Sunday, 28 March 2021

Jedd O’Keeffe: Staying Power

Jedd O'Keeffe
John Eamon Declan Dunderdale O’Keefe, known universally as Jedd, is in the enviable position of training Sam Spinner, who is currently 5/1 favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018. Bought for 12,000 guineas as a 3-year-old, the son of Black Sam Bellamy has won five of his seven races over hurdles including, most recently, the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot, and amassed over £142,000 in total prize money. O’Keefe said recently, “It’s very exciting for all of us in a small stable to have a real star, and I’m really grateful it’s happening as it is.”

Of course, O’Keeffe is no stranger to the winners’ enclosure, having saddled 148 winners on the Flat and 36 winners over Jumps in his career to date but, with a few obvious exceptions, has lacked the firepower to make much of an impact at the major meetings. Sam Spinner aside, the highlights of his career, so far, were the victories of Shared Equity in the Coral Sprint Trophy at York in 2015, More Mischief in the Betfred Mobile/EBF Hoppings Stakes at Newcastle in June, 2017 and Lord Yeats in the Betfred Fred Archer Stakes at Newmarket the following month.

O’Keefe served an eight-year apprentice, as pupil assistant, travelling head lad and assistant trainer to Micky Hammond, before applying for a training licence in his own right. He moved into Highbeck Lodge and Stables, which is part of the Brecongill Estate, in Coverdale, in the extreme east of the Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire in 2000. At that time he had just three horses – the minimum number allowed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) – but saddled his first winner, Route Sixty Six, in a novices’ hurdle at Musselburgh the following January. From small beginnings, by honest, old-fashioned hard work, O’Keefe gradually increased his number of horses in training, to an average of 20 or so over the last decade.

In 2011, O’Keefe underwent an intensive course of treatment for throat cancer and although he recovered, his business very nearly did not. He later recalled, “Though I’d finished the treatment, I was still very ill, and needed staff to cover. With the cost of all that, and the financial crisis, we felt we couldn’t go any further, and rang the owners to say we were giving up.” Thankfully, he did not and now, with Sam Spinner just one of 45 horses in his yard, can hopefully look forward to a happy, healthy and profitable future.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Who will win the Prestbury Cup in 2021?

If there's one racing event that really grabs the interest of racing fans, it's the prestigious Cheltenham Festival. The same applies for trainers too of course, with the Prestbury Cup being a prime example of how competitive racing can get, not just between individuals, but between nations too. Ireland have ruled the roost in recent years when it's come to picking up the Prestbury Cup, but what will the story of 2021 be? As a fun way of getting into the Cheltenham Festival spirit West Ham players representing both Ireland and Great Britain duke it out in a jovial Betway racing quiz presided over by none other then Richard Hoiles.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Roger Charlton: A Marathon not a sprint

Veteran trainer Roger Charlton has been based at historic Beckhampton Stables, near Marlborough, Wiltshire since 1978. Initially employed as assistant trainer to Jeremy Tree, Charlton spent 12 years in that role before finally taking charge of the yard in 1990, after his predecessor was forced to retire, due to ill-health, at the end of the 1989 season.

Remarkably, in his first season in charge, Charlton saddled Sanglamore, owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah, to win the Prix du Jockey Club, otherwise known as the ‘French Derby’, at Chantilly and, three days later, saddled Quest For Fame, in the same ownership, to win the Derby at Epsom. Of course, winning two of the most prestigious and valuable races in Europe within the space of 72 hours can hardly be described as a ‘flash in the pan’ but, subsequently, in the best part of three decades, Charlton has yet to train another Classic winner.

He does, however, have no fewer than 17 Group One victories to his name. Aside from Sanglamore, who also won the Prix d’Isphan, back at Chantilly, as a four-year-old in 1991, other notable achievements in the first half of his career included winning the Sprint Cup at Haydock twice, with Tamarisk in 1998 and Tante Rose in 2004, and Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp twice, with Patavellian in 2003 and Avonbridge in 2005.

More recently, in 2013, Al Kazeem flew the flag for the yard, winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh, Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on successive starts. Indeed, the Dubawi colt proved he was no back number when winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup again, as a seven-year-old, in 2015. More recently still, in 2017, Decorated Knight had an equally productive campaign, winning the Jebel Hatta at Meydan, Tattersalls Gold Cup and Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown.

Listed and Pattern races aside, Charlton also has an enviable record in so-called ‘heritage’ handicaps, including the Stewards’ Cup and the Totesport Mile, both at Goodwood, which he has won three times apiece. He was also won the Cambridgeshire and the Bunbury Cup, both at Newmarket, twice, and the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot twice, among other high-profile successes.