Friday 16th of February 2024
Rachael Green

Countdown to Cheltenham

Four days of magical action get underway at the Cheltenham Festival next week. Rachael Honeyball, wife of trainer Anthony, will watch all the action from the comfort of her sofa.

In less than a week’s time the famous roar will herald the start of four days of scintillating action at the Cheltenham Festival. For many it is the focus of the entire National Hunt year. For us, it is a hugely important meeting, but there are many other valuable races to be won, and we’d wholly support a Winter Festival to take the onus off those all important Festival runners.

That said Anthony and I are really looking forward to watching all the action at home. We might possibly have one runner, Fountains Windfall, but that depends on what the weather does, as he’s a horse with plenty of stamina, and if it dries up, he might not have the pace to go with the field down the hill.

We were delighted with him at Wincanton last week where he sluiced up in a novices’ hurdle. He’d run very well in defeat in two big handicaps, so we decided to drop him back to novice company and he won very impressively. If we don’t go to the Festival, there’s a three mile handicap hurdle for him up at Aintree in April.

The horses have all been in super form recently. Noel Fehily, a jockey whom we have a huge amount of respect for, has ridden three for us, and won on each of them, which is fantastic.

Our lovely friends and neighbours Tim and Monica Frost, have bred a super horse Sam Brown who has chaser written all over him. He’s won both his starts in bumpers and what is particularly pleasing about this is that it shows that you can breed a good horse. It has given us all hope!

Sam Brown is such a gorgeous horse but the ease of his win at Newbury on Saturday did take us a bit by surprise. When he won at Wincanton, he was very green so we thought he might be more buzzy on his second outing, especially as he was taking a little longer to switch off up the gallops after his Wincanton race.

However, he was completely the opposite, switching off and settling to the task in hand very well. He was very professional about the way he raced and it was an excellent performance. What a super horse!

We have a lovely new mare in the yard, Drops of Jupitor. She’s 16.2hh with plenty of bone and wouldn’t look out of place in the show ring. Jupitor has shown a tendency to race a little keenly, and in her first race, a point to point in Ireland which won by the highly thought of Finian’s Oscar, she did just that and found herself a fence in front for the majority of the race  before she got very tired 3 fences from home. After running two more creditable races in Ireland she had her final start at Muselburgh in a National Hunt Flat race and was given every chance to settle when ridden from the back and duly obliged by winning well.

I have been riding her every day very much with the aim of reminding her how to settle. I feel it is important to install basic manners into our horses such as setting off into canter when asked and not before, easing to a trot near the end of the gallop until she gets to know the layout, and sitting in behind a sensible horse so she automatically relaxes when tucked in behind in a race. I have changed her bit to a less severe straight bar rubber bit, as she has a very soft mouth, and I just felt that she was tensing up with the pressure of the nut cracker action of the snaffle. I’ve also introduced an aid to stop her raising her head when responding to a half halt and it is starting to come together

I’ve  been schooling her on the flat in the indoor school, firstly to take a bit of the freshness out of her and secondly to get to know her more intimately.

She’s such a beautiful horse, and an exciting prospect. Having won a bumper at Musselburgh in January, she could possibly go for the mares’ bumper at Aintree..

We will be hosting a small marquee at the Seavington Point-to-Point at Little Windsor, Easter Saturday, April 15 where we are sponsoring a race. Pointing is very much in our blood so it will be lovely to support them. If you are planning on attending, please do come and say hello, and have a slice of cake or some light refreshments.

We are using the occasion to promote the Anthony Honeyball Racing Club, so if you have friends who are interested in dipping their toes into racehorse ownership, please do tell them to come along and meet us.

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