HORSE RACING: Tracey and Laura making their name
It's a small world or so they say, and with barely half a mile separating first season operators Tracey Leeson and Laura Horsfall, the adage appears simply made.
Training four horses apiece, Leeson at Glebe Stables, Blakesley Heath and Horsfall from the historic Highfield Stables at Adstone, have plenty in common.
One of the less obvious links goes back to May 21, 2013 when Thefriendlygremlin, one of four inmates inherited from Leeson’s former boss John Upson, ran fourth at odds of 66/1 in a 2m 3f maiden hurdle at Towcester, a race won by Kim Bailey’s Twelve Roses.
Two places further back was Katnapping, once owned and trained by the Waley-Cohens and now part of a much more select group with Horsfall, at 34 the younger of the fledgling handlers by two years.
There are also plenty of differences between the pair, principally the fact Leeson worked for Upson for more than 21 years and now holds a full National Hunt licence while Horsfall, who started life in Brixworth before a broader stable tour which included a stint with Mike Roberts in Sussex, concentrates on training point to pointers.
On Saturday, Leeson saddled her first runner in the post-Upson era when Blackwell Synergy contested a 2m 7 1/2f handicap hurdle at Uttoxeter, the Staffordshire course which acted as a catalyst in ensuring Upson’s final term suddenly lit up the skies with distinction with four winners to banish a dismal period.
Horsfall, whose three winners from four horses this season all arrived in April, was at Dingley on Sunday where grey gelding Edgar Henry delighted and surprised connections by finishing third in the feature four miler, his first run in open company, despite the fact his ideal trip is 3m 4f.
The more significant strand which ties the pair together is that both are anxious to make a success of their respective ventures. Horses are unpredictable creatures at the best of times but luckily both trainers have reliable sounding boards to which they can turn for advice.
Leeson says: “I went straight to the British Racing School after finishing at Sponne School in Towcester. My twin sister Nicky was there just before me and still works with horses. I came back and John was kind enough to give me a job and I have been here ever since. John has been like family to me and is still around to ask for help.
“To be honest I don’t know where I would be without him but suddenly you are doing everything such as the entries for races yourself and it can all seem a bit scary.”
Horsfall arrived at Highfields, the yard from which Upson trained such notable winners as Nick The Brief to back to back Irish Hennessy Gold Cup winners in 1990 and 1991, via a circular route working for Caroline Bailey, the Sussex stop with Roberts and then Bill Warner before joining Pauline and Doug Harkin on the county border with Oxfordshire, finally teaming up with Heather Kemp.
Although Katnapping was her personal investment and initial winner, she has taken over the training mantle this season but Kemp still lives on site and is able to offer the benefit of considerable wisdom.
Local owners Bridget and Roy Hunt have seen their horses Treacywestcounty and Edgar Henry both successful, the former at Clifton-on-Teme while Edgar Henry scored at Upton-on-Severn having missed a more obvious opportunity in the members’ race at Brafield, only serving to again prove the unpredictable nature of the sport.
In between those victories, Bay To Go won the Ladies Open at Fakenham ridden by Lucy Wheeler who had also partnered Treacywestcounty while Edgar Henry’s pilot was Jack Andrews, the younger brother of Gina and Bridget. Leeson’s quartet comprises Blackwell Synergy, Thefriendlygremlin, Steel Gold and Isaac’s Warrior, the latter off the track for almost two years while Horsfall has Bay To Go, Edgar Henry, Treacywestcounty and Katnapping.
THE Ben Case-trained Croc Bay put the disappointment of his Cheltenham fall and then an improved Aintree fifth behind him when finishing fourth of 17 stepped up in trip at the Punchestown Festival last week.
CASE’s neighbour Alex Hales was back on the score sheet at Fontwell when Vaillant Creek took the maiden hurdle for a first career success in 23 starts although it is worth pointing out he had previously managed eight runs in the first three!