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The Filly Folly & Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA & Ronan Whelan sweep past Hydrangea on their way to victory yesterday afternoon


A fabulous day at The Curragh yesterday saw the Filly Folly & The Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA yet again tasted Group 2 success. The five year old mare took the Lanwades Stud Stakes in fine style under Ronan Whelan, accounting for Group 1 winner Hydrangea in the process.

Already a winner of the Group 2 Balanchine at Meydan, this was very much a swansong for the daughter of Thousand Words who is in foal to Churchill - and what a way to bow out.

With a rating of 119, the favourite Hydrangea on paper is way ahead of OPAL TIARA but it became clear inside the last quarter of a mile that the West Ilsley mare would pose a real threat and so it proved.

Ronan Whelan, who has proved to be an ally of real value on our sorties into Ireland, had her ideally situated to pounce and, once they managed to switch out of a pocket which hindered her for a few strides, he and OPAL TIARA loomed upsides Hydrangea and asserted inside the distance to prevail by a convincing margin of a length and three quarters.

Mick was at Goodwood yesterday but was understandably cock-a-hoop for a tough, consistent and high class racemare of rare talent.

"That was great for everyone concerned, particularly Gill Hedley with whom I bred her. We have a half sister by Kodiac at the stud and it just goes to show how a bit of patence and determination can lead to fun further down the line.

"Everything she's done since hosing up as a two year old at Wolves had her down as a talent who would take us places and she's picked up black type all the way through her career and yesterday was the icing on the cake.

"A job well done by everyone and it would seem that is the end of her race career but it's a great way to bow out."

Posted By: Wilsley News

ETTIE HART - A winner at Chelmsford last night


A satisfying victory for the Boss whose very own ETTIE HART recorded her second career success at Chelmsford last night under a very proactive ride from Franny Norton.

Although she's unlikely to make the front pages, ETTIE HART has always been a trier and after a string of performances that hinted she was on the right path, a dogged Boss and an equally fired up Franny brought her home by a length having been prominent throughout.

The Class 6 Kier Construction Handicap may not live long in the memory but the seven furlong event was the five year old ETTIE HART's first win since her three year old career. It was her first on the all-weather and with a string of placed efforts throughout, Mick was pleased that she has finally got her head in front again.

"Top stuff that and a great ride from Franny. She's only rated 46 and there's not exactly a train load of improvement to come but she has always tried and always does her best.

"She's moderate but these horses are a real challenge and to get a win with them takes time, patience and plenty of graft. Luckily she's got that going for her." 

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Chris Hirst's CERTAIN LAD is greeted by his delighted connections after victory yesterday afternoon (Photo courtesy of Redcar Racecourse)


A two year old colt of some promise at Redcar on Monday and another homebred at Chepstow this afternoon sent our tally of individual two year old winners to nine for the season and they have left Mick with a rather rare headache as Royal Ascot looms.

Yesterday saw Chris Hirst's CERTAIN LAD romp home at Redcar in great style to take the Class 5 six furlong novice auction stakes under Ben Curtis. The son of Clodivil, although a little green, did everything right on debut, travelling in behind before making his move two furlongs from home. 

He did it very impressively as well, hitting the front before the furlong marker and extending away to win by almost four lengths with the experienced favourite Big Ace behind him providing a solid benchmark.

Visually, it was a performance of note, to such an extent that Mick was cornered by the press as to whether Royal Ascot is the next stop.

"I was asked and I'm never going to say 'No' am I? Everyone who gets involved in racing wants to go to the big meetings and I'm sure Chris is no different. He flew in from Thailand just to be there yesterday so we're on the same level when it comes to enthusiasm!

"We have two choices; Pitch him into the Coventry, or wait and run him in lesser company and look to build towards the July meeting at Newmarket. I'd love to have a go at Ascot but I need to speak with Chris and see what he wants.

"I'll always have a go if that's what Chris wants because he's clearly above average."

At Chepstow this afternoon, yet another Sixties Icon juvenile made a telling debut as Mick's own SWINGING JEAN took the Class 5 fillies' novice stakes under Charlie Bishop, just getting up in the final strides - She handled the undulating track and the fast ground admirably in the process.

SWINGING JEAN travelled into the race very impressively despite jumping awkwardly from Stall 11 and after tracking over to get cover, she eventually accounted for the well backed Welcoming and Summer Blossom (Stall 2 and 4) by no more than a neck but Mick is convinced she'll come on a bundle for that and she too, might feature at the Royal Meeting.

"I might be getting a bit giddy but I have to consider it and she may well go for something like the Albany after that. Yes, I sometimes look a prat for having a go at the big ones but this is a gorgeous filly who is more of a sprinting type like her mother who I trained. That said, being by Sixties Icon, she has the option of the Chesham over seven next month as well although I also have AZOR AHAI for that!

"I'll sit down and have a think because it's getting close now and we have a right few options for Ascot.

"KINKS runs in the National at Sandown this week and if we have a Norfolk horse, right now he'll be the one, with BARBILL and possibly CERTAIN LAD for the Coventry.

"SWINGING JEAN for the Albany, with Cotubanama our Queen Mary runner. BIG BOOTS has improved no end for his win at Bath so he's another in my mind for Ascot and now I realise I'm getting very excited and ought to shut up and think about things a bit more.

"Still, it's why we do this isn't it?"

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AZOR AHAI & Graham Lee return to the winner's enclosure (Photo courtesy of @RacingBlade Twitter)


On Sunday afternoon AZOR AHAI's put his two previous career starts to good use as the two year old son of Sixties Icon took the Class 5, six furlong novice stakes under Graham Lee in a remarkable race that saw only two horses feature in a six runner contest.

AZOR AHAI ran well on debut at Newbury a month ago, finishing a running on fourth before confirming that performance with a second placed finish at Pontefract ten days later. On Sunday, again partnered by Graham Lee, AZOR AHAI was always prominent on his first start over six furlongs and only the debutant Desert Lantern could go with him as they drew well clear of the field in a protracted battle in the last quarter mile.

Indeed, it looked at though Desert Lantern had got the better of AZOR AHAIN inside the distance before he and Graham found plenty in the closing strides to prevail by a neck to the delight of owner, breeder and trainer Mick.

"This a lovely willing colt who is very straight forward. He was sort of ready made and although he was always going to be better for the step up to six furlongs, I was more than happy for him to learn on the job as he's that sort of competitor.

"He's show that today and put his solid initial efforts to good use by really knuckling down and get off the mark."

So a good start to the resident mare GOOD MORNING LADY's career at Norman Court Stud.

She's in foal to Sixties again and is due any day now - not that she has any idea what her first foal achieved in Yorkshire this weekend!

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The Sweet Partnership's ICONIC BELLE and Nicola Currie come home in splendid isolation yesterday


The long trip to Yarmouth paid off yesterday as The Sweet Partnership's ICONIC BELLE finally got off the mark after a mainly consistent but frustratingly long wait.

The daughter of Sixties Icon is another homebred from Norman Court Stud and having given plenty of early signs of ability as a two year old, her three year old campaign was plagued by niggling setbacks. Therefore, it was as a four year old that she's finally come in to her own and yesterday she couldn't have repaid her owners' faith in her any more handsomely.

She took the Class 5 mile and a quarter handicap in the hands of Nicola Currie by four lengths on very firm ground in convincing fashion. Always prominent, she was the only one travelling at the three furlong marker and extended away with ease to the relief of Mick who will most probably have to make use of an entry she holds at Chepstow next week.

"That was great to see and I'm delighted for Gill The Till, and Keith and Clive Potter who have had to wait long enough to see her come good.

"She's been placed on six occasions, runner up on three and she was always likely to come good for us after a very frustrating season last year.

"We could never get a run at her and we decided to down tools on her with the intention of starting back at the start of the year and she's proved that she's capable of winning races. That's her eleventh run since the start of the year, so she's certainly turned the corner in terms of her previous issues and now we'll look ahead.

"She's in at Chepstow under a penalty on Tuesday and after winning by that margin we may have to head there before the handicapper has his say." 

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Sue Bunney's BARBILL completes a debut of some note under Charlie Bishop yesterday afternoon


A smashing Bank Holiday Monday at Bath saw two winners in the form of Sue Bunney's BARBILL and Jon & Sophie Mitchell's TRICKSY SPIRIT, both winners under Charlie Bishop who would go on to make it a hat-trick on the day aboard former West Ilsley inmate King Crimson.

I suppose the most impressive of the two was BARBILL who took the novice median auction for juveniles on his racecourse debut by an impressive five lengths to immediately ignite dreams of Royal Ascot next month.

That's obviously very ambitious but having seen the manner of his victory against two year olds with previous racecourse experience, you cannot say that's an entirely daft notion. 

Charlie had plenty of patience in the early stages after not getting the best of breaks from the gate and when he asked BARBILL to quicken from halfway he cruised into contention before powering home in the final furlong. Mick was delighted and very excited about the future.

"That was very impressive and I couldn't be happier for Sue who named this lad after her two grandchildren Barney & Billy who were there to greet Charlie and BARBILL when they came in. He's a smashing colt, full of talent and with a real ready-made professional attitude.

"We have to be thinking about Ascot and although it's nice to get a bit more experience into them before making that sort of step up, I'd be tempted to throw him straight in after that. He's the type of two year old who I think would be able to handle the big day."

It was then the turn of Jon & Sophie Mitchell's TRICKSY SPIRIT who won in contrasting fashion as the daughter of Lethal Force prevailed by a short head in a three way battle to the line, beating Kimifive (76) and Wafeer (77) in a very exciting finish.

TRICKSY SPIRIT was slow to get going as a two year old last year, disappointing in two Newmarket maidens before really coming good with victory at Goodwood on her third start. The Dick Poole at Salisbury saw her all at sea on her final juvenile start but her seasonal reappearance, finishing fourth at Kempton in April, showed that she'd clearly wintered well - a fact backed up by yesterday's success.

"That was close but well deserved because she was giving weight to the two she beat and will step in to eighty rated company now. She'll handle it because she's got plenty of scope and is a filly who took a bit of time to get started last year but always looked like she'd come in to her own at three.

"She's got a lot to like about her and will be better over six, possibly a little further later on."

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MRC's BIG BOOTS and Callum Shepherd return after Tuesday night's success


A good couple of days for the two year olds as Mick's own BIG BOOTS scored at Bath last night and Theresa Burns's TARRZAN took the seller at Ripon this afternoon.

We'll start with BIG BOOTS in what is a rather modest report because, in truth we can't take all of the credit for these two winners.

BIG BOOTS took the five furlong maiden at Bath after arriving less than a month ago as an aquisition from the Ascot Breeze up sales. The son of Society Rock did it in fine style as well, accounting for the well backed High Horse on his racecourse debut in the hands of Callum Shepherd by two lengths.

It was a performance that wasn't entirely surprising although it wasn't expected either as Mick explains.

"This is a smasher and he did it very nicely. To be honest, all we've done is settle him in and make sure he was pointing in the right direction. Sometimes, horses from any breeze up can be a little buzzy but this lad has clearly been well handled and has a great attitude -  that was great to see last night.

"We've put him in the Lily Agnes at Chester next week and because he's taken everything in his stride I don't see why he shouldn't head there. He's only been here a short while but he's slotted right in and we'll assess him in the next few days and I don't see a quick return to the track being a problem. Mentally, he's clearly got the tools to go with his ability."

Today, it was yet again all about Bungle Inthejungle who recorded his sixth individual winner as a freshman sire as TARRZAN cruised to victory in the five furlong seller under Silvestre de Sousa at Redcar.

Again, in a sense it feels like we have hijacked the efforts of others as TARRZAN was with Willie McCreery in Ireland until just over a week ago but with more opportunities this side of the sea at this stage of the season, we were very fortunate to take on a very willing and enthusiastic competitor who might well have enjoyed the shortest but quite possibly the most perfect career of any horse ever seen at West Ilsley.

He was sold on to John Gallagher in the auction after the race with Mick confident that he'll go on to better things.

"I suppose Tarrzan was a bit like his sire - blink and you'll miss him, albeit in slightly different circumstances! He travelled over, settled in for a few days, joined an older horse in a breeze on the all weather the day before the race, then left for Redcar.

"He shaped up like a decent horse on his debut for Willie at Dundalk at the start of April and is clearly better that the grade he ran in today. Another winner for Bungle, John has a good prospect on his hands for twelve and a half grand and Willie had more than a little to do with it!

"Bungle Inthejungle was uncomplicated and TARRZAN even more so in this case.

"I'll just say that this my greatest training performance ever!"

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CAN CAN SIXTY TWO and Callum Shepherd winning at Salisbury yesterday afternoon - Photo courtesy of Sue Ford


This is starting to get silly now. Something like a 122% strike rate for the past week. Whatever the stats are, I'm gutted that I'm not being paid on a wordcount basis.

Therefore, I'll keep this short and sweet.

Another West Ilsley winner, another homebred and another chance to bore everyone with the fact that Sixties Icon was again responsible as Norman Court Stud and the yard remain in red hot form.

Yesterday wasn't as prolific as Sunday but none the less we sent out three runners and whilst Arcadian Rocks shaped nicely to finish third on debut and I'm A Believer was arguably unlucky to finish runner up in their respective heats, CAN CAN SIXTY TWO took the Class 6 mile and a quarter handicap under Callum Shepherd.

It was an admirable effort in the heavy ground as CAN CAN SIXTY TWO was in front a long way from home on her first venture beyond a mile and she saw the trip out very nicely. Her Owner, Breeder and Trainer was more than happy.

"She's not a star but she's out of an old mare of mine who has always given me a lot of joy and CAN CAN SIXTY TWO is a typical example. She's a half sister to the likes of Fork Handles and Ingleby Mackenzie and I like her half sister CHYNNA who is by Gregorian and makes her second start tonight at Kempton.

"CAN CAN SIXTY TWO tries her heart out and that's all you can ask. She'll definitely stay further and will hopefully still be competitive when she steps out of 0-60 company which she inevitably will after that."

Posted By: Wilsley News