The village of Wilmcote lies in Warwickshire, almost smack bang in the middle of the country.
It's here that Anabel Murphy has her stables. With Stratford a matter of five miles away, and both Mary Arden's house and Anne Hathaway's cottage even closer, it's no great surprise to find William Shakespeare making reference in one of his plays to one of her favourite horses, Dormouse, a ten year old gelding owned by husband Aiden .
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the stable after entering a draw at Warwick races to win an honorary share in Dormouse. I didn't win; the honor of honorary (no prize money) ownership went to Warwick racecourse regular Chris Such. But an offer to all the other entrants of a morning on the gallops was too good to miss, and if all 400 or so take it up, then there are some very busy days ahead at Moor Farm. I'm very grateful to Anabel for the time she spent explaining the operation there and setting out her hopes for her horses that will be running in the next few weeks
Moor Farm has around 50 boxes, although most of the time they house only a dozen or so horses in active racing fettle. However, as a dual purpose yard there are horses on the go throughout the year, and at the moment, half a dozen or so pregnant mares about to come in from the fields for the winter. Other boxes are often occupied by horses in Aiden's bloodstock business, and over the years he has found several good jumping horses for Graham Whateley. Indeed, the Murphys carry out a lot of the early education of these horses, and whilst most of them move on in time to the Philip Hobbs yard, Whateley invariably leaves one to be trained by Anabel.
The family also has a connection to Gordon Elliott's stables in Ireland, where son Olly is assistant trainer ahead of taking over the licence here in a year or two. That link came in handy a couple of weeks ago when the Elliott horsebox broke down on the M5 after Cheltenham's Paddy Power meeting. For the last fortnight Seeyouallincoppers has lodged at Moor Farm awaiting a replacement box for his journey home.
Let's see now what Anabel had to say about the racehorses that will be running in the next month or so, starting with two that belong to Ridgeway Racing Club, run by Olly Murphy.
Bush Warrior: 4yo Gelding
Bush Warrior is new to the yard, having coming through the sale ring from Robert Eddery's Newmarket yard. He's had a busy year in which his 13 races have yielded one win and four further top three finishes. He's a sprinter and has raced exclusively over five and six furlongs. Yet to have his first run for his new stable, the hope is that a change of scenery will bring about improvement. The win in June, on Kempton's all weather track pushed his BHA rating up ten pounds to 74, though it has now dropped to 70, which should help him be more competitive.
Indian Scout: 7yo gelding
Indian Scout is Ridgeway Racing Club's long distance flat runner. The syndicate acquired him almost two years ago, since when he has run regularly for them. 11 races last year saw a win over 1m 5f at Wolverhampton (20/1) at the beginning of December, and he was placed twice on the turf during the summer. This year, a 20/1 success at Brighton over 12 furlongs is the only time he's made the frame. His odds in those two victories, both Class 6 amateur rider handicaps, underline his trainer's assessment that Indian Scout isn't all that good, but that he can be competitive at the right level. On turf, he needs going no worse than good.
Eland Ally: 7yo gelding
Another new recruit to the yard, this time from Karen Tutty's stable in North Yorkshire. Elland Ally was found to have some problems with his teeth and back, and he appeared to be running as if feeling some pain. These have now been resolved, so that he approaches his work with more confidence. He's another sprinter, and has a clear liking for Catterick, where he's won once and placed twice this season in Class 5 and 6 handicaps. That's quite a trip from Stratford, so it remains to be seen whether vet's work can bring about improved form, and whether he'll have a liking for anywhere closer to home.
Generalyse: 6yo gelding
Generalyse is the only one of Murphy's horses with an immediate engagement. Indeed, he carries top weight in a handicap at Kempton this afternoon. His odds fairly reflect what you might expect of him today. Last year he was running on the all weather off a mark of 79, and although that's now fallen to 70, Murphy thinks he's still badly handicapped and needs to drop a grade or two before he can bring home any prize money.
Rigolleto: 7yo gelding
Rigolleto is the current form horse in the yard, having finished runner up in two of his last four races. That's about par for him, as in a career of 67 races he's won four times and placed on a further 28 occasions. His most recent run, last week at Lingfield, saw him finish fourth in a 0-75 handicap. Next time out, he'll be entered in a 0-65 or 0-70 race, for which the trainer says he's "nailed on to win."
King's Road: 10yo gelding
King's Road was brought over from Ireland a little over four years ago, since when he's run on the flat and over hurdles. It's when he goes jumping that we should look out for this horse, and particularly at Market Rasen on Boxing Day. He's run twice in the selling hurdle at that meeting, finishing runner up in 2012 and winning last year. He ran off a mark of 100 then, so a current handicap rating of 97 is a promising indicator. Since joining Murphy he's also won at Fakenham and Huntingdon off a similar rating, so he's worth looking out for on a tight, flat track at anything up to 100, and especially in that seller at Market Rasen, which is his next planned run.
Dormouse: 10yo gelding
Dormouse is the stable pet and the horse Shakespeare referenced. In Twelfth Night, Fabian jibes Sir Andrew Aguecheek about his "dormouse valour" in his wooing of Olivia. In Dormouse's case, there's no need "to put fire in your heart and brimstone in your liver", as he always gives his best.
A hurdler, since the beginning of October he's run three times at Warwick, largely because of the involvement with the ownership promotion there. Now Murphy is ready to look further afield and focus on finding the right race and jockey rather than running locally because he needed to. Sadly, AP McCoy, who guided Dormouse to wins at Warwick and Taunton, isn't available any longer.