Saturday 10 March 2018

Anthony Honeyball: One Step at a Time

Anthony Honeyball comes from good racing stock. His father, John, trained subsequent Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, The Dikler – a strapping, 17.2 hand horse, famously sent back to the hunting field by Captain Tim Forster after proving too difficult to train – to win his first point-to-point at Crowell.

Honeyball Jnr. rode as an amateur for Richard Barber, one of the most successful trainers in the history of point-to-point racing, and as conditional jockey to Paul Nicholls, for whom he rode 45 winners, before embarking on his training career in 2006. Initially based at his parents’ farm in Somerset, he subsequently rented a yard from Richard Barber in Seaborough, Dorset, before moving to nearby Potwell Farm Stables, near Beaminster, in 2012.

Honeyball has recorded his two biggest wins ever, in monetary terms, with the same horse, Regal Encore, owned by J.P. McManus, in the Lavazza Jolie Silver Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot in 2016 and the Keltbray Swinley Chase over the same course and distance in 2018. Coincidentally, Regal Encore beat the same horse, Minella Daddy, trained by Peter Bowen, by a similar margin on both occasions.

Honeyball saddled his first Graded winner, Fountains Windfall, in the Gaskells Handicap Hurdle at Aintree in 2017 and added a second, Midnight Tune, in the Weatherbys General Stud Book Jane Seymour Mares' Novices’ Hurdle in 2018. Fountains Windfall was sent over fences in 2017/18, winning twice, and was a short as 7/1 for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. However, the 8-year-old was killed in a freak accident during a routine schooling session a few days before his intended preparatory run at Warwick in February. A shocked Honeyball said, “He either had a momentary lapse of concentration and fell funny or it’s possible he had a heart attack or a seizure.”

At the time of writing, in March, 2018, Honeyball is already having his best season ever, numerically and monetarily. So far, his string of 35 horses has won 33 races and amassed just over £360,000 in prize money. In fact, since the middle of November, Honeyball has sent out five doubles and a treble but, as he explained, “It has taken 10 years of blood, sweat and tears along with my wife [and assistant trainer] Rachael to climb the ladder this far, but we’re not in a position yet where we couldn’t slip back down. We buy our horses and we have properly grafted.”

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