Picking horses and trainers

No runners imminent so a few comments on picking horses and trainers. I still have a lot to learn as an owner, but these are my thoughts at the moment.

I believe in meritocracy in all areas of business, and horse racing should be no different. In picking a trainer, the plan should be to find the best trainer for your horse, and that should be all. The truth is that I have not done that – more often than not I go with someone I know, or in many cases who my co-owners know and get on with. That said, I am pretty happy with what I have.

The bulk of my two-year-olds are trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam and Brian Meehan. These guys know how to educate and train young horses, and their records speak for themselves – Pete trained the two top rated 2yos in the UK last year and Brian has also had a lot of 2yo success. Brian is now at Manton, and with all those facilities at his disposal his performance should improve further. There are of course other trainers who are excellent with their 2yos – Jeremy Noseda and Kevin Ryan are two that come to mind – although I don’t know either of them.

I have four horses in partnership with Nick Gifford. Nick is a young guy who has spent his life in racing and knows the game backwards. He is energetic but thoughful, and most of all patient – I trust him implicitly. I didn’t know him before – he first came onto my radar with Straw Bear and I watched his results for a while. One of the syndicate members lives near his stables so we went with him. Most of the horses we have with him are “slow burners” – big rangy horses that won’t be peaking until they go chasing in a couple of years.

I have two jumping recruits from the flat with Gary Moore. Gary is a hard working no-nonsense sort of guy who just gets on with it. I have another with David Pipe, who I think will turn out to be a top trainer. I also have horses with Tom Dascombe – Tom is just starting out, but he spent many years as assistant to Mike De Kock, a top trainer in South Africa. His results with cheap horses are impressive, and I will continue to support him.

It’s fairly clear that different trainers do well with different types of horse – certain trainers (i.e. Dandy Nicholls) seem to do very well with sprinters, whereas others (i.e. Mark Johnstone) seem to excel with staying types. Henry Cecil and Michael Stoute are both exceptional with fillies. I’m not sure I understand why this is, but I know that there is a lot of style in how they train.

There are other considerations. Horses with small trainers often go off at longer prices than they would do otherwise. As an example, I had a horse with Tom Dascombe in 2005 (Political Intrigue) who had been rated 89 on the flat – in his first hurdle he was up against a horse from the Hobbs yard who was rated 87 on the flat. We went off at 6-1, the Hobbs horse went off 4-6 favourite. We won and landed a nice touch. Against this I don’t think horses from small stables sell well – they just aren’t trusted as much and they are not as well networked.

Buying horses is difficult. I don’t know how to assess a horse on looks, so I have to rely on others. I prefer to buy at auction, as it feels safer. Always get a vet to check the horse out beforehand, and always get an expert view from a trainer. Trainers can generally be relyed upon for an honest assessment – they don’t want bad horses in their yards and they don’t want disenfranchised owners. Buying abroad is very tricky, and you have to put more leg work in.