Monday, 14 November 2016

Jamie Snowden: Captain of His Own Destiny

Formerly a captain in the King's Royal Hussars, Snowden worked as pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls and assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson, before setting up on his own in a rented yard in Ebbesbourne Wake, Wiltshire in 2008.

His first three seasons yielded a total of 15 winners and £108,639 in total prize money but, following a move to his current base at Folly House in Lambourn, Berkshire his first runner, Knighton Combe, won the Britannia English Summer National at Uttoxeter – worth £22,608 to the winner – in June, 2011. He finished the 2011/12 season with 19 winners and £127,016 in total prize money. Two seasons later, he saddled his first and only winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Present View, in the Rewards4Racing Novices' Handicap Chase in 2014.

At the time of writing, Jamie Snowden has saddled 27 winners in the 2017/18 National Hunt season and amassed £214,568 in total prize money, already ahead – or, in terms of prize money, well ahead – of the corresponding totals for 2016/17, from far fewer runners. According to his website, his aim this season is to find a horse of the calibre of Present View and, with this in mind, he has increased his string from 35 to 45 horses for the 2017/18 season.

Perhaps the most interesting new recruits are those from the point-to-point field, namely Kalahari Queen, Grange Ranger and Scorpion Sid. Kalahari Queen, a 5-year-old mare by Kalanisi, the sire of Katchit, described as a “smashing mare with size and scope” has already won two of her four starts over hurdles. Scorpion Sid, a 6-year-old gelding by Scorpion, described as a “proper winter horse” has won comfortably on both starts over hurdles, despite his future lying over fences. Grange Ranger, a 6-year-old gelding by Kalansi, looked an unlucky loser on his sole point start last May and is one to note whenever and wherever he makes his debut under Rules.

Double Treasure, in the same ownership as Present View, clearly benefited from a wind operation over the summer, winning his first three starts on good and good to soft going before finishing in mid-division in the BetVictor Gold Cup Handicap Chase, on soft going, at Cheltenham in November. He’s officially improved 31lb since September but, while the handicapper may have caught up with him, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares back on a sound surface.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Philip Kirby: The Nomadic Way

Born in Lancashire in 1979, Philip Kirby is the son of celebrated greyhound trainer Geoff Kirby. Kirby Jnr. initially joined Ferdy Murphy in 1997 and, in the briefest of riding careers, rode The Tollah to an 18-length victory in an amateur riders’ handicap chase at Sedgefield in November, 1999.

He subsequently trained and worked as a blacksmith for the next six years, earning enough money to try his hand at training point-to-pointers. In his first season, with just four horses, he saddled seven winners and was the leading hunter chase trainer in the country. He later recalled, “It was brilliant and I cracked on and got my licence on the back of that. I wanted to start straight away.”

Kirby was initially based at Dibble Bridge Stables in Castleton, near Whitby, North Yorkshire and rented a further ten boxes from Keith Reveley at Groundhills Farm in nearby Saltburn-on-Sea. He saddled his first winner as a licensed trainer, Amazing King, in a juvenile novices’ handicap at Musselburgh in February, 2008. He later said of the King Charlemagne gelding, “We could take him anywhere and he would always do his running.”

At the start 2013, Kirby moved his string Sharp Hill Farm Stables in Middleham, previously occupied by Kate Walton, and commuted from the family home in Castleton every day. Kirby recorded his first major success in October, 2013, when 20/1 chance Lady Heidi was driven out by Silvestre De Sousa to win the Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract. In fact, 2013 was by far his most successful season, numerically and monetarily, on the Flat.

Lady Heidi aside, five victories for Just Paul, four for Platinum and three for Dr. Irv contributed to a total of 32 winners for the season and just under £210,000 in win and place prize money. The 2012/13 National Hunt season was also his most successful, so far, at that point of his career, with 25 winners and over £120,000 in total prize money.

However, Kirby found being away from his family increasingly difficult and, in 2014, left Middleham and returned to his previous arrangement. In April, 2016, he moved again, to Green Oaks – a purpose-built, 52-box yard in East Appleton, near Richmond, North Yorkshire – and, the following season, saddled his first high-profile winner, Lady Buttons in the Yorton Stallions Mares' Novices' Chase at Bangor, from his new, permanent base. At the time of writing, Kirby features in the current list of “Hot Trainers” in the Racing Post, having trained 7 winners from 25 runners, at a strike rate of 28%, in the last 14 days.