Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Jenny Pitman

Jenny Pitman
Nowadays, Jennifer Susan “Jenny” Pitman OBE is best known as a novelist and, more recently, as a member of the disciplinary panel and licensing committee at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). However, “Mrs P”, as she was affectionately – and, sometimes, less affectionately – known, has the distinction of being the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National.

Reflecting on the history victory of Corbiere in 1983, Jenny wrote in her autobiography, “I could hardly bear to watch, but I couldn’t turn away either.” Ridden by Ben de Haan, Corbiere jumped brilliantly throughout the 4 mile 3½ furlong-contest and, despite the desperate, last gasp challenge of Greasepaint, crossed the line three-quarters of a length in front.

Jenny saddled another Grand National “winner”, Esha Ness, in 1993, but he was called home by the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan as the winner of “the National that surely isn’t”. The Jockey Club was forced to declare the race void after the majority of the jockeys, including John White on Esha Ness, failed to realise a false start had been called. Jenny did, however, win a second Grand National with Royal Athlete, ridden by Jason Titley, in 1995.

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.