Friday December 23

We have already had good reason to pop a few champagne cork at Barbury with Alan celebrating the 1,400th winner of his career when Tara View scored at Ludlow on Wednesday – “she might have one, maybe two more races before the Mares Final at Newbury in March”, said the delighted boss – so we look ahead to Boxing Day with an air of optimism.

Alan might be in the minority, but, while most folk always wish for a White Christmas, he has never been a lover of cold weather and he would much rather that Kempton got a soaking this week-end so the ground will ease for Yanworth‘s tilt at the £100,000 Christmas Hurdle, our Cheltenham Festival runner-up having had his programme revised from the original World Hurdle target.

He said:”They don’t now look like getting as much rain before Monday as we had hoped, and I would have preferred a Wet Christmas as two miles around Kempton might be sharp enough for Yanworth. However, he has never been beaten in three hurdle races over that trip, so maybe I’m being a bit pessimistic.

“It looks a proper test, but we need to find out whether Yanworth is a legitimate Champion Hurdle contender and this should give us some idea. We won’t know the answer to that question by staying at home and we have nothing to lose by trying.”

We have two other runners at Kempton on Monday, and, assessing their chances, Alan added:”We have Elgin in the opening novices hurdle, and while Jenkins looks top-class, by taking him on we’ll find out just how good our fellow is. He won well on his hurdling debut at Newcastle last month and he might be even better going right-handed. I’ve also been very happy with his work since Newcastle.

“We also have Big Chief Benny going for the closing two mile and five handicap hurdle. He was disappointing first time out at Market Rasen, but I was very pleased with his subsequent run at Doncaster, where he was only narrowly beaten. The handicapper was also impressed as he put us up 3lb for that, and ‘Benny’ is one who won’t be sorry if that rain stays away.”

We also have three going down to Fontwell on Monday, and Alan said:”Rainbow Dreamer runs in the Juvenile Hurdle. He won well on the Sussex course last month with first time cheekpieces, so we keep the headgear on as they seem to have improved him. He came out of that race in good form and, despite his penalty, we hope he’ll run very well.

Spellbound makes her comeback in the mares handicap hurdle. She is a decent mare but has been off since April 2015, though we have done a lot of work with her at home and she is ready to resume.

“Our other runner down there is Bastien in the Pertemps Novices’ Hurdle. He was far too keen on his seasonal debut at Bangor in October and pulled way too hard, despite being dropped out in an attempt to get him to settle. He needs to become more streetwise but as he gets more experience he’ll learn.

“Finally, I would like to wish all my website followers a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year – let’s hope we all have plenty to celebrate in 2017.”