2016 has been a brilliant year with Group and Listed winners aplenty; What a difference a year makes. Whilst 2016 has been brilliant, it's been in complete contrast to last season. Sure, there's always disappointments in horse racing but that's why we love it - when the good times come around, you've got to cherish them.
There weren't many of them last year though - 2015 was a torrid time and luckily, Michael Junior chronicled all of them in his William Hill Sportsbook of the Year Longlisted book called 'How's Your Dad?'
It's published by the Racing Post:
It's doing rather well if you browse the internet and do a bit of reserach.
Regardless, just go out and buy it because Michael Junior is usually skint and he'd appreciate your support.
Jon & Julia Aisbitt's KASSIA (Far Side) edges out Gravity Flow on Saturday
A terrific weekend saw Jon & Julia Aisbitt's KASSIA savour Listed success at Newmarket and Insignia Racing's GOLD AWARD win on his first career outing at Goodwood.
KASSIA's victory in the six furlong Boadicea Stakes under Graham Lee on Saturday was confirmation of what we've long been thinking - this is a filly who could be destined for the very top. When they're good however, they often come with the odd quirk and getting her to this stage has been a real team effort.
At home she's 'Keith's filly' as Keith Evans rides her in all of her work and all of the head lads have had to spend an awful lot of time on her with the starting stalls. Indeed, it became such a crisis for KASSIA that team Witheford were even called upon and all of their endeavours paid off on Saturday.
KASSIA cruised into contention and was the last off the bridle as Gravity Flow gave her a handy lead up the stands rail. She went to join her a furlong from home and although Gravity Flow put up a game fight, KASSIA prevailed by a neck as the pair pulled miles clear of the rest.
Mick was delighted.
"We've been saying it for an awfully long time that she's a star but a few issues have stopped her from showing it to a certain degree. It doesn't matter as long as we get there in the end and we've been able to nurse her through this year and pick up races in handicap company before going for black type.
"Obviously handicaps are thing of the past and that'll be her for the season now. She'll have a go at all of the big sprints next year and I can't wait because there's so much to come. It's exciting."
At Goodwood yesterday, GOLD AWARD delighted his owners in Insignia Racing by taking the Class 5, six furlong juvenile maiden in the hands of Silvestre de Sousa.
It was quite an eye-catching display by the son of Bushranger who looked fairly clueless at halfway until SDS got hold of him and sent him about his business.
He began to make inroads into the lead gained by the experienced Black Bubba at the two pole and finished full of running in the closing stages to run out a length victor.
It was something of a surprise, but one that Mick was rather pleased about.
"You can seldom expect ours to win first time out but this lad has always tried his heart out at home. Believe it or not, I had a tenner each way on him because he's shown a great attitude and I knew he'd do himself justice.
"Silvestre is brilliant on this type of horse because he's a real baby mentally but once he made his mind up he really responded and he'll be finished for the year now because he's a big brute who will only get better.
"I'm chuffed for Tina Dawson and her Insignia team as well. I had to ask them for a bit of time because, like I say, he's a big unit and it took ages to get him to the stage where we could look at entries for him.
"He might have been worth the wait though! I'm not sure what the form represents but we'll find out more about this lad next year. Most of Tina's owners are local to Goodwood so that was great and at last their patience has paid off!"
FATHER McKENZIE - Finally won his Plus 10 race at the eleventh time of asking
Apologies for the sporadic updates of late but it's worth looking back on some landmark successes over the past week.
At Pontefract last Wednesday, a game and consistent performer record his first career victory after a string of four runner-up berths in his debut season whilst LINCOLN confirmed that he was back on track with a second successive win.
FATHER McKENZIE has been kept busy this year and it would be fair to say that since his debut back in June we haven't done too much with him at home. He's thrived on racing and is one of those who seems happy to get on with the job, rest in the paddock between his runs and head off on the horse box once a week.
He's a smasher and his holy grail has been the ten grand bonus which he finally achieved in the Class 4, six furlong maiden under Graham Lee. He took it in fine style by over two lengths and Mick was delighted with a very likeable individual.
"A cracking little horse who is sound, consistent and willing. We've asked plenty of him and he's always responded despite coming second four times against what are potentially decent two year olds. He had to win one sooner or later and we always thought he was capable of grabbing a Plus 10 race.
"He'll probably head to the sales at the end of the year but I couldn't recommend him highly enough because first and foremost, he's got a terrific attitude."
On the same card, LINCOLN made it two from two since his conversion to sprinting by taking Division 1 of the Class 4, six furlong handicap, again with Graham Lee in the plate.
That he did it under a penalty and went on to follow it up with another bold show at Haydock two days later shows that he's finally up and running again after a long barren run. Mick is a relieved man.
"That just goes to show how bonkers horseracing is. The Victoria Cup form of two years ago has made a mockery of me because there's no way I'd have said he was a five furlong horse back then.
"Five or six will be his forte now and he did that very well at Ponty. He's obviously well handicapped as well and we'll see what comes up."
It was also good to see Malih Al Basti's SCRUTINEER win his first race of 2016. The highly tried son of Intense Focus has recorded a string of gallant efforts in defeat this year including finishing runner up in the Free Handicap on his seasonal reappearance.
He's a tough, straight forward colt who only came in to his own at the back end of last year and in soft underground conditions at Hamilton last Monday he turned around the form with Danzero who had got the better of him on their previous two outings by running out the victor of the Class 2 conditions stakes by a length. Again, Graham Lee, who is enjoying a real purple patch for the yard, was on board.
Mick was very happy.
"He's a smashing horse to train and clearly loves a bit of give underfoot. I was tempted to keep going with him for that reason but Malih is keen to head out to the carnival in Dubai. That's his local track and I can understand his reasons."
Finally, at Brighton yesterday, it was Garry Brandt's HARLEQUIN ROSE's turn to break her maiden in the hands of Silvestre de Sousa in the Class 6, five and a half furlong nursery. It was the filly's fifth outing and she battle on gamely as they hit the rising ground to take the event a length in front of Glider and keep Silvestre in the hunt for the jockeys championship.
Mick was pleased for a filly who always gives of her best.
"That was good to see because she has a great attitude. We've had a lot of success for Garry with the likes of Harlequeen and although HARLEQUIN ROSE couldn't hold a candle to her, she's got her own qualities and a good attitude saw her through. We'll keep going until the sales because I feel like she can go in again.
"On the whole, they're all still going all right.
"Notable mentions must go to Gratzie, Harmonise, Masterson, Akkadian Empire and Highlife Dancer in recent weeks - all of them have just hit the post and I couldn't be happier with several of our newcomers.
"There's a lot of promise for the future."
Lord Ilsley Racing's four-time winner SAYESSE
Apologies for being offline of late but the horses are certainly holding their form as we enter autumn with the hope for plenty to come from some promising juveniles and experienced older horses alike.
First up, take a bow SAYESSE - Lord Ilsley Racing's two year old son of Sayif recorded his fourth win in a juvenile season full of highs and lows as it's become something of a guessing game as to which SAYESSE turns up from one run to the next.
A mixture of trainer error and running style are the most likely reasons for a topsy turvy form pattern that sees him win one week and lose the next but one thing is for sure - this is a proper racehorse who is set to give his syndicate some great days towards the end of the season and beyond.
By taking the five and a half furlong, Class 3 Betway Nursery Handicap under John Egan at Chester twelve days ago, SAYESSE took his career earnings to over £25k, not bad for a two year old who only cost five grand at the sales last year. He's tough, game, sound and bombproof and has the £150,000 Tattersalls October Auction Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday week fixed in his sights.
Whilst SAYESSE started his career at West Ilsley, Prince Faisal's home-bred filly ORGANZA arrived from Andre Fabre's in the spring and although she has frustrated at times, that's been down to the number of near misses before finally losing her maiden tag under Graham Lee at Thirsk last week. Her form figures of 3232321 suggests that we weren't doing a lot wrong with the three year old daughter of Pour Moi and she ran out a deserved winner of the Class 5 Breeders Backing Racing EBF Maiden Stakes over a mile under Graham Lee.
ORGANZA certainly hasn't been asked to shirk a challenge in her first year of racing and that was again the case as she faced a red hot favourite in the form of Sun Lover but ran out the victor by over three lengths.
On the Tuesday of last week, Jon & Julia Aisbitt's KASSIA recorded her fifth career win at Pontefract after a somewhat troublesome return to the course after more than a few issues with the starting stalls. She's a sweetheart in everything she does apart from when it comes to the starting gate.
Thankfully, Keith Evans and the Witheford team worked their magic with the three year old and once she agreed to load, the Class 2, six furlong EBF Breeders' Series Fillies' Handicap was a formality as KASSIA stalked the opposition throughout before making her move under Graham Lee at the top of the hill. She was produced a furlong from home and prevailed by three parts of a length in the style of a class act.
Black type is the next step for a three year old filly with a bright future.
Which leads us on to LINCOLN.
There has been plenty of feedback regarding our campaigning of the five year old Clodovil gelding and yes, his losing streak up until last Wednesday's Class 4 handicap success at Ayr stretched back two years and nineteen runs. There have been many compliments about that from our world wide online fan club.
Truth of the matter is though, LINCOLN went and made a mockery of his previous form over seven furlongs which includes finishing runner up in the Victoria Cup. He's always had his quirks but we've managed to add to that list now by taking most of his career to work out that he'd sluice up under Graham Lee over five furlongs.
He runs again today at Pontefract over six furlongs with hope that he's finally turned a corner and we'll not have to wait another two years only to find out that he needs a mile and a half, or perhaps he'll convert to track cycling - What would we know?
Finally, a real star in the making, as TARA CELEB made it two wins from two starts in her debut season under Andrea Atzeni at Leicester on Monday afternoon. It was the Class 5 Aston Flamville Fillies' Nursery Handicap over her minimum trip of six furlongs and she had to be asked all the way to hold off Fields of Song.
She did so gamely but a step up in trip is very much called for to see her at her best and winning off a mark of 73 won't be seen again for the foreseeable future. There's a Newmarket fillies' nursery on the radar over seven furlongs and we'll know more about her after that.
Mick is pleased with the way things are going.
"Once we get to this stage of the season I've come to expect our horses to hold their form and they are showing no signs of falling away. We've been running a mixed bag of talent and experience of late as we need to get a feel for what sort of squad we will have for next year.
"Some will head to the sales whilst some are merely using the autumn as a springboard for 2017 and there's plenty to look forward to.
"TARA CELEB could be anything and I know we've not even scratched the surface with KASSIA yet. She's had a bit of a fallout with the process of loading but the team and Gary and Craig Witherford did a great job with her.
"ORGANZA got her just rewards after running so well in defeat against some smart opposition whilst SAYESSE could be a real gem for Lord Ilsley Racing. He's getting better and better and has the big sales race coming up. Looking ahead, it would be great to think he makes into a proper sprint handicapper next year. We all love a Saturday horse who can run throughout the year.
"As for LINCOLN, no comment."
Derek & Jean Clee's MOTDAW (Left) battles on to victory yesterday afternoon
Another Saturday win for Derek & Jean Clee's homebred filly MOTDAW saw the daughter of Motivator storm home in soft ground conditions in Haydock's opener yesterday afternoon.
Small in stature but big in heart, MOTDAW has been christened 'Mini Treve' at home - she's very popular, very game and ultra effective when there's cut in the ground. She took the Class 2 ten furlong handicap under visiting French jockey Alexis Badel yesterday finishing half a length ahead of Rosental with the rest spread-eagled in arrears.
It was a great thrill for everyone, especially Mick whose immediate thoughts were with the owner-breeders.
"A great result and Derek & Jean were straight on the phone to me. They were ecstatic and when you can play a part in making people as happy as that, the whole job becomes worthwhile.
"She's turning into a real force to be reckoned with when there's cut in the ground. That's her third win of the season and she'll probably go up to be rated in the 90's now.
"We'll have to pick the right races now because we all think she's capable of black type and as we move into the autumn she'll have plenty of entries in Listed races.
"Derek & Jean deserve it because they put a lot into the game and have been long term supporters of the likes of us, the Hannon's and Bryn Palling.
"It's good to have something guaranteed to act on soft ground as we leave the faster ground behind."
Box 41's Marc Middlemiss was on hand to welcome MASTERSON and Tony Hamilton back yesterday
A long trip to the north east and a step up to two miles certainly didn't bother Box 41's MASTERSON who yesterday recorded a second successive win in the Class 6 extended two mile handicap in the hands of Tony Hamilton.
MASTERSON has always been a popular horse at home with plenty of us singing his praises but, as we said after his previous success at Lingfield, his season took a long time to ignite. He certainly didn't look like he would stay a mile and a half earlier on in the year but having won over yesterday's trip and the manner in which he did, suggests that he's only now showing his true colours.
Mick certainly agrees with that appraisal.
"He's always been very sound and very willing. He was one of my major disappointments of this season because everything he's done all year has promised so much but never materialised.
"Horses can't talk though and he was probably weak on us for the first half of 2016. We are only now seeing what we all thought we would earlier on in and although he's in the sales we'll have to have a chat with the Box 41 team now because we've had to wait for him and we wouldn't want others to benefit from our patience."
Insignia Racing's KNIGHT OF THE AIR - A winner at Chepstow yesterday afternoon
After a frustrating defeat at Bath nine days ago, it was very satisfying to see Insignia Racing's KNIGHT OF THE AIR make amends at Chepstow yesterday as he took division one of the Class 6 Oakgrove Stud Supports Noah's Ark Children's Hospital Handicap in the hands of Oisin Murphy.
It was an eyecatchig ride that saw KNIGHT OF THE AIR anchored at the back of the fourteen runner field for much of the seven furlong contest, only being asked for an effort three furlongs out. He made steady progress throughout before he hit the front inside the final furlong. He held on comfortably enough despite Satchville Flyer's late rally to please the Boss no end.
"Justly deserved for this fella who is very consistent if perhaps a little frustrating at times. He needs cover and to be produced at the right time and that was a smashing ride yesterday. Shane Kelly did very litytle wrong at Bath last time but blamed himself, saying he should have waited even longer than he did. You can see what he means because this lad has just one surge and then rather falters but not yesterday.
"I was very pleased because this lad, although he's no star, goes to work and is always willing. He's been invaluable to us this year at home and thankfully he's tranferred that onto the racecourse."
Qatar Racing & The Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA seen winning at Goodwood yesterday
A superb performance from a consistent and improving filly at Goodwood yesterday saw Qatar Racing and The Sweet Partnership's OPAL TIARA step up on her status as a Listed filly to Group 3 winner in tenacious style.
This was her third win in her last four outings and yesterday is undoubtedly a career highpoint as she defeated class older horses of undoubted talent in a thrilling finish to the Doom Bar Supreme Stakes over seven furlongs in the hands of Oisin Murphy.
Although not aided by a wide draw, as was the case in her last Goodwood appearance at the Glorious meeting, a raft of non runners allowed her to get some sort of a position yesterday and when push came to shove she knuckled down in the closing stages to prevail by a neck ahead of Convey and Jallota.
Mick was ecstatic and delighted for connections.
"That was terrific and this is one tough filly. Qatar Racing and their partners Keith & Clive Potter and Gill Hedley who also bred her can be rightly proud. She just kept on finding and Oisin was rightly impressed with her attitude because at one point it looked over only for her to go again and surge over the line.
"We'll have to sit down and assess her options now because she needs fast ground and if the rain comes in the autumn we'll perhaps look to Dubai or possibly Qatar. I don't know exactly what the future holds in terms of her racing but we'll have a chat this week.
"All I do know is that right now we're all chuffed - and rightly so."
The tara Moon Partnership's TARA MOON - A winner on debut yesterday
A pleasing day on the juvenile front yesterday as TARA CELEB won on debut under John Egan at Goodwood and Christophe Soumillon put in a proper shift to guide KING OF SPADES home in Deauville.
Whilst both entered the winners enclosure for the first time though, only one of them has returned to West Ilsley.
TARA CELEB only arrived at the end of May but has shown enough to suggest that she has a bright future ahead of her - the fact that she won on debut suggests as much. Although she was slowly away yesterday, she came effortlessly into contention in the second half of the Class 4 six furlong event and kept on well in the final furlong to hold off the more experienced Money in my Pocket by a neck.
Mick was delighted with a filly who has been straight-forward from day one.
"I knew she'd go well because she always has at home. She's an utter professional and has a pedigree that suggested she ought to have a bit of ability. She came to us through Mike and Gloria Tourle and their daughter Tracey and we look set for a lot of fun.
"She's mentally very strong and John Egan was impressed. We'll probably step her up in trip now but I'm in no hurry, we've got time on our side."
It's a different story for Chris Wright and Catherine Corbett's KING OF SPADES however who was claimed after taking the opener at Deauville yesterday. In taking the six furlong contest, the son of Foxwedge finally broke his maiden tag and, because he qualified for the prize money premiums for French bred horses, his second foray across the channel was a winning one.
KING OF SPADES travelled to Clarefontaine in July and finished second in a maiden and although we were sorry to see him claimed after his win yesterday, his price was €30,000 whilst the prize money was an additional €10,000.
All in all, Mick was satisfied with a profitable venture.
"It's sad to see him go but we're big boys and we know the score. KING OF SPADES will prove good value to his new connections though because he's a great big baby at present. Mentally he's not there yet but Christophe gave him a great ride and had to make him do it two furlongs out.
"Once he got there he won cosily but that just underlines what a slow burner he is. Fair play to Chris Wright, he was keen to capitalise on the horse's French qualifications and he drove this through."
Box 41's MASTERSON (Grey) - A winner at Lingfield yesterday afternoon
It feels like a long time in coming and it probably was but Box 41's MASTERSON finally returned to winning ways at Lingfield yesterday afternoon under Silvestre de Sousa.
Since his first career win as a juvenile in September of last year, MASTERSON was a horse that his syndicate had high hopes for. He'd won over ten furlongs that day and promised to be a platform from which he could build.
It didn't quite happen that way however and it's been more than a little frustrating. Yesterday he'd even dropped down to a mark of 55 and Silvestre produced him perfectly in the closing stages of extended eleven furlong Class 6 contest to record victory by three quarters of a length, fending off the late attentions of Whitstable Pearl.
It was a relief to Mick who has been disappointed up until this point.
"This season hasn't gone to plan and if I'm honest, I can't put my finger on why this horse has had to drop into 0-55 class to win. It might just be that he belongs at that level but he's got plenty going for him and for most of this year he's given us the impression that there's much more than we've actually seen from him.
"He's been over to Hen's and schooled - brilliantly in fact - he's got a great nature to him, he's sound and seems willing enough.
"Perhaps he's weak deep down but if I'm honest, I can't explain it because everyone who deals with him is so complimentary but the results certainly don't back up their praise.
"I've been disappointed and I'm very relieved that he won yesterday. Perhaps we'll see an upturn in fortunes now - it happened when another Box 41 horse Blacklister got his head in front and went on to record a hat-trick. I hope the same occurs with this lad."