Balding’s Bankers: Elm Park and Windsor Racecourse
Trainer Andrew Balding was parading his equine stars this morning, as he himself was unveiled as Windsor’s Monday Night Racing Ambassador. Amongst other contributions, Balding will provide a selection in each Windsor evening race, a tip sheet to be known as Balding’s Bankers.
Amongst the 160+ horses in training at Park House Stables, near the Hampshire village of Kingsclere, Balding’s own banker looks sure to be Elm Park, last season’s ready Racing Post Trophy winner. Elm Park is a son of Phoenix Reach, and a home bred out of the great-grand-daughter of Anippe, Lady Brora.
Anippe was born in 1963, and her daughter, Siliciana, was sent to the great Mill Reef, legend maker for Andrew’s father, Ian. Their daughter, Island Mill, was born in 1981, and two generations on the dam side – Tweed Mill then Lady Brora – later, Elm Park emerged from the last named on 23rd January 2012.
By all accounts he was a narrow creature as a juvenile, but that didn’t stop him from winning all four races after a maiden third on debut. That quartet included the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes over the 2000 Guineas course and distance, as well as that Group 1 Racing Post Trophy.
He’s filled out significantly since last term and looks a lot more mature. His trainer said, “We’re very pleased with how he’s developed over the winter. And, like his dad, we’re hoping he improves with age. He’s 80% now, and he’ll have a racecourse gallop after racing at Newbury on Friday. That should put him spot on for Newmarket [2000 Guineas]”.
Talking of dads, Ian was omnipresent at the media morning, and he too fielded questions from the scribes. Asked if Elm Park’s growth came in a spurt or was more steady, Balding Sr related that their colt had grown steadily, putting on two to three kilos a week. So far so good, then, and when asked about ground preferences, he was unhesitating in his contention that Elm Park would act on any surface.
There was a hint more reticence when asked about the specific demands of Epsom, but it was no more than a reservation that connections of most aspirant Derby colts ought to harbour this far out.
Andrew Balding Horses to Follow
Meanwhile, up on the gallops, third lot cantered by. Today wasn’t a work morning but there were still a few notes to be made about the demeanour of those going through their medium paces. Even at this early stage of the season, some of the horses have been ‘at it’ for a while, and below are some observations I made which may or may not get franked on the race track!
Absolutely So – won the Listed City Of York Stakes last season on good, but this son of Acclamation (out of a Selkirk mare) has a most pronounced knee action suggesting soft ground would suit. A never nearer 4 1/2 length eighth of 15 in the Group 1 Champions Day Sprint over six furlongs seems to confirm that, and I think he’ll be very interesting over seven with cut.
Dance Of Fire – Ran consistently well as a juvenile last season, Autumn Stakes aside, and will be aimed at the Epsom Derby Trial next time out this term. A nice horse who has improved through the winter, and ran well at Doncaster late last month.
Here Comes When – sported some interesting head gear for his work, but there’s nothing wrong with his application judged on the form book. He improved from an initial mark of 82 to his current 116, taking in a pair of Group 2’s in his last two starts. Needs it soft to show his best. Trainer considers him to be “very useful”.
Highland Colori – led Scotland up, and just looked to be needing it more than that one. Both will apparently come on for their first runs.
Infantry – ex-Juddmonte colt, by Rail Link, who was formerly trained by Criquette Head in France. Bought by an Australian with the intention of racing there later in the season. Did his work very easily and looks to have a good attitude.
Nadder – won a Southwell maiden in December handily enough, and has improved plenty since. May be aimed at the Pretty Polly Stakes at the beginning of May.
Nodachi – unraced juvenile by Rip van Winkle out of Jabroot, this lad was acquired by Fitri Hay for 170,000 Guineas and has a really nice look to him. Whilst one might expect that given his price tag, sales ring swagger doesn’t necessarily translate to gallop glitz; and that in turn doesn’t necessarily equate to racecourse resolution. Time will tell, and he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Scotland – went relatively well with Highland Colori, but is expected to improve for his first run. Just one win so far from seven starts seems scant reward for this 109-rated son of Monsun. He could well improve into a high class stayer this term.
Tullius – flag bearer for the yard, connections are understood to be keen to step up to a mile and a quarter with this consistent Group-class miler.
Unnamed – by Approve out of Annelis, this two-year-old colt was well liked by one stable insider. I can’t really add much to that except, again, keep ’em peeled for his début.
Three Jockeys to Keep On Side
It’s not just top class race horses that get trained at Park House. As well as the equine talent, this corner of Kingsclere has a proud heritage of unearthing high class jockeys, too.
In recent times, the likes of William Buick, David Probert, and Oisin Murphy have all won the apprentice championship while schooled by the Baldings. Indeed, it’s my opinion that David Probert is arguably the most under-rated flat jockey in Britain today, a view formed off the back of a piece of research I undertook at the end of the last flat turf season.
His record on horses favoured in the market has been, literally, second to none, as you can see from the below. Hovering over the circles in the second chart shows the jockey and his/her data. That blob top right is Mr P.
So who might be this year’s Murphy, Buick or Probert?
Park House retains five apprentices – Rob Hornby, Tom Brown, Dan Wright, Ed Greatrex and Kieran Shoemark – and it is the last two who are considered the most promising right now.
Greatrex, son of trainer Warren, has already notched a pair of winners from just a dozen rides (one of them at 16/1) and, while one so inexperienced is bound to make mistakes, he is also likely to continue to reward forgiving followers with talent and maturity beyond his level of experience.
Shoemark has had a lot more track exposure. Now 220 rides into his UK career, he rode 21 winners last year, but is still awaiting his first victory of 2015. The team here believe that it won’t be far away, and that it won’t be an isolated occurrence.
My advice is to keep all three of these lads in your corner, and certainly not to be put off by either of the claiming riders if they’re on one you fancy.
Returning to the business of the morning, officially at least, and the Monday evening Windsor race meetings. The only course at which you can arrive by boat, Royal Windsor, has none of the formality of Royal Ascot, and is a relaxed and fun evening out.
If you’d like to discover that for yourself, Windsor’s first evening meeting of the season – next Monday – is free (grandstand only, normally £21), but only if you’re very quick and book online. Full details can be found here.