National Hunt trainers answer our questions

Universal: a young sire to follow according to Sam Thomas

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( National Hunt trainers answer our questions
12:14PM 27 DEC 2016

Unheralded sires to follow, the success of French-breds and the difficulties of sourcing stock – six handlers go in the hot seat

Stuart Crawford

An unheralded sire to follow?

Getaway. We've been lucky with him, we have a few more nice ones coming along. We got lucky with Cool Getaway [sold for £305,000 to Mags O'Toole at the Tattersalls Cheltenham December Sale].

In the past month or six weeks he's had a particularly good run of things, with a lot of nice horses out there by him. I imagine in the next season or two that even more will come to light.

Another one we'd be getting excited about is Ask. I've had a few and seen a few, and I like them. They seem to have a good attitude and appear straightforward to train.

What do you look out for at the store sales?

An athlete. I'd look at the horse first and the pedigree second. The more athletic, the easier they do things and the easier it is to keep them sound. You want as athletic-looking an animal as you can get.

What is the secret to French breeding success?

Their racing set-up accommodates horses running at an earlier age. They get going with them earlier, which gives them a bit of a head start.

In Ireland they tend to leave them until four or five years of age to get started with them. Now there's a push to race them at four, but I think the Irish system is as good as any.

Charlie Longsdon

An unheralded sire to follow?

Stowaway. Unfortunately he's no longer with us, but we've done well out of him with Kilcooley and Ballydine, two good staying horses.

He's starting to become very popular and was just a good-looking horse who stamped his progeny. His youngest are just turning two now.

How hard is it to get a hold of a good point-to-pointer?

The Irish point-to-pointers are very popular. I like buying them – you're paying a little bit of a premium because you can see what form they've got. The middle market has disappeared nowadays, so it's hard to get a proper one for reasonable money. At the top of the market they're very expensive.

What do you look out for at the store sales?

I don't buy as many stores. You pick up quite a few stores during the winter, two- and three-year-olds, whether they're from breeders or elsewhere. I buy only a handful of stores each year as otherwise the yard would be full of horses who will not race that year.

Without deep pockets, you might have to go slightly against the fashion with sires. You've got to look for the ones who maybe aren't the most fashionably bred but are more affordable. You want horses who will be able to jump a fence and make three-mile chasers.

You'd look at conformation and decide if there's a fault, and then which faults you can forgive and which faults you can't.

What is the secret to French breeding success?

They're naturally sharper. They're broken in as two-year-olds, so are ready much quicker. It might not be a bad idea to start selling more two-year-old stores in Britain and Ireland.

People can break them in at two and give them an easy start, and then they'll be ready early as three-year-olds. It might be something that would help our store market.

Which Flat horse would you like to train over jumps?

Postponed is a quality horse and a good stayer. Any decent Group 1 winner on the Flat you'd train as a jumper, they've normally got the size and stamp. He looks a big, strong horse who could jump a hurdle.

Neil Mulholland

An unheralded sire to follow?

Shantou. Having Shantou Village, he's been good to us and we have another by him called Perfect Timing, who's won his races as well. They seem to be nice horses and you wouldn't mind having a few more of them.

How hard is it to get a hold of a good point-to-pointer?

It costs plenty for these point-to-pointers – nine horses made over £100,000 at the recent Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Sale, so if you wanted to be in the top ten nice horses you've got to pay six figures-plus. Denis Murphy is a good point-to-point contact and I'd buy a lot from him and we'd go from there.

What do you look out for at the store sales?

You'd look for a big, athletic horse, a good model. Something with size and scope to be a long-term National horse.

What is the secret to French breeding success?

They obviously start them very young. Other than that they aren't really doing much different to the Irish. Plenty of good horses are coming out of Ireland and France.

The language barrier makes it difficult unless you have an agent, but their-prize money is so good. A £30,000 horse out of France isn't going to be the same as a £30,000 horse out of Ireland, because if the French horse is okay he'll be able to win that amount in prize-money in no time in France.

Fergal O'Brien

An unheralded sire to follow?

Dubai Destination. I love his stock. They're big, scopey horses who will make lovely jumpers. I've got a couple.

What do you look out for at the store sales?

We buy a mix of stores and horses in training – as they come, really. What owners want is what we go on. With the store horses we like to go for one with the right breeding. I tend to concentrate on the sire side of things.

Some sires have done really well for us; the likes of Flemensfirth and Kayf Tara have been good to us. I'd never mind a horse who wind-sucks or crib-bites. Those traits wouldn't put me off at all.

Which Flat horse would you like to train over jumps?

My Dream Boat. He's owned by the Rooneys. He looked serious at Royal Ascot – a real tough horse, off the bridle until two furlongs out.

Ben Pauling

An unheralded sire to follow?

Vendangeur. Arzal was a nice example of the sire's stock
– not many would be that aware of him but I'd look out for a Vendangeur at a sale if there was one.

How hard is it to get a hold of a good point-to-pointer?

I'd buy quite a few privately from Wilson Dennison and the Costelloes and I'd buy some from the Tattersalls Ireland Cheltenham Sale, but I'm not into spending massively on these point-to-pointers as I can't help but feel they're best as four-year-olds.

The way I train them would be a lot different to the way they prepare them for their four-year-old maidens. They might be forward types and will train on, or perhaps they'll have done more than they wanted to in their four-year-old careers.

They could be quite tired from it and might need a bit of a break. I'd rather go and buy one who is maybe a month off a run.

What do you look out for at the store sales?

We bought 15 stores this summer. When you're buying a store you're ideally buying from the better sales. There are lots of options there. If you've got a nice amount of money you can buy a nice pedigree and a horse who is flawless conformation-wise. The less you have to forgive in a store the better, because you've got them forever.

There are certain things I'd forgive more than other people; everyone has their preferences. I'd look for a good 16.1 if not 16.2 hands individual. I'd check if they're more of a chasing type. Stores would be my favourite way of buying because we're very patient.

What is the secret to French breeding success?

They're more precocious then they are here. They're broken in as yearlings, ridden out at two and off they go. The point-to-point system is starting to mirror the French system.

Horses at two are unlikely to race until ten. Everyone tries to utilise every stage of a horse's career to the best of their ability. There's no right answer – everyone does it differently but people buying in France need to be prepared.

A French four-year-old is likely to have two seasons under its belt and is likely to be a lot more streetwise, and so they need to be viewed differently from stores.

Sam Thomas

An unheralded sire to follow?

Universal. He was recommended to me and since I started looking into him he's looked good value for money for a new sire. He's a nice, big sort. As a racehorse he showed he was very tough and had a really nice way of doing things in his races. He looks one to look forward to.

How hard is it to get a hold of a good point-to-pointer?

It's not easy finding something proven unless you have the money to spend. Hopefully, I'll have the owners and the firepower to buy them sometimes. At the moment I have to try to think outside the box and try to find something we can afford.

What do you look out for at the store sales?

I absolutely love bringing on the babies and seeing them coming along. It's very exciting. It's really something to look forward to with the stores. But I also need proven horses I can crack on with. I look for a bit of consistency in their form.

Every horse has an excuse in a race if they haven't quite gone so well. I look for horses who have strung together a few good efforts; if they've run consistently and been placed or have been running well. They're the ones I'd be looking for with the aim of improving them with an extra year on their side.

A lot of horses are trained hard early doors in Ireland, trying to get the best out of them, and they appreciate an easier times of things when they come over here.

What is the secret to French breeding success?

They crack on with them so early, they find out a lot about them so soon. Breeding-wise they're probably not doing that much differently to us, but they're using proven broodmares. In Britain and Ireland they breed out of unraced mares or ones who have been placed in point-to-points. A lot of the mares in France have a proven track record behind them. If you've got a good mare you're halfway there.

Which Flat horse would you like to train over jumps?

Any of those from Ballydoyle who Joseph O'Brien has received, obviously! That would be a dream. He's got plenty of nice juveniles there now. The better on the Flat they are, the more disappointing it allows them to be over hurdles.

When I rode highly rated Flat horses over jumps they sometimes didn't put in what it was suggested they had on paper.

If I was to get something from the Flat it would have run in handicaps and have been used to the hustle and bustle of big fields.

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