Luckily for us we had some success in my previous column with Thomas Cochrane winning at Kempton and Flyin’ Solo and Maketh Believeth showing up very well in defeat, the latter at a huge price in novice company. I’m very much looking forward to seeing him in handicap company on the grass this summer, as his trainer Harry Dunlop doesn’t go spending that sort of money willy-nilly on his horses, and there is certainly plenty to like about his first couple of efforts.
Speaking of All-Weather racing, the annual Championships came to a close on Good Friday, with Richard Kingscote coming out on top as Leading Jockey and Mick Appleby winning his fourth successive trainer’s title.
For Appleby, it is further testament to his unique ability to be able to pick up cheap horses and breathe new life into them by winning with them such as Spring Romance, together with a clutch of older, more familiar equine faces such as Crimson King and Motawaafeq. One horse that typifies what Appleby is all about is Thrave.
Thrave looked an exciting horse for Henry Candy and then owner Thomas Barr when winning a Newmarket maiden in good style in September 2017, before a run of eighteen months where he only managed two appearances, both down the field in Listed races six months apart from each other.
He was also gelded and ran a couple of good second placed efforts in valuable Saturday handicaps as a four year old before a move to Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat base. One can only assume that the idea was to go hurdling, and after two more Flat spins under Paul’s daughter Megan, he had his solo jumps run at Southwell on July 1st, 2020. After finishing a well-beaten third, he moved to Appleby with a mark of 90, one which overall was a bit toppy on the balance of what he had achieved, and that was to be proved last summer where there only seemed a modicum of promise at most, resulting in his mark dropping 15lbs in five starts and Barr to relinquish his ownership of the horse.
After a 60 day break, Thrave appeared on the Fibresand at Southwell over 6f in claiming company under young 7lb apprentice Freddy Larson, who was looking for his first winner at the time. The eye shield/blinkers combo was used first time too and they worked a treat as Thrave provided Larson with his first winner. In his All-Weather runs, he won twice, second twice, third on one occasion and more respectable efforts over a mile. He may be able to win on the grass now too.
As for Kingscote, it is about time he got a major award for his work, as he has now progressed into a fully-fledged elite rider through his exploits on the sand and around Chester, where he and his boss Tom Dascombe are so prolific. He now has big admirers with the likes of Ralph Beckett and Sir Michael Stoute more than happy to book Kingscote, particularly the former, which could come in handy now Harry Bentley is no longer stable jockey and will be out of the country for a while in Hong Kong running from mid-April until the end of July.
In a similar way to last month, I’m looking at a few different angles which may be worth looking at through the turf season going forward, including a nice horse who could go onto win some nice races in the North, and a dual purpose horse from an upwardly mobile yard.
The first one I’d like to flag up, and I’m not exactly reinventing the wheel here, but given that course didn’t race last summer because of the pandemic, Tony Carroll will be gagging to send out more winners at Brighton. He has had more winners here than any other turf Flat track in his training career and also operates at a 14% strike rate, which also beats his percentage of any Flat category covering age, handicaps etc. The additional note I’d make to that is to keep an eye on those wearing headgear for the first time running at the course.
I always think that Brighton certainly doesn’t lend itself to horses who potentially shirk the issue, so that extra little addition to help concentration levels, in particular blinkers and visors, can be handy.
Mark Johnston, another trainer who likes having runners at the course, has used this to his benefit before as well. Carroll’s ten time course winner Pour La Victoire also won at the course in first time blinkers many moons ago.
Windsor is a track synonymous with Monday nights throughout the summertime, with Richard Hannon well known for having two year old winners at the course, and of course with the highlight of 2020 being Hollie Doyle’s 5 timer which further showcased her riding talent across the sport. The one thing to mention in particular with Windsor, and something that applies to the outside rail at Fontwell in the back straight on heavy ground, is the huge disparity between sections of the track. It is hugely advantageous to be on the far rail up the home straight when it rides bottomless, which come the autumn is commonplace given the geography as to where the track is located. Any horses drawn high over 5f and 6f when it gets like that are benefitted hugely.
I was intrigued to see how many runners David Evans has had at Windsor over the years, comfortably above some tracks I expected to be higher than. The Pandy based handler is one of the shrewdest trainers around, and always manages to win races even with the lower rated horses, landing some juicy gambles along the way for good measure. One thing that Windsor offers up more than most tracks together with Leicester in particular, are an array of two year old only selling and claiming races, of which Evans has landed a fair few winners in these races, with the wily John Egan sticking limpet-like to the stands rail.
Most of Evans’ youngsters are cheap purchases, mostly below £/€10,000, and with also some of those races being restricted to horses with a purchase price below a certain figure, it allows the yard to have some joy. Mick Channon’s horses running in his own colours are worth keeping an eye on in such contests but only if there is market support.
One track famed for its brilliant atmosphere is Chester, and hopefully spectators can return to the Roodee this summer as it would be a huge shame if they had to be missed out again in 2021. Two men synonymous with the track are Franny Norton, the charismatic Liverpudlian who is now firmly in the twilight of his career but knows every blade of grass and is an excellent tactician, and local trainer Tom Dascombe.
Manor House Stables, the brainchild and baby of Michael Owen, is where Dascombe is based and has a long lasting association with Richard Kingscote (mentioned earlier) where Haydock and Chester are particularly hot tracks for them. Dascombe often runs multiple horses in handicaps at the course, and with Kingscote having a minimum weight of 8st-7lb, which he very rarely gets down to away from the big meetings, that provides an opportunity for other riders, and Jane Elliott, now with the Dascombe yard after formerly being based with Mick Appleby, is presented with a few nice rides. Elliott can get right down to below 8st, and is good value for her claim too, and if placing each way bets on all her Chester rides in 2019, you would have returned a nice profit so I’m looking forward to seeing what she can do for the team in 2021.
Finally, a couple of horses to follow over the summer, trained up in the North by Tim Easterby. I’m going to rewind the clock to 29th August last year at Redcar where there was a most encouraging debut from Elegant Ellen in the 2.55pm race.
This French bred filly by Shalaa was an expensive buy at the sales by the yard’s usual standards (excluding King Power Racing’s horses) and certainly seemed to know her job but was locked up with nowhere to go for much of the last couple of furlongs and the birds had flown up ahead by the time she got out. She is well worth keeping on side through the summer and should thrive in handicaps over less than a mile for now. That race was on soft ground, but I don’t think that is a must for her, at least until we have more evidence to suggest otherwise. She has a stablemate that I am also keeping a close eye on for handicaps over staying trips called Eye Knee, who would certainly figure as one to go to war with at Ripon in three year old handicaps through the summer, and potentially perform even better on deep ground.
Catfish Row is the final horse I want to mention for the Michael Scudamore yard, who once again have had a great jumps season and who’s stock is gradually getting better and better, with some lovely novice chasers to look forward to in the next jumps season. Catfish Row has a lovely pedigree and was bred by Godolphin, being sent to the Andre Fabre yard where he ran four times without success before moving to these shores where he has run in two hurdles and two AW jumpers’ bumpers. All four races have thrown up plenty of winners and with one run required for a handicap mark at the time of writing, he could prove very dangerous off what will almost certainly be a lowly mark. He is rated 83 on the level too but that is probably on the high side all things considered, so I’m only interested in him over jumps for now.
Well, it would be fitting given the pubs have reopened to finally toast a great jumps and All-Weather season, and here’s to getting the paying public back to the track as soon as possible.
Will Bowler is a freelance writer, together with being one of the busiest Point To Point commentators. Will also commentates on harness and pony racing, with a long list of different venues including Haydock, Wolverhampton, Southwell and a personal favourite in Beverley. He worked at Southwell Racecourse for six years as race day presenter and marketing executive, helping at Doncaster and Uttoxeter on occasion. He has shares in two horses, one with Laura Morgan and one with John Mackie.