Silvestre de Sousa and Jon & Julia Aisbitt's ELIDOR - Listed winners at Nottingham this afternoon
Only a fifth win in a seven year old's career but when you consider that they have included breaking his maiden as a three year old at Royal Ascot, victory at Glorious Goodwood and the fact that he's seldom that far away in heritage handicaps, ELIDOR represents a horse to be proud of. Today, he started his fifth year as a racehorse with victory in Nottingham's totepool Barry Hills Further Flight Stakes in thrilling fashion.
Ridden by Silvestre de Sousa, Jon & Julia Aisbitt's star gelding took on a select but high class field in the fourteen furlong Listed contest and emerged a winner by only a nose ahead of the gallant Wall of Fire to underline what a true battler he is.
It was a typically trappy, tactical affair with previous Gold Cup winner Trip to Paris up front for a large part of the contest as his four rivals bided their time but, having switched ELIDOR off at the back, SDS managed to get rolling inside the mile, conscious of the fact that there was something of a stop/start dawdle to the heat. When push came to shove as they straightened for home though Silvestre had everything covered and it's full credit to both rider and jockey that they delivered in a pulsating finish.
At the furlong marker, ELIDOR took the lead but Wall of Fire battled back as Trip to Paris fell away and it was a desperate battle to the line that eventually saw ELIDOR finish in front on the nod to the delight of everyone who is grateful to look after a brave and admirable horse. None more so than MRC who has had great, good and sometimes galling days with a real star.
"He's been so well for so long that we couldn't wait to get him going this time around. He goes well fresh and at times he cons you in to thinking he can go again and then he disappoints because we've learnt that he needs a certain amount of space between his races. He can be inconsistent if you force him but that's me talking with hindsight because his record speaks for itself.
"I'm glad we got it right today and I must say that when a horse is delivered like that inside the final stages, very few times does Silvestre de Sousa get beat. He's brilliant at that.
"As for Elidor, handicapping might be off the radar now but we'll have a look at a few options and see how things pan out but before then. I'm just delighted for Jon & Julia and we'll hatch a plan from here."
Box 41's grey trooper MASTERSON - A winner at Chelmsford on Thursday evening
Two wins in the space of five days saw Box 41 Racing's MASTERSON confirm what a hardy and game competitor he is on Thursday as he returned to the scene of his last victory there only five days before.
Again in the hands of Silvestre de Sousa the four year old gelding made all in the mile six Class 6 handicap under a six pound penalty. In truth it was a race that, as with last Saturday's contest, sat up and shouted and Mick was delighted that he has a willing competitor who was happy to oblige.
"It looked like a race there for the taking and although he came into it after last Saturday's run he hasn't done a lot. We gave him a few days in the paddock and a little canter on Wednesday and he went to work for us again.
"That's the sort of chap he is - willing to please and very happy in himself. Silvestre let him bowl along and despite the penalty, he was never sighted. We'll wait and see what the handicapper does now but two wins inside a week for Box 41 Racing means that I'll have some smiling faces in the Box at Newbury when we all meet up!"
Box 41 Racing's MASTERSON - A winner at Chelmsford yesterday
A pleasing win for Box 41 Racing's MASTERSON yesterday evening as the four year old helped Silvestre De Sousa record a four timer in convincing fashion by two and a half lengths.
The two mile Class 6 Chelmsford contest saw MASTERSON lining up on the all-weather for the first time since he was victorious at Newcastle last September and SDS had an easy enough time throughout, producing the top weight as they straightened for home to win emphatically.
The Boss was delighted that a hardy campaigner got his head in front again.
"You've got to admire MASTERSON because he's got a great attitude to everything he does. He's no star but he's incredibly consistent and the opportunity to run him in a 0-65 on that surface over that trip was pretty much perfect.
"He's a pleasure to train and loves the job. For that very reason, he'll give Box 41 a few more days of fun yet."
We've been quiet on here of late but when we have had something to shout about, it's been at the right level. After Opal Tiara's Balanchine success in Meydan, along comes CZABO at Nass - the four year old daughter of Sixties Icon seeing off the classy Somehow in the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud Express Stakes yesterday afternoon.
Graham Lee was at his very best and so was CZABO - let's face it, they had to be to beat a filly with an official rating of 114, but they did it well, travelling superbly throughout the mile contest to prevail by half a length in the closing stages after a lengthy battle in the home straight on ground that was very testing.
If you go back two weeks, we had a certain amount of egg on our faces having taken CZABO to St Cloud for a Listed contest - an event that saw her pull far too hard for the first four furlongs and finish in a heap with the rest of the field in front of her.
Life is a learning curve though and despite the disappointing journey to Paris, it certainly put her in good stead ahead of yesterday's contest and she travelled strongly but sensibly before her protracted battle with the favourite inside the distance.
Fitness certainly showed but so did CZABO's toughness and we are obviously delighted about things right now in light of the St Cloud disappointment.
For her breeders Norman Court Stud, her new owners David Wachman, M.V Magnier and Mrs Shanahan and of course for CZABO's sire Sixties Icon who has helped us in blissful oblivion for quite some time now.
Whilst he's underappreciated, we are the grateful beneficiaries.
Mick landed at Heathrow on his way back from Opal Tiara's rain affected run in the Dubai Turf just as the result came through and was obviously overjoyed to hear that CZABO had put things right.
"What a smashing filly! She was race fresh at St Cloud and none of us saw that coming because she wintered so well and has shown us nothing like that in the past. To be fair to her though, she bolted up on her reappearance in the Esher Cup last year but she knew nothing back then, having only raced once as a two year old.
"She obviously had her thinking head on having learnt about the game this time around but I suppose the run in France just settled her down a little and gave her a fitness edge on Somehow who I've got an awful lot of respect for. She obviously had a Group 3 penalty but take nothing away from CZABO.
"Or her sire. People think I'm just banging a PR drum when I praise Sixties Icon but his success can't be questioned in my opinion. Statistical minds might even be able to back me up as well, but he's a victim of 'fashion' I guess. People are missing a trick where he's concerned in the bloodstock world.
"CZABO's very tough and a really talented filly. We've got a Group 3 horse now and obviously her new owners have a valuable asset on their hands after yesterday. They know the game inside out so we'll all have a say in where we go next. Soft ground will play a part in our future plans I suspect."
Photos David Letts
The Filly Folly & Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA (Centre) - A winner under Oisin Murphy this afternoon
A super performance from The Filly Folly & Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA this afternoon saw the four year old daughter of Thousand Words take the Group 2 Balanchine Stakes under Oisin Murphy.
OPAL TIARA was a revelation in the latter half of 2016 taking a Listed race at Carlisle in June before adding the Group 3 Doom Bar Supreme Stakes at Goodwood in late August. In that period her official rating went from 95 to 109 and she's a filly we are all looking forward to in 2017.
Her 2017 reappearance was at Meydan three weeks ago where she finished an encouraging second the Very Special over a mile in the Group 2 Cape Verdi and with the winner that night having to carry a three pound penalty today, there was every hope that she could reverse that result over the extended trip of nine furlongs.
That she did and in thrilling fashion as she stalked Muffri'Ha and Very Special throughout before Oisin asked for an effort as they straighten up for home. It couldn't have gone any better and she swept through to take the lead in the closing stages to prevail by a neck from the closing Via Firenze.
Mick and Gill Hedley bred OPAL TIARA and she's been a source of great fun for connections over the past two years. Clive and Keith Potter have been in with Gill since the start but they've been joined this year by Andrew & Emma Leader, Stephen & Aida Kenny, Ed Mills-Webb, Robert Quick and Barry Gates.
Mick was determined that OPAL TIARA'S improvement would continue this year, hence buying her back when she went through the HIT sales last autumn and it's certainly been worth it as he's got the World Cup night in mind for her next outing.
"That was great and she's such a smashing filly to train. We've won our Group 2 now so i see no reason why we shouldn't try her at the top level with the Turf race on World Cup night being the obvious target.
"I'm chuffed for Gill, Keith, Clive and the new connections - what an exciting filly to be involved in!
"Well done to Lesley who always oversees the training of our horses over here. Whilst it's ultra competitive and very hard to win out here she's a great asset to the whole job and much of this is down to her. Having a filly like Opal does make the job a little easier though.
"She'll have a Group 2 penalty now so we'll obviously pitch her in against the big guns at Group 1 level this year. That's what we are always trying to do but it's extra special to be able to do it with a filly who we've been with from the very start. I couldn't be happier."
Jon & Sophie Mitchell's PERSUN (Nearside) - A winner at Kempton last night
A very pleasing victory for Jon Mitchell's PERSUN at Kempton last night saw the admirable five year old mare win for the first time on the artificial surface after a pleasing introduction a fortnight ago at Wolverhampton.
She took last night's eleven furlong 0-80 contest in thrilling fashion to underline her hardiness and admirable attitude in the face of a far from perfect passage.
It was made far from easy for her in the closing stages as she was forced to come quite wide in a messy affair but she ran all the way to the line to deny Alcatraz in the shadow of the post under Graham Lee.
Mick was delighted with an ultra competitive performer who now has added another string to her bow.
"She's certainly given us options and she's a filly who puts a smile on your face. We'll see how she comes out of this but obviously I'll be looking to get a fast track qualifier with her now because the Lingfield Champions' Day at Easter would be an obvious target from here on in.
"There's not much more I can say about her except to say that she keeps turning up and always gives her best. She a pleasure to train."
The Allen, Porter & Voute Partnership's SUMMER ICON (Nearside) - a winner at Lingfield on Tuesday afternoon
It's been a while in coming but we're back among the winners after one of the quietest periods we can remember. In truth, we've had very little ammunition in the last few weeks. 2016 was a healthy year in the main and, as a result, we've mainly been concentrating on educating the babies, whilst the older horses resumed full work just after Christmas.
After a very bright start to 2016, SUMMER ICON endured a torrid time after being struck in to at Goodwood in May and therefore returned to work earlier than the rest, with the hope that she can make up for lost time in her four year old campaign.
She's always had plenty of ability and showed that in abundance at Lingfield on Tuesday, taking the Class 3, seven furlong fillies' handicap under a cool ride from George Baker.
She had two runs in the build up to this victory and has improved considerably for them and ran out a ready winner from off the pace yesterday to leave Mick delighted for connections who have had a frustrating time waiting for a filly who the boss thinks an awful lot of.
"She's back to near enough where we want her to be after a dreadful injury last year. She was struck in to at Goodwood and it was touch and go whether she'd race again or be forced to head to the paddocks. She's tough though, no shrinking violet and has always had bags of potential.
I just hope that all of the frustration is behind her because I think she has the size, scope and ability to get some black type. George gave her a super ride and that's the type of filly she is - anything off a fast pace and you fancy her to pick up at the death and it worked out perfectly. That's hopefully just the start of things though."
From left-right: Derek Gamblin, Frank Adams, Roger Stack, MRC & Nigel Bunter.
If you met Roger Stack, the odds are he made you laugh.
In fact, unless you were of an easily offended nature, you'd have loved him.
Utterly forthright and outrageously un 'PC' he was a tidal wave of humanity, humour, generosity, loyalty and most importatly - LIFE.
The memory of Roger Stack; 'Stacky' to his friends, will make many of us more determined to cram as much life in as we can during our short tenancy we've been allotted because Stacky certainly did and our lives were all the more richer for it.
Roger Stack, as the manager of the late John Sunley's horses was with Mick from the outset in 1989 and proved to be loyal, trusting and a great friend. Along with his wife Bridget, as Mick explains, he brought life and light in to the sometimes mundane day to day proceedings of working life.
"Stacky darkened my door back in the Lambourn days and I couldn't be more grateful now I look back. Just shy of 30 years I trained horses for Rog and John Sunley whilst Bridget had a few in her name and we always had a lot of fun. You couldn't not have fun when Roger was about.
"I'm often up front and sometimes speak without the thought to how others will take me but Stacky could take it to Olympic standards of outrage. That said, I can't recall anyone ever being upset by what he did or said - that's probably because he was downright hilarious.
"I'm not saying all of this because he's gone - everyone gets painted as a saint to a certain degree when they snuff it - Roger Stack was a brilliant, kind, warm and funny man. I loved him.
"I know that when he lost Bridget, whom he was devoted to, he was shaken to the core but he kept on going, trying to make the best of things and he certainly did that. He wouldn't suffer in silence either. He didn't go on about it but there was a soft nature to him below all of the bluff and gusto that he brought into any room he entered.
"I was friends with him for a long time and I really felt for him during that period but we made the most of it by enjoying a horse that Bridget bred. His name was SGT Reckless.
"When Bridget passed away in 2010, it was with her typical good humour and huge generosity that in her will she decreed that her and her husband's horse be given to me.
I remember saying to Stacky at the time 'A mate giving me a bloody horse - that's all I need innit?!'. We really didn't know what to expect when this three year old gelding walked off the ramp and proceeded to block out the sun.
"He was massive.
"Michael Jnr christened him the 'Police Horse' and he was a figure of fun for two whole years until we managed to get him going - what an engine he had. He won at a canter in a bumper at Wincanton on debut and that was a very emotional day for all of us. Stacky didn't come because he said it would all be too much for him and, true to his word, he was in tears when I phoned him after the race.
"That's what horses can do to people I suppose and Stacky knew that more than anyone. He was a major figure in equine circles, particularly on his home patch in Sussex and he was hugely respected - he was a great horseman, a big fish at Hickstead. He was also great at treating horses and has sorted a few of ours out with muscular ailments and spinal therapy treatment."
Michael Jnr takes up the tale.
"Stacky and Mark Fox helped us out with John Sunley's last homebred, a filly called Persun. She was tricky to keep sound and Stacky and Foxy set to work because she was always sore through her back and in particular her off hind quarters. My abiding memory will be of a day we shared at Epsom when Silvestre de Sousa won on her in 2015.
"In the paddock before hand Stacky was his usual silly self and I'm not sure SDS knew how to take him if I'm honest. 'Now, you know what you're doing don't you son?,' he said to Silvestre who was about twenty winners in front of the rest in the jockeys' championship. 'Err, I think so yes,' said Silvestre, unsure as to whether or not Stacky was joking or a complete idiot. 'The key is son, don't fall off the f****r'.
"I legged SDS up and I'm still not sure if he knew Stacky was taking the piss.
"It was a great day and Stacky and Foxy were so proud of the filly. Mick was in hospital at the time and very unwell and that was when Stacky's soft side came out. We watched the replay in the winners' lounge and Roger turned to me with tears in his eyes. 'I know he's your old man and I know he's a grumpy bastard, but I love Mick Channon you know. I'd do anything for him because I know he'd do anything for me.'
"I'll miss Roger, his humour his warmth and his ability to break wind with huge enthusiasm and little care for whose presence he was in when he did it. A top bloke."
But we'll leave the last word to Mick, to whom Roger meant so much and who has so many warm memories.
"I'm not a great churchgoer and nor was Roger, but I think he'll have us there in church to hedge his bets one last time 'just in case' there is somebody up there - if you knew Rog you'll know what I mean. I'll miss him immensely and although the sadness is hard to get over at this moment in time it's with a great sense of privilege that I can say that not only did Roger Stack enter my life all those years ago, but also that I came to know him as my mate. I'm sure everyone else will feel the same way.
"I can't say much more than that."
Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT & Graham Gibbons take last night's feature in fine style
She seems to be cut from a different cloth and whilst most fillies shrivel up in the winter VOLUNTEER POINT refuses to comply with that assessment. Last night at Wolverhampton, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand romped home in the seven furlong Fast-Track qualifier under Graham Gibbons to set her on what we all hope will be another tilt at the Fillies & Mares race on the all weather champions day in the spring.
There's not much more you can say other than that. She's a little fractious, but only through enthusiasm and Mick was delighted that the light shines as bright as ever.
"She hosed up last night and picked up a good few quid in the process again. We were offered a considerable sum for her this year but she's all about fun and enjoyment for the Box 41 team right now.
"We're not complicated and the plan is obvious but she's an incredibly tough filly who relishes the artificial surfaces. Graham knows the score and gets on with her great and, considering I'm a joint owner along with my best mates, you could say that I'm a bit chuffed right now."
The Radford Family's GLEN FORSA - An impressive bumper winner on Saturday
Saturday saw a newcomer make an eyecatching debut at Huntingdon as the Radford Family's GLEN FORSA took the 1st Security Solutions LTD Maiden Open National Hunt Flat Race in the hands of Graham Lee.
The four year old son of Mahler has impressed us at home - he's a huge, long striding gelding who covers the ground relentlessly and that was very much in evidence as he recorded a six length success in effortless style.
Covered up for much of the extended mile and five furlong contest, Graham sat quiet until asking for an effort three furlongs from home. Although he ran green in the closing stages the outcome was never in doubt and Mick was delighted with a young gelding who may well have a bright future ahead of him.
"That was good to see because we didn't have a great start to the day with The Blue Bomber who just ran too freely in his race but it looks like GLEN FORSA has a bright future.
"It's very difficult at times to be overly confident with many of our bumper horses, simply because we have few to compare them to at home, but it's been obviously for quite some time that he's got bags of scope and no little talent.
"Paul Morkan has done a fine job on him at home and although he's mentally very backwards at the minute, this horse has got a really athletic way about him and is a relentless galloper.
"We're not in any real hurry with him but he's certainly exciting - we'll have a chat with Hen and Tim and plan what we want to do with him next."