Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Seamus Mullins: Never Underestimate the Power of a Cousin

Seamus Mullins
If his surname seems familiar, Seamus Mullins is, in fact, a cousin of perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins. Seamus began his career in racing as assistant trainer to the late Toby Balding in 1981. He subsequently joined Jim Old and the late Jimmy Fitzgerald, trainer of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Forgive’N Forget, before setting up his own point-to-point training business in 1985. Seamus was also an accomplished amateur rider, famously winning the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Boreceva, trained by Toby Balding, in 1989.

He started training with just one horse, a venerable maiden point-to-pointer, but gradually built up his business over the next few years. In 1991, he moved to Hatherden Stables, near Andover, Hampshire and took out his first public training licence in 1991. Seamus saddled his first official winner as a trainer, The Mrs – a mare formerly trained by his uncle, the late Paddy Mullins – in a novices’ hurdle at Nottingham in November, 1992.

However, in the early days, Seamus found winners hard to come by. In 1995, he moved to Wilsford Stables – part of the Lake Estate, owned by the Bailey family – in Amesbury, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, but it wasn’t until the 1997/98 National Hunt season that he reached double figures. In fact, that season he saddled 17 winners and earned just under £89,000 in total prize money.

It’s fair to say that Seamus hasn’t made too many headlines over the years, but he has trained or two “Saturday” horses, as Paul Nicholls likes to call them. In 2004, he saddled Kentford Grebe to win the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Final at Newbury and See You Sometime to win the Noel Novices’ Chase at Windsor. Two years later, See You Sometime also won the Cotswold Chase at Wincanton and the United Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot and, two years after that, Strawberry won the Mares Only Novices’ Chase Final at Newbury.

More recently, his best horse has been Chesterfield, a Pivotal gelding he “inherited” from John Ferguson, when the latter handed in his training licence to become chief executive and racing manager to Godolphin. In April, 2017, Chesterfield won the valuable Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle on Grand National Day at Aintree and completed a notable double for conditional jockey Daniel Sansom when following up in the QTS Champion Hurdle at Ayr two weeks later. In fact, Seamus is already enjoying his most successful season ever, numerically, in 2017/18, having saddled 28 winners and earned over £200,000 in total prize money for the second year running.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Gary Moore: Made of Sterner Stuff

Gary Moore
Gary L. Moore, not to be confused with the Australian trainer Gary Moore, is the son of the late Charlie Moore, a car salesman-turned-trainer, from whom he took over at Ingleside Racing Stables, Woodingdean, opposite Brighton Racecourse, in 1997. Moore Jnr left school at 14 to work for his father and subsequently became a jump jockey. In a 17-year career, he rode over 200 winners, mainly ordinary horses at his local tracks of Fontwell, Folkestone and Plumpton.

Folkestone Racecourse, of course, closed ‘temporarily’ in 2007, the same year as Gary and his wife, Jayne, relocated to Cissinghurst Stables in Lower Beeding, near Horsham, West Sussex. Nevertheless, Gary continues to be leading trainer, year after year, at Fontwell and Plumpton although, on the whole, the quality of the horses is much higher than it was in is early days as a trainer.

His biggest success, so far, came at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014, when Sire De Grugy – who’d already won the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and the Clarence House Chase at Ascot – justified favouritism in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Confidently ridden by Gary’s son, Jamie, the eight-year-old led just after the second last fence and was driven clear on the run-in to beat Somersby by 6 lengths.

It’s worth remembering, though, that Gary Moore had already had a Cheltenham Festival winner a decade earlier, when Tikram won the Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup under Timmy Murphy. On the Flat, he also won the March Stakes at Goodwood with Mourilyan in 2009 and the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot with Bergo in 2010.

Both winners were ridden by his eldest son, Ryan.

As far as prospects for the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 are concerned, Moore is considering running his unbeaten chaser Benatar, whom he described as “very talented”, in the Pendil Novices’ Steeple Chase at Kempton on February 24 en route to the JLT Novices’ Chase or the RSA Chase. Sussex Ranger, who won his first two starts over hurdles before finishing second, beaten 1½ lengths, behind We Have A Dream in the Future Champions Finale Hurdle at Chepstow in January heads for the Triumph Hurdle. However, Moore warned, “He probably won’t be winning it…but that’s where he goes.”

Known as something of a workaholic, Moore once said, “My father always said no-one gives you anything in life – you have to work for it. That is what I have hopefully done.” Having worked at the industrial coalface of horse racing for most of his life, few would argue that Gary Moore fully deserves his position as one of the most successful dual purpose trainers in the country.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Peter Bowen: Founder of a Dynasty

Peter Bowens
It’s fair to say that, in recent years, Peter Bowen has been rather overshadowed by the exploits of his three sons, Mickey, Sean and James. In 2015, Sean became the youngest ever Champion Conditional Jockey at the age of 17, in April 2017, Mickey, 21, saddled Dineur to win the Fox Hunters’ Chase at Aintree, making him the youngest trainer to do so and in January 2018, James, 16, became the youngest jockey ever to win the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow.

A former point-to-point trainer, Peter Bowen, took out a full training licence at his yard in Little Newcastle, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire in 1995. He saddled his first winner, Iffee – incidentally, ridden by an 18-year-old Richard Johnson, claiming 5lb – in a handicap chase at Sedgefield in October that year. Indeed, Iffee was to prove something of a money spinner for the yard, winning five more times before the end of the 1995/96 season. Another notable success in those early days was Stately Home, beaten three times in selling hurdles in 1995/96, but the winner of nine steeplechases in 1996/97, including the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

For readers of a certain age, though, Peter Bowen is probably still best remembered as the trainer of Always Waining, the only horse to win the Topham Chase – run over 2 miles 5 furlongs on the Grand National Course at Aintree – three times. Always Waining finished a fading fourth in the race on his first attempt, as an 8-year-old, in 2009, but returned to win it in 2010, 2011 and 2012, beating 80 rivals and amassing nearly £169,000 in prize money in the process.

Bowen had his biggest payday ever when, in 2008, 33/1 chance Snoopy Loopy took advantage of a stumble on landing by Kauto Star at the final fence to win the Betfair Chase at Haydock. Other high-profile winners over the years have included 40/1 chance Al Co in the Coral Scottish Grand National in 2014 and, more recently, Henllan Harri in the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in 2017.

Bowen has yet to train a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, but went close to winning the ‘Blue Riband’ event of National Hunt racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Take The Stand in 2005. The 9-year-old was sent off at 25/1 and, although outpaced by the winner, Kicking King, in the closing stages, stuck on well to finish clear second.