10th February 2018
It has been reported this week that various Newmarket trainers are dismayed at the proposed cut in maximum FOBT stakes from £100 to a probable/possible £2. Equally disturbing is the stance of racing staff union Chief George McGrath, who sees it’s demise as having a knock on effect to staffing. No doubt this is all to do with Matthew Hancock, who is Newmarket’s MP, the Minister for Culture, and an advocate of the reduction to £2.
Racing has a huge opportunity to sell itself with betting turnover on racing increasing according to all sources, and under the new plans for the Tote. I find this attitude to FOBTs as dismaying as those who are afraid of their demise. Morally FOBTs are indefensible, and I think our funding model should be distancing itself from them.
Furthermore, FOBTs maximum stake is going to be slashed whatever racing says, so why not concentrate on growing our market share rather than trying to hold onto something that is apparently dead in the water?
We had two winners last month. Star Story finally broke her Maiden in a 12f Handicap at Lingfield, in the process fracturing a knee. She was sold at the February Sale for a paltry £8k to Nick Bradley. He tells me he has been offered profit several times over since. I am not surprised; he is a man that continues to do clever things and his outfit becomes ever more impressively successful.
Font Vert also got off the mark for The Calvera Partnership at Kempton on 26th January. I bought him back at the February Sale for old ally Tony Owen and his Classic Strollers Partnership.
There has been a lot written about female jockeys in this country recently, and more debate about whether they are given enough opportunity. A quick glance at the 2017 top 100 riders in North America reveals that only Emma Jane Wilson in 88th comes out amongst that number from the female ranks. No other girl features prominently in the Land Of The Free, and on the same continent that Julie Krone (30 years ago) and Chantelle Sutherland rose to prominence. In Australia, Linda Meech rides plenty of winners in Victoria, though not as many at the main Melbourne tracks and Michelle Payne has disappeared from view. Despite the 2kg allowance given to females in France, none have risen to prominence, and the same goes for flat racing in Ireland. With Hayley Turner and Josephine Gordon as well as Nicola Currie making strides, perhaps we aren’t doing as badly as is made out.
23rd November 2017
Nobody here would pretend that 2017 has been a good year on the racecourse for Kimpton down.
We haven’t won as many races as I would like, partly because we haven’t had as many runners as we should. From mid-season to late October, our form was pretty indifferent, but with a couple of highlights along the way when winning the Group 2 Park Hill with Alyssa and the Group 3 September Stakes with Chemical Charge.
It was pretty clear to us at the end of July that we had a low-grade virus affecting the string. So we stopped having runners for a fortnight through the first half of August. This definitely helped, but we then got clobbered by a dose of Ringworm, no doubt brought on because the horses were below par. It affected the 2yos particularly badly, but I am glad to say that they have come out of the other side, and some have shown significant promise in recent weeks.
The likes of Cecchini, who won on debut at Kempton, breaking the track record, Kinaesthesia, who also won on debut and Occupy who did the same, are likely to train on to be lovely 3yos. I have high hopes for Twice Over’s half-brother, Breath Caught, who won a Maiden at Doncaster in October. The same applies to Podemos and Ceilidh’s Dream, who were both placed on debut in Kempton Maidens.
We will have a few to run through the winter on the AW. We also have Chemical Charge going out to run in the Hong Kong Vase next month, and Battered has been purchased from William Haggas’ at Newmarket at the HIT sale to go to Dubai.
We sold very well at the same sale, when Brimham Rocks made 340,000gns to go to Chris Waller in Sydney. Although it was a terrific sale, we were sorry to see him go, as he will undoubtedly progress. This is the economic reality of being a UK-based trainer; if the price is right, the horse must go. For years the resale market has kept any number of trainers here afloat. Hopefully the extra money from the levy replacement that comes in for 2018 will help the sport from top to bottom, and I am full of optimism that it will.
Many of you will have seen that from January 2018 all wind operations have to be declared. There is some sense to this, except that it is out of line with the conditions of sale at the major Sales companies, and hence is wide open to abuse. More pertinently, it has come in because having extracted proper funding from the bookmakers, the BHA has to be seen to help drive turnover. Expect more measures in that direction over the coming months and years.
23rd September 2017
It has been decided to retire Simple Verse. She has had various issues since the Gold Cup in June, and put simply we have ran out of time to get her ready for the Long Distance Cup, on Champion’s Day.
She was a terrific servant to all her connections. The highlight of her career was undoubtedly the 2015 St Leger, but to drop back to 12f and win the Fillies and Mares five weeks later showed how versatile, as well as tough and talented she really was. We will miss her, but look forward to training her progeny.
21st September 2017
We had a good time of it at the Doncaster St Leger Meeting with Alyssa and Melodic Motion finishing first and second in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes. In the press debrief afterwards I called the level of prize money for the race (90k) ‘diabolical’. Not surprisingly it was quoted, and it seemed that most agreed with that view.
What I should have said is that the whole meeting’s prize money is a poor relation of every other flat ‘festival’ (meeting) - Doncaster’s word not mine. Management ARC could claim that the meeting started on soft ground, and that will have affected the field sizes. Don’t believe it - the 10f Handicap, 12f Handicap and the previously prestigious 14f Mallard Handicap all had less than 15 entries at the 5 day stage, with the 8f Nursery being reopened because there were not enough entries. Don’t forget that the hugely popular York Ebor meeting started on similar ground.
I am a huge fan of the meeting, and the St Leger itself, but it has become a shadow of its former self. The facilities for owners are poor - the bar is small and access is gained from the front of the grandstand by fighting your way though the hordes gathered around the bookmakers, which are situated next to the paddock. There is another route up some stairs next to the weighing room, but that is fenced off, unsigned, and unprepossessing.
What is ironic is that the racecourse chose to move everything up from the old unsaddling enclosure and weighing room to the other end of the paddock to make everybody closer together, yet the best place to go for a quiet drink is now the old weighing room at the far end of the enclosures, away from the action.
You would have thought that the Ascot experiment of lumping everybody in together would have cured anybody of trying it again - not so. Doncaster suffers as a result, it isn’t a place that I look forward to going to any more, and having spent a large chunk of my youth there, that is sad (for me at any rate).
However I was glad to see that there was a huge crowd for the St Leger, and the race itself was a terrific renewal. But if crowds on the other 3 days are to increase, and they certainly need to, then Doncaster needs to invest in its race programme. The ‘stack em high sell em cheap’ mentality that ARC have employed over the last 12 or so years has run its course. It is clear that we have, or are about to reach the point where racecourses are going to have to compete for runners. Those who put on decent money will reap the rewards. The rest will get left behind, those who rely on post-racing concerts included.
By all accounts Saturday night at Lingfield with Craig David playing afterwards (https://www.racingpost.com/news/lingfield-blasted-over-inadequate-facilities-at-sold-out-concert/301246) was a miserable experience, it is not the first time, and tracks will surely eventually realise that all they are doing is infuriating the actual racegoers. Given there are only 1 million regular racegoers, that doesn’t seem a very good idea - there are only so many post-racing concerts that you can hold and, for example, I can’t imagine the locals around Lingfield standing for what went on, next year.
Independent tracks like Pontefract, Salisbury and Musselburgh (amongst others) regularly attract decent midweek crowds. They all have one thing in common - their race programmes compare favourably with their peers. All three attract people who appear to enjoy racing, it really isn’t that difficult to work out the common denominator; if you are putting on attractive race programmes, you are putting up decent prize money.
18th July 2017
As a racehorse trainer, you expect criticism from the racing public, but you won’t be surprised to hear that not all of it is delivered in a constructive way. On 2nd July we received the email below from ‘shaylynam@g**il.com’ in reference to Air Pilot’s 5th place in the Group 3 International Stakes at The Curragh on the same day:
“I am curious to know was it your idea or the owners to travel across to the Curragh and not try a leg in a race worth €38,350 to the winner? That retard of a jockey, Keane, must have got his orders from yourself to keep the horse as far back as possible, hence, giving him no chance of winning the race, even though money was coming for him, but who gives a sh*t about the punters, they are only cannon fodder.
…. as I always say, the worse thing about the Flat is that there is virtually no chance of a jockey seriously injuring himself, mores the pity….
I hope/wish that that you and your family suffer catastrophic Health problems and very, very soon. You, no doubt, will move on back to England and not be bothered by a sh*t run from one of your nags, not thinking of the money punters lost backing a horse which ran a disgraceful race, you dirty scum bag.
I live in hope.”
Presumably Mr Lynam’s conviction that we were up to no good wasn't an attempt at humour, but for the avoidance of doubt, all of our runners are doing their best. Moreover, I cannot think that anybody in their right mind would take a horse overseas to 'not try'!
You could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Lynam would leave it at that, but it turns out that he was not happy we did not take the time to reply to his first email, so he sent an equally graphic follow-up on 12th July:
“I see the tactics being employed, ignore the e-mail and he will go away, that may well be true. It just shows the contempt you show for people that you cannot even acknowledge them sending their e-mails.
The content of my e-mail will become a distant memory, but, what will become a recurring memory will be the Health of Beckett and his Family. I will take great solace in the fact that Catastrophic Health problems will always hang over him and his Family, may illness impede them.”
His discontent that we did not pen a reply almost outweighs his outrage at the running and riding of Air Pilot. Hence if Mr Lynam is reading this, perhaps he can let us know his address so we can post him one of these, free of charge, to ease the distress caused by Air Pilot's performance: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Power-Charm-Anyone-Over-Situation/dp/0814473571/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1500392940&sr=1-2&keywords=charm
17th June 2017
It has been agreed by mutual consent to discontinue the current arrangement of Fran Berry as stable jockey at Kimpton Down. Both Fran and I feel that this is the right decision to make going forward. I am grateful to Fran for his considerable efforts over the last year or so, and wish him the best of luck in the future.
4th May 2017
Last week, after the Group One entries for Royal Ascot were published, Nick Smith, their spokesman, was asked about the lack of entries from Australia. He said that in previous years Australian sprinters such as Choisir were “really, really good”, and intimated that it was cyclical that they had made zero entries this time.
I tweeted the question, “Were they really, really good, or were they really, really medicated?”
Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go down particularly well in some Australian quarters. Most of the negative responses didn’t actually want a debate (!) until ex-Pat Australian, trainer Jeremy Gask asked me to explain.
I pointed out that anabolic steroids could be given legally to racehorses in Australia as long as there was no trace in a post-race blood test, up to and at the time of Mahmood Al Zarooni’s warning off (suspension) in 2013. (See link) Read that again. Staggering isn’t it? To be fair, the Australian regulators subsequently (and presumably consequently) introduced a ban on all steroids in line with the European standard, and within months of Zarooni’s ban too.
My point was, that since that happened, the number of Australian horses arriving here to run at Royal Ascot has fallen off a cliff, to the point where this year there are not any entries. Of course, that may be a coincidence.
So, are we supposed to believe that the likes of Takeover Target, Choisir, Black Caviar and others were never given any ‘help’ by their connections?
Now, I should point out that I trained a Breeders’ Cup winner (my only one) for an Australian, (Richard Pegum) and a Royal Ascot winner, (my only one) for an Australian Syndicate. I like Aussies – a lot.
Firstly, I can categorically state that every trainer worth his salt has, at some point, tried every veterinary ‘help’ that is legal. That isn’t difficult to comprehend, in fact it would be downright daft and even incompetent not to try all means possible.
Secondly, science conducted on mice by the Norwegians in 2013 found that steroids have a positive lifelong effect on animals whether given at rest or in work. http://sciencenordic.com/steroid-effects-can-last-decades
I am sure you can see where I am going here. Certainly anyone who used to work in the Australian racing industry will tell you how well horses did there when sent for a ‘spell’ (holiday at grass). I am sure they still do very well, but perhaps for slightly different reasons?
My point is this; nobody involved in the industry here, (or anywhere else) believes that the aforementioned Australian sprinters didn’t get ‘help’ when out of training. (Steroids only show up for three months on a blood picture). Nor is anyone accusing their trainers of cheating. They were acting within their rules, it just so happened that they weren’t our rules, but they were running under our rules of racing.
There is the same issue with the US where steroids are still legally given to horses out of training, yet runners are invited from there too.
I hope we see plenty of Australian sprinters running here again – but I doubt it will happen. Though it is unlikely either that we will hear the line that was often trotted out about Australians improving European horses when they arrived down under. Come to think of it, we stopped hearing that a couple of years ago.
I hope that clears it up, but again, I doubt it!
25th February 2017
2017 has started well, with five winners. Munro took his record to three wins from five starts when landing a competitive 0-95 Handicap at Lingfield.
Remember The Man was just pipped in a maiden at Lingfield, before winning in a Handicap on his next start. Kencumin confirmed the promise of his debut when getting up late at Southwell to shed his maiden tag on his second attempt. He has been sold to race in America.
Earthly showed improvement upped in trip to win his maiden at Lingfield. Bessemer Lady also showed improvement when stepped up in trip for her Handicap debut this week. She should continue to improve in Handicaps this season.
We have welcomed back Fran Berry back at Kimpton, returning from injury. He should be back race riding later in the month.
14th January 2017
2016 was one of our best years to date. The total number of winners improved to 101, a first century for the boss, and our strike rate also improved, up to 20%. Our winners to runners ratio also increased up to 53.4%, one of the highest in the country.
We had our staff Christmas Party on 6th Jan, which was a great success. Recognition was given to Sharna Elford, who was awarded the ‘Most Improved Rider’, and Jaoa Orlei Sampaio Cardoso, who was given the ‘Best Groom’ award. We had a Casino Royale Theme, and the overall winner was a tie between Sam Kite and Bill Solomos, who illustrated their astute qualities in ending the evening with the most chips.
January will welcome back our two Jockeys after injury. Fran Berry is back from a broken foot, and our apprentice, Patrick O’Donnell, has returned from breaking his pelvis. We are looking forward to getting them both back riding winners, and hope for a bit more luck with their soundness.
Happy New Year!
2nd December 2016
We are sitting on 96 winners for 2016 (not including three pattern wins in France). The pressure not to count the foreign wins is coming entirely from the Boss, and as far as the yard is concerned, we only need one more winner to reach the milestone. Fortunately we have a few bullets left to fire in December, and we are hopeful that we will get there.
The 22nd October at Newbury turned out to be a productive day for the team, with three very good results. Mountain Bell added to her Listed win at Chester by just getting pipped in the G3 st Simon Stakes. A big scopey filly, she is a horse we are looking forward to for 2017. Pleaseletmewin won the G3 Horris Hill, taking his tally to three wins for the season. A £36k yearling, he was sold four days later for 450k Guineas at the Autumn Horses-In-Training Sale. In the maiden, Crimson Rock made a successful winning debut, showing an impressive turn of speed to get up late on. A $1m yearling, she has a pedigree that suggests she will improve next year and is likely to be aimed at classic trials.
Alyssa started off in Handicaps rated 74 in June, and finished the season winning the Listed Noel Murless Stakes at Ascot in September, ending up with a rating of 102.
Rich Legacy proved she was not flattered during her unlucky 4th in the G3 Prestige Stakes, by winning the G2 May Hill at Doncaster. On the same day, St Leger heroine Simple Verse came from an unpromising position 1.5 furlongs out to win the G2 Park Hill, to make it a G2 double for Ralph and Qatar Racing.
Ventures to France yielded important Listed wins for both She Is No Lady and Diamonds Pour Moi. Fran Berry was seen to good effect on She Is No Lady, who was inconvenienced by a slow pace over a trip (14f) that looks to be her minimum, but battled on well. It was good to see Diamonds Pour Moi back on track after losing her action in The Oaks. She made the most of the drop in class, winning well by two lengths.
The end of the turf season saw some promising runs from horses that look to have a big future ahead in 2017.
Sound Bar improved when stepping up to 8f when landing a Newbury Maiden by nearly three lengths, and if his pedigree is anything to go by, he should improve as a 3yo.
Camerone showed the benefit of her debut run when getting up late to land her maiden at Brighton. A daughter of Galileo, she should improve as a 3yo. As should Isabel De Urbina. She took a while to find her feet on debut, but flew home to reel in a subsequent maiden winner at Ffos Las.
Both Steaming and Inconceivable were eye-catching on their debuts. They should have no problem in improving when stepped up in trip at three.
Our new stable jockey Fran Berry has had a tough year. He was enjoying a stellar June when getting injured at Doncaster, and then having ridden Pleaseletmewin to win the G3 Horris Hill, he unfortunately broke his foot in a stalls incident at Lingfield. Despite these setbacks, he has proven to be a valued member of the team, and we look forward to him having a clean run of things in 2017.
If you did not read about the incident at Kimpton on 18th November, it is worth seeing Marcus Armytage's article here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/racing/2016/11/21/pregnant-polly-causes-stir-beckett-stable/
Lastly, we can disclose that Ralph has exchanged contracts this week, with the Balding Family, for 105 acres of farm and woodland between the yard and gallops. This will make us more self sufficient than ever before.
July and August have been continually productive. On the last day of the July Meeting, we had our first five-timer. Magic Circle and Pamona both won impressively at York, Pleaseletmewin and Gold Faith doubled up at Newmarket, and Hereawi won well at Chester.
Alyssa has continued her progression after winning her maiden in late June. She won a Handicap at Epsom before winning again at Salisbury, earning an increase in her official rating of 17lbs. She will run at Doncaster in the Park Hill on Thursday.
Another progressive filly who notched up a treble was Golden Stunner. She subsequently finished midfield in the Listed Dick Hern Stakes, but was inconvenienced by the wide draw. She is worth another chance at pattern level.
September Stars showed the benefit of dropping her back to a mile when winning twice in a week at Windsor, earning a 17lb rise in the weights. Heavy rain at Sandown before the Atalanta blunted her effort there, but she will be aimed at pattern races again, on a quick surface.
We had one winner at Glorious Goodwood, with Desert Haze winning a competitive Fillies’ Handicap over a mile. She was unlucky not to gain black type in France last week, finishing a running-on fourth off a slow pace, beaten only a nose.
The St Leger meeting at Doncaster this week will see the return of Simple Verse. She is in good shape, and is stepping back up to 14f for the first time since winning the St Leger last year. If Pamona can replicate the form of her win at York in July, she will have a very good chance in the same heat.
Sadly we do not have a runner in the St Leger this year. Reports of its demise have been exaggerated over the years, and there have been some decent renewals of late. This year both Muntahaa and Idaho look progressive. We would have loved Carntop to have been a St Leger horse, but that was not to be. He has been gelded and is on his way back, with the Godolphin Stakes on the 23rd September as his target.
Thought For The Month
The virus in Newmarket has been well-documented, and I feel for our Newmarket colleagues. Everybody has sick horses from time to time, but Newmarket’s travails have dragged on in a way that doesn’t seem to have affected horses trained outside the training centres.
Nevertheless, most of the rest of the country won’t have access to Newmarket’s new £10,000,000 gallop. Though not everybody is impressed with this ambitious project. As one fellow trainer said recently;
“What are they going to do with the other £9,000,000?!”
Update - 28th June 2016
Air Pilot got a little tight for room at a vital stage in the Prix Ganay back in May, and was prevented from showing his true colours. He made amends in the Group Three Prix Coupe at Chantilly last week, winning cosily under a patient ride from Christophe Soumillon. (Picture - canalturf.com)
Poyle Thomas made a pleasing return to action after 680 days off at Newmarket six weeks ago, and illustrated that there are still races to be won with him over staying trips this year. He ran a brave third in the Northumberland Vase having hit the front a shade too soon.
Kinema provided us with our first Royal Ascot winner in the Duke Of Edinburgh. As we have been training seventeen years, you could say that this was overdue! We had a nervous wait thanks to a Steward’s Inquiry. As the rules stand, and with the hampered horse finishing third as well as going for a gap that was not really there, it was hard for the Stewards to change the result. Probably the proximity of the interference to the line (75 yards out), was also a factor. (Picture - Sporting Life)
Royal Ascot also yielded a fast-finishing second in the Group Two Albany from Bletchley, a previous winner at Nottingham on her debut. She shapes as 7f will suit, and will be aimed another Group race, perhaps the Cherry Hinton at the July meeting.
Green Light was impressive at Epsom on Derby Day, enjoying the large field on soft ground. He appreciated the exaggerated hold-up tactics too, and is likely to run in the Old Newton Cup on Saturday, ground permitting.
Golden Stunner showed her toughness when knuckling down to win a strong Fillies’ Handicap at Newmarket a couple of weeks ago. She is likely to be aimed at gaining some black-type. Similar comments apply to both Desert Haze, a recent winner of a Sandown Handicap, and Sightline, winner of a Chester Handicap last weekend.
One of my fellow trainers was taking the mickey out of me for running a horse at Newcastle, having been so against their proposal to rip up their turf track and replace it with an AW surface. The fact is, if Arc are prepared to put up decent prize money, of course we will be sending horses there. Case-in-point being Mr Bossy Boots, who made the journey for a £20k Handicap. Kept out of the kickback, he stayed on strongly to win under our apprentice, Patrick O’Donnell. He is off to the July sales next week.
Moonrise Landing has unfortunately sustained a minor fracture, and will be out for the rest of the season. She will be back next year.
Spring Update - 28th April 2016
The positive start made to 2016 here at Kimpton Down has continued into early Spring.
Moonrise Landing made her seasonal reappearance in the All-Weather Marathon on Good Friday at Lingfield. She showed her class in how she went about winning, having to show a bright turn of speed to catch Anglophile late on. She is likely to head to The Chester Cup, before aiming for pattern races.
We were fortunate enough to train an Oaks winner for Mr Richmond-Watson in Look Here, and it was great to get a win to the name of her second foal, a daughter of Dubawi named Hereawi, who won at Doncaster. Sightline (her dam, Look So, is a half-sister to Look Here) also gave another boost to the family when winning her maiden at Beverley.
Mountain Bell’s debut run at Windsor had been well-advertised since, and she made no mistake when winning her maiden at the same venue, by an impressive ten lengths. She will be aimed at The Lingfield Oaks Trial or The Musidora.
Secret Sense, a half-sister to our Group Two winner Secret Gesture, made all in a maiden at Chelmsford earlier this month. A lovely scopey filly, she should continue to progress this year.
Pure Art was impressive when winning her maiden on debut at Lingfield, in what looked to be a good race for the track. She has been given a mark of 77 and could look to take advantage before stepping up in grade.
A discussion in the office regarding why sex allowances vary between pattern and non-pattern races yielded a couple of interesting points, but nothing quite close enough to a definitive answer (despite the broad intellectual talent). The sex allowance for National Hunt horses is consistent between pattern and non-pattern races.
Why is this sex allowance, which is in name, an allowance for sex, variable across different types of races?
The BHA have introduced a new medium of answering questions like this for 2016, titled Handicapping Explained. (email@example.com) This looked like the perfect opportunity to find the definitive answer! After a couple of weeks, we received the response as follows:
“Fillies get a 5lbs allowance in maidens because for most of the year the median rating of a filly is 5lbs lower than that of a colt”. This makes sense and is logical.
The argument for why this falls to 3lbs for pattern races falls on the fact that fillies “…have their own Group races to run in, but at least some sort of allowance encourages the owner of a top filly to take on the boys in Group One races, which adds interest to British Racing”. Now this also makes sense, but if that argument is one that the BHA Handicappers follow, why is the allowance not mirrored in pattern races for National Hunt runners?
Furthermore, the pattern race programme for Fillies and Mares would not be proportionate to that provided for colts and geldings, so without the range of available options that the boys have, fillies should be entitled to the full sex allowance in keeping with the fact that “the median rating of a filly is 5lbs lower than that of a colt”. A reduction in the allowance from 5lbs to 3lbs in pattern races is in theory, a 2lbs penalty.
The recent change to the Trainer’s Championship is very much welcomed. This came about because of a proposal from British Champions Series who wanted to finish the Trainer’s Championship on British Champions Day. I don’t think that they expected the reaction to be a change back, to the obvious and logical format of the calendar year!
From a statistical point of view the new format makes sense; it is daft that November/December two-year-old statistics are shunted into the following year. Similarly, how is it right that if you win the November Handicap in 2016, it is counted in 2017 statistics?!
This weekend’s runners include the return of Classic winner Simple Verse in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday and Air Pilot heads to Saint-Cloud for the Group One Prix Ganay on Sunday.
I am delighted to announce that we have come to an arrangement with Fran Berry to ride as first jockey at Kimpton Down. He and his family will relocate to this area early next month, and he will be riding out here on a daily basis. Jockey's agent Tony Hind, will be booking his rides.
At times, I have found the last 18 months frustrating without a first choice rider. Fran, at 35 years old, is in his prime, and as a Group 1 winning rider with international experience, this is an ideal solution.
Trainers Diary 18th February 2016
2016 has started well for us, with a total of four winners so far, the tally kicking off with Rivers Run shedding her maiden tag at Kempton for the Australian based Ballymore Sterling syndicate. She looks sure to hold her own in middle distance handicaps this season.
A few days later, we had our first double of the year, with both Inswing and Custard The Dragon winning at Lingfield. Inswing made her handicap debut a winning one under our apprentice, Patrick O’Donnell, and was backed up later in the day by Custard The Dragon winning the claimer under Graham Gibbons. There were seven claims for him, but he ended up with Mr David Penman, and will be trained by Mr John Mackie. We wish them the best of luck.
Southern Storm made no mistake on her step back up to a mile for her maiden at Kempton, winning nicely. There should be be improvement to come from her, probably when she steps up in trip.
Early February saw the sale of a few of our horses at Tattersalls. Holy Roman Prince, Night To Remember, Hawkin, Lavinia Rose and Little Sandy have all moved on, and we wish their new connections the best of luck with their futures. Here is a link to the results from the February sale - www.tattersalls.com/february-list-lots.php
We have done, and are doing plenty of work over the winter here at Kimpton Down. We have refurbished the ‘short spur' gallop next to the yard and added sixteen mini paddocks.
Lacan was purchased out of Marco Botti’s yard to run at St Moritz this February. Unfortunately on the 14th, the meeting turned into a farce, with all the races being switched to the straight track, and therefore being run over four furlongs. The round course was deemed unsafe due to a hole at the top of the back straight, see picture below.
The highlight was the Skijoring event, normally run over 2700 meters. Clearly all connections decided that it would be pointless running their horse, and perhaps dangerous as they would not be able to pull them up after four furlongs? They all scratched, apart from the horse owned by the President of White Turf, who after the walkover, went ahead with the presentation ceremony... to himself. Nobody who has dealt with Silvio Martin Straub will find this surprising!
Lacan has remained in St Moritz in the hope that racing will go ahead on the 21st, but we are not confident of the round track being raceable.
Trainers Diary 21st December 2015
It would be fair to say that 2015 was a year everyone at Kimpton Down will never forget.
In the space of four weeks we lost two Group 1s, and got one back. The respected US turf writer Jay Hovdey, described it as year that we would look back on as 'character building'. It was a bit more than that, but I take his point.
Now it is all history, I am inclined to say what I really think, but that would achieve little. With regard to the St. Leger, the BHA's Head of Stewarding is well aware of my (and most others) thoughts. As for the Beverly D, is it really conceivable that if Secret Gesture and Stephanie's Kitten had swapped roles, the same decision would have been made? As I have said before, those who had an interest know who really won.
I was delighted that Simple Verse has been recognised by the industry in the last six weeks with two awards. I was hopeful that she would be voted Cartier Stayer of the Year, because she was the only horse shortlisted that had won two Group Ones. But I was a little surprised that the ROA voted her Filly and Mare of the year, with Legatissimo shortlisted in the same category!
We have had a relatively quiet month since the last report. However, Moonrise Landing won twice over two miles, including a conditions race, and in the process qualified for the AW stayers championship on Good Friday.
Cronwing Glory emulated her dam by winning on the same AW surface at two, by toughing it out over seven furlongs, and looking for all the world as if she wants ten furlongs.
Diamonds Pour Moi won on debut over a mile, by making all despite being drawn widest of all at Kempton. A very backward filly for most of the year, she looks likely to progress further at three.
As for the rest of the year, it is difficult to describe how much Redstart's Fred Darling win meant to Izzy and I. I have no doubt that her owner David Oldrey’s support in terms of counsel, and horseflesh, since I started training on Peter Walwyn's retirement, has been a big factor in getting us to the size of operation we are now.
Air Pilot's win in the Group Three International Stakes at The Curragh was a wonderful day for his owner Lady Cobham, and he backed that up with a fine performance in the Champion Stakes. Secret Gesture's Group Two win in the Middleton Stakes was a fine front running effort, and justified the decision to keep her in training at five.
As for the two year olds we have plenty to look forward to, but the unbeaten Thanksfortellingme gave me a big kick. He cost relatively little, and was owned by a long time supporter of ours, Richard Roberts. Now in Hong Kong, we wish him and his new owners well.
Happy New Year.
Trainers Diary 2nd November
Izzy and I have just returned from Kentucky where Secret Gesture ran below par in the Breeders Cup. She got a bit warm beforehand, and although she was able to grab the lead and set her own fractions, she faded in the straight to finish 7th. My feeling is that she didn't cope with two trips to the US inside three months, but everything is always simple in retrospect, and it was our best option.
Sadly for us she retires to stud now, and is likely to be covered in Kentucky next spring, before returning home next summer. It has been a great ride with her, and I have enjoyed training her immensely. She was such a straightforward customer in every way, and a filly who loved her job... With luck we will get to train some of her offspring.
Simple Verse's triumph in the Group 1 Fillies and Mares on Champions Day was a huge thrill. To drop back from the St Leger over 14.5f to 12f doesn't sound a big ask, but asking any horse to drop back in trip is difficult, particularly at the highest level. She pulled it off comprehensively, running down the improved Journey, and pulling away from a high class field in the process. Hers has been an extraordinary year. She made her debut in February, took three runs to get off the mark, got beat off a handicap mark of 77, scraped home off 82, and ran in every calendar month (bar one) from February to October.
Air Pilot ran a super race the same day to finish a close up 5th in the Champion Stakes, and increase his rating to an impressive 117 in the process. Rising seven, he has only run 10 times, so I am hopeful that he can maintain his form, and win at Group level again next year.
Two year old Thanksfortellingme won the Listed Silver Tankard at Pontefract in good style. A 20,000 Euro yearling, he is now unbeaten in three starts, and despite plenty of interest it is looking likely that he will remain here for his three year old career.
In terms of winners October was a lucrative month, with 14 winners coming our way. Magic Circle won his third and fourth races of the year, Argus won a competitive handicap at Doncaster, and a number of promising efforts from Two Year olds such as Little Avon, Andastra, Secret Sense, Girling, Hereawi and Desert Haze, were witnessed.
The Horses In Training Sale was held last week at Newmarket, and we sold a large team of horses pretty well in general. Click here for the results. http://www.tattersalls.com/autumnhit-list-lots.php
With just a week of the season left, I can say without fear that 2015 will be our best ever year. Irritatingly we are going to finish at least £30,000 behind Andrew Balding and team... But if Simple Verse is voted Champion Stayer at the forthcoming Cartier Awards, I will get over it!
Trainers Diary 29th September
I decided that I wasn't going to write this until both the appeal for the Beverly D at Arlington in Chicago, and the St. Leger, were concluded. I can't pretend that it was just because I would only have to write one article. Training horses and dealing with two appeals is more than a full time occupation.
Secret Gesture's disqualification from 1st place in the Grade 1 Beverly D was totally avoidable on any number of counts. Firstly, if her jockey Jamie Spencer had been looking where he was going when she hit the front a furlong out , she would not have drifted to her right. When he straightened her up, Stephanie's Kitten and Irad Ortiz was making ground behind her. Instead of riding for the line, Ortiz decided to lean towards Secret Gesture and stand up in his irons; in the words of Eddie Arroyo, the Arlington Chief Steward, 'Grandstanding'.
Unfortunately for us, Mr Arroyo's two colleagues on the panel disagreed , and declared her disqualified. The appeal panel, consisting of one retired Chief steward, agreed with the verdict , and believed Ortiz to be 'a credible witness'. This despite a Channel 4 interview ,that was admitted as evidence at the appeal, which Ortiz gave at York prior to the Nunthorpe Stakes, where he admitted that he 'didn't like (doing) it, but I was riding for the owner'.
Getting disqualifications turned over in the U.S. is very rare, now I know why! Perhaps the fact that you cannot appeal at all in some states (notably California) should have rung a few alarm bells.
Simple Verse's disqualification from 1st place in The St. Leger was a different matter. It's true that she had bumped Bondi Beach 2 furlongs out, but he had made contact five strides earlier, tightening her up and forcing Andrea Atzeni to stand up in his irons. The incident at the half furlong pole was down to jockey Colm O'Donoghue forcing Bondi Beach to lean on Simple Verse, her back end went to the left, so her front end went right, barging Bondi Beach back. There is YouTube footage showing both incidents clearly.
As the first instance of interference was 2f out, (too far out according to the guideline to the rule) we were pretty hopeful of that being struck out. And with the second incident as described, under our rules we thought we had a good chance of winning the appeal, and so it proved.
What we felt at Doncaster on the announcement of the revised placings, is hard to describe. I know that in the general scheme of things, they are just animals running around a field, but these are career defining moments. Winning a St. Leger is something that few of my contemporaries will get to do. This was my third Classic win. That puts us in a club of very few, mostly because there are only five classics a year!
To have the St. Leger taken away ,exactly four weeks after the Beverly D ,was almost unbearable. Because we won it back in London, I am never going to feel the same way about it as I do about our two Oaks wins. Such is life, and like Secret Gesture's disqualification, we will get over it.
The amount of letters and messages we received after Doncaster, and since the appeal is quite extraordinary . People have been very kind, and that is something that I won't forget. Most commentators thought we should have kept the race, though not all agreed. I understand that, but I couldn't agree with one Irish pundit who thought that Bondi Beach should have been awarded the race, because it would draw a line in the sand, and stop the sort of interference that has become commonplace.
In other words Simple Verse was to become a 'crash test dummy'.You can't change the rules without telling everyone first, and did he really think that one swallow was going to make a summer?!
The fact is that far worse interference goes unpunished almost daily. But if they want to curb the number of offences, I would leave the rule alone and increase the punishments for careless riding. Specifically, if an offence occurs in the last furlong, then double the ban, and ban them when it hurts most, eg for a Group 1, or during a festival meeting. If that doesn't work, then increase the zone to the last 2 furlongs.
Generally, August was a tough month for us on the racecourse. However September has been better, with our 10th win of the month coming yesterday at Epsom. We have had 6 two year old winners in that number, which augurs well for 2016.
Trainers Diary 26th August
Much has been said and written about Secret Gesture's win and subsequent disqualification in the Grade 1 Beverly D at Arlington on 15th August. Due to the impending appeal, I am not at liberty to comment. Suffice to say, it was immensely disappointing and we look forward to the new hearing next month in Chicago, Illinois.
As for her performance, I was thrilled with the way she went about it, on ground (slow) that she handles . It rained heavily in the 30 minutes beforehand, changing everybody’s chances. Although I have always felt that she thrived on fast ground, she won a Listed race on Heavy , and its possible that several of her rivals didn’t cope as well as she. She travelled well just off a strong gallop, and picked up well to tough it out by 1.5 lengths. She is home now, and we are preparing her for the EP Taylor at Woodbine in Toronto on October 18th.
We had a double the same day at Newbury and Newmarket, with Albert Bridge and She Is No Lady respectively. The former is an old favourite here, now a 7yo, and was ridden by an old friend of mine Serena Brotherton, to win the Ladies Derby. It gave me a real kick to see the pair of them winging their way home, and we look forward to a productive autumn with him. The latter is progressive, and I can see her going further up the ladder, as she beat what was supposed to be a handicap good thing, fair and square.
Simple Verse provided the other highlight of the last month by winning the Group 3 Lillie Langtry over 14f, at Glorious Goodwood. She has got better and better with time, and racing, and will now go to Doncaster for the Group 2 Park Hill.
Trainers Diary 27th July
We have had a varied and rewarding past six weeks on the racecourse. June was good to us with 12 winners here, and one in Ireland, and we have had 7 so far in July.
Royal Ascot went by without us troubling the judge, though Marma’s Boy ran a fine race to be third in the King George V Handicap, and Forte finished close up in the Ribblesdale.
The following week Simple Verse toughed it out to win the Bibury Cup at Salisbury, and Air Squadron doubled up on the day. The 28th June was a red letter day with a double at Windsor, courtesy of Argus and Hard to Handel, and Air Pilot won a Group 3 on The Curragh.
She Is No Lady was our first ever winner at Carlisle on 4 July. Hardly cause to put the bunting out, but she had been knocking at the door, and though a long way to go, it is a well run, fair track that deserves more runners from here.
Newmarket’s July meeting yielded a winner in the shape of Maxwell. It was memorable if only because it was Pat Smullen’s first winner for us since Muhannak’s Breeders Cup win in 2008. Maxwell has been really progressive thus far, and will probably show up in the Melrose Handicap at York’s Ebor meeting.
Our apprentice, Patrick O’Donnell rode Pacify to win a week later at Newmarket, in a valuable 10 furlong handicap. Patrick has been busy of late, and is about to lose his 7lb claim, as he has ridden 16 winners this year, and 19 in all (after 20 winners he claims 5lbs). It will be a significant milestone in his career, and we plan on him carrying on in the same vein.
Evita Peron was our other stakes winner, winning the Listed Valiant Stakes at Ascot on 24th July. A tough, genuine filly who is a pleasure to train, we might aim her for The Group 3 Atalanta Stakes at Sandown in late August.
The two year olds have been running well, Sandahl and Flying Empress both won in June. Whilst there have been promising efforts from Lavinia Rose, Puzzled Look, Crowning Glory and Point Of Woods.
Unfortunately Air Pilot panicked in the stalls at Munich yesterday, before his first attempt at a Group 1 . He has cut his right foreleg quite badly, and wasn’t fit to travel today, but we hope he can start the long journey home tomorrow. German starting stalls are known to be quite basic. This set was missing a front bar on his gate, and Pat Smullen was pretty convinced that it led to the horse trying to climb out through the front. Air Pilot was first to load, and it didn’t help that they took an extraordinary length of time to load a ten runner field, none of whom were being difficult .
Glorious Goodwood is upon us, and though we will have few runners, there are some with a chance. Richard Hughes retires this week, and we look forward to having him as a neighbour. He rode two classic winners, and I am proud to have provided him with one of them. I hope that he finds training as rewarding as he did riding. As one Irish jockey turned trainer once said, ‘Being a jockey is the only profession that when you retire you have to start work!’
Trainers Diary 10th June
I was quoted in today’s Racing Post as saying that it is ‘difficult to think of a more depressing announcement for the sport of Horse racing’, than ARC’s announcement that the BHA have sanctioned the changing of Newcastle racecourse to an all weather (AW) surface.
I thought I should use the opportunity to expand on that quote.
Firstly, it is my(and most others) firm belief that the ratio of fixtures should remain unchanged from the current 40% Flat turf, 40% National Hunt, 20% Flat AW. This announcement spells the end of that ratio, because the BHA seem powerless to stop the creep of yet more AW fixtures. Next year when Newcastle apply for fixtures they will want considerably more than the current 17 Flat, to justify the reported £11 million that they are investing. The problem is that the horse population does not need any more fixtures, and there are only 175 BHA owned fixtures that can be bid for. These fixtures are already split between the existing tracks, and when Chelmsford re-joined the 2015 fixture process Kempton lost 33% of their fixtures.
Thus, either Newcastle get into a bidding war, or they switch fixtures from ARC’s other tracks. Now, ARC have already said that Southwell will lose some fixtures to Newcastle. But given ARC’S lack of investment in the infrastructure and racing programmes at Yarmouth, Chepstow and Bath, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where this is going. Yarmouth’s (perfectly safe) surface was ripped up last Autumn and not replaced, but reseeded. Unsurprisingly it still isn’t ready to race on, and given yesterday’s announcement there has to be a doubt whether they will race there again. Bath still haven’t done anything about a grandstand that was deemed unsafe over 12 months ago, and like Chepstow, it’s flat racing programme has been downgraded at every opportunity. Thus, I have no doubt that this move will sooner or later, result in the closure of one or more of ARC's other turf tracks.
Secondly, the BHA are responsible to a degree, for the situation. They have approved it, they didn’t have to. I can’t help feeling ARC chairman David Thorpe’s presence on a BHA Board that contains few who have any practical experience in the industry, did something to further Newcastle’s case, despite him ‘not being involved in the decision’. BHA chairman Steve Harman invited him onto the Board last year, but does the Chairman still believe, as he did 12 months ago, that ‘ARC are unfairly portrayed as the whipping boys of the industry’?
Trainers Diary 15th May
We were delighted with Secret Gesture’s win in the Group 2 Middleton Stakes at York yesterday. She and Andrea Atzeni set a good even pace through the first half mile, slowed it down around the bend, and kicked turning in, after which she never looked like getting reeled in. It feels a long time since the Lingfield Oaks Trial of 2013, which she turned into a rout. She only had a listed win at Nottingham last year to show for some sterling performances in various Group 1s and 2s, including the 2013 Oaks. Hopefully we can bag a Group 1 at some point this year. It’s possible she could run in the Coronation Cup at Epsom next month, but it’s more likely that she will wait for the Group 1 Pretty Polly at The Curragh at the end of June.
By and large the horses have run really well over the last four weeks. We have had 10 winners since the last report on the 23rd April, which is as good a start to the turf season as we could hope for.
Redstart disappointed in the 1000 Guineas, she found the ground a little too firm and came back a little sore. The ground was very quick there and she never looked comfortable, so we have given her some time off and she will be trained for a yet to be decided target next month.
Magic Dancer ran really well in the Lingfield Derby Trial and he is likely to wait for the King Edward VII at Royal Ascot, or the Irish Derby. He enjoys soft ground, so will be campaigned with that in mind.
Bellajeu ran a fine race in the Lingfield Oaks Trial to be second, and she is likely to go for the Oaks.
Trainers Diary 23rd April
We have started the season well with wins from the likes of Lear’s Rock, Midnight Dance, Marma’s Boy, Maxwell and Simple Verse. But easily the highlight is Redstart’s win in the Group 3 Fred Darling at Newbury on Saturday 18th April. Owner-bred by David Oldrey, she is out of Ecstasy who was the third winner we trained, back in 2000. David was one of a handful of owners who left their horses at Windsor House when I took over on Peter Walwyn’s retirement. Without his loyalty, I doubt I could have started training. Hence last Saturday will live long in all our memories.
Redstart’s work last autumn and this spring had been good, so we expected a good show though I felt that she would probably find one or two too good. Pat Dobbs was positive on her from the gate, she made virtually all and held off the late challenge of Jellicle Ball. Beforehand, we had the German 1000 Guineas in mind for her, but as of now she will definitely go to Newmarket for the 1000 Guineas, all being well.
After a few days off, she is now back cantering looking and moving well.
Some of you may have read that the new Championship will run from Guineas Weekend (May 2nd) to Champions Day (Oct 17th).
Firstly, it is a gimmick thought up by PR men who don’t really understand the sport, and are merely justifying their largish budget. If they did understand, they would realise that what really interests the public are the good horses and that the characters (i.e. jockeys and trainers) fit in with those horses rather than vice versa. But that doesn’t fit well with the PR men, because the really good horses come around at irregular intervals.
Secondly, it is an idea based on Formula 1. Again that idea is flawed, because all races are included in the F1 season. And furthermore, F1 is promoted as a team sport. Racing never was and never will be a team event.
Thankfully no trainer who voiced an opinion was in favour of the same idea for a trainers’ championship. It’s not often all trainers agree – cause for celebration!
Trainers Diary 16th February
We have had 3 winners since January 1st, and a large number of also rans. Sadly, like everybody else, we have slow horses as well as quick ones, and most of those who haven't performed over the last 6 weeks will be finding (or have found) new homes.
Lysander The Greek finally found the winners enclosure on 15th January at Southwell. A horse who works as though he wouldn't be out of place off a 15lb higher mark, he went on to be second back at Southwell on 22nd January. He, along with 5 others, was sold at Newmarket earlier this month. He is being exported to the USA. Click here to find the other horses sold at the same sale.
Mr Bossy Boots won again over 7f on 21st January. He goes next to Wolverhampton for a 7f Listed race on March 7th. Hopefully his run there will qualify him for AW Champions Day on Good Friday.
Haaf A Sixpence bounced back to form at Southwell on the 8th February. He struggled for most of 2014 with a penfugal infection, but is back to his best now and we will aim him for the Lincoln Handicap. He isn't guaranteed to get a run, but he is on the cusp, and if he doesn't he can wait for the (Newbury) Spring Cup, a race he won 2 years ago.
Trainers Diary 22nd December
We have had eight winners since the end of the turf season on 8th November, all of them 2 year olds.
The highlight being the unbeaten Chemical Charge winning his second start by a wide margin in an 8f Conditions race at Lingfield on 15th November. He looks a smart prospect for 2015, we are likely to start him off in a Stakes race next Spring, in the hope that he will progress to the next level and run in a Derby Trial.
Pacify surprisingly won his Maiden on debut, over 8f at Kempton on 10th November. None of his siblings showed anything at two, so he looks a good prospect for next year.
Camagueyana won over 8f on 12th November at Kempton, on her third start. As a half-sister to Cubanita we were delighted she won at 2, and her sire ARCHIPENKO has had a breakthrough year.
On 27th November we had a treble at Kempton, with 2 year olds Logorrheic, Redstart and Engaging Smile all winning Maidens on their second start.
Gold Flash won well on debut over 6f at Kempton, on 10th December. He has been a backward horse but will make up into a stronger, more mature 3 year old. Master Of Irony also won on debut seven days later at Lingfield, over 7f. This meant that we trained eighty winners in a calendar year for the first time. Apart from anything else, training this many winners is a logistical feat to be proud of, and our staff have all played their part. I am very grateful for their efforts.
2013 was always going to be a tough year to match, so it was perhaps inevitable that 2014 was a year in which we missed out on the days that mattered most. Cubanita’s second in a German Group 1, Secret Gesture’s second in the York Stakes, and Niceofyoutotellme’s second in the Cambridgeshire were all fine efforts, but frustrating none the less.
However the handicappers flew the flag, and the fragile Air Pilot’s progression through the ranks, culminating in a Listed win, was hugely satisfying. As were Stakes wins for Cubanita, Evita Peron, Regardez, Honor Bound and Secret Gesture.
We have had a much better year than 2013 with the 2 year olds, particularly through the Autumn, which augurs well for next year. Horses such as Chemical Charge, Encore d’Or, Great Glen and Forte will all start next year with pretentions for the highest level, and as you will have noticed from the last couple of diary entries, we have plenty of others who will have high aspirations next year. Most of our talented older horses stay in training and we have been sent a terrific bunch of yearlings.
Trainers Diary 4th November
Although we had 16 winners, we also had 27 seconds in September and October. As frustrating as that is, many of them were 2 year olds with several showing significant promise.
Probably most promising of all was Chemical Charge who won on debut at Salisbury on the 1st October. He is a horse who has shown significant promise from the outset and he was very impressive, winning a maiden that we have only won once before, with Look Here back in 2007.
Great Glen showed nearly as much when 4th but only beaten half a length three days later at Newmarket. The winner went on to be second in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.
Talent’s full sister Forte won on her second start on the 7th October at Kempton. I ran her in the Fillies’ Mile later in the month where she finished creditably, beaten only 5 lengths. She learnt plenty too, as it was her first start on turf.
Encore D’Or won an ordinary Wolverhampton maiden on 11th October by an impressive 7 length. He is half-brother to Equiano and Evita Peron. He should do well over the winter and will be a candidate for the new 3 year old only sprint program that has been introduced for next year.
Other winners included Rideonastar who won on his handicap debut at Windsor on 13th October. He should make up into a better 4 year old. The following day 2 year old Sweet Dream broke her duck at Newcastle, this daughter of a Group 1 winner went on to get black type when third in the Radley Stakes at Newbury later in the month. From a family that gets better with age, she should improve next year.
On 17th October, Air Pilot was a close up third in the Group 3 Darley Stakes at Newmarket and he improved again when winning the Listed James Seymour Stakes impressively, over a furlong further (10f) back at Newmarket a fortnight later.
Cubanita saw too much daylight early on in the Group 1 Fillies and Mares Stakes on Champions Day at Ascot, but more than made up for it with a fine second just a fortnight later on 1st November in the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Bayern at Munich. She ran into Ivanhowe there who bounced back to the top of his game after a poor run in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Cubanita achieved her highest ever rating there (112) and has retired to stud where I’m sure she will make a fine broodmare for her breeder Kirsten Rausing.
Norse Light finally got off the mark on 19th October at Bath, winning a 12f maiden. He then went to the Newmarket horses in training sale with 12 others, where he sold well to go jumping with trainer David Dennis.
Generally the sale went well for us, with most of the horses making what we thought they should. Click here to see which horses we sold and how much they made.
Magic Dancer broke his duck on the second time of asking on 28th October at Windsor over a mile. A fine, big horse he should make up into a nice 3 year old.
Other two year olds that showed promise were L’Ingenue, Bellajeu, Perrault and Green Tornado at Newbury’s 2 day meeting, Maxwell at Kempton on 22nd October, Engaging Smile at the same venue a week earlier, and Redstart at Leicester early last month.
Of our foreign runners, Albert Bridge ran a fine race from a wide drawn to be third in the Leopardstown November Handicap on ground that was just drying a little too quickly for him. Regardez was beaten into fourth, but only by a length and a half in the Group 3 Prix de Flore at Saint-cloud on 30th October. She is likely to go stateside for a campaign in the New Year.
Lastly, Secret Gesture ran a solid race yet again to finish fifth, beaten two and a half lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Turf at Santa Anita on 1st November. Fortunately for us, it looks as though she will be coming back into training for next season.
Trainers Diary 30th September
As many of you will know, Toby Balding died on 25th September. I am privileged to have known and trained for him. He was a big supporter of ours, and in what was a difficult circumstance. He built Kimpton Down for his family to continue training, it didn't work so it had to be sold, which must have been hugely depressing for him, but he didn't let that show and quickly got behind us. Every winner we trained for him gave me a huge kick, not least because it gave him so much pleasure.
Shortly after we moved to Kimpton he had a stroke that greatly impaired his sight. Although he made the most of every day, I have no doubt that his boundless enthusiasm would have meant that he got much more involved in the operation here, had he been able to. For example, having him represent us at the races would have been terrific for all involved.
What we all found most extraordinary was that he never let his infirmity get him down, I never heard him complain, or saw him depressed, he just got on with it... an example to us all. One of my favourite memories of him racing was the time we went to Ffos Las to see his Astra Hall win. Afterwards a racegoer came up, greeted him warmly, which was reciprocated in the same manner and they had a five minute conversation, during which Toby told us how often they had gone racing together and how much fun it had been. The racegoer went off as pleased as punch, and we carried on to the car park. As we went, I asked Toby who the man was, 'I have absolutely no idea', was his response. Nobody, least of all the man concerned would have had a clue that was the case. As I said... an example to us all.
We have had a reasonable time on the racecourse of late. Air Pilot's romp in the valuable Dubai Duty Free handicap at Newbury on 21st September was the highlight. He needs soft ground so we will wait our turn, but with an 18lb hike from the handicapper he is going to have to run in stakes races from now on. Niceofyoutotellme ran an excellent second in The Cambridgeshire under James Doyle. He is not an easy horse to manage, he gets very stressed, so he has to go down to start early, load late into the stalls, and be held up for a late run. He was just a little further back through the first half mile than we would have liked, but it made no difference to the result, and we will be back next year. Regardez ran a fine race to be second in a Group 3 at Gowran on 22 September, and there were nice performances from two year olds such as Who'sthedude, Todegica, and Hard to Handel.
We have been operating without a preferred jockey since Jim Crowley went freelance at the beginning of August. This will continue, as we have found it to be easier than I imagined. There are plenty of decent riders making themselves available, and we will pick them on the basis of who suits the situation best. If something develops with a particular rider in the coming year, then we could think again.
Petition Opposing the Development of an All-Weather Track at Newcastle Racecourse
A decision is being made next week as to the future of Newcastle Racecourse. ARC who own the track are planning to rip up the excellent flat turf surface and replace it with an all-weather track.
For all who appreciate the diversity which made British racing great, please sign the petition linked below.
Horse and Hound Column - Printed 28th August 2014
Since my last column, I have managed to lose my stable jockey. A might careless you would think, but on this occasion he, Jim Crowley, decided to go freelance. Trainer- Jockey arrangements are often made at the beginning of August. I am not sure why, maybe because it is the halfway point of the turf season, but traditionally it has generally been the case to announce any future changes at or around Glorious Goodwood, and have the change in place for the start of the following season.
In this instance, Jim decided to go freelance for the following day. He didn't give a reason, and I didn't ask for one, though I have a pretty good idea what triggered his sudden announcement.
Everybody is different, but here we take the view with all members of staff, that if they want to go the sooner the better it is for everybody. Jim said that he wanted to carry on riding for us, but on his own terms. That was never going to happen, for a number of reasons, not least because of the message it sends out. So we have cut all ties, and that way everybody knows where they stand. It will be unsettling for a while, but these problems normally work themselves out, and we are working towards a new arrangement. Jim rode a lot of winners for us over the last five years, and did a fine job. I hope for him, that he finds what he is looking for.
On a wider note, we have no part timers employed here, at any level. Since we started that policy 10 years ago most staffing issues disappeared. I am sure that we miss out on the odd good exercise rider, but since we went that way our turnover of staff has fallen every year. The problem with part timers is that they unbalance the equilibrium, mostly because they come and go when they like, and the full time staff end up doing more because they are covering for people more often than they should.
Last week, former champion jockey Jamie Spencer announced his retirement. He has been contracted to Qatar Racing for the last two seasons, from 2015 he will be one of their racing managers. As we train a number of horses for them he has ridden for us regularly.
I like Jamie, he is a fine rider, and I don't think for one second that he will stay retired. To that end, I have had a bet with a trainer friend that he will be back riding by the first day of the Newmarket Craven meeting, next April.
Added to that, I am going to quote another trainer who had a deal of success employing him; 'Jamie is a better rider when he is freelance'. It had never occurred to me, but when you look at his record, that statement certainly has merit. Being a contracted rider brings it's own pressures, and generally those who are contracted to an owner don't have as many rides and winners as those who ride for a stable, or the sought-after freelance. Their agent is juggling with umpteen trainers, so often they get switched just before the declaration deadline, have less opportunity to pick up good spare rides, and inevitably lose touch with their previous contacts. For example, on Champions Day last year Jamie didn't have a single ride, that would have been unthinkable when he was freelance.
Furthermore, not every trainer employed by an owner will like his contracted rider, partly because most of them will have their own first choice. The correct response to that is trainers do as they are asked by the owner, or lump it. Sure, but it can't be easy for a jockey to know that the team at home would prefer someone else to do the steering.
In short I hope he reconsiders, and not just because of the lunch that will come my way if he does return. He is only 34 years old, his weight is stable, and he has a God given talent, combined with an iron nerve. Whatever he does, I wish him well.
It has been decided to retire Talent. She gave us the best day of our training career when winning The Oaks last year and she ran right up to her best, when running second in the St Leger three months later. But it became obvious that she is not the same filly this year and so it became clear that the best thing to do was to retire her. She will return to Ashbrittle Stud where she was bred and be covered next Spring. We will miss her, but with luck we can look forward to training her progeny.
Secret Gesture ran a fine race yesterday in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville on ground that patently didn’t suit her. We are discussing plans for her for the Autumn.
Trainers Diary 18th August 2014
July was a tough month with only 4 winners. We had a number who ran well, but too many finished second. The highlights being Mick Duggan’s win at Lingfield on his debut for us, Air Squadron at Salisbury and Dinneratmidnight at Lingfield. It was also the start of Sleeper’s three-timer with wins at Windsor, Kempton and Salisbury. The highlight of the month was probably Secret Gesture’s battling second in a Group 2 at York.
August has been much better with 8 wins to date, including Crystal Lake’s fourth win of the year, a 33-1 shock win for Taquka under stable apprentice Patrick O’Donnell, second wins of the year for Gold Waltz and Perfect Alchemy, and a maiden win for Last Echo.
You will also have read or heard that we are using a variety of jockeys on a best available basis whilst we decide on whether to appoint a stable jockey. This has come about because Jim Crowley decided to go freelance at the beginning of August. We wish him well in his new role.
You may also have read that the European Pattern Committee have decided to upgrade 10 3yo only sprint races next year, whilst parachuting in a Group 1 6f 3yo only race at Royal Ascot. You would think that with a shrunken horse population there would be no need to upgrade any races and in fact they should be downgrading.
Personally I think it’s a foolhardy plan and they would have been much better off making the Group 1 a Group 2 with no penalties and leaving the other 10 races as they were. If the Group 2 became a race that produced Group 1 ratings, then they could upgrade.
For instance, if this year’s best 3yo sprinter, Hot Streak who won the Group 2 Temple Stakes on the way to Ascot against older sprinters, could then choose which race to run in. With this new plan his connections wouldn’t have to. Inevitably one of the Kings Stand and Golden Jubilee stakes will suffer, particularly if international runners don’t show up (as happened this year).
Below is the column I write for Horse and Hound - Printed 16th July 2014
No doubt the fixture logjam that is last Saturday is dealt with elsewhere on these pages. We suffered like everyone else, to the point that due to the change in going the jockey I booked for the first race at Newmarket was switched to Chester. His main employer scratched his ride in the Group 2 Superlative Stakes, and so we were scratching around at 10 am on Saturday morning trying to find someone to ride at 8 stone 7lbs. Unbelievably, or perhaps not, we couldn't find anyone riding at the meeting, without a ride in the first race, to do less than 8 stone 9lbs. As you can imagine I was less than keen to have the horse carry 2lbs overweight in a competitive handicap. In the end we redirected a jockey who is yet to ride a winner in 2014 ,and who had ridden for us only once previously, from the evening meeting at Salisbury... To ride a 6-1 shot in a £40000 race. It didn't work out particularly well, the horse who is normally quickly away ,dwelt from the stalls and finished fifth.
There are a number of issues at work in this example. Firstly ,the horse that was scratched from the Group 2 would not have been declared in the first place if we still had 24 hour declarations. Newmarket had over an inch of un-forecast rain on Thursday, but with our 48 hour declaration system Saturdays runners had been decided before the rain came down. Secondly, there is no need for York, Chester, Ascot and Newmarket all to race last Saturday. But because of an Office of Fair Trading ruling ten years ago, the racecourses can pretty much act as they please. What I can guarantee you is that nothing will change. We will be complaining about the same Saturday for the foreseeable future, because Newmarket who have caused the problem by moving the July meeting from Tuesday to Thursday, to Thursday to Saturday, will not budge. The reason for their intransigence is not because of an increase in
attendance, as the meeting doesn't attract as big a crowd as their Friday evening fixtures. It is because of the revenue generated by selling the media rights of Saturday's showpiece the Group 1 July Cup, to Hong Kong
(thanks to 48 hour declarations) whose racing season finished the previous weekend.
Hong Kong is a shining example of how racing should be run, they race six times a month for ten months a year, and their turnover every Saturday exceeds what is bet in this country on the Grand National. Their number of fixtures has remained the same, but their turnover rises every year. I just wish that all of our bookmakers, who call for an increase in fixtures every year, would take note. Turnover on racing in this country is going down, but the Hong Kong experience shows that what is required is quality not quantity. Our experience shows that having a logjam of quality as last Saturday was, doesn't work either, and how can it when there is a race every five minutes? Punters heads spin...they don't bet more, they just become more selective or bet on cricket, football and tennis.
Last month the BHA announced new regulations on the use of banned Anabolic Steroids. From 2015 any horse testing positive will be banned for 14 months. What a good idea you might think. But what happens if I buy a yearling that has been given steroids, perhaps as a sick foal, and it tests positive on its first start as a two year old? As you can
imagine, most of us believe this is a rule that as it stands is destined for controversy. What is for certain,is that I can't see many of us going to the USA to buy yearlings!
Trainers Diary 1st July 2014
In terms of winners, we had a good second half of May. We were relatively quiet through most of June and finished the month very well.
2yo Percy Alleline won on debut at Salisbury on the 20th May. We thought he lacked the experience for a step up in grade so he ran in a novice at Windsor on 2nd June where he was slightly green and was beaten a length. He then disappointed at Salisbury when third on 29th June. I’m sure he is regretting his lack of effort because he was gelded the following day.
Starlight Serenade won over a mile at Goodwood on the 23rd. I had berated the handicapper for raising her 6lbs for her effort when second the previous Saturday at Thirsk, hence her quick reappearance. She won rather easily, forcing me to eat humble pie.
Lunar Spirit won the same day at Pontefract. She benefitted from the application of a hood and galloped out well albeit in an ordinary race.
Aldborough won in the same colours 5 days later at Chepstow on the 28th May. A huge horse, he is only now fulfilling his potential, as a 4 year old. He needs soft ground which will force us to play roulette with the weather for the next month or two.
Poyle Thomas won well on the 31st May at Newmarket over 1m 6f. We felt he was the perfect candidate for the Northumberland Plate, unfortunately he missed the cut by one. Hopefully we will have him right for the Cesarewitch which should be right up his street.
Cape Caster won on the 2nd June at Windsor, getting outpaced before hitting the front just before the line. He didn’t get much of a run in the Bibury Cup last week and still finished third. I think he is still progressive.
Carnevale won her maiden over 10f at Newbury on 12th June. A very backward filly, I hope she is going to progress with age.
Secret Gesture won a Listed race at Nottingham over 11f on the 16th June. She got rather unbalanced at the top of the straight and it looked long odds against her winning 2f out. But she was brave to run through a tight gap inside the distance and was well on top at the end. She could run in the Lancashire Oaks on the 5th July.
Free Rein and Regardez notched a double at Newcastle on the 27th June. The former breaking her duck on only her second start in a tight finish with a nice filly of William Haggas’ over 7f. As an owner bred half-sister to Group 1 winner Reckless Abandon, we were thrilled and hope that she can go on to better things. Home bred Regardez won the 10f Listed Hoppings Stakes very easily by 6 lengths easing down. Having trained her dam and her dam’s sister, it was very satisfying for all of us here. She is likely to go for a Group 3 at Deauville later this month.
Melrose Abbey and Evita Peron continued the good weekend by doubling up at Newmarket the following day. We were reliably informed that significant rain would fall before and during racing, which both fillies needed to show their best. Melrose Abbey outstayed her rivals to win a 12f fillies’ handicap convincingly. She could step up to a Stakes race for her next start. Evita Peron won the 7f Listed Eternal Stakes emphatically. She too is likely to step up in grade to Group races.
Principle Equation completed a good weekend by winning a 1m maiden in good style at Windsor the following day. A backward filly, she has come into her own lately and the handicapper will dictate our next move.
Talent was slightly disappointing in the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom on Derby day, finishing 5th. I hope she will improve for the race and run well this weekend in the Lancashire Oaks.
Sizzler ran a good race to be third in the Ascot Stakes at the Royal meeting. He was carved up on the home turn, but stuck at it well and will hopefully make the Ebor followed by the Cesarewitch.
Trainers Diary 21st May 2014
We’ve had a good spell since our last diary report, with 13 winners.
Crystal Lake won twice, at Ripon on the 17th of April and Kempton on the 7th of May. He is a tough little beggar and because he never wins by far, the handicapper is unable to clobber him. We have backed off him for now, as there is a suitable race for him next month.
Seaside Sizzler won the Queen’s Prize on the 19th April, around his favourite circuit at Kempton. They went no gallop, which didn’t suit him, and he did well to get up.
Ravenous broke his duck at Epsom on the 23rd of April in a 9f maiden. Switchback tracks suit him and he will stick to places like Windsor, Brighton and Epsom.
Dinneratmidnight also won a 6f maiden the following day at Warwick on debut. He then disappointed at York back a furlong, but he should bounce back when there is dig in the ground.
Kallisha made all in a Sandown 10f maiden on debut and ran a slightly unlucky fourth two weeks later in the Lingfield Oaks Trial on the 10th May, where she missed the break and got slightly out of her ground. Fortunately we had Honor Bound (coming off a Windsor maiden win 12 days previously) in the same race, who toughed it out to win by a nose. We are yet to work out her next move, she could still be supplemented for The Oaks, in which Regardez could also run having chased a strong pace in the Musidora, but still staying on to finish third.
Melrose Abbey won a 10f maiden at Chepstow on the 2nd May before just getting run out of it in a fillies’ handicap two weeks later. She should continue to progress.
Niceofyoutotellme won a very competitive 9f handicap on 2000 Guineas day (3/5) at Newmarket, he has had terrible problems with his feet but we are on the right track now and hopefully he will show up in the Royal Hunt Cup.
Tea Leaf won a 7f fillies’ handicap at Salisbury on the 4th May. She appreciated the give in the ground to win by 3 lengths. I hope that we’ll find another spot for her before the July Sales.
Air Pilot won a 12f maiden at Thirsk, just holding on in a tight finish. It was only his third start, as a 5 year old, and hopefully he will continue to progress, perhaps back at 10f.
Trainers Diary 14th April 2014
We haven't had many runners over the last six weeks, (apologies for the lack of news) 22 to be exact, and have had six winners.
Moonrise Landing surprised us all by winning a 10f maiden first time out at Lingfield on the 21st March. I am hopeful she will progress, and it is possible she will turn out next in an Oaks Trial.
Crystal Lake won a 7f maiden eight days later at Kempton. A thoroughly likeable colt, he could step up to 8f next but will need some give in the ground to run on turf.
Nirva was our first winner on turf this year, winning a 7f fillies' maiden at Leicester on the 4th of April. She was our first runner for Lady Howard de Walden, and it was a great thrill to train a winner in the famous apricot colours. She might step up in grade for her next start, as she travelled well throughout.
Perfect Alchemy won a 6f fillies' handicap a shade cosily at Kempton on the 10th of April. Hopefully the handicapper won't overreact, and we can win again.
Evita Peron won the 7f Bridget fillies' maiden at Newbury on the 11th of April. A race that often throws up a decent filly, I hope she is the one this year! She did it well in the end and will definitely stay a mile.
The following day Cubanita won the Group Three John Porter Stakes, carrying a 3lb penalty for last years win in the St. Simon. Having travelled really well, she toughed it out to win by a neck. A mare who has improved with age, but for whom easy ground is important, I hope that she will now be competitive in Group 2s and Group 1s against her own sex. She will have to be because Group 3s are no longer an option!
I thought the Grand National was a terrific race this year, and now that the modifications have bedded in I am definitely a convert. But the Channel 4 viewing figures for the meeting, and for Cheltenham, must be a concern (down 20% on the first day of Aintree for example). My feeling is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the presenters nor the analysts, though Matt Chapman would be a welcome addition as John McCririck's replacement. It seems that above all the production lacks direction, perhaps that is because of the change in production company (from Highflyer to IMG). Whatever the root of the problem, I am sure that bolder presentation would solve some of their ills.
Some of you may have read about the continuing fallout from Davy Russell's collapsed lung at the 2013 Cheltenham festival. In light of last months diary, the news that it took Dr Michael Turner 6 months to report three doctors to the GMC, putting Cheltenham's Paddy Power meeting in jeopardy, came as no surprise!
Trainers Diary 1st March 2014
There hasn't been much in the way of runners since the last report, and no winners.
The (racing)news has been dominated by trainer Philip Fenton's appearance in a Co. Waterford court, for being in possession of anabolic steroids .... Two years ago! Quite apart from the rights and wrongs of it, what have the Irish Turf Club been doing about it?! Nothing surprises us these days, but the more I learn about the workings of our sport's regulatory bodies the more despondent I become.
Which brings us neatly onto Dr Michael Turner, the man who until recently was in charge of the medical side of the sport (as well as tennis) in this country. Having dealt with him and his office over the licensing of several apprentice jockeys, and two in particular who had moved from Ireland, I am not at all surprised to read that he reported two racecourse doctors to the GMC (who have since been cleared of any wrongdoing)... Though I am surprised that he was actually at his desk long enough to find time to report them. He looked very happy pictured in his role for Team GB, at the Davis Cup victory over USA in New York in January, hopefully he will enjoy devoting all his time to that sport.
The AGM of the NTF was held late last month in London. Our guest speaker was Conservative MP, and former bookmaker, Philip Davies. He made an excellent speech and was very informative , particularly on the subject of offshore bookmakers paying levy. In his opinion it won't happen, and we shouldn't get too worked up about it, as despite an estimated £20m per annum going astray, the bookmakers would just adjust their figures if made to pay, so that the levy saw none of it. A week later an amendment to the latest Gambling(point of consumption) Bill, means that those offshore are likely to have to pay levy in future. Fantastic Parliamentary manoeuvring on the part of the BHA apparently....and ear to the ground stuff par excellence from Philip Davies MP.
The highlight of our month was our Head Man Adam Kite being nominated for an award at the Godolphin Stable Staff Awards. In the end he was runner up to Richard Hannon's right-hand man Tony Gorman, and it was a terrific night, thoroughly enjoyed by everybody who attended. Sheikh Mohammed is the most generous benefactor the sport has ever had, and in my opinion this is easily his most significant contribution. The goodwill that is generated as a result of the Awards is without equal.
Trainers Diary 1st February 2014
January was a quiet month on the runners front, but we got off the mark on the 30th at Kempton, when Like A Prayer won on his handicap debut over a mile. He was an immature two year old, but has grown up with racing, and won again six days later at Lingfield under a 6lb penalty. We have gelded him since (as a reward!) and he will reappear in the summer.
Taquka got caught in the final stride at Kempton by the progressive Pool House at Kempton on the 29th January, making him runner up four times in a row. Jim Crowley felt he should have won, but fortunately we found a poor maiden for him to get off the mark at Lingfield 10 days later. The handicapper clobbered him with a 6lb rise for his two efforts, which will make him hard to place, but as he tries hard he should win again…
Bowie Boy won a mile maiden at Kempton on 13th February. He is a horse that should progress as he gets older, as he was a weak two year old, and from a pedigree that indicates the same.
Like everyone else we have found the weather a hindrance, but the horses have come through it pretty well, because we haven't missed more than a few days training, and then only with the more backward types.
Trainers Diary 1st January 2014
No winners in December left us on a score of 73 for 2013. We ran a few late developing 2yos in mid-month, with Raging Bob, Bowie Boy and Witch From Rome all showing promise.
It has been a fantastic year, and we have enjoyed it thoroughly. The horses have run consistently, starting with Haaf A Sixpence's win in the Spring Mile at Newbury in April and finishing with Cubanita's triumph in the St. Simon Stakes in October. Winning The Oaks was a huge thrill, and I was immensely proud of Talent's follow up performance when running a fine second in the St. Leger. The only one who got away was Secret Gesture.... I have a nagging feeling, she might have won a Group 1 last year if we had campaigned her differently after The Oaks. But she comes back into training this week, and has reportedly done extremely well for her break.... I am hopeful that we will get it right this year.
We have had plenty of work done here of late, with a new 20 box barn being built, and we took delivery of a treadmill as well. As a result our capacity has increased to 125 stables, and we should be able to rehabilitate horses more effectively with the help of the treadmill.
Seeing as its New Year, I thought that a couple of predictions wouldn't go astray...
1) Bath Racecourse will close. Their race programme has been savaged to such an extent (0-60s dominate) that we now hardly have a runner there. We used to be there for practically every meeting (until approx 2010), now I wouldn't miss it if it did close. It is such a tragedy when you think that they used to have a similar standard of racing as Salisbury, for instance. Nobody would claim that now, but ARC have made their intentions clear with the lack of investment in the place and programme, so it is only a matter of time....in my opinion!
2) Richard Hannon's main opponent for the Championship is Aidan O'Brien, so he will be the first rookie Champion Trainer, as nobody else in this country can match Richard's firepower. Likewise, I think Richard Hughes will be champion again. Their operation has almost singlehandedly wrested the power away from Newmarket, which for so long has contained the greatest concentration of top end bloodstock... a huge feat.
Trainers Diary 1st December
We had very few runners in November and only a couple of winners as a result. Haaf A Sixpence bounced back to form, winning at Newmarket on the 2nd November. He has defied expectations throughout his career, and I am looking forward to running him in the Lincoln next spring. He showed a liking for Doncaster earlier this year, and a straight mile seems to suit him best.
Secret Archive won a 7f maiden at Kempton on 20th November. He has been really slow to come to hand, but had bounced forward from his ordinary debut 14 days earlier, and is an example of how well (and often) that can work. He should be a fun handicapper next year.
A number of promising efforts were put up be the two year olds, including Carnevale, Sea Here, Venus Grace and Belrog. Foxtrot Jubilee returned to form on 28th November at Kempton, and might be aimed at St. Moritz in late February.
We are in the midst of some significant improvements here. There is a new barn being erected as I write, which will increase our capacity to 125. Furthermore, we are installing a treadmill this week, which will be a significant addition, especially for horses coming back from injury.
Now that the proper NH season is upon us, there is some thrilling action taking place – particularly at Newbury last weekend. There are also a multitude of small field novice races, particularly over fences. Yet I still read about some of the leading trainers complaining of lack of opportunity for their better horses.
Apparently it cannot be understated how far turnover falls when a race attracts less than eight runners. The average number of runners in Novice Chases is 5.8 as Alan King said recently ‘The system clearly isn’t working’. There is a high percentage of the better horses in a handful of yards, seemingly. Ironic isn’t it? When the British Champion Series was first mooted one of the reasons put up was that the flat season ’lacked narrative’, unlike the jumps season! Now there is a problem with the NH season because nothing much happens between Christmas and mid-March.
Trainers Diary 1st November
We had 6 winners in October, starting with Extra Noble at Kempton on 2nd in an 8f Nursery. Richard Kingscote committed earlier than he would have liked, as he is a horse who is best held up, but he did it well and he should progress into a nice 3 year old, having run well to be 6th in the Horris Hill at Newbury on 26th October.
Killing Time won twice, at Windsor on 14th and Kempton on 31st, both times over 1 mile but on very contrasting surfaces. Windsor’s ground was at its deepest on 14th, but he got a fine tactical ride from Seb Sanders and his confidence was boosted as a result, hence at Kempton he showed a good turn of speed, and I hope that he will carry on his progression next year.
Sizzler routed a decent field of staying handicappers, over 14f, at Salisbury’s final meeting on 14th October. The heavy ground was a complete contrast to his previous win there 2 months earlier. Paul Hanagan had to wrestle with him as he hung right late on, but he has become more straight forward and I’m certain that he will develop into a decent 4 year old. The handicapper certainly thinks so, as he has clobbered him with an 8lb rise to 96.
Thorpe finally broke his maiden on 16th at Nottingham in a 10f maiden. He was sold a fortnight later to Lucinda Russell at the Horses In Training Sale for £30,000. I thought he was well bought and he should give his new owners plenty of fun.
2 year old Regardez won a fillies maiden at Doncaster on 25th. We were disappointed that she hadn’t won previously, but she was a slow learner and she should be a decent prospect for next year as the maiden she won normally throws up a decent filly.
The highlight of the month was Cubanita winning the Group 3 St Simon’s Stakes at Newbury on 26th. She trained really well in the run up, so much so that I almost regretted not entering her for the 12f Group 1 Fillies and Mares event on Champions Day, in which Talent ran a fine 3rd. Cubanita travelled very well through the race, in which Jim Crowley had her perfectly positioned, and she ran down John Gosden’s in form Nichols Canyon. Her owner Kirsten Rausing has been very patient, and it paid off, as the race had been her plan for some time. I am delighted to report that she stays in training for 2014.
Talent also returns in 2014 (as does Secret Gesture), she rather got bogged down at Ascot in the holding ground, combined with the end of a long year, but we look forward to 2014, where she might return to the racecourse in the Coronation Cup.
Others that ran well last month included 2 year olds Ravenous at Newbury, Melrose Abbey at Nottingham, Honor Bound at Windsor, and Belrog and Sea Goddess at Salisbury.
The programme for the All Weather Championships has just been published, and it makes interesting reading. There is no doubt that it is a brave concept, but at the risk of being a Jonah, I am less than convinced it is a long term project. Not just because I doubt ARC’s motives, but because there aren’t enough decent horses to go around for an All Weather programme of this nature. Of the horses that the programme is trying to attract a significant number will be in Dubai, and the rest have had hard summer campaigns.
Trainers Diary October 1st 2013
Jan De Heem won on the 1st at Brighton, he has been a horse who has not always made it easy, but it was his second win of the year. He will now go to the Horses In Training sale, where he should have plenty of fans in the national hunt fraternity.
Finesse won the following day very easily at Ffos Las, under Seb Sanders. It was her second win at the track, but more pertinently it was Seb’s 100th winner for us. It has been great to see him ride so many winners this year, so he and I were very pleased to pass this milestone. When he is old and grey, I doubt he will remember it as much as the 6th June 2008, but nevertheless it was a noteworthy achievement as we only ever had second claim on his services.
Prospera won twice last month over 12furlongs, firstly at Lingfield on 3rd September. In retrospect, I didn’t feel that she was quite at her best, as she then followed up, with a 6lb higher mark at Kempton on the 23rd. She has been a revelation since we fitted blinkers, winning 4 of her last 5 starts, and she is likely to run in a fillies listed race at Lingfield on 31st October.
2 year old Perfect Alchemy won on the 4th at Kempton. She is still quite immature so we will look after her this year, and hope she improves over the winter. I think that she is still on the right side of the handicapper.
We then had a cold spell until 23rd September, when there was an across the card treble at Leicester, Hamilton and Kempton. Got To Dance got off the mark in a fillies Nursery over 6f, she had been frustrating previously, but her Mother Mullein improved with racing and age, and I’m sure that she will too. Are You Mine had been very consistent, without getting her head in front, but her owner Peter Savill had spotted a suitable opportunity in a Hamilton maiden, and she worried Sir Michael Stoute’s odds on shot out of it. Prospera completed the day, but sadly Royal Prize was beaten a neck to deprive us of a four timer.
Blazing Knight bounced back to form on 26th September at Wolverhampton, reunited with headgear on his favoured surface, he fought off a persistent challenge from one of Jeremy Noseda’s. Other than that it has been particularly frustrating with fourteen 2nds, but plenty of promise from 2 year olds such as Cape Caster, Wilde Inspiration, Crystal Lake and Regardez.
Below is an extract of an article that I wrote for the 19th September issue of the ‘Horse and Hound’ after Talent’s excellent 2nd in the St Leger on 14th. I hope that it describes accurately the day, and her performance.
Talent had run appallingly when starting favourite for the Irish Oaks, and at the time we blamed the very quick ground combined with a slowly run race, in which she had been too keen early on. But if I am honest , in the aftermath I felt that we had undercooked her for the race. She looked a million dollars beforehand, but she didn't 'show up', and I felt that we should have done more with her in the run up. At the time , our grass gallops were very quick due to the dry spell, and so all her work had been done on the all weather. This time we took her away for a racecourse gallop at Kempton a week earlier, and although she only stretched her legs it was enough to bring her on mentally if not physically. By post time I was convinced she would run well, the rain had come in time to turn the ground in her favour, and she appeared to be in the same state of mind as when winning The Oaks in June. In the early part of the race she was a little keen due to the slow gallop, but settled soon enough at the back of the pack. Turning for home I thought she would win, but Joseph O'Brien had been close up throughout and got the winner stoked up early in the straight. Whilst Jim Crowley had Talent alive to the danger and was weaving through the pack, she then got tightened up at a crucial stage by the eventual third Galileo Rock and Secret Number, before running on without quite getting to the winner. The interference didn't cost her the race, but she was the only horse to get involved from off the pace. I was immensely proud of her performance in light of her previous start, it showed her Oaks win to be no fluke, and we were beaten by a talented and progressive horse.
Galileo Rock who was previously placed in two Derbys gives the form a solid look. His Irish trainer David Wachman had also declared him for The Irish St Leger the following day ,due to concern about the ground at Doncaster, and a dry forecast in Ireland. Having walked the track he let him run, and in so doing showed how important the Classics are to everyone not just those of us who are English based. David's father in law John Magnier has made it Coolmore's business to target them above all else, and they again produced the winner.
The yearling sales season is almost upon us, which can make life difficult, because we will spend an extraordinary amount of time in Newmarket and Ireland, and try to train winners by remote control! Fortunately we have a first class Head Man in Adam Kite, who is quite capable of training them without me, and I will be relying on him heavily...again! Usually we never have that many orders to buy yearlings, and consequently buy a number 'on spec', my wife and bank manager are hoping this year will be different.’
Trainers Diary September 1st 2013
We started August with an across the card double at Epsom and Ffos Las. Fortinbrass has been in the grip of the handicapper all year, but he dictated the pace in a small field Handicap to make all under Richard Kingscote. It will be tough for him to win again this year, but we will keep trying. Astra Hall was the second leg of the double, winning a decent handicap with a patient ride from John Fahy. She disappointed subsequently at Goodwood, but it is clear that she is better going left handed, and I am not certain that she enjoyed Goodwood’s undulations. As we head into autumn, I hope she will get her favoured slow ground conditions.
Prospera backed up her win at Doncaster by winning a 12 furlong All-Weather Handicap at Kempton on 7th August. Like her Brother Muhannak, she has shown some of her best form on polytrack, and I hope she can go close tomorrow, 3rd September, at Lingfield.
Secret Beau won a 6 furlong Maiden at Lingfield on 10th August, he acted up in the stalls beforehand, but James Doyle nursed him home, and I hope he can win back on the all-weather off a mark of 75.
Starlight Serenade won a Maiden at Salisbury on the 15th under Martin Lane, over 7 furlongs. She is still quite immature, so she will have a light end of season campaign, and hopefully train on into a nice 3 year old. Sizzler made it a double on the day, making all in a 14 furlong Handicap. He had been very impressive in his maiden, but continued to puzzle us by coming out of his subsequent races very well, and not getting competitive! He showed his true colours this time, by winning 7 lengths, and going up 10lbs in the handicap as a result.
Poyle Thomas won a 13 furlong Handicap the following day at Newbury, making it 3 wins from 5 career starts. A tough begger, I can see him winning again off his mark of 85.
Lemon Pearl won at Chester on the 17th August, making all over 13 furlongs under Graham Lee. A really genuine staying filly, the application of a hood has made a real difference to her.
2 year old Tea Leaf won a 6 furlong Maiden on debut, at Lingfield on the 21st August. By Bushranger, out of Boston Ivy, she is easily the best named horse we train. As she has a soft ground action, hopefully we will have a wet autumn for her.
Secret Gesture was third in a strong looking Yorkshire Oaks, on 22nd August, behind the impressive The Fugue, and Irish Oaks second Venus De Milo. She was tight for room 2f out, stuck to her task well, inspite of being smacked over the head by Tom Queally on the hanging Riposte. She deserves to win a Group 1, having been placed in three of them, and will probably head for the Prix De L’Opera, at Longchamp , on Arc De Triomphe weekend. The drop back to 10 furlongs, shouldn’t inconvenience her.
Quintet won a 7 furlong 0-65 around Wolverhampton on the same day, this wasn’t exactly what was envisaged for her, when she was conceived as a three part sister to Excellent Art. However, she has had any number of physical issues to contend with, and it was great to train our first winner for Highclere Thoroughbreds.
Primitorio hacked up by 7 lengths in a 5 furlong Nursery at Warwick, on 26th August, as the handicapper was likely to have his say we ran him back today in a Nursery at Brighton, where he finished second. He ran flat in my opinion, and we will freshen him up.
2 year old Lightning Spear made it 12 winners for August by winning on debut, and impressing in a quick time over 7 furlongs at Kempton on the 29th. He is a colt who has always shone at home and has the frame to make up into a proper 3 year old. He could go for the Tattersalls Million at the end of this month.
There has been a lot of journalistic comment about the Breeders Cup rescinding of their ban on Lasix. Much of it from journalists here, pointing out that we shouldn’t throw stones as plenty of trainers here use Lasix and Bute in training.
Whatever their views, it isn't the same. Here we have significant withdrawal periods for all sorts of drugs before raceday, and European horses who have the ability to be Stakes horses but are unsound, sooner or later get found out . This isn't the case in the USA.
Trainers Diary July 1st 2013
I remember meeting Andrew Balding a month after Casual Look won the Oaks in 2003, and congratulating him. At which point he looked rather down and explained that he hadn’t had a winner since. Our first runners after the Oaks also disappointed, but Niceofyoutotellme came to the rescue 8 days later winning a 10f handicap on the 8th June at Newmarket, under a fine hold up ride from James Doyle. He has been a difficult horse to read, but now he is on a roll, I hope that he will get into the John Smiths Cup on 13th July at York.
Exotic Isle came back to form and won a 5f handicap at Windsor on 10th June. The fast ground is important to her, and I hope she can be placed to win another and hopefully go up in grade.
Group 1 placed Anna’s Pearl had a confidence boosting win, in a Goodwood Maiden on 14th June. The ground was too quick for him in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly on 30th June, but I hope that he will bounce back for an autumn campaign.
The following day Secret Art won a competitive 7f handicap at Sandown, a big raw 2yo he has now filled his frame, and I hope that he will continue to improve.
Home bred 4yo Poyle Thomas won a 12f all weather maiden at Kempton under an aggressive Seb Sanders ride. He came into training very late in life and he should be competitive in staying handicaps through the rest of the season.
Thwart won a fillies handicap at the same track, over the same trip the following day. She is likely to go to Pontefract on 19th June.
Lunette won a 7f Maiden at Salisbury and should be competitive in fillies handicaps on fast ground through the summer.
Extra Noble was involved in a dead heat at Kempton over 7f on 26th June. Bizarrely, Judge Dave Smith called the result only 40 seconds after they had crossed the line. He has a reputation for calling results quickly, although I think he might be repenting at leisure as Extra Noble was given the race outright after a BHA review. I don’t know Mr Smith, but it would seem a strange way to go about things, and it was only reviewed by the BHA after an online campaign by a host of angry punters.
I was delighted City Girl got her head in front at Newmarket on the 18th June. Previously, she had some strong stakes form, but only a Lingfield Maiden win to her name. However, Jim let her stride on away from the main body and won a decent conditions race going away. I hope she will run in the Group 3 Summer Stakes at York on the 13th July.
Trainers Diary June (Oaks) 2013
Last Friday 31st May our two runners in the Oaks finished 1st and 2nd. My column in this weeks Horse and Hound goes some way to describing the day.
A fortnight ago I wrote that I hoped this article would 'write itself', and in many ways it does, but where to start? As some of you know, we won The Oaks last Friday with Talent,but we also trained the second, the better fancied Secret Gesture.
Going into the race I was certain that we would win with Secret Gesture. She was thriving at home, and had been easily the most impressive trial winner. Of her rivals at the head of the market, Moth had been campaigned as though Ballydoyle had thought she was a miler,Liber Nauticus looked one paced in the Musidora, and the unexposed Banoffee had shown signs of temperament in the first quarter of her easy Cheshire Oaks win.
Our problem was that Secret Gesture drew stall one. Normally you wouldn't think that would be a problem in a twelve furlong race, However the statistics say that in 162 races run over course and distance since 2000 ,only two winners were drawn one! Furthermore the last Oaks winner drawn one was Bireme, 33 years previously.
This presented a tactical problem, should Jim Crowley ride her positively from the stalls and get into a good position...or should he drop her out and ride her for luck? We walked the course Beforehand, and decided to be positive. In the race itself it went partly to plan, she sat just in behind the pace,except that Jim didn't want to be on the rail, but she travelled really well and when the gap came over two furlongs out he pushed her through. At this point I thought we would win, but she had used up a deal of energy getting into position , and it told, though I was flabbergasted to see Talent flying down the outside and pull away to win easily. Whenever we have had two runners in a race I have found it impossible to watch both , so I had stopped watching Talent when she got into a barging match at the back of the field, at the top of the hill!
Richard Hughes had failed to meet us to walk the course because he was caught in traffic . Our original plan was to drop her in and look for cover ,because she had been keen in the Pretty Polly. But when we discussed it Richard thought he might let her slide from the start and see how it panned out. Then when he got to the start every jockey said they were going to be handy...so he reverted to plan A! She got blocked in twice when he was looking for a gap, but when he got clear and gave her a smack two furlongs out ,she took off.
I haven't yet discussed with Richard his feelings about the race, but I think it is telling that she was easily the most composed and relaxed filly at the start, something that will count for her in her future campaign, starting with the Irish Oaks. As for Secret Gesture,we might revert to ten furlongs and run in the Nassau, because it is possible she will be more effective down in trip. She has a high cruising speed, which can be a potent weapon at Goodwood,furthermore it will give her plenty of time to get over what was a hard race. It won't have been easy to be our stable jockey Jim Crowley since the race, but he did everything right, and because of last Friday I hope that he and I will have a few more cracks at winning a classic.
Ruler of the World won a slow run,messy Derby, but could turn out to be very good. As could the second ,Libertarian. He will be tough to beat in the St Leger, but we plan on Talent lining up to take him on.
As for us, it is hard to describe what last Friday meant. A mammoth bar bill that evening,relief,vindication and elation spring to mind. But most of all, it was sheer joy.
Trainer's Diary June 2013
Finesse made all around Warwick over 7f on 11th May. Her handicap mark was raised only 3lbs by the assessor, and I hope she will run well at Chester on the 8th June over slightly further. We have been trying to get her in foal this spring and thus far it hasn’t worked, but it may yet happen.
Astra Hall won for the brains behind the building of Kimpton Down, namely one G B Balding, at Chepstow on 14th May over 12f. A tough filly now she has reached maturity, she is likely to get competitive again when we get some wet conditions. I was very pleased with her follow up run at Chepstow on Monday 3rd June, when she was only beaten 2 lengths.
Secret Art having only just failed to get up at Chepstow on the 3rd May, won a Maiden at Nottingham over 8f on 21st May. A huge lump of a horse, he is really honest and I hope that he will have another winning opportunity this summer.
Pearl Bridge won a Maiden at York over 6f on the 28th May, he was called some names when finishing second at Kempton in early April, and he still looked slightly wayward at York. But, he is growing up and as he is still just a frame of a horse, I hope that he will progress.
Rhagori won a 10f fillies handicap at Lingfield (AW) on the 28th May, she only just does enough in her races, so has crept up the handicap gradually. However, off a mark of 88 we will go down the stakes route, and she could run in the Warwickshire Oaks in mid June.
It was great to get Moonstone Magic back on the winning trail at Nottingham on 29th May, in a small field, competitive conditions race. She cracked her pelvis last year, and has taken a long time to get to this point. But, she should continue to progress, and if we get some wet weather she could run at Ascot in the Group 2 Windsor Forest (or whatever they call it these days).
Trainer's Diary May 2013
We have had a terrific first half of the month, with 8 winners so far. Jan De Heem kicked it off by winning first time in blinkers and a fourth at Goodwood over 10f. He has been an extremely slow learner, so it was a surprise to us all.
Exotic Isle won handily on the 6th May over 5f at Windsor. The flat track suited her and I hope she can go on from here. Lewisham and Thwart doubled up on the 7th May at Kempton. I am almost ashamed to say Lewisham was made the 1/20 favourite. It was a good confidence boost for him, and much needed. Thwart broke her duck over 11 f, and I think she can probably win again off her mark back on turf.
At A Clip won a maiden over 6f on the 10th May, on her second start. She had disappointed on soft ground at Newbury but showed her true colours from a poor draw, this time for her owner/breeder Lady Cobham.
Finesse made all at Warwick on the 11th May, under a good front running ride from Richard Kingscote. She should be able to give her owner/breeder Paul Gardner plenty of action this summer.
Talent won the Listed Pretty Polly at Newmarket on the 5th May, a recognised Oaks trial. She will now go to Epsom for The Oaks on the 31st May, Richard Hughes will ride. She is a tough filly who should handle Epsom's undulations and give her owners a run for their money. Being a home bred it is fantastic that she is now a Stakes winner.
The other highlight was Secret Gesture winning The Lingfield Oaks Trial on the 11th may. She was very impressive winning by 10 lengths, without being extended. Although the rain had started to get into the ground, she won despite it as I am sure she would will as effective on a quicker surface. Bookmakers have made her 4-1 for The Oaks but it will be interesting to see what joint favourite Liber Nauticus does in the Musidora on Wednesday this week.
Trainer's Diary March 2013
Apologies for the lack of diary entry over the last two months, we have been redoing the website, and it had to take a backseat.
We have had a good start to the season, with a number of first time out winners and a two year old winner to boot. Niceofyoutotellme came from a long way back to win over 11f at Kempton, a strong running sort, he doesn't need a lot of work, and is best kept fresh. I hope that we will be able to aim him at the 10f handicap at Epsom on Derby weekend .
Sizzler won an 11f maiden at Kempton impressively after looking awkward when being brought to make his challenge . A very immature horse, he should go on from here, and might go back to Kempton over the bank holiday.
We had a good week at the trials meetings of Newmarket and Newbury. Perfect Haven won the 7f fillies maiden at the former first time out, making all on her own up the stands side rail. A tough filly , she should go on from here. Two days later, Haaf A Sixpence won the Spring Cup at Newbury. It was only his 3rd start on turf, so I am hopeful that he will continue to improve though give in the ground will always be important to him. Lastly, 2yo Montaigne won a Kempton maiden first time out, I hope he will progress and he is due to run at Ascot in a conditions race next Wednesday.
The biggest news of the month was Mahmood Al Zarooni being warned off for 8 years for administering anabolic steroids to 15 of his horses. Two points struck me, firstly Godolphin's Simon Crisford stated that it was 'a terrible,terrible day for British racing'. I have a real problem with this. In all sports there are people who are prepared to bend ,or break, the rules. It is a fact of life, and has gone on forever, racing is no different. Cycling has suffered from drug scandal for years, and yet seems stronger than ever, whilst football has enduring popularity despite endless brown envelopes floating around,internationals dodging drug tests and players diving in the penalty area. The fact is that if transgressors are being caught,then the system is working.
The second point is the astonishing speed with which the case was dealt with (the horses were first tested on 9 April). The BHA have apparently accepted Godolphin's version of events, punished Zarooni,and moved on to continue the inquiry on 'wider issues'. Yet they took over 12 months over Jim Boyle's case, made it public 10 months before the enquiry,(ruining his business in the process) and punished him for a different offence to the original charge.
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