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 Crucial Role took up his first preference at Uttoxeter and was withdrawn from the Haydock race, but was reported “dead” by the British Horseracing Authority.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.