So much happened in 2017 and we simply couldn’t have had the success we did without all the team behind us. Obviously those people here in the yard have been so important, more about them later, but our extended team of farrier, vet, physios and our fantastic owners and friends too and not forgetting the horses as well have all played their part. 2017 has given us so much to build upon and we are so looking forward to 2018 and are hungrier than ever to do the best job we can for our owners and team.
I’ve started going through highlights – goodness there are so many so I can’t do them all but will just pick some out (every single winner is a highlight but there isn’t enough room!).
Team wise, many of them had rides for us – Travelling Head Girl Issy rode Jazzy in a charity race at Newbury, Kieran rode The Kvilleken in one at Doncaster and Assistant Trainer Jamie was placed on Ocean Eleven in the Legends race at Chepstow. Ash also had a handful of rides with his highlight I’m sure was completing around Cheltenham’s fences on Thady Quil. Harley suffered a badly broken leg but thankfully returned speedily afterwards and has been gifted Any Currency after he didn’t enjoy Team Chasing. Woody will have a lovely time with Harley and is currently show-jumping and it couldn’t have worked out better for us all.
We have welcomed a few new team members this year – an old colleague of ours Matthew Carter (Foxy) joined us in February and planned to just stay until the end of the season – thankfully he’s still here! In July Mick Deady and Alfie Jordan joined us and both have fitted in so well. Mick loves his horses and is the quickest to respond 99% of the time to our Whatsapp group (!) and Alfie, the youngest of the team, is learning all the time and loving regularly schooling schoolmaster Champion Court over fences. Harry Stock joined us in September having already ridden Spice Girl to victory twice in the summer and he is already a valuable member of the team and rode his first Cheltenham winner in October on only his second ride when Bobble Emerald won. Yardman Lucjan Wirth continues to do absolutely anything asked of him with the minimum of fuss and can turn his hand to most things.
Over to the horses and we had plenty of winners – our 1st Cheltenham winner of 2017 was Brillare Momento who battled to win at the April meeting and a photo of owner Ollie Ryan’s partner Irene leading her on cloud 9 adorns our smart brand new lorry as it encapsulates what Cheltenham winners mean to us all.
At the end of the Spring Belinda and Buckle Street headed for York Racecourse in June after five months of training, dieting and serious sponsorship raising – to compete in the Macmillan Cancer Research Race of their Lives. Belinda had raised the most sponsorship of the 10 riders amassing over £28,000 for such a worthwhile cause. We were greeted with glorious sunshine, so many friends came to support and to top it all off – Belinda and Buckle came home the winners! A very special day that will live long in the memory of those there and Freddie, Harry and me were very proud of her and what she achieved and no doubt her parents would have been too. Not too many tears but plenty of partying – a wonderful weekend in York that we’ll never ever forget.
Over the summer Spice Girl came into her own winning three bumpers and then going on to win first time over hurdles in November too making it four in a row and delighting us all not least breeder Richard Davies and his part owner Mark Holland – an exciting mare. Mark is also in The Chameleons who own Ballymountain Boy and he won for us on the first day of the 2017 season in April, had his summer break and then came out and won again so Mark had a 2017 to remember! I’ve mentioned Thady Quil earlier but his win at Worcester will remain long in the memory of his group of owners especially Stefan & birthday girl Gwyn Hibbert. He’s now retired to Wellington Equestrian Centre – a perfect home for him. More homebreds won including Fairmount for owner/breeder John Broadhurst with more to come for him I’m sure. Raving Bonkers made dreams come true for the What In Heavens Partnership, especially Simon Prowting who brought the gang of friends together, when he won on his racecourse debut – Simon was so emotional he even reduced me to tears in the winners’ enclosure at Towcester that day!
We were thrilled when Somewhere To Be jumped for fun on his fencing debut at Lingfield in November to give Leighton Aspell a winner on his first ride for us but more crucially it was Zara Tindall’s first homebred winner which was very exciting. She has more horses in the pipeline (as well as her event horses) so she then sold him but luckily we kept in in the yard and he’ll hopefully be winning again soon. In 2018 another aim is to train my first winner for Zara’s mother, Princess Anne, too and her lovely homebred mare Chequered View has already put in some decent placed efforts in bumpers so I’m hoping that will be sooner rather than later!
We kicked off Cheltenham’s 2017/18 season in the best possible way with a double on the first day – Brillare Momento winning again under Aidan Coleman and returning to more jubilant scenes (that we will never get bored of!) followed by Bobble Emerald, as already mentioned, giving Harry Stock his first Cheltenham winner but as important for me, giving long standing owners David Bishop, Colin Bowkley and Michael Parker their first ever Cheltenham winner and their 15th winner with us from just three horses – brilliant.
Our Martin Keighley Racing Club was a massive success and of the 50 people that are in it some have gone on to own shares in horses here too and most I’m sure have made friends for life too. It was a huge success with Buckle Street winning in March before returning to his then owner/breeder Mary Hambro and then Viking Mistress winning twice in the summer under Richard Johnson and also giving many members their first Cheltenham runner as well in December. There are still a few shares available for this year so do get in touch – it’s such amazing value for just £500 (or £42/month).
Throughout the Autumn the team were working towards a new NTF initiative, The Lycetts Team Champion Award, launched to establish safe and effective management practices within the racing industry and to aid staff retention. It’s been such a fun and informative thing for us to do and the whole team have embraced it and we were thrilled before Christmas to learn that we had been shortlisted and we are now awaiting the judges to come and do a visit soon. Whatever the final outcome, the whole process has taught us so much and got us thinking about what extra things we can do to help the team, not only whilst they are here but for their future too. Read the Racing Post article here.
None of this would be possible without our landlord Robert Wharton and the support of a few more key members of the team including Ross Hemming’s company Leisure Ride Surfaces, our Chairman Jon Hughes, wife Jack and Paul Davis who also does so much for us. There are countless others that help and support us – too numerous to mention but all such worthy members of our team.
Onwards and upwards and so looking forward to making 2018 even more special. Thank you to you all.
However, one piece of very sad news is the death of Mary Hambro yesterday, who trained just across the fields from us until just recently, who was a good friend to us here. She had bravely battled cancer for quite some years and we hope she managed to watch her homebred horse Buckle Street finish 3rd at Cheltenham on New Years’ Day. She leased him to our Racing Club and then agreed to sell him to a gang of owners – The Condicote Clan in May but she kept tabs on how he was doing. Her funeral is on 22nd January at Batsford Church at 2pm.