Sunday, 6 May 2018

Gay Kelleway: Queen for a Day

It’s just over thirty years since Gay Kelleway became the first, and only, female jockey to win a race at Royal Ascot. Gay, 53, remembers the occasion well, so well in fact, that her current training establishment, Queen Alexandra Stables, in the village of Exning, near Newmarket, Suffolk, is named after the race she won on Sprowston Boy all those years ago.

After a successful riding career, Gay took out a training licence in 1992 and saddled her first winner, Aberfoyle, in a handicap hurdle at Lingfield the following January. After brief spells at Charnwood Stables and, temporarily, at Eve Lodge Stables in Newmarket, Gay moved to the modern, but remote, Whitcombe Manor Stables in the heart of the Dorset countryside, where she remained until 1998. At that time, Gay took what appeared to be the next logical step when she moved her 40-strong string to Lingfield Park Racecourse, where she became the first resident trainer at the track.

Gay has long talked about relocating to France but, despite having placed her current historic yard on the market more than once in recent years, is apparently now “on the lookout for a 50-box yard here to have all the horses under one roof.” In the meantime, in 2017, with numbers on the increase, she expanded her Exning operation into nearby Newmarket by taking a barn at Red House Hill Stables on Hamilton Road to house an additional 12 horses.

Like her father, the late Paul Kelleway, Gay is a colourful, outspoken character. Unfortunately, she has also inherited the family trait of handling mainly modest horses, with the occasional sensational success thrown in. A recent example of the latter is Lightscameraction, 20/1 winner of the 3-Year-Old Sprint All-Weather Championships – worth £93, 375 to the winner – at Lingfield in 2015. Earlier in her career, Gay trained Vortex – an £18,000 ‘castoff’ from Michael Stoute – to win 17 of his 74 races for the yard and over £334,000 in win and place prize money between 2002 and 2008. In his penultimate season, as an 8-year-old, the Danehill gelding finished third in the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot under 9st 10lb at odds of 50/1.

All in all, in training career lasting just over 25 years, Gay has saddled roughly 600 winners. She has 30 horses in training at Queen Alexandra Stables, so three winners from 10 runners so far in 2018 is a perfectly reasonable rate of return from such a small string.
Once billed as “one of the most exciting and talented trainers of modern times”, Gay Kelleway should continue to keep her male counterparts on their toes.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Ben Pauling: Engineering a Bright Future

Former “Young Engineer of the Year” Ben Pauling is a fairly recent addition to the horse trainers’ roster, having begun his training career at the start of the 2013/14 season. Nevertheless, Pauling comes from a family of racehorse trainers – his father, and grandfather trained their own horses under permit – and spent six years as assistant to reigning Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson at Seven Barrows, Lambourn.

When betting on horses, pedigree matters a great deal, because some trainers have much more of a winning reputation than others. It's when placing a bet it's certainly a good sign to have confidence in the horse, the jockey, but also the trainer it's received in the run up to the race. With the racing pedigree of Pauling, coming from a family of trainers, you feel like your bet is off to a good start, even before the race begins.

Pauling moved to Bourton Hill Farm, near Bourton-On-The-Water, in the heart of Gloucestershire in 2013 and saddled his first winner, Raven’s Tower, at Plumpton in November of that year. The Cotswold Brewing Company, which sponsors the racing yard, brewed a new beer, called Raven’s Tower, to commemorate the feat.

Pauling trained another eight winners, for a total of nine, in his first season and has improved on that number, year-on-year, ever since. In fact, in three subsequent seasons he saddled 20, 26 and 32 winners, respectively and, at the time of writing, has already saddled 28 winners in the 2017/18. Of course, his 2015/16 total included his first Grade 1 winner, Barters Hill, in the Challow Hurdle at Newbury, while his 2016/17 total included his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Willoughby Court, in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. The latter, who’s already a Grade 2 winner over fences in 2017/18, made all and kept on gamely in the closing stages to hold the hitherto unbeaten Neon Wolf by a head.

In four years, Pauling has seen Bourton Hill Farm expand from 20 boxes to over 70, most, if not all, of which are full. By his own admission, many of his string were bought as ‘store’ horses – that is, stoutly bred, slow-maturing types – and, as Pauling tells his owners, “if they’re not ready, they’re not ready”. What that does mean, of course, is that he has plenty for which to look forward, in the 2017/18 season and beyond.

As testament to his ambition, Pauling has also signed up Daryl Jacob as stable jockey for the 2017/18 season. Jacob already has a retainer with owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, who have first call on his services, but will ride for Pauling whenever available. Pauling said of the appointment, “It’s huge having Daryl Jacob on board. Nico de Boinville and David Bass have done a great job for me the last few years but they have stables they’re attached to and I needed someone that was committed to me more often than not.”

Friday, 6 April 2018

Richard Fahey: Keeping It Simple

Nearly three decades ago, Richard Fahey shared the 1988/89 conditional jockeys’ championship with Derek Byrne and Stuart Turner, but said later, “I wasn’t good enough, so I gave it up before it gave me up.”

In 1993, Fahey began his training career at Manor Farm in Butterwick near Malton, North Yorkshire in premises rented from former National Hunt Champion Trainer Peter Easterby. From modest beginnings, his career really started to take off when, in 2002, he won the Cork & Orrery Stakes – now the Diamond Jubilee Stakes – at Royal Ascot with Superior Premium.

Three years later, Fahey bought his current yard, Musley Bank, which at the time was a rather dilapidated 80-box affair, from Colin Tinkler, with a view to turning it into one of the best training establishments in the country. In his second full year at Musley Bank, in 2006, he amassed over £1 million in prize money for the first time. Four years later, in 2010, saddled his first Group 1 winner, Wootton Bassett in the Group 1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp amassed over £2 million in prize money for the first time.

Further success at the highest level followed, with victories for Mayson in the July Cup at Newmarket in 2012 and Garswood in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville in 2014. In 2015, Fahey equalled the British record for winners on the Flat in a calendar year, 235, set by Richard Hannon Snr. two seasons previously. More recently, he saddled Ribchester to win the Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville in 2016 and the Lockinge Stakes at Newbury, the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix Du Moulin at Chantilly in 2017. Ribchester earned a Timeform Rating of 129, making her officially the fourth best older horse in Europe.

When interviewed in 2011, Fahey said, “In ten years’ time I will be 55 and I’ve told Vicki [his wife] that she can train the horses while I put my feet up.” However, having renewed his previously hugely effective partnership with former stable jockey Paul Hanagan last season, after the latter lost his job as retained rider to Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, it’s unlikely that Fahey will be reaching for his pipe and slippers any time soon. At the time of writing, he’s saddled just four winners, but also 47 placed horses, from 66 runners in 2018, but the yard doesn’t really get going until the start of the Flat season proper, in March, so Fahey has plenty of time to surpass his 2017 total.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Charlie Appleby: True Blue

Charlie Appleby was appointed as a trainer for Godolphin – the global thoroughbred operation founded by the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in 1992 – in controversial circumstances in 2013. In April that year, his former boss at Moulton Paddocks in Newmarket, Mahmood Al Zarooni, was banned from racing for eight years after admitting administering anabolic steroids to 11 horses in his care and Appleby was asked to fill the breach on a temporary basis. Sheikh Mohammed said of Al Zarooni, “I was shocked. They gave him eight years; I gave him lifetime. Finished.”

Appleby had previously worked for Godolphin for 15 years, as head lad and assistant trainer, first to Saeed bin Suroor and then to Mahmood Al Zarooni. He saddled his first winner as a trainer, Expressly, in a maiden fillies’ stakes race at Ascot less than a week after being granted a training licence by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). Three days later, he saddled his first Group winner, Cap O’Rushes, in the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood and, in November, 2013, achieved the biggest win of his career when Outstrip won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita Park, California.

The following season, 2014, he saddled his first domestic Group 1 winner, Charming Thought, in the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. He also trained over 100 winners and earned over £1 million in total prize money for the first time. In 2015, Appleby celebrated his first Royal Ascot winner, Space Age, in the King V Stakes and trained over 150 winners and earned over £2 million in total prize money for the first time.

In 2016, Appleby saddled just 70 winners, but they included Tryster in the Jebel Hatta at Meydan, Hawkbill in the Coral-Eclipse Stakes at Sandown and Wuheida in the Prix Marcel Boussac at Chantilly – all Group 1 victories – not to mention a host of other high-profile successes, including the Lincoln at Doncaster, the Victoria Cup at Ascot and the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle. In 2017, Wuheida added to her winning tally in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Del Mar, California, collecting the best part of £900,000 in prize money in the process.

More recently, Appleby has been making hay at his Marmoom Stables in Dubai, where he spends the British winter, winning 10 valuable handicap, Listed and Pattern races, each worth £60,000, or more, at Meydan in the first quarter of 2018. He’s also started well domestically, with 11 winners from 32 runners, at a strike rate of 34%, so far.