Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Martin Keighley: Cheltenham Specialist


Martin Keighley
Martin Keighley began his career in racing as a conditional jockey in 1992. In seven seasons, he rode just nine winners, but they did include King’s Road, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies in the Martell Champion Standard National Hunt Flat Race at Aintree in April, 1998. Keighley gave up race-riding at the age of 25 and subsequently worked as a groundsman at Cheltenham, where he learnt about ground conditions and how to build hurdles and fences, which would help him when he started training.

Keighley first took out a public training licence in October, 2006, but had previously trained point-to-pointers and hunter chasers under permit. In fact, his first winner under Rules was one of his own horses, Bosuns Mate, ridden by his wife Belinda, in a hunters’ chase at Sandown in February, 2003. Having moved into Condicote Stables in Luckley, near Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire, his first winner as a licensed trainer was Prince Dundee, whom he also part-owned, in a conditional jockeys’ selling handicap hurdle at Taunton in January, 2007.

The horse that made his name as a trainer, though, was Champion Court, who recorded his first major success in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2010. The Court Cave gelding made up into a smart steeplechaser, too, winning the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham in 2012 and the Silver Trophy Chase, also at Cheltenham, in 2013.

Keighley, understandably, has a special affinity with his local course and, at the last count, had saddled 19 winners at Prestbury Park. His most recent major success was with Brillare Momento in the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in April 2017.

In March, 2016, Keighley saddled his first “winner” at the Cheltenham Festival when Any Currency was first past the post in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. However, the 13-year-old was subsequently found to have traces of the prohibited substance triamcinolone acetonide (TCA) in his urine and disqualified. A disciplinary hearing at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) cleared Keighley of any wrongdoing but, nevertheless, promoted Josies Orders, second in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, to first place. Any Currency did gain some scant compensation when winning a handicap chase on the New Course at Cheltenham the following month.

He was retired, as a 14-year-old, a year later after attempting, unsuccessfully, to win both races again. Keighley said of him, “…you have been a horse of a lifetime; we’ll miss you, but wish you the long and happy retirement that a dude like you deserves.”

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