Monday 24 September 2018

Michael Bell: No Woman, No Cry

After leaving the army, Martin Bell worked as assistant trainer to Mercy Rimmell and Paul Cole before taking out a training licence, in his own right, at Fitzroy House in Newmarket, Suffolk in 1989. His first Group winner, Pass The Peace in the Fred Darling Stakes at Newmarket, was originally bought for 9,000 guineas by his father, Brian, and subsequently sold to Sheikh Mohammed. The proceeds from the sale allowed Bell to buy Fitzroy House, which he had previously rented.

In the last three decades, Bell has trained in the region of 1,400 winners and amassed over £24 million in total prize money. However, he is probably best known for his two Classic winners, Motivator in the Derby in 2005 and Sariska in the Oaks in 2009. Sariska followed up in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh the following month and, in between times, Bell also saddled Art Connossieur to win the Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.

However, his most memorable winner, he said, was Hoh Magic in the Prix Morny at Deauville in 1994. The two-year-old filly, by Cadeux Genereux, ran on well inside the final furlong to win by 1½ lengths and record the first Group 1 vicotory for the yard. Bell later recalled, fondly, “Deauville is a special place and a very big day in the racing calendar”.

More recently, Bell enjoyed further success with Margot Did in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in 2011 – making Hayley Turner the first female jockey ever to ride two Group 1 winners – and back-to-back victories by Wigmore Hall in the Northern Dancer Turf Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada in 2011 and 2012. In June 2013, though, after an unproductive summer in which Bell saddled just 16 winners at a strike rate of 9%, he and Hayley Turner parted company after 13 years together. Bell said at the time, “Hayley is a great girl and I will continue to use her, but she has been with me for 13 years and sometimes you just need to freshen things up.”

In recent seasons, the Duke Of Marmalade gelding Big Orange has become the standard bearer for the yard, winning the Goodwood Cup two years running in 2015 and 2016 and taking his form to a new level when holding on gamely to beat subsequent Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe fourth Order Of St George by a short head in the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot in 2017.

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