Quality not quantity proved the watchword for Stuart Edmunds last season - but the Tyringham handler is hoping to mix both in a delicious cocktail during 2017/18.
Top of the mark was Domesday Book’s Cheltenham Festival success with the Gina Andrews-ridden seven-year-old clawing his way back up the Prestbury Park Hill in March to land the Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Amateur Riders Chase by a gutsy three quarters of a length from Charlie Longsdon’s Pendra.
However, other Fences Farm inmates such as Wolf Of Windlesham, Sneaking Budge and the ill-fated Petethepear have helped broaden the profile of Edmunds’ string over the course of the last two seasons and no-one is complaining about that.
“We only actually had 10 or 11 winners last season compared to 16 the season before but we did much better with prize money with Domesday Book being the obvious one,” said Edmunds.
Steady building could be the key to progress as rapid growth in any business brings its own issues but when I visited the yard last week, work was ongoing with a view to reach 40 boxes before the season begins in earnest.
“I probably wouldn’t want to get much bigger at this stage as you can lose sight of the bigger picture. You also need the staff on site,” added Edmunds.
Apasionado won three on the bounce between September and November but like Cheltenham hero Domesday Book he is unlikely to be seen until the New Year on decent ground, with both coming back from leg issues.
A plan for Cloonacool to run for the third year running in Market Rasen’s Listed hurdle at the end of September remains in place. The Beneficial gelding fell in the contest 12 months ago when apparently about to deliver a telling challenge.
And Edmunds said: “George (Clooney) frightened himself quite badly – it was a horrible fall – and was never the same horse afterwards – but we hope to have him back on track.”
Market Rasen is likely to be a target much sooner for gutsy and consistent mare Kayla on August 19. She counts Towcester victories among her ‘CV’, but Edmunds advised: “She probably prefers a stiffer track than Market Rasen and there is a race for her at Uttoxeter three weeks later.”
Vinegar Hill is a popular individual at the yard, having also been trained locally by Ben Case and Anna Brooks before joining Edmunds’ team last year. The eight-year-old bay gelding by Kayf Tara won a 3m handicap hurdle at Kempton in November before twice running well at Kempton, in a chase on the second occasion.
The winner of that first race was a horse of Donald McCain’s named Desert Cry which went on to win twice more, including a £10,000 race at Ayr in March. Edmunds casually remarks Vinegar Hill has flourished more than any other horse at the yard during the summer while Grey Warbler is definitely one for the short list.
Of the new brigade, Edmunds is a massive fan of Classic Ben, saying: “He is a four-year-old by Beneficial who I like a lot. He will probably run in a bumper. I would imagine Tedthistle will go hurdling while Maria’s Benefit is the favourite of our daughter Harriet.”
On a personal note, I shall be eagerly awaiting the appearance of Queenohearts who didn’t make it onto a racecourse last season. However, the daughter of Flemensfirth has shown plenty of ‘attitude’ which will be necessary when the days arrives for her to be competitive on a racecourse.