Licensed to thrill on the racehorse circuit

SINCE Arundel racehorse trainer John Dunlop took out his first licence almost 43 years ago, he has sent out nearly 3,300 winners in races which include two Derbys and 24 European Classics.

He has 10 classic wins to his credit in this country and in 1995 was champion trainer. That's a formidable record and he is still passionate about achieving the best from his runners.

"I had a fairly modest crop of two-year-olds last year in general, so as three-year-olds I have not had much of Classic quality but that's the way it goes sometimes. I'm hoping that some special horses will emerge from my current juveniles for next season," he said.

But winners have begun to flow and Muthabara is particularly outstanding. The three-year-old Red Ransom filly was unbeaten in two runs as a juvenile and opened her account this season with a stylish win at Newbury in the Fred Darling Stakes.

Owned by Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum, and of the leading fancies for the Guineas, she overcame a bruised foot to run in the race but didn't have much room and appeared to struggle on the firm ground.

Muthabara is entered for the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot on Friday, She has had a break since finishing eighth in the 1,000 Guineas where she did not have a clear run.

She bypassed the Oaks to give her more time to recover from her Newmarket exertions.

Fellow Royal Ascot contenders are likely to be Festivale (Wednesday), Elmaleeha and Perks (Thursday), Jedburgh and Per Incanto ( Friday).

Some outstanding older horses are still in training at Castle Stables, with Samuel, owned by Normandie Stud, having won in style this month at York in a Listed Race over 1 mile six furlongs. Spanish Hidalgo, Swan Queen and Tell are still waiting for a run and have class.

Of the juveniles, King of Wands, a Galileo colt owned by Normandie Stud, and Palvacini, by Giant's Causeway, owned by Windflower Overseas Holdings Ltd, are among a number that catch the eye.

The yard has clicked into winning form recently, with Samuel, Double Banded, Perks, Badweia, Downhiller, By Command, Dona Alba, Elmakeeha, Mon Plaisir, Kelowna, Mountain Lodge and Goodwood Starlight adding to Muthana's earlier victory.

While a substantial number of horses at Castle Stables are owned by Hamdan al-Maktoum, Prince A A Faisal, and titled gentry, Gail Brown has been responsible for bringing racehorse ownership within the reach of the less wealthy .

She rode out at the stables and once worked as a secretary in the office there for a number of years, administers the Goodwood Racehorse Owners' Group (Grog) and runs Gail Brown Racing, which has syndicate horses at Castle Stables.

She launched Grog in 1994 and it is now in its 16th scheme on the strength of an attractive record, with Goodwood Starlight's win on Friday evening continuing its popular success.

A one-off payment of 725 buys a 200th share in the Grog scheme and Dunlop and an independent bloodstock agent select a yearling at one of the major sales each autumn.

Each scheme runs for two racing seasons, after which the horse is sold, with all profits from winnings and sale money shared among the 200 subscribers.

The schemes have generally been very successful and some outstandingly so – Goodwood Blizzard, for example, won 33,498 and was also sold for 58,000 guineas, with the owners of that scheme enjoying extremely good returns. There are also social events as part of the membership.

The two Grog horses currently at Castle Stables are Goodwood Starlight and Goodwood Chimes. Goodwood Starlight, a brown colt by Mtoto, won both his starts as a two-year-old and as a three-year-old added another win to the tally last week. He put in an outstanding performance at Goodwood's evening meeting for a decisive victory that is a good pointer for the rest of the season.

Goodwood Chimes, now two, is an Elnadim colt and will make his racecourse debut when a suitable race is found. Rebecca Woodman, head girl at Castle Stables, rides him out.

The 16th group will purchase a yearling at this autumn's sales. Anyone interested in joining the scheme should contact Gail on 07860 361444.

Her two syndicate horses are Dusk (three) and Solar Graphite, a juvenile by Rock of Gibraltar, who will make his racecourse debut this season. Dusk finished fourth behind stablemate Mon Plaisir last month.

The new assistant trainer at Castle Stables is David Menuisier, who came to Arundel from France, having been highly recommended by Criquette Head. The pupil assistant is Leighton Aspell, a former leading National Hunt jockey, who lives in Pulborough.

He said: "I didn't enjoy riding any more. There had become too much travelling involved, with long hours, and I felt it was time to change direction. I'm sure I've made the right move."