Tag Archive for: Ben Brookhouse

Brookhouse has every confidence in Brechin Castle

Ben Brookhouse has not lost faith in his star bumper performer Brechin Castle, who is set to warm up for a trip to the Cheltenham Festival with an outing at Newbury next month.

A £165,000 recruit from the Irish point-to-point field, the six-year-old bolted up on his debut under rules at Sedgefield before successfully transitioning to Listed class at Cheltenham in November.

He met with defeat for the first time when filling the runner-up spot in another Listed event at Ascot before Christmas, but was far from disgraced in finishing second to Dan Skelton’s exciting mare Let It Rain, to whom he was conceding 11lb.

“I think it was one of his best runs, to be fair,” Brookhouse said of his Ascot performance.

“We were giving 11lb to the winner and when she won it wasn’t a massive surprise to me because I did think she was the one to be worried about, because of the weight we were giving her.

“We gave 4lb to everything else and gave them a good beating, it was just giving 11lb to the Skelton horse that proved too much for us.”

Next on Brechin Castle’s is the Betfair Bumper, the finale on Newbury’s Betfair Hurdle card on February 10, and Brookhouse would relish a rematch with Let It Rain should it happen.

He added: “He had a small break over Christmas and New Year out in the paddock with his rugs on and the plan would be to go to Newbury in February in preparation for Cheltenham.

“He seems in great order for his break. He put on weight and didn’t lose any muscle or anything. He just did exactly what we wanted him to, which was refill the petrol tank.

“If we bump into the Skelton horse at Newbury she is not a four-year-old anymore, so she won’t get the four-year-old allowance, and she’ll have a 4lb penalty for winning a Listed race, so all of a sudden that 11lb we gave her is nigh on non-existent.”

Brechin Castle is a 33-1 shot for the Weatherbys Champion Bumper at Cheltenham in March, and while he will undoubtedly have to contend with a formidable Irish contingent come the Festival, a return to winning ways at Newbury may well make him Britain’s leading candidate for the Grade One contest.

Brookhouse said: “He’s got course form at Cheltenham, he’s had plenty of racing and plenty of experience. You could argue he’s exposed, but all he can do is beat what’s put in front of him and the only chink in his armour was he was beaten trying to give 11lb to a nice filly.

“Weight stops train, let alone horses, so we can’t blame him for that. He was giving 4lb to several other horses who at the time were considered the best young bumper horses in the country and I don’t want to sound confident or cocky, but he was pulling away from the third at the finish and he wiped the floor with them.”

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Monday Musings: Two Young Guns

Last week, as I detailed the overwhelming power of the big yards in the UK and Ireland, on the flat and it seemed even more so over jumps, I should have conceded that there is always room for a talented upstart to pick up a piece of the pie, writes Tony Stafford.

He or she has to have at least one well-heeled and convinced supporter to crash the big boys’ party; but two young Newmarket jumps trainers showed at Cheltenham this past weekend that they are on the fast track to success.

Both are based in the least likely of hotbeds for training jumpers in the UK. Newmarket, for all the merits of the schooling facilities of the Links, just behind Newmarket golf club and across from the Cambridge Road polytrack gallop and thence the Rowley Mile, has fewer jumping trainers than ever. Maybe that will start to change.

Cast your minds back 14 hours to the last race of Cheltenham’s three-day Paddy Power Gold Cup meeting. The favourite, a 9/4 shot, was sent out by a young man who didn’t have his first jumps runners until earlier this year. He made a great start, collecting five wins between the beginning and end of the 2022-23 season in late April.

Another eight successes under NH Rules have followed this campaign and, in between, 13 have come off 50 runs from 25 individual horses in his first campaign on the flat.

Ben Brookhouse is the name and the winners have flowed ever since from the nicely compact and centrally situated Saville House stable, occupied to good effect for many years and still owned by Willie Musson.

Ben’s jewel in the crown as far as buying horses is concerned is his father Roger, a long-standing owner for the Pipe stable. Brookhouse senior has some well-regarded animals sprinkled around a few major Irish yards, notably with Willie Mullins and Henry de Bromhead.

But the decision was made for Ben to train all the UK runners and yesterday’s impressive second bumper win for Brechin Castle under Jack Quinlan was as decisive as it was noteworthy and eye-catching for both trainer and long-neglected jockey. It ran in Roger’s colours, too!

Jack Quinlan has been just about the only professional jump jockey to be based in Newmarket for several years. Many questioned his stubbornness in remaining close to his family, but the association with Brookhouse has coincided with a general wider appreciation of his qualities.

An Irish point-to-point winner, Brechin Castle was prepared by the champion of the Irish pointer ‘conditioning and selling-on lark’ in Colin Bowe. He upgraded an original €52k yearling buy to a €165k project, merely by winning a point by a length; but as they say, it’s how they do it.

Pointers that turn into bumper and then jumping stars can come from all types of background. Brechin Castle’s sire Shantou died as a 28-year-old: yes, I kid you not, when Brechin Castle was already three years old. His dam’s sire, dual Derby (French and Irish by seven and then four lengths for Henry Cecil) Old Vic was 25 hen he passed away in 2011. Plenty of proven breeding talent to go with Classic performance.

The trick with Irish point winners is to find the ones with a touch of speed. We saw it from Brechin Castle on his UK debut at Sedgefield last month when he stretched 19 lengths clear. Yesterday, he drew alongside a Paul Nicholls previous winner up the home straight and had a comfortable two-and-a-quarter lengths to spare at the line of this Listed contest.

Of Ben’s five National Hunt wins before the season change-over, one was Listed bumper horse Aslukgoes, and he won twice with veteran hunter chaser Espoir De Teillee, each time ridden by Fern O’Brien, Fergal’s daughter. He also had a juvenile hurdler and staying novice to complete the eclectic score.

The flat campaign continued to reflect both his versatility and the varied composition of his stable. When we talked at an Epsom evening meeting in the summer, he said how lucky he is to be able largely to buy what he likes when he goes to horse sales. “Sometimes, though, if when I got one home, Dad doesn’t want it, I’m stuck with it until I can find an owner!”

Among the dozen winners, there were a couple of smart two-year-olds, Ben clearly intent on making his name as a dual-purpose trainer. In that respect he is following the example of his latest employer, Ian Williams, to whom he was assistant trainer until branching out this year.

Amazingly, James Owen, the other ground-breaking Newmarket handler to show his credentials at Cheltenham, also only took out his training licence this season. Before that, he had been one of the most successful trainers of Arabian horses in the UK.

He is now fully committed to the new job, though, and recently moved into Green Ridge stables in the Hamilton Road. When I had a connection with horses trained in Daryll Holand’s Exning yard – at the time the late Shaun Keightley was in situ – James Owen stabled his horses in a smart, but small, much newer building just to the right of the entrance.

Gay Kelleway was next door. As I mentioned, Owen was the top trainer of Arabian horses and the old maxim that if you can train one type of horse, you should be able to make a go at others seems to be ringing true in his case.

Owen started even later in the year – after the 2022-23 season end – than Brookhouse, but when Burdett Road, owned by the Gredley family, bolted up in the Triumph Hurdle Trial that opened Saturday’s programme, it made a lot of people take notice of this young man, probably many for the first time.

Burdett Road isn’t the only horse to give a salute to Bill Gredley’s East End of London heritage, Burdett Road going from Mile End Road to Commercial Road [and where the editor plays football on a Saturday morning! - Ed.] For this most successful businessman and Classic-winning owner (User Friendly won two Oaks’s and the St Leger against the boys in 1992), Owen has seven among those to have run so far this year. I doubt that this speedy gelding will be the last to win a good jumps race for his talented trainer, who is already up to 22 for his initial season.

Burdett Road had been a nice three-year-old when trained by Michael Bell, winning the Golden Gates Stakes at Royal Ascot and two other races on the flat before running third in two Group 3 events. A 100-rated horse ought to make a decent hurdler if he stays and on Saturday Harry Cobden was at pains to give the Muhaarar gelding a chance to last out the trip on the testing Cheltenham track.

He sat an exaggerated last of nine and only when they came down the hill approaching the home turn did he make any sort of move. Still three lengths adrift at the final flight, Cobden only needed to clear the obstacle safely. That achieved, he sprinted up the hill for a six-and-a-half length success.

As was pointed out afterwards, none of the Irish we’ll see and fear next March was there - no doubt Mr Mullins is honing the skills of the latest batch of Auteuil acquisitions - but rarely do you see horses scoot up that hill on soft ground in that manner.

James Owen said afterwards he would look forward hopefully to good ground at the Festival next March to harness his speed.

As Nicky Henderson wisely averred yesterday after Jonbon’s authoritative return in the Shloer Chase, a lot can happen before then, but Ben Brookhouse and James Owen will both be picturing a repeat of this weekend’s spectaculars to warm the long winter nights.

- TS

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Brookhouse harbouring Champion aspirations for Sarsons Risk

Ben Brookhouse has full confidence in Sarsons Risk and is already plotting a path to the 2024 Champion Hurdle with his talented son of Caravaggio.

The four-year-old was Newmarket-based Brookhouse’s first winner in the training ranks when bolting up at Doncaster earlier this month and the handler’s belief in his charge was demonstrated by pitching him straight in amongst Grade Two company for the Adonis Hurdle.

Sent off 10-1 at Kempton on Saturday, he was in the process of running a huge race on the front end before taking a crashing fall at the third last.

However, Brookhouse – who previously served as assistant to Ian Williams – reports Sarsons Risk to have escaped the fall unscathed, with the performance only reinforcing the lofty regard in which he holds the horse.

He said: “Sarsons Risk has been a revelation since having his wind done and my very bold statement is I think he is the best juvenile we have in the UK at the minute.

“He was setting very bold fractions when he came down at Kempton and someone said to me he hit the ground doing around 37 miles per hour.

“If he had fallen at the last there would be a lot of people talking about him, but Robbie (Dunne, jockey) was doing his best to get a breather into the horse and that is the reason he was only a length and a half clear and once he had landed at the back of the third last, he would have skipped clear.

“We know he can sustain a gallop off a strong pace – he showed that at Doncaster – and for me the horse seems to have improved since Doncaster.”

He went on: “In my mind he is probably the best juvenile in the UK and although it would have been nice to get a Grade Two on the board with just my third winner, I’m not massively disappointed.

“I feel sorry for the horse that people didn’t get the chance to see how good he is, because I think he is very special and we will be training him to be something very special.”

Sarsons Risk will now be aimed at the Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle at Aintree on April 13, although Brookhouse is already looking ahead to next season, when he hopes his charge can develop into a Champion Hurdle contender.

“He’ll have a small break now and go home and have some grass and just enjoy himself,” continued the Saville House Stables handler.

“He deserves a bit of time off following the two big efforts he has put in. Then we will probably be going to Aintree with him.

“We did talk about running him on the Flat this summer, but I expect we will see him in the Masterson Holdings Hurdle at Cheltenham in October. That will hopefully show his potential to be a Champion Hurdle prospect for next year.

“He resembles a Constitution Hill type of horse in that he can travel at speed and gallop at speed. His jumping wouldn’t be as good as Constitution Hill, but it is only because he is so confident and so slick and so quick. He is still a big baby and his jumping will improve and maybe in a years time we might look back and think the fall is the best thing to happen to him as he won’t want it to happen again.

“I think he’s pretty special and if he was rated 20lb higher on the Flat, I would be considering the Chester Cup. But you only get so many miles after a wind op before it is a case of refreshing and retouching.

“He could be Champion Hurdle quality and my aim for him next year is to go for a Champion Hurdle.”

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Brookhouse eyeing Aintree prep for Aslukgoes

Ben Brookhouse is keen to give Aslukgoes some more experience as he works towards his main spring target at Aintree’s Grand National meeting.

Unbeaten in three starts, the son of Yorgunnabelucky scooped Listed honours at Newbury in his most recent outing – a performance that brought big-race targets in the spring into the equation.

On that occasion the Roger Brookhouse-owned five-year-old stayed on strongly in the hands of Jack Quinlan and his handler is confident he is one of the best bumper horses in the UK.

However, with Cheltenham quickly ruled out in the aftermath and still remaining unlikely – and a trip to Ireland for the Punchestown Festival also dismissed – it is the Grade Two Weatherbys nhstallions.co.uk Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race on Grand National day where Aslukgoes will get the opportunity to prove his quality on the big stage.

“I haven’t noticed a bumper horse yet in the UK which travels at the speed he does and can also produce a finishing effort like him,” said the Newmarket-based handler.

“Jack (Quinlan) was very confident on him at Newbury and he was nowhere near finished at the line. He idles when he gets to the front, as he showed at Worcester and at Fontwell, hence why we are keeping him in bumpers for a long time, just to help his mentality and educate him.

“He is a horse with a lot of ability and a very good attitude. Three days after Newbury he was back to his old self which is unbelievable.

“We straight away ruled out Cheltenham, but when he was bouncing after Newbury I had a conversation with dad and said ‘look, I’ve got to train this horse for Cheltenham’ because I have to maintain and manage his mentality.

“So we are training him for Cheltenham, but he probably won’t get entered for Cheltenham.”

He continued: “He might go to Uttoxeter for the bumper on Midlands National day. He will have a penalty and Daire McConville will probably take 7lb off him, or there is a bumper at Kelso (March 25) on a big day that is worth quite a lot of money he could go to.

“We toyed with the idea of Punchestown, but that probably won’t be the place to take him because it is a trip away and it is all about maintaining his mentality and energy levels.

“He is a horse with lots of natural ability, a good moving and, touch wood, a very sound horse.

“Aintree is the goal for him and it would do the stallion good. I would like to think we would finish the season unbeaten with him as a bumper horse and then we will focus on getting him jumping and making some nice shapes before worrying what trip he would want over hurdles.”

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