Friday, May 2, 2014

Premier Information: Sam Twiston – Davies is now No1 Stable Jockey for Paul Nicholls

Article reposted on Premier Information below courtesy or Racing Post.

PAUL NICHOLLS said on Tuesday that it was not ability alone that persuaded him to appoint Sam Twiston-Davies as new number-one stable jockey but the rider's positive attitude and outlook as well.

Twiston-Davies, 21, was unveiled on Monday night as the new top jockey for Nicholls, taking over from Daryl Jacob, who is set to ride as a freelance when returning from injury.

Nicholls said: "He has been riding for us increasingly last year and is a young man with a lot of talent.

"He rode over 100 winners this year and as a team we have been very impressed with him. Not just his riding but his whole outlook on everything and what he brings to the team.

"Owners and the team enjoy his company and he is a very talented rider. It's an ideal situation for us at the right time."

Twiston-Davies said the desire to be champion jockey was one of the motivating factors behind his move to Nicholls and he is 8-1 with Paddy Power to be champion this season. He is 4-6 to finish second to 19-time champion Tony McCoy.

Twiston-Davies took over from Ruby Walsh for the high-profile ride on Big Buck's last season after Jacob elected not to ride the four-time World Hurdle winner on his comeback in January, and has increasingly ridden for Nicholls since Jacob was injured in a fall at Cheltenham last month.

Jacob will continue to ride for Nicholls and the trainer added on Sky Sports News: "Daryl is still going to ride out a couple of times a week. We're still good mates and he will get as many opportunities as I can give him. On Saturdays when I'm looking for a rider he'll be the first person I call."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Bruised McCoy plans to rest until weekend


TONY McCOY will not ride again until the weekend at the earliest in a bid to be fully fit for the start of the Crabbie’s Grand National meeting in nine days’ time.

Speaking at Towcester on Monday, McCoy indicated the bruising he sustained in a fall at the Cheltenham Festival almost two weeks ago was still troubling him.

McCoy took a couple of days off after Cheltenham and has ridden winners since, including posting his 200th success of the season on Palermo Don at Haydock six days ago.

However, after drawing a blank at Towcester the champion was still feeling sore and was strongly advised by jockeys’ doctor Philip Pritchard to take the rest of the week off.

McCoy said: “Dr Pritchard has been treating me for the bruising and told me that continuing riding at the moment was only aggravating the bruising and that I definitely needed to give it a bit more time to settle down.

“I’m still getting a lot of pain at times and feel very sore, so I’m now resigned to having the rest of the week on the easy list. I hope to be back by the weekend.”

McCoy will be crowned champion for the 19th time at the end of the season in just over a month and wants to be fit and well for the busy end-of-season schedule.

He said: “It’s important I’m at the top of my game for Aintree, so taking a break seems the sensible option as I don’t want to be letting anyone down.”

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Premier Information: Terry Biddlecombe memorial: Alastair Down's tribute

Reproduced by Premier-Information courtesy of the Racing Post

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My mother was, by common consent, an outstanding beauty - okay, it skips a generation - and every year my Dad, a racing man to his core, would take her off for the three days of the Cheltenham Festival.

They stayed with a legendary friend who had been the escape manager at Colditz at his home on the banks of the river at Upton on Severn.

On the eve of the 1967 Cheltenham Gold Cup they dined at the Swan at Upton on Severn and in the bar there was a boisterous group of jockeys, none of whom was on the tonic water, and very much the life and soul was an unmistakable blond figure who was telling all and sundry that he would win the big race the next day on Woodland Venture.

The more he told them, the more they laughed. But Mum looked and listened. Looked more than listened, I suspect.

History relates that the next day Terry Biddlecombe, fortified by a bottle of Bollinger among friends in the weighing room, went to post on Woodland Venture as a 100-8 chance for the Gold Cup and won by three-quarters of a length and two from that great grey Stalbridge Colonist and the third-placed What A Myth who was to win it two years later.

The race was worth £7,999 to the winner and Terry's percentage may just about have paid for the subsequent blizzard of champagne and the next couple of hundred sessions in the Gloucester Turkish Baths.

Dad did his brains at the meeting and Mum, having only had the single £10 bet over the three days, spent the journey back to Kent counting her £120 and telling the old man that all he needed to do was to back that "rather nice Mr Biddlecombe."

Curiously enough, though Terry was, when it came to women, a serial seal clubber against whom they would pass laws today, my Dad was also a Biddlecombe fan - women wanted to be with him, men wanted to be like him and instead of having the green eye about it tended to think "good luck to the old bollocks" - unless, of course, they were the proud Dads of adventurous and good-looking daughters in which case they would surround the house with barbed wire and set up a few machine-gun turrets.

All to no avail of course - if Fort Knox held girls instead of gold Terry would have found his way in (if you'll excuse the expression).

We are gathered here today because of a life that ended on January the 5th. I was abroad and received a text from Hen which began with the words "Terry died suddenly but peacefully this morning".

I looked out over blue sea and clear sky but my mind had already gone elsewhere, travelling back and away to other days - to those images of the Sixties and that brute strength, booting them home on the box in the old lost beauty of black and white to an O'Sullevan soundtrack.

Pain was Terry's constant companion and every day a fifteen-round bruising battle with the immoveable malice of the scales. But neither struggle ever lessened him - he bulldozed through life, fearing no-one, always standing up for the underdog, issuing a constant stream of never-to-be-forgotten obscenities and, with that mischievous smile, ever on the look out for another treble at Ludlow when as we all know only two of the winning rides that afternoon were booked through Weatherbys.

I was nine when Terry won his first jockeys title in 1965 - that's nine years not stone (I was already ten by then) - and he was very simply a hero of my childhood.

And please don't ever fall for that cynical old lie that you should never meet your heroes because there is always that one in a million who has the thumping, shining, life-affirming humanity, humour and sheer heart that makes you understand that among the everyday ebb and flow of life sometimes stride those rare folk who light up a get together.

When Terry died a floodgate of fondness opened. Stories of his legendary antics, few of which could be repeated before the watershed, were everywhere and we will hear more from the brilliant David Mould, that stylist's stylist both in and out of the saddle, and also Bill Smith, who had a style all his own, but is a man in the Biddlecombe tradition not least because in his Sixties he is dad to young twins.

But if you want a measure of Terry the man then look around this room at the wonderfully diverse cross-section of society here to pay tribute, people who will always miss Terry but would never miss being here for him.

There are folk from every corner of these islands, the young and the old, the great, good and the happily plain humble, the well-heeled and mildly skint - everyone drawn to the magnet that was Terry, one of jump racing's beating hearts.

Almost every soul in this room, which looks out across a view as sacred to us as any consecrated ground, is here because a flawed, fabulous, foul-mouthed, fantastic man showed us some small kindness or consideration we have never forgotten.

Above all he bestowed on us the priceless gift of laughter. When Terry died, there was no increase in the number of saints in heaven. And he'll have had to do some time down there, and if the devil allowed mobile phones he'd have texted by now to the effect that "it's hot down here and there's not a drink to be found but they tell me that in another 120 years I can go upstairs and see Hen."

And here we come to the nub of the matter. When Terry Biddlecombe came back from Australia in 1992, the hero of years past was but a husk of his former self - not merely on the slide but shot to bits.

Forget peering into the abyss, Terry had fallen into it. His old friends had never wavered in their affection but the cavalier had lost his invincible air.

The uplifting truth is that plenty rallied round him - the ones who were a genuine help know who they are and I will not list them here because they did it out of tough love rather than the need to be recognised.

But with help from the Injured Jockeys' Fund he dried out in the nick of time at Farm Place - I was never grand enough to go there and had to settle for the Priory - and to his eternal credit Terry Court gave him a job at Brightwells.

At a show in Malvern Terry was entrusted with looking after the three judges: Henrietta Knight, Jack Doyle and Toby Balding. He didn't fancy Doyle or Balding much but there, like a bunny in the headlights but not yet wearing the Playboy Club outfit, was Miss Knight.

Hen, truth be told, wasn't going great at the time and confesses that she was doing 8-10 grand a year on Chablis - just playing at it really.

When Terry first went round to supper he opened the oven and saw there were ten plates warming up "how many are we?" he asked "just the two of us!"

A little bit of Dutch courage had been required before entertaining racing's favourite force of nature. As it is half-term and there may be children present, we can draw a veil over the details of subsequent events.

But if I was asked to come up with a more heartwarming and uplifting tale than that woven by Henrietta and Terry I would not dare to invent it. Somehow a door was flung open and happiness walked in never to leave.

Hen, you gave a man we thought had slipped through the duckboards and into the mire not just a second life but an amazing one. You are of course, not entirely as you appear, and while you claim to have learnt all sorts of things from Terry it is my opinion that his vocabulary was actually expanded by yours.

And it might have been that Hen and Terry would have chuntered away quietly and happily enough, all the flames burning, and passed into genteel obscurity known only to those who knew them already.

But sometimes in this world legends spring, seemingly unbidden, from out of the grass and rewrite our ideas of the possible. From an Irish point-to-point a horse arrived just beyond the outskirts of Wantage, a chaser in the rough who physically looked almost too good be true.

From the very first Terry and Hen believed in Best Mate almost as much as they did in each other.

There are those here today for whom the deeds of Arkle stay fresh in the memory never to be matched. But you need to be 60-plus fully to recall the enormity of those times.

For another generation, among the defining images of their sporting lives will always be Best Mate. Not just for his three Gold Cups but for the joyous and indelible sights drummed into our souls by the man and woman behind the horse.

During the Gold Cup Henrietta would be hiding somewhere in the suburbs of Tewkesbury while Terry watched the great race unfold knowing that the life of the woman he loved and his personal redemption would be decided over our sport's defining three and a quarter hellish miles out there.

I defy anyone not to be moved by their tear-stained and climactic clinch after Best Mate's third Gold Cup. And it mattered to us - the hopelessly enraptured viewer - not merely because of the horse's triumph but because the people who brought it to us were folk we had grown to love.

I am 58 years old, the six great chasing figures of my lifetime have been Arkle, Desert Orchid, Red Rum, Kauto Star, Henrietta Knight and Terry Biddlecombe. And the most remarkable is probably Terry.

In a comeback that would make Lazarus blush, he returned from oblivion and rose to a last fair morning that endured for 20 years courtesy of the woman who loved him.

Next month there won't be just be the few hundred of us here as there are this afternoon but a couple of hundred thousand over the four days. Being here for the Festival is a matter of passion and something which reaches into our very being.

We will come here as inheritors of Cheltenham's unmatched history woven by man and horse. For all the glory, this is not an uncomplicated or easy place, the prints on this special ground are made by tragedy as well as triumph. Horses draw us back, but people also.

Terry was a ruler of this roost decades ago and he returned to be so again. Name me another whose second life was so special and prompted such widespread joy. The old roisterer and rooster reincarnated. And he knew where the magic lay.

When Terry was asked what was his greatest triumph, the thing that meant more to him than anything else he would check the room was empty of anyone answering to the surname Knight and reply "It's her. Hen."

When he died, it was not in the well-meaning but clinical anonymity of a hospital. He had, at the end, the unmatched consolation of being in his own home and surrounded by the woman he really did love. So RIP - TWB, most admirable of all rough and ready rogues.

Farewell, Terry, and our undying thanks for your charisma, the gales of laughter and your simple kindness.

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Premier Information: Adrian Maguire - Career profile

Article reproduced courtesy of Racing Post.

ADRIAN MAGUIRE rode the winners of some of the biggest races in the jumps calendar and was among the best jockeys never to have been champion.

Born in County Meath on April 29, 1971, he was already a champion in pony racing and point-to-pointing in Ireland when he first sprung to prominence as an amateur riding the Martin Pipe-trained Omerta, on whom he looked every inch a professional with dashing rides to land both the Fulke Walwyn/Kim Muir Chase at Cheltenham and the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in the spring of 1991.

His talents were nurtured by Toby Balding, with whom he was champion conditional in 1991-92, and at that season's Cheltenham Festival he landed a dramatic win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Balding's 25-1 chance Cool Ground, who beat The Fellow by a short head.

Despite missing four festivals in eight years through injury or bereavement, Maguire rode five more winners there, notably on Viking Flagship in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Mysilv in the Triumph Hurdle on successive days in 1994, both for David Nicholson, whom he joined from Balding.

That same season he won the King George VI Chase on Nicholson's Barton Bank and finished with 194 winners, just losing to Richard Dunwoody (197) in an epic title duel that went to the last day of the season.

His unseating from Barton Bank at the final fence with the 1994 King George VI Chase at his mercy was a career-low, but he won the race again in 2001 on the Willie Mullins-trained spare ride Florida Pearl, who was his last Grade 1 winner.

Maguire, an uncle to Grand National-winning jockey Jason Maguire, retired in October 2002, having broken his neck at Warwick that March in a fall on Luzcadao that doctors told him could have left him paralysed. He had ridden 1,024 winners over jumps in Britain and more than 59 in Ireland.

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Premier Information: The Official Starter - Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, Premier Information wrote an article about 'The Official Start - Part 1'. Below is section two, which contains information all about Jump Starts.

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Q: What goes on beforehand?

As with the Flat, the Starter will arrive down at the Start about ten minutes before the scheduled off time for the race – this time to test the Starting Gate.

Q: And once the horses arrive at the Start?

As there are no Stalls Handlers over the jumps, the Starter and his Assistant(s) will check the horses’ girths themselves, before informing the jockeys when there’s half a minute to go before the off. They can pull their goggles down and prepare themselves for racing. During this time, the horses will be circling in a defined area behind the Start itself.

Q: Starting the race

Once the scheduled off time for the race has been reached the Starter will, from his rostrum and using a loudspeaker system, instruct the riders to come forward towards the Starting Gate in an orderly fashion. When he is satisfied that all of the riders are happy with the positions they have taken up, he releases the Starting Gate and the race begins. For a Starter, the perfect ‘walk in’ start comes when horses approach the tape in a tight bunch and in a controlled fashion.

Q: What’s required in terms of cooperation from the jockeys?

Obviously, a good start to a race is highly dependent on the cooperation of the riders involved. Starters expect them to take notice of any instructions that they might give, and jockeys can be suspended for any misconduct that takes place.

Q: Why do some horses appear to get a ‘flyer’ whilst others seem to be left behind?

In recognising the importance of a fair Start – both for the sport itself and for those betting on it – the Starter is looking for a tightly bunched and controlled field walking forwards towards the Starting Gate. He is not, however, in a position to interfere with the likely tactics of the participants. Sometimes, the rest of the field can be very happy to let a known front runner go on in front and set the pace of the race. Similarly, a horse that is known to want cover behind other horses might be asked to ‘drop in’ at the back of the field, seemingly off the main pace in the race. Whilst in these scenarios it can appear that horses are not starting in the optimum tight bunch, the Starter accepts that each participant is nevertheless happy with their starting position and is ready to begin the race.

Q: What does a False Start entail?

A False Start is likely to involve a mechanical malfunction of the Starting Stalls (on the Flat) or Starting Gate (over Jumps), resulting in an unfair start. In the event that a horse breaks through the tape (over Jumps), a False Start will also be called. Riders are recalled when the Advanced Flag Operator, standing down the course and in front of the oncoming horses, waves a flag and blows a whistle on instruction from the Starter. They then return to the Start and begin the race again.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Premier Information: The Official Starter - Part 1

Here at Premier Information we try to publish information that will be of interest to those enjoying horseracing.

Today we look at the role of the starter.

Courtesy of the BHA, we reproduce at Q & A on the role of the official starter.

Q: What does the Starter do?

The Starter is there to ensure that each race begins on time and as fairly as possible, with each horse and rider given the greatest possible opportunity to perform well.

Q: Why do we use Starting Stalls on the Flat and a Tape over the Jumps?

As races are shorter on the Flat, it’s important that the participants begin in as straight a line as possible. For longer races (and that includes some long Flat races as well as all Jump races), riders often want to take up a tactical position that they believe offers their horse its best chance to perform well. For some, that might mean going out in front, whilst for others it might mean taking a lead from another horse or dropping in at the back of the field.


Q: What goes on beforehand?

The Starter will arrive down at the Start about ten minutes before the scheduled off time for the race. They will test the Stalls, and brief the Stalls Handlers on any horses that are likely to need special treatment. This might mean using a blindfold on a horse, or putting it into the Stalls late on in the loading process.

Q: And once the horses arrive at the Start?

The Stalls Handlers will check each of the horses’ girths to make sure that the saddle won’t slip during the race. When it’s time for the load to begin, the Starter calls out the draw, the horses go behind the Stalls, and the Stalls Handlers – under direction from the Starter – will begin to load them. The normal loading procedure is for horses drawn in the odd numbered stalls to go in first, followed by those drawn in the even numbered stalls. Generally, horses that need blindfolds are loaded first, and certain horses are given special dispensation to load late, due to their past behaviour.

Q: Starting the race

Sometimes horses refuse to enter the stalls and will be withdrawn from the race. Horses can also be withdrawn from the race if they become fractious or unruly in the stalls. The Starter will always have horses’ welfare in mind and if a horse has been unruly in the stalls it may have an injury that is not readily apparent. In these cases the horse will be withdrawn as it is not possible to have a full clinical assessment at the start. In all such instances , the Starter will officially withdraw the horse involved and an announcement will be made over the public address system.

Once the Starter is satisfied that all horses and riders are ready, he will alert the riders and press the button on his rostrum to open the stalls and start the race.

Some horses are loaded with blindfolds and it is the responsibility of riders to remove them before the race is started. In starting the race the starter also activates the official timing system, which enables the Judge to record the time taken for each horse to complete the race.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Premier Information: Former champion jockey Biddlecombe dies at 72


TERRY BIDDLECOMBE, three-time champion jump jockey and husband of former trainer Henrietta Knight, has died aged 72.

Biddlecombe won over 900 races as a jockey including the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Woodland Venture in 1967. He was champion jockey in the 1964-65 season, in 1965-66 and 1968-69 and rode a total of nine winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

Other big-race victories included the 1963 Irish Champion Hurdle (Honour Bound), the 1969 and 1971 Mackeson Gold Cup (Gay Trip), and 1970 Welsh National (French Excuse). He also finished second in the 1972 Grand National with Gay Trip.

Born in Gloucester on February 2, 1941, Biddlecombe's interest in horses was fostered by his father, Walter, a keen show-jumping and point-to-point enthusiast, before he embarked on his riding career at the age of 17.

He partnered his first winner in March 1958 on Burnella in a novices Hurdle March at Wincanton when beating Fred Winter a head on the runner-up.

He married trainer Henrietta Knight in 1995 and together they enjoyed many memorable achievements in racing including three victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Best Mate.

Biddlecombe suffered a stroke in October 2012, and although he recovered, his health problems continued with Knight announcing her retirement in May 2012 to spend more time with him.

An update on Henrietta Knight's Facebook page said: "Sadly, Terry died peacefully after breakfast this morning with Henrietta by his side."

Champion jockey Tony McCoy, who rode big race wins for Knight and Biddlecombe on board Best Mate and Edredon Bleu tweeted: "Very sad news that former champion jockey and the legend that was Terry Biddlecombe has passed away. Thoughts with Hen and his family RIP."

Former champion jockey Peter Scudamore also paid tribute. He Tweeted: "Sorry to hear of the death of Terry a real hero who walked with kings and filled the unforgiving minute."

Biddlecombe is survived by Knight and his five children Laura and Elizabeth from his first marriage to Bridget Biddlecombe and James, Robert and Lucy from his second marriage to Ann Biddlecombe

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