By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
Roger Teal has held a training licence since 2007 and is currently based at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn, where he has forty horses in training at peak times.
Roger’s interest in horse racing was through his mum, “I was born into it really. I was always brought up with horses and my mum trained a few point-to-pointers and then she had a permit.” His journey to training is a good example of starting at the bottom and working your way up, “I started as a lad after leaving school and then I rode as an amateur for a few years. Then, I went as an assistant trainer to Phillip Mitchell and I was assistant to Phillip for ten years – maybe fifteen, I can’t remember.” Mitchell was a very good amateur before starting training and is the father of talented jockey Jack Mitchell. Roger’s son Harry was a talented National Hunt jockey before retiring in February and now plays a big part at the yard as assistant to his father.
The Teal yard’s flagship horse of the past few seasons has been Tip Two Win. The grey son of Dark Angel made his debut in July 2017 with a win. Highlights of his two year old campaign were his second place in the Two Year Old Trophy at Redcar and when he won the Flying Scotsman, which Roger described as “a brilliant day because we really thought he had a great chance.”
Tip Two Win has been a regular runner over in Doha between English seasons and used it as a prep before the Guineas, “Doha was an opportunity that came up because we were going for the Breeders Cup at Del Mar, I think it was, when he didn’t actually make the cut. He was fit and well. Then, Adrian Beaumont from the International Racing Board flagged up this race in Doha and, because we’d had him ready to race, we thought, well, we’d give it a go as the prize money was good. He won out there and then we travelled back a month later and he won the local group two, as it was, out there”. Roger also had some good days abroad with Steele Tango, who won twice in Dubai and was a regular in France.
Tip Two Win got the yard’s name out there with a brilliant second in the 2000 Guineas behind Saxon Warrior. To even just have a runner in one of the classics was a huge deal for Roger and his team, “That was amazing. It was an amazing day – very exciting day. Obviously, he ran so well so it just put the icing on the cake.” Subsequently, the Anne Cowley-owned homebred has struggled to feature in top-tier races but he returns to the track as a five year old, “He’s back in training and we’re just waiting for racing to start. He’s working really nicely so we’re just waiting to get underway.”
One of the yard’s top performers from last flat season was Oxted. He won on his second ever start in April 2019 and ran well in some decent races before winning the Portland against older rivals in good style. In terms of this season, “Plans have been put in hold really. He was ready to run and we were hoping to run him in a group three or listed at Newmarket in April but obviously that has gone by. He’ll probably now be aimed at Royal Ascot, if that goes ahead. My main target with him is the July Cup at Newmarket.” The yard has big aspirations for this horse and his full brother (Mayson x Charlotte Rosina) has recently arrived at the Teal yard but “it’ll be a few months before he’s on the track.”
Roger is a dual purpose trainer, which means that he has horses that race under both codes. Ocean Wind was one of seven horses to run under National Hunt rules in the 2019/20 Season and was the flag bearer for the yard, taking them to the Cheltenham Festival. The Godolphin-bred son of Teofilo is a half brother to peak 155-rated chaser Three Kingdoms and two black type performers on the flat. Still a full horse, he won a bumper smartly in November before coming second to Audacity in the listed bumper on New Years Day at Cheltenham. He hacked up in a listed at Newbury before running a blinder to be sixth in the Champion Bumper. “After Cheltenham, he went for a break and we’ve just got him back in last week so he’s just started light exercise now and we’ll build him up to run on the flat. We’ll give him a spin on the flat and see how he copes with that. If he takes to the flat, as I’m sure he will, he’ll have to be handicapped before we make sure plans with him. If he hasn’t really got the speed for the flat, we’ll probably school him up and go novice hurdling next year.”
When asked of a two year old for you guys to follow when racing resumes, as well as saying Oxted’s full brother, Roger told me about a horse who had just been named Gussy Mac, “We’ve got a nice two year old that’s just been named Gussy Mac – the owner named him after his Grandad. He’s working nicely so he could be one to keep an eye on.”
Kenzai Warrior is an exciting three year old as he won both starts at two. He made all at Salisbury and then was a half-length winner of the Horris Hill, despite not getting a clear run. “Kenzai Warrior is our next Guineas hope. He was in the Guineas until they cancelled all the entries. His main target was the Guineas and he was also in the Derby, we’re hoping. He seems to have come on from last year and he’s very exciting for us so hopefully he can be our next big thing.” The BHA have released provisional plans for the Guineas to take place on the first weekend of June so hopefully we will see Kenzai Warrior in the race!
These plans are still not tied down to actually happening as we have to be mindful of wider problems outside of racing. Like most businesses, organisations and sports, horse racing is in limbo, waiting to get back underway. Roger’s thoughts on the best course of action are, “I think, our sport, we can run it behind closed doors. I think it would be a great morale boost for the public to have some live sport to watch. I think the country needs it, to be fair, and I think it would attract a new audience to us, as well, if we can get racing back on. Rather than people watching re-runs of FA Cups from twenty years ago and things like that, we should get some sort of racing on. They’re doing it in Australia and America and Japan and everywhere else so I think we can do it, as long as everyone is sensible, I’m sure we can do it as we run quite safely as well.”
Coronavirus is obviously the biggest issue facing the industry – and the world – at the minute but I always like posing the question “What is the biggest problem facing horse racing?” to the people I interview. Roger’s response was, “I think prize money has to be addressed. We’re supposed to have the best racing in the world but we seem to be behind all the other countries on prize money. I’d like to see that improved as it would help the owners and make racing more attractive for owning racehorses.” Prize money is often the answer which means that the authorities need to really consider this when racing is back in a stable position!
As Rein It In Racing is a website ran by young people, we always like to find out how industry professionals think we can get more young people into horse racing and Roger had an interesting take on that, “They’re putting on the concerts and everything racing and everything but, to be fair, not sure if that’s working or not because I think a lot of people are going there to watch the concerts. I think if we can jazz racing up a bit like they do with darts and do something like that with good presenters. I think it has picked up a lot in the last few years but if you just sort of make it more attractive for the youngsters to watch. I think now they’ve employed Chris Hughes off Love Island, and people like that, that is bringing the girls to watch it. With presenters like that, you can sell it more fun rather than the serious side. Obviously it has a serious side but if you can just jazz it up and market it a bit possibly.”
From speaking to Roger, you can tell how passionate he is about the sport and I’m really grateful for him taking time to speak to me. I wish him and his yard lots of luck when racing resumes and hopefully Kenzai Warrior can be a superstar!