A Chat with David Probert

Last week, jockey David Probert began wearing some new 'lucky pants'. Actually, they're breeches adorned with the logo and, so far, they've proved four-tuitous for the Welsh rider, who has since accrued four wins in six days.

David was kind enough to take time to chat with me about various things, amongst them his career to date, influences, and horses, trainers and jockeys to look out.

His introduction to horses came via his father, who had point-to-pointers and ponies, and David started out in pony races. Then, as a fresh-faced 16-year-old he travelled to the British Racing School to undertake a nine week pre-apprenticeship course. From there, he was dealt the plum hand of an apprenticeship at Andrew Balding's Kingsclere stables.

Kingsclere has an exceptional - and thoroughly deserved - reputation for schooling young jockeys, under the diligent tutelage of Andrew and father, Ian. And it is a yard from which Probert has formed a robust allegiance that has lasted close to a decade thus far.

David's first ride under rules was in December 2006, when he partnered Tiny Tim, a 20/1 shot, to fifth of twelve at Lingfield. In an age where persistence seems rather unfashionable, it is sobering to consider that a year (less a few days) and forty further rides elapsed before Probert's maiden victory.

That was aboard Bernard Llewellyn's Mountain Pass in early December 2007.

And then the fun started...

In 2008, this no-name seven pound bug jockey scaled the saddle for 458 rides, winning on exactly fifty of them. That half-century was enough for a half-share of the Apprentice Championship, the other half going to William Buick - remarkably also riding out of the Kingsclere stable.

Recalling that year brings a broad smile to the now relative veteran of the weighing room. "It was pretty special. We got on very well, we've always been very good friends and we just bounced off each other that year".

Probert is keen to acknowledge the setup at Kingsclere, and the variety of terrain at the horses' - and riders' - disposal. "It's such a great facility, with different types of gallops to suit pretty much every horse. It improves your riding so much. Riding different horses on different gallops prepares you physically and mentally for race riding".

He also had praise for the work that Balding, Snr., puts in with the young lads. "Ian always takes time to go over the races after the apprentices have finished their rides, to help them. He's always riding out in the mornings telling them what they're doing right and wrong and so on. He's very good".

Currently starring in Kingsclere's version of The Apprentice are Rob Hornby, Ed Greatrex, and a couple of younger pilots in Will Cox and Josh Bryan. While the latter pair have had just three rides apiece to date, Bryan unlucky to get chinned on the line at Salisbury last week, Greatrex and Hornby are steaming ahead.

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The more experienced duo have notched 107 wins between them, Hornby claiming the lion's share to date, with 65. Of the younger pair, Probert likes what he's seen, noting that "Josh is very talented and is definitely one to keep an eye on, while Will is up-and-coming too".

Looking at the bigger picture, Probert's model jockey is Kieren Fallon. "I think Kieren's a great rider. I follow him quite a bit. He was always very good when I was an apprentice as well, helping me to understand things I could do better. Ryan [Moore] is also very good, as are all the senior lads really. They're always willing to give help to the young lads".

As well as the physical attributes - a lot of strength and agility summoned from not a lot of body mass - jockeys need mental strength, too. In response to my question about whether riding was a confidence game, Probert nods. "Yes, I think it has a lot to do with it. When you're riding winners, it definitely helps you mentally, perhaps reading races a bit better. Race riding involves a lot of split second decisions, and when you're riding with a lot of confidence less things seem to go wrong."

The Kingsclere model clearly imbues riders with confidence, the trainer happy for his jockeys to use their racing brains when Plan A goes west for whatever reason.

With the season now well underway, what, I wondered, was David's target for 2016. Unsurprisingly, he is keen to "just keep riding winners". After a short pause, he added, "I rode a hundred winners two years ago, and I'd love to do that again. If I could achieve that, that'd be perfect."

Probert rides for lots of outside stables - that is, besides Kingsclere - and, when pushed to nominate a couple for whom he has done especially well, he flagged the yards of Michael Blanshard and Philip McBride. "Michael hasn't got many horses, but he seems to place them very well, and his horses are always fit. The same is true with Philip".

McBride has a very nice filly, called Squash, on which David was second in the Nell Gwyn Stakes, and about which the form book attests to Probert's assertion that she is an "exciting filly for the season".

It was my intention not to ask about specific horses but, despite myself, I couldn't resist fishing to see if there was one in the yard that might be worth following through the year. On David's behalf, I'd like to scream caveat emptor and, in that spirit and by way of closing, offer his two word answer. "Dark Shot".

- Matt


It’s Now or Never for Fallon

Monday musings

By Tony Stafford

You wait for the trigger moment and then the story unfolds. It did for me this morning at precisely 4.42 a.m. after 40 minutes’ musing, or rather agonising.

Would I major on the 2016 Classic picture, projecting on from events at Newmarket last weekend and Chester and Ireland over the past few days? Any such concentration would have the Ballydoyle (and as time unravels, Piltown) operations at the centre.

But I’ll come (briefly) to the US Army Ranger/ Port Douglas ruminations later in the piece and the implications of a second Group 1 Aidan O’Brien 1-2-3 with Minding, Ballydoyle and Alice Springs in the 1,000 Guineas after a similar outcome to last year’s Moyglare.

It was reverting back to the latter race last September when the idea for this week’s offering took shape as that day Now Or Never had finished an unexpectedly-disappointing last of ten for highly-admired young trainer Michael O’Callaghan.

Yesterday at Leopardstown, filly and trainer made a huge leap into the consciousness of Irish racing with an emphatic success in the Derrinstown Stud Irish 1,000 Guineas Trial stakes, maybe helped by the absence of any of the leading Coolmore lights.

But for me the main story was the identity of the jockey. On the same day that Mark Todd, 60, rode his own horse clear show jumping to clinch fourth in the Badminton Horse Trials, another equestrian veteran was in the winner’s enclosure at Leapardstown.

Now 51, Kieren Fallon can never get away from the “Marmite” tag. You either love him or you hate him. Some of his time in Newmarket could be described as tempestuous with late (or even non-) arrivals at the track a commonplace.

From the late 1990’s he occupied for a time three highly-coveted stable jobs. The appointment to the late Sir Henry Cecil stable in 1997 caused great comment at the time, when Henry initially described him as a “very hard worker”.

It was during the Cecil years that I first got to know him quite well as I dovetailed my Daily Telegraph work with some advisory stuff for Prince Ahmed Salman’s Thoroughbred Corporation, who had several good horses at Warren Place.

I’ll never forget the 1999 Derby won by Oath. In those days videos of races were relatively expensive and certainly a bind to get hold of from Racecourse Technical Services, so in the euphoria of success the Prince got me to ask the TV people if they would let him have a copy.

Waiting in the booth next to the Epsom car park, I had a leisurely look at all angles of the race, and can still picture the head-on which showed just how beautifully-balanced Fallon kept his horse, with his own head a few inches to the outside of the horse to counteract the camber.

Kieren rode 200 winners and more five times and collected six UK riding championships, yet the Cecil stint ended immediately after the King George in 1999 where Oath was unplaced. The atmosphere in the box was weird, hardly anyone showing up, much to the confusion of myself and racing manager Willie Carson, and headlines in the following morning’s News of the World, while probably inaccurate as far as Fallon was concerned, explained the forthcoming breach.

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In the early 2000’s Fallon was snapped up by Sir Michael Stoute, but after several owners expressed their misgivings about the jockey, the agreement lapsed. Still he later rode two Derby winners for Stoute, Kris Kin and North Light, but as a freelance. His UK Classic haul also features four Oaks wins, and five and four in the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas.

After Stoute and some more disciplinary issues, Fallon gravitated to his native land as stable jockey at Ballydoyle. While not proving such a lavish source in numerical terms, the 2005-7 seasons brought 57, 53 and 24 domestic wins, when Fallon was the regular jockey on Dylan Thomas, Holy Roman Emperor, Hurricane Run and George Washington among others.

I remember seeing him close up before the 2007 Arc which he won on Dylan Thomas, but only after a stewards’ decision to keep the race that seemed to flow fully in the face of the usual French harsh line on jockey infringements. As Michael Tabor philosophically recalled seven years later after the same panel of officials threw out Gleneagles’ Group 1 win on Arc day: “I guess we owed them one after Dylan Thomas!”

Fallon seemed preoccupied that day and no wonder as a long ban was imminent for further misdemeanours. He had been riding in Ireland during 2007 while under a UK ban and rode in neither country the following year.

Back as freelance in the UK in 2010, Fallon rode 140 winners and followed with 154 the following season, riding for such as Luca Cumani, William Haggas, Brian Meehan and some of his old connections from his days in the north. Then it was 87, 62 and 62 again two years ago, before a virtual halt and some time spent in the US last year and over the past winter.

One of the best bits of the Racing Post site, apart from all the stats, without which I’d never post an article, is the revelation of the lowest riding weight of the past 12 months. Fallon must have been getting one thing right in the States, as he is listed as having ridden at 8st1lb!

In that case, at 51, you’d think he’d have descended into a wizened old man, but when I bumped into him at Chester last week I thought he looked the best he’d ever been, with a broad smile and fresh face. He duly went out and won on Ian Williams’ Sir Maximilian, much to the delight of the many people who’d cheered and on the odd occasion – like the controversial Top Cees Chester Cup – booed him past the post over the years.

One thing I can say about Fallon is that when I’ve been around he’s never jumped off a horse and maligned him. Many top jockeys after a poor run would say to the owner: “He’s useless, get rid of him”, but Kieren always tries to look for a positive.

After his latest US sabbatical, few would have expected him to pitch up in Ireland, but pitch up he did with O’Callaghan. His first win for the trainer came with Approcailis at Dundalk last month and Now Or Never is their second together. So far he’s had 54 rides for four wins, while a few forays back over here have brought three more. O’Callaghan, interviewed recently, went up in my estimation when far from agreeing he’d done Fallon a favour, expressed his delight to have secured the services of such a brilliant rider.

Yesterday at Leopardstown was Kieren’s first winner on that track since partnering O’Brien’s 1-2 shot Rectify to an easy win in the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial five years ago to the day. Between 2011 and last year, that was his sole win from only five rides in his native land. Maybe Now Or Never can dent the supremacy of the Ballydoyle team and challenge for a place at least in the Irish 1,000 later in the month.

I know most people were of the opinion that if Seamie Heffernan had sneezed in the latter stages of the Chester Vase, he would have retrieved the lead and victory from stablemate US Army Ranger. But he definitely gave the horse two decent cracks in the last furlong, to which the horse responded with a movement left and might have banged the eventual winner had he repeated the dose.

At 20-1 Port Douglas looks the one for place betting with his uncomplicated running style and guaranteed stamina, but Aidan clearly believes there’s plenty of improvement to come from the other Galileo chap, so why should we doubt him?

Stat of the Day, 18th September 2014

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day, 18th September 2014

I don't know what to make of Eleusis' run at Yarmouth on Wednesday. I don't think she ran badly, but I don't think she ran well either. She fell out of the stalls and conceded a couple of lengths at the start, but hat didn't affect the result, as she was soon on terms.

She ran green at times and ran in patches, but just when I thought she was going to challenge, nothing happened and she was one-paced. I shan't be rushing to back her again, until she's had another decent run under her belt.

She was sent off at 9/2, a little shorter than the 5.63/1 ticket I held (15/2 less 25p rule 4!), so as I expected, the value was there, if not the win. Value betting brings long-term profits, but the fact is that I'm 0/3 for the week and still awaiting that one winner which will guarantee the month is profitable.

My quest for that winner now leads me to the...

4.00 Pontefract:

And what looks to be an overpriced 9/1 BOG horse in the shape of George Baker's Ishiamber, who comes here in great form. This 4yr old filly only made her debut in January this year, but in nine starts to date she has finished 343111191 and has won on both A/W and turf and was a winner at Kempton last time out, 22 days ago.

George Baker's yard is in good form with 11 winners from 51 runners in the last month and in the last couple of seasons, he has been profitable to back blindly (not that we'd ever advocate such an action 😀 ).

On the flat over the last two seasons, his horses have won 44 of 353 races, a 12.5% strike rate yielding 142.9pts profit at an ROI of 40.6%. In handicap races alone, that record improves somewhat to 33 winners from 243 (13.6% SR) for 184.6pts (+76.3% ROI).

Ishiamber steps up in class today...

George Baker's horses who have stepped up in class and were priced below 10/1 have won 11 of 34 (32.4% SR) races since 2011 and have generated level stakes profits of 47.9pts (+145.1% ROI) in the process.

She also drops down a furlong in trip...

This too can be seen as a positive, as George's sub-10/1 runners dropping in trip by up to 1.5 furlongs since 2010 have won 15 of 71 races (21.1% SR) and have also produced profits of 24.6pts (+34.6% ROI) along the way.

It's a (very!) small sample size, but...those dropping in trip whilst stepping up in class are 3/5 (60% SR) for 15.8pts (+316% ROI)

Ishiamber is George's only runner of the day...

...and therefore, presumably his priority, with all the day's eggs in the one basket. However, in the last four seasons when a runner in a flat handicap has been his sole entrant of the day, he has tasted success on 24 of 132 (18.2% SR) occasions and has rewarded his followers with level stakes profits of 101.3pts at an ROI of 76.8%. There are also some trends that emerge from this 24/132 stat too...

Those that last ran between 11 and 30 days ago (ie had a short rest, but not allowed to get rusty) have won 15 of 61 (24.6% SR) for 95.2pts (+156.1% ROI).
Those who won last time out are 7/22 (31.8% SR ) for 40.5pts (+183.9% ROI)...
...whilst those, like Ishiamber who were winners last time out between 11 and 30 days ago are 6/13 (46.2% SR) for 46.1pts (+354.4% ROI) profit.

Kieren Fallon is on board today and Kieran has a decent record here at Ponty, having ridden 6 winners from 29  (20.7% SR) in the last three seasons on this track and could well be the ideal partner in what might be a tight finish in this one.

One last tricky issue to deal with is my staking for this one. I fully expected to be backing her at around 11/2 to 6/1 and I was most pleasantly surprised to see her out at 9/1 with a couple firms at 7.00pm on Wednesday evening, I've thought about it and although I think she has a good chance here, the safe/prudent option is actually an E/W bet at such a long price.

I'm placing a 0.5pt E/W bet on Ishiamber at 9/1 BOG with Coral in the knowledge that a win will still pay me out at 5.4pts profit, just 0.1pt less than I was expecting, but with the insurance of the place bet. Feel free to go win only, f you like, of course and also check BetVictor for matching the same odds. 5/1 to 7/1 seems to be the norm elsewhere, as can be seen if you... here for the latest betting on the 4.00 Pontefract

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Here is today's racecard.

Race Histories 11: The Royal Hunt Cup

James Jewitt - top trainer in RHC

James Jewitt - top trainer in RHC

It would be nice to think that the Royal Hunt Cup was named after the Danish prog-rock band, but as the race was started in 1843 and the band more than 150 years later, that’s clearly not the case. Read more

Fallon wants big rides to keep him going

A few more Saturdays like the last one and Kieren Fallon might be thinking again. His jockeyship on 66/1 Aaim To Prosper in the Cesarewitch was outstanding, and this was certainly not a race he would include in those he described last week as “boring”. Read more

Stat of the Day, 27th August 2012

Stat of the Day 27/8

Stat of the Day 27/8

Stat of the Day, 27th August 2012

We're running a little late with SotD today, courtesy of a flooded kitchen chez Worrall, but the emergency Bank Holiday plumber (ouch!) has thankfully now sorted the problem.

Yesterday's selection was a bit of a duffer, if I'm honest. Mind you, if might have got closer to the action had he been able to avoid trouble on any of the three "skirmishes" he got involved in. Unfortunately bet365 didn't pay out and ifs and buts! A small moral victory of sorts yesterday for the braver souls amongst you, as Alan Jarvis' supposed 2nd string of the day came home at 20/1. I personally didn't fancy it and didn't back it, but the stats were there to suggest a decent run!

There is plenty of racing to go around today, but I'm sensing a distinct case of quantity rather than quality on offer and our daily search for a winner takes us to the Surrey Downs for a 12-runner, 5-furlong, Class 2 Handicap aka the...

3.05 Epsom

Trainer Scott Dixon isn't the most well-known of the trainers currently plying their trade on the flat racing circuit, nor is he one of the busiest: just 202 runners in the last calendar year. He isn't even one of the most successful in terms of strike rate or return on stakes. His horses have only won 19 of those races (9.4%) and represent a loss of 35.2 pts of stakes invested ( -17.4%). As you know, I often like an E/W bet for SotD, but even Mr. Dixon place strike rate is a lowly 24.3% for the past year (49/202)

OK, so after such a great build-up (not!), why am I looking at him today? Quite simply, his record at Epsom is not only very good, albeit from an expectedly small sample size: it is also completely out of kilter with his records anywhere else.

Admittedly, he only sent his first two runners to Epsom a mere 4 months ago, but his record here since that day (25th April) reads 012113, which is quite remarkable when compared to his career stats. Like the last couple of days on SotD, Scott has two runners on the Downs: Monnoyer goes in the 2.30 race, where he might have a squeak of a chance of a place at 25/1, but my real interest lies with his runner in the subsequent race: Cadeaux Pearl.

Cadeaux Pearl is another of these quirky types, who runs in fits and starts, but when he's on his game has the ability to go well. His only outing at Epsom was on Scott Dixon's Epsom debut at that 25th April meeting, where he came home a winner at 25/1. The two horses immediately behind him that day have both gone on to win since and he now returns to try to make a follow-up at Course & Distance.

He will relish the recent wet weather too and he is interestingly reunited with Kieren Fallon today, who was also on board when recording that afore-mentioned 25/1 C&D success. I make no secret or apology of my liking for Mr Fallon's ability at getting horses home and the stats will help back up my good feeling at today's selection. Over the last couple of years Kieren has been one of the best, if not the best performer at Epsom. Eight wins from 31 attempts (25.81%) have brought a level stakes profit of 32pts (103.23% of stakes) and a further 7 rides have made the frame giving him a place strike rate of 48.4%. Mr Fallon also comes here in great form with 9 wins and 8 further places from 39 runs over the last fortnight alone.

So, we have Cadeaux Pearl: a course and distance winner (and a 4-time winner at this trip), Scott Dixon has a good training record at Epsom (admittedly a small sample size) and an in-form jockey who loves the course. There are several dangers to our selection today and since we can currently get 14/1 BOG with either of BetFred or William Hill, I'll be taking an E/W bet today, but you should...

Click here for the latest odds for the 3.05 Epsom.

Stat of the Day, 9th August 2012

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day

Stat of the Day, 9th August 2012

No joy again yesterday, and a change of chair today. It's August, the sun is shining (briefly), and so we're off to the seaside, down south.

We're headed for the…

3.50 Brighton

Mark Johnston is a man in ridiculously good form just now. He's had 26 winners in the last fourteen days for a level stakes profit of 64.71 points!

His record at Brighton is excellent, too, with five year figures of thirteen winners from 44 runners, for a profit of 40.32 units.

And today, he's got one of those 3yo middle distance handicappers against older horses that I love at this time of  year.

The horse in question is called Maastricht, and this is his first run outside of his own age group. As a consequence, he gets the juicy weight for age allowances against his elders here. That means that, although he's only a pound off top weight, he actually carries twelve pounds - almost a stone - less than top weight. Nice.

The trip should be fine, and so should Brighton's quirky track, and this is a big drop in class to Class 4. So far this season, he's been running in Class 2 and 3. The ground should be spot on too and Kieren Fallon will provide every assistance from the saddle.

Whilst Richard Hannon's three year old, Varnish, is also getting allowances, he has been running in this class to date, and needs to improve.

Maastricht is 9/2 BOG in a couple of places, and I'll take that win only, but you can always…

Click here for the latest odds for the 3.50 Brighton.

Sat TV Trends: 28th July 2012

If you like your trends we've got every LIVE C4 race covered this Saturday from York, Ascot and Newmarket..... Read more

TV Trends: Sat 21st July

It's King George Day at Ascot

We've got all the key trends and stats ahead of  the LIVE races at Ascot, Newmarket & Market Rasen this Saturday..... Read more

Sat TV Trends: 14th July

Can Society Rock Land The July Cup?

Andy Newton is on hand will all the key trends and stats for the LIVE C4 races at York & Newmarket this Saturday.... Read more

Newmarket Trends: Day One

Andy Newton is on hand with the key trends and trainer/jockey stats ahead of the opening day (Thurs) of the Newmarket July Meeting..... Read more

Stat of the Day, 4th July 2012

Stat of the Day 04/07

Stat of the Day 04/07

Stat of the Day: 4th July 2012

My initial selection today was at Chepstow, but that meeting became the latest victim of our glorious British summer this morning, so I've been back to the drawing board! I'm taking no chances with my second option as we head for the all-weather surface for a Class 3 handicap over 2 miles. The going will, of course, be standard as nine runners line up for the...

8.00 Kempton

Trainer James Fanshawe has a decent enough record at Kempton to merit consideration for SotD purposes. He has saddled 27 winners from 87 (31%) in the last two years at this track and his place strike rate is just shy of 50% (43/87), therefore his runners are always noteworthy here. Those 27 winners have generated an excellent level stakes profit of 59pts at SP: none too shabby.

Those figures can however be improved by a shrewd jockey selection. When we throw Kieren Fallon's name into the mix, we suddenly see that the partnership has nine winners from twenty at Kempton and a place strike rate of 80%. They team up tonight with Spensley: our selection for today.

Spensley also has a decent record at Kempton with 4 wins from 6  in the last couple of years, which is impressive enough, until you see that Fallon is 4/4 on the horse here!

It's all about the combos tonight: jockey/trainer/horse/course all seem to fit for me: Spensley won't have it all his own way, but I think the 9/2 BOG currently on offer is a reasonable price, so that's where my 0.5pt win bet is going, but you can always...

Click here for the latest odds for the 8.00 Kempton .

PS Mr Fallon rides Rossetti in the last race for Mr Fanshawe and with those excellent place stats in mind: my other half point is split into a 0.25pts E/W bet here at 14/1 BOG.

Sat TV Trends: 30th June 2012

Andy Newton gives you the key trends, plus trainer/jockey stats for the LIVE C4 races at Newmarket and the Northumberland Plate at Newcastle today..... Read more

Royal Ascot Betting Trends

DAY TWO: Andy Newton gives you all the trends and stats that matter as we move into the second day at Royal Ascot… Read more