Saturday 4 November 2023

Horse Trainers: Creatures of Habit

I imagine if some trainers read this article they will be offended by being called a ‘creatures’. It’s not meant in a derogatory term. I like thoroughbred horse trainers from the smallest to the biggest stable. OK, I like the smaller stables a little better because I’m always rooting for the underdog. It’s a British thing, hey.

Anyway, whether creature or not, I respect your effort to train horses to win races. It can’t be an easy task.

In fact, I don’t think any armchair jockey, trainer or coach potato appreciates how difficult it must be to train a winner.

I really need a quote from a trainer here to hammer this point home.

I wonder what John Gosden would say?

‘It’s easy!’

Yes, that was my attempt at humour. I bet every trainer, at some point in their career, has felt the pressure of finding winners.

However, trainers are creatures of habit. It’s hardly surprising because we all have our own way of working. It’s human nature, if not the human condition.

I have researched two-year-old horse racing for decades. To be fair it is more like 30-years, so I consider myself knowledgable. And digging into the data for each and every trainer it’s surprising what you can uncover. If you have enough data you can see the peaks and troughs of a trainer’s season. There is a distinct pattern to how they work. This isn’t something that happens by luck or coincidence.

It is planned.

For example, if you look at a given trainer they may have all their debut winners in three months of the season. Some have 50% of all debut winners in one month. It’s often the same when you consider the starting price (SP) of many winners for an individual horse trainer. Some never, ever, have a horse win at speculative priced odds. In fact, some have never had a winner bigger than 5/1. This isn’t because the sample is small. Far from it. If you assessed this data by a statistical criterion it would be detailed as significant. That is pretty much a fact.

These two points are just the tip of the iceberg.

You will see pattern after pattern which shows why some horses win and others lose.

‘But what does this tell us?’

It very much indicates that winning is intentional. Now, you may be thinking surely every trainer is trying to win all the time. This simply isn’t true. There are times when the trainer doesn’t believe their horse is going to win. They aren’t primed to win. While there are other times when they are confident they have a live chance. This doesn’t mean that every horse that goes to the course with confidence will win. Other trainers may have exactly the same idea.

But there is a habitual way trainers work from the horses they buy, how they are trained, the intricacies of this working and how this may reflect in the betting of a horse whether winner or loser.

Learn the habits of a horse trainer and you will be a lot closer to finding a winner.

Those creatures of habit!

Wednesday 18 October 2023

Oliver Greenall

Formerly a successful amateur jockey, in the sphere of point-to-point racing and under rules, Oliver Greenall spent five years as assistant trainer to legendary North Yorkshire handler Mick Easterby before joining the training ranks in his own right. He launched his business, Oliver Greenall Racing, from his base at Stockton Hall Farm, near Malpas, Cheshire in 2015.

Greenall is a licensed trainer for Flat and National Hunt racing although, to date, his main focus has been on the latter. In that sphere, he enjoyed his most successful season so far in 2020/21, when he saddled 37 winners from 329 runners, at a strike rate of 11%, and amassed just over £303,000 in prize money. Indeed, in April, 2021, he collected his biggest single prize when the 4-year-old Herbiers, ridden by Paddy Brennan, won the bet365 Novices' Championship Final Handicap Hurdle at Sandown Park, worth £38,580 to the winner. By contrast, on the Flat, Greenall is yet to break into double figures in a season. His highest seasonal tally is six winners, which he achieved from 85 runners, at a strike rate of 7%, in 2017.

Sunday 17 September 2023

James Tate


A qualified veterinary surgeon, James Tate spent eight years in that capacity, two in mixed practice and six working for North Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston. He subsequently moved to his current base, Jamesfield Place in Newmarket, and took out a training licence in his own right in October, 2011. Shortly afterwards, he became a private trainer for Rabbah Bloodstock, the company founded by Sheikh Mohammed to manage the racing interests of his friends and associates/

Tate saddled his first winner, Dark Falcon, for high-profile Emirati owner Saeed Manana at Southwell in December, 2011. After just one winners from five runners in his inaugural season, he increased his winning tally to 21 in 2012 and 62 in 2013. He would not surpass that seasonal total until 2019, when he enjoyed his most successful season so far, with 72 winners and over £926,000 in prize money. That year, he expanded his training operation with the purchase of Cavendish Stables, formerly occupied by Alan Bailey, in Newmarket.

By that stage Tate had already saddled his first Pattern race winner, Invincible Army, in the Group 3 Sirenia Stakes at Kempton in September, 2017. Invincible Army would also become the first Group 2 winner for the yard, in the Duke of York Stakes at York in May, 2019. All told, Invincible Army won six of his 19 races and over £371,000 in prize money. Tate has yet to saddle a Group 1 winner, but his career tally, so far, is over 400 winners and over £4 million in prize money in ten seasons, the last of which is far from over.

Wednesday 17 May 2023

Michael Dobs

Michael Dods took over the training licence at Denton Hall in Piercebridge, near Darlington, Co. Durham in 1990, following the death of his father, Dickie. After a modest start, Dods increased his winning tally season-by-season and is now established as one of the most consistent trainers in the North of England. He has saddled at least 39 winners in each of the last ten seasons and, in 2017, enjoyed his best season so far, numerically, with 62 winners.

Dods saddled his first Pattern race winner, Barney McGrew, in the Group 3 Chipchase Stakes at Newcastle in 2010. He recorded his first Group 1 victory courtesy of Mecca's Angel in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York in 2015 and his second courtesy of the same horse in the same race the following year. Two seasons later, Dods saddled Mabs Cross to win the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp for the third Group 1 victory of his career. Indeed, in 2018, won over £827,000 in prize money domestically and over £1 million worldwide.

In recent seasons, Dakota Gold has been the standard bearer for the yard, winning two Listed races in 2019 and three more in 2020, plus the Group 3 Bengough Stakes at York. Now a 7-year-old, Dakota Gold has been an excellent servant to connections down the years, winning 13 of his 39 starts and nearly £370,000 in prize money.

Monday 3 April 2023

David Loughnane

Originally based in Nawton, North Yorkshire, David Loughnane started his training career in early 2016 and moved to his current base, Helshaw Grange, in Market Drayton, Shropshire later that year. Loughnane, 34, spent five years in Australia in his early twenties, where he worked in various roles, including for the late Bart Cummings and his son, Anthony, in Sydney and Paul Messara in Scone, a.k.a. 'The Horse Capital of Australia'.

A dual-purpose trainer, who counts former Grand National winning trainer Steve Brookshaw as a member of his staff, Loughnane has made a succesful start, gradually increasing his winning tally season-by-season. Indeed, he enjoyed his most successful season, numerically and financially, in 2020, with 41 winners and over £362,000 in prize money. The highlight of that season, and his career so far, was the victory of the 2-year-old filly Santosha in the Group 3 Princess Margaret Betfred Stakes at Ascot in July.

In 2021, his highest-rated horse, and highest single earner, so far, has been the 5-year-old mare Fizzy Feet, who has won handicaps at Lingfield and Windsor and was only beaten three-quarters of a length in the All-Weather Fillies' And Mares' Championships, also at Lingfield. Another horse to note is the 5-year-old gelding Tranchee, who is 1-2 on the all-weather so far in 2021, but whom Loughnane believes has 'a big pot on him'.

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Martin Keighley: Cheltenham Specialist

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.”