Trainer George Baker to leave his Manton yard
George Baker with his racehorse named George Baker
Manton is losing one of its two well-known trainers. George Baker who has been leasing the Barton Yard from Paul Clarke, is buying the freehold of a training establishment in the Surrey Hills - very close to the Sussex-Surrey border.
George Baker - seen here with the racehorse he trains that is also named George Baker - has been training mainly for flat racing, but also for jumps, for nine years. In December 2013 he and his wife, Candida, and children and horses moved to Manton: "It is genuinely a privilege to add our name to the list of famous and successful trainers who have trained at Manton since the middle of the nineteenth century."
Soon after he moved, most of the Manton Estate was sold by the Sangster family to Paul Clarke. Barton Yard has stabling for seventy horses and access to Manton's famed grass gallops - currently George Baker has 63 horses in training.
He is buying Robins Farm near Chiddingfold. For three years the farm, owned since 2012 by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani, was home to trainer Olly Stevens. In August 2015 Stevens decided not to renew his licence and Sheikh Fahad decided to sell the farm.
The fifty acre Robins Farm has 50 stables and all the necessary ancillary buildings with tackrooms, laundry, silk room and feedstore. It has three all weather gallops, staff accommodation, two horse walkers and eleven turn-out paddocks.
Robins Farm also carries planning permission for a sand school and extensions to the gallops. It has been on the market for £2,250,000.
Close readers of George Baker's daily blog will have picked up hints that something was afoot. Last month, for example, he wrote: "We received some exciting news yetserday. Pivotal. More on that to follow..."
George Baker Racing's move eastwards will have the advantage of being just a little closer to France. He has recently bought five French bred yearlings and has been taking horses to race in France where he says the prize money is "A different kettle of fish".
French bred horses attract the French Breeders Premium, which can add nearly two thirds more to winnings. Baker has recently been quoted - along with Marlborough trainer Richard Hannon - as decrying the low level of prize money at some meetings in England.
Richard Hannon said that prize money at last week's Windsor meeting was 'bordering on outright disrespectful to racing professionals': "I'm getting very bored of going there and seeing the place full, the bars are heaving, they're charging £85 for a bottle of champagne and we're running nice horses for just £2,000."
Hannon said he would cut the number of horses he runs at Windsor unless the situation improves. And trainer William Haggas condemned the low levels of prize money for the Easter Sunday meeting at Southwell.
Writing in his daily blog, George Baker said such paltry purses did not encourage new owners into the sport: "We will continue to chase the foreign purses. For obvious reasons. And to give our owners half a chance. We all know that prize money over the channel is very alluring, and good old [Belgian] Bill won £85,000 in Istanbul in September. My desk strewn with various foreign programme books - now all I need is an interpreter!"
Belgian Bill is currently marlboroughequestrian.news' Horse in the Spotlight
George Baker's imminent departure from Manton will leave Brian Meehan as the only trainer there. Marlboroughequestrian.news understands that Barton Yard is likely to become home to a string of polo ponies.