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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."

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Theresa Burn's JUNGLE INTHEBUNGLE (Blue Cap) takes the Brian Yeardley Two Year Old Trophy Conditions Stakes yesterday afternoon


Three winners and a real sense that there is plenty more to come from this trio as MAKSAB, JUNGLE INTHEBUNGLE and HATS OFF TO LARRY recorded an across the card treble at Beverley and Newmarket yesterday afternoon.

Hot on the heels of ADORABLE's Listed race success last week, Mohammed Al-Qatami & Khalid Al-Mudhaf's MAKSAB took a typically strong renewal of the Class 2 seven furlong handicap for three year olds at Newmarket under a forceful and well delivered ride from David Egan.

Although this was only MAKSAB's third career victory, he's always been a solid competitor but having always had a rating in the mid 80's since his juvenile maiden victory in 2017, he's clearly always been on the red line in terms of handicap company. 

Indeed, his second career success came on his handicap debut on his fifth career start and taking in to account that yesterday was his eleventh run, it's clear that he's had to work his way back to winning ways and with Egan's 3lb claim on his side yesterday he defeated a field of high quality in fine style on the July Course.

He prevailed by a head to get the better of Yafta (100), the pair of them pulling clear of the rest in a protracted battle as they came up the hill and although there was an enquiry as the son of Makfi edged right in the closing stages, there was always a suspicion that MAKSAB held sway throughout and he was confirmed the winner to the delight of the Boss.

"That was a great ride and I'm delighted for the horse who kept finding and he deserved it. It was a valuable prize and he's a colt who was always threatening to do something like that. He's not had much go his way in terms of his rating but he's never shirked the challenges he's faced and will continue to pay his way."

Our double at Beverley yesterday began with JUNGLE INTHE BUNGLE's victory under Charlie Bishop in the Brian Yeardley Two Year Old Trophy Conditions Stakes as the son of Bungle Inthejungle repeated the trick of his father who took this race for West Ilsley back in 2012.

This was JUNGLE INTHEBUNGLE's turf debut, having won on his racecourse bow on Lingfield's all-weather at the start of April before finishing runner up under a penalty a fortnight later at Kempton.

He was given time to get over those early exertions and Mick always had this race in mind, with all things going our way once he was drawn in the all important Stall 1. From there, everything went to plan as he travelled well throughout behind a furious pace set by Victory Command amongst others.

The race began to develop from halfway and JUNGLE INTHEBUNGLE cruised into contention two furlongs from home to hold off Tin Hat in the closing stages and win by half a length. This is traditionally always a strong juvenile sprint and with Theresa Burns's homebred clearly on the up, Mick sees no reason why Royal Ascot shouldn't be on the agenda.

"JUNGLE INTHEBUNGLE is all speed and we'll have to look at either the Windsor Castle or the Norfolk now, probably the Windsor Castle as, being on the Saturday, he'll have a little more of a break.

"He's got all the hallmarks of his dad and indeed it seems plenty of Bungle's other progeny do too as he had another two more winners yesterday, one of them gaining black type so he's clearly the standout freshman sire of 2018."

Speaking of sires, our obligatory Sixties Icon winner came in the form of HATS OFF TO LARRY who carried William Harrison-Allan's colours to victory in the Class 5 extended mile contest with Charlie Bishop up yet again.

The path to the winner's enclose has been a long one for HATS OFF TO LARRY who whilst not short of ability, has been slow to grow between his ears, but the penny has certainly dropped and there was no messing about yesterday.

Charlie had him prominent throughout and as they straightened up for home he stormed up the hill under top weight to beat a well strung out field in convincing fashion.

HATS OFF TO LARRY was placed on four occasions in his eight previous starts and having eased in the weights (now down to 70 from a high of 76 at the start of the year) he grabbed his chance yesterday to the delight of the Boss.

"He always showed ability and wasn't out of the top four in his first season at the track as a three year old. We had him gelded over the winter and although he is out of a Norse Dancer mare with plenty of stamina on paper, he's not short of speed which is why we've dropped him back in trip.

"He did that very nicely and we'll have a look at an entry he has at Thirsk on Tuesday now."

Posted By: Wilsley News

Mohammed Al-Qatami & Khalid Al-Mudhaf's ADORABLE (Far Side) takes the Prix Volterra yesterday afternoon


A very pleasing week with four winners in the form of juveniles GOSPEL and PACHLOULI whilst among the three year olds, CHARMING GUEST continues to make up for lost time and ADORABLE stepped into Listed company to underline her credentials as a developing filly of flair and real grit in France yesterday afternoon.

We'll start with the real headline therefore as Mohammed Al-Qatami & Khalid Al-Mudhaf's ADORABLE made it two wins from three career starts under Christophe Soumillon in the one mile Prix Volterra at Longchamp.

Unraced as a two year old, ADORABLE made a winning debut at Newbury at the end of April and followed that up with a spirited third at Nottingham under a penalty three weeks later.

Yesterday she took the trip across the Channel to see if she could support Mick's long held belief that she is a filly with a bright future and the very nature of her short head victory over Style Presa made Mick a very happy man.

"Great stuff and what a thrilling finish. She won it right on the nod and showed plenty of guts as the pair of them battled it out. It could easily have gone the other way but Christophe gave her every chance despite losing his reigns in the closing stages and she's the sort of filly who I'd expect to flourish from now on.

"I'll speak to Mohammed & Khalid who deserve a lot of credit for the stock they source and campaign with us and it's great to think they have another smart type on their hands."

On Wednesday, Mrs M.V Magnier, Mrs J Magnier & Mrs P Shanahan's GOSPEL made a winning debut under Charlie Bishop on soft ground at Nottingham.

If I were a brighter individual, I'd have come up with a clever line regarding a Bishop riding GOSPEL for a one time Saint but I shan't bother and simply say that this was a very promising debut from an individual who has plenty of size and the sort of scope that should see the daughter of Holy Roman Emperor reach her promised land somewhere down the line.

A five furlong maiden in soft ground at Nottingham on a Wednesday afternoon may be a long way from heaven but this was a divine start for GOSPEL, an individual that will certainly get further in time and although she only came into contention late on after struggling in the early stages, she asserted well as the seas parted close home to win by a neck and leave Mick with something to ponder going forward.

"This is a smashing filly who is by no means a five furlong horse. She came to us from the breeze ups so she was clearly well prepared and Monday was a case of getting her going to see where we were with her.

"She's done plenty to prove she has a bright future at home and settled in very well so it made sense to send her to the races and Charlie gave her a patient ride and just coaxed her into contention as those in front tired in the closing stages.

"She has plenty of stamina in her pedigree so to have done that on debut over five was very pleasing and we'll have a chat with her owners to see how ambitious we want to be in the coming weeks.

A week without a Sixties Icon winner wouldn't seem right and on Thursday, the Boss's homebred filly PACHLOULI put an educational but forgetful Goodwood debut behind her with a convincing performance at Lingfield under George Downing in the six furlong median auction stakes.

At Goodwood, PACHLOULI fell out of the stalls and raced in isolation throughout in rear and despite finishing strongly it was merely a matter of writing it off and looking forward. Mick was far from disappointed that day and was keen to give her another spin only five days later.

"These things can happen to two year olds and there was no harm done at Goodwood, you just knew she'd be far more switched on for the experience.

"She popped out smartly on Thursday, George tracked the leaders and went after her from halfway. She probably got there a little too soon because PACHLOULI is a real enthusiast for the job which we've seen at home and although she had a little bit of a wander about when she hit the front she ran out a cosy winner.

"These homebreds are giving all of us a lot of fun and I expect her to go on from here. I'm not sure how good she can be - her mother won on the all-weather over the extended mile but Sixties has done his usual job and we have a fun filly on our hands.

"The mare Inffiraaj has a Bungle Inthejungle colt at Norman Court (Above) so everything is positive."

Finally, on Friday evening our love affair with Bath continued as the Guest Family's CHARMING GUEST continued her rise  through the ranks by taking the Class 5 fillies' novice stakes over the extended five furlongs under Charlie Bishop.

As we've said before, CHARMING GUEST's two year old campaign was a write off through injury so she feels very much like a new horse, with the start of her three year old campaign beginning back in April. 

Her win that day showed that she retained all of the ability that she'd shown in her juvenile season and she put in a solid showing to finish third under a penalty at Doncaster next time up.

She simply never got into affairs in Class 3 company at York on her third start of the year but put that to bed on Friday as Charlie had her well placed throughout. She picked the leaders up convincingly inside the distance to record victory by an extending two and a quarter lengths. There's still plenty more to come as the Boss explains.

"We'll see where we go from here. She never got into matters at York but she'll have to step back into handicap company now. She's probably going to be better than her current mark of 75 for that so there will be no hiding places once the handicapper intervenes but I'm not too bothered because she has a great attitude and that will do her confidence the world of good." 

Posted By: Wilsley News

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."

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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." 

Posted By: Wilsley News

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?"

Posted By: Wilsley News

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." 

Posted By: Wilsley News