Neil King's Milansbar to target the Grand National again
More than 200 visitors and owners went to Neil King's Ridgeway Racing yard near Barbury Castle for his annual open day - looking ahead to the coming jumps season, his fifth at Upper Herdswick farm.
On show were some of his stalwarts and some new youngsters waiting to hit the main jumps season - and also a new six-and-a-half furlong all weather gallop.
She is till receiving treatment at Oaksey House, but told me she hopes to be back on the racecourse by the end of this month. The day after Neil King's Open Day, she was at Paul Nicholls' yard schooling Black Corton.
Bryony's ride in the Grand National, the eleven-year-old gelding Milansbar was prominent in the parade of the yard's horses in training. And afterwards - and to the delight of Milansbar's owner Robert Bothway - Bryony gave the assembled crowd a vivid, minute-by-minute account of her ride in this year's National - coming home fifth and the first British trained horse to finish.
Neil King's last season did not reach the score of winners of his 2015-2016 season, but it was much more lucrative in terms of prize money - a final total of £371,695.
Apart from Milansbar's three big wins, among the other big winners were the yard's best known name and punters' favourite Lil Rockerfeller who gave Neil King and Ridgeway Racing a first Glorious Goodwood winner in the £50,000 Goodwood Handicap. This was an ideal race for him as it has a flag start - and he dislike starting stalls to the point that he once failed a stalls test.
With champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa aboard and placed favourably in the weights, Lil Rockerfeller won the race with a 15 length margin. What's next for Rocky? It looks as though we shall see him over chase fences before too long.
Another yard favourite is four-year-old filly Cubswin. In June former stable jockey, Trevor Whelan, who is now concentrating on the Flat, was back in the saddle for Neil King at Lingfield. He partnered Cubswin to win the 1m 4f fillies handicap.
"She ran exactly as we had expected and hoped and the minute Trevor gave her a bit of light she took off, meaning his biggest job was to not win by too far!"
Following her win at Lingfield, Cubswin ran at Southwell in 1m 7f handicap hurdle. "She settled great from the go and jumped fantastically. In a similar fashion to how she ran at Lingfield, as soon as jockey Bryony Frost asked her to go, she went and won as she pleased."
The yard's staff were certainly not forgotten with a special award for Yard Man Sandeep (Sandy) Thapa - who has worked for King since he began training at Newmarket in 2008. Sandy received a cheque - which Neil said would come in handy for his forthcoming visa application - and a gold (painted) broom!
The new all weather gallop is all but finished. And visitors watched four horses taking its bends and its hill - led by 7-year-old filly Silent Steps. It will be a new tool in the yard's final preparation of horses. It lies well protected in a valley and so will be particularly welcome in winter when icy winds hit the Barbury hills.
Ridgeway Racing has had financial help in constructing this their second all weather gallop, from the North Wessex Downs LEADER Programme which is partly funded by EU money. It is a costly project - needing 420 tonnes of woodchip.
One to look out for? Several people I spoke to liked the look of Farne - a 4-year-old bay filly out of Stowaway.