good thing is that he is now rated lower back at his best trip so hopefully he can get involved. He has never run on the all-weather but there's nothing to suggest he won't go well on it and I hope he can start to get competitive now.
Despite two all-weather meetings and the Horses in Training Sale taking place on Thursday, the BHA decided to put an additional last-minute flat fixture on that day at Newcastle too. It seems that many others have missed the notice though as there are very few entries and it certainly looks worth taking Boxatricks and Oud Metha Bridge up there for it. Boxatricks ran his best ever race last week when finishing second behind a well-handicapped rival at Kempton. He is improving with each run and you would think a win isn't far away with a bit more progress. Oud Metha Bridge came right back to form last time at Yarmouth with Shelley back on board and he too should be in the mix if repeating the effort.
This year's Four To Follow competition came to a close on Tuesday with Yarmouth's final fixture and it was an incredibly tight finish with not much splitting the top ten entries and a dead-heat for the winner's spot! Thankfully Yarmouth's very generous prize of a table for four in the restaurant at one of their 2019 fixtures can be shared so both parties are in for an enjoyable afternoon next year.
Thank you to Great Yarmouth racecourse for their generosity and sponsorship and thank you to everyone who entered in what was our biggest competition yet. Hopefully it will be back next spring.