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Carlisle calling for our Champ

GOOD news that Carlisle has passed its inspection, although with 30mm of rain having fallen overnight it’s hardly a surprise that conditions have eased considerably. More so on the hurdles course, where it’s soft, heavy in places, and Aazza and Firth Of Forth are now both non-runners in the opening handicap for conditional jockeys as a result.

It’s especially frustrating for Firth Of Forth, who we took out of Wetherby yesterday, where we felt the ground was just a shade too quick for him as we knew we had Carlisle as a back-up option! It’s annoying, but these things can’t be helped sometimes, especially when we’re relying on the great British weather. There are plenty of options coming up, so hopefully we’ll get both of them out for their first runs of the autumn soon enough.

It leaves FETE CHAMPETRE (4.45) as our sole runner on the eight-race card. He’s one of nine declared runners for the 2m handicap chase, which is being run in memory of legendary racing journalist John Budden. John was a real larger-than-life character, who had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of racing and was part of the fabric of Cumbrian life. He’s been much missed since his passing last August, at the age of 83, and it’s lovely this race is being staged in his honour.

Fete Champetre (above) has never run at Carlisle before, but a stiff 2m should be ideal for him. All of his three wins have come on better ground, so I’m pleased the chase track there seems to have taken the rain better, although I’m hoping it doesn’t get any more testing than the current good-to-soft, soft in places.

We only managed to get two runs into him last season, and he ended up soundly beaten in both, but he’s in really, really good order at home. He’s always been a very talented horse on his day and I’m hoping he shows that today, as the handicapper has given him a chance by dropping him 6lb since his last run. For me, he’s the forgotten horse in the betting and Craig Nichol rides. Here he is below being led in a schooling session by Slanelough.

Speaking of Slanelough, I was delighted with his run at Wetherby yesterday. He jumped really well on his return to action and it’s a run that should put him spot-on for next time. I suspected 1m7f around that track would be too sharp for him, but that will put an edge on him and we’ll probably look to go back up to 2m4f next time, as that’s the trip he won over at Newcastle second time up last season.


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