New Year's Eve (day) was a wipeout thanks to thick fog followed by a quiet evening, a few drinks and relatively early night. George and I welcome the new year in with friends who also train, albeit on the other side of the Irish Sea. Racing folk, especially trainers are not 'normal' people, that little fact has never been in doubt and while we do hope for the usual 'happy and healthy goodwill to all men and all that....." what we really wish for are happy and healthy horses, fast horses, good owners, and a large amount of fairy dust from the magic wand belonging to Lady Luck".
By all accounts most people are glad to see the back of 2016 with so many changes taking place for so many, certainly no one can accuse the year of being boring and lacking excitement, the changes 2016 bought for many, continents included were colossal. For us it was not an uneventful year, it was interesting, challenging at times, and occasionally surprising but when is life as a racehorse trainer not interesting, challenging or surprising? Never.
Thankfully, the horses stayed well for much of the year although many yards were under the dark clouds which inhibit virus land. The major Southern yards rarely, if ever admit to such shortcomings but, in 2016 Roger Varian publicly admitted what everyone knew - his horses were sick, really sick. Plenty of other trainers suddenly developed the confidence to admit their yards too were under the same thick cloud. Blame was apportioned to the mild winter, and unbearably changeable conditions of warm, wet, cold, warm again, freezing and even hot weather on occasions, nature had lost her marbles and horses (and no doubt people too)were paying the price.
For the horses at Sun Hill, the dreaded lurgy only caught hold of a few but boy, when it did, they were laid low for many weeks, fortunately for those few, they had already done their winning and Mr Handicapper would have been pushed to allow them to win again in the same year.
The highlights of the year for us were diverse, Rainbow Mist is an obvious candidate because he was typical of what we like to do - produce a relatively cheaply bought yearling to do well, attain a high rating and a high resale price to mirror a decent handicap mark. Ironically while us trainers moan about some horses being too highly rated we also hope other horses achieve lofty ratings.
In Rainbow Mists case, we cannot claim the glory for selecting him, he was picked out by his owner Craig Buckingham and it was a pleasure to see him supply Craig with his first two year old winner, his first debutant winner, his first runner (and winner at York racecourse), his first Group runner and first runner in France before going on to fetch a six figure sum; another 'first'.
While all winners give everyone a buzz, Uncle Charlie's win was gratefully received and much appreciated after long standing David Barker had acquired a share in him just days before his win. David has been made to suffer a drought in terms of winners after his initial lucky streak when, as a new owner his first two fillies won thirteen races before the pendulum got stuck on number thirteen for what seemed an eternity. Suffice to say we celebrated with David long and hard.
All in all - 2016 was not a bad year and we ended it the way we predicted we would back in January. This year there have been no such predictions to date other than to say we hope you have a truly healthy, happy and successful 2017 and thank you for your support.