Mark Todd: A journey into the unknown *H&H VIP*

Opinion

Here we are at the beginning of another eventing season. I took a couple of “babies” to Aston-le-Walls last Saturday to do the BE100; both went double clear and the weather was actually quite sunny and warm!

And even on Sunday at Isleham, where I had one novice horse and NZB Campino in the open intermediate (OI), I managed to dodge most of the rain. I’ve ridden at Isleham in all sorts of weather, including snow flurries in the past, and it was rather nice to get going in agreeable conditions this time.

It’s always interesting to see new horse and rider combinations out and about, but I thought both events  were a bit quieter than normal — perhaps more people are waiting a little to get going, rather than throwing everything at the first weekend.

It was good to get a run into a few horses, because the day after Isleham I flew to Australia for six weeks for a rather different equine project. One of my greatest supporters, Sir Peter Vela, has entrusted me with the training of a Flat racehorse he owns called Eminent. The horse, a son of Frankel out of a Kingmambo mare, has solid form at the top level over here, and the plan is to run him in two Grade One races in Sydney before he goes to stud in New Zealand.

Fit and well

When Eminent first came to my yard — before Sir Peter asked if I’d like actually to train him — I played around with him on the flat, popped some fences on him and hacked him out, and I think that has really helped him mentally and physically.

We’re very fortunate to have good facilities here and also to be close to Lambourn, and although the snow, equine flu and his quarantine period all posed certain trials, he’s very fit and well and has travelled successfully to Australia. He’s a lovely horse and I’m very happy with him; it’s a terrifically exciting challenge and one I couldn’t resist, even if it is a bit of a journey into the unknown.

We’ll be based at Canterbury in the suburbs of Sydney, and his first race is the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill at the end of this month. If he runs well there, the plan is to go to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick three weeks later.

The latter is the brilliant mare Winx’s final race — she has won 23 Group Ones and is unbeaten in her past 31 races. To beat her is a very tall order, but it would be amazing just to be part of her last race.

I had quite a bit of success when training in New Zealand in my eight-year “retirement” from eventing, and I hope to do more of it, in the UK this time, in the future. Our facilities at home will be upgraded accordingly, and we will see what happens.

The event horses will be kept ticking over while I’m away — I admit that I hoped the early-season events might be cancelled, as they often are, but it doesn’t look as though they will! But I won’t miss much.

Most of the older horses won’t be ready until a little later in the season, while Campino, who is aiming for Badminton, will do the OI at Gatcombe with Rafael Losano, who has been based with us for a while. I will be back for Bicton in mid-April and Campino will go straight to Badminton after that.

Ref Horse & Hound; 7 March 2019

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