03rd February 2017

The view from Sandhill Stables


Diana Hobbs is assistant trainer to her father Philip at Sandhill Stables in Somerset. In the first of her exclusive blogs for Exeter Racecourse, she runs the rule over this weekend's runners and gives an insight into the day to day running of one of the country's top yards.


A quieter couple of months

January/February is usually a quieter month in National Hunt racing, after a busy autumn campaign. A number of our horses are having a nice easy time, so they will be fresh for a Spring Campaign, particularly if they can't cope with soft/ heavy ground. Although this season the weather has been very unusual as the whole of December we only had 1" of rain. It is the only year since we started in 1985 that the ground has been dry enough to leave our schooling obstacles on low ground grass rather than moving them all to the top of our farm, where it is usually dryer. We are fortunate to be able to school all the horses on the Polytrack, as we have obstacles that roll on and off the track on wheels, so we can always school even when it's very wet, too dry or frosty

Our gallops are usually busy at lunchtimes when we finish riding out, with locals coming to use the schooling obstacles and gallops for their point to pointers. We very much support the local point to point community as they are the backbone of National Hunt racing and it is great way for young jockeys and horses to start off their Racing careers.

The Team have still managed to rake in 70 winners this season and we are £49,000 off our season target of £1 million in prize money.

Recent winners

It was great to have a double across the card last Saturday at Cheltenham with Defi Du Seuil and Uttoxeter with Multiculture. Defi Du Seuil is turning out to be a very exciting horse for us, he is very tough and has a great attitude, now he has won three times at Cheltenham and all guns will be blazing for the Triumph Hurdle in March at the festival, where he is favourite. Although he has beaten all the best 4 year olds this side of the channel, we are nervous to see so many other good horses being entered from each side of the Irish Sea, so time will tell! No Comment won very well at Plumpton and is now having a short break before getting him ready for the E.B.F final at Sandown on March 11th, which should suit him well and he would only get a small penalty if he wins and could then run at Cheltenham.

Ice Cool Champs is a horse we like a lot at home and he won the maiden hurdle nicely at Hereford under Tom O’Brien on Wednesday- A good start to February! Allee Bleu was our 70th winner at Leicester on the same day and it was great to see him back to his best after having a couple of setbacks due to health problems.

Weekend runners

This week at Sandhill we have had around 22ml (just under an inch) of rain and racecourses have also had a wet week, resulting in soft/ heavy going. Chepstow have abandoned their meeting today due to a waterlogged track, where we were due to have several runners. Tomorrow at Sandown, Andrew Cooper clerk of the course has described the going conditions as ‘proper winter soft ground’, which will be testing for many horses. We have three runners tomorrow at Sandown; BOLD HENRY (pictured) runs in the handicap chase under Barry Geraghty, at a track he really likes and the ground should suit. He ran a super race to be runner up to our other horse Garde La Victoire last month. ROLLING DYLAN, ridden by Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, runs in the £50,000 Grade 3 handicap hurdle. He is rated 132 over hurdles and he has been a good horse for us, winning twice and not coming out of the first three on all of his runs. ROCK THE KASBAH, ridden by Richard Johnson runs in the handicap chase where we hope he has a good chance in a valuable race.

We also have two runners up North tomorrow at Wetherby. TEARSOFCLEWBAY who ran a good second at Lingfield on Tuesday, runs under our second Jockey Tom O’Brien in the mares novices hurdle. She is a mare with lots of ability having won her two bumpers convincingly and won a novice hurdle at the beginning of the season. She is a little bit quirky at home and Natasha who rides her everyday has done a great job to make her willing to go up the gallop! ATIRELARIGO, who won a nice handicap chase at Chepstow in December, runs in the handicap chase under James Best and has done plenty of schooling at home.

On Sunday we have three horses declared at Taunton all ridden by our stable jockey Richard Johnson. SWINCOMBE TOBY, who runs in blinkers for the first time goes in the handicap hurdle, VERNI runs in the Class 3 handicap hurdle and SYKES runs in the handicap steeple chase. All three we hope would have strong Each Way chances.

Ex racehorses from Sandhill

Horses like Balthazar King are hard to come by. He retired having won 16 races under rules, twice at the Cheltenham Festival, twice at Craon in France and he was runner-up in the 2014 Crabbie's Grand National. He is happily retired to the hunting field and looking a picture as you can see below.

Captain Chris, who won the Arkle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 and was unlucky to be narrowly defeated in the 2012 King George. He retired at the end of last season aswell and is now happily hunting hounds local to us on Exmoor.

And finally…

Just a note to say that unfortunately Tony Hobbs (Philip’s Father) passed away last month after a short illness. His memorial was held last Friday in Withycombe and then it was fantastic to see around 250 people come to the thanksgiving at the house after.  The picture is of Tony rounding up his sheep only last spring at the age of 88.