ALEX DUNN RACING WEEKLY REPORT (7th– 20th February)

Introduction

Life it seems is finally returning to some sort of normality in the racing world, with racing restarting last Wednesday. It was a worrying time, but sound heads prevailed, the epidemic appears to have been contained, all horses vaccinated and so now it seems with crossed fingers that this episode is behind us. You may be forgiven for thinking that we were left to twiddle our thumbs at West Buckland, but in actual fact we were able to give the yard a spring clean and catch up on many jobs that otherwise would’ve been delayed.

Round Up of runners

With 25 runners in the last week, which I believe is a record, I am going to have my work cut out talking about them all so I am going to give it my best shot. I did also take a cheeky look at the flat and jumps standings and saw that we were in the top 30 on the flat and top 100 over jumps!

Five runners were sent out on Wednesday, which saw competitive racing due to the build-up of horses and so meant that our lads found it tough work. All said Ventura Blues gave it her best shot at Kempton, tracking the leaders and taking the lead 2 furlongs out. The last furlong just caught her out getting headed and then she was unlucky to lose 2nd and 3rd to 2 fast finishers. She has run 2 consistent races now for us since joining and so I appears to be a sound purchase.

Cry Wolf was our next and sole runner on Friday, putting in a game performance to finish 3rd at Lingfield on the flat. This horse has been an amazing buy, collecting his 11th top four finish from 12 runs and you could say unlucky not to win on his last start. It was to his disadvantage that the race was run at a steady pace, as he is better when it becomes a true test, and so we probably should’ve tried to make more use of him at the start. In the end he was not disgraced for toe, but could maybe have gone better as said if he was allowed to stride on in the earlier stages.

Five runners went on Saturday, with the first 3 in the same race at Taunton. Westerner Ocean was the best of the bunch. Claudine was the first to run of our recent purchases at the sales and she ran really well, shaping up alarmingly into the last furlong then not quite carrying her run through to finish 8th. Now in recent times she would have received prizemoney for this, but not anymore which is infuriating, but I will get to that later. Tulsa Jack ran on an eye glittering day at Haydock, where the meeting displayed some very impressive declarations such as Yanworth and Blacklion. He ran very well, though just got in tight to one down the back which cost him a few lengths and so meant he was recovering from there on. He stayed on to finish 3rd and so only requires one more placed run to qualify for Aintree. Due to the cancellations for weather and flu reasons Tulsa Jack has been hit hardest of all, meaning that he has had no chance to qualify for Cheltenham, therefore we have changed plans to attack both Aintree and Punchestown in the spring. All in all being 3rd in a class 3 on a feature Saturday was a big achievement and hopefully we can get the last few shares in him sold before these big events.

Sunday saw Minella Voucher carrying the flag at Market Rasen, collecting yet more prize money for the yard. Being joint favourite we had obviously hoped to win, but there was no shame in finishing third in a tight market between the first three. He just quite wasn’t able to get involved with the fight upfront though this was his 5th top four finish in the last 7 runs and so has been remarkably consistent as of late at the head of affairs.

Monday brought us to Lingfield, with Foxy Lass proving a frustrating customer though given time should get to the bottom of her. We were maybe a bit too ambitious with Black Narcissus, running in a higher level race in testing conditions, that led to no fewer than 11 of the 17 pulling up and the race being a minute slow. Saroque made his yard debut in the hunter chase and ran very well for the most part, before the trip finally found him out in the home straight. We knew he needed longer but with the weather as it was, we were desperate to get a run into him while the soft ground remained and the gamble didn’t quite pay off though he will definitely improve for the run.

A mammoth Tuesday saw no less than 6 runners across Taunton and Wolverhampton. Cool Macavity and Spiny Norman both finished down the field though Envole Toi and Tactical Manoeuvre were our star performers of the day. Envole Toi ran well under his penalty, taking up his usual position in the lead and making it a test to the line. This time though they managed to catch him at 2 out, but had more than enough in hand to secure a top four finish. He is a wonderful horse, having already nearly secured £60,000 under rules and so will look to take the field on again in the near future. As mentioned Tactics brought home the other fourth place, maybe a bit fortunate, but still everyone has to jump round! He was always featuring around the middle of the pack and came under pressure in the latter stages before coming home comfortably clear of the fifth placed horse. Hopefully he might get a little drop in the weights which he deserves and so we can go again to pursue another victory with him. Both Sigrid Nansen and Diamond Reflection ran later on at Wolverhampton, though sadly were not able to bring home the results we wanted.

A chilled Wednesday saw only four runners, with two a piece at Ludlow and Chelmsford. Chorus was ok after his tumble at the third which also saw Truckers Tangle get hampered as well. Trucker stayed on well, despite a mistake to finish 2nd his second one in three races since his return to the track. I am so happy to have him back and running well and hope that one of these seconds can soon become a first. Azari ran in a class 2 later in the day at Chelmsford, yes Chelmsford and not Southwell as you’re probably thinking. He ran his usual race and finished 3rd, never a bad result in these higher grades as the prize money is typically rewarding. His resurgence has been amazing and I hope there’s still a little more petrol in the tank for another win if the handicapper is kind. The last runner The British Lion (TBL) actually finished closer to the winner than Azari did, to finish 4 ½ lengths fourth. He ran pleasingly and if he can get a bit more cut in the final furlong could be dangerous.

News in Racing

ARC’s decision to reduce its contributions to prizemoney, due to concerns over the impending cut to maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) has caused widespread outrage amongst the racing community. I am personally disappointed by ARC’s decision to withdraw funding and it will impact upon my decision making in future when declaring at their courses. The strike action at Lingfield I believe serves a strong message to ARC that something needs doing and that hopefully further strikes can be avoided if a solution can be found. One can appreciate they are reacting to market concerns, however why is it that the lesser classes have to bare such a hard brunt of the force?

Last Wednesday saw the return to racing, with new vaccine and swab restrictions, bringing an end to the BHA cancellation of racing. Hopefuly this is the end of the ordeal.

Lastly, I wished to congratulate Hannah Welch on her selection to ride in the Fegentri series representing the UK. Hannah heads off to Texas for a few days in fortnight and so we wish her all the best, hopefully she won’t ride her claim out too quickly!

Statistical Summary

Jumps 18/19

Earnings - £79,010

Wins - 7

Top 4 finishes – 44/129 (34.12%)

Flat 19

Earnings - £34,415

Wins – 5

Top 4 finishes – 15/33 (45.45%)

Total 2019

            Earnings - £40,649

            Wins - 5

            Top 4 finishes – 21/59 (35.59%)

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paddock action with Tom Scudamore