Striking while the iron is hot seems an appropriate adage for Edgcote trainer Alex Hales this week as his Trafford Bridge stable fires home winners.
Short of dismantling and then hurling a sink across the tack room, Hales is intent on maximising use of his ammunition store before the 2015/16 National Hunt season officially draws to a close at Sandown Park on Saturday.
Punching above his weight has become a habit in recent seasons, with around 25 horses at his disposal, and the high profile victories of Big Jim and Minellaforleisure in the last three weeks have highlighted recent success.
While his current total of 11 winners falls short of the 13 registered in 2014/15, an increase in prize money accrued can at least in part be attributed to victories at Ascot and Cheltenham.
Big Jim and Kielan Woods took a 2m novices’ handicap chase at Ascot back on April 3 while Minellaforleisure landed a 2m 1f handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last Wednesday, with Harry Bannister claiming riding honours.
While Hales was not previously a total stranger to the winner’s enclosure at Ascot thanks to Iconoclast scoring in a 2011 handicap chase, Minellaforleisure helped to hurl a monkey off his back, bringing a first ever success at Prestbury Park for the trainer.
Sharp Rigging’s late fall in the 2006 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual won by Lynn Wilson’s Greenhope has been a regular topic when touching on Hales’ fortunes and Cheltenham in the same breath in the past. Hopefully that hoodoo can now be put to bed.
“It has taken me 13 years to have a winner at Cheltenham... let’s hope I don’t have to wait another 13 for the next,” laughed Hales as he thumbed through his list of entries for this week.
“The original target of winners for this season was 15, two more than last season. And while we haven’t got there yet, it won’t be for want of trying,” he added.
Hales sent out two jumpers on Monday in the form of Ogaritmo and Shinooki at Huntingdon while Allnecessaryforce, owned by Towcester-based Steve Brown’s Lactodorum Contracts, ran second on the Flat at Windsor at 12/1, beaten a length and a half in a 1m 3 1/2f handicap.
Ultimatum Du Roy went to Ludlow on Tuesday while jumping fixtures today (Thursday) at Warwick and Market Rasen were likely to attract Big Jim, Scooter Boy, Salut Honore and Running Wolf.
Hales said: “Big Jim is still only seven. It is lovely to have a horse like him in the yard and the plan is to go to Warwick if it keeps raining.” Looking ahead to next season he added: “You would have to be looking at those 2m handicap chases at the good meetings, perhaps starting off with the one at Cheltenham in mid-October.
“As for Minellaforleisure, the Cheltenham race was his ‘Gold Cup’. It is not often you make a plan and it works. However, we will make an entry for him at Haydock in the Swinton Hurdle on May 7. He would want good ground, not too quick.”
THE Stuart Edmunds-trained San Telm is being considered for a Friday evening fixture at Aintree next month following his excellent third at 33/1 behind The Eaglehaslanded in a 3m handicap hurdle at Cheltenham last week while the Caroline Bailey-trained Global Bonus was third at 150/1 in the opening novices’ hurdle at Huntingdon on Monday night.
TOWCESTER stages the first of three fixtures in just over a month next Thursday, April 28, when the action is due to get underway at 1.45pm. An evening meeting is scheduled for Monday May 9, while afternoon action takes place on Tuesday, May 31.
Point to point action is due to take place at Whitfield near Brackley this Sunday, starting at 1.30pm. This is the Farmers Bloodhound meeting.
The short hop across to Leicester on Saturday afternoon might prove an incentive for Wellingborough men John Cook and Brian Johnson.
Cook will be keen on the chances of his six-year-old Breton Rock which has been affectionately given the tongue-in-cheek nickname of ‘The Retirement Plan’ in 2016. He might be fit enough to do himself justice first time out in the Listed 7f King Richard III Stakes.
The Johnson-owned Borough Boy may have been a touch ring rusty after more than a month off the track at Windsor on Monday evening and the prospect of turning out again quickly at a local track has some appeal in the opening 6f handicap at 2.15pm.
ORLINGBURY man Geoff Goodwin had a winner on Saturday when Mr Red Clubs justified favouritism in the mile seller.