September 2019

As I write this the rain is lashing down and the smell of Autumn is most definitely in the air. It’s a time of year which always tends to fill me with dread as the prospect of looking at hundreds of yearlings looms large on the horizon. It seems such a mountain to climb as John, Jake and I pack our bags to head off to Ireland for the Goffs sale. From now to the yearling parades we will be flat out all the way buying those few “corkers” who will be lining up at Highclere Stud!

There is though still much excitement around the office as some of our unraced two year olds limber up for their debuts whilst others such as the dual winning Ascension prepare to continue…

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There is though still much excitement around the office as some of our unraced two year olds limber up for their debuts whilst others such as the dual winning Ascension prepare to continue on their upward journey.

Having just been to a stable visit at Paul Nicholls’s stables I also can’t wait for the start of the jumps season proper. Our star Posh Trish has to be seen to be believed as she boasts a physique that simply takes your breath away. She schooled brilliantly when I saw her last week and she could be making her seasonal debut in a Listed novice chase at Chepstow on October 12th. All four of ours there looked in fabulous condition but I was very taken by our newcomer Carry On The Magic who I thought had the look of something a bit special as he flew effortlessly over the schooling fences. I also had an exciting conversation with Dan Skelton about his string of Highclere jumpers and was delighted to hear him talk so positively about our new recruit with him called Generation Text.

Generation text

I always love it when trainers lower their voices as though someone else may be listening in to our telephone conversation as it’s a sure sign that they like the horse so when Dan whispered “I think this is by far the best that you have had with me Harry - he looks a bit special” I tried to be cool as a cucumber when actually I was abuzz with excitement! 

We do have a share or two available in Generation Text so do get in touch with us as soon as possible if you would like to get involved. Positive vibes also come from our new trainer on the block, Ben Pauling, who also is raving about Conceal, an exciting son of Stowaway who could be anything. We also have a share in him so if you want some thrilling winter action ahead then pick up the phone or email the team immediately!

The high price American Pharoah yearling filly sells for $8.2m!

I went to the Keeneland sales in Lexington, Kentucky recently. I hadn’t been for maybe twenty years so it was great to be back and seeing so many of the same faces. Nothing had really changed at all - even the food in the main sales restaurant had the same buffet menu! There were some fabulous yearlings and as you have probably read it was a really strong sale. I looked at a son of Air Force Blue that had a more European style pedigree and thought that I might be able to steal him but he made over $300,000! Interestingly there was plenty of chat around that champion trainer Chad Brown as well as others would be coming over to the Tattersalls sale. There is so much turf racing now in the US that trainers like Chad are adding European bred horses to their already significant strings. I am sure therefore that Book 1 will be unbelievably strong but as we see year after year  lovely horses do fall through the cracks and team Warren and Herbert will be ready to pounce!

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track - Sept 19

Late August saw one of my favourite festival meetings of the year, the Ebor meeting at York.  We hosted a box on Ebor day which was hugely enjoyed by those who had managed to find a way to get there from the South (those living nearby were not affected!) as trains seemed to be in short supply on one of the busiest weekends of the year! York as always looked after us really well and this day (along with the Dante meeting) has become a permanent fixture in the Highclere diary.

On the track Ascension showed just what an exciting prospect he is when following up in a Novice at Newcastle, where he won with plenty in hand. The plan will…

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On the track Ascension showed just what an exciting prospect he is when following up in a Novice at Newcastle, where he won with plenty in hand. The plan will be to go for a valuable Nursery at Newmarket on Future Champions Day on Saturday 12th October and all being well a crack at a Group race such as the Horris Hill at Newbury at the end of October. Culture was another winning on the bounce when returning to Windsor and battling really well to see off Sir Michael Stoute’s filly. He will now head to Epsom this Sunday to run in the Apprentices Derby where he will once again be partnered by the in-form Cieren Fallon.

Culture's second win at Windsor

Audio has been providing his owners with a huge amount of action this season, having run on no less than ten occasions and chalked up his second victory when beating a hotly fancied Archie Watson horse at Chelmsford. Sermon has also been in regular action and has been placed on five of his six outings and must surely get his head in front soon!

Audio fights his way to another victory at Chelmsford

Nugget made a highly encouraging debut to finish fourth at Newbury and looked sure to come on for the run. He will be out again soon and will hopefully find himself in the winners enclosure as a two year old. We hope that another two year old in the shape of Fantail will also be making her debut in the very near future.

As I write it is hard to believe that we will soon be having the first of hopefully many National Hunt runners and that the Yearling Parades are less than a month away!

Rolf's Ramblings Part 1

Years ago I wrote about Danebury Racing Stables under the title “Danebury’s Day again”: to cap up or not to cap up ‘day’?

A new man was taking up the challenge of what had once been England’s premier training establishment. The Day family were untouchables, in every sense of the word, dominating racing…

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A new man was taking up the challenge of what had once been England’s premier training establishment. The Day family were untouchables, in every sense of the word, dominating racing for a large chunk of the nineteenth century from five hundred secluded Hampshire acres under a Roman hill fort above the small town of Stockbridge on the River Test.

Danebury didn’t rise again and there is a new book, Paul Mathieu’s ‘DUEL’ (pub. Write First Time Ltd. 2019) describing the place’s great days – and something of its decline. Mathieu’s previous work was The Druid’s Lodge Confederacy - a similar operation set a few folds across the Hampshire Downs on the edge of Salisbury Plain. Their heyday came in the early decades of the twentieth century.

The Old Grandstand at Danebury

One of the protagonists of this ‘duel’ was Harry, Marquis of Hastings, based at Danebury. The other was Henry Viscount Chaplin, cuckolded by his adversary, their ‘duels’ fought out on the Turf accompanied by multi-million pound gambles with their respective strings.

The Days were always ahead of their time and their rivals.  John Barham Day followed his father John ‘Gloomy’ Day.  The former trained three Derby winners in the mid nineteenth century. He held the record of winners in a season, 127 in 1867, not surpassed until 1987 by the late Henry Cecil. He eclipsed Day’s total - with a 40.4 success rate!

Dubbed the ‘Bishop of Danebury’ or ‘Honest John’ Day was “A man to whom deception of owners and bookmakers alike was second nature. For the Days to win a race with a horse that has not been nearly last for half a dozen previous races is as rare as strawberries in November.”

Somehow John Barham Day was warned off as a jockey while retaining his training licence! And successive Days were Clerks of the Course at Stockbridge races, which took place on their land!

The family’s first big patron was Jockey Club stalwart Lord George Bentinck who, stripped to his shirt sleeves alongside his trainer, spread bone meal to enrich the gallops. Eventually the Days were too hot even for the “Dictator of the Turf”. But as he departed in the early 1860s, Hastings arrived.

Mathieu opens the book with the Day family tree but unfortunately stops short of including the branch that begat the Cannons who begat the Rickabys, the Piggotts and if one follows through to the modern day, the Haggas’s since Lester Piggott’s daughter Maureen married William Haggas.

The closure, in 1898, of Stockbridge racecourse closed the era. The Jockey Club stipulated racecourses must have a straight mile and the neighbouring spinster farmer, anti-gambling, would not allow the extension onto her adjoining land. Nowadays you can see the outline of the course and the remains of the stand, ivy covered, from which the occasional owl emerges with a screech.  Otherwise there is silence, not another living thing in sight. A current photo of the ruin, where Edward VII and Lillie Langtry and their ilk pursued their trysts, is reproduced in DUEL – as is the beautiful primitive canvas of the Danebury panorama, as it was in 1848 – vast stone stables, miles of gallops, paddocks, overlooked by the hill fort. Gladly the painting is in the possession of that most noble respecter of tradition, Sir Mark Prescott.

Fred Withington took up the licence and sent out Rubio the only true ‘cab horse’ (which he pulled on behalf of a public house in Towcester) to win the 1908 Grand National. Withington also won the first Cheltenham Gold Cup and remained at Danebury until the Second World War approached when the gallops were used as landing strips for Spitfires. When peace came the land returned, unnoticed, to pasture and sheep. 

Danebury’s latter day history is not chronicled; the book is concerned with personalities and events of a different era. In 1987 Richard Hannon would bring his better horses for fine tuning on the magnificent gallops – Don’t Forget Me benefitted before winning his Two Thousand Guineas.

In 1976 Ken Cunningham-Brown, manufacturing dispensable foods and drinks in nearby Nether Wallop, had bought a couple of horses as showjumpers for his daughter. They performed so well that Cunningham-Brown sent one steeplechasing and it broke the two-mile record at Hereford. Ambition fired Cunningham-Brown secured Danebury from under the noses of local, disgruntled, farmers.

The dormant establishment did not take–off – unlike the Spitfires; local wildlife remained undisturbed by the annual handful of horses. But Cunningham-Brown showed his respect for tradition by registering his colours, those of John Barham Day, black with orange epaulettes – until this month when, at 81, he relinquished his licence. Day’s achievements were out of reach.

A spike of success came in 1988 when Mick Channon trained for his graduate season from Danebury. Since Channon, Richard Hughes and Jeremy Gask, both with promising credentials, attempted to make their mark but the arrangements proved unfruitful.  The place is overwhelming for anyone unable to carry the weight of history. Maybe this time Danebury’s day is done.

Rolfs Ramblings part 2

They said we had seen the last of Enable captivating a British crowd when she completed her twelfth successive victory – last month’s Darley Yorkshire Oaks.

Wrong. The majority among the predicted 45,000 crowd for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 6th will be Brits, willing Enable to her third Arc in a…

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Wrong. The majority among the predicted 45,000 crowd for the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 6th will be Brits, willing Enable to her third Arc in a row. French ‘turfistes’ won’t be far behind in their adulation. It would be the first time the feat has been achieved in the ninety-nine-year history (no race 1939-40) of the five million euro event the French are determined to call “the greatest horserace in the world”.

Enable - Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe

Longchamp is going to be swamped not, for once, by fervent Japanese pursuing their holy grail, a first Arc, but by comparatively sober British horseracing fans…sober? Visitors are promised 100 extra bars - and they won’t be serving sake.

John Gosden hasn’t repressed emotion articulating Enable’s qualities, attributing anthropomorphic sensibilities – her especially “strong mind”. Frankie Dettori is totally unrestrained in his adoration; does he send her Valentines? The showman/jockey or jockey/showman would have had an unblemished record of thirty straight Arc rides but for an injury that denied him partnering Treve for her first Arc. Sunday the 6th will top the lot.

Enable and Dettori carry a huge responsibility: this just can’t be one of the last hurrahs for a sport that was once part of our national vocabulary. Just as Sea Biscuit saw America through the Depression and France’s Gladiateur ‘avenged Waterloo’ Enable has bonded with the public, mentioned in the same breath as Frankel, Nijinsky, Shergar, Desert Orchid, Red Rum, and the multitude of equine heroes and heroines now wistful fading memories.

In six of the last seven years’ fillies and mares have taken advantage of their female’s allowance in the Arc. Much is made of the draw; a high number stall is reckoned a penalty yet Treve won from 15 of 17 in 2013, the performance of her career: Golden Horn won from 14 of 17 in what was his career best in 2015.   2018’s renewal though will pray on minds lingering on the late-lamented Sea of Class who may even have beaten Enable had she not been drawn 15 of 19, eighteen of whom were in front of her turning for home.

The going won’t affect Enable; all ground comes alike to her. And if her odds make betting expensive euros prohibitive (if you want a bet make it before you go) – who cares?

The Arc has been a particularly fortuitous race for me: Star Appeal and Solemia and Subotica were outsiders whose slivers of form paid for my trips: I could not swear under oath that my reasoning would be acceptable to other students of form; they were ‘on the day’ inspirations, paddock picks and extravagant prices on the Pari-Mutuel. I suppose I’ll thumb nostalgically through the S’s this year. Leading French hope Sottsass, Jean-Claude Rouget’s Prix du Jockey Club winner, as impressive a three-year-old as I’ve seen in the flesh this year, is hardly unsung. Sottsass is a different animal since Cristian Demuro (the race’s other Italian jockey) took over but on breeding calculations I doubt the miler Siyouni siring an Arc winner – especially given the way the race is shaping. The pace is going to be furious.

The Japanese must have divided loyalties: Coolmore’s Japan hasn’t always been the Irish firm’s number one son – until our 20-1 Derby third took the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris in what was a fantastic time. The ground was fast that day: like Enable, Japan can handle any ground.

Ghaiyyath is rated only a pound behind Enable after his infinite victory in Baden-Baden and combines the best of Godolphin and Coolmore blood -Dubawi out of a Galileo mare. “He’s a relentless galloper” says trainer Charlie Appleby and pacemakers will be superfluous this year for the Japanese Kiseki is also a barnstormer (the Japanese Nassau-winning mare Deirdre had not been supplemented at the time of writing).

Waldgeist is the inevitable Fabre. France looks to its master trainer on the great occasions. He has won seven Arcs, Trempolino the first in 1987, but the latest, Rail Link, was thirteen years ago. When Waldgeist was fourth last year, just under two lengths behind Enable, that was the nearest he has got to her in three encounters. Waldgeist will also be suited by the pace: something has to give.

Ballydoyle’s Magical’s best runs, all four of them, have come when she has been beaten by Enable. That’s not just a statistic – it’s a fact that underlines just how good Enable is. Twice Magical has got within a length of her nemesis since their first encounter in the 2018 Arc when the gap was nearly six lengths. Before Found won her Arc for Coolmore three years ago she had been beaten in the Irish Champion Stakes: Magical won it this year.

In 1973, the year we joined the European Union, Rheingold, trained by Barry Hills, became Lester Piggott’s first Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner overcoming the darling of French racing, Allez France. Two years earlier Mill Reef had broken a near stranglehold the French had on ‘their’ championship. Now the Arc is a race for the world. This is a seminal year in European relations but one thing is certain, a third Enable victory will not be part of divorce proceedings.

Out and About with the Highclere Camera

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