Flat season review 2020

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This year’s turf season will be forever remembered for the disruption and restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. So perhaps this was the year not to have had a stable star as it was such a forgettable year.

As it happened, Whitcoombe Stables housed no Mild Illusion or Mrs Danvers during this time so there is no real “day in the sun” moment to report. The fact we scrambled to the 20 winner score by the end to the turf season I feel was nonetheless something to be proud of, given three months of no runners and an average rating of horses in training of 64 and the two-year-olds being a little backward.

Three winners in February from few runners had the yard buzzing in anticipation of things ahead. Then March kept that theme going with Kommodity Kid (L Bellman) winning until… Covid! So many of the horses were ready to roll and plans were aplenty for them. It was utterly frustrating to see such plans shelved with racing suspended indefinitely and it wasn’t until June 6 when the horsebox was rolling again.

The Blue Bower (Andrew Sim) and Broad Appeal (JP) gave June some cheer by winning along with plenty of placed horses showing the string in good form. Mariance (Hot To Trot/ M A Parker) represented us creditably at Royal Ascot in the Albany Stakes and what a bizarre experience that was to witness with an enormous empty grandstand.

Three winners in July and another four in August were the fruits of what felt a busy summer. Those included The Blue Bower twice, veteran Quick Breath (Wood Street Syndicate), Devils Roc (Roc Steady P’ship), Russian Rumour (Fillies First), Sweet Reward (Berkeley Racing) and importantly the first two-year-old winner of the season Mark Of Respect (Berkeley Racing).

The horsebox was busy in September and it was great to get one time promising Toybox (JP) back to winning ways having been diagnosed with pretty serious “kissing spine” issues. Our find of the season The Blue Bower also obliged, again!

An equally busy October saw another three winners including a couple of two-year-olds including a filly I have always held in high regard for the future in New Heights (Simon Skinner). She is a reasonable size, sparely made and a little fragile but we have brought her along steadily and she did not have to be too great to win this particular contest but the manner in which she did was particularly pleasing and in so doing she picked up a GBB bonus AND a Plus 10 bonus so financially that topped up her prizemoney nicely and the £12k we spent on her as a yearling looked good value. Hopefully she can be interesting next season.

The star turn of the season would have to be The Blue Bower who was sent to us from another trainer by her owner Andrew Sim. She has been so much fun winning four times having started her days here with a rating of 62 which has now risen to 76 which hopefully allows for a little more fun to come from her for Andrew.

I’d like to pay tribute to our team of staff. This season’s team have been a total joy to work with and they have handled the Covid situation and disappointments that have gone with that with credit. Led so enthusiastically and competently by head lad Matt Salaman I thank Reg Payne, James Harding, Emily Wingate, Ellen Shepherd, Vaclav Kremlacek, Pat Kennedy, Phil Donnely and part-time riders Jess Clayton, Tom Hannagan, Olivia Tubb and David Coyle. Also part-time yard staff Sean Cusack and Kurt Smith. Apprentice jockey Tyler Saunders has been in great form riding us winners and educating the youngsters. Farrier James Stewart and bookkeeper Ali Keen’s contribution are crucial to any of our success. We said goodbye to yard person/gardener Leslie Mcbride after 8 years and wish her a happy retirement.

If one has to mention low points it would be having to retire the improving miler Swiss Cheer (Whitcoombe Park Racing) after injury. We had a larger than usual draft at the Horses In Training sale so it was tough having to say goodbye to sprinter Walk On Walter having won five races for us and plenty of other friends who had done us well.

All our owners are seen as valued supporters but the sudden death of syndicate stalwart John Hobson was a shock and a loss. John never arrived at the yard without a smile and never forgot to chat to the staff with cheerful words of enthusiasm. We are delighted that his wife Liz is continuing his legacy here and wish her and family every strength and good wish.

We still have a handful of horses due to run over the remaining months of the year on the all-weather. One or two yearlings are appearing into the yard at this point so we are swiftly turning our attention to what 2021 may bring us and it is that that keeps us all going and anything could happen. For sure we will all be doing our best here to unearth and prepare a star turn for next year and beyond and we would love as many owners to be on board as possible to join the ride! Plenty of shares are currently for sale so do please get in touch.