Lizzie Kelly in her mother's racing colours - at Newbury earlier in 2015Conditional jockey Lizzie Kelly, who works full-time for trainer Neil King at his Burderop yard near Barbury Castle, made racing history on Saturday (December 26) becoming the first woman jockey to win a British Grade One jumps race.
She brought Tea for Two home to win the three mile Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton by four lengths. The six year-old bay gelding is trained by her step-father Nick Williams and owned by her mother Jane Williams with Len Jakeman.
Kelly, who is 22 years-old, has been riding Tea for Tea in races since April 2013 - a total of fourteen outings. Her first race on Tea for Two was a National Hunt Flat Race at Wincanton which she won by one-and-a-half lengths.
After the race she told Channel 4 Racing "I'm delighted to do it on this horse. He showed what he is worth today." Channel 4 Racing's Gina Harding tweeted: "What a treat to interview Lizzie Kelly making history as the 1st Lady jockey to win a Grade 1 over jumps. What an achievement." To which Lizzie Kelly replied: "Thank you!"
Recently retired jockey Hayley Turner tweeted: "Wow...no steering job. Take a bow." Lizzie Kelly's mother stressed that Tea for Two is no easy ride and commentators praised the race Kelly rode.
The pair had won in great style at Exeter over two miles and three furlongs earlier in the month - Tea for Two's chase debut.
The appearance of Tea for Two in Saturday's prestigious race had been planned for a long time - and Lizzie Kelly said she has warned her boss (Neil King) long ago that she could not ride any of his Boxing Day entries.
Kelly told Channel 4 Racing that she could not go out celebrating on Saturday night as she would be back at Kempton on Sunday with two rides. But what are the odds of the pair returning to Kempton next year for the King George VI chase?
Lizzie Kelly leads out Golden Thread at Neil King's Open Day last September
Last Friday: Andrew Nicholson with AveburyWhen Andrew Nicholson opens his front door he is smiling - is it a good news smile? "I've been riding this morning." That is very good news indeed.
New Zealand eventer Andrew Nicholson, who suffered a very serious neck injury in a fall during the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park in August, is back in the saddle. For the past week he has been riding daily dressage exercises at his stables just west of Marlborough.
He had a scan at the beginning of last week, and on Wednesday (December 9) his surgeon at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, Jeremy Reynolds, was "very positive" and gave him the all clear to ride again. Nicholson told Marlborough News Online that all the bits of his neck are still in the right place: "What the surgeon did was unbelievable. Mr Reynolds is a very clever man."
For now he is sticking to dressage and keeping it "calm and quiet for a bit longer". But he says it feels "very comfortable" to be back riding and schooling on the dressage arena.
Nicholson knows that he has been very lucky. In 98 per cent of cases that severe an injury to his neck would have caused paralysis: "What I did was a very serious thing to do to your neck. Now the flexibility in my neck is improving all the time."
He fell from nine-year-old Cillnabradden Evo at the final fence of the cross country course during the CIC 3* competition at Gatcombe Park on August 9. He had already ridden four horses round that cross country course - and after Cillnabradden Evo he would have taken Perfect Stranger and Nereo over the course.
Now he is taking it week by week and there are 'ifs' and 'mights' to overcome: "I never doubted I'd be back riding. I'd like to get back to competing - I don't have to rush it. If I feel I'm not as good as I used to be I won't do it. I might jump and think I'm getting nervous - who knows."
...and with NereoNicholson has eighteen horses at his stables. They range from the veteran competition winners like fifteen year-olds Avebury (with whom he has won the Barbury feature class four years running and a Burghley hat-trick) and Nereo (voted the world's best eventing horse in 2013) and the twelve-year-old mare Quanza onto the three and four-year-olds just starting their journey to the higher level competitions.
While he has been recovering he has had two young riders - one English and one French - exercising his horses in return for tuition: "They've done a very good job. The horses I have here will be fit to start competing next year - whether it's with me or other riders."
The owners of his squad of horses and his family have been very supportive - especially his wife, Wiggy: "It's very tough on Wiggy - I'm sure she'd prefer me not to sit on a horse again."
"Riding horses is dangerous - you mustn't shy away from that fact. When it's all going smoothly it's fine - but when it goes wrong...half a ton is quite a lot of horse to have landing on you."
He's studied how people fall off animals. While he was recuperating he watched a lot of horse racing: "Jump jockeys expect to take a fall in one out of ten rides."
He also watches Pro Bull Riding from the USA on Sky's Extreme Sport Channel: "That's got to be among the most dangerous things there is. The bulls are massive - and after the eight seconds riders have to stay on - well, the bulls don't stop for them - they just have to fall off."
His family can be assured that he will not be tempted by horse racing or bull riding.
2016 looms and as the rider who has competed in six Olympics Games for New Zealand and helped them win three Olympic medals, the question will return of Nicholson's position in New Zealand's eventing team.
It's a relationship that's been none too happy: "I wouldn't want to go to the Olympics if I wasn't as good as before. If I'm back competing and they want me, I'd have to think about it."
Sally introduces Sergeant Dick - 10-year-old owned by Connect EightShe finally got her trainer's licence last month - taking over Andy Turnell's Broad Hinton yard - and now, to mark her takeover, Sally Randell has held her first Owners' Day - on a windy day below Hackpen Hill with just a threatening spatter of rain.
Owners and members of syndicates gathered on Sunday (December 6) to see six of the horses in training put through their paces on the all-weather track and over jumps.
Leading them were Brodie Hampson on Lee Power's Driftashore and Ben Poste on a new arrival at the yard, five-year old Mandy's Boy - training for the 'Keeping the Dream Alive' Syndicate.
Sally Randell had been Assistant Trainer to Andy Turnell who is retiring after a stroke affected his right side. It's a real case of changing places as Andy Turnell is taking on the role of Sally Randell Racing's Assistant Trainer - keeping his experienced eye on the yard's horses.
Then Sally Randell introduced a parade of the fourteen horses she has in full training - and they include some younger horses with exciting prospects.
The yard's next entries will run - ground permitting - at Taunton on Thursday: Goal (a seven year-old gelding - owned by Mark Hampson and ridden by his daughter Brodie Hampson) and Bel Ami Rich (a five-year-old gelding owned by Paul Rich.)
In the barn with owners' colours Sally RandellKate Leahy with Bel Ami RichAndy Turnell watches the parade
Sally Randell's Horses to Watch:
Driftashore (left with Brodie Hampson) & Mandy's Boy (with Ben Poste)Mandy's Boy: a five-year-old Irish-bred bay gelding. Stable name - Mandy: "Just joined us. Won on the flat and over hurdles for Ian Williams. Well handicapped and ready to run later this month. Jumps really well - so we are excited he will go novice chasing for us."
Driftashore: eight-year-old Irish-bred bay gelding. Stable name - Drifter: "Purchased from Ireland in 2013 and bolted up in his first point-to-point when I was training him. Won his maiden hurdle impressively at Ffos Las for Andy last April with Brodie aboard. Rated 130 and we will be excited to see him run in some Saturday races this winter."
Aristocracy Aristocracy: a four-year-old bay gelding. Stable name - Alfy: "Placed in all his juvenile hurdles last year before winning a handicap hurdle at Wincanton last November ridden by Brodie Hampson. Going really well." Then he was pulled up at Uttoxeter on November 14 - Sally says: "He hasn't ran over hurdles in a while so it blew the cobwebs out and a drop down in grade will help for his next race."
Versant - with Sam BurtonVersant: three-year-old bay gelding. Stable name - Vic: "Unraced half brother to the Godolphin owned True Story who rated 112 on the flat! In Sam Burton's opinion having ridden out on Vic: 'He is a machine!' He will be aimed at juvenile bumpers around Christmas."
Click on photos to enlarge them...
Smad Place with owners at each end of the group, Alan King second from right and Wayne HutchinsonYou can watch Racing UK's coverage of the final moments of Smad Place's "rout" on the Hennessy twitter feed.
The eight-year-old grey gelding Smad Place who is trained at Alan King's Barbury Castle yard, won the 59th running of the Hennessy Gold Cup Steeple Chase (Handicap) at Newbury (November 28) over three miles and two furlongs of decidely sticky ground. It was a truly convincing victory.
Owned by Mrs Peter Andrews, trained by Alan King and ridden by his stable jockey Wayne Hutchinson, Smad Place jumped fantastically from the off and won by 12 lengths over Theatre Guide.
Home by a neck in third place was First Lieutenant. The Paul Nicholls trained favourite Saphir Du Rheu and the Hennessy's 2012 winner Bobs Worth were both unplaced.
This victory on the final day of Newbury's three-day bet365 Festival was King's second recent winner in a major handicap chase - after Annacoty's win in Cheltenham's Paddy Power Gold Cup.
Jumping to Hennessy victoryBut the yard has had recent sadness too - with the death following a car crash on the A346 near Ogbourne Downs Golf Club of one of the yard's staff, John Goggin.
“It’s been," Alan King said after the race, "a tough week for the yard. We lost a lad in a car crash and this means a lot. Here’s to John, but it doesn’t bring him back.”
Smad Place was fifth in last year's Hennessy. His victory this year makes him the sixth grey to win the historic race in its fifty-nine years.
Alan King sketched out his future plans for Smad Place's: "He won't be entered for the Grand National, but he will have to have an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Smad Place has his confidence back - he won't have a lot of racing this season - one run before the Cheltenham Festival - he won't go for the King George."
Alan King Racing staff watch in trepidationTravelling Head Lad Matt Howells holding the rug - Assistant Trainer Oliver Wardle on the rightHe's made it...Joy...and relief
Hutchinson said of the ride: "He never missed a beat." He is now quoted at 16-1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Alan King, Wayne Hutchinson and the Hennessy Gold CupSmad Place had won his first outing of the season at Kempton on November 2 in a two mile and four-and-a-half furlong chase. He won by eight lengths over Fingal Bay and it was noted then that his jumping was good.
Before the race Alan King had said Smad Place was a much stronger candidate - especially after an operation to repair a trapped epiglottis. King told the Racing Post: "We've got a prep into Smad place this time, which is important, both to make sure he's fit enough and to boost his confidence. Wayne and I have been thrilled with his schooling and I'm fairly relaxed groundwise."
In Saturday's Racing Post, Stuart Riley described Smad Place as "...one of those unfortunate and overlooked souls whose reputation fails to match his CV. Third in two World Hurdles and second in an RSA chase, he seems the living proof of Bill Shankly's assertion "second is nowhere", but getting weight from several of his rivals today looks his best chance of a big success."
Smad Place can no more a saddled with that Shankly jibe - and you can be sure Mr Riley is glad he added the 'but...'.
Alan King's other entry in the Hennessy was Ned Stark - brought in at eighth place by Denis O'Regan. [Click on photos to enlarge them.]
Smad Place led out of the saddling box - Alan King on the rightMudfree: in the ring before the race
Smad Place before the Hennessy Gold Cup (2015)The tough grey Smad Place is listed among the ten possible runners in the King George VI chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
Trained by Alan King at his Barbury Castle yard, the eight-year-old gelding Smad Place caused headline astonishment with his twelve length victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury at the end of last month.
Smad Place will have to equal the Hennessy-George VI double set in 1998 by Teeton Mill - another grey gelding. Trained by Venetia Williams, Teeton Mill won the Hennessy by fifteen lengths.
The five-day entries for this year's King George VI include Cue Card - favoured after his win in the Betfair Chase at Haydock. There are two strong Irish challengers - Don Cossack and Vautour. And Sliviniaco Conti will be aiming to make it a hat-trick of victories in the race - a feat not achieved since Desert Orchid and Kauto Star.
Will we see Smad Place - owned by Mrs Peter Andrews - in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in March? One expert writing in the Racing Post reckons that if he loses on Boxing Day, Alan King will go for a shorter race at the Cheltenham Festival - perhaps the Ryanair Chase.
That Festival Grade One chase over two miles and five furlongs was won this year by the Alan King trained Uxizandre with AP McCoy aboard.
On Boxing Day many eyes will be on Smad Place to see if he can claim the King George in the challenging style of that other 'little grey horse' Desert Orchid who won it four times - the first time by fifteen lengths.
Sir Mark Todd - and friendIt may be the off-season for eventing in Britain, but it's a very busy time for Sir Mark Todd - a founding director of the Marlborough-based equine feed company Keyflow, technical adviser to the Brazilian national team and, of course, a long serving stalwart of New Zealand's national team - with six Olympic Games and two gold medals to his credit.
He is recently back from one of his visits to Brazil to advise at their 3* qualifying competition for the Olympics. And he is back too from Cornwall where Keyflow launched its new feed product with the eye-catching name Pink Mash - more of which later.
When Marlborough News Online visited Sir Mark's Badgerstown headquarters on the edge of the Marlborough Downs, it was blowing a gale and he was a bit worried about his horses crossing the channel on their way to the Geneva Horse Show for Saturday evening's Rolex indoor cross country competition.
Sir Mark moved to Badgerstown immediately after the 2012 London Games - and he loves it there. It's good for transport links and is in wide open country - space for grass and all-weather gallops and a cross country course.
Sir Mark invested in Keyflow Feeds when it was first set up by fellow New Zealander Cam Price three years ago to provide a 'super-premium' range of feeds and supplements designed by world renowned equine nutritionists. "Nutrition", Sir Mark says, "is a big part of high performance horses."
"There has to be a reason to change from one brand to another" and he explains how Cam Price visits all areas of the country advising people on nutrition - and putting forward the technical details of Keyflow's way to improve a horse's long-term health and performance.
Sir Mark in his feed store of Keyflow productsSpecialising in feed and supplements for sporting horses, Keyflow has Key Riders who support the brand: Sir Mark and his New Zealand compatriots Jonelle and Tim Price, with Canadian star Rebecca Howard represent the eventing world. And from show jumping Keyflow has the Whitaker Brothers (John and Michael) with Jack Whitaker (Michael's son) and Yorkshire's Ria Scott - all British riders.
Another joint enterprise with Keyflow is The Mark Todd Bridging the Gap scholarship scheme. It is run by British Eventing with the support of the Mark Todd Collection (his horse equipment and clothing brand) and Keyflow. The scheme helps riders moving towards Advanced/2* eventing level or towards a more established 3* level - there is no particular age limit.
The scheme has experienced trainers - Jill Watson and Lizzel Winter - and applicants attend a series of training days. The latest winner was Tim Cheffings from Tiverton. He's receiving a mentoring programme, a year's supply of Keyflow Feeds and goods from the Mark Todd Collection.
Sir Mark told Marlborough News Online: "It gives them a boost and a leg up. It's an expensive and tough sport to get into - this is a way for us to put something back into the sport over here."
Sir Mark's work with the Brazilian eventing team began after the last Olympics. The home team wanted to put on a good show for the Rio crowds - and some of the leading Brazilian riders have spent time at Badgerstown.
Eventing is quite a new and small-scale sport in Brazil. Competitions can have as few as nine entrants. And - like many other eventing teams - as the Games approach they will be at the mercy of injured or non-performing horses.
The outlook for both British and New Zealand Olympic teams is fairly open. Both teams have key riders recovering from serious injuries: Wiliam Fox-Pitt for Britain and Andrew Nicholson for New Zealand.
Pink MashKeyflow riders feature well in the international rankings list. The current rankings name Tim Price as third in the world with Sir Mark at sixth position.
Kewflow have been expanding fast this year. Sir Mark says they can only just keep pace with the orders. They are working hard to expand their network of stockists so people can buy their feeds quickly and easily, all over the country.
Which brings us to the new and innovative Pink Mash with its beetroot and super fibre. It is specially aimed at maintaining a horse's healthy hind gut which is critical for health and performance. It soaks in 5-10 minutes and can be used as a partial replacement for hay or forage.
Sir Mark is 'very excited about it': "It's new, it's different and it's a very good product." You can ask Keyflow for a free sample.
And the 55th Concours Hippique International de Geneva? Sir Mark on his 14-year-old grey gelding Landvision came tenth out of the nineteen international riders. And not too far behind was Brazil's Ruy Fonesca on Korsica in fourteenth place.
Sir Mark raises his eyebrows: "I can't believe the London Olympics were nearly four years ago. And the next eight months to Rio will fly by!"
Double Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton took another step on her 'changing saddles' challenge in her second point-to-point ride at the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association meeting at a very wet Barbury Racecourse on Sunday (December 6.)
She rode According to Sarah in the AGA Ladies Open race. One experienced racing correspondent tweeted that she was 'comfortable and in control' and later wrote she was 'growing in confidence'.
But after coming up to join the leaders, the seven-year-old mare tired and Victoria pulled her up two fences from home.
In October she came off during a flat race at Newbury - and was none the worse for her fall. Last month she rode her first race over jumps at the Black Forest Lodge point-to-point in Devon. Again she pulled up before the second to last fence.
Victoria Pendelton's challenge is being sponsored by Betfair and she has been schooling with Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls' horses. Last Thursday Nicholls reported that he was nearly rundown and she nearly came unstuck when Ceasar Milan decided not to take a jump during schooling at Nicholls' yard.
Victoria Pendleton may be riding next Sunday (December 13) at the Hursley Hambledon point-to-point at Larkhill.
It has been a long and frustrating few months. Now Sally Randell Racing of Broad Hinton is official - and officially licensed.
She has been assistant trainer to Andy Turnell and today (November 19) she declares Sir Albie for his National Hunt flat race at Haydock on Friday - he will be the first horse running in her name as his licensed trainer.
Sally Randell applied to the British Horseracing Authority for her trainer's license back in July. She got her NVQ Level 3 in horse management and she did the required modules at the British Racing School in Newmarket - alongside Richard Hughes.
Like Hughes, Sally is a jockey turned trainer. After five years with the Royal Artillery, she became the first woman to win Sandown's Grand Military Gold Cup - and after winning it twice more, retired from the saddle and started training point-to- pointers.
She came to the Broad Hinton yard a year after Andy Turnell suffered a stroke and had had to close the yard. As assistant trainer, she helped re-open it and has been bringing more owners and horses to the yard.
Most of the Sally Randell Racing team - l to r: Emma Owen, Sally Randell, Gerald Burton, Sam Burton, Kate Leahy and Brodie HampsonIn those months she has been gathering a team to work under Andy and ready for when her license came through. The yard will be sponsored by the Jigsaw women's dress chain.
Gerald Burton is her yard manager. He was an amateur jockey for twenty years, worked as travelling head lad for local trainer Jim Old on the Barbury Castle downs, and started his own training yard for point-to-pointers. In his spare time he enjoys training his children's ponies to race.
Emma Owen is Sally's racing secretary. She has a degree in nutrition from Nottingham University. She has her own small yard - Coldharbour Grazing near Faringdon. Her main interest is in breeding and hopes to expand the stud side of her yard over the next few years: "I also enjoy competing with my own two horses in British Dressage and British Eventing."
Brodie Hampson is an amateur jockey with a Category B licence - which allows her to ride against professional jockeys in National Hunt races. She started riding point-to-pointers while Sally was training them. On the flat she has had 30 rides with five winners and seven placings.
Over jumps Brodie has had 38 rides with seven winners and ten placings: "Looking to the future I hope to progress to riding a lot more winners and riding for different trainers and owners - and hope to turn professional once I have achieved everything I would like to as a an amateur."
Sam Burton (Gerald's son) has worked for Roger Charlton at Beckhampton and for Louise Carberry in France. He has raced ponies - and competed as part of the British team against Ireland in County Kerry. He has been working with Sally for over a year, has his amateur dual licence and looks forward to riding in point-to-points and under rules for Sally Randell Racing.
Kate Leahy studied horsemanship and equitation in college and when she was 18 first worked in racing for an Irish trainer. In May this year she began a fourteen week course at the British School of Racing - were she met Sally and was offered a job: "I am delighted to be a part of the team here at Sally's and next year I hope to take out my amateur licence."
James Best started racing on the flat - following in his grandfather's footsteps. But switched to the jumps and worked for Alan King and won an important amateur race at Cheltenham. Now he is a freelance jockey and rode 'a few winners' for Sally last season: "Target for this season is to ride out the last few winners of my [conditional jockey's] three pound claim. My aspiration for the future is to be in the top twenty jockeys in the country."
Tanya Charlton worked for eight years at Mick Channon's yard. She started working at Broad Hinton this year: In the future, I hope to start riding again and become a full time yard manager and maybe assistant trainer."
Laura Brown has worked in racing since she was sixteen - for Peter Taylor, Jeff King and then Andy Turnell. She now works for Wiltshire Council - and does the Saturday shifts and rides out for Sally.
Who is the other very important person in the team, the man with all the experience? Andy Turnell was a successful jockey for 19 years, a successful trainer for 34 years. He trained winners of the Grand National, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Hennessy and Whitbread - as well as a fourth in the Derby. He still likes to go racing and will still be involved in the running of the yard - as assistant trainer.
Coming soon: Sally Randell Racing's horses to watch.