Fidelity with trainer Jonathan Geake
Fidelity is a five-year-old gelding who last month came second in two handicap hurdle races - and is certainly a jumps horse to watch.
Trained at East Kennett by Jonathan Geake, Fidelity is owned by Marlborough resident Mrs Ann Leftley.
On May 16 at Warwick, ridden by Ian Popham, he came home second of a field of sixteen, three-and-three-quarter lengths behind Paloma's Prince. Two weeks later, again under Ian Popham, he was second by three-quarters of a length in a two mile handicap hurdle at Huntingdon.
Fidelity - looking in grreat condition, very spry and interested when we visited the yard - may race again at Worcester on June 28 and will then be turned out into the fields for a rest.
Right now he is 'the star' of the East Kennett yard - all the more a stand-out horse because he was 'home bred'. Mrs Leftley still owns his dam - Sir Kyffin's Folly - who was also trained by Jonathan Geake.
Bought by Dr Peter and Mrs Leftley, Sir Kyffin's Folly is now 12-years-old. She did not have a successful racing career. She was unplaced in her nine races - recording her best performance in her first race - at Newbury in April 2008 when she came fifth.
Still at Jonathan Geake's yard, Sir Kyffin's Folly has had four foals and is now pregnant again. Fidelity is her second foal - her first did not do well, her third died very young after an accident and the fourth is now a yearling.
Fidelity's sire was Halling - a chestnut best known for completing the double-double of winning both the Eclipse Stakes (Sandown) and the International Stakes (York) in 1995 and 1996.
Bred in the United States and trained in Britain first by John Gosden and later by Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin Racing, Halling won 12 of the 18 races he ran - earning $1,332.651. He went to stud in 1997 - and died in Dubai in February 2016 'of old age'.
When Mrs Leftley and her late husband, Dr Peter Leftley, started owning horses one of their principles was that none of their racehorses should ever be sold. It is a principle Mrs Leftley still holds to. So after racing they are either kept as brood mares or are loaned on free leases to be team chasers or show horses - like Beware Chalk Pit who has become a prize winning show horse under the auspices of the Retraining of Racehorses organisation.
Horse in the spotlight
Belgian Bill, still with his ears backHere's a locally trained horse who started 2017 with three races in Dubai - chalking up two third places and a fourth place. Now the 2017 flat season awaits him:
Belgian Bill is a nine year-old bay horse trained at Manton by George Baker: "He's been a superstar for us - taking us round the world and across the seven seas. Just wonderful." George Baker - and Bill - have been at the Manton yard since December 2013.
He has raced in Dubai, Turkey, Germany, the USA, France - and at Britain's premier flat racing venues of Newmarket, Ascot and Goodwood. George Baker reckons his winnings and his travels make him a unique British racehorse.
He is a mile specialist. Last September at Turkey's Veliefendi racecourse, ridden by Fergus Sweeney, he won the International Anatolia Trophy by two lengths. It was his fourth appearance in the race: he had come second in 2011, fourth in 2012 and sixth in 2014.
In August 2015, his trip to the United States for the Arlington Million saw him facing 'unsuitably soft ground'. He came home seventh of the thirteen runners: "He was not", says his trainer, "at all disgraced."
Belgian Bill wins in Turkey on 3rd September 2016In August 2014 in the Betfred Mile at Goodwood he had come fifth of the seventeen runners - under jockey George Baker. He was separated from the £81,000 first prize by just three-quarters of a length.
Trainer George Baker: "Bill has been with us every step of the way and provided us with an unforgettable win at Ascot in the 2013 Royal Hunt Cup." In June (2017) he will be back at Ascot for another run at the Royal Hunt Cup.
This mile handicap for three year-olds and up is the highlight of day two of Royal Ascot and with up to thirty runners, usually provides an exciting finish. However, he will have to beat the wisdom of the 'experts' who say the race favours four to five year-olds.
Bill's sire was Exceed and Excel (AUS) and his dam Gay Romance (GB). He was bred by the Wickfield Stud and Hartshill Stud. His earnings have recently tipped over the half million mark.
One word of warning: he does like to take a nibble out of his admirers. Hence the ears back. But his trainer has a way with him - Bill likes to have his tongue rubbed.
Lets Hope SoHorse in the spotlight
Here's one to watch this summer - a newcomer to the Marlborough area:
Trainer Emma Lavelle has moved from her Hampshire stables to the Bonita Stables at Ogbourne Maizey. Most of her horses are out to grass for their summer break.
By the time they're back, the new stable blocks will be finished and it will no longer be a case of "It looks like a building site!"
Twenty-five of the carefully reconditioned boxes are already in use. One is occupied by the six year-old bay mare Lets Hope So who has a summer campaign ahead of her.
Lets Hope So with trainer Emma LavelleShe is owned by the Cottage Stables Racing Club.
Whereas the famous and now retired hurdler Big Buck's sported an infuriatingly unnecessary apostrophe, Lets Hope So seems to be a sub-editor's nightmare with her dropped apostrophe. Let's hope she puts any nightmares behind her.
She has had three outings - winning one and coming second in another. Then at Southwell on May 18 she ran in the Connolly's Red Mills Mares' 'National Hunt' Novices Hurdle - just under the two miles, with Daryl Jacob aboard and the going 'Good (good to soft in places)'.
The race comments read: "Tracked leaders, headway to dispute second - every chance when fell two out." Or in Emma Lavelle's words, when strong for a victory "She tipped her jockey off." Leaving the Alan King favourite Avispa to win.
But there's a summer ahead for her...keep watching.
Brodie Hampson with Mandy's Boy at LambournMandy's Boy
Mandy's Boy is a five-year old, Irish-bred bay gelding. He is spending the winter at Sally Randell's yard at Broad Hinton in the ownership of the 'Keeping the Dream Alive' syndicate.
In May last year he won over hurdles on good ground at Ludlow for trainer Ian Willams - just ahead of Don Padeja and Sunblazer (who was ridden by AP McCoy.)
This year he was placed in two late summer handicaps over hurdles - at Uttoxeter and Huntingdon, but had no form in two recent runs on the flat.
James Banks takes Mandy's Boy over the hurdles at LambournOn December 3 he returned to hurdling at Market Rasen - his debut outing from Sally Randell's yard. But in heavy going over two miles he came home last of the eight runners.
Then at Catterick on December 15 he was ridden into fourth place by stable jockey James Banks in a fifteen furlong handicap chase. On soft ground, he led two fences out, but soon lost his place to the eventual winner. He was overtaken by the second placed horse on the flat and then weakened to take fourth place. However, his connections were well pleased with his performance.
He now has a good handicap and has been jumping well both at Sally Randell's yard and on the Lambourn gallops. Watch out for further outings in the New Year.