Tuesday 15 December 2020

Keith Dalgleish: Master of Belstane

Nowadays, Keith Dalgleish is best known as the Master of Belstane Racing Stables, a 140-box training facility, owned privately by businessman Gordon McDowell, in Carluke, South Lanarkshire. However, in his younger days, Dalgleish was a highly accomplished horseman. In fact, at the end of his career, he was stable jockey to Middleham trainer Mark Johnston and, in just five full seasons in the saddle, he rode 270 winners. His most successful season, numerically, came in 2002, when he partnered 72 winners, including Helm Bank in the Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot and Legal Approach in the Arc Trial – now the Legacy Cup – at Newbury, among other high-profile successes.

However, two years later, in 2004, Dalgleish was forced to abandon his riding career after constantly struggling to pare his six-foot frame down to his minimum weight of 8st 6lb. Indeed, Dalgleish said later that he was able to ride at 7st 3lb at the start of his career, but just two weeks after retirement he weighed 10st 7lb. In any event, Dalgleish took out a training licence and joined Belstane Racing Stables – which would soon transform into Keith Dalgleish Racing, at the behest of McDowell – in 2011.

Fast forward half a dozen years or so and, in 2018, Dalgleish enjoyed his most lucrative season on the Flat, with 73 winners from 735 runners, at a strike rate of 10% but, more importantly, £849,118 in win and place prize money. In the 2018/19 National Hunt season, which runs April to April, it was a similar story, with 28 winners from 150 runners, at a strike rate of 19%, and £222,374 in total prize money; in fact, it was the most successful season, numerically and financially, that Dalgleish has ever recorded in the National Hunt sphere.

Dalgleish has yet to win a Pattern race, of any description, but has recorded several notable victories at Listed level in his relatively short training career. The first of them came courtesy of Chookie Royal in the Lady Wulfruna Stakes at Wolverhampton in 2014 but, more recently, Dalgleish collected his single biggest prize ever when Summer Daydream won the Two Year Old Trophy at Redcar, worth £99,242.50 to the winner, in 2018.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

Hughie Morrison: Success Breeds Success

Granted that his late father, James, the second Lord Margadale, bred and owned Oaks winners Juliette Marny and Scintillate, it’s probably no surprise that Hughie Morrison became a racehorse trainer. In fact, despite initially pursuing a career outside racing, he later observed, “I was always craving an involvement in racing; I just felt one was expected to do something more…proper.”

That involvement began with Paul Cole, for whom he worked, unpaid, as assistant trainer for two years. In September, 1996, he bought Summerdown Stables in East Isley, Berkshire from Simon Sherwood and started training, with just eight horses, the following spring. Two decades or so later, Morrison, 57, is still at Summerdown and has saddled over 800 winners.

Ironically, Morrison recorded his first major success with Frenchman’s Creek, whom he also bred, in William Hill National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002. He also fondly remembers Tom Paddington, bred by his second wife, Mary, who broke down over hurdles at Newbury in 1999, but won on his reappearance at the Berkshire course in 2002 after 1,351 days off. “You can’t buy that sort of pleasure”, Morrison recalled.

More recently, Morrison has enjoyed numerous high-profile victories on the Flat, including Group 1 successes for Pastoral Pursuits in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket and Alcazar in the Prix Royal at Longchamp in 2005 and Sakhee’s Secret in the Darley July Cup, again, two years later. He has saddled six Royal Ascot winners, including a double, with Sagramor in the Britannia Stakes and Pisco Sour in the Tercentenary Stakes, in 2011. The most poignant, however, was Waverley in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes in 2003. Morrison said of him, “He belonged to my father, who had died only two months earlier. It was a very emotional time for all the family.”

In May, 2017, Morrison was charged by the British Horseracing Authority after his 4-year-old filly Our Little Sister tested positive for the prohibited anabolic steroid nandrolone laurate after finishing last of nine, beaten 19 lengths, in an otherwise unremarkable handicap at Wolverhampton the previous January. He took the unprecedented step of offering a £10,000 reward to clear his name, claiming that the horse had been maliciously injected.

At a subsequent independent disciplinary hearing, Morrison conceded that he was in breach of the strict liability rule, but claimed that deliberately doping Our Little Sister – who had a handicap rating of just 52 and was retired from racing a maiden after nine starts – would have been “professional suicide”. In any event, he was found “not to blame” and fined the minimum £1,000.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Roger Varian: From strength to strength

Formerly a moderately successful conditional jockey for Josh Gifford, Roger Varian became assistant trainer to Michael Jarvis at Kremlin House Stables, on Fordham Road, Newmarket, after a shattered wrist, sustained in a fall during secondment to Jack Fisher in Maryland, USA, brought his riding career in horse racing to an end. Ten years later, in February, 2011, Jarvis – who had had a heart valve replaced and was suffering from prostate cancer – retired due to ill health and handed the yard over to Varian.

Jarvis was, undoubtedly, a hard act to follow, but Varian made a fine start to his career, remarkably saddling 16 winners from his first 64 runners, at a strike rate of 25%. Varian remained at Kremlin House for the first six years of his training career, notably saddling Kingston Hill to win his first domestic Group One race, the Racing Post Trophy – now the Vertem Futurity Trophy – in 2013 and his first Classic, the St. Leger Stakes, in 2014.

By that stage, though, Varian had made his mark internationally; he had already won the Group One Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp in 2011 and Grade One Flower Bowl Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park in 2012 with Nahrain and the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh in 2012. His success at the highest level continued, with victories for Belardo in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket in 2014 and Lockinge Stakes in 2016 and a memorable hat-trick for Postponed in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Cup at Epsom and the International Stakes at York in 2016.

In 2017, moved to Carlburg Stables, formerly occupied by Clive Brittain, on the nearby Bury Road and enjoyed his most successful season ever, numerically, with 109 winners. In recent seasons, Defoe, owned Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum – who transferred his string to Varian from the now-retired Luca Cumani in 2015 – has been the flag-bearer for the yard. The Dalakhani gelding has won nine of his 19 races including, in 2019, the Group One Coronation Cup at Epsom, and £739,613 in win and place prize money.

All told, Varian has saddled over 800 winners, including 17 at Group One or Grade One level. Still only 40, with the backing of powerful owners, also including Hamdan Al Maktoum and Cheveley Park Stud, and with hundreds of horses in training, his continued success seems assured.

Wednesday 16 September 2020

David O’Meara: Simplicity Personified

As a jockey, David O’Meara rode for respected figures such as Michael Hourigan, Philip Hobbs and Peter Easterby. Consequently, he believes that “simplicity and routine” are the hallmarks of any successful training establishment.

Following the end of his 10-year riding career, O’Meara completed all the courses necessary to become a trainer and, after a brief flirtation with property development, took over the training licence from James Hetherton at Arthington Barn Stables in Nawton, North Yorkshire in June 2010. He saddled his first winner, Simple Jim, ridden by Silvestre De Sousa, in a lowly 0-60 handicap at Redcar the same month and finished the season with a respectable total of 25 winners.

Since then, it’s fair to say that his rise through the training ranks has been nothing short of meteoric. In 2011, O’Meara saddled 48 winners, including his first success at Group level, Blue Bajan in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown. In 2012, he saddled 69 winners, including Penitent in the bet365 Mile at Sandown and the Nayef Joel Stakes at Newmarket. In 2013, he saddled 100 winners in a season for the first time and has repeated that feat every season since.

O’Meara has developed a reputation for improving horses joining him from other yards. Indeed, his first Group 1 winner, G Force, in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock in 2014, was a 25,000 guineas castoff from Richard Hannon Snr.. Other notable winners include Amazing Maria, a one-time Classic hope for previous trainer Ed Dunlop, whom O’Meara saddled to win the Falmouth Stakes as a four-year-old in 2015 and Suedois, acquired from French trainer Christian Baillet as a five-year-old in 2016, who won the Shadwell Turf Miles Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky in 2017.

In August 2015, it was rumoured that O’Meara was taking over from Aidan O’Brien at Ballydoyle, but he scotched the speculation, saying, “I have never been approached by anyone at Coolmore regarding Ballydoyle. There is no substance to the rumour.” Nevertheless, in January 2016 he did move, to Willow Farm, a multi-million pound training facility in Upper Helmsley on the outskirts of York, to accommodate his growing number of horses.

Possible ‘dark’ horses to look out for in 2018 include the three-year-old colts Consequences and Safrani. The former, by Dandy Man, was found wanting in Listed and Pattern company last season, but signed off with an easy win in a small conditions race at Newmarket, while the latter, by the excellent young sire Lope De Vega, was well beaten, at 66/1, in a valuable maiden at York in August, but was subsequently gelded.

A day in the life of a horse trainer

Wednesday 19 August 2020

How to Open a Bet365 Account

Bet365 are regarded as the world’s leading online bookmaker and it therefore makes sense to consider having an account if you’re not already signed up. Customers regard bet365 as scoring high for all of the relevant categories, including competitive odds, range of markets, promotions, In-Play betting and Cash Out.

Many horse racing fans love to open bet365 account and enjoy all the benefits that go with this particular sport. This includes a bet credit bonus when you first get started along with the chance to enjoy further free bets on horse racing meetings, especially if you manage to back a few winners along the way.

When it comes to actually opening a bet365 account, this is a straightforward process which naturally involves clicking through to bet365 and clicking on “Join Now”. This will then take you to a registration page where you can fill out a few details and then go ahead and make your first deposit into your betting account.

Funding your account is a really simple process. You simply need to select a payment method such as a debit card or e-wallet method and then decide how much you want to deposit. The same method will generally be used when it comes to making future withdrawals too.

Now you should have a funded bet365 balance and you can start betting. As part of the registration process, there should also have been the opportunity to set deposit limits so that you can potentially have a maximum limit that you can put into your account on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

When you return to the bet365 website after opening a bet365 account, it’s a simple case of logging in with the username and password that you originally selected to bet. Your preferred payment method is generally saved which means you can easily utilise this to fund your account to make further deposits.

If you experience any issues opening a bet365 account, then you can simply head to the customer service department and contact someone through Live Chat, telephone or email address. They are very good at addressing any customer issues and will answer any questions that you might have.

We think having a bet365 account should be a basic requirement to make the most from your online betting and would recommend taking advantage of the bonus when you open an account.

Thursday 9 July 2020

Fergal O’Brien: Good, Better, Best

Limerick-born Fergal O’Brien spent 18 years under the auspices of Nigel Twiston-Davies, as head lad, before launching his own training career in 2011. Indeed, alongside his apprenticeship, he pursued a parallel career as a point-to-point trainer, winning the West Midland Area Trainers’ Championship in each of his last four years at Grange Hill Farm.

O’Brien was originally based at Cilldara Stud, a new, purpose-built yard, owned by National Hunt jockey, in Coln St. Dennis, near Cheltenham. He started with 30 or so horses but, in three and a half years, saddled 146 winners, including a remarkable 941/1 across the card treble in November, 2013. Following the victories of Alavarado and The Govaness at the Open Meeting at Cheltenham and Gunner Fifteen at Uttoxeter, O’Brien quipped, “I said to my wife I may as well shoot myself now as we won’t get many days better than this.”

In 2015, O’Brien moved his string back to Upper Yard, Grange Hill Farm, Naunton to become next door neighbour to Nigel Twiston-Davies and has continued to flourish ever since. In 2016/17, he saddled 60 winners and amassed £611,366 in prize money – far an away his best season so far – and, with 54 winners and £575,921 already banked in 2017/18, he’s on course for another personal best.

O’Brien has yet to saddle a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, although Barney Dwan went close when second of 24, beaten 3¾ lengths, behind Presenting Percy, in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle in 2017. However, O’Brien considers Barney Dwan, in the Close Brothers Handicap Chase, to be his best chance of a winner at the Festival once again this year. With a supporting cast that includes Cap Soleil in the Mares’ Hurdle and Colin’s Sister in the Stayers’ Hurdle, the Cotswolds trainer has plenty to look forward to.

One horse that O’Brien suggested worth following in 2017/18 is the 7-year-old Poetic Rhythm, who contested the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2017. The Flemensfirth gelding won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle on his reappearance at Chepstow, finished third, beaten 2½ lengths and a nose, behind subsequent winners On The Blind Side and Momella in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in November and won the Betfred Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury in December. After the latter success, O’Brien said, “That’s our first Grade 1 and I’m over the moon, obviously.”

Poetic Rhythm has already run in six point-to-point races and will, in time, be a three-mile chaser, according to his trainer. In the meantime, he is likely head back to the Cheltenham Festival for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, for which he is a top-priced 16/1.

Thursday 18 June 2020

Kim Bailey: Triumph and Disaster

Kim Bailey has had his fair share of ups and downs in his career. As a young man, he worked for the late Humphrey Cottrill and the late Captain Tim Forster, before spending three years with the late Fred Rimell, during which the training legend saddled Comedy Of Errors to win the Champion Hurdle, Royal Frolic to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Rag Trade to win the Grand National.

Coincidentally, Kim Bailey is the only current trainer to have won all three races, with Alderbrook in 1995, Master Oats in 1995 and Mr. Frisk in 1990. He also has the distinction of having saddled a winner at every National Hunt racecourse in the country.

Bailey started training, in his own right, in Lambourn, Berkshire in 1979 and, in his heyday, saddled 86 winners in the 1993/94 season. However, in 1999, he sold his yard in Lambourn and set up a new, purpose built, stable at Grange Farm, near Preston Capes, Northamptonshire. However, after a promising start, the project turned into an unmitigated disaster. In his first season, Bailey saddled just nine winners, a violent storm washed away his all-weather gallop and foot-and-disease prevented movement of his horses to his neighbours’ gallops.

Having reached “the lowest I ever got”, Bailey left Preston Capes in September 2006 and now has 50-box yard in Thornhill Farm, which covers 1,000 acres, in Andoversford, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He later reflected, “We moved to Gloucestershire with not as many horses as I'd like to have had – we moved with 27 or 28 horses – and they were the dregs.” The demise in his fortunes was reflected by the number of winners he saddled in the 2007/08 season – just three – but now safely ensconced in a state-of-the-art training facility in the heart of the Cotswolds, he has steadily fought his way back from the brink in recent seasons.

Of course, he’s had a few disappointments. Harry Topper, whom Bailey once described as “the best horse I’ve had since [Master Oats]”, won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby in 2013 and the Denman Chase at Newbury the following year, but never hit the heights originally anticipated. More recently, winning pointer Johnny Ocean, who Bailey hoped would be “an exciting one”, was pulled up on his first two starts under Rules in late 2017. Nevertheless, Bailey has saddled over 1,100 winners in his 38-year career, so while his current total of 38 winners for the 2017/18 season is some way below his best, it’s unlikely that he’s lost his knack.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

Ed Dunlop: Tragedy to Triumph

Edward Alexander Leeper Dunlop, usually known as “Ed”, is the son of John Dunlop, who saddled the winners of 10 British Classics in a 47-year-career as a trainer prior to his retirement in 2012. Dunlop Jnr. began his career in racing as pupil assistant to Nicky Henderson and subsequently spent three years as assistant trainer to Alex Scott before taking over the role of trainer to Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum at Gainsborough Stables in Newmarket under tragic circumstances. In September, 1994, Scott was shot and killed by a resentful stud groom, William O’Brien, and Dunlop was catapulted into the limelight.

He hit the ground running, though, saddling his first winner, Lynton Lad, in a small conditions stakes race at Yarmouth, within a month of taking over the training licence. He finished his first full season, 1995, with a respectable 17 winners and just under £183,000 in total prize money.

However, by the end of the following season, he’d saddled not just one Group 1 winner, but two. His first success at the highest level came with Ta Rib, owned by Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum, in the Dubai Poule D’essai Des Pouliches at Longchamp in May, 1996, and the second with Iktamal, owned by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, in the Haydock Park Sprint Cup the following September.

Dunlop progressed through the training ranks until, in 2001, he enjoyed his most successful season ever, numerically, thanks to a string of high-profile victories. His flag-bearer that season was Lailani, who won the Kildangan Stud Irish Oaks at the Curragh, Vodafone Nassau Stakes at Goodwood and the Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, New York.

However, the horse that really made his name was Ouija Board, who won 10 of her 22 races between 2003 and 2006, including seven Group 1 wins. Her winning tally included the Vodafone Oaks, the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (twice) and the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin. During her career, Dunlop said of her, “Having her outweighs everything. She’s changed my career, changed my life, changed [owner] Lord Derby’s life.”

Having moved to La Grange Stables on Fordham Road, Newmarket at the end of 2008, Dunlop enjoyed further success at the highest level with Snow Fairy. Between 2010 and 2012, the Intikhab filly won six Group 1 races, including the Investec Oaks, the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup at Kyoto, Japan (twice), the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin and the Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Olly Murphy: Jack of all trades

Formerly assistant trainer to Gordon Elliott, with whom he spent four years, Olly Murphy was still only 25 years old when he took out a combined training licence, in his own right, in 2017. Nevertheless, within a week of taking up the reins at Warren Chase Stables in Wilmcote, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, he had saddled two runners, and two winners. Dove Mountain, a six-year-old formerly trained by his mother, Anabel Murphy (née King), opened his account by winning a mile-and-a-quarter handicap at Brighton in July 4 and Gold Class, an eight-year-old and hitherto long-standing maiden over hurdles, doubled his tally by winning a lady amateur riders’ handicap at Market Rasen, under Bryony Frost, on July 9.

Obviously, it was always going to be difficult to maintain the flying start to his training career. Nevertheless, at the end of the 2017 Flat season, Murphy had saddled three winners from 23 runners, at a strike rate of 13% and, at the end of the 2017/18 National Hunt season, 47 winners from 250 runners, at a strike rate of 19%. Indeed, the latter season notably included victory Hunters Call in the Grade Three Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle at Ascot in December, 2017. The seven-year-old, ridden by Jack Kennedy, collected £85,425, which is the biggest single prize Murphy has won to date.

In subsequent seasons, Murphy has continued to saddle a limited number of runners on the Flat, predominantly on synthetic, or all-weather, surfaces, but his main focus has been on the National Hunt sphere. All told, in just over two years, Murphy has saddled a total of 158 winners under National Hunt Rules and amassed £1.29 million in win and place prize money. Other highlights of his fledgling training career, so far, have included winning the Listed Matchbook Time To Move Over Novices’ Hurdle at Kempton with Itchy Feet in October, 2018 and the Core Spreads Sussex Champion Hurdle at Plumpton with Fielsole in April, 2019. In between times, he also saddled Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet to finish second and third in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival; the former finished lame and the latter broke blood vessels but, collectively, the pair won £37,762.50 for their efforts.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Stuart Edmunds: In it for the long haul

Stuart Edmunds (homepage) has been based at Fences Farm in Tyringham, near Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire for the better part of four decades. He was previously assistant trainer to former Renee Robeson (née de Rothschild) before taking over the training licence following her death, at the age of 87, in 2015. Edmunds holds a combined licence, but it would be fair to say that his focus is on National Hunt racing and, despite operating just a small string, of thirty or so horses, has achieved some noteworthy success in that sphere.

In 2015-16, his first full season in charge, Edmunds saddled 16 winners from 93 runners, at a strike rate of 17%, and collected nearly£187,000 in win and place prize money. Highlights included victories for juvenile hurdler Wolf Of Windlesham in the Grade Two JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial at Cheltenham and the bet365 Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, which collectively netted over £48,000 in prize money. The 2016-17 season was less productive, yielding just nine winners from 77 runners, but they did include Edmunds’ first and, so far, only Cheltenham Festival winner, Domesday Book in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.

Nevertheless, Edmunds bounced back in 2017-18, saddling 23 winners from 121 runners – the highest seasonal tally of his short career – and collecting nearly £250,000 in prize money. It was a similar story in 2018-19, with 19 winners from 121 runners and just over £250,000 in prize money and, at the time of writing, Edmunds is enjoying decent form, with six winners from 41 runners and nearly £72,000 in prize money in 2019/20 so far.

In recent seasons, Edmunds’ most successful horses have been Maria’s Benefit and Queenohearts who, coincidentally, are both mares. Between January, 2017 and December, 2018, Maria’s Benefit won eight of her 13 starts, notably including the Grade Two Yorkshire Rose Mares’ Hurdle at Doncaster in 2018, and just over £100,000 in prize money. Queenohearts, now a six-year-old, has won four of her seven starts, including three victories at Listed and Grade Two level and amassed nearly £47,000 in prize.


Monday 16 March 2020

Kerry Lee: Like Father, Like Daughter

It's important to consider a trainer's credentials when you're considering Grand National 2020 horses to follow, and Kerry Lee is a good example of someone who had in the past, had her eye on this very prize. Kerry Lee is the daughter of former trainer Richard Lee, who retired, after a 29-year-career, in 2015. Kerry assisted with the running of The Bell House, the family stables in Byton, Herefordshire, close to the Welsh border, from a young age, but took over the licence in her own right at the start of the 2015/16 National Hunt season.

She trained her first winner as a trainer, Jayo Time, in handicap chase at Uttoxeter in September, 2015, but enjoyed her first major success with Mountainous in the Coral Welsh Grand National at Chepstow the following January. The race had been postponed two weeks earlier but, in hock-deep ground, Mountainous went clear over the final two fences and was driven out on the run-in to beat Firebird Flyer by an ever-dwindling 2½ lengths. “I think it’s absolutely beautiful ground,” joked Lee afterwards.

In so doing, Mountainous not only became the first horse since Bonanza Boy in 1989 to win the CoralWelsh Grand National twice, but completed a notable family double, having won the race for Richard Lee on his first attempt in 2013. At the time, Lee Snr. said of him, “From the moment he came into our yard as a 5-year-old, I said he was a Welsh Grand National horse.”

Winning the Coral Welsh National Grand National within six months of taking over the training licence was an achievement, in itself, but Kerry enjoyed the purplest of purple patches in the spring of 2016. Exactly seven days after Mountainous’ victory, she saddled Russe Blanc to win the Betfred Classic Chase at Warwick and, less than a month later, Top Gamble to win the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury.

Another week later, she achieved further high-profile success with Bishops Road in the Betfred Grand National Trial at Haydock and, not finished yet, rounded off a memorable campaign with wins for Kylemore Lough in the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase – her first Grade 1 success – and Top Gamble in the Normans Grove Chase in the space of 48 hours at Fairyhouse in March. At the end of her “rookie” season, Kerry had saddled 23 winners from 110 runners, at a strike rate of 21%, and earned £377,508 in total prize money. She sets lofty goals for herself as her aspirations to win the Aintree Grand National are well known.

Asked about her phenomenal run of Saturday successes, Kerry said, “People say that new trainers usually target smaller races, earlier in the week, but you’ve got to be a little bit bold, and that’s the way I am.”

Friday 28 February 2020

Horse Trainers with the knack for winning

Being a horse trainer can be a tough old slog. It's not simply a matter of turning up on the day. The very best trainers know exactly how to select and get the best out of their horses, through an almost forensic approach to racing. Dietary factors (much like their fellow humans – lots of fibre!), exercise plans and old fashioned TLC to avoid injury are all required to get the very best performance out of a horse. Then of course there are differences in approach based on the flat, or jumps, the going, and keeping track of the financial side of things is no mean feat either. It's all geared towards that one specific task of being a winner of Gordon Elliot proportions rather than an 'also ran' over the course of a season.

And make no mistake, winning any race of far from a formality and with that in mind, when as a punter, you manage to latch onto a horse trainer that knows his or her stuff, it can very much lead your betting bank in the right direction. While many punters limit their examination of a potential bet to the horses and jockeys involved, others pay keen attention to the trainer, an such factors as 'how well their horses perform first time out', 'at what betting odds they tend to excel at' (short prices vs outsider bets win rate etc) and so on. There is often a fine line between winning and losing and as such it pays (quite literally) to take into consideration as many relevant factors as possible before placing your bet. Some trainers are especially hard to bet against and oppose on the big occasion, such as Cheltenham or the Grand National.

Willie Mullins for example is a win machine at the Cheltenham Festival with a staggering 61 successes (and seven winners last year). Punters betting on his selections will have certainly made a pretty penny or two over the years. The Mullin's trained winner of the 2019 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Al Boum Photo is going for the double this year, and is currently 7/2 joint favourite along with Nicky Henderson's Santini. Even at relatively short odds, it's important to find good value bets, so is worth checking various bookmakers in order to choose where to bet on Cheltenham. Henderson and Mullins both have an exemplary record at the Festival and so it's no surprise that the betting public favour their horses to stand out from the rest of the field. The same applies to all big races and events, such as the Grand National and Royal Ascot. Don't overlook past form of not only the horses, but trainers too, when placing your bets.

If you ever take the time to delve into the data, it's actually quite surprising how few truly 'successful' trainers like Willie Mullins there actually are. That's in part due to the expenses and infrastructure needed to reach that point. The life of a small trainer on the other hand is not often an easy one, or one with many magic moments where everything just falls into place. On the other hand, when you're at the top of your game, like Michael Appleby on the flat, and in national hunt racing Dan Skelton (who has an impressive 40% place rate from over 3000 runs this season), you have the ingredients, know-how and track record for how to stay top of the pile. Even when all is equal between two horses, that trainer influence can very often be the deciding factor in winning or losing.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Jenny Pitman

Nowadays, Jennifer Susan “Jenny” Pitman OBE is best known as a novelist and, more recently, as a member of the disciplinary panel and licensing committee at the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). However, “Mrs P”, as she was affectionately – and, sometimes, less affectionately – known, has the distinction of being the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National.

Reflecting on the history victory of Corbiere in 1983, Jenny wrote in her autobiography, “I could hardly bear to watch, but I couldn’t turn away either.” Ridden by Ben de Haan, Corbiere jumped brilliantly throughout the 4 mile 3½ furlong-contest and, despite the desperate, last gasp challenge of Greasepaint, crossed the line three-quarters of a length in front.

Jenny saddled another Grand National “winner”, Esha Ness, in 1993, but he was called home by the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan as the winner of “the National that surely isn’t”. The Jockey Club was forced to declare the race void after the majority of the jockeys, including John White on Esha Ness, failed to realise a false start had been called. Jenny did, however, win a second Grand National with Royal Athlete, ridden by Jason Titley, in 1995.

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Seamus Mullins: Never Underestimate the Power of a Cousin

If his surname seems familiar, Seamus Mullins is, in fact, a cousin of perennial Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins. Seamus began his career in racing as assistant trainer to the late Toby Balding in 1981. He subsequently joined Jim Old and the late Jimmy Fitzgerald, trainer of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Forgive’N Forget, before setting up his own point-to-point training business in 1985. Seamus was also an accomplished amateur rider, famously winning the National Hunt Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on Boreceva, trained by Toby Balding, in 1989.

He started training with just one horse, a venerable maiden point-to-pointer, but gradually built up his business over the next few years. In 1991, he moved to Hatherden Stables, near Andover, Hampshire and took out his first public training licence in 1991. Seamus saddled his first official winner as a trainer, The Mrs – a mare formerly trained by his uncle, the late Paddy Mullins – in a novices’ hurdle at Nottingham in November, 1992.

However, in the early days, Seamus found winners hard to come by. In 1995, he moved to Wilsford Stables – part of the Lake Estate, owned by the Bailey family – in Amesbury, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, but it wasn’t until the 1997/98 National Hunt season that he reached double figures. In fact, that season he saddled 17 winners and earned just under £89,000 in total prize money.

It’s fair to say that Seamus hasn’t made too many headlines over the years, but he has trained or two “Saturday” horses, as Paul Nicholls likes to call them. In 2004, he saddled Kentford Grebe to win the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle Final at Newbury and See You Sometime to win the Noel Novices’ Chase at Windsor. Two years later, See You Sometime also won the Cotswold Chase at Wincanton and the United Gold Cup Handicap Chase at Ascot and, two years after that, Strawberry won the Mares Only Novices’ Chase Final at Newbury.

More recently, his best horse has been Chesterfield, a Pivotal gelding he “inherited” from John Ferguson, when the latter handed in his training licence to become chief executive and racing manager to Godolphin. In April, 2017, Chesterfield won the valuable Pinsent Masons Handicap Hurdle on Grand National Day at Aintree and completed a notable double for conditional jockey Daniel Sansom when following up in the QTS Champion Hurdle at Ayr two weeks later. In fact, Seamus is already enjoying his most successful season ever, numerically, in 2017/18, having saddled 28 winners and earned over £200,000 in total prize money for the second year running.