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Bring Me Sunshine

Sunshineandbubbles made her seasonal reappearance at Chester on 6th May and showed her inexperience in being slowly away from the stalls. Her outside draw was already a huge disadvantage so this run just continued her racecourse education. Jockey Louis Steward could hardly pull her up at the finish and believes she needs a longer trip and a galloping track, so Chester didn’t really fit the bill, and he thought a mile and a quarter would suit her better, so it was decided that would be the next target for her.

A fortnight later on 19th May we took her to Ripon for a 1m 2f fillies maiden where we came up against an odds-on favourite from the Mark Tompkins stable. In a tactically run race the “jolly” was narrowly beaten, but Sunshineandbubbles managed to claim third place under Dale Swift, and will come on leaps and bounds for the experience. Mark is very happy with how she is progressing so we look forward to seeing her getting her nose in front in the not too distant future.

Oh So Close at Haydock!

On Saturday 23rd April we saw the Firm run a cracking race at Haydock. It looked a competitive race on paper and Dale Swift rode a great race on him to come third in a blanket finish, beaten only a short head and a nose. In truth we would probably have won the race but for some interference in the early stages from the eventual winner, who cut us up and got our position on the rail. Dale had to snatch him up and drop him in, then come wide in the straight, which was probably fortunate as the winner was involved in some more barging in the closing stages going for a gap that was closing, but the stewards looked into both incidents and decided that none of it had affected the placings. OK, if you say so. A great performance from The Firm and Dale Swift, but very frustrating to come so close to earning a decent win at a top track. The photo finish picture below shows just how close it was! Despite not winning, the racecourse management still invited placed connections into the winners room for some celebratory champagne, so we were all able to watch the replay with a consolation glass of bubbly.

The Firm at Haydock

Only two days later we took the Firm back to Southwell. There were going to be no more opportunities for him at the track for several months, and it was a last minute decision yesterday morning to let him take his chance in the race, but it really came too soon for him after his great run at Haydock. Rob Hornby got him away smartly and was in a good position throughout. He led coming off the final bend with 3f to go and looked like winning, but he tired and just ran a bit flat in the final couple of furlongs, just feeling the effects of a quick turnaround from his run at Haydock, and ended up finishing a very game fourth. He’ll have a few weeks off now and run again towards the end of May.

Khajaaly ran at Brighton today (26th April) but hated the undulating track and will now have a summer break.

Khajaaly Tries the Extended Mile

Back to Wolverhampton today, with champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa in the saddle, as we tried Khajaaly over the longer trip of 1 mile 141 yards. The trip proved to be no problem but the visor was left off as an experiment. We wanted him to be up with the pace, but he got dropped in behind, so the eventual winner got an easy early lead. We knew we had Mr Red Clubs to beat and that one got away from the pack to win comfortably, with Khajaaly being given too much to do in the closing stages. Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see him finish well from a poor position, and he only narrowly missed out on 3rd place by a neck. That was a better run, but he’s not back to his best just yet. The headgear will be back on in future, and the longer trip will give us more options.

A Look Back At March

The Firm returned to something like his form at Southwell on 16th March, where we unfortunately ran into the seemingly well-handicapped Red Touch, which was having its first run for the Mick Appleby yard. As expected, Red Touch duly won the race with something in hand, but it was a good run from The Firm, who finished third, only a short head behind the second horse. Another stride and we would have had the forecast up!

We had yet another trip to Southwell on 23rd March, with Khajaaly this time, in a race which was run at a decent pace, so it paid to be handy. Unfortunately he couldn’t get into a decent position and had to come wide round the bend, which totally blew his chances.

The opening meeting of the Flat Turf season at Redcar for the Easter Monday Bank Holiday on 28th March seemed to offer a chance for Khajaaly to show what he can do on grass, and with the ground on the soft side, we expected conditions would be fine for him. However, it was truly desperate ground, far heavier than he could handle. Joe Fanning said that he had run gamely enough, and will be winning again, but the state of the surface in the last couple of furlongs had stopped him in his tracks this time.

We finished the month on a rather tame note when The Firm ran no sort of race at Southwell on 30th March. Mick Appleby’s stable jockey Andrew Mullen was in the saddle, as our regular pilot Rob Hornby was riding at another meeting for his boss Andrew Balding. We were up against Mick Appleby’s Red Touch once again, and on slightly better terms than last time, so we expected to finish rather closer to that one than we actually did. In the end, Red Touch finished 2nd and The Firm was some lengths adrift in 7th. Not his usual sort of race so we can consign that one to the history books.

February Round Up

After a blistering start to the year, with two wins from The Firm, we were looking forward to the return of Khajaaly. He had been off for longer than we expected with a leg infection – at the very time of the year when we expected him to be winning some races. We knew he would need the run when he returned to action on 10th Feb at Southwell, but his performance was a bit below expectations, which we put down to the absence of headgear. Leaving the visor off when he ran on turf seemed to liven him up, but it was a mistake to run without it at Southwell, where he hated the kickback and never threatened.

A week later we took The Firm to Southwell, and the result would suggest that he ran badly, but when we saw the replay it was clear that he had barged the gate when the horse in the next stall was led in, so Rob Hornby actually had him under restraint when the gates were opened so he gave the others a start. Missing the break, particularly over a shorter trip, gave him no chance.

The following week, on 22nd Feb, Khajaaly returned to Wolverhampton with Rob Hornby in the saddle and the visor back on. Unfortunately he was hampered when he tried to make his challenge a furlong out, so with his chance gone Rob just brought him home safe and sound, so we can put a line through that performance.

Deja Vu – All Over Again!

Tuesday saw us return to Southwell with The Firm, only 12 days after his last successful run there, and once again Rob Hornby took the ride in the mile handicap. The Firm was Rob's only ride of the day and he had travelled up with his boss, Andrew Balding, who was running the hot favourite in our race, Berkshire Beauty, ridden by Oisin Murphy. Although the favourite had won well on its last start, it hadn't shown much before that and as the race developed it couldn't land a blow. In contrast, The Firm ran another cracking race and managed to overcome some traffic problems when it appeared his gap had closed a furlong out, with Rob Hornby keeping a cool head and switching inside. He kept The Firm up to his work to take the lead close home and land our second win from three runs at the track.

Watching the race live, it looked like he had won by about a neck, but the photograph showed that the winning distance was just a short head - The Firm's head was obviously on an upswing as Stun Gun was bobbing down, but a win is a win and we were delighted with that performance. The Firm has given us our second win of 2016 from three runs, and was the 10th winner of the year for our trainer Daniel Mark Loughnane. He has had a blistering start to 2016 and we are very pleased that all his hard work is paying off.

It was a bit disappointing after The Firm's success to hear the commentators on At The Races focus on talking about the failure of the favourite, which it sounded like they had backed, rather than discussing the great run from our lad! The Firm went off at 10/1 and some connections were on at bigger prices, so at least we had full pockets to stop us from being too offended!

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Taking Care of Business at Southwell

The yard’s good start to the year continued yesterday when we took The Firm back to Southwell for the mile handicap on Thursday. On his only previous run at the track we dropped him in, and that didn’t suit him, so we opted for racing him more prominently this time and it paid off. Rob Hornby rode a perfectly judged race, showing what a talented young rider he is. He held a good position throughout, brought the horse to challenge at the furlong pole, and once he got his head in front he never looked like losing!

The Firm has had a few little niggles since his win at Wolverhampton in October, but we thought he was over that, and despite missing the break in his last race he travelled well throughout, so we knew he that if he was “right” he would run a big race. The price reflected the fact that he hadn’t shown his best on his last few runs and was a welcome bonus! Sent off at 25/1 but backed by connections at 33’s and 28’s, it was a great pity the favourite was pulled out resulting in a big rule 4 deduction.

We will be looking for a race for him in a couple of weeks and there are still shares available, so give us a call on 07799 951530 if you want to get involved. He has now won two races in the last three months and can hopefully achieve more over the winter!

THE Firm Southwell

Encouraging Run at Wolverhampton

With the turf season now over we shall have to wait until the spring to capitalise on Khajaaly’s recent revival on turf, where he remains on a handy mark, but yesterday he returned to Wolverhampton where he was re-united with Franny Norton who had won on him for us at Catterick. There were some alarm bells ringing before the race, as we had seen the eventual winner Corporal Maddox finishing like an aeroplane just three days earlier at Lingfield, coming from last to third in the final half furlong over a shorter trip. Yesterday there was no pace in the race, so this pretty much set things up for the well-handicapped Corporal Maddox who finished like a train once again, but Khajaaly performed very well in a race which was not run to suit him, just missing out on a podium finish and finishing fourth, but giving every sign that his turn will come again soon.

Fibresand a New Experience for The Firm

With the Firm never having run at Southwell before, the trip there yesterday was an experiment to see how he would like the Fibresand surface. Not all horses take to it and he didn’t exactly love it, finishing 8th of 12. It is a very different surface to the Polytrack and Tapeta surfaces he has won on, and he trains on polytrack at home, so we didn’t know what to expect. We will be aiming to bring him back out again in three to four weeks, at one of the other All Weather tracks, but may bring him back here at some point in the future and use different riding tactics .