Jamie Snowden

Jamie Snowden Nowadays, Jamie Snowden is an established trainer with over 200 winners to his name and, at the time of writing, is already enjoying his most successful season ever, numerically, with 43 winners from 171 runners, at a strike rate of 25%. A graduate from the point-to-point sphere, Snowden was, in his earlier days, a highly accomplished amateur rider. In fact, as ‘Mr. J. Snowden’ and ‘Capt. J. Snowden’, during a brief career in the King’s Royal Hussars, he won the Grand Military Gold Cup and Royal Artillery Gold Cup, both at Sandown, four times apiece between 2002 and 2008.

Nevertheless, having served his apprenticeship as pupil assistant to Paul Nicholls and assistant trainer to Nicky Henderson, Snowden took out a public training licence in his own right at a rented yard in Ebbesbourne Wake, in rural Wiltshire, in 2008. In his first three seasons, he saddled just 15 winners in total, but his move to Folly House in Lambourn in 2011 paid immediate dividends. His very first runner from his new yard, Knighton Combe, was a convincing winner of the Listed English Summer National at Uttoxeter on June 26, 2011.

Snowden still has just a solitary Cheltenham Festival winner, Present View in the Rewards4Racing Novices’ Handicap Chase in 2014, to his name, but Listed wins for Pacify and The bannerkingrebel in the latter part of 2019, not to mention a wide-margin victory for Hogan’s Height in the Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree, provide plenty of cause for optimism. Novice hurdler Kiltealy Briggs has already won two of his four starts over obstacles and finished a creditable third in the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, so could be another to keep an eye on. Either way, Jamie Snowden looks likely to continue his progress through the training ranks for a good while yet.

Kauto Star

Kauto Star Many steeplechasers have been described as ‘charismatic’ but, in the modern era, few, if any, have inspired the same level of enthusiasm and devotion as Kauto Star. On his return to the winners’ enclosure at Kempton after his fourth consecutive win in the King George VI Chase, on Boxing Day, 2009, he was greeted by four loud cheers from a crowd decorated in the green-and-yellow colours of his owner, Clive Smith. In fairness, the 9-year-old had just put in a superb round of jumping to beat erstwhile Hennessy Gold Cup winner Madison Du Berlais by 36 lengths – ‘magnificent’ was the word used in the in-running commentary in the Racing Post – so the attraction was, perhaps, understandable.

Indeed, two years later, in 2011, Kauto Star returned to Kempton to win the King George VI Chase for an unprecedented fifth time and, in so doing, avenge defeats by Long Run in the previous renewal, rescheduled for January, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup the previous March. Officially described as ‘awesome’, that performance proved to be the last win of his career.

However, in his younger days, Kauto Star had also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice. He was a winning favourite in the ‘Blue Riband’ event in 2007 and, after finishing second by stable companion Denman the following year, reversed the form, to the tune of 20 lengths, in 2009 to become the first horse ever to regain the Gold Cup.

Trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden, for most of his career in Britain, by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star won 23 of his 41 starts and over £2,375,000 in prize money. He only actually fell or unseated rider three times in 31 starts, but wasn’t averse to the occasional monumental blunder, as when ‘breasting’ the final fence, with the race at his mercy, on his first attempt in the King George VI Chase in 2006. Sadly, though, after joining professional event rider Laura Collett on his retirement from racing in 2012, he sustained pelvic and neck injuries in a freak accident at her Windy Hollow Stables in Lambourn, Berkshire in 2015 and was humanely euthanised shortly afterwards.

Corbiere

Corbiere We all have ‘favourites’. Whether it’s a favourite song, or colour or dare I say it even a person. Of course in the sport of kings that translates to a favourite jockey, trainer, owner, you get the idea. What elevates one above another is a question with a thousand possible answers. In racing it may well be a jockey that has managed to grind out a win for you that places them on a pedestal, or a trainer that’s generous with the level of detail in his pre and post race assessments, hopefully to your financial benefit down the line.

It’s a little harder, for me anyway, to hone in on what makes a horse one that I cheer on or remember fondly above all others. Grit? Determination? An underdog story? A legend of the sport, such as Red Rum? I do know though that I don’t tend to go for the obvious, much in the same way that some people suddenly support whoever’s top of the Premier League, whereas others would never dream of it. One stand out horse for me though, would have to be Grand National winner Corbiere.

Although not quite on a par with the legendary Red Rum, Corbiere was nevertheless one of the best Grand National horses of his generation. Named after a Jersey lighthouse, Corbiere will always be remembered as the horse that resulted in Jenny Pitman the first woman to saddle a Grand National winner. That’s heartening to know as we’re pondering 2020 Grand National tips to follows. What is, perhaps, less well remembered is that ‘Corky’, as he was affectionately known to his connections, did so under 11st 4lb, as an eight-year-old in his first season over fences, and making his first appearance at Aintree.

Of course, Corbiere had also won the Welsh National at Chepstow and finished second in the Ritz Club National Hunt Handicap Chase en route to Aintree in 1983. That doesn’t in any way take away from the achievement of winning the National though. The chestnut gelding went on to run creditably on three of his four subsequent appearances in the Grand National. In 1984, he finished third behind Hallo Dandy, in 1985 he finished third, again, behind Last Suspect and, following an uncharacteristic fall at the fourth fence – considered one of the hardest fences to jump, along with Becher’s Brook – in 1986, he finished twelfth behind Maori Venture in 1987. A collection of efforts over the years that stand out from the crowd – and against top class opposition too.

However, it was certainly his performance under 23-year-old jockey Ben De Haan in 1983 that was to carve his name, indelibly, into Aintree folklore. A little one-paced, but a brilliant, enthusiastic jumper blessed with an abundance of stamina, Corbiere relished the prevailing soft going and was one of just four horses in contention turning for home. At the final fence, he held a three-length lead over Greasepaint, but then came with a strong late run inside the last hundred yards or so and, as they crossed the line, Corbiere had just three-quarters of a length to spare. Another Irish challenger, Yer Man, finished third, but fully 20 lengths behind the front pair.

In fact, many understandably hold a fondness for Corbiere. He even has his own postage stamp (putting him in fine company)  in Jersey, due to the aforementioned Lighthouse connection!

Favourite Horse – Frankel

Favourite Horse - Frankel Named after the late Robert J. Frankel, five-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer, Frankel was, according to World Thoroughbred Rankings and Timeform, the highest-rated horse in the recent history of Flat racing. Owned by Khalid Abdullah and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was unbeaten in 14 races, including ten Group One wins, at least one at two, three and four years.

Described in some quarters as a “freak”, what really distinguished Frankel from the other ‘greats’ since the late Forties was the consistency of his brilliance. Time and time again, the son of Galileo surged clear in the closing stages to beat supposedly top-class rivals by wide margins with consummate ease. By way of illustration, Excelebration, from the same Classic generation as Frankel, achieved a Timeform Annual Rating of 133 and, in any other era, would have been hailed as a champion. However, he met Frankel on five occasions at three and four years and was beaten an aggregate of 26¼ lengths, without ever laying a glove on his illustrious rival.

Frankel announced himself as an equine superstar in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in April, 2011, for which he started at odds of 1/2, making him the shortest-priced favourite since Apalachee was turned over at 4/9 in 1974. Ridden by Tom Queally, as he was throughout his career, Frankel made the running for the first time and, having been 10 lengths, or further, clear at halfway, romped home to an impressive 6-length victory. His margin of victory had been bettered just once before, by 8-length winner Tudor Minstrel – the joint-third highest rated horse since World War II, according to Timeform – in 1947.

Despite suspicions that Frankel had ‘run off’ with Queally at Newmarket, thereafter he competed exclusively in Group One company and won eight more races, all at long odds-on, before his eventual retirement in October, 2012. Thanks to the loyalty of his owner, Frankel propelled Sir Henry Cecil – a charismatic, naturally gifted trainer, whose career had been in decline since leading owner Sheikh Mohammed removed all his horses from his yard in 1995 – back to the top of his profession. Indeed, masterminding the unbeaten career of the horse he described as “the best I’ve ever seen” was to prove his swansong; Cecil finally succumbed to stomach cancer, first diagnosed in 2005, in June, 2013.

Sir Anthony McCoy

Sir Anthony McCoy Sir Anthony McCoy, knighted in 2016 for services to horse racing, was simply the greatest National Hunt jockey of all time. Born in Moneyglass, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, McCoy rode his first winner on the British mainland, Chickabiddy, trained by Gordon Edwards, at Exeter in 1994, when conditional jockey to the late Toby Balding. By the end of the 1994/95 season, he had ridden 74 winners, enough to ride out his 7lb, 5lb and 3lb claim and, in fact, a record for a conditional jockey.

Having won the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship, McCoy proceeded to dominate National Hunt racing for the next two decades, winning the Jump Jockeys’ Championship every year until his eventual retirement. During a lengthy spell as stable jockey to Martin Pipe, which lasted for nearly a decade and yielded 1,154 winners, 100, 150, or even 200 winners became the norm, rather than the exception, as McCoy racked up championship after championship. In fact, in 2001/02, McCoy rode 289 winners in a season, beating the previous record held by Gordon Richards.

In 2004, McCoy accepted a retainer, reputedly worth £1 million a year, from leading owner John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus and, in his famous green-and-gold silks, continued his phenomenal career. His lowest seasonal total in the last decade or so of his career was 140 winners in 2007/08, a season which, by his own admission, was ‘turned upside down’, by a fall at Warwick in January. Damage to the vertebrae in the central section of his spine required an operation to insert metal plates, and cryotherapy, but he was still back in the saddle in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March.

All in all, McCoy rode 4,358 winners, including 31 at the Cheltenham Festival, and won most of the major races in the National Hunt calendar. His high-profile successes included the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, the Champion Hurdle three times, the King George VI Chase and, of course, which he famously won, at the fifteenth time of asking, on Don’t Push It, owned by J.P. McManus and trained by Jonjo O’Neill. Having spent over two decades limiting himself to a single meal a day and sweating in hot baths to maintain his 5’10” frame at, or around, 9st 10lb, McCoy, unsurprisingly, gained over two stone in weight following his retirement.