15 Dec December 2019
Copperlight shows great improvement in form on handicap debut to make all in Newcastle nursery
Our first runners of the new month are not until 6th December when Copperlight and Deputy Star take in an all-weather meeting at Newcastle. First away is the 2 year old Copperlight who in 3 races to date has not looked like troubling the judge or even making the frame. Today though is his handicap debut and he returns to a mile with Andrew Mullen in the saddle. Copperlight is immediately sent into the lead and heads the 8 strong field in the early stages and at the halfway point Copperlight’s lead is a length. Entering the final 2 furlongs the lead is down to 3/4 length but Andrew pushes on well and inside the last furlong Copperlight extends his lead and goes clear of the field in the final 100 yards to score by a comfortable two and a half lengths ! A remarkable performance to make all given his previous 3 runs, and Copperlight started the outsider of the 8 runners at rewarding odds of 28/1. A great ride from Andrew though he certainly had a very willing partner it must be said ! Owners Robert Brinkley and R Catling will be delighted their 2 year old by Poet’s Voice has finally found his form and judging by the style of this performance there should certainly be much more to come.
Later on the card Deputy Star, an unraced 3 year old by the Australian sire Epaulette and who only recently joined Ben, runs in a mile novice stakes race. Deputy Star is held up in the early stages but runs on nicely inside the last furlong and a half to finish 5th of the 7 runners and will have learnt plenty from the experience.
New jumping recruit Protak De Flos takes 3rd place at Newcastle whilst Copperlight builds on his recent improvement with a 2nd at Wolverhampton
On 12th December 3 horses leave Castle Hill Stables, one heading for an afternoon Jumps meeting at Newcastle and the other two to a twilight all-weather meeting at Wolverhampton. Our jumper is our latest recruit from owner J P McManus, Protek Des Flos, previously with champion trainer Nicky Henderson who won 3 hurdle races with the now 7 year old in 2016 and 2017 but who has been absent from the course for 18 months. Today’s 5 runner Class 3 novice chase over 2 miles is Protek Des Flos’ 3rd career start over the larger obstacles and he is ridden by Richie McLernon. For much of the race Protek Des Flos, the outsider of the 5 runners at 16/1, tracks the even money market leader in 2nd place and after turning into the home straight the two leaders are briefly joined at the 4th last before going on again. Jumping the last fence Protek Des Flos is joined by another rival who on the run in quickly goes past both the leader and our runner who at the line has to settle for 3rd place, beaten just 5 lengths. This is a good run considering his long absence, and since the horse has only been with us for a month Ben will be pleased to have got a very decent run under his belt so quickly.
Our two runners at Wolverhampton are Prancing Oscar and the 2 year old Copperlight. Prancing Oscar, who has shown great promise in 5 hurdle races in recent months, returns to the Flat over a longer trip than he has tried before, a 2 mile 1/2 furlong handicap, but the 5 year old weakens 2 furlongs out to finish 6th of the 8 runners.
One hour later it’s the turn of Copperlight as he attempts to build on his debut success at Newcastle 6 days ago in a 1 mile 1/2 furlong nursery. Copperlight is immediately sent to the front, as in the Newcastle race, by jockey Andrew Mullen and attempts to make all again. However rounding the home turn Copperlight is passed by one of his rivals, the 11/10 market leader, who quickly goes on in the straight to leave Copperlight having to settle for 2nd place at the line on this occasion, beaten a comfortable 5 lengths. Clearly Copperlight bumped into a horse well ahead of the handicapper today but his 2nd place confirms that the improvement he showed in his previous race was certainly no fluke.
A 4th place for Nataleena and an even closer short head 2nd for Calevade in two great finishes at Newcastle
Two days later, Sat 14th Dec, it’s back to Newcastle but this time to their all-weather Flat track. Two horses make the journey and both run very similar races. First away in the first race on the card is Nataleena, a 3 year old filly who won over this same course and distance ( an extended 2 miles ) two races ago, in October. Ridden again today by Andrew Mullen Nataleena is kept towards the back of the 13 runners and still has only one horse behind her entering the home straight. Whilst she is still second last passing the 2 furlong marker Nataleena has made up considerable ground and is only around 5 lengths behind the leaders. Inside the last furlong Nataleena runs past any number of horses without quite having the pace to challenge the leaders. At the line Nataleena finishes in 4th place, beaten only 3 lengths, a good run coming on the back of a 50 day absence from the track.
The 4th race on the Newcastle card sees the reappearance of Calevade, a grey gelding who has an even longer absence, 68 days, to overcome. Calevade is still a maiden after 6 races ( 3 on turf, 3 on the all-weather here ) but looks as though he may show better form over longer distances. Calevade is upped to an extended mile and a half today with Paul Mulrennan taking the ride. Whilst quickly away from the stalls Paul settles Calevade towards the rear of the 13 ( once again ) runners. Turning into the home straight Calevade sits third last but after the 3 furlong marker starts to move through the field. Calevade runs on well and a furlong out is in 4th place with the leader, another grey, firmly in his sights. Calevade passes two horses on the run to the line but cannot quite get to the leader though the 2 grey’s pass the line together. Sadly for our 3 year old and his owners, Daniel Shapiro, Anne Haslam and Partners, the other grey gets the verdict and Calevade has to settle for 2nd place, beaten just a short head. This is certainly a career best performance to date from Calevade, especially allowing for a near 10 week absence from the racecourse, and this run can only auger well for the future.
River Frost is starting to add consistency to his game with another 2nd place, this time at Newcastle
The following Saturday, 21st December, sees the final days racing in Britain before the Christmas break and the final runners from Castle Hill Stables for 2019. We’re off to Newcastle again but it’s a return to jump racing as two of JP McManus’ horses contest races at their National Hunt meeting. Both horses are ridden by Alain Cawley, who has such a good strike rate for Ben, as our regular jumps pilot, Richie McLernon, is required elsewhere. First to run is River Frost, a chaser who has shown good form of late since switching from Alan King’s stable this summer and who has finished first and second in his latest 2 races this November. Today’s race is a Class 3 chase over two and a half miles and River Frost is kept at the rear of the 7 runners in the early stages. Approaching the 4th last fence Alain drives River Frost up on the outside of the field and 3 out jumps into second place. Although River Frost keeps on well he cannot get to the leader and has to settle for 2nd place, beaten two and a quarter lengths, but the race confirms that Ben is getting the 7 year old to put in some good consistent performances these days.
Just over an hour later it’s the turn of Inca Gold who runs in a chase over an extended 2 miles. Inca Gold races at the back of the 4 runner field for much of the race and it isn’t until turning into the home straight, with 1/2 mile to run, that the 5 year old makes progress passing one rival and getting to within 4 lengths of the leader. His effort though is short-lived and after jumping the third last fence Inca Gold tires and comes home a well-beaten 4th, a rather low-key end to a magnificent year for Ben.
If 2018 was a record-breaking year for Ben then 2019 certainly continued in the same vein with all records again having been broken — unquestionably another brilliant and impressive year for Ben. Our number of winners, runners, and prize money earned ( which just topped the £300,000 mark for the first time ) were all career best achievements for Ben. The stats for 2019 are as follows:-
2019 Stats ( Flat and Jumps )
Race Type Wins 2nd 3rd 4th Total Runners % Win % Win & Place
Flat 25 21 22 20 181 14% 49%
Jumps 14 8 9 12 81 17% 53%
Total 39 29 31 32 262 15% 50%
Flat — total prize money earned ( calendar year 2019 ) £175,389 ( previous best £140,023 in 2018 )
Jumps — total prize money earned ( calendar year 2019 ) £124,615 ( previous best £55,045 in 2018 )
Total — total prize money earned ( calendar year 2019 ) £300,004 ( previous best £195,068 in 2018 )
Flat — most wins in a calendar year, 2019 25 ( previous best 12 in 2018 )
Jumps — most wins in a calendar year, 2019 14 ( previous best 8 in 2018 )
Total — most wins in a calendar year, 2019 39 ( previous best 20 in 2018 )
Flat — most runners in a calendar year, 2019 181 ( previous best 151 in 2018 )
Jumps — most runners in a calendar year, 2019 81 ( previous best 68 in 2017 )
Total — most runners in a calendar year, 2019 262 ( previous best 189 in 2018 )
This news and form analysis column is to close at the end of 2019. Many thanks to all the readers of the column which I hope has been interesting and informative.
My very good wishes to Ben, and all the team at Castle Hill Stables, for 2020 ( and future years ) and hopefully the successes will continue, and records will continue to be broken for many more years to come !