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Sedgefield Success


It's been a lovely week here at Hill Barn with a welcome return to the sunshine.  And with it, not 1 but 2 fantastic wins up at Sedgefield yesterday including new course specialist, Dargiannini and Sir Sholokhov on his chasing debut.  So with the news that owners will begin to make a phased return to the racecourses from Monday - things are really looking up! Very welcome news all round bringing light at the end of the tunnel.  We look forward to seeing you at the races again soon...
Juniper on her way down to the hurdles under Gavin Sheehan
Gavin with Dargiannini whilst schooling in Lambourn
Our sole runner last weekend was Sergeant O’Leary who took his chance in the 2m1½f maiden hurdle at Fontwell on Saturday.  Needing this run to qualify for a handicap mark, he jumped well for an inexperienced horse, racing in mid-division as the leaders set a good early gallop.  Coming off the bridle on the approach to the fourth last, he was unable to find a change of gear but stuck to his task well to finish sixth.  He is now likely to be stepped up to a trip more in keeping with his pedigree, and an initial mark of 91 seems a fair rating from which to work from.
Having made a winning debut for the yard at Hereford at the start of the month, Raffles Gitane attempted to make it 2-2 in Britain at Huntingdon on Tuesday.  Saddled with a 6lb penalty for that Hereford win, she was sent off third choice of the punters and settled tracking her two main market rivals.  Her jumping was sadly a little untidy at both 4 out and 3 out after which she was ridden along to try and keep tabs on the pair in front, and try as she might, she couldn’t quite manage to get on terms, finishing a respectable 3rd.   This was a solid effort in what was a stronger race than at Hereford and she is sure to stay longer trips in time.
On Wednesday, Warranty headed for the juvenile hurdle at Hereford where we were hopeful that getting him on some quicker ground would suit this ex-Flat horse.  However, he failed to jump with much fluency, going out to his left on occasions and getting reminders after jumping the third.  He tried hard to stay in touch with the leaders but weakened out of contention on the approach to the second last and this plainly wasn’t his true running.
We have enjoyed a good bit of success at Sedgefield in recent times and sent two runners to the Durham venue yesterday looking to enhance that record.  First to take his chance was Dargiannini, a dual winner at the track already this season, who attempted to bring up his course hat-trick in the opening novice hurdle.  Setting out to make all, he was kept close company by his main market rival Away At Dawn throughout, the pair interchanging the lead as they raced well clear of their two opponents.  His hurdling lacked fluency, but Dargiannini is a horse with a big engine and began to assert on the run to two out, holding an advantage of a couple of lengths jumping the last.  Another mistake there briefly looked like opening the door, but he soon reasserted in the hands of Gavin Sheehan to take his record to three wins from four starts.
Hopes were high of a double with Sir Sholokhov, a former Irish point winner making his chasing debut on an opening handicap mark of 114. Dropping back to 2m having been a little keen over further at Newbury on his previous start, he was held up in touch in the field of five, jumping accurately under Daryl Jacob.  Having moved onto the heels of the leaders, he was momentarily a little tapped for speed at the top of the hill, still appearing green, but soon found his stride and jumped to the front two out.  From there the race was soon in safe keeping and he came right away to score by a convincing 11 lengths.  This an impressive start over fences from a horse who is sure to rate considerably higher in time.
Docpickedme has received an opening mark of 119 following his maiden hurdle win at Southwell earlier this month and we plan to test the water in handicap company with options at Hexham, Wetherby and Ffos Las next week.
Our only other entry at this stage is Breaking Waves, who may head to Uttoxeter next Thursday for a 2m4f handicap hurdle.  It would mean a drop back in trip, but his two wins over obstacles (one over hurdles and one over fences) have come over this sort of distance, so it could well suit as we look to build on his more encouraging run at Newbury last time.
Owners will be back on the racecourse from 29th March. Owners will be able to attend race meetings in England and Scotland from Monday 29th March, as part of a phased, risk-managed approach, which corresponds as closely as possible with the respective government timetables. Unless agreed otherwise with local authorities, from 29 March to 12 April, access to the racecourse will be limited to a maximum of two owners per horse, as was the case initially when owners returned in July 2020.  Racecourses are not able to provide hospitality at this stage, due to government restrictions, but light refreshments will be available and there will be no time limit on how long owners are able to remain on course. From 12th April, access will increase to a maximum of six owners per horse, following the further easing in government restrictions. At this point, racecourses will also be permitted to reintroduce outdoor hospitality. Specific arrangements remain subject not only to government guidance, but also local authority decision-making, and therefore conditions may vary according to racecourse area.  Racecourse officials are currently liaising with their local authorities and will contact owners directly ahead of each fixture with further details of any local requirements. Pre-registration is essential, and owners will be emailed automatically with details of how to register once their horse is entered to run. See also the RCA’s guide for owners, which outlines important information on returning to the racecourse. Racecourses in Wales are awaiting guidance on the return of owners, so please check with the racecourse in question as to the current arrangements.
Until next week...