4th Quarter Review- Breaking Records
Our final round up in 2017 is a very positive one and rightly so – as the season wore on it looked increasingly likely that we would exceed our previous best yearly total of winners (59 in 2003) and so it proved. Eventually we did it with ease, registering 67 winners from 320 runners or so at a strike rate that exceeded 21%. Those 67 winners included 7 at either Group or Listed level, with our strike rate in Listed races in excess of a very healthy 30%. 42 individual horses contributed to the overall winning total with fifteen of those horses winning at least twice. Unfortunately, we didn’t quite top the table of yards that sent out the most hat-trick winners in 2017 (that honour went to William Haggas with seven) but of the seven horses we had that won at least three races, five of those – Cribbs Causeway, Pow Wow, Ply, Time Chaser and Yellowhammer – managed to win three races on the trot and that achievement was only equalled by Roger Varian. It was a great year for prize money as we won £2.2m for our owners here and abroad and even finished 5th in the Irish Trainers’ Championship.
Sixteen individual jockeys rode winners for us with stable jockey Kieran Shoemark partnering the most of them, 28 winners from 150 rides; James Doyle rode 8 winners for us at an incredible strike rate of 50% while Andrea Atzeni, Ryan Moore and Jamie Spencer all managed at least four winners apiece at a strike rate of more than 25%.
Kieran will be with us again next year when he will also be joined by Adam McNamara. Kieran was very unfortunate not to be crowned champion apprentice this year. Cruelly, he lost out narrowly to David Egan after receiving an unlucky 10-day ban which almost certainly cost him far more winners than the single one he lost out by; it says a great deal for his ability and dedication that he dug in and made the contest so close after being so far behind when his ban ended. Adam will be replacing Paddy Pilley, who has done well for the team and now heads to Tom Dascombe. Adam burst onto the scene in 2016 when he was based with Richard Fahey and rode 56 winners but though he has found his opportunities drying up somewhat this year but he still managed to ride 29 winners at a similar strike rate to that he achieved last year, so he will be a very useful addition.
George Baker has decided to call time on his career after his horrific injury in St Moritz in March. We have been in close contact with George since his accident and George knew a while a go that he probably wouldn’t be race riding again, but it was good that he was able to use the dream of riding again to spur him on in his quest to return to full fitness. He has worked seriously hard and has recovered so well that he can lead the rest of his life like he would like to. George was a huge player at Beckhampton in the last 6 years, he and James Doyle used to come and ride work together and when James went to Juddmonte and then Godolphin, George was the obvious jockey to be our number one. He has incredible hands, horses always relaxed for him, and he had the patience and brain not seen in many jockeys.
He struggled with his weight, but managed it so incredibly well. He was the master in getting a horse from A to B in the most efficient fashion, and he had the canny habit of getting a horse up on the line without having to use his whip. As well as being a genius on the track, his help on the gallops at home was incredible. There have been some very good jockeys riding at Beckhampton since 1840 but I would be surprised if there were many better at riding work, with the feedback he was able to provide. He rode 164 winners at 20% in 2014, and hit 100 winners in 6 of the years he was riding. His final 4 years in the saddle, he was riding at a strike rate of 20%, 18%, 17% and 17%. His victories aboard Bated Breath, Al Kazeem, Thistle Bird and Quest for More will long stick in the mind. Aside from all the above he is a thoroughly decent guy who we miss seeing on a day to day basis, and we look forward to seeing him taking his career forward in different lines of work, once he decides which direction that is. He will be an asset to anyone.
The autumn period for us followed the same pattern as much of what had gone before earlier in the season– a steady stream of winners among whom perhaps the one that achieved most publicity was Withhold. We had a great deal of fun with Withhold as his homework told us he was a long way ahead of his handicap mark well before the entries for the Cesarewitch closed. He joined us from Charles Hills as a progressive stayer but it looked to us as if he had developed more speed, so we gave him a preparatory run over a mile and a half where, in finishing third behind two horses subsequently first past the post in Listed races, it only served to illustrate how much he had improved. In the Cesarewitch itself, backed as if defeat was out of the question, Withhold never looked like getting beaten with an inspirational ride from Silvestre De Souza, winning in a fashion rarely seen in a competitive handicap, let alone one with thirty-four runners in it. The handicapper has put Withhold up 12lb for that win, so exactly where we will go with him in 2018 isn’t yet certain, not least given that his new rating still allows us the chance of another crack at a handicap before taking in something better. The Melbourne Cup might well come into consideration.
Withhold winning at Newmarket
Second Step at Windsor
Second Step got his confidence back more and more as 2017 went on and never finished out of the first three. He was a good horse when he won his G1 in Germany for Luca Cumani and it would be great to get him back to that level, and there should be a lot to look forward to next.
Staying with the older horses, Decorated Knight was our star performer among the older horses, clearly, with three Group 1 wins to his name but he wasn’t able to cap a fairy-tale season with another in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. That wasn’t altogether surprising given that he had been in serious training very early in the year in a bid to get him ready for Dubai, but he ran well all the same over an unfamiliar trip and has now been retired at the Irish National Stud where he should prove very popular as a son of Galileo who was able to call on a devastating turn of foot at a mile and a quarter. His dam Pearling is a full sister to Giant’s Causeway (who also won the Irish Champion Stakes) and from the immediate family of classic winners Gleneagles and Marvellous, and the emerging Happily who is a dual G1 winner this year.
DECORATED KNIGHT (GB) At Beckhampton 28 September
Projection will be back with us in 2018 in a bid to win Group races. He showed that there’s not a lot between the top sprint handicappers and pattern-race performers by finishing second in the Group 3 Bengough Stakes having finished third in the Wokingham back in June. That Bengough run seemed to confirm that soft ground isn’t really an issue for him, for all soft ground at a fast-draining track like Ascot wouldn’t be the same as soft at Ayr. He clearly goes well at Ascot above all else and bearing in mind his owners like to have runners there the Diamond Jubilee is an obvious target next June.
Makzeem will also be back with us next season which we are pleased about as he has yet to show any signs his progression is stopping. Ryan (Moore) was adamant after Sandown early in the year that he wanted dropping back to seven furlongs and that advice ended up the making of him, finishing second in the Bunbury Cup before putting up a career-best effort at Newmarket on his penultimate run. His last race probably came too quickly for him but we are convinced he can make the step up to listed or pattern races next year.
Makzeem winning at Newmarket under Ryan Moore
Blakeney Point was a horse that did amazingly well for us this year. We began the year thinking he was a stayer, so started him over 2m at Kempton, but he showed in the Chester Cup he wasn’t cut out for long distances. Once we settled on a mile and a half as his trip he really came into his own, ending the campaign with back-to-back handicap wins at Newbury and Leicester. We have better races in mind for him next year like the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot or the Ebor makes obvious appeal.
Blakeney Point winning at Newbury
As far as the three-year-olds were concerned, it’s hard to think of any horse in training that improved more than Ply did in the period under review. He didn’t find his form until he was gelded midway through the season, but he couldn’t have been more impressive when smashing the track record at Kempton in September and it was a mark of how much he had improved in the meantime that he could win the Final there off a mark 17lb higher despite getting a long way back in a steadily-run race. He was sold just before that last run, so will be running in Dubai next year. Ply at Kempton
Another horse that landed a hat-trick and, like Ply, was better than ever right at the back end but happily will still be with us next season is Cribbs Causeway. One wouldn’t have thought that she would hit the heights she did when out of the frame in a small handicap at Bath on her handicap debut but five wins later she was ready for Listed company and acquitted herself very well from a bad draw when third to Daphne at Lingfield in the River Eden Stakes. Lingfield’s all-weather track would be plenty sharp enough for her and her target next year is a Listed win.
Cribbs Causeway at Kempton
Atty Persse lost his way in his last two runs, but subsequently a little niggle has been found which would have been affecting him. He is currently turned out at Godolphin and we look forward to having him back next year. He will stay well and is a very tough horse with ability, and he should make an impact at Stakes level.
Atty Persse after his Royal Ascot win
Yellowhammer at Newmarket with Kieran and Amy
Yellowhammer hasn’t yet had a crack at a Listed race but is pencilled in for one at Deauville just after Christmas over seven and a half furlongs. She did tremendously well considering she had some time off midway through the year and her ability to travel and then pull out more in a tight finish – she won two of her races by a nose, the other by three-quarters of a length – will always make her a difficult opponent to beat.
Natavia did well to win a listed race and has been retired to stud, where her looks and pedigree will stand her and Juddmonte in good stead.
Time Chaser was another filly that won three in a row. She retires to join the broodmare band at Juddmonte as well, whilst her full brother Time Test goes to the National Stud.
Time Chaser at Sandown
Thankfully, Magellan was bought back at the Autumn Horses in Training Sale by his owners. His Newcastle maiden win was achieved in better fashion than it reads in the form book and there should be plenty of improvement to come as he is 17.1 hh. He’ll benefit no end from some more time to mature over the winter. Casement is another whose best days are ahead of him. Kieran reported that he still felt extremely weak at Goodwood on his final run and he just needs time to strengthen.
Solar Cross at Windsor
Eynhallow left us to race abroad after being sold at the Horses In Training Sale for £300,000 which was a great result for his owners. So long as he gets a strong pace and fast ground he’ll give his new owners plenty of fun, as will Stone The Crows who has joined Iain Jardine so we’ll follow his progress with interest. Solar Cross and Comrade Conrad have gone to Australia and Dan Skelton respectively; the last-named might well make a decent hurdler.
Petitioner is another who should make good progress next year as he strengthens up, having won his maiden and placed second in a decent handicap.
Petitioner winning at Kempton
Gavota ended the season as the highest rated of our two-year-olds with a Timeform rating of 105p. We have mentioned before how she reminded of us of Fair Eva in her work prior to her debut, and she ended her first season rated nearly as high after finishing one place further back (third) in the Rockfel than Fair Eva did before finishing second in the Oh So Sharp Stakes. Gavota proved in the Oh So Sharp that her third in the Rockfel, where she faced a very stiff task from a poor position, hadn’t done her justice, but equally there are good grounds for thinking that she’s better even than she showed in the Oh So Sharp given that she ended up racing far away from the winner. She’s a light framed filly with a very long stride so we will have to see what 2018 brings, but she’s very tough and extremely athletic, qualities that will stand her in good stead as we search for some more prestigious Black Type.
Herculean is a long-striding horse and we are very much looking forward to next year. A late April foal, he’s a big, immature horse who was never going to have a hard time as a two-year-old and it might well be a blessing in disguise that he was pulled out of the Royal Lodge Stakes on what would have been his second run. As it is, he goes into the winter unbeaten in one run after landing a maiden at Ascot where he quickened up really well only to idle in front. We have high hopes for him and imagine he will be started off in a Classic trial.
Herculean at Ascot
Extra Elusive is another exciting prospect for 2018. He’s a natural athlete whowas only in light training in the summer –but he had put in some good work at home before making a winning debut at Newbury where the winning margin rather understated his superiority. He’s another that doesn’t have any immediate targets for next year but, as the saying goes, he could be anything.
Extra Elusive winning at Newbury
Blue Mist is a horse we like. He hadn’t done a lot of work at home when we took him to Kempton for his debut, but he won very well showing a good turn of foot. He followed that with a cracking effort at Newbury, running green in the closing stages having quickened to the front impressively. He’s an exciting prospect who on paper might be expected to stay a mile and a quarter, like his half-brother Countermeasure. Something like the London Gold Cup at Newbury which we have won with Imperial Aviator, Time Test and Al Kazeem would be on the agenda if a mile and a quarter does indeed prove to be his trip.
Blue Mist winning his maiden at Kempton.
Kassar could be a very useful three-year-old. He took us by surprise when winning what looks a deep race at Kempton on his debut at Kempton from stall 14 – one of only three horses we have found out since to have scored from that stall on their debut since 2012. The surprise was not for lack of ability, but that it was a good race and he had a shocking draw. By Exceed And Excel and already gelded, Kassar has plenty of stamina on the dams side of his pedigree and should come into his own at a mile and a quarter.
Buffer Zone was another winner for us at Kempton and it is still fresh in the memory how well he won. He’s been given an official mark of 83 and that shouldn’t be beyond him; indeed, he should make up into a useful sprint handicapper as he’s a good looker with plenty of size about him, so it’s not hard to see him being a different proposition next year. We hope he can add to Bated Breath’s good start to his stallion career.
We ran some inexperienced youngsters at the end of the season, several of whom ought to make up into useful three-year-olds. King Tut’s homework tells us he is better than he showed for varying reasons on either start while Great Beyond (a huge horse that will require a mile and a quarter). With 40 2yos unraced in the yard there are plenty of horses to look forward to for next year.