Yesterday’s meeting at Kempton may have proved slightly disappointing for Nicky Henderson and his team, but for his former satellite yard, the day was truly a memorable one.
The much touted West Wizard was sent off a short priced favourite for the master of Seven Barrows in the opening novice hurdle, but as in the very same race 12 months ago, the highly thought of gelding proved to be second best. Arzal, a very promising French import, ran out a comfortable winner for trainer Harry Whittington.
Harry is one of racing’s newest trainers having only taken out his licence in September 2012. His Hill Barn Stables are a short gallop from Lambourn. He is the grandson of the late and much renowned Colin Nash, a huntsman, breeder, owner and trainer of point to pointers. On leaving school Harry spent time in Australia working with horses, learning his trade, including the skill of breaking-in and crucially developing an eye for spotting talented young horses.
In September 2003 he worked for pre-trainer Malcolm Bastard. As his assistant he broke-in many successful yearlings, including Lucarno, who went on to win the St Leger. In April 2007, Harry set up Hill Barn stables as a pre-training yard, supported by many successful local trainers. In the seasons of 2011 and 2012, the operation became a satellite yard for Nicky Henderson, sending out 17 winners.
As a trainer in his own right the stables are now in a state of continual development. With the current 12 boxes set to increase to 19 by Christmas, talented horses such as Arzal are sure to help attract prospective owners.
Hill Barn Stables continues to improve and expand on its own facilities but also has the bonus of immediate access to extensive services managed by the Jockey Club Estates including artificial and grass gallops along with top-class schooling grounds.
Harry continues to search for new talent with regular visits to the sales. One of his greatest purchases to date was Johns Spirit, who he later sold to Jonjo O’Neill. Clearly such a keen eye will play a crucial part in the future success of the yard.
For now, that talent is a four-year-old novice hurdler from France. This fledgling team will be hoping that Arzal can progress further as the season continues. He looks to be a horse with great potential. The ‘giant killing’ act at Kempton may not have impressed his illustrious neighbour, but it certainly hinted at an exciting winter ahead for yet another new up-and-coming trainer.