Groom's column: Jo Collinson's tells of her life at Jonjo O'Neill's stable
THE yard has had a tremendous season so far with more than 60 wins tallied up over jumps and firing out doubles and trebles on a regular basis.
The most memorable was chaser Storm Survivor in the Summer Cup at Uttoxeter, when Lost Glory was third and Galaxy Rock was fourth.
There have been other big successes on the Flat too: Tominator in the Northumberland Plate and Well Sharp at Royal Ascot.
Back in June, the fundraiser for JT McNamara, who was injured in a fall on one of our runners back at the Festival, was a formidable success, shattering all expectations by raising £112,774.12.
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There was also an owners' day in September, when we paraded horses in the indoor school and the yard was bustling with visitors.
It has been a busy and sunny time, and our holidays are now a distant memory.
Yet, we are looking forward to the winners still to come. It is all excitement for the talented horses and the new youngsters yet to run, and for those big meetings at hallowed places like Aintree and Cheltenham.
I look after the same horses as last season, though Minella Fifty was rehomed in Devon as a point-to-pointer.
Don't Be Late and Lost Legend both won three races each this summer, and are on the easy list at the moment.
Dursey Sound returned from his break fatter and physically stronger, as did my bumper winner Oscar Fortune.
They benefitted from sunshine and time off as much as the staff. I also have It's A Doddle to do – he has come over from Ireland and has ears as big as a donkey's! Old fables say large ears show a genuine horse, so time will tell.
Three weeks ago, I took Dursey Sound to Bangor-on-Dee. It was a typical Welsh day: deluges and vast puddles.
I was so chuffed when he won by a length and three-quarters because he's a favourite of mine.
Last season, he won two hurdles races – and was my first winner for Jonjo.
He is ridden daily by assistant trainer Guy Upton. On the morning of the race, Guy said I was to say two things to AP McCoy: "Firstly, look after Dursey and, secondly, win."
Of course, the Champ did both!
This summer, I did quite a bit of driving to the races and got used to the big lorry (air brakes and all), and ticked off saddling at the races for the first time.
My hands were shaking and I was praying the saddle did not slip, as AP McCoy was riding, but all was good, and both the runners were placed.
I have done it a few times since, and no disasters!
Laura Morgan is now the head travelling lass and she has a new Equi-Trek lorry to trundle around in. Born and bred in racing, Laura is doing a great job. The yard cats Gin and Tonic, which we presumed were ginger tomcats, unexpectedly had a kitten each.
One is ginger and white, the other is a blacker, tabby-like colour.
The initial names discussed were Vodka and Coke, but Bubble and Squeak eventually took preference. They are very fluffy and cute, and now are venturing from their nursery in the feedroom.
They are not very friendly, showing feral traits inherited from their father, but hopefully neither will lack mousing skills.
I recently discovered an old friend, Davey Collins, is back working in England from his native Ireland. He started at Donald McCain's in the summer, having previously worked for Ronnie O'Leary in County Clare.
Davey and I worked together at Nigel Twiston-Davies' at least seven years ago. I wish Davey lots of luck and winners. If our horses ever clash in a race, I hope if mine does not win, his does!
Last month, I went to the evening 'do' of my friends' wedding – Neil and Caz Chapman – in a marquee on the playing fields in Guiting Power.
It was a beautiful setting – and the bar was run by the famous racing pub, the Hollow Bottom!
Neil, long ago, looked after the brilliant mare La Landiere, when a stable lad for Richard Phillips and was also head lad for DJ Wintle until the trainer's retirement.
It was a party to remember, with many faces from racing, jockeys, ex-jockeys and stable staff.
We all danced and drank until late. Jonjo's amateur jockey, Alan Berry and his wife Lisa and I got our lift home at 2am but I heard the staff from Twiston-Davies' did not leave until 4.30am!
Nights like this always remind me of how I have met the loveliest people and best friends through this sport – and however hard we work, we always party even harder.
It is a chance to dress up, let our hair down and, of course, dance.
People move on out of racing, get other jobs, families – a touch of normality – but we all meet up every so often and it is fabulous fun.