Saturday, 8 September 2018

Michael Bell: No Woman, No Cry

Michael Bell
After leaving the army, Martin Bell worked as assistant trainer to Mercy Rimmell and Paul Cole before taking out a training licence, in his own right, at Fitzroy House in Newmarket, Suffolk in 1989. His first Group winner, Pass The Peace in the Fred Darling Stakes at Newmarket, was originally bought for 9,000 guineas by his father, Brian, and subsequently sold to Sheikh Mohammed. The proceeds from the sale allowed Bell to buy Fitzroy House, which he had previously rented.

In the last three decades, Bell has trained in the region of 1,400 winners and amassed over £24 million in total prize money. However, he is probably best known for his two Classic winners, Motivator in the Derby in 2005 and Sariska in the Oaks in 2009. Sariska followed up in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh the following month and, in between times, Bell also saddled Art Connossieur to win the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

However, his most memorable winner, he said, was Hoh Magic in the Prix Morny at Deauville in 1994. The two-year-old filly, by Cadeux Genereux, ran on well inside the final furlong to win by 1½ lengths and record the first Group 1 vicotory for the yard. Bell later recalled, fondly, “Deauville is a special place and a very big day in the racing calendar”.

More recently, Bell enjoyed further success with Margot Did in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in 2011 – making Hayley Turner the first female jockey ever to ride two Group 1 winners – and back-to-back victories by Wigmore Hall in the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada in 2011 and 2012. In June 2013, though, after an unproductive summer in which Bell saddled just 16 winners at a strike rate of 9%, he and Hayley Turner parted company after 13 years together. Bell said at the time, “Hayley is a great girl and I will continue to use her, but she has been with me for 13 years and sometimes you just need to freshen things up.”

In recent seasons, the Duke Of Marmalade gelding Big Orange has become the standard bearer for the yard, winning the Goodwood Cup two years running in 2015 and 2016 and taking his form to a new level when holding on gamely to beat subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe fourth Order Of St George by a short head in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2017.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Tony Carroll: Shrewd Dude

Tony Carroll Horse Trainer
Formerly stable jockey to the late Pat Taylor and Stan Mellor, Tony Carroll first took out a public training licence in August 1995 and saddled his first winner, Queen Of Shannon, in an apprentice selling handicap at Windsor in August 1996. Carroll was initially based at Inkberrow in Worcestershire, where he spent the first ten years of his training career.

In those early years, the majority of his horses were, at best, modest. He enjoyed success with Cerulean Rose in the Zuhair Stakes at Goodwood, worth £10,725 to the winner, in July, 2003. However, his string was better typified by the likes of Macaw-Bay, who won three ordinary hurdle races between October 1999 and May 2000, Firestone, who won a couple of similar races in the spring of 2002 and Moving Earth, who won four races over hurdles and fences between 2003 and 2005.

In response to increased demand, Carroll subsequently moved to larger premises at Wixford, near Stratford-upon-Avon. He enjoyed the biggest payday of his career, at that point, when Forthright won the John Smith’s Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh in February 2007, but has enjoyed all his major successes since moving back to Worcestershire in 2006.

At that point, he took charge of purpose-built yard at Cropthorne Stud, near Pershore, and has continued to send out a steady stream of winners every since. He saddled his first Listed race winner on the Flat, Djarvo, in the Prix La Fleche at Maisons-Laffite in June 2011 and his first Listed race winner over Jumps, Le Bacardy, in the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase at Ayr in April, 2014. Two months later, Caspian Prince gave Carroll the biggest win of his career, so far, when holding on by a short head in the Investec Corporate Banking “Dash” at Epsom and repeated the dose when winning the Meydan Sobha at Meydan in the United Arab Emirates the following February.

Another excellent money-spinner for the yard has been Boom The Groom, now a 7-year-old, who has won six of his 55 starts – all handicaps – on turf, Polytrack and Tapeta and earned the best part of £200,000 in win and place prize money. The Kodiac gelding hasn’t won since holding off Duke Of Firenze by a head in the valuable Symphony Group Stakes at York in August 2016, but his handicap mark has consequently dropped to 95, 7lb lower than at York, so he remains one to keep an eye on in sprint handicaps, especially those in which he’s likely to have a decent pace to aim at.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Charlie Mann: Reluctant Maestro

Charlie Mann
Born in Dumfries in 1958, Charlie Mann was a highly competent National Hunt jockey, riding 149 winners, mainly for Jenny Pitman Nicky Henderson, in a 15-year career, before forcibly retired through injury. He later admitted, “I never wanted to train horses and after breaking my neck in 1989, I tried various other things and discovered fairly quickly I was not qualified for any of them. For three or four years I tried to scratch a living via a trading company.”

Man subsequently spent a year as assistant trainer to Cath Walwyn, widow of the legendary Fulke Walwyn, before taking out a training licence in his own right in August 1993. Mann famously trained, and rode, It’s a Snip, the winner of the Velka Pardubicka – the famous cross-country steeplechase – at Pardubice in the Czech Republic in October 1995. Less than a week later, he saddled his first high-profile winner on home soil, General Rusty, ridden by Richard Dunwoody in the Charisma Gold Cup at Kempton.

In 1998, Mann bought Whitcoombe Stables, situated at the foot of the Mandown Gallops in Upper Lambourn, near Hungerford, Berkshire. The following year, he saddled his first Grade 1 winner, Celibate, in the BMW Chase at Punchestown.

In 2000/01, Mann enjoyed success in several major televised races, including victories for Moral Support in the Tote John Hughes Chase at Chepstow and Regal Holly in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Ascot, to name but two. In the season as a whole, he saddled 43 winners, making it his second most successful ever, numerically.

His best seasonal tally, numerically, came in 2008/09, the year in which he saddled his second Grade 1 winner, Air Force One, in the Ellier Developments Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown. Other highlights included a notable double for Katies Tuitor in the totescoop6 Summer Hurdle Handicap and 32Red Online Casino Handicap Hurdle, both at Market Rasen, and the victory of Gauvain in the Kilbrittain Castle Novices’ Chase at Sandown. All in all, that season Mann saddled 63 winners and earned just under £641,000 in total prize money.

In 2012, after 14 years at Whitcoombe House Stables, Mann sold the establishment to fellow trainer Jonathan Portman and relocated to a new, purpose-built yard at Neardown Stables, less than a mile away across Upper Lambourn. At that point, he pruned the deadwood from his string and although he has found winners harder to come by in recent years his career total still stands at over 800.