Chatting With… Megan O’Brien

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By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Megan O’Brien is the racing manager for Titanium Racing, an affordable racing club, and she also works for owners John and Jess Dance. I was lucky enough to interview her to give our readers an insight into life as a racing manager for a racing club.

Titanium Racing is a racing club rather than a syndicate in order to keep costs down and make it more affordable to get involved in, “There’s no buy-in fees. You just have set monthly payments but we spread it across four or eight horses so that, if one of them was injured or one of them needed a break, members could have more than one horse running for them so they’ve still got an interest,” Megan told me. This racing club sounds really exciting to be involved in because, as Megan said, you get a full ownership experience, “They get prizemoney; owners badges when any of the horses they’re involved in run; we do member days; stud visits; sales visits and yard visits – all sorts really.”

There are a whole host of people involved, “We’ve got some really good members, who are like proper racing enthusiasts. Also, we’ve got people from Glasgow, Aberdeen, local like Newcastle and Yorkshire and as far south as Aldershot and stuff so we span the entire country really. We’ve got people involved who are abroad so it is a good mix of people.”

So, how did Megan become a racing manager? Like a lot of people, her interest was initially sparked through her Grandad, “He was a massive racing fan and I used to spend my weekends round at his watching it with him. One weekend, it just sort of clicked and I thought that’s pretty good and I want to be involved in that somehow and that’s it really.” Megan worked in racing at stud farms and yards from when she left school at 15, “Then, I moved back up North and I started working in a betting shop. I was a betting shop manager, didn’t really enjoy it and then I had a share in a horse at Becky Menzies’ and I got to know John [Dance]. Then, one day, I just happened to say to him I’d love to get back working in racing but like more admin than working in yards and that was it. I just started working for him from then. That was three and a half years ago now. It has been a crazy few years.”

I was interested to know what the role of a racing manager included and Megan explained, “I send out updates, daily if I can or weekly; organise badges when there’s runners; meet them at the races and make sure everyone is alright and they’ve got whatever they want for the day; organise trips to the sales; I do competitions; we’ve got a WhatsApp group; I organise stud visits, stable visits and the member days, which are crazy.”

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Some of the Titanium Racing members. 

For Megan, one of the highlights of the job are the ‘Member Days’, “We use John [Dance]’s hospitality box at the races and they pay a set amount and that covers their meal, drinks for the day and entry. And we just have a really good day. I decorate the room and like get flowers and stuff and balloons and what have you. It’s good fun.”

It has always been important to Megan that the racing club would showcase the whole of the industry and allow people to be involved with the horses for the duration of their careers, “What I try and do is get people involved and follow a horse from the beginning of their career and to the end of it and different things like that. So, experience going to the studs and seeing them as foals so you can follow them right the way through. Like going to the sales and experience what it’s like at the sales because not many people get the opportunity to do that or think that they can do that so we’re showing people the industry for what it is, not the perception of what it is.”

The coronavirus lockdown has meant that racing had to stop and then only a limited amount of owners are allowed to go to the racecourse so it was Megan’s responsibility to keep the owners involved and interested, “When we had Flav [Flavius Titus] running at Royal Ascot, I did like a Zoom meeting and some of us got dressed up and we had champagne over zoom and things like that. It was really good fun. It was kind of like being at the races with them to an extent, in a weird way. It was good fun – we enjoyed it. It’s just doing different things like that and keeping people feeling as if they are involved still and are not necessarily missing out on stuff.”

Flavius Titus was bought by the team at the Horses In Training Sale out of Roger Varian’s yard, “He’s gorgeous. April, who looks after him, absolutely adores him and she does an amazing job – she’s absolutely fantastic. That’s another thing we actually like to get to know the stable staff who look after the horses as well because we appreciate what they do and all the members would have chats with them. It’s getting them involved as well so they feel valued.”

Titanium Racing has a few really promising horses involved in the racing club – Moonbootz in particular, “He made his debut on the 10th June at Wolverhampton and he was effectively beaten on the line – another stride and he would’ve won. He’s had a few little niggles which is why he didn’t run at two but his whole family have seemed to progress with age. He chased down a John Gosden horse and they pulled well clear of the rest so hopefully he’s going to be a nice horse to follow down the line.”

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The club has a few horses with Rebecca Menzies and one that Megan picked out for me was Twisted Dreams, who is by an American stallion called Twirling Candy, “He’s had two runs. He ran at Haydock and Cam Hardie rode him. He really wants a straight track and really didn’t handle coming round the bend. He ran well – we were really pleased with him. Then he went to Thirsk and he raced freely. Basically, he was about ten lengths clear coming round the bend like in the Derby just on a smaller scale. We were actually really pleased with him. He finished mid-div. we do think a lot of him. Obviously, we’re going down the handicap route. It might be that he wants a mile and two in time and his family in America seem to progress a lot with racing.”

Tough Remedy is the last remaining horse left in the racing club from when it began, “We’ve had him in the club since he was a yearling and he is five now. He’s a little star. He’s been really good for us; he’s won four times. He’s took us all over and he’s much better on the All Weather than he is on turf. He’s starting to look well-handicapped. We just need to sort of unlock the key to him again. We moved him from Keith Dalgleish to Becky to see whether that would reignite something and he did really well for us at Kempton at the start of the year. He finished third but does tend to need a lot to fall right. He needs a fast pace that collapses so it’s just trying to get into a race that will allow things to fall right for him.”

One horse that Megan will be hoping is a good horse is Holy Endeavour, who she picked out at the sales, “We’ve got a beautiful filly with Richard Fahy – a two year old filly by Holy Roman Emperor. We bought her from Book One and we think she might prove to be a bargain. She’s from a good Juddmonte family. She’s got a beautiful temperament so hopefully she’ll be out soon.”

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One of the Titanium Racing horses going around the parade ring. 

Megan has her own racehorse, Waiting For Richie, affectionately known as Richard, in training as part of the Love To Race Partnership. He’s currently on his holidays with Megan’s sister Alice, who breeds and pin-hooks horses ready for the sales, “I knew there would be no races for him even when we came back and it has proved me right because there hasn’t been the whole time. Since racing resumed, there hasn’t been a single race that he could’ve ran in so I was so glad we took him out. He probably thinks he’s retired now. He’s going to have a culture shock when he goes back into training!” Richard was bought last year for just £800 and he’s a seven-year-old stayer – but there’s no hope of him going jumping because “he won’t go over coloured poles”. Megan has already asked his groom if she’d like to have him when the time comes to retire him.

The handling of ex-racehorses is something Megan picked up on as a problem within the sport, “A lot should be done with regards to the rehoming of racehorses and having more regulation so they can be traced. The rehoming centres and sanctuaries that are there should get a lot more support. I’d actually be all for owners having to pay a little bit extra each month to go into a pot to make sure horses are catered for at the end of their career no matter what. I can’t see an issue with something like that happening. I think a lot more can be done in that respect just so that horses don’t get lost in the system and passed on to just anyone. There are a lot of rehoming paces out there that do do the proper checks and make sure and match them to the right person and there’s a lot more that could be done to support those because they don’t get a lot of help, monetary wise, and its not cheap to do those sort of things.”

Megan also mentioned that transparency and prize money are important things that there needs to be more done for, “Prize money is a big thing. Transparency is too – where the cash that is going in, where that’s going in, what is happening with it.” It’s kind of a bit Robin Hood-esque – the rich take and the poor get nothing. Why do the rich need to get any richer? It should be spread more evenly across the board. I don’t want to say the top-end would be fine with reductions in prize money in the bigger races, they wouldn’t be. I think, for now, given the circumstances and what is going on, there has got to be a bit of give-and-take so I can’t see why some of the prize money from the bigger races couldn’t be distributed further down the line.”

If you are interested in joining Titanium Racing, you can either get in touch with Megan (@megz_obrien on Twitter) or directly to @titaniumracing_ on Twitter or Facebook. Make sure to visit their website titanium-racing.co.uk, which has all the details on.

I’d like to thank Megan for talking to me and answering my questions. We had a really lovely chat and I hope you all enjoyed this article!

Chatting With… Stuart Matheson

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By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Stuart Matheson is the owner of Abacus Bloodstock, a small stud based in Staffordshire. At the stud, they breed their own horses and provide boarding, sales prep, rest and recuperation, backing and retraining. They also give pedigree advice and do some transport work.

Stuart has had an interest in horse racing since he was a child, “I think as a kid it was always a family event to watch the Grand National, like it is today, and we used to put 10p each way on our chosen horses, which my Dad would go and place at the bookies.  Something I did when my kids were younger too.  Mum always loved the occasion of racing and I remember going up to the Ebor Festival at York when I was 9 or 10.  We went down to the old saddling area and outside the jockey room you could get all the autographs.  I remember Willie Carson stopping for a chat and then he called over Joe Mercer and Greville Starkey to make a real fuss of me – we were going through a rough time and I realised that these people were so kind and wanted to share their sport – and I was hooked.  I blamed Willie for that last time I saw him at the sales – he is still a hero.”

Also, Stuart grew up around horses as his mum’s family were involved with them and they bred some sport horses, which gave him an interest in breeding, “When my first racehorse retired my wife and I decided to breed from her and that was it.  We have grown the breeding from her and the mare, Fangfoss Girls produced winners from day one.  She is still with us, 11 years later.  Sarah, my wife, had horses from an early age so we both found it an easy decision.”

Stuart and Sarah have bred quite a few winners and Stuart told me “there’s no feeling like it” when they win. “Particularly when they win over the distance you bred them for, and all that hard work and decision making is vindicated.” he continued, “We find it perhaps even better when the horse is owned by other people as we have given them the thrill we feel, and hopefully added owners to the sport.  We keep in touch with all our horses where we can, and sometimes the trainers or owners will contact us about an issue or problem and, as we bred them, we can help with some of their behaviours or family traits.  We have solved issues in a few minutes which may have taken months to solve otherwise – all because we have known them since birth.”

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Fangfoss Girl has proved herself to be their best broodmare with her two sons by Mullionmileanhour, Pancake Day and Roll On Rory, winning multiple races. Pancake Day won five races from forty-two starts and placed a further seven times. Roll On Rory won seven races from thirty-six outings and placed five times. Deservedly, Stuart is very proud of them, “We are proud of all our horses but these two were our first real successes.  Amazingly, though full brothers, they preferred different surfaces and raced over different distances.  Pancake Day was in the money 24 times, and for such a little horse, he fought like a tiger over sprint distances.  Rory was a different horse; he won the same amount of races as his brother but at a higher level – first foal versus second foal I suppose.  He took us to Royal Ascot and won at both Newmarket tracks.  I think they were so tough that they were perhaps over-raced in their careers but they also loved the work and of course when a horse is on form then you race it – their owners did the right thing and knew when to retire them.  Both boys, like their mum, have an ability to tell you when enough is enough.  They both won at least once in every year they raced.  Pancake now lives with us having been retired by his owner, and Rory is loving life in Yorkshire where he is eventing.  They are both testaments to how well racehorses can be retrained to do other jobs.”

Stuart contributed to my ‘A Life After Racing’ article, which celebrates ex-racehorses, talking about Pancake Day and I was keen to ask him about why he thinks thoroughbreds are such good horses to retrain, “As far as the suitability for retraining, the thoroughbred is probably the most compliant breed of horse you will find.  They are the collie dog of the horse world – sometimes a little flighty or prone to excitement, but loyal and eager to please – and to learn.  When they leave racing they can be quite institutionalised and of course are fed high energy feeds – this gives them a certain reputation, but this only lasts a few weeks or months.  They do not just switch off, and breeding teaches you the importance of time when dealing with horses.   Gradually changing their diets, keeping them interested by doing new things and leading them in new directions – above all reassuring them – all of this will deliver a good all-rounder, and of course they are retiring when many other breeds are perhaps only just starting, so you have all that expertise and maturity already there.  They are very competitive also, and therefore if their new owner wants to compete at any level, at any equine sport, then they will have a head start. Horses we have bred have gone on to being high class eventers; as with Roll On Rory, showjumpers, team-chasers or just riding and companion horses.  These rehoming charities, and increasingly trainers who spend time on the issue, are a must if we are to win the welfare argument.”

To make sure the horses they breed get the best retirement possible after their careers on the racetrack, Abacus Bloodstock always ask the owners of any horses they breed to contact them to help with rehoming when the time comes, “We have a good network to help them – and as we breed good mannered horses, they are always easier to rehome.” I also wanted to know whether Stuart considers owners to have a responsibility to find homes for their horses when they retire them, “Whoever owns the horse, and therefore benefits from it as a racehorse through its career, should be responsible for the care of it when it retires.  As breeders that is easier of course as we may have the space to accommodate them, and indeed they may be used for breeding – for owners that is more difficult, particularly as we see an increase in syndicates.  Nonetheless, there should be a requirement for owners and their trainers to set up a form of pension fund, maybe regulated through the BHA or another organisation, to ensure horses have a good life after racing.  If you own a horse, you own a responsibility to them.”

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Picking the right stallion for each mare is also crucial as Stuart explained, “We use a mixture of stallions based upon the best fit for our mares.  We gave up trying to breed what we thought would be commercially attractive horses simply because fashion changes and a stallion can go from hero to zero in the time between covering and selling the foal. We have used Telescope for his exploits on the flat – he is a beautiful looking horse although a slow burner of course, but if he was in a stallion parade you would pick him out every time.  We also used Poet’s Word and the 2020 foal by him (a half-sister to Pancake and Rory) is a gorgeous creature – another one we will try to race ourselves, and an example of how a group 1 winning flat stallion can be written off even before his first foals are on the ground.  We have used Pearl Secret as he is a stunning looking horse and is from a rare stallion line – something I think as breeders we should try to preserve. With the new Great British Bonus that the Thoroughbred Breeder’s Association have just launched, using UK based stallions has to be a must as it gives owners and breeders real rewards at a time when the industry is short on profit and returns.  Mayson is looking like a very sound bet with his recent offspring so will be on the list for next year and we will wait and see what the market looks like following the coronavirus.  There will be value for sure – there will have to be if the industry is to survive.”

The coronavirus has had a huge impact on all businesses but, for Stuart, it hasn’t been as big as it could’ve been, “We had decided to take a year out of covering our mares this year anyway, so we had decided that before the virus broke.  Owners have been so patient and we have been lucky enough to sell two of our yearlings privately – albeit for little if any profit, but certainly without the expense of sales entries etc.  Whilst we could not furlough as, of course, we have to keep running the farm and tending the horses, we have had to cut back on unnecessary expense, and some of our suppliers have been very understanding.  On a positive side we live in a gorgeous place and can walk around without leaving the stud – which makes us so much more fortunate than many.  I think the virus could prove positive if we all use it as a chance to reset and learn from the positives.  I fear we will just revert to the old ways but I do hope we can all learn and improve for the future.”

Breeding horses is never straight forward, ““The disappointments in breeding are rarely to do with the horses, and almost always about the money.  It is a lifestyle choice, and dependant for many, including us, upon having a second income stream outside the industry.  Breeders are a great community and there is no other part of the racing industry where this shared experience leads to the levels of empathy and understanding you will find with breeders.  I hate the sales as they invariably lead to disappointment, although I love the event itself and the chance to meet fellow breeders.  For me, meeting owners and making them part of the journey of their horse from when we bred them, and into racing is a real positive too – and as I said, when they win it is a great feeling.”

“Breeding is a real lottery- not as you might think because you never know what you are going to breed because if you have a good eye for a pedigree then you should be OK.” Stuart told me, “The risk is in the ups and downs of the industry where stallions are written off so readily, and their progeny suffer as a result.  Small breeders appreciate we cannot breed horses to sell for many thousands, but when the industry keeps demanding more horses to populate the growing fixture list, we would like to see some return.”

Prize money has been a huge talking point of late and something that not just the trainer and owners feel the effect of – the breeders do too, “Owners and breeders are the foundations of the sport and without them all the other stakeholders cannot exist or earn a living.  Sadly however, 70% or more of breeders operate at a loss and owners race for prizemoney which, even if they won a race a month would barely cover their costs.  The funding model in UK and Irish racing means that amateurs fund an industry whilst professionals take the proceeds – and that cannot be right. The racecourses and bookmakers must learnt that without racing due to the virus, they have lost so much money.  Imagine then if the supply of horses and of owners dried up.  That would kill their businesses and therefore they have to share more of their profits, and the racing authorities must ensure prize money is better distributed across all levels of racing, in order to ensure these large profit hungry organisations can be fed.

“We do not resent them making profit – but not at the expense of owners and breeders. During the lockdown, owners have continued to pay their bills and now they are being left out in the cold – unable to attend races in any worthwhile way, unable to visit their horses or discuss tactics with the jockey at the races and left in empty grandstands with no refreshments, unable even to touch or stroke their expensive investment.  We are already seeing owners and breeders leaving, and this is just adding to it. People will be reducing their expenditure as we enter a likely recession and the combination of the way owners are being treated, and represented, as well as the age-old funding problem, will see a major challenge in the coming months and years.  As a breeder that has to be a concern.”

As Rein It In Racing is a site for young people, I always like asking my interviewees about how we can get more young people interested in our great sport, “From an industry viewpoint, we need to ensure that employment opportunities are there which offer an element of education – not just labour.  For a young person coming into the industry, they see posh training establishments or studs with land and facilities and think they could never afford that – so perhaps they stick around for a few years, or, if they are happy, they will stay on but with few if any chances of promotion or becoming the boss of such places.  However, the lifestyle and security of having a wage and perhaps accommodation, which is sometimes better than the owner of the business, should not be dismissed.  From a breeding viewpoint, the work hours can be relatively sociable – unless we are foaling – and the surroundings very nice to live in.  I have always worked in industries where the passing of the baton to the next generation is important and we have to capture that in the racing industry.”

I would like to thank Stuart for his time and for answering my questions. I hope you all found this insight into the life of a small breeder really interesting! Make sure to check out Stuart’s website abacus-bloodstock.co.uk, follow him on social media @stumat and email with any enquiries on stuart@abacus-bloodstock.co.uk

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Chatting With… Martin Smith

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Martin Smith (right) with Richard Johnson in the racing club colours. 

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Last week, I was lucky enough to have a really interesting chat with Newmarket-based racehorse trainer, Martin Smith. Martin holds both a flat and National Hunt licence and he has fifteen horses currently in training, but room for thirty.

Martin has always been involved in horse racing, “I was born into it. My dad [Allan Smith] was a trainer and encouraged me into it. I really wanted to be a pilot when I was a kid but from when I was about eleven I started going down the yard and doing bits on weekends and then, when I got to about thirteen, I’d ride out a lot before I went to school and, if I was late riding out, I’d have to go to  school in my riding clothes which wasn’t much fun.”

On his journey to becoming a trainer, Martin did “everything” but he was a jockey in Belgium, where he grew up, first, “I got an apprentice licence just before my fifteenth birthday so I rode my first winner when I was still fourteen. I got a little bit heavier and I went jumping and was a conditional jockey.”

That first win was on a horse called Jeroboam and he sounds like a fantastic horse, “I remember a week before, me and my dad were both riding in the same race and Dad won that race on Jeroboam and exactly a week later I rode my first winner on the same horse. That was amazing – you never forget your first winner.” So, a family favourite? “He was! My brother won on him as well. For some reason, everyone won on him once and I don’t think anyone ever won on him twice. He was my first ride in England as well. That was a good day. I must’ve been about seventeen by then. It was at Lingfield on New Years’ Eve and, I’ll never forget, I came into the straight and one had gotten away so I was just pushing out for second and next thing, with about a furlong to go, Frankie Dettori comes flying past me and caught the front horse on the line. I was just blown away.”

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Jeroboam and Martin after his first win in Belgium. Martin’s dad Allan is wearing the tie. 

Until the age of 21, Martin rode as a jockey but it got to the point where he wasn’t getting the rides, “Even though, when I did get a ride they’d run well, they didn’t necessarily get me any more rides. I think I went about six months without a ride and I thought I’d struggled hard enough for long enough so I gave up.” Martin had a break for a year and did normal jobs before returning and working as a pupil assistant, assistant trainer, head lad and did a lot of traveling horses.

Martin took out his English Dual-Purpose training licence in 2013 and his first winner was Boris The Bold in November 2013, “We’d bought him fairly cheap in the February Sales. He was doing okay until when he injured his tendon. Eventually, we got him back and, when he came back, he went in and won for us. That was the first winner. He was a little horse and I used to be assistant trainer to John Best before I started training and he was at John’s so I knew the horse and I knew his background and he didn’t have the greatest start in life so it was nice to be able to give him a chance. We looked after him well and he’s rewarded us.” This momentous win was Boris The Bold’s last race after he injured the leg again and was retired but he seems to be enjoying his retirement, “Now, with the woman who’s got him, she’s had him about six years and he keeps popping up on Facebook and Instagram and is living the life of riley.”

You can get involved with Martin’s horses for an affordable price with the Martin Smith Racing Club and I was interested to find out more about how it came about, “Basically, the problem when you start training is that the idea is you train for other people but, inadvertently, you own bits of horses yourself. I put all the horses I won together in the racing club, obviously with the permission of the other owners, so the people who have a membership in the racing club, they’re involved in those horses. I spoke to so many people over the years that have said ‘Oh, I’d love to have a share in a horse but I can’t afford it.’ And, really, all they want is the social aspect so I thought I can do that at a fairly affordable price so we worked it out and the idea was to make it so cheap that anyone who wanted to do it could afford it.”

There are lots of benefits with the membership, “They [members] get the chance to come to the stables on a Saturday morning – like ‘club mornings’. Any of the members can come to the yard and see the horses on the gallops and that. Then, we have about four or five club days through the year, where everyone comes down and we have a bit of a get together, food and drink and we have a WhatsApp group chat for all the members and they’re always chatting on that every day – that has been really popular. We try and get everyone owners’ badges but sometimes there’s more people than badges but so far it hasn’t been too much of a problem to be honest.”

Likeable filly Break The Rules was seen winning at Southwell in the orange and black racing club colours on the 14th July in a mares’ novice hurdle and she put up a professional performance at great odds of 12/1. She’s a half-sister to one of Martin’s stable stars Arch My Boy, who won two hurdle races incredibly well in 2019 and was then sold on to race in America for a tidy profit. In the racing club, there is also Aleatoric, who was beaten less than two lengths in early July at 150/1; Morani Kali, who is yet to race; Friends Don’t Ask, who has had just five races, and Badger The Pony, who is a little character and accompanies the horses to the races. Affluence, by the late Thewayyouare out of an Oasis Dream mare, is one of Martin’s most popular horses and he has won five races for the yard and ran at Royal Ascot last time.

Updates on these horses can be seen on Martin’s social media pages, which are hugely popular. It offers a brilliant insight to the life of racehorses, “There’s a lot of people who think it’s a cruel sport and all that so it’s nice to be able to show how well these horses are looked after.” On a personal level, the social media page is helpful to Martin for promoting his business, “We do everything we can to try and attract new people because we can’t rely on training fifty horses for the Sheikhs. […] We can advertise how we think we can do a good job and how people would be well off to send their horses to us.”

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Gerald Mosse and Martin 

Last week, the racing world was left reeling by Ed Vaughan calling time on his career after he said he couldn’t make it pay. This was after his biggest career success with Dame Malliot in the group two Princess Of Wales’ Tattersalls Stakes at Newmarket. On this, Martin said, “Ed Vaughan is like me. He’s an independent guy. He’s worked for all the big Sheikhs but they’re not going to support him as a trainer. Same as me – I lived and worked in Dubai and I got a great experience but I would never expect any of those guys to come knocking on my door.”

The horses in his yard aren’t exceptionally well-bred but, with the horses he has, I think Martin does a great job. He described it as a “miracle” that he has winners against the big guns and “there’s no feeling like it” when a horse from John Gosden’s yard or Godolphin are in behind, “For me, to get ten winners in a year, I have to get a 20% strike rate and, with the horses that I buy, it is an achievement, I don’t care what anyone says. People compare it to football but in football there are different leagues and a club in the bottom would never play Manchester United. When we turn up at the races, we have to run against John Gosden and Sir Michael Stoute. The races are open to everyone. There’s no way of us sort of working our way up the ranks – we have to take on who ever turns up, with much less fire power.” Martin equalled his best ever tally of flat winners in a year in 2019 when he had seven winners from sixty-five runners. He has had four winners on the flat and one over jumps so far in 2020.

I was keen to talk about the prize money situation in the UK with Martin and he said that the biggest problem facing horse racing at the minute is definitely prize money and the lack of it in lower grade races. He said, “The problem is the big guns don’t need the money and they don’t want us to win the money so the answer is they just don’t offer great prize money. To be fair, racing will always survive as long as the Sheikhs are involved in it. They don’t need us. So, they’re not going to make any changes to keep smaller owners and trainers in there racing, which is a bit sad really.”

Other countries don’t seem to have as much of a problem with prize money, “American prize money is great. France’s prize money is fairly good and costs are cheaper. It just seems to be, in England, it is sort of back-to-front in terms of finances. I very first got my trainer’s licence in America in 2004 and my first runner was in a maiden running for $15,000 to the winner – and it wasn’t a great maiden either. Over there, the quality is not great and people can afford to keep two horses and as long as one of them wins a race or two in a year, it pays for all their costs. I’ve got a horse that’s won five races and he has barely covered one year’s training. He’s won over £30,000 but when you think it costs £25,000 a year to keep a horse in training and he’s five years old now. So, if you were to add everything up, he’s lost money even though he’s won five races.” I, personally, can’t get my head around this. A five times race winner should really be breaking even in my opinion, even at a lower grade.

It appears to me that a contributing factor to the lack of prize money is the way it is all structured with the betting shops and companies, which Martin mentioned, “It’s funny because the bookmakers seem to make loads of money and without racing I don’t think football betting would go that far. I think they get most of their money from racing but they don’t seem to put that much back into racing. Whereas in America, the race tracks control all the betting, which is the same as France with the Tote, so they literally put their own money into the purses. Whereas, over here, its outside companies and bookmakers that come and take all the profits and go and set up off-shore so they don’t even pay tax, let alone put anything into the prizemoney.”

At this point, I asked Martin “Do you think this is something the BHA can actually do something about or do you think that it has gone to far to be rectified?” His response was, “It’s tough – it has gone wild. It would be hard to suddenly say ‘right, that’s it, nobody is allowed to take bets on our racing anymore and we won’t show it on the racing channels’ so I don’t know how they can suddenly change it. I think they could afford to change it to charge the bookmakers more. And the bookmakers may kick up the stink about it but they can afford it whatever they say. It’s probably one of the most profitable and fastest growing industries there is, is betting. It’s just crazy that their industry does so well and they make the majority of their money off our industry and our industry is on its knees.”

To finish on a chirpy note, I asked Martin his goals as a trainer, “My dream would be to win the Melbourne Cup or a Breeder’s Cup race,” he said, “But on a more realistic level, what I want to do is grow the yard, get more horses and, ultimately, with every horse I get, the aim is to help them achieve their potential and help them win what they can for their owners.”

I’d like to thank Martin for his time and I hope you all found this interesting and enjoyed finding out about him. I found our conversation fascinating and Martin is an extremely knowledgeable, talented trainer who loves his horses. If you have a racehorse in need of a trainer, send them his way or, if not, just follow his social media pages!

Racing Club Website – https://www.martinsmithracing.com/copy-of-racing-partnerships

Twitter – @MartinPBSmith

Instagram – @martinpbsmith

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/Sollemsmith

Why Should Kids Go Racing?

By Niamh Townsend

 

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Standing by the winning post for the Group 1 QIPCO Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 2017

The recent Covid-19 pandemic has been lifechanging for everyone, particularly children. As life returns to some sense of normality there is still a long wait for many kids before they return to school, and that means they will need something to keep them entertained over the extended summer break a lot of them have had. While the usual activities may include swimming, sports, going to the cinema, theme parks and many other attractions, my suggestion to any parents or guardians reading this is to take your kids for a day at the races!

 

Every sport relies on its fans, and the racing industry is no different. There has been a lot of discussion in recent months about how we can interest younger fans in going racing and I truly believe that the key to this is getting them to the racecourse and introducing them to the sport through that medium as opposed to just watching it on the television. I speak from personal experience here, when I was younger I would happily watch the racing on TV if it was on due to my love of horses; but it wasn’t until my grandad actually took me to Aintree to watch it all from the course that my obsession truly started.

 

My point is, taking your kids racing is easy, affordable, and most importantly it is fun. Not only that, but it is vital now, even more than ever, that racing can interest the next generation of racing fans to fall in love with the sport.

 

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Frodon at home during my visit to Paul Nicholls’ Manor Farm Stables in 2016

 

Like many businesses during the pandemic, the majority of racecourses have felt the financial pressure. With the cancellation of racing initially and now the lack of crowds, they are receiving very little income. In recent days there have been more positive signs that crowds will soon be allowed to return to the racecourse and the news broke that Goodwood will be the first racecourse to allow a limited crowd of 5000 people to watch racing at the beginning of August, an initiative that has been introduced in France already. As soon as crowds return to racecourses, I would love to see as many tickets sold as possible to support our racecourses and introducing new racegoers will be key to that.

 

Most people will live within an hour of a racecourse, there are 60 racecourses across Britain (a list of which can be found here – https://www.britishhorseracing.com/racing/racecourses/). Most major towns and cities will have a racecourse nearby and they are all relatively easy to access by both cars and public transport such as buses and trains.

 

I suppose the concern for many right now would be the cost of taking an entire family to the racecourse, but the honest truth of it is that to get into most racecourses for a full day out it will set you back less than a family trip to the cinema, since all children get entry into any racecourse in the UK for free. Just find where your local racecourse is, go onto their website and see that price list for yourself for any of their upcoming fixtures. You can book online (often for a discounted price if you book in advance) or it is just as easy to turn up on the day and buy tickets at the gate. On top of that, there are rarely queues to enter the racecourse, so the kids won’t have to stand around for too long.

 

If you’re concerned that the racing itself won’t appeal to your child, then I would suggest looking at the ‘Family Days’ your local racecourse offers since the majority will hold at least one every year. These are great occasions to introduce kids to the racecourse because it is not just the draw of the racing on offer, but many other activities such as fairground rides, petting zoos, face painting, etc. Therefore, it’s the perfect opportunity to test the waters and see if racing is something you might like to watch again as a family without necessarily wasting the money to enter because there are plenty of other things to entertain the kids on the day if they don’t necessarily take an interest in the horses and the racing itself.

 

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“A visit to the racecourse will give you direct access to the stars of the sport.”

 

Horse racing is unlike any other sport, because a visit to the racecourse will give you direct access to the stars of the sport – the trainers, jockeys, and of course the horses. A visit to the parade ring will allow you and your kids to see the horses up close from behind the barrier, the perfect opportunity to pick which horse to cheer on in the next race. If you ask nicely as well, more often than not, you will be able to get a picture or autograph with one of the jockeys as they come out of the weighing room before the next race. If your child takes a liking to horse racing, they will have direct access to their favourite athletes.

 

It has been 9 years since my first trip to the races, and since then the sport has become deeply embedded in my life. Not only has it provided a welcome distraction from life’s various stressors, but I have also been able to integrate it within my school work whether that be an end-of-year research project aged 11, or the central focus of my EPQ at A Level. I have visited racecourses around the country, taken trips to see ‘behind the scenes’ at many yards, met some of the sports greatest horses, jockeys and trainers, and currently work part time in a racing yard. Even now, at the beginning of my journey into the working world, my one goal in my professional life is to become a broadcaster so that I can apply this passion I hold for the sport into my everyday work. I owe all that to my very first trip to the races at Aintree in June 2011.

 

But don’t just take my word for it, listen to what some of the younger generation had to say about their own race day experiences:

“I like going racing because I can watch the horses closer than on telly.  They are much nicer in real life.  I also like to wear my best clothes. I have met some jockeys that my Grandma knows, and her horses at the yard and the racecourse.  I quite like the family days at the races, but not when they keep you so far away from the paddock, cos then you have to run really fast in time to see them.  I have been to Stella Barclay’s yard, my favourite horse there is Sharrabang. He’s been my favourite since he was born.  I’ve been to Luke McJannet’s yard in Newmarket, and he let me sit on a horse which I was scared at first, but the horse was really nice so I wasn’t scared after. I have also been to see Bean who belongs to Rosie Margarson.  He is proper funny. I can’t wait for us to be allowed to go racing again cos I miss the colours and excitement.” – Amelia, 10

 

“I love going racing with Daddy and Grandma, it’s well funny when they start shouting the horses names, but the people next to you don’t know their  pet names, and they give you funny looks.  It’s sad a bit though cos you can’t go in the paddock to see your horse cos there are rules about  not being old enough to go in.  But I know racehorses cos they are my friends, and I’ve sat on a few and they are kind.  My favourite horse ever is Nicky Nook (Rosie) I love her.  She is big and shiny, but she doesn’t run very fast so she’s going to have a baby.  I don’t like the big queues at the family days, and it’s really far to walk to the parade ring from where the family bit is.  I love the big shiny horses, the jockey’s sometimes wave and I like the colours.  When we are not at the races for real, we watch it on the telly.  It’s nice because I can say I know that horse! I have a silk for my riding hat that is the same colours as Grandma’s horses silks! I want to go racing again soon, but there are germs, so I have to wait.  I don’t like waiting.” – Lexi-Mae, 8

 

“My dad tells me that I was only a few inches tall when I first went racing. It was at Wincanton on 27th of March 2010 and I was in a big blue pram. I only had one view of the racing that day – looking around a steel frame with a blue middle. My mother doesn’t go racing often but she was there with my father and one of my brothers. I remember that there was a lot of mud and cars. In the distance there was a group of people wearing bright colours on huge brown and grey things. We were in one of the car parks and, to this day, I am not sure whether this happened or it is what I imagined happening. I am now ten years old and have been racing 237 times and 29 at Wincanton. The memories which first come to mind at Wincanton would be playing cricket in one of the fields past the grandstands, as soon as we feel the ground shake we run straight to the fence and watch all the horses just a meter away. At Fontwell, I think of a rainy day with close to no people there and the stunning architecture of the owner’s area. I have been to lots of racecourses now and they all have something good about them. But what I like most about going racing is the shaking of the ground and my favourite, the glorious sight of a horse jumping a fence.” – Sam, 10

 

I like going to the races as its one of the best sports to watch seen as you can get really close to the horses, jockeys and even trainers at smaller courses. I don’t think in football you get to meet the stars of the sport at every game as there are thousands upon thousands crammed into a stadium – in racing, apart from The Cheltenham Festival where there’s 70000 people, you get signatures and pictures (if you collect them). However, though I was brought into racing by my dad, I think it’s harder to get into racing without people like my dad as some go only for a day out, but if you go more constantly you can grow on the sport.” – Joshua, 13

 

“One of the main things I enjoy about the races is the social aspect, being able to go with friends or meeting new people with the same interests can make the day even more enjoyable. I also like being able to follow the horses, owners and trainers throughout different races and choosing a horse in the parade ring that I think will win the race, which adds to the excitement when you see the horses run.” – Jessica, 15

 

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I’ve been lucky enough to get up close to some of the stars of the sport, including the great Sprinter Sacre in 2016

 

The honest truth of it is that racing is not going to appeal to every single child out there, but if there is even the slightest opportunity that a day at the races could spark a new craze for your child then surely it is worth giving it a go. With a visit to the races being so affordable for families, and with a vast majority of courses and days to visit, what is there to lose?

 

It changed my life, and it is a sport that will change the lives of many more to come after me. I really hope you will give it a go, and I hope you enjoy it.

Preview of Classic action from the Curragh

By Luke (@lukekeena1)

Classic action on Saturday evening comes live from the Curragh with eight runners heading to post at 7:15 for the Juddmonte Irish Oaks. Cayenne Pepper is at the top of the market after finishing second to Magical last month. This daughter of Australia won her first three starts as a juvenile before finishing fourth in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket. Prior to that she was an impressive winner of the Group 3 Flame Of Tara Stakes at the Curragh. Last time out over one mile and a quarter, she finished strongly suggesting the step up in trip will be no issue . She is by Australia, himself a dual derby winner.
The race looks to be a match between Cayenne Pepper and Ennistymon. The later finished second in the Epsom Oaks, albeit a well bet second. This daughter Galileo has gone from strength to strength this season. She only had the one run as a juvenile when finishing down the field at the Curragh. She started the season winning her maiden at Leopardstown. She then ran a big race seven days later at Royal Ascot, finishing second to Frankly Darling. She then reversed the form with Frankly Darling but was no match for Love at Epsom. I think she may be filling the runner up spot again behind the Jessica Harrington trainer Cayenne Pepper.
Paddy Power Scurry Handicap over six Fulongs-
Laugh A Minute ran out an impressive winner at Limerick last time out and was only raised two pounds. He was an expensive purchase in the horses in training sale at Newmarket last year. He was twice placed in Group 3’s when trained by Roger Varian. He has been given a nice draw in twelve while the favourite, Urban Beat appears to be drawn on the wrong side. I think Ardhoomey will make the pace from stall sixteen, giving Laugh A Minute a nice lead and hopefully he can take it up inside the furlong pole. I think he is potentially a group horse in a handicap and hopefully he goes close for trainer Ado McGuinness with Ronan Whelan in the saddle.
Paddy Power Minstrel Stakes over seven furlongs –
Although I am a big fan of Romanised, I think Lancaster House will be very hard to beat here. He showed himself to be in good form over course and distance last month when winning in good style making all under Seamie Heffernan. On that occasion he bet Speak In Colours who has gave the form multiple boosts. Romanised is a horse who thrives off racing and I think he will come on plenty for the run as he has done in previous years. I hink Lancaster House will be very hard to beat with Wayne Lordan in the saddle.

Darley July Cup Preview

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Oxted At Home (Roger Teal Racing on Instagram) 

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Lots of excellent sprinters have won the group one Darley July Cup over the years – Abernant, Green Desert, Oasis Dream, Lethal Force and Slade Power. More recently, it has been won by Harry Angel, US Navy Flag and Ten Sovereigns. The connections of the latter three are all represented in this year’s renewal and a lot of the runners have live chances.

The Diamond Jubilee acts as a good form line for this race. It was won by Hello Youmzain with Sceptical third, Khaadem fourth and Shine So Bright tenth. Hello Youmzain gave Kevin Stott his first Royal Ascot winner and since then the jockey has been flying. This son of Kodiac won the group one Sprint Cup at Haydock last year on soft ground but could only manage eighth in the Champion Sprint. He battled extremely well at Royal Ascot and is undeniably a leading player. Sceptical was the horse moving up the grades in that race. He challenged at two furlongs out and, just yards from the line, he was just passed by Hello Youmzain and Dream Of Dreams. He’s got a wonderful story and worked his way through the rankings to listed glory at Naas twelve days before Royal Ascot.

Khaadem’s last three races have all been in group ones after a hugely impressive success in the Stewards Cup. He was last in the Haydock Sprint Cup behind Hello Youmzain and Brando and then eleventh in the Champion Sprint behind Brando and Hello Youmzain again, subsequently. His fourth placed finish at Royal Ascot was hugely improved but I think he’s a horse who runs better on good ground. His stablemate Equilateral has been brought by Mrs Fitri Hay since his excellent second to Battaash over five furlongs. There was a lot of talk about him before the race after he spent the early part of this year in Dubai. The gelding operation has done him the world of good. He’s not ran over six furlongs since April 2019 when fourth at the other Newmarket course. He’s won once over this trip which was by eight lengths so the stamina is there.

Shine So Bright was tenth in the Diamond Jubilee and since then he’s come third, beaten three length over seven furlongs at Epsom. He went extremely hard on the front end on that run which was just a week ago. He’s a horse that dabbles over a lot of trips. He won, theoretically, a Guineas Trial and was then sixth in the actual race. Next time, he shockingly beat Laurens over seven furlongs and then Sir Dancealot beat him at Doncaster in a group two. I’m not particularly sure they know what trip is his ideal one but his is by a winner of this race in Oasis Dream. I was surprised to see Sir Dancealot in this race. All last season, this now six year old ran over a mile and over seven furlongs and won two group twos over the latter trip. He likes the ground when it is good or harder and finished fourth on the Rowley Mile when last seen.

The grand eight year old Brando has ran in the race for the last three years, finishing third, second and seventh. After this race last year, he was second in a Deauville group one, fourth in the Haydock Sprint. He returned this season finishing fifth to Oxted and then second to Judicial on the all weather, proving the ability is still there. Oxted, on the other hand, is still in the early days of his career. This son of July Cup winner Mayson won on his second lifetime start but was beaten half a length by Khaadem next time. He was second over course and distance in August when Cieran Fallon Jr rode him for the first time. Next time, the combination won the Portland really well against older rivals. He got his season off to a great start with a group three win in the Abernant Stakes, named after the July Cup winner, and I think this horse is group one quality. I interviewed his trainer Roger Teal, which you can read here, and this race has been his long-time aim.

German trainer Dominik Moser send over the Medicean colt Namos. He won a group three on his third lifetime start and has ran into Too Darn Hot. This season he won two group threes and this will be his first outing in England and on soft ground. You can’t completely rule this horse out though as the trainer has had success when sending over horses, in particular Waldpfad, who managed to win the group three Hackwood Stakes last season.

There are four smart three year olds taking their chances here with the 6lbs allowance. Two of these contested the Commonwealth Cup – Golden Horde, the winner, and Southern Hills, who finished in seventh. Golden Horde represents the sprint kings: Adam Kirby and Clive Cox. This combination won this race with Lethal Forse, Golden Horde’s sire, in 2013 and Harry Angel in 2017. At two years of age, Golden Horde won the Richmond Stakes and then ran into the talented Earthlight on two occasions. His Royal Ascot success was extremely impressive and I think he is quite versatile when it comes to the ground. Southern Hills’ trainer, Aidan O’Brien, has won the last two renewals of this and you can never discount one of his runners. He was seventh in the Commonwealth Cup after a 366 day absence after he won last year’s Windsor Castle Stakes. I think he has ability but this will probably be too hot for him.

It is interesting that Threat is lining up in this race after being considered a St James’ Palace contender. He was fifth in that and didn’t completely disgrace himself. At two, he was beaten by Golden Horde in a group two at Glorious Goodwood but beat Lord Of The Lodge in the Gimcrack Stakes at York. He won another group two at Doncaster in September but found the likes of Earthlight and Golden Horde too much in the Middle Park. Lord Of The Lodge takes his chances in this for Karl Burke. He didn’t race after being beaten by Threat until February when he won at Newcastle. He was withdrawn in early June due to unsuitable ground (good to soft) but ran at Royal Ascot on soft ground to be eighth. He’ll need to improve.

Verdict

I’m siding with GOLDEN HORDE for the brilliant combination of Adam Kirby and Clive Cox. I loved the way he won last time and I genuinely believe he could be their next sprinting sensation. Of the others, I really want Oxted to run well for Roger Teal. He’s a smashing, progressive, young horse, who has risen through the ranks incredibly well. He’ll win a group one someday and I expect a big run!

Class Ones Galore This Thursday

By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Racing fans are lucky to have a massive seven class one races between the Newmarket (July course) and York on Thursday. They will all be shown on ITV Racing along with a class two heritage handicap.

I’m going to take you through my thoughts on these races and hopefully I can point you in the way of a few winners –

13:50 Newmarket – Bahrain International Sir Henry Cecil Stakes (Listed)

Ryan Moore has ridden twice for Charlie Hills this year and won on one of them so is operating at a 50% strike rate for the yard. They team up with the nineteen length Newcastle scorer TILSIT. This horse was ‘coltish’ on debut but was only beaten a head. He’s by First Defence, Siskin’s sire, and out of one of Kingman’s half-sisters. The yard is flying along and he has so much more to offer. Al Suhail ran four times at two, placing in two group threes. He was fourteenth in the 2000 Guineas and, considering his dam was second in the Oaks, I’m surprised they haven’t stepped him up in trip. Magical Morning comes from the powerful John Gosden stable and has won twice in 2020, the latter under a huge penalty. Lord Campour’s victory last time out has been boosted on multiple occasions and he’s the 5/4 favourite despite being rated 95.

14:05 York – EBF Marygate Fillies Stakes (Listed)

I’m keen on SARDINIA SUNSET. This filly only made her debut on the 4th June and was beaten by Queen Mary second Sacred. My selection ran in that race and finished fourth after leading for a lot of the way. The horse who beat her has since came out and won impressively so the form is strong. Bungledupinblue was a place behind Sardinia Sunset on their first starts and has since come second to the fifth placed runner in the Queen Mary. Blackberry is a half sister by Brazen Beau to Decrypt, who was third in the Irish 2000 Guineas last year, and won comfortably on her only start to date. She comes from Bryan Smart’s capable outlet.

14:25 Newmarket – Bahrain Trophy Stakes (Group Three)

Dawn Rising is a full brother to Irish Derby winner Sovereign and won by a whopping twelve lengths at Limerick on the 29th June. Take it at your peril to ignore any of Aidan O’Brien’s runners. I’m not going to side with this horse though. I like AL DABARAN. He was stepping up significantly in trip in the Queen’s Vase and couldn’t compete with subsequent Irish Derby winner Santiago, coming third. He’s from the family of Masked Marvel and better ground will help him in this. Al Aasy is the second favourite and finished fifth to French Derby winner Mishriff before winning a Newmarket maiden by ten lengths. That was a visually impressive performance. Miss Yoda is interesting upped in trip after a below par run last time out with an allowance.

14:40 York – Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (Group Three)

Prince Khaled Abdullah has two fillies in the race – Ricetta and Pocket Square. I’m siding with POCKET SQUARE, who Jason Watson said is a three year old to follow when I interviewed him. (Read what he said about her here) She’s by the exciting stallion Night Of Thunder and out of a Dansili mare. Her debut third was good and then she won at Ascot by three and a quarter-lengths, beating Anastarsia and Bharani Star, who have contested good races since. She won a group three at Deauville on her final start at two, beating subsequent Pretty Polly winner Run Wild. This race is, in a normal year, an Epsom Oaks trial and it could be acting as an Irish Oaks Trial for this filly. Jason Watson and Roger Charlton are flying along and I’m not too worried that this is her first run of the campaign. On jockey silks, she is second string to Ricetta, who has only run twice and won by small margins. Godolphin have two runners as well and they are Lake Lucerne and Dubai Love. Dubai Love was busy in Meydan and won a listed race. She returned to England with a third in the Sandringham. Lake Lucerne won a maiden in early March and was withdrawn at the start of the Lingfield Oaks Trial because she got upset.

15:00 Newmarket – Tattersalls July Stakes (Group Two)

This is a nice little event with Windsor Castle winner Tactical and sixth-placed Victory Heights running. Oisin Murphy gave TACTICAL as a horse to follow when I interviewed him. (Read what he says here) He was third on debut, beating a horse I like called Gussy Mac, who won a listed race on Sunday. His win in the Windsor Castle was smart and he’s exciting. I was keen on Victory Heights going into the race. He was drawn in seventeen and ended up on the rail by the end somehow and there’s more to come from him. Qaader was beaten a length in the Coventry at 3/1 after nicely winning a Newbury novice. You have to take note when one of Aidan O’Brien’s wins first time out and Swiss Ace ran from the front to score by two and a half lengths at Tipperary. His dam has produced eleven other winning foals and four black type winners, including the stallion Swiss Spirit.

15:15 York – Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes (Group Two)

This is normally a Derby Trial and, as the Derby was on Saturday, it has attracted a small field of six. The derby was won in emphatic style by Aidan O’Brien’s Serpentine, who was a worthy winner and was given a phenomenal ride. O’Brien has CORMORANT in this. He had won a maiden and shown little else last season before winning a group three at Leopardstown from the front with blinkers on for the first time. He beat Russian Emperor, who subsequently won the Hampton Court and finished seventh in the Derby. James Doyle rides.

Frankel is represented by two horses – Highest Ground and Juan Elcano. Oisin Murphy picks up the ride on Highest Ground for Sir Michael Stoute. He started his career at Leicester and won by nearly three lengths but the form hasn’t worked out extremely well. He made Waldgeist’s brother Waldkonig, who has a huge reputation, look ordinary. He’ll be odds-on. Juan Elcano’s jockey Kevin Stott is getting a great opportunity here after successes at Royal Ascot. His mount was fifth in the 2000 Guineas and then fourth in the Hampton Court so collateral form puts him behind Cormorant. Mark Johnston’s Thunderous was beaten at two before finishing second in listed company. The pair of Siyouni colts, Al Madhar and Encipher, are at a bigger price.

15:35 Newmarket – bet365 Handicap Stakes (Heritage Handicap)

Dancin Inthestreet was three and three-quarter lengths behind the extremely smart Art Power. She carries a mere 8st4 and, with Cieran Fallon taking off 3lbs, she’s one of the favourites. LEXINGTON DASH won by three and a quarter-lengths on his first start this term and by half a length more in a nice little four runner event last time. Thore Hammer-Hansen takes off 5lbs and the horse looks extremely progressive. Meraas and Progressive Rating have won their last two but Sunset Breeze has won three handicaps in the space of a month after being gelded. He won off the same mark as he’s currently on five days ago. Brad The Brief is consistent and Joshua R could run well at a big price.

16:10 Newmarket – Princess Of Wales’ Tattersalls Stakes (Group Two)

This can go the way of the lovely Redoute’s Choice mare ENBIHAAR. From six starts last year, she won a listed race and three group twos. The two defeats came in group three company and when third to Anapurna and Delphinia at Longchamp in a group one. She was carrying more weight than the first two and she’s got an excellent chance in this. Alounak was second in the Hardwicke Stakes and he’s got good form to his name all around the world. Old Persian was last in a group one last time and Communique has struggled in two class twos this season. Dame Malliot has the in-form Hollie Doyle on board and won a Deauville group one before finishing sixth to Enbihaar at Doncaster.

 

As always, I hope you found this helpful and if you have any thoughts feel free to tweet me on @sam_angelina22.

Investec Oaks Preview 2020

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By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)

Investec Oaks is the pinnacle race for three-year-old fillies over one mile and four furlongs. For the first time ever, the Oaks and the Derby will be raced on the same day due to the altered schedule in the aftermath of Coronavirus, with the Oaks taking place and hour and fifteen minutes before the Derby, at 3:40.

Epsom Downs racecourse offers a unique test for these fillies. The course is a horse-shoe shape and the maximum trip ran at the course is the Oaks/Derby trip of one mile four furlongs and six yards. They climb from 360m above sea level to the highest point of the track, which sits at 500m above sea level, on the sweeping left-hand bend at roughly the five and a half furlong marker. From there, it is predominately downhill until the last half a furlong when the ground climbs towards the winning post.

A field of just eight go to post this year for the race, which is the smallest field we have seen for a while. There were fourteen runners last year when the daughter of Frankel, Anapurna, won for Frankie Dettori and John Gosden. This famous combination has a big day on Sunday with Enable in the Coral-Eclipse but, before then, they are running Frankly Darling in the Investec Oaks. This filly made her debut in October, when a staying on second over a mile on heavy ground. She burst onto people’s radar when she started off this season with a five-length victory at Newcastle. She then went to Royal Ascot and she strongly won over this trip in the Ribblesdale Stakes, with Ennistymon, Passion and Bharani Star. The Ribblesdale looks a good form line for this race. On pedigree, Frankly Darling is by Frankel (so bred for the trip) and the dam is a Daylami mare who won the Cheshire Oaks and has had progeny stay past one mile six.

John Gosden has two runners and his other is Tiempo Vuela. She was a three-length winner on her debut but stepped up to listed company and finished seventh of eight in the Pretty Polly, when Queen Daenerys was second. She was keen and unbalanced so will have to improve to feature in this. However, she may benefit from the step up in trip as her dam won at one mile and five furlongs.

Aidan O’Brien has won two of the last four renewals with the wonderful Minding and Forever Together. He has three fillies representing him this year – Love, Passion and Ennistymon. Love is the chief market rival of Frankly Darling. At two, her highlights were winning a group three, winning the group one Moyglare Stud and coming third in the Fillies Mile. She returned to Newmarket on the seventh of June this year to convincingly win the 1000 Guineas but this race is four furlongs further. Before the Guineas, I think people expected that race to be a stepping stone to the Oaks. She is by Galileo, who won the Derby, and, quite interestingly, out of a mare who never won a race for Stuart Edmunds yet has produced four black type winners. Love’s full sisters Peach Tree and Flattering both ran in this race.

Seamie Heffernan has a busy weekend. He rides Ennistymon in the Oaks and Russian Emperor in the Derby. Then, on Sunday, he goes to Chantilly where he rides Order Of Australia in the Prix Du Jockey Club and Peaceful in the Prix de Diane. After this, he is looking at a fourteen-day quarantine period when returning to Ireland. Focusing on the Oaks, Ennistymon, who’s name is evidently hard to pronounce for an English person. This Galileo filly could only manage seventh on debut but won on her first start as a three year old. That win earned her a place in the Ribblesdale field over one mile four. She only had about three horses behind her for most of the way and moved off the rail, running quite wide down the home straight. She showed a great attitude to fly down the outside and get second. If she’d been more prominent, she would’ve finished closer to Frankly Darling.

Passion failed to quicken to the same extent as Ennistymon at Royal Ascot, finishing two and a half lengths behind her after settling nicely. She was the choice of Ryan Moore for the race after coming fourth in a Navan listed race six days earlier. She was seventh over a mile in the May Hill Stakes, after a maiden win at Cork, but the mile was never going to be her trip. She’s a full sister to St Leger winner Capri and two mile group three winner Cypress Creek. The trip will not be a problem and it wouldn’t surprise me to see her running over a longer trip in time.

Bharani Star filled the fourth place spot behind Frankly Darling, Ennistymon and Passion. She was stone last for the majority of the way, which was a deliberate move by Andrea Atzeni. She was still travelling well when some of the other fillies were showing distress signals and she stayed close to the rail in the final stages and she galloped nicely to the line. For a 100/1 shot, that was a great run. She was fifth on her debut and then fourth behind Queen Daenerys. Her only win was eight days before Royal Ascot when she dead heated.

Queen Daenerys is Roger Varian’s second string it appears with Andrea Atzeni riding Gold Wand. William Buick rides Queen Daenerys. This daughter of Frankel came second to Cloak Of Spirits, who was second in the 1000 Guineas, on debut and then won at Newmarket, with Bharani Star in fourth. After this, she finished sixth in the Fillies Mile and the trip was probably on the short side there. She had a wind op over the winter and ran a nice race last time at Newmarket. Gold Wand probably has the best chance of the fair. She’s by Derby winner Golden Horn and out of a twice-raced black type achieving mare. Gold Wand had to fight on her debut and was just headed to be beaten a neck. She won a class five at Newbury on the 11th June over one mile two and she led from the two furlong pole. She has scope to improve.

I’ve been struggling to work this race out. A lot of fillies have great chances. Frankly Darling is the horse who’s shown the most this season over the trip. She’s in the plum draw of three, which has thrown up the last two winners. But then there’s Love. She’s the 1000 Guineas winner and is the only horse with a group one win to her name – and she has two for that matter! I’ve watched back the Ribblesdale three times and I really like the way ENNISTYMON ran on. She was ridden cold that day and ran on well to get close to Frankly Darling, who was admittedly being eased down. Frankly Darling is quite a free going sort and I think this test may not suit her as Epsom is a unique track. Seamus Heffernan said, when asked if things will be different when Ennistymon faces off Frankly Darling again, in an interview, “It’ll be different when I ride her”, which is very encouraging. With just eight runners, there isn’t much each way value on offer but Bharani Star could out run her odds.

Epsom Derby Preview

  • English King

English King is the hot favourite for this year’s renewal of the Epsom Derby. He exploded into the reckoning for classic glory when comfortably winning the Lingfield Derby Trial, despite missing the break. As a result, Tom Marquand was forced to sit towards the rear of the field and hope the gaps appeared. Sound Of Cannons and Berkshire Rocco ensured a good tempo to the race. It was hard not to be impressed by how smoothly English King travelled through the race. He loomed up menacingly at the 2f pole and glided past the tiring Berkshire Rocco. The winning distance was 2 and ¾ lengths, but English King would have won by 5 lengths when a flick of the whip. I would have doubts about how much the form is worth. Obviously Berkshire Rocco was second to Irish Derby winner Santiago in the Queens Vase at Royal Ascot. I think it was easy for English King to look flashy at Lingfield. Berkshire Rocco is as slow as a wet week and 1m 3f at Lingfield was not going to show him to best effect.  Furthermore English King has been dealt a killer blow by being drawn in 1. The last Derby winner from stall 1 was Oath way back in 1999. Although the masterful Frankie Dettori takes the ride I’m definitely going to oppose English King. As I write this piece English King is drifting and is now widely quoted as a 4/1 chance. Earlier in the week he was as short was 5/2 and many people were keen to take him on solely based on his price alone. The diabolical draw has only increased the negative vibes and it will be interesting to see if he can hold onto favouritism. English King could be special and prove the critics wrong, but I’m going to be looking elsewhere.

  • Ballydoyle Battalion

Aidan O’Brien may make history on Saturday by becoming the first trainer to win the Derby eight times. Mogul would appear to be the yard’s number one based on jockey bookings. The vibes radiating from Ballydoyle are also very positive with regards to Mogul. He has been the talking horse through the winter, but failed to justify strong market support in the King Edward Stakes at Royal Ascot. He could only manage to finish 4th behind Pyledriver, who repossess here. Mogul looked the most likely winner when they turned for home, but couldn’t quicken and appeared as though he badly needed the run. Despite this hiccup Mogul is very popular in the market and has been backed into 5/1. The value is definitely gone at this stage. Apparently Mogul has improved hugely from Royal Ascot. Furthermore his full brother Japan ran a huge race in last year’s Derby to finish third after disappointing in the Dante. The case for Mogul is quite obvious, but I’m more inclined to side with Russian Emperor. He only ran once as a two year old in a Curragh maiden over 7 furlongs. He ran a typical race for a Ballydoyle newcomer by staying on nicely to finish third after showing signs of greenness. Aidan managed to get him out on the first day of the Irish flat season at Naas. I’d encourage everyone to watch back that maiden as it was remarkable how much ground Russian Emperor managed to make up in the last furlong. He must have traded at huge prices in-running on that occasion. Once Seamus managed to pull him to the outside and show him some daylight he picked up beautifully to win a shade cosily at the line. I’m willing the put a line through his run in the Derrinstown at Leopardstown behind Cormorant. Padraig Beggy managed to steal that race from the front and the form can’t be taken literally. Russian Emperor came on nicely for that run to beat First Receiver in the Hampton Court just over a week later. He was doing his best work at the finish and hit the line strongly. Russian Emperor appears to be laden with stamina and if he handles Epsom I can see him going very close indeed. 6/1 looks to a fair price and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go off a shade shorter. Seamus Heffernan is reunited with the Galileo colt and of course Seamus won last year on Anthony Van Dyck. Vatican City is a full brother to the dual 2000 Guineas winner Gleneagles, so there is a question mark about whether he will get the trip. Vatican City was a fantastic second to Siskin in the Irish 2000 Guineas, so he obviously has the talent but you really need to be a strong stayer to win a Derby and he doesn’t instil great confidence in me. Amhran Na Bhfiann and Mythical both need to find significant improvement to feature, but Wings Of Eagles did so in 2017.

  • Kameko

Despite winning a good renewal of the 2000 Guineas convincingly, Kameko has somewhat been overlooked in previews I’ve read or watched. Similar to Vatican City there are fears that Kameko will be outstayed in the Derby. It’s a big step-up and I can see him running well, but just finding a couple too good. It would have been nice to see him run in the Hampton Court or King Edward at Royal Ascot just to see how he fare over further, but it was probably wise to give him time. He’s by Kittens Joy, the same sire as the ill-fated Roaring Lion, and so that’s where the stamina questions primarily arise. Kameko probably has a better chance than Roaring Lion of getting the trip and Oisin Murphy will have learned plenty from riding Roaring Lion in the 2018 Derby. However, there is likely to be a good gallop in the race and there will be no hiding places. Kameko didn’t appear to be stopping in the Guineas or Vertem Futurity at Newcastle, but I think he could be collared in the final stages by a Galileo colt such as Russian Emperor.

  • Best of the rest

Anybody who listens to the Rein It In Racing Podcast will know I tipped Gold Maze in the Gallinule Stakes and the Irish Derby. He ran a lovely race in the Gallinule to just be denied by Crossfirehurricane. Shane Crosse got the tactics right that day on Crossfirehurricane and benefited by settling off the strong pace. In contrast Gold Maze was prominent throughout and paid the price. I was hopeful that different tactics would be deployed in the Irish Derby, but the same occurred again. He was far too keen and gave himself no chance of winning. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd all came from off the pace. I was surprised that Jessica Harrington decided to declare him here. Amusingly he’s probably the only horse ever to run in the Irish Derby before going to the Epsom Derby. The racing and sporting calendar has been turned upside down. Gold Maze will be young David Egan’s first ride in the Epsom Derby. Gold Maze will stay based on his pedigree. Golden Horn, the 2015 Derby winner, sired Gold Maze and the 2001 winner Galileo is the dam’s sire. Not a bad pedigree for a 200/1 shot. If David Egan can settle him Gold Maze might be able outrun those huge odds. Tom Marquand has picked up the ride on Khalifa Sat, after unfortunately being replaced by Frankie Dettori on English King. It’s unfortunate for Tom, but he’s young and I’m sure he will have plenty more opportunities. Khalifa Sat is a likeable horse and showed a good attitude to hold off Emissary at Goodwood. He will have to improve again, but stays well and has a decent draw in 14. I wouldn’t rule him out.

  • Conclusion

Russian Emperor is my idea of the winner. He is progressing nicely and looks sure to stay the mile and a half. Seamus Heffernan knows the horse well and also has plenty experience of riding around Epsom. 6/1 with 4 places looks a solid bet in my opinion. Khalifa Sat and Gold Maze could be better than their price suggests.

 By Killian