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Double Trouble


What a weekend with a brilliant double on Sunday! Raffles Gitane at Hereford and Brave Kingdom in the bumper at Fontwell.  Spring is in the air and there is now less than 2 weeks until The Festival.  And whilst the racing industry has been under hard scrutiny in the past week over the circulation of some quite simply inexcusable images, we remain united in our commitment to racehorse welfare.  Here at Hill Barn we do nothing but love and care for these incredible animals who enrich our lives.
Raffles Gitane in the winners enclosure at Hereford on Sunday with Harry, Daryl and Hannah
And shortly after Brave Kingdom storms to victory at Fontwell - pictured here with Gavin, Emily and Stretch
KBIS Take Over Day on Wednesday this week in full swing with Super Secretary Anna at Declaration Time
And in a week of highs and lows we waved a sad goodbye to our much loved friend and team member Slap
We had a trio of runners on Sunday afternoon, with Anemoi the first of them as he took on a small but select field in the novice handicap chase at Fontwell.  Making his comeback after a 93-day absence, he attracted significant market support in the first-time cheekpieces.  Having received a reminder jumping the first obstacle, he failed to travel with any great fluency throughout.  He was still in touch with the two leaders as they swung into the home straight for the final time but sadly never really looked like closing the gap.  Gavin Sheehan accepting the situation after jumping the last began to ease him down on the run-in to cross the line in 3rd place.
We didn’t have to wait long for our spirits to be lifted, as a mere ten minutes later Raffles Gitane made a winning debut for the yard in the fillies’ juvenile hurdle over at Hereford.  With the benefit of experience following a couple of runs over hurdles in France, she jumped off in front.  Although strongly pressed by the second favourite Auditoria approaching two out, she kept pulling out more and was always just doing enough to prevail in a driving finish. Our first winner for owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede and the first leg of our HWR Super Sunday double!
Third on his sole start in Irish points, Brave Kingdom’s debut for the yard has been eagerly anticipated and hopes were high when he lined up in the bumper that closed the Fontwell card on Sunday.  Sent straight to the front by Gavin Sheehan, he quickly got into a lovely rhythm.  Turning out of the back straight on the final circuit he had all of his rivals hard at work in behind him.  Still going easily as they entered the final two furlongs, he only needed to be pushed out to assert close home and went on to win by 4¼ lengths.  An impressive debut with the manner of this success marking him down as a potentially smart prospect moving forwards.
Qualismart made the journey up to Ludlow yesterday in the hope that the combination of a first-time hood around a sharp, right-handed track would see him bounce back to the form of his impressive Market Rasen win on debut.  Sent off as the odds-on favourite, he was keen in the early stages despite the addition of the hood and was joined in the lead by one of his main market rivals Quinta do Mar jumping the fifth. The pair were locked in combat from that point on, but whereas Quinta do Mar found extra to kick off the final bend Qualismart had nothing more to give eventually fading to finish 5th. He is clearly not himself so we will get him checked out at home. He will need to learn to settle better if he is to fulfil his undoubted potential.
After declining to take up a couple of engagements with See The Eagle Fly last week, we have declared her for the juvenile hurdle at Newbury this afternoon.  Her official handicap mark of 120 puts her right in the mix and we hope she can build on her eye-catching last run.
Sir Sholokhov is another who is heading for our favourite local track Newbury this afternoon.  Having finished 3rd to subsequent Grade 2 winner My Drogo on his hurdling debut at the same course in November, we have been waiting for good ground to run him again.  He should find conditions to his liking and we look forward to running him.
Breaking Waves sadly hasn’t quite fired since joining the yard in 3 starts over fences, with his jumping lacking fluency the last time.  He is set to line up in the same three-mile handicap hurdle as Neverbeen To Paris at Newbury this afternoon as we attempt to restore some confidence back over the smaller obstacles.
Similar to Sir Sholokhov, Neverbeen To Paris is another who should appreciate the forecast ground conditions at Newbury today.  After running a fine race to finish third in a three-mile handicap hurdle at the Ladbrokes Trophy meeting in November, a return to that course and distance looks an ideal spot for him to resume after a winter break.
Having run well to finish 2nd in a pair of jumpers’ bumpers on the all-weather in recent weeks, we have decided to experiment by giving Lantiern an outing on the Flat over 1½m at Southwell tomorrow.  The fibre-sand surface would be an unknown and certainly isn’t for everyone, but if he does handle it, he has the ability to be competitive.
Off since the start of December, Dargiannini is preparing to make his return to action with entries in novice hurdles at Huntingdon, Sedgefield and Southwell in the coming days.  An impressive 20-length bumper winner on his debut at Sedgefield in October, he failed to handle softer conditions at Aintree next time and the ground will have a big bearing on which engagement, if any, we decide to take up.
Also holding a trio of entries is Sergeant O’Leary, in his case Huntingdon, Southwell and Wetherby, as we look to provide him with further jumping education.  Handicaps over longer trips is where you are likely to see the best of him down the line.
Juniper acquitted herself with great credit on her first start for the yard when finishing runner-up in a mares’ maiden hurdle at Huntingdon last week.  She could look to go one better back at the same venue over a slightly shorter trip on Sunday.  However, it would be a quick turnaround for a horse who has been off the course for 524 days prior to last week, so we’ll just have to see how she progresses over the next few days.
Docpickedme holds entries at Wetherby and Southwell on Monday.  Having shown promise on both starts for the yard back in the autumn, including when chasing home a future Listed winner at Aintree, he is a horse we are looking forward to getting back on the track.  And the form of his Irish point win is now working out quite well.
Caught In The Slips is a 7 year old mare with a good deal of size and scope about her.  Having run just twice thus far, she needs more experience, something she may get at Wetherby on Monday.
This week the racing industry has been under hard scrutiny over the welfare of horses in training. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you a few images of the horses in our care showing the love and dedication these animals receive everyday behind closed doors. #RacehorseWelfare
Salto Chisco (pictured above) is now being turned out and was enjoying the Spring sunshine last weekend.  His recovery is going well and Jane is so pleased with him.
Shantou Vow (pictured above), has settled in well with his new owner Kim and met his new neighbours. He will have a well earned holiday, chilling in the field once his box rest is complete before the start of his retraining around this time next year. He’s a pleasure to have around and we're sure he will be amenable once his training begins. All being well he will do some RoR Dressage as well as some happy hacking.... watch this space
Until next week...