Monday, August 15, 2016
One thing I have been keen to create at Weathercock House is a real sense of us being a team.
That doesn't simply relate to the staff. It also extends to the owners. I wanted to create a feeling of camaraderie among those who have horses with us. I'm pleased to say we've got that, as you can tell by speaking to many of the owners, Danny Waters being an excellent example.
I remember when Hardy Eustace ran at Cheltenham lots of dad's owners would come along to support Lar Byrne. The Hannons produce the same sort of atmosphere.
As a trainer you like to see one owner cheering on the horses in the yard that belong to others. It has turned out to be a good thing Danny is an embodiment of that spirit. He is a new owner to racing but his first experiences on the racecourse were not altogether successful. He bought four yearlings last year, two of which have yet to run. Two of them, however, have run. They didn't initially run very fast.
Jumping Jack finished last in his first three races and Aventus finished last on his debut. That means Danny's first four runners didn't beat a single horse, just the ambulance. He found that massively disappointing but he also saw the lighter side of the situation. He sees this as a rollercoaster. Fortunately, Danny is now getting to experience some ups as well as downs.
At just 31 he has already been extremely successful in business. That has to be a stressful environment and he wanted to find a hobby. His partner, Lucy, is from a horsey family and her father, Dave Barrett, had horses with Richard Hannon senior before getting involved in a couple with us. Danny decided he wanted a piece of the action and has proved to be a smashing addition to the team.
Fortunately for me, my rookie status was attractive to him. He wanted to be involved in something from the start and thought that made having horses with us an attractive proposition.
However, he says if he does something he likes to do it deep and meaningfully or not at all. As such, he didn't want to simply dip his toe in the water. His theory was the percentage chance of buying one yearling and that yearling turning out to be decent was pretty low. He therefore set out in his head to buy quite a sizeable number of horses, a number I felt was probably too many for a newcomer to the sport. In the end he settled on buying four with our theory being if one turns out to be smart we sell that one horse to pay for the rest.
He says he regularly checks for the stable's results on the Racing Post website, if not every night then every other night. When he comes out of a business meeting he'll often have up to ten missed calls. If one of them is from me he tells me he now rings me first. That's how much he has been bitten by the racing bug. You can see that as well from the fact his favourite part of ownership is coming to Lambourn and watching the horses exercise.
I have to say I got pretty emotional when Jumping Jack won at Kempton last week. Given how much faith Danny has put in us I was incredibly keen for him to have some success. In fact, he came close to seeing his colours carried to victory for a second time on Wednesday, when Jumping Jack was narrowly touched off back at Kempton.
Perhaps, though, Danny has actually started winning races quite quickly.
Dave has had horses with a good friend of ours, Martin Clarke. Martin spent the first 20 years of his time as a racehorse owner waiting for a winner. That's 20 years! Thankfully he had the right sort of attitude.
Danny has the same sort of attitude and, thanks to Jumping Jack, his wait for that first win was at least a lot shorter than two decades.
Paul Carberry was a genius in the saddle. He was also often quite mad out of it. I experienced both first at hand.
I was one of Ireland's first younger jockeys to ride with just my toes in the irons. That's because as I became tall I had to find a way to look small on a horse. Dropping my heels and elbows helped me do that. Paul followed suit very quickly. When we rode as apprentices in Flat races it would have been nearly impossible to tell us apart. Then he became a bit heavier, but that wasn't a problem as he always wanted to go jumping. He adores hunting and I think he saw jump racing as hunting at speed.
For a while we were both employed by Noel Meade and, although good mates, were in competition for rides.
I remember one time when we were in action down in Killarney. Noel had told Dad Paul had to go home with me that night. He was nervous if Paul stayed in Killarney he would spend the whole night out on the lash. So Paul did as Noel wanted. To an extent, anyway. He came home with me and the two of us went out on the lash in Kildare instead. By the time he rode at Killarney the next day he was overweight and was fined by the stewards for trying to cheat on the scales.
Paul and I both rode for Noel in the 1997 Irish Champion Hurdle. I wanted to ride Dardjini. Paul wanted to ride Cockney Lad. Noel decided to flip the horses the other way round. When we weighed out, to make a point, Paul and I swapped colours. When Noel saw us in the wrong silks he didn't see the funny side of the joke.
Going down to the second last flight Paul came by me on the bridle. As he went past, I shouted to him: "I told you, didn't I, you're on the right one." Then Dardjini made a crucial mistake at the last hurdle and I went back past him. "You were right," I said this time. "I am on the right one!" And I was because Cockney Lad won, giving me my biggest success over jumps.
Paul was one of the few jockeys I can think of who never experienced fear. As he got older he became a bit brittle, which meant falls hurt him more than they would have had hurt others. Yet those falls never left him in the least bit fearful. That's why horses jumped so well for him.
Another wonderful thing about Paul is he really loves horses. Everyone remembers that famous Champion Hurdle, in which Harchibald came there on the bridle only to be beaten by Hardy Eustace. Paul famously never hit Harchibald. His reasoning was he felt the horse was doing his best, so why hit him?
Paul was also someone who never let on if he fancied one of his mounts. You would ask him what he thought about his chances in the paddock. He would just say: "Yeah, he's all right." But there was more to it than him simply playing his cards close to his chest.
Paul never minded if he was riding a good horse or a bad horse. The important thing was he was about to ride in a jumps race. That's all he ever wanted to do. He was brilliant at doing it.
We run a lovely Al Shaqab Racing two-year-old in Newbury's opening maiden today (Saturday) and I'm very much looking forward to seeing how Hathfa builds on the promise of her Windsor debut fourth.
Her price tumbled from 14-1 to 4-1 on that occasion but it definitely wasn't due to stable money. I told Shane Kelly she wasn't to be hurt in any shape or form. I just wanted her to finish off the race and enjoy the experience. Matt Chapman started talking on At The Races about there being a massive gamble. The more he kept saying how beautiful she was the more her price plummeted.
We could have sent her to Lingfield tonight but in the end we've decided against ducking and diving. The Newbury race should tell us more about her. I would ideally prefer more cut in the ground and a slightly longer trip but you can't have everything you want.
Later at Lingfield we have Wordismybond in the apprentices' handicap under Stephen Cummins, who won on him at Epsom in July. I think half the battle with placing horses is finding a race in which the track and likely tactics should suit. Given how fast they go down the hill at Lingfield Wordismybond ought to be able to get a decent lead into the closing stages. However, if they do happen to go no pace Stephen can get an easy lead from his stall, one off the fence.
The old boy has already won two races this year. For a seven-year-old that's massive. If he can win another it would be even better.
I also want to pay tribute to Windsor, which on Monday stages the £75,000 final of its sprint handicap series. I certainly didn't think a month ago Sydney Ruffdiamond would be running in a £75,000 race, but that's what he is doing.
After winning at Chepstow he went back there but missed the kick and sulked. He will need a few things to go right, as he doesn't like being crowded, but I'm looking forward to running him, and with blinkers on for the first time he has a chance.
I'm in Deauville this weekend for the big Arqana yearling sale, at which 12 months ago Nicolas de Watrigant of Al Shaqab kindly bought us Hathfa.
It was also there we bought our first yearling, Chaplin, who won for us at Ffos Las on Monday. I loved the way he progressed from his first start to his second. That's exactly what I want our two-year-olds to be doing.
I might be kicking my heels a bit in Deauville, but if you're out of sight you're out of mind. It was worth me being there last year and I hope the same will be true this year.