Toby Coles’s racing diary: three runners in one day

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  • Twenty-five-year-old Toby Coles is Britain’s newest — and youngest — trainer. He is writing a weekly diary for HHO about the trials and tribulations, the highs and the lows, the work and play of a young man trying to make a go out of training racehorses.

    The week began with some stiff work to be done. Sammy, my one member of staff, was in Ireland at a friend’s wedding for the weekend, arriving back on Tuesday morning. After six lots for the third day running (my horses mostly only get a day off after they have galloped, and they only gallop when they need to, even on Sunday if needs be) I was most relieved when she did return!

    Tuesday came quickly, and with it a visit from my blacksmith and vet, annoyingly for the same reason. Quarter cracks are not really that common here in the UK, unlike America. The most famous case was Big Brown, favourite to win the American Triple Crown two years ago. His efforts were thwarted by these annoying injuries. The one that we are suffering from does not seem to be that bad (I hope). However it has needed to be treated, stitched and patched.

    Preparations were then made for the next day’s exploits with half the yard running at Folkestone.

    Ups and downs at Folkestone

    Pipit Nest was the first to run. She flew out the stalls and took the lead rather quickly, I must have forgotten to tell her she should be there at the end! One has to try and take the positive from a negative — “Well, at least it will give me something to write about!”

    She came out of the race very well and we will try and get her back to the track at the end of the month. I have a little plan for her, and I will either look rather clever in just over a month’s time or a “rookie trainer” learning through his mistakes.

    “Never admit you have made a mistake, even if you have.” Sir Mark Prescott.

    So the latter will not apply to me…

    Littlemisssunshine, well, if she were a human being, she would be a tomboy with small person syndrome. She never gives in, however hard the fight. She is a real stable star and always lifts spirits when times are tough. Thank goodness she pulled something out the bag, only to be beaten a short-head, otherwise it would have been one of those days where a short fall off a long drop could have been preferred!

    Cotton King, bred in the blue, ran like he was bred — well, not for running, not yet anyway! But there is a little light at the end of the tunnel. One hopes it is not the light at the front of a train about to run us down.

    Tom McLaughlin (the jockey) came back and told us not to worry too much — he did not handle the track in any way and ran on strongly up the straight. I suppose time will tell. I just wish we had a little luck for Mrs Hamilton, my main owner who has given me all the support any new trainer could ever wish for.

    Back home — briefly

    Thursday was an easier day, having returned past midnight from Folkestone. A visit from an owner in the afternoon, along with a photo shoot for a website were the only issues of the day. There was even time to watch racing from York, and let the green-eyed monster rear his ugly head.

    “Phh, give me one of those horses and I could do that,” was just one of the thoughts going through my head.

    Friday was back to the busy days one has become most accustomed to. After finishing morning work with the horses, I left Sammy cleaning the tack and “polishing the taps!” The A1M lived up to its reputation, and I was stuck at a standstill for a good hour. When it did clear I was well on the way to my parents’ home to see two horses out at grass.

    A quick check of how they are developing during their break, then back on the road to Limestone Stud to see Mr Sugden, Mr Rowels Nicholson’s stud groom, and their yearlings. It is nice to see them before they come into their yearling prep as one can get an idea of how they have changed when they do get there. And no, I am not going to tell you which ones I liked. (If Mr Rowels Nicholson is reading this — all of them!)

    Back on the road and past yet another poor soul who had turned their car over in Friday night traffic, to dinner in Essex with some friends, who treat me as family.

    Saturday and Sunday were spent in front of the computer putting together the text for my website (soon online) and editing some photos for the same and Coles Racing on the ever growing Facebook site. When I got bored of square eyes, I delved into the depths of the Doncaster Bloodstock Sales catalogue, so it at least looked like I knew something when I got to the sales this week and started pulling out horses.

    Saturday also saw an old favourite of mine running in the Arlington Million, Gio Ponti of Christophe Clement’s. He finished second to John Gosden’s Debussy.

    Off to Doncaster

    Today [Sunday] after an early morning, exercising the horses, and a phone call to both my vet and blacksmith discussing how we are going to deal with the slightly worsening quarter crack, I was on the road yet again, this time to Doncaster for the sales, and the palaver that comes with it. This is a very important time of year for me, as somehow I have to try and persuade as many owners as I can to send me their horses.

    Why should they? Well to use the words of Mr Clough, the famous football manager: “I wouldn’t call myself the best, but I am in the top one!”

    Even if no one believes it, I have to, as in this game if you do not believe in yourself, how can anyone else believe in you?

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