Monday, 7 June 2021

Joint Racehorse Trainers’ Licences Embraced in British Isles

 One of the quirks of training racehorses is, until very recently in the UK and Ireland, one person alone has held the licence to do it at a set of stables. Officially, those individuals are responsible for their equine charges but of course there is a whole team at the bigger yards supporting them.

The fact that both British and Irish horse racing authorities have now allowed joint training licences, like those elsewhere in other countries including Australia, reflects a changing attitude within the industry. It is also wider recognition of what goes into getting thoroughbreds ready for the track.

Just because a trainer can share the burden and responsibility doesn’t automatically mean that they should or will. However, handlers are beginning to see the benefits of joint licences and embrace the concept particularly on the Flat in Britain.

When a high-profile stable such as the John Gosden yard in Newmarket does this, that makes people sit up and take notice. This is one of the high-profile training facilities in a real equine hub, but the licence now reads John and Thady Gosden as father and son team up.

 In principle, this can be seen as the beginning of the process that sees the torch passed from one generation to the next. However, in practice, there remains a number of top class thoroughbred racehorses in the yard including the likes of Lord North, Mishriff and Stradivarius.

Checking the free horse racing tips for tomorrow and seeing a famous trainer name next to a fancied runner can make or break your decision whether to take a punt or not. In the case of Team Gosden, the joint venture between them ensures some continuity.

Their approach contrasts sharply with the O’Brien family in Ireland. Father Aidan remains master of all he surveys at Ballydoyle and focuses on the Flat thanks to the continuing support of owner-breeders Coolmore. Eldest son Joseph, meanwhile, has horses that run both on the level and over jumps.


Younger O’Brien sibling Donnacha saddled a Classic winner in France inside his first year as a trainer. The family has decided to divide its resources and conquer horse racing in the Emerald Isle rather than concentrate all the power in Ballydoyle. 

There is uptake in Ireland, however, with Eddie Harty and son Patrick going for a joint licence and already training their first winner together at Punchestown. Other British stables doing likewise this year include another father-son duo Simon and Ed Crisford. 

Victorious horses at Group level in their Newmarket stables since they started sharing a licence include Goodwood Celebration Mile winner Century Dream and sprinter A’Ali. There is also a similar arrangement in a yard at Lambourn, another real UK equine hub. 

William Muir, put on the map by the exploits of Pyledriver at Royal Ascot last season, now jointly holds a licence with Chris Grassick. This sharing of the load may well become the norm in the years to come.

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Simon Crisford: Making headlines

Formerly Newmarket correspondent at the Racing Post, Simon Crisford became a familiar, and respected, figure in British racing thanks to his 12-year tenure as racing manager to Godolphin. However, in early 2014, in the wake of a doping scandal – which saw former Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni ‘warned off’ for eight years after admitting administering anabolic steroids to horses in his charge – Crisford resigned his long-standing role. He immediately moved to a new position, doing consultancy work for Sheikh Mohammed but, having completed the relevant British Horseracing Authority training modules, set up as a trainer in his own right later that year.

Initially renting boxes from Clive Brittain at Carlburg Stables, on the Bury Road in Newmarket, Crisford made an extraordinarily successful start to his training career. In 2015, he saddled 22 winners from 85 runners, at a very healthy strike of 26%; the highlight of his debut season was winning his first Pattern race, the Group Three Solario Stakes at Sandown, with First Selection.

In 2016, Crisford increased his seasonal tally to 32 winners and, in 2017, following his relocation to Kremlin House Stables, on the nearby Fordham Road, increased it again to 43 winners. In 2018, he won a handful of Listed and Pattern races, notably the Group Two Prix Daniel Wilderstein at Longchamp with Ostilio, and recorded his first Royal Ascot success, courtesy of the same horse in the Britannia Stakes. All told, Crisford saddled 70 winners from 337 runners, at a strike rate of 21%, and amassed £1.02 million in prize money, making 2018 by far his most successful season, numerically and financially, so far.

In 2019, his continued success warranted another move, across Newmarket, to the state-of the-art Gainsborough Stables on the Hamilton Road. At the time of writing, Crisford has maintained a similar strike rate from his new base, sending out 48 winners from 242 runners so far. His most successful horse of the year, so far, has been the two-year-old colt A’Ali, who has won three of his five starts, all at Group Two level, and is on course for a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

Tom George: Building for the Future

At the time of writing, Tom George lies in a highly respectable eighth place in the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship, having saddled 41 winners and amassed over £642,000 in total prize money. However, as Adrian Heskin said, when replacing Paddy Brennan as stable jockey to George at the start of the 2016/17 season, “Tom has a lot of young horses. He’s invested a lot of money over the past year, so he has a lot of novices coming through. There are a couple of really exciting ones that could be anything.”

Having worked with Arthur Moore, Gavin Pritchard-Gordon, the late Michael Jarvis, Francois Doumen and Martin Pipe before becoming a trainer in his own right, George saddled his first winner, Newton Point, at Worcester in 1993. Since then he has sent out over 500 winners from his training establishment Down Farm in Slad, near Stroud, Gloucester.

His first winner at the Cheltenham Festival was Galileo – who was one of a crop of horses imported from Poland – in the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle in 2002. George said at the time, “This is the sort of day everybody dreams about”. He also enjoyed success with the front-running grey, Nacarat, whose exploits at Kempton, in particular, he believes helped to raise his profile. Nacarat won what is now the Betbright Chase at the Sunley-on-Thames track as an 8-year-old in 2009 and again, as an 11-year-old, in 2012.

Other notable horses from the yard include Saint Are, who finished second, behind Many Clouds, in the Grand National in 2015 and fourth, behind One For Arthur, in 2017. The 12-year-old is being trained for the great race once again this season but, because of a change in the rules by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), will not be going hunter chasing beforehand, as was originally planned.

In terms of prospects for the Cheltenham Festival in 2018, George is likely to send Summerville Boy, winner of the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown in January, straight to the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, for which the 6-year-old is a top-priced 20/1. He has also expressed himself satisfied with the performance of The Worlds End, who has yet to trouble the judge in three starts on unsuitably soft going, and is hopeful of an improved performance in the Stayers’ Hurdle, for which the gelding is a 25/1 chance, in places.