Monday 30 October 2017

Nicky Henderson: Career Profile

nicky henderson horse trainer
Nicholas John Henderson, always known as Nicky, has the distinction of saddling the most winners ever at the Cheltenham Festival, with 58 victories to his credit. He has also won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship four times, including the 2016/17 season.

Henderson, 67, rode 75 winners as an amateur before joining Fred Winter as assistant trainer between 1974 and 1978. He set up as a trainer in his own right at Windsor House Stables, Lambourn in 1978, but didn’t send out his first Cheltenham Festival winner until 1985, when See You Then, ridden by Steve-Eccles, won the Champion Hurdle. Notoriously fragile and raced so infrequently that he was nicknamed “See You When”, See You Then went on to win the Champion Hurdle again in 1986 and 1987, making him the fourth horse in history to win the race in three consecutive years. Henderson described him as “the hurdler who put me on the Cheltenham map and was one of a kind”.

Trainer Nicky Henderson was, indeed, on the map, winning the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship for the first time in 1985/86 and again in 1986/87. In 1992, he moved to his current yard, at Seven Barrows, near Lambourn. Henderson was principal trainer of the late Queen Mother and also trained horses for the Queen, one of whom, Moonlit Path, was the cause of controversy back in 2009. Henderson was suspended for three months and fined a record £40,000 for administering the prohibited anti-bleeding drug tranexamic acid to the mare before a race at Huntingdon.

However, the suspension did little to tarnish his reputation and, in the interim, Henderson has been responsible for numerous high-profile horses including Bobs Worth, Long Run, Sprinter Sacre and, more recently, Altior, Buveur D’Air and Might Bite, to name but a few. Indeed, he was recognised in the New Year Honours in 2018, becoming a Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order (LVO), which he described as a “very nice surprise”.

Hensderson has been trying to win the Grand National, without success, since his first runner in the race, Zongalero, finished second to Rubstic in 1979. Nevertheless, he’s won just about everything else and currently leads the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship – which he’s long odds-on to win again – by 16 winners and just over £116,000 in prize money, so his future success seems assured.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Karl Burke: Back in Business

karl burke horse trainer
Karl Burke took out a training licence in 1990 and saddled his first winner, Temporale, in a handicap hurdle at Towcester in October that year. He achieved his first major success with Daring Destiny in the Ayr Gold Cup in 1994 and, less than two years later, his first Group winner with the same horse in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at Leopardstown.

In 1998, Burke moved to High Havens Stable in Newmarket and, in 1999, saddled 50 winners on the Flat for first time. The following year he bought his current yard, Spigot Lodge, in Middleham, North Yorkshire.

Burke saddled his first Group 1 winner, Lord Shanakil, in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly in July, 2009. Less than a month later, he was “warned off” – that is, banned from entering premises, or contacting individuals, licensed by the Jockey Club – for twelve months for supplying “inside” information to Miles Rodgers, a high-profile owner and gambler who was already a disqualified person.

Consequently, his father-in-law, Alan Jarvis, took over the licence at Spigot Lodge. On completion of his ban, Burke opted to delay his return to the training ranks, saying, “I've got a few options myself, but one of the factors that has led me to decide not to reapply for my licence is that the current season is half-over now.”

Instead his wife, Elaine, whose original application for a training licence had been rejected by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) the previous November, on the grounds that Burke was still serving his punishment, took over the yard, which operated in her name until 2013. Burke said at the time, “Elaine is fully qualified and now that the ban has been served I should be able to help her out.”

On his return, Burke enjoyed further Group 1 successes with Odeliz in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville and the Premio Lydia Tessio at Campanelle in 2015, Quiet Reflection in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot and the Sprint Cup at Haydock in 2016. Quiet Reflection was also named Cartier Sprinter of the Year, beating 2016 off competition from the likes of Mecca's Angel, Limato, and the Tin Man

More recently, Burke also saddled Unfortunately in the Prix Morny at Deauville and Laurens in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in 2017. Interviewed in March, 2018, Burke said of the latter, who is entered in the 1,000 Guineas in May, “Laurens has wintered really well and couldn’t look any better. I am very happy with her.”

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Luca Cumani: Down But Not Out

luca cumani
Born in Milan, Italy in 1949, Luca Cumani is the son of Sergio Cumani, a ten-time champion trainer in his native Italy, for whom he worked as assistant trainer before joining the late Sir Henry Cecil at Warren Place, Newmarket, in a similar capacity in 1974. Two years later, Cumani began training, in his own right, at the nearby Bedford House Stables and has been there ever since.

During a distinguished career, Cumani has saddled winners at the highest level all over the world. Highlights include winning the St. Leger, with Commanche Run in 1984, the Derby, with Kahyasi in 1988 and High Rise in 1989, and the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Cartier Horse of the Year Barathea in 1994. He also has the distinction of winning the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster, also known as the “Fillies St. Leger”, five times.

Cumani was also instrumental in shaping the early career of fellow Milanese Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori, who was sent to Bedford Lodge by his father, Gianfranco, in July, 1985 as a 14-year-old to become an apprentice jockey. After six months of pleading to come home, on a weekly basis, Dettori later recalled, “…after six months the trainer Luca Cumani asked my dad if I could stay as he saw potential. I began earning £12 a week.” Cumani provided Dettori with his first winner in Britain, Lizzy Hare, at Goodwood in 1987 and his first Group 1 winner, Markofdistinction in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot three years later.

Cumani has suffered dramatic splits from two leading patrons, the Aga Khan and Sheikh Obaid al Maktoum over the years. In 2000, after two failed drug tests, the Aga Khan accused Cumani of failing to ensure compliance with medication regulations and removed 30 horses, including three future Royal Ascot winners, from Bedford House. In 2015, Sheik Mohammed Obaid inexplicably removed all his horses – a total of 35, including recent King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Postponed – in a move described by Cumani as a “devastating blow”.

In 2017, Cumani saddled 38 winners and won £411,597 in total prize money, compared with 50 winners and £1,643,651 in 2015. However, when interviewed in 2016, the Newmarket stalwart remained pragmatic, saying, “We knew it was going to be tough. We are way down on winners because we just don’t have the numbers.” Nevertheless, Luca Cumani is renowned for his patience and shrewdness, so remains one to keep on the right side.