Tag Archive for: Andy Edwards

Fautinette taking Grade One plunge at Aintree

Andy Edwards, fresh from Grade One glory at Cheltenham with L’Homme Presse, is hoping Fautinette can spring a surprise on her British debut when she runs in the Jewson Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on Thursday.

Like Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase winner L’Homme Presse, Fautinette is trained by Venetia Williams, who is pitching the filly into top-class company for her first outing.

Having won all three of her races in France for 14-time French Champion trainer Guillaume Macaire and Hector de Lageneste, her co-owner sent her to the Herefordshire-based yard in the autumn.

Although she will be in receipt of a 7lb mares’ allowance, she will make her belated debut in one of the hottest juvenile hurdles of the season.

L’Homme Presse sparked joyous scenes at Cheltenham
L’Homme Presse sparked joyous scenes at Cheltenham (Mike Egerton/PA)

Edwards explained: “I bought her out of a yard as a young horse from Pau, in Southwest France.

“She was just starting out, doing some baby schooling. I noticed her and she wasn’t actually for sale, but I badgered the owner. They tried to send me other horses, but I said she was the one I wanted. I had to buy another one so I could buy her as well.”

He added: “I spotted something in her very early and she started early for us last year as a three-year-old. She worked nicely but surprised us the first time with the way she did it so easily (at Angouleme) and then it just got better and better.

“Her third race (at Vichy) was very good. So I put her away for the summer and brought her over to Venetia’s in November. She had a setback just before Christmas which knocked her back.

“Then she was one of the snotty-nosed bunch that Venetia told everyone about before Cheltenham and that set her back another couple of weeks.

“We always had this race in mind, but we would have ideally have liked to have got a prep run into her because of the setback she had.”

Though Gordon Elliott’s Triumph Hurdle third Pied Pier may have had a hard race at Cheltenham, he is currently odds-on with most firms.

With the likes of Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle winner Brazil, unbeaten Petit Tonnerre and triple Grade Two scorer Knight Salute also taking her on, Edwards knows Fautinette faces no easy task.

“It is not an ideal situation coming here first time out, and we could have probably done with one more week to get one more piece of work into her, but it is what it is,” he added.

“She is very well and she is fit and ready to go. What we do have on our hands is a fresh, juvenile horse with lots of experience.

“We are looking forward to a good run. It is going to be very hard to beat the two Irish horses, but we are hopeful of a place and we have the allowance, which helps.”

L’Homme Presse not ruled out of Aintree action

L’Homme Presse needs plenty to go his way if he is to line up in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree on Friday, according to connections.

The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old produced one of the finest displays of jumping ever witnessed at Cheltenham when landing the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase in deep ground last month.

Co-owner Andy Edwards, who bought the horse from France, is not ruling out the possibility of running the spectacular jumper in the three-mile-one-furlong Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

Edwards said: “We are leaving the door ajar, because he is very well. I saw him yesterday and he is very well in himself and if he goes anywhere, it will be Aintree next week.

“The door is ajar, it is not wide open. There will have to be a lot of ‘ifs’ that come into play for him to actually run.

“It has got to rain – we need plenty of liquid sunshine – and the entries would have to cut up a little bit, so we will have a look and take a view.

“The trouble is, the Mildmay is a very tight track and it is not a big, galloping track. It would not be perfectly ideal, so the ground would have to be very ideal for him to go there.

“He is very bright-eyed, he was standing very tall and proud, as he should be, so everything is good.

“It is funny how suddenly they know how good they are.”

Andy Edwards
Andy Edwards says L’Homme Presse is lapping up the limelight (Andy Edwards/PA)

Edwards will likely still have a runner in a Grade One contest at the Liverpool track next week, however.

He revealed: “Fingers crossed, Fautinette will be running in the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle on Thursday.

“She ran three times in France for me last year as a four-year-old and she is with Venetia as well.

“The entry has gone in. It is her first time out since running last May and she is in a Grade One, so it will be very difficult for her. But she is very well and she deserves her chance.”

No hurry to make plans for L’Homme Presse, but Aintree unlikely

Connections of L’Homme Presse are in no rush to decide his next outing, as they plot their path to next season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Venetia Williams-trained seven-year-old remained unbeaten in five races over fences when taking his second successive Grade One of the season, landing the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase by three and a half lengths.

While the horse has taken the race well, co-owner Andy Edwards was still feeling the after-effects of the celebrations on Sunday.

“I’m in recovery… and I never, ever want to recover from this!” he admitted.

The Gold Cup is now the long-term target, a race for which he was initially quoted at 16-1. Immediately after the race, Edwards suggested that would be his target and told ITV viewers, “Back him (for next year’s Gold Cup)”. L’Homme Presse is now a general 8-1 chance.

Edwards said: “People can get so negative and defensive about racing. If he doesn’t go to the Gold Cup no doubt I will be berated for it, but at the end of the day it is a sport.

“Sport is about being positive and Venetia Williams is going to do her utmost to get him to the Gold Cup next year. So am I.

Andy Edwards, Owner of L'Homme Presse
Andy Edwards makes good use of the trophy (Andy Edwards)

“If people want to back him, then back him, because he is a great horse. Why wouldn’t you back him? He has just won the Festival Chase, which is the novices’ Gold Cup. Go for it!

“He has just won twice at Cheltenham, why shouldn’t he go for the Gold Cup next year?”

L’Homme Presse has lived up to his name, a literal translation being ‘the man in a hurry’, having had five races since the start of December.

Having won the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and the Brown Advisory in quick succession, Edwards is in two minds about going to the well once more with L’Homme Presse.

He admitted: “My thoughts leading into the race were, ‘Let’s not be greedy’. Whatever happens, let’s not be greedy, because this is going to be a championship race and let’s see how he goes.

Venetia Williams could give L'Homme Presse a break
Venetia Williams could give L’Homme Presse a break (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think, from Venetia’s way of thinking, she likes to keep the horses ticking over, but then pick up opportunities as they come up.

“I said to her, ‘We’ll probably be putting him away, won’t we?’, but she just said, ‘We don’t need to have the conversation just yet’.

“I have had a look at the programme and I can’t really see anything in the programme, but like all these things, you do have to see how they come out of the race.

“We ran at Exeter and ran 15 days later at Ascot and we both said we’ll have to see how he is. He didn’t have blow at Exeter, he didn’t have blow at Ascot, he barely had a blow after the Dipper (at Cheltenham) and he certainly didn’t at Sandown.

“He is a horse that normally recovers very quickly, but this is first time where he has had a hard, proper race, where he has had to go and go and run a full championship race, in the mud. That was hard work.

“If you look at it, he was jumping like he was jumping out of good to soft, not heavy ground, which it was. He likes Cheltenham and leaning in on that left-handed course.”

Thoughts of a quick return at Aintree appear to be diminishing.

Edwards explained: “Not only does Aintree come up quick, but the ground will be watered, quick ground and it is not about will he recover in time, I would imagine it is more about how has he come out of the race and do we need to be greedy?

Andy Edwards/co-owner of L'Homme Presse
Edwards says L’Homme Presse will take on bigger fish next season, but is enjoying every minute of the gelding’s success (Andy Edwards)

“Giving him rest was my view before the race and it is still my view now, but I haven’t spoken to Venetia. We’ll have the conversation sometime this week.

“She might be thinking about another race, but I’m not sure what.

“And it’s not a novice chase at Aintree. You will be taking on the big boys at school. Is that what we want to be doing?

“I’m not sure she has Aintree in her mind, but it isn’t the be all and end all.

“For now, we can dream of next year.

“There are only so many miles an engine can do before its performance starts dropping off.

“Some people have Ford Mondeos, some people have Mercedes’, and if you have got a really good one, the chances are you can go a bit further with that engine before the performance starts dropping off, but it is a limited amount of mileage you are going to get. You have got to look at the miles that have been clocked up this season.

“He has won two Grade Ones, a Grade Two and a graduation chase. He has run at the top of the tree five times. You don’t want to start pushing that engine too far, too fast.

“The horse will tell us what he want to do. I have a pretty good feeling, already, as I have been to see him, but I will know more when I see him again.”

L’Homme Presse confirmed for Brown Advisory

L’Homme Presse will definitely take on Bravemansgame and Ahoy Senor in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on Wednesday following discussions between connections on Sunday.

The Venetia Williams-trained L’Homme Presse also holds an entry in the Turners Novices’ Chase on Thursday, although with the weather forecast set fair, the decision was an easy one for Herefordshire-based trainer.

The seven-year-old produced an eyecatching performance in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day and backed that up with another sparkling display in taking the Grade One Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase over a similar trip at Sandown.

However, the unbeaten L’Homme Presse, who is owned by Andy Edwards, his wife, Pam, and Peter and Patricia Pink, will go up in trip and tackle the extended three-miles on Wednesday.

Edwards said: “We were always going to be dictated by what the ground was going to do and if the conditions were softer, we would have gone for the Turners.

“We said to Venetia to do what is best for the horse and after having a discussion earlier today, we have agreed that the Brown Advisory is the right race for him.

“If you look at the start of the Brown Advisory, they start at a more gentle pace. They get into a nice rhythm, as it is a long run to the first fence and it is nicely presented. It is much more confidence-building. That is one of the main reasons why he goes there.

“There is no question L’Homme Presse has loads of natural ability, but this is going to be another big test for him. He has done nothing wrong so far and hopefully he will run well.”

L’Homme Presse – proper ‘gent’ who has been nurtured on the way to biggest stage

L’Homme Presse is much like a freshman university student – the raw ability needs honing. Yet any concerns about whether he can fulfil that massive potential diminished markedly at Sandown.

Having produced a taking performance to land a hat-trick over fences in the Dipper Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham, he backed it up with an imperious display in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase.

Standing in the winner’s enclosure at the Esher track, his tutor, Venetia Williams, looked on with a mixture of joy, relief and pride, as though her student had just been given an A-star for his first meaningful examination.

As for the seven-year-old, he wondered what all the fuss was about, seemingly in his own little bubble, unaware of the concerns of worried guardians, ears pricked, fascinated by the proximity of the crowd and enjoying every bit of attention that came his way. The exuberance and naivety of youth was palpable.

L’Homme Presse has had his problems, including a tendon injury and four-inch screw piercing through his hoof, among them. His patient guardians are unsurprisingly emotionally invested.

Andy Edwards, doing his best to ignore the grit that had made his eyes water (rather unsuccessfully), co-owns L’Homme Presse with his wife, Pam, and Peter and Patricia Pink (best known for their involvement with triple Grade Two-winning chaser Nordance Prince around 20 years ago) under the DFA Racing banner.

Edwards has been a jumps fan for as long as he can remember. His parents had horses with David Elsworth and Philip Mitchell in the 80s and he had horses with Mitchell until his retirement.

“I remember the excitement and ‘Elsie’ (Elsworth) taking us to the King George when Desert Orchid first won,” said Edwards.

“Another memory was at Goodwood when Sonic Lady won the Fillies’ Mile. I stood at the half-furlong pole when Sonic Lady came past and the speed and magnificence of a horse coming past me… that is still stuck with me now. I have been a racing fan since I was a child.”

A heart attack gave the former property developer a new perspective.

“We moved to France and I was going to buy us a really nice jumper and take my time. Of course, I bought another one,” said Edwards.

“I was sitting in the armchair recovering for a few weeks and I thought, ‘Do you know what? It has been my passion all my life, I have always been very passionate about how horses should be looked after, not just in a physical way, and I want to do something about that’.

“I believe 20 per cent is the core physical attributes, and 80 per cent is mental and emotional.

“Horses have a soul, they are not simply a commodity. I’m very determined about how a horse should be brought up and educated as a racehorse.

“My message that I am trying to put across as DFA Racing is that we can do better.

“I genuinely do this for the horses. I am trying to promote the mental and emotional requirements they need.”

Edwards spends his summers travelling around stud farms in France, spending every moment he can with the horses he buys. He is the one constant in their lives.

“If they go on a holiday somewhere, I make sure it’s me that puts them on the box and when they come off at the other end, I’m there for them, giving them carrots and cuddles. They are constantly reassured.

“My golden rule is that after they have worked in the morning, they go out to the paddock. If you don’t offer me that, you don’t get a horse.

“The point is, if they stand by a gate when turned out, it is their choice to do that. They have a choice and they make the choice. So, mentally, they are happy to choose to stand there rather than run up to the top of the field. If they are in a box, they don’t have a choice.”

Edwards knew instantly L’Homme Presse was a special soul after Felix de Giles had tipped him off about a nice horse who had suffered an injury and was about to go to the sales.

“I call L’Homme Presse ‘Gent’,” said Edwards. “The minute I walked round the corner of the yard in Normandy, I just smiled and he put his head in my chest. I just looked at him and said I’m going to call you ‘Gent’. My dad’s first hunter was called Gent and he is not dissimilar, so that is his stable name.

“I negotiated the deal and asked my good friend Robert Walford if he could come over and get him for me and help me begin his recuperation, which he did.

“Robert and (his wife) Louise were instrumental in his two-year recuperation. I can never be grateful enough to them for what they did for him.

L’Homme Presse in full flight at Ascot
L’Homme Presse in full flight at Ascot (Nigel French/PA)

“People ask me, ‘Why have you gone to Venetia Williams with this horse?’.

“The first few times I have not been able to answer, because I can’t believe people are asking such a stupid question.

“Yet the answer is: I fully believe Venetia Williams is the best trainer of a chaser in this country.”

While he will not overlook the physical make-up of a horse or its pedigree, Edwards has a sensory antenna, for him an emotional connection is paramount in any decision to buy a horse.

“I have a little phrase for myself, but it is what I believe. I say, ‘I know nothing, but I sense everything’,” added Edwards, who also has horses with Emmanuel Clayeux, Roger Teal, Michael Scudamore, Jamie Snowdon, Rebecca Curtis and Rebecca Menzies.

“I am humble enough to say I know nothing, but I have learned in my moment in time to feel and sense everything. Every day, I am very grateful of that.

“People say to me, ‘How do you connect with horses?’.

“The way to do it is to empty your mind and body of all thoughts, and listen.

“Horses have a deep wisdom of the eco-system and the planet. They are not bothered about whether they have a Mercedes or a BMW, they have basic core needs, which is food and shelter. Then they have mental and emotional needs of safety – and love, for want of a better word – for feeling part of something and not abandoned.”

Edwards sees his horses needing small steps in their life journey before they become racehorses.

“They need to be at a breeder that can teach them how to be handled, just like children need parental guidance before they go to school.

“Then they are at pre-school. They need primary school, secondary school, and college or university, depending on their ability and their mental and emotional aptitude.”

Edwards believes, rightly so, it is our responsibility to give racehorses the patience to build the mental and emotional fortitude for their demanding athletic career ahead.

“There is no question L’Homme Presse has loads of natural ability. He knows he is the best,” said Edwards. “I also know he has a few sceptics.

“Yet I think it is slightly unfair the way L’Homme Presse has been portrayed as jumping left, especially as a novice!

“If you look at the way he jumps a fence, he is clever. He sometimes moves himself so that he meets the fence on a stride that is right for him. And then you watch the next fence – he gets the stride right.”

As with most parents or guardians, Edwards is fiercely protective and cannot understand how L’Homme Presse has not received the plaudits his undoubted ability deserves after four unbeaten chase starts.

“He has won a Grade One by 21 lengths on the bridle. He just trotted in. What more can the horse can do than that?” he added.

L’Homme Presse will run in either the three-mile Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (formerly the RSA) on Wednesday, March 16, or the shorter Turners’ Novices’ Chase a day later and will be a force to be reckoned with in either.

“If it is soft, he can go in the Turners and if the ground is quick, he can go in the Brown Advisory. The weather will decide for us,” insisted Edwards.

“We will make the decision of what race he goes in at 9.45am on Monday, March 14. We have to choose the right race for the horse.

“The start of the race is important. In the Turners, they go on the B of ‘Bang’ and meet the first fence quickly, going quickly, and they are still going the same speed to the second fence which is at the bottom of the downhill section. The first two fences come quickly.

Trainer Venetia Williams
Trainer Venetia Williams (Mike Egerton/PA)

“If you look at the start of the Brown Advisory, they start at a more gentle pace. They get into a nice rhythm, as it is a long run to the first fence and it is nicely presented. It is much more confidence-building.

“So, if the ground is soft, the Turners is OK as they will not go as fast into the first two fences. If it is Cheltenham good to soft, which is pretty quick, you have novices running very quickly into the first two fences.

“The best novice last year at the meeting, by far, was Envoi Allen. He was out of his comfort zone at the first three fences in the Turners, made a mistake at the fourth and came down.

“I don’t care which race he runs in, as long as it is the best race for him.

“It is our responsibility to give him the best platform so that he can be the best he can be.”

It will be another big test, yet thus far L’Homme Presse has come out on top in every class he has been in. The hope is he will graduate with honours. Keep the faith!