Tom Fanshawe pictured with Derby hope Ambiente Friendly
Tom Fanshawe pictured with Derby hope Ambiente Friendly

Betfred Derby latest: Ambiente Friendly faces Classic test at Epsom for James Fanshawe team

For those with live contenders in the Betfred Derby, now is the time the sleepless nights begin and the excitement levels start to build as the countdown to the world’s most famous Flat race creeps closer.

In that particular situation this year is the team at trainer James Fanshawe’s yard, where second favourite for the 2024 renewal of the prestigious mile and a half Group One showpiece Ambiente Friendly is a resident.

While staff at the yards of Aidan O’Brien and Charlie Appleby are used to such pressures, for a large quantity of the team connected with the Newmarket handler it will be their first experience of dealing with such a situation including his son, and assistant trainer Tom.

And while looking forward to the big day, the 27-year-old has taken a leaf out of his dad’s book in not jumping the gun with the the Gredley Family-owned son of Gleneagles, who has been the talk of the town since his success in the Listed William Hill Lingfield Derby Trial Stakes.

Fanshawe said: “It is nice to be involved with a Derby runner. I’ve been doing this role for a relatively short time, but one thing I’ve learnt is that there are a lot of highs and lows. I think when you have something as exciting as a Derby runner you have to keep it balanced and not get too far ahead of yourself.

“It is exciting to be part of it as it is something that is talked about not just among racing people, but a lot of people outside the sport. The Derby is normally dominated by the same people year so to have a horse with a live chance in it is exciting. I think a lot of people are behind him as people like the underdog.”

Ambiente Friendly is clear at Lingfield

Growing up surrounded by horses a career working in racing was always likely to beckon for Fanshawe, who is now in his fourth year as assistant to his dad, but it wasn’t until mid way through his school days that he was bitten by the racing bug.

Fanshawe said: “There was a long period, especially when I was in school, that I wasn’t involved as I am now, and with the good mares like Soviet Song and Frizzante I was still very young to appreciate them.

“When I was very young I quite liked horses, but it was about the age of 11 that I decided I wanted to get back into the riding side of things. I got a racing pony and I really fell in love with it. Initially, it was just the riding side of things, but unfortunately I was never that good at that so it was never going to be a career for me.

“You might not necessarily see it at the time, but being around the horses, and seeing how they come along, you learn so much from that and that really sparked my interest in the training side of things.”

Spotting a good horse from an average one is all part of the art of training racehorses and Fanshawe insists it was clear that the team were dealing with a talented colt in Ambiente Friendly ahead of his debut at Leicester in September.

Fanshawe added: “He came in and he was a hot horse. With horses like him you are thinking more about maintaining condition and keeping them in a good place mentally rather than finding out how good they are.

“Initially we did a lot of cantering with him, but then we galloped him on the Limekilns at the back end of last year and he galloped really nicely. The thing that stood out for him was the amount of ground he was covering.

“We had one of the heart rate monitors on him as well. He has this enormous stride length. For a little horse he was able to use himself really efficiently.

“He did two bits of work before he ran, but just on those two bits of work you thought right we have got a nice horse here. I remember speaking to Tim Gredley before he ran at Leicester. We don’t have many winning newcomers, but I was quite upbeat about him.

“We allowed him to use that stride and he won nicely before then going on to finish fourth in the Group Three Autumn Stakes on his next start."

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A second defeat on his return in the Listed bet365 Feilden Stakes raised the question as to whether it was a case of needing the run or that was as talented as Ambiente Friendly was, but thankfully for all involved it was very much a case of the latter as he proved at Lingfield.

Fanshawe said: “After Newmarket on his return you kind of felt he had run a perfectly respectable race and done everything right, but there was part of you thinking maybe he hasn’t taken that next step. In hindsight you can look at the Newmarket meeting again and there was a big bias to be on the pace.

"That Lingfield run is there for everyone to see and there was no fluke in that. I think he just needed that Newmarket run just to put him right. I’m not going to say that performance at Lingfield was what we expected as his homework had been nice, but at the same time we were not surprised.

"I’ve always thought there was a big engine there, but we haven’t been looking for it."

Dreams of an outing in the Derby might have only been firmed up for Ambiente Friendly following his Lingfield success, but despite it being a completely different test to anything he has faced, Fanshawe is confident he will handle the occasion.

Fanshawe said: "I was very happy with how he took the preliminaries at Lingfield. He has grown up so much in himself at home. If you had said to me six months ago would you be worried about the preliminaries at Epsom I probably said I would be, but he has grown up so much over the last two or three months.

“You never know what will happen on the day, but he should take it all in his stride as he has done most things this season. He seems a well balanced horse so you would be hopeful the track would play to his advantage more so than going against him.”

While Fanshawe is still climbing the ladder as far as his career in racing goes it is very much the opposite for his father, who aside from winning multiple Group One races plus two Champion Hurdles has achieved plenty during his time associated with the sport. But a domestic Classic victory remains missing from his CV and there is nothing more his son would love to help him achieve as a way of saying thanks for the support and opportunities he has given him.

Fanshawe added: “Dad is very passionate, as am I, and I think we are both very stubborn, and we both want winners and success.

"Dad has given me a really good start up, and he always backed me. He has put me in a very fortunate position. Having been around him and seeing how he handles the nice horses I’m just trying to do things the same way and how he wants them to be done.

“It has only been more recently that I’ve appreciated what dad has done as you realise the effort and thought that goes into preparing a nice horse for a race. You look at the horses dad has had over the years and he has had Champion Hurdle winners, Breeders’ Cup winners and lots of other Group One winners.

“He has won pretty much everything there is to be won apart from a British Classic so it would be great to help him win one.”

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