Hugo Palmer - It Can Be Like A Game Of Snakes And Ladders A Lot Of The time

13 min

Matchbook Ambassador Hugo Palmer has been in fine form the past few days and will look to continue that good run into this weekend.

Arbalet goes in the Moet & Chandon International Handicap at Ascot on Saturday. This has been a plan for him for a little while. The dream was that he could perform more at stakes level, make use of that wonderful pedigree he has, and maybe he will someday. But this is a good race for him for now.

He took a little bit of time last year to get his act together. We sent him to Carlisle in May, where he won a novice stakes, and he ran well in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot.

He always runs well at Ascot. He was second in this race last year, and he is 3lb lower now this year. I hope that we can avenge our defeat of last year with Burnt Sugar. We are 3lb lower than we were last year and he is 2lb higher, so that gives us a chance.

We were a big price for this race earlier in the week, but we are now only about 11.0 or 13.0, which is about right I’d say. I’ve been very happy with him since his run at Windsor last time. No big races are easily won, and this is a £150,000 handicap, this is a proper race. But he goes there in the best nick that he has been in all year.

He’s a big horse, it takes a while to get him fit. Our horses have been in and out for a while this season, this is the first time in a while that they have started to show some consistency in their form. So I hope that we can see a much better Arbalet than the Arbalet that we have seen so far this year.

I’ve been happy with Encrypted since Newcastle. He goes in the Sky Bet Dash at York. He needed his Newcastle run a bit, and I think that it has brought him forward.

He had a fairly long break after his seasonal return at Lingfield, his Newcastle run was his first in two and a half months, so it is fair enough that he would have come forward. It is probably going to require a career-best to win this, but his work has pleased me recently.

The second last time he ran in a handicap, he was second in the Portland off a mark of 98. He’s running on Saturday of 104, with Darragh Keenan taking 5lb off, so effectively he has to win off 99. It’s another very tricky handicap, but he’s got a chance.

Encrypted goes in York on Saturday.

Blonde Warrior goes in an apprentices’ handicap at Chester. It’s frustrating that he has been drawn nine of nine, but there’s nothing you can do about that. I’m very keen to run the horse around a bend and there aren’t very many options for a 90 rated three-year-old to run around a bend.

He’s in very good order and I do think that a turning track like Chester will suit him well. He is not straightforward but he ran well at Yarmouth last time, and he seems to be coming back to himself.

We run Assembled in a one-mile handicap at Newmarket. I felt that the ground was too fast for him at Ascot, and we’re going to get a bit of rain, so that’s a good thing for him. Pat Cosgrave, gets on well with him, he won on him at Windsor, so we’ll see how we go.

We run Set Piece in a listed race at Deauville on Sunday. I’m longing to run this horse over further than a mile, but it’s quite a stiff mile at Deauville, and we are fitting blinkers for the first time. We worked him in blinkers, and he worked well. He’s actually working better now than he has ever worked.

They are due a bit of rain at Deauville. I hope they don’t get too much, but the ground is fast now and I think that he should be fine even if they do get a bit of rain. We took him out of Newmarket last Saturday because the ground just got too soft for him.

We did have him entered in the listed race at Pontefract as well, but I think that Deauville will suit him well, the way that he races. He loomed large in the Craven, he hit the front, then he kind of idled and didn’t quite finish. For a strong travelling horse who is hopefully going to loom up behind the leader, Deauville is a conventional racecourse which should suit.

Set Piece heads across the channel to run at Deauville on Sunday.

I was delighted that Ironclad won at Newmarket on Saturday. It’s important to get the little things right with these horses. You can get them to go the right way, or they can start to go in reverse. It’s a fine line. It can be like a game of snakes and ladders a lot of the time.

We’ve always liked Ironclad. He only arrived with us this spring, it’s taken a little bit of time for the penny to drop with him, but he’s getting there. I thought he was plenty professional, but I still think there is plenty more to come from him.

I’m going to try to not get carried away. They’ve put him up to 86 from 81, so if we can find the rights races for him, he could progress through the ranks. I think that he’s got the pedigree, the looks, and the physique to potentially become an exciting horse next year. I think he’ll stay a mile and a half as well.

He will probably be at his best with some cut in the ground. He got away with the ground on Saturday, probably because most of his rivals wanted a little bit of cut too. He’s come out of the race well though. You wouldn’t know he’d had a race. He’s very tough, he’s resilient.

I was going to enter him at Goodwood, but we’ll just see. It’s that fine balance. He’s an improving horse, and the more time I give him, the more he will improve. He wants to be treated like a good horse. The 11-furlong handicap at Goodwood on Friday would be tempting, it’s a 0-90 race, but we know that he’ll be better with cut in the ground. I don’t need to waste runs. He takes his racing well, but every horse has a limit. We’ll see.

Birdcage Walk won nicely at Windsor on Monday evening. The ground was probably as fast as she would want it, but she’s a progressive filly and she should so even better when she gets a bit of cut. We have a remarkable number of horses who want give in the ground.

One horse who doesn’t want give in the ground is Incinerator, and he got it at Catterick on Wednesday. He struggled with the ground and probably with the track, so he did well to win. He is the first winner I have trained whose mother I have also trained, so it was a bit of a landmark win for us. His dam, Bella Nostalgia, won a Thirsk maiden for us and finished third in a listed race at Sandown.

Heavenly Holly ran well for a long way in the Listed Yeomanstown Stud Irish EBF Stakes at Naas on Wednesday evening. She was only headed inside the final furlong, but she weakened quite quickly close home. I’m not sure why she did that. We’ll have to investigate further.