HARRY WHITTINGTON BLOG: Harry Whittington, Grade One-winning trainer and BETDAQ Brand Ambassador, reflects on a fantastic week that included three winners. He also looks ahead to this weekend and provides the latest news on his Cheltenham runners.
We’ve had a fantastic few days with three winners and it’s great to know the horses are in such good form, especially at this stage of the season. We all know how big next week is so to know my horses are running well is a big boost.
In terms of Cheltenham, I’m going to have two runners; Saint Calvados and Bigmartre who are both in great form, but more on those later. We’ve got a couple of runners over the next few days and it would be fantastic to keep the good run going.
What a week
Last Saturday, Rouge Vif was very impressive in taking the Grade 2 at Kelso on Saturday. Once I’d walked the track, I must admit, I was really bullish about his chances and he duly delivered in fine fashion.
The track is one of the sharpest in Britain and it suited ‘Rouge’ down to the ground as he’s all about speed. What impressed me so much was how relaxed he was in front and the speed he was going put some pretty good horses like Getaway Trump out of their comfort zone from a fair way out. The way he did it actually reminded me of Arzal’s Grade 1 win from a few years ago.
He’s still in the Supreme at Cheltenham but I’d say that looks unlikely unless it was good ground. However, he’s come out of the race so well that if it did come up good, I’d have no issues with running him.
So it looks as if Aintree is where we’ll head next and I think it will really suit him there. He’s very exciting and it’s fantastic for all of us and the owners, Kate and Andrew Brooks, to have a horse who could easily be a genuine Grade 1 horse.
The week got even better when Jammy George comfortably won at Newcastle on Tuesday.
We stepped him up in trip and he clearly thrived with the extra distance and we’re actually going to step him up to three miles next time. Gavin [Sheehan] thought he’d be even better over further, so he’s definitely one to keep the right side of over that distance on soft ground.
Captain Tommy made the week even sweeter when bolting up at Fontwell on Wednesday on his debut for the yard. His schooling at home had been very good, so we hoped he’d go well and he duly did.
He’s got plenty of stamina in his pedigree and we decided to make the most of that. Even though the co-favourite fell at the last, we were pretty confident he was finding enough under pressure. He is a nice horse who will make a good summer hurdler.
Obviously, the race was slightly marred by the controversy around the racing boycott. Captain Tommy’s owner was adamant he wanted to run and I have to respect his decision. My responsibility is to my owners as they are the ones who support me day-by-day and if they want to run, then we run.
From my point of view, I support the decision to boycott racing and that’s why I decided to not make anything out of the race at all. We donated all the prize money to the injured jockey’s fund and hopefully in the short term, the powers at be take notice of the stand the majority of us have made. We’re miles away from a long-term resolution, but if we can stand together and show how big an issue this is, hopefully our message will get through.
Vinnie Lewis runs in the handicap chase (3.35pm) at Sandown on Saturday. He’s back over fences for the first time since the Eider last year. He was found to have very bad ulcers in January so we’ve had to treat that, but he’s in much better form now.
He’s schooled very well over fences in the last couple of weeks and he looks to be off a fairly winnable mark. Page Fuller schooled him during the week and they got on like a house on fire which bodes very well. She’ll take three pounds off and on the best of his form he’d have a good chance.
He’s won better races than this in the past, so let’s hope he can get things back on track.
Sparkleandshine is most likely to run at Taunton on Monday (4.30pm). I was really happy with the way he ran at Ludlow on his debut for us and even though he’s likely to be carrying top-weight, I’m a big believer in class over weight.
This looks a lesser race than the Ludlow one and I still think he’s pretty well-handicapped, so I’m expecting him to go nicely.
Saint Calvados has entries in both the Champion Chase and Ryanair at Cheltenham, but I’d say it’s pretty likely we’ll head to the Champion Chase on Wednesday.
He went for a nice spin around Newbury last Sunday which went well and he’s in fantastic form. We’re looking forward to running him, especially on ground that will be more to his liking than at Leopardstown.
We all know that Altior is virtually unbeatable and is probably the best two miler we’ve ever seen, but my horse is a quality animal too and is more than worthy of his place in the line-up.
It’s fantastic to have a runner in the Champion Chase. You have to keep pinching yourself when you have a horse of this ability running in a race of this calibre. It’s what dreams are made of and if he did run a big race, it would give us a tremendous thrill.
As I mentioned earlier, the horses are coming into form at just the right time. I’m really happy with the way my stable is going, so with any luck things will stay that way for next week.
Our other Cheltenham runner is Bigmartre in the Brown Advisory Plate on Thursday. He’s absolutely flying at home and I’ve never seen him in quite as good a state as he is at the moment.
He’s down to a mark of 144 which I think is more than within his capabilities, so if he shows anything like the form he’s showing at home, he should go well.
I’m not saying he’s going to win, but I’m hopeful he’ll outrun his odds and I’m really looking forward to running him.