The Herbert family get away this year was to Namibia in south west Africa. It was without doubt one of the best holidays we have ever had and consisted of three safaris - desert, river and regular bush. A visit to the five hundred million year old Namib desert is something very special as you not only see a stunning Martian like landscape but also witness first hand the ferocious 40+ degree heat that local bushmen have to live in. Our first morning was with two bushmen who took us on a walk into the desert which was really fascinating.
They also told us that it hadn't rained in this part of the desert for five years which made me chuckle as every holiday we have ever been on it…
They also told us that it hadn't rained in this part of the desert for five years which made me chuckle as every holiday we have ever been on it has poured down at some point although in this arid environment even the Herberts would surely be safe? But oh no - on New Year's Day the skies darkened, the wind got up and low and behold it chucked it down! This was rain like you have never seen where each drop imploded into the sand causing huge splashes of sand and water. Watching the locals laughing, singing and dancing whilst getting drenched was fabulous and so of course we all joined in!
As the new flat season advances upon us I hope and pray that we don't have those topsy turvy weather conditions which affected us so badly in 2016. They created havoc with the horses' preparation and gave trainers and managers a nightmare trying to place their animals in the right races on the right ground. Despite the rain pouring down as I write this it is such an exciting time of year and our flat team is all set to hopefully make their mark over the next seven months. In the meantime you won't be seeing much of me as the drought busting Herberts will surely be enjoying more holidays at the cost of those countries requiring a drop of rain!
Harry Herbert, Chairman
On The Track
This past month has been a quiet one on the track for Highclere, perhaps the calm before the storm as a few of the younger jumpers are being wound up for their debuts in the coming weeks. We did see Whatduhavtoget finish a creditable second at Taunton behind a well-fancied mare of Nicky Henderson’s, Verdana Blue. This was only Whatduhavtoget’s fourth outing under rules and she still showed some greenness, so there’s no doubt Dan will want to get one or two more runs into her before the season is out.
Whatduhavtoget in the pre-parade ring at Taunton
A recent addition to Dan Skelton’s stable, Cabaret Queen, was put through her paces over some schooling hurdles on a recent visit to Dan’s and there were a few gasps…
A recent addition to Dan Skelton’s stable, Cabaret Queen, was put through her paces over some schooling hurdles on a recent visit to Dan’s and there were a few gasps of excitement as this mare showed her scope over the obstacles. She won her Point-to-Point in Ireland just after Christmas and is being prepared for a run in a bumper this spring. She is from the last crop of King’s Theatre and looks a really exciting prospect from what we have seen so far at home. One for the notebook!
Cabaret Queen taking a flyer at the open ditch while schooling at Dan Skelton's under Bridget Andrews
Crievehill (5yo gelding by Arcadio)
As the countdown to the Cheltenham Festival continues we look forward to the prospect of having a runner on Gold Cup day thanks to the latest addition to Highclere’s National Hunt team, Crievehill, who holds entries in the County Handicap Hurdle and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. He was last seen finishing third to Neon Wolf in a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Haydock and that horse is currently heading the market for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) at the Festival.
Out and about with the Highclere camera
(Please click on the photographs to expand and see captions)
The east coast of Australia must be anticipating the Herbert's arrival this month, after the inundation of rain over the last fortnight caused havoc to the early Autumn Carnival in Sydney.
Libran is back to Rosehill Gardens on Saturday in the Group 3 Sky High Stakes
This came to the ultimate frustration of Regal Monarch owners who were ready to see their son of Notnowcato start favourite at Warwick Farm over a mile and three eighths on the 1st March, only to have the meeting abandoned before the first race due to the relentless deluge. Libran also didn’t appreciate the 70ml of rain that fell on Randwick in the lead up to the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes, where he found the slippery heavy surface tough to let down on. Better conditions are forecast for Rosehill Gardens on Saturday 11th March, where Libran will contest the Group 3 Sky High Stakes on soft ground for which he has two wins, two seconds and a third from eight attempts on soft footing. Stepping up to a mile and a quarter will suit the son of Lawman as he continues to progress towards the mile and a half of the Group 1 The BMW in a fortnights time, followed by the Group 1 Schweppes Sydney Cup on the 8th April over two miles.
The highlight of the month in Australia came in South Australia, where The I Am Invincible Syndicate earned two-year-old black-type with their filly Pageantry, who ran an eye-catching third in…
Frank Kaszynski, Luke Borthwick and Highclere Director Niall Power delighted with Pageantry's third in the Listed Cinderella Stakes
The highlight of the month in Australia came in South Australia, where The I Am Invincible Syndicate earned two-year-old black-type with their filly Pageantry, who ran an eye-catching third in the Listed Cinderella Stakes at Morphettville on March 4. Pageantry has shown that she has thrived in training this preparation under the close eyes of Lee and Anthony Freedman, and looks like a filly who will improve in leaps and bounds into her three-year old season.
Pageantry’s effort added to Highclere’s incredible stats in Australia, with 50% of total runners performing at black-type level in Australia. Let’s hope she can follow in the hoof steps of Opinion and Libran who went on to perform at Group 1 level.
Foundation readying for his debut on Australia soil
The excitement surrounding the Autumn Carnival continues to build, particularly for our most recent export, Foundation who prepares to make his anticipated debut on Australian soil, which is looking likely to occur on Saturday 18th March at Flemington. All reports from the Lindsay Park team are encouraging in the lead up to his debut, as we hope the change of scenery and training methods can return Foundation to the form we all know he is capable of.
Harry and Dane will be flying to Australia this month for the The Championships and Inglis Easter Sale, so please do get in touch to catch up with them while they are in Sydney over the 10 days of the 31st to 10th April.
HOW TO MAKE SOFT BONE HARD
- Duncan Moir (Baker McVeigh and Clements Ltd)
Duncan Moir (far right) racing at Keeneland
At this time of year trainers begin to do more with their two-year-olds.
Given this fact I thought it would be an appropriate time to explain the concept of ‘bone training’, which helps to reduce the risk of sore shins and is, in my opinion, a useful aid in helping to increase soundness levels within the yard.
Bone is not just a hard piece of white matter but is in itself a smart, living and constantly adapting material.
Wolff’s Law states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time becoming stronger to resist that sort of loading. The inverse is also true: if the loading on a bone decreases, the bone will become less dense and weaker due to the lack of the stimulus required for continued remodelling.
Veterinary research shows that it takes up to five months to lay down compact bone that can withstand racing. This, in my experience is a key fact to consider in…
Veterinary research shows that it takes up to five months to lay down compact bone that can withstand racing. This, in my experience is a key fact to consider in the preparation of both yearlings and two year olds in early training but also in older horses returning to training from a previous injury. Those horses that have undergone a five month cycle of controlled ‘bone training’ are proven to be far less likely to suffer a stress fracture when racing or doing speed work.
Electromicroscopy images of the subchondral bone in the palmar aspect of the metacarpal condyle in Thoroughbred racehorses. a) Unraced 2yo horse; b) Mature horse in race training; c) Mature racehorse that has been resting from training for 9 weeks
Alternatively it is useful to understand that if rested for whatever reason, race fit bone can re-adapt and resemble untrained bone in only 90 days (see picture).
Bone changes its shape and structure based on its use and should be subjected to levels of strain it will experience during athletic competition in order to adapt correctly.
In effect training that mimics racing adapts bone most effectively to racing but this adaptation requires a controlled program of increasing levels of exercise in order to avoid injury at these early stages of adaptation.
Speed is key.
Slow, long exercise i.e. hack cantering or trotting, conditions and adapts the muscles, joints to this level of exercise. In effect the bone is maladapted to racing.
Alternatively, if the horse works too fast too soon then the shins become severely inflamed with the development of a ‘bucked shin’.
Whilst some believe that bucked shins are the first indication of bone adaptation in a positive manner in the training of racehorses it is interesting to note that the bone laid down is a weaker form of fibroelastic bone which only acts as a temporary reinforcement to prevent bone failure.
Left - Untrained 2yo; Right - Bone trained 2yo
This type of bone has little residual strength and if rested from training, this temporary reinforcement is resorbed leaving maladapted bone that is less efficient in withstanding peak training.
It has been shown that sore shins affect approximately 29% of two-year-olds in the UK (Wiltshire et al. 2006). The incidence of sore shins in Australia and America has been reported to be as high as 80% mainly due to shorter preparations, harder tracks and faster gate speed requirements.
Whilst some can perceive this to reflect the fact that we should give our horses in training more time we should consider the following points noted in research by Professor Elwyn Firth;
5 month foundation key to future soundness
Horses first raced as two-year-olds have longer and more successful careers. In general, they run more times, have greater total earnings and better skeletal health throughout life than those that start racing as three-year-olds or older.
So the training and adaptation of thoroughbred bone represents a balance between early training preferably over a five month cycle with controlled speed over a defined distance that helps to strengthen bone without having it maladapt to excessive speeds.
This is, in effect, the principle of ‘bone training’.
The aim is to create a stronger boned horse that is then adapted for the rigours of full training and racing at an appropriate point in that individuals development. Once the bone has adapted to racing (ideally after five months) this training program is no longer needed if the horse is kept in training.
SUGGESTED BONE TRAINING PROGRAMME
Walk/Trot 1 mile; Canter 1 mile; Gallop 1 furlong at 14-15 sec / furlong twice a week
Walk/Trot 1 mile; Canter 1 mile; Gallop 2 furlongs at 14-15 sec / furlong twice a week
Week 11- 15:
Walk/Trot 1 mile; Canter 1 mile; Gallop 2 furlongs at 13 sec / furlong once a week
Gallop 3 furlongs in 40 sec once a week; Can extend daily canters
Week 20 onwards:
Ready for 4-6 furlong speed work as required for race fitness
Rolf Johnson in the press room at Goodwood
A man who is intoxicated and exposes himself has not the art of getting drunk – Samuel Johnson (no relation).
I was once invited to a Jockey Club bash at Sandown to hear the proud boast of how they (Jockey Club bartenders not Jockey Club Stewards) had the facility to dispense a pint of racecourse lager in 1.8 seconds. We kept our clothes on. The revelation didn’t make the Guinness Book of Records but in a volte face the Jockey Club are turning off the taps in, would you believe, the Cheltenham Guinness Village (other outlets included). We’re not talking Prohibition exactly but the plan is to curtail excessive drinking at the four-day Festival: they wish.
All roads lead to the iconic Festival: it is jump racing’s Oscars, Brits, Eurovision Song Contest, Boat Race, Bake Off and Strictly combined, though the accusation is growing that the meeting is sucking the marrow of the jumping season threatening to become the be all end all, the rest reduced to a countdown.
The novice hurdlers head past the stands for the first time in the 2011 renewal of the Supreme in which Al Ferof beat Sprinter Sacre and Cue Card!
But why do some people go racing intent on getting bladdered, kaylied, off their face, a skinful? (There are three hundred and sixty five words for getting drunk. Those in…
But why do some people go racing intent on getting bladdered, kaylied, off their face, a skinful? (There are three hundred and sixty five words for getting drunk. Those in the posh seats just get sloshed). The latest Jockey Club decree was prompted by events at last year’s Festival. There was a touch of the ‘Bacchanal’ when a couple of footballers, instead of christening the new stand, relieved themselves over the balcony on the brogues and tweeds below. Also up there, standing out (or outstanding) a pair of women exhibited themselves in the cold - their rightful place being in the Sun. Samuel Johnson would not have approved.
The professional footballers who drew attention to themselves for all the wrong reasons at the Festival last year
There are bound to be those who over-indulge. The crush at Cheltenham bars often makes it impossible to get served anyway. Some racecourses (along with darts) are happy to sell a day at the sports as little more than a prolonged drinking session with a few horses (or ‘arrows’) thrown in. Racing is our second highest attended sport – ok because there are so many (too many?) meetings; yet there were four hundred and forty arrests at the Notting Hill Carnival, one hundred and ninety seven at Glastonbury (no betting at either) and only nine at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival. There were none at Henley (perhaps the Pimms was watered) but Cheltenham’s hordes bring their own good time – the ‘craic’: temperance and sobriety are not parts of it.
The new limits work out about four pints per punter (champagne if you have a box). What next, breath tests before the end of day communal singing round the Royal Ascot bandstand? Daisy, Daisy; My Bonny Lies over the Ocean; Jerusalem are the Ascot ‘anthems’. In the Guinness village it’s “Wild Rover” and “Fields of Athenry” drowning sorrows and lubricating triumph. And Willie Mullins on everybody’s lips. Only Nicky Henderson has ‘broken in’ to Mullins’s Cheltenham domination in the last seven years.
Punters tucking into Guinness at Cheltenham
Paul Nicholls has held the UK jump trainers’ crown for ten of the last eleven but hasn’t been toasted at the Festival since 2009. Nicholls concedes that he hasn’t the contenders for this year’s top prizes – Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Chase and Henderson has such a strong Festival hand that come March 17 (the meeting’s finale) Nicholls may even have been overtaken in this year’s trainer title race though Henderson, and leading owner J P McManus, will have to make do without their jockey Barry Geraghty nursing six broken ribs.
In the ‘lead-up’ to the Festival headlines have been monopolized by the champions and champions ‘elect’ that won’t make it. At least the drinks debate drained some of the dismay away from the news the Gold Cup favourite Thistlecrack was injured. The final turn of the screw always finds out the vulnerable: one too many turns for: Faugheen, 2015 Champion Hurdler; Annie Power, Champion Hurdle holder; Don Cossack 2016 Gold Cup winner; Coneygree Gold Cup winner of 2015, Valseur de Lido leading Gold Cup fancy. Don’t hold your breath about others; bookmakers began offering “non-runner no bet” early this year.
Nicky Henderson and two of his three Champion Hurdle contenders, Brain Power (left) and Buveur D'Air (right)
Nicky Henderson’s Altior carries the greatest burden of hope for a new champion of champions. We’ve ceased asking “Is this the next Arkle?” There’ll never be another Arkle. For the Arkle Chase though, Altior, a perfect nine out of nine over hurdles and fences, is odds-on. He’s possibly the next Sprinter Sacre - and so soon after that former stablemate looked the horse of a generation: Sprinter Sacre cleared every bar and I suspect Altior will do the same.
Cue Card is more of a Desert Orchid – he’s been beaten but never vanquished. He has come down a couple of times at Cheltenham including when holding every chance in last year’s Gold Cup, since when Colin Tizzard’s charge has embedded himself in the hearts of racing fans. He dances every dance as they say but time is running out - at eleven the feet may never be as fleet again. Beaten by stablemate Thistlecrack in the King George, Cue Card’s biggest Gold Cup danger be yet another ‘Tizzard’, Hennessy and Denman winner Native River.
In last year’s Champion Hurdle Nicky Henderson’s My Tent Or Yours would have been a good winner without Annie Power and this year the mare is injured. Ante-post My Tent Or Yours is three times last year’s starting price and he has never been worse than second on his regular visits. Then again Henderson who has won the Champion Hurdle five times is sweet on his shorter-priced runners Buveur d’Air and Brain Power despite both being beaten on previous Cheltenham sorties.
Douvan on his way to winning the Arkle at last year's Festival
Everyone is at sixes and sevens about this Champion Hurdle. You could get double figure odds about any candidate a fortnight before the race - then Yanworth shuffled to the head of the market.
Mullins and Nicholls are under pressure to retain their titles. Results at Cheltenham could determine our championship – Nicholls especially afraid of ‘Henderson’s Cheltenham army’. Results at the Festival will not count for or against Gordon Elliott’s challenge to Mullins back home in Ireland. Elliott’s unbeaten Death Duty in the Albert Bartlett on Gold Cup day is the Irish banker.
It should be appreciated that our exciting novice Crievehill, strongly fancied for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle, takes part in what is the youngest race at the Festival, a race yet to be won by the favourite in nine renewals. Last year our trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies nearly brought it off with Flying Angel who finished second before going on to be placed in the Grade 1 novices’ at Aintree and has lately won a Grade 2 steeplechase. Flying Angel is the best son of Arcadio; Crievehill, so far, the second best.
Flying Angel had won the Imperial Cup only six days before last year’s Martin Pipe and was rated just 1lb higher, 138, than is Crievehill currently. Like Flying Angel our horse’s future is as a steeplechaser. Should Crievehill win don’t overdo the celebrations…
Colin Tizzard with his Cheltenham Gold Cup hope Cue Card
This month's Taittinger Moment has been awarded to Roger Charlton to congratulate him on his win in The Jebel Hatta Sponsored by Emirates Airline (Gr 1) with Decorated Knight at Meydan on Saturday 4th March. It was a third win in a row for this striking son of Galileo and his next target looks likely to be The Dubai Turf (Gr 1) on World Cup night on Saturday 25th March.
Roger is also responsible for Highclere's first flat winner this calendar year thanks to Abatement's stylish victory at Lingfield back in January. This son of Bated Breath has been given a rating of 83 and Roger is looking forward to bringing him back out on the turf when the flat season proper begins.
Roger Charlton with Abatement
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