Monday 8 July 2024

Horse Trainer Bill Turner: Brocklesby Stakes Review

If Bill Turner is associated with one horse race it has to be the Brocklesby Stakes. The first two-year-old race of the season. Finally, the Flat turf season has arrived after a cold winter and the eternal hope for winners warms the spirit.

I’ve never been to Doncaster racecourse. However, watching a replay of this year’s Brocklesby Stakes I saw Bill Turner attending his two-year-old colt Bob The Bandit, a sizeable son of Aclaim. The horse looked a picture and groomed perfectly with stars on its hind quarters.

It would have been a pleasure to congratulate him on a gallant second place behind Zminiature, who ran out a fair winner. I would like to shake Bill Turner’s hand and say: ‘Thanks for all those Brocklesby Stakes memories...’

Bill Turner, as for so many other handlers across the country, has a passion that comes from his love of the sport. We can only imagine how difficult it must be to find an owner with money to spend, or a breeder who chooses a smaller stable to send their horse. And for that horse to keep sound and have enough ability to win a race.

Look through the results in the Racing Post it seems every horse is a winner. You couldn’t be further from the truth. Winners are few and far between. I have the statistics for every trainer of two-year-old horses and even the biggest trainers have times when they struggle to win. It’s fair to say some of the powerhouses make it look easy.

It’s sad that so many smaller stables struggle to find wealthy owners. One person with a pot of cash could transform their career. It happened with Dominic Ffrench Davis when Amo Racing Ltd sent class horses his way. It proves the point, a trainer is only as good as their horses. In fact, many of the smaller trainers may be better because they have to try harder not being able to rely on a classy thoroughbred.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to visit Bill Turner at Sigwell’s Farm, Dorset and say: ‘Bill, have you ever fancied training a Frankel colt?’

Wouldn’t that be a lovely day.

Now, I’m sure Bill Turner isn’t a man to be down on his luck. Certainly not a gentleman to feel sorry for himself. After all those years of training horses he is a realist and someone who appreciates success when it happens. He doesn’t take it for granted. And that’s why seeing Bob The Bandit claim second place in the Brocklesby filled my heart with joy.

There’s always hope of that elusive win.

He’s been waiting for the next Brocklesby victory since 2013 when Mick’s Yer Man won for the yard.

True, he will have to wait another year if not longer. However, the stable staff, and their governor, would have been smiling when they returned with Bob The Bandit. I’m sure on the drive home a few of the stable’s Brocklesby Stakes winners were mentioned.

‘Bob The Bandit did us proud. He’s a winner waiting to happen.’

You can bet he is.

For me horse racing is more than simply the next winner and then moving swiftly on. True, for many punters it is exactly that. But those who do are missing out on the reality of life. They miss out on the story beyond the gamble. Don’t ever forget that every horse, trainer, jockey, owner and punter have their story to tell.

But for that to happen there is a need for someone to listen.

Someone like you.

Friday 14 June 2024

Ralph Beckett

Formerly assistant trainer to the late Peter Walwyn for three and a half years, Ralph Beckett took over the training licence at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn when Walwyn retired in 1999. In his first half a dozen full seasons, Beckett saddled just over a hundred winners, including his first Pattern race winner, Penkenna Princess, in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury in April, 2005. A month later, he was narrowly denied his first Group 1 victory when the same horse was beaten a short-head by Saoire in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

In 2006, Beckett succeeded David Elsworth at Whitsbury Manor Stables, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire. In the next five seasons, he saddled over 240 more winners, including his first British Classic winner, Look Here, in the Oaks in 2008. In 2010, Beckett purchased his currrent base, Kimpton Down Stables in nearby Andover, and completed his move in time for the start of the 2011 season. Since then, he has saddled two more British Classic winners, Talent in the Oaks in 2013 and Simple Verse in the St. Leger in 2015; the latter also won the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot the following month to give Beckett the fourth Group 1 victory of his career.

Beckett took his career tally to 1,000 winners when the 6-year-old Another Boy won an apprentice handicap at Salisbury in August, 2019. In 2020, he enjoyed his most successful season so far, numerically, passing the landmark of a hundred winners on British soil for just the second time.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Maurice Barnes

Maurice Barnes, 70, found fame as a National Hunt jockey when winning the Grand National on Rubstic in 1979. At the end of his riding career, he took out a combined training licence at his original base in Little Salkeld, near Penrith, Cumbria in 1989, before moving to his current home, Tarnside Stables in Farlam, near Brampton, to the east of Carlisle in 2000.

Barnes did not saddle a winner for his first three seasons as a trainer and did not reach double figures until 1993/94. However, that season he saddled 19 winners, his highest seasonal total so far, at a strike rate of 20% and won over £61,000 in prize money. He has not matched that strike rate since, but did reach double figures again in 1994/95 and every season between 2010/11 and 2019/20. Financially, Barnes enjoyed his most successful season in 2018/19, when he saddled 13 winners, at a strike rate of just 6%, but nonetheless amassed over £152,000 in prize money.

Barnes still harbours ambitions to saddle a Listed or Graded winner, but so far has failed to do so. Nevertheless, he remains philosophical and, when interviewed in 2019, turned to the wisdom of the late Arthur Stephenson, a fellow Cumbrian trainer, insofar that 'little fish are sweet, so why bother about the big ones?' In October, 2020, Barnes and his wife, Anne, were forced to move into a touring caravan after a fire, caused by an electric fault, devastated their home.