It's the start of the 2016 Turf Season.

Hello and welcome to my first blog of the year which obviously coincides with the start of the 2016 Irish flat turf season. It's been a long winter and a fair time since we spoke and I'm sure you will have noticed I haven't ran anything at Dundalk through the winter programme. I love a beginning and an end to a season and I'm a huge believer in having a proper pre season at home preparing the string for the summer ahead. This helps both horses and humans rest and recover properly and allows us to concentrate properly on the young horses that had to be broken and trained before the season starts.

Thankfully the floods that fell through the winter didn't effect us as badly as they did others and in truth we got through the winter relatively unscathed. I can't remember missing a day because of the weather and I'm happy that the string is as forward as it should be at this time.

We have 92 stables here and are more or less full but we would always have a few up in a local stable for isolation purposes and for rest and recuperation when needed. I do feel that our game is becoming more a numbers game than ever nowadays and if you want to compete with the top yards then you will need to have numbers to work with. In the past I would have always felt that 50/60 horses was a big enough string to manage but I'm beginning to think you will need at least 100 to keep up with the pace now. I know some in England have grown into humongous numbers ranging from 200 to 300 but that's bordering on the ridiculous and I think the 100/150 is a manageable number to work with.

Last year is going to be a hard year to follow especially as we sold quite a few of the older types that did well for us last term. This year we start with plenty of 3yr old maidens as well as a similar number of 2yr olds and we are just a bit short of 4yr olds and upwards types but that's typical of the cyclical nature of the job. I always feel that if we can win a race with every stable that's full then we will be ok numbers wise and that's always a goal. Obviously quality is very important and I really do want to win another Group 1 sooner rather than later. The big horse Endless Drama is our potential star this year and he is in great form and training well and will actually be galloping after racing at the Curragh this afternoon. I hope to start him off in the Gladness Stks Gr3 in early April before hopefully aiming him at much bigger targets later on.
Ainippe is also still on the team and in great nick and hopefully she can continue to progress through the ranks and try and win another big race or two for us.

Today we run four on the first day and all four are fit and ready to start. My policy is to run regardless of the ground until we find out that they won't handle it and then we will wait for a better surface. Today's going I would expect will ride very testing as we entered on soft to heavy and it has dried out a bit to soft but I expect will be very tacky. I'm not sure how mine will handle it but they are ready for a day out and hopefully they will handle conditions as good as the next horse.

Strada Di Carsoli is a lovely Colt by Showcasing who had one run at Dundalk at the backend of last year. One thing we learnt from that race was that this guy needed to come back in trip and we will keep him to sprint races for the moment. I'm not sure how he will cope with the going but all the Showcasings that I've trained all liked a bit of juice in the ground so he should be ok. As always I would hope and expect all of mine to improve for their first race as we don't have grass gallops and today will be his first taste of turf racing. I would expect a good run all the same.

The Park Express Stakes Gr3 is the big race of the day and we run Queen Catrine in this. This is a lovely filly that ran once for us at the backend last season, winning a listed race at Naas. The plan was to return her to the farm for breeding duties but she thrived here all winter and so I asked the team if I could have a full season with her for races like this and ultimately if she improves, a crack at a big one like the Matron Gr1 on Champions Weekend. I couldn't be happier with her and if she handles the ground I think she could run a big race. There's no doubt in my mind that she is a better horse now than she was at Naas.

The Madrid Handicap is a race we have won in the past and you do need a smart type to win it. I've declared two for this because both are good enough but mainly because it's a nice race to start off in. Both of mine would need further than 7f but I felt that this trip on this ground would take plenty of getting today and so we would take our chance. Restive is probably the most ready of my two but I know that Mint Chai will handle the conditions but both are definitely 10f types in the making.

Colin is our stable jockey but because we have plenty of Qatar Racing horses to train we have allowed them to have first call on him and I believe this arrangement will benefit all parties this year. It means Colin is guaranteed to ride all of mine from A to Z and he won't have to step down for a retained rider as he did last year. If one of theirs from another stable clashes with mine then we will use Gary Carroll and as Gary works as hard here as anyone else I'll be only too delighted to use him. He did well for us last year winning the Balychorus Gr3 and the Tatts Sales race on Champions weekend.

So it all kicks off today and I'm as apprehensive as ever. I'm always like this until we get a few winners on the board as we start from scratch and you're only as good as your last winner in this game! I will do my best to keep you informed and will aim to make you feel part of our team through the good times and the bad times. Here's hoping we have more good times.

HGD

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