Two trainers from the Croome area were in fine form at yesterday's Jumps double-header from Uttoxeter and Worcester. Olly Murphy flexed his muscles in preparation for a scaling up of runners in September, whilst the senior representative of the training profession, John Spearing, showed there is life in the old dog yet.
John's small Jumps team at Kinnersley won't be troubling the market leaders but a lifetime spent training winners has allowed him to recognize how to place a horse correctly, and 6 year old mare Pillar of Steel is an exemplar of how to place a modestly rated horse to win four times in as many months, two at Worcester and two at Uttoxeter. Evidently, plenty of others saw this too, to judge from her 11/1 favouritism. John's expertise converts to a 36% strike rate over obstacles - worth considering next time your eye passes over a supposedly unfancied runner from a yard that produced the likes of Bula once upon a time.
At the opposite end of the age spectrum, Olly Murphy's Wilmcote yard near Stratford-on-Avon is still young, if no longer in its infancy any more. With an established base of owners now, the shift has moved away from low quality summer Jumpers to a higher rated animal, to the extent that summer winners are at their lowest level since he began. That trend began to change this week, after a brace of winners yesterday at Uttoxeter and Worcester.
Irish Point-to-Point graduate Clay Rogers has done nothing wrong since moving to Wilmcote from Michael Kennedy earlier this summer, and followed up his maiden with a further victory at Uttoxeter in the opening novice hurdle yesterday. There looks like more to come from this 6 year old who won unchallenged.
Juvenile Keepyourdreamsbig was made to work rather harder to win his race at Worcester 5 1/2 hours later successfully holding off the late challenge of Nigel Hawke's Boulette in a Summer Brush Hurdle Series qualifier.
Reel back a further 24 hours and a box was ticked for Ian Williams, a little further north in Warwickshire, when Regaby won the 3m handicap chase at Hexham for stable owner Pat Kelly.
Expect these stables to step up a gear once the rain eases the ground. All the winter horses are back in, awaiting a run. The scene is set for the season to escalate.