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.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Clive Cox: A Lesson in Perseverance

Clive Cox horse trainer
Nowadays, Clive Cox is best known as the trainer of Harry Angel, winner of the Darley July Cup at Newmarket and the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock, not to mention the Cartier Sprinter Award, in 2017. He is firmly established at Beechwood Farm Stables in Lambourn, near Hungerford, Berkshire, which he has rented from John Francome since May, 2000, but winners haven’t always come easy to the Somersetian.

His first winner as a trainer, Good For The Roses, in a maiden hurdle at Newton Abbot in March 1991 was also his last as a jockey. Cox enjoyed a successful as a National Hunt jockey, riding 100 winners, although he later admitted, “There isn’t any part of my upper body that hasn’t been rearranged.” He rode once in the Grand National, parting company with the favourite, Sacred Path, at the first fence in 1988.

His initial attempt at training was no more successful and after a year in Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire he gave up and became assistant trainer to Mikey Heaton-Ellis at nearby Barbury Castle in 1992. When Heaton-Ellis died, at the age of just 41, in1999, Cox took over the licence. Once again, he wasn’t exactly on overnight success and it wasn’t until 2002 that he broke double-figures for a season.

However, his breakthrough year came in 2003, when he recorded his first major success with New Seeker in Tote International Stakes at Ascot. New Seeker won the same race again two years later, when it was staged at Newbury while Ascot was redeveloped, as well as the Dubai Duty Free Cup at the same course later that season. In 2007, Cox saddled his first Pattern race winner, Beacon Lodge, in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury and hasn’t looked back since.
He has gained a reputation for his eye at the sales and has produced relatively cheaply-bought horses to win major races time after time. His first Group 1 winner, Gilt Edge Girl in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in 2010, was bought for just 17,000 guineas. Reckless Abandon, who won the Darley Prix Morny at Deauville and the Vision.ae Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in 2012, cost just 24,000 guineas, while Lethal Force, who won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Darley July Cup at Newmarket in 2013, cost just 8,500 guineas.

In 2016, Cox had his most successful season ever thanks, in large part, to the Group 1 victories of Profitable in the King’s Stand Stakes and My Dream Boat in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes with the space of 24 hours at Royal Ascot. He finished the year with 65 winners and over £1.5 million in total prize money for the first time.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Micky Hammond: Two Careers in One

Micky Hammond
Former jump jockey Micky Hammond first started training at Tupgill Stables in Middleham, North Yorkshire in 1990. Reflecting on those early days, he once said,
“I had no yard, no horses and no owners, but all three arrived like magic”, later adding,
“I had a lot of confidence and I expected success.”

His confidence was not misplaced, either. He saddled his first winner under National Hunt Rules, Palmers Pride, in the autumn of 1990 and finished his “rookie” season with a record 31 winners and just over £100,000 in total prize money. Hammond continued his progress through the training ranks, saddling 35 winners in 1991/92 and 51 winners in 1992/93, which was the most successful season, numerically, of his training career to date. He couldn’t better that total, but subsequently saddled 45, 42, 34, and 47 winners, respectively, in the next four seasons.

By the time he moved to his new yard at Oakwood Stables, Middleham in 1997, he was firmly established as one of the top ten horse trainers in the country. Indeed, he achieved his first major success with Deep Water in the Glenlivet Anniversary 4-y-o Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April 1998 and his second with Heidi III in the Pertemps Great Yorkshire Chase in January 2001.

However, it was while Hammond was training at the peak of his powers that his marriage to Sky Sports presenter Alex Hammond broke down irrevocably. In April 2001, he abruptly retired from training, at the age of just 38, and handed over Oakwood Stables to his former head lad, Andrew Crook, together with about half his horses. Hammond said at the time, “I’m a bit stale and ready for a change. I enjoyed riding while I was doing it and enjoyed training while I was doing that, but I get to a stage where I press the self-destruct button.”

He didn’t stay retired for very long, because just over a year later he was lured back to training by the owners of Oakwood Stables, Sunstar Racing. Hammond said, “I always intended to return …with just two winners to go for my 500, I had to do it.” After negotiating what he called the “low time of my life”, Hammond effectively started from scratch in 2001/02, but has since successfully rebuilt his business. In 2015/16, he enjoyed his most successful season ever, monetarily, with over £313,000 in total prize money.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Michael Appleby: The Sandman

Michael Appleby
Michael “Mick” Appleby – not to be confused with Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby – was conditional jockey to John “Mad Manners” and head lad to Roger Curtis and Andrews Balding before launching his training career in 2010. Appleby is a Southwell specialist, having been crowned champion trainer at the Nottinghamshire track from Danethorpe Stables, near Newark-on-Trent in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and again in 2017 from Langham Racing Stables, near Oakham, Rutland. At the last count, Appleby had saddled 103 winners from 653 runners at Southwell over the last five years and earned just shy of £645,000 in total prize money.

After training just three winners in his first season, Appleby improved his total to 15 in 2011, 40 in 2012 – the year in which he saddled Art Scholar to win the Betfred November Handicap at Doncaster – and 61 in 2013. In 2014, he won the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh with Demora and his first Group race, the Betfred TV Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle, with Danzeno. Collectively, those two victories alone contributed over £96,000 to his seasonal total of £694,000, which took him beyond £500,000 in a season for the first time.

After several successful years at Danethorpe Stables, which he rented, Appleby bought a 75-acre site in Oakham in rural Leicestershire and invested a six-figure sum in transforming the former polo yard into a state-of-the art training complex. He moved his string to his new premises in early 2017 but, despite losing out on a few winners as a result, still had his second best season ever, with 91 winners and over £740,000 in total prize money. Danzeno, once again, made a significant contribution, winning the totescoop6 Heritage Handicap at Ascot, worth £62,250 to the winner.

In early 2018, Arena Racing Company (ARC), which owns Southwell, canvassed industry professionals for their opinions on the possibility of replacing the existing Fibresand surface. Tapeta, the synthetic surface developed by Michael Dickinson, was apparently the first choice of ARC, but Appleby said, “They should make it a dirt course. You could run Group 1 races on it and you could also use it for preparing horses for the big dirt races abroad. I hope they consider it, but if it isn’t going to be dirt then I hope they put Fibresand back.” He added, “It seems odd to me that they’re putting up floodlights at Southwell and considering racing on Tapeta there. That’s what they have at Wolverhampton.”