Rookie stirs up the champion trainer market

Harry Fry (centre) to train Rock On Ruby

A rookie trainer who doesn’t yet have a licence is already changing the odds on this season’s National Hunt champion trainer market. Bookmakers are taking quite a strong view that Paul Nicholls’ seven-year hold on the title is over, and that Nicky Henderson will pick up the accolade for the first time since the 1986-87 season.

It’s 25-year-old Harry Fry who is causing the turbulence. He’s been involved with horses pretty much all his life, and soon after leaving school spent four years as pupil assistant to Nicholls. He followed that up as assistant trainer to Richard Barber at Seaborough Manor Racing for the past two years. The Dorset stable has very close links to Nicholls and several horses that race under his name have had their preparation supervised by Barber and Fry.

Chief amongst these is Champion Hurdler Rock On Ruby, and one of the reasons Nicholls is thought less likely to hang on as top trainer is that Fry will start training under his own name with the champion hurdler in his yard, one of 20 or so horses he plans to start off with. He’s already registered the company name Harry Fry Racing, and hopes to have his licence approved so he can began sending out horses from 1 October.

It isn’t just the loss of Rock On Ruby that’s affecting Nicholls’ chances of retaining his title. Top chasers Denman and Master Minded have both been retired, and Nicholls and Clive Smith, owner of Kauto Star have yet to make a decision whether he’ll race this season. The loss in one go of three, possibly four of the horses that have contributed substantial sums of prize money is the main reason bookmakers moved his price for the trainer championship out from 6/4 to 15/8, and contracted Henderson’s odds to 4/9.