It was a fabulous day at Stratford last Thursday when Stephen & Helen Sugden’s First Angel jumped for fun under Sean Bowen and went on to win by 12 lengths and register his second success of the summer, both at Stratford. He’d found the ground too soft for him on his two runs in between, at Southwell and at Newton Abbot, as he really does enjoy top of the ground and he bounced off it to win in good style and delight us all. It’s been a bit of a frustrating summer with far too many 2nd places (11 of them!) and although I’m always reminded that consistent 2nd placings mean that the team are in good form, we’d all obviously much rather have winners so it was great to get back in the number 1 spot!

First Angel, Sean & Paddy

Freddie and his young 5 year old racing pony, Miss Millfield, had another great run to finish 4th at Stratford, but as they have had such a successful summer already they are well in the grips of the Pony Racing Handicapper and once again gave huge chunks of weight all round. A really solid run giving 16lbs to the winner, 10lbs to the 2nd and 19lbs to the third, beaten less than 10 lengths. What fun they are having and both learning so much too.

On Thursday evening we had a delicious supper in Broadway with Leigh & Sarah Powell and my parents, who were down for the weekend, and a good time was had by all.

Yesterday morning Nigel Orcherton was in first lot to watch Massima Bella (ridden by Paddy) and Stephen & Helen Sugden were in third lot to give First Angel plenty of polos and to watch Release The Kraken (ridden by Miranda) on the gallops. They also treated the team to some delicious looking cakes from Otis & Belle in Stow on the Wold.

We have exciting news to share with you all, having shared it with our owners recently – we plan to create a small string of flat horses to supplement the core business of training National Hunt horses. Our main focus has always been on training jumpers, though we have held a dual purpose license for many years and have trained several flat winners in the past. However, we now wish to have some dedicated flat horses in training as we believe that this could provide many of you, as owners, with some significant benefits :-

Prize Money – It is generally accepted that prize money is better on the flat compared to jumps racing
Reduced Injury Risk – It is an unfortunate fact that the injury risk is higher in summer jumps racing compared to summer flat racing. We will continue to have some summer jumpers, but the numbers in future will be fewer and confined to horses who prefer racing on quicker ground.
BHA Summer Jumps Strategy – The recently announced BHA ‘Fixture Premierisation’ Strategy – which comes into effect in 2024 – revealed a reduction of 8% in the number of jumps races in 2024, and though these will be spread across the year it is natural that summer jumping will be included, especially taking into account the summer jumping break that is being extended to 19 days in 2024.
Dual Purpose Option – When buying horses for the flat, it is likely we will pay special attention to those with stamina in their pedigrees so that a transition into jumps racing becomes an option at the end of their 3 year old days. Furthermore, we believe that there is greater value to be found at the sales for stamina laden pedigrees as so many flat trainers are focusing on purchasing precocious two year olds.

We’re not the first yard to consider such a plan and, indeed, some trainers have had significant success by increasing their focus on the flat. One notable example is Alan King, who I used to work with back in the David Nicholson days, and who now has 40% of his yard occupied by flat horses. We don’t have plans to move to such a figure, but Alan is a good friend and we definitely intend picking his brains in order to take advantage of what he has learnt along the way.

We certainly intend to make a success of our flat training plans and are excited about this adventure. Please do get in touch with me if you have any questions or wish to discuss these plans in more detail.

The summer school holidays seem to be flying by and both boys are playing a footie friendly today for Northleach U16s with Harry allowed to play with his brother’s team so if I get finished in time this morning I’ll try and get to go and watch them play. Good luck lads.



If you would like to have a horse trained by Martin Keighley, visit the yard or make an enquiry