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Charlie Hills upbeat on Battaash’s Royal Ascot run

Charlie Hills has issued a positive bulletin regarding the possibility of Battaash defending his crown in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

The seven-year-old, who went unbeaten last season, picked up a small fracture in the winter which led to a longer lay off than usual.

After finishing second to Blue Point in 2018 and 2019 in the King’s Stand, Battaash went one better when beating stablemate Equilateral in the race last June before going on to win the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and the Nunthorpe at York for a second time.

“He’s been back with us a week now and straight away he’s settled back into his routine of what he has done for the last few years. I’m really pleased with him,” said Hills.

“He’s not backward in his coat, which is nice as it has been pretty cold weather. I’m really pleased with where we are with him actually.

“At the moment there’s no reason why he wouldn’t make it (Ascot). His weight is pretty good and he’s showing all the same levels of enthusiasm that he always has done, so I’m happy.”

Setback raises Royal Ascot doubt for Battaash

Champion sprinter Battaash is not certain to make Royal Ascot after suffering an injury while wintering at Shadwell Stud.

The seven-year-old sustained a small fracture which has set him back a month and put in doubt his attempt at repeating last year’s victory in the King’s Stand Stakes.

However, he is back cantering and it is hoped he will go back into training with Charlie Hills in a couple of weeks’ time.

“He just had a tiny little fracture in a joint during the winter and we’ve had to give him plenty of time off. He’s had a pin put in it,” said Angus Gold, Shadwell’s racing manager.

“He’s been back cantering for five weeks now and he seems fine at the moment and we will give him two more weeks cantering there and then, all being well, he will go back into training at that stage.

“Obviously the horse’s welfare is our main concern.

“He’ll be a month later going into training than normal, but (the late) Sheikh Hamdan did say to try him again as long as he was sound.

“Because he is going back in later than normal, it’s not guaranteed he’ll get to Royal Ascot. Hopefully he will, but we will see how he goes when he gets back in. He’s seven years old and we need to make sure he’s in one piece.”

Brilliant Battaash was the latest sprint king for Sheikh Hamdan

It is quite fitting the first and latest of Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s champion owner titles are most remembered for a sprinter.

Dayjur was the horse that lit up the 1990 campaign with five consecutive victories in the Temple Stakes, King’s Stand, Nunthorpe, Haydock Sprint Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye, before his agonising defeat in the Breeders’ Cup.

Last season it was Battaash, who finally added a Royal Ascot triumph in the King’s Stand on the way to winning the King George Stakes at Goodwood for a fourth time and claiming back-to-back victories in the Nunthorpe at York.

Battaash was one of six winners in the familiar blue and white colours at Royal Ascot, which was held behind closed doors due to the pandemic.

Battaash and Jim Crowley return in triumph after the King’s Stand Stakes
Battaash and Jim Crowley return in triumph after the King’s Stand Stakes (Edward Whitaker/PA)

All six were partnered by Sheikh Hamdan’s retained rider Jim Crowley.

He knows Sheikh Hamdan, who died on Wednesday at the age of 75, would have loved to have been in attendance.

“It was such a shame last year Sheikh Hamdan couldn’t come to Royal Ascot due to Covid and watch the horses run,” he said.

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“He had the most unbelievable year in 2020. But before that we’d had some great days.

“When Sheikh Hamdan came to the races we always had luck. It was great he could be at York to see Battaash win in 2019. That was probably one of the most satisfying days. It was great he could be there as well.”

Jim Crowley kisses the trophy after riding Battaash to the first of his two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York
Jim Crowley kisses the trophy after riding Battaash to the first of his two victories in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York (Simon Cooper/PA)

Crowley, who replaced Paul Hanagan as Sheikh Hamdan’s number one at the end of 2016, felt such pride at taking the coveted position.

“It was a huge honour and a privilege to be able to to ride for him,” he said.

“He was extremely knowledgeable about his horses. He had a lot of horses in training, but he knew their pedigree inside and out. It was a huge passion for him, he loved it.

“He was very kind and generous, and loyalty is a word that stands out more than the others. You only have to look at his trainers, jockeys – everybody has been with him for the long haul. It’s just a real pleasure to have ridden for him.”

Crowley went on: “He built up a huge legacy and he’ll be missed by a lot of people.

“Sheikh Hamdan would always strive to have good horses and breed good horses as well. It’s a huge loss. He was a wonderful man and will be missed dearly.

“It’s very, very sad.”

Battaash is trained by Charlie Hills, who knew Sheikh Hamdan most of his life.

He was a big supporter of the Hills family, with Barry and son Charlie training for him and another son, Richard, being one of his retained jockeys.

Trainer Charlie Hills punches the air after Battaash finally wins at Royal Ascot
Trainer Charlie Hills punches the air after Battaash finally wins at Royal Ascot (Ed Whitaker/PA

“If you think of Sheikh Hamdan’s horses, then Battaash would have to be in the top three,” Charlie Hills said.

“Muhaarar was brilliant, winning four consecutive Group Ones as a three-year-old. He’s the only sprinter to do that. He was a highlight.

“He was the best to train for. It’s very sad. He’s been a constant presence in my life. He’s had horses with our family since the late 1990s and he’s been a great supporter.

“Sheikh Hamdan was not only a major owner-breeder, but he was always a huge presence at the sales.”

Hills sets out Meydan Sprint plan for Equilateral

Equilateral will remain in Dubai for next month’s Meydan Sprint following his victory there last week.

The Charlie Hills-trained six-year-old took the Dubai Dash for the second year running and will now try to atone for a narrow defeat in the Meydan Sprint last February.

Hills reports the Equiano gelding to have come out of his recent exertions in good form.

“I was really delighted with him. Frankie (Dettori) gave him a great ride and it looked like he was always going to win the race,” said the Lambourn trainer.

“It’s nice to have won the race twice now and he was 5lb worse off than last year.

“He seems to have come out of the race in great order and we’ll train him for the Group Two.”

Equilateral’s best effort in defeat last year came when he was second to stablemate Battaash in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Hills revealed the five-furlong Group One is likely to be the brilliant seven-year-old’s starting point in 2021.

“Battaash is still on his winter break,” he said.

Battaash is likely to start his season at Royal Ascot
Battaash is likely to start his season at Royal Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“He doesn’t normally come in until the beginning of March. They all seem very happy with him. He’s enjoying his hols at the moment.

“Last year he would probably have gone to Haydock (for the Temple Stakes) had that race been on. He’s won first time out every year, so I think we’ll just save him for Royal Ascot.”

Hills’ highly-promising and lightly-raced four-year-old Tilsit is being prepared for a possible trip to Saudi Arabia next month.

Tilsit is set for a trip to Saudi Arabia
Tilsit is set for a trip to Saudi Arabia (Dan Abraham/PA)

The First Defence colt, winner of the Thoroughbred Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, holds entries in the Saudi Cup and the Middle Distance Turf Cup in Riyadh on February 20.

“He’s in those two races and we’re looking at it,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll run him. We’ll see how he is in a couple of weeks.”

Sheikh Hamdan’s blue and white lightened a sombre summer

One of the many memorable themes of a truncated Flat campaign has been the success enjoyed by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum.

Performances by such stars as Battaash, Mohaather and Nazeef has helped the owner have arguably his best ever season.

With five domestic Group Ones, more than 100 winners and a strike-rate of 20 per cent, plus big-race wins abroad, it has been a year to remember for Sheikh Hamdan – albeit one tempered by the effect of the pandemic.

“It’s been a horrible year for everybody globally, let alone just us, but on the track we’ve been very lucky,” said Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold.

“We’ve had a very good year. It’s been as good a year probably as we’ve ever had, at least for 30 years.”

Gold reflected on a Flat racing year shortened for obvious reasons but at the same time blessed with many memorable performances, supported by a stern resilience and determined will to keep the show on the road.

Racing was suspended from March 18 to June 1 – but just two weeks into the season came Royal Ascot and a first-day treble in the familiar blue and white colours to help light up a dark 2020.

“We’ve been very lucky on the track, and it started fantastically well at Ascot. It’s hard enough to get one winner there, but to have six was extraordinary,” said Gold.

Sheikh Hamdan's racing manager Angus Gold reflected on a successful year on the track
Sheikh Hamdan’s racing manager Angus Gold reflected on a successful year on the track (Mike Egerton/PA)
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“The first day was amazing. Probably what was so good was the sheer number of good horses we had. Normally you rely on two or three. This year we were winning Group races with a number of different horses, which obviously makes a big difference.”

For Gold there were so many good performances. However, Mohaather’s effort in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, when he finally got his Group One, stood out.

“I suppose the highlight of the year was Mohaather in the Sussex. He got a big one, and he hadn’t had much luck before then,” he added.

“It was great to get his day in the sun.

“Battaash was tremendous and held his form through the year. Enbihaar was good again. She did brilliantly, and Nazeef came from being a handicapper last year to winning a Group One.

“We only kept her in training because we thought she could definitely get some black type, so to go from a Listed to Group Two to a Group One was wonderful.

“We had a couple of nice fillies in France, Raabihah and Tawkeel, so that was tremendous as well – and then it was backed up with some nice two-year-olds as well, which was nice.

Minzaal wins the Gimcrack Stakes for owner Sheikh Hamdan
Minzaal wins the Gimcrack Stakes for owner Sheikh Hamdan (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Gold is looking to this year’s juveniles to develop into Classic contenders for 2021.

“Owen Burrow’s Minzaal won the Gimcrack, Marcus’s (Tregoning) horse (Alkumait) won the Mill Reef and then there was the Horris Hill as well with a horse of Charlie’s (Hills) (Mujbar),” he said.

“It was across the board, which was the satisfying bit.

“That is what you need, and the older horses kept us going early.

“We were light on some Classic three-year-olds, but hopefully some of those two-year-olds from this year have shown enough to suggest they could make up into something next year.

“There’s a horse of Dermot Weld’s that was just beaten the other day (at Leopardstown) called Wuqood, who could be very nice.

Albasheer (right) finishing a close second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster
Albasheer (right) finishing a close second in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“There’s a number of nice, more backward horses here. I still like Albasheer of Owen Burrows’. I think it all came a bit quick for him, but he’s a potentially nice horse in the making.

“There have been one or two that have shown up just recently – winning maidens, that sort of thing – who could go on.

“It was weird to have such a good year and yet we feel, not deflated, but not being able to enjoy it really with what’s going on the world. We’ve been incredibly lucky.”

Battaash bypasses Abbaye due to testing ground

Battaash has been ruled out of Sunday’s Prix de l’Abbaye due to concerns over the testing ground at ParisLongchamp.

The six-year-old is unbeaten in three starts this term for Charlie Hills, having bagged the King’s Stand at Royal Ascot, the King George Stakes at Goodwood and the Nunthorpe at York on his most recent outing in August.

He had been due to have a fourth crack at the Abbaye this weekend, having won the race in 2017 and finished fourth in 2018 before coming home a disappointing 14th on very soft ground last year.

The prospect of similar conditions this year following a wet week in Paris has forced connections into a rethink.

Hills said: “They have had 13 millimetres of rain overnight, added to the rest earlier in the week.

“I think it was 4.1 on the penetrometer last year and it’s probably going to be the same, if not worse than that, this year, so we won’t be running.”

When asked if Battaash could now head to next month’s Breeders’ Cup meeting, Hills replied: “We’ll have to see how he is.

“There’s one obvious race for him in America, but we’ll just have to see.”

Battaash remains in Abbaye mix at latest stage

Battaash remains on course to try to regain his Prix de l’Abbaye crown against 13 potential rivals, including last year’s winner Glass Slippers.

Charlie Hills’ brilliant sprinter is also joined in the possible field for Sunday’s five-furlong Group One at ParisLongchamp by five further British challengers.

As well as Glass Slippers, who prevailed on soft ground 12 months ago when Battaash fell untypically short back in 14th of 16, Hills’ star may this time also come up against Denis Hogan’s Irish hope Make A Challenge.

The five-year-old was unable to contain Flying Five Stakes winner Glass Slippers when only fifth at the Curragh this month, but previously won four of six starts up to Group Two level this summer.

Among the home challenge in the Abbaye, after Wednesday’s forfeits but in advance of a supplementary stage which pertains for all Sunday’s Group Ones, bar the showpiece Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is the sole two-year-old still in the reckoning, Jane Soubagne’s filly Livachope.

Air De Valse (Corine Barande-Barbe) and Wooded (Francis Graffard), first and second over course and distance this month, also fly the French flag.

The British contingent is completed by Liberty Beach and Flying Five runner-up Keep Busy, both from John Quinn’s North Yorkshire yard, James Fanshawe’s Archer’s Dream, Robert Cowell’s Rocket Action and James Bethell’s Moss Gill.

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Four further Group Ones on the stellar card see Ireland remain very well-represented in the Prix de l’Opera, including the first three from the French Oaks.

Donnacha O’Brien’s Fancy Blue won by a short neck in a blanket finish at Chantilly in July, from Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star and his father Aidan’s Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Peaceful.

Completing a possible Irish quintet over 10 furlongs is another three-year-old, O’Brien senior’s Laburnum, and Dermot Weld’s Tarnawa – following her surprise success in the Prix Vermeille.

There are three British challengers, in the shape of John Gosden’s Terebellum, Fanshawe’s long-priced Deauville Group One winner Audarya and Ralph Beckett’s long-absent Feliciana De Vega.

Leading the home contenders is Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum and Jean-Claude Rouget’s unbeaten three-year-old Group One winner Tawkeel.

In the Prix de la Foret, over seven furlongs, William Haggas’ One Master currently has 14 potential rivals as she seeks a third successive victory in the race.

Three fellow British contenders could stand in her way – Quinn’s Safe Voyage, who beat One Master at York last month, and Supreme Stakes one-two, Andrew Balding’s Happy Power and Richard Fahey’s Toro Strike.

Lancaster House and Lope Y Fernandez may travel for O’Brien, while his son Joseph has Speak In Colours.

Andre Fabre’s three-year-olds Earthlight and Tropbeau are principal French hopes.

Clive Cox’s Nando Parrado is one of nine juveniles left in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere.

The shock Coventry Stakes winner, runner-up in the Prix Morny since, may face fellow British hopes Megallan, for Gosden, and Mick Channon’s Cairn Gorm.

St Mark’s Basilica and Wembley could represent O’Brien, while Ken Condon’s Laws Of Indices is another possible from Ireland.

The three-strong home team comprises Xaario, Sealiway and Selket.

There are still 19 two-year-old fillies in the Prix Marcel Boussac – including Fahey’s Deauville Group Two winner Fev Rover as one of four possible British runners.

The others are Mark Johnston’s Dubai Fountain, the Hills-trained Prado and Lilac Road, from Haggas’ Newmarket yard.

Group Three winners Divinely and Mother Earth may represent O’Brien, whose son Joseph still has Moyglare Stud Stakes runner-up Pretty Gorgeous in the reckoning. Condon’s Thunder Beauty may also travel from Ireland.

New protocols allow British-based jockeys to apply for quarantine exemption

British-based jockeys riding at ParisLongchamp this weekend can apply to be exempt from quarantine on their return after the British Horseracing Authority confirmed an addition to its Elite Traveller Exemption protocols for elite sportspeople and essential support staff.

The new protocol – which is effective immediately and also includes trainers and stable staff – covers those who are frequent travellers for competition in a country not covered by the travel corridor exemption.

As things stood, those riding in France this weekend at the Arc meeting would have needed to self-isolate for seven days under the elite sportsperson’s exemption, rather than the standard 14 days.

Earlier in the season, Frankie Dettori – who will ride Enable in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe – was forced to choose between riding Palace Pier and Mishriff at Deauville, then completing a spell in isolation, or being available for York’s Ebor meeting – and he chose France.

Frankie Dettori will be free to ride at Newmarket's Future Champions meeting after riding Enable
Frankie Dettori will be free to ride at Newmarket’s Future Champions meeting after riding Enable (Alan Crowhurst/PA)
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With the likes of Dettori, Ryan Moore, Andrea Atzeni, Jim Crowley and Oisin Murphy keen to be able to ride at Newmarket’s Future Champions Day the following weekend, the ease in the restrictions will be most welcome, with Crowley now having the opportunity to partner Battaash in the Prix de l’Abbaye and be in action at Newmarket.

Under the new protocol, jockeys, trainers and stable staff who make frequent trips abroad for competition at Covid-19 secure venues in non-exempt countries may choose to register for a ‘Frequent Private Traveller’ option.

The BHA said that while actively under the program, which requires regular weekly testing and daily post-travel monitoring with the BHA chief medical adviser Dr Jerry Hill, individuals who travel to compete at international venues on day trips and via private transport will be exempt from self-isolation on their return.

For the first seven days after return to the UK, individuals are only exempt from self-isolation for the purposes of training or competing. Otherwise, they must self-isolate as usual.

Jim Crowley is now in line to ride Battaash this weekend
Jim Crowley is now in line to ride Battaash this weekend (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Individuals must register with Dr Hill at least four days before their first trip abroad, with journeys to and from the international venue to be undertaken in private cars or planes and return journeys to be completed on the same day with no overnight stays.

Private cars must have a maximum of two occupants and private flights must only be shared if two-metre social distancing can be maintained.

Monitoring of individuals who travel under the scheme will last for a minimum of 21 days and will include a weekly Covid-19 test organised through the BHA medical department and funded by the applicant, with the first test result returned prior to the initial trip abroad.

A minimum of three tests will be required under the scheme – which was developed by Dr Hill in consultation with the Professional Jockeys Association and senior riders – with two taking place after any trip.

Grounds for concern – but Battaash still on track for Abbaye

Battaash remains an intended runner in the Prix de l’Abbaye as things stand, despite the prospect of very soft ground at ParisLongchamp.

Charlie Hills’ stable star could finish only 14th behind Glass Slippers in the race 12 months ago, in a defeat many put down to the soft ground.

The six-year-old gelding has been imperious this season, winning at Royal Ascot for the first time in the King’s Stand, collecting a fourth King George Stakes at Goodwood and claiming a second Nunthorpe at York.

His only success on ground described officially as soft came in 2017 – when the Prix de l’Abbaye was run at Chantilly during Longchamp’s redevelopment.

“We haven’t got as far as saying he is 100 per cent a definite runner, but from what I’ve been told it’s going to be very soft,” said Angus Gold, owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s racing manager.

“Who is that going to suit? I don’t know. At the moment he runs, but if it turns into an absolute quagmire I can’t tell you – but at the moment he runs.

“Everyone has their own theories about it. I don’t personally think it was the ground that beat him last year, he was just never at the races so I wouldn’t say that.

“We know he handles easy ground, it was soft when he won the Abbaye. If it was to get really bad – I can’t tell you.”

Monday Musings: Trouble’d Times

Last week I wrote in this space that I would not be trying to join the 5,000 racing optimists who were all set to travel to Goodwood for the test meeting set to confirm that the country is indeed coming out of the worst effects of the now almost five-month agony of the Coronavirus pandemic, writes Tony Stafford.

Barely 24 hours before this new departure for so many, the word came of the frustration for the 5,000, the feeding of which was not the matter of a Biblical “five loaves and two fishes” miracle. It was a major logistical exercise involving butchers, bakers and if not candlestick makers, certainly outside caterers who had worked night and day on menus, the provision of champagne, lobsters and smoked salmon as well as the beer, pies and burger vans that keep all us hungry racegoers happy.

My wife’s interest in racing is about as deep as that of Josephina, the Yorkshire terrier’s, but Boris’ statement did strike a nerve and possibly the beginning of a protest movement with the prospect of  ice skaters standing outside 10 Downing Street or as near as security will allow them, wearing their skates. She (not Josephina), in what was to be her first try-out of her repaired broken leg, had lessons booked for today, tomorrow and later in the week. But once again, with the rinks having gone to the expense of getting the ice prepared for action after all that time, they got the same two-week delay as beauty salons, bowling alleys and indoor theatres.

Coaches have lost their income but now, happy to be back had set up the initial appointments, which have now spun on for two more weeks. Champion skaters, those young kids who practice at crack of dawn before school every morning and then again straight after to try to do well enough to represent their country in international competition, often when they are among only a handful of people in the arena, have another fortnight at least to vegetate and try to keep the enthusiasm going. As she says, public sessions should be treated as a separate issue.

The ramifications, as with what happened to all that food prepared for Goodwood, are far-reaching. I hope the bulk of those choice provisions was able to be diverted to people who would have been grateful for it, but you have to wonder whether some was just chucked into a nearby bin with losses covered by insurance.

The cause of the delay was a “spike”, or an increase in parts of England in the mystical “R” figure. As I’ve been boring readers for months, I’ve kept a daily record of the numbers of new cases and deaths and every week since the peak on April 12, the number of deaths had been decreasing. Percentage-wise from the week of April 12th (incidentally in 2020 it would have been my dad’s 100th birthday, and how he would have celebrated Saturday’s Cup Final result!) it has gone down initially by 3%, then 11%, 14.6%, 28.8%, 18.4%, 22.4%, 21.4%, 5%, 28%, 19.2%, 11.5%, 16.2%, 10%, 20% and in the week to July 25th, another 7%.

From 6425 in the week to April 12th, deaths had dropped by 93%. Even though many more people had been tested as the weeks went on, new infections have continued to fall. The last week did show some modest increases on its immediate predecessors in new infections, but fatalities were almost static in the week of “new spikes” and an increased R number. Last week it was 452 and contrary to what we are being subliminally persuaded to believe, this week to yesterday it was still down, albeit by only three.

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If the government thinks that bowling alleys, ice rinks and theatres are going to cause the much-feared second wave, then what about pubs where the boyos could watch the Cup Final in close contact with each other, or indeed Goodwood and Galway and celebrate backing a winner? Or the beaches, where in the near 90-degree heat of Friday and Saturday, the crowds were much in evidence again? Social distancing, where?

I’m just waiting, having stayed indoors to all intents and purposes since Cheltenham, to resume normal life, as no doubt we all are. As predicted, I enjoyed Goodwood and Galway, mostly for the amazing performance of Stradivarius, when I confidently expected the Irish Derby winner Santiago to take advantage of the 15lb weight-for-age allowance. The way Frankie Dettori extricated him from a typical Goodwood pocket was a measure of his enduring greatness as a jockey. I expect a big run from him in the Arc. Can he beat Enable and Love? Maybe!

Battaash emulated Strad’s four-timer in the Goodwood Cup with one of his own in the King George Qatar Stakes, but his task was far less onerous. Charlie Hills, a trainer who seems to get very little recognition for his skills - maybe it’s his mild, polite manner or just that he is his father’s son - has done wonders to concentrate all of Battaash’s once-wayward tendencies into track record-breaking brilliance.

**

In the 20 years since Betfair was launched onto an innocent market place many things have changed, especially in the horse racing world. Its arrival coincided with the last two of my 30 years at the Daily Telegraph and I remember writing in that publication that I believed anyone on the new exchange sites who laid horses should be required to be licenced as bookmakers– and pay for the privilege.

Nothing has changed that opinion, but what is different today is the degree to which Betfair Exchange odds lead running “industry” (as they are almost exclusively now) prices and influence SPs.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is that bookmakers do not give money away willingly. So when as happened in the 8.30 race at Thirsk on Wednesday, a horse that the owner had been backing, not excessively, but significantly all afternoon and at 8 p.m. or thereabouts was firm at around 10-1, could, by 8.20, just before the first show in the shops, be available briefly at 60-1 on Betfair, you knew something was probably “funny”.

The horse in question was Trouble Shooter, a five-time winner for owner Simon Lockyer in 2019 under trainer Shaun Keightley but now with Richard Guest. This was to be his debut for the Yorkshire-based trainer and in the build-up to this first run for seven months, expectations had been high. I’ve known Lockyer for just over a year and in the winter we met one of my friends who had been interested in buying into one of the owner’s horses. That didn’t happen but he obviously keeps a close eye on matters racing and betting and called at around 6.30 to say he’d seen that Trouble Shooter “has gone from 12’s to 7’s so presumably it’s fancied.”

I called Simon, and learned that yes they were more than hopeful, at the same time revealing that an associate connected to one of his horses had just called to ask him about Trouble Shooter’s chances.

“He said,” Lockyer began, “that he doesn’t like ringing to ask about another owner’s horses but would like to know if he thought it had a chance. He said he’d had a multiple bet, finding some long-priced winners and that if Trouble Shooter won, it would come to £300,000.”

Upon ending the call, I related that information to my friend and we haven’t discussed it since. Hopefully he didn’t rush to take the reduced price as he would have been no more shocked than me and of course Lockyer when the first show at the track was 25-1. That did prompt some modest mid-market support down to 12-1 but by the off he was out to 20-1 having touched 28’s according to the betting report. After at one time getting as close as fifth, around three lengths behind the leader, he eventually dropped away to finish eighth of the ten runners.

As I said earlier, bookmakers do not give money away. The trainer assured the owner that Trouble Shooter would run well, only reducing his assessment from ten out of ten to nine in the last hours before the race, but I’ve found over 50-odd years’ experience of talking to trainers that even the best of them have slightly diluted optimism as race-time approaches.

It is well known that Betfair have an open line to the BHA, one which has brought about suspensions of a number of jockeys and owners, who contrary to the rules had been found to have laid their horses on the Betfair Exchange. I trust - and I know Nick Rust sees these words every Monday - that Wednesday’s 8.30 race at Thirsk will feature in their deliberations. Not least identifying which bookmaker stood to lose £300k.

The consequences of what happened are still unravelling where Simon Lockyer is concerned, but I repeat someone must have known rather than suspected that Trouble Shooter would not win, and I was aware beforehand that one punter stood to win £300,000 if he did win, or to be Devil’s Advocate, claimed that he would. I think the lay bets should be investigated down to the minutest of transactions. I know at least one other person that could provide evidence of his actions (exclusively backing not laying!) that morning and afternoon.

How can a 7-1 shot (I think they took 10’s at 8 p.m.) open at 25-1? The Editor of this web site was interested as the former Chair of the Horseracing Bettors Forum. Since I originally wrote these words it was he that informed me that Trouble Shooter had never won previously off a layoff of more than 30 days; and that he had been ahead of the eventual winner, the favourite King’s Charisma, three furlongs out; and that he was running off a seven pounds career high mark.

Fair points, I agree, but I still contend that somebody KNEW Trouble Shooter would not be winning. It would be interesting to know who was so certain that he was prepared to offer 60-1 against it happening.

  • TS