FATHER McKENZIE - Finally won his Plus 10 race at the eleventh time of asking
Apologies for the sporadic updates of late but it's worth looking back on some landmark successes over the past week.
At Pontefract last Wednesday, a game and consistent performer record his first career victory after a string of four runner-up berths in his debut season whilst LINCOLN confirmed that he was back on track with a second successive win.
FATHER McKENZIE has been kept busy this year and it would be fair to say that since his debut back in June we haven't done too much with him at home. He's thrived on racing and is one of those who seems happy to get on with the job, rest in the paddock between his runs and head off on the horse box once a week.
He's a smasher and his holy grail has been the ten grand bonus which he finally achieved in the Class 4, six furlong maiden under Graham Lee. He took it in fine style by over two lengths and Mick was delighted with a very likeable individual.
"A cracking little horse who is sound, consistent and willing. We've asked plenty of him and he's always responded despite coming second four times against what are potentially decent two year olds. He had to win one sooner or later and we always thought he was capable of grabbing a Plus 10 race.
"He'll probably head to the sales at the end of the year but I couldn't recommend him highly enough because first and foremost, he's got a terrific attitude."
On the same card, LINCOLN made it two from two since his conversion to sprinting by taking Division 1 of the Class 4, six furlong handicap, again with Graham Lee in the plate.
That he did it under a penalty and went on to follow it up with another bold show at Haydock two days later shows that he's finally up and running again after a long barren run. Mick is a relieved man.
"That just goes to show how bonkers horseracing is. The Victoria Cup form of two years ago has made a mockery of me because there's no way I'd have said he was a five furlong horse back then.
"Five or six will be his forte now and he did that very well at Ponty. He's obviously well handicapped as well and we'll see what comes up."
It was also good to see Malih Al Basti's SCRUTINEER win his first race of 2016. The highly tried son of Intense Focus has recorded a string of gallant efforts in defeat this year including finishing runner up in the Free Handicap on his seasonal reappearance.
He's a tough, straight forward colt who only came in to his own at the back end of last year and in soft underground conditions at Hamilton last Monday he turned around the form with Danzero who had got the better of him on their previous two outings by running out the victor of the Class 2 conditions stakes by a length. Again, Graham Lee, who is enjoying a real purple patch for the yard, was on board.
Mick was very happy.
"He's a smashing horse to train and clearly loves a bit of give underfoot. I was tempted to keep going with him for that reason but Malih is keen to head out to the carnival in Dubai. That's his local track and I can understand his reasons."
Finally, at Brighton yesterday, it was Garry Brandt's HARLEQUIN ROSE's turn to break her maiden in the hands of Silvestre de Sousa in the Class 6, five and a half furlong nursery. It was the filly's fifth outing and she battle on gamely as they hit the rising ground to take the event a length in front of Glider and keep Silvestre in the hunt for the jockeys championship.
Mick was pleased for a filly who always gives of her best.
"That was good to see because she has a great attitude. We've had a lot of success for Garry with the likes of Harlequeen and although HARLEQUIN ROSE couldn't hold a candle to her, she's got her own qualities and a good attitude saw her through. We'll keep going until the sales because I feel like she can go in again.
"On the whole, they're all still going all right.
"Notable mentions must go to Gratzie, Harmonise, Masterson, Akkadian Empire and Highlife Dancer in recent weeks - all of them have just hit the post and I couldn't be happier with several of our newcomers.
"There's a lot of promise for the future."
Lord Ilsley Racing's four-time winner SAYESSE
Apologies for being offline of late but the horses are certainly holding their form as we enter autumn with the hope for plenty to come from some promising juveniles and experienced older horses alike.
First up, take a bow SAYESSE - Lord Ilsley Racing's two year old son of Sayif recorded his fourth win in a juvenile season full of highs and lows as it's become something of a guessing game as to which SAYESSE turns up from one run to the next.
A mixture of trainer error and running style are the most likely reasons for a topsy turvy form pattern that sees him win one week and lose the next but one thing is for sure - this is a proper racehorse who is set to give his syndicate some great days towards the end of the season and beyond.
By taking the five and a half furlong, Class 3 Betway Nursery Handicap under John Egan at Chester twelve days ago, SAYESSE took his career earnings to over £25k, not bad for a two year old who only cost five grand at the sales last year. He's tough, game, sound and bombproof and has the £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week fixed in his sights.
Whilst SAYESSE started his career at West Ilsley, Prince Faisal's home-bred filly ORGANZA arrived from Andre Fabre's in the spring and although she has frustrated at times, that's been down to the number of near misses before finally losing her maiden tag under Graham Lee at Thirsk last week. Her form figures of 3232321 suggests that we weren't doing a lot wrong with the three year old daughter of Pour Moi and she ran out a deserved winner of the Class 5 Breeders Backing Racing EBF Maiden Stakes over a mile under Graham Lee.
ORGANZA certainly hasn't been asked to shirk a challenge in her first year of racing and that was again the case as she faced a red hot favourite in the form of Sun Lover but ran out the victor by over three lengths.
On the Tuesday of last week, Jon & Julia Aisbitt's KASSIA recorded her fifth career win at Pontefract after a somewhat troublesome return to the course after more than a few issues with the starting stalls. She's a sweetheart in everything she does apart from when it comes to the starting gate.
Thankfully, Keith Evans and the Witheford team worked their magic with the three year old and once she agreed to load, the Class 2, six furlong EBF Breeders' Series Fillies' Handicap was a formality as KASSIA stalked the opposition throughout before making her move under Graham Lee at the top of the hill. She was produced a furlong from home and prevailed by three parts of a length in the style of a class act.
Black type is the next step for a three year old filly with a bright future.
Which leads us on to LINCOLN.
There has been plenty of feedback regarding our campaigning of the five year old Clodovil gelding and yes, his losing streak up until last Wednesday's Class 4 handicap success at Ayr stretched back two years and nineteen runs. There have been many compliments about that from our world wide online fan club.
Truth of the matter is though, LINCOLN went and made a mockery of his previous form over seven furlongs which includes finishing runner up in the Victoria Cup. He's always had his quirks but we've managed to add to that list now by taking most of his career to work out that he'd sluice up under Graham Lee over five furlongs.
He runs again today at Pontefract over six furlongs with hope that he's finally turned a corner and we'll not have to wait another two years only to find out that he needs a mile and a half, or perhaps he'll convert to track cycling - What would we know?
Finally, a real star in the making, as TARA CELEB made it two wins from two starts in her debut season under Andrea Atzeni at Leicester on Monday afternoon. It was the Class 5 Aston Flamville Fillies' Nursery Handicap over her minimum trip of six furlongs and she had to be asked all the way to hold off Fields of Song.
She did so gamely but a step up in trip is very much called for to see her at her best and winning off a mark of 73 won't be seen again for the foreseeable future. There's a Newmarket fillies' nursery on the radar over seven furlongs and we'll know more about her after that.
Mick is pleased with the way things are going.
"Once we get to this stage of the season I've come to expect our horses to hold their form and they are showing no signs of falling away. We've been running a mixed bag of talent and experience of late as we need to get a feel for what sort of squad we will have for next year.
"Some will head to the sales whilst some are merely using the autumn as a springboard for 2017 and there's plenty to look forward to.
"TARA CELEB could be anything and I know we've not even scratched the surface with KASSIA yet. She's had a bit of a fallout with the process of loading but the team and Gary and Craig Witherford did a great job with her.
"ORGANZA got her just rewards after running so well in defeat against some smart opposition whilst SAYESSE could be a real gem for Lord Ilsley Racing. He's getting better and better and has the big sales race coming up. Looking ahead, it would be great to think he makes into a proper sprint handicapper next year. We all love a Saturday horse who can run throughout the year.
"As for LINCOLN, no comment."
Derek & Jean Clee's MOTDAW (Left) battles on to victory yesterday afternoon
Another Saturday win for Derek & Jean Clee's homebred filly MOTDAW saw the daughter of Motivator storm home in soft ground conditions in Haydock's opener yesterday afternoon.
Small in stature but big in heart, MOTDAW has been christened 'Mini Treve' at home - she's very popular, very game and ultra effective when there's cut in the ground. She took the Class 2 ten furlong handicap under visiting French jockey Alexis Badel yesterday finishing half a length ahead of Rosental with the rest spread-eagled in arrears.
It was a great thrill for everyone, especially Mick whose immediate thoughts were with the owner-breeders.
"A great result and Derek & Jean were straight on the phone to me. They were ecstatic and when you can play a part in making people as happy as that, the whole job becomes worthwhile.
"She's turning into a real force to be reckoned with when there's cut in the ground. That's her third win of the season and she'll probably go up to be rated in the 90's now.
"We'll have to pick the right races now because we all think she's capable of black type and as we move into the autumn she'll have plenty of entries in Listed races.
"Derek & Jean deserve it because they put a lot into the game and have been long term supporters of the likes of us, the Hannon's and Bryn Palling.
"It's good to have something guaranteed to act on soft ground as we leave the faster ground behind."
Box 41's Marc Middlemiss was on hand to welcome MASTERSON and Tony Hamilton back yesterday
A long trip to the north east and a step up to two miles certainly didn't bother Box 41's MASTERSON who yesterday recorded a second successive win in the Class 6 extended two mile handicap in the hands of Tony Hamilton.
MASTERSON has always been a popular horse at home with plenty of us singing his praises but, as we said after his previous success at Lingfield, his season took a long time to ignite. He certainly didn't look like he would stay a mile and a half earlier on in the year but having won over yesterday's trip and the manner in which he did, suggests that he's only now showing his true colours.
Mick certainly agrees with that appraisal.
"He's always been very sound and very willing. He was one of my major disappointments of this season because everything he's done all year has promised so much but never materialised.
"Horses can't talk though and he was probably weak on us for the first half of 2016. We are only now seeing what we all thought we would earlier on in and although he's in the sales we'll have to have a chat with the Box 41 team now because we've had to wait for him and we wouldn't want others to benefit from our patience."