Harry Fry: Owners telling me not to enter at ARC racecourses
The Betway ambassador says something needs to be done about the prize money on offer at ARC venues, and also previews his weekend runners at Newbury.
Prize money problem
The poor level of prize money at ARC racecourse has been blatantly obvious for weeks now.
Their tracks stand out like a sore thumb and we cannot accept the current situation.
We’re fully behind trainers like Ralph Beckett and next week’s potential boycott of Lingfield, as something needs to be done.
Fontwell, another ARC course, is experiencing the same problems.
There’s a meeting there next week where the maiden hurdle is worth just £100 more than the bumper, and owners are telling me not to bother entering them.
They’ve now reopened the races, but I think they’re going to end up with some very small fields.
There are independent racecourses, such as Taunton and Ludlow, that are putting ARC to shame at the moment.
What’s frustrating is that Fontwell had a good card last weekend, where we ran If The Cap Fits in the Grade 2 National Spirit Hurdle, but they can only seem to get it right for one meeting before getting it wrong again.
I don’t see this issue being resolved overnight, but it would be encouraging to know whether any progress is being made.
High class King on our hands
We were very pleased with King Roland’s win under a penalty at Ffos Las on Tuesday.
He was a little bit head-strong going to post, and Noel Fehily had to drop him in stone cold last to get him settled.
We had to give the whole field a bit of a head start as a result and it was fairly testing ground so we were delighted he managed to come home in front to maintain his unbeaten record.
No decision has been made yet as to whether we run him again in a race like the Irish Champion Bumper at Punchestown, or whether we leave him alone and save him for next season.
He’s a hugely exciting horse and is very much a work in progress. He’ll go hurdling next year and is really a chaser in the making. He’s a big, rangy horse that hasn’t finished growing.
I’m very pleased for the owners, the Mastersons, who have been incredibly patient.
Having lost Neon Wolf in such tragic circumstances, it’s great that we have another high class horse on our hands, though he’s obviously not quite reached those heights yet.
He does, however, promise to be every bit as good as him and is right at the top of the pecking order in terms of the other bumpers in the yard. Only him and Get In The Queue have managed to win bumpers under a penalty this season.
Opening Batsman was up against younger horses on slightly dead ground at Wincanton on Wednesday.
He really loves proper good ground, so whilst he’s still enjoying himself we’ll aim him at a couple of nice races at Wincanton at the end of March.
It would be great to get his head in front one last time and go out on a high.
We’ve got two at Newbury on Saturday, starting with Space Oddity in the Seniors' Handicap Hurdle (13:30).
He’s an eight-year-old that hasn’t run for a while. These seniors’ contests give horses like him a good chance to build some confidence and possibly get their head back in front.
Having come unstuck the last couple of times over fences, he was back over hurdles at Taunton, but the trip was too short for him.
I wouldn’t read too much into that last run, which actually would have helped to get his confidence back more than anything.
The Last Samuri then goes in the Greatwood Veterans' Handicap Chase (14:05), where he looks like being down to a winnable mark.
Having been eased a couple of pounds to a mark of 151 after finishing second in the Portman Cup at Taunton, I had a conversation with the handicapper, who agreed to drop us down to 150 so that we could run him in this contest.
One of the most important things about tomorrow is that, although he has to give weight away all round, he’s giving it away to horses of a similar age.
We think he’s as well as we’ve had him all season. He’s showing plenty of enthusiasm at home and we’re hoping for a big run.
He’s in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, but that will probably come too soon and it’s more likely that he’ll head straight to Aintree for the Grand National if all goes well on Saturday.
We were also planning on taking American up to Kelso but the rain just hasn’t arrived.
He needs proper soft ground and we’re just waiting for the heavens to open.
There’s a bit forecast next week, and he does hold entries in the Ultima and the Gold Cup, as well as the Midlands National, so we’ll just have to wait to see when and where the rain comes.
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