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Scott McCullagh, ICONIC BELLE & Ronnie - A formidable combination


He's only been with us a short time but apprentice Scott McCullagh enjoyed two more winners on Thursday and Saturday, showcasing his talents under two sorts ideally suited to strike in the formative months of a jockey's education in the UK.

There wasn't much you could say about ICONIC BELLE's latest victory at Epsom on Thursday - it was merely a case of 'more of the same' as the Sweet Partnership's four year old daughter of Sixties Icon made it three wins and a place in her last four outings under McCullagh when taking the Apprentice handicap at the Esher venue.

The mile and a quarter Class 5 event for four year olds and upwards saw ICONIC BELLE jump smartly and, although she excels at front running, McCullagh was smart enough to track The Lord's Walk who was intent on making it.

That he did until a quarter of a mile from home when ICONIC BELLE was asked to extend and she did so in fine style. Clearly the pace was honest but not excessive as the front two were never bothered by any of their five pursuers, with the West Ilsley filly winning by a comfortable half length to record her fourth win of the campaign.

Two days later in the finale of Glorious Goodwood, the valuable Class 3 Qatar Apprentice Handicap went the way of the ever improving THE NIGHT PORTER who recorded his third victory in his debut season as a three year old in a style completely opposite to that of ICONIC BELLE.

The son of Sixties Icon was stone last for much of it as McCullagh took his time before bringing THE NIGHT PORTER home in thrilling and assured style, sweeping past all of his eleven opponents in the manner of a horse with a bright future.

As THE NIGHT PORTER's owner, Mick was obviously delighted with both horse and jockey.

"That'll do! Scott is clearly loving life at the minute and without being too much of a grump, he needs to be aware of how much he's benefitted from having ICONIC BELLE in the form of her life and the fact that THE NIGHT PORTER is a young horse very much going places.

"He knows that though - he's a bright lad and very much from racing stock. His dad Niall has won Group races galore and came over to make sure he settled in with us here and his lad has a good head on his shoulders.

"Hard work is the way forward and if Scott proves to be as progressive as THE NIGHT PORTER he won't go far wrong. He's a smashing individual with a great attitude and untapped potential.

"He's gone up from his mark of 86 on Saturday to 94 now and I can't see that stopping him. Another two winners from Norman Court Stud and another emerging talent underlining Sixties Icon's reputation for prucing winners. 

"I sometimes wonder where we'd be without him as a stallion."

Posted By: Wilsley News

Jon & Julia Aisbitt's CARAVELA (Nearside) - A winner at Goodwood yesterday afternoon


A very pleasing result from an ever improving filly as Jon & Julia Aisbitt's CARAVELA won in thrilling fashion on day two of Glorious Goodwood.

The last six months has seen the four year old daughter of Henrythenavigator finally find a bit of consistency after a series of frustrating setbacks in the first two years of her career and she's a filly very much on the up after yesterday's performance.

Under a patient ride from Andrea Atzeni, CARAVELA (as is her way) was slowly away from the gate and sat in behind the entire field off of what was something of a muddling pace before making her move in the mile and a quarter Class 2 fillies' handicap for three year olds and upwards.

A winner two starts ago at Newbury, a strange situation emerged on her next start at Salisbury where she was essentially in a match race with three year old Savaanah. Acceding six pounds to her rival that day, CARAVELA went down by a length but the tables were very much turned yesterday as she reopposed Savaanah, this time off of level weights.

The final quarter mile, still with plenty to do, the front running Savaanah was still there but Andrea pulled CARAVELA to the outside and once she found her stride she ran right through the line to record an extending length and three quarter victory to the delight of everyone, including the Boss who believes that everything is now coming right for a filly with plenty of ability.

"I hope so anyway! We had a torrid time of stop-start-stop-start niggles with her. It was mainly muscuar and, as with a lot of fillies, once we thought we'd got her sound, she'd often tie up on us and we just had to wait for her system to come right.

"Fingers crossed I think she has now because she's done nothing but flourish this summer and although she'll go up from her rating of 82, that's not a disaster because Jon & Julia are very much into the breeding side of things with their fillies and obviously black type is the long term aim.

"She's not an imposing filly but she's very athletic and once she gets going in the closing stages she really does find an extra gear. I hope there's plenty more to come." 

Posted By: Wilsley News

Peter Taplin & Sue Bunney's KOEMAN - a winner at Ascot on Saturday


A decent week saw four winners with a raft of hard luck stories and promising performances that made for a consistent period rather than an outstanding one.

The four winners were backed up by six placed horses from fifteen runners.

We'll start then with SOLESMES who scored for the second time in her debut season, taking the six furlong juvenile claimer in the hands of David Egan at Lingfield on Wednesday.

It may have been a modest affair but she travelled well throughout and although she was pressed in the final strides by the fast finishing Capla Gilda, the Boss's homebred did enough.

"She's done nothing wrong and all she does is please. She's tough, straighforward and will keep winning little races. This looked an obvious race to go for because she may not be entirely advantaged in nurseries at present and as a first foal of a mare of ours at Norman Court, we need winners on the board, not a pat on the back."

In the evening it was another Norman Court homebred, ICONIC BELLE who continued her burgeoning relationship with West Ilsley apprentice Scott McCullagh as the pair made it two wins from three runs together to take the Class 5 mile and a quarter handicap for four year olds and upwards.


It was only a three runner contest but that wasn't ICONIC BELLE's fault and in a truly run race, Scott dominated proceedings, setting a generous tempo before stretching his rivals at the three pole.

She was attacked on both sides in the closing stages as first Clenymistra and then Beat By Beat By Beat had their say but it was impressive stuff from both the Sweet Partnership's four year old and her young jockey as Mick admitted.

"Great stuff and it's great for both ICONIC BELLE and Scott who has struck up a good rapport with her.

"He's clearly got plenty of talent and wasn't tempted to go for the kitchen sink approach as they closed in - he held her together and rode her out to good effect.

"As for the filly, this is her third win of the year now and she's become very consistent. Another for Sixties Icon and the stud and great for Clive and Keith who had to wait for a while to see her get her head in front."

It seems absurd that we are only now talking of JAZEEL's second career success but that is indeed the case after he finally returned to the winner's enclosure on Thursday at Sandown.


Abdullatif Al-Abduklrazzaq's three year old son of Roderic O'Connor has always been game and consistent - having won on his second start as a two year old he'd been placed in six of his eleven races to date.

Thankfully, things finally got back on the winning track under Andrea Atzeni in the Class 4 mile and a quarter handicap for three year olds and upwards.

Settled in rear throughout, JAZEEL seemed to relish the opportunity to stalk a very generous pace before being asked to assert two furlongs from home. This he did in convincing fashion, switching to the outside to run out a convincing victor and justify favouritism to the relief of his trainer.

"That's been coming for a while but I must admit it's been very frustrating. That's no reflection on JAZEEL, he's an absolute smasher who has only ever tried his heart out but at this trip and with a decent pace, that might well be the making of him.

"He'll obviously go up from his mark of 80 for that and we'll see where that leaves us but he's only now coming in to his own and I'm a big fan of his."

On Saturday, Peter Taplin & Sue Bunney's KOEMAN took Ascot's finale as he and John Egan took the Class 3 mile and a half handicap in gallant fashion under top weight.

They went a suicidal pace up front that left the field, with Koeman well off the pace, strung out like washing. Gradually though the leaders came back to them as they turned for home and KOEMAN was asked to go and win his race over two furlongs from home.

He certainly got there soon enough and was then asked to fend off challengers from a long way out but he did so admirably, holding off Bajan Gold in the dying strides to the delight of MRC.

"This is a smashing horse who has had his fair share of hard luck stories this season. He's getting better and better and although he's in great nick right now, I can't wait to see him next season.

"I think he'll get further as he gets older and he's the type of horse who makes you dream of a tilt at the Ebor and races like that. There's a hell of a lot of improvement to come and I'm absolutely delighted for Pete and Sue." 

Posted By: Wilsley News

Insignia Racing's JUNGLE JUICE - A winner at Wolverhampton last night


Sunnier climes beckoned last week, hence the lack of word on our winners who, in the last nine days have included CHIKOKO TRAIL, WHY WE DREAM, CHYNNA, FANNIE BY GASLIGHT, and JUNGLE JUICE who prevailed for a debut success at Wolves yesterday evening.

We'll start chronologically though as last Tuesday saw Dave & Gill Hedley's homebred CHIKOKO TRAIL deliver at the fifth time of asking under Graham Lee at Pontefract. 

It was a game showing as the son of Sixties Icon relished the fast ground to confirm he's steadily becoming a major force in his grade as his three year old career blossoms after two introductory efforts as a juvenile.

The Class 5 one mile handicap saw CHIKOKO TRAIL emerge as a victor off of a mark of 64 and there's clearly more to come as he's only just coming in to his own - he travelled comfortably in midfield before they turned for home and he ran away a ready winner to score by a length and three quarters at odds of 16/1.

Mick was obviously pleased and although the price wouldn't suggest he'd win so convincingly, he's the type that the Boss expected to deliver sooner rather than later.

"That was impressive and he's clearly coming on in leaps and bounds. We got him going at the back end of last year for experience more than anything because he was never a precocious two year old and his two runs were needed to set him up for this year.

"He was fourth on his reappearance in May and ran well in an apprentice hands and heels event at Salisbury last month to finish third. He's been allowed to enjoy himself and has flourished as a result. Graham got the job done and I reckon there's a lot more to come this season."

On the same card, it's worth mentioning PATTIE's third in the Listed Pipalong Stakes. Yet another from our Sixties Icon production line, she's done us proud and continues to run well at a high level.

Two days later at Carlisle, Jon & Julia Aisbitt's WHY WE DREAM also entered the winner's enclosure for the first time after a string of game efforts.


Another individual who benefitted from dipping her toe in the water at the track as a juvenile, the daughter of Al Kazeem has certainly knuckled down in 2018, finishing second at Newbury, following that up with two third placed efforts at Lingfield and Goodwood. She then ran with great credit to finish midfield in the Sandringham at Royal Ascot before confirming that she was a winner in waiting under Ben Curtis on Thursday.

It was a battling effort as well as she took the Class 5 extended seven furlong novice event for three and four year olds by only a neck, holding off the concerted efforts of Bin Makfi. This looked a golden opportuity to get her head in front and with the others, including the odds on favourite Algaffaal well in arrears, Mick can look forward to a filly with a future.

"She's was only rated 79 but she's better than that and has gone up to 81 now. She's a homebred of Jon & Julia's and we trained the dam Sandreamer who was very talented. Because of that, our job is to maximise her potential and see how high we can go with her - black type is obviously the aim."

Indeed, the breeding theme resonates throughout this update as it was Mick's very own CHYNNA who also broke her maiden tag last Friday as Franny Norton delivered the juvenile daughter of Gregorian to take the five and a half furlong novice stakes at York.

This was a decent victory from CHYNNA who was bang on the bridle at the two pole and travelled into the race superbly. On her fourth start, she was then asked to battle all the way to the line as Flawless Jewel pestered her every inch of the way - CHYNNA prevailling by a neck.

Mick was delighted that she's stepped forward after returning to the track last month following a break after early season efforts.

"We got her going real early on in the season and she showed up well at Newmarket and Kempton but it was clear that she was a filly who was growing on us so we just stepped off the pedal for a few weeks to let her get over two solid runs. 

"She came back to finish third at Windsor two weeks ago and that probably put her spot on for the York win.

"She was worth giving time to and, seeing as the owner agreed that's what we did and she's a filly with a great attitude and a high cruising speed who will flourish from here on in. Again, she's a homebred so there's only one thing in mind."

Yet another homebred, Aston Bloodstock's FANNIE BY GASLIGHT made her first return to the winner's enclosure as Silvestre de Sousa brought home the daughter of Sixties Icon on her handicap debut at Salisbury on Saturday evening.


Having failed to land a blow in maiden company on her previous three starts, FANNIE BY GASLIGHT found the Class 6 mile and a quarter handicap for three year olds far more to her liking and she stormed home off of a rating of 65, coming from last to first to take the race comfortably by three parts of a length.

Mick was pleased that one of his homebreds has come good again.

"Whatever you say about her, you can't knock her heart. She's struggled this year but it was a question of getting her a mark and letting her find her feet at her level and she certainly did that nicely. She's gone up to 69 as a result and it'll be interesting to see what that has done for her confidence because she clearly relished the drop into that company."

Last but by no mans least is Insignia Racing's JUNGLE JUICE who won on only her third ever start at Wolverhampton last night to yet again highlight the remarkable freshman year being enjoyed by her sire Bungle Inthejungle.

This may well have only been a seven furlong median auction maiden on the all-weather but there's a lot to like about JUNGLE JUICE, a filly who ran out convincingly in a fast run event under Franny Norton.

She was only beaten a head on debut at Goodwood in the middle of June and she did nothing wrong in finishing third at Wetherby only a week later but she stamped her authority on yesterday's race by jumping spritely from her handy draw and quickened up nicely to tag the long time leader Al Motajaz as they straightened for home.

Mick was pleased for everyone concerned.

"It's always a worry when a syndicate has a filly run so well but get chinned like she did on debut and then finish as a beaten favorite next time up. You just want them to get a win on the board!

"We did that last night though and I'm delighted for Tina Dawson and her syndicate in Insignia. This filly isn't a typical Bungle in that she's got a bit of stamina on her dam's side and she may well get a mile later on.

"It doesn't really matter right now because she's got a great temperament and, just like her dad, she's a proper type - a racehorse with a great attitude.

So, there you go - again, apologies for this tardy and time demanding update. It's probably wrong to take any time off in the middle of the flat season but I'll leave you with an image that might explain things. 

We're all homebreds you see and Gramdma went to the exotic climes of Bournemouth this week and enjoyed a gin & tonic or two at a beach hut. 

I'm sure you'll understand. To paraphrase Barry Davies, "Look at her face - Just look at her face!"

Posted By: Wilsley News

Jon & Julia Aisbitt's CARAVELA (Left) - A winner at Newbury last night


It's been an in and out period but the winners are still there - it's just been a bit patchy of late.

There's still plenty of cheer though as CARAVELA won a thriller at Newbury last night whilst HATS OFF TO LARRY continued his consistent performances and Scott McCullagh rode his first winner for the yard.

We'll start with Jon & Julia Aisbitt's CARAVELA last night though and a smashing ride from Silvestre de Sousa, although it was a close run thing as the long time leader was only collared in the shadow of the post.

Having lost her maiden tag in September at three, the daughter of Henrythenavidator has made a promising start to her 2018 campaign and got off the mark on her third start this season as SDS had to sit and suffer before bringing the top weight home.

Dropping back in both grade and trip, CARAVELA was slowly in to stride in the Class 5, mile and a quarter handicap for four year olds and upwards.

She was clearly travelling within herself all the way round but it was a question of when the gaps would appear in the closing stages and just when it seemed everything was working out to perfection, a gap closed as soon as it opened at the furlong marker meaning that the last 200 yards were all she had to reel in Jean Genie have been switched inside.

But she got there - just - leaving Mick relieved and delighted.

"This filly doesn't help herself at times as she often struggles to find her stride out of the gate, but having said that, she also needs to be allowed time to get into a rhythm and relax in her races.

"Silvestre didn't panic, although I did when the door closed with a furlong to go and she only just got there on the nod!

"She's done everything we've asked of her this year, inproving on her Brighton reappearance in May to finish third at Lingfield three weeks ago.

"The Jean Genie was only a short head behind us on that occasion and they've finished, stride for stride exactly the same this time around in a lesser grade.

"She's got plenty to build on after that and she will go in again. Fillies like her can blossom in the second half of the season and I see no reason why she can't because she's got a lot going for her.

On Monday evening at Windsor, HATS OFF TO LARRY continued his upward curve with victory under Charlie Bishop at Windsor.

He recorded his first career victory at Beverley two runs ago and ran creditably at Chester last time up finishing fourth in a blanket finish. Monday only saw three runners line up but his victory confirmed the notion that the son of Sixties Icon has become a reliable competitor who is now coming intro his own.

Off of a mark of 73, three pounds higher than his maiden victory, HATS OFF TO LARRY took the Class 4 mile and a quarter contest in convincing fashion, staying on strongly to account for Oh It's Saucepot and the favourite Bid Adieu to please the Boss who has always had a soft spot for William Harrison-Allan's four year old gelding.

"He's a lovely sort this with a big frame and he's always been willing. He was consistent last year and was always thereabouts but having him gelded and getting another winter behind him has seen him come good.

"He looked like a stayer to start with but bringing him back to an extended mile and a mile and a quarter - that looks like his trip because he can grind it out if there's a decent pace on.

"That was a worry with only two to race against but they went a good clip and that played into his hands."

Lastly, mention must go to Scott McCullagh who rode his first winner for West Ilsley last week at Nottingham as ICONIC BELLE took the hands and heels apprentice race in fine style.

This went unreported on these pages, mainly because our intrepid reporter needed a break from Coventry and sent himself to Warsaw on an ambassadorial role to take in the delights of the Polish Derby.

The delights of the Sweet Partnership's ICONIC BELLE have only just been realised in 2018 as the daughter of Sixties Icon took until her four year old campaign to break her maiden tag but she's up and running now, that being her second win in five outings.


"Good for Scott to get off the mark for us and ICONIC BELLE is a willing partner. He's ridden winners in Ireland and is more than competent and he'll hopefully improve for a change of scenery with us.

"He didn't get it right yesterday in a similar contest at Yarmouth but ICONIC BELLE was carrying a penalty for her Nottingham win, so let's just say he's got plenty of ability but plenty to learn.

"He will though because he's got a good head on his shoulders and is willing to work hard. The rest will look after itself."

Posted By: Wilsley News

THE NIGHT PORTER - A good shift at Beverley last night


A smashing performance from the Boss's very own THE NIGHT PORTER last night saw yet another of Sixties Icon's progeny break his maiden tag by taking the Class 5 mile and a quarter maiden for three year olds and upwards convincingly under John Egan.

Unraced as a juvenile, THE NIGHT PORTER was returning to Beverley where he finished fourth over seven and a half furlongs only ten days ago and the step up in trip certainly proved to be to his liking as he stretched clear of his five opponents to record victory three lengths ahead of Le Maharajah and Roddy with the rest a long way in arrears.

This was a very satisfying performance for an individual who only made his racecourse debut at the end of May and Mick is looking forward to what's in store.

"We had to give this lad time because he was a very scopey and gangly juvenile who was all over the shop last year and, I'll be honest, I didn't know what to expect when the new year came.

"To our delight, he thrived and once we got him going in the spring you could tell that he had a bit about him and his third placed finish on debut at Brighton was very encouraging.

"He'll do well from here and he's got a lot going for him. He's another from Norman Court Stud - his dam was tough and won six for us but, interestingly, she's a half sister to Samitar, so you could say THE NIGHT PORTER has plenty going for him after a promising start to his career."

Posted By: Wilsley News

Box 41's KNOCKABOUT QUEEN and David Egan surge home last night


A pleasing win for Box 41's KNOCKABOUT QUEEN who took the juvenile six furlong seller at Windsor last night to get the syndicate off the mark for 2018, the daughter of Sixties Icon being bought in at the ensuing auction for 10,500 guineas.

This was the fourth time of asking for KNOCKABOUT QUEEN who finished down the field on debut in a very green showing before stepping up on that with a third placed effort at Brighton.

She again showed promise next up at Beverley but the Boss was keen to get her on the winning trail and she did that convincingly under David Egan last night.

She stalked the leaders before asserting pressure at halfway and emerged from the pack in the final quarter mile and ran away to win by over three lengths. Mick was delighted with that and is looking forward to more.

"She did that very nicely and having trained the mother, this is a filly who I was keen to get going because she's tailor made for racing, it's was just a matter of getting her head in front.

"The dam, Rough Courte was tough and hardy and KNOCKABOUT QUEEN is yet another to come from Norman Court Stud and although she's only won a seller, she much better than that and it'll be interesting to see how she develops with such a confidence boosting win behind her."

Posted By: Wilsley News

Chris Hirst's CERTAIN LAD (Near side) wins a thrilling duel at Haydock on Thursday


A satisfactory day for West Ilsley as Thursday afternoon saw ZAIN CITY break his maiden at Nottingham whilst CERTAIN LAD underlined his potential by maintaining is 100% record at Haydock Park.

First up it was Assad Al Banwan's ZAIN CITY as the three year old son of Lope De Vega recorded his first career victory at the fourth time of asking under Silvestre de Sousa.

It was a facile success as SDS sat motionless throughout the Class 5 extended mile maiden and the three year old obliged by routing the opposition, running out the winner by over two lengths, a success that could have been far more convincing had any questions been asked.

Mick was pleased that an improving trend has continued for a very likeable individual.

"This is a lovely type - he'd shown plenty in this three previous runs and was rightly a warm favourite and he proved he was a cut above the field on Thursday.

"He'll move into handicap company now and having only made his debut in April I expect him to keep on improving as he finds his feet because mentally he's unflappable with a great way about him."

Up the road at Haydock, Chris Hirst's CERTAIN LAD made it two wins from two and held off a hot newcomer into the bargain under Ben Curtis when taking the seven furlong Class 4 novice stakes in a thrilling contest.

After an easy win on debut at Redcar last month, the son of Clodovil coped with his three pound penalty to fend off Pablo Escobar in a driving finish to further Mick's belief that he's a juvenile with a bright future.

"He's shown us everything now - not only that he's talented but also that he can fight it out and he's obviously accounted for a colt that Mark Johnston thinks plenty of (Pablo Escobar).

"We were considering running him at Ascot but there's little for him now because he certainly needs seven and he doesn't qualify for the Chesham.

"Therefore I'd say his longer term aims will be the Railway Stakes at the Curragh, with the Superlative at Newmarket and the Vintage at Goodwood also on the radar. There may be a Listed contest in the mix as well because he needs to step up in class now.

"Wherever we end up going he'll give Chris and his team plenty of sport this year because he's got bags of talent and is the type to fulfil his potential, whatever that is."

Posted By: Wilsley News

Peter Taplin's FITZWILLY - A convincing winner at Lingfield last night


It's always great to see a horse come back again and again to the track, always try his best and enjoy success through sheer willingness. In the closer at Lingfield last night, Peter Taplin's FITZWILLY recorded his seventh win as the eight year old son of Sixties Icon took the Class 5 extended two mile handicap under David Egan in convincing fashion.

FITZWILLY is a lovable, consistent type who usually comes good once the handicapper relents and last night he was prominent throughout and positively romped home by five clear lengths ahead of Galileo's Spear to leave Mick delighted but slightly fearful of the consequences.

"Chuffed for the horse and chuffed for Peter who gets a lot out of enjoyment out of the old boy. He's won off 62 there which is four pounds less than his last win in August but he never seems to give up this lad.

"He's been placed seven times in fourteen runs since winning and he only had mini breaks in November and April because he's a racehorse. He's tough, competitive, sound and enthusiastic. That's a great set of attributes but after winning like he did he may need all of them once the handicapper reassesses him."

Posted By: Wilsley News

Mick's homebred SOLESMES (Yellow) crosses the line on Sunday afternoon


A third winner in three years in Goodwood's vuluable juvenile seller after Billy's Boots (2016) and Milton Road (2017) saw Mick's homebred filly SOLESMES take the £10k prize under David Egan on Sunday afternoon.

After decent efforts in maiden company at both Windsor and Beverley, SOLESMES became first season sire Gregorian's fourth individual winner of 2018 in fine style, benefitting from the strong pace on the stands rail to assert in the closing stages and run out a length and three quarters winner for a delighted Boss.

"That was a convincing performance and she's another first foal winner from Norman Court Stud who has now got her dam Bridie Ffrench on a roll. She was a decent filly in her own right and won a couple for us and she's a half sister to a Listed winner Cruck Realta.

"David is riding very well at the moment and got the job done with little fuss and SOLESMES will go on from that. She came back to us as well and that's great because she's capable of going on again in nursery company and has plenty of scope to improve from here on in."

Posted By: Wilsley News