Leech yard set for another best season return

Trainer Sophie Leech

Trainer Sophie Leech

If you go down to the woods today……..on the edge of the Forest of Dean you’ll come to the stables of Sophie Leech. She’s held a licence since 2007, having previously run a satellite yard for Milton Bradley, and has steadily increased the number of winners she’s sent out.

With two winners in the opening weeks of the new jumps season, and four new recruits to her yard, Leech is well placed to continue on an upward curve. This week, she spoke to This Is Gloucestershire about her prospects. Before we look at what she had to say, let’s take a glance at her results since she started out.

Wins Runs % Placed %
2013-14 2 18 11 4 22
2012-13 18 148 12 50 33
2011-12 10 134 7 39 29
2010-11 9 122 7 39 32
2009-10 5 86 6 22 26
2008-09 6 79 8 17 22
2007-08 0 29 0 8 28

With just 30 boxes in her yard, Leech is never going to top the trainers’ list, but the position she’s in, averaging a winner for almost every horse she had last year, is one many trainers would be happy with. A win and place total of close on 40% over the past three seasons suggests a stable very much on the up. Several factors contribute to the ever more healthy total of winners, most obviously having more runners. With experience comes a deeper knowledge of the horses, and greater skill at finding the right race for them. And with a growing volume of winners come better horses, and consequently better opportunities.

Leech’s latest bunch of recruits is evidence of that. Takeroc, Woody Waller and Radmires Revenge are all multiple winners to have joined Leech in the last month along with the less experienced Piano Concerto. They won’t be running just yet, with Leech relying on five of her established charges over the next week to bring her to the winner’s enclosure again.

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Winston Churchill has been placed in his last three races, and runs at Ffos Las tomorrow. Leech says he needs the better ground he will have there, and “works at home like a serious horse but really needs to translate that on to the track.” That sounds like a “can do” horse, but not a “will do”.

Next Tuesday is a busy day, as Leech sends two runners to Worcester, and two to Fontwell. Keenes Day won two novice hurdles at Worcester last summer and then went chasing. He reverted to hurdles two runs ago, and was hopelessly outclassed in a Class 3 handicap at Aintree last month. Leech says Keenes Day has in the past made his own mind up whether or not he wants to race, but “his attitude this season seems to be much better than last.” She’s hopeful of an improved effort.

Also heading to Worcester is Rolling Dough, who will run in the mares’ bumper. She’s primarily there to gain more racecourse experience and will go hurdling after this race.

River D’Or might be Leech’s best chance of a winner. True, he’s only come first in one of his 24 starts. That was at Fontwell over 3m 2f, the same course and distance he tackles next week. He finished fourth, beaten just under four lengths at Towcester last month, and Leech thought that he showed real signs of a return to form.

Seven Summits makes up the numbers, and it will be a real surprise if he does anything more than that. It’s more than two years since he went off at single figure odds in any race. He’s another recent recruit following the best part of two years off through injury. Leech has given him two runs on the flat to bring him back gently, and he’ll have his first hurdle run since April 2011 at Fontwell. It’s safe to say that he was quickly marked for the out door, despite a first and a second placing when Aidan O’Brien trained him as a three year old.

Leech doesn’t have a retained jockey, as the stable isn’t big enough to warrant it, so there’s always an element of hope that she can engage one of the three she uses most regularly. She said, “it can be quite tricky sorting out the logistics of who is going to ride which horse on days like these. We have a group of jockeys we generally use and are lucky enough that the majority of the time at least one of them is available. We have known Paul Moloney since he came over here around ten years ago. He has been a major part of our yard since we started training and his experience is really beneficial to our yard’s progression.”

Moloney is at Ffos Las tomorrow, but may or may not be able to ride Winston Churchill, as his boss Evan Williams has a horse in the same race (final declarations may change this).

Richie McLernon, based with Jonjo O’Neill, is another regular pilot, and Phillip Hobbs’ conditional jockey James Best is the third of her regular trio. There’s one more name to look out for. Leech says she has no qualms about putting up a 7lb claimer, especially on young horses. Kieron Edgar is the one she’ll be giving rides to as the season goes on.

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