An end of season report . . . eventually

When I wrote my first blog as a licensed trainer at the end of December, I really did have every intention to write another one swiftly afterwards . . . you won’t have missed the fact that we are now in early May and that did not happen.

For that I am sorry and for the few blog readers remaining thank you for remaining and sorry it has taken so long (after reading this you may be counting your lucky stars, I’ve been so busy!) 

I am, however, very happy to say that while I’ve been away from blogging, I have been enjoying a great time training my horses and as I look back on my first season in business I do with satisfaction on a decent start. 

Fourteen winners from 57 runners comprised the final tally with some lovely highlights in among those winners and placed horses. The horses really did do us proud through the four months of our first season, and I was so happy to give some of my owners some fantastic memories along the way. 

Andy and Julie Mitchell were lovely examples of that. The dual winning Dargiannini is the couple’s first horse and what fun he has given them. The Mitchells were complete novices to racing and having enjoyed two smashing wins and a day out at Aintree, it is fair to say they now love the sport and have become friends of myself and my family. 

I suppose if like me you have been in racing a long time or certainly surrounded by racing for a long time you can take for granted the sheer thrill of it all and watching Andy and Julie get a taste for that has been marvellous fun. 

Dargiannini is having one more run on the 13th May before he has a well-earned summer break. 

There has been lots of horses though that have done my team proud;

Shared, for Colm Donlon, who joined us a regressive maiden on the flat won two before running at the Cheltenham Festival. 

Puffin Bay who provided a great friend of mine Charlie Pelham and his mates Rory and Alex with a great day at Wincanton courtesy of her first time out win.

My biggest supporter, Jon Gregory, enjoyed success with his pals with Game Winner at Kempton Park, while the newly formed Optimists Syndicate witnessed their purchase Brentford Hope record two wins and are now heading to Haydock’s Swinton Hurdle full of excitement. 

I am not sure before you start training, anyone or anything can prepare you for doing the job in your own right.

The decisions you are required to make, the deadlines you need to meet, the pressure you put yourself under, the constant desire to train the next winner and the constant disappointment that horses can provide you all take some getting used to. 

It is an intense cycle but something I have absolutely thrived on and loved.

There is not an excitement like waking up on a big schooling morning or nerves like it going racing with a horse you think will win.

I read a quote from Sir Mark Prescott saying from the first day you train racehorses you’ll never have another day off and you will always be stimulated. I would say both are factually sound based on my short period of evidence collection. 

I have not of course done any of this on my own and the small team of people I have around me have really been amazing.

From Amy my sister and head lad and Graham both of which have been phenomenal, to Joe and Rupert, Danni, Emma, Lucy and Sophie – everyone has worked so hard on my behalf to make it all happen and all of these guys have been amazing. 

What I have enjoyed the most about being the boss of my small team is that I feel there is a togetherness and a collective spirit of wanting to succeed. I’m not sure that can be plucked out of thin air, so I know how lucky I am to have people that genuinely care about how we are getting on. 

Joe was in tears when Seelotmorebusiness won at Huntingdon and declared, when Beyond Redemption won at Wincanton, it was the best day of his racing life; from a man who lead up a Cheltenham festival winner that was smashing. 

Rupert had his first ride for us when second at Fontwell aboard Hard Frost, thus achieving a childhood dream of riding on the track. He has not stopped sleeping since. 

Danni led up her first winner for us in April after working so hard to get back from a nasty injury she sustained in December, whilst Lucy, a friend of mine from back in Somerset, has stepped in and done plenty of leading up and helping at the races when we needed her.

Emma comes in before her full-time job starts in the morning, yes you read that right. Before her full-time job to muck out for two hours, she will occasionally sing us a song if the mood takes her.

Sophie is a convert from the flat racing world and, despite her best efforts, still cannot get Rupert to behave himself; while Graham even smiled once things were going that well. 

Amy, my sister, has been absolutely amazing and will continue to run the business side of things with the skill and brains I do not possess. I am happy to report as well that my team have picked up on her posh phone and TV voice which has caused them a lot of laughs. 

As you can see, we are all lucky to work with some lovely horses but this business, like any, is about people and I’m so lucky to have great people around me. 

I would be hard pressed to pick a highlight because I mean this when I say it, every one of those 14 winners we have enjoyed gave me enormous amounts of satisfaction for various reasons. I could bore you witless with hours of details from each day. 

There are small things I will always remember from days that meant the world to me.

Moments like asking George Snell not to run Bella Civena on the ground at Market Rasen as she couldn’t win, asking Charlie Pelham to keep waiting with Puffin Bay because I still hadn’t quite worked her out.

Having long conversations with Colm Donlon regarding Shared and how we were going to plot our way to sneak into the Fred Winter or thoroughly enjoying the WhatsApp groups of Beyond Redemption and Irish Fortune

These are things trainers do every day which were all new to me and I loved it all, I really did. 

I suppose if I had to pin one highlight down it would still have to be that day at Huntingdon with Seeloomorebusiness, I keep thinking back to that day wishing I could relive those five minutes after the race again and again and again. 

One thing that has given me a lot of enjoyment this season is the partnership I have struck up with Paul O’ Brien, my stable jockey.

Paul’s best season before this year had been a tally of 14 so the fact that he got to 37 this season demonstrates how much of a breakthrough year this has been for him. 

Now, I would not have rung him in the summer if I did not think he was a very talented and underused guy, but the way we have teamed up this season has been extremely pleasing. 

Paul adds so much value to the yard even when I am training the horses at home, from his feedback on work mornings or schooling sessions, there has been countless examples of him making a little suggestion that has made all the difference. 

On the track he has been faultless and his ride on Seeloomorebusiness at Huntingdon really set the tone. He came out to the paddock before the race and suggested there may not be much pace so we chatted about how we would both be happy if he set it himself. That day he had everyone dancing to his tune and set the perfect fractions. 

It was not just Seeloomorebusiness though, from a hold up ride on Puffin Bay when he never left the rail, getting her to jump perfectly, two lovely confidence building rides on Dargiannini or managing to harness Any Biscuits’ abundant enthusiasm to win two on him.

He also cajoled the very best out of Shared who, without question before his first race could have gone either way attitude wise. He gets a real rattle out of him however and he has turned into a resolute little horse. 

Paul is now in his early 30s and is about to head into his very best years in the saddle and I, without question, am going to reap the benefits of that.

He is a great guy who my owners have really been impressed with and I’m looking forward to seeing how our partnership develops.  

Overall then I will remember this season for many reasons and always look back on this start up four months with great fondness.

I am, however, only too aware it was nothing more than a good start and if I am going to do what I aspire to do in this profession, the hard work has to very much continue, and we have a long way to go. 

My numbers are looking like they will nearly double for next season which is exciting, and I am very much on a recruitment drive currently for new horses and new team members to join me. 

I have a lot to focus on this summer, starting in just under two weeks with Brentford Hope and Dargiannini running at Haydock Park on the May 13th.

It will then be time for the Doncaster Sales and the summer will roll on.

Lots to look forward to then and that is the most important thing to do I feel; focus and build for the future.

I have however thoroughly enjoyed looking back on the last few months and I hope you have enjoyed reading about it. 

Until next time, go well. 

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