Lil Rockerfeller tops off Neil King's successful first season training on the Marlborough Downs
Trainer Neil King's "best season ever" ended on an especially high note with Lil Rockerfeller's win at Sandown on the last day of the 2014-2015 jump season - also remembered widely as the day of AP McCoy's last professional ride.
A year after moving from Newmarket to Upper Herdswick Farm on the Marlborough Downs just by Barbury Castle, King is really pleased with his new Ridgeway Racing stables: "We're over the moon. We're so fortunate the ball has rolled for us - it won't always happen like that when you've just moved."
During the jump season he has had 29 winners and his horses have won £240,000 in prize money. And he has gained more owners and has more horses at the yard. You only have to look at the well groomed state of the yard itself to see what a busy year it has been.
Lil Rockerfeller's win at Sandown is a story all of its own. "Disappointingly", Neil told Marlborough News Online, "after all the work we had done with him, neither I nor his usual jockey, Trevor Whelan, were there to see his victory." Neil was in Ireland to see Trevor getting married: "So it was his fault!!"
But the story has another twist: the ride went to another conditional jockey (the jump equivalent of flat racing's apprentice jockeys): Sean Bowen. And with his win on Lil Rockefeller he clinched the Conditional Jockeys Championship for the season - edging out Nico de Boinville, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March.
Sean Bowen is seventeen. He is the son of Peter and Karen Bowen - Peter trains in Pembrokeshire. After the race Sean said: "It was brilliant of Neil to put me on him. This week I've been working hard to get in front of Nico and he's been hard to beat. It's been good and there's been plenty of highlights."
There is, as it were, a sub-plot to this story, Trevor Whelan finished third in the Conditional Jockeys Championship.
Neil King bought Lil Rockerfeller last August, but it took until Christmas to find buyers for him: "Since we started racing him, he's improved and improved."
At the end of March, he won at Ascot with Trevor Whelan aboard - running on well to win the Coutts Juvenile Handicap Hurdle by six lengths. After the race Whelan was very positive about the horse: "He's a nice horse, but he only ran last week, so he's been busy. That's my first Ascot winner and it's been a good season for me."
For the next jump season - which has, it should be said, already started - Neil will still have Trevor Whelan as his stable jockey. There will also be another conditionaljockey, 22-year-old Lizzie Kelly who joined the yard earlier this year.
She too has had a season to remember. On New Year's Day she won at Cheltenham on Aubusson - leaving AP McCoy eight lengths behind her. A couple of weeks later she won Kempton's Lanzarote Hurdle on Tea for Tea.
Both horses are trained by her step-father Nick Williams and she rode them both at the Cheltenham Festival - though without a place. She's gathering quite a fan club of youngsters who admire the way she takes on the big and male names in racing.
Last week, on her twenty-second birthday, she rode another winner for Neil King - Dire Straits won at Plumpton in a novices' hurdle - never mind it was a two horse field. She brought Dire Straits through to beat the favourite, Thats My rabbit.
Other Ridgeway success stories have included Southway Star who had four wins in a row at the start of the season - having been bought by King at the October sales for £2,300. One of her wins, at Fontwell, gave King a hat trick of winners in a day - with Zeroeshadesofgrey and The Boss's Dream winning at Uttoxeter.
On New Year's Day Zeroeshadesofgrey made his debut at Cheltenham - coming a creditable third.
But before Neil King starts to plan for next winter's campaign and the stable's open day in September, he has some horses at the yard for the flat season - and stepping up to hurdles. In March Conserve won on Wolverhampton's all-weather track and on Tuesday (May 5) is entered at Fakenham - over hurdles. Regulation is entered for an amateur riders hurdle race at Kempton on Monday (May 4) and later at Royal Ascot.
FOOTNOTE: You can get odds of 25-1 on Sean Bowen succeeding Tony McCoy as champion jump jockey - for the 2015-2016 season.