Albi Tufnell, whose parents Jane and Mark farm at Calmsden, broke his duck under Rules last Friday at Sandown when Call Me Vic, owned by Jane, overcame reigning Point-to-Point champion rider Gina Andrews in the amateur chase, maintaining Fergal Brien’s impressive strike rate for December at a winner a day.
Albi is earning himself a solid reputation in the amateur ranks, from a start between the flags in Spring 2018 as a 16 year old. Visitors to Andoversford may recall his debut there winning the Tayler and Fletcher Conditions Race last time we held a fixture, in April 2019, one of 3 winning rides that season.
But whilst his mother will be delighted she can save on the jockey’s fee in the foreseeable future for Call Me Vic, I imagine Mark may just be asking himself if that Radley education wasn’t wasted on a lad making his way up the racing career ladder rather than heading for the City. Expect to see plenty more of young Albert over the coming months as he enjoys a Gap year before heading to university to read Spanish and Arabic. He's promised his father his time for harvest, so travel time may be in shirt supply by the time the Torrington Farmers is concluded.
Another Gloucestershire team emerging from the shadows is Condicote’s Martin Keighley, with two winners this week after a quiet spell. After a prompt start in July, Martin and Belinda endured a winnerless August and September. A brace of winners in each of October and November has upped their strike rate, but just at the moment, they look to be being outgunned by higher quality horses. And this is where a trainer’s talent really comes to the fore. Lots of folk can get horses fit; it’s placing them to win that marks out the market leaders.
For Martin and his wife Belinda, the dream that was to train from Condicote became a nightmare. They both worked for David Nicholson, in his prime a champion trainer, at Condicote, so building a training business wasa mission from early on. Belinda had a successful career riding between the flags with a handful of wins from 30 or so rides, often for Martin, who ran horses between the flags over a decade or so on and off whilst working at Cheltenham Racecourse.
On embarking on a career under Rules, the early years of this past decade were highly successful, notching 25-30 winners a season. But in a cruel repeat of the Duke’s circumstances, the business was founded on insecure backing, and Martin was declared bankrupt in 2017. Also like the Duke, his owners stepped in to help create a limited liability company from the wreckage, in which several became directors, and the enterprise was able to continue uninterrupted, but with Martin as a salaried trainer.
Although this might appear a backward step there’s many a trainer would be glad not to be self-employed, and the trainer’s induction course that allows you to win a BHA licence includes financial management in its curriculum – an essential part of remembering that whilst the sport may be about competition and fun, it’s no fun losing money.
A proactive approach to building syndicate ownership is helping rebuild stable strength against stiff local opposition in a highly competitive market place.