SUPREME IN THE NORTH-EAST?

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Supreme Asset chasing Yes Tom up the home straight at Ayr last time out

Supreme Asset runs in the 4.50 at Newcastle today in what looks like another tight handicap.

The 0-130 contest will be run over two and a half miles on Good to Soft going and Supreme asset will have to build on his recent second at Ayr if he is to land the spoils today.

Bruce and I will be making the long trip North this morning and we will be hoping to see our horse re-establish himself as a decent chaser with another solid performance following some indifferent runs earlier in the season.

The opposition is strong. Supreme asset faces 6 rivals today and not a single one of them can be ruled out. Likely favourite is Montoya’s Son for Keith Dalgleish who is seeking a 4-timer after victories at Sedgefield, Carlisle and here at Newcastle in October and November last year. If he is in the same form after a 3 month break he will take a lot of beating but those victories have seen him climb the handicap and he now races off a mark some 23lbs higher than the first of those wins.

Top weight Final Assault did not run well a couple of weeks ago at Haydock but prior to that had won a 0-120 chase at Bangor and was only beaten 4 lengths in his attempt to follow up in a 3 runner 0-135 contest at Ayr. He has been generally consistent but is still 9lbs higher than he was at Bangor.

Trust Thomas deserves a change of fortune. After winning here at Newcastle in November, he has since filled the runner up spot on 4 consecutive occasions! He is bound to be there or thereabouts while Categorical is turned out quickly again after finishing second to Tiptoeaway at Doncaster on Friday. If that run didn’t take too much out of him, he could easily go one better.

Bottom weight, Ballymoat, has just 10st 13lb to carry and showed he is capable of winning races at Southwell in December. Two placed efforts since then may suggest that the handicapper has his measure but he has now been eased a couple of pounds and has to be considered. Finally, Mr Syntax may well be the least fancied of today’s runners but he has not been seen out since last June so I have no doubt he will be fresh and ready to go.

That brings us to Supreme Asset. He has not been the model of consistency this season and one or two jumping mistakes have crept in. There is no doubt that he has been running in slightly better company and the ease in grade may well help his cause. Two and a half miles on Good to Soft ground could be right up his street and, if he gets his jumping together again, we are confident that he will be in the shake up. Brian Harding takes the ride for the first time and, due to our horses recent inconsistency, he is likely to be a decent price. Just a pity there are only seven runners as I would have said he represented excellent each way value at around 7/1.

In summary, we will be very pleased but not surprised if he wins.

BETTER BUT WHAT IS HIS TRIP?

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Three in with a chance at the second last – Yes Tom, Back To Bracka and Supreme Asset in action

Supreme Asset finished second to the well-backed favourite at Ayr yesterday in what was an improved performance but it still left us pondering…..

Ayr was a trip too far for both Bruce and I yesterday so we were confined to following the race on Racing UK. The afternoon withdrawal of last years winner And The Man reduced the field to seven runners and put paid to that nice 7/1 each way bet for the first 3 places!

Yes Tom was heavily backed from a morning price of 7/2 in to a solid 2/1 favourite on the back of a big drop in class and the booking of A P McCoy but Supreme Asset was also well supported in to 5/1 third favourite. Jason followed similar tactics to those adopted in previous races by settling Supreme Asset toward the rear of the field and letting him travel on the bridle. He jumped really well for most of the race.

With a circuit to go, McCoy took up the running and pressed on with Yes Tom which got most of them off the bridle down the far side but the notable exception was Supreme Asset who was still travelling strongly and soon jumped his way up in to second. Rounding the home turn though Jason had to start riding to try and close the gap which was still around 4 lengths. The only other horse to go with the front two was Back To Bracka who was staying on a further 4 lengths back. A blunder four out looked to have put paid to our chances but Supreme Asset responded and, going to the second last it was still a three horse race. In truth, if you had to pick a winner at that point you would have probably gone with Back To Bracka who seemed to have the momentum but he clattered the fence and unseated Craig Nichol. That left Yes Tom still about 4 lengths clear and McCoy wasn’t going to be caught. Over the last, Jason accepted that he would not be winning and Yes Tom extended on the run in to put clear daylight (12 lengths) between them.

In summary, if Yes Tom were not in the race, we may well have won this without coming off the bridle. By trying to win we could have easily been pushed back to third by a better stayer but we always try to win.

Two things left to ponder. Firstly, are we adopting the right tactics by sitting back off the pace? Secondly, if Supreme Asset often gets outpaced over 2 miles and sometimes appears not to quite get the two and a half, should we be looking for 2m 2f or 2m 3f?

On reflection though, this was a good performance from our horse against older and more experienced rivals. It showed once again that he has undoubted ability and we remain confident that there will be plenty of good days ahead.

BOUNCING BACK NORTH OF THE BORDER?

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Supreme Asset approaching the second fence at Sedgefield last month. Everything seems ok………

Supreme Asset takes to the racecourse again today some 16 days after his cameo performance at Sedgefield last month.

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…….but he takes off a little too early, hits the top and catapults Sam out of the saddle

Our 7 year old Beneficial gelding makes the long trip up to Ayr to contest the 0-140 handicap chase at 4.20 over an extended two and a half miles. Unfortunately, I can’t make the trip and, as I write this blog, Bruce is considering his options but it could well be that we are not represented in the parade ring.

Supreme Asset faces 7 rivals for today’s race and it looks a wide open contest with question marks over most of the field.

Top weight is Sa Suffit for James Ewart. For a 12 year old, Sa Suffit is still fairly lightly raced and showed that he retains plenty of ability when winning the race at Sedgefield last month where our horse unseated Sam Twiston-Davies at the second fence. He has a great record of 7 wins and 7 seconds from 24 chase starts and looks sure to put in a bold bid to follow up. From our point of view, we were confident that we would have given him a race at Sedgefield so, on 6lb better terms, we remain equally confident.

Next up is Yes Tom who has been running in much better company and has the added benefit of champion jockey A P McCoy in the saddle. Yes Tom may well be sent off as favourite but after finishing 9th in last years Scottish Grand National, he failed to land a blow in a handicap chase over at Navan before unseating his rider at the second fence in the Skybet Chase at Doncaster last month. The jury is out but obviously this is a much easier task.

Last year’s winner, And The Man, lines up for Nicky Richards but, since that victory his form reads FPPP while Wicklow Lad and Too Cool To Fool look to have it all to do.

That leaves Back to Bracka and Habbie Simpson. The lightly raced Back to Bracka looked a good consistent sort when hurdling and duly built on that promise when winning his second start over fences at Wetherby in November. He unseated his rider next time out at Haydock (the race in which Supreme Asset was pulled up) but then ran a very poor race back at Wetherby a week later, making several mistakes before eventually being pulled up. If you can draw a line through that last run, he would have a solid chance if getting his jumping together. Habbie Simpson is a horse in decent form. After winning a couple of minor Hunter Chases, his return to handicapping at Mussleburgh was reasonable and he built on this by winning at Newcastle next time out taking advantage of bottom weight in a 0-135 handicap. He only went up 4lb for that win and returned to Mussleburgh for his most recent race where he finished a close up third in a 0-140 contest. He looks certain to be there or thereabouts.

So what of our chances? Well, this years form figures of 73PU are not encouraging but we have to dig a little deeper than the bare form. First time out at Aintree, our horse was taken off his feet by the strong pace on Good ground and then put up a much improved performance when staying on strongly to finish third at Carlisle. We believe there was something wrong at Haydock and, to be fair, Donald’s horses were not firing on all cylinders at that time. At Sedgefield, Supreme Asset looked as good as he ever has and we were quietly confident of a big run but that early blunder meant that we did not see whether our confidence was well founded. Supreme Asset is usually a sound jumper so, with the winners flowing again for Donald, we have to believe that he will belatedly build on last season’s promise and prove that, on his day, he is a better horse than his official rating of 128. Jason Maguire returns to the saddle and the only other time our horse went up to Scotland was a winning visit to Kelso back in his hurdling days so maybe he enjoys the Scottish air!

At around 7/1 he represents excellent each way value in a 8 runner handicap and we will be very disappointed if he finishes out of the first three.

SHORT BUT NOT SWEET

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Angela with Sam before the race

Supreme Asset’s race at Sedgefield yesterday lasted just 35 seconds as he unseated Sam Twiston-Davies at the second fence.

Jason Maguire was feeling a little sore due to the after effects of his fall at Ayr in midweek so stepped down from riding at Sedgefield but we were more than happy with Jason’s replacement and so it appeared were the betting public! Supreme Asset was backed in from a morning price of 10/1 to be sent off as the 6/1 4th favourite. I am sure this was partly due to the way he looked in the parade ring – we all agreed that he had never looked better.

Speaking to Sam before the race, we knew there would be plenty of pace so the plan was to settle Supreme Asset just behind the leaders and pick them off one by one on the final circuit. Of course, we didn’t get chance to see that plan unfold.

Supreme Asset was a little crowded at the first fence but jumped it well and made his way round to the second in 6th place. He was half a length behind the 2 in front of him as they approached the fence but took off at the same time, catching the top of the fence and landing steeply. He crumpled on landing and Sam had no chance of staying in the saddle. Although Supreme Asset didn’t actually “fall” in the true sense of the word, the sudden deceleration after the big bump from behind left Sam clutching at thin air and the official description of UR is a little misleading!

Both horse and jockey were fine but it was an abrupt end to a race that promised so much for us. The finish was eventually fought out by the two veterans in the race with 12 year old Sa Suffit catching 11 year old Shadrack close home to claim victory for James Ewart. Take nothing away from these two but, had he completed, we would like to believe that Supreme Asset would have had a great chance to recapture the winning thread. Interestingly, James Ewart originally had three declarations for the race but both Un Guet Apens (ran on Friday) and Premier Grand Cru (ran on Wednesday) were withdrawn.

So where do we go from here? Supreme Asset’s current season form line of 73PU does not make pretty reading, particularly when you compare it to last season’s 33212 but we cannot read too much in to yesterday’s misfortune. The horse is generally a good jumper and, assuming he is none the worse for yesterday, he will be out again soon.

Elsewhere, our first ever winner and now successful brood mare, Malindi Bay goes to the sales at Doncaster tomorrow as we continue with our consolidation process. She is currently in foal to Kayf Tara and, with her Schiaparelli yearling fetching 23,000 Euro over in Ireland in November, we hope she will make a decent price. Meanwhile, six time winning mare Supreme Present will begin her new life as a brood mare with a free nomination to Kayf Tara under the Elite National Hunt Mares Incentive Scheme as she achieved a rating of 145 over hurdles. The scheme is designed to recognise the importance of good quality mares in the NH breeding program and encourage owners of these mares to utilise the British based stallions available.

HAPPY NEW YEAR?

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Flashback 12 months – Supreme Asset “stalking” Alderbrook Lad on the way down to the last at Carlisle

It has been over a month since my last post which simply reflects the recent lack of activity on the Lucky Bin front now that we only have one horse in training.

However, today is the day when that one horse takes to the racetrack again up at Sedgefield. Supreme Asset lines up against 8 rivals in the 2m 4f Handicap Chase at 3.35 this afternoon and Bruce and I will be making the longish trip to the North East to see if he can bounce back from a disappointing run last time out.

Back in 2012 and 2013, Supreme Asset won a couple of novice hurdles and reached a mark of 127 over timber which was a bonus because we “knew” he would be much better over fences. That confidence looked to be well founded as he progressed steadily in his first four chases, culminating in his victory over Alderbrook Lad up at Carlisle in February last year. His final run last Spring was a slight disappointment when he was collared on the run in back at Carlisle by Un Guet Apens despite being sent off as the odds on favourite with champion jockey A P McCoy on board.

So, we fully expected him to strengthen up over the Summer and, with that experience behind him, move on to bigger and better things this season. But it has just not happened. His first run at Aintree in October was against the sort of company that we thought he would take in his stride – a Class 3, 0-135 handicap. It could be that the faster ground was against him as he didn’t jump or travel with any enthusiasm eventually finishing 7th, some 49 lengths behind impressive winner Lamool. OK we thought, back to softer ground at Carlisle for a similar race in November and we would get back on track. This time, he was ridden well off the pace and stayed on to good effect in the closing stages, beaten just under 3 lengths by Indian Voyage and Un Guet Apens (again!). A collective sigh of relief that he had at least retained his ability even he was yet to build upon it.

So we went to Haydock in December full of confidence. He had performed well on this course a year before and the heavy ground would not be a problem for him. There were no superstars amongst the opposition and things looked set for a big run. Then, the wheels fell off. Travelling in mid division, there was none of the spark we had seen a year before and he was soon being niggled just to maintain his position. He came under pressure on the home turn, dropped back and was then pulled up by Jason before 2 out. No plausible explanation for what went wrong has emerged since.

The only factor that we can look at in all this is that magic ingredient, Trainer Form.

Donald has had a mixed season I think it is fair to say. A couple of spells when a lot of his horses appeared to be running below their best without any obvious reason always leads you to believe that “something is wrong” but, as everyone involved in racing knows, it is almost impossible to put your finger on it. However, the last couple of weeks have seen the winners start to flow again and it might just be that, at Sedgefield this afternoon, Supreme Asset benefits from that intangible upsurge.

The opposition is decent but not outstanding for a 0-140 contest and, if Supreme Asset does bounce back to last years form (or even the form of his recent Carlisle run), then his current price of around 10/1 might look very generous at around 3.45 this afternoon. However, if he runs like he did at Haydock then even at 100/1 he would be best avoided!

Fingers crossed!

 

TOO BAD TO BE TRUE?

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Supreme Asset collides with Back To Bracka at the last fence in the back straight but the writing was already on the wall.

Supreme Asset was pulled up in the home straight when well beaten at Haydock yesterday.

Two miles on heavy ground on this galloping track should have been just about ideal for our Beneficial gelding and he was primed and ready to run a big race after his promising effort at Carlisle. Or so we thought.

Supreme Asset was well supported in the market from 7/1 in the early morning markets to a low of 7/2 on course before being sent off as the 9/2 third favourite for this 0-135 handicap chase. Jason had just won the first race on the card and was in confident mood as we discussed tactics in the parade ring. The key was to lay up closer to the pace than we had at Carlisle and rely on Supreme Asset to travel and jump well and then take advantage of that newly found finishing speed from two out. However, from our view in the owners/ trainers stand, it soon became apparent that our horse was just not running with any enthusiasm. His jumping was adequate without the sparkle he has shown in the past and, despite the fair gallop, he was beginning to struggle a little down the far side. An accidental mid-air bump at the last fence in the back straight with Back To Bracka unseated Craig Nichol and didn’t help our cause but, as confirmed by Jason after the race, our horse was already in trouble.

A couple of reminders on the home turn produced no response and we were quickly a dozen lengths or more behind the first four. After struggling over the first two fences in the home straight and dropping further back, Jason decided enough was enough and pulled up Supreme Asset to canter back to the unsaddling enclosure. The race itself produced a good finish with Whispering Harry seeing off a late rally from Stagecoach Pearl but our eyes were elsewhere.

Inevitably we talked about the ground, the distance, the track and the pace of the race but, in truth, we do not yet know why our horse ran so badly. The vet could find nothing physically wrong after the race and, of course, it could have just been an off day but it really was just too bad to be true.

So where do we go from here?

Well, after winning at Carlisle back in February and nearly following up at the same track in April, we really though he would push on this season and build on his 130 rating in some better races. We made excuses for his return at Aintree in October and those excuses looked justified when he finished a close third back at Carlisle last month. But this performance puts a big question mark over him again. He had already been dropped 2lb after Aintree and this is not the way things were meant to go this season. It is far too early to write him off but, if we do not find a good reason for his poor run yesterday, his next effort will be absolutely crucial. He probably does want a little bit further than 2 miles and/or a more testing track but, the way he ran yesterday, I don’t think it would have made any difference.

The truth is that we have all been left scratching our heads.

 

HAYDOCK HERO?

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Supreme Asset forges clear of Alderbrook Lad on heavy ground at Carlisle back in February. Similar conditions at Haydock tomorrow should suit.

Supreme Asset returns to the racecourse at Haydock tomorrow when he lines up in the 2 mile handicap chase at 12.30 and we are hopeful of a big run.

Last time out at Carlisle, Supreme Asset was given quite a lot to do by Jason but ran on really well in the closing stages to finish a good third behind Indian Voyage. Jason reported that he would enjoy more testing conditions and that is exactly what he will get tomorrow with the official going described as “Heavy”. The last time he encountered ground like this was back in February, again at Carlisle, when he ran out a convincing winner from Alderbrook Lad and he is only 3lb higher now.

Obviously, this being a handicap, he will face some stiff opposition from the other 7 runners. Top weight and one of the likely favourites is Stagecoach Pearl for Sue Smith who arrives here in good heart on the back of a recent win at Wetherby. He has, however, been raised 7lb for that success and, as a 10 year old, is unlikely to be on an upward curve? Of course, with age comes experience and Stagecoach Pearl has run 31 chases in his career, winning 6 times so has to be respected.

At the other end of the experience scale is Back To Bracka representing Lucinda Russell. With just 2 chases under his belt, he is the least experienced of tomorrow’s runners but won well last time out at, also at Wetherby, and has plenty of scope for improvement. On the down side, he was given a hefty 8lb rise for that success and only reached a mark of 125 over hurdles so will probably need to improve again to win this.

10 year old Shooters Wood has been a little out of sorts recently but because of that he has dropped to his lowest mark for 2 years. If he can recapture the form that took him to a mark of 140 in early 2013 he would have to have a great chance while Surprise Vendor has flattered to deceive since winning at Kelso back in February.

That leaves De Faoithesdream, Greywell Boy and Whispering Harry. The first named won his first race back after a 12 month break back in October and very nearly followed up at Fakenham 2 weeks later. He then ran really well in the Paddy Power Handicap at Cheltenham last month leading to 2 out before running on again up the hill to snatch 4th. That is solid form but he seems to run best with a sounder surface so tomorrow’s conditions may not suit. Greywell Boy won a competitive race at Sandown back in March but has not reproduced that effort in two subsequent runs while Whispering Harry is an unexposed consistent performer and gets plenty of weight from the rest of the field.

All of which brings us back to Supreme Asset. We firmly believe that he is capable of reaching a much higher mark than his current 128 and, as a 6 year old, remains open to plenty of improvement. Despite his age, he now has seven chases under his belt so it his time to grow up and show what he is really capable of. He jumps and travels well and showed a good attitude last time staying on all the way to the line. He is fit and ready, will enjoy the testing conditions and has already proved himself at the track. In other words, if he is going to win a handicap off 128, tomorrow could well be the day.

APPRECIATING ASSET

Supreme Asset finished a close third at Carlisle yesterday and showed something we haven’t really seen since his hurdling days – a strong finish!

Having had a little too much to drink on Saturday night, I was unable to face the trip North on Sunday morning but Bruce and Angela travelled up to the Cumbrian track to fly the Lucky Bin flag.

Despite the morning withdrawal of Mitchell’s Way, this was still a very competitive handicap and none of the 7 runners could be easily discounted. Coming off the back of a poor run at Aintree and with Donald’s stable under a bit of a cloud, Supreme Asset was not well fancied for the event and was sent off at 13/2 with Indian Voyage the well backed 3/1 favourite.

As expected, Surprise Vendor made the running and Jason settled our horse at the back of the field where he jumped and travelled well enough. The race hotted up in the final half mile as Surprise Vendor was reeled in by Indian Voyage who jumped to the front four out. As the pace quickened, Supreme Asset was caught a little flat footed and it looked like he might finish well off the pace but in the home straight he rallied well and, despite having to switch round a loose horse, he jumped the final fence in fifth place. On the run in up the hill, Jason got a great run out of him passing Surprise Vendor and Edmond and closing on the front two all the way to the line. He eventually finished just a couple of lengths behind the winning favourite, Indian Voyage and Un Guet Apens who fought out a photo finish.

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Bruce and Donald with Supreme Asset after the race

This was a very pleasing performance and showed that Supreme Asset’s Aintree running was all wrong. In truth, he would have preferred even more cut in the ground and maybe he could have been ridden a bit closer to the pace. I suppose the only negative was that he couldn’t beat his previous Carlisle conqueror, Un Guet Apens, despite a 4lb pull in the weights.

Without doubt, the main positive that we took from this race was his tenacity in the finish which was probably the one thing missing from his armoury last season. He will come on again for that run and anyone knows that if you have a horse that jumps well, travels well and finds a bit more at the end of a race, you have the ingredients of a decent chaser. We are certainly looking forward to his next outing and we assume that his mark of 128 will probably be unaffected by this run.

Elsewehere, our six time winning mare Supreme Present is back with Robert and Jackie at Little Lodge and it looks likely that she will now enjoy a new career as a brood mare. Her obvious preference for top of the ground conditions makes it difficult to place her in better races and, with all that success behind her and a top notch pedigree, she should make a very good brood mare.

GOING, GOING, GONE!

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Our Schiaparelli colt in September last year. He was a much bigger boy in the sales ring today!

Today, in County Meath, the first of Malindi Bay’s foals came under the hammer in the Tattersall’s November National Hunt Sale. Our April 2013 Schiaparelli gelding fetched 23,000 Euro and we wish his new owners every success with him.

Robert and Jackie Chugg have been looking after Malindi Bay down at Little Lodge Farm since she retired from racing in 2011 and have overseen her transition to brood mare and the birth of her three foals. Robert accompanied our yearling over to Ireland and turned down an offer of 12,000 Euro before the sale so we are very pleased with the outcome.

In addition to the Schiaparelli colt, we have a 2012 filly also by Schiaparelli and a 2014 filly by Presenting. Malindi Bay herself is currently in foal to Kayf Tara.

On the racing front, Supreme Present will shortly be joining Malindi Bay back at Little Lodge but not as a brood mare just yet! She has done us proud in 2014 with five wins and three placed efforts from nine starts but the fast ground she thrives on has now gone so she will have a well deserved rest until the Spring. Next year, we can look forward to more exciting times as she embarks on a novice chasing season.

Bruce and I will be dropping in to Bankhouse in the next week or so to discuss plans for Supreme Asset as he looks to bounce back from the disappointment of his Aintree run.

BACK ON TRACK

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Over the last and on to the run-in at Taunton. David Bass has time for a good look behind aboard our star mare, Supreme Present.

Supreme Present won well at Taunton yesterday capturing her biggest prize to date and making it 4 out of 7 over hurdles. Perhaps more importantly, she bounced back decisively from the disappointment of Cheltenham.

As expected, the going was firm and fast down in Somerset and the late withdrawal of second favourite Honey Pound left our mare as a warm odds on favourite. In the end she was sent off at 4/6 which was quite generous considering her official superiority over the well backed Sacred Square. David Bass was having his first ride for us and his instructions were to use the front running tactics that had worked to good effect in her previous victories.

The race itself went to plan as David was able to dictate from the front at a reasonable pace and then quicken it up turning for home. The other two fancied runners were happy to sit in behind and a slightly awkward leap at the second last from our horse looked like giving them a chance but Supreme Present quickly recovered and, in truth, never really looked like getting beaten. She won by an unextended four and a half lengths from Sacred Square with the same distance back to flat recruit Dandy in third place.

Make no mistake, Supreme Present is a very good mare but this performance showed once again the importance of fast ground and therein lies our quandary. She is just not the same horse on anything with cut in it so we have to stick to the Summer months or rely on luck!

She has an entry for the listed mares hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday and, as she had a relatively easy race yesterday, we would have no qualms in her turning out again quickly. The problem is that they have been watering the course in Yorkshire and the going is currently Good (Good to Soft in places) so she will probably sidestep that race. That leaves her next option as the valuable 2m 6f mares handicap at Wincanton on the 8th November. Her official mark of 135 is unlikely to be affected by yesterday’s performance and the extra distance would be no problem but, once again, what will the weather do? (and, of equal importance, what will the course do?)

It may well be that we keep our powder dry and send her back home till the Spring.

Whatever we decide, we feel a lot happier now that she has got back to winning ways.