Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT - A winner at Chelmsford yesterday afternoon
"Still improving, still in form, we're heading to Lingfield."
Then Mick marched out of the office to drive to Norman Court Stud's open day this morning, leaving me sat here to tell you what happened.
Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT took the fillies' conditions stakes over seven furlongs at Chelmsford yesterday afternoon under Graham Gibbons to scoop not only the eighteen grand prize money but also booked her place in the Lingfield all weather championship on Good Friday.
It was a classic showing from the daughter of Footstepsinthesand who has done nothing but thrive for her racing and yesterday represented another step up the ladder. In beating a class act in Lamar and an emerging force in My Call that cannot be doubted and to do it in track record time furthers the case.
Black type is all that's missing for a filly who is very versatile in terms of trip, goes on any ground and has taken particularly well to the all weather. She's making in to an all round star for her syndicate.
At this stage, i'd bang in a couple of Mick's quotes but, all that's left for me to say is well done to Box 41 and to Graham Gibbons who is now two from two on the filly and we'll look forward to Easter and the £150,000 race at Lingfield.
THE BLUE BOMBER (Yellow Cap) - A winner on debut at Lingfield yesterday afternoon
A productive Saturday saw THE BLUE BOMBER win on debut at Lingfield and EXENTRICITY put a disappointing previous performance behind her to win impressively at Wolverhampton.
First up was THE BLUE BOMBER, a smashing prospect who found the perfect opportunity in the two mile, three year old bumper on the all weather. Ridden by Gavin Sheehan, the Stimulation gelding was green beyond belief as he made all in quite a unique fashion.
He seemed to have a lovely time looking at everything bar what was in front of him until the pace began to quicken half a mile from home. It was then that he really began to stretch his opponents and it was only Quarega, who had the benefit of a previous run, who could respond.
And respond he did as he rattled home in the final strides in a desperate finish with both protagonists all out. It looked to all as though THE BLUE BOMBER had been nailed on the line but the judge decided in West Ilsley's favour, with stride patterns all important on the nod.
It was a very good performance when judged against his greenness throughout the contest and Mick was delighted.
"We've always thought a lot of THE BLUE BOMBER. We've got his half brother Mr Kite as well and they both have plenty of size and scope but remain far from the finished articles.
"They're both slow burners both physically and mentally and I was going to wait with the Bomber until the spring but when this opportunity arrived on the all weather it fell perfect for us.
"He'll be twice the horse next time because throughout the first mile and a half I was cringeing. You'd have thought he'd never gone forward in his life. Gavin said he didn't want to make it and ended up there because a lack of pace, but that's OK - he'll come on an absolute ton. He's exciting."
At Wolverhampton it was George Baker's task to complete the second leg of the double on EXENTRICITY. The daughter of Paco Boy looked to have turned the corner after a disappointing series of defeats before breaking her maiden tag at the fourteenth attempt back in November, but she then followed up with a no show next time at Lingfield.
Last night though she always seemed to be in control and took division two of the Class 6, six furlong handicap in fine style, coming right round the field to run on and score by almost three lengths.
It was a thouroughly dominant display and one that made up for a disappointing show last time out as Mick explains.
"That was a great run and I'm still at a loss to explain Lingfield. George said he wanted to keep her out of the way because she did get squeezed last time and that might have played its part, but she didn't half win well.
"She'll obviously go up for this but she's been in great form for some time now and when things go her way she's got bags of ability. If we can add that little bit of consistency now, we'll be in business because she's a good looking filly with plenty about her."
Box 41's VOLUNTEER POINT - A winner at Chelmsford yesterday afternoon
A super performance from Box 41's ever game VOLUNTEER POINT at Chelmsford yesterday saw the three year olf daughter of Footstepsinthesand take the Class 3 Totepool Betting On All UK Racing Handicap over a mile under Graham Gibbons.
Whilst the all weather can sometimes offer up some very moderate levels of prize money, on the back of Arnold Lane and now VOLUNTEER POINT'S successes, that can't be said for the Essex track. Yesterday's event was worth over sixteen grand to the winner and was just reward for a filly who was appearing for the sixteenth time in 2015.
She's tough and talented with Mick certain that there is plenty more to come next year.
"That was great to see and she's becoming a filly who you can trust to always do her best. She only made her debut in December last year so she's been very busy but shows no signs of having had enough. She's stil very well in her coat, I've never known a filly stay so well in her skin and she's only going to get better.
"We had a Box 41 meeting in October and we were all unanimous in our agreement to keep her on in 2016 because she's a black type performer in all but name. I'm sure that will come and I'm hopeful that she'll get a mile and a quarter at four.
"That said, there's another valuable race on Thursday and I won't rule that out. She's come out of yesterday well but we'll wait and see how she canters tomorrow with a view to making a final decision. It's all about how she is at the end of the day."
Jon Mitchell's ARNOLD LANE - A winner under Tom Eaves yesterday
A game performance from Jon Mitchell's ARNOLD LANE saw his revival continue yesterday afternoon.
In winning yesterday's Class 2 seven furlong handicap at Chelmsford, he yet again proved that his Group winning form of yesteryear is not a fluke. He remains a serious competitor who, if you knew him at home, should never be written off. It's consistency that is sadly lacking.
He's had his problems, but ARNOLD LANE keeps coming back and he's a huge character at West Ilsley.
Mick was delighted with a performance that saw him hold off Georgian Bay, Steal The Scene, Cordite and Baddilini in a blanket finish.
"That was great. He's off a very workable mark and, on a going day, you can't deny his ability. It's just knowing when he'll show it that does my head in.
"He's picked up fifteen grand for Jon yesterday and he's been understanding throughout.
"What happens from here on in I simply don't know. All I know is that ARNOLD LANE is a good horse on his day. Mind you, I've been telling his owner that for ages."
The Radford Family's KNOCK HOUSE is driven home by Nina Carberry yesterday afternoon
A smashing day yesterday saw the Radford family's KNOCK HOUSE take the Cheltenham Club Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase in the hands of Nina Carberry.
The extended three mile contest saw KNOCK HOUSE carrying top weight and he put on a very impressive display of jumping that put him well in contention throughout as a duel against Foxbridge developed turning for home.
At the second last KNOCK HOUSE hit the front as they forged clear of the rest and it looked as though Nina would go clear for a decisive victory in the closing stages. KNOCK HOUSE idled in front after the last though and Foxbridge gamely battled on up the run in to go down by a neck.
It was a real thrill for Mick who was delighted for Tim Radford who was hosting his first day in his new box at the recently opened Princess Royal Stand.
"That was great wasn't it? Tim was so pleased and seeing him enjoy it so much makes it all worthwhile. He had plenty of friends and colleagues with him today and to see the smiles on there faces was a great buzz.
"As for Knock House, he's got better every year. We've had him since he was a raw four year old but what a pleasure he is to deal with. He's not the biggest but his jumping is one of his best assets. Hen has schooled him brilliantly and there's plenty more to come.
"He's won off of top weight and a rating 140 so he'll step out of that company and we've got to meet each challenge head on now. Nina was very impressed and, you have to say what a great ride she gave him. As soon as we targeted the race Hen said, "Get the best there is!" and that's what we did. She's was superb.
"He's very willing and very economical in his races and he'll give us plenty of fun this year. Somersby runs at Cheltenham on Sunday so we'll all reconvene in Tim's box for a board meeting where we'll map our possible targets then.
"Mind you, if Somersby wins, sensible conversation might be put on hold if the fun we had yesterday is anything to go by!"
Sad news yesterday regarding the death of the eleven time champion jockey Pat Eddery at the age of 63. Mick would like to share a few memories of Pat:
"When I heard the news, the first thing that flashed through my mind was a filly we had called YOU KNOW THE RULES. Pat was by no means her regular rider, he had a few more important owners and trainers to ride for twenty five years ago! We only had fifteen horses.
"Anyway, he rode her four times, won on her three times and was third on the other occasion. The first time was in a seller at Nottingham and she progressed through the ranks with Pat only ever winning by a neck or a short head. By, he was brilliant. Truly brilliant.
"He knew what winners meant, even riding in a seller at Nottingham. This is the bloke who rode Dancing Brave in the Arc but he was fully committed to riding a little cheapie to the best of his ability for a footballer who probably wasn't going to last that long unless things went his way.
"Silly the things you remember, but Pat was very important for us at that time and I'll never forget him riding that filly. She went on to win a Listed race at the end of her career. Magic days.
"I wasn't best mates with Pat, but he was great company. For all he'd achieved he was just a normal bloke - nothing 'Big Time' about him at all. We had a right few laughs when we were in each other's company, a drink here and there and flights over to Ireland on 'Hannon Air' with me trying to avoid being fleeced at cards. He was a good player was Pat.
"I liked him immensely and admired him even more. You can get blase as time goes by but what a thrill it was, when I started out, to have Pat Eddery riding and winning on one of our horses. He was a part of the fabric of racing for so long, a part of our lives for so long.
"I saw him at Kempton a year or so ago and it was clear that he was struggling. It was terrible to see him as he was but he was ill. That's not a crime and I know that many of his friends and family did all they could.
"My thoughts are with them at this time.
"Incredibly sad, but Pat will be remembered as one of the greatest jockeys ever. Just as importantly, he was a true professional who was greatly respected and hugely popular as a human being.
"Like I say, he was one of the all time greats."
The high point of March was undoubtedly SOMERSBY's thrilling performance to finish runner up to Dodging Bullets in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham.
In the past two seasons, the Radford Family's eleven year old has finished runner up at the top level in both the Tingle Creek and now the Champion Chase. On both occasions he's gone down to rapidly improving rivals in Sire De Grugy and this year to Dodging Bullets.
He remains a very popular performer amongst jumping enthusiasts and, although yet to win at the Festival, he's lined up in the last eight years. We can only hope and perhaps dream a little that one day he'll get his day in the sun on the sport's grandest stage. Time might be against him but, as he makes his seasonal bow at the track this Sunday a repeat of past efforts could well be on the cards.
On the flat, as is the way with the season's structure, March had to give way to April for things to gather pace.
A super horse for the Guest family, BOSSY GUEST enjoyed another bumper pay day on his seasonal bow in the £100,000 Tattersalls Millions 3-Y-O Sprint at Newmarket. A hugely talented performer, he'd make giant strides in 2015 and provide fun and frustration along the way.
Jon and Julia Aisbitt's PALERMA scored at Bath on her return to the track whilst two even more progressive fillies also made their mark.
Mohammed Al-Qatami & Khalid Al-Mudhaf's DIVINE emerge as a filly with a bright future when she romped home at Windsor before going on to achieve black type in the summer, whilst VOLUNTEER POINT's handicap victory at Haydock was a starting point for another filly who would improve all season for Box 41.
May truly represents the start of the flat season proper and Guineas weekend at HQ saw two West Ilsley horses fill fourth place in both the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas.
BOSSY GUEST posted a career best under Charlie Bishop to finish in eyecatching fashion in the colts' event behind Gleneargles, Territories and Ivawood whilst the Aisbitt's MALABAR found only Legatissimo, Lucida and Tiggy Wiggy too strong the following day.
Obviously, it's about winning but they were two smart efforts with the promise that there was plenty more to come.
As ever, with the Guineas out of the way, plenty of attention was turned to our juveniles with Royal Ascot beginning to appear on the horizon.
The Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA was our first two year old winner of 2015 as she sauntered home in convincing style at Wolverhampton, whilst JERSEY BREEZE also won in fine style at Leicester for Sue Bunney.
At the other end of the spectrum, FITZWILLY recorded a thrilling Goodwood win for his owner breeder Peter Taplin at his local track and ELIDOR showed that he remains a gritty competitor with Class 2 success at Newmarket for the Aisbitts under William Buick.
If truth be known though, the season was yet to ignite. It is hard to say that the horses weren't running well, plenty were running into the minor placings but we were just waiting for them to fire.
When times seem hard though, there's always HIGHLIFE DANCER to rely on and the grand old stager would use 2015 to record his fourteenth and fifteenth career victories. That said, although he may seem like an old stager, he's actually only seven years of age. He started June with success at Brighton under Paddy Pilley to the delight of his ever loyal syndicate.
Whilst HIGHLIFE DANCER can be rightly described as sound, willing and dependable, a two year old emerged with her first career win at Lingfield in June. Her name is SIXTIES SUE and a tougher, more combative ally you will be unlikely to ever encounter. Quite simply, her constitution is incredible. Time and again we tried to give her time off and, time and again she became more of a liability - she didn't want time off, all she really wants is to ne a racehorse. She never seemed to be over the top, showed no signs of fatique and came back fresh and raring to go twenty four hours after every run. Remarkable.
SIXTIES SUE ran eighteen times in 2015, winning twice and earning over thirty grand in prize money. Painfully she was always fourth in key pattern races which denied her of black type. She'll be back next year and it will be interesting to see.
Not that Insignia Racing's UNILIT was a shrinking violet when it came to a racing attitude and consistency. She too won her maiden in June under Paul Hanagan at Pontefract en route to black type at Salisbury in August. A joy to deal with and sound as a pound, UNILIT went on to win twice and be placed seven times in fifteen starts for her syndicate, winning over thirty thousand in prize money and fetching over seventy grand through the sales ring. A filly to truly admire.
It was Catherine Corbett, David Hudd and Chris Wright's GRATZIE who supplied probably the high point in June with victory on Oaks day at Epsom under Silvestre De Sousa in the Investec Mile Handicap.
Firm ground and a fast pace is exactly what she needs and although it wasn't always plain sailing for her in 2015, she will stay in training next season at West Ilsley with far much more hoped for from a talented filly.
Still though, we were waiting to really hit top form. Royal Ascot, although far from disastrous in terms of performances didn't bring the winner that everyone judges you by and although there was doom and gloom at the end of June, far better things were around the corner as things finally began to go our way and a little Brazillian man came to the fore.
It's taken some time but Billy Parish's EXENTRICITY lost her maiden tag at the fourteenth time of asking under Charlie Bishop at Chelmsford last night.
The Class 5 maiden over six furlongs saw her run out a convincing winner over Dutch Golden Age by two and a quarter lengths leaving Mick more than a little relieved that a filly with no little talent has finally proved a point.
"I know her profile doesn't inspire much confidence but there's no way that this filly should have taken so long to finally win. She was a very talented two year old but she got badly jarred up when she ran at Bath halfway through last season and I think that knocked her confidence when we finally got her back in the New Year.
"Since then she's been very consistent but probably lost the edge that she previously had. That's at an end now though. I'm sure of that because she's become a different proposition in the last couple of months and, although the market leaders were well fancied last night, they'd had plenty of time off themselves.
"I thought it was worth a go and so it proved."
Nick & Liz Hitchins' POPESWOOD - A winner at Newmarket on Saturday afternoon
Newmarket's final race of the 2016 season saw Nick and Liz Hitchin's POPESWOOD return to winning ways in thrilling fashion in the hands of the in-form Andrea Atzeni.
The Class 4 TurfTV Handicap over seven furlongs on rain softened ground was set up perfectly for the three year old son of Haatef who was held up throughout the first half of the race before Andrea made his move going into the dip.
It all panned out perfectly and the matter was never in doubt as they approached the furlong pole and POPESWOOD went on to record a very cosy half length success and gave Atzeni a four timer on the day into the bargain.
Mick was delighted.
"A super ride for super owners who have had a lot of fun out of POPESWOOD. He struggled at the start of the year after an impressive two year old season but he's really come back strongly at the back end. He was very unlucky at Goodwood after a mid season break and has done little wrong leading up to Saturday.
"He thrives in soft ground conditions and has a great constitution. He's an absolute smasher who is a pleasure to deal with. He gives you everything both at home and on the track.
"He heads to the sales now because Nick and Liz have more homebreds coming along. That makes perfect sense, but I'd be willing to train him next year - he's a trainer's dream!"
Popeswood gave us some positives to take from a frustrating weekend as both SGT Reckless and Scrutineer met with disappointment and frustration.
SGT Reckless put in a very patchy display of jumping at Ascot on Saturday and Mick is well aware that the big horse is going to have to step up markedly if he's to make an impact chasing.
"Until this lad bucks his ideas up and starts respecting fences, he'll not win anything. He's smashed into both open ditches and until he cops on, he'll struggle.
"Hen's done plenty with him and there's no better practitioner in terms of schooling horses, but I'll admit that he's frustrating because he's done himself no favours.
"As for Scrutineer, yesterday's Group 1 at Saint Cloud was bitterly disappointing. He got no cover and stayed wide throughout before going even wider.
"He was beaten less than five lengths having covered almost a mile in a seven furlong race. I'm not saying he'd have won but we've learnt very little. I'll say no more."
Billy Parish's MOBSTA (Left) winning yesterday's conditions race at Newmarket under Charlie Bishop
A pleasing succes for Billy Parish's MOBSTA who took the Class 3 Newmarketracecourses.co.uk Conditions Stakes in the hands of Charlie Bishop at Newmarket yesterday afternoon.
The three year old son of Bushranger has been in good form of late in similar events but it was the drop back to six furlongs which did the trick yesterday as he battled through the very testing conditions to prevail over Apache Storm by a neck.
Yesterday was MOBSTA's fourth run since the end of September in a season that, as with his two year old campaign, saw him miss the majority of the year. Having faced tricky conditions contests in such a quick fire manner, he deserves every credit for the way he stuck to his task yesterday afternoon in such heavy ground.
Mick was keen to heap praise on a willing ally.
"He's tough and gutsy and he did that very well yesterday. He could easily have curled under because Apache Storm had nicked a couple of lengths going into the dip but Charlie got him going and he kept on finding which was admirable after running at Donny only six days ago.
"We got the trip wrong that day and he looks like a six furlong horse - in soft ground he does at least.
"We'll see where we go from here now. There's a Listed race in the calendar but I want to see how he comes out of the race before I make any plans. He will be so much better for a full, uninterrupted season next year.
"He missed most of his two and three year old seasons for a varierty of reasons but there's a proper horse there and it'll be interesting to see how good he can be next term."