I always say that every single winner is special as every time your horse passes the post in front a lot of hard work from a lot of people has gone into getting it there, preparing it, selecting the race etc. – I could go on but some are even more special and yesterday’s win with Breizh Alko really was a very special one. An improving 11 year old…!
Breizh Alko has to be one of the most fragile horses I’ve trained with legs like glass. Previous trainer Rebecca Menzies got him back on track after 1135 days off through injury to finish 6th and then Rebecca won impressively with him in March 2019 as an 8 year old but he suffered another injury and missed the next season. Hats off to Rebecca to then decide that, knowing that owner David Parry also had horses with us and that our facilities & gallops seem to suit these older horses returning from leg injuries, he transfer him to us. This happened in the summer of 2020 although I wasn’t 100% happy with his legs after a few weeks and our fabulous vet Jeremy Swan confirmed we needed to stop with him and David, I think, was seriously and reluctantly thinking about retirement for him.
However, still just a 9 year old with no miles on the clock, after consultation with Jeremy and myself and after discussing some of the older horses we’d not only got back to the track after tendon injuries but they had also won at Cheltenham after they’d returned (Any Currency & Benbane Head to name but two!) we decided to give him one last chance. More time and patience required and a lot of tlc.
Breizh isn’t the easiest in the stable – a little bit grumpy and I don’t actually think he likes me very much! He did even manage to bite me during saddling yesterday! (I soon forgave him!) However Breizh absolutely loves Ernie and she loves him and Ernie is a massive part of his success. We managed to persuade Ernie to take a few days of holiday recently as she’s not one for taking them but she still insisted on riding Breizh out every single day of her holiday so she deserves this win so much too.
Fast forward to this season and an encouraging debut over fences before Christmas before an oh so frustrating, so near but so far, 2nd place over hurdles at Chepstow beaten by a ridiculously well handicapped horse. Back over fences yesterday and Brian Hughes having his 1st ride for us and seeking a hat-trick on the day. A brilliant ride to win comfortably by 12 lengths and ensure there wasn’t a dry eye in the Keighley camp coming back in! Brian had watched his previous races and spoken to previous jockeys too – he was convinced all he had to do was jump around safely and he’d win! His modesty meant he didn’t take on board our ‘great ride’ comments afterwards but instead he gave the horse all the credit. He couldn’t have done it without the horse but it was some ride and he deserved plenty of the plaudits!
Even though I got up quite early this morning, it was no surprise to me to receive a message from Ernie who was already out with Breizh and had checked that he was A1. Always a relief but even more so when a horse is as fragile as Breizh – he then trotted up sound and had a morning in the field to roll & get muddy before he came back in and missed the torrential weather due this afternoon.
So thrilled for David after so much patience, and Ernie too, but it also gave the whole team a much needed tonic. Well done Briezh…as I said earlier “an improving 11 year old!”.
Photos to follow….computer currently saying ‘no’! Thanks to Nigel Kirby, as ever, for the wonderful shots.