A long and fruitless day

I travelled up to Newmarket after work and checked into a hotel. I had an early start this morning at Pete Chapple-Hyam’s where I was hoping to see a few of our horses work, but the weather got in the way. I spent a while there and had a good chat with Pete.

It’s early days but I’m really excited about the 2yos we have with Pete. He cracks on with his 2yos pretty early, and although they haven’t done any serious work yet he has a pretty good idea of how they are going to work out. Bouguereau (by Alhaarth) is the one I own outright – the only horse I own outright at the moment having sold Berkhamsted. I wasn’t expecting him to be an early horse, but he is quite far forward and could do something this year. Winker Watson, by Piccolo, is coming on very nicely and should come out in May – he is looking very decent. Lord Snooty, by Traditionally and the cheapest of the three should be out early (perhaps April) and if he lives up to current expectation he could be very good – at this stage he is looking like the best of the group. They are all nice horses.

Thunderbolt Jaxon we had high hopes for last year – at the start of the season Pete rated him his joint second best prospect alongside Dutch Art – but things change. He was a long way forward but had recurrent and chronic sore shins and some other problems, and we weren’t able to get a run into him. He hasn’t grown a lot over the winter and won’t be the same force as a 3yo that he might have been as a 2yo, but he could still be a decent horse. He’s down to come out on the all-weather on the 19th of this month, and we’ll take it from there. Johnny Alpha is another we once had high hopes for, but he has a big barrel like body putting pressure on his legs and he was impossible to keep sound, twice breaking bones in his feet among other problems. Pete is keeping him on as a work horse – he may come right one day but I won’t be holding my breath.

I spoke to Pete about some of his other horses. Dutch Art and Authorized are the stable stars, having been the only 2yo G1 winners trained in the UK. Both horses are very well – Dutch Art is a likely runner in the Guineas but Authorized is more of a Derby type. Of the two Authorized looks the more interesting – Dutch Art is an exceptionally well formed and compact horse, whereas Authorized is still immature and needs filling out. He may have more room to progress.

From Pete’s I headed down to Tattersalls, the first time I have ever been there. I met up with Tom Dascombe and our vet from Lambourn – she had arrived earlier and had checked out a number of horses. We had five horses on the shortlist and we checked them all out – the vet examined all of them, we had them all out for inspection and we rang around to find out what we could. High Command, a classy 4yo handicapper, had tendonitis and needed a year’s rest. Pagana was fit for racing but could have scored better on the vet’s exam and was going to be expensive. Sweetheart appealed on breeding as it suggested she would do better in time over longer distances and she got a good vets report. She was on the small side and my advisors thought she wasn’t ‘A’ class broodmare stock, limiting her resell value. Cactus King was clean and well with ability, but hadn’t been showing it on the track. We felt that a change of scenery might work for him, but he wasn’t going to be cheap and looked short on stamina, limiting his value as a sale to National Hunt at the end of the year. Ballinteni had had a deformed foot – it had healed but his feet were unattractive. After a lot of discussion I decided to pass on all of them.

I met up with Tom Goff, the bloodstock agent who had bought the Chapple-Hyam horses for us – we talked about broodmares and how to value them. I also bumped into Alex Cole, Paul Cole’s son – we have a 2yo with Paul. We’ve been trying to name this horse for ages – he is US bred and every time we settle on a name it is turned down by the US registrar. We finally got a name through this week – Ollie Fliptrik, which I like. He’s been going through a growth spurt and we don’t know a lot about him yet.

I introduced myself to Henry Cecil, having called him out once before to look at a horse in another sale. I chatted to him for a long time – he’s very entertaining, appeared to have no hint of arrogance despite his long and successful career and has a load of stories to tell. He was interested in an unraced Juddmonte horse called Weather Front – having trained for Khaled Abdulla for many years he is well connected there. He had a buyer who was prepared to bid up to £20k – I thought the horse was worth more than that, and said that if the bidding went higher he could carry on for me up to £35k (giving the original buyer first refusal).

We looked at the horse – I thought he was perfect for the job. He was decent sized, staying bred with a nice swagger about him, but weak looking and perhaps a year away from maturity. Juddmonte have a decent entry in this sale every year, and many of them have gone on to be good horses. The NH market is really flying with big prices going through for the right staying types – Weather Front was on the button for a sale into this market at the end of the year and appealed as a value bet.

We were outbid in the ring with the horse going to an Irish NH buyer for £42k. Henry was disappointed as he didn’t think he was value at that level. I was kicking myself on the way home – I’ve been following the NH market and I think he was the right horse to bid up for. I’m annoyed I didn’t bid more.

All in all a fruitless but entertaining day, and I learnt a lot. I don’t think I’m ever going to get to the point where I can assess a horse’s potential on looks, but I don’t think my task is to do that – the task for me is to assess the abilities of my advisors and contribute in the areas where I have a bit of expertise.