Kim Bailey: ‘Some of the best racing we’ve seen since last year’s Cheltenham Festival’


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  • Successful National Hunt trainer Kim Bailey on the current state of the sport and a tribute to a special horse

    We have just witnessed some of the best jump racing seen here since last year’s Cheltenham Festival (see report in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale date 1 February, p62). Doncaster and Cheltenham had great cards and Trials Day at the latter certainly lived up to its billing.

    Now all eyes will be on those four days in March and we hope that Ireland does not take too many of our prizes. Willie Mullins sent over four horses at the weekend; three won and the fourth was third behind one of his winners!

    It would be a mouth-watering proposition if only Lossiemouth would take on Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle, but sadly she will probably run in the mares’ hurdle at long odds on.

    Racing has suffered from too much adverse publicity over the last few months and, call me old-fashioned, but I have always hoped that our trade paper the Racing Post would promote and support our sport considerably more than it does. More positivity would be great.

    We all know that the lack of prize money and runners is a huge issue, but we have too much racing for the number of horses in training. Adding more all-weather Flat racing dilutes the racing product, but it feeds the bookmakers’ pockets and sadly they dominate our sport to such an extent that they can almost demand what we do.

    Premier racing on a Sunday evening is another example of where we are going – apparently, it is the most likely time that people are bored and therefore will bet on racing.

    The new whip rules are now 12 months old but we see too many jockeys, who should be able to count, fall foul of them. Saying that, I have just finished my sixth speed awareness course and I have to hold up my hand to admit I was going faster in my car than the sign said I should do. I know I am guilty, and I also know that if I break those rules, I will be punished – 60 means 60, not 67!

    “A soft spot for First Flow”

    All trainers have soft spots for certain horses in their yard, and I am no different. First Flow has been that horse since the day I saw him on the Lambourn gallops.

    Originally bought at the Tattersalls Derby Sales by leading Irish event rider Karrie Fanshawe as an unbroken three-year-old for €4,500 (£3,800), he was nurtured by Karrie and brought on slowly. She asked if I would like to see him work in Lambourn. I did, and I asked my stable jockey, David Bass, to ride him. It was a bitterly cold snowy day, but we liked what we saw.

    My longest-serving owner, Tony Solomons, was looking for a horse to replace his good horse Harry Topper, so I persuaded him that he should buy First Flow. Both horses were odd and neither well bred, nor really had the right to be good racehorses, but both showed that stubborn tough streak.

    I was standing with Tony when First Flow won his first hurdle race at Lingfield in November 2017, and Tony leaned over and said, “I believe we have a racehorse.” We did, but what we did not know then was how good he was going to be. A couple of Sundays ago, First Flow rolled back the years and showed the highest-rated 12-year-old in the country was not going to be beaten.

    David Bass doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve and might occasionally struggle to smile after a race, but even he struggled to hold back the emotion that day. First Flow has ears that a donkey would be proud of and at times the stubbornness to match, but God he has a heart, and if only I could find another like him.

    Stars are born and made by those around him, and we’ve all been lucky to have First Flow in our lives.

    ● Do you agree with Kim about the state of the sport? Let us know at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 1 February

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