Monday, 28 June 2021

Dancing Brave

Dancing Brave
Dancing Brave, owned by Prince Khalid Abdulla and trained by Guy Harwood, was officially the second highest rated horse on the Flat since official international figures were first published in 1977. Only Frankel was rated higher and, even then, only after a “historical recalibration” of the rankings in 2013, which downgraded Dancing Brave from 141 to 138.

During his career, Dancing Brave won eight of his 10 races, including the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, and was named European Horse of the Year for 1986.

An unimposing son of Lyphard, Dancing Brave made his racecourse debut in the Dorking Stakes at Sandown in 1985, which he won convincingly. Guy Harwood later recalled, “[Stable jockey] Greville Starkey got off and said, ‘This horse is my Derby ride.’” Dancing Brave followed up, in similar style, in the Soham House Stakes at Newmarket, and went into winter quarters as favourite for the 2,000 Guineas.

On his reappearance, he started favourite for the Craven Stakes at Newmarket, which he won emphatically. On his return to Newmarket for the 2,000 Guineas, he came with a powerful run going down into ‘the Dip’ and quickened clear in the closing stages to beat Green Desert by 3 lengths, with jockey Greville Starkey looking around for non-existent dangers.

His subsequent defeat by Shahrastani in the Derby, in which Starkey gave him far too much to do, has been well chronicled elsewhere, but his finest hour came at Longchamp on October 5, 1986. Sent off favourite, once again, for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, he was switched off at the rear of the field by Pat Eddery before being asked for maximum effort in the final furlong-and-a-half. Delivering his challenge wide, late and fast, Dancing Brave passed a dozen rivals – including Bering, Triptych and Sharastani – in the final furlong to win by 1½ lengths. Commentator Graham Goode said afterwards, “Pat Eddery has never ridden a better race.”

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Sir Henry Cecil

Sir Henry Cecil
Henry Cecil is one of the greatest British flat racing horse trainers in history. 

A 10-time Champion Trainer, he trained 25 Classic winners including four in The Derby, eight in The Oaks, six in the 1,000 Guineas, three in the 2,000 Guineas and four winners at St. Leger Stakes.

He was especially known for his success at The Oaks and 1,000 Guineas and as the master trainer at Royal Ascot, where he had 75 winners. 

Born in Scotland in 1943, Cecil began his career assisting at his stepfather, British flat racing Champion Trainer, Captain Cecil Boyd-Rochfort’s stable Freemason Lodge. In 1969 he obtained his training license and won his first English Classic, the 2,000 Guineas in 1975. A year later he took over the running of Warren Place in Newmarket, which quickly became known as the “most glamorous yard in Europe.” 

Noted for his flair in clothing, Cecil’s extraordinary career was marred by huge swings in fortune both and off the track. After a brief dip in success from 2000 to 2006, his career rebound with the training of Frankel. 

Described by Cecil as “the best horse I’ve ever seen,” Frankel was unbeaten in his fourteen-race career and was the highest-rated racehorse in the world from May 2011. His six Length victory in the 2,000 Guineas was called "one of the greatest displays on a British racecourse".

Knighted for services to horse racing in the queen’s 2011 Birthday Honors, Cecil died of stomach cancer age 70 in 2013 after a six-year battle.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Don't miss the 2021 Grand National!

Just my opinion of course, but last years 'Virtual Grand National' was virtually unwatchable. There is something about actually watching the cream of the crop of racing, and all of the emotion and effort that's poured into that one moment, that is missing from a parade of pixels. Even in this age of gaming, I'm not convinced that many thought that it in any way compared to the real thing.

This year we have an especially short favourite, the Jonjo O'Neill trained Cloth Cap. It makes for an interesting scenario as the racing public appear to have gone 'all in' in a race that can throw up more surprises than just about any other. Still, it's interesting to have these 'narratives' writing themselves as it creates quite the story no matter the outcome.

As with all Grand Nationals, millions will be tuning in at home, but sadly on this occasion crowds will be absent. We can only hope that next year more normality has returned, while simultaneously counting our blessings for how far we've come this year. In preparation for the Grand National Betway present a short, yet absorbing segment on women jockeys trials and tribulations in the race.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

One For Arthur


Owned by Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson, a.k.a. 'Two Golf Widows', and trained by Lucinda Russell near Kinross, in eastern Scotland, One For Arthur is best known as the winner of the 2015 Grand National. Indeed, he had the distinction of being just the second horse trained north of Hadrian's Wall – the other being Rubstic, trained by John Leadbetter in Denholm, near Hawick, in 1979 – to win the premier steeplechase.

One For Arthur had demonstrated his Grand National credentials when staying on well to finish fifth, beaten just 3 lengths, in the valuable Becher Chase, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, on his first attempt over National fences the previous December. He subsequently won the Classic Chase, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Warwick in January in taking style and headed to Aintree at the top of his game.

Despite being 11lb higher in the weights than at Warwick, One For Arthur was sent off 14/1 fourth favourite for the National, behind Blaklion, Definitly Red and Vieux Lion Rouge. Under a confident ride from jockey Derek Fox, who was making his debut in the race, he was held up in rear, as he had been at Warwick, but made steady headway throughout the second circuit.

Favourite Blaklion took a clear lead as the field crossed the Melling Road for the final time, but One For Arthur, who had travelled and jumped well throughout, moved upsides at the second-last fence and soon quickened into the lead. On run-in, recent Cheltenham Festival winner Cause Of Causes appeared as his main challenger, but he was not to be denied and stayed on strongly to win by 4½ lengths.