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Sir Mark Todd celebrates first UK winner as a racehorse trainer

Double Olympic gold medal-winning eventer Sir Mark Todd has trained his first UK winner on the track.

Four-year-old Petit Bay, owned by Bobby Allan, got the four-time Badminton winner off the mark with a win under jockey Jack Mitchell in the Leicester Racecourse Supporting Frontline Workers handicap on Tuesday (30 June).

Mark trained Flat horses in New Zealand with success between his first retirement from eventing after the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and his comeback ahead of the 2008 Games.

His success on the track included winning the New Zealand Oaks with Bramble Rose in 2003 and the Wellington Cup with Willy Smith in 2007.

Mark also made a return to racing, which he embarked on alongside his second eventing career, to train Group One contender Eminent last year.

Mark, who was at Leicester to watch the filly score her debut racing win, told H&H he was very pleased with her.

“She’s a little mare who came to me last year,” he said. “She had three runs [in 2019] just basically educational runs and was a little bit backwards. The owners have stuck with her and she has come out this year much stronger. She had her first run a week ago and was unlucky not to win that.

“I was a bit worried about the standing start as one of the reasons she came to me is she is a bit tricky, although she is very good in the stalls.”

All the races at Leicester on Tuesday were started with a “flip start” — where the starter uses a flag to signal the start of the race — as opposed to stalls usually used in Flat racing. This was owing to a no-show by all bar four stall handlers, as a result of the localised lockdown.

Mark added that Petit Bay is a filly who “like to take her time at the back and just wind into the race”, but showed her speed in the closing stages.

“We have been in our own little bubble luckily during lockdown on the farm, the staff have been here and we were able to keep going and the owners kept the horses in training, which was great,” he said, adding he is “very grateful” to be able to get racing again now.

“We had another runner who was second this week [Tippler, under Shane Kelly at Lingfield on 26 June] so we are hopefully starting to find some form, which is good!”

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Mark announced his second retirement from eventing next to his winning teammates on the podium of the Irish leg of the FEI Nations Cup series at Camphire (28 July 2019).

The seven-time Olympian officially retired at Burghley — an event he has won five times – in September 2019.

“Now I’m heading back into the racing world as I did 19 years ago when I last retired, here at Burghley, and the kids and Carolyn were much younger then!” he said in his emotional retirement speech.

“We left on that Monday morning with 20 suitcases and headed back to New Zealand, before I rode in the Sydney Olympics, which was to be my last ever event.

“Eight years later, I came back and it has been a wonderful 11 years.”

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