Wednesday, December 30, 2015

End Of Another Year

Surprised and delighted to find Massabielle and Trovao have made it into the 2016 Carrot Club calendar, for August and November, respectively. Ironically, this means that it will not take up its usual spot in the kitchen, as I want to save it! Oh well, Louis will have to go without the Shadai one this year...

After a promising first four furlongs, Beat The Boarder gave a predictably poor run in the 1:40 at TCK, finishing ninth, which should end her race career without any questions. Pretty Gully's poor showing in the 3:20 at Townsville should seal her fate, too, giving us a disappointing finish to the year.

Anyway, in the New Year, Shine Tiara is due to debut on the 3rd at Kawasaki, with Tadanari Konno in the saddle, which is wonderful news - such a nice chap, who's always jovial! Looking back through records, Konno-san has only ridden once for us before, giving Fairy Robe its debut. Not expecting too much first time out with this one to be honest, but the experience - with a veteran at the controls - will certainly stand it in good stead for the coming months.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Low Note

Pop Label is at last starting to look at home again on a clockwise track and, as such, his promise from his Monbetsu days can hopefully be exploited once more after a long injury recovery and a dry spell that didn't do his ability justice one bit, simply because the track direction at Funabashi didn't suit his frame. Anyway, with Tosaki-kun (the promised jockey) not available, Yoshihara-kun was put in the saddle, who has come second with Pop before, helping to make up his pre-race 3-3-2 record. Amazing practice times, good track conditions and a very rare - for me, at least - inside gate built up hopes in Tokyo but, after fluffing the start, the jockey managed to get himself severely blocked in every direction until the very end, by which time it was too late and despite an excellent final furlong (about the only bit of the entire race were a clear run was afforded) we finished second. At least he weighed-in, so the money was secured - a fraction of what the winner got, of course, and the one that pipped us at the post was a rank outsider to boot! I really am wondering if Pop will ever pick up a win in the Nankan series...

Beat The Boarder next, in what will almost certainly be a final outing, especially with Shun Ishizaki giving way to Masaki Segawa in the saddle. Pretty Gully has also been entered in a 1300m race on the 31st, and this could be her last run Down Under if she doesn't pull her weight. Raining Dollars, the other Aussie runner, is ready for a trial run and should be back in action in the next month or so. Based on recent form with Beat-chan and Pretty Gully, though, and all the disappointment thrown my way in heaps during December, it looks like 2015 will finish on a very low note indeed.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Crackers

Phosphorus gave us a bit of excitement at TCK last night, with a solid fifth - something to build on given such a long lay-off, as he looks the part again already, despite Yano-sensei saying he was only 50% ready in reality, with this race being used simply to avoid a test run. I have a feeling he might even have gone a couple of places higher given a free rein, as he was held up a bit on the back straight to get a good position, and he doesn't like being told what to do! There's a strong horse back in the stable again at least, which is something to be thankful for.

Blacklister ran in the 2:35 at Wolverhampton, and was fourth again - the poor thing simply cannot get a break! Meanwhile, in Ireland, Danielle's Journey was last in the 2:30 at Down Royal, which is concerning, as, having started at short odds, it not only raises immediate question marks (as in, is everything okay?), it kind of makes a mockery of the season's plans for her. More on that as soon as I hear anything - I'm not in possession of the facts as yet, and it's gone midnight over here as I await A Touch Of Sparkle to go out on the same track. At least the latter nag came home third, trailing the two joint-favourites in a field of 16, so some good news there to go to sleep on. Night all!

PS. Before getting my beauty sleep (god knows I need it), it has come to light that 'DJ' actually finished second, but was disqualified after the jockey failed to weigh-in. Unbelievable! I sincerely hope the Realta boys have put a claim in, as that has just wasted 1600 Euros...

Friday, December 18, 2015

Dyscalculia

Beat The Boarder has had - miracle notwithstanding - what will probably be her last race set for the 6R at TCK on the 31st, while it looks like Phosphorus will make a comeback at TCK on the 25th. I'm not really expecting much with him, though, having been out of action for so long, even with Kota Motohashi aboard; it's also his first time ever on a clockwise track, and - naturally! - we got the outside gate to boot. At least Phosphorus is a born fighter and has a good team behind him, so he'll be back in the groove in time. Pop Label runs in-between, which is also something to look forward to.

Less pleasing is the confirmation in today's JRA reports that Tenshinramman's holiday before her "one last chance" has begun. Well, I may as well give you the result now - failed miserably. She will come back after weeks and weeks away totally out of race mode, as always, and either have her tension go through the roof at the gate, or be totally uninterested. When will JRA trainers learn? I guess they don't have to with a race industry run more like the civil service than a competitive business. To be perfectly honest, I can't wait to be out of it! This month's Yushun only serves to strengthen that feeling - generally a beautiful publication, this issue wasted four pages to promote someone who has made a fortune from saying "today's lucky colour is..." What century is this? But as one of the few that owns horses outright due to crazy ownership rules specifically designed to keep real people out, JRA has to grovel. I don't mind admitting that I don't understand half of what goes on in Japanese racing, because it's beyond comprehension.

PS. Magic Key is booked for the first Funabashi meeting of the New Year. Whether I go or not will depend a lot on how I feel, and a similar amount on the chosen jockey. Meanwhile, Blacklister's race has been moved to Wolverhampton on the 26th, and now the Irish pair should be in Boxing Day action, too. Shine Tiara has been booked for a Kawasaki debut on the 3rd of January, Larressingle should run on the 9th, and big plans are afoot for Trovao...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Proud

Despite having a horse in the G1 main race, I didn't bother going to Kawasaki, as I was expecting the usual JRA benefit that always happens at these events - easy pocket money for fat cats that don't need the extra money, while the NAR stables certainly do need it. It's not that the JRA horses are better, and certainly not the trainers in most cases, pound for pound - it's simply the difference in the facilities and the money available to spend on the ponies, on things like feed and general care. Look at the training area at Kawasaki where they raced tonight - a tiny dirt track roughly railed off by the river. If you want an aqua pool, you jump into said river. Treadmills? No. Hill training? Well, you have to walk up an incline to go back to the ageing stables! Still, even that's a lot more than Funabashi and the others have - they train on the race track. The jockeys aren't better either - the vast majority of the current top JRA people are ex-NAR riders or foreigners. Change the situation around, giving the NAR folks state-of-the-art training facilities, and the JRA boys wouldn't stand a chance.

Proof of what I've just said can be seen in the results from a few minutes ago, with NAR jockey Sakai-kun riding a blinder from the off to come third on an NAR horse, and Honda-kun taking Trovao (pictured) to a magnificent fourth after a rough run until the second corner was out of the way. A slightly longer distance - even 50 yards more - and/or smoother early race (not the jockey's fault I should add) and a top three spot was ours for the taking. The winner was a superb ex-NAR jockey, who beat us by 0.4 seconds, and second was Mirco Demuro, who beat us by a tenth of a second! We beat the third and fourth favourites (both JRA) by 0.5 seconds, and both had real class on their backs - Take-san will always be a hero to me, JRA man or not (a one-in-a-million genius that deserves to be compared to Lester), and Uchida-san is one of the best (ex-NAR). Arayama-sensei said we wouldn't be embarrassed, and he was spot-on! We clocked the same last 3F time as the nags that finished first and second, trained in their multi-million dollar environments. I wouldn't mind betting the trucks they arrived in are worth more than most NAR stable blocks, including the land they are on...

In addition, Pop Label put in a miracle-level training time, so looks well and truly back in form - we may yet see a return to the form he showed as a juvenile champion. In the meantime, we have a last chance saloon scenario for Beat The Boarder (long overdue), and maybe Pretty Gully, too, which pulls at the heartstrings a lot more than the loss of the TCK runner.

Courtesy Rika Watanabe
Having lost his number (a hefty insurance bill for each entry with a lot of zeros on the income side made me look carefully at the monthly invoice), I've just realized that J'ai Un Reve sold for joke money, which - as promised - means I'm not buying into the remaining NAR horses whatever happens with the JRA list. As far as I'm concerned, there was no effort whatsoever put into that pony, and I'm fairly sure that was the way things were wanted from the outset to keep the likes of Montjeu out of the desirable sire list in Japan. We wouldn't want any competition, now would we? If it had been given to me (or better still by a hundred times, a proper trainer like Mick Channon), I have no doubt we'd have had ourselves a winner in no time. I don't think anyone could blame me for being annoyed about this episode. Anyway, doing the maths, it just doesn't make financial sense to buy into others, and, right now, with the way I'm feeling, that comes into play a lot more than it used to, even a week ago - although I'm chuffed to bits with Arayama-san and Honda-kun tonight, and proud of what they have done for NAR's image (thanks to some excellent preparation focused on the job in hand, including using Mika-sama's vast experience and skill behind the scenes), the other day's race at Funabashi has made me a lot less inclined to support something blindly. It will take a while for the bitter taste to go away, that's for sure.

Strengthening that resolve, the reports released on the current JRA horses today were full of the usual BS, including a promise of more money down the drain with Tenshinramman and yet more holidays all-round, with only Ogata-sensei making any sense as usual - one of the few real trainers in this inbred organisation that is seemingly there simply to make money for the boys, and ultimately has very little to do with real racing. It's a shame, for with the right management and a change of attitude that would involve making things competitive, killing off a lot of the unwarranted snobbery, and knocking down an ivory tower of gigantic proportions, JRA could be something very special.

As for England, Blacklister (currently 0-3-1) was pulled from the Kempton race as the search for something more suitable continues - Chelmsford on the 21st is looking good at the moment...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

More Beer Needed

In fact, something a lot stronger than beer is needed! I had a feeling I'd be let down by the JRA runners today, and the only surprise was that they were even worse than I expected. Rush Attack made a rush attack, and ran out of steam to be overtaken by 12 horses in the last furlong. I don't see much point in continuing with this horse if it can't run a decent distance and can't get entries in races of a suitable length. More disappointing - adding another page in the catalogue of JRA disappointments, and yet another page in the already weighty Tenshinramman chapter - was the 12R at Nakayama. The jockey put Tenshinramman in the perfect position, but there was nothing there when a spurt was needed, and another 13th after being told to expect something. To add salt in the wound, the trainer has said he is putting the horse into another spell of R&R as he wants to win one more time with this horse. Well, I'd like to win the lottery, and I've got more chance of winning it than he has of claiming another victory with 'Tenny' - despite the fact I don't buy lottery tickets. It couldn't win a Donkey Derby nowadays. Carrot Club has to know when enough is enough, and stop wasting people's money!

On the subject of wasting money, I have a note on my calendar to buy another NAR horse from Carrot Club on the 11th (remaining shares are moving fast), but I didn't get the chance with a dressage competition in the morning and then a mad rush to Funabashi. Of course, I was then bitterly disappointed at Funabashi, and the purchase was delayed again when I got back - my desire to support NAR took a serious dent that could take some time to fix. I then figured I'd wait to hear of the retirement of another JRA horse, as almost half of those on my current list are duds. Tenshinramman should be retired for one, of that there's no doubt, for she has proved time and again that she will never do anything with her current training team. I've a feeling I've said that before, but I'll say it again anyway as it has obviously fallen on deaf ears in the past, and today should have proved my point! Anyway, that is the plan from now on - no more Japanese horses (NAR or otherwise) until some of the lame ducks get scrubbed from the JRA list. "One more chance, one more chance, one more chance..." How many times does a fragile horse that's obviously never going to regain the natural speed it had before it went into 'training' have one more chance?

The only bright spot today was a superb dressage performance from Louis - 58.0% in L1, which is something to build on for the AJC. Sophie also did well in A2, but was better yesterday in the middle of a storm - strange girl, but she will definitely improve, as she has a good fighting spirit and 'Bugatti' learns his new craft with relish. Not relishing tomorrow's JRA race, though...

PS. Veteran jockey Yoshitomi-san recovered from an awful start with Larressingle to place the horse perfectly for what was a stunning finish. Although we were second, that was a superb race from a team that is obviously trying, in stark contrast to yesterday. The only problem is the Carrot Club rules, requiring a win to keep a horse for the next season. From my experience, this rule doesn't work, for many of those that win once do nothing else, while this nag obviously has potential, but no win in the bag to secure its future. We shall see what happens next time. Good job from all concerned today!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Where's My Beer?

While War Chronicle has returned to Miho TC to resume a JRA career after an NAR excursion (God help the poor thing!), Magic Key teamed up with Takayuki Yano in the opener at Funabashi, and came second in her debut run. Fine. But I feel robbed to be perfectly honest. The horse in front was obviously tiring, needing a whip off the last corner, yet Magic Key was being held up by the jockey and then starting to fly on its own as soon as it saw the straight. Oddly, though, there was no whip used and we lost by a length. If this was a normal race and, more importantly, I felt everyone had done their best (the start also raised question marks), I'd shrug it off, but these debut races are the only chance to win a bit of money unless you can fast-track to the top like Trovao did. Given the high cost of Shadai and Sunday horses (especially this one!) and running costs that allow you to break even on a good month, this was really annoying, especially when we should have won as far as I'm concerned.

Other big, and much better news - we will have six horses with Mick Channon for a little while, as Blacklister is still at West Ilsley, while a replacement for him has already arrived! The second horse for Lord Ilsley Racing (run by Mick Jr) has also arrived, so it's getting busy in the south of England, and we can look forward to a fun-filled 2016 UK flat season. We'll do the profiles in a bit, as soon as they get named, so watch this space!

Meanwhile, Infinity Love has passed her gate test in Japan, and Tenshinramman and Rush Attack run here on the 12th, with Larressingle also out on the 13th in JRA action. Oddly, I look forward to retiring JRA horses more than seeing the results, as they really that disappointing as a rule, as potential is rarely exploited. Anyway, in the week, Blacklister has another go at Kempton Park in England, and Phosphorus might well be coming back in the last week of December - something else to look forward to, and hopefully it will renew my faith in NAR, which was very badly dented for the first time today, even though my patience had already been tested by Beat The Boarder for months...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Constant Sorrow

Blacklister was a fine second at Kempton Park on Wednesday, narrowly beaten by a short-head. This poor little horse has come so close so many times, needing just a touch of luck to be a major contender. We should hear about a fifth horse with Mick Channon and his family soon, and that's something to be happy about.

Courtesy Carrot Club
On the other hand, there's nothing happening on the JRA front, as the one race that was lined up was more overbooked than an Elvis concert in the 1970s, so we hadn't got a chance. Typical JRA - too many horses, not enough races! Also typical excuses and a lack of common-sense regarding Irish Harp - a horse that ran constantly with Sugai-sensei, but is now mysteriously tired after one race in three-in-a-half months. From past experience, we know this horse also doesn't like travel, so why think about going to a distant track when a local one is available? And, if the last race tells us anything, it goes the right way around, too. Pathetic. Half of the JRA trainers, probably more, don't deserve to be called trainers at all. Thank god for NAR...

PS. On the subject of NAR, War Chronicle had a very easy start-to-finish win at Nagoya, claiming victory by an almost laughable margin (five lengths to second, without a single crack of the whip, and another seven to third). Wait a minute, that's not supposed to happen according to Irish Harp's trainer - a horse needs months and months between races apparently. Leaving them out of action for too long simply makes them forget what they're supposed to do on the track!

PPS. Nice cover on Eclipse magazine this month, with Trovao stealing the limelight.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Badly Beaten

Another terrible result from Beat The Boarder on Friday, with a good start but what appears to be no stomach for the fight, or it could even be a lack of stamina. Anyway, Shun-kun has suggested blinkers for the next Tokyo outing, which will be her last chance - if she does okay, she'll stay, but another bad result and it's time to retire.

But at least Phosphorus is back, and I've secured another horse with Lord Ilsley Racing to run alongside Ettie Hart and take us into the 2016 season. I'll write more when the sale has been confirmed properly, but it's as good as a done deal, hence me saying something now. There's also another NAR runner I'm thinking of...

PS. A Touch Of Sparkle was declared a non-runner after it poured down in Ireland, but Blacklister is in action in England tomorrow, and War Chronicle is down to race at NAR's Nagoya track on the 4th; Pretty Gully runs on Australia on the 5th, too. Looking further ahead, Magic Key is to debut on the 11th, Larressingle and Tenshinramman are at Nakayama on the 13th, Trovao has a big race on the 16th, Beat The Boarder runs on the 23rd, and Pop Label is out again on the 29th.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Testing, Testing...

Chocolat Sucre passed her test with ease this morning, as did Magic Key, with the latter promising to be something very special. As a full sister of Clave Secreta, her blood is right, and today she cruised home in second, with no whip used, and looked absolutely superb when walking - as I said to a friend in England, I've never seen such a beautifully proportioned horse in Japan before.

As for the next races, Beat The Boarder runs at TCK (NAR's Tokyo track) on Friday, hopefully making up for last time's poor performance, while a A Touch Of Sparkle is out again at Fairyhouse in Ireland on Saturday. Looking a bit further ahead, Blacklister and Rush Attack should be out in the first week of December.

Meanwhile, I can see Irish Harp's trainer is definitely going to annoy me over the next few months, as his statements are like a knee-jerk reaction to what I said before - 'care' is something I wholeheartedly agree with, and if a horse comes out of a race needing TLC, that's what it should get. But to say there is no point in running a horse soon after it's last race is ridiculous - if it's in good condition, a race is no different to a hard training session, and the track experience is something that cannot be duplicated at a training centre no matter how hard you try (particularly a Japanese establishment). Furthermore, he can't choose between Nakayama and Chukyo, when the obvious choice - if experience from the last blown race now tells him the horse pulls to the right - is Nakayama. I can't tell if it's a real statement, which raises questions, or something simply said to bait me. My boy figured out Nakayama would be better in about 0.01 seconds!

Flying in the face of Irish Harp thinking is War Chronicle, who raced on the 6th November and came first, then raced on the 20th and came second behind the hot favourite. She is due to race again at the next meeting in less than a week's time. Two weeks between races is more than enough time for 'care', and this proves it - months and months away from the track is only good for those making money from the training centres. In England, we've raced back-to-back with shorter breaks than that, and the racing in the UK is a lot more competitive than it is here...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Popped At The Post

After the disappointing performance by JEF Utd, it was time to enjoy some horses again, with Hideya Sahara winning the 'Ganbatte Kochi' race that my family sponsors each year. I'm going to make a summer and winter version from next year onwards, as I love this track - it may be poor financially, but it is rich in spirit, and JRA could learn a lot from the wonderful people there...

Pop Label was next up, running in TCK's main race three hours later. He looked good in the paddock, and was really settled until the stalls, when he played up a bit. Fortunately, another horse was late getting into its berth, and Mori-kun had a chance to settle him and make a decent start. It was then nice to see shades of the old Pop Label, who loves a clockwise track, and Mori-kun did a super job of guiding him to second after a good fight with the clear favourite; the third horse was three lengths down, so we have a flyer on our hands again, justifying his juvenile champion status. The only sad thing is I know how much work the team at Funabashi put into him, but Funabashi runs anticlockwise and it just never suited him, so their work was never rewarded. I know for a fact everyone is still following his progress, though. A big "thank you" to both camps.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Dry As A Desert

Courtesy JLH Racing
Talk about dry spells. Irish Harp started well, fighting for second or third with two furlongs to go, but the gas ran out, and she fell back to a very disappointing tenth. Time to retire? No good in Oz either, although to be fair 'Rosie' (pictured) did start as rank outsider, which shows she was in a class field - having the gap she was going for closed didn't help either. There's another race coming up soon, at least, which is the difference - in England and Australia, you keep them racing until you get a result (as long as the horse is fit) or confirm you've got a no-hoper, whereas JRA trainers run them once in a blue moon and then have the cheek to blame race rust for the kind of bad performance one expects from a horse that hasn't ran for a while!

PS. The trainer report clarifies the jockey's statement that Irish Harp was pulling to the right, and Tanaka feels this cost us a top five finish. Sounds fair to me, and I'm no big fan of Tanaka after the Tenshinramman disaster. But what's not fair is the trainer saying it was his first run with the horse and you can put it down to experience. I'm sorry, but five minutes watching a horse in training can tell you it pulls to the right - after three months away from the track, there's been plenty of time for a faultless preparation, with race rust being the only problem that could or should be an issue. It's no good having paper qualifications galore if you can't pick up simple things that a decent stablehand would spot with ease. Typical JRA! Now, what you should do - with experience in the bag - is race the horse on an anti-clockwise track (like Nakayama) within the next two weeks at the most. But no, it will go a training centre (or, worse still, what amounts to a holiday camp), away from the racing stables, and once again the communication and hands-on fine-tuning needed won't be there. Even if the trainer did decide to race, the chances of finding a suitable berth in a gate in JRA racing is remote, and almost impossible to find one on the right track over the right surface and distance - nowhere near enough meetings, hence the long holidays, hence the poor preparation, hence the bad result, hence another pointless holiday, and the cycle goes on... Pathetic.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

More Dates

Blacklister raced in the 12:10 at Lingfield today, keeping the UK campaign in motion, but sadly couldn't deliver the goods (a race is booked for the 23rd, too, so hopefully we can get some revenge then), and War Chronicle has been pencilled in for the 20th at NAR's Nagoya track. It's a class field in the 1600m 10R, and - of course - we have the outside gate! This will be a test for War Chronicle...

Pretty Gully should be out in Australia at the same time as Irish Harp tackles JRA's Tokyo track - I'm hoping the jockey can prove me wrong on my opinion of him in the sixth race on the 21st. Two days later, the fifth race at Kochi is my annual support race for the track, and in the evening Pop Label teams up with Mori-kun in the TCK 11R. Still with TCK, Beat The Boarder runs in the 6R on the 27th. At least we've got a few out and about.

PS. A rough start for War Chronicle finished her chance against the firm favourite (betting at evens!), but a strong second at least put a few pennies in the bank. The only problem is its a bad result as far as her career goes - another win was needed to put her back in JRA racing. I guess she could always stay in NAR, which would suit me anyway.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Satisfying Sunday

I've not written much on the dressage front recently, which doesn't mean the pace has slowed down - it most certainly hasn't! I was ill for quite some time, with my body throwing in the towel after doing way too much work without a break as usual, but the kids have had a very busy schedule, with one training clinic after another. Today, Miyaki-sensei taught Sophie and 'Bugatti' a few tricks in the morning, with Louis borrowing a Colza horse for the afternoon.

On the race side, Rush Attack was a mildly-disappointing seventh. After what seemed like a good start, Katsuura-san allowed others to push him from one bad position into another most of the way round, although a gate closer to the rail would've probably helped his cause.

However, Larressingle ran a most pleasing race. The start was disgusting, as sometimes happens with a youngster, but the way she stormed around the track after that - beaten only by the favourite (who started from gate one and just had to hold on) and the second favourite - was a sight to see. My faith in this particular trainer has been rewarded as far as I'm concerned, and the future looks bright with this one. Today's third place is just the beginning!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Typical JRA

Single Cask was a poor seventh, having made all the pace from the start, while Tenshinramman was frankly dreadful from start to finish, coming home - eventually - a full 2.8 seconds off the pace. To wait for months simply to make up the numbers is not only extremely disappointing, it's a waste of everyone's time and money...

PS. It's definitely time for Tenshinramman to retire, judging by the jockey report. Maruyama stated that her flanks were weak, and that's after three-and-a-half months of waiting and supposedly preparing her to race. Well, enough of being patient - if that's the best the trainer can do, then it's time to throw in the towel. The conviction behind that statement is made even stronger by the fact that the trainer couldn't even be bothered to add his own comments to the report!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Upcoming Events

At least we have a few JRA runners this weekend - considering how many we have, it has been a long time since they've been out to play. Indeed, Perfumer last ran five months ago! Anyway, Single Cask is in the 1200m turf 9R at Fukushima on the 14th, with Tenshinramman teaming up with Genki Maruyama at the same meeting in the 2000m turf finale. On the following day, Rush Attack is in the 1800m turf 8R at Fukushima (with Katsuura-san in the saddle), while Larressingle's debut comes at Tokyo-Fuchu on the 15th; Yoshitomi Shibata is at the controls for this 1400m turf race. In addition, Irish Harp is aiming for a long-awaited Tokyo run on the 21st.

On the NAR front, War Chronicle should be out at Nagoya again next week, hoping for a second, more convincing win in tune with her turn of speed, while Pop Label has been booked to run in the 11R at TCK on the 23rd; Beat The Boarder should be out soon after during the same meeting. Meanwhile, our annual 'Ganbatte Kochi' race is on the 22nd, which should be fun. Hopefully, everyone will get home safely and, with luck, we can have two races at Kochi next year - one for summer, and a second one for winter.

Although things are a bit quiet in England and Ireland at the moment, Pretty Gully is being lined up for the Open Class 1300m race at Townsville on the 21st, and Raining Dollars should be back in action soon again, too.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

War Chronicle V1

War Chronicle and Sho Kakihara teamed up to win at Nagoya, having started as second favourite. It was a hard race, though, as the start was awful, and the horse seemed to hate the sand being kicked up in front of it. Only coming off the final corner did the pair look as if they were in the same race as the leaders, although it took until the final furlong to see a classy horse stretch its legs and go for it. And that last bit was impressive, showing War Chronicle to be in a different league if the trainer can get her to concentrate for long enough. Well, it has been a long time since she's raced, so let's hope for a more convincing run next time out. For now, I'm just happy to clock up win number 37...

PS. After a good start, Beat The Boarder ran her worst race ever at Tokyo. Bit fed up with excuses with this one, and today no-one can blame the gate or conditions. It should be said, however, I'm not sure what on Earth the victor at TCK was doing in the same race, having won ten times before - it should be in a far higher Class. Notwithstanding, there was a lot of other ponies between Beat-chan and the winner. Later in the day, Blacklister came home in fourth in the UK - rather than a failing in the horse, the race just didn't go as planned.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Sparkling

A Touch Of Sparkle made a satisfying debut at Down Royal, finishing fifth in the group that trailed in behind a runaway winner. At this stage, finishing safely is the main thing - she has proved she has stamina over a flat two miles, and jumping is her forte, so there is still a lot to look forward to with this pony. Teaming up with DJ in the Realta club, the jumps season should be an exciting one.

Meanwhile, while Gandvik has been retired (looks like a replacement is on the way), Blacklister has been entered for the 5:10 at Chelmsford on the 6th - a Class 6 Maiden Auction Stakes race over seven furlongs, and with Charlie Bishop in the saddle. We're certainly getting our money's worth out of this fighter! And in NAR, War Chronicle is making a comeback on the 6th at Nagoya, and Beat The Boarder tackles the 8R at TCK on the same day. Looking further ahead, Tenshinramman, Rush Attack and Single Cask should all be out on turf again on either the 14th or 15th, with Larressingle due to make its debut at the same time.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

What's Running & When

Blacklister was a handy fourth at Wolverhampton yesterday, and has already been declared for a race at Newmarket on the 31st. In addition, A Touch Of Sparkle will be making her long-awaited debut at Down Royal on Friday or Saturday, kicking off our Irish campaign for the year.

Although Pop Label has been scrubbed from his next race, War Chronicle should be running at Nagoya any minute, and Tenshinramman and Rush Attack are both back at their respective stables, pointing to imminent race entries - we'll know more tomorrow on that front. Pretty Gully is being lined up for a race on the 3rd as well, meaning we are busy in England, Ireland, Japan (NAR and JRA) and Australia. That's good, as is the news that Million Ways will be sharing stable space with Magic Key at the Kawashima equipe in Funabashi...

PS. Pretty Gully has picked up a skin complaint, so is now set to race at Townsville on the 21st rather than the 3rd. Nothing happening in JRA, and Blacklister has also been pulled from the Newmarket race, so what was a busy week has fizzled out somewhat, with only the Irish runner left - we're in the last race on Saturday, by the way. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rapid Review

Although I couldn't make the Funabashi event, Louis and 'Bugatti' had a great clinic with Kelly Layne this morning, and Pretty Gully made a nice comeback, despite what looked like a poor result on paper. The trainer and jockey were chuffed to bits with the run, which is the main thing, as both were aware this was a tough race and the chances of winning were always going to be remote given the long period Pretty Gully has been out of action. The next outing will be one to look forward to, that's for sure. Shine Tiara passed her gate test, too, and will start her track career in the very near future. Meanwhile, we've got a big race tomorrow...

PS. I think a postscript on Massabielle's Japan St Leger campaign is enough here, although I should stress that this doesn't imply disappointment, at least not in this case. Massabielle ran a super race, but was outgunned at the end to finish ninth. Remember, though, this was not a normal ninth - it was a ninth in a G1 race, and what's more, ninth in a classic! I believe Tosaki-kun put on a show and when he realized he wasn't going to catch the top three, eased off the gas with the future in mind - after all, this is still a young horse in mind and body, and has an enormous amount of potential in those four legs. Finishing only 0.9 seconds down on the winner today, the future will be very interesting indeed with this one.

PPS. Next up, Blacklister lines up for the 5:40 at Wolverhampton on the 27th, with Charlie Bishop aboard, while Pretty Gully should be out again on Melbourne Cup day - the 3rd November. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Big Race Era

Massabielle will indeed be running in the Kikuka Sho, and Keita Tosaki will be at the reins, which is great news. We've drawn gate 14 and don't seem to be fancied all that much - as far as I'm concerned, that's not a bad thing, as there's no real pressure on us, and we're a lot less likely to be marked. Having a classic runner has been a lifelong ambition, so the result is totally unimportant...

And in NAR, Trovao is aiming for the All-Japan 2yo Yushun race at Kawasaki on the 16th December - another seriously big race that would line the colt up nicely for the Tokyo Derby. Although 2015 has been something of an annus horribilis for me personally, with a lot of minus points during the ten months of the year so far (including over a week in bed this month from my body telling me I was doing way too much work - something my brain knew, but told me to keep going like a wally!), these two horses have been special plus points that I shall never forget, along with my first win with Mick Channon's Box 41 syndicate and a visit from old friends.

We have Pretty Gully in action in Australia on the 24th, and then Massabielle in the big JRA race on the 25th. A bit later, Blacklister should be running in England on the 27th or 28th, Pop Label runs in the 7R at TCK on the 1st, Beat The Boarder throws down the gauntlet in the same week's meeting, and War Chronicle takes to the NAR track at Nagoya at some time during the first week of November in a bid to recover a JRA career. Fingers crossed for one and all!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Huge Win

Courtesy Noriko Abe
Masashige (Mar-kun) Honda timed his run with Trovao to perfection today to win the main race at TCK by a convincing margin. Always staying in touch with the leaders, and starting as third favourite, he moved to the outside for the final straight, staying on the gas as the other three alongside starting to fade. This is my 36th win, but more importantly, as an SII race, my biggest one in NAR racing so far. Mar-kun seems to think there's a lot more to come from this horse, so let's keep our fingers crossed. I'm smiling, despite having to stay at home with a 38C fever and watch the race on TV. Well done to all involved - a stunning display tonight...

Blacklister did well, too, coming home in third at Nottingham. He is starting to build up a nice record now, with 0-2-1 from six, including two fourth places. Looks like he'll be out at Newmarket on the 21st next. In other news, Larressingle has passed the gate test, while Shine Tiara is scheduled to take one on the 23rd, and Chocolat Sucre will take one in November. It has also been announced that Magic Key will be stationed with Masakazu Kawashima at Funabashi, which is good news.

PS. Blacklister didn't make the race on the 21st, and is now expected to run on the 27th.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Short-Headed

Blacklister finished a superb second, being narrowly beaten on the all-weather track at Chelmsford yesterday. He is also booked for the 3:00 at Nottingham on the 14th over a mile, although I'm not sure whether that race will go ahead now after the Chelmsford run. I guess we'll know more in the morning when the stablehands have seen how he's come out of this latest adventure.

PS. Blacklister will indeed run at Nottingham, with Sylvester De Sousa at the reins. Meanwhile, Trovao has found a berth in the main SII Hisaeko Kinen race at TCK on Wednesday, with Masashige Honda in the saddle. This will be the first Nankan race for Trovao, so it will be interesting to see how he does...

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Coming Up

We'll know a little more tomorrow, but as things stand, Blacklister is due to run at Chelmsford on the 10th in a Class 5 handicap stakes race over a mile. And plans are afoot to get Trovao out on either the 13th or 14th at TCK with Masashige Honda in the saddle. Mar-kun is a good lad, both on and off the track, so let's see what happens...

Having performed nicely in a couple of jump-outs, Pretty Gully should be out on the 24th, which is the day before Massabielle's big day, of course. 'Massa' is stationed at Ritto TC at the moment rather than Miho TC, as the travel time can be cut down an awful lot, which should improve our chances of a good performance. The two Irish horses should be out at the end of the month, too - one making a start to its career, and the other hopefully having a crack at a G3 race. I can tell you more once things have been worked out and confirmed by the Realta boys. Larressingle is now starting gate training, and that's about it - treadmill galore otherwise! 

PS. Blacklister looks like he's definitely on for the 10th with Charlie Bishop booked to ride. War Chronicle has arrived at Nagoya ready for an NAR run to try and recover her career, while Beat The Boarder is set to run in at TCK in the first week of November. Heard a few interesting snippets from Funabashi tonight, too, but more on that as soon as things are confirmed. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Belle Plage V3

Belle Plage (below) had a wonderful race at Nakayama yesterday, with Yutaka Yoshida - who I've been critical of in the past - doing a superb job this time around, timing the winning run to perfection. Even if he'd come second or third, I'd have still patted the guy on the back - credit where credit's due! This is Belle's third victory (my 35th), and the first after being partnered with Yoshida-san. It's starting to look like a good team.

Courtesy Carrot Club






On the subject of good teams, 'Bugatti' did well in the Colza Cup Gymkhana Grand Prix, taking Louis to second, and Sophie - just one second behind - to third. Considering his size, this was a creditable performance from the big fella, who really is becoming something of an all-rounder. It was also interesting to note that Sophie was only one second behind her brother, which is really good!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Traumatic TCK

Beat The Boarder started as third favourite in Tokyo, but finished a very disappointing ninth - even worse than I was expecting, and I wasn't expecting a lot to be honest, given the competition, crap gate draw (as usual) and heavy rain overnight. With very little other reason to go to TCK nowadays, I chose to stay and home and work until the race started, which I'm glad I did now. There seemed to be very little attention paid to the race, so perhaps it's time to call it a day with this one. In the hotter weather, she appears to have a go, but switches off as soon as it gets cooler. Seeing as it's going to get colder and colder - and wetter - over the coming months, I don't see much point in continuing with this one over the winter.

Other news on the NAR front, Chocolat Sucre has arrived at Yuta Sato's stable at Funabashi, and Trovao is entered for the main race at TCK on the 14th. For Funabashi fans, you'll be pleased to know I saw Nike Madrid on Thursday, and he looks really settled in his new retirement home.

Next race for the household is Belle Plage, who's entered for the 6R at JRA's Nakayama track on the 4th, with Yutaka Yoshida back in the saddle. Yoshida knows this horse well, so we should get a better result than the one we got stuck last time out. Let's face it, doing that shouldn't be difficult - even with the next to outside gate being drawn!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday Tattle

War Chronicle has gone to Nagoya for some NAR action. A couple of wins will see a return to JRA racing, but first you have to get into winning ways. At least the horse is being given a chance, and for that, as a group of owners, we should be thankful. Whatever happens, we know the nag was given a fair crack of the whip, so to speak, unlike J'ai Un Reve, who was abandoned the second it caused problems and didn't win with ease...

We've got the Irish pair back in the game soon, with A Touch Of Sparkle looking to build on DJ's earlier success, and Pretty Gully had a good jump-out the other day meaning a return to the Aussie tracks for her in the very near future. Pop Label is close to a return as well, stationed at Murakami Stable at TCK from now on, while Phosphorus is due to come back to racing in December, too. Not much else happening, but next up is Masterson teaming up with Charles Bishop at Nottingham, which is definitely one to look forward to.

PS. Masterson was off the pace, but I'm not surprised - not because of the horse or the trainer (both are class acts), but because September was a crap month for me all-round, and it would have been stupid to expect anything better. September 2015 will go down in history as being a month to try and forget on a number of fronts! Oh well, at least October should be better... Blacklister will be back in action again soon, and Beat The Boarder runs at TCK tomorrow, albeit from a bad gate and in strong company. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Weekend In Review

Tanabe-san did a good job of getting the most out of Kalliopeia on Saturday, starting at incredibly long odds to come a fighting seventh. Overall, the performance was nothing to write home about, at least on paper, but one could see some effort, and that's all an owner can realistically ask for. The lack of a win signals the end of a JRA career, however, meaning at last we have more NAR horses than JRA ones...

Massabielle ran a strange race, starting second favourite in the G2 event on Sunday but coming close to last! I have a feeling Tosaki-kun didn't try as soon as it became obvious that his line was a lot softer than the ground on the inside, as we can qualify for the Japan St Leger on money won apparently, without the need for a top three finish. If today was simply a way of keeping the horse mentally and physically right, then that's fine, as 'Massa' looked good enough until the last corner. If not, we're in trouble!

PS. The jockey report seems to point to a bad race all-round - a poor start (from the outside), a stifling pace, and the kind of response from a horse that's been on holiday too long at the end. That seems a fair assessment from what I saw, so all we can do now is look forward to seeing a true 'Massa' on the big day over 3000m. The trainer report confirms the other part of my interpretation of the race - that things were taken easy at the end, with the future in mind, and to hear that makes me happy enough to overcome the disappointment of a few hours ago. Let's see how Blacklister can do in England tonight. 

PPS. Well, after the England loss against Wales in the RWC, then 'Massa' cruising around, the old adage that bad news comes in threes was proven with a ninth place for Blacklister. Ummm... Apparently, the going simply didn't suit in Epsom, so we'll just forget about this run and look forward to the next outing. Meanwhile, Masterson is set to run on Wednesday with Franny Norton aboard.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Huge

It has been announced that Shine Tiara will be stabled with Yuya Yamazaki at Kawasaki, which is nice, as I like Yuya a lot - he's a good guy. Trovao should run at TCK in early October, as soon as the condition lost during the long trip from Hokkaido has been recovered. And on the JRA front, Kalliopeia has a last chance shot on Saturday in the 4R at Nakayama, but the big news is Massabielle's G2 run at Hanshin on Sunday. Teaming up with Tosaki-kun for the 2400m 11R, which is a qualifier for the Japanese St Leger. This is a huge test for this horse, as the competition is naturally stiff at this level, and we all want to have a 'classic' runner. Fingers crossed!

PS. Not the best of starts to the 'classic' campaign with an outside (15 of 15) gate draw... Not surprised, as I seem to get the outside on what seems like every other race! Meanwhile, Blacklister runs at Epsom on the same day with Silvestre De Sousa in the saddle. In NAR news, Pop Label looks to be going to stables at TCK, which will help it get entries on a clockwise track, and Beat The Boarder is booked for the 6R at TCK on the 2nd October. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Bugatti Babble

After 'Bugatti' refused to play ball on Saturday, he made a super comeback on Sunday with a nice L1 performance. There were two areas where Louis and the big fella were marked low, but otherwise they did really well, scoring more than ever before as a team (70.78%), and finished only a gnat's whisker off winning the gold medal.

Today, he was entered in the cross show-jumping event with Louis, just to allow him to refresh his mind from constant dressage training. Again, he was superb, coming second and jumping beautifully, and clearly enjoyed the diversion. Next, Sophie was entered with him in the Gymkhana Grand Prix, which includes a jump at the end. They were great, and finished second - beaten by a far more suitable steed for such events, as 'Bugatti' is a big horse (as you can see from the picture)!

The future certainly looks interesting on the 'Bugatti' front, with a promising dressage career in the making, and the race front, too, as today it was announced that Massabielle has basically found a berth in the St Leger qualifier on the 27th. Trovao has arrived in Tokyo to start a Nankan NAR career, too, so things are definitely looking up. Meanwhile, in England, Blacklister has been entered in the seven-furlong 2:10 at Epsom on the 27th, which should be worth watching; as a back-up, there is the 6:10 at Wolverhampton on the 29th. In addition, Masterson is being lined up for the 3:10 at Nottingham on the 30th.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Upbeat

Shun Ishizaki rode a superb race with Beat The Boarder today, despite the conditions being a lot heavier than ideal for such a small horse. I must say I was surprised to see him drop back so far from what was a reasonable start, as, to be perfectly frank, I didn't think Beat-chan was capable of such finishing pace after a mile of sodden ground. But Shun kicked her in the ribs and then guided her through a series of gaps coming off the final corner to claim an excellent third place. Well done!

The sale of the Carrot Club newcomer has been confirmed - a Casino Drive filly out of Prima Forza. I'll do a profile on her once she has been named, or before then if I get five minutes. At least Casino Drive has been looked at before via other newcomers added to the foot of the page earlier this year.

PS. Raining Dollars came a handy third in Australia on Saturday afternoon, and will now go for a spell of well-deserved R&R. Then, on Sunday, Belle Plage started favourite and came home in a very disappointing tenth! Never in with a shout either, with Ebina-san failing to get in a decent position from start to finish. Downbeat on this one, that's for sure. At least Louis was second with 'Bugatti' at Tomisato, scoring 70.78 in L1 after handicap points were added, which is quite remarkable...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nippy Round-Up

Nothing much happening in reality, although Blacklister is looking to win in the 4:00 at Newbury on the 19th, building on Masterson's recent success in the UK. This is a Class 3 race over seven furlongs. Raining Dollars is also in action in Australia on Saturday, in the opener at Ewan, but before that, back in Japan, Beat The Boarder runs at TCK on Friday. Meanwhile, the kids are in show-jumping mode at Tomisato over the weekend, through to Monday.

On the NAR front, other than Beat-chan's run, it has been announced that Trovao will be based with Arayama-sensei at TCK (Tokyo's NAR track), and should be entered in an S2 or S3 race soon after he arrives at his new home.

As for JRA news, Kalliopeia is on borrowed time, with the next race being its last chance, while Belle Plage is entered for the 1800m dirt 8R at Nakayama on Sunday the 20th. Meanwhile, Massabielle looks like he will be stepping onto the G1 trail on the 27th, taking part in the 2400m Kobe Shimbun Hai at the Hanshin track with Tosaki-kun in the saddle if all goes well. This G2 race is a Japanese St Leger trial, so it's incredibly important to get in the top three. If you remember, we were robbed of a berth in a "classic" race with Tenshinramman, so we definitely don't want a repeat of that! We've got a far better jockey for starters, so the mistake that cost us third place by a nose - not using the whip on the final dash - is unlikely to happen again, at least.

PS. Blacklister has been pulled from the Newbury race, but we still have Beat The Boarder on Friday, Raining Dollars on Saturday and Belle Plage on Sunday to look forward to...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Livin' Legends

Courtesy Lord Ilsley
Livin' legends are a dying breed, but
I'm happy to say that Mick Channon is definitely very much alive and well, and still in top form in his second high-profile career, too. Yes, Masterson (pictured) won handily at Bath yesterday, giving me my 34th winner, but one of the most satisfying of them all, as it fulfills a dream of mine. Brilliant! Fun season ahead.

Meanwhile, Louis won both of his dressage competitions with 'Bugatti' over the weekend, having had a lot of useful advice from the charming Jan Geary on Friday. Let's see how he can do next weekend.

Next up, Beat The Boarder in Tokyo, and then Raining Dollars should be running at Ewan in Australia with Jamie Long in the saddle - no relation, but it's a fairly unusual name, and adds a bit of extra fun into the equation. It would be nice to be able to say the jockey is Sophie Long one day!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Unlucky

Poor Trovao was second at Monbetsu tonight, but definitely deserved the win, even though I do say so myself. From the start, the favourite had the inside line, and just held it, while Trovao had to fight from the outside, constantly kept wide, which takes its toll over 1700m. And that last furlong was epic - had an adjustment not been made necessary by an Orfevre moment, the race was ours. At least the future looks interesting with this one - a 1-2-0 record from three outings so far, and a mile looks perfect for this fighting horse...

As things stand at the moment, next up is Masterson in England, scheduled to run with Paul Hanagan in the saddle in the 2:55 at Bath on the 13th over a mile and two furlongs, while Beat The Boarder gives us our next Japan race, running in the 1600m 5R at TCK on the 18th. Not convinced the distance is right for this tiddler, but if it stays dry for a while, that might just put us in with a chance.

As for the JRA scene, Belle Plage should be out next week, while Tenshinramman is supposed to be back out in October. The big news, though, is Massabielle being lined up for the Kobe Shimbun Hai race at Hanshin on the 27th September; Tosaki-kun has already been requested as the pilot for this 2400m G2 turf race.

Meanwhile, War Chronicle has obviously never really recovered from an early injury, which is a shame, as this particular horse showed a lot of promise in its debut. However, while myself and another shareholder said she should have been retired there and then, allowing her an easier life as a riding horse or broodmare, eight months - and money - were wasted trying to get the thing back into raceworthy condition without even a glimmer of success. The plan is now to give her an NAR outing (a third race) to see if she can revive her career, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen judging by her last race.

PS. No decision on what to do next with Trovao, but my own thoughts would be to finish the Hokkaido campaign now and let the horse mature a little more - both mentally and physically - ready for a Nankan career, preferably based at Funabashi. Rather than chasing a few short-term pennies, if this one is handled properly, it has the potential to go far in the long-term. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Million Ways V1

Million Ways did the business, coming out of a tight pack to inch ahead and claim its first victory (and my 33rd), as well as enough in winnings to secure a berth in the Nankan scene. Good job! Raining Dollars has been confirmed for Saturday at Bowen, too - it would be nice to see him win one, as he has so much potential. Wearing blinkers for the first time and Jeff Felix in the saddle might make the difference for us...

Eclat De Reve has been confirmed for the 7R at Kokura, but on the 5th, meaning a mixed race instead of a fillies only one. We can expect her retirement straight after, I imagine. For now, time for a  beer to celebrate Million Ways' super run, and a future in the Kanto area.

PS. Raining Dollars came third, which is great - a top three finish is always nice to see, taking his record to 0-2-2. He's pictured here after the finish thanks to Jenny Felix - the jockey's wife, and sister to JLH Racing trainer Jo Hassett (the lovely lady seen on the right). 

On the other hand, Eclat De Reve was tenth and never really in with a shout. Okay, there were still eight horses behind it, but the nine ahead are the key point. At its lightest ever, and with results getting worse with each race, this pony will never do anything more than make up the numbers in JRA and should be retired, unless a dirt sprint is contemplated - something more in tune with the horse's frame. Even then, with a start like today's, there's still no chance of getting the required win, so we may as well call it a day now...

PPS. Eclat De Reve has indeed been retired, meaning we now have the same number of NAR runners as JRA ones. We can bank on losing a couple more JRA horses soon, which will get the balance right. Meanwhile, Ettie Hart has been pulled from the Windsor race as LIR has decided to wait for something more suitable for her, so it's Trovao that gives us our next race. Unfortunately, as so often happens, we've drawn the outside gate!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

News Round-Up

Irish Harp is moving to the Kikuzawa Stable at Miho TC, meaning she will run in the Kanto area a little more. Her time with Sugai-sensei was a good one, though, and much appreciated - owners certainly got a lot more value from him than J'ai Un Reve owners did from Ikee!

Million Ways is due to run tomorrow (on the 3rd) at Monbetsu in a 1200m race, teaming up with Kanichiro Fujii in the 4:15. Fujii-san is also scheduled to handle Trovao for us in a 1700m NAR race at the same track on the 9th. Looking a bit further ahead, Beat The Boarder is scheduled to run at TCK in the middle of September.

Meanwhile, Eclat De Reve should run at JRA Kokura on the 6th in a 2000m turf race, Raining Dollars is expected to run in Australia at the weekend, and Ettie Hart is due to run in the 2:20 at Windsor in the UK on Monday the 7th.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Shine Tiara

Courtesy Carrot Club
Shine Tiara is a bay filly, bought on the last day of sales before the 2014 crop went up on the Carrot Club website. Her sire was Casino Drive, who won four races from eight starts, and comes from the loins of the hugely successful Mineshaft, who brought together the DNA of Seattle Slew (via A.P. Indy), Secretariat and Mr Prospector, while his dam, Better Than Honour, was sired by Deputy Minister and can boast Blushing Groom (by Red God) as her damsire.

This pretty newcomer's dam was Sunday TC horse, Princess Dolce (with a 2-4-3 record from four seasons) by Admire Vega. This brings in my treasured Hail To Reason blood via Sunday Silence, as well as that of Tony Bin and Northern Dancer. Kris is the damsire, with Katies (the grandmother of Princess Dolce) being of special interest to me, as this four-time winner gave birth to Ukon, who Louis used to ride occasionally, along with the legendary Hishi Amazon.

It's very doubtful she will run in Hokkaido at this late stage, so let's hope she comes straight to the Nankan scene, preferably at Funabashi. Wouldn't it be nice if she could be placed with Harita-san's new stable! Anyway, as the first live foal from Princess Dolce, it will be interesting to watch her progress.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Numbers Game

Looks like both Pretty Gully and Raining Dollars will be continuing in Australia for another year (the big fella will hopefully be out at the weekend), while the Irish pair are warming up ready for a new National Hunt season. Meanwhile, the five English flat racers with Mick Channon are going well, and providing all the entertainment I thought they would, if not more.

As for the Japan scene, you may have noticed a few more changes at the foot of the page, including a newcomer (a last minute purchase from the 2013 NAR crop before sales finish), and the details of the 2014 Carrot Club horse I'm after. Its sale has not been confirmed as yet, but I don't think there will be hoards after the nag, so I reckon we can be safe in adding it to the list. I'll do a proper profile on the 2013 horse (called Shine Tiara) in the next few days, and a quick preview of the 2014 one to get a rough idea of its bloodlines before it is named. We can then cover both 2014 NAR additions properly at a later date once they've been registered as racers...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Belle Epoque

Belle Plage ran a blinder today to finish a very close second to the favourite - another 50 yards (maybe even 20 or 30) and I'd have got my 33rd winner for sure... But at least it was a bloody good race, with both the first- and second-placed nags having to fight hard to clear a wall of slower horses before leaving them for dust. The jockey did a good job, and the horse was well-prepared - we were just missing that little bit of luck on the day.

I'm very tempted to try another (what would be a third) horse with this trainer, as I like his style, and the new Carrot Club catalogue has a tempting entry against his name. There are a couple of others I fancy, too. However, the J'ai Un Reve disaster and JRA system in general means there will be no new JRA horses this year, or ever again as things stand. I have placed an order for one NAR runner at this stage, and will see how things pan out - I might end up with one (assuming my request is accepted), two, three, or all four, depending on how I feel and how the sale of the J'ai Un Reve horse goes. To be told by a trainer that they couldn't build good muscle after a year with a Montjeu kid is not acceptable; the entries were totally unsuitable if that is the excuse, and the jockey selection was questionable at best after the first of only three runs. It cost a small fortune for a share, and because of the lack of effort and care put into the horse, it will probably be worth diddly at auction - if a small amount comes back, as expected, I'm not wasting any more money, and my order will stay at one horse. Obviously, Carrot Club haven't learnt anything, as they've given Ikee another good horse this year, too - unless you learn from mistakes, things will never change, and this is another problem with those associated with the inbred JRA system, as they either never learn, or are too afraid to go against the grain as long as the money keeps moving. The whole JRA system needs a number of huge changes to make it work like a real racing enterprise, and until those are made, I will stay on the sidelines and probably enjoy the racing a lot more for not being involved.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

G1 Runner?

Belle Plage teams up with Yutaka Yoshida on the 29th in a 1700m dirt race at Niigata. Meanwhile, Larressingle is said to be doing well, and will be based at the same stable as soon as its racing career begins. Eclat De Rive should run at Kokura on the 6th September to give us another imminent JRA date. It is yet to be confirmed, but, according to the racing press, it looks like Massabielle will be aiming for the G1 Kikka-sho, which is an exciting thought.

Today's other interesting - and pleasing - news, is that Chocolat Sucre will be based at Yuta Sato's stables at Funabashi. It goes some way towards making up for Million Ways' disappointing NAR performances, as at least I'll get to see it run close up and personal. Million Ways is due to run on the 3rd, and Trovao should be out on the 9th, by the way...

PS. Beat The Boarder was a disappointing sixth at TCK on Friday - a combination of the heavier going and longer distance taking its toll. Brave run for most of the way, though, and she should be out again at the next TCK meeting if she comes away from today well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rule Of Two Thirds

Masterson came a fine third last Friday, taking his record to 0-1-1 from four outings, and then Gandvik delivered the goods at Leicester, too. Piloted by Silverste De Sousa, he came a strong third to clock up a 0-0-1 statistic from four runs, and the promise of a lot more to come. Next up, the beautiful Ettie Hart makes her debut, teaming up with Paul Hanagan on Wednesday. In complete contrast to JRA, there's always plenty happening on the UK scene, even with a lot less horses on the roster...

PS. Ettie Hart (pictured here, courtesy Lord Ilsley Racing) came a magnificent second in her debut at Lingfield - another exciting prospect. She should be out again in about a fortnight.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sunday Misery

Well, I would say "told you so," but that isn't going to change the truly disgusting performance from J'ai Un Reve. If that was an improved horse, then retire it now, as no-one but me will have the balls to change the trainer, and the current one obviously has no interest in it whatsoever. The overwhelming question has to be why run a nag with Montjeu blood on dirt, when Hokkaido has European-style turf? Enough excuses. Somebody's head needs to roll...

The crap continued with Single Cask - a huge 22kg heavier than before, and four months out of circulation. Nothing wrong with the start, and with a straight run and no blocking involved, the awful result (14th) was once again down to a lack of conditioning and nothing else. I guess the horse shall be sent away for another long break now, when what it really needs is to be run. I honestly believe that we would have got better results today - on both occasions - if my 14-year old boy had trained the horses for a month, and my 12-year old daughter had been the jockey. Disgraceful.

PS. As expected, Single Cask will now go on holiday, when what it needs is more outings and some serious training. It couldn't have put on more weight if you'd have fed it on Big Macs, and now the plan is to let it gain more! At least the answer to why foreign trainers are not allowed in JRA has been answered - most of the existing ones would be out of business in no time. Judging by the results obtained by J'ai Un Reve, the Ikee outfit would be one of the first to go. He's been retired - again, as expected. I could a good living as a fortune teller.

Next retirements we can expect are War Chronicle (that should have been retired earlier, in reality), Kalliopeia and Eclat De Reve, which will knock a bit of a hole in the JRA list. Single Cask can go, too, as far as I'm concerned, and I'm not sure where we stand with Perfumer to be honest. Granted, he won a race, but it was an NAR event, and he's registered as a JRA nag - I'm not certain if that counts as a way of keeping him in the game? 

PPS. Louis is quite sure that Perfumer is safe, as it was a JRA/NAR race, hence the lack of panic in getting him out again. If that option was open, then why wasn't it used for J'ai Un Reve as soon as the decision to try a dirt race was taken? 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

UK Update

Gandvik was fourth at Windsor with Charlie Bishop on Monday the 17th. He ran well by all accounts, so the good Lord Ilsley was a little disappointed to come away with such a low position compared to his performance. He should be out again in the 5:25 at Leicester on Monday - a seven-furlong Class 5 race.

Meanwhile, Masterson teams up with John Egan in the 6:35 at Salisbury tomorrow - a Class 5 Nursery Handicap Stakes race over a mile. In addition, Ettie Hart is set to make her debut in the 2:20 at Lingfield on the 26th. Fingers crossed! But whatever happens, at least there's always a sense of enjoyment and value attached to the UK scene...

JRA Jokers

J'ai Un Reve is in the 3R at Kokura on the 23rd. Talk of "progress" after all this time shouldn't need to be said and needs to be backed up by results. However, there is obviously no vision of victory in the Ikee camp if the jockey selection is anything to go by. I wish the guy luck, but his record is hardly the best, and I'm left wondering what on Earth the trainer is thinking of given the expense involved in securing this horse - you would have thought he'd of at least tried to give the owners a sense of value, instead of a sense of being given the bare minimum. Personally, I don't even feel I've had anywhere near that. I fully expect the announcement of J'ai Un Reve's retirement after what will doubtless be another disappointing run, as I can't honestly see it being suited to dirt. At the end of the day, there seems to be very little effort put into its challenge, that's for sure...

Single Cask is set to run in the 1000m turf sprint at Niigata later in the day, this time with Yutaro Nonaka in the saddle - another no-hoper. Belle Plage will hopefully be out again next week. At least she is blessed with a trainer that cares, hence my support for the chap in another runner for next year (or later this one with luck). There will definitely be no more JRA horses after this one and another of the same age with Yahagi-sensei, though, even if I was given one! The J'ai Un Reve experience, even if the horse had cost a fraction of what it did, really is the final straw.

In reality, I'll have to think hard about the next batch of Carrot Club NAR runners, too, as the value-for-money element becomes very questionable in horses like Million Ways. At least Chocolat Sucre, which was purchased very late, is coming to Nankan, which means I can at least get to see the thing a few times - Million Ways has just eaten money for a year, and its future is still far from assured. Assuming it can get enough money to secure a place in the Minami Kanto area, with what looks like a good deal of luck needed, even with Nankan-level winnings, it has to actually start winning simply to cover its keep.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ropy Day

I'm reminded of a classic post-race report from Lord Ilsley, which consisted of a single eight-letter word starting with 'b' and ending with 'ocks'. After all the excitement at TCK yesterday, Raining Dollars was a bit disappointing with Kat Aho in Australia today, as the pair finished fourth in a race that should really have been possible to win - an unusually bad start sealed their fate in such a short sprint, and blew our chances of putting a few quid in the pot along the way. More disappointment with Irish Harp, too - a major disappointment this time that, which, being totally frank, should signal retirement if that's the best she can do. It certainly wasn't the jockey's fault from what I saw. We've had our money's worth with 20 races out of her anyway...

PS. Make that ropy weekend, for even though little was expected of Kalliopeia, the result was still a joke. The jockey says she has race sense, her form is fine, and she's not afraid of dirt being kicked up in her face - good job really, as being at the back, you tend to get a lot of sand flying your way. The jockey is suggesting one more chance on dirt, but I didn't see any future in this horse, even in a donkey derby. Personally I wouldn't bother, unless you can get her tension down by getting her back out on the track quickly - and not much chance of that given JRA's love of unwarranted and overly-long R&R sessions. If dirt is OK, perhaps a race like Perfumer's is a final option?

PPS. Make that ropy week, for although Million Ways started as a hot favourite, fourth was the best we could do on the day. In reality, all of the other horses in the race had finished second before, with only Million Ways having a third place as its best result. The poor start sealed its fate, and maybe 1400m or 1500m would suit it better. Struggling with this one, even though the trainer thinks it has what it takes. However, at least we have Beat The Boarder on the 27th (TCK 3R) and Trovao on the 9th September to look forward to, as well as some English racing and a couple of JRA runners in-between.

Nose Job

A super run from Beat The Boarder at TCK last night, just being pipped at the post by a nose having led all the way. It was a gutsy performance - without doubt, her best so far - and Shun-kun reckons she'd have won if he'd have given her another crack of the whip at the post. Well, you have to respect a jockey for being so honest, and I'm chuffed with both of them at the end of the day.

She's obviously strong in the summer, looking up for it in the paddock (she usually looks like she wants to go home as soon as possible in colder weather), and the trainer has decided to run her again at the next Tokyo meeting if she recovers well from yesterday.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Future Gazing

Beat The Boarder teams up with Shun Ishizaki at TCK (NAR) tomorrow, while Irish Harp steps up for JRA action at Sapporo on the following day in the 1700m dirt ninth race; Raining Dollars runs in Australia, too, in an 800m sprint. Next, Kalliopeia runs in the 2R at Niigata on the 16th (1800m dirt), and then hopefully we should get some UK racing - we've had a few setbacks on the dates put forward, but with luck Gandvik will be out at Windsor on the 17th. Next up is Million Ways at Monbetsu on the 19th, and looking further ahead, J'ai Un Reve is being lined up for a 1700m dirt race at Kokura on either the 22nd or 23rd, while Single Cask should be out at Niigata on the 23rd; the planned 1000m turf race will be the nag's first run in four months!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Chocolat Sucre

Courtesy Carrot Club
Now this one is interesting, and with only a few shares left and notification she will be running in Minami-Kanto NAR races straight away rather than taking on a Hokkaido campaign beforehand, I couldn't resist giving her a go - not least because I always thought Quick Bread was shortchanged in JRA. Yes, Chocolat Sucre's dam is the same as Quick Bread's, who promptly became very successful as soon as he was given an NAR trainer, confirming my original thoughts on him.

Born in February 2013, Chocolat Sucre's sire is Casino Drive - a horse we have avoided so far, but I can't readily explain why! He won four races from eight starts, and was a favourite to win the Belmont Stakes until he was withdrawn with a sore hoof. His sire was the hugely successful Mineshaft, who brought together the DNA of Seattle Slew (via A.P. Indy) and Mr Prospector, while his dam, Better Than Honour, was sired by Deputy Minister and can boast Blushing Groom as her damsire. The Deputy Minister blood means Northern Dancer shows up three times in the family tree.

The Sweet Muffin element means she's a Nijinsky cross (4Dx4D), with his DNA passed on Dance In The Dark as the damsire, and by Caerleon (winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and one of Nijinsky's finest son's), who fathered the Irish-registered broodmare Welsh Muffin, who in turn gave birth to Sweet Muffin. By mixing her bloodlines, with proven dirt results, with those of a dirt specialist, this could be an exciting prospect. If nothing else, she looks gorgeous...

'Bugatti' Power

Louis and 'Bugatti' did well in the All-Japan Championships, for despite a complete disaster on the backward steps (even complete disaster is a bit of an understatement), they still got 53.3 in L1. Considering we only went to give 'Bugatti' some experience of the big arena, as he's still very 'green' in the dressage world and probably still more racehorse than dancer (both in build and temperament), this is something really good and positive to build on.

Ultimately, I'm hoping that this pairing will promote the use of Thoroughbreds in their post-race life, as they really are the most beautiful and versatile of all horses. Just 18 months ago, almost to the day, he finished his last race after three wins. He started his career with us almost a year ago to the day, requiring weeks and weeks of gentle work before he'd even be sat on properly with a heavy saddle. Now look! Well done to both of them...

There's another NAR runner been added to the bottom of the page, by the way - a filly - and we'll take a look at her interestingly bloodlines at some time during the next couple of days.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Rush Attack V1

Courtesy Carrot Club
Rush Attack has always threatened to be a winner, but until today has never been able to claim the victor's spoils. I'm happy to say that not only was it a win at Sapporo, it was a truly impressive one, as he led the 2000m turf race from start to finish in a superb display of strength, taking on the pace and holding off his rivals at the end with real style. For sure, he slowed up a bit just before the post, but held off the second-placed nag that was carrying a significant 5kg less (in fact, it was the only horse in the top eight to carry top weight), and beat the favourite by a decent margin, too. Kosei Miura ultimately timed his run to perfection. Interestingly, looking at the Carrot Club homepage, the two most recent winners it always shows are Trovao and Rush Attack! 32 wins now, and counting...

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Progress

I woke up this morning to find that Masterson had ran well in the 2:50 at Brighton yesterday. Teaming up with Paddy Pilley, he came a fine second - a fair bit behind the firm favourite, but a good way ahead of the third-placed nag. This will allow a fair handicap to be applied to the horse, whilst giving us a pleasing result at the same time.

After Rush Attack runs on the 8th at Sapporo in a 2000m turf race with Kosei Miura in the saddle, we have plenty more UK action coming up, with Blacklister entered for the 7:20 at Windsor on the 10th, or the 2:50 at Salisbury on the 12th - both races being over a mile. Salisbury looks the most likely.


Gandvik was pulled out of the Haydock race on the 6th, but is being lined up for the six-furlong 5:30 at Ffos Las on the 11th instead, or maybe the 2:20 at Salisbury on the following day, also over 6f; the 2:25 at Salisbury on the 13th has also been added as a possibility. Back to Japan after that, with Beat The Boarder at TCK on the 14th, and Irish Harp in JRA action on either the 15th or 16th.

PS. The Ffos Las race has been abandoned, leaving one of the two Salisbury dates for Gandvik, while Blacklister picked up a bruised foot in training so will now miss out on racing this week.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Trovao V1

Courtesy Carrot Club
Trovao ran a super race at Monbetsu on the 5th, with Kanichiro Fujii making a great recovery from a poor start to take the victor's laurels with ease. Granted, Trovao was the favourite of the 12 runners, but being the favourite and performing like one are two different things, as we saw with War Chronicle the other day. I think we can safely say that this one has a future. Now all we need is Million Ways to come through on either the 12th (1500m) or 19th (1200m), and we have some fresh NAR challengers in the armoury. On the subject of NAR, Beat The Boarder is due to run at TCK on the 14th in the 1500m C3 third race, and if she can run like she did in her last outing, she has every chance of finishing in the top three.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mixed Middlin'

War Chronicle ran a stinker in her comeback race yesterday, to the point where - especially having started as favourite - she was so disappointing I don't even want to talk about it! A lot of the bad run can be put down to race-rust, so hopefully she will run again in the very near future, or you may as well retire her now...

Today, Eclat De Reve ran an awful race, with the jockey as much to blame as the horse's condition from what I saw, giving the nag no chance to shine whatsoever - he was in the wrong kind of position from start to finish. But it was extremely pleasing to see Tenshinramman not only in action, but in the kind of form that made her such a special horse in her early days. I don't think I have seen her run like that since she was in the Classic race qualifiers as a youngster - truly inspiring! As a result, her fourth place (0.1 seconds off the winner) may well allow her a bit of a reprieve, as I for one will be happy to support another few runs rather than call for retirement, which was certainly the option foremost in my mind before this afternoon's performance.

In England, Masterson was fifth, doing well until he was blocked a couple of furlongs from the post. He was cruised home after that to allow the fella to fight another day. Ultimately, he performed a lot better than the punters thought he would, and at this stage (at least with the horses outside Japan, where we have to see early victories to survive another year), the learning process and getting home safely is the most important thing. He should be out again in two or three weeks, while Blacklister is in training again after a pulled muscle (nothing serious), and Lillyput - the third Box 41 horse - should be joining him soon after she picked up a knobbly knee a bit back.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Beaten

Poor ol' Beat The Boarder (pictured, courtesy the Sunday TC) just cannot get a break - days and days of dry weather, and ten minutes before she races, it pours down!

All things considered, her fifth was a super result, and just a little luck should see her back in the top three - Shun-kun let her go, and while she fell back a touch on the third corner, the tiddler fought back strongly to pass the post just 0.4 seconds adrift of the winner.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

LIR Progress

Courtesy Lord Ilsley Racing
Gandvik (seen here on the right) came good last night, finishing a gallant fighting fifth in a field of strong (and expensive!) horses in his second outing - a "remarkable improvement" compared to his debut, and proof that he's one to look out for in the future. The next race should be really exciting - it looks like it will be the 2:40 at Haydock on the 6th...

Meanwhile, we've got Beat The Boarder tonight at TCK, War Chronicle in the 1800m turf race at Niigata with Tosaki-kun on the 1st August, Tenshinramman in a 2000m version at the same track on the following day (Ebina-san in the saddle on what could be Tenny's last outing), and Eclat De Reve and Kawada-san teaming up for the 1800m turf race at Kokura on the 2nd - the same day as Masterson takes to the track in England. A few days later, Trovao comes out the box for a second outing at Monbetsu on the 5th in a 1200m dirt run, and Rush Attack is lined up for Sapporo on the 8th with Kosei Miura for a 2000m turf race. Further ahead again, Raining Dollars should run in Australia on the 15th August.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Let's See What Happens

Courtesy Sunday TC
Raining Dollars was a good, strong second in Australia over the weekend, although Pop Label (pictured) was a touch disappointing tonight. He was really looking good all the way around until the final straight, when he just failed to ignite. Honda-kun did a good job with him, however, and it would be fun to see him have another go one day, after Pop's had a spell of R&R...

Beat The Boarder runs at TCK the day after tomorrow, along with Gandvik (teamed up with John Egan) in England today. Also, Masterson has been pencilled in for the 2:00 at Chepstow on the 2nd August, with Charlie Bishop at the controls, while Brighton on the 6th has been booked as a back-up.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Coming Up

In England, Blacklister has been scrubbed from the Newbury race, but Gandvik is coming along nicely by all accounts, and should run again soon. I'm really looking forward to the English flat season, as we have a nice line-up of horses this year...

On the NAR front in Japan, Pop Label is being lined up to run at TCK on the 28th, while Beat The Boarder should run there on the following day. Trovao, meanwhile, should be in action again in August. 

As for the JRA gang, War Chronicle is pencilled in for 1st August in an 1800m turf race at Niigata, partnering up with Tosaki-kun. She posted a great practice time, but has since lost a lot of weight. However, if the supplements to settle her stomach work, she'll run. On the following day, Tenshinramman should run at the same track in a 2000m turf race, while Rush Attack is being lined up for a similar race at Sapporo on the 8th.

PS. Gandvik has been booked to run in the seven-furlong 7:00 at Sandown on the 29th July.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Bored

Finished work for the day, and now I'm bored - no racing interest anywhere today, and the kids busy with a weekend-long athletics meeting, meaning no stable visits either. No horse, no life! But hopefully this will be the end of it, as Louis' athletics era comes to an end this afternoon, while Sophie is resigning from the club as soon as the day is finished.

I can't say I'm not pleased about it, because I am in reality - she's missing riding opportunities left, right and centre, which wastes a lot of money, and picking up silly injuries, too. The final straw came yesterday when the coach threw a wobbly over something trivial and scratched her from the relay. I'm happy to say it backfired, because she's as hard as nails and digs her heels in big time when she feels pissed off. End result: Definitely no tears or apology, and the rest of the team refused to run without her! His loss.

Oh well, back to equine sports, which until the day of the race, somehow seem to lack the raw excitement and entertainment value of a novice dealing with a fiery little thing called Sophie. But at least we have Blacklister to look forward to on Thursday the 23rd. He should be running in the 7:00 at Newbury in England - the Class 5 NSPCC Nursery Handicap Stakes over seven furlongs, and then Raining Dollars is out again in Australia a couple of days later. This should be his last run for a while, as he's been promised some R&R after Saturday's race.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Solid Start

Million Ways was third in his debut at Monbetsu, coming up against a horse that was in a different league and a cheeky one that no-one had marked. The future looks good, though, as it was a pleasing performance from the parade ring to the finish, and I'm pretty sure he'll win in Hokkaido, thus guaranteeing him a place in the Nankan area in the autumn. I think we can say the same is true of Trovao, too.

Nothing running in JRA over the weekend, nothing else running in NAR for a while, and Blacklister has been scrubbed for his race. Looks like we've got a quiet spell for a bit. Next one up looks like Raining Dollars at Hughenden in Australia on the 25th...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Worrying Trend

The Shadai Select Sale brought forth yet more high auction prices, but I see no reason to celebrate the fact - it's simply not good for the future of racing. As the prices go up, so does the risk, and the second something even remotely bad happens with the economy, the racing industry will be the first thing to suffer, as the chances of seeing any kind of return on horses costing millions of dollars are unlikely to say the least. The higher prices will also restrict true enthusiasts that have supported the sport for years (rather than the current breed of yuppie-types and those with more money than sense that are pushing prices up) to buying fewer horses. Less horses equals less work for a group of people that are already struggling to survive, even with the healthiest of JRA pots, while NAR winnings won't pay for even a fraction of the cost involved in buying, let alone running a nag. We need to look at the big picture before this high price trend gets out of hand...

PS. More than most - having paid a fortune for a useless Carrot Club yearling by Montjeu, for example - I know for a fact that high prices do not automatically equal good results. Even with a decent horse, there are injuries to consider, the ridiculous situation of entering unsuitable races due to the distinct lack of meetings in Japan, hefty insurance before racing careers start, and high monthly running costs. While profits are necessary, we need to stop this short-sighted greed and over-exuberance in its tracks, and knock at least one zero off prices to get things back to being realistic. If you are lucky enough to get a cracker, be satisfied with the winnings and potential stud fees in later life, knowing that that one good one will pay for the other 20 duds - the same 20 that will keep people in work, and provide a lot of value-for-money enjoyment in the meantime.