The great and the good of the racing world were out in force in London on December 3 for the ROA Horseracing Awards, sponsored by Weatherbys, a glittering occasion to celebrate the best Flat and jumps performers over the last 12 months.
No prizes for guessing which animal stole the show: Golden Horn, the Derby and Arc hero, carried off the Horse of the Year accolade and helped his owner Anthony Oppenheimer to the Owner of the Year trophy. Exclusive pictures from racing’s biggest and best night out are on pages 35-49.
At 26, de Boinville has developed into one of the country’s top National Hunt riders, making the most of the domino effect following AP McCoy’s retirement
Golden Horn’s story, from doubtful stayer to mile and a half specialist, kept Flat racing fans engrossed in 2015 and the next chapter, penned from Dalham Hall Stud, will be no less fascinating. Sheikh Mohammed will be hoping he has found the stallion, a son of his top miler and producer Cape Cross, to help him challenge Coolmore’s Sadler’s Wells-line domination of the middle-distance market.
Another winner at the ROA Awards – and on whose bay shoulders the hopes of a stud rest – was Muhaarar, surely the best sprinter seen for many years and now retired to Shadwell’s Nunnery Stud.
Owner Hamdan Al Maktoum endured a few quiet years with his racing and breeding operation but that all changed with the emergence of a string of top-notch runners such as Mukhadram, Taghrooda and then Muhaarar.
Julian Muscat speaks to Shadwell Stud’s Director Richard Lancaster (pages 64-69) about plans for its new recruit, who is a grandson of Green Desert, the first sire the operation stood after his brilliant 1986 campaign which included victory in the July Cup, a race also won by Muhaarar and his sire, Oasis Dream.
Among the NH award winners, it was The Max Partnership’s Coneygree who galloped clear of some top-class rivals to be named the best chaser around. The Bradstocks’ decision to send their novice to the Cheltenham Gold Cup was vindicated with a superb display of jumping and galloping under Nico de Boinville, this month’s cover star and the subject of a superb interview with Chris McGrath (pages 50-54).
At 26, de Boinville has developed into one of the country’s top National Hunt riders, making the most of the domino effect, following AP McCoy’s retirement and Barry Geraghty’s retainer with JP McManus, to move into pole position at Nick Henderson’s Seven Barrows stable.
However, the work situation didn’t always looks so promising for the former amateur jockey, who only turned professional in 2014, having given up a university education to focus on a life with horses.
“They called me a morning glory,” de Boinville explains, as despite sitting on good horses on the gallops, he was rarely given the chance to retain the partnership on the track. “I could ride them in the morning but not in the afternoon.
“When you’re working in a racing yard, and it’s cold and wet, it can feel like it’s taking forever to get somewhere. What kept me going was being able to go off point-to-pointing every weekend. That was great experience; you can do stuff away from the spotlight, any mistakes you make won’t be picked up everywhere and you can start to work things out for yourself.”
De Boinville now has the chance to build on his associations with Coneygree and also Sprinter Sacre. The outstanding two-mile chaser looked back to his brilliant best when romping home by 14 lengths at Cheltenham in November, giving his work rider another career highlight and a thrill not dissimilar to that felt at the same track in March.
“The reception he got – it was like the Gold Cup,” de Boinville says. “At the open ditch at the top, when he’s jumped past Mr Mole, and then the change in gear down the hill – I just thought to myself, ‘My God, I’m having a lot of fun here.’
“He was brimming with confidence again. That’s why I’m in the game; when you get down to it; for the feeling out there.”