by Graeme Rodway
There’s a real sense of unfinished business echoing around Sandhill Stables as Philip Hobbs goes into his 35th year of training.
Hobbs went into the Cheltenham Festival with an enviable squadron but, as all racing’s greats experience, suffered a week of misfortune. Sporting John never fired in the Ballymore, Thyme Hill experienced Friday traffic problems more at home on the M25 than the final furlongs of the Albert Bartlett, and Martin Pipe fancy Pileon was denied by the slimmest of margins.
Even more frustrating was the season’s star Defi Du Seuil. He looked destined to be crowned two-mile champion with powerhouse rivals Altior and Chacun Pour Soi ruled out at the last minute – but the dual festival winner had a rare off day behind Politologue.
Much of the world may have changed since then but the Hobbs yard is still brimming with talent sure to scoop plenty top-notch prizes.
Thyme Hill looks a hot second-season hurdler entering the staying division, while the inevitable Defi Du Seuil versus Altior clash is a mouthwatering prospect.
Elsewhere, in Sporting John, St Barts and Pileon, the Hobbs team have plenty to look forward to in novice chases and the amount of quality new young recruits is also worth noting.
Traditionally the Hobbs runners tend to thrive in November with a sparkling 79 winners in the month in the past five seasons, so be sure to get his leading young prospects in your tracker immediately.
But the winter months are just the start as you can expect the boss and his quality team in Somerset to have another fantastic fleet heading to Cheltenham next March.
Rival to watch
It’d have to be Paisley Park as he’s looked the best in the three-mile hurdling division which we’re going into with Thyme Hill.
Race in focus
We’ll hopefully have Deise Aba going to the Welsh National which looks like it would suit him well. Steely Addition may go but he’ll need to improve first.
Where Bilbrook, near Minehead, Somerset
Assistant trainers Johnson White, Ben Robarts
Travelling head lad Sean Mulcaire
Travelling head lasses Laura Parker, Zoe Moore-Williams, Julia Batho
Head girls Carol Burnett, Lisa Jackson
Jockeys Richard Johnson, Tom O’Brien, Micheal Nolan, James Best
Conditionals Sean Houlihan, Ben Jones
Amateurs David Maxwell, Jack Martin, Isaac Buncle, Tom Dixon
Secretary Jo Cody-Boutcher
Assistant secretary Diana Hobbs
Started training 1985
Horses in yard 111
Members of staff 37
Stable sponsor Philip Hobbs Racing
Winners in Britain
Profit/loss to £1 stake
Presenting (sire) – Raya Light (dam)
Owner: Mrs Diana L Whateley
Form figures: 8-4
Racing Post Rating: 101 (hurdles)
He ran a nice first race over hurdles for us when he was fourth at Chepstow last month and hopefully he’ll improve for the experience. He runs at Exeter on Tuesday.
Beau Du Brizais
8g Kapgarde – Belle Du Brizais
Mrs R J Skan
RPR 140c OR 132c
He ran very well at Wincanton the other day and is a reliable horse who has been a bit of a star really. He might well go back to Wincanton for the Badger Beers on Saturday.
4g Lope De Vega – Bernieres
He’s a very nice horse and he’s schooled really well. He won two races on the Flat at Saint-Cloud before he joined us. He’ll probably run quite soon and is going nicely so we’re looking forward to him.
4g Getaway – Lucky Pigeon
Mrs R J Skan
He had some good form in bumpers, although he was disappointing over hurdles at Uttoxeter and at Hereford on Monday. There’s no real reason for that but hopefully the experience will benefit him for next time.
5g Milan – Shatani
Mrs Judith Luff
He ran well in a bumper on his only start and will be running in his first hurdle race before too long.
5g Well Chosen – Miss Audacious
The Philip Hobbs Racing Partnership II
He was third in his only point-to-point in Ireland last December where he was beaten just shy of four lengths. He’s a strong chaser for the future but will start off straight over hurdles this season.
Defi Du Seuil
7g Voix Du Nord – Quarvine Du Seuil
RPR 171c OR 169c
He’s in good form and we’re very happy with everything he’s done so far since he’s come back. He disappointed in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham but there was no obvious reason for it – nothing showed up after the race. I suppose he was a bit flat on the way to the start and during the race itself. He’d been very good before then and looks to be doing really well now. He’ll probably start off in the Shloer Chase [November 15] at Cheltenham and then we’ll decide what to do after then. He’ll stay further – as we know he can – but his future targets will depend on what happens on that first start back.
7g Mahler – Kit Massini
RPR 146c OR 141h
He was progressive last season with two wins and he looked really good at Sandown before running well when fifth in the Kim Muir. His target this year is the Welsh National and he’ll have a run before that, but where that is I’m not sure. Chepstow’s very much the big target for him.
6g Shantou – Carrig Eden Lass
David Maxwell Racing
RPR 140h OR 137h
He’s a lovely horse who looks to be going in the right direction. He had another good campaign last season, winning three times, and we still think he’s improving. We’ll start him off in a handicap hurdle but he could go novice chasing later in the season. He has the speed for two and a half miles although he’s most effective at three miles.
7g Coastal Path – Quiphile
RPR 134h OR 130h
He had some solid form over hurdles last season and won impressively at Fontwell on Boxing Day. It’s very likely he’ll start in novice handicap chases and we’ll go from there. He’s a big, strong horse and certainly could go quite a bit further than two miles, but we’ll start him off between two and two and a half miles.
6g Ask – Merrylas
Mrs Catherine Penny
RPR 137h OR 135h
He had his first run of the season at Stratford last week and jumped well but I thought he might’ve finished a bit closer. Hopefully he’ll benefit for the run. He copes with soft ground and is suited by two and a half miles. He’s rated 135 which I think is fair for him and he’ll go novice chasing.
Ecu De La Noverie
6g Linda’s Lad – Quat’Sous D’Or
David Maxwell Racing
RPR 147c OR 139c
Another for David Maxwell who has some nice form and ran well the other day at Wetherby. I think he’ll probably go hunter chasing now so won’t run again until January.
6g Coastal Path – Toutamie
Michael And Norma Tuckey
RPR 127h OR 128h
He was much too keen when he ran at Uttoxeter, which he hadn’t been before. He pulled too hard and it was probably a mistake going nearly three miles in soft ground first time back, particularly as he pulled hard. He’s entered at Sandown on Sunday. We think he’s on a good mark and he’s a chaser for the future.
5g Presenting – Cent Prime
I thought he ran very well at Chepstow last time. He was still rather green and ended up making a lot of the running which possibly wasn’t ideal, but we hope he’ll improve as he gets more experience. He’s got some good bumper form and is a nice horse who jumps well at home. He’s an exciting prospect this season and I hope he can go on to better things. He’s run well over two and a half miles but I’m sure he’ll stay further in time too.
6g Fame And Glory – Princesse Supreme
RPR 130h OR 130h
He’s run twice over hurdles already this season. I thought it was a good run the other day at Cheltenham but possibly the trip was far enough for him. He’s been schooling well over fences so that’ll be his job now.
Forever Des Long
5g Blue Bresil – Fetuque Du Moulin
Noel Fehily Racing Syndicates
RPR 117h OR 122h
After his trip to Hexham he had heat-stress and as a result was quite distressed too. But he’s perfectly all right now and hopefully we can put that behind us next time.
10g Flemensfirth – Nuit Des Chartreux
Robert & Janet Gibbs
RPR 153c OR 147c
I think he’s rated very high in the handicap for an older horse. He’ll probably run at the Ladbrokes Trophy meeting next as he always seems to run well at Newbury.
6g Gold Well – Fugal Maid
RPR 127 OR 129
He jumped well the last day but was a bit disappointing up at Aintree. He wants soft ground and three miles.
7g Presenting – Fair Choice
The Grocer Syndicate
RPR 128h OR 122h
He’s been a very unlucky horse. He’s had lots of minor things go against him – he hurt his knee and then had a year off with his tendon. But he’s a horse with a fair amount of ability and some of his form is quite good. I imagine we’ll have one more run over hurdles with him before we decide whether to go chasing.
6g No Risk At All – Good Time Girl
RPR 154c OR 150c
We were really happy with his win at Uttoxeter last time. He jumped extremely well and learned a lot from his first run to win easily. We’ll look at the two-mile novice chase at the Cheltenham November meeting next.
Hope You Do
3g Boris De Deauville – Une Tournee
He’s schooling well and his work has been good too. We’re really happy with him at this stage. Hopefully he could be a nice type for the season.
9g Presenting – Penneyrose Bay
Sir Christopher & Lady Wates
RPR 154c OR 149c
He’d had two good wins this summer but we thought the ground was plenty soft enough for him in the Old Roan last time. He’ll now go on a winter break.
6g Linda’s Lad – Jaune De Beaufai
David Maxwell Racing
RPR 152h OR 148h
He had a good season for us over hurdles last season and his big target is the Foxhunter at the Cheltenham Festival. We hope he can be David Maxwell’s best chance in the race to date. We’ll keep him out until January and aim to quality for it by winning two open point-to-points.
8g Jeremy – Get A Few Bob Back
RPR 152c OR 143c
He was third in a competitive Listed handicap at Christmas and we were aiming him at the Irish National. His ideal conditions are three miles on a right-handed track, although he’ll probably go further. We’ll look to get him going in the next few weeks when conditions suit.
6g Martaline – Karuma
RPR 141h OR 141h
He was progressive over hurdles last season and a runner-up in a Grade 2 on his last start. This season he’ll be going novice chasing. He’s been a little bit keen so hopefully he can learn to settle better when he goes over fences. His first run might come at Newbury later this week.
7g Mahler – Kayles Castle
Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club
RPR 117 OR 118
He won his bumper well at Warwick in December 2018 but has been a bit unlucky so far over hurdles. I think as he settles better he’ll improve. He’ll also want further than the two miles he was running over last time, but because he’s keen we need to make sure we’re not going over too far a trip. Hopefully we can win a race with him over hurdles before he goes chasing.
4g Kapgarde – Villemanzie
David Maxwell Racing
I think he’s a very nice horse and he’s schooled well. He finished second in his one hurdle race in France and we hope he can go on to decent things. He’s a nice one and he’ll be out within a month or two.
3g Sholokhov – Theregoesthetruth
The Englands And Heywoods
He’s a nice young horse who does everything so well at this stage. He’s still only a three-year-old so we’ll take our time with him.
7g Kayf Tara – Follow My Leader
The Englands and Heywoods
RPR 130c OR 130c
We gave him a wind operation last season which has made a difference. He goes novice chasing this year and ran well on his first start over fences at Exeter. He runs on Tuesday and hopefully there’s more to come this season.
7g Turgeon – Etoile De Loir
RPR 137h OR 133h
We’re a bit unsure as to whether he runs in another hurdle race or goes straight into a novice chase. He’s probably at his best going left-handed over two miles on heavy ground. However, there’s a valuable handicap hurdle at Haydock – over 2m3f – that we’re looking at for him on November 21. We might wait for that as he’s won at the track before.
4g Beat Hollow – Fairly Definite
Owners For Owners Luttrell Lad
He finished a very promising second in a bumper at Stratford on his first start for us in September. He’s got a nice pedigree, being closely related to Duke Of Lucca, and we hope he’s going to progress.
5g Getaway – Gently Go
Mrs Pam Bosley
RPR 137 OR 136
He’s not very experienced and is still a bit green, although he’s won two of his three career starts. He showed some good form in his runs at Taunton last year and he’ll continue to run in 2m4f handicap hurdles but he won’t be out for a bit.
6g Sholokhov – Yorkshire Girl
Owners For Owners: Melekhov
RPR 128h OR 126h
He showed good ability but has had a few health problems. He seems back on track now and he’ll probably run soon. He’ll be aimed at handicap hurdles over two and a half miles on better ground.
7g Getaway – Inghwung
RPR 144c OR 137c
He progressed with each run over fences last season and was last seen running a good race at Uttoxeter. That was his first start over three miles and he stayed on well. He’s a likely improver. He’ll run in handicap chases this season and we hope there’s more to come.
9g Kayf Tara – Dizzy Frizzy
RPR 144c OR 137c
He had two nasty falls in his last two chases so we might just give him a run over hurdles to get him back under way. He’s still not won a chase yet even if his form over fences is decent. Prior to his falls his jumping had been quite good and he has plenty of ability. I’m not sure where we’ll start yet.
7g Oscar – Tirolean Dance
RPR 141h OR 137h
He placed three times over hurdles last season and ran creditably in the Betfair Hurdle and County Hurdle. Two miles is his trip as he shows plenty of speed. We might just keep him in competitive handicap hurdles at the moment but he’ll probably be going chasing later in the year.
Off The Planet
5g Presenting – Kings Diva
Having run in a bumper at Ascot last Saturday, we’ll look at a novice hurdle for him next.
4g Milan – Morning Legend
He was second in his only point-to-point in Ireland and he’s a horse with a very good temperament. He works well and his schooling has been good. We’ll look to have him out in the next week or two, probably in a bumper.
6g Arcadio – Starventure
RPR 128 OR 125
He’s potentially a nice horse for us and he won very easily in a competitive maiden hurdle at Chepstow last November. However, he had a little issue with his tendon afterwards and that’s why he hasn’t run since. He won’t be out until December, but his mark of 125 looks fair and we hope there should be more to come from him.
6g Yeats – Heath Heaven
Tim Syder & Martin St Quinton
RPR 92c OR 142c
He was fine after his run at Cheltenham. He slipped pretty badly going to the first fence, then he got left by himself which was a long way off ideal. He’s relatively inexperienced and was gawking around at the back so Richard Johnson decided to hunt him around. He’ll benefit a fair bit for that experience. He had a great campaign last season, although it was unfortunate he was beaten a short head in the Martin Pipe at the Cheltenham Festival as his part-owner is Martin St Quinton, who is chairman. He’s a nice horse to go novice chasing.
Ronde De Nuit
3f Doctor Dino – Nuit De Guerre
She’s a nice filly and one we’re looking forward to in juvenile hurdles. She finished fourth on her only run in a maiden over a mile and three-quarters on the Flat at Angers. She should be out in a month or so all being well.
6g Fair Mix – Blaeberry
Michael And Mrs Norma Tuckey
RPR 135h OR 132h
He’s a four-time winner over hurdles and is a big, strong horse who should improve this season. He’s schooled very well and we’ll look to start out in novice handicap chases. He finished third at Ascot on Saturday and we thought he ran well. Two and a half miles is his trip and he should make a nice chaser.
5g Getaway – Wild Spell
RPR 150h OR 149h
He’s a really exciting horse to go novice chasing with this season – quite possibly we could run at Exeter next Wednesday as he’s won most of his races there. He’s been going well. He looked extremely promising when winning his first three starts over hurdles last season but could only finish seventh in the Ballymore. He was slightly lame on one of his hind legs after the race but within a few hours he was all fine again. We’re really looking forward to seeing what he can do this season.
8g Gamut – Sprightly Gal
RPR 152c OR 142c
He looked really good when he won at Warwick by 20 lengths in February and then finished ninth in the Plate at the Cheltenham Festival. Ideally, he’s better fresh on softer ground and going left-handed. We’ll run him before if there’s a suitable race but we may wait until the Grand Sefton over the National fences in December.
6g High Chaparral – Lindeman
Mr & Mrs R Kelvin-Hughes
RPR 127 OR 125
He appreciated the step up to three miles when he won at Ascot last time, which I thought was a good performance. I hope he could be a big improver this year from a rating of 125. He’ll go straight over fences and will probably run within a week or two, starting over a trip between two and a half and three miles. He looks a nice one to stay further in the future and handles testing ground well. He could be a very decent horse in the making.
8g Craigsteel – Blond’s Addition
Step By Step
RPR 153c OR 140c
He had a pretty moderate run the other day at Chepstow but we hope to get him to the Welsh National. He has form on testing ground but I’m not sure he wants it too deep. He stays well and will be aimed at handicaps over three miles.
5g Arctic Cosmos – Inter Alia
He won his only point-to-point in Ireland in February. He’s at least a month off a run but it’s all going well with him at this stage and he looks a nice young prospect.
9g Authorized – Sworn Mum
RPR 148h OR 140h
He was very unlucky last time at Cheltenham as he was running really well before he fell. Hopefully he’s back on track even at his age.
4g Presenting – Anabaloo
Dominic & Valda Burke
He’s a very nice horse who has worked well at home and has a good pedigree, being from the family of Oscar Whisky. He’s not run for us yet so time will tell how good he is.
10g Flemensfirth – Loughaderra
RPR 145c OR 132c
He’ll probably start off in the veterans‘ race at Sandown on Sunday. Three miles and soft ground would be ideal for him.
6g Kayf Tara – Rosita Bay
The Englands And Heywoods
RPR 152h OR 151h
We decided not to run at Wetherby so we’ll look at starting him in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury, and then we could go to the Long Walk at Ascot next. The plan with him is to stay over hurdles and we’ll aim him at all the top races over three miles. Paisley Park is the main name, but apart from him it doesn’t look a very strong division and that’s why we’re keeping him over hurdles. He had a great campaign last year although he was unlucky in the Albert Bartlett – but we were happy because he’d run very well. He’s schooled very well over fences so we can do that when we want to, but not this season.
7g Black Sam Bellamy – Mrs Philip
RPR 152c OR 146c
He’s doing well and he got dropped 2lb for his third at Newton Abbot the other day. I think he’ll probably want further than 2m5f and he’d like soft ground too. I also think he’s better suited to running against smaller fields. We hope there’s further improvement to come from him over fences this season. He’ll have an entry in the Future Stars‘ at Sandown on Sunday.
6g Kalanisi – Lady Knightess
He’s been a very unlucky horse as he’s finished second three times for us, and the form of his races has worked out particularly well too. He probably wants to be going left-handed and we’ll be running again before too long. Hopefully he can lose his maiden tag soon – he certainly deserves it. He’ll probably run at Fontwell on Friday or Chepstow next Monday.
9g Westerner – Sarahall
Mick Fitzgerald Racing Club
RPR 138c OR 134c
He’s been unlucky not to get round on his last two runs at Newbury and Exeter. The last day was the race that caused Richard Johnson to break his arm in an accident. I think he has a decent rating and things just haven’t gone his way over fences yet. Hopefully he can win a chase before too long.
5g Flemensfirth – Lady Of Fortune
Mrs Diana L Whateley
He ran very well in two bumpers at Warwick, finishing second and then fourth. He’s schooled well over hurdles and we’ll look to start him off in a novice hurdle over two and a half miles before too long. He’ll run at Exeter on Tuesday.
4g Yeats – Full Of Fruit
Tim & Charlotte Syder
He’s related to Pileon and will be out in a bumper in a few weeks. He seems to be going well at this stage and is one to look forward to.
5g Kamsin – Zambuka
Govier & Brown
RPR 117h OR 125h
He missed last season but has a decent level of ability and we hope should win soon. He’ll probably be running over hurdles in about a month and all is going well with him at this stage.
6g Arcadio – What A Bleu
Louisville Syndicate Elite
RPR 133c OR 138c
I thought he ran fine at Newton Abbot the other day but was just rather outpaced. We’ll stay chasing with him and he probably would like to go slightly further in trip, run on a bit softer and on more of a galloping track. All of those factors would help him.
4g Zoffany – Mount Crystal
RPR 128c OR 132c
We were very pleased with his win at Exeter the other day. He’ll be having a break soon because he’s not a soft-ground horse. He’s still young so hopefully he can continue improving.
4f Black Sam Bellamy – Miss Chinchilla
The Philip Hobbs Racing Partnership II
She’s not named yet but we like her and as she’s a four-year-old it won’t be long until she makes her debut. We did a fair bit of work with her last season and she goes well. She’s a half-sister to six winners and will be a nice one for the future. She’ll start in a mares‘ bumper.
Two for the tracker
Pileon as we think he’s a nice novice chaser for the season and St Barts as we hope he can improve up the ranks.
Not a lot went right for the Hobbs team at the Cheltenham Festival and it must have been particularly frustrating to see many people’s banker of the meeting, Defi Du Seuil, run so poorly in the Champion Chase.
Politologue might have emerged victorious in that contest, but there’s little doubt about who was the best two-mile chaser in Britain last season. Defi Du Seuil had thrashed all comers, including Politologue, when winning the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham, Sandown’s Tingle Creek, and the Clarence House at Ascot, and the fact he failed to fire in the big one shouldn’t take away his previous dominance of the division.
He will stay further, but this year’s two-mile chasers don’t look an outstanding bunch and there didn’t appear to be a superstar among last year’s novices either. Defi Du Seuil will be the one to beat again.
Sporting John was another who ran below form at the festival when beaten 30 lengths behind Envoi Allen in the Ballymore – he was reportedly slightly lame after the race but fine by the evening.
Chasing will be on the agenda for Sporting John this season and it will be interesting to see how he takes to it. Hobbs-trained runners usually improve significantly as they gain experience over fences, so he may not be one to back on his chasing debut. But it will be a surprise if he isn’t back at Cheltenham in March with a big chance.
The one thing that connected Defi Du Seuil and Sporting John going into last year’s festival was that both had their prep runs on testing ground. Maybe they had harder races than appeared on the eye and that may have taken the edge off their Cheltenham performances.
Thyme Hill was one Hobbs runner who did run well at the festival when fourth in the Albert Bartlett, and he might have finished closer had he not found trouble on the run to the final flight. He had been kept fresh since winning the Challow Hurdle at Newbury over Christmas and maybe that explains why he was able to reproduce his best form on the big day at Cheltenham.