Fantastic start for Michael Blake

Another Wiltshire trainer got off the mark for the season today as Michael Blake saddled 5 year old Tis Fantastic to win the opening Novices Handicap Chase at a rain-sodden Stratford, ridden by Tom Cannon.

Tis Fantastic is owned by a syndicate named the Moonlighters, who've banged in 4 winners in the past 4 seasons with Michael, including well-regarded Doubly Clever, who won 5 races for the stable before being moved on. The 8 year old is now with Ben Pauling.

The Trowbridge dual purpose trainer has enjoyed a difficult year to date, saddling this one winner from 26 runners across both codes. But the way Tis Fantastic ran on, you'd hope Michael will have him winning again before the handicapper collars him.

Life for trainers with modest stable strengths has always been tough, reliant upon one good horse, or some well judged coups to pay the outgoings. Latterly, betting coups have been difficult to achieve with first no racing, then no betting shops open either! Even now, bookmakers haven't been in the forefront of thinking about whom should return to the racecourse first.

Nevertheless, Michael has been admirably consistent, banging in 5+ winners a year under each code over the past 5 seasons. Whilst he doesn't have the financial backing of big money owners, the creation of syndicates like the Staverton Owners Group, to find races at the likes of Bath and Stratford, shows that there is still a living to be made at the base of racing's pyramid.

In fact, the Blake stats show a much rosier picture over the sticks - not so surprising for a man whose roots are firmly in the Point-to-Point field. Graduating from Pointers in 2002, the stable was running 100 horses a season less than 6 years ago.

With an early winner under his belt, look out for more "Trained M J Blake, Trowbridge" as the season progresses. Wiltshire is surely a county where the horse comes first.

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