Thursday 23 November 2017

Marco Botti: Keeping it in the Family

Marco Botti was born in Italy in 1976, the son of Alduino Botti, who, in partnership with his brother, Giuseppe, has been champion trainer in his native land more than 30 times. After a successful career as a jockey, he worked for his father and uncle as a coach, before emigrating to Britain, where he assisted Luca Cumani, Ed Dunlop and Saeed bin Suroor before setting up on his own at Green Ridge Stables, Newmarket in 2006.

He saddled his first winner, Ceremonial Jade, in a maiden stakes race at Beverley in June that year but, by the end of August, had already chalked up his first Pattern race winner, Sesmen in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood. Botti made rapid progress through the training ranks and, in 2009, took his career to a new level with the victory of Gitano Hernando in the Goodwood Stakes at Santa Anita Park, California.

Excelebration added another Group 1 win in the Prix de Moulin de Longchamp in 2011, as did Joshua Tree in the Canadian International Stakes at Woodbine, Toronto in 2012. Indeed, 2012 was a notable year for Botti; he saddled Jakalberry to win the American St. Leger at Arlington Park, Chicago for the first time August and, by the end of the season, had trained winners in a season in Britain for the first time.

In early 2013, Botti moved into new premises at Prestige Place, a custom-built, 97-box stable situated on paddocks formerly owned by the Kremlin Stud. Prestige Place was named after the aforementioned Prestige Stakes at Goodwood and, fittingly, the first winner from the new yard, Teophilip, was owned by Giuliano Manfredini, who also owned Ceremonial Jade. Later that year, Botti won the American St. Leger for a second time with Dandino, who went on to finish second in the Caulfield Cup and fifth in the Melbourne Cup at Flemington later in the season, and the Prix Royal-Oak at Longchamp with Tac De Boistron. In fact, 2013 was his best season ever, numerically, with 89 winners.

In 2014, Botti earned over £1.5 million in total prize money for the first time, with victories for Euro Charline in the Beverley D. Stakes at Arlington Park and Tac De Boistron in the Prix Royal-Oak (again) the seasonal highlights. Since then, he has saddled just one winner at the highest level, Capla Temptress in the Natalma Stakes at Woodbine in 2017, but has nonetheless won a succession of Listed and Pattern races, no to mention valuable handicaps, such as the Bunbury Cup at Newmarket and the Old Newton Cup at Haydock.

Saturday 11 November 2017

Donald McCain: Phoenix from the Ashes

donald mccain
Donald McCain is, of course, the son of the late Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain, trainer of the illustrious Red Rum. McCain Jnr took over the reins at Bank House Stables in Cholmondley, Cheshire in 2006 and quickly established himself as the leading trainer in the North of England. However, following a mediocre season in 2014/15, when he saddled just 53 winners, he lost a significant number of his string when prominent owners Paul and Clare Rooney removed over 60 horses from his yard. At the time, Donald McCain said, “Dad would have had a very good way of dealing with the whole thing.”

Dad, of course, was an uninhibited, forthright character, famous for remarks such as “It was f****** magic, cock”, on live radio, following the success of Amberleigh House in the 2004 Grand National. McCain Jnr, on the other hand, wished his former patrons well and set about the task of building up his numbers to a respectable level. This he has done, to some extent and, while not attracting horses of the quality of former stable stars Peddlers Cross, Cinders And Ashes and Ballabriggs, continues to saddle winners at a lower level. The victory of Hills Of Dubai at Ayr in January took his total for 2017/18 to 80 winners, already equalling his total for 2016/17 and he has some decent prospects to look forward to the rest of the season.

Testify, for example, a 7-year-old gelding by Witness Box, has won all three starts over fences, including the Grade 2 Altcar Novices’ Chase at Haydock, and is 33/1 for both the RSA Chase and the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Fin And Game, a 6-year-old gelding by Oscar, is similarly unbeaten over hurdles and McCain has recruited several promising young horses from the point-to-point field.

At the start of the 2017/18 season, McCain expressed concern at the state of National Hunt racing in the North of England and made a clarion call to his fellow handlers, saying, “I get slightly frustrated sometimes with some of the northern trainers that they don’t get stuck in and take them [southern trainers] on and send them back down the motorway.” Unmistakably a chip off the old block, in deed, if not necessarily in word, Donald McCain Jnr has every reason for optimism at Bank House and can, hopefully, look forward to saddling many more winners.

Friday 3 November 2017

David Barron: Shrewd Operator

david barron
Thomas David Barron, usually known as David, is based in the village of Maunby, midway between Northallerton and Thirsk, in North Yorkshire. Barron, 72, has held a training licence since 1969 and is known as masterful trainer of sprinters. In fact, he has saddled the winner of all the major sprint handicaps, including the Great St. Wilfrid Stakes at Redcar, the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood (twice), the Portland Handicap at Doncaster (twice), the Victoria Cup at Ascot and the Ayr Gold Cup.

Perhaps his most famous horse was Coastal Bluff, a giant grey gelding who, in 1996, won the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood by 3 lengths and followed up, off a 13lb higher mark, in the Ayr Gold Cup seven weeks later. Barron is a shrewd operator, not averse to gambling, but on the latter occasion Coastal Bluff was the subject of a nationwide gamble, forcing his starting price down to 3/1 favourite, despite facing 27 rivals under 9st 10lb. William Hill spokesman David Hood said afterwards, “The race was the biggest gamble of the season so far, bar none. He was everybody’s banker. You will be hard pressed to find a punter anywhere in the country who wasn't on Coastal Bluff.”

The following season, Coastal Bluff dead-heated with Ya Malak in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, a performance made all the more remarkable by the fact that his bit snapped shortly after leaving the stalls. In 1998, Coastal Bluff ran unplaced in the Palace House Stakes at Newmarket and the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and would have been retired if Barron had had his way. However, majority shareholder David Sharp opted for the Newmarket Autumn Sales to dissolve his partnership with Barron and Coastal Bluff was sold, controversially, for 17,000 guineas. A tearful Barron said, “This is a dreadful day. I just can’t afford to pay that sort of money to retire a horse, but I would have given my share to the other owner if he had promised not to race him again.”

Barron has won the Two Year Old Trophy at Redcar twice, with Dim Sums in 2000 and Wick Powell in 2016. More recently, his stable star was Pearl Secret, winner of seven of her 26 starts, including the Temple Stakes at Haydock in 2015, and over £242,000 in total prize money. Of course, Barron is not just a trainer of sprinters; other notable successes for the yard over a mile and beyond include the Lincoln at Doncaster, the Zetland Gold Cup at Redcar (twice) and the John Smith’s Cup at York.