Monday, 11 February 2019

Nicky Richards: It’s a Jungle Out There

Nicky Richards
Nicholas Gordon “Nicky” Richards is based at Greystoke Stables – the yard made famous by his father, the late Gordon W. Richards – near Penrith, Cumbria. Nicky took over the licence at Greystoke following the sudden death of his father in September, 1998, and saddled his first winner, Better Times Ahead, in a two-runner handicap chase at Carlisle the following month.

Richards Jnr. achieved his first major success with Feels Like Gold in the Becher Chase, over the Aintree Grand National fences, in November, 1999. However, having inherited a yard whose established stars were on the wane, it was nearly four years until he achieved his second, The French Furze, in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November, 2003. Faasel went perilously close to winning the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005, eventually going down by a head, but put matters right when winning 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle at Aintree the following month by 7 lengths.

Unquestionably the most successful horse he has trained, so far, though, was Monet’s Garden, who won 17 of his 32 starts under National Hunt Rules between 2003 and 2010 and earned £683,285 in total prize money. Monet’s Garden won three Grade 1 races, the Ascot Chase and the Melling Chase at Aintree in 2007 and the Ascot Chase, again, in 2010.

The popular grey also won the Old Roan Chase at Aintree three times, in 2007, 2009, 2010, on the first occasion beating Kauto Star, who was conceding 14lb, by 1½ lengths. He was retired from racing following his third victory in the race and, after making a full recovery from navicular disease – a potentially life-threatening hoof infection – his owner, David Wesley Yates, said, “The trouble is that he doesn’t know he’s retired, and he is very fit, well and fresh, so we’re hoping he doesn’t do anything daft.”

Richards enjoyed his best season ever, in terms of both total number of winners and total prize money in 2006/07, thanks mainly to the exploits of Monet’s Garden. At the end of that season, he had saddled 64 winners and earned £787,140 in total prize money.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t reached the same level since but, nevertheless, continues to saddle high-profile winners granted the right ammunition. In 2017, he trained Baywing to win the Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby, Guitar Pete to win the bet365 Handicap Chase at Wetherby and the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham and the Simply Ned to win the Paddy’s Reward Club Handicap Chase at Fairyhouse. More recently, Baywing also won the valuable Eider Handicap Chase at Newcastle in February, 2018.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Dr. Richard Newland: Training Just for Fun

Dr Richard Newland
In the case of Dr. Richard Newland, “Doctor” isn’t an honorary title. Dr. Newland studied medicine at Cambridge University and, until 2013, was a full-time General Practitioner, working for the National Health Service in Sutton Coldfield. He remains the chief executive of a private healthcare company in the town but, for over a decade now, has been leading a double life befitting a comic book superhero.

Racing, Dr. Newland says, “is just for fun” and, despite spectacular success over the years, has vehemently resisted becoming a full-time trainer to avoid too much stress. Dr. Newland became a permit holder in 2006 and took out a full training licence in 2007. In his first season, he saddled Overstrand to win the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Sandown and the Betfair Handicap Hurdle at Ascot, collectively worth nearly £79,000, as well as his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Burntoakboy, in the Coral Cup in 2007. Dr. Newland later recalled, “Overstrand and Burntoakboy’s successes did come as a shock but made me realise I must have been doing something right.” Interestingly, Dr. Newland is an exponent of what he calls “free range” training or, in other words, allowing his horses to walk around the fields for at least eight hours a day.

Dr. Newland is based at Linacres Farm, Claines, near Worcester and has just 12 horses in training at any one time. He has a theory that once a horse has performed well, it has proved that it is, genetically, capable of doing so and should, under the right circumstances, be capable of doing so again. The theory has served him well, because he has built a reputation for finding cheaper, out of form horses and bringing them back to form.

Perhaps none more so than Pineau De Re, who he acquired from Philip Fenton as a 10-year-old in June, 2013 and saddled to win the Grand National less than a year later. Pineau De Re had fallen on his previous attempt over the National Fences in the Becher Chase the preceding December but, on his two starts immediately before Aintree, hacked up in a veterans’ chase at Exeter and finished strongly to be third, beaten a nose and a neck, in the Pertemps Network Final at the Cheltenham Festival.

Dr. Newland admitted to being “quite excited” about his first National runner and he wasn’t to be disappointed; ridden by Leighton Aspell, Pineau De Re led at the second last fence and drew clear on the run-in to beat Balthazar King by 5 lengths at odds of 25/1.