The last Saturday in January was certainly a notable day for Scottish yards, as not only did Ahoy Senor land the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham but less than an hour later Cooper’s Cross gave Selkirk-based Stuart Coltherd his biggest success in 20-odd years’ training at Doncaster.
The Sky Bet Chase – Great Yorkshire Chase to give you more of a fixing – was also by far the most significant victory for eight-year-old Cooper’s Cross, who defied odds of 16-1 to run out a good
winner under the trainer’s son Sam.
The son of Getaway had meant to be in the Peter Marsh Chase the previous weekend, but that Haydock contest was lost to the weather. The blessing in disguise was principally to the benefit of owner and ROA member Jimmy Fyffe, who deserves any bit of fortune that comes his way, given his support of various yards through 12 jumpers to have run this season alone.
Their jockeys’ kit is pink and black – quite a long way removed from the tangerine that Fyffe’s beloved Dundee United play in. He is a director of the club and a sponsor and partner through
his firm JF Kegs, a drinks wholesale company.
His team were not in action on the afternoon that Cooper’s Cross hit the back of the net at Doncaster to provide Fyffe with one of his magical moments in the sport, and it was followed seven
days later by Collingham also winning in front of the ITV Racing cameras, in his case the Scottish County Hurdle at Musselburgh – a first winner over jumps for jockey Charlie Maggs.
“I got involved in racing through my grandparents having a small flutter on a Saturday, my dad followed suit, then myself and my brother enjoyed watching the races and having a small bet or two,” explains Fyffe.
That interest has grown into full-blown passion down the years.
“I have owned well over 100 horses now,” he says. “I have 17 National Hunt horses in training plus some for the Flat season. I also own mares and several young National Hunt horses coming
With JF Kegs based in Dundee, and Fyffe also owning a pub estate in Scotland, it’s not much of a surprise that trainers north of the border receive his business, though the love is spread further afield as well.
“I like to use Scottish trainers but also have one in Ireland and two down south,” says the owner. “The Scottish trainers are Sandy Thomson, Stuart Coltherd, Jim Goldie and Ian Jardine. Also in the north there’s Nicky Richards, while in Ireland there’s John McConnell, and further south in England I have Laura Morgan and Donald McCain.”
Fyffe has, at the time of writing, enjoyed 13 winners this jumps season already – far and away his best tally as a single owner – but he doesn’t dwell on identifying those particularly sweet
occasions when asked for his most cherished days.
“I’ve had several magical moments,” he says. “Endless Power winning the Grand Sefton at Aintree in 2008, Sir Chauvelin winning the Qatar Summer Handicap at Glorious Goodwood in 2018, Blue Flight winning the Listed chase at Kelso in 2013, and Socialist Agenda and Collingham winning the last two Scottish County Hurdles.
“There’s also Geojimali winning the Silver Cup at Ayr in 2006, Orlaith winning a Listed race at Newbury in 2019, Great Fighter winning the Gold Cup at Musselburgh in 2017, and Cooper’s Cross winning the Sky Bet Chase at Doncaster.”
Cooper’s Cross was due to contest the big handicap chase at Kempton at the end of last month as Owner Breeder went to press, but however he fared there, Fyffe – friends with Douglas Pryde of Grand National hero Auroras Encore fame – hopefully has much to look forward to this spring as his best-ever campaign over jumps builds to a climax.
He says: “I’m having a brilliant season, probably the best I’ve had so far as an owner. I’ve got better quality coming in, I’ve been reinvesting over the years and definitely now got the best quality that I’ve had. I’ve had serious horses in the past, but the amount I’ve got now and the quality is a lot better.
“I should have two or three runners at Cheltenham, I’m hoping to anyway as I’m down there for three or four days. I’m looking to have Benson running, also Bringbackmemories in the juvenile handicap hurdle, and hopefully Storm Nelson.
“For the Grand National I’ve got Hill Sixteen, hopefully he’ll get in. If he gets soft going he’s got a serious chance – I’ll be trying to emulate Auroras Encore.
“There’s also a race there for Cooper’s Cross. The plan with him is to go to Kempton for the £150,000 Coral Trophy at the end of February, and then for a £100,000 three-mile chase on Grand National day.
“Another one I’ve got is Florida Dreams, he won his only bumper at Musselburgh really well and he’s being aimed at Aintree too, for the bumper. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
He adds: “I’m more into the jumps but like to have a bit of interest in the summer, so have got seven or eight for the Flat season, including some nice young ones coming through.
“I’ve got a National Hunt mare who is due in about a month and a half to two months’ time, I’ve got a Flat mare called Sister Midnight, she’s in foal to Iffraaj and is due in the next month or
so as well.
“I’m not big into breeding, just doing it lightly. They’re boarders, at places that look after them well.”
He continues: “The best things about ownership are seeing your colours carried to victory in any kind of race – from a seller to a Graded contest – and meeting lots of good people in the racing world.
“The worst thing in my book is the prize-money – Ireland and France have far better payouts for lower-grade races.”
There are also, often, far better prices about northern-trained runners down south than they ought to be, which suits Fyffe just fine. He says: “When Scottish horses go down south you normally get inflated prices about them, which is great for us, great for me! Look at Cooper’s Cross the other week, 16-1, I just couldn’t believe it, in an 11-runner race.”
It hasn’t, of course, all been a bed of roses – “I’ve got lots of nice memories but some sad ones too as we’ve lost quite a lot of good horses, though that’s the nature of this game,” admits Fyffe – but as winter becomes spring, 2023 is looking pretty bloomin’ promising.