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.

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