TOM DASCOMBE is gearing up for his annual advance on Chester Racecourse for the May Festival.
The 43-year-old trainer is synonymous with Chester winners and openly admits his plans are all aimed towards delivering winners at the Roodee’s showpiece three-day festival, which gets underway on Wednesday, May 10.
And the Malpas-based yard’s hopes could revolve around their three Chester winners from 12 months ago, as Golden Glimmer, Hillbilly Boy and stable star Kachy brought up a fantastic treble on the final day of the meeting.
“Eveything is being geared towards Chester at this moment. In April, our horses are doing their best, but they’re having a run to get them spot on for the May Festival,” said Dascombe.
“For Chester everything has to be perfect. We don’t worry if they aren’t sparkling now, we worry about that next week.
“It’ll be difficult this year, we’ve got less older horses and most of ours are handicapped to their best or badly handicapped now. We’ll be competitive in the pair of two-year-old races and if we can nick a handicap with an elder horse, with a good draw, that would help.”
Dascombe has a record 125 horses in training this year at Manor House Stables – co-owned by former Liverpool and England footballer Michael Owen - including over 70 two-year-old’s which makes predicting a successful season ahead a difficult task.
“We’ve got more horses than we’ve ever had. Last year we ran 105 so we’ve gone up 20 from that and it’s an exciting time as we’re up on numbers,” he said.
“We’ve got around 70 two-year-olds so we’re top heavy on young, unraced stock and we’ve had to retire a few like Capo Rosso, so we’re unbalanced in that regard.
“We’ve not good enough elder horses to get the winners we’d want this year, but we’re in a good position for the years ahead. Next year could be a really good year but this year will be transitional for the yard.
“We hope one or two of the two-year-olds will be quite smart. We have to assume they’ll all be useless, as you can’t bank on two-year-old winners, but one or two should pay their way.”
Dascombe was left frustrated by the lack of flat turf meetings during April, but the yard have begun to fire in the winners over the past fortnight, the highlight of which was a treble on Haydock's card last Saturday, as La Celebs Ville, Sidewinder and Caponova came home in front.
The yard recorded a welcome two-year-old winner at Newmarket as Formidable Kitt claimed the EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes under stable jockey Richard Kingscote, who Dascombe believes is a key part of his success.
“The season started, then we had one turf meeting for the whole week and two all-weather meetings on National Saturday,” he added.
“I don’t understand why they don’t wait for the National to be run, then start the turf season on the flat. None of it makes any sense.
“The championships make little sense either. The champion jockey should be the one who rides the most winners that calendar year, just start on January 1. We’ve got that many championships going on, it gets ridiculous.
“Richard is great, we’ve been together nine years now and his two best qualities are he always knows how fast he’s going, he gets the pace of the race nice and early.
“His best quality as a stable jockey is he’s very honest and if he makes a mistake he admits it and that keeps it easy for us and the owners. You know you’ll get the best you can out of Richard, he’s a real asset to the yard.”
Zofalee – “He’s a lovely colt, bit of a boy. He’s a bit full of himself. Nice, French-bred horse and we’ll get him to June with the aim of Deauville if he’s good enough.”
Formidable Kitt – “She jumped away, travelled and quickened at Newmarket. We’ve got to hope she’d be a Queen Mary filly at Royal Ascot. We’ll aim her at the Marygate at York.”
Diamond Set – “Nice, big individual who won’t be ready for Chester just yet. Will take some time but one to watch out for in June.”
Supersymmetry – “She’s a six furlong filly who will run towards the middle of the summer. I hope she’ll win her maiden and go for the Albany at Royal Ascot.”
Full Intention – “He ran well last year without getting his nose in front. He works well with horse rated in the mid 90s and you’d have to think he’s got handicaps in him off a mark of 82. I’ll be disappointed if he can’t win a 0-85 handicap over the coming weeks.”
Kachess – “Hugely disappointing last year after maiden win at Goodwood. I genuinely thought she was the best filly we’ve ever had after that, her homework was brilliant. She went completely off the rails though. We wanted to run her on the all-weather but she’s only just come into her coat now.”
Nigh or Never – “Should be winning races once he has another run and finds his level in handicaps. Should be winning races."
Four Dragons – “Has suffered a slight setback but hopefully she'll come through it and win some races over the summer.”
Katmandoo – “He cost £250,000 as a two-year-old but only ran once at Haydock as he got injured. He’s back and is a big, strapping horse. He has a Derby entry.”
Kachy – “He’s the flag bearer now. He had a little setback but will start in Newmarket first week in May, then Chester. He looks bigger, stronger than last year.”
Simply Me – “She’s been thriving on the all-weather, we gave her a month off with the anticipated Spring soft ground but of course it’s hardly rained and it’s good to firm everywhere but that’s life! She’s won four over the winter.”
Golden Glimmer- “She’s gone to Ireland to be covered, with the view of bringing her back to train while in foal for three months. If she doesn’t take in foal, we’ll keep her for the full season. She could make a better horse this year.”
Arcanda – “Injured in Dubai in the winter. He’s on the quiet list at the moment with Ascot or Goodwood the aim. He’ll run in Heritage handicaps, is rated 105 and I’m sure he’ll pop up and win a big one.”
Roudee – “Unfortunately got injured after the Silver Cup win at Ayr and will need a good time off the track. He won’t be going to Chester, which is disappointing. He’ll be back in the Autumn.”
Cymro – “We lack depth in older horses but Cymro is one who could take out a handicap if he gets soft ground. He ran at Pontefract, had a bad draw, and Richard did the right thing when his chance was gone. He’ll run at Chester either for the Ormonde or a handicap and he will win a nice race off 102.”
Hillbilly Boy – “Came back after a break and is one of our stronger chances at the May Festival. He won three times round Chester last year, he’s one of our more likely winners.”
Chosen Character – “He’s a good old boy. He’s sort of been retired, he’s enjoying life. One of our young apprentices will ride him three or four times this year in apprentice handicaps but he’s under no pressure to win.”