Tuesday 27 December 2016

Robert Cowell: Feel the Need…The Need for Speed!

Robert Cowell, 49, started training from his current base, at the privately owned Bottisham Heath Stud at Six Mile Bottom, Newmarket, Suffolk in 1997. However, he had previously served a lengthy apprenticeship with Gavin Pritchard-Gordon, David Nicholson, Jack Berry, John Hammond in France and Neil Drysdale in America. He was also a competent amateur jockey, riding 10 winners on both sides of the English Channel.

Cowell first took out a public training licence at Hollywood Park, California in 1996, but later explained, “I was training for a few people with only a handful of horses, the majority of which were claiming class and of average ability.” After returning to Britain the following year, he saddled his first winner, Mary Cornwallis, in a 5-furlong handicap at Lingfield in January, 1998.

Cowell didn’t saddle his first Listed winner, Biniou in the Prix Contessina at Fontainebleuau, until 2007 but, by then, had already developed a reputation for rekindling the enthusiasm of out-of-form horses, especially sprinters. In fact, he later reflected on the early days of his career, saying, “When we first began training the sprinter type was more affordable. Trying to buy a horse with useful sprinting form that may have lost its way was what we were looking at.”

Cowell had to wait until 2011, 14 full seasons after he moved to Newmarket, for his first winner at the highest level, Prohibit in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2011, but the victory was particularly satisfying. Acquired as a “castoff” from John Gosden in January, 2010, Prohibit graduated from the handicap ranks to become a bona fide Group 1 contender. Cowell later said of him, “I owe Prohibit a lot because he put me on the map, gave my family and the owners our biggest day at that stage at Royal Ascot. Once you have won at that level you crave it again.”

Win at that level Cowell certainly did, saddling Jwala to win the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York in 2013 and Goldream to win the King’s Stand Stakes and the Qatar Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp in 2015. Other high-profile winners for the yard in recent years have included Kingsgate Native in the Betfred Temple Stakes at Haydock in 2013, Intrinsic in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in 2014 and Outback Traveller in the Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2016.

Saturday 10 December 2016

David Dennis: New Kid on the Block

David Dennis is a fairly recent addition to the training ranks, having taken out licence in 2013, but he ran a pre-training yard and spent a decade as a professional National Hunt jockey before setting up on his own. Highlights of his riding career included Kingsmark, winner of the Edward Hanmer Memorial Chase at Haydock three years running in 2000, 2001 and 2002, and Brewster, winner of the stanjames.com Challow Hurdle at Newbury in 2004.

Lowlights, on the other hand, included his ride on Jardin de Beaulieu in the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002, in the days before remounting became a fruitless exercise. The 100/1 outsider was tailed off when turning a somersault at the second last fence, but was caught by a groundsman, who offered Dennis a leg up. However, the well-meaning, but heavy-handed, attempt to reunite the partnership succeeded only in tossing the jockey clean over the horse and back onto the Prestbury Park turf, from whence he had arisen just moments previously.

Nevertheless, Dennis survived the trials and tribulations of a National Hunt jockey until 2011 and, two years later, started training at Tyne Hill Stables, Hanley Swan, near Worcester. He saddled his first winner as a trainer, Princess Caetani, in a mile-and-a-half handicap at Chepstow in September 2013.

His one and, so far, only major success came at Newbury in November, 2016, when Roman Flight, ridden by Noel Fehily, won the bet365 Open Handicap Chase, worth just over £31,000 to the winner. All in all, Roman Flight won eight races over hurdles and fences for his owners, the Favourites Racing Syndicate.

Other notable horses that Dennis has handled in his short career include Maller Tree, who won twice in two days at Fakenham and Wetherby in 2014 and twice in three days at Newton Abbott and Huntingdon in 2015. In the 2014/15 season, Dennis also saddled Marju’s Quest to complete a hat-trick of wins at Worcester (twice) and Taunton. More recently, the Kayf Tara gelding Final Nudge won three steeplechases for the yard in 2016/17 and finished third in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in 2017/18.

In March 2017, to coincide with the Cheltenham Festival, Dennis celebrated the opening of a new, 60-box yard and other facilities at Tyre Hill Stables. So far, he has saddled 129 winners, 21 on the Flat and 108 over Jumps, and earned just short of £1 million in total prize money.

Friday 2 December 2016

Henry Daly: No Drama

Henry Daly worked as assistant trainer to Paul Cole and Kim Bailey before joining the late Captain Tim Forster at Letcombe Bassett in the Vale of the White Horse, Oxfordshire in 1991. When Forster moved to Downton Hall Stables, near Ludlow, Shropshire in 1994, Daly went with him. He later admitted that familiarity with the yard stood him in good stead when Forster retired in 1998 and he took over the training licence.

Indeed, Daly saddled his first winner, Don Fayruz, who was part-owned by Forster, in a novices’ hurdle at Wincanton in October, 1998, and his first Grade 1 winner, Behrajan, in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown the following January. In fact, Behrajan was his most successful horse in the early years of his training career, winning five of his 12 races over hurdles and six of his 17 races over fences – including the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby, the Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot and the Pillar Property Chase Cheltenham – between 1998 and 2003.

Coincidentally, Behrajan also finished fifth, beaten 14½ lengths, behind Best Mate in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2003, the year in which Daly saddled two of his three winners, at least so far, at the Cheltenham Festival. Young Spartacus, ridden by Richard Johnson, won the Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup and Palarshan, ridden by Mark Bradburne, won the Grand Annual Chase 24 hours later.

Daly has subsequently trained two more Grade 1 winners, Hand Inn Hand in the Ascot Chase in 2004 and Mighty Man in the Long Walk Hurdle, also at Ascot, in 2006. The latter also won the Top Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in 2005 and the Liverpool Hurdle, also at the Merseyside course in 2006 and 2007.

In late 2017, Daly created confusion when he doubly declared Crucial Role for one handicap hurdle at Haydock on Saturday, December 30 and another at Uttoxeter on Sunday, December 31. Crucial Role took up his first preference at Uttoxeter and was withdrawn from the Haydock race, but was reported “dead” by the British Horseracing Authority. Daly later explained, sheepishly, “Unfortunately, I pressed the wrong button this morning and they’ve changed it after I called them.” Crucial Role could only finish second at Uttoxeter, but won next time out at Ludlow and remains alive and well.

Interestingly, in nearly two decades as a trainer, Daly, 51, has never saddled 50 winners in a season. The closest he came to that figure was 43, way back in 2003/04, but he has trained 564 winners in total and, in 2017/18, is operating at his highest strike rate ever (23%), for a level stakes profit of 52.25 points.