Alan King’s horses are back on track and ready for the off again – weather permitting
Update: Smad Place (see below) is looking good for Cheltenham after his two length victory in a Novices' 'Chase at Newbury on Saturday (February 8.)
The sun was shining brightly up on the Barbury gallops on Tuesday morning (February 4), but the terrible weather and its dire affect on the National Hunt racing season was still the main topic of conversation. Would the rain allow him to run a full racing schedule from Thursday and over the weekend?
Almost all the horses at King’s Barbury yard are now over the respiratory infection that has meant a longer than predicted lay-off since December.
Valdez – a seven year-old chestnut gelding with an unmistakable white face – became King’s first winner of the year on January 25 at Doncaster.
He is now entered for the Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase on the first day of March’s Cheltenham Festival – and should be a fancied runner (current odds between 8-1 and 10-1.) Valdez had won twice in November – at Exeter and Newbury – before the virus hit the yard.
King’s second string of the day to exercise on the downs looked very fit and were going well even though the grass gallop was said by one rider to be ‘pretty sticky’. Assistant trainer Ollie Wardle said the horses were back to form and getting stronger by the day.
There to see how his six year-old grey mare Smad Place performed at exercise was Peter Andrews from Hereford. Smad Place looks a fairly slight horse, but she has ‘bags of spirit’ and has taken well to jumps after being placed twice in Cheltenham’s World Hurdle.
The Andrews family were unlucky not to see her win her first steeplechase. She unseated jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton when looking a certain winner. She then won a three mile chase at Exeter in the second week of November.
She’s now entered for the prestigious RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival – a major test for which she currently has odds of 14-1.
Another horse to catch the eye on the gallops was Tickity Bleue – another six year-old grey mare. She’s owned by the Let’s Live Racing syndicate.
She showed great promise in her early races, then took a knock and had a season out to recover and to mature. On the last day of 2013 she achieved a dead heat for first place in a novices hurdle at Warwick – sharing the honours with Molly’s A Diva.
In the coming days she is entered for Uttoxeter and Warwick – which course she will travel to depends on the rain and the state of ground.
With entries over the next three days for Huntingdon, Doncaster, Taunton, Kempton, Bangor-on-Dee and Newbury, Alan King will have a really difficult task matching horses to ground conditions.
King has twenty horses entered for the Cheltenham Festival (March 11-14.) Getting them race fit – and, where needed, racing – before it starts, will depend on the rain and how many meetings are lost to weather and how heavy the going gets.
But he will certainly prefer the difficulties thrown up by the weather to the difficulties of overcoming health problems in his horses.
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