Tag Archive for: Kim Bailey

Bailey happy to take Grade One shot with Chianti Classico

Kim Bailey believes now is the time for Chianti Classico to dip his toe into Grade One waters in the Huyton Asphalt Franny Blennerhassett Memorial Mildmay Novices’ Chase.

Always highly regarded by Bailey, the seven-year-old really came of age at Cheltenham last month, winning the ultra-competitive Ultima by four and a half lengths.

That was his third win of the season, with his only reverse coming when second to Flegmatik at Kempton.

With the handicapper putting him up 11lb, the Andoversford handler saw little point in running in a handicap with top weight and instead he takes on fellow Festival winner Inothewayyurthinkin.

“It was a really good performance at Cheltenham and the handicapper was obviously very impressed as well as he put him up 11lb,” said Bailey.

“We’re lucky that we know he’ll go the very soft ground as it was heavy going at Cheltenham.

“He’s definitely worth a crack at a Grade One now, the only alternative was to run in a handicap this week, but that 11lb rise meant he would have had top weight and if he’d done that and run well or even won, you’d have just been thinking why you weren’t in the Grade One.

“He’s been to Aintree before, we ran him in the bumper at this meeting a couple of years ago so he’s got that experience.”

Inothewayurthinkin and Iroko are both owned by JP McManus but have taken very different routes.

Inothewayurthinkin was an easy winner of the Kim Muir
Inothewayurthinkin was an easy winner of the Kim Muir (Adam Davy/PA)

Gavin Cromwell’s Inothewayurthinkin arrives of the back of a very easy win off top weight in the Kim Muir and certainly looks worth stepping back up in grade having run well behind Arkle winner Gaelic Warrior at Limerick in December.

“Inothewayurthinkin came out of Cheltenham very well and did it very nicely on the day. Gavin is very happy with him, we’ll know more about where we stand after the race on Friday but he’s in good form,” said McManus’ racing manager Frank Berry.

Iroko, who won the Martin Pipe over hurdles at Cheltenham last March, made a very impressive chasing debut at Warwick in November.

He picked up an injury there and was initially ruled out for the rest of the season but arrived back at the yard of joint-trainers Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero quicker than expected and finished a respectable fifth to Grey Dawning in the Turners.

Iroko won at last year's Cheltenham Festival over hurdles
Iroko won at last year’s Cheltenham Festival over hurdles (David Davies/PA)

“Iroko’s preparation for Cheltenham was a bit quick after the hold-up. He ran quite well there and the boys are hoping he’s come forward from that run and we’re hoping for a nice run,” said Berry.

Nigel Twiston-Davies fields Broadway Boy, who was denied a run at Cheltenham due to a minor setback. He wears cheekpieces for the first time.

The Lucinda Russell-trained Giovinco, an excellent third to Fact To File in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, and Henry de Bromhead’s Heart Wood, impressive when landing a competitive handicap at the Dublin Racing Festival, add further intrigue.

“He was very good in the Leopardstown Chase at the Dublin Racing Festival. He’s very lightly raced and I think that he’s progressive,” Heart Wood’s rider Rachael Blackmore told Betfair.

“He’s obviously taking a big step up here, from a handicap chase into a Grade One, but we’re really happy with him at home. I hope that he can stay the trip, and I’m hoping that he can take the step up in class.”

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Chianti Classico digs deep for Ultima honours

Kim Bailey’s Chianti Classico produced a smooth round of jumping to take the Ultima Handicap Chase for David Bass and Kim Bailey.

The gelding was one of two runners in the contest for Bailey, and after Trelawne fell early on it was left to his stablemate to carry the hopes of the yard.

He did so dutifully and travelled well throughout to turn for home full of running and claim victory at 6-1, getting British trainers off the mark for the week.

Bass said: “It meant a lot, it’s actually quite a good feeling to win here. It’s a privilege to ride these horses. It’s hard to win here though – 2020 was the last time and it’s been too long.”

David Bass celebrates his Festival win
David Bass celebrates his Festival win (Adam Davy/PA)

Bailey said: “I thought at one stage ‘oh no, David is getting too brave’, but he jumped for fun and was cantering coming down the hill wasn’t he?

“David has been confident the whole way through, so he was right. He was absolutely adamant from day one he was riding this horse (instead of Trelawne). He adores the horse and says he’s a complete terrier, and he’s done that today like a terrier.

“He’s as hard as nails, he’s not very big but he’s got so much ability and is so agile, he always has been.

“When Aiden Murphy and I bought him, we said we’d bring him here, but I never thought it would actually happen!

“We’ve been knocking at the door for a while, so it’s great for everybody that we got it today. It’s huge for the team, having a runner at Cheltenham is what it’s all about.

“Today has been the plan for a long time, we trained him for today.”

On Bass, he joked: “I’m not sure he’s that special, we’ve been trying to get rid of him for ages. We’ve got nothing in common, I’m not a vegan anyway!

“He’s been a huge supporter of the yard and we’ve been together for 11 years now. He’s a do-or-die pilot and I thought he was quite reserved today!”

There was, however, a sad postscript to the race as it was confirmed Highland Hunter had suffered a fatal injury.

Trained by Fergal O’Brien, the grey was formerly with Paul Nicholls, where he was the favourite horse of the late Keagan Kirkby, whose funeral procession he led last week.

O’Brien posted on X: “Absolutely devastated. Thanks for the messages we’re already receiving and those to come.”

Lark In The Mornin ground it out up the hill to land the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for Joseph O’Brien and J J Slevin.

The bay was a 9-1 chance and kept his powder dry early on in a rough and tumble race in which plenty of combinations parted ways.

Slevin was always handily placed, however, and pulled away from the field ahead of the final flight to hold off all challengers and prevail by two lengths.

Cheltenham Festival 2024 – Champions Day – Cheltenham Racecourse
J J Slevin winning aboard Lark In The Mornin (David Davies for the Jockey Club).

O’Brien said: “We were worried about the ground. We had a pretty strong view that he wanted better ground but I thought J J gave him a fantastic ride and found the best of the ground.

“He saved ground all the way and he had plenty left in the locker jumping the last.

“I’m delighted for everyone connected with the horse, to have a winner here is very special.

“We thought he was coming here with a live chance but so much rain fell we actually had a conversation whether to run or not, luckily we did.”

Slevin added: “All along, we knew this was the plan. We know how difficult it is to have winners at the Festival but Jospeh told me better to have him in the last five than the first five, and that I’d know how he was coping with the ground after the first mile.

“I got a fright when he got to the front so early. It was a bit too soon, but he stayed on well up the hill. I said last week I would be happy to have one winner and that’s my first here since Band Of Outlaws.”

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Kim Bailey salutes ‘complete star’ First Flow, as stable star retired

Kim Bailey’s has paid handsome tribute to his Grade One-winning chaser First Flow after announcing his retirement.

The 12-year-old was last seen winning the Godstone Handicap Chase at Lingfield during the Winter Million meeting, carrying top-weight to a length-and-a-quarter victory over Saint Segal.

That run will be his last as the decision has been been made to retire Bailey’s stable stalwart after a career that saw him win 12 races and amass over £300,000 in prize-money.

A €4,500 Tattersalls purchase with a pedigree that offered little insight into his ability, First Flow became a smart novice hurdler who won his first three starts over obstacles after a brief bumper career.

He then went novice chasing in the autumn of 2019, acquitting himself well when winning four times and never finishing out of the top three in eight starts in his opening season over fences.

David Bass and First Flow winning the Coral Hurst Park Handicap Chase at Ascot
David Bass and First Flow winning the Coral Hurst Park Handicap Chase at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

The following term he won three successive starts and shone at the top level when landing the Clarence House Chase at Ascot, defeating the likes of Defi Du Seuil and Politologue.

Reaching a career-high mark of 166, he was subsequently sixth in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the 2021 Festival and from there was consistently placed in graded chases from two miles and a furlong to two miles and six – including a second-placed finish behind Hewick in the Oaksey Chase at Sandown.

“He was a unique horse and a complete star for the yard,” said Bailey.

“It’s very sad to see him retire but it’s something I expected to happen last year and he’s done another season, I’ve got no races to run him in so I think it’s a good time to stop.

“We’ve very much run out of options, he isn’t good enough for Grade One races anymore and he’s carried top-weight in handicaps three times this year.

“He was very tired after the last one and you can only go to the well so many times.

“I probably should have retired him there and then, but emotionally I couldn’t cope with that idea.

“He is a freak of nature, I think most good horses are, it’s been an interesting journey the whole way through because he’s such an interesting character – if he was a human being you would enjoy a night out with him!

“I hope we can find him a home close by so I can keep an eye on him, he is quite special to me.”

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Bailey thrilled with ‘extraordinary’ Grimthorpe performance of Does He Know

Does He Know put up a tremendous weight-carrying performance to provide trainer Kim Bailey with a third victory in the Grimthorpe Chase at Doncaster.

Although a four-time winner over fences, including Grade Two and Grade Three triumphs at Ascot and Cheltenham respectively, Does He Know was a 20-1 shot for his latest assignment having failed to trouble the judge in three previous starts this season.

The nine-year-old also had the burden of 12st on his back and had to concede upwards of 11lb to each of his nine rivals, but bounced back to his best under a buccaneering ride from David Bass.

The three-mile-two-furlong contest was not for the faint hearted, with eight of the 10 runners failing to complete the course.

Some Scope, the 3-1 favourite to complete his hat-trick following recent wins at Catterick and at this track, looked to have been delivered with a perfectly-timed challenge halfway up the home straight by Gavin Sheehan, but try as he might he was unable to reel in Does He Know, who stuck to his guns to claim top honours by just over three lengths.

Bailey, who has previously won the Grimthorpe with Shraden Leader in 1994 and The Last Samuri in 2016, said: “We very much hoped he would do that. He was the best horse in the race, the rain definitely helped us and we were very hopeful he would run a smashing race.

“He’s got some very good form. He’s a very hard horse to place and we’ve run him in two races this season we knew he had no chance in but there weren’t any alternatives.

“It has always been the plan to run in this race and it was unbelievably good performance with 12st on his back in that ground, it was extraordinary.

“I’m really pleased for the owners and everybody involved because we’ve had a shocking old winter really. The horses haven’t been wrong, but we’ve got very few horses that go in this ground.”

Trainer Kim Bailey was delighted with Does He Know's performance
Trainer Kim Bailey was delighted with Does He Know’s performance (David Davies/PA)

Does He Know holds an entry in the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter in a fortnight’s time, but will not take up that engagement.

“He won’t go there, definitely not. He doesn’t have to run again this season, but if he does it will either be the Whitbread (bet365 Gold Cup) or the Scottish National, I would think,” Bailey added.

“He’s had a hard race today, so he’ll want a bit of time to get over that.”

Pinot Rouge (20-1) provided Northumberland-based trainer Susan Corbett with the most notable success of her training career so far in the Tips For Every Race At raceday-ready.com Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, narrowly outpointing Irish raider Ottizzini by half a length under Edward Austin.

Corbett said: “I hoped we’d be in the first half of the field because although she’s not got a lot of speed, she grinds away and loves the soft ground.

“On her first run for us she was flying home when she was third and while she’s doesn’t show that at home, the boys that ride her say when you ask her she gives a little bit more.

“If we’d been third today I would have been delighted, so to finish first I’m somewhere on the ceiling I think! We’ve never won a Listed race before or anything near it, so the whole team at home are thrilled to bits.

“She’ll probably have a little break and if the ground is still like it is now in say four weeks she’ll run again, if not we’ll put away because I think novice chasing will be her game next season.”

Homme Public was a 3-1 winner of the Free Digital Racecard At raceday-ready.com Handicap Chase for the formidable training partnership of Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero, while Curley Finger (2-1 favourite) denied stablemate Floueur by a diminishing nose when leading home a one-two for trainer Rebecca Menzies in the Download The Raceday Ready App Handicap Hurdle.

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First Flow rolls back the years with Lingfield success

Age proved no barrier for First Flow, who showed he still retains plenty of his old zest with a brilliant all-the-way success at Lingfield.

Carrying top-weight of 12 stone and conceding heaps to his younger rivals, Kim Bailey’s 12-year-old was bounced out by usual pilot David Bass and never missed a beat as he landed the Download The Racing App Now Godstone Handicap Chase spoils at 15-2.

It was somewhat fitting that the veteran registered the 12th victory of his decorated career at the venue he first tasted success back in 2017, much to the delight of his handler.

“He’s unreal isn’t he, I adore this horse,” said Bailey.

“He’s a 12-year-old and carrying top-weight. He needed to start today and we have someone down at the start with him every time he runs – he’s been like that as long as I’ve had him.

“He goes round the farm everyday and I get a phone call after half an hour from the girl riding him saying I can’t get him to move. He’s a real character and a real superstar.

“Everyone says to me ‘when are you retiring him?, but you can’t retire him, the horse is enjoying himself. He’s 12, still got the enthusiasm and just won a race off 158.

“It’s a real treat to have a horse like him and he won his first hurdle race here. He’s been a superstar, he’s got no right to be any good he has no pedigree, but’s he’s been what he has, I love him.”

Nurse Susan has “all the tickets” for the big races in the spring after following up a recent Cheltenham success when upped to three miles for the Weatherbys Hamilton Handicap Hurdle.

The seven-year-old had to show plenty of resolve to see off the persistent presence of Venetia Williams’ Ramo, but pulled out extra to oblige backers who had sent Dan Skelton’s charge off the 6-4 favourite.

“She just dosses, she dossed in the mares race at Cheltenham over two-and-a-half and she’s dossed again today,” said Skelton.

“She’s talented and the Love Envoi form is there for all to see. She’s just a good mare. We tried her over fences and I suppose her intelligence lead her to perhaps not like them. Back over hurdles she is a more committed horse.

“Colm (Donlon, owner) likes to have all the tickets, so she’s entered in everything and if there was a charity race (at Cheltenham) I’m sure she would have an entry for that as well.

“She’s just a very good horse and we might go somewhere else en route (to Cheltenham), she’s just a good horse and we’re very happy with her.”

Meanwhile, Tripoli Flyer booked his ticket to Aintree’s Grand National Festival in the spring with an impressive display in the opening Winter Million Open National Hunt Flat Race.

A keeping-on fifth on his rules debut at Chepstow in October, Fergal O’Brien’s five-year-old was a 15-2 shot and showed plenty of speed and class to down the well-regarded Nicky Henderson-trained 8-11 favourite Kingston Pride in the hands of Paddy Brennan.

“We’ve got some lovely bumper horses, but I thought he was very good, he was very impressive,” said O’Brien.

“I thought the Henderson horse had solid point-to-point form and the horse who was second to him (The Enabler) has won a Listed race.

“We thought he would appreciate the surface and the good thing about this horse is his owner as he gave him time after his first race at Chepstow because he had a hard race.

“He was only a four-year-old then and we put him away, I think he went to Paddy’s for a bit and then to an event rider down the road who did a lot of work with him. He came back to us and we just had to put the finishing touches to him ready for today.

“Today was always a plan because we thought he would appreciate the better ground.

“The plan, please God, is to go straight to Aintree. We think he will love the flat track and Paddy said the ground, although he got through it at Chepstow, will be important to him.

“I thought he was impressive but he will have to do it on grass now. Going forward he’s a beautiful jumper, so we will look forward to him.”

Caoilin Quinn proved he is once again the man for marathon events when he guided Gary Moore’s Movethechains (15-2) to victory in the Fitzdares Surrey National Handicap Chase, while there was a shock in the Weatherbys Digital Solutions Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle as Ben Clarke’ 40-1 shot Ooh Betty landed the spoils with the assistance of the stewards.

It was Henderson’s Aston Martini that was first past the post following a ding-dong battle after the last, but the placings were reversed after an inquiry.

“She is battle-hardened and she’s not the sexy option in the race, but I think running in handicaps has served her well as she had to battle hard there and be brave,” said Clarke.

“She got bumped a couple of times coming up the home straight and Ben Jones (jockey) felt it cost him, but saying that, it is not the way we want to win a horse race – Nicky was incredibly gracious so I will drop him a bottle of wine.

“At the back of my mind, I’ve always thought if we get half-decent ground at Cheltenham, she could go there for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. We’ll sit tight and she doesn’t want a bog – she can’t run in proper, proper soft ground – so we will plot our way there.

“Endless Escape was beaten just over 10 lengths in the Cheltenham race last year and this mare would be a much speedier type, so we have half an idea what it takes – not as much as Nicky does – so we’ll see, it could be an option.”

Champion trainer Paul Nicholls got on the scoresheet in the final race on the card as 4-1 favourite Inthewaterside made every yard to claim the Winter Million Novices’ Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Harry Cobden.

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Classico turns on the style at Ascot

Chianti Classico was the toast of Ascot having successfully continued his chasing education in the Royal Ascot Racing Club Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase.

A winner of all but one of his outings as a novice hurdler, Kim Bailey’s six-year-old made a successful transition to the larger obstacles at Chepstow last month.

However, he faced a tough task when sent off the 4-5 favourite for this three-runner assignment, having to concede over a stone in weight on the quickest ground he has encountered so far.

Although not at his slickest over his obstacles at points in the three-mile event, his class came to the fore when it mattered as he pulled three-quarters of a length clear of Scrum Diddly after the last.

“That ground was probably quick enough for him and he was not enjoying the ground at all,” said Bailey.

“He has only run on softer ground so fingers crossed he is OK tomorrow.

“It’s a tough performance as he has given lumps of weight away on a day it hasn’t gone right for him. He can see he was landing and not very happy with it.

“His class got him through, definitely, he’s a decent animal. It was a big experience, last time we wanted to drop him right out and get his jumping right and today he couldn’t do it and couldn’t afford to get any further behind.

“He’s won well and at the end of the day he has won, that’s all that matters.”

Chianti Classico is part-owned by Sir Francis Brooke, His Majesty’s Representative and chairman of Ascot and a return to the track for the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase in the early part of next year could be the ideal opportunity for the gelding to test himself at Graded level.

“We’ll see how he is over the next week and he takes a lot out of himself in his races,” continued Bailey.

“He’s not a horse he can run in a hurry and it will be two months before he runs again whatever happens.

“That would be the ideal race for him and timewise that (the Reynoldstown) fits in very well.”

Another exciting prospect enhancing his reputation was Paul Nicholls’ Farnoge (4-1) who beat some smart opponents to win the Bet With Ascot Donation Box Scheme Novices’ Hurdle.

Farnoge registered an impressive victory
Farnoge registered an impressive victory (PA)

Second to Gordon Elliott’s Better Days Ahead in a point-to-point before switching to Ditcheat, he is now unbeaten in three starts under rules with his rider Harry Cobden expecting bigger and better things later in the year.

“I can see him being a Graded horse,” said Cobden after the two-and-a-quarter-length success.

“We will have to get home and speak to the boss and see what he thinks, but he’s very smart.

“He went to Newton Abbot when he was probably 75-80 per cent fit and had a nice canter round there and he’s done the same again here against some useful horses behind him, it’s exciting.

“He would be right up there in the top five (novices at Ditcheat). 100 per cent. He will definitely be in Graded races and he’s had a 5lb penalty today as well.”

Charlie Case steered his father Ben Case’s Midnightreflection to victory in the Restorations UK Mares’ Handicap Hurdle before Cobden capped a fine afternoon by bringing up a four-timer on the exciting £175,000 buy Regent’s Stroll in the concluding Nirvana Spa Open National Hunt Flat Race.

“I’ve got a nice novice hurdler next year,” said the winning rider.

“He’s a lovely horse and a little bit green throughout, but he powered through the line and it is always a good sign when you can’t pull one up isn’t it.

“He’s got everything. He’s got size, scope and I’ve already schooled him and he jumps great.

“It’s a big ask for an owner to spend £175,000 on a store horse and look at it for nearly two years, but he’s done everything right since day one this lad. He’s just a very uncomplicated and lovely horse.

“I think he’s in our top three bumper horses this year and he’s always been very smart.”

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Ajero enters John Smith’s Cup reckoning

Ajero could head for the John Smith’s Cup at York following his fine run when fourth in the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes.

Kim Bailey’s eight-year-old performed with credit at Royal Ascot for a second successive year, having finished second in the 12-furlong handicap in 2022 before being beaten by just shy of three lengths by Okita Soushi off a 7lb higher rating.

Raised a further 1lb to a figure of 97 following that run, he is now unlikely to contest the Charlton Handicap he won at Goodwood last year, opening the door for Ajero to line-up on the Knavesmire on July 15 in the fiercely-competitive £200,000 contest.

Ajero winning at Goodwood last year
Ajero winning at Goodwood last year (Steven Paston/PA)

“He could be going to York for his next run in the John Smith’s Cup,” said Bailey.

“We’ve had an enormous amount of fun with him. His run at Ascot this year was off 7lb higher than last year, which for an eight-year-old is quite something really.

“Sadly we can’t get to Goodwood this year which is disappointing. He’s now 97 and it’s a 0-95. That would have been the perfect race for him which is annoying. He won it last year and it would have been nice to go back there, but we can’t take the chance he will get in because I’m sure he won’t.

“The John Smith’s Cup is a tough race and a slightly different ball game, but we love the horse, he’s a real character and just great.”

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Lingfield cancellation leaves Bailey to puzzle out Gold run

Kim Bailey is facing a puzzle over what to do next with Two For Gold following the abandonment of Lingfield’s Fleur De Lys Chase.

The 10-year-old was all set to defend his crown in the Winter Million weekend feature before the race was lost to the recent cold snap, but Bailey now finds himself short of options.

Two For Gold followed up last year’s victory at Lingfield by giving Fakir D’oudairies a fright when second in the Betfair Ascot Chase and that contest is in Bailey’s mind once again.

However, the Grade One event on February 18 is also the intended target of stablemate First Flow, with the Thorndale Farm handler unsure whether to let both of his star chasers take their chances.

David Bass riding Two For Gold (left) on their way to winning the Fleur De Lys Chase during day three of The Winter Million Festival at Lingfield Park last year
David Bass riding Two For Gold (left) on their way to winning the Fleur De Lys Chase during day three of The Winter Million Festival at Lingfield Park last year (Steven Paston/PA)

“Ascot is definitely in the equation, but the trouble is I have also got First Flow in the race,” said Bailey.

“In a perfect world they wouldn’t be meeting, but it’s not a perfect world unfortunately.

“This has been First Flow’s intention since the Peterborough Chase so it is a tricky one really, but we can’t do anything about it.

“It’s quite difficult because Two For Gold wants soft ground, three miles is his max and he’s quite high in the handicap. There is a handicap at Ascot the same day, but whether that is where he wants to be going, I don’t know. There are few and far between races for him.”

Bailey is also pondering his options for crack novice hurdler Chianti Classico, who has racked up three victories on the bounce since tackling obstacles this term.

He has been given an entry for the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival, but an appearance at Prestbury Park looks unlikely with his handler stating a preference to stick to handicaps off his current mark of 133.

“He is having a bit of a break at the moment and comes back into training this weekend.” continued Bailey.

“He has an entry at Cheltenham (Albert Bartlett), but I don’t think he’ll take it.

“I think he falls in the category of not quite being good enough for Cheltenham and having a rating of 133. It’s a prime case of these early closing races where you make the entry on behalf the owners and it ends up probably being a complete waste of money.

“For a horse like him, he probably has to be in there and given the entry, but I don’t think we’ll be going there and he will end up running in a handicap off 133 somewhere instead.

“He will run at some point in February, but if he does that he won’t be going to Cheltenham as it takes him around six weeks to get over his races.”

He went on: “Now they have brought in the qualification rule where novices have to have four runs, races like the Coral Cup which would have been a potential option are now out of the question.

“This year with the dry autumn and then losing so much racing, it has been very hard to try to get four runs into a novice with the view of going to Cheltenham.”

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A Racing “Guess Who”

When people have been around the racing game for a while, especially when they haven’t had the good fortune to crack it in the way of a Henderson or an Aidan O’Brien, a good way of teasing out their identity is to offer snippets from their lifetime, writes Tony Stafford.

We all know about Mr Frisk, the Kim Bailey-trained Grand National winner ridden by the amateur Marcus Armytage, son of trainer Roddy and brother to the first female Hennessy Gold Cup winning rider Gee, later Tony McCoy’s secretary.

Marcus was subsequently a colleague of mine at the Daily Telegraph – indeed he is still there. But our mystery man beat the youthful Old Etonian to it, winning five chases in a row, and unbeaten in six on the gelding in an invincible season as a novice, at one point telling an interviewing journalist that he and Mr Frisk would win the Grand National. Events would subsequently conspire for the combination of horse and jockey to be broken through no fault of our rider.

Next clue, born and bred in West Ham, East London, he went to the same school as did - a good few years earlier of course - Michael Tabor and the late and much-loved David Johnson, owner of all those wonderful jumpers with Martin Pipe. Our hero’s father Norman, youngest of a family of 13 after serving with distinction in the army, joined the Daily Telegraph as a printer.

In the days of hot metal linotype he and his many skilled colleagues would stand one side of the “stone”, the flat piece of the print room’s furniture along which the individual pages would be laid out and constructed. He would help the sub-editor – very often me on the racing pages – standing on the other side to fit it all in from my upside-down, back-to-front perspective. My job was assisted by having paper printers’ single long “takes” of the individual stories and racing cards which had to be cut to length – rather different nowadays with instant editing for all, not least without all the sensitivities of not crossing other unions’ demarcation lines.

Knowing what and how much to cut was the key but a good stone man on the other side made it easy and Norman knew his stuff all right. I loved those days and can still read newspapers upside down – maybe not the most helpful attribute these days, rather like knowing Latin declensions and conjugations!

A bit sketchy so far, well how about this? At 6ft 2 1/2inches he was the tallest jump jockey of his time. One season he broke his right collarbone nine times; it was only when ironically riding Bailey’s Just For The Crack at Newbury that both went in the same fall.

After retiring from race riding in the mid-1990’s he would not begin training in his own right for a few years, instead working as Norman Mason’s assistant – the assistant to the amusement machine magnate from the North-East was in effect the trainer.

Mason also had a Grand National winner, but Red Marauder’s success in 2001 when one of only four finishers happened after the mystery man’s departure having overseen his novice win. He was already setting up his own stable by then. What has defined him in the intervening two decades has been his extreme patience waiting, it seems, forever to land a touch for his owner, then carrying it off with certainty.

If you haven’t got it yet you never will so here we go - say hello to Alan Jones. From West Ham to the West Country via Northumberland has been a stretch. He still stands just as tall and with a season-best of ten a while ago and more likely four or five every term from his ten-strong string of individually and minutely prepared jumpers, he keeps the show going for his owners.

One of them enjoyed such a winning punt on his veteran horse Tiquer in the winter of 2017-18 that he decided to invest at a higher level. “He won 140 grand”, recalls Alan, “so decided to go to Goff’s in Ireland that October to look for a smart yearling. He had been using an agent but he thought his fees excessive, so he asked me to go along and find a nice filly for around 100-110k”, recalls Alan.

“We started with a dozen but boiled it down and eventually settled on a Camelot filly. To my surprise we got her for €100,000. The wind came out of my sails a bit when the owner sent her to Richard Hannon, but she was from a major Coolmore source, consigned by Timmy Hyde’s Camas Park stud, so you would have expected her to go to a big Flat yard. In any case, he is my biggest owner so you’d want to keep him happy.

“Of course, I kept my ear to the ground, listening for news on how she was doing at Hannon’s. It seemed she didn’t make the expected progress and it was as much an economy measure as anything else when I was asked to take her for the winter as a two-year-old”, said Jones. The next season as a three-year-old soundness was again an issue with her so it was back again to Mr Jones for some more rest and recuperation.

Ironically, recalls Jones, it was just when he detected the filly was starting to shape up that the owner nearly brought the project to an untimely end. “She was improving every day and then suddenly there was a potential buyer wanting to send her to stud unraced. I told the owner I thought we could still do something with her and luckily he finally agreed.”

Thus on Sunday, prepared on the same type of hill up which Martin Pipe, who in Jones’s estimation, completely changed the science of training racehorses, Lady Excalibur was finally ready to go.

The chosen target, a bumper at Stratford last Sunday, came along 1,021 days after Alan Jones signed the docket to re-invest that big chunk of his owner’s massive touch. After the event he reckoned “she’s not quick” but if you watch the video of where she is turning for home and where she is at the finish with Tom O’Brien sitting pretty you might have another opinion. The world is her oyster and whatever she does on the track she will always have a value as a potential broodmare.

As Tom told him afterwards, “You are just like my Uncle Aidan, you can perform miracles. This one certainly is”. Praise indeed, but when your stable is limited to a handful of animals, candidates for such miracles come along only rarely. In 60-year-old Alan Jones’ case 1,021 days from purchase to payoff is a bit of a sprint!

- TS

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Monday Musings: Two Major Contenders from Left Field

At the age of 25 back in 1978 Kim Bailey took over the training licence from his father Ken at their family farm in Brackley, Northamptonshire, with the experience of having learnt his trade from three training greats, Humphrey Cottrill, Tim Forster and Fred Rimell, writes Tony Stafford. In 1995 he enjoyed the almost unthinkable achievement of winning both the Champion Hurdle, with the novice Alderbrook, and the Gold Cup with Master Oats.

Until Saturday they had been the only Grade 1 wins on his card. Now, 26 years later and in his 43rd year as a trainer, the still-boyish Bailey, greatly to his own surprise, can refer back to a wonderful performance by the nine-year-old, First Flow. After an end-to-end battle he emphatically saw off reigning Champion Two-Mile Chaser Politologue in Ascot’s Clarence House Chase.

Kim Bailey has, over the years, gone through a number of transformations and training locations as well as a major domestic upheaval and a Henry Cecil-like slump. That must have caused this consummate horseman to question whether he should continue to pursue his career.

Throughout, Bailey has always had the respect of his fellow professionals, even in the darkest days. The same was true of course for the future Sir Henry before the arrival of Frankel and the subsequent great loyalty – hardly surprising one might say – of Prince Khalid Abdullah. The recent passing of Prince Khalid could have significant implications for the future of many of the present-day’s leading Flat-race trainers.

Bailey’s own darkest years came in the first decade of the present century when in the four seasons between 2004 and 2008 he won respectively only six, six, nine and finally three races. Those three in 2007-8 came from 131 runs and produced earnings of a little over £29,000. Nowadays he characteristically has one of the higher strike rates, operating at close to 18%. Less than three per cent must have given him kittens!

The Racing Post statistics for each trainer includes a section at the bottom entitled Big Races Won. Between March 2002 and November 2012, a full decade, none of the Bailey winners qualified for entry in that section.

In more recent times, he has built up his business again at a modern farm in Andoversford, 15 minutes or so from Cheltenham. A great adherent to modern technology, he was moving around his snow-covered 70-strong yard on Sunday morning, reflecting by video on the previous afternoon’s exploits by one of three chasers that could be lining up in the top races at Prestbury Park in six weeks’ time.

As he progressed with his commentary, all the time he was sharing the credit, principally to David Bass, whose opportunist ride on First Flow he described as “one of the best rides I’ve ever seen”. Also earning his gratitude were various key members of his staff. If ever there was a benevolent boss, it is Kim Bailey, who stresses that any success achieved by Thornfield Farm is very much a team effort.

That attitude will undoubtedly bring loyalty from the staff and he certainly has managed to keep a number of owners, among them First Flow’s, Tony Solomons, with him over many years. “Tony was one of my first owners all those years ago and I’m so happy for him. First Flow was not an expensive buy and he’s done so well for us,” says Bailey.

He certainly has. Saturday’s win for First Flow was his sixth in succession and his tenth in all from only 16 races over obstacles. The race was worth a few bob short of £60k and represented a nice early birthday present for his owner.

Tony rarely has more than a couple of horses in training but the retired banker also had tremendous success in recent years with the staying Flat handicapper, Nearly Caught. That smart gelding, trained by Hughie Morrison, won nine races and was placed 15 times.

His last win, as an eight-year-old, came on his final appearance when he easily won a Newmarket Listed race from an official rating of 107. That was his fourth Listed win, to which he could add a Group 2 victory at Deauville as a six-year-old. All of his five stakes wins and eight places came in his final three seasons’ racing.

While Bailey had some sparse years where major races were concerned, that could not be said of 2020 when he earned seven entries in that category. First Flow is joined by Imperial Aura and Vinndication as fellow high-class performers and Bailey hopes all three will make it to the Festival.

He regards Vinndication as a potential Gold Cup candidate. The eight-year-old is still lightly-raced and although he has yet to win going left-handed, he ran a blinder when only two lengths behind Cyrname in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby when starting out the present campaign at the end of October.

Bailey aimed him at the Ladbroke (ex-Hennessy) Handicap Chase at Newbury the following month and the gelding was still very much in contention when unseating David Bass five fences out (his only non-completion) under a big weight. The trainer hopes he will be able to prepare him in time to participate.

Until Imperial Aura’s unexpected early exit from his Kempton Grade 2 target a couple of weeks back he had been carrying all before him, adding two nice wins to his Cheltenham Festival novice handicap chase victory in March. Another eight-year-old, like his two stablemates he also has an enviable win ratio, seven from 12.

Nothing succeeds like success. From the dark days Bailey has now put together seven highly rewarding seasons, all bar last term’s 32 (for obvious Covid) reasons bringing between 43 and 61 wins and at least £400k in earnings.

With £450,000 already this term and more than three months to go, he could even get close to the £696,000 of the extraordinary Master Oats/ Alderbrook campaign when he had 72 wins from 312 runs, especially if things work out at the Festival.

It is hard not to be excited by First Flow, but one other horse produced an even more eye-opening performance the same afternoon. The Venetia Williams-trained and Rich Ricci-owned Royale Pagaille turned the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock Park into a rout and must be followed over a cliff for the rest of the season and beyond.

This race has had a proud heritage since its inception in 1981, with its early winners including the three Cheltenham Gold Cup victors, Little Owl, Bregawn and The Thinker. Jodami made it four a decade later, while its best recent champion has been Bristol De Mai, also a three-time winner of the Grade 1 Betfair Chase over the same course and distance.

Royale Pagaille was bought as an experienced four-year-old by French agent Guy Petit out of the Francois Nicolle yard in November 2018 at Arcana for €70k. He had won one of ten starts, a minor hurdle race at Pau, although he did have plenty of experience over fences after that victory.

Sent To Venetia, it was more than a year before he saw a British racecourse and his two runs last season before racing was summarily curtailed were hardly  earth-shattering. First, in a two-runner Chepstow novice chase he found the 150-rated Vision Des Flos predictably too good, trailing home almost ten lengths behind. Then, in a three-runner chase at Huntingdon he was miles behind the lower-rated pair Equus Secretus (Ben Pauling) and Lies About Milan (Fergal O’Brien) who fought out a close finish over the near three-mile trip. Those performances gave little inkling of what was to come.

Hence when Royale Pagaille reappeared for this season at Haydock on December 2, the son of Blue Bresil was the 11/1 outsider in a four-runner novice chase over two miles and five furlongs. He confounded those odds, very easily coming from the back to draw clear of the Kim Bailey-trained favourite Espoir De Romay, who carried a 5lb winner’s penalty.

After that, on the second day of Kempton’s big Christmas meeting, his winning margin of just over three lengths might not have been extravagant, but the style of the victory off his revised mark of 140 was such that the chase handicapper raised him 16lb to 156.

At no stage on Saturday did it appear likely that Royale Pagaille would have any difficulty in defying his new mark, travelling and jumping with utter authority. Conceding 20lb to the proven staying handicappers Just Your Type and Potters Legend, he was already a long way clear of the pair at the last fence in the heavy ground and it seemed as though Tom Scudamore could have doubled the eventual victory margin of 16 lengths over Potters Legend had he wished.

That suggests to me the chase assessors will struggle to keep his new mark below 170 and at the present rate of progress, further improvement could easily be forthcoming. That already takes him right into the top echelon of chasers. For the record, in its 41-year history the Peter Marsh Chase has never been won by a horse younger than seven, Royale Pagaille’s age.

Bookmakers are quoting Royale Pagaille for four races at the Festival, but if he was mine I would find it difficult to disregard the big one. There are many instances of trainers thinking their emerging horses are not quite ready but with the number of pitfalls that can assail them, those delaying plans often prove fruitless with the horses never actually making it to a later Gold Cup. And this one already has eleven chase starts to his name, so is hardly an inexperienced novice.

I’m suggesting you take the 12-1 (unless you can get better) for the Blue Riband of the meeting.  If you prefer to be safe, he is 8-1 non-runner no bet.

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