Kevin Ryan may have found Saturday’s results rather frustrating, but in truth three second places in listed and group events has to be seen as an encouraging start to the Flat season.
Astaire and Glory Awaits were runners-up at Doncaster, with Glory Awaits in particular running out of his skin to get so close to Tullius when giving the winner 7lbs. Last seen taking a Group 2 in Turkey and winning prize-money of £225,000, he was ridden in his customary fashion on Saturday, with Silvestre De Sousa dictating matters from the front. The tactics almost worked with Tullius only getting on top late on. Smart placement will certainly see this son of Choisir winning again this summer.
Astaire also ran with great credit but is finding it difficult to get his head in front since a stunning campaign as a two-year-old. The sprint division is incredibly competitive, but ridden with more restraint than usual this was a promising season opener. Indeed he looked the winner when stylishly taking the lead inside the final furlong, but was run down by an impressive Naadirr.
While coming close at Doncaster, Ryan’s stable star also came off second best in Meydan. The Grey Gatsby ran another cracker in defeat, but found the Freddy Head trained Solow far too good in the Dubai Turf. Certain to have a productive season, the Irish Champion Stakes winner was outpaced over this nine furlong trip, but will improve for the run and can win at the highest level again when stepped up in distance.
The trainer from North Yorkshire had a wonderful 2014 and will be hoping for a comparable season this time round. Training since 1998, Ryan was born in Co. Tipperary and travelled over to England at the age of 15. He took out a conditional licence and rode 47 winners before retiring from the saddle and joining Jack Berry as Head Lad.
Gaining a huge amount of experience over a six year period he then moved to Yorkshire to join Richard Fahey as an assistant. After a couple of years the chance arose to move to Hambleton Lodge. Extensive gallops stretch over an area which originally formed the famous Hambleton Racecourse. In the 17th and 18th centuries the track held many prestigious meetings and was once heralded as the Newmarket of the North.
As facilities were expanded and improved, so Ryan was able to make his mark as a trainer, and in 2005 the stable sent out Amadeus Wolf to win their first Group 1 in the Middle Park Stakes. That win was closely followed by another at the highest level when Palace Episode won the Racing Post Trophy.
Desert Lord’s win in the Prix De L’Abbaye of 2006 has to go down as one of the training highlights. That is until The Grey Gatsby came along. His victories in the Prix du Jockey Club and Irish Champion have seen his earnings rocket towards and then through the £2 million barrier.
Ryan has an extensive team at Hambleton giving crucial support, including Bloodstock Agent Stephen Hillen. The former assistant to Paul Cole has built a reputation as being one of the best in the business. They have created a terrific partnership and over the years have uncovered many talented youngsters, including the likes of Bapak Chinta, Bogart, Blaine and Astaire. The Grey Gatsby gave him and Ryan their first classic success.
With around 100 horses in training, expect the Yorkshire trainer to again be tussling for major prizes over the summer, with his classy grey leading the charge.