Lord Ilsley Racing's SAYESSE - A winner under Charlie Bishop yesterday
Two at Brighton and one at Nottingham with a few hard luck stories thrown in for good measure sums it all up at times. Three winners and still a grumble about Knight of the Air and Sarmadee filling the runner up berths.
Not to worry, there was delight for the members of Lord Ilsley Racing as they were at Brighton in numbers to roar home their two year old SAYESSE who took the novice auction stakes in convincing fashion under Charlie Bishop.
The son of first season sire Sayif made his debut less than three weeks ago at a very boggy Leicester and clearly he was sharper for it, with the switch to yesterday's fast conditions at Brighton clearly helping as he bounded clear by almost four lengths.
Mick was delighted for everyone involved.
"He's alright this colt and will give the syndicate a lot of fun because he's a big, raw boned individual who will improve all year. He's by no means just an early two year old runner because he's got plenty of size about him and carries an awful lot of condition for a juvenile who has taken all the work we've thrown at him in his stride.
"He looks like a nursery type and we don't have to rush him now although, as I've said, we've no worries about him running up light and we'll target anything suitable that comes along."
Only ten minutes later it was the turn of Gill and Dave Hedley's SIRI to enter the winner's enclosure as she won a fiercely contested duel at Nottingham to prevail by a nose under Silvestre De Sousa.
It was classic Silvestre who had to show all of his tenacity and strength in the three year old median auction maiden to hold off the challenge of High Draw for the best part of two furlongs.
Mick was chuffed that a talented filly has broken her maiden at the third time of asking having finished second on debut last season before trainer error saw her defeated on her seasonal reappearance last month.
"I ran her over a mile and a half to get her beat didn't I? Silly of me but it looked a weak race but hopefully Gill has forgiven me now!
"She's a good filly although she does have a fiery side to her. She basically throws a tantrum from time to time when she sees the stalls and that will take a lot of time and patience from Keith and the team at home. Jon Dennis deserves a medal for getting her in yesterday and it was just as well that he did.
"She'll hopefully get a mile and a quarter and she'll hopefully get her act together at the gate. From there - who knows how good she can be?"
Finally it was the rapid frame of Billy Parish's KING CRIMSON who blazed down the hill at Brighton to put the extended five furlong Class 4 handicap to bed without sighting the opposition.
KING CRIMSON, in his familiar front running style saw them all off under Charlie Bishop to delight the Boss and confirm that a return to a faster surface is exactly what he wanted.
"He's a very handy horse when things come right for him. He was probably a little out of his depth at Newmarket last time and just fell apart on very soft ground but a track like Brighton is perfect if he gets his own way.
"He'll be duelling with the handicapper throughout the year obviously but he'll win again because he's a real enthusiast and loves the job."
Norman Court Stud's CZABO & Silvestre De Sousa streaks clear of Midhmaar yesterday afternoon
A rampant performance from Norman Court Stud's CZABO saw the daughter of Sixties Icon emerge as a serious prospect in the three year old filly division as she beat the colts to take the Esher Cup under Silvestre De Sousa yesterday afternoon.
It was a terrific display on only CZABO's third career start and one that left everyone at West Ilsley hoping that we might have something special to look forward to with the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes now on the radar.
It's still early days obviously but the manner of her two and a quarter length success against Midhmaar with the rest left way behind was impressive and left Mick pondering his next move.
"That was great and I'll admit that I was a bit twitchy before the race because I realised that she was one of our major talents for this summer. I knew she was one of our best but that means nothing until they are tested against other people's horses and she passed that test with flying colours yesterday.
"OK, so she's only won a handicap off of a mark of 85, but the manner in which she did it was decisive and visually impressive. Silvestre said she gave him a terrific feel and we can look forward now.
"There's a Listed fillies race at York that we took with Laugh Out Loud a few years back and if we show up well there we'll head to the Curragh for the Guineas and then on to the Coronation.
"That sounds like a doddle doesn't it?! Ha ha, that's the ideal plan though and considering the improvement to come after her seasonal reappearance, I feel as though that's the level she belongs at.
"I'm delighted for everyone at Norman Court Stud and we've shown yet again what a talented stallion Sixties Icon is. He's improved all of our mares and it doesn't matter what trip they performed at - all he does is improve the mares. Look at SIXTIES SUE, she ran a cracker in the five furlong sprint yesterday and has plenty of talent and an incredible appetite for racing.
"Then you have HARRISON who ran a cracker in the last race yesterday to finish third and, giving weight away to both Stargazer and Lovell, I can honestly say that I was delighted with him.
"He's very talented and had a good blow afterwards but we're going to head for the Dante with him now. He deserves a shot at a race like that and we'll dream a little longer that he could be a middle distance horse with which we can take on the big boys this season.
The Motley Cru's FINGAL'S CAVE - A winner at Brighton last night
A pleasing win for a talented type last night at Brighton as The Motley Cru's FINGAL'S CAVE took the Class 4 L&S Printing Handicap over seven furlongs in the hands of Charlie Bishop.
A talented two year old, FINGAL'S CAVE lost his way in his three year old campaign but there are sure signs that he's finally starting to show his best form after winning on reappearance at Wolverhampton back in February and although things didn't go to plan next time up at Chelmsford, he travelled into last night's contest to win nicely by a length and a quarter, leaving Mick pleased with his progress.
"That was a decent performance because he's not entirely helping himself at the moment but his talent is there for all to see. He rapped a joint last year and lost his action and then his confidence and it was a long road back to where we are with him now.
"He's just starting to settle. He pulled far too hard at Chelmsford last time and needs to settle a lot more at the course. He's grand at home but clearly needs to relax. He's getting there slowly but surely and the more he can enjoy his racing the more he'll improve."
It's been a while and we apologise for the sparsity of our work morning videos but we're blaming the weather.
We had such an erratic winter that we had to pick and choose which mornings we could work the horses and therefore couldn't schedule it to get it all on film.
Still, we hope that we can show more of the work as the weather settles down. It's always great to have a morning over on the summer ground but we've only ventured over there twice in 2016 - There should be plenty to come though.
They are all on show today: Two year old colts and fillies all at different stages of their preparations and we hope that there's a star or two amongst them.
The same advice applies - Don't take the work too literally in terms of where horses finish in a gallop! That'll lead you to the poorhouse soon enough.
Go to the Gallops Page.
Silvestre De Sousa & WILLSY return to the winners enclosure at Bath last night
Just when you think you've seen it all, something pops up to amaze you. You wouldn't usually expect amazing and Bath to appear in the same sentence all that often but that's exactly what we saw last night from WILLSY.
The Class 4 Racs Interiors Handicap over five and a half furlongs saw WILLSY slowly away from the stalls. By 'slowly' he must have been all of ten lengths detatched from the field after a furlong and seemingly without any chance. That however would be to discount the champion jockey.
Silvestre De Sousa is capable of the odd riding miracle however and he set about asking the Bastian famiy's WILLSY for a bit of application fully four furlongs from home once he'd finally got into his stride.
It seemed an impossible task and even when the pair began to run on approaching the furlong pole, the feeling was that so much effort to catch up would take its toll in such soft ground.
But no, Silvestre asked again, WILLSY responded and we all went a bit mad. A memorable moment for a gelding who has the odd quirk but plenty of ability.
Mick was lost for words for some time:
"That was unusual to say the least! The horse seems to dawdle out of the stalls and whilst that's not entirely unusual for him, for him to do that last night was remarkable.
"I almost walked away because you'd be crackers to think he had any chance after the first furlong. Then again, you should never rule out Silvestre who never gives up on anything. That's one of his greatest strengths - his mindset is so positive he can make things happen.
"WILLSY will go up again for this and we'll just have to see how it goes from here on in. He has to cut out his slow starts which we'll work on, but he does have plenty of ability and goes on any sort of surface so that gives us options as we head into unknown territory with him."
With the dust settled after the exertions of Aintree, we can look back with a certain amount of pride in the part we played in the final years of SOMERSBY'S superb career on the racetrack.
Only a few years ago he was a horse that we all admired, most notably the day when Hen, Terry & Tim were beaming with pride in the winners enclosure at Ascot after the Victor Chandler Chase of 2012.
Little did we know that we would soon play a part in the final stages of such a popular horse's career.
We all count ourselves extremely lucky to have both enjoyed and endured so many days at the top level with him. He was tough, sound and consistent, although he could often throw in a stinker from time to time, usually when you least expected it.
That said though, on the very big occasions, most notably on his last three visits to the Cheltenham Festival, he showed everyone how admirable he is as a competitor. The thrust up the hill and the scare he gave Dodging Bullets in the 2015 renewal of the Champion Chase will live long in the memory.
The stats are truly remarkable. Although he only has that one Grade 1 Victory at Ascot to his name, he raced 41 times, winning on seven occasions and finishing placed nineteen times.
When you consider that he spent the vast majority of his time running in Graded races, that certainly underlines his enduring quality as a racehorse.
From Mick's point of view, training SOMERSBY was a unique challenge that brought with it a whole spectrum of emotions.
"That's it for the old boy and although I'm sad to see him go, I'm very proud that he's retired with a clean bill of health. He's got his little aches and pains obviously but who wouldn't after the career he's had? I'm sure he'll go on to enjoy a long and fruitful retirement.
"It was a strange set up to begin with because we were inheriting Hen's horses. We all knew about Somersby from watching his races but dealing with him on a day to day basis took some getting used to and I'm sure it was the same for him!
"He'd thrown a splint when he first came to us and to be honest the 2013/14 season was a bit of a write off. He took some time to get over the splint issue and struggled to take to his new life with us. He wasn't grubbing all that well and it was only when he returned in late summer of 2014 that he really knuckled down.
"Because of the previous season he'd come down to a mark of 155 and took the Haldon Gold Cup at Exeter in the November. That was the only time he won for us and although that was a great day, his performances in defeat were equally as thrilling.
"In their turn he found Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy, Dodging Bullets and then Sprinter Sacre again too good for him at the highest level and, although they all had their problems and were beaten by Somersby in between, at least one of them found their peak to mean he became the perennial runner up at the highest level.
"It makes you think what might have been had they all been sidelined at once! You obviously don't wish ill of any horse, but it was a quirk of fate that each one of them took turns to win championship races whilst Somersby was sound throughout.
"That's testimony to his durability though - SOMERSBY was always there, always ready to capitalise on any weaknesses and remarkably consistent in the grand scheme of things.
"He didn't like working with other horses at home so in the end we just let him do what he wanted in his work. That wasn't an issue though because he was always enthusiastic and, apart from those splint issues in the first year, he was easy to produce on the big days.
"He was a cantankerous character at times, Hen described him as 'neurotic' before he arrived and I know what she meant but the talented types often bring baggage along although that never got in the way of his work.
"I consider it to have been an honour to work with such a popular horse. I've not had time to get back to all of the kind messages we receieved when his retirement was announced because we're flat out with the flat horses at the moment, but the well wishes meant a lot.
"That's the true test of a horse's career. SOMERSBY might have fallen just short at the very top level but he didn't half keep them honest. Time and again he asked questions of the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy and Dodging Bullets and time and again the public loved him for his bold approach and willingness to take them on.
"They were exceptional horses on their day and that, in turn, makes SOMERSBY exceptional in his own unique way.
"People loved him - That's the true test, he was loved by his public for so many years.
"An exceptional horse indeed."
Derek & Jean Clee's homebred filly MOTDAW - A winner at Nottingham this afternoon
"I thought she'd like the trip and the ground wouldn't be an issue but I didn't expect that - the handicapper will kill us now!" That was Mick assessment after Derek & Jean Clee's MOTDAW ran out a facile winner of the Class 5 extended mile handicap for three year olds this afternoon.
In very heavy ground, George Baker stalked the field until the three furlong marker before he produced her to dominate the race with a last to first finish that saw her win by far too many lengths than her trainer would have wished for.
"She's always been a very active and enthusiastic filly in her work at home and showed us little glimpses in her races last year to suggest she's be winning her races in time.
"She might not be the biggest but she's very tough and had plenty asked of her last season, mainly because of a promising debut at Goodwood. I just thought she'd go on from there but we possibly just asked a little too much of her at the back end."
"I certainly never saw that coming and I told George the same. I wanted her to get home in that ground today which is why George settled her in behind. I'll have to look at it again because they might have gone very hard up front which played into our hands - that said though, she's absolutely murdered them by lengths.
"I'm chuffed - horses never stop surprising you."
"I'm a bit worried about what the handicapper will make of that now if I'm honest, but equally, I'm delighted for Derek & Jean. They deserved that."
Billy Parish's MOBSTA (Yellow & Black) winning yesterday's Cammidge Trophy under Silvestre De Sousa
You can get greedy at times and although we were celebrating an across the card double courtesy of STRINGYBARK CREEK at Kempton and Listed success with MOBSTA at Doncaster, it's fair to say that an agonising defeat for VOLUNTEER POINT will linger in the mind more than anything else.
No matter though, we'll have to look forward and there seems to be a very bright future ahead for STRINGYBARK CREEK who became West Ilsley's first juvenile winner of 2016 when he took the Betfred TV British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes over the minimum trip yesterday afternoon.
The son of Bushranger had finished an encouraging second on debut last weekend and with Charlie Bishop again up, STRINGYBARK CREEK showed how much he'd learnt, making all and never allowing the opposition to make a concerted challenge.
He did it very nicely and came home a length and a quarter ahead of Tomily in what was a typical early season two year old contest. With the Plus 10 bonus thrown into the pot for good measure, it was a payday that Mick was more than pleased with.
"Fourteen grand - that's not bad is it? I know he didn't cost much but the four grand we paid for STRINGYBARK CREEK in the autumn looks great value now.
"There's so much to like about this horse and by no means is he just a little two year old runner we've had to get ready early. He just wanted to get on and was a standout as the sharpest one we had.
"He's no throwaway juvenile though because he does have a lot of quality about him. He's a good looking colt with a willing attitude and we'll see how he comes out of this now. He handled the sharp turn well and has speed from the gate so I'd imagine we'd have to look at something like the Lily Agnes next."
In south Yorkshire, Mobsta returned to the scene of a luckless run last autumn to finally take Listed honours in the Betway Cammidge Trophy under Silvestre De Sousa. It was an eyecatching performance from a very talented individual who looks set for the first uninterrupted season of his career.
At both two and three MOBSTA suffered setbacks and only raced at the tail ends of the season but Mick is hopeful that those problems are now a thing of the past and he can have a free run at the son of Bushranger throughout 2016.
"He's been in great form this winter and obviously we know that he handles soft ground so the Cammidge was the obvious race to go for at this stage of the season.
"He's got so much talent and I can't wait to find out how good he can be because although he's had problems in the past, in many ways that means we are only just starting to realise his true potential. That's exciting because we all know that sprinters just get better with age.
"His profile suggests that he's a soft ground specialist but that's mainly because we've only ever had him ready when the rain has come! Hopefully we'll have him through the summer now as well so you never know what he'll be like on a faster surface.
"We'll step into group company now - The Duke of York next month will be the target."
The day was rounded off by VOLUNTEER POINTs agonising defeat in the Listed Snowdrop Fillies Stakes at Kempton. Box 41's filly looked to have the mile contest all but won a furlong from home only for Kyllachy Queen to produce a devastating last thrust inside the distance and deny VOLUNTEER POINT by a head in the last stride.
It was a cruel defeat for a filly that is Mick insists is still going from strength to strength.
"That was upsetting when you consider she looked the winner for so long but we can't do anything about it now. She's got black type and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this summer.
"She's earnt her keep and then some with her exploits throughout the winter so we can't be too disappointed as there are a lot of good days ahead for Box 41 and VOLUNTEER POINT."