Ed Chamberlin: Finally Found
Ed Chamberlin talks about his extensive homework ahead of his new job, some top stable visits and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Found: Could be the one to be on at Chantilly
It's just over three months until ITV broadcast horse racing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Cheltenham will be the venue for the first show on January 1st 2017. What a perfect place to start. I went to the HQ of National Hunt racing last week to meet the hierarchy and have a look round the site. The place is in terrific shape, the track looks in sensational condition and Simon Claisse seemed absolutely delighted.
We discussed lots of exciting new ideas the ITV team have for the coverage and I was impressed that they were so receptive to those ideas and willing to embrace change. Now we have to hope the weather is kind to us on New Year's Day and my first interview with Mr. Claisse isn't to find out if racing can go ahead!
The trip to Cheltenham was just another part of my immersion in to the world of racing. I purposefully accepted no other work after the final Premier League game at Old Trafford in May as after 16 years of working in football, there are so many people I need to meet and so many things I need to learn about the great game of horse racing.
Over the next few weeks I have more trips planned up and down the country to different racecourses, stables, sales rings and studs. It's a steep learning curve but my word it's good fun and a fantastic challenge that I'm determined to throw everything at. Gary Neville always said to me; if you're going to do something, do it properly.
The highlight of that learning process so far was undoubtedly the three days the ITV team spent in Ireland over Irish Champions Weekend. The trip started with a fly-by visit to the Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud enroute to The Curragh to see the mercurial Sea The Stars. What a magnificent beast he is and what a success stud he is proving. Sea The Stars has a real aura about him now just as he did on the racecourse.
Irish Champions Weekend
From the Gilltown Stud it was on to The Curragh for day two of Irish Champions Weekend. The weekend is a winning format that must have other authorities around Europe scratching their heads. It's not hard to see the Irish Champion Stakes going from strength to strength. Its timing is perfect.
The Curragh itself is in urgent need of a face lift but provided a fantastic day's racing with Churchill, the O'Brien brothers and Willie Mullins' Wicklow Brave the stars of the show. The latter was perfect timing for us as we were due to visit his stable the next morning. After a proper celebration, the arrival time was put back a couple of hours.
"Aidan O'Brien talked about her at length and how the race at Leopardstown might bottom some horses, yet Found thrives on it. She gets better and better throughout the season and this is her time of year."
Ed Chamberlin on Arc fancy Found
What a thrill it was to tour the Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins' Closutton yard, meeting the plethora of superstars all housed under one roof. Wandering round admiring Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag, Douvan, Faugheen, Vautour et al was utterly surreal. I sense Yorkhill could be next on the conveyor belt of stars, while his firepower for the Sky Bet Supreme already looks frightening.
The vast horse power that is behind Closutton is certainly something to look forward to for the pending National Hunt season ahead and the introduction, albeit brief, to these stable stars has revved us all up for what lies ahead.
It was great to get the chance to quiz Willie about how he makes his operation work, particularly how he gets horses so fit on a relatively small piece of land without an undulation in sight. Walking on his all-weather gallop was like walking on sinking sand.
It was a fascinating insight from the master of his trade but having said that, much of the afternoon was spent discussing Manchester United and Jose Mourinho. Saturday's performance against Leicester will have put a smile on plenty of faces at Closutton.
From one genius to another, it was an early start the next day to get to Ballydoyle. What a place. What an operation. I was fortunate to spend the morning sitting in the passenger seat of Aidan O'Brien's Discovery watching, listening and mildly interrogating. Aidan could not have been more accommodating or helpful. I have never learnt so much about the sport in such a short space of time.
The champagne moment was travelling upside the horses as they worked on the all-weather gallop with Aidan communicating with each work rider via his walkie-talkie and their earpiece.
He gave us an extensive tour of each part of the yard and I was particularly blown away by the fillies' corner which housed Minding, Even Song, Seventh Heaven, Found and Alice Springs. Try putting a value on that set of stables.
The two-year-old that has the place buzzing is Caravaggio. He's clearly something very special. Capri was another to catch the eye and won the Group 2 Beresford Stakes well on Sunday providing a sixth consecutive win and 16th success in the contest for O'Brien.
Looking around the O'Brien's house is like touring a museum and the memorabilia from this season's Group Ones will take up more space than any other year. It's been a remarkable season, even by Ballydoyle's standards.
Final stop: Coolmore. Time to meet the mighty Galileo. While Sea The Stars looks like the perfect athlete with Lionel Messi's finesse, Galileo is the ultimate machine. A specimen like Ronaldo with Luis Suarez's tenacity and a massive heart. Mind you, Frankel could be the perfect combination of the two.
Galileo is all power and has passed on to his progeny his incredible bravery, toughness and will to win we saw at Epsom, The Curragh and Ascot in 2001.
We also got to see Camelot at Coolmore and his first crop are eagerly anticipated with his yearlings passing through the sales rings in the coming weeks pending their racecourse debut in 2017.
From Ireland, it was back to central London for ITV's commercial launch and the unveiling of our latest signing. ITV's Controller of Sport Production, Mark Demuth, spoke first about his vision for the coverage. In 20 years Mark has pretty much seen everything in sport and it's his enthusiasm and drive that played a big part in persuading me to make the switch.
Editors Richard Willoughby and Paul Cooper then spoke brilliantly about their various programme ideas, which got me really excited about January 1st.
Then it was time to unveil Matt Chapman. I've wanted Matt on the team from the very start and I'm thrilled he's joined. All I've heard since the announcement is that he's "Marmite". The fact is he's a brilliantly talented broadcaster and a seriously good journalist to boot. I'm really looking forward to working with him and delighted Matt is on board. With him around, it won't be dull.
Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe
More immediately, Sunday is one of my favourite days of the year. Arc day has always been one of the first sporting dates inked in the Chamberlin diary. A day like no other, which the French do better than anyone with glamour, music, colour and sense of occasion.
The build-up to the Arc at Chantilly has been a bit like the build-up to an Olympics. Horror stories abound about how the racecourse won't be able to cope with the numbers and the 'road' will be gridlock.
For sure it will be different but I have no doubt it will still be brilliant. The French know how to put on a show.
Chantilly will also provide a totally different test on the track. If you are drawn out wide at Chantilly, turn out the lights.
You will need to be tough and you'll also need to have a lot of luck. The chances are they will set off quick, slow it down and then have an almighty sprint on the short straight. You'll need ten-furlong speed, maybe even the pace to win over a mile, to win an Arc around Chantilly.
Postponed is Sky Bet's favourite and rightly so as he has had a magnificent season but will he have the speed to win at Chantilly? He did in the Juddmonte over ten furlongs but Postponed is a galloper, a relentless galloper and Chantilly might not be his track.
Providing she gets a decent draw, I'll be backing Found. What a warrior she is. After her valiant effort in the Irish Champion Stakes, she has now finished second in nine Group Ones. That's either an unenviable record or absolutely remarkable. I'm not sure which.
You can never accuse her of shirking a battle. She has all of the Galileo toughness I talked about earlier which she will need in spades in the home straight at Chantilly. Aidan O'Brien talked about her at length and how the race at Leopardstown might bottom some horses, yet Found thrives on it. She gets better and better throughout the season and this is her time of year.
Come Sunday evening, Found could well have the O'Brien family searching for more wall space at Ballydoyle.
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