We will start this week by looking back to a brilliant Saturday, with Pilgrims Bay winning the Betbright Handicap Chase at Kempton.
He was a big price but it didn’t come as a surprise to me that he ran well, as I suggested he might in this column last week. The plan was for him to be held up in the early stages, and thankfully it worked out perfectly thanks to an excellent ride.
The horse has always been a touch quirky as everyone knows, but that made it all the sweeter for James Best, who thoroughly deserved the biggest success of his career.
We have been having a great season this year, with 91 winners to our name at the time of writing, but all trainers want those big Saturday winners so it was fantastic for the whole yard and connections to be able to pick up a nice pot.
Pilgrims Bay has come out of the race in good form and the plan for him is the Ultima Handicap Chase on day one of the Cheltenham Festival.
Peter The Mayo Man ran a very solid race in the Dovecote Novices Hurdle to finish 3rd, and he continues to perform at a high level. Punchestown remains the main target, but he is entered for the Martin Pipe race at Cheltenham, so we will consider that over the next couple of weeks with one eye on the ground.
We had an excellent day at Wincanton on Wednesday with Sleep Easy putting in a lovely display to win the 2m5f handicap hurdle. I was very happy with him and he could also go to the Martin Pipe race in a couple of weeks provided he gets in. I’m just thankful that I gave the horse an entry in the first place now!
Also on Wednesday, I was pleased to be at the Cheltenham handicap weights lunch where, as ever, the facilities were terrific.
I can have no complaints about how the handicapper has assessed our horses, and now we will be keeping our fingers crossed they can all make it there in one piece.
The Ultima Handicap Chase is looking particularly competitive on the first day of the Festival, with some very good horses likely to struggle to get a run. It could be the best renewal of that race ever, and with The Druids Nephew winning it 2015, we are hopeful he can make his presence felt once again.
Elsewhere, Southfield Royale is in good form at home and he will go for the Kim Muir, whilst Impulsive Star is also ticking along nicely as he builds up for his tilt at the Pertemps Final.
I have been asked plenty of questions about Shantou Village over the last few days, and at the moment his target does remain up in the air. He will be left entered in all the races until the last minute, with the ground the key to deciding where he appears.
Looking ahead to the weekend, Goulanes will run at either Newbury or Doncaster and we are hoping he will have improved for his last run at Chepstow. He has been given an entry for the Midlands National, which is a race he won in 2014, so this weekend will hopefully be a stepping stone towards Uttoxeter.