Tag Archive for: Funambule Sivola

Funambule Sivola continuing dream season in Marsh Chase

Funambule Sivola is looking to add to what has already been a breakthrough season when he runs in the Marsh Chase at Aintree on Friday.

Trained by Venetia Williams, the diminutive seven-year-old won the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury before outrunning his 40-1 odds to finish second to Energumene in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Bookmakers will not be so generous on Merseyside, with Funambule Sivola rated only 1lb lower officially than last year’s winner and favourite, Fakir D’oudairies.

He is owned by the My Racing Manager Friends syndicate, run by Elli Morgan who admits she has been caught out by the seven-year-olds progression this season.

“I was absolutely thrilled with him at Cheltenham and what a little horse he is,” she said.

“It almost felt a like a win at Cheltenham. Just before the race I’d said to Venetia that as long as he ran a good race, even if he came back seventh, if he came back safe I’d be happy and she agreed, saying it was incredible he was even in it.

“Then Shishkin was pulled up, a few fences later Chacun Pour Soi lost his jockey and coming to the last I thought we’d be at least third yet he battled on for second.

“He’s clearly still progressing, each of his last three runs have been better than the last and he’s still only seven, he was the youngest runner in the Queen Mother so we’ve hopefully a lot of years left with him.

“Some of the press coverage was a little disappointing as it was all about ‘what if Shishkin was there’ but you can’t have everything.”

Funambule Sivola with his proud owners after winning the Game Spirit at Newbury
Funambule Sivola with his proud owners after winning the Game Spirit at Newbury (Steven Paston/PA)

Funambule Sivola is stepping back up in trip, but Morgan is not too concerned about that.

“When he ran at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day there was a lot of talk that he didn’t stay the trip, but that was a different test to this and at Huntingdon before that I thought he stayed on and he wasn’t 100 per cent fit for his first run due to a little setback,” she said.

“We know he’s run well at Aintree, I’d expect him to get the trip there so it just depends on everybody else.

“We weren’t expecting him to be in graded races this season to be honest, we did think he would be eventually, but maybe next season. He has given us so much this year we can’t be greedy.

“We’ve obviously got Fakir D’oudairies to beat and we keep meeting these star horses – it would be nice to not have them in it one day – but in a way it’s nice they are as you find out how good you are.

“As long as he comes back safe, that’s the main thing, we’ve still got next year to look forward to. He’s already exceeded our expectations this season.”

Fakir D’oudairies was an 11-length winner 12 months ago, having chased home Allaho in the Ryanair a month earlier.

Connections decided to avoid another clash with Willie Mullins’ charge, who duly routed the opposition in the Ryanair again, and Joseph O’Brien’s eight-year-old was placed well to win the Grade One Ascot Chase instead.

O’Brien said: “Fakir has a great chance hopefully. It’s a tough, competitive race, but he likes the course and distance.

“He ran very well in it last year and we’re excited to be going there again.”

Hitman (near side) ran a good race at Antree last year
Hitman (near side) ran a good race at Aintree last year (David Davies/PA)

Paul Nicholls runs both Hitman and Saint Calvados and feels they both hold similar claims, admitting “I can’t split them”.

He has been forced into a jockey change, however, with Lorcan Williams replacing Bryony Frost aboard Hitman after she suffered a shoulder injury on Thursday.

“I retain plenty of faith in Hitman who ran very well when third to Protektorat at Aintree a year ago and has come up a touch short in top company this season,” the champion trainer told Betfair. “While he is not quite the real deal yet, he’s lightly raced and I’m sure there is more to come from him.

“I didn’t want to take on Allaho with him at Cheltenham and feel the Melling Chase over two and a half miles on a flat track is a much better option.

“Saint Calvados has had his issues but ran well for a long way in the King George on his first start for us, then hated the heavy ground when pulled up at Ascot.

“He has to improve but looks like getting the drier conditions at Aintree that he needs and will be much happier racing left-handed. He seems in good form at home.”

Syndicate of friends living the dream taking on Shishkin and Energumene

This year’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase is shaping up to being the race of the Festival – but behind the apparent big guns is a little horse owned by a syndicate who just might shake up the established order.

Funambule Sivola is not the biggest in stature, but what he lacks in size he certainly makes up for in ability.

His career highlight came last time out when beating solid two-milers such as Sceau Royal and Hitman in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury, and should any of Shishkin, Energumene or Chacun Pour Soi fail to live up to expectations, then Venetia Williams’ pint-sized rocket is there to pick up the pieces.

The seven-year-old is owned by a group called My Racing Manager Friends, the brainchild of Elli Morgan and among the members is Neil Phillips, better known as ‘The Wine Tipster’.

Morgan, who takes all the hassle out of racehorse ownership, found herself carrying out the administrative tasks for her father, David Morgan, who owned 2000 Irish St Leger winner Arctic Owl.

“It sort of happened organically, I started out just as a racing manager. My father had racehorses and hated doing all the admin so I used to do it for him and then his friends asked, and friends of friends, and it started like that,” she said.

“The My Racing Manager Friends syndicates started when I went to the sales with a brief for some horses. I didn’t think I was going to get my first choice, so I kept going back to the back-up (horse) thinking I would end up with it. It turned out I got my first choice and then I couldn’t leave the sale without the other, but I didn’t have a buyer.

“I quickly set up a syndicate selling off legs, it went really well so I do several a year now and it is a nice way to get people in who haven’t done it before. I call it a syndicate but it’s not really, it’s more joint-ownership with only ever four or five people.

“I think you get a more personal feel that way. I stick to 20 per cent shares, I keep one and sell off four. For one thing it means you always get owners badges if you want to.”

Funambule Sivola poses with his winning connections
Funambule Sivola poses with his winning connections (Steven Paston/PA)

This will not be a first Festival experience for one of Morgan’s groups, who can number two Cheltenham wins already through Flying Tiger and Coo Star Sivola, both trained by Nick Williams.

“All the horses I’ve bought I’ve chosen myself, but I will either work with a bloodstock adviser or trainer. Sometimes a trainer will have a shortlist, different trainers like different types so I like them to be involved,” she said.

“Flying Tiger was my first ever purchase for a syndicate I was already working for, one my dad was involved in.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky, I’ve been involved in two Festival winners and now I’m involved in this fantastic little horse with Venetia, which is the first one I’ve had with her. I met her through a friend and I’ve always been a fan of hers.”

It has not always been straightforward for the owners, however.

“Unfortunately after we bought him he did a leg (tendon) straight away, but Venetia is unique in a lot of ways and she kept him in training while he recovered. She offered the owners the chance to step out of the syndicate into another horse, but none of them did,” said Morgan.

“His hurdling season wasn’t great but one day, almost by chance, we found out he needed wind surgery and after he’d had it, Venetia rang me to tell me he’d been schooling and she said he was a pocket rocket. He went to Wetherby and won and hasn’t looked back.

“It was actually one of the partners who came up with idea of the Game Spirit, so it’s a great example of the collaboration between the partnership and trainer.

“I was saying to Venetia before the Game Spirit that even before we had him, my favourite Cheltenham race was the Champion Chase because they are so exciting, they go so quick, it’s thrilling. To have one in it is a dream come true.

“My Racing Manager has had a great year this year, all of the horses I currently manage and are racing, have won, with the exception of Hermes Du Gouet, who has been second in both bumper starts and we’ve high hopes he’ll be winning soon.”

Phillips, Gloucestershire-based and a regular at the Festival in his role working for Jockey Club catering and as a pundit on television, admits this time his favourite week of the year could be extra special.

“I met Elli while working in hospitality, talking about food, drink and racing and we originally met at the Derby,” said Phillips.

“I’d been involved in syndicates before with Axom, actually with Deano’s Beeno who was such a great character, and Elite Racing. They are a great way to start off.

“I’m involved in helping to sell some of the shares now and it’s a great thing to be involved with. There are people who have had several shares before, but also those getting involved for the first time. The one thing they all need to have in common is patience.”

Phillips credits Williams and jockey Charlie Deutsch for the progression of Funambule Sivola, who has thrived over fences.

“You have to remember he didn’t win over hurdles, but Elli sent out a clip of him schooling and you could immediately see the speed with which he jumped and straight away he looked exciting.

“His speed away from a fence sets him apart and Charlie gets a great tune out of him. The way he has been handled by Venetia, how he has improved with racing, just shows how good she is. It’s just a great team and they have enjoyed a stellar year.

“I’m from the Cheltenham area and the Festival has always been special to me, I used to be a member at the course. It’s just a special place, I did an interview there once when the restaurant was empty with Cleeve Hill in the background and I still got goosebumps.

“The chance to go there with a runner in the Champion Chase, which was always my favourite race – Waterloo Boy was one of my favourite horses – still hasn’t sunk in.

“I’m working at the Festival as usual this year, but I might have to pop out at 3.30pm on Wednesday – I’ll tell them it’s for a good reason and the drinks will certainly be on me if he wins!”

Williams admits to some concerns over well-being of her string

With the Cheltenham Festival barely two weeks away, Venetia Williams admits she is “concerned” that a virus at her Herefordshire yard could jeopardise her plans.

The Grand National-winning trainer has some serious cards to play, including L’Homme Presse, who holds entries in both the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase and the Turners Novices’ Chase, and Funambule Sivola, who is in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Williams revealed her worries on social media last week, posting an image of Grade One winner L’Homme Presse with the caption: ‘L’Homme Presse preparing for Cheltenham, and hoping to steer clear of the run of dirty noses streaming through the yard’.

She said on Monday: “With L’Homme Presse and Funambule Sivola, the jury’s out.”

Asked if that pair had been scoped, she added: “If I could give you the answers to everything, it would be easy.

“But for sure we are concerned. This started about a couple of weeks ago, I suppose.”

The yard was in flying form with five winners in two days up between February 15 and 17, yet concerns about the health of some of her string have been underlined with one winner form her last 20 in the last nine days.

Funambule Sivola is a Champion Chase contender
Funambule Sivola is a Champion Chase contender (Steven Paston/PA)

“We won’t shut down, definitely not,” said Williams.

“We are trying to run those that are healthy, but you have probably seen that we have had five non-runners recently.

“We have to declare 48 hours before. We will just try to be careful to run those that are all right.”

Andy Edwards, owner of L’Homme Presse, says his horse seems OK at present.

“He is fine. I have just left him,” he said. “I’ve been out in the field with him this morning and given him some carrots.

“They are all worried about it, but it will be what will be will be. I just told them to relax.

“They are doing their best and there is no point in worrying about it.

“My belief system is that while it may not be what we want, everything is as it should be. If he doesn’t make it, he wasn’t supposed to. So, I won’t worry about it.

“I haven’t even seen Venetia this morning, I’ve just seen the horses. There is nothing to talk about, really. We know we will make a late decision on which race he runs in – it will be a weather-watch, but I’m not even watching the weather. It will be what it will be.

“If the meeting starts good to soft, you have no chance for Thursday or Friday of soft ground in the going description.

“But it really isn’t anything to worry about in the realm of what is going on in the world.”

Funambule Sivola dominates in Game Spirit victory – now for Cheltenham

Funambule Sivola made most of the running to win the Betfair Exchange Game Spirit Chase and continue the golden run of Venetia Williams and Charlie Deutsch.

The pair can do little wrong at present and having earned plenty of prize money at Lingfield’s Winter Million meeting Williams provided Deutsch with his first Grade One win last weekend, when L’Homme Presse cruised to victory in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown.

With Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite pulled out of the Newbury feature not long after declarations on Thursday, the way was left clear for Funambule Sivola (9-4) to dictate matters in front.

The diminutive seven-year-old might not get very high at his fences, but one thing he does do is get to the other side quickly.

Last year’s winner Sceau Royal adopted his usual stalking role under new pilot James Bowen, only to get in tight to the fourth-last and always be on the back foot thereafter.

Hitman travelled smoothly for a long way and looked a threat running to two out, but Funambule Sivola never missed a beat up the home straight and it was left to Sceau Royal to chase him home, beaten two lengths.

Williams said: “It was really thrilling. As you can see he is a small horse, but such an intelligent jumper. Not only is he intelligent, he is so quick with it.

Funambule Sivola with winning connections
Funambule Sivola with winning connections (Steven Paston/PA)

“I thought with the ground drying, which it obviously was going to do all week, even though it was going against Royale Pagaille (in the Denman Chase), this fellow was going to handle it. This fellow is not short of pace.

“For the time being, he is a two-miler. It is quite clear the route he should take for the immediate future.

“The Queen Mother Champion Chase is to be discussed, but I don’t think it will be a long discussion!

“I will talk to the owners, but yes. A few horses have got close to Shishkin, only for Shishkin to look behind him and scoot away at the last.

“Today was a stronger performance. I try to avoid having any expectations, but he has fulfilled hopes, let’s put it that way.”