Monday, July 18, 2016
For me as a trainer, Thursday was a day to remember as we had our first double. For our 18-year-old apprentice, Stephen Cummins, it was even more memorable.
It took me 50 races before I had my first success in the saddle. It took Stephen only ten. Only two hours after Sydney Ruffdiamond won for the team at Chepstow under Shane Kelly, Stephen was able to enter Epsom's famous winner's circle after giving Wordismybond a peach of a front-running ride.
I have been trying to knock some of the rough edges off him. Importantly, though, he is a good horseman with good horse sense. That's crucial. I would always rather have on my side a smart horseman than a mechanical, stylish rider devoid of any horse sense.
I always felt I was a better horseman than jockey. I wouldn't have been as stylish or agile on the top of a horse's back as Frankie, but I do know I had great horse sense and I was a horseman. Some jockeys could ride a horse and not be able to tell you if the horse wants five furlongs or two miles. That doesn't impress me much, no matter how tidy they look in a finish.
A person with horse sense will know how a horse will react to something just by looking at the animal. That person will understand that if you walk through a stable door a horse will naturally follow. For a horse it's the most normal thing in the world to do. What you don't do is try to walk in besides the horse, just as you wouldn't walk into a lift alongside someone else. If a person did try to enter a stable with the horse right next to him the horse would probably stop because the horse is more intelligent.
Stephen is actually unlucky not to have been on the scoresheet before now. We had a plan on Blenheim Warrior, who we fancied, at Newbury in May but circumstances ensured the plan went out the window. The horse got left at the start and, all in all, it was a bit of a disaster.
Stephen's confidence was knocked. He also took plenty of stick from the lads in the yard - which, in itself, is not a bad thing - but he has bounced right back and proven he can overcome setbacks. Bad days like the one Stephen had at Newbury can either make or break a young jockey. Stephen has come out the other side and now has a bright future.
As for Wordismybond, he has a fair bit more experience than Stephen. I won on him myself at Windsor three years ago. When Peter Makin retired he kindly sent me on three horses - given I'm a new trainer that was incredibly kind and supportive of him - and Wordismybond was one of them. The old horse has now won two races from Weathercock House. He feels like a two-year-old at the moment. That's marvellous to see.
As a trainer in my first full season, it's normal to sometimes doubt yourself. One thing I never doubt is my knowledge of Britain's racecourses. That came in handy on Thursday.
Shane Kelly rang me before Sydney Ruffdiamond's race, a 6f handicap, to have a chat about tactics. Normally I don't interfere. Shane pointed out he was drawn out on the wing in stall one. He asked me if I thought he should tuck in. I told him definitely not to do that and to instead do his own thing and use that far side draw, regardless of what anyone else might do.
They go flat out at Chepstow, where it's very difficult to make up ground. For that reason, I instructed Shane to stay where he was and go in a straight line from 'A' to 'B' as quickly as possible and ignore what everyone else was doing. Pleasingly, those tactics worked a treat and he made all to win well.
Everyone in the yard works incredibly hard, so days like Thursday are special. I know neither Wordismybond or Sydney Ruffdiamond are ever going to win valuable races but every winner counts. To see a horse win at any level is a real treat. Horses like Wordismybond and Sydney Ruffdiamond really are worth their weight in gold.
These have been quite trying times for us. It hasn't all been rosy in the yard. Some of the horses weren't 100 per cent but we feel we've got to the other side of late.
There is great positivity at Weathercock House. After our first double that positivity has become even stronger.
Five chances to continue a great week
I'm hoping a good week for us can get even better at Lingfield, where we have five runners tonight, making it the busiest day we've had on a racecourse so far.
First up is Dltripleseven, who goes in the 1m6f handicap (6.40).
One of the reasons he runs is this is one of the few races I can get him into off his 49 rating. He will appreciate stepping up in trip and Josephine Gordon rides very nicely. Ideally, I would like soft ground for him but you sometimes just have to take what you're given.
Castle Talbot, out first ever runner and a winner two starts ago at Brighton, will love the track when he takes his chance in the 7f handicap (8.20).
Due to the nature of Lingfield they go fast racing down the hill on the straight course. That's exactly what Castle Talbot wants. He loves to have horses who have gone too quickly for their own good stopping in front of him. That's what happened when he won at Brighton. He can finish a race strongly and this contest presents him with a clear opportunity.
In the same race is Arcanista, who disappointed us last time at Wolverhampton. We don't know why as she had been working nicely. On this occasion we'll change tactics and see if that helps. Stephen Cummins will be trying to ride the second winner of his career on her.
The main reason I'm keen to run One Big Surprise in the 6f amateur riders' handicap (8.35) is she has already won at the track, which I think is important. We've booked Simon Walker, whose agent sold him to me as the Richard Hughes of the amateurs' scene in that he is very good at holding up a horse.
As such, if he has her in front before the furlong pole Mr Walker would be wise to have some good excuses ready!
I should stress I'm not telling you any of these runners is going to win. Naturally I hope they all win but all I'm saying is what we think.
Limato would thrive over five
Limato was a super winner of the Darley July Cup. Back over six furlongs he produced a marvellous sprinting performance. I think he would be just as good over five.
I would love to see him supplemented for the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes. There is no real difference in the speed the top races over five and six furlongs are run at. Given Limato's racing style, the drop in trip wouldn't have any negative impact at all.
I was going to say I wouldn't be tempted to step him up to a mile but, then again, why not? They can do so without any worries because the great thing about Limato is he is a gelding. It doesn't matter so much if a top-class gelding is beaten. You can also run a gelding more often than you would a colt and with much greater freedom, experimenting in any way you please.
The connections of Limato will be able to travel the world with him and have a ball, just as the connections of Cirrus Des Aigles did.
Harry Bentley didn't have to do too much on Limato but he is undoubtedly a good young lad on the up.
He was handed a high-profile role before he was properly ready for one but after a setback of losing a job he has been helped by riding lots of winners in the Middle East.
Another reason Harry will do well is he is intelligent. Looking stylish and riding well isn't enough in itself. The best jockeys are probably the most intelligent ones. They know how to behave and how the world works. Harry has an exciting future.
Hughesie's Hottie - to follow
I haven't had any joy tipping anyone else's horses, so this week I'll go for one of mine and suggest One Big Surprise at Lingfield (8.50).