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Happy New Year – It’s 2021


Happy New Year everyone! Not the start of the year that we were all hoping for as we move into Lockdown 3.0 but still we will keep kicking... Against all odds racing is continuing behind closed doors which is fabulous news so it is business as usual here at Hill Barn.  As with each year at the start of January we are currently having a quiet couple of weeks whilst we vaccinate and worm our string, so they are ready to put their best hooves forward for the remainder of the season. Bring on 2021...
Calvario & Joe Quintin with Harry watching on
Lantiern with Cozzie
Simply The Betts & Saint Calvados
Boxing Day began in rather inauspicious fashion when Cateline was pulled up at Wetherby on her second start over hurdles.  The main aim of the run was to get further experience under her belt, but she displayed little aptitude for jumping, slowing into her hurdles and diving away to the left.  She soon found herself detached from the main body of the field and was pulled up after the fifth flight.  She is now set to be retired as a broodmare and is entered in the Goffs mares sale at the end of the month.
On the same day we sent Shore Shanty to Wincanton for a mares’ novices’ hurdle, as we were keen to keep her to 2 miles given the current ground conditions up and down the country.  We employed the services of the capable 7lb claimer Cillin Leonard to negate the penalty she received for winning at Ludlow.  It was a competitive race on paper and she ran respectably to finish 4th, settling in touch just behind the leaders but never really travelling with the same fluency on the softer ground.  She battled away gamely but was unable to go with the front 3 in the home straight, where the ground was particularly tacky and holding.  She remains capable of better and we should see an improved mare when she gets back on a sounder surface.  A step up in trip is also very much in the offing come the Spring.
Later that day Saint Calvados made his seasonal reappearance in The King George at Kempton, a hugely exciting opportunity to have a runner in such a prestigious race.  This has forever been the mid-season highlight for staying chasers and always attracts a top class line up.   This season’s renewal was no different as Saint Calvados took on the Paul Nicholls’ pair of Clan des Obeaux and Cyrname who dominated the market with Santini, Lostintranslation, Waiting Patiently, Real Steel and Frodon adding real depth to the field.  It was asking a big question of Saint Calvados to take on such high quality rivals on his first attempt at 3 miles and he ran a cracker to finish 4th.  Held up in mid-field in the early stages, he raced a little exuberantly stepping up in distance, pulling his way into a handy position by the fourth fence as the eventual winner Frodon set a steady pace in front.  He loomed up looking a big threat turning for home with only Frodon ahead of him, but his effort just flattened out in the closing stages, dropping to fourth on the run-in as his early exertions told.  A stronger gallop would have enabled him to settle better and he may get the chance to further test his Gold Cup credentials in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January.
The following day (27th December) we returned to Kempton with 3 runners.  Again the day started in unpromising fashion as we saw Warranty being carried out by the errant Cloud Thunder on the turn shortly after jumping the second hurdle, with both horses and jockeys crashing through the rail and into a hedge!  It was an extremely frustrating start as he had schooled well at home in the blinkers.  Thankfully all returned unscathed and he was able try again at Sandown on Saturday. This was a quick reappearance after being carried out in the early stages at Kempton 6 days previously, and we could have done without seeing Cloud Thunder, the horse responsible for carrying him out, in the line-up once again!  Nevertheless, we were optimistic of an improved showing from Warranty in the first-time blinkers and he duly delivered by finishing a promising 3rd.  It wasn’t the strongest of contests, but there was plenty of encouragement to take from his performance, his jumping was much more assured in the headgear, and having tracked the leading pair, he moved up to challenge approaching the second last.  He could only find the one pace up the hill thereafter but this was definitely a good step forward and there should be more to come from him, particularly on slightly better ground in the Spring.
Rouge Vif was our big hope in the Grade 2 Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on 27th December, taking on the returning warrior Altior.  Following his fine 3rd in the Tingle Creek he had earned his right to line up again here.   However sadly it wasn’t to be on this occasion as he ran a little flat, finishing 4th on the rain softened ground.   He lost his early prominent position having got in close to the fifth fence and from that stage on he was unable to get back on terms.  He will now most likely be given a break in preparation for a crack at the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
Our final runner on the card at Kempton that day was Torigni who lined up in the well-contested 2m handicap hurdle.  Off the back of a strong first run finishing a very encouraging 3rd on his British and stable debut at Wetherby we were hopeful of a good performance here.  Much like Rouge Vif, he could have done without the overnight rain, but he nevertheless consolidated a very promising start to his career in this country by taking 3rd.  Racing in a handy position throughout, he made eye-catching progress.  Turning in he briefly had to wait for a run as the field packed up, before he was then able to quicken up well.  He looked to have every chance jumping 2 out but unfortunately made a mistake there, and was then only able to keep on at the one pace.  He is still a young and inexperienced horse and there is more to come from him.  He should be capable of making his mark in some good handicaps in the Spring.
Rolling in to the next week Captain Tommy was our sole runner at Newbury last Tuesday lining up in the Mandarin Handicap Chase.  This time fitted with first-time blinkers after disappointing at Chepstow.  In a deep 14-runner field he failed to get competitive, held up out wide to get daylight at his fences but still making a couple of jumping errors on the way round which then effected his rhythm going through the race.  He was soon niggled along leaving the back straight and was just about in touch with the main body of the field turning for home.  Unfortunately he was unable to find any extra from 4 out and finished well clear of the leaders.  He has since been booked in to have his wind examined which should help him bounce back to form.
We had a couple of runners the following day (Wednesday 30th December), the first of which was Numberoneson who contested the juvenile hurdle at Taunton.  Having been well beaten on his first two starts over hurdles for the yard, this was a less competitive contest and he travelled nicely for a long way in the first-time blinkers.  However when push came to shove, he found disappointingly little, weakening out of contention soon after 3 out and being pulled up before the second last.  He is now likely to have a tilt back on the flat.
A similar fate befell Flash de Clerval later that day at Market Rasen, another horse with first time headgear, cheekpieces on this occasion.  Having pulled up on his stable debut in November we were hopeful of a step forward here.  He took an enthusiastic grip in the early stages, jumping well in mid-division, but once the pace lifted early on the final circuit he soon began to struggle, losing touch with the leaders and pulling up before 2 out.  He may prefer more of a galloping track so we will weigh up our options before running him again.
With Exeter being a last-minute abandonment, our first runner of 2021 was Bigmartre in the ‘Auld Reekie’ Handicap Chase up at Musselburgh on New Year’s Day.  Travelling in search of some better ground, we were rewarded with a competitive contest and one featuring a number of front runners.  This was not to his liking sadly as he was unable to get near the frontrunners in a race run at a furious gallop throughout, soon slipping back through the field having jumped off upsides the leaders.  The signs were ominous as he dropped to last heading out onto the final circuit whilst the eventual winner Romain de Senam blazed a trail alongside Red Risk at the head of affairs, but in a move that bodes well for his future prospects, he picked up the bridle turning for home and proceeded to pass beaten horses in the straight, staying on well to grab 5th and a share of the prize money.  We hope he will be able to build on this encouraging finish following a drop in Grade.
Black Abbey lined up at Plumpton on Sunday, contesting a 2m handicap hurdle off the back of a 59-day break.  Down in the weights, he ran much better than on his first 3 starts this season, staying on to be beaten 12 lengths in 4th.  Held up in the early stages by jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr, he didn’t really travel with a great deal of fluency, being niggled along from the third and getting shuffled back coming down the hill before rallying up the home straight.  We may now look to fit him with some headgear around a more galloping track which should see him in a better light.
Following a good third at Southwell over hurdles on his first start after wind surgery, Artistic Language returned to the same venue on Thursday, this time switching back to the Flat for the first time since July 2019.  He looked a picture in the paddock, earning Stuart the best turned out award, but from the moment the stalls opened it was clear that sadly that was the only prize he would be taking home, as he failed to pick up the bridle at any stage having been slowly into stride.  He hated the kickback which the deep fibre-sand surface is notorious for and lost touch with his five rivals soon after halfway.  Given the circumstances, this is simply a run to put a line through and we will now look to get him back over hurdles in the coming weeks.
Having missed his intended engagement at Exeter on New Year’s Day when the course failed a late inspection, Breaking Waves holds an entry back at the same course on Sunday in the 3m handicap chase.  Unfortunate to slip up in the early stages on his debut for the yard at Newbury, there were positives to take from his 4th at Wetherby last time out.  If he takes his chance this weekend, we hope he will prove capable of building on his last run back at the scene of his previous win over fences, a victory which was achieved in this month last year.
Numberoneson has been disappointing over hurdles so far this winter, pulling up in first-time blinkers at Taunton on his most recent outing.  He is, however, a winner on the Flat, successful in handicap company at Leopardstown back in July on his final start for Joseph O’Brien, and we may return to the Flat with him at Chelmsford next Thursday to see if that sparks some improvement.  The poly-track surface certainly shouldn’t hold any fears as he was a narrow second on the all-weather at Dundalk as a two-year-old.
And the Winner is... George Edgedale! Congratulations!Absolutely smashing it as usual, an important part of the team and always pulling in the right direction! Keep up the good work Lord Edgedale!
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UPDATE ON SALTO CHISCO Salto is having a super time in his new home with Jane and her family of four legged friends. He even got into the Christmas spirits with a tinsel head collar!
Until next week...