There could not have been a more rollercoaster ride than the one I experienced at Newbury’s Ladbrokes Winter Carnival — the life of a trainer in two days.
Not only was there the emotional attachment to horses, there was also the bereavement of the Embiricos family, who sadly lost Nick recently. Bright Forecast winning the Ladbrokes Maiden Hurdle on Friday, 20 November, meant so much for them and it was a well-timed tonic as Nick — who owned the 1981 Grand National winner Aldaniti — would have been so very happy. They’re a great family and deserve a nice horse.
Everything was against Global Citizen in the Ladbrokes Intermediate Hurdle, but we took our chance last-minute. If he hadn’t got a bit close to the last, he would have won even more easily and hopefully he can rank highly among the two-mile hurdlers. Le Breuil couldn’t have run any better in the Grade Two Ladbrokes John Francome Novices’ Chase, finishing third behind Santini — who could be a Gold Cup horse in a couple of years’ time.
Down on our luck
On the downside, my first Cheltenham Festival winner, Willoughby Court, was unable to start his season. He had a little problem that caused him to miss an earlier race at Carlisle and was back in form again, only for us to find he had a little joint infection. There was no wound to have caused it, just one of those unlucky incidents.
He’s had it flushed and he’ll be right as rain, but it doesn’t make his life any easier. He has entries in the likes of the King George at Kempton, but now it’s looking like it’s going to be quite tricky to meet that. His owners Paul and Clare Rooney have been great supporters and deserve a bit of luck after missing last year’s Festival.
‘I’ll never forget’
Barters Hill got my career off to a fabulous start. He is the reason we probably have as many horses as we do now. When he met with a serious tendon injury a couple of years ago, we hoped inside that we’d get him back and I thought he looked really well ahead of running on Saturday in the Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle.
Sadly, it didn’t work out and there was that sudden realisation that it was only fair to retire him. It was a really sad moment but at the same time a very proud one, as his owners are all family and dear friends.
The power of social media is phenomenal; I put out a tweet about him and the response — people’s thoughts about him and how much they adored him — was absolutely mind-blowing. He’s a gentle giant, my three-year-old daughter could ride him down the road, he’s the kindest horse in the world. He might end up as my hack and will be a horse I’ll never forget.
I actually put the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival right up there with the quality of Boxing Day racing, maybe even higher up alongside the Cheltenhams. It’s a fabulous couple of days’ racing, great fun and great competition. Although I’m not training in Lambourn, Newbury is still my second home, having spent so long as assistant to Nicky Henderson. To have two winners is great and we had a few drinks in the pub when we got home.
In racing, the highs have got to be celebrated because the lows are all too frequent.
Ref Horse & Hound; 6 December 2018