Let the games begin! It’s always a chaotic and busy time of year but right now at Seven Barrows everything is running in order. A lot of people ask how stressful it is this time of year at the yard and how NJH copes. To most people’s surprise, it’s not too bad – my father deals with the pressure incredibly well.
The preparation and training of his horses is paramount to him, but not forgetting also there is high importance to keep his abounding owners happy and dealing with their expectations and needs can often be more of a challenge! (Many of whom request to come to the yard two weeks before on a work morning, bringing their cousin’s son’s fiancé, granny, uncle and work colleague with them). He has coped for the last 25 years of his training career, so nothing has changed; we’re just dealing with more horses, more owners and more staff to manage! He has a fabulous team at home, and without them maybe he would be running up the walls and going a little insane!
I now try to look at Cheltenham from a different perspective, just to be grateful for the horses who do get to the festival and to celebrate the massive effort made by the whole of Team Hendo to get them there safe and sound. For them to come home safe is our main hope, and for them to be placed is a bonus and an absolute pleasure if they do win! I’d love Dad to get a winner on the first day, that always takes the pressure off, and the dinner party at home that evening is always slightly more enjoyable.
I remember back in 2011, he hadn’t had a winner Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, we were standing on eggshells at home. It was deathly quiet. He had lost all hope by that point, and just tried to make humour from it. His owners are all so supportive and tell him not to worry. He felt extreme pressure for Long Run to produce to goods in the Gold Cup, then, in the race before, Bobs Worth landed the Albert Bartlett – the little gem! We then just knew Long Run would do it, once that ball has started to roll; you’re onto a winner! So I’m hoping it goes that way this year, starting with a winner on the Tuesday.
The Big Guns
A bit closer to the day, I’ll talk about Sprinter Sacre and the fascinating contest that the Champion Chase is shaping up to be, but for the moment, I’m talk about some of the horses who don’t get as much of the limelight as him.
Racing Post Arkle Chase – Tuesday
NJH left Barry with the decision whether to put Josses Hill in the JLT and go for an extra 4f or stick with the 2m in the Arkle, Barry decided on the latter, quite confidently. Barry schooled him on Friday and reported him to have jumped really well, he’ll probably have one more session with jumping tutor Yogi Breisner before next week.
He’s in good form and he’s a good horse. This time last year Josses Hill wasn’t going to go there 10 days before and he got there, and got as close as you can get, and then he won at Aintree. He’s had a good prep and he’s coming in really well. I know he’s got to beat the hot favourite Un De Sceaux but Barry wasn’t for switching to the other race because of that, so it says a lot. Barry says he wants the pace the faster the better, it should assure his jumping. That’s why he doesn’t want to switch because he won’t be able to let him jump as he wants with the quicker pace of the Arkle. He’s actually a brilliant jumper despite making significant mistakes earlier this season. He just needs to learn to put it all together on the big day! Un De Sceaux has got to do it and also another tough opponent would be Nicholls’ Vibrato Valtat as well, so it’s sure to be a fascinating race.
This lovely little tough seven-year-old grey mare came second last year to Jonjo O’Neil’s Holywell in the Baylis & Hardling Handicap Chase. A month later let’s not forget she also went to go win the Topham Chase at Aintree. Most recently she ran at Ascot and came second to Alan King’s Balder Success. Everyone at home thinks she has a great chance at Cheltenham next week and has come on a lot since her run at Ascot, and has been working well at home. She’s a little fire-cracker, especially in the summer, renowned for getting her rider Dave Fehily on the ground … multiple times with her fierce buck! She’s not to be underestimated; we have high hopes for her.
Peace And Co
He’s been one of our most exciting horses this season. He is nicely relaxed now and he learnt a lot at Cheltenham last time. Some people crabbed that as he didn’t look the same visually as he had at Doncaster, but NJH said he just had to do it that way. His last two bits of work have been in behind horses, very quietly, and he schooled very well on Friday last week. He should relax better now, he only had one run in France before Doncaster. He’ll probably have ear plugs to shut the world out at Cheltenham, this should help keep him cool. We also have Hargam and Top Notch who is second favorite in this race, so we are really hoping one of the trio will bring home the trophy, as long as the Mullins/Ricci team can be held down with their very well-fancied Kalkir. No doubt it will be another awesome week for Team Mullins, but really hope Team Hendo can give them a good run for their money, I’m confident they will!
Vyta Du Roc, Caracci Apache, Out Sam
Vyta Du Roc will be a very handy chaser for next year, he will either go for this race over three miles or go for a shorter trip in the Neptune Investment (2m5f) – NJH is yet to make up his mind. He has had a very good season and the only time he was beaten was in a Grade One by Parlour Games. NJH previously suggested that perhaps by going up to three miles in the Albert Bartlett, it might help him as he has been going through flat spots in his recent races. We will have to wait and see where he declares him. Caracci Apache and Out Sam will most likely be running in the Albert Bartlett. Caracci has done nothing wrong this season, along with Out Sam, who has continued to progress throughout. Vyta Du Roc and Caracci Apache did very pleasing pieces of work at Kempton on Wednesday. All three are chasers to keep your eye on for next season.
They’re some of the main Seven Barrows hopes in the bigger races in the Festival, but as ever, we’ll be well represented in the handicaps.
Golden Hoof, Cocktails at Dawn
CHAPS Restaurant Barbados Novice Handicap Chase – Tuesday
Golden Hoof and Cocktails At Dawn are both probable runners in this one. Both horses have been going well at home. Cocktails in particular has been making lots of progress with his schooling. He hasn’t been the most careful in his past on the track but they are confident he can get it right, showing maturity at home. Good ground is vital for both horses, so fingers crossed. Golden Hoof will be giving weight to Cocktails.
Everyone at home is certainly hoping for Lyvius to run well in the Coral Handicap Cup on the Wednesday, as the team have had plenty of time to freshen him up. He is known for being a bit of a thinker, but he should definitely be in the mix and not be forgotten about in this race. He last ran at Ascot on the 17th January this year, only just got beat by Venetia Williams’ Baradari.
Dawalan, Bears Affair, Call The Cops
Dawalan will be going for the Pertemps Hurdle on the Thursday. This little powerful five year old grey has won his last two outings. NJH tried him over three miles at Musselburgh on good ground, he probably won a bit too impressively there! He has been doing it well but both the step up in trip and running on good ground helped him. We will stick to the Pertemps but he is as high as he needs to be, he has played ball all season, so lets hope he will continue this next week.
Bears Affair is also a very likely runner in the Pertemps with our conditional jockey Freddie Mitchell on board. He will be claiming seven pounds which will be extremely useful, he has ridden him really well this season, come second in his recent last couple of races. The team have been really excited for him and think he will run a very competitive race.
Now, just to throw the spanner into the works even more, it looks like Call The Cops is now going to be a contender in the Pertemps Final after his impressive five-length win on Saturday at Doncaster. Although this six year old would be getting a 5lb penalty in the Pertemps, NJH remains confident about him. He should definitely now be considered a competitive and gives everyone something to think about after this very pleasing run.
We’re hoping we’ll get a big run out of all of our horses and if a few get into the places and maybe nab a couple of wins, that would make for a brilliant week and be a big reward for all the hard work going on behind the scenes. The important thing is that they come safe and back well. Here’s to another great four days in the Cotswolds.