NEIL KING found the Winter months tough with his team at Barbury Castle effected by a virus but the corner appears to have been turned with his horses now running much more to expectations and with the promise of plenty of further winners to come.
King, who moved to take over a 40 box yard on the Barbury Castle Estate two and a half years ago, has seen a steady rise in his winner number and ended his last campaign with 34 winners over jumps and also has a good few Flat winning performers to add to the mix.
Lil Rockerfeller will be bidding to land the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell on Sunday for a second year running en route to a tilt at the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham and Milansbar could be bidding to get his season back on track in the Eider Chase at Newcastle on Saturday. There could be some nicely handicapped individuals lurking in his team and his 12 winners for the current jumps season will surely swell considerably in the months to come.
Neil said: "We've had a hard Winter but the horses have come healthy again and let's hope we can make up for lost time. Barbary Castle is a great place to train from and it is wonderful to train the horses on the Downs - we just want them to remain healthy from now on."
King kindly spoke to Tony Elves of ATR about those he hopes can give him some notches on the winners belt in the coming months.
6 br g Marienbard - Lakyle Lady
120 rated hurdler. Runner-up, beaten only a length, to Transient Bay at Uttoxeter (2m 4f) off an opening handicap mark of 114.
"I was very disappointed with him at Uttoxeter as I couldn't see him being beaten. Why he went up 6lb for his worst run of the year I do not know. He is a far better than he has shown this year and his point-to-pointer and bumper form is absolutely red hot. He is all about being a staying chaser and he loves the mud. There is more to come from him and whatever he achieves over hurdles is a bonus."
4 b g Authorized - Colorado Dawn
Runner-up in four of his six starts over middle distance on the Flat in France for Andre Fabre
"He is quite a nice horse I bought off the Flat out of the Godolphin stable at Ascot before Christmas. He has just turned four and he will be out on the AW very shortly. He was bought to go hurdling but I can seen him as a dual purpose prospect at the moment. He is a maiden on the Flat but has lots of placed form in France."
6 b g Scorpion - Lakeshore Lodge
105 rated hurdler. Winner on his debut for the stable in a bumper at Fontwell in August. Well beaten in three hurdles since.
"He won his first race for us, a bumper at Fontwell, and wasn't quite right in the Autumn. He has had a break and is a good ground horse as well. He will probably be out in a month or six weeks time and will start off in a handicap and hopefully work his way up."
9 b g Kayf Tara - Little Twig
122 rated chaser. Best effort this season when runner-up, beaten three and a half lengths, to Royal Vacation at Lingfield (2m 7 1/2f) in November off a mark of 128.
"He goes to Lingfield on Monday for the Surrey National . He has had a bit of a hit and miss season and had some little niggly problems but there's improvement in him. He is in very good form at the moment and more than capable of winning off his mark and, hopefully, he'll run well on Monday. He would be one that if things worked out for him we would look at the Midlands National with him."
6 b g Champs Elysees - Trinkila
81 rated on the Flat and 103 over hurdles. Scored by a short head from Dutch Uncle on the AW at Lingfield (1m 2f) in January off a mark of 79 and hampered and not recovered when unplaced to Sennockian Star over course and distance later in the month.
"He won on the AW in January and managed to run into trouble next time and got boxed right in. He wants good ground over hurdles and until the ground dries out he will have a play on the AW again. He started showing a lot of promise last year and then went off the boil and I think he had been on the go long enough. We will keep him fresher for hurdles this time."
11 b g Stowaway - The Red One
109 rated hurdler. Best effort this season in a handicap hurdle at Warwick in May when runner-up, beaten four and a half lengths, to Don Padeja off a mark of 116.
"When he joined us last year he won his two at Market Rasen and Exeter and ran well in his other runs. This year we haven't been able to do anything right with him but I think he was one who was effected by the bug we had in the yard. I am hoping you will see him at Plumpton on Monday week."
7 b m Stowaway - Decheekymonkey
Runner-up in a bumper at Wetherby in November and third in hurdle at Uttoxeter (2m 7 1/2f) on latest start this month.
"She ran third at Uttoxeter the other day and probably didn't quite see the trip out. She seems very versatile groundwise and is a nice mare who will win her share of races. We will drop her back in trip and aim her for a mares' only maiden over something like two and a half miles. She will jump fences next season."
4 br f Heliostatic - Louverissa
Better effort over hurdles at Plumpton (2m) this month when third, beaten eight and a half lengths, to Postbridge.
"She ran well when third at Plumpton last Monday. Her jumping has been a bit of an issue and she has been very novicey but if we can improve that the more she will improve and she should find her races in the right company."
7 b g Midnight Legend - Viciana
120 rated hurdler. Runner-up in two of his four starts this season. Creditable effort in a handicap hurdle at Plumpton (2m 4 1/2f) last week when fourth, beaten five and a half lengths, to Ding Ding.
"He came to win his race at Plumpton last Monday and made a bit of a noise coming to the second last. We will try him with a tongue strap next time and he's a decent horse. I have delayed going chasing with him as I believe there are more hurdles to be won with him this year. He will go novice chasing next Autumn."
6 ch g Hard Spun - Layounne
160 rated hurdler. Highly creditable efforts in defeat this season most notably when conceding 4lb to Yanworth and beaten only three quarters of a length in the Grade 2 Ascot Hurdle at Ascot (2m 3 1/2f) in November and when runner-up, beaten four and a half lengths, to Unowhatimeanharry in the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot (3m) in December.
"He is in great order and worked on Saturday morning with the view to running him in the National Spirit at Fontwell on Sunday and then onto the World Hurdle at Cheltenham. He was wrong after Cheltenham last time but in his first three runs this season he was better every time and is horse on the improve still. He had been crying out for three miles for a long time and he is versatile groundwise. The Stayers Hurdle has been what the season has been all about for him."
7 ch g Mahler - Ennismore Queen
106 rated chaser. Off the mark with a short head victory from On Your Max in a novices handicap chase at Plumpton (2m 3 1/2f) in September off a mark of 90 and followed up with a seven length win from High Counsel off a mark of 97 at Stratford (2m 6 1/2f) in October.
"He had a wind operation last year which transformed him and he won his last two starts. He has shown a bit of form on soft ground but is really waiting for better ground and I can't help but think he will show better form in the Spring/Summer. He is a smashing jumper for a little horse and he travels well and I think stepping him up to three miles will help him."
9 b g Court Cave - Vikki's Dream
133 rated chaser. Winner four times this season and gained last success at Kempton (2m 4 1/2f) in November when beating Dusky Lark three lengths off a mark of 129.
"He is having a break and he won five chases for us from Spring onwards. He will be back in the Spring hopefully to continue. I think he's a horse that has surprised and just kept finding a little improvement in himself."
10 b g Milan - Ardenbar
138 rated chaser. Finished a promising fourth, beaten 18 1/2f lengths, to Lamb Or Cod in a handicap chase at Chepstow (2m 7 1/2f) in December on his reappearance and pulled up in the Welsh National won by Native River at Chepstow (3m 5 1/2f) at the end of that month off a mark of 145 . Also pulled up in a staying handicap chase at Warwick (3m 5f) in January off a mark of 143.
"Nothing has really gone right for him this year. He ran really nicely first time out at Chepstow and was a staying on fourth on ground that was too quick for him. He then went to the Welsh National and nearly got brought down at the first fence and then made a horrendous blunder at the second fence and lost all chance. He came back from Warwick off colour and we are now considering the Eider Chase at Newcastle. He ran a smashing race off topweight in the Midlands National last year and that will be back on his radar. He has a Grand National entry but I can't see him getting in."
OH LAND ABLOOM
7 b g King's Theatre - Talinas Rose
127 rated hurdler. Placed in four of his five starts this season and failed by only a length behind Parish Business off a mark of 125 on his latest outing in a handicap hurdle at Doncaster (3m 1/2f) at the end of December.
"He will stay over hurdles for the time being. We have had a bit of a stop start Winter season with him and the upside of that is that we will have a fresh horse for the Spring. He wouldn't want the ground too soft and he loves Market Rasen so we will be looking at some of the better races around there for him."
4 ch g Champs Elysees - Pilcomayo
90 rated on the Flat. Improving handicapper who completed a hat trick at Lingfield (1m 4f) in January when beating Dolphin Village a length and a half off a mark of 84. Previously successful over that course and distance in November when beating Isharah a length and a quarter and winning sequence commenced with a length and a quarter defeat of Take Two over a mile and a quarter in October. Runner-up, beaten only three quarters of a length, to Hamelin at Newcastle (1m 4 1/2f) on Friday.
"He ran another blinder at Newcastle on Friday where a strong pace would have helped. He will concentrate his interests on the Flat for the time being but the owners like hurdling and he could do that in the Autumn."
8 br g Royal Anthem - Shelikesitstraight
131 rated chaser. Scored twice over two miles and five furlongs at Cartmel in Summer beating Desoto County two and a quarter lengths in a beginners chase in June and then Fingersontheswitch eight lengths in a novices event.
"Again, we had a lovely Summer with him and he progressed nicely. He broke the course record the first time he ran at Cartmel and the next time he carried a penalty on softer ground and went round only one second slower. He has had a nice break through the Winter and will be out for the Spring/Summer season."
8 b g Danehill Dancer - Source of Life
125 rated hurdler. Best effort this term in a handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter (2m) in June when runner-up, beaten a length and a half, to Mountainside off a mark of 130.
"He is being kept for the Summer and will probably have a run or two on the AW if the ground remains too soft in the Spring. He does want top of the ground and is very versatile. I do think there is a decent handicap on the Flat to be won with him yet. His current owners are keen jumping people and are not too enamoured to run him on the flat. He is going to Sales and would be a nice dual purpose horse. The Summer Plate at Market Rasen would be high on his agenda again."
9 b g Saffron Walden - Angel's Folly
125 rated chaser. Solid effort in a handicap chase at Fakenham (2m 5f) on Friday when runner-up, beaten six lengths, to Rear Admiral.
"He is a horse that has had a few injuries but he ran a perfectly respectable race at Fakenham on Friday when runner-up to Rear Admiral. I was delighted with his effort and he will continue over fences in the Spring. He is a nice little horse with plenty of ability and he will be better on better ground. He is a full brother to Moon Racer and should win his races."
10 br g Craigsteel - Na Moilltear
114 rated chaser. Pulled up and no impression on two starts for stable.
"He goes to Lingfield on Monday and then the Cambridgeshire National at Huntingdon over three miles and six on Sunday March 5."
5 b g Suleiman - Fizanni
Winner of a bumper in Ireland and runner-up in a bumper at Newton Abbot in September and maiden hurdle at Fakenham (2m 4f) in December for stable.
"He ran second in a bumper for us and then ran second over hurdles at Fakenham at Christmas time. Unfortunately, he suffered quite a nasty accident in the horsebox on the way home which has delayed us. In fairness, he will be a good ground horse and will be back in the Spring/Summer I do like him and he will win his share of races."
8 gr g Portrait Gallery - Hazy Rose
140 rated chaser. Last win when beating Royal Vacation 11 lengths in a novices' chase at Wetherby (3m) in October.
"He started the season very well at Wetherby winning there and then disappointed next time when finishing second. We tinkered with his wind after that run and he went to Cheltenham on New Years Day at a time when my horses we badly out of form and we had a little bit of virus. He came home wrong and he want to put him back over fence over three miles and on a flat course."
BIG MEADOW - battled on gamely when just caught out on his handicap bow at Uttoxeter recently and, although upped 6lb, can some make amends.
DELGANY DEMON - fancied to bounce right back to his best in the near future.
LIL ROCKERFELLER - deserves to win a decent race this term and that may well come as he bids to land the National Spirit for a second year running.
MILANSBAR - talented staying chaser who could find a long distance event this Spring.
PETITE JACK - progressive Flat racer who may still have more wins in him.
SAFFRON WELLS - under pressure from some way but battle on gamely when runner-up at Fakenham on Friday and can go one better soon.