Monday 12 November 2018

Harry Whittington: How do you Like Them Apples?

Harry Whittington is based at Hill Barn Stables in Sparsholt Firs, near Wantage, Oxfordshire, where he has held a training licence since 2010. However, Whittington cut his teeth under experienced breeze-up consigner Malcolm Bastard before setting up his own pre-training business at Hill Barn Stables, which he subsequently operated as a satellite yard for Upper Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson.

Whittington officially saddled his first winner, Mount Benger, in a hunters’ chase at Huntingdon in February, 2011, but his training career began in earnest in September, 2012, when he launched Harry Whittington Racing with just five horses. In the 2012/13 season, he saddled just 15 runners, but recorded three winners, the undisputed highlight of which was the debutant Dubai Kiss, who belied his 50/1 starting price to easily win a National Hunt Flat Race at Newbury in February.

Whittington saddled his first Grade 1 winner, Arzal, in the Merseyrail Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree – a race in which Sizing John, the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2017, could finish only third, beaten 24 lengths – in April, 2016. In fact, the 2015/16 season was the best, so far, in his short career, with 21 winners and £215,762 in total prize money. By contrast, the yard spent much of the 2016/17 in the doldrums, with just 13 winners from 118 runners, at a strike rate of just 11%, and just £105, 152 in total prize money.
Of course, any trainer is only ever as good as the horses in his charge and, in 2017/18, Whittington has bounced back and is well on the way to having his best season ever, numerically and monetarily. At the time of writing, on the eve of the Cheltenham Festival in March, 2018, he has already saddled 25 winners – that is, two more than ever before – and earned £189,890 in total prize money.

Vinnie Lewis, who was raised 14lb in the weights for winning by 14 lengths, eased down, on his previous start at Sedgefield, won the Sussex National at Plumpton in January. However, his stable star is, undoubtedly, Saint Calvados, whom he acquired from Venetia Williams on Boxing Day, 2017. The progressive 5-year-old is 3-3 over fences and, not for the first time, jumped like an old hand when strolling clear for an impressive 22-length victory in the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase at Warwick on his most recent start in February. Saint Calvados is due to run in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, for which he is 3/1 second favourite, at the Cheltenham Festival this very afternoon.

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