Longsdon: Young guns & old favourites
Charlie Longsdon says it's been a '7/10' season so far, despite being well on course for his biggest prize-money haul in his 10 years so far. He tells Sportinglife.com about some of the highlights of the campaign and the horses he hopes might fly the flag for him during the spring.
Pete The Feat and Loose Chips ensure a decent payday for the Longsdon stable in the Veterans Final at Sandown
Charlie, with 40 winners on the board, what have been the highlights of the campaign so far?
Prize money-wise you couldn't ask for any more so far. We've won nearly £550,000 in the UK, another £20,000 in Ireland, another £30,000 in the US – that's near enough our best-ever season. Numerically, we'd love more winners. We've had loads of seconds. But we're still in the top 12 in the trainers' championship, which is good.
My head lad said to me the other day that everyone probably thinks we've got 120 horses, which I think is true to some extent – we don't, we've got a couple more than 70, so to be competing with stables that have got more than that number is good.
Sharp Rise and Drop Out Joe won valuable races for us in the summer, and obviously having Pete The Feat win the £100,000 veterans' final was satisfying, for all sorts of reasons. They're both such tremendous horses and Loose Chips, who was third, might have given Pete more to think about if he hadn't sustained a bad cut before the race. I didn't think he was going to make it at the five-day stage, but it started to heal just in time for us to get him there on the day. He loves Sandown and I've another race in mind for him there, while the qualifiers for next season's race start again soon – who's to say Pete won't do it again at 14 if we can get him there!
"Pendra came 12th in the Grand National on ground too soft for him last season. He jumped beautifully and crossing the Melling Road for the last time, you thought 'Hello, he's going to be involved here' then he was just treading water from the second-last."
Charlie Longsdon on Pendra
Sharp Rise was a horse I was hoping to train for the Stayers' Hurdle, but sadly he died after he ran in the American Grand National for me. They were training him for the Colonial Cup out there and he got some massive infection and died very, very quickly. He got something called collitis which, in a horse, is where the body poisons itself. He was quite a cool horse in the time we had him. It was a great experience going out there and I'd love to do it again with the right horse, but it's sad Sharp Rise is no longer with us.
After Pete The Feat's success, you said it had been a frustrating campaign, but there seems to have been plenty to cheer about?
It has just been quieter than I would have preferred. December wasn't good and then at the start of January it just felt like we were hitting the crossbar. It was just frustrating. We had loads of seconds and thirds.
Does the fact that you're still waiting for your first Cheltenham Festival winner hang over you a bit?
Of course it does. It does bother you. But you can't get hung up on these things – and if we can find a valuable handicap away from Cheltenham that is worth as much, it surely makes sense to look at that as an option.
The thing is you probably need to be that stone well-in to win a handicap at Cheltenham. I thought Our Kaempfer was that last year but he still only came fifth in the Pertemps, beaten a couple of lengths, and that tells it's own story. He wasn't unlucky, it was just frustrating. He went past 20 horses in the last half a mile, but it still wasn't enough.
Ironically, we probably aren't going to have a big team at the likes of Cheltenham and Aintree, but we've got some nice young horses to look forward to and some good, solid older chasers too. Our Kaempfer might go for the Reynoldstown next after his latest win and then we could look at maybe going for the RSA Chase or one of the handicaps, but his new rating suggests he wouldn't be out of place at the top level. He's a horse I always really liked.
Hopefully he can take the mantle from the likes of Pendra, Kilcooley and Ballydine who have all had their problems this season. Kilcooley and Ballydine are both out for the time being, Ballydine for the season, but Pendra might be back before long. Pendra came 12th in the Grand National on ground too soft for him last season. He jumped beautifully and crossing the Melling Road for the last time, you thought 'Hello, he's going to be involved here' then he was just treading water from the second-last. He was on his way back from Ireland when he got travel sickness and he's still on his way back. He's still a month away at least, but he could still make it to Aintree or perhaps even Cheltenham again.
Drop Out Joe is another we might be able to get to the Grand National. He injured a cruciate ligament and hasn't run since he won the Summer Cup last year but he could be back in the spring, depending upon how his recovery goes, and he might just get to the Grand National.
So are you actively trying to avoid Cheltenham this season?
No, not at all, it's just that isn't the be-all and end-all. I'd love to win a race at the Festival and hopefully it won't be too far away, even if it's not this year. Personally, I have some brilliant memories of the meeting – from watching Desert Orchid win the Gold Cup when I was still at school to being assistant to Nicky Henderson. Trabolgan and Fondmort were two horses I remember winning particularly fondly – Fondmort because he really deserved it and was such an amazing trier, and Trabolgan's win in the RSA because you were thinking 'He could really be very special'.
Can you tell us about some of the promising young horses you mentioned?
I was probably stupid to run Monbeg Charmer in very soft ground at Ascot last season – he hated it. He ran well twice over hurdles earlier this season and then I put him away with an eye to finding a nice race on spring ground for him. His first race back might just be at Musselburgh this weekend. If he goes well, it potentially opens up doors at Cheltenham or Aintree.
"The plan would be for her to run under a penalty soon and I'd hope she'd win again. Then there is a race at Fairyhouse which Harry Fry won with Bitofapuzzle a couple of years ago – a mares' Grade One over two and a half miles."
Charlie Longsdon on Snow Leopardess
Forth Bridge is a lovely big horse and not your typical Flat horse. He's 16'3 now and will be a big strapping chaser. He won nicely enough at Musselburgh and that was a good performance. Ultimately he wants a step up in trip and we won't do much with him this season. Nothing is set in stone but I just wonder if the race for him might be the nice big juvenile handicap hurdle at Newbury over two miles and three furlongs the week after Cheltenham. He's a proper, long-term horse and it's obviously pleasing to have had a first winner for The Queen – the pressure is off a bit now!
Snow Leopardess was by far the least experienced in the big Aintree mares' bumper in which she ran a big race last season. We then went to Gowran Park and won a Listed bumper. Her owner-breeder, Marietta Fox-Pitt, is great friends with Jessie Harrington and I think they got talking about the race when they were at Badminton together last year – that's how that came about.
She ran really well first time over hurdles behind Dusky Legend and then won nicely at Doncaster afterwards. The plan would be for her to run under a penalty soon and I'd hope she'd win again. Then there is a race at Fairyhouse which Harry Fry won with Bitofapuzzle a couple of years ago – a mares' Grade One over two and a half miles. She's probably going to be a three-miler in time. I think she'll be very good. She's still green but she's good and she's only going to improve.
Do you have a horse in your team who you hope might just be the real star every yard needs?
Monty's Award was a good bumper winner at Worcester back in October – the same race Ballyandy won. I liked the way Tom Scu couldn't pull him up at the end of the race. He's had some time off since to grow and has done really well. I'd like to think he'll win another bumper under his penalty and hopefully he's good enough for one of those decent races – whether it's Cheltenham, Aintree or something else I don't know. His owner Alan Halsall is a director at Aintree, so we could look that way, but we'll see how he gets on. I really do like him though. He has always worked very powerfully and he just gallops and gallops.
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