Neil King with Lil Rockerfeller 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."
Trevor Whelan 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 conditional Lizzie Kelly at Newburyjockey, 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.
Southway StarZeroeshadesofgreyOther 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.
Tullius - with KVT colours - wins the 2014 Group 2 Bet365 MileIf you are interested in racing, or even obsessed by it, and have always wanted to feel the thrills of ownership, joining a syndicate and buying a share in a horse is a first step. Racing manager Sam Hoskins can certainly find you a share in one of the horses Kennet Valley Thoroughbreds (KVT.)
The KVT syndicate was started in 1988 by Nick Robinson - the man who helped get Robert Sangster into racing. He suggested Sangster put a bet on Chalk Stream - a good Wiltshire name. The horse did not win, but Sangster bought the horse as a gift for his fiancée.
Nick Robinson, now aged 77, was a pioneer of horseracing syndicates. He was the publisher of the racing industry's Pacemaker magazine, which has now merged with Thoroughbred Owner and Breeder magazine.
Last year Robinson handed over management of KVT to a very much younger man - 28-year-old Sam Hoskins. And he has now retired as KVT's Chairman - but still owns shares on some of KVT's horses. Over the years KVT have sent out 122 winners and earned £2.8million in prize money.
Sam Hoskins at Newbury Sam Hoskins became interested in racing when his grandmother owned half of Errant Knight - a chestnut gelding trained by Martin Pipe who won sixteen races in the early 1990s. Sam got a great thrill from leading him in after races.
When he was seventeen - and still at school - he found out how to lay off his bets. Then one day he forgot to lay off what was for him then a huge gamble - a £20 bet on the Nicky Henderson trained hurdler Geos. It was the 2004 running of Newbury's Tote Gold Trophy Hurdle. Faced with a field of 25 runners, Sam spent an agonising time waiting to lose his £20. But the horse won and he pocketed £400 - that hooked him on racing.
Sam Hoskins trained on the Irish National Stud course - a course that covers many aspects of racing: "I lost a stone and a half mucking out!" He then worked at studs in Kentucky and Cambridge, New Zealand where there is a mix of breeders, trainers, polo, eventers and racing: "I learnt the ropes there."
Back in Britain, he spent two and a half fulfilling years working for the Niarchos family - leading racehorse owners and breeders.
With that £400 win behind him, and a head for the niceties of breeding and form, he went on to win racing's lottery prize: he landed the Racing Post Ten-to-Follow Competition for the 2008-2009 jump season - a cool £440,000 win. It allowed him to set himself up in business.
In 2012 he started the Hot to Trot Racing Club with Luke Lillingston. This is more a racing members club than a syndicate. They lease horses rather than buying them and so can provide a much more affordable way into racehorse 'ownership'. Hot to Trot currently has seven horses.
The KVT silks Sam and Piers Winkworth are continuing KVT's regime of selling shares in single, named horses - 16 shares for each horse at around £7,000 per share. With trainers' fees at between £50 and £60 per day, it is an expensive business. But winnings and any money left over at the end of the season is returned to shareholders.
The syndicate has horses with trainers Andrew Balding, Charlie Hills, Ralph Beckett and Richard Hannon. It is mainly involved with young horses - buying at the yearling sales in the £30-50,000 range. This season they have four two year olds - three colts and a filly.
They have one 'old timer' - the much cherished syndicate star Tullius. He is an Irish bred seven year-old chestnut gelding trained by Andrew Balding at Kingsclere. On 25 April 2014, Tullius, with Jimmy Fortune aboard, ran on strongly to win Sandown's Group Two BET365 Mile by three and three-quarter lengths. That win was worth £53,800 to KVT.
And last month he won the Betway Doncaster Mile Stakes by half a length. But Jimmy Fortune could only bring him in fourth of a field of five in last Friday's (April 24) BET365 Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown - like humans, horses have to have 'off-days'.
Sam takes a realistic view of Tullius: "He's not the most straightforward horse. And we are already thinking ahead about ways to give him a good retirement after racing."
KVT horses earned their owners £238,477 in 2014: "Last year," Sam told Marlborough News Online, "was our most successful season for many years, mainly due to the fantastic year had by our star Tullius."
KVT's other horses for this flat season are: Bishop's Leap, Frenchman, Magical Memory, Match my Fire, Maxwell, Signal Hill and Stroke of Midnight.
Some people may find that joining a syndicate not only brings the thrill of winning, but also some doubts when something goes wrong with your horse. But the good days in the winner's enclosure always make up for any set backs.