The National Hunt season came to a close at Sandown on Saturday, and it was brilliant to be able to end on a high note.
Shantou Village produced a lovely display to win the Josh Gifford Novices’ Handicap Chase on his first start at the level. He made a mistake at one of the fences down the back straight but he learned from that, and showed plenty of battling qualities to claim the win.
The handicapper has given him a 2lb rise as a result of the win, and the Bet Victor Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November would seem the obvious target. He remains lightly raced so we hope there will be more to come from him, and he will be given a nice summer break now which will do him the world of good.
Looking back on the season, we were absolutely delighted with the way it panned out. If you include successes on the flat, and in Ireland and Jersey, we racked up north of 120 winners for the campaign which is a fantastic achievement.
The number of winners has been excellent, but just as exciting is the strength and depth we have developed. The signs for the future are good with nine winners and eight places from our 33 bumper runners, and hopefully that will put us in a strong position to continue our upward curve.
It was an extremely special moment to have our first winner in Ireland with Dead Right, and it was made even more important by the fact that it came in the famous green and gold JP McManus silks. Other highlights included Carole’s Destrier coming very close to winning a Hennessy Gold Cup, and Pilgrims Bay landing the Betbright Chase at Kempton.
The summer might be a slightly quieter time in general for jumps racing but the yard will still be a busy place. We will have a decent team of runners on the go over the next few months, and there will be plenty of younger horses being broken so there is never really a down period in a National Hunt stable.
It is very difficult for me to completely switch off, with entries and jockey bookings to be made on an almost daily basis, but I will be making time for a family holiday as soon as I can.
My aim each season is to continue to build and improve, and fingers crossed we can do that again over the next 12 months. We are having plenty of Saturday winners which is important, but we are still searching for our first Grade 1 winner which we hope will come sooner, rather than later.
I’ll sign off for the season by thanking everyone who has read the column, and wish you all a fantastic summer.