Nestled just outside the sleepy Dorset village of Mosterton is Potwell Farm Stables, HQ for one of the more upwardly mobile National Hunt handlers, Anthony Honeyball; and his partner, head lass, stable jockey and all round bastion of the yard, Rachael Green.
Honeyball and Green have enjoyed a strong start to their respective careers, and the last two years are noteworthy for the impressive trajectory of the stable’s winner tally, which has been achieved without impact to the strike rate.
Indeed, in 2010/11, the Honeyball team won fourteen races from just 64 runners (with a further 22 placed 2nd to 4th); and last season, he saddled 24 winners from 89 runners (with 32 more 2nd to 4th, a remarkable 74% of runners in the first four!).
The win strike rates are 22% and a hugely impressively 27% respectively, and they present a tough bar to surpass.
But the really impressive element is that prize money won has increased from around £49,000 in 2010/11 to around £112,000 in 2011/12. That means that, not only are the team improving the number of wins, but they’re also winning better quality races.
Honeyball and Green have been a combination I’ve had on side for a couple of years now, and are featured in my ‘Winning Trainers’ report.
And, as a member of the Anthony Honeyball Racing Club, I was lucky enough to be shown around the Potwell Farm Stables last weekend, and here is what AJH himself had to say about his equine equipe for the season…
Alpancho – 6yo gelding
Ran twice in bumpers last term. Schooled well, and could take some beating in a 2m4f-3m hurdle first time out. Will make a lovely chaser in time.
As De Fer – 6yo gelding – OR 143 chase / 133 hurdle
Had a wind op since last season, after not quite getting home in his races. That could improve him and, if it does, he might win a nice race. Probably wants it soft and a flattish track.
Atlantic Tiger – 5yo gelding – OR 77 flat
Been off the track for two years, and formerly with Mark ‘Always Trying’ Johnston, but he works quite well and could be ready to win. There’s a possible two mile handicap at York, at which he might be aimed.
Ballybough Pat – 5yo gelding
Won a point to point for the stable and then did it nicely in a Ffos Las bumper last term, and is figured to be a nice horse for novice hurdles this time around. Could be a very decent horse for the yard and, if things drop right, he’ll be aimed at the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.
Blue Zealot – 5yo mare
Formerly with Michael Bell, she’s seemingly been sweetened up by a change of scenery. Two runs since her arrival have yielded two runners up spots, and should be a fun flat horse. She’ll go over a hurdle at some point.
She might be a nice one to look out for in mares’ bumpers from October onwards, and her ultimate aim might be the £50,000 DBS Mares’ Bumper at Newbury, or possibly the Listed Sandown route. All depends on her first run.
Cresswell Crusader – 8yo gelding – OR 119 hurdle
AJH Club horse. Has had a number of niggles, which are slowly being put right. He’s suffered with a persistent hock issue, which is being managed; and he’s also had a wind operation since last season. He looked pretty fit and, all being well, could run at the end of September. Must have soft ground, and will likely start in a handicap hurdle.
Danimix – 7yo gelding – OR 127 chase
Won at Worcester but unfortunately injured himself in the process. Currently on box rest, and we’ll see how he goes. May hopefully be back in February/March time.
Dorset Naga – 6yo gelding – OR 114 chase / 107 hurdle
Named after a very hot chilli pepper, this fellow has had a wind op since last year. He’d been consistently placed (five of seven runs ended with third or fourth position) before finally winning last time at Fontwell. He might still have some progression in him off the back of the operation and a novice chase win.
Eleven Fifty Nine – 6yo mare
A flagship horse for the yard, this lass won or placed in all five of her bumper starts last year. The highlights were a close third in the Listed Sandown mares’ NH Flat race, and a win at Aintree in the Listed mares’ NH Flat race. She’ll be kept to mares’ novice hurdles this term, and is likely to take very high rank in that brigade. Late season target might be Newbury’s Mares’ Final race. One for ten to follow lists!
Hell’s Spirit – 4yo Gelding
Nice horse. This chap won his only point-to-point start for David Dennis, and has now moved to the Honeyball yard. The trainer is very much looking forward to running him, and thinks he could be pretty smart.
He’s Our Lad – 6yo gelding – OR 133 chase / 133 hurdle
Very game and consistent, as evidenced by his matching 133 ratings for both hurdles and chases. Moreover, he’s been in the frame on all bar two of his fourteen completed starts. He may run Saturday in a decent race, and will have a (n obvious) place chance.
Jackies Solitaire – 4yo filly – OR 124 hurdle
A really likeable sort as a juvenile hurdler last year, she was unlucky not to win a Grade 2 at Doncaster before staying on after missing the break in the Fred Winter. She might have been over the top when running below par on her final start, and it will be interesting to see how she fares in handicap hurdles this term off her current mark.
Jaja De Jau – 3yo filly
Just the one flat run, when green and a little backward at Kempton in May. She might do better in a twelve furlong maiden now. She’s a half brother to Sergeant Cecil.
Kalani King – 5yo gelding
Cost £20k, and was 3rd in a £50k bumper on debut. Will probably start in a novice hurdle in October, but will make a nice chaser in time. Worth following when he does go over fences.
Marie Des Anges – 4yo filly – OR 111 hurdle
Inherited from Alison Thorpe’s yard when she handed back her license. Won first time out for AJH, then third on two subsequent starts, the latter of which was very falsely run and wouldn’t have suited. She might now go chasing or head for a two mile handicap hurdle, where she’ll need them to go a decent gallop.
Midnight Minx – 5yo mare
Only run twice, but won both starts in bumpers. She’s still eligible for bumpers this term, and will take the Eleven Fifty Nine route towards the Sandown and Aintree Listed Mares’ Bumpers. AJH rates her as highly as 11:59, which means she must be very good. Another for ten to follow lists!
Mister Hendre – 4yo gelding
Not a world beater, but the yard think they know where they are with him now. Will be interesting in three mile handicaps, where hopefully he can win one or two.
On The Buckle –
Could be a nice horse if he takes to racing, and a NH Flat race on a galloping track in October is a possible. Time will tell with him.
Bought for 65,000 euros at the sales, he is a very fluent mover and hurdler. Won’t be seen out too early, and certainly won’t be rushed, but a very nice prospect.
Regal Encore – 4yo gelding
You will never see a more facile bumper victory than Regal Encore’s two length violation of Ron and the rest in a Southwell all weather race back in February. This chap has been sold to none other than JP McManus, who will be a very interesting new owner for the yard, and he looks destined for big things, if that first run is anything to go by. Will run in a bumper in October.
Royal Announcement – 5yo gelding
AJH Club horse. A slow maturing, stamina-laden chap. He will Likely head first to a soft ground flat track bumper, and might be ready around the end of October/early November. Most likely to come into his own over further in due course, and could do well for the club.
Royal Native – 4yo gelding
Been second in two of his four bumpers, and will now go novice hurdling. He’ll probably start over two miles, but will be of more interest over further, especially in a handicap. One to keep an eye on for a step up in trip/first time in a handicap.
Rocquaine Sauvage –
AJH Club horse. Just off the boat from Ireland, and a few problems to iron out. Will hopefully be a nice club horse in time.
Sir Toby Tiler –
Another expensive purchase from the sales, this time weighing in at 100,000 Euros. He’s a very fluent mover and a good jumper and, like Oscartier (same ownership), he won’t be rushed. One to look out for, and could be a flagship horse in time.
Taradrewe – 5yo mare
Fourth when Eleven Fifty Nine was third in the Listed Sandown Bumper, though at a respectful distance. A lot to look forward to all the same, first in bumpers and then novice hurdles. She could be a nice mare.
Uncle Johnny – 7yo gelding – OR 88 hurdle
A very lowly hurdle mark for the yard, and has been hobdayed (throat operation) since last term. Has something to prove, and might need to prove it pronto if not to be moved on…
Unnamed 3yo Oscar gelding
Bought for 31,000 Euros, and a very nice looking fellow indeed. By a very fashionable (and effective) sire, he’s being syndicated into six shares at £5,000 apiece. I’m sorely tempted to get involved, but would need a few Geegeez readers to join me to justify a share I think. I think…!
AJH is really pleased with his acquisition, and is retaining a good percentage of the horse himself, which may also be a pointer to his ability.
Velator – 5yo gelding – OR 125 hurdle
Looked to be going nowhere after six runs over two miles or thereabouts. Revitalised in handicaps and over a trip of three miles plus, he’s now won his last three, and been caned by the handicapper as a consequence. Needs good ground, and may run at Perth soon. Still has a chance of the four-timer despite being raised 39 pounds (!) by the handicapper since that first win.
Vicator – 4yo gelding
As the name suggests, he’s a full brother to Velator and, so far, he’s got all the ability of his bro in two mile soft ground bumpers. Expect better when the ground dries up, the trip goes up, and the handicap mark has been allotted.
Victors Serenade – 7yo gelding – OR 140 chase / 133 hurdle
Almost saving the best for last, Victors Serenade has been in the first three in all of his last seven completed starts. In winning his last two races, he’s been bumped up to a notch of 140, which makes him a decent old stick. Could go for a 0-145 chase in November. He shows his best on heavy ground and, if all goes well, would go next to the Welsh National in late December.
My three to keep an eye on
Eleven Fifty Nine – she could carry all before her in mares’ novice hurdles this year and, whilst it probably won’t make you rich following her, it might well make you smile.
Could win at a nice price
Victors Serenade – he’s still only seven and relatively lightly raced. As such, he’s got a lot of scope to improve and is already rated 140. Having won off 11-12 last season, weight won’t stop him, and nor will heavy ground. A flat track, heavy going Graded handicap chase looks within his compass, all being well, and I’ll be following him closely.
Could be anything material
Regal Encore – Watch his Southwell win if you can. It’s on RacingPost.com and ATR as well, I think. He destroyed his rivals that day and, whilst the form is hard to quantify, it was an imperious display. He will start in bumpers and, as a JP McManus-owned horse, he’ll hope to end up at one of the Festivals, ideally Cheltenham. It’s possible that this will be the horse which puts Anthony James Honeyball squarely on the map of top trainers to follow.
Two final thoughts, picked up as we wandered around the yard:
“We always feel like we can improve them a little bit” – watch out for horses making their debut for the yard having previously been trained elsewhere.
Indeed, of the nineteen horses making their first start for AJH having previously been trained and raced elsewhere, five have won, for a thirty point level stake profit!
“If we go a long distance, we tend to think they have a good chance” – watch out for AJH horses on the longest traveler lists.