HEALTHY and happy horses win races and West Haddon trainer Stuart Morris would vouch for the truth of that statement after a dramatic turnaround in fortunes this season.
The point-to-point handler currently boasts a 50 per cent strike rate with his four winners to date, a far cry from a dismal 2015/16 campaign when little seemed to go right.
Leading the renaissance is a potential star in the form of the Judy Wilson-owned Neumond which has already won Restricted contests at Chaddesley Corbett and the Horseheath meeting this season, with a return to the latter course now looking likely on February 25.
Victory at the Worcestershire course on December 28 was followed by an equally emphatic success at the Horseheath, the six-year-old coming home by a distance under Jack Andrews who is currently riding all of the Morris horses.
On his last outing he made all the running, jumping spring-heeled, and flew the last in the same impressive manner in which he set out, coming home ahead of 33/1 shot Mazurati, trained by Sarah Case, the wife of National Hunt trainer Ben.
Morris said: “Neumond had four runs over hurdles for Nicky Henderson and showed nothing but he couldn’t have done it any easier for his two wins this season.”
He added: “Whether he was weakening in the soft ground or just needed time to mature I don’t know but he has looked pretty good for us so far. We will see how he steps up in grade each time.
“He’s not the biggest horse in the world but he’s a tough little nut. If he wants to run and gallop then we’ll let him.
“Last season my horses were wrong with a low grade airway viral infection. It wasn’t all bad and we had a few winners but overall it was disappointing.”
Morris has been keen to forge a saddle alliance with 18-year-old Andrews whose elder sisters Gina and Bridget have set high standards and he said: “Jack wants to win and he comes from a successful racing family.”
Morris and Andrews had a double at Chaddesley Corbett with Bingo Star also obliging on a day when the yard’s Harrodale was a runner-up.
Meanwhile, Mrs Wilson’s other winner this season was at Thorpe Lodge with Cornerman which came home ahead of another local runner, the Gerald Bailey-trained Semper Invicta and this could turn out at Bangor or Charing this weekend.
Morris said: “We ran Bingo Star again at Chaddesley Corbett where he finished second to Athreeothree in a 17 runner Intermediate where he was stepping up in grade.”
Proximo, the veteran of the stable’s team team at nine years old, has finished fourth and third on his two outings to date but Morris said: “He is a better horse in the spring.”
FLYING Angel made a winning return to the track after a three month lay-off when the grey landed the Grade 2 Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on Saturday for county-based owner Rob Rexton.
And it could be a case of ‘next stop Cheltenham’ for the six-year-old who will be targeted at the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Chase on the opening day of next month’s festival, or the JLT Novices’ Chase two days later.
Flying Angel pulled a muscle in his previous outing at Cheltenham in November but Rexton, the managing director of Brackley firm Agetur UK Ltd which also sponsors the Twiston-Davies yard, was hopeful his star would be back to the form which saw him win the Close Brothers Imperial Cup at Sandown last March.
QUEENOHEARTS is the name to be carried by the Stuart Edmunds-trained Flemensfirth filly in which I have a vested interest.
My own vote was for Highland Mary but I cast my own nomination for Queenohearts (unable to pick my own) and am simply looking forward to seeing the filly in action.
Since I have just read Philippa Gregory’s novel The Other Queen which focuses on the bewitching powers and imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots, the link to me is an obvious one. Also the timing... Mary Queen of Scots was executed on February 8, 1587 at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.
In the mean time I will be keeping a watchful eye on the Edmunds-trained Molly Childers who is due out in a bumper at Fakenham on Friday having finished second in both starts to date at Towcester and Doncaster, a position the yard’s Chandos Belle managed to occupy in a novices’ hurdle at Plumpton on Monday.
TOWCESTER stages its next meeting on Thursday, March 16, in the middle of the Cheltenham Festival.