Matt Brocklebank reflects on his visit to Iain Jardine's impressive yard ahead of Nakeeta's repeat bid in the Sky Bet Ebor at York.
It’s second lot at Hetland Hill Stables and, fresh from riding out a two-year-year-old in the first group of the day, trainer Iain Jardine hops down the bank into the small ring at the top of his six-furlong, all-weather gallop to get up close and personal with a few of his string.
“I’m just going to have a listen."
He doesn’t say what for exactly, but it appears the rhythm of a horse’s breathing following morning exercise can reveal a good deal, to the right ears.
Listen, learn. Listen, learn.
The now deeply-ingrained mantra of my former head mistress, but also something the quietly-spoken Jardine has got down to an absolute tee.
"He just sounds a little bit stuffy but we’ll take him away for a racecourse gallop at Newcastle and he’ll be right," the 42-year-old says of Nakeeta, the kind of horse of which every up-and-coming training operation dreams.
The great listener became the addresser last year after Jardine was begrudgingly convinced to attend a Breakfast With The Stars preview ahead of the Melbourne Cup, in which his stayer went on to finish a highly creditable and eye-catching fifth from an almost impossible draw.
On arriving a little after the scheduled start time, Jardine – clad in his “scruffs” having been dealing with the horse earlier on – was thrust under the microphone into the role of keynote speaker.
“The build-up was mad,” he recalls. “They go all out and I think even more so because we were Scottish. They kind of forced me into going down to this function and when I got there it was like stepping into three weddings all going on at the same time.
"It was an amazing experience but a surreal one too as the likes of Lester Piggott were there attending."
Whether Jardine truly likes the idea of it or not, Melbourne is almost certainly on the agenda once more for the seven-year-old Nakeeta after some of the locals took a particular shine to him following his distinguished effort last November.
"It wasn’t really well documented at the time but his owners, Alex and Janet Card, sold a 50 per cent share in the horse to Australian Thoroughbred Bloodstock after last year’s race, so as well as the Sky Bet Ebor we’ve geared his season around the Melbourne Cup again.
"All being well he’ll run a good race in the Ebor and then we can start thinking about Melbourne and whether he goes again.
"He’s in really good form and his last run at Newbury was good. We put a tongue-tie on and I think it helped. It’s also a case of him just coming around again after travelling to Australia, which is bound to take it out of them.
“He was giving 9lb to the winner (Stratum) there and I think he’s Ebor favourite after going up 8lb.
"We were put up a pound for finishing fifth and I had a go at the handicapper but Sir Chauvelin was behind us in seventh and he’s come out and won from the same mark at Glorious Goodwood, so we can’t complain really."
A good year became a brilliant one for Jardine at the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival last August and while strictly the number of winners this season looks like taking a slight hit following the inevitable handicapper reaction, there’s no doubt landlord Len Lungo’s place is in extremely capable hands.
"I think I had 15 horses that we brought across (from former yard Hawick) and we’ve got 70 in at the moment. Once you start getting more than that you just have to rely on staff a bit more and I wouldn’t like to let go of that personal touch that I’m able to have.
“Looking back, we just started getting more and more horses and enjoying a good bit of success. It’s kind of snowballed really.
“We’ve made some good contacts and got some really good owners. And some nice horses, of course.
"This is a great place here and we feel very lucky. Rather than being in a training centre like Middleham or Newmarket, say, this is fantastic and it’s got everything I need. I’m not rushing around and in some places you need to rush to get your slot on the gallops."
Have any issues arisen with the training regime in light of the longest heatwave since 1976, I wonder.
"No. This is quite a wet part of the country anyway," Jardine replies with a wry smile and drizzle on his face.
Flat winners by calendar year:
- 2018 – 20 and counting...
- 2017 – 52
- 2016 – 36
- 2015 – 18
- 2014 – 10
- 2013 - 4
Jardine on some of the team:
- Stone The Crows – he’s in a mile and six race at Ripon next week but he definitely stays further. He could run in the two mile handicap at the Ebor meeting, the race Nakeeta was second in in 2016 before he won last year.
- Bedrock – he might be entered in the same two mile race. He ran well in the Galway Hurdle.
- Marnie James – he ran a cracker at Glorious Goodwood. He’s gone up 5lb for being beaten and he’s rated 100 now so races like that (the Portland) could come into it.
- Jabbaar – he ran another cracker at Chester on Sunday and might go back to the same venue. There’s a Listed race that the owners are quite keen to go and have a go at.
- Keep The River – She’s a good horse and won her bumper at Uttoxeter recently. She’s one to watch.
- Must See The Doc – He’s a nice two-year-old for the Rooneys and won second time out at Doncaster and should keep progressing. The same owners have got another smart two-year-old by Heeraat who will be worth a look.