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."
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."