Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Lambourn Gallops
 What an amazing place! Beautifully groomed gallops everywhere, it was like the horse equivalent to a ski resort in that there were more runs than you knew what to do with and horses everywhere. The countryside was big and open and the skylarks were singing high in the sky, it was a great place to be.
We ended up taking four horses as Dolly (Velvet Royale) came too as Harry was able to meet us there so we had a spare jockey. Funnily enough, it was Dolly (the maiden) who showed all the older horses up as she swept up the gallops and none of the other horses could get anywhere near her. Doug was watching with Will, who is the manager of the gallops, and he said "Wow, which horse is that?" assuming that she was was one our hot shots and Doug had to explain that she hadn't won yet, but the horses that were trying to catch her had won twenty races between them! It is only a matter of time and getting the right going but she certainly looked the business today and absolutely loved it. Because Dolly had inadvertently thrashed Jake, and the others on the first gallop and we wanted to help his self esteem we then went up another one and engineered the result so that we got his nose in front. He then came back to the lorry with a real spring in his step having done a good piece of work and we were very pleased with the way Definite Dawn and Varkala worked too.
Lambourn is steeped in history. The racing connection began in the 18th century, when the Earl of Craven held racing meetings on the Lambourn Downs and private race meetings were held on Mandown between Upper Lambourn and Seven Barrows (where Nicky Henderson trains now). In the 1840s some owners moved their racehorses to Lambourn as the ground at Newmarket was too firm and caused many horses to break down.
The first trainers were Edwin Parr, Joseph Saxon, John Prince, Luke Snowden and John Drinkald, who went insane when his horse was disqualified after winning a race in which he stood to win £28,000 (equivalent to 10 million now).
However, it was not until the Lambourn Valley Railway was built in 1898 that Lambourn grew into its present size. Until then horses could only attend local meets, or had to walk the 10–15 miles to the railway at Newbury.. Horses could then be transported to Newbury and from there to meetings all over the country and many new stables were opened in the area. Over 1,500 horses are now stabled in and around Lambourn second only to Newmarket.
Interestingly though, even with the very best National Hunt facilities and tailor made Grand National fences there hasn't been a Grand National winner trained from Lambourn since 1995. It just shows that a really good horse can shine through no matter how good the facilities are. Often a muddy field is good enough, which gives the little trainers a chance, which is so good for the sport.