Friday December 30

We say farewell to 2016 tomorrow night, by which time we will hopefully have had something to celebrate at either Newbury or Warwick, with Messire des Obeaux the star of the show in the Grade 1 Challow Hurdle on our local course.

This has not been one of Alan’s luckier races – he could entertain you over Hogmanay with a series of tales of woe – but he has fingers and toes crossed that Jack Frost will clear off before race-time so that Messire des Obeaux can erase those miserable memories from yesteryear.

Alan said:”Fortunately, Messire des Obeaux cannot read, so the stats mean nothing to him. We’ve come away from Newbury before with a bloody nose after taking a couple of good ones for the Challow, but it is the logical place to go with ‘Messire’ as he would have to carry a penalty if we waited for Cheltenham on Sunday.

“Messire des Obeaux will make a lovely chaser next winter, but he is looking a pretty smart novice hurdler. He won well at Bangor and I was then really pleased how well he knuckled down and battled his way to the front up the hill to win a Grade 1 at Sandown. He looked beaten between the last two flights but his stamina then kicked in. He’s a horse with a big future and he goes in soft ground so I wouldn’t mind if we got some rain.”

Of our other Saturday runners, Alan added:”Saint Contest runs in the Juvenile Hurdle at Newbury. There haven’t been a cluster of these races to choose from recently, so we started him off in an all-aged novice at Wincanton, where he ran well enough to finish third. He has strengthened up a lot since then.

“We took Willoughby Hedge out of Doncaster on Thursday because of the crusty ground, so we have re-routed him to Newbury for the Mandarin. He fractured his pelvis in the spring and then found the ground too soft on his comeback run at Bangor, so, while we’d like rain for ‘Messire’, this one would be happy if underfoot conditions continued to dry up.”

“We run Handsome Sam in the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle up at Warwick. I was pleased with his comeback second at Doncaster and would like to think that he has come on for that.

“The same comment would apply to Skeleton Bob in the bumper there. He was runner-up in an all-weather bumper on his debut and he, too, has come on a lot for that judging by his work at home. I’m looking forward to getting him on grass here.

“Let’s hope we’ll have something to celebrate tomorrow night, but, being a Scotsman I always enjoy New Year’s Eve and I hope, like me, you’ll have a terrific time bringing in 2017.”