The Aintree Festival was incredibly exciting, and to have a winner there on the Saturday was the icing on the cake for what has been a superb season. We’ve always thought a lot of Fountains Windfall and when I won a bumper on him at Fontwell in June 2015, I struggled to pull him up and felt like I could go round again.
We ran him in a couple of big handicaps in the early season, then he won two novice hurdles very easily, which gave him bags of confidence. At Aintree it was the first time he encountered good ground but he’s a tough, mature animal and he was ready to go to war. He was very impressive making virtually all the running in the Grade 3 Gaskell Handicap Hurdle to win by eight lengths. We’ll go for the big staying hurdles next season and see if we do have a top class hurdler on our hands.
It was fantastic having a runner in the Randox Health Grand National, and going into the race we really fancied Regal Encore’s chances. Prior to the race he’d had very valid excuses when he pulled up twice, and really showed his class when winning Ascots £100,000 listed Lavazza Jolie Silver Handicap Chase.
There were other races he could have gone for, such as the Irish National, Uttoxeter’s Midlands National, or the National Trial at Haydock, but everything seemed to slot into place leading up to the race.
We’d taken him for a day out to Lambourn where I schooled him over the national-style fences and he absolutely loved it. He pinged the fences and really showed his scope. It was lovely being on board! The last time I’d schooled him at home, the ground was quite soft and “dead” and I said to Anthony that he seemed to be making a huge effort to jump. At Lambourn, on the good ground, he was fantastic and he came out of that feeling so fresh and well that the decision was made to go for the National.
We took all our runners up to Aintree on the Thursday and exercised both Fountains Windfall and Regal Encore at the course during the morning on Friday and Saturday. We find it gives them a chance to settle in, recover from the five hour plus journey and freshen up before their races.
Regal Encore had Robbie Power, the Gold Cup winning jockey, on board and when he started creeping down the inside, about two out, we thought he had a chance, but realistically the runners in front had too much of an advantage and they’d have had to stop in front for him to get back on terms.
Initially I was gutted as I genuinely thought he had a huge chance as we had been preparing him for his big engagement for a long time. However, I know the ups and downs of racing all too well and I was thankful that he had completed a clear round and looked to be back home safe and sound.
He’s recovered really well and spent the next few days in the paddocks followed by a couple of quiet days under saddle. I did have a cheeky early morning ride on the point-to-point course for a change of scenery, pick of grass and to think about what could have been.
Regal has now gone to Ireland for his summer break where he’ll be treated like royalty by his owner JP McManus. He’ll be checked over by the vet and then a long holiday before coming back to Dorset in July.
We had our first Flat winner of the season with Jukebox Jive winning a maiden at Wolverhampton earlier this month. He’s been cut since his last run and he’s had plenty of time. The horse that finished second was 6-1 on and is entered for the Derby! We have the two Flat boys with Black Prince running well too at Kempton.
We don’t tend to have many summer jumpers, and we’ve decided to turn out the bumper horses that we were going to run, as the ground has turned. We’ve kept a few in, but if the ground isn’t right they will be turned out.
It is a bit frustrating as they’ve come to themselves just at the right time, but they’ve all had away days and they’ve learned a lot, so we’ll turn them away and bring them back in July or August as we won’t risk them if the ground isn’t right.
On Easter Saturday we hosted a small marquee at the Seavington Point-to-Point where our owners will came along for a nice day out and where we also promoted the Anthony Honeyball Racing Club, and anyone who signs up on the day will have a 10% discount.
It’s been a really successful club, with 10 wins this season, including Urca De Lima winning her debut run in a bumper at Uttoxeter earlier this month.
I’ve also recently bought a four-year-old Connemara pony called Crispy. He’s so cute! He’s been shown successfully in hand, and is a lovely type. Having been really well handled, I backed him and rode him out after just a day, and now we’re looking forward to competing in unaffiliated competitions, getting him out and about as much as possible, before he is sold.