There are over 400 racehorse trainers licensed by the British Horseracing Authority, so it shouldn't be a surprise when one comes across a new name. Although every trainer will tell you there's no money in training horses; the churn ratio of trainers exiting the sport has remained at around 10% each year for 40 years. Yet as one door closes on a career concluding, another opens for an ambitious newcomer eager to fill the gaps.
Ilka Gansera-Leveque is one such newcomer. German-born Ilka cut her teeth as an amateur rider with champion trainer Bruno Schütz in her homeland, graduating to an apprenticeship for 3 years, before spending some time with horse whisperer Monty Roberts in the USA. Schütz was a winner of the German Derby at Hamburg no less than four times before his death in 2000.
She returned to this country to qualify as a veterinarian, one of just two such who are trainers (the other is Mark Johnston - say no more). After a spell with Rossdales in Newmarket, she set up on her own, pre-training, breaking and training her own small string on the Hamilton Road in 2012.
It hasn't been an overnight success, but the bedrock of this sport comprises horsemen and women whose lives are dedicated to the well-being of their bloodstock, and who immerse themselves in the improvement of the stock in their charge. When husband Stephane returned to Newmarket to set about training Arabians, it was time to follow.
Runners over obstacles have been few and far between in a yard with no more than 20 inmates, and Southwell is hardly Ascot, but a first for this season - and last - when she extended her licence to both codes, was something of a milestone in today's 3m handicap hurdle as Just Once repaid the faith with a 3/4l victory. A lucky 13th ever runner under National Hunt rules.
Let's hope for Ilka's sake he doesn't live up to his name.
You don't need to be a diehard Jumping fan to appreciate the superb racing and pageantry that defines Britain's best known race meeting. Put simply, the 35 races of the Royal fixture at Ascot next week are to Flat racing fans what Cheltenham is to the winter brigade, but Ascot's reputation and draw is now worldwide, with runners drawn from Europe, the USA and the Pacific.
It all started when Queen Anne discovered Ascot heath on a hack and declared that the land is "perfect for the horses to gallop at full stretch.” She further introduced many of the principal races, led by the Gold Cup. The first race meeting took place in 1711 on August 11th, and since then, the meeting has grown in stature and length. Today, we refer to these five days as Royal Ascot.
There are two tracks at Ascot, suitable for both flat racing and national hunt. The Jumps course was imported lock, stock and barrel after the closure of nearby Hurst Park in 1963. And were if it not for the marquee events at Cheltenham and Aintree, Ascot's jumping calendar would top the pile.
This year, the Ascot Authority plans to open the meeting for five days, starting on Tuesday June 15th. The 35 races will offer will offer £6m in prize money,
A major reason for the popularity of the event is the royal connections with the race. The prize money is another reason why the audience is so invested. The Royal Ascot prize for this year is a total of £6million throughout the different races. Two foremost races, The Prince of Wales’s Stakes and The Diamond Jubilee Stakes, offer a total of £700,000 for each race.
Ascot is also a key marker in the fashion calendar, but with just 12,000 people allowed to attend each day in 2021 due to Covid restrictions, this will be somewhat subdued. If you're one of the lucky ones attending, then your chances of being picked up by the TV cameras are that little bit higher than hitherto!
Royal Ascot 2021 is a few days away and there's plenty of talk around fancied runners; you can find more about the Royal Ascot 2021 races and the latest betting tips and predictions, sharing up to the minute information and the best tips since Eliza Doolittle encouraged Dover in My Fair Lady.
The opening race of the first day would be the £400,000 Queen Anne Stakes, in which Palace Pier is currently odds-on favourite, at 8/15. Palace Pier is laying claim to be the number one miler in the world.
The second popular race is the King’s Stand Stakes. Experts are predicting that the 7-year-old Battaash will win the race. He is among the fastest horses in the world, trained by Charlie Hills, winner of the corresponding race in 2020. This season, he will defend his title. The Queen also has an intended runner in King's Lynn, trained by Andrew Balding.
For the Prince of Wales Stakes on Wednesday, experts are suggesting that Lord North has the greatest potential. According to John and Thady Gosden, his trainers, he is in perfect shape to face off his opponents.
For those that normally eschew the Flat however, there are two races that are always worth watching. Both over extended distances, they play to Jumping trainers with dual purpose horses that have sufficient speed to win on the flat.
On Tuesday, the Ascot Stakes is a handicap for horses rated 0-100 over 2m4f. Last year, this was part of an Ascot treble for Alan King with Coeur du Lion, but the past four runnings have gone to trainers with strong winter connections.
On Saturday, the Queen Alexandra is a conditions race over even longer: 2m 6f. This final "getting out Stakes" was another winner for King in 2020 with Who Dares Wins, but five of the races since 2011 have been won by trainers with Jumping credentials, including Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.
After the Belmont Stakes and the Derby last weekend, the Royal Ascot is another major event this month as the summer rolls out festival after festival. And you can be sure that our leading Jumps trainers will be stealing the odd race from under the noses of the Flat brigade, just as the opposite has become the case at Jumping's biggest meetings nowadays.
Enjoy the spectacle.
Stratford's seven race programme of hunter chases is eagerly awaited by the sport, not least for the last of the three marquee Foxhunter chases and the most valuable programme of hunter chases in the UK calendar. And Friday evening's fixture didn't disappoint for East Anglian handlers, of which two took home a trophy.
Norfolk farmer David Kemp is not one to ignore when he runs a horse in a high quality contest and Law of Gold proved that point, returning to the course where two years ago, he secured the John Corbett Cup to prove himself among the top novice horses of his generation. This time around, he looked assured in beating Bob And Co and Moonbeg Chitchat in the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter by 5 1/2l.
Sudbury based Ruth Pennock won her first race under Rules at the fifth attempt when The Bonny Boy reversed last month's neck second with Tekap in the Print Concern Restricted Series Final. This was simply the race of the evening - two evenly matched horses and riders racing neck and neck to the line in a scintillating finish to warm the heart. The cheers and shrieks that greeted Alice Stephens afterwards might have been for a movie or rock star, echoing around a Stratford enjoying a decent crowd for the first time in nearly 2 years. The Bonny Boy had to survive an enquiry before collecting the silverware, when the two combatants got very close in the final 150 yards.
Of the other two major prizes on this terrific night's racing, one headed to Ulster, the other to the West Country. David Christie, who trains in Fermanagh, wasn't frightened off by the reputations of the two leading British novices in the point-to-point.co.uk Champion Novices Hunters Chase for the John Corbett Cup. Both Premier Magic, trained and ridden by Bradley Gibbs, and Fakir d'Oudairies, from the Tom Ellis stable, have earned themselves a strong following with hunter chase wins in the period when professional riders displaced amateurs before March 29th's restart.
Neither had the stamina to out jump and out run Vaucelet, brought over specially by David Christie from his stables at Derrylin in Fermanagh. The 10 hour journey via Stranraer was worthwhile however, as Vaucelet ran out a 2 3/4l winner. Christie is the trainer of over 300 Pointing winners in Ireland, and set off the same evening to be back to saddle Saturday's runners himself. Oh, the joys of training!
In the other feature, the fifth running of the Skinner's Ladies Open Final, the leading Point-to-Point yard of Tom Ellis secured a scalp with the progressive Deans Road, under Gina Andrews.
In these pages, we try to bring you a flavour of the Jump racing scene across the UK, and occasionally with races of merit further afield. Despite remonstrations that British racing is the best in the world, there are plenty of racing territories who also know how to stage a show.
Belmont Park in the USA piggy-backed the creation of the Breeders' Cup 30 years ago to add a Breeders Cup Chase, of which the most famous winner was none other than the Toby Balding - trained Morley Street, Champion Hurdle victor of 1991 and winner of 3 Aintree Anniversary Hurdles on the trot. Morley Street's venture across the Atlantic in October 1990 has set a trend for an increasing number of high value raids stateside and a steady stream of sales to the growing North American jumps market.
However, Belmont is much better known as the venue for the Belmont Stakes, the third and final leg of the US Triple Crown that includes the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Preakness at Pimlico and the eponymous race at Belmont. It's a notoriously difficult treble to win. Although Justify and American Pharoah have both succeeded in the past 6 years, there was a 37 year wait until American Pharoah broke the hoodoo in 2015.
This year's Triple Crown is rather different after the travails of Covid, meaning the Kentucky Derby on May 1 started the ball rolling. This year's final leg at Belmont is on Saturday June 5.
Preakness winner Rombauer looks set to renew rivalry with only one other Preakness runner, the seventh placed Japanese runner Go Da Ina, but there are at least six Kentucky Derby also-rans lining up for the Belmont. Rombauer is not a guaranteed runner; he may yet swerve the Belmont for an alternative engagement.
Essential Quality is one of the favourites after his fourth at Churchill Downs. His racing record to date includes the Bluegrass Stakes, Southwest Stakes, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The GB home team has hitherto rarely been represented on the dirt surfaces of the USA. However, Newmarket-based Charlie Appleby, representing the global Godolphin bloodstock operation, has lined up Rebel's Romance, winner of the Group II UAE Derby at Meydan. No European runner has won the Belmont since Go And Go won by 8l for Dermot Weld in 1990.
Given the globalisation of racing, even over Jumps nowadays, the big events of the Flat season have ceased to become quite so far away. There's a delicious uncertainty about horseracing that transcends time zones and geographical boundaries, and God loves a trier! To increase your chances of winning your horse racing bet it's always as well to read up and understand the US betting market. Failing that, being partisan and following the home team will always allow for some interest!
One time Welshman Bradley Gibbs, now based in Hertfordshire, warmed up for what might be a memorable Friday evening at Stratford with a win in the less salubrious surroundings of Southwell this afternoon.
Tanit River, trained by Robbie Llewellyn in the Vale of Glamorgan, prevailed by 1 1/4l over the much vaunted Cat Tiger in the Join Southwell Golf Club Hunters Chase to give Gibbs his third winner of this fresh season, but 18th past the post under Rules or between the flags since October.
Gibbs has Premier Magic to look forward to in Friday's Hunters evening at Stratford, the most valuable collection of hunter chases anywhere in the UK calendar.
Gibbs is jocked up against Captain McGinley and Premier Magic in the pointtopoint.co.uk Champion Hunters Chase, aka the John Corbet Cup, whilst Premier Magic is also entered in the Pertemps Network Stratford Foxhunter Chase too.
It has to be said that if Premier Magic is to be considered a candidate for next year's Cheltenham Foxhunter, then winning either race is a must. The John Corbet Cup has spawned some excellent hunter chasers, including Harbour Court, winner of the United Hunts Challenge Cup, Garde Ville, winner of four hunter chases this term for Patricia Rigby and Now Ben, winner of 15 of his 24 Point-to-Points. Premier Magic's reputation is very strong, and going into the summer with one of these races under his belt would give spice to the countdown to next year's Festival.
The East Anglian season has taken such a hammering this past few months that to spawn a champion in our midst would be a great fillip.
There hasn't been much to celebrate at the elite end of the sport when Ireland and Britain have clashed recently, but we can take some pride that our Hunter chasers and Point-to-Pointers are ruling the roost.
The number of trainers sending horses to Punchestown this year in particular has been very limited. In fact, in recent years, most of our top horses have aimed for Sandown's Celebration meeting, which set out some time ago to ensure the home team stayed home. In that respect, it's been Mission Accomplished. However, Punchestown is a lesser event without the spice of international competition, so I hope our leading lights will be back next year.
Not so, one Paul Nicholls, whose successful sally across the water brought success in the Punchestown Gold Cup, where Clan des Obeaux overcame Al Boum Photo and other top flight stayers, and Bob And Co, who nicked the Champion Hunters Chase from under Willie Mullins' nose yesterday evening.
David Maxwell, owner-rider of Bob And Co, is a rarity by today's standards, in not working for a licensed trainer or running a livery yard,as is the case with so many of our young riders. And he's not so young either! Although more than capable I should add.
Not foot-perfect, it didn't stop him joining issue with long-time leader Billaway, a Cheltenham Foxhunter runner-up on two separate occasions, at the second last, challenging all the way to the line to win a nose. Maybe we're not so bad after all.
Bradley Gibbs meantime enjoyed a memorable evening at Cheltenham, when the season was sung out with the annual Hunters' evening. The East Anglian challenge was muted, but Welshman Gibbs, now based in Hertfordshire, flew the flag with a double on Captain McGinley in the Intermediate that used to be the Connolly's Red Mills Final, and Highway Jewel in the Mares race.
Captain McGinley wasn't overly troubled in the Intermediate, and we can hope to see him step up to Open class next season.
Highway Jewel, on the other hand, had her backers sweating somewhat after a dreadful mistake at the 16th, landing on the fence. Momentum and a good seat carried Gibbs through, and whilst headed, she rallied to put in a good leap at the last and win going away. The trainer-rider was having his first two runners at Cheltenham, and maintains a 100% record. That'll do!
Highway Jewel looks a nice sort, and improving. This was her third run of the season, and second win. Her second run was a 3/4l second to the Tom Ellis-trained Late Night Pass at Warwick in February, then rated 8lbs higher.
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