Never change a winning formula: that seems to be the motto of long-standing bloodstock partners Robert Abrey and Ian Thurtle, whose smart steeplechaser Edwardstone has brought them nomination as the TBA’s Breeders of the Month for December for his exhilarating success in the Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
Edwardstone was responsible for the same award exactly a year previously, when he book-ended the month with Graded novices’ chase wins at Sandown and Kempton. This time he returned to the Esher track to record a career-best win in open company, and might well have repeated his 2021 double at the Boxing Day fixture but for unseating his rider early in the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase.
The similarities do not end there, for the partners’ breeding and racing formula is built on patience, as Ian Thurtle’s wife Jeanette pointed out last year, when she said: “All our horses are brought along quietly. We usually send them into training as four- or five-year- olds to run in bumpers first. We don’t believe in rushing them at all.”
Little in their approach has changed in the 12 months since. If anything, their patience has been stretched even farther. Edwardstone was four-years-old when he went into training with Alan King; his sister Nothingtochance took an extra 12 months before she followed suit, and having graduated from two bumpers to a novices’ hurdle between March and early December last year, she is making steady headway as a six-year-old.
Jeanette reports: “Alan is very happy with the way Nothingtochance is progressing and her jockey Tom Cannon was pleased with how she went on her debut over hurdles at Lingfield in December, so we are all very much looking forward to seeing her again.”
Next in the slowly-developing production line from the siblings’ dam Nothingtoloose is a three-year-old by Blue Bresil. “We haven’t named him yet,” Jeanette says. “We usually leave that until they are four years old, when they go into training. He was broken at two and is turned out for the winter.”
Now 18-years-old, Nothingtoloose is in her 15th year under the partners’ guardianship, having been bought as a winning point-to-point mare for £22,000 at the Doncaster May sales in 2009. She has not been a regular producer and has had no offspring since her date with Blue Bresil, although Jeanette says: “We hope that she will get in foal this year. We are thinking about stallions but haven’t made a decision yet.”
Friends for “years and years” who live in the Norfolk village of East Beckham, Robert Abrey, a farmer, and Ian Thurtle, whose businesses cover haulage, property and green waste processing, came together through point-to-pointing, for which sphere they bought their first mare, Forget The Ref, from Ireland as a seven-year-old in 2008. She represents the other stream of their breeding interests, although that too has required a patient approach. Forget The Ref produced three offspring to race before her death in 2021, of whom Midnightreferendum and Forget The Way have carried the partners’ two-tone blue silks, while her four-year-old Getaway filly is waiting unnamed in the wings.
About Forget The Way, Jeanette Thurtle says: “As with Nothingtochance, we are all really pleased with his runs over hurdles so far and look forward to seeing him progress. He continues to improve and is going the right way.”
The consistent Midnightreferendum climaxed her racing career by winning the Challenger Series Mares’ Chase Final at Haydock in April last year and is due to foal to Nathaniel in the middle of April, with a follow-up visit to Walk In The Park already booked in.
So far, then, so good; it’s steady as she goes for the partners’ interests. But have they been tempted to expand on the back of Edwardstone’s success?
Jeanette’s caution on their behalf is exemplary: “Right from the start we wanted to breed on a small scale and will continue to do so. We have fillies from the two original mares’ bloodlines and
are looking forward to both their racing and breeding careers.”