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Battening down the hatches


We have battened down the hatches with Storm Christoph making his presence known this week. Bringing challenging riding conditions on both the racecourses and here at Hill Barn.  It is safe to say we are all looking forward to Spring arriving...
Anemoi & Fredrika
Racing took place in filthy conditions at Exeter on Tuesday with the ground very testing and visibility poor.  Sergeant O’Leary made his long-awaited hurdling debut after 455 days off the track in the 2m1f maiden but failed to get competitive, gradually slipping back through the field having jumped off prominently.  Although beaten a long way, his hurdling was a positive and he is sure to improve for the experience, his pedigree suggesting longer trips will suit in time.
Our other runner at Exeter that day was Black Abbey in the 2m1f handicap hurdle, a horse that has been slipping down the weights and who had taken a step in the right direction when 4th at Plumpton on his previous start.  Unfortunately, he was unable to build on that here despite reverting to more positive tactics, being headed by the eventual winner at the fifth flight and then losing his place markedly on the run to the third last.  He did however run on again up the home straight, passing beaten horses to take 6th, and it may be that we try him over a longer trip once again or perhaps in some headgear.
Caught In The Slips made her second start over hurdles at Newbury on Wednesday, going off a big price having finished down the field at Lingfield on debut.  Held up, she took a keen hold in the early stages and made a notable mistake at the first, slithering on landing and almost parting company with jockey David Bass.  She very much struggled to stay in touch thereafter and as the field exited the back straight she became tailed off and pulled up in the home straight.  A mare with plenty of size and scope, she is a long-term prospect who will hopefully improve as she gains further experience.
Breaking Waves lined up on the same card at Newbury on Wednesday, contesting a competitive 3m handicap chase.  He was fitted with a first-time tongue tie in addition to the cheekpieces but it failed to have the desired effect.  Held up off the pace by jockey Jack Quinlan, he failed to get into a jumping rhythm following some early mistakes, and although he battled away in the testing conditions, he could never get on terms with the leaders and was eventually pulled up.   We will now look to switch him back to hurdles in order to regain confidence.
Shambra made the journey to Ludlow yesterday, reverting to hurdles in a first-time tongue tie having failed to take to fences on her two previous starts for the yard.  Held up on the inside, she began to be niggled along starting out on the final circuit, but despite being switched to the outer to race on the less-poached ground she failed to pick up for pressure, eventually coming home last of the seven runners.  This wasn’t the result we were hoping for, but the ground was very testing.  She is entered in the Goffs virtual sale next week as a broodmare.
Sheila Nash is engaged in a few mares’ bumpers in the coming days and may take her chance at Market Rasen on Monday.  She hasn’t run since finishing runner-up at Ludlow just over a year ago, but that is form that has worked out well with both the winner and 4th now successful over hurdles this season and the 3rd subsequently 2nd in a Listed bumper.
Poldark Cross has the option of races at either Hereford on Sunday or Market Rasen on Monday.  He is looking to make his handicap debut following 2 good placed efforts in novice company, latterly at Huntingdon just before Christmas.  Winner of an Irish point last season, he looks to have been handed a fair mark and should appreciate stepping up in trip at either venue.
Docpickedme, another promising youngster, holds an entry in the novice hurdle at Plumpton on Monday.  A winner on his sole start in Irish points last March, he is a horse sure to appreciate further than this 2½m trip, but this is the right distance for him at present as we work towards getting him qualified for handicaps.
Warranty holds an entry in the juvenile hurdle at Wetherby next Thursday, the track at which he made his hurdling debut in November.  His jumping lacked fluency that day, but he was much improved when 3rd in first-time blinkers at Sandown last time and this could prove a good spot for him to gain further experience.