Derek & Jean Clee's homebred filly MOTDAW - A winner at Nottingham this afternoon
"I thought she'd like the trip and the ground wouldn't be an issue but I didn't expect that - the handicapper will kill us now!" That was Mick assessment after Derek & Jean Clee's MOTDAW ran out a facile winner of the Class 5 extended mile handicap for three year olds this afternoon.
In very heavy ground, George Baker stalked the field until the three furlong marker before he produced her to dominate the race with a last to first finish that saw her win by far too many lengths than her trainer would have wished for.
"She's always been a very active and enthusiastic filly in her work at home and showed us little glimpses in her races last year to suggest she's be winning her races in time.
"She might not be the biggest but she's very tough and had plenty asked of her last season, mainly because of a promising debut at Goodwood. I just thought she'd go on from there but we possibly just asked a little too much of her at the back end."
"I certainly never saw that coming and I told George the same. I wanted her to get home in that ground today which is why George settled her in behind. I'll have to look at it again because they might have gone very hard up front which played into our hands - that said though, she's absolutely murdered them by lengths.
"I'm chuffed - horses never stop surprising you."
"I'm a bit worried about what the handicapper will make of that now if I'm honest, but equally, I'm delighted for Derek & Jean. They deserved that."
Billy Parish's MOBSTA (Yellow & Black) winning yesterday's Cammidge Trophy under Silvestre De Sousa
You can get greedy at times and although we were celebrating an across the card double courtesy of STRINGYBARK CREEK at Kempton and Listed success with MOBSTA at Doncaster, it's fair to say that an agonising defeat for VOLUNTEER POINT will linger in the mind more than anything else.
No matter though, we'll have to look forward and there seems to be a very bright future ahead for STRINGYBARK CREEK who became West Ilsley's first juvenile winner of 2016 when he took the Betfred TV British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Stakes over the minimum trip yesterday afternoon.
The son of Bushranger had finished an encouraging second on debut last weekend and with Charlie Bishop again up, STRINGYBARK CREEK showed how much he'd learnt, making all and never allowing the opposition to make a concerted challenge.
He did it very nicely and came home a length and a quarter ahead of Tomily in what was a typical early season two year old contest. With the Plus 10 bonus thrown into the pot for good measure, it was a payday that Mick was more than pleased with.
"Fourteen grand - that's not bad is it? I know he didn't cost much but the four grand we paid for STRINGYBARK CREEK in the autumn looks great value now.
"There's so much to like about this horse and by no means is he just a little two year old runner we've had to get ready early. He just wanted to get on and was a standout as the sharpest one we had.
"He's no throwaway juvenile though because he does have a lot of quality about him. He's a good looking colt with a willing attitude and we'll see how he comes out of this now. He handled the sharp turn well and has speed from the gate so I'd imagine we'd have to look at something like the Lily Agnes next."
In south Yorkshire, Mobsta returned to the scene of a luckless run last autumn to finally take Listed honours in the Betway Cammidge Trophy under Silvestre De Sousa. It was an eyecatching performance from a very talented individual who looks set for the first uninterrupted season of his career.
At both two and three MOBSTA suffered setbacks and only raced at the tail ends of the season but Mick is hopeful that those problems are now a thing of the past and he can have a free run at the son of Bushranger throughout 2016.
"He's been in great form this winter and obviously we know that he handles soft ground so the Cammidge was the obvious race to go for at this stage of the season.
"He's got so much talent and I can't wait to find out how good he can be because although he's had problems in the past, in many ways that means we are only just starting to realise his true potential. That's exciting because we all know that sprinters just get better with age.
"His profile suggests that he's a soft ground specialist but that's mainly because we've only ever had him ready when the rain has come! Hopefully we'll have him through the summer now as well so you never know what he'll be like on a faster surface.
"We'll step into group company now - The Duke of York next month will be the target."
The day was rounded off by VOLUNTEER POINTs agonising defeat in the Listed Snowdrop Fillies Stakes at Kempton. Box 41's filly looked to have the mile contest all but won a furlong from home only for Kyllachy Queen to produce a devastating last thrust inside the distance and deny VOLUNTEER POINT by a head in the last stride.
It was a cruel defeat for a filly that is Mick insists is still going from strength to strength.
"That was upsetting when you consider she looked the winner for so long but we can't do anything about it now. She's got black type and will definitely be a force to be reckoned with this summer.
"She's earnt her keep and then some with her exploits throughout the winter so we can't be too disappointed as there are a lot of good days ahead for Box 41 and VOLUNTEER POINT."
Jaber Abdulla's MUTHRAAB ALDAAR - a winner at Wolverhampton yesterday afternoon
It wasn't pretty but Jaber Abdulla's MUTHRAAB ALDAAR overcame considerable greenness to take the extended mile and a furlong maiden in the hands of Silvestre De Sousa at Wolverhampton yesterday afternoon.
Always up with the pace, very few got into a race that developed into a protracted tussle between Zio Gianni and Muthraab Aldaar a full five furlongs from home. The pair came a long way clear with plenty of bumps up the straight where MUTHRAAB ALDAAR eventually got the better of his rival to prevail by half a length.
Mick was delighted to get a win on the board with the son of Baltic King although he admits he's far from the finished article.
"He's a real character this lad because everything is a game to him at the minute. He hung throughout the race yesterday and still won and it's not often that Silvestre says one gives him a hard time of things!
"He needed every yard of that yesterday and we'll step him up in trip now. He's not unlike October Storm because he'll get plenty further and should handle ease in the ground whilst mentally he's a million miles away from being the finished article.
"He's just a big daft baby at the present time but I do like him. He's a real enthusiast and life's a game to him - as soon as he becomes a bit more professional we'll find out how good he is."
Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT streaks clear of her rivals under Graham Gibbons yesterday afternoon
A great day at Lingfield yesterday as Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT continued her rapid improvement by taking the 32Red All Weather Fillies' & Mares' Championship Conditions Stakes under Graham Gibbons.
In taking the £93,000 first prize, the daughter of Footstepsinthesand underlined what a force she's become in the last six months, emerging as a filly with a real appetite for competition and a future laced with potential and excitement for her enthusiastic band of owners.
On ratings, this affair looked like a duel between VOLUNTEER POINT and Cold As Ice with the South African mare installed as the 4/6 favourite.
Indeed, with Primrose Valley setting the pace, it looked like a straight contest between VOLUNTEER POINT and Cold As Ice as they straightened for home and the long time leader began to weaken. Luckily Graham Gibbons charted a path up the rail and managed to squeeze past Primrose Valley and the race looked on.
As things transpired, Box 41's filly took control inside the final furlong to prevail by two and a quarter lengths ahead of Bint Dandy, Alfajer, Saucy Minx and the clearly out of sorts Cold As Ice who weakened into fifth.
A perfect performance and a super day for VOLUNTEER POINT's owners which includes among them a certain M.R Channon.
"Brilliant stuff! She's an absolute star from a trainer's perspective and a money spinner from an owner's point of view as well.
"She's just so natural, so tough and so sound in every single way. I can't tell you how satisfying the job can be when you have a horse like her to handle.
"I thought Graham gave her a great ride - he's four from four on her and had so much confidence going into the race that I just told him to get on with it. I was a bit worried when he took the brave man's route up the rail because it did look a little bit tight but, as he said, he didn't want to take a pull and go around Primrose Valley because he'd have lost momentum and handed the advantage to Cold As Ice.
"That's typical of VOLUNTEER POINT though - she'd run through a brick wall for you and nothing fazes her in any way.
"We've had something of a lean time with Box 41's horses in recent times and I'm chuffed that they had such a good day out. The days of Halicarnassus seem like a long time ago now and it's about time we had another flagship runner.
"Onwards and upwards now though and we might return to Lingfield for some black type in something like the Chartwell Fillies' Stakes on trials day."
Elsewhere yesterday our first two year old runner of the season STRINGYBARK CREEK finished a distant but very encouraging second to Sutter County in the conditions stakes at Wolverhampton whilst KING CRIMSON went one better.
With Charlie Bishop riding, KING CRIMSON did what he does best by jumping out and setting a strong gallop in the Class 4 five furlong handicap and reversing the form of his narrow defeat last time out at Cheltenham by defeating Secret Asset by half a length.
KING CRIMSON has started 2016 with a real spring in his step and Mick was delighted that his attitude and consistency has reaped rewards.
"He went up for getting beaten last time and I was worried that his consistency would put him out of contention with the handicapper. That said, he's improved again since his second outing of the season and Charlie gets on very well with him.
"He'd be the fastest horse on the place and he just wants to get on with things. We spent a long, long time trying to organise him but he's got so much natural speed we've just let him get on with it these days and as long as the fractions are right he'll keep any sprinter honest. He'll go up again now and we'll just have to see how things pan out."
Jon & Julia Aisbitt's OCTOBER STORM and Silvestre De Sousa return to the winners enclosure last night
A pleasing return to action for Jon & Julia Aisbitt's OCTOBER STORM saw the son of Shirocco record his first career victory on only his second racecourse appearance under Silvestre De Sousa at Kempton Park last night.
OCTOBER STORM's previous outing came at Newmarket in October where, having dwelt in the stalls, he was never in contention but came home in pleasing style to finish sixth of twelve having been last throughout.
He was still a little green at times in last night's Class 6 mile and a half median auction maiden but it was only a five runner contest and Silvestre coaxed him along throughout to ask him for an effort as they straightened for home. The penny gradually dropped throughout the run in where he prevailed over the favourite Havisham by a cosy two and a half lengths.
Mick was pleased that OCTOBER STORM saw it through in spite of his obvious inexperience.
"That was a perfect start to his year because he'd been quite slow to show us anything as you'd expect with his pedigree. He'll get further in time and looks like a real topper. He doesn't dazzle us at home but he just gets on with the job. He's no bother to train, he eats and he's sound. Mentally he's still a big baby but that all bodes well for the future.
"As a three year old in an auction race he was getting plenty of weight off of the older horses last night so we won't get too carried away, but as an introduction to the calendar year for him that was perfect.
"He'll come on a ton for this and we can plan ahead now without any pressure because he's got plenty of time on his side."
FROM L-R: Newcomers Elspeth & Jenni with Ronnie & MRC at this week's 'Five to Follow' event
A hectic evening in The Harrow on Tuesday night saw the annual launch of the staff's 'Five To Follow' competition as well as the chance to say a fond farewell to Ross Potter who is leaving us to travel the world - beginning with Australia next month.
Ross has been a valuable member of the team since joining us in December 2014. He's been very popular with all of our owners and staff alike and made great strides in his role as Racing Secretary, most notably in the placing of Volunteer Point and Arnold Lane this winter as the pair picked up some valuable prize money on the all weather.
He's enviously young however and the lure of a jaunt out to Australia proved too much and he's a grand lad who will not only be missed by many but also resented thoroughly as he samples the delights of Down Under.
In his place comes Jenni Tait who has worked for the great and good throughout her time in racing. A secretary to Jenny Pitman during the Royal Athlete era and a stalwart at Littleton Stud during the heydays of Persian Punch and Norse Dancer, she also has a period working at Juddmonte Farms on her cv.
Heady days then, with the formidable challenge of organising MRC's racing entries now on the agenda.
Not only do we welcome Jenni to the team but also Elspeth Cousins, who has joined Gill 'The Till's' backroom team to help with more or else everything behind the scenes!
On the equine side of matters, we have a new apprentice in the form of Killian Hennessy who, once the paperwork is all sorted, will be claiming seven for us in the 2016 season.
As for the 'Five to Follow' event, The Harrow was awash with optimism and wild predictions as to which horses will be the headline makers and which will help the winning member of staff claim the £1,000 first prize.
As ever, the Boss, a perennial loser in the event since 1999, believes that this year will be different as we gear up for another season of the usual huge highs and unavoidable lows.
"This is my year I'm sure of it! I get a lot of stick over my FTF record but I've been very unlucky for seventeen consecutive years now.
"I'm indebted to all of the staff who have worked so hard in one of the toughest winters I can remember but they've done a great job with the conditioning of our older horses and have been as patient as ever with the juveniles. Our jumpers have run right up to their marks and Cheltenham saw some very pleasing performances from Knock House and Somersby who we're very proud to have.
"There's lots to look forward in 2016 and the staff have been fantastic.
"I'm sad to see Ross go because he's really grown into the role as Racing Secretary and is very popular with the owners. That said, he's a young lad and when he said he wanted to go out and see the world, I found that hard to argue with!
THE DEPARTING ROSS POTTER (Centre) WITH KILLIAN, PAUL, CHARLIE AND DANNY
"We all wish him well - We've bought him a ticket to walk the Sydney Harbour Bridge when he gets there, it's a feeling I suspect he's been used to at times in the office.
"Jenni is to take his place and she's got bags of experience in racing. She's even dealt with David Elsworth, so I'm sure she'll get used to me quick enough! Elspeth will help Gill no end with the figures and then we have Killian who we'll get going as soon as his licence comes through.
"He's been with us for a couple of months having ridden out in the States for a year and prior to that he was with Jim Bolger. A similar route to Martin Harley really.
KILLIAN HENNESSY & LINCOLN
"I spoke with Mr Bolger and he gave him a glowing reference and, not surprisingly, he's a hard worker who has settled in with the rest of the team seamlessly.
"I always try to give youngsters a chance and he'll be no different.
Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT - A winner at Lingfield yesterday afternoon
It seems arrogant to describe a race worth £16,000 to the winner as a 'prep race', but that's exactly how things panned out for Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT as she took the Class 2 32Red EBF Fillies' Conditions Stakes under Graham Gibbons yesterday afternoon.
The conditions of the race saw the 102 rated daughter of Footstepsinthesand rated fourteen pounds superior on official figures with all five of yesterday's runners lining up off of level weights.
On paper it looked like an easy assignment and, although things never work out entirely to plan, VOLUNTEER POINT'S length success over the 88 rated Bint Dandy was satisfactory enough as she looks ahead to the Fillies & Mares £150,000 showdown back at Lingfield on Good Friday.
Mick was pleased enough with the showing.
"We'd have been stepping her up in her work this week anyway, when this race came to light so it wasd laid on for us really. We haven't done anything with her since her win at Chelsford back in January. She's just been ticking along nicely at home but what an opportunity yesterday was.
"She's now won fifty grand on the all-weather this winter and yesterday was perfect. I think she's better off a strong pace over seven furlongs though and that will take care of itself on Good Friday with a far bigger field. She'll need luck on the day but I'd be very hopeful of heading there with a solid chance.
"Box 41 are back up and running hopefully. We've had a lean couple of years when you compare them to the Halicarnassus days but Volunteer Point has stepped up to the plate for them. Talking of which, we'll be booking a table at Lingfield for the big day. Should be fun."
The Motley Cru Partnership's FINGAL'S CAVE - A winner at Wolverhampton yesterday afternoon
A pleasing return to winning ways for a hugely likable performer yesterday afternoon as The Motley Cru's four year old FINGAL'S CAVE took the Class 5 Laddbrokes Handicap over seven furlongs under George Baker.
FINGAL'S CAVE returned to action last month after eight months off and although he went into that reappearance a little too fresh, he kept on well enough to suggest that he retained all of his juvenile promise after a disappointing three year old campaign.
There was still an element of keenness in the early stages yesterday but having settled FINGAL'S CAVE towards the rear, George produced him off the home turn when things fell right for the pair who went on to score by almost two lengths ahead of Top Offer and Bint Arcano.
It was a pleasing performance that Mick believes will lead to plenty more in 2016.
"That was good to see because this lad has plenty of ability. Things didn't go his way last year and we never got a clear run at him. He went backwards last year and lost his confidence so we've taken our time with him. I'm pleased for his owners because they had to keep faith with him when it seemed like we were getting nowhere.
"His ability has never been in doubt and although he didn't help himself on reappearance at Chelmsford, yesterday was much better and if we can keep improving he'll relax a lot more and could give us plenty of fun when the turf season comes around."
Box 41 Racing's BLACKLISTER - A winner at Lingfield yesterday afternoon
The relief for everyone was obvious yesterday as Box 41 Racing's BLACKLISTER finally broke his maiden tag at the fourteenth time of asking after a string of near misses in both maiden and handicap company.
Indeed, the gelded son of Lawman had been second on no fewer than five occasions prior to yesterday's success in the Class 5 32Red Maiden Stakes over a mile under George Baker.
The list of frustrating runner up berths stretches as far back as his debut at Leicester in June when he had the race won only to spook at the cut strip of turf marking out the winning line. His loss of momentum also lost him the race on that occasion and it's been tough to see an ever willing individual consistently missing out on a deserved win ever since.
That's no reflection on BLACKLISTER's attitude though. He's been sound, consistent and genuine, but caught between a rock and a hard place in handicaps as a result, whilst he always seemed to find a smart sort to beat him in maidens.
Not any more though as George was positive from the gate before slotting him in behind Milrow and Ilzam throughout and then asking BLACKLISTER for an effort as they straightened for home. He did it very nicely with Mick relieved that he's got what he deserved.
"Thank **** for that! It's been a long old road to get there and it does make you wonder how different things would have been had he finished the job first time up at Leicester.
"As things have panned out, his career has followed a different path. He's rated 75, so he's no mug but had he won first time up, we wouldn't have had to press on as much as we did with him. That's with the benefit of hindsight though I suppose.
"All I would say is that he's certainly not to be judged on the number of twos next to his name. There is absoluty zero question over his attitude. He's tried from day one and is completely genuine.
"Well done to Box 41 Racing is all I can add to that. They've had a frustrating time in waiting for BLACKISTER to get his head in front and we've a few more newcomers to look forward to in 2016."
The Bastion Family's WILLSY (Right) - A game winner at Kempton last night
An impressive return to action after a hundred and thirteen days away from the track saw the Bastian family's WILLSY prevail under John Egan in the Class five 32Red Casino Handicap over seven furlongs last night.
The three year old son of Sakhee's Secret saw plenty of the racecourse in his juvenile year with mixed results but his victory by a head in a thrilling finish with Santiburi Spring was the essense of determination and effort, something that might have been doubted at times last year.
It was a super performance that belied his odds of 33/1 and one that Mick was delighted with.
"A great showing that and I'm delighted for the Bastians. They've stuck with this lad from last year because we were all of the opinion that he'd benefit greatly for gelding. He was a bit of a scratchy mover at times last year and to be honest, you didn't really know what to expect from one race to another.
"I put that down to mental immaturity for a while but the more we went on the more I got the impression he was in some physical discomfort. I'm not saying that we've got it sussed but the gelding operation has certainly freed him up and I'm looking forward to a bit of consistency this term."