Bourton-on-the-Water handler Ben Pauling is putting in the miles this month seeking out winners in this new spectator-free season.
Today's Carlisle Maiden Hurdle winner Severance is his fourth this month alone, but success seems to be proportionate to distancxe travelled. His nearest winner in November to date has been the 272 mile round trip to Market Rasen on Guy Fawkes.
The following day, a mere 536 miles separated him from comfortable Maiden Hurdle winner Bobby Bo at Hexham, whilst half that distance was required by Shakem Up'Arry in the Novices hurdle at Ffos Llas two days later, and 500 miles for today's Carlisle reward.
However, all 4 winners have something in common which should set the tone for a promising season ahead. Without exception, each has won convincingly, with something in hand, indicating that Bourton should be setting the world on fire as these horses finesse their Jumping aptitude. It looks like a good clear-out took place after last season, injecting some new blood.
November 2019 was a complete wash-out for the Pauling yard (no pun intended in our wettest winter for years), with only 8 runners and nary a winner to find. Yet it's normally a month when you can expect Ben to be exercising his index finger on the Declarations button online. It's not unusual for him to have well in excess of 40 runners, and 2 years ago, he sent out 63 in the month. These may be babies he's launching, but with top prizes every weekend, starting on Friday at Cheltenham, expect to see some of the older horses flexing their muscles too.
Meantime, wife Sophie is getting to grips with their latest enterprise, Naunton Downs Golf Club. I can't see Ben challenging for top dog status here just yet though. It looks like he'll have his hands full at the yard with 7 entered for Cheltenham over the weekend, including outside Raven's Tower in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.
Meanwhile, down at Kempton, Storm Goddess booked a place in the Pertemps Final with a nose win over a Kim Bailey horse in the qualifier for Charlie Longsdon. This most enduring iof race series, which once upon a time used to be populated by more non-triers than you could shake a stick at, has become archly competitive throughout, and given you need a rating in excess of 140 to get in at Cheltenham, there's no room for skirting around the handicapper anymore.