Longsdon has strength in depth
Stepping out of the shadows of one of National Hunt racing's greatest trainers to go it alone is a move Charlie Longsdon has managed to achieve with a good deal of success.
Since leaving Nicky Henderson to take out a licence of his own in 2006, the Chipping Norton handler has saddled well over 480 winners, which included 51 during the last campaign.
With a good mixture of youth and experience in his yard, the Hull Farm Stables handler is hopeful the winners can keep rolling in and continue to move his career forward.
"Last year was a good year. It was better prize-money-wise than numerical winners. We won over #99,000 more in prize-money in Britain than we have ever had before and we had over 50 winners for the sixth year in succession," said Longsdon.
"We've not had the Sharp Rise and The Drop Out Joe as big summer earners this year, but we've got a lot of nice young prospects and there are some interesting horses in there."
Topping that list of potential stars is Grade Two-winning mare Snow Leopardess, who already has one success to her name this term after making a winning return to action at Auteuil.
Longsdon said: "Snow Leopardess is a nice mare and won nicely in France on her return. There is a decent mares' handicap on Badger Ales day at Wincanton that Kalane ran in a couple of years ago that she could go for next.
"There is also a race at Kempton at the end of November which is a three-mile Listed race. In an ideal world, and if we are all happy, we would like to take her to Cheltenham. There is no reason why she would be out of place there as she has won a Listed race and a Grade Two."
While Snow Leopardess enjoyed a productive first season over hurdles, Longsdon is keeping his fingers crossed Monty's Award can be his leading light among the novice hurdle ranks this time round.
Longsdon said: "His bumper win at Worcester was strong form. He was not quite right when he ran second time at Doncaster, but he finished a creditable fourth.
"I would like to think he can take higher rank among the novice hurdlers this season. I think he will be a stayer in time.
"We will look at the EBF Final at Sandown as a long-term target, but if he is handicapped too high then that is a good thing and we can look at graded races. Of the novice hurdlers he is the known quantity and can be top of the pile."
Although there are few prizes Longsdon is ever likely to beat his old boss at, one that could fall his way is the Grand National which has been earmarked as the long-term target for Coologue.
Longsdon said: "In an ideal world if everything went to plan his target would be going for the Grand National.
"I've always seen him as potential National horse as he is a fantastic jumper and he stays every of inch of three miles and probably wants further.
"Giving him a spin over the Aintree fences is something we could well do in December. I want to carefully map out his route and try to find a nice handicap to win."
Last season saw Longsdon have to make do without several key players due to injury, one of which was promising hurdler Ballydine who will now have his attentions switched to fences where he is expected to flourish and make up for lost time.
Longsdon said: "Ballydine is back steady cantering away. He won't be seen out until the middle of November.
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"He is a different horse to what he was two years ago. As long as we can keep him sound, it was almost a blessing that he missed last season.
"He was a weak, raw horse and is a much bigger horse. Johnny Burke has sat on him a fair few times at home and he really likes him.
"I'd say he will go novice chasing. He will start over two and a half miles and will step up to three."
The Cheltenham Festival is seen as the holy grail for most National Hunt horses, but Longsdon has in mind a target away from Prestbury Park for the talented, but frustrating, Our Kaempfer.
He said: "He should have won more races than he has. He bolted up at Kempton in February time. I just wonder if he is maybe a right-handed horse, he shows he can do it left-handed but Cheltenham and Aintree last season weren't him. He might go somewhere like the Badger Ales Chase first.
"I would say if I was a betting man that he would go for the BetBright Chase at Kempton. I won't massively target him at Cheltenham this year."
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A VOS GARDES
"He is a lovely horse that has been off the road for a year. He was very immature when running in decent handicaps the season before last. In a way I think that having a year off will have done him no harm at all. He has physically grown and strengthened. He will go novice chasing. He is a bigger horse and there is more about him."
"He has only recently arrived in the yard. He has run in a lot of big handicaps, but he is still a novice chaser. He could be very interesting, just because he could go back to the novice route. He looks likes a nice sort and hopefully he could be a BetVictor horse. Then you have got the options of going back in novices later in the season. I may be jumping the gun, but reading his form it looks like he is a horse that could be progressive."
"I know he was highly thought of in Ireland. He had some slight niggling problems as a four-year-old so he didn't run. Hopefully that will be a thing of the past and we can get on with him. Let's hope he is a nice proper, winter ground horse."
"We will take it one step at a time with him. The Henry VIII could be a target, but I wouldn't want to run him on bottomless ground. I'd love to get him to Cheltenham and I think he will want further than two miles in time."
I'D BETTER GO NOW
"He is lovely. He will be a strapping three-mile chaser in time. He is a nice, big horse and is not a speed merchant but has grown and strengthened up a lot over the summer. He should be ready to run in a bumper soon."
"She is lovely. She came from Robert Tyner having won her point-to-point. She is a nice big mare. She will have one run in a bumper before going hurdling and is one to look forward to. There is a really good mares' programme and I'd really like to think she can be heavily involved in that."
"He has been a star. He got a slight leg injury at the start of last season and won't come back until we think he is ready. He will get scanned again and hopefully he will be back in the spring. If he is not ready we will wait until next season. Time is the key to him."
"What a star he was last season. He is on a career-mark at the age of 11, which seems slightly mad. He is as happy as ever and it shows the longevity horses have in the yard. It shows we have looked after him and that they are tough. He has been with us six or seven years. We will probably follow a similar route with the veterans' races for him."
"We knew he wanted to go right-handed ahead of his first run. In my mind if he had jumped straight on his debut over fences he would have been very competitive. He ruined that by going out to the right. He has a few mental quirks, but we are starting to get over them and he should be a nice novice chaser."
"He might be one for the tail-end of the season again having had the autumn off. He ran the race of his life to be beaten in the Kim Muir at Cheltenham. It was a great effort to get there on his first run since the Grand National. He has been a flag-bearer for our yard the last five years."
PETE THE FEAT
"He came back a few weeks ago and will be aimed at the veterans' final at Sandown again as a 14-year-old. He has had his issues and been retired a couple of times. That will be the plan, whether he is up to it or not is a different matter."
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