Friday 22 June 2018

Jamie Osborne: Still Believing

Jamie Osborne has been training in Upper Lambourn, near Hungerford, Berkshire since 2000 but, in his younger days, was a confident, even cocksure, National Hunt jockey. He earned the derogatory nickname “Pompous Pilot” and was famously slapped in the face by Jenny Pitman after deliberately hampering her horse Run To Form in a novices’ hurdle at Ayr in 1990. Nevertheless, he rode nearly 1,000 winners – including 12 at the Cheltenham Festival – for the likes of Nicky Henderson, Oliver Sherwood, Charlie Egerton and Henrietta Knight.

His new career started brightly, too, with 10 winners in 2000, rising to 31 in 2001, the year in which he saddled his first Royal Ascot winner, Irony, ridden by the late Pat Eddery, in the Coventry Stakes. Osborne has subsequently trained three more, Drawnfromthepast in the Windsor Castle Stakes and Enjoy The Moment in the Queen Alexandra Stakes in 2007 and Field Of Dream in the Royal Hunt Cup in 2014.

In 2002, Osborne was fined £4,000 by the Jockey Club after admitting bringing racing into disrepute by making unguarded remarks to Paul Kenyon, an undercover reporter for the BBC. Osborne was secretly filmed saying, “We’ll cheat. We don’t mind cheating”, but insisted the remarks were taken out of context.

The fine did little to damage his reputation, though, and in 2003 he saddled his first Group winner and his first Group 1 winner, courtesy of Milk It Mick in the Somerville Tattersall Stakes and the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket within the space of two weeks in October.

Osborne, 50, now runs two yards, one at either end of Upper Lambourn, and has capacity for 80 horses. In January, 2018, he admitted to “living the dream” when he saddled Toast Of New York in the Pegasus World Cup – the most valuable race in the world, with a first prize of $7 million – at Gulfstream Park, Florida.

Prior to winning a small conditions stakes race at Lingfield the previous December, Toast Of New York had been off the course for 1130 days since just missing out in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park, California in November, 2014. Toast Of New York was soon struggling and eventually finish last of the twelve runners, beaten 50 lengths, behind the hot favourite Gun Runner. Nevertheless, a defiant Osborne said afterwards, “I know I look slightly silly bringing him here now, but I still believe wholeheartedly that he is capable of competing at this level.

Thursday 21 June 2018

Buying Money

Retired trainer Barry Hills, who landed a touch or two in his time, once said, “Never bet odds-on. If you could buy money they would sell it at a shop down the road.” However, every once in a while, a horse comes along that consistently stands head and shoulders above it rivals and wins with such regularity that it inevitably starts favourite, often at long odds-on. Backing horses of this calibre is as close as it comes to “buying money” in the sport of horse racing.

Frankel, for example, who retired unbeaten in October, 2012, and topped the World Thoroughbred Rankings from May, 2011 onwards, started favourite for every one of his 14 races, which included ten at Group One, or “championship”, level. In fact, with the exception of his debut, in a maiden stakes race at Newmarket in August, 2010, for which he was sent off 7/4 favourite, he started odds-on for all his races. The shortest price at which he was returned was 1/20, when very easily beating three rivals – one of which was his pacemaker, Bullet Train – in the Qipco Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in August, 2012. I suspect he popped up a time or two (or three!) in OLBG's horse racing tips.

Sea The Stars, Cartier Horse of the Year in 2009, won eight of his nine career starts, including a sequence of six Group One wins during his three-year-old campaign, yet surprising started favourite on just five occasions. However, he did start odds-on to win his last four starts, in the Coral-Eclipse, the Juddmonte International Stakes, the Tattersalls Millions Irish Champion Stakes and the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Big Buck’s, four-time winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, ran up a winning sequence of 18 consecutive races between 2008/09 and 2012/13. The sequence began when he was put back over hurdles after unseating his rider at the final fence in the 2008 Hennessy Gold Cup, but in his next 18 starts he started favourite, at odds-on, 15 times. The shortest price at which he ever started was 1/12, when beating three rivals in a canter in the Sportingbet Long Distance Hurdle in December, 2012.

Triple Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq won 23 of his 26 completed starts over hurdles, including 13 Grade One races, between 1996/97 and 2001/02. He started favourite on all bar his debut in a novice hurdle at Punchestown in November, 1996 – we he went off 6/4 second favourite and was beaten a head – and was odds-on on 23 occasions. Indeed, in his last 22 races, the only times he started at odds-against were in the Champion Hurdle in 1998 and 2002. The shortest price at which he ever started was 1/10, when not extended to beat two rivals in the December Festival Hurdle in December, 1998.

Wednesday 20 June 2018

Christian Williams: Man of Steel

At the time of writing, Christian Williams may be well into his second season as a trainer under his own name, but is still probably best known for his exploits as a jockey. In a 14-year career, Williams rode 339 winners, many of them trained by Paul Nicholls – and made more than one improbable comeback following serious falls – before forcibly retired by reoccurring injuries in March, 2014.

At that point, Williams hadn’t ridden for nearly a year, but had already started working for owner Dai Walters at his stables, The Hollies, on the outskirts of Cardiff. Initially, Williams assisted Paul Morgan, the trainer in residence at The Hollies, with the pre-training of his young horses. However, Paul Morgan left The Hollies, amicably, in 2017 and Williams took over the licence.

He said at the time, “I started work with Mr Walters four years ago and the natural progression now is to take out a licence. We have a state-of-the-art facility, which enables myself and the staff to maximise the potential of horses in our care.”

In his first season as a trainer in his own right, Williams sent out just seven runners, but saddled his first winner, Juge Et Parti, in a National Hunt Flat Race at Bangor in April, 2017. Limited Reserve also finished a close second in a valuable handicap hurdle at Haydock, contributing £9,883 to Williams’ £14,700 in win and place prize money.

By the start of the 2017/18 season, Williams was ready for the next step in his fledgling career and relocated to a new yard in the seaside village of Ogmore-by-Sea in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, where he is now assisted by his brother Nicky. Williams said, “I've always wanted to train from home with my brother…It will be great to work with Nicky, who rode more than 100 point-to-point winners, and we've got a lot to offer.”

So far, in 2017/18 Williams has saddled 8 winners from 54 runners, at a strike rate of 15%, and earned £108,204 in total prize money. His stable flag-bearer, Limited Reserve, has made the highest contribution, financially, winning the Betfair Exchange Hurdle at Haydock in November and following up in the Betfred Supports Jack Berry House Handicap Hurdle, also at the Merseyside course. However, Hedgeinator, also syndicated to All Stars Sports Racing, has won three of his seven steeplechases and is the next best money-spinner in the yard.

Thursday 7 June 2018

Jim Goldie: Perennial Evergreen

Jim Goldie, sometimes known as “Jovial Jim” because of his genial nature, is based at Libohill Farm Stables, Uplawmoor, Renfrewshire, in the Central Lowlands of Scotland.
Goldie took out a full training licence in 1994 and saddled his first winner, Red Tempest, in a novices’ claiming hurdle at Perth in September that year.

His flagship horse in the early part of his career, though, was Orientor, whom he bought for 12,000 guineas in Doncaster St. Leger Yearling Sales in 1999. In 2001, as a 3-year-old, the Inchinor colt won three times, including the William Hill Trophy Showcase Handicap at York and the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup Sprint at Ascot. Later in his career, he also won the Kronenburg 1664 Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle in 2003 and the Champagne Laurent-Perrier Sprint Stakes at Sandown in 2004.

Goldie is a dual purpose trainer and, in his lengthy career, has managed one or two spectacular successes over jumps. In 2007, he saddled 66/1 outsider Lampion Du Bost to win the Grand Sefton Chase at Aintree and, in 2008, silenced his doubters by winning the same race again with Endless Power.

He has also done well with horses acquired from other trainers, one notable example being Hawkeyethenoo, a “castoff” from Michael Easterby. Hawkeyethenoo won the Victoria Cup at Ascot in 2011 and the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in 2012, as well as finishing second, beaten just three-quarters of a length, behind Maarek in the Qipco British Champion Sprint Stakes at Ascot later the same year.

Goldie also trained Jack Dexter, apparently named after one of his grandsons, to win three Listed races and the Betfred Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle – a race he’d also won with his sire, Orientor, ten years earlier – in 2013 and 2014. Sadly, Jack Dexter fractured a cannonbone at Ripon in August, 2017, but Goldie paid tribute to him, saying, “We’re all gutted. He was part of the family and had been here since we bred him. He was a great horse – nearly as good as you get.”

In the last five seasons, Goldie has saddled over 500 runners at Ayr, resulting in 48 winners but, even at his favourite stamping ground, he was surprised to saddle the first four home in a 6-furlong handicap in July, 2017. Cheeni stayed on strongly to lead close home, beating Goninodaethat by a head, with Insurplus a further 1¼ lengths away in third and Sea Of Green, the shortest-priced of the quartet, a similar distance back in fourth. Goldie quipped afterwards, “We’ve had a 1-2-3 before, a few years back, but never a 1-2-3-4. I’m really kicking myself I didn’t do a tricast.”