There is now another King training racehorses on the Marlborough Downs. This is Neil King who held the first open day at his Ridgeway Racing yard on Sunday (September 14) at Upper Herdwick Farm just east of Barbury Castle.
From the top of Ridgeway Racing’s new all-weather gallop you can look over toward the other King’s yard and glimpse Alan King’s gallops and the Barbury Horse Trials grounds. The landscape of Neil King’s 300 acre training area is truly amazing – with views across it and beyond it to hold the eye whatever the weather.
Neil and his wife Clare only arrived in Wiltshire from his previous Newmarket yard at the end of July. Already he and his staff – some moved with him from Newmarket and some are new, local hires – have transformed the yard and gallops, developing the yard he took over from its previous occupant, trainer Jim Old.
The covered training ring is now more spacious and has a floor of waxed sand recycled from Wolverhampton’s all-weather track. They have a new horse walker and have renovated the three staff bungalows.
At the open day, Neil King told the owners – including many from the yard’s ownership syndicate, the Racing for Fun Partnership – that he had already benefitted from the chalk downs’ ability to absorb rain. The rains of August, he said, would have kept him off his Newmarket grass for many days.
Open days are mainly about horses. King brought a handful from Newmarket and has been busy assembling new owners and buying new horses. He trains for the National Hunt (NH) jump season, but has already had winners from Upper Herdwick farm in this summer’s NH flat races.
Helping the staff lead out the horses was Trevor Whelan – first jockey for the yard. King said Whelan had been “key to many of our successes this season.” He rode 17 out of the yard’s 25 winners – as well as another 12 winners for other trainers. This put him third in the conditional jockey’s title.
Thirty-five horses were paraded for the visitors – among them horses for sale and horses to watch this coming National Hunt season all with the added plus of their local interest. In the best tradition of taking a pin to select a horse from the race card, here are five of the horses currently at Neil King’s yard – just a sample:
|LOOKS LIKE MAGIC – is a five-year-old grey gelding owned by Mark and Tracy Harrod. Neil King bought him for them in November 2012. In summer 2013 he ran a creditable fourth at Stratford. Last June he had an unsuccessful outing at Fontwell. But he is now looking good for the autumn. He is a very attractive looking horse.|
|MERCERS COURT – a six-year-old bay gelding. Since April he has twice come second at Fontwell. But at the third attempt, when set to win, he jinked to the side and unseated Trevor Whelan for a painful fall. Neil King reckons he has a future as “a nice chaser in due course.” Owned by David Nott, Ken Lawrence & Tim Messom.|
|ZEROESHADESOFGREY – is a five-year-old grey gelding from Ireland. Last year, having been turned out for the summer, he came back, says King, “looking twice the horse he was.” He won two bumpers early this year and is “an exciting hurdler for the new season.” Owned by Mrs J.K.Buckle.|
|TOWN MOUSE – is a four-year-old chestnut gelding. After four disappointing runs, he came good a year ago at Huntingdon at 50-1: “I think it was quite a good race he won there, and he has since confirmed this was no fluke, finishing second at Kempton and winning again at Huntingdon.” He won again at Huntingdon in November 2013. This year he has come home fourth in two of his five races. But you are not likely to find a bookie giving 50-1 on him now. Owned by Brian bell & John Smith.|
|TENDER SURPRISE – a five-year-old bay filly. She has had her problems while in training, but is now, says King, “in the form of her life”. And to prove it in July she won two hurdle races at Uttoxeter meetings. She may run at Plumpton this coming Sunday (September 21) – one to watch. Owned by David Howes.|