Tag Archive for: Kingsgate Native

Best reflects on Nunthorpe glory for juvenile sensation Kingsgate Native

As York’s Ebor meeting approaches so too does the Nunthorpe Stakes, a Group One five-furlong sprint down the Knavesmire that attracts the swiftest horses in training.

In 2007 John Best’s Kingsgate Native proved himself to be the quickest of them all, a first success in a career that would see him rise to the top of the sprint division, change hands for over £1million and then end his career patiently teaching the young students of the sport at the British Racing School.

The son of Mujadil began life at the Kent base of Best and made an instant impact on his debut performance when finishing second by just a head in the Listed Windsor Castle Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Such a high-profile introduction to the track was not Best’s initial plan, but rather the result of Kingsgate Native’s maiden run having been forgone due to the adverse weather conditions at the time.

Kingsgate Native, ridden by Jimmy Quinn, winning the Nunthorpe at York
Kingsgate Native, ridden by Jimmy Quinn, winning the Nunthorpe at York (John Giles/PA)

As a result the then two-year-old arrived at the Royal meeting having never stepped on a track before, but he was evidently unhindered by his lack of experience as he ran valiantly to finish second by just a head.

“He was due to run a couple of weeks before and the meeting was abandoned,” Best explained.

“It wasn’t by design, I’d like to say I was being clever but I wasn’t!

“We were planning on running him at York about three weeks before Ascot, but that was called off and it was too close to the race to think about running elsewhere.

“So I made the decision with the owner that we should just wait and take our chance, we knew he was pretty good but I didn’t quite know he was that good.”

His next visit to a racecourse returned the same result, this time in the Group Three Molecomb Stakes at Glorious Goodwood where he was the runner-up by a neck.

Kingsgate Native after being sold to Cheveley Park
Kingsgate Native after being sold to Cheveley Park (Anthony Devlin/PA)

A steep step up in grade followed as the bay then took on the Nunthorpe, this time triumphing by a length and a half to shed his maiden tag in a Group One contest.

“I think he’s one of the few maidens that have won a Group One,” Best said.

“It was a great day and he gave us a few others as well.

“That was his third race but he probably should have won both of his first two races. He was unlucky because at Ascot he was drawn on the wrong side and at Goodwood he was again drawn on the wrong side and he ended up switching halfway.

“I think if he hadn’t had to switch he would have won that as well. Coming into the Nunthorpe, if things had gone our way, he would have been unbeaten.”

Another tilt at Group One glory followed in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp that October, where the colt ran admirably once again to finish second.

“The ground was very soft that day and I think he just slightly missed the kick, if he’d jumped a little bit sharper and the ground was a little bit better he could probably have won that as well,” said Best.

“When you’re running at that sort of level you do need a little bit of luck, fortunately the race that was probably the most important was the Nunthorpe.”

Kingsgate Native at Royal Ascot
Kingsgate Native at Royal Ascot (Sean Dempsey/PA)

The following year Kingsgate Native began his campaign in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot, where he was 10th of 13 runners, but he bounced back to form just four days later to take the Group One Golden Jubilee Stakes, a race that has been known as the Diamond Jubilee since 2012.

“As a three-year-old he was in the King’s Stand and I probably had him a bit too fresh that day and he just did a little bit too much early on,” said Best.

“After a discussion with John Mayne (owner) and the Thompsons of Cheveley Park (future owners), we decided we would let him take his chance in the Jubilee, which of course he won,” said Best.

“Luckily everyone was in agreement that we should just try it, so that’s how it was.”

There were then two visits to the July Course at Newmarket before the end the season, once for the July Cup, where Kingsgate Native finished fifth, and again for the defence of his Nunthorpe title as the race had been relocated from the Knavesmire due to waterlogging.

He was third in the latter race, but was beaten by just a length and a half on both occasions and was rated 120 when bowing out at the end of the campaign to head to stud.

Sold to Cheveley Park for £1.1 million, Kingsgate Native sadly proved to be completely infertile and therefore never made a stallion, instead heading back into training where he was gelded and went on to win both the Group Three King George Stakes and the Group Two Temple Stakes for Sir Michael Stoute – and then the Temple again in 2013 for Robert Cowell.

“I just wish he’d been fertile,” Best said.

“That’s one thing that’s upsetting from my point of view because I would have loved to have created a stallion.

“However, he was just a very special horse and I was very lucky to have him for the time I did.”

Upon retirement from racing in 2016, Kingsgate Native found himself a home at the British Racing School in Newmarket and remains there to this day, now aged 16, helping the upcoming generations of stable staff and jockeys learn their trade.

“He’s an absolute superstar and he knows it,” said Alison Harper, yard instructor at the British Racing School.

“He loves attention and he loves people. When they use him for the best turned out (competition), he comes out very proud of himself and prances around the yard.

“He’s a very good ride too, he didn’t have a reputation for being a good ride when he came to us but he’s just a bit cheeky, he’s a real asset to the school.

“The students are very proud to ride him, they go and tell their parents that they’ve just ridden Kingsgate Native.

“All the staff at Cheveley Park love him too. The stallion man who looked after him pops over to see him sometimes, as does Chris Richardson (managing director of the stud).

“He’s always going to have a home, they didn’t want him to be retired and just go out in a field and be bored, so he’s here and then when he’s done his job with us he’ll go back to Cheveley Park again.

“He is so popular because he’s just such a nice character, a lovely horse.”

National Horseracing Museum playing vital role in helping people with dementia

Racehorses – or even fountains – can have a positive impact on the lives of people with dementia.

Hazel Courtley has seen at first hand, as community engagement manager at the National Horseracing Museum, the beneficial effect that meeting a retired racehorse can have for visiting dementia groups.

Whether it is bringing a distant memory back to life, or simply the “multi-sensory” experience of standing by or stroking one of the thoroughbreds housed in the museum stables and paddock, the moments are precious.

Dual Group One-winning sprinter Kingsgate Native is taking life at a slower pace these days in his retirement at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket
Dual Group One-winning sprinter Kingsgate Native is taking life at a slower pace these days in his retirement at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket (John Giles/PA)

Courtley is among staff at the museum, based at Palace House in Newmarket, who help people with dementia get the most from their visits – meeting the horses, including former top sprinter Kingsgate Native,  and then chatting with one another over tea and cake in the on-site cafe, the ‘Tack Room’.

In partnership with the Newmarket Dementia Action Alliance, staff also seek to take the museum out into the community – taking slides of the Palace House site and equine inhabitants to show care-home residents.

It was on one of those trips that Courtley was surprised and delighted to discover that vivid memories can often be stirred apparently at random.

“We’ve gone out into care homes, where obviously you may get a percentage of people there with dementia,” she said.

“We show photographs of this site as it used to be, because it is quite historic.

“I remember showing a slide of a fountain that dates back to the Edwardian period, and a gentleman there absolutely lit up and remembered where there were goldfish around him – and remembered pinching one of the goldfish.

“He was very, very animated just by seeing that picture of the fountain. It’s different triggers for different people.”

Many others, of course, are simply enchanted by the presence of the hand-picked horses.

“We belong to the Newmarket Dementia Action Alliance,” Courtley added.

“A lot of organisations have signed up to that, with a view of making Newmarket a more dementia-friendly town.

“As part of that, we’ve done quite a lot of awareness training with our staff – and we’ve been working with the Dementia Café at All Saints Church, just down the road.

“We have ex-racehorses here, and (the groups) come and engage with the horses and go to the café – that’s been the focus of the experience, rather than museum galleries.

“That’s what the café felt their members would benefit most from.

“We work with the Retraining of Racehorses charity, so they’re ex-racehorses and are obviously carefully chosen for the visitor site to be fine in this sort of environment.”

The sights, sounds and smells may not linger in all memories – but the hope is that the benefits are nonetheless long-lasting.

“It is about trying to create positive experiences which is the most important thing,” said Courtley.

“People might not necessarily remember exactly an experience they have, but obviously they will retain the emotion from it.

“Where they meet the horses, it’s quite a multi-sensory experience. They can stroke the horses, there are the sounds and the smells.

“Then there is the café, and that social experience as well – just being out and about, drinking tea and eating cake and doing those quite normal things but in a different setting.”

Coronavirus lockdown restrictions put the visits on hold – but as measures ease, following the reopening of the museum to the public this month, the intention is to re-engage fully and perhaps welcome groups from significantly further afield too.

Courtley added: “We would have been doing more last year. But obviously with lockdown, it’s been a bit tricky, and groups haven’t necessarily been meeting.

“Once they are happy to come out again, then we hope to pick up and develop it a bit more. We’re in quite early stages, I’d say, but it’s nice to know we have something we can offer that is of benefit.

“It’s lovely to see them engage with the horses and enjoy the visit.”

Museum staff have been trained to help make the most of the interactions – and handle the unexpected challenges too, which may crop up when a group arrives.

“It’s trying to have a general awareness, but also an awareness of your site – where potentially there might be challenges,” she said.

“They include in (the training) a very good film that shows somebody just getting ready to try to leave the house, and what that experience might look like for someone with dementia.

“It’s getting people to try to understand that perspective really, and what the challenges might be.

“(It can be) quite simple things – if you’ve got a black mat on the floor, for example, near a door, for somebody with dementia that could appear to be maybe a hole.”

That exchange of practical information, for the everyday lives of staff and their own friends and family too, is perhaps an unintended consequence of the dementia groups’ visit.

It is not only the visitors whose quality of life can be enhanced, as Courtley explains.

“It’s always so nice for us if a visit here can have a really positive impact on somebody’s well-being,” she said.

“(But) it is also awareness raising, and part of that is trying to see the world through the eyes of somebody who might be experiencing dementia.”

* The National Horse Racing Museum is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am – 5pm. For information about visiting see www.nhrm.co.uk