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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Brian Hughes: Up against Stage Star but getting a good lump of weight

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Brian Hughes: Up against Stage Star but getting a good lump of weight

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It seems everyone has been trying to run off the turkey! I saw dozens of people who must have felt a bit guilty out jogging on Boxing Day on the way to Aintree. My Christmas was so busy with the kids and looking after our 24 horses at home that I didn’t put on a single pound!

The ground was pretty testing on Boxing Day, which wasn’t ideal for a lot of the horses, but they ran okay. Then Wetherby was off on the 27th, so it was good to be back with a nice double at Catterick on Thursday. Sea Grey, running over a bit further than the last day, won really well. He’s improved plenty from Doncaster, where he only got to jump four hurdles, and the slow pace set by the favourite suited my lad really well as he’s got a good turn of foot. The form of Guillame’s last race has been franked, so it was good to see him come out and win as well. He wasn’t in love with the ground, but he coped with it and won well.

We’ve been treated to some fantastic racing over Christmas. On Boxing Day, Constitution Hill looked as brilliant as you’d expect, and what about Shark [Hanlon] with Hewick!? They came over and had their Christmas dinner in Kempton, so fair play to the whole team, they deserve it. I thought Galopin Des Champs was very impressive in the Savills Chase. It was a massive performance that put his Gold Cup rivals right back in their place – probably the best we’ve seen over Christmas. Irish Point and Gaelic Warrior were very good over in Ireland too, while Il Est Francais looked very exciting. His win in the Kauto Star was a quicker time than the King George, and he’s a novice…

Saturday, Haydock:

Jo Arengeot Bey AA (12:50pm) is a lovely animal. He won an English point-to-point, cost £50,000 and then ran well in his bumper despite not really being the type for bumpers. He wouldn’t want the ground as testing as it is, but he jumps great and we’ve got to get some experience into these sorts of horses. His work at home has been quite good and we’re looking forward to getting him out.

East Street (1:25pm) steps up in trip having had to be pushed along for most of the race over 2m7f last time. Another couple of strides and he would have won the last day, so this step up in trip should really suit. He’s got a nice racing weight on his back, comes into the race in good form and looks to have every chance.

Gold Emery (2:00pm) needs to bounce back from his last run, but that came at a time when they all needed it. He won’t mind the ground, and he jumps and stays well, so he should give a better account of himself.

Albert’s Back (3:10pm) goes back over fences and would have every chance off his current mark if somewhere near his best. The ground would have been too quick for him last time, as he really loves heavy ground. He’s still technically a novice, so needs to put in a good round of jumping against more experienced chasers, but if he does he can be competitive.

Rossbridge (3:45pm) is a point-to-point winner whose been working nicely at home. Whatever he does here he should improve plenty, but we think he’s ready to go and should do himself justice.

Sunday and Monday, Uttoxeter and Cheltenham:

I should have a couple at Uttoxeter on New Year’s Eve and then be at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day, all being well.

Grand Albert (1:40pm, Utt, Sun) should take a nice step forward from his debut at Bangor two weeks ago. The soft ground shouldn’t be a problem and he should be bang there if building on his first run. We wanted him to be finishing off his race the last day with it being his first run for us. He should leave that form well behind him.

Whitehaven (3:10pm, Utt, Sun) is a tricky one, but you feel there’s a race to be won with him. He maybe did a bit too much in front on testing ground in first-time blinkers the last day and he did well to finish second. He’s a good staying Flat horse and I’d like to think he should be very competitive off his mark.

We’re up against Stage Star with Richmond Lake (2:05pm, Che, Mon) but we’re getting a good lump of weight off him. It’s a hundred grand race and we think we’ve got a good shot of getting some of that prize money for sure. We’re heading into the race in good form and the only question mark is the track, as he’s not raced on one as undulating as Cheltenham before.

As a 150-rated chaser there aren’t many races to run him in, so we’ve got to take our chance and hope he takes to it. To be honest with you, his mark is hard to assess as he does little at home but them surprises me every time on the racecourse. He’s one of them horses that saves all of his effort for the track. He’s a tough, genuine, hardy horse that loves racing.

Carved In Stone (3:50pm, Che, Mon) probably wouldn’t want much rain to fall. He’s dropping back from 2m to 1m6f, but Cheltenham is obviously a bit stiffer than Doncaster, so that shouldn’t be an issue. He was still quite green the last day so should improve again, and I’d be pretty sure that Hugo Palmer isn’t running him down there for the fun of it.

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