With 35 WINNERS and over £430,000 in prize money, 2019 proved to be a bumper year for the yard and leaves us extremely excited for 2020. Not only did BETTY’S HOPE’s win in the £250,000 Weatherbys Super Sprint bring us plenty of publicity, it has seen an upturn in the yard’s fortunes as we have around twenty five two-year-olds to go to war with in 2020 to go with a solid team of twenty five older horses. As a result, we have our biggest string in fifteen years and let’s hope we can build on a wonderful year and things get bigger and better.
Back to 2019 and we must start with the star that is BETTYS HOPE. Spotted at Ascot’s yearling sales last September by Louise, this January foal by first season sire Anjaal out of a mare that was related to top class sprinters Kyllachy and Borders became ours for just £3,000. Although not the biggest, she has proved straight forward from day one and was our first two-year-old runner when heading to Kempton in the first week of April. There she met the monster that was Lady Kermit from the Archie Watson stable and while no match for that filly she finished clear of the rest. Keen to strike while the iron was hot, two weeks later we headed north to run in an Auction race at Beverley. A slow start cost her there and she frustratingly lost out by a nose before finishing runner-up for the third time when failing to handle the fibresand at Southwell.
With three runs in four weeks, we gave her a short break before stepping up to six furlongs as she finally lost her maiden tag at Chepstow, winning a shade comfortably. As we weren’t keen to run under a penalty, she waited for the nurseries to start and she landed the very first one, beating Listed placed Oh Purple Reign in a £20,000 contest at Chelmsford. Both of those wins had come over six and we felt that five would be on the sharp side in the Super Sprint but with such a huge prize on offer, it was worth a shot. In the end everything fell in her favour, heavy rain meant that it became a bit of a stamina test for the juveniles, we had Champion Jockey Silvestre De Sousa on board off just 8st4lb and her high draw in 25 meant she had a clear run inside the final two furlongs. Although it looked unlikely at halfway, Betty stuck her head out and galloped all the way to the line, hitting the front inside the final ten yards and winning the race by a head, with Richard Fahey’s team filling second, third and fourth! Twenty-two years after Lord Kintyre had won the race that made Rod’s career, we did it again with a filly that cost just £3,000. Unfortunately, things didn’t go her way for the rest of the season but after that success it wasn’t the end of the world and she certainly owes us nothing. Hopefully she can add to her two-year-old wins next year and she will be a wonderful flagship horse for our relaunched Millman Racing Club in 2020.
While BETTY was the flagship horse this season, we had six others win over £20,000 in prize money and 19 individual winners so the whole yard contributed to an amazing year. Super Sprint day at Newbury resulted in a double as three-year-old filly SUFFICIENT landed a £30,000 handicap, which in normal circumstances would have been the clear highlight. Partially sighted in one eye, this well-bred filly hasn’t been the easiest to train as she tends to panic when getting crowded and can race too keenly but she has plenty of ability when its channelled in the right direction. Although a winner at two, she strengthened up nicely over the winter and won her third start of the campaign at Sandown in June. A month later she went to Doncaster where she looked like winning before being claimed by the John Gosden trained Duneflower (subsequently a Listed winner and now rated 105) before her Newbury success. Sadly, like quite a few of the string, she picked up a horrible virus when she returned from Newbury which derailed the rest of her season. We feel she is still very well handicapped off 87 and looks sure to improve again from three to four so black type will be the aim next season.
Another useful three-year-old was the extremely progressive PRINCE OF HARTS, who had a very successful campaign, going up 22lbs in the ratings and winning three races. From a family we know inside out, his half-siblings Taws and Duke of Bronte were prolific winners for the stable, so we knew we had a well handicapped horse on our hands at the start of the year. He was slightly different to the above pair as he is a much sharper type that managed to have his three qualifying runs at two so we were at a bit of a quandary as to what would be his best trip would be. A trip to Wolverhampton at the start of the year saw Prince show an impressive turn of foot to come from the back of the field to run out an easy winner over a mile and marked him out as a potential improver throughout the year. Next time he was stepped up in grade and trip for an ultra-competitive three-year-old handicap at Sandown (won by subsequent Listed winner Private Secretary) and it was a bit too much for him at that stage of his career.
He steadily progressed through the summer, winning at Nottingham on soft ground back over a mile before running two very solid races in strong Ascot handicaps, finishing third on good to firm ground before a very solid second to Flashcard in a £45,000 handicap on very soft ground. Sadly, he picked up the aforementioned virus which meant he missed nearly three months off the track, however, it may have been a blessing in disguise as the break did him the world of good, putting on plenty of condition and he had strengthened up again when resuming his work. Although he only managed one more run, it was an extremely impressive victory at Windsor when he would have been only 85% fit and a 9lb rise in the ratings took him to a mark of 92.
A week later he was at Newmarket Sales, where he made £170,000 and has joined the yard of Stuart Williams, an excellent result for his owners, if slightly frustrating for the yard as we feel we have said goodbye to a potential group horse. He ended his campaign a pound lower than Duke of Bronte in their respective three-year-old campaigns and he improved another 11lb before picking up a leg injury when finishing sixth to Marmelo at York. Prince will be certainly a horse to keep an eye on next season but the good news is that Duke has returned to the yard and hopefully he can get back on track next season as he is still unexposed and has further improvement in him.
With FOUR wins SINGING THE BLUES was our most prolific winner of the campaign and he is certainly one of the toughest horses we have trained in recent years. A bit of a tearway when he first arrived at the yard, Pat did an extremely good job in trying to tame him and it was right that he was the first rider to win on him when landing an Amateur race off 53 at Wolverhampton in February. He followed that up with wins at Kempton and Wolverhampton, then a couple of seconds before landing his first turf success at Bath in May. He then ran with enormous credit throughout the rest of the season, twice losing out by a nose as he ended his campaign with four wins, six seconds and three thirds. What was more remarkable was that he did this over a fifteen-month period where the longest break in between races was four weeks, extremely rare when you consider he is a stayer and nearly always ran to his mark.
Another triple winner and one that was extremely consistent was four-year-old filly CRYSTAL CASQUE whose form figures, ignoring her first and final run of the campaign, read 3213211. Such an uncomplicated filly, she is the ideal ride for apprentices and received two very good rides from Angus Villiers to win and Sandown and Kempton and he is certainly a name to note for next year’s Apprentice Championship and he could be a future star. A filly in the same ilk regarding consistency and being an ideal ride for apprentices is DADDIES GIRL and she was back in the winner’s enclosure in 2019. Her three-year-old campaign had seen her run just below Listed level (peak mark of 92) but wasn’t quite well handicapped enough to get her head in front. However, off a mark of 83 on her first start of the year, she landed a £25,000 handicap at Nottingham (a wonderful day for her owners as their two-year-old Daddies Diva finished second at 100/1 on the same card). She recorded her second win of the year under our own stable apprentice Ollie Searle when taking the solo route up the Stands rail at Lingfield in June. It is hard to know just how flattered she was by that and a 4lb rise took her back up to 91 which made life difficult and her season ended early when she pulled a muscle at Lingfield. While we would love to get some black type, she should be winning more races off the right mark as a five-year-old.
While Ollie had his second win on Daddies Girl, his very first came on HANDYTALK at Salisbury back in June and it was Handytalk’s first win since July 2017, with multiple frustrating placed efforts in between, including three seconds at Epsom. Ollie joined the yard on leaving school at sixteen, having never sat on a horse before and three years later it was great to see him in the winner’s enclosure. That race was part of a Hands and Heels Series held at Salisbury throughout the season and combined with two seconds on Crystal Casque, Ollie ended up winning the Series and a £1,500 prize generously given by sponsors Shadwell. With a full year’s riding experience gained this year, Ollie should only improve as a rider in 2020 and hopefully more winners will be on their way. At the other end of the riding spectrum, Oisin Murphy was the jockey to get a second win out of Handytalk in 2019 as they made all at Ffos Las in July. That night Handytalk was part of a four-timer for Oisin which saw an upturn in his fortunes for the jockey’s championship and he was rightly crowned Champion Jockey at the end of the season. Since we used Oisin as a seven pound claimer, you could see he was destined for the top and we are very lucky to have him ride for us when the opportunity arises and that win on Handytalk was one of six winners he rode for us this year.
Ollie and Oisin weren’t the only jockeys that rode regularly for us to win a title as Pat was crowned joint Champion Gentleman Amateur, a title he won in 2017 and was runner-up in last season. Pat was also lucky enough to ride in the Fegentri series, representing Great Britain across the world. His highlight was a win over in the States at Parx Racing, the same weekend that Betty won the Super Sprint and he finished third overall in the Longines Fegentri World Championship for Gentleman Riders. As a medium sized yard, we are extremely lucky to have a high quality team of staff, headed by Pat as our head lad and I think it shows as we often get the best out of some very tricky horses that would be lost in a bigger yard.
Other dual winners this campaign included three-year-olds GREELEY and MANDOCELLO who were both sold at Newmarket and have joined new yards. Greeley had a very successful two-year-old campaign when switched to nurseries, racking up a quick hat-trick but also went up 21lb which meant he started his campaign too high in the handicap. However, he soon found his level and recorded back to back wins at Salisbury (under Pat) and Ffos Las in the summer. He was sold for £22,000 and has gone out to Dubai. Mandocello was unraced at two but showed promise behind some very decent horses in his three qualifying runs and it was no surprise he won on his handicap debut at Windsor in May. Sadly, he was the first of the horses to pick up the dreaded virus and it basically wiped him out for three months and he wasn’t right when running in August. After another short break and stepped up to ten furlongs, he was back in the winner’s enclosure at Bath before heading to the Sales. He made £35,000 and it will be interesting to see how he gets on in the future as we didn’t reach our limit with him and it will be surprising if he doesn’t have more wins in him rated just 73. However, we have a two-year-old full brother to him and hopefully he will prove to be even better than Mandocello.
While we don’t have many runners in the National Hunt sphere, it was good to get CHAMPAGNE CHAMP recording his second win over hurdles at Ffos Las in April. He was transformed when blinkers went on over hurdles, he looked sure to win when they went on for the first time at Wincanton in an £18,000 handicap and despite being four lengths clear at the last, he got caught by the enigmatic Serosevsky. However, off the same mark a week later at Ffos Las, he was never challenged as he ran out a 29-length winner and earned himself an eleven-pound rise taking him to a mark of 135. After a summer break, he returned to the flat, finishing fourth in the £50,000 Cesarewitch Trial and before landing a £12,000 handicap in November. That took his career record to eight wins, seventeen places from 41 starts and over £74,000 in prize money. Unfortunately, after schooling well over fences, he has picked up a slight leg injury and is out for the winter but will be back again and he is a joy to train.
The older horses had a good campaign and contributed to our winning totals. Not much went right for the yard veteran BIOTIC but on the day it counted everything went right when landing the Lady Amateur’s race for the second consecutive year at Sandown and a hat-trick will be the aim for 2020. RAGSTONE VIEW was another one of Pat’s winners when he won nicely at Newbury and if the race was run to suit was never far away. SWEET PURSUIT may not be the easiest, especially when it comes to the stalls but she is a tough mare, especially on soft ground and she came from last to first to win at Bath in August and followed that up with two places in valuable races at Goodwood. Remarkably 2019 made it TWENTY YEARS of training for the Always Hopeful Partnership and Rod was delighted to receive a framed photo of all the horses we have trained for them in the intervening period. Amazingly, all six horses we have trained for the Partnership have been winners and their first horse Optimaite was truly amazing. He won twice over five furlongs in April as a two-year-old and started at 7/2 for the Windsor Castle, at three he won a twelve furlong conditions race at Salisbury in May before going off at 7/1 for the Queens Vase and later won a Novice Hurdle and was placed over fences. Overall, we have had 24 winners and £160,000 in prize money together and it’s wonderful to train for such supportive owners.
While Betty led the way with the two-year-olds, we had another cheap filly that made a very bright start to her career. DADDIES DIVA only cost £2,000 but she finished runner-up on her second start at Nottingham before going one better back there on soft ground in May. She was then third in a £25,000 Conditions event at Pontefract and we thought she would give Betty a real race in the Super Sprint. Unfortunately, she went off far too fast and just wasn’t the same in subsequent races. She went to the Sales and doubled her purchase price by making £4,000 and considering her winnings of £8,666, she proved to be a success story in her own right. Our other two-year-old winner was a very different sort in ABLE KANE who won on his third start at Beverley in September. A big strong half-brother to Sweet Pursuit, he was unlucky not to win on his second start at Salisbury when finishing third. He was another to pick up the virus and was off for three months, but he looked very uncomplicated when making all the running to win last time and he looks like he could be a progressive handicapper next season.
Thirty-five winners were a fantastic total for the year, but we were arguably unlucky with a few of our runners not to edge nearer the forty mark. HAWRIDGE STORM is a talented but quirky sort and he finished runner-up three times, including in some valuable and competitive handicaps at Goodwood and Ascot and should be winning races in 2020. SPOT LITE had a fantastic three-year-old campaign which saw him win three times but then got a bit high in the handicap. He soon found his level in the summer and he also had three seconds, narrowly losing out by a short head at Chepstow in July. He was another to be sold at Newmarket and he has ended up in Germany. The third horse to rack up a trio of seconds was BONNEVILLE who had a very busy year and was agonisingly caught on the line at Salisbury in May and was also recently sold at the sales. Another one to get a bit high in the handicap after a successful 2019 was SIR PLATO and it was a tough year for him, but he was still unlucky to lose out by a short head at Bath in August. Unlike a lot of our horses staying for another season, he will start 2020 off a nice handicap mark 14lb lower than this year and she should be adding to his seven career wins. Another future winner for next year is two-year-old MAGICAL FORCE who narrowly lost out by a neck on her handicap debut and things didn’t quite go her way in two subsequent starts. After a busy but successful two-year-old campaign, STEEVE was a bit too high in the handicap at the start of his three-year-old campaign but found some form in the summer to finish second at Sandown as well as a couple of thirds at Salisbury and he is continuing his career in the Middle East. Joining him in that part of the world is COBWEB CATCHER who was a lovely looking horse that we had high hopes for, especially when he started his campaign with a promising second at Windsor. However, like a lot of Swiss Spirit’s, he had a few issues and unlike his very tough half-sister Sweet Pursuit, he failed to progress. While he wasn’t second, KEITH found his level in the autumn and ended his time at the yard with four consecutive thirds. So, all in all, with 40 seconds to 35 winners, numerically it certainly could have been an even better season, but we probably used up a fair bit of our luck with Betty!
While we had a wonderful year, it was also a year tinged with sadness as we lost two of our leading supporters in David Little and Mary O’Sullivan and both will be much missed by all at Millman Racing.
David joined the yard back in 2004 with a particularly tricky mare in NINA FONTENAIL and after getting her to win a couple of races, David expanded his string in subsequent years and his royal blue and maroon colours became prolific on the racecourse. His best horse was the wonderful servant that was MASTER CARPENTER, a successful two-year-old, Listed/Group 3 winner at three and then landed the £150,000 John Smith’s Cup at four before gaining further wins at six and seven and now standing as a sire in Newmarket. Overall we enjoyed 71 winners and countless wonderful days on the racecourse together. Even this season we had four winners together, with MASTER GREY finally starting to fulfil his potential, recording two wins at Chepstow and Salisbury, while SIR RODERIC also found his level again this year, his win at Chepstow giving David his first double on a card. Three-year-old GREYZEE also got off the mark when winning at Kempton in March while BONNEVILLE wasn’t quite so lucky, finishing runner-up three times but remaining a maiden. Hopefully both Master Grey and Sir Roderic will be back on the track to win in David’s memory and we will be trying especially hard to get a winner by Master Carpenter when his foals hit the racetrack in 2022.
While Mary didn’t have quite as many winners as David, she gave us plenty of homebreds to try and get the best out of although our best horse together was one that we bought from the sales in BONNIE GREY, who was related to Lord Kintyre and went on to win on debut before gaining some valuable black type when placed in Listed/Group 3 Company. Sadly, Mary passed away shortly before her three-year-old filly LADY WOLF was successful at Chelmsford back in February.
Heading into 2020, it is proving to be a busy winter with all the yearlings to turn into potential two-year-old superstars, but we will be quiet runners wise over the winter months. PUZZLE CACHE is now our only jumper but we were really pleased with how she jumped on her debut at Exeter and looks as if she has the potential to win races off the right mark when handicapped. We have a few unraced two-year-olds that will be running on the AW to gain some valuable experience while Millman Racing Club horse TOTALLY COMMITTED will hopefully be running to give Ollie some more experience and provide Club Members with a bit of winter action.
As regards to the Millman Racing Club, we have four horses running for the Club in 2020, Bettys Hope, Biotic (in partnership with Mrs Sumner), Totally Committed and an unraced Twilight Sun yearling. It’s just £250 a year to join the Club, with opportunities to win race day tickets, visit the yard and receive regular updates. Meanwhile James has returned to Devon and as well as playing a bigger role in the yard, he has set up a syndicate brand in JPM Racing. His first horse is a yearling filly by Gutaifan, a leading first season sire this year and out of a two-year-old winner related to top class two-year-old sprinters Bogart and Blaine. She will be targeted at both the £250,000 Super Sprint and £150,000 Tattersalls Sales races and she will hopefully provide her syndicate members with plenty of fun. There are still 5 and 10% shares remaining in her, with 10% costing £1750 (5% £875) with all costs up to March 1st and then £245 (5% £130) a month thereafter. For more information, please email email@example.com .
Therefore, there is lots to look forward to in 2020 and hopefully it was be as successful, if not better than 2019 but for now, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.