Tim Price with 7-year-old novice DaisyAll eyes will be on the weather forecast for Wednesday's (May 6) start of Europe's first four star eventing competition of the season: the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
New Zealander Tim Price, based at Mere Farm, Mildenhall and just back from his second place with Wesko in the Kentucky competition, is one of those hoping for some dry weather. He's riding 12-year-old gelding Ringwood Sky Boy: "He's ready for a good performance. I'm hoping it'll be dry so he won't have to jump out of the mud."
Ringwood Sky Boy hit four star standard two years ago. And at last year's Badminton Tim rode him for the fastest cross country time - putting them in second place. But he had four rails down in the show jumping and they finished in ninth place. Then at Burghley in September they fell.
Tim got back from the United States on Monday and Wesko got back on Tuesday. Tim is really pleased with Wesko's Kentucky performance - but pretty cross not to make first place: "We so nearly made it - one rail down."
But second place was a handsome result. Kentucky is an expensive trip for eventers based in Europe. It costs about £20,000 to get horse and rider to the Kentucky arena: "You have to win or come second to pay for the trip."
Tim wanted to give Wesko "a bit of mileage in the sky" - if a horse shows it can cope with a long flight they will have put down a marker for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Jonelle Price takes a break from teachingTim's wife Jonelle Price is currently ranked second in the International Federation rankings as the world's leading lady rider. She is taking two horses to Badminton: "They're both fully experienced four star horses."
It was with twelve year-old mare Classic Moet - known to all at Mere Farm as Molly - that Jonelle took fourth place at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy last year.
Her other horse at Badminton will be the 13-year-old The Deputy - aka 'Hero'. They have done well at Burghley for the past two years - coming sixth and ninth. Last year at Badminton they retired.
Hero is one of Jonelle's favourite horses. He went to Kentucky in 2013 and then last year gave a fantastic performance at Burghley with a double clear for ninth place. He is certainly an experienced campaigner. As Jonelle puts it: "He's not a classical dressage horse, but excels at show jumping. We should be there or thereabouts."
This year entries for Badminton are a little down. 104 horses have been entered, which is 37 below last year's number of entries. And with some notable withdrawals, all the 'wait list' entries have got places in the draw - for the first time since 2008.
Several pairs have withdrawn as they were entered for both Kentucky and Badminton - in case their horses were not ready or fit for the earlier competition. However, Zara Phillips who had to withdraw High Kingdom in Kentucky after the horse got a knock, has also withdrawn from Badminton.
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.
Following his equal first dressage score at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event on Friday (April 24), Tim Price tweeted a photo of a calm and grazing Wesko: "Super happy with this pony!! Thanking ya'll for your support. Time to cross country up!!!!"
Without much ado and with rain affecting the course, Tim and Wesko, who are based near Marlborough at Mildenhall, rode a faultless cross country round. They remain top of the leaderboard with just the show jumping stage to come on Sunday (April 26.)
The Rolex Kentucky is one of the six highest rated four star eventing competitions held annually around the world. And with two of the three disciplines behind them Tim and Wesko hold a 0.4 of a penalty point lead over the German rider and Olympic Champion Michael Jung who is in second place on LA Biosthetique-Sam FBW and also in third place on Fischerrocana FST.
British entry and former winner of the event, William Fox-Pitt lies in fourth place on Bay My Hero.He was one of the last to compete on the cross country course and came home with 8.4 time faults.
Of the cross country's 71 starters, there were just six combinations clear and inside the optimum time, with 26 going clear but picking up time faults, 15 were eliminated and 10 retired on the course.
Elated by Tim Price's performance with Wesko, the New Zealand team also suffered a disappointment. Emily Cammock and Dambala rode a clear round with 11.2 time faults - moving them from 38th to 18th after the cross country.
However, she has to withdraw him from the showjumping: “After the second to last fence I felt something wasn’t quite right and as we pulled up at the end of the course it was obvious we had a problem,” said Cammock. She thinks an old injury has been revived by the softer ground.
General Manager of Al Basti Equiworld, Arun Menon with Greatwood Co-founders Helen & Michael Yeadon.Every year the spring sunshine brings Greatwood's retired racehorses out into the fields at Clench Common, just south of Marlborough - and after a winter being cared for mainly inside, they are looking very good indeed.
This spring has brought another very welcome development for Greatwood, the charity which combines delivery of pioneering education programmes with the rescue and rehabilitation of ex-racehorses. They have officially unveiled a brand new educational facility with the help of Al Basti Equiworld.
The Al Basti Equiworld Classroom will allow Greatwood to expand its teaching programmes which are specially designed to educate disadvantaged children and develop life skills in young adults with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).
Greatwood's new classroom was formally opened by Arun Menon, General Manager of Al Basti Equiworld, the United Arab Emirate’s leading distributor of horse feeds, supplements and veterinary products which has funded the project. Al Basti Equiworld’s contribution also extends to supporting the salary of a newly appointed teacher for the next three years.
Racehorse owner, sponsor and Founder of Al Basti Equiworld, Malih Al Basti said: "I was introduced to Greatwood last year and was immediately impressed by the work they are doing with horses and children. The charity is unique both in its approach to education and the rehabilitation of former racehorses no matter how severe the need."
"I am delighted with the way the classroom looks and hope it will help Greatwood to enrich the education of young people for many years to come."
Helen Yeadon, who founded Greatwood with her husband Michael in 1993 said: "We are enormously grateful to Al Basti Equiworld for their support of this project which will enable us to provide enriched learning opportunities to some of the most socially and educationally disadvantaged children in our community."
"We are also delighted to be welcoming a new team member in Jane Muir-Brooks our new SEND teacher whose appointment is as a direct result of Al Basti Equiworld’s support."
|Arun Menon joins Greatwood students in the new classroom with SEND teacher Jane Muir-Brooks (right)