Thursday 17 August 2017

Alan King: The Master of Barbury Castle

Alan King advertises his services as a “dual-purpose” trainer. However, during the 2016/17 National Hunt season he saddled 104 winners and won £1.4 million in total prize money, while during the 2017 Flat season he saddled 19 winners and won £260,000 in total prize money, so the evidence suggests that he remains, predominantly, a National Hunt trainer.

Alan King was born in 1966 and is the son of a Lanarkshire farmer. King initially worked for trainer John Wilson at the historic Cree Lodge stables, in the shadow of Ayr racecourse, before joining the late David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson at Cotswold House in Condicote, Gloucestershire as a stable lad in 1985. He was promoted to assistant trainer the following year and stayed with Nicholson until his retirement in December 1999. In 1992, the pair moved to Jackdaws Castle, a purpose-built training centre in the heart of the Cotswolds and, from his new base, Nicholson won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship in 1993/94 and 1994/95.

King briefly took over as the licence holder at Jackdaws Castle in December 1999, saddling his first Grade 1 winner, Anzum, in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot in the same month. However, Colin Smith, the owner of Jackdaws Castle at the time, invited Richard Phillips to replace King, which necessitated a move to Barbury Castle stables near Wroughton, Wiltshire. King and his wife, Rachel, moved into their new home on June 1, 2000 and have been there ever since.

King saddled his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Fork Lightning in the William Hill Handicap Chase, in 2004. He has subsequently sent out a further 14 Cheltenham Festival winners, including ‘championship’ race successes with My Way De Solzen in the 2006 Stayers’ Hurdle, Voy Por Ustedes in the 2007 Queen Mother Champion Chase and Katchit in the 2008 Champion Hurdle.

Another King-trained runner, Yanworth, started favourite for the Champion Hurdle in 2017, but could only finish seventh, beaten 14 lengths, behind Buveir D’Air. To add insult to injury, King was subsequently fined £2,000 after Yanworth tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone acetonide, which had not cleared his system on the day of the race.

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