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.