21st April 2017

More than one hundred winners and counting for Sandhill Racing Stables

Diana Hobbs, Pupil Assistant to her father Philip Hobbs, looks back at another terrific season for Sandhill Racing Stables and forward to the new season, which begins on May 1.

Team Hobbs has had another great season. We were thrilled to reach our 100 winner seasonal target with Resolution Bay at Chepstow a couple of weeks ago under Michael Nolan. We were all delighted as it was Michael’s first ride back having had three months off with a broken collarbone. We are currently fifth in the trainer’s title, just behind Dad’s good friend and rival Nigel Twiston- Davies! We have nearly £1.5 million in prize money with 106 winners and counting!

The weather has been very kind to us over the last month, with lots of sunshine making working conditions very enjoyable and the horses have thrived with gleaming coats and the results have shown on the racecourse. However, we are now desperate for some rain to finish the season off with Ayr, Perth and Punchestown festivals still to come and Sandown to finish the season off next Saturday, 29th April. The 2017-18 season starts on Monday ,1st May and we will be hoping to get a winner at either Kempton or Warwick to keep them flowing!

This weekend is relatively quiet for the team with three runners up at Ayr. Drumlee Sunset runs in the handicap chase today under Champion Jockey Richard Johnson. He has had a mid-winter break, as he doesn’t want the ground too soft, and then came back at Exeter last month. Going left handed will suit him better and he will hopefully run well, although he faces a couple of in form and improving rivals, who could be hard to beat. Tomorrow Kruzhlinin runs in the Scottish Grand National, which has been the aim for a while now and Ozzie The Oscar, who ran a great race at Cheltenham to be a close third, runs in the Scottish Champion hurdle.

The highlight of our season has to be the wonderfully tough, consistent Defi Du Seuil, who has been unbeaten since joining us from Emmanuel Clayeux’s yard in October, with seven wins out of seven runs and he is only a four year old. I must admit the pressure was on, having been favourite for The Triumph hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival most of the winter! It was unfortunate for Barry Geraghty to miss this year’s festival through injury, not just on Defi Du Seuil, but also the Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air. However, I was delighted that Richard Johnson stepped in, as he had won on him twice previously so knew him well. Barry was nevertheless rewarded at Aintree winning on him in the Doom Bar Juvenile Hurdle and Defi is now back in Ireland at his owner JP McManus’s stables having a thoroughly deserved summer holiday. He is a horse we are really looking forward to campaigning next year either for the Champion Hurdle of the Arkle Novices Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

The horses have all been running in good form the last couple of months, with sixteen winners in March and a good start to April with Tom Cheesman winning on Highclere Racing’s St Saviour at Stratford on April Fool’s day!

The Aintree meeting at Liverpool is polar opposite to Cheltenham with less tweed and more high heels and fake tan! It is a great three days in the North and although we didn’t have a runner this year in the Grand National, we were delighted to see Lucinda Russell and her partner Peter Scudamore win the big race with One For Arthur and Derek Fox on board, who had just come back from injury. Richard Johnson mentioned racing the next day at Market Rasen that he had been reserve rider to stand in for Derek Fox if he hadn’t made it back in time! We have had two seconds in the Grand National: What’s up Boys in 2003 and Balthazar King in 2014, both under Richard so we hope one day we can all go one better!

The beginning of the season is May is generally quite busy with summer racing and we usually have around 25-30 horses to run on ground that is quicker than winter racing ground. At the end of May we sell horses that are not good enough for National Hunt racing or badly handicapped at the The Goffs, UK sale up at Doncaster or privately. We would then buy in some new recruits; unbroken three-year-olds there or at the Land Rover or Derby sales at Tattersalls Ireland in June. We have a great bunch of lads that work hard throughout the summer breaking the horses in and seeing them race on the track the following year gives them personal satisfaction with the job. The July sales are in Deauville in France or Tattersalls in Newmarket.

The winter ground horses and stable stars, such as Kruzhlinin, Village Vic, Verni, Mendip Express, Ballygown Bay, Vieux Lille, Lamb or Cod all get turned out into our lush green fields by the sea and get a well-earned break until they come back in for road work in the middle of July. At present all the staff are busy steam cleaning the stables, painting, creosoting and with general yard maintenance. The two all- weather surfaces are topped up and all the schooling fences and hurdles are maintained for the following season, which we very much look forward to after a summer break for horses and the staff.