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Another Manton sale: a bit of racing heritage for sale - & the source of Stonehenge’s sarsens

 

“Racing is set to lose another slice of its heritage with the famous Manton Derby Gallop included in the latest sale of land at the Wiltshire estate owned by the Sangster family” – that is how the Racing Post introduces its news story on the further sale of Manton Estate land.

The Wantage estate agents Adkin are advertising this sale as “A unique opportunity to acquire Land at Fyfield & Overton Downs, Marlborough, forming part of the Fyfield Down SSSI.”  And Strutt and Parker headline the sale as “A truly unique opportunity to acquire a protected landscape steeped in history.”

Adkin and Strutt & Parker are joint selling agents for 577 acres of Overton and Fyfield Downs at a guide price of £2,000,000 or as one agent has it ‘offers in excess of £2,000,000.  

The Delling The Delling This separate lot – one of seven into which the estate was divided for the sale  – includes a three-bedroom house, The Delling.  This house has been redundant for about 30 years and is need of ‘substantial renovation.’   This lot also includes 35 acres of woodland.

Fyfield Down is not only steeped in racing heritage:  it is a triple-S-I because it was the source for Stonehenge’s sarsen stones – and the ground still boasts many sarsen stones.  It is now one of the best places in the area for birdwatchers.  [SSSI = Site of Special Scientific Interest.]

The Racing Post report says that contracts have still to be exchanged between the Sangsters and Paul Clarke for his purchase of Manton training establishment now the base for trainers Brian Meehan and George Baker, and much of the estate’s agricultural land.

But the ‘little used’ Derby Gallop, which climbs 150 feet over seven furlongs, was not part of Mr Clarke’s purchase.  This mile-long grass gallop was used in the past by several Derby champions to prepare them for the Epsom course’s gradients – including most recently 1992 Derby winner Dr Devious.

Guy Sangster told the Racing Post: “The gallop is in the middle of nowhere, away from the main gallops, and is probably used by Brian [Meehan] twice a year to give the horses a bit of variety.  The Derby winners from Manton in the past would have gone out there for a day out because it’s a long way from the main gallops.”

Peter Chapple-Hyam who used to train at Manton explained to the Racing Post that Dr Devious and the two Classic winner Rodrigo de Triano (a horse bred by Robert Sangster) would have used the Derby gallop: “But I didn’t use it just before the Derby because it was a fair trip away.”

 

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Globe-trotting, gym bunnies, manicures, long lunches & Downton catch-up…. an event rider’s winter starts here

 Harriet & Thomas Harriet & Thomas Harriet Rochester’s Marlborough Downs Uncovered feature marks the end another eventing season:

This week my horse, Thomas, checked into his winter residence – a lush field of grass up on the Marlborough Downs, along with some of his equine mates who are there for a well-earned break after a busy eventing season.   

With a relentless schedule of competitions for professional riders between the months of March and October, one wonders what can possibly keep these equestrian adrenaline junkie’s amused during all that winter downtime?

So after some digging about I discovered what some of the Marlborough eventing tribe are planning to help the winter months fly by…

 

Andrew NicholsonAndrew Nicholson Andrew Nicholson                        Stables: Lockeridge

2014 highlights – triple wins at Landrover Burghley Horse Trials and at the Barbury International Horse Trials winner - riding Avebury.

Andrew wouldn’t admit that to avoid the winter weather he will often be found ensconced reading his new book Focused.  However, he says;

“Going jump racing at Cheltenham is as good as any holiday for me.   I also take some of the youngsters to hunter trials and give a lead to my nine-year-old daughter.    We will steal a few days away as a family in between doing general maintenance around the property, something that’s a bit of a bore but necessary.’

“Before we know it, December will be here and the horses will come back into slow work and then we’ll be preparing to do it all again in 2015”.

 

 

Sir Mark Todd                 Stables: Badgerstown

Eventing legend and International Equestrian Federation rider of the twentieth century.

“I manage the Brazilian event team so I am off to South America in November and back again in December for some training clinics.  I’m also off to New Zealand over Christmas and back via the States for more teaching."

 "There’s no rest for the wicked, but I expect I will find some time to nip to the beach whilst on my travels.”

“Each snow season, I try to make an annual pilgrimage to the mountains.  In order to help prevent any unwanted pre-season injuries as well as time on the piste, I always ensure there’s plenty spent experiencing and tasting the local après ski."

 

Sir Mark Todd Sir Mark Todd
 

Jesse Campbell              Stables: Ogbourne St Andrew

Up and coming New Zealand rider.

“When not riding the babies, I will be catching up on the back series of Downton Abbey and playing golf, we have a lad’s eventer’s trip to Prague planned in November – it’s tough going in the winter.  I also love giving the England Rugby team stick and supporting the All Blacks. "

“I am off to New Zealand at the end of the year to see my family and also spending some time in Australia with my girlfriend, where topping up my tan is on the agenda”.

 

Rebecca Howard             Stables: Mildenhall

Current Canadian rider of the year

In late November I’m heading over the pond to my homeland – Canada, where as well as catching up with my folks and sisters I have some teaching clinics planned in British Columbia.

Hands take a real beating across the competition season so my winter guilty pleasure is a regular manicure from Kreem boutique, Marlborough.   

I am also a dedicated follower of Shaun T – a Will Smith look-a-like. Him and his T25 video works out are a great incentive to help me out of bed during the winter mornings.  If it’s not Shaun T – then I head to the gym.

 

 Rebecca HowardRebecca Howard

After Tim’s victory at Luhmuhlen (photo: copyright Libby Law Photography)After Tim’s victory at Luhmuhlen (photo: copyright Libby Law Photography)Tim and Jonelle Price                  Stables: Mildenhall                          

2014 highlights: 1st Luhmuhlen 4 star (Tim and Wesko) and 4th in the World Equestrian Games (Jonelle and Classic Moet)

As well as being an ace pilot on a horse, Jonelle is renowned as a dab hand in the kitchen and the Price Sunday’s roasts have become legendary in the area.  

“What off season?! Looking ahead our winter looks pretty hectic with lots of travelling. Although, in previous winter’s us Kiwis have mastered the art of a long indulgent lunch, generally generously sponsored by numerous renowned wine regions from around the world”. Jonelle explains from the final four star event of the season at Pau in France, where she finished 4th riding Faerie Dianimo.

“Last year Tim and I went to Vietnam.  It was great to experience a totally different culture and be so far removed from our daily lives.  We plan to be in Germany and Sweden in November for some indoor competitions and then we are going to Puhinui, New Zealand in December for their big spring event and to spend Christmas with our families.  

“As much as we enjoy the lower intensity this time of year, it’s always good to get back to the horses”.

Whether it’s winter months with the latest TV period dramas, indulging hours at the beautician’s or some globe-trotting – rest assured, come early 2015,  the Marlborough event riders will be ready to roll and hungry for the competition season once more.

 
Tweet me @HatRochesterPR

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Jonelle Price takes fourth place in season’s last four-star eventing competition

 

Jonelle Price & Faerie Dianimo at Barbury 2013Jonelle Price & Faerie Dianimo at Barbury 2013Les Etoiles de Pau, the season’s final four-star eventing competition (October 23-26), was won by the German rider Ingrid Klimke on Horseware Hale Bob.  They took joint first place in the dressage and first place in the cross country, and despite four faults, held on in the show jumping to win by a clear 6.2 points.

Mildenhall-based Jonelle Price kept the New Zealand flag flying – and local hopes very much alive - to finish fourth in the overall placings.  With her nine-year-old grey mare Faerie Dianimo, she was in eleventh place after the dressage, in sixth place after the cross country – and went on to take the season-topping fourth place.

Jonelle Price (copyright Libby law Photography)Jonelle Price (copyright Libby law Photography)Mrs Price was one of only three riders with a clear round and no time penalties in the final show jumping stage.

After her fourth place at the World Equestrian Games this summer in France, she must be keener still to get into the top three placings.

“It was about giving her a good trip, and if we were competitive, then that was a bonus,” said Price of the feisty little grey who is owned by Trisha Rickards and Jacky Green. “To be able to do both was super.”

She’s confident it is just the start of an exciting future for Faerie Dianimo.

“The cross country was quite strong,” said Price. “It was tough from start to finish, and at 12 minutes was the longest one we have had all year. The questions came thick and fast, with problems right throughout. It was a true four star out there.”


“We had one moment in the showjumping. If ever she is in doubt, she goes sky high – which is what she did. She always gives it everything..”
Price says while the nine-year-old horse is dainty, unique and beautiful to look at, she is “a little fighter”.

“She keeps me on my toes and is relentless. She loves what she does and is bloody good at it! She is incredibly talented – give her another 12 or 24 months and she could be really special.”

For Price and her husband Tim, the result at Pau caps off their best-ever year:  “It’s been a combination of everything coming together . . . horsepower, training, belief and a bit of luck to carry you across the line.”

It was a bleak day for the British contenders.  William Fox-Pitt on Parklane Hawk was in joint first place with Klimke in the dressage.   And on his second entry Seacookie TSF (last year’s winning pair) was in fifth place.

However, Fox-Pitt retired Seacookie TSF during the cross-country and withdrew Parklane Hawk before he started the course.  He blamed the hard ground.

The highest placed British pair was Nicola Wilson with One Two Many - finishing in eighth place.

The final results saw Germany's Abdreas Dibowski in second place and France's Arnaud Boitteau third. In fifth place was Ireland's Joseph Murphy on Sportsfield Othello who had been in fourth place after the cross-country, but had twelve faults in the show jumping. Murphy had worse luck still on Electric Cruise - they were in second position after the cross-country, but were eliminated at the horse inspection before the show jumping.

 

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Andrew Nicholson misses Pau – Qwanza is not fit enough

The French four-star eventing competition at Pau this weekend holds the odd distinction of being the last major competition of 2014, but also the first of the international equestrian federation’s Classics Series for 2014-2015.  

And it’s that second part of Pau’s attraction that will disappoint New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – he has had to withdraw his eleven-year-old mare Qwanza as she was “just not quite fit enough” after a year-long lay-off following injury.

Nicholson’s other star eventers – Avebury and Nereo – are resting after another successful season in which he completed two hat-trick wins.  With Avebury he won both Barbury and Burghley for the third year running. He won the Classics Series in 2013 with its $40,000 prize.

Lockeridge-based Nicholson told the New Zealand press: “There is not much point in going there if the horse is not 100 per cent. We'll miss this, write the year off and start afresh next year."

Sixteen of Pau’s 40 four-star international entries are British riders – headed by Pippa Funnell with two mounts and William Fox-Pitt with three mounts.

With Nicholson’s scratching, local interest resides with another New Zealander, Jonelle Price from Mildenhall with her nine-year-old mare Faerie Dianimo.  This will be Jonelle’s first ride over Pau’s cross country course.

After a great season which included her fourth place at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, Jonelle is now ranked ninth in the world.  The other New Zealand entry is Jock Paget who has two mounts in the competition.

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Racing: Rain puts Salisbury’s final meeting of the season in doubt

Salisbury racecourse officials will hold a 7.15 am ‘precautionary inspection’ on Monday morning.  With the ground already soft and heavy in places, Saturday’s rain and expected rain on Sunday evening and Monday morning may prove too much for the course.

The Salisbury course’s season finale on Monday (October 13) is the Bathwick Tyres Reduced Admission race day.  The six races (first at 2.20pm, the last at 5.00pm) have attracted good entries.

Richard Hughes, champion flat race jockey in 2012 and 2013, will be riding the Hannon entries.  This season Hughes has been in a close fight for the title with Ryan Moore.

The Salisbury card's  2.50pm race for maiden fillies includes a horse named Evening Rain – fingers crossed.

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Down at the start with Gary Witheford - ‘the stalls man’ who gives racehorses the chance to win

 

Gary Witheford at the startGary Witheford at the startThe 5.10 race at Pontefract on Monday, October 6, passed off without much fanfare.  But the result was a major victory for Witheford Equine of Burbage – the three-year-old gelding Dubai Star not only went safely into the starting stalls, but won at odds of 11-2.

It was Dubai Star’s first race and for this ‘tricky’ horse getting there had been quite a journey. He was bred in Ireland and bought as a yearling for 170,000 guineas: not an outrageous price paid for a horse sired by Dubawi out of Tango Tonic.

Dubai Star is owned by HRH Princess Haya of Jordan (wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Godolphin Racing fame) and trained at Newmarket by John Gosden. Last month at a Kempton Park evening meeting, Dubai Star was to race for the first time with Gosden’s stable jockey William Buick on board.

It was not a star race – with a total prize fund of just £4,000.  But the three-year-old needed a race in case he was sent for the October sales or there was a need to convince his owner he should be kept in training to race next season.

Gary Witheford had been asked by Gosden to get him ready for the starting stalls.  Gary had been to Newmarket several times to calm the horse and practise getting him quietly into the starting stalls.

Dubai Star goes into the stalls Dubai Star goes into the stalls After his usual negotiations with the racecourse officials at Kempton, Gary was down by the start for 6.10pm race ‘The £25 Free Bet at BetVictor.com Maiden Stakes”: “It’s going into the gladiator ring – it’s a challenge every time.  When it comes off it’s great.”

Gary draped Dubai Star’s hindquarters with one of the lightly padded stalls rugs he designed himself to stop horses bumping their ribs or stifles on the stalls.  The rug is designed to stay behind when the horse jumps out of the stalls.

He led Dubai Star in perfectly easily and the horse looked quite calm: “The calmer I am, the calmer the horse will be. But I am firm.”

Gary keeping Dubai Star calmGary keeping Dubai Star calmBut behind the stalls things were going badly with some of the other entries.  One horse never made it into the stalls at all and another went in most unwillingly – delaying the start by crucial minutes.

After about four minutes waiting, Gary had to move out of the stall beside Dubai Star where he had been reassuring the horse and making it feel comfortable.  

A cross Dubai Star taken out of the stallsA cross Dubai Star taken out of the stallsThen, when the delay reached about six minutes, Dubai Star had had more than enough and reared up hitting his head on the top bar of the stalls.  Gary pulled Buick clear.  The horse was brought out backwards and the race started without him.

Gary was very despondent.  And people I spoke to as we made our way back from the start were indignant there had been such a long delay.  As one punter put it: “That was a most unfair way to treat a jumpy horse.”

Driving back to Burbage Gary was pretty depressed: “I’m a perfectionist.  That’ll screw me up for a week.”  John Gosden came on the phone and was calm and understanding about the unfortunate start to Dubai Star’s racing career. His calm voice must have taken some of the sting out of Gary’s anguish.

A disconsolate Gary leads Dubai Star away from the startA disconsolate Gary leads Dubai Star away from the startGary told Gosden he wanted to put Dubai Star through a stalls test.  That took place ten days later at Newmarket.  It’s a test in front of race officials and the horse has to enter the stalls and stand quietly for one minute.  Dubai Star passed the test and would be allowed to enter another race.

And so he was entered for that Pontefract race to be ridden by Roger Havlin, understudy to stable jockey Buick at Gosden’s Clarehaven yard.  And there to see Dubai  Star successfully into the stalls was Gary Witheford’s son, Craig.

Now he has conquered his fear of the starting stalls, he could well be a horse to watch next season.

At most of Britain’s racecourses and many overseas courses too, Gary Witheford is well known to owners, starters, stalls teams, trainers – he is often known as “the stalls man”.   He has made a successful business out of calming wilful horses and getting them to go quietly into the starting stalls.

The practise stalls on the gallopsThe practise stalls on the gallopsIn fact, Gary Witheford’s company, Witheford Equine, does much more than train horses for the stalls and attend at the start of flat races.  And though he prefers the term ‘natural horsemanship’ for his skills, he is a ‘horse whisperer’ – it says so on the cover of his fascinating book.

Trainers also use Gary to ‘break in’ young horses.  That is another term Gary would rather we did not use: he prefers ‘starting’ young horses. As during his process he does not ‘break’ anything.  He can do in twenty minutes or so what takes several weeks by traditional ways of ‘breaking’ horses and he ‘starts’ between 400 and 500 young horses a year....and they're off!...and they're off!

Trainers send their horses to Gary’s yard near Burbage – sometimes just for the morning and sometimes for residential care.  They are shown how easy it is to go into the stalls.  Then they go up to Gary’s gallops and get to jump out of the stalls at full stretch.

Not happy with the stallsNot happy with the stallsOne day when I was at the yard he had a really very unruly horse from a local trainer.  This horse played up terribly in the stalls – so much so that it scraped itself a little.  But Gary was determined to see it right.

The vet was called, but the horse was none the worse for his tantrum and would be coming back to get Witheford Equine’s whispering treatment.  One day he too will go on and win a race – at Pontefract or some other racecourse where Gary and Craig are trying to show the authorities that there are other ways of getting horses into the starting stalls than by manhandling them in like some many sacks of potatoes.

You can find out more about Gary Witheford’s technique and about his new book here at Marlborough News Online.

 

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Greatwood announces death of Spirit Son – the racehorse that recovered from a broken neck

 

Spirit Son - in his hurdling daysSpirit Son - in his hurdling daysThe French-bred racehorse Spirit Son was a successful 5-year-old when he suffered an unexplained collapse.  The gelding, owned by Michael Buckley and trained by Nicky Henderson, had four wins from five starts and was fancied to win the Champion Hurdle at the 2011 Cheltenham Festival.

However, a tendon injury ruled him out of the race.  He recovered and was sent away to recuperate and get him ready for a return to racing.

Then disaster struck. Spirit Son was found collapsed on the floor of his stable.  Nicky Henderson rushed down from Scotland to see what could be done.  

The horse could not get up – and people feared the worst. But he rallied and was soon able to stand while being supported.

About six weeks after his collapse, he was well enough to be taken to the O’Gorman Slater Main equine hospital in Newbury where a scan revealed he had a neck fracture.  For a more precise diagnosis he was taken for a CT scan which revealed he had two fractures – one each side of his neck.

As Nicky Henderson wrote in the Racing Post:  “There were two known surgeons who could perform an obviously extremely complicated and undoubtedly dangerous operation, one in the USA and one, John Walmsley, in Hampshire, who luckily was prepared to perform what was going to be a huge task with major risks involved. But it was the only option.”

An operation under general anaesthetic was tricky for a horse that was still recovering his balance and strength.  But a most unusual surgical procedure was carried out using metal implants.  And it was successful and Spirit Son recovered.

As Henderson wrote:  “The prognosis for racing always has been and still is very low, but he deserved a chance to have a life, whether it’s on a racecourse or in another role.”

He was not to race again and Spirit Son arrived at the Greatwood charity for retired racehorse at Clench Common near Marlborough on November 6 last year.  Announcing his death, Greatwood said that his condition had deteriorated during the summer months and he had to be put to sleep this morning – October 8.

 

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At the top of his sport, Andrew Nicholson stays focused on his eventing horses

 

Sometimes you pick up a book about a sportsman’s life – whether autobiography or ghosted biography or a bit of both – and you wonder whether it might not be a tad too soon for this person to warrant a book.  You could never think that about Marlborough-based Andrew Nicholson and his new book Focused.

He has, after all, been representing New Zealand in the Olympic Games for 30 years.  He was the world’s top eventer in 2013 and in that year topped the British eventing standings for the fifteenth time.

The book is published during an eventing season in which he has scored two unrivalled hat-tricks – winning Barbury and Burghley three times in a row with the same horse, the amazing Avebury.

Focused is subtitled My Life in Pictures and it has an excellent collection of photographs from his youth in New Zealand up to recent triumphs.  

It was written with Catherine Austen who used to report for Horse and Hound: “We’ve looked at thousands of images and selected some really interesting ones – not just pretty shots of horses jumping fences, but ones that tell a story and show the progression he has made as a competitor and a horseman.”

Andrew Nicholson, now aged 53, told Marlborough News Online that he wanted the book to have a balance of the bad days and the good days: “It shows what you have to go through to get to the good days.”

His introduction reveals much of the horseman he has become.  And he is frank about his ambition to be number one in the world, “but first and foremost I have to make a living”:

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury at Barbury (2014)Andrew Nicholson & Avebury at Barbury (2014)“It was this basic necessity that started my involvement with horses, breaking in young thoroughbreds for trainers in New Zealand and then working as a farrier at the age of 15.  I then progressed to earning money from training and selling horses, and finally from the prize-money.  The financial principle is the same today.”

The book makes it very clear that top eventing riders do not just ride their top horses in top events.  In order to bring young horses on, they need to go to many of the lower ranked events and to competitions that cater especially for less experienced horses.

And that’s where travel comes in: “The travelling is what I find gets me down.”  At the busiest part of the season, he may only be at home on Mondays: travel on Tuesday, vet inspection on Wednesday, competing Thursday to Sunday, usually getting home late on Sunday.


Among the intriguing photographs in the book is one of Nicholson with his four eventing four star winners.  Nicholson writes: “You can see that they are all different shapes, but what’s more interesting is how much more different they are to each other when they are not eventing fit.”

“Quimbo looks the most thoroughbred of the quartet, even though he probably has the least thoroughbred in him; Mr Cruise Control looks like a gigantic hunter; Nereo stays reasonably elegant, while in the middle of winter Avebury looks like a hairy kid’s pony.”

Avebury - after a good rollAvebury - after a good rollOne of the books main attractions is the way Nicholson writes so clearly about his horses and their idiosyncrasies.

Nereo & Avebury - doing their own thingNereo & Avebury - doing their own thingWhen Marlborough News Online visited Andrew Nicholson’s Westwood Stud near Marlborough, Avebury was not looking very much like the smart horse that enters the dressage arena with such aplomb.  Alongside Nereo, Avebury bred by Nicholson and born when he was based near Devizes in 2000, was out in the field enjoying some well-earned R and R.  

As Nicholson said, he was ‘being a horse again’ – so much so that the two horses avoided eye contact with Nicholson just in case he had come to take them away from the freedom of the field and put them inside again.

I asked Andrew Nicholson whether he agreed that too much emphasis in eventing was now put on the dressage stage of competitions: “It’s starting to change back to cross country. This season at WEG [World Equestrian Games], Badminton and Burghley cross country played the major part.  Ten years ago you could get away with a rubbish dressage.  Now you have to be good at all three stages – because the standard has come up so much.”

Nicholson is not sure whether he will go to the Rolex Kentucky event which starts the new season in April 2015.  He won it in 2013 with Quimbo.  But last year Avebury was decidedly off-colour after his first trip by air: “Avebury felt flat – I don’t know whether he didn’t like the plane or didn’t like America!”

Jet Set IVJet Set IVTwo of the season’s final eventing competitions are in France.  Le Lion d’Angers championships are for young horses.  He will be taking Jet Set IV for the seven year-olds’ competition and Swallow Springs for the six-year olds’ competition.

Then he goes to the season’s finale, the four star competition at Pau.  Nicholson won that in 2012 with Nereo.  This year he is taking Qwanza the eleven-year-old mare he rode to seventh place at Kentucky in 2012.  Last year they came to grief at Luhmühlen…

…and which is the family’s favourite photograph in the book?  I assumed it would be the happy family groups of the children on their ponies.  But as we left, a small voice said that his favourite photograph was the one of “Daddy in the water” – and there it is: Andrew Nicholson and Qwanza all but submerged after falling at the first water complex on the Luhmühlen cross country course last year.  

It shows vividly that even the best of eventers have those bad days: “You see”, he said with a broad grin, “what I have to put up when I get home!”

You will have to buy the book to see that photo of Andrew Nicholson.

Focused – Andrew Nicholson My Life in Pictures – with a foreword by Captain Mark Phlillips (Racing Post Books) £20.

[To enlarge photos click on them - then <&>]

 

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