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A good weekend is forecast

Friday, 13 October 2017

"Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold."

Zelda Fitzgerald.

Bracken Brae

It’s a windy morning with just a few showers of light rain. The temperature is holding up well though and I think the weekend looks very similar with storms starting next week. It has been a good morning staff wise once again, with everybody in, including Joey Haynes. We have got on well and worked some backward two-year-old fillies and everything has had a good exercise. It has been a busy week with the sales and now we have the weekend racing plus a few visitors have dropped in to see their horses in the yard and on the gallops.

Rum Ration

Our two runners were very disappointing last night. Koin, I think, will be found a new home in the near future. Gee Sixty Six travelled well, was in a good position, but I am sure he can’t quicken going left handed and doesn’t seem to stay that far. All In all one of those nights you just have to forget and go back to the drawing board. I also missed out on a very nice horse at the sales yesterday, which we bid strongly for but lost out to an agent who has clients with bottomless pockets. It is so disappointing when this happens, but you just have to move on.

We have one runner at the weekend. Lost The Moon runs at York on Saturday in the two mile handicap. I hope it doesn’t rain and the ground continues to dry out. She is in reasonably good form, but this looks a competitive race and it will be interesting to see how she shapes up.

Second lot walking back to the yard

An incident happened in Ireland yesterday, which wouldn’t happen here in England. A racecourse did not have enough stables for runners on the day, so some horses had to stand on their horseboxes until they could get into their stables. It was caused by a divided race, but in England, even if they divide a race, the number of runners on the day would all have a guaranteed stable on the track. It is also a rule that horses have to be on the course at least an hour before their race. I don’t know if that is the same in Ireland. I am sure they will rectify this in the near future as it could certainly be a health and safety and horse welfare matter.


We are busy steam cleaning and painting stables here at Frankland Lodge at present before the influx of homebred yearlings start to come in from next week onwards. It always does the boxes good to be cleaned and power washed. We then apply some very expensive paint from America, which covers the walls brilliantly and lasts well. It means you can steam clean the walls and they come up nearly new. You can also steam clean when horses are moved to different boxes. Stable management is a very important part of the training business.

Pumpkin Parade

Everybody at Dullingham Park is delighted (see picture) with a pumpkin grown on the muckheap, in partnership with Richard Marriott. It won first prize last week and is running again tomorrow. David and the team at the stud have been feeding and watering it daily and it weighed in at over 300lbs.

Phil on Friday


Weight has always been a curse for many jockeys. Over the last few years the lifting of the minimum to be carried in handicaps has reduced the misery for plenty, but not all. Statistics show that the average weight and size of human beings in general has risen a good deal so perhaps racing is just keeping pace.

It is probably doing more than that, though. Some of the weights carried to victory in times gone by are truly astonishing.

The Lincolnshire Handicap of 1849 was won by Midia carrying 4st. 11lbs. As ‘The Lincoln’ evolved, a couple of early winners carried 5st. 12lbs. and 5st. 13lbs. These were welter burdens, though, compared to some big handicaps in the mid-1800s. The Great Metropolitan at Epsom was especially noted for its light-weight victors – Stilton won in 1852 carrying 4st. 11lbs. Its ‘sister’ race, the City and Suburban, was won in the same period by two horses carrying 4st. 12lbs.

The Ebor winner of 1844, a horse called Godfrey, carried 4st. 6lbs, and even that was bettered in the Chester Cup and Manchester Cup of the same era when the winners of each had to hump around exactly 4st.

Many decades later ‘Kipper’ Lynch was among the star lightweights. He claimed his apprentice allowance to ride Phaeton at 6st. in the Lincoln of 1957. He was unplaced but a few weeks later won the ‘Great Met’ on Gay Ballad with 6st. 8lbs.

Getting down to 6st. was commonplace in the fifties for Kipper and his contemporaries, and the task of Dennis Ward was relatively simple, again in 1957, when he had only to make 6st 5lbs. to ride the winner of the November Handicap, then a more prestigious race than it is now.

One of the oddest stories of its type concerned teenage jockey John Parsons who won the Derby of 1862 on Caractacus. The horse’s owner had ordered him to eat as much as possible to increase his body-weight and so lessen the amount of ‘dead weight’ the horse had to carry. It obviously worked.

Of course, many lightweights grew at a remarkable rate later on. A fine example was Jack Jarvis who weighed less than 6st when he rode his first winner but became a formidable figure when he moved on to training. Dave Dick, the only jockey to have won both legs of the ‘Spring Double’, landed The Lincoln in 1941 on Gloaming, carrying 7st. 4lbs, then sprouted rapidly into a six-footer but managed to win the Grand National of 1956, albeit fortuitously, on ESB at 11st. 3lbs.

There is another angle to all this: in 2010 the conditions of a race at a Somerset point-to-point stipulated that all jockeys must weigh at least 14st. Separately, amateur Jonnie Fenwick-Clennell competed in a similar race at Alnwick having weighed out at 18st. 6lbs. ‘in full hunting clobber’.

This makes our own Michael Jenkins’ story of once having to put up 22lbs.overweight (blaming his Mum’s pies) as very small beer indeed.


We have two runners today at Chelmsford

Thursday, 12 October 2017

"Exercise should be regarded as tribute to the heart."

Gene Tunney.

First lot working Across The Flat

It’s a dry morning and we had a real red sky at dawn. There is very little wind as well, which is helping the temperature. I have been working Across The Flat on the turf with two lots of horses. Everything went smoothly and as I expected. We have got a full complement of staff at present so the flag was flying.

Red sky

We have two runners today both at Chelmsford this evening. Our first runner is Koin at 5.45 in the 7f claimer. She has shown nothing to date in three outings, but I just can’t believe that she is as bad as her runs. The blinkers will galvanise her and David Egan, who is riding really well, gets 3lbs off her back. There used to be a lot of claimers and sellers, but they have been dying out of late, which is a disappointment, as they are a good race for people to drop horses into. This is a claimer for any horse to be claimed for £20,000 or less and you handicap your own horse by putting it is for a lesser claim. There are several horses here that were bought or bought back around the £50,000 mark, so this is a big drop in value for them. It just goes to show how these very silly prices at the sales are putting normal owners off entering the sport.

Our other runner is Gee Sixty Six in the last at 9.15. He is not without a chance if he settles, is drawn well in two, and I am hoping for a reasonable run tonight.

Second lot of workers

Following on from yesterday’s comment about the claims of malpractices in the sales ring, there is a double page spread in the Racing Post today on the subject. I have been at the sales all week and the prices have been ridiculously high for the amount of prize money we are racing for. That said the vast majority of the horses have been bought by people that money doesn’t mean anything to, in that the oil rich sheikhs and big conglomerates have got never ending pockets. However, this situation doesn’t do any good, or encourage anybody looking in from the outside, as the normal owner would not understand how the market is being manipulated. I managed to buy a cracking horse yesterday for £28,000 and that is the right sort of money to pay for a new owner entering the fray. It can be done, but you have to be very selective and know what you are doing. I think that sales companies could have a lot more clarification as to who owns and buys the majority of the horses.


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