2018/19 Season at a Glance
The 2018/19 season was our 26th season from Down Farm. We ran more horses than ever before, with a consistent strike rate, based on a strong pool of talent. There are now more horses in the yard rated above 140lbs than ever before, allowing us to compete regularly at the highest level with distinction, whilst also making our mark in mid-week prizes that are often very valuable.
Our 10th place in the Trainers’ Championship put us nearly £100k ahead of our nearest pursuer, and not far shy of that elite group of yards that train winners amassing £1m or more each year.
In simple statistics our 372 runners resulted in 52 winners, 5 up on last year, and a winning haul of £962,460. There were 38 individual winners from 103 horses who made it to the racecourse, and only 14 that failed to add something to their owner’s Weatherbys account!
As always we sent powerful teams to Cheltenham and Aintree and were well represented across both Graded and Handicap races, with 12 runners at Cheltenham, and 9 at Aintree. We hit the bar at Cheltenham, when Bun Doran went down by 1½l to Croco Bay in the Grand Annual. Whilst Singlefarmpayment put in a terrific run in the Grand National a month later to finish 8th.
Our busiest horse last year by a distance was Sumkindofking, in the ownership of David Fox, whose horses with us previously included Saint Are – who continues to have many successes in the ROR show ring! Sumkindofking embarked on a novice chasing career in May 2018 at Ludlow, breaking his duck the following month at Market Rasen. Since then he’s never run a bad race, running 11 times last season. His two victories really don’t do justice to his robustness for a small horse and a particular highlight was his gallant second in the Badger Ales Trophy at Wincanton behind Present Man. David also enjoyed a fun season with dual winner Petit Palais successful at Ludlow and Stratford in the spring after being purchased by Noel at Tattersalls Newmarket out of John Gosdens for 26,000gns in October.
God’s Own, now 11, has been in the yard since 2012. He continues to race with zest and is a great ambassador for the yard. Last season, he raced five times in the highest company as our top-rated horse off a mark of 166. His win in the Haldon Gold Cup by ½l from Ozzie The Oscar was a bit of tear jerker for everyone, with him regaining his crown from 2014. He then went on to end his season running a great race to be third behind Altior in the Celebration Chase at Sandown.
Another successful horse for the Crossed Fingers Partnership was Bun Doran – who was rarely out of the frame in a lot of smart handicaps last year. He started in good style with an 8l victory in a £50,000 handicap chase at Cheltenham’s November fixture. He continued to run consistently throughout the season and returned to Cheltenham for the Grand Annual at the Festival and was a very close second to Croco Bay. Doctor Dex was also a dual winner for the same owners – winning two novice hurdles at Wetherby and Doncaster before running good races in handicaps at Cheltenham and Aintree – he will be an exciting horse for novice chasing this season. Fanfan Du Seuil also won a nice juvenile hurdle at Exeter in the same silks and ran a solid race to be 5th in the Fred Winter at the Festival.
Copper West took advantage of the innovative Middle Distance Chase Series, winning the valuable May Series Final at Haydock. His victory was a memorable day for his owners, the Mersey Clyde Partnership, as you can probably guess they are from the area!
Activial, a nine-year-old grey owned by Roger Brookhouse is another unfamiliar with running a bad race. He ran terrific races in defeat at Stratford in November, beaten a neck, and Ascot in December, touched off a short head, interspersed by a valuable Graduation Chase win at Haydock on Betfair Chase day, before graduating to graded Handicaps in the Ultima at the Festival when finishing a good 6th.
Singlefarmpayment wrapped up his 2018-19 season in the Grand National, running a great race from the rear and running on one-paced from Valentines second time around. Providing the handicapper doesn’t get hold of him, there are plenty of races left in him and he should be Aintree-bound again. SFP’s owners Heather Haddock and Neal Griffith also had an exciting season with dual novice hurdle winner The Big Bite – taking them to both Cheltenham and Aintree for Grade 1 contests.
Top novice chaser Clondaw Castle earned his place in the Arkle Chase with back to back wins at Leicester and Huntingdon in January and February, sandwiched either side of the equine flu scare. His fourth place finish in the Arkle belies the fact he was second until 150 yards out, and there were a couple of fresher horses at Aintree in the Maghull 3 weeks later. However, he looks a great prospect for some of the top handicaps this season.
The World’s End is another stalwart having won seven races for the McNeill Family who also have smart youngsters Seddon and Enemy Coast Ahead at Down Farm. Graduating to Novice chasing, he impressed in two wins at Chepstow and Cheltenham before Christmas. After which he had a few issues and had to revert to hurdling at Aintree – issues that I believe to have ironed out and I am very excited about him for the coming season. Enemy Coast Ahead, a 10l Bumper winner at Stratford in May, is the highest rated Bumper winner in the country at the time of writing so he could not go without a mention!
The announcement of a new Mares Novices’ Chase at the Festival in 2021 made a lot of the Racing news headlines. Leading me onto no more consistent mare than Song Saa – who won 2 handicap chases last season at Kempton in January and Newcastle in March. She is now enjoying retirement in the field at Down Farm and is in foal to the up-and-coming young stallion Telescope.
Our two Grade 1 winners of 2017-18 Black Op and Summerville Boy could not go without a mention – with Black Op starting the season novice chasing. He then reverted to hurdling for the Cleeve and the Stayers. He ran consistently well off a mark of 152, sadly not enough to beat the current Stayers champion, Paisley Park. He will be tackling the larger obstacles again sooner rather than later I would imagine, considering how the form of his 2 previous runs over fences worked out! Our 2018 Supreme Novices winner Summerville Boy had a disruptive year with niggling issues but we were hugely proud of his effort at Punchestown being beaten 6 lengths by Buveur d’Air. He looked right back to his best and will be a horse to really look forward to when tackling fences this season.
Dual winners are often hard to come by so it would be unfair not mention Manofthemoment, Now Look at Me, Boagrius and Minella for Me. The latter who gave owner Simon Clarke 3 winners to celebrate over the course of the season – starting with a win off a mark of 107 at Southwell in May and ending up on a mark of 127 after his wins at Wetherby and Kempton in the winter.
Other developments around the yard include the new biomass boiler. This is making a wonderful difference to the comfort of horses and staff with unlimited heat for all. It is fed off timber from the farm, it gives us hot running water throughout the yard, warm and dry tack rooms, airing rooms for rugs and glory be, a warm house! We must have the cosiest farmhouse in the county – not generally expected of a draughty old Cotswold Manor!
Over the summer we’ve also resurfaced the Wexford sand gallop and installed a new 8-berth horse walker.
Finally if you’re heading to Gloucestershire, then our holiday cottage is a popular stay over and we’ve now added a Shepherd’s Hut too, for those of you wanting to write your memoirs. With a warm house to entertain from, owners old and new are always most welcome. And we are at your disposal to answer any query you may have about your own horse or new horses for sale.