Paco's Angel

Paco's Angel

Monday, July 4, 2016


I enjoyed many a good Monday at Windsor when I was riding and I enjoyed a good one this week as a trainer thanks to Paco's Angel, who became our first two-year-old winner of the season.

She won despite not enjoying the good to soft ground. I knew in advance she wouldn't like it but we still ran her. That's because one of the many things I learned from the Hannons is sometimes you cannot tick all the boxes when it comes to matching a horse to a race. Sometimes a race comes along you just have to run in.

Now and again you must take a chance, otherwise you'll end up winning nothing. If you wait for every possible aspect of a race to be perfect you might find the guy down the road is running his best horse on conditions that are perfect for him as well.

After Shane Kelly got off her two starts ago he said she hated soft ground. The owners were well aware of that and they were also aware I had told them her father, Paco Boy, hated soft ground as well. Nobody was under any illusions. The ground at Windsor on Monday was never going to suit her but everything else about the race - an auction maiden with a Plus 10 bonus - was perfect. It was too good to miss. I also felt even on her soft ground form she ought to win.

I was either going to be right or I was going to be wrong. You get quite a few things wrong as a trainer. Fortunately, this time I was right.

I hope I'm also right in thinking we have some lovely two-year-olds waiting in the wings. I feel confident about that because I've ridden them.

I was fortunate enough to ride a lot of high-class horses in my career so I'd like to think I know a good one from a bad one. On the gallops I both watch and ride. I would be pretty foolish not to be riding them. At the moment it's my biggest asset. I haven't yet trained any good horses but I rode plenty of them, so I need to massage the two together.

I'm getting to know my equine team but also my human team. Most of the top trainers will have a lot of jockeys coming down for work mornings. At Weathercock House I have just me and Shane Kelly. One of my team might ride a horse and tell me the horse is lovely. I might think very differently. I need to learn how the guys think and which of them think like me. I can then choose whose point of view I take as gospel.

The truth is, anyone can spot a good two-year-old when one goes by you. What might help me is I'll know when a horse is ready for a strong piece of work or a run. I can also state one thing for certain - when you kick one in the belly and you're ten and a half stone you don't get the same reaction as when you're eight and a half stone. That I do know for sure.

I'm going to be a Leger Legend - but only because Jack asked

I am coming out of retirement, albeit for one race on one day.

Jack Berry asked me if I would take part in the Leger Legends race, the handicap that supports the Injured Jockeys Fund on the opening afternoon of the Leger festival.

If I'm being honest I have no desire to race-ride again. I'm not missing being a jockey at all. I'm only doing it because Jack has asked me. I have huge respect for him. He has done an enormous amount for our sport and raised a lot of money, so if he asked me to jump over the moon I would at least have a go.

I'm ten-stone stripped at the moment and have only put on a stone and a half since I retired from the saddle. I'm not worried about my fitness, either. Even when I was off injured I didn't become unfit. I also never blew when I rode a horse. Micky Fitz says that's because I never pushed one!

I can't say I'm really looking forward to the race in the here and now. I won't be getting hot and bothered over it but I'm sure I'll enjoy it on the day. AP came out of retirement to win it last year. I'll have a good go at doing the same this year.

Looking for another Russian as sales season starts

We're back on the sales circuit next week with Tattersalls holding the July Sale, at which we'll sell a couple of horses and hopefully buy a couple as well.

Some of the horses you can get at this sort of sale are worth their weight in gold. They're easy to train, you can run them plenty and they can go in races that offer a fair bit of prize-money. Having said that, you can also come home with a serious problem on four legs.

My best buy so far has been Russian Realm, who came from Doncaster. He only cost £19,000 but every time he runs it's in a £50,000 race and when he won one he collected £30,000.

We might run him at Newmarket next week. I gave him a month off, thinking he wouldn't get his preferred easy ground in the summer, but given the weather we've been having I brought him back in. He doesn't take much getting ready, which makes him a very easy horse to train, and after a month off he has enjoyed a break without losing too much of his fitness level.

Getting Richard to London was the hard part

Tuesday was a very special day for the Hannons because Richard senior was presented with the Chris Deuters Award at the Racehorse Owners Association annual lunch.

It was a super occasion and one that sort of took Richard by surprise.

The hard part was making sure he was there in person to receive the award from Chris's widow Antonia. These days London is not a place Richard often frequents. For that reason, his wife, Jo, and son, Richard, did really well to get him there.

I do think he started to become a bit suspicious when he saw so many of his closest friends had also turned up to the same lunch. He knew something was going on but he didn't know what that something was going to be. When he did realise, and his name was read out, he very quickly received a standing ovation. He more than deserved it.

It wasn't a surprise Richard became emotional when he was on the stage because increasingly that's what he is like. I think he is also quietly, but rightly, proud of what he's achieved. This is a man who started off with a few broken down horses he inherited from his dad and then developed the biggest racing establishment in Britain. He has trained more winners than anyone else. He is a racing great.

Richard is an inspiration to plenty of people. I've always said that as a trainer his constitution for defeat was unbelievable, but he also didn't go overboard when he won.

Now I'm training myself I respect him even more than ever.

Marquand looks set to thrive

Few jockeys make an impression as quickly as Tom Marquand, who last year became champion apprentice at the age of 18 and on Thursday evening at Newbury rode out his claim.

When a young jockey does lose his allowance it can mark the start of a difficult time, particularly if he gets above himself. A lot of the young lads begin to mistakenly think they have become one of the top riders and go out to buy the flashiest BMW in the showroom. They develop a big ego and forget that they actually have to improve 3lb from the day they lose their claim.

As for Tom, I'm sure he'll be fine. He rides very well, he is dedicated and also well spoken. I don't think he'll have any problems at all.