Friday 23 February 2018

Jeremy Noseda: Always Something Else to Learn

After completing his A-levels, Jeremy Noseda apparently turned down five university places, including one at Cambridge, opting instead for a lengthy apprenticeship with the late John Dunlop, John Gosden, Hilal Ibrahim and Saeed bin Suroor. Noseda was offered, and declined, an opportunity to start training, in his own right, for Sheikh Mohammed in Chantilly, France. He later recalled, “It was a very generous gesture, but he wanted to set me up in France. I am English through and through and this country is where I always wanted to train,”

Noseda opted, instead for independence, setting up on his own in California in late 1996. However, in August, 1997 he bought Shalfleet Stables, Newmarket from the late Paul Kelleway and started training in Britain the following year. He saddled his first winner, Nautical Warning, at the first time of asking in a lowly apprentices’ handicap at Lingfield in January, 1998. By the end of the year, Noseda had already saddled his first Group winner, Wannabe Grand, in the Shadwell Stud Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket.

He trained his first Royal Ascot winner, Just James, in the Coventry Stakes in 2002 and, the following season, completed a notable juvenile double with Carry On Katie in the Sky Bet Cheveley Park Stakes and Balmont in the Shadwell Stud Middle Park Stakes at the Cambridgeshire Meeting at Newmarket. He saddled his first Breeders’ Cup winner, Wilko, in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Lone Star Park, Texas in 2004 and, two years later saddled his first Classic winner, Araafa, in the Irish St. Leger in 2006. Later that same season, Noseda always won the St. Leger at Doncaster with Sixties Icon.

Subsequent highlights have been Soldier’s Tale in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot and Simply Perfect in the UAE Hydra Properties Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket
in 2007, Fleeting Spirit in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket in 2009, Sans Frontieres in the Irish Field St. Leger at the Curragh in 2010 and Western Aristocrat in the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont Park, New York in 2011.

However, throughout his career, Noseda has delivered the goods in numerous prestigious races including valuable handicaps such as the Royal Hunt Cup and Wokingham Stakes at Royal Ascot. Indeed, in 2010, he saddled Laddies Poker Two, a 5-year-old owned by Derrrick Smith, Michael Tabor and John Magnier, to land a gamble of biblical proportions in the Wokingham Stakes. Returning from an absence of 610 days, Laddies Poker Two was backed from 25/1 at the start of the week to 9/2 favourite and, having travelled well throughout, won by 2½ lengths, breaking the course record in the process.

Thursday 15 February 2018

Mark Johnston: Talented and Characterful

“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character”, or so said the late John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach. One man who clearly has both, in spades, is racehorse trainer Mark Johnston.

In October 2017, Johnston became just the third British trainer ever, under either code, to train 4,000 winners. Only Richard Hannon Snr and Martin Pipe (Father of David Pipe)  have trained more and, if fate decrees, it’s odds-on that Johnston will become the most successful trainer, numerically, in the history of British racing during the 2018 Flat season.

The victory of the two-year-old, Corsica, at Ayr in October 2009 made him the first British Flat trainer to saddle over 200 winners in a season and he has since repeated the feat six times. He also has the distinction of having trained at least 100 winners for the last 24 seasons in a row.

Mark Johnston is a qualified veterinary surgeon which, he says, allows him to cut out all the ‘pseudo-science and quackery’ that he believes afflicts the horse racing industry. Johnston worked in veterinary practice for three years before buying his first training yard, near Louth, Lincolnshire, in 1986. He was granted a training licence the following year and saddled his first winner, Hinari Video, at Carlisle that summer. Johnston later recalled how he and his wife, Deidre “were so elated we sat and stared at the teletext racing results all evening.”

In 1998, Johnston bought Kingsley House in Middleham, North Yorkshire, which he subsequently developed into Kingsley Park, a major training complex covering 270 acres. Notable horses that he has trained over the years include Mister Baileys, winner of the 2,000 Guineas in 1994, Attraction, winner of the 1,000 Guineas in 2004, Shamardal, winner of the Dewhurst Stakes and Cartier Two-Year-Old Colt in 2004 and, of course, Double Trigger, winner of 14 races, including the Ascot Gold Cup, the Doncaster Cup (three times) and the Goodwood Cup (three times), between 1995 and 1998.

Johnston has some strong, and controversial, views on the way horse racing is presented to the general public. In 2010, he told the BBC, “We tend to market it [horse racing] purely as a betting industry. The two industries are mutually dependent, but you have to market the sport as a sport. We should concentrate on that first and let the betting follow.” In 2016, he also told the Racing Post that ITV “should get rid of all coverage of betting” from its terrestrial broadcasts of horse racing.

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Milton Bradley: Proper Old School

John Milton Bradley, known for most of his life as Milton, to avoid confusion with his father, John Senior, isn’t exactly what you’d call a household name. Nevertheless, Bradley, 82, hit the racing headlines as recently as December 12, 2017, when, after 153 days without a winner, he saddled Indian Affair, Compton Prince and Temple Road for a 1,121/1 treble at Lingfield. He was quoted at the time, saying, “You die when you retire. Don’t rest out, wear out.”

Bradley began his training career in unlicensed, unregulated horse racing, also known as “flapping”, in the years following World War II, travelling as far afield as the Scottish Borders to gain experience. When he was finally granted a training permit, followed by a training licence in 1969, he specialised in jumpers, notably training Grey Dolphin to win 10 steeplechases during the 1978/79 season.

His first winner on the Flat was Offa’s Mead, bought for £100, who graduated from a lowly selling stakes race at Beverley to win 15 more races, including the Bovis Stakes at Ascot. Improving supposedly poor quality horses, particularly sprinters, has since become a trademark of Mead Farm in Sedbury, Gloucestershire, where Bradley trains. Bradely is a self-confessed fan of sprinters, firstly because of their initial price tag and secondly because, in his own words, “once you have them up and ready you can run them again and again.”

Perhaps his most famous association was with The Tatling, who won 18 of his 176 races, including the King’s Stand Stakes at Ascot and the King George at Goodwood. In 2003, Milton Bradley famously obtained his first passport ever, at the age of 68, so that he could personally drive The Tatling to Longchamp to compete in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.The 6-year-old kept on to take third in the last strides, 1¼ lengths behind the winner, Patevellian, at odds of 40/1. The Tatling was retired after winning his last race at Wolverhampton on December 13, 2011, less than three weeks short of his 15th birthday. Bradley said of him, “He’s one of those horses that you drop on by mistake and spend the rest of your life looking for another half as good.”

Milton Bradley is not, in fact, the oldest trainer; that honour belongs to Michael “Spittin’ Mick” Easterby, 86, but jockey Franny Norton – no spring chicken himself – summed Bradley up, saying, “You think he’d say, ‘That’s it’, and put his feet up, but that’s not him.”

Saturday 3 February 2018

Andrew Balding: Born to Train

If anyone was born to be a racehorse trainer it was, surely, Andrew Balding. He is, of course, the son of Ian Balding, who trained the Mill Reef – winner of the Derby, the Coral-Eclipse, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1971 – and the nephew of the late Toby Balding, who trained winners of the Champion Hurdle, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National.

Balding Jnr began his training career as assistant to his uncle and subsequently to his father, before taking over the licence at Park House stables at Kingsclere, Berkshire in his own right in 2003. Six months later, his sister, Clare, who was on anchor duty for the BBC at Epsom, was reduced to tears when Casual Look held on to beat the favourite, Yesterday, by a neck in the Oaks to give the fledgling trainer his first Classic winner.

Following the race, Andrew, Ian and Clare stood together in stunned silence until the redoubtable Clare eventually told viewers, “I’m sorry. The Balding family aren’t [sic] very communicative at the moment. We’ll be back to you in a minute.”

After a dream start, further success at the highest level proved elusive, although Phoenix Reach progressed into a top-class international performer, winning the Canadian International at Woodbine at three, the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin at four and the Dubai Sheema Classic at Nad Al Sheba at five. Bonfire, owned by the Highclere Stud, started second favourite for the Derby in 2012, but could only finish sixth of nine, beaten 13½ lengths, behind the winner, Camelot.

More recently, Balding won the Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington, Australia with Side Glance in 2013 and the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood and the E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine with Here Comes When and Blond Me, respectively, in 2017. Aside from the two Group 1 wins in 2017, domestic Group 2 wins by Beat The Bank, Blond Me and Montaly contributed to his best ever season, in terms of prize money, with £2,830,527 banked.

The 2018 season is still in its infancy, at least as far as the trainers’ table is concerned, but Andrew Balding has already saddled 8 winners from 37 runners at a strike rate around 22%. His typical seasonal total, of 100+ winners, looks well within his compass, once again, by the end of the current campaign.