Richard refuses to play the numbers game as he looks to up the success rate
LOOKING ahead to increased success this year is West Sussex racehorse trainer Richard Rowe.
He is building on good results of last year with his progressive string, based at Ashleigh House Stables at the foot of the downs at Sullington.
Richard has a dedicated team with former point-to-point and champion amateur rider Paul Hacking as assistant trainer, Julie Lee as yard manager, a vastly experienced racing secretary in Vicky Williams and good stable staff.
The ground was frozen and Fontwell racing had been called off last week but his third lot was going out up a stiff all-weather six-furlong gallop '“ just part of the excellent training facilities at his base.
"Everyone is complaining about this freeze-up but it always used to be like this, with stable taps frozen, racing called off and sub-zero temperatures," he said.
And he should know, for he comes from a well-known racing family and was based with Josh Gifford for 16 years, riding almost 600 winners, including many big race ones, before starting training.
As a trainer he has also won major races, including the Whitbread Gold Cup with Eulogy for owners Philippa and Nicholas Cooper, making Rowe one of only four people who have both ridden and trained a winner in that race. Another horse owned by the Coopers, I'm Supposin, won the Kingwell Hurdle and was third in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle.
Richard has also won 2 EBF finals, the Dovecote Hurdle and the Sussex National with Mullintor, owned by long-standing owner Tommy Thompson.
Well-respected in the racing world, he is one trainer with no aspirations of becoming Champion National Hunt Trainer.
"It's a numbers game with a high wastage and I don't have those sort of numbers and don't want them. I currently have 29 horses, the same as last year, but have had up to 45. I don't want to go any higher than that because I don't want to spend all my time on the phone. My chief pleasure is being with my horses and getting to know them individually," he said last week.
Richard has sent out more than his fair share of good winners since he switched ranks from stable jockey to Josh Gifford at Findon in 1991, but more recently three poor seasons saw his numbers drop for last season.
"But we had a good year in 2008 and are now back on track. I have some extremely nice horses now, which should be winning soon. I also have a fraternity of loyal owners who have stuck with me throughout, for which I am extremely grateful. I'd like to get back up to a 45-strong string eventually. It's a tough sport but we work very hard at it here," he added.
He has two winners and almost a dozen placings under his belt this season, despite an abnormally wet start to the season, followed by the freeze.
King Louis, owned by Captain Adrian Pratt, is a top horse, having won three good races last season at Ascot, Sandown and Newbury. The eight-year-old French-bred gelding's Newbury win earned him a high rating of 146 from the handicapper. He came back with an infected hock following a disappointing seasonal debut at Ascot in autumn, where he did not perform, then the ground was too soft for him subsequently '“ he needs good ground.
"He then had an encouraging run at Ascot just before Christmas. He was jumping better and performed better, even though the ground was on the soft side. He is in a 0-150 race at Ascot on January 17. He's still at the mercy of the handicapper, for he went up from 110 to 146 racing last season and is a good ground horse. Depending on how he runs next, he will go for quality races with valuable prize money in the remainder of the season."
In the same ownership is Manele Bay, a classy six-year-old chestnut mare who made her debut almost two years ago in a National Hunt Flat race, finishing third of 18 at 80-1 and beaten only three-and-a-half lengths by top horse Whiteoak.
She had an injury following the race but is of such a high calibre that she was given plenty of time to recover. Patience was rewarded when she finished a close second at Huntingdon at 14-1 in another National Hunt Flat race on Boxing Day.
Richard said: "She will probably go for a Huntingdon qualifier for the Doncaster Bloodstock Sales Final NHF race at Sandown and run in the final if she is good enough. It makes sense to keep her to Flat races rather than turn to hurdles now. If she won a novice hurdle race, she would be thrown straight into handicaps next season."
Marty's Mission, owned by the Stewart family, won a novice hurdle at Folkestone on heavy ground in December and will now be aimed at the EBF final before Cheltenham, and will earn a tilt at Cheltenham if proving his worth.
"Burren Legend won three chases for us last season but wants good ground, even faster than King Louis.
"He came out over hurdles in October and ran well but the ground went heavy and we will wait for some good handicap chases in spring for him and he could go to Cheltenham or what was the Whitbread meeting at Sandown in April.
"King Richard is another possible bumper (National Hunt Flat race) horse. Five years old and by Rasha, he is a nice horse, going well and should be ready to run at the end of January.
"Mount Oscar, owned by Tommy Thompson, has been unlucky not to win two chases this season. A mistake at the wrong time cost him one race and in another he was knocked back by a loose horse. He could run at Cheltenham or Aintree. Uncle Eli, owned by Jean Bishop, is a good horse but has been placed and not won over hurdles. His first run in a novice handicap chase was encouraging. He also needs to run over longer distances."
Half Cocked has been running in bumper races for the Richard Rowe Partnership Racing Group, which is a highly successful initiative in which members own a share in four horses '“ Helm, Touch of Fate, King Coal and Half Cocked '“ enabling them to enjoy racing at an affordable level. He is one who is expected to win this season.
High Oscar won a race at Plumpton first time out this season. He has been put up 13lb by the handicapper but is capable of winning if things go his way. Mister Pink won a novice chase last season but may revert to three-mile hurdle races this year.
Others to note are: Capeleira, owned by Mike Sadler of Southern Cranes, Pulborough, who is a regular sponsor at the stables; Lord Appellare, third in a handicap chase on Boxing Day; Helm, who has two chase wins to his credit but has had a year off through injury and returned to the track in December; Touch of Fate, coming back to the track after a two-year break; and Funny Fellow, who ran well last time out until falling two out and should improve.