Our delight at reaching a century of winners at Ascot on Saturday for the 21st time turned to despair on Sunday when Master Tommytucker broke his leg in a fall at Lingfield.
Losing a horse in these circumstances is always hard to bear and Tommy was a lovely bold, confident character who relished his work and enjoyed leading the string every morning ridden by Scott Marshall who thought the world of him as did the whole team at home .
Despite the odd hiccup he developed into a smart chaser, was still lightly raced and was just moving nicely into contention on the heels of the leaders after what was looking a well judged ride by Harry when he came down three fences from home in the Fleur de Lys Chase with fatal results.
My commiserations to his owners Tony Fear and Louise Cabble who bred him and to Scott who looked after him. These things are never easy.
I’ve been touched by the dozens of kind messages I received after it became clear Master Tommytucker had not survived his fall.
The mood had been so much brighter at Ascot on Saturday after David Maxwell’s determined success on Cat Tiger brought up the century for Team Ditcheat. David blamed himself for going too soon on the horse when they were narrowly beaten at Doncaster last time and made amends in great style on Saturday.
He learned his lesson there, delivered Cat Tiger at the last fence and gave him a fantastic ride to gain the day. I hope all the tweeters who gave David dogs abuse 24 days earlier raised a glass to him on Saturday night. He is the most sporting of amateur jockeys, a huge enthusiast, works so hard at his fitness and riding and has four or five nice hunter chasers to ride for the rest of the season starting with Stratagem at Hereford next week.
Yala Enki completed a fine afternoon for the yard by winning the Portman Cup Chase at Taunton for the third year running. He is a cracking , enthusiastic veteran chaser who wears his heart on his sleeve and gives his best every time. If he runs again this season it will most likely be in the Scottish Grand National on April 2.
Then next season we might take him back to Cheltenham for the race he won in November before his swansong in the Portman Cup in twelve month’s time.
Things didn’t really go our way over the two days at Lingfield’s Winter Million meeting.
All credit, however to the course executive for putting on such valuable prize money. Unfortunately some of our horses couldn’t handle the deep ground, while Broken Halo broke a blood vessel in the novice chase on Friday and Rainyday Woman was pulled up with an irregular heartbeat. She is fine now and will have an easy time over the next few weeks and be back in the spring .
On Sunday Il Ridoto ran well to be third in the £50,000 Cazoo Novice Chase and Shearer rounded off a tough day for Team Ditcheat by finishing second in the novice handicap hurdle.
I keep reading complaints about small fields of runners in jumps races yet the showdown at Ascot between Shishkin and Energumene proved that you only need a handful of runners to produce a thrilling spectacle.
At Taunton on a lesser scale the crowd were amazing as they got behind Yala Enki after he beat four opponents. The reception they gave him as he returned in triumph was fabulous.
Then on Sunday the three runner Cheltenham Festival Guide Hurdle at Lingfield provided a stirring finish with all three in contention as they landed over the final flight. It just shows you don’t need a huge field of handicappers to deliver an exciting horserace.
We will have a few runners at our local track Wincanton on Wednesday before a busy weekend with plenty of entries at Cheltenham and Doncaster on Saturday.
Simply the Betts, Magic Saint, Lalor and Solo are all pencilled in for entries at Cheltenham with McFabulous on course for the Cleeve Hurdle and Iceo in the Triumph Hurdle Trial. Kapcorse and Miranda are in the squad heading to Doncaster.
For all the latest news on my Saturday runners please turn to my Betfair column which goes live late the previous afternoon.