Ashforth’s Angles: do horses care when they move yards?
Archie Watson: trainer of Feilden stable stalwart Attain
PICTURE: RP GRAPHICS Big question: do horses care when moving yards?
By David Ashforth 6:00PM 27 FEB 2017
SOMEONE probably knows the answer to this question but I don't. When a horse that has been in the same yard for a long time is moved to a different yard is it likely to be a) very bothered b) a bit bothered c) not bothered at all?
Perhaps it depends on how happy it's been at the yard it's been moved from, the same as when a child is moved from one school to another. The food may be better but the company worse, or the work harder or easier. There may be swimming available or walks through the woods. The horse's new rider may bounce around in the saddle more or the trainer shout less. Will the horse miss the horses it's lived with for years? Will the proverbial "change of scenery" perk the horse up or is that usually wishful thinking? There are a lot of variables to be taken into account.
What made me wonder was the sight of Attain's name next to that of trainer Archie Watson in a race at Lingfield (4.00). Somehow I expected that Attain would always be with Julia Feilden simply because he always had been. You saw Attain's name in the racecard and you knew that Feilden's name would be next to it and probably Shelley Birkett's next to that.
In 2011 Feilden bought Attain for 9,000 guineas. The unraced two-year-old was nicely bred, her dam being a sister to Derby winner Quest For Fame but it took Attain 24 tries before finally winning an amateur riders' race at Wolverhampton in 2014, ridden by Ross Birkett, Feilden's son.
Attain became a stable stalwart, winning six more times at a modest level, never winning more than £3,235 but regularly finishing in the frame and putting Shelley Birkett, Aaron Jones, Luke Rowe and Liam Doran in the winner's enclosure.
Then, on December 14 last year, Attain finished third in a seller at Lingfield and was claimed by Watson for £6,000. Watson, formerly assistant to William Haggas, was a new trainer building up his team. Attain moved from Newmarket to Lambourn.
Last month he won an amateur riders' race at Lingfield under Simon Walker and is currently rated 69, which suggests that he is as good as he has ever been. Is Attain happy in his new home? Happier than before? Less happy? Does he miss his old friends? Or is this all anthropomorphic nonsense and Attain doesn't care much who feeds him or rides him or which horses he's with, as long as he is fed and is with other horses?
The eight-year-old still has to prove that he stays the 1m5f trip and victory may elude him here, but it might be the day when the six-year-old Dukes Meadow, with Roger Ingram all his racing life, finally adds to his sole success.
Dukes Meadow has been crawling down the handicap and doing well enough to make him interesting from stall one, with Rhiain Ingram claiming 3lb in the apprentice race (Lingfield 4.30).
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