Monday 23 July 2018

Micky Hammond: Two Careers in One

Former jump jockey Micky Hammond first started training at Tupgill Stables in Middleham, North Yorkshire in 1990. Reflecting on those early days, he once said,
“I had no yard, no horses and no owners, but all three arrived like magic”, later adding,
“I had a lot of confidence and I expected success.”

His confidence was not misplaced, either. He saddled his first winner under National Hunt Rules, Palmers Pride, in the autumn of 1990 and finished his “rookie” season with a record 31 winners and just over £100,000 in total prize money. Hammond continued his progress through the training ranks, saddling 35 winners in 1991/92 and 51 winners in 1992/93, which was the most successful season, numerically, of his training career to date. He couldn’t better that total, but subsequently saddled 45, 42, 34, and 47 winners, respectively, in the next four seasons.

By the time he moved to his new yard at Oakwood Stables, Middleham in 1997, he was firmly established as one of the top ten horse trainers in the country. Indeed, he achieved his first major success with Deep Water in the Glenlivet Anniversary 4-y-o Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree in April 1998 and his second with Heidi III in the Pertemps Great Yorkshire Chase in January 2001.

However, it was while Hammond was training at the peak of his powers that his marriage to Sky Sports presenter Alex Hammond broke down irrevocably. In April 2001, he abruptly retired from training, at the age of just 38, and handed over Oakwood Stables to his former head lad, Andrew Crook, together with about half his horses. Hammond said at the time, “I’m a bit stale and ready for a change. I enjoyed riding while I was doing it and enjoyed training while I was doing that, but I get to a stage where I press the self-destruct button.”

He didn’t stay retired for very long, because just over a year later he was lured back to training by the owners of Oakwood Stables, Sunstar Racing. Hammond said, “I always intended to return …with just two winners to go for my 500, I had to do it.” After negotiating what he called the “low time of my life”, Hammond effectively started from scratch in 2001/02, but has since successfully rebuilt his business. In 2015/16, he enjoyed his most successful season ever, monetarily, with over £313,000 in total prize money.

Monday 16 July 2018

Michael Appleby: The Sandman

Michael “Mick” Appleby – not to be confused with Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby – was conditional jockey to John “Mad Manners” and head lad to Roger Curtis and Andrews Balding before launching his training career in 2010. Appleby is a Southwell specialist, having been crowned champion trainer at the Nottinghamshire track from Danethorpe Stables, near Newark-on-Trent in 2014, 2015 and 2016, and again in 2017 from Langham Racing Stables, near Oakham, Rutland. At the last count, Appleby had saddled 103 winners from 653 runners at Southwell over the last five years and earned just shy of £645,000 in total prize money.

After training just three winners in his first season, Appleby improved his total to 15 in 2011, 40 in 2012 – the year in which he saddled Art Scholar to win the Betfred November Handicap at Doncaster – and 61 in 2013. In 2014, he won the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup at Musselburgh with Demora and his first Group race, the Betfred TV Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle, with Danzeno. Collectively, those two victories alone contributed over £96,000 to his seasonal total of £694,000, which took him beyond £500,000 in a season for the first time.

After several successful years at Danethorpe Stables, which he rented, Appleby bought a 75-acre site in Oakham in rural Leicestershire and invested a six-figure sum in transforming the former polo yard into a state-of-the art training complex. He moved his string to his new premises in early 2017 but, despite losing out on a few winners as a result, still had his second best season ever, with 91 winners and over £740,000 in total prize money. Danzeno, once again, made a significant contribution, winning the totescoop6 Heritage Handicap at Ascot, worth £62,250 to the winner.

In early 2018, Arena Racing Company (ARC), which owns Southwell, canvassed industry professionals for their opinions on the possibility of replacing the existing Fibresand surface. Tapeta, the synthetic surface developed by Michael Dickinson, was apparently the first choice of ARC, but Appleby said, “They should make it a dirt course. You could run Group 1 races on it and you could also use it for preparing horses for the big dirt races abroad. I hope they consider it, but if it isn’t going to be dirt then I hope they put Fibresand back.” He added, “It seems odd to me that they’re putting up floodlights at Southwell and considering racing on Tapeta there. That’s what they have at Wolverhampton.”