KERRY LEE had the sort of rookie season that she could only have dreamed off when Mountainous won the Welsh National for a second time and her 23 winners collected over £377,506 in prize money on the domestic front.
Added to her domestic earning there was a Grade 1 success in the Ryanair Novice Chase at Fairyhouse courtesy of Kylemore Lough who looks certain to be plying his trade at the top end once more and the Grade 2 Normans Grove Chase at that venue with Top Gamble.
Nine winners have hit the board already from only 72 runners and Kerry once again looks to have a strong team for the Chepstow staying handicap on Tuesday. The Bell house trainer has several well established handicap chasers in her team that should once again prosper and she kindly spoke to ATR about some of her main hopes.
ACES OVER EIGHT
7 b m Old Vic - Conjure Up
105 rated chaser. Last victory in a handicap chase at Towcester (2m 1/2f) in May when beating Pembroke House two lengths off a mark of 103.
"She last won at Towcester in May and goes on any ground but her optimum whether it is over hurdles or fences is a stiff two miles. She never quite got into it at Hereford last time but we will look for something for her in the New Year over the minimum trip at Towcester. She is versatile and is very very tough and off a 105 she is in the right ball park."
11 b g Alflora - Little Red Spider
128 rated chaser. Scored by 13 lengths from Belmount on his debut for the stable in a handicap chase at Ffos Las off a mark of 118.
"We are very lucky to have this horse and he is in the veteran stage but he is the nicest ride and absolute gentleman to do anything with at home. He is turning 12 but he is 1-1 for the stable and won at Ffos Las on his debut for us. He is all about staying chases in the mud and it is going to get trickier for him now off a mark of 128 but the form of his Ffos Las race has been well advertised."
8 b g Heron Island - Nice Resemblance
152 rated chaser. Finished a creditable fourth, beaten nine lengths, to Otago Trail in the Listed At The Races Rehearsal Handicap Chase at Newcastle (2m 7 12/f) in November off a mark of 154.
"He is a horse who immediately showed his form when we got him from Henry de Bromhead in the Summer of 2015, winning at Sandown and then Haydock. It was a nonsense that he ended the season with a couple of letters by his name at Aintree and Sandown but he made a good reappearance and jumped very well at Newcastle in November. He features in Tuesday's Welsh Grand National where his chance will increase if the forecast rain arrives."
4 b g Yeats - Guilt Less
Runner-up in three of his four bumpers and beaten only a length and a quarter to Aslyo at Chepstow in December.
"He has run four time in bumpers and shown clear progress with second placed finishes at Ffos Las and twice at Chepstow. He is turning five and there is no rush with him. His immediate future lies over hurdle and he has shown on galloping tracks like Chepstow when staying on and doing good work at the finish that he can show further improvement as we step him up in trip. He is a horse who we like very much and winning his races over hurdles."
8 b g Presenting - Atlantic Jane
136 rated chaser. Successful at Wetherby (3m) in February when beating King Of The Wolds 15 lengths off a mark of 122 and followed up with a head defeat of Masters Hill at Taunton (3m 4 1/2f) I March off his current mark.
"Despite the fact that he has been around forever he is only turning nine on New Years Day and ideally he likes getting his toe in but he can operate on quicker ground. He was over the top in the Scottish National and he has had a couple of runs this season and slowly but surely he is looking as if he is showing his form again. "
11 gr g Strategic Choice - Grouse-N-Heather
149 rated chaser. Last win at Newbury (2m 1/2f) in November 2015 when beating Whispering Henry a length off a mark of 147.
"He is an amazing horse who, unfortunately, hasn't been done any favours by the handicapper over the years. To be fair to the handicapper when a horse shows the consistency he had what can they do. He had another big day when he won at the Hennessy meeting in November 2015 and, in the veteran stage now, it is not getting any easier for him and he's marooned on a mark of 149 at present."
13 ch g Snurge - Festive Isle
116 rated chaser. Winner on his final appearance last season when beating Grove Silver three quarter of a length in a handicap chase at Warwick (3m 5f) in March off a mark of 112.
"He is an example of what I call the stables "Golden Oldies" and an amazing horse who is just completely willing and a model racehorse. He is a beautiful ride and very quiet at home and he is going to be 14 on January 1. He hasn't been seen since Warwick in March where he won and that was his ninth win over fences. He has been a fantastic servant and will likely be aimed at the Hunter Chasing division."
7 b g Morozov - Billythefilly
134 rated chaser. Winner five times last season - final success coming at Ludlow (2m) in November 2015 when beating Artifice Sivola four lengths off a mark of 126.
"We were incredibly fortunate to pick him up via the claiming route since when he has been a star for the stable. He showed his form on a number of occasions and picked up plenty of prize money for connections. He picked up an injury when taking a tumble at Ludlow in May but I am happy to report that he is back with us now after a lengthy Summer holiday to get rid of his aches and pains. He should be back around March or April and is horse who operates on quicker Summer ground."
7 b g Revoque - One Of The Last
156 rated chaser. Successful in his last five chases of last season which culminated in a length defeat of Outlander in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase at Fairyhouse (2m 4f) in March. Creditable efforts boths starts this term, failing by a head behind Royal Regatta in a Grade 2 Chase at Ascot in November and then finishing fifth, beaten only two and three quarter lengths, to Frodon in the Grade 3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham (2m 5f) off his current mark.
"He won five on the bounce last season culminating in the Grade 1 Ryanair Novice at Fairyhouse in March. He ran an absolute cracker in a Grade 2 at Ascot and was probably unlucky where a couple of factors went against him at Cheltenham in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup where the false start and his well-documented mistake three from home cost him dearly. He ran a valiant race and looking ahead to 2017 the targets are still to be decided and it is not easy to place a horse off 156 but the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham could be a possibility."
5 ch g Stowaway - Honey Mustard
99 rated hurdler. Winner at Fontwell (2m 5 1/2f) in November off a mark of 94 and at Bangor (2m 7f) in December when beating Sutter's Mill half a length off his current mark.
"He moved to us in the Summer and is a smashing little horse who has won two of his four races. He stepped up to two miles and seven at Bangor on his latest start and saw out the trip really well with a big weight. He is quite a character and threw in a stinker at Warwick between his two wins but is a real fun horse. Hopefully, there is a bit of improvement to come and he will eventually jump a fence."
11 b g Milan - Mullaghcloga
138 rated chaser. Was winning the Welsh National for a second time (successful for Richard Lee in 2013) when beating Firebird Flyer two and three quarter lengths at Chepstow (3m 5 1/2f) in January of this year off a mark of 132.
"He is a delight to train this horse - everybody already knows he's won the Welsh Grand National twice and for all that he won it off mark of 137 and 132. He is working the house down at home and it wouldn't be the biggest surprise if he didn't get heavily involved in the finish again. He is as good as ever and looking beyond Chepstow the obvious target are the likes of Midlands National, the Fairyhouse National or, if it came up soft, Aintree."
11 b g Bach - Warrior Princess
94 rated chaser. Winner of handicap chases at Fontwell (2m 1/2f) off a mark of 79 and at Towcester (2m 1/2f) off 89 last season.
"He is only moderate but wins a race or two every year when we can find one bad enough. He is a massive favourite in the yard since being picked up for a bargain basement fee and he has won four races for the stable. He hasn't yet threatened to win a race this season but he's just creeping back down the weights and hopefully we can find something suitable in the New Year."
9 wh g Machiavellian Tsar - Fleur de Mad
134 rated chaser. Only success last season in the Grade 3 Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick (3m 5f) in January when beating Midnight Prayer three and three quarter lengths off a mark of 127.
"He has to be the most distinctive horse in training as he a white horse. He is owned by a very fun guy in ex Channel 4 and RTE racing director Mark Jackson. He won his first ever race - a bumper at Warwick and he returned there five years later on the same day to land the Betfred Classic. Rather like Alfie Spinner and Mountainous, this is a horse for whom the ground can't be too soft and for whom a marathon trip is just the ticket. He heads to Warwick again to try and win a Classic Chase again in January."
10 b g Bob Back - Mrs Avery
105 rated hurdler. Last win in a handicap hurdle at Ludlow (2m 5 1/2f) in November 2015 when beating Danceintothelight a length off a mark of 93.
"He's a mischievous character and soft ground definitely help this fun little horse. He is an infrequent winner but is regularly placed and his owners are really sporting horse lovers who get a lot of fun out of him. Granted soft ground and a fast pace he is the kind of horse who in lower grade handicaps with a big field can be bumped around and has the ability to win a race. Don't be surprised to see him at Ffos Las or Taunton where he has won before in the New Year."
12 b g Winged Love - Simply Deep
130 rated chaser. Gained his last success in a handicap chase at Southwell (2m 4 1/2f) in November 2015 when beating Ladfromhighworth a length and a half off a mark of 129.
"He has been a magnificent servant and one that is probably getting to the veteran stage of his career now. He is the trainers regular ride and a very willing and giving horse with an extremely kind nature. He has given a lot of fun down the years and whether or not he can still be competitive of a mark of 130 at this stage of his career we will see. It remains possible that he is another who could go down the hunter chase route."
8 ch g Presenting - Zeferina
159 rated chaser, Two wins last season were in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury (2m 1/2f) in February when beating Dodging Bullets ten lengths and in the Grade 2 Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse (2m 1f) in March when accounting for Sizing Granite by seven lengths.
"He is a three times Grade 2 winner and is something of a specialist as his wins at Fairyhouse and at Newbury are at his optimum of two miles in a fast run race on soft ground. The hopes are that, perhaps, he can return to Newbury in the middle of February and have another bash at the Game Spirit in which he was so good when beating Dodging Bullets in 2016."
BISHOPS ROAD - promising reappearance at Newcastle and looks certain to build on that.
EATON HILL - plenty of promise in bumpers and the sort to do well when sent hurdling.
JAYO TIME - prolific winner who can gain further wins this Spring.
KYLEMORE LOUGH - class act who can make his mark again at the highest level.
MOUNTAINOUS - tough warrior who can come good in a decent staying handicap chases again this term.
TOP GAMBLE - Ideally suited by a strong run two mile contest and looks set for further victories.