Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cheltenham Festival Memories – Barizan

It’s two weeks to the day until the 2014 Cheltenham Festival and upon that I thought id provide towards the excitement by sharing some personal favourite memories.

The Triumph Hurdle of 2010 may not go down as a vintage race on the quality side of things, but as terms of viewing you wont find a better race. Carlito Brigante was sent off the 7/2 favourite with Alaivan and Soldatino in behind him in the market, but it was Barizan who wont the hearts of the Cheltenham crowd.

Off the back of a 125 day absence and from a yard not overly associated with top class 4 year olds, Barizan was sent off a 14/1 chance. Not many people could fathom what was going to happen next as Barizan and Tom O’Brien jumped off into a 2 length advantage at the drop of the flag. Turning back towards the stands at the top of the hill the duo were 15 lengths clear with everything else off the bridle, make that 25 lengths clear at two from home. What happened next? Watch and find out…

As you can see little Barizan had his heart broken by Barry Geraghty and Soldatino in the dying strides up the Cheltenham hill.

He may not have been overly fancied that day but at three hurdles out he had almost everyone in the stands on his side and willing him home. Tiredness eventually caught him up after untidy jumps at the final two flights of hurdles and only one of the 16 rivals could get anywhere near him.

He may not have won that day but he remains one of the few horses at Cheltenham to get a louder reception in the winners enclosure than the actual winner himself. For that, Barizan will always be remembered in my Cheltenham history and many others as well.

After Cheltenham, Barizan took to Aintree partnered by AP McCoy when he again found one too good in the shape of Orsippus. Many trainers would call it a day on their horse’s season and most animals would have cried enough by now, but Barizan bravely marched on to Punchestown.

In Ireland he finally got his day in the sun when making all once again and reversing form with Orsippus who could do no better than fourth. To this day that victory is the only Grade 1 victory to the name of Barizan but last season he was seen fending off Mr Mole in the Swinton Hurdle.


Barizan as he got caught up the hill

Martin Smith’s Weekly Blog

We had a long drive to Chepstow on Saturday but we were delighted with the way Ossie’s Dancer ran once again. In his 3 runs over hurdles so far he hasn’t run a bad race and now he will be given (hopefully a fair!) handicap mark, we can look for an ideal race for him. Ossie’s Dancer was bred by his owners Steve and Verity Garner and I know nothing would make them more proud than seeing their boy come home in front!

This week we have Millie’s Quest entered at Kempton, she ran well last time but didn’t quite get home having been off the track for a few months. She’s also dropping back to 6f which her owner Michael Whatley has always insisted would be her trip so I hope he is right!

Next month we hope to see Amberjam back in action, he was due to run a couple of weeks ago but got an infected foot just days before the race. He has made a full recovery now and is going well at home, he has also been schooling over the hurdles with Ossie’s Dancer so we might be seeing him appear over jumps before the end of the National Hunt season.

Just before Christmas I was asked to collect Douglas Pahsa from a “Racehorse retirement” home where he suffered from appalling neglect and had all but lost the will to live. I’m delighted to say that 2 months later he is doing better than anyone could have hoped for!

After a month of building him up with some good quality hard feed and some much needed TLC, he started being ridden out to lead the 2 year olds and show them the ropes. He is doing so well now that his exercise has been stepped up to taking the youngsters up Warren Hill and he is absolutely full of himself! He loves his new babysitting role and is starting to look like a race horse once again so who knows….

We might just see him back in action one day!

Does The Wall Really Fall?

I have been known to go the warpath when it comes to racing’s future and the work of racing’s establishment in ensuring the industry is sustained not just for their lifetime, but my own. So when problems or situations arise I swoop in like a vulture to watch proceedings.

This happened last week with Sam Twiston-Davies tweet:

First of all, I don’t disagree at all with what Sam’s saying, and don’t wish to degrade the purpose of his tweet at all. He is my favourite jockey and I completely agree, the barriers brought down by Twitter allows proper flibbertigibbets access to people they couldn’t even share a room with in real life.

Nevertheless, is it really accurate to suggest jockeys do a serious job in promoting racing or sharing opinions on social media?

If we consider the first point – that they promote racing – what evidence says they actually touch the wider, non-enthusiast community? I can’t deny many jockeys have large amounts of followers and the younger generation that Sam is part of really are fantastic, especially with the media. However, as for promoting racing outside of those already suckered into the sport on twitter, I think their impact is limited.

Secondly, that they ‘share opinions’. I have to admit this does rile me a little. One of the only tweets that I remember telling twitter his horse would win was Alan McCabe sometime last summer (unfortunately I can’t find the tweet). As an industry, the amount of ‘inside knowledge’ is ridiculous, and if those in the know are claiming to broadcast those opinions, they need to actually do so, explicitly. I don’t mean to the extent the Toronado team did last year however… that was just blind faith, rather than reasoned explanation. From where I sit, with my fingertips tickling the surface of the industry, punters are considered necessary evils to the sport and should only be acknowledged when using laudative language. If only tweeting your real-life friends, or only replying to tweeters with ‘thank u’ after they congratulate your success is considered interesting interaction to the non-enthusiast (or even the enthusiast), then the industry must be blooming.

This is part of a much wider point I’d like to make however, as in truth I don’t think it is jockey’s roles to create interest in horse racing nor is it twitter’s. They certainly can aid, but, as we have a BHA body designed especially for improving racing, surely they should be in charge of this operation? Unfortunately, Great British Racing seems to have as much affect on the racing industry as Eddie the Eagle did on the Olympics of 1988.

Nevertheless, it’s one thing to complain about their lack of change, it is a completely different thing to actually try and do it yourself. Despite the wish to try and further my own career in the sport, I also feel obliged to try and encourage more people into the sport myself. Because, if you put it into context, what’s the point in avoiding the contentious issues and keeping your head down when you could only be improving your position in an industry that may not be there in years to come? It may be an exaggerated point, but it is at the forefront of many young racing fans’ minds.

8pm on Tuesday 18th February OnTheOtherHoof will be discussing young people in racing live on YouTube; the future of the sport, how to encourage young race-goers and answering your questions. Look for the link on any of our twitter timelines just before 8. 

Ascot + Haydock Review (15/2/2014)

Having not done a weekend review for a while and having a free Saturday night for a change means I can post some views leading up towards the spring festivals and with testing ground the order of the day at all jumps tracks racing yesterday, you needed a horse who truly saw it out, especially at Haydock where I was in attendance with fantastic company.

The day began with the Victor Ludorum Juvenile Hurdle which went the way of Abracadabra Sivola under an inspired ride from Sam Twiston-Davies who let him stride on and made every inch of the running with the favourite Aurore D’Estruval half a length behind in second having travelled like the best horse throughout. They both pulled a long way clear of the third horse The Green Ogre. Whether the winner heads to Cheltenham remains to be seen but the second would be highly interesting if taking her chance in the Fred Winter or further down the line the conditional handicap at Aintree which her trainer took with another mare last year in Cockney Sparrow but it could be possible that she may need softer ground to be at her best being out of Nickname, a chaser who had a reputation for loving soft ground.

The Rendlesham on paper looked to be easy pickings for Celestial Halo however the testing ground plus a lack of match fitness told in the end when finishing third. He will come on plenty for that with the World Hurdle in mind. In saying that, Seeyouatmidnight was given a wonderful ride by Ryan Mania and was the second winner in a row to make every yard of the running. This was a highly deserved victory with this being the highlight in the career of his trainer Sandy Thomson. Although he went into today’s race underrated on only his third start over hurdles, he boosted his growing reputation by claiming another big name after his beating of both Regal Encore on debut at Hexham and Racing Pulse at Musselburgh. Connections didn’t give him an entry at Cheltenham but were very keen to aim him instead at Aintree with everything looking towards when he goes chasing next season.

The Grand National Trial was a real war of attrition but it was yet again another big handicap for Venetia Williams but this training performance takes some doing with Rigadin De Beauchene winning first time out with his stable-mate Emperor’s Choice making it a 1-2 for the yard. Williams said afterwards to the crowd around the paddock that this race had been the main aim for Rigadin De Beauchene this season but talk of the Scottish National was mentioned. He would need this ground which he revels in to be seen at his best. Emperor’s Choice ran another tough and honest race after his recent success in the West Wales National which was ran in similar desperate conditions and emerged from this with plenty of credit. Nuts N Bolts would be interesting for me on better ground in something like the Scottish National as he plugged on bravely to take fourth.

Of the Crabbie’s Grand National entries, Our Father ran an odd race. He needed cajoling along early doors by Conor O’Farrell before travelling quite well until he was asked for his effort where he found nothing and he remains very difficult to get right.  Hawkes Point appeared to labour on this ground with the same comment applying to Soll whilst Merry King was badly hampered before hitting his usual flat spot however he didn’t come out of it and was pulled up. Across The Bay was struggling badly when unseating five out.

On a more sour note, it was disappointing to hear that Conor Ring, the hero of Haydock’s last meeting was given a ten day ban after Peter Marsh winner Wychwoods Brook fell three out when out on his feet. Although the ground was extremely testing, it was perfectly safe to race on however watching the horse’s stride shorten to a virtual walk on the run to three out and yet his jockey felt the need to jump the ditch. The main thing about this issue was that the horse was ok afterwards however the actions of the jockey leave a bitter taste in the mouth.

Top Wood was yet another front runner to make all the running when taking the Pertemps Qualifier with this being a great training performance after being off the track over a year for David Pipe and Conor O’Farrell. He looks a nice type who could be a nice staying chaser in the future based on this. He could potentially end up running in the Final itself at the Festival however the main concern would be whether he could back this effort up after being off the track so long.

The most intriguing contest for me beforehand was the Albert Bartlett Trial. Although the winner was very impressive in Toubeera, the main market principals of Oscar Rock and Wuff both disappointed with the latter dropping away tamely. The winner was taking yet another big prize for trainer Venetia Williams who has excelled over the winter especially with deep ground. Bobcatbilly jumped well when taking the novice handicap under AP McCoy and the Walrus Hunters Chase went deservedly to another all the way winner in Ockey De Neuillac and it was heart-warming to see connections of the placed horses celebrating like they had won.

Outside of Haydock, Ascot’s card looked to hold some potential Cheltenham and Aintree clues with the meeting starting with the expensive purchase Un Temps Pour Tout hardly coming out of second gear in a very impressive performance under Tom Scudamore with both him and the Haydock juvenile winner Abracadabra Sivola paying a huge compliment to Zamdy Man who beat them last month at Haydock. The step up in trip helped him settle and the likely race to go for at Cheltenham would be the Neptune where he could be a massive threat to the big players in Faugheen and his own stable-mate Red Sherlock.

The Reynoldstown Novice Chase definitely didn’t disappoint with O’Faolain’s Boy overcoming his abysmal run at Haydock where he scoped badly afterwards to show his strong suit of stamina when beating the highly regarded Many Clouds. The race itself was a joy to watch with Many Clouds, O’Faolain’s Boy and Gevrey Chambertain all jumping like seasoned handicappers however the way the latter stopped so quickly was a major cause for concern. The winner was given a fantastic ride from Barry Geraghty as he allowed Gevrey Chambertin and Many Clouds take each other on in front on the final circuit before timing his run to perfection and with his target being confirmed as the RSA Chase, he should give a good account of himself although the record of Reynoldstown winners going onto win the RSA leaves a lot to be desired with only Alberta’s Run achieving the double. If Many Clouds lines up in the same race, he would also have a chance especially as his jumping will hold him in excellent stead.

For those who read my Grand National weights piece ( then you will know what’s coming next. The run from Teaforthree in preparation for Aintree was brilliant. He jumped fantastic especially down the back straight where Noel Fehily was getting him to make ground at every fence and battled courageously against Restless Harry who has now finally turned a corner over fences. For an Aintree trial, I couldn’t have been happier with the way he ran but the prices he is now considering we are seven weeks away are a bit pathetic, especially as the Grand National is not just about one horse. Talking of Aintree, Chance Du Roy ran a much better race than he did in the Peter Marsh and he is another who could run a big race come the day.

Just like last week at Newbury on Splash Of Ginge, Ryan Hatch used his valuable seven pound claim to take another big handicap hurdle with Kaylif Aramis who had received a breathing operation since his last start but the ride itself was superb with Hatch even taking a pull to not go the pace that Tom Scudamore was setting on Heath Hunter.

The feature event of the day the Ascot Chase couldn’t have been won any easier by Captain Chris who earned another fully deserved Grade One. Unfortunately, connections seem to think another bid at the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the right idea and yet again his tendency to jump right will be his downfall over twenty two fences. In saying that, his form this season has been superb and whilst he deserves to run in the blue riband, Punchestown is the ideal place to go for the Guinness Gold Cup. Cloudy Too ran a lovely race for a horse still on the upgrade whilst Hunt Ball showed he still retains his old ability albeit on ground he despises whilst Medermit will come on enormously for that run.

The two mile novice hurdle looked a fascinating contest on paper with Mountain King luckily maintained his unbeaten record over hurdles. He wouldn’t have if Wilde Blue Yonder hadn’t fallen at the final flight when drawing clear. He looks a very useful horse however once he stops making those silly type of mistakes then he could be potentially a serious horse. His turn of foot today was especially eye-catching on really bad ground so he will be exciting in the spring if we get better ground at the spring festivals. It is also possible that he could go for a confidence booster but he remains an exciting prospect for the future.

Finally, there were two Champion Hurdle preparations both over two miles in the Kingwell at Wincanton and the Red Mills Trial at Gowran Park. Melodic Rendezvous followed up his Haydock victory to just see off Zarkandar on ground that looked worse than what he won on at Haydock. It was a great performance considering he looked to not go entirely on possibly the worst ground he has encountered and although his trainer Jeremy Scott said after his Haydock win that he would only go to Cheltenham on soft ground, he could reconsider especially as last year he thought the horse would be better on good ground and he still remains an interesting contender for the Champion Hurdle.

Take nothing away from Zarkandar and Grumeti either. For a horse that is now better over further, Zarkandar looked the one to beat going to the last and has battled all the way to the line. The World Hurdle would be his first run over three miles and if he gets the trip, he would have a serious chance while Grumeti would be interesting in a race like the County Hurdle even off a big weight.

Un De Sceaux never came out of second gear in the Red Mill Trial Hurdle with a bloodless success. All roads did look to lead towards Cheltenham however Willie Mullins came out today and said that the Champion Hurdle was unlikely at this stage of his career. This is another case of Mullins playing his cards right to benefit other horses in his stable. He doesn’t want to run Un De Sceaux knowing that Hurricane Fly would struggle going a proper end to end gallop and potentially Annie Power will divert to the World Hurdle which does take some of the intrigue from the race. Whilst writing today, My Tent Or Yours was another key Champion Hurdle contender to come out and win a Jumpers Bumper at Kempton showing his engine.

With Cheltenham coming up, the videos/blogs will hopefully come more frequently with a preview hopefully tomorrow night!

Martin Smith – The End Of An Era

It seems strange to hear a term like ‘the end of an era” in a yard as young as ours but there was no other way to describe today’s event. Our precious and phenomenal mare Balti’s Sister left our care and embarked on her new career as a broodmare today.

She was our longest serving team member and one that gave Michelle and I lots of success as owners before we were granted a license to train. We purchased Balti’s Sister at the Tattersalls July sale in 2012 when my father saw her and fell in love with her. We put her in training with Terry Clement who did a tremendous job with her. Although I rode her out and looked after her myself, Terry was instrumental in her race planning and the fact that we won 4 races in a 5 month period and increased her official rating from 59 to 78 is a testament to his racing knowledge as much as it is to our expertise in horsemanship!

Since I held a trainer’s license last summer she only ran a few times for me, her last run was arguably her best performance to date but unfortunately the miles she had clocked up were taking their toll on her back so the decision was made to retire her to the paddocks where I’m sure she will make a terrific mother and produce some fantastic athletes in the future.

Ironically only a couple of weeks ago we were blessed with the arrival of our first foal, our mare Castalian Spring gave birth to a beautiful filly by Sleeping Indian. After having her covered by Sleeping Indian last year we shipped Castalian Spring out to Ireland where she and her foal can enjoy some of the best quality grazing on Earth. They are kept with our friends at Clonlisk Stud and will be visiting Coolmore to be covered by The Way You Are later this month.

Back home our horses are in superb form lately! Ossie’s Dancer ran the race of his life to finish 3rd at 100/1 beaten only 9 lengths by Anay Turge who won a grade 2 chase at Cheltenham only a couple of months ago. More recently Hillbilly Boy finished 2nd at Wolverhampton last Saturday in his first run for us.

Millie’s Quest is declared to run on Thursday, she has had a winter break and I’m very pleased with her condition since coming back into training. I think the drop back to 7 furlongs is just what she needs and I’m delighted to have George Buckell on board. George has been in amazing form lately winning 3 out of 3 on Noble Citizen for his boss David Simcock as well riding Boris The Bold to victory for us before Christmas. Michelle and I have mentored George since he was 12 years old and it makes us very proud to see him doing so well. He is a first class horseman with a very professional attitude which is extremely rare for any 19 year old lad!

Our 2 year olds are coming on in leaps and bounds, Bounty’s Spirit is the most forward and looks like she will be the first one to appear on a racecourse in the spring. Indomitable Spirit is one of the most imposing and handsome 2 year olds I have ever seen! He still has a little way to go before he will be ready to run but he has a great attitude and is enjoying his work. Spirit of Arakan is a May foal and is still growing fast so she will probably take the longest to prepare but she is a very attractive filly and the fact that she is by the same sire as Champion 2 year old Toormore I’m sure will make her one to watch in the future. LittleMissPositive is a small filly with a massive personality! She is very forward going and extremely popular with her Little Princess Racing syndicate members, there are still a couple of 10% shares available but they are going fast which is no surprise seeing what she is like on the gallops!

As sad as it was to see Balti’s Sister leave today, as you can tell there is plenty to look forward to in 2014 and we’re chomping at the bit waiting for the new turf season to start!!!

Pictures are of Balti’s Sister, The Sleeping Indian filly and LittleMissPositive


BaltiSleeping Indian FillyLittleMissPositive