Keith’s Notebook 25th March 2020

Hi Everyone

Today we have the first of a very different type of Notebook as due the the Covid-19 coronavirus the prospect of any racing in the UK or Ireland in the near future is very slim indeed.

The horse-racing on mainland Britain is cancelled until 1st May, in Ireland and Northern Ireland the possible resumption date is the 20th April, both dates to my mind are very optimistic.

What I will be covering in this edition of Keith’s Notebook.

  • Cheltenham Horses To Follow.
  • FAQ – Will they keep horses in training during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This Week’s Suggested Reading and Viewing.

Cheltenham Horses To Follow.

These horses would possibly have been aimed at Aintree or Punchestown, the former has already gone down the swanny and only the optimists are expecting to see the latter.

Whether or not these do race again this season they caught my eye at Cheltenham and are likely to be primed for their next outings.

COLUMN OF FIRE – Was cruising into contention in the Martin Pipe when falling at the last and surely would have won. One for Punchestown.
GOSHEN – Would have won the Triumph hurdle by a fair old margin but for an unfortunate unseat at the last. Will win big races in time.
CONCERTISTA – Won and won well by 12 lengths in the Mares Novice Hurdle, expect her to be seen at Punchestown if it is on.
ENVOI ALLEN – His Ballymore Novices Hurdle comfortable win puts him firmly in the picture for the 2021 Champion Hurdle, he ran the perfect race about 6 lengths behind the leaders then once Davy Russell pressed the accelerator he took the race by the scruff of the neck just before the last and forged clear to win going away.
CAPTAIN GUINNESS – Was badly hampered 3 out in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, recovered well and was challenging 2 out when brought down, surely would have been at least placed.

FAQ – Will they keep horses in training during the coronavirus pandemic.

This question has been put to me several times during the past week most recently by VIP Club member Michael Murphy and my answer is as follows.

Many trainers will be keeping the horses exercised and in work although as stable staff begin to self isolate resources will be stretched and the stables may have to changed.

Other handlers however have shut up shop, Yorkshire trainer Ruth Carr has taken her entire string of 55 horses out of training in order to reduce costs for owners and combat the spread of coronavirus by reducing footfall to the yard. This move means that formal daily exercise has stopped and the horses will be turned out to run about in the paddock and keep themselves ticking over.

Many National Hunt horses will be put out to grass till the Autumn as there season is effectively over although in Irish handlers are likely to keep some in work until they know one way or the other about the decision on the Punchestown Festival.

This Week’s Suggested Reading and Viewing.

A brand new feature for you which should help give you a regular racing fix.

Firstly the documentary that was made last year about Mark Johnston is available on Youtube:

Johnston Racing – Then to Now

Mark Johnston is one of Britain’s leading racehorse trainers, having become the first Flat trainer to send out more than 200 winners in a season (2009), a feat which he has, to date, repeated in 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018. On August 23, 2018, Mark became the winningmost trainer in British racing history when he saddled his 4,194th winner. This film tells the story of Mark and Deirdre Johnston from the very start of their racing career to becoming record-breakers. 

Watch it here


This week I am suggesting three DVD’s for your viewing:

  1. Seabiscuit – This movie about a small horse with a big heart is one of my all time favourites. I can watch it over and over again.
  2. Dark HorseThis is a truly an inspirational film. A small welsh community overcomes all the prejudice and adversity and go on to produce a winner.
  3. The Twelve Greatest Ever Grand Nationals – No Grand National this year but this gives you the chance to relive some of the best.


Three of my favourite books on my extensive racing library are.

  1. The Jumping Game – Henrietta Knight – Subtitled “National Hunt Trainers and What Makes Them Tick” The woman who trained the great Best Mate to win three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups, reveals what makes today’s top jumps trainers succeed. 
  2. Giving a Little Back: An Autobiography – The story of Barney Curly controversial trainer, owner and punter who was a nightmare to the bookmakers.
  3. Stable Lass: Riding Out and Mucking In – Tales from a Yorkshire Racing Yard – Gemma Hogg writes about the life in a racing yard, this is a very illuminating account, warts and all.

That is it for this week if there is anything you would like to see included in future editions of Keith’s Notebook please give us a shout. Recommendations for the Viewing and Reading section are also welcome.

Yours in racing


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