Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Ed Dunlop: Tragedy to Triumph

Ed Dunlop
Edward Alexander Leeper Dunlop, usually known as “Ed”, is the son of John Dunlop, who saddled the winners of 10 British Classics in a 47-year-career as a trainer prior to his retirement in 2012. Dunlop Jnr. began his career in racing as pupil assistant to Nicky Henderson and subsequently spent three years as assistant trainer to Alex Scott before taking over the role of trainer to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum at Gainsborough Stables in Newmarket under tragic circumstances. In September, 1994, Scott was shot and killed by a resentful stud groom, William O’Brien, and Dunlop was catapulted into the limelight.

He hit the ground running, though, saddling his first winner, Lynton Lad, in a small conditions stakes race at Yarmouth, within a month of taking over the training licence. He finished his first full season, 1995, with a respectable 17 winners and just under £183,000 in total prize money.

However, by the end of the following season, he’d saddled not just one Group 1 winner, but two. His first success at the highest level came with Ta Rib, owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, in the Dubai Poule D’essai Des Pouliches at Longchamp in May, 1996, and the second with Iktamal, owned by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup the following September.

Dunlop progressed through the training ranks until, in 2001, he enjoyed his most successful season ever, numerically, thanks to a string of high-profile victories. His flag-bearer that season was Lailani, who won the Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks at the Curragh, Vodafone Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, New York.

However, the horse that really made his name was Ouija Board, who won 10 of her 22 races between 2003 and 2006, including seven Group 1 wins. Her winning tally included the Vodafone Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (twice) and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. During her career, Dunlop said of her, “Having her outweighs everything. She’s changed my career, changed my life, changed [owner] Lord Derby’s life.”

Having moved to La Grange Stables on Fordham Road, Newmarket at the end of 2008, Dunlop enjoyed further success at the highest level with Snow Fairy. Between 2010 and 2012, the Intikhab filly won six Group 1 races, including the Investec Oaks, the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto, Japan (twice), the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin and the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Olly Murphy: Jack of all trades

Formerly assistant trainer to Gordon Elliott, with whom he spent four years, Olly Murphy was still only 25 years old when he took out a combined training licence, in his own right, in 2017. Nevertheless, within a week of taking up the reins at Warren Chase Stables in Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, he had saddled two runners, and two winners. Dove Mountain, a six-year-old formerly trained by his mother, Anabel Murphy (née King), opened his account by winning a mile-and-a-quarter handicap at Brighton in July 4 and Gold Class, an eight-year-old and hitherto long-standing maiden over hurdles, doubled his tally by winning a lady amateur riders’ handicap at Market Rasen, under Bryony Frost, on July 9.

Obviously, it was always going to be difficult to maintain the flying start to his training career. Nevertheless, at the end of the 2017 Flat season, Murphy had saddled three winners from 23 runners, at a strike rate of 13% and, at the end of the 2017/18 National Hunt season, 47 winners from 250 runners, at a strike rate of 19%. Indeed, the latter season notably included victory Hunters Call in the Grade Three Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in December, 2017. The seven-year-old, ridden by Jack Kennedy, collected £85,425, which is the biggest single prize Murphy has won to date.

In subsequent seasons, Murphy has continued to saddle a limited number of runners on the Flat, predominantly on synthetic, or all-weather, surfaces, but his main focus has been on the National Hunt sphere. All told, in just over two years, Murphy has saddled a total of 158 winners under National Hunt Rules and amassed £1.29 million in win and place prize money. Other highlights of his fledgling training career, so far, have included winning the Listed Matchbook Time To Move Over Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton with Itchy Feet in October, 2018 and the Core Spreads Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton with Fielsole in April, 2019. In between times, he also saddled Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet to finish second and third in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival; the former finished lame and the latter broke blood vessels but, collectively, the pair won £37,762.50 for their efforts.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Stuart Edmunds: In it for the long haul

Stuart Edmunds has been based at Fences Farm in Tyringham, near Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire for the better part of four decades. He was previously assistant trainer to former Renee Robeson (née de Rothschild) before taking over the training licence following her death, at the age of 87, in 2015. Edmunds holds a combined licence, but it would be fair to say that his focus is on National Hunt racing and, despite operating just a small string, of thirty or so horses, has achieved some noteworthy success in that sphere.

In 2015-16, his first full season in charge, Edmunds saddled 16 winners from 93 runners, at a strike rate of 17%, and collected nearly£187,000 in win and place prize money. Highlights included victories for juvenile hurdler Wolf Of Windlesham in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham and the bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, which collectively netted over £48,000 in prize money. The 2016-17 season was less productive, yielding just nine winners from 77 runners, but they did include Edmunds’ first and, so far, only Cheltenham Festival winner, Domesday Book in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.

Nevertheless, Edmunds bounced back in 2017-18, saddling 23 winners from 121 runners – the highest seasonal tally of his short career – and collecting nearly £250,000 in prize money. It was a similar story in 2018-19, with 19 winners from 121 runners and just over £250,000 in prize money and, at the time of writing, Edmunds is enjoying decent form, with six winners from 41 runners and nearly £72,000 in prize money in 2019/20 so far.

In recent seasons, Edmunds’ most successful horses have been Maria’s Benefit and Queenohearts who, coincidentally, are both mares. Between January, 2017 and December, 2018, Maria’s Benefit won eight of her 13 starts, notably including the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster in 2018, and just over £100,000 in prize money. Queenohearts, now a six-year-old, has won four of her seven starts, including three victories at Listed and Grade Two level and amassed nearly £47,000 in prize money.