When you are lucky enough to work with The Daily Sport AND Ron Robinson of Post Racing and World Of Sport fame, you occasionally get an invite to some interesting racing “dos”, and last weekend was one of those as I headed down to deepest darkest Dorset to the Harry Fry stable for an owners morning, closely followed by an Open day where plenty of horses were paraded for us, complete with running commentary from Harry himself.
After a bit of mingling with the rich and powerful (where I probably stood out like a sore thumb), I grabbed a cup of coffee and a few of the free canapes (the mini Yorkshires with rare roast beef almost made up for a missing Sunday Roast), before unpacking the camera and spending the next hour plus staring through a lens while recording the trainers comments to listen to later.
50 horses were paraded in all, more of a marathon than a sprint, but you will be delighted to know that I have picked out those the trainer sounded most enthusiastic about, to give you all a shortlist to add to your trackers for the National Hunt season ahead – hopefully they will prove to be fun to follow, and maybe even profitable in the long run, you never know.
Metier – When the trainer describes him as “unfinished business” then you know he thinks he has a decent sort on his hands. After winning his first three races, including the Tolworth hurdle, expectations were high for Cheltenham and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, but it wasn’t to be and he came home a distant seventh. It turns out he had a larynx issue which explained his lacklustre effort, and with that issue now well and truly behind him, an exciting season awaits. As things stand he remains on target for the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham when hopefully he can bounce back to winning ways.
Ask Me Early – A decent sort with three wins from four starts over fences, Harry seems to feel he may be a genuine “National” contender this season – though possibly the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow where he has already won two of his three starts. He seems to revel in the heavy underfoot conditions regularly found at the track and could be a serious contender, depending on the handicapper’s attentions between now and then, of course. Aintree is not off the agenda given the right going, but expect to see him start this season back over hurdles to avoid too much weight come his major targets over the larger obstacles.
White Hart Lady – If there is a well-handicapped horse in the yard then there is every chance that this daughter of Doyen is it when you listen to Harry’s words. Describing her as “frustrating”, she won first time up at Aintree in a decent bumper but failed to go on from there in six further races, three in bumpers and three over hurdles. Harry clearly thinks she is a lot better than that, and if he can find the key to unlock her abilities, then an opening handicap mark of 85 is laughable, and one they may well be able to exploit.
If The Cap Fits – Classy over hurdles with six wins from 12 starts he was sent over fences and beat useful yardstick Fiddlerontheroof by over seven lengths at Ffos Las. Instead of being a new beginning, he rather fizzled out after that despite hitting a few top three finishes, leaving Harry scratching his head a little. As things stand he will go back over hurdles to start this season, but I got the feeling there is more to come in both spheres, and if the ability is there, I have little doubt Mr Fry is the man to find it.
Walk On High – With the Clover Club owning a piece of this horse he has to make the shortlist. Described by Harry as one of his best unraced horses, he is impeccably bred as a son of Walk in The Park and is related to any number of top-class winners in Ireland including Min and Douvan, and if he is half as good as them, then everyone involved will be very happy. We hope to see him on the track in November, but they won’t be rushing him with a bright future ahead, and I for one am really looking forward to seeing his debut and future races.
Whitehotchillifili – one out of left field a little here and originally included because I like her character. A feisty mare who was bucking and kicking while we visited, if she can transfer that “aggression” to the racecourse this season we seem likely to see a few more wins. She has already proved her worth win a win at Sandown in January and she seems happiest on a slower surface. Rated 134 at present, she will need to be carefully placed to add to her earlier successes and I don’t expect to see her running (or at least winning) until the rains fall in deepest darkest winter