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Midnight Tune out to defy top-weight as Newbury’s Jump season concludes tomorrow

Fri 23 Mar 2018

Courtesy of Newbury Racecourse:

Midnight Tune heads the weights for a hugely competitive renewal of the £40,000 G2 EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale, the highlight of Newbury’s Be Wiser Jump Season Finale tomorrow, Saturday, March 24.

The EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale (3.15pm, 16 runners) is a limited handicap run over an extended two and a half miles.

Midnight Tune (Anthony Honeyball/Aidan Coleman, 11st 10lb) has won three of her five starts so far this season and produced a career-best last time out to capture the G2 Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle over two and a half miles on testing ground at Sandown Park on February 16.

Her trainer, Dorset-based Anthony Honeyball, said: “Midnight Tune is in good order. The key to her, certainly in better races like this, is the ground; the softer the better.

“There is some more rain around and, given the ground is already soft, it will be interesting to see how what the going looks like today at Newbury. The more attritional the better, as she stays three miles and loves heavy ground.

“Everything is in place for a big run, though my main concern is her weight, especially given the big weight range between top and bottom (11st 1olb to 10st 4lb). The handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival were condensed, whereas some of the opposition tomorrow are getting plenty of weight and are unexposed.

“I suppose if we are not in the first three or four, we go home disappointed, but equally you would not be surprised if she got run out of it close home. I think the ground could be a factor in that respect and the more testing it is, the better.

“The great thing about Sandown is that she proved she didn’t have to lead. She is very happy to sit in behind as long as they going a nice, even gallop. I would imagine it will pan out similar tomorrow.”

Champion Jump trainer Nicky Henderson, who has landed the spoils three times since 2010, saddles Sunshade (James Bowen (3), 11st 9lb), who is owned and bred by Her Majesty The Queen.

Sunshade won her first three starts under Rules, including hurdle races at Ludlow and Market Rasen, before finishing a distant third behind Maria’s Benefit in a Listed event at Taunton on December 30.

Paul Nicholls runs If You Say Run (Sam Twiston-Davies, 11st 7lb), who was second to Midnight Tune at Sandown Park most recently, while Nicholls’ former assistant Dan Skelton saddles the lightly-raced Roskana (Harry Skelton, 11st 5lb), an impressive winner at Plumpton and Fontwell Park this season.

Charlie Longsdon has won two of the last three runnings, including last year with Snow Leopardess. The Chipping Norton handler relies on Jet Set (Johnny Burke, 10st 9lb) who fell when in contention at Sandown Park on March 9.

Jamie Snowden has two interesting contenders in Kalahari Queen (11st 1lb, Gavin Sheehan) and Lostnfound (Micheal Nolan, 10st 4lb).

Others to note include Oscar Rose (Fergal O’Brien/Paddy Brennan, 10st 8lb), Lady Of Lamanver (Harry Fry/Noel Fehily, 11st), who finished second in this race in 2016, and the unexposed Petticoat Tails (Warren Greatrex/Richard Johnson, 10st 11lb).

Snowden pair on course for Newbury EBF finale on Saturday

Tue 20 Mar 2018

Courtesy of Newbury Racecourse:

Newbury’s 2017/18 Jump racing season concludes this weekend with the two-day Be Wiser Jump Season Finale on Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24.

The highlight of Saturday’s seven-race card is the £40,000 G2 EBF & TBA Mares’ “National Hunt” Novices’ Hurdle Finale (3.15pm, 21 entries), a G2 limited handicap over an extended two and a half miles.

The entries are topped by Woolstone One (trainer Emma Lavelle), winner of a Listed race at Warwick on her latest start, and Midnight Tune (Anthony Honeyball), who made it three wins from her last four starts in the G2 Jane Seymour Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Sandown Park on February 16.

Her Majesty The Queen’s famous colours could be sported by Sunshade. The Nicky Henderson-trained homebred won her first three starts under Rules, including two hurdle races, in good style before finishing third behind Maria’s Benefit in a Listed mares’ hurdle at Taunton in December.

Jamie Snowden has two interesting contenders in Kalahari Queen and Lostnfound. Kalahari Queen comfortably defeated Lady Of Lamanver (Harry Fry) by eight lengths in a handicap hurdle at Exeter on February 23, while Lostnfound beat Woolstone One at Uttoxeter in November and has finished runner-up twice since in similar races under the penalty.

The Lambourn trainer explained: “Kalahari Queen is in great form. She came out of Exeter really well, having been pretty impressive that day.

“The thing about is that she is still so green and backward, but she is essentially a three-mile chaser in the making and given what she has done over two miles and two and a quarter, you would expect her to improve over further.

“Two and a half miles around Newbury on testing ground looks the next obvious stepping stone and we are looking forward to running her again.

“Lostnfound is owned by a breeder who is trying to get a little bit of black type, so if we can run, we will.

“She ran a good race the last day up at Sedgefield. She won what turned out to be quite a good race at Uttoxeter and has been second with the penalty twice.

“She is certainly good enough to win races and hopefully she can go there and pick up a bit a bit of black type.”

Newbury’s six-race card on Friday includes the £15,000 Be Wiser Insurance Handicap Hurdle (4.10pm, 20 entries) over an extended two miles. The weights are headed on 11st 12lb by talented novice Theclockisticking (Stuart Edmunds).

EBF An Outstanding Example of Self Help

Tue 20 Mar 2018

An article first published in the TDN on 14th March 2018: http://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/ebf-an-outstanding-example-of-self-help/

 

EBF An Outstanding Example Of Self Help

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The EBF’s Kerry Murphy | Emma Berry

By Emma Berry

The racing industry has a colourful history of self-help schemes, and one which has stood the test of time more robustly than most is the European Breeders’ Fund (EBF), which is now in its 35th year.

Like the European Pattern, the EBF has the fingerprints of the late journalist, bloodstock advisor and former TBA president Peter Willett all over it. Willett’s vision in establishing, in the early 1970s as part of the Norfolk Committee, a system by which the best Thoroughbreds are tested and graded each season is now the accepted norm as we talk of black-type races and group winners. Just as we can rely on pattern races to establish an equine hierarchy, so we have we come almost to take for granted the huge financial boost to the sport on a near-daily basis from the EBF.

The scheme funded by contributions from stallion owners is not an original concept. In Willett’s initial notes on the EBF from 1983, he was keen to give credit where it was due, writing, “It is vital to appreciate that the EBF drew its inspiration from the American Breeders’ Cup scheme, whose inception preceded it.”

Indeed, the Breeders’ Cup and EBF were happy bedfellows until 2011 when the longstanding cross-registration agreement ended. Since then, American-based stallions, and others from outside the EBF member countries, have been allowed to be nominated to the scheme, meaning that any of their progeny which end up running in Europe will be eligible for the myriad races which receive support from the EBF. Individuals by sires which are not currently EBF-registered can be signed up by a one-off payment from their owner.

“Overall we have around 650 stallions registered and the pool generally sits at around €5-million per year. We’re also bringing in about $1.4-million from Japan and America–and that’s a mix of stallion registrations and nominated horses,” says Kerry Murphy, who became chief executive of the EBF at the beginning of 2013 on the retirement of Sam Sheppard, who had held the post since the EBF began.

“When we had the cross-registration link with the Breeders’ Cup prior to 2011 we actually had more stallions–there were over 700 back then–but when that Common Fund Agreement ended the number reduced,” Murphy added.

Studs participating in the scheme from America include Lane’s End Farm, Calumet, Juddmonte, Shadwell, Ramsey Farm, Gainesway and Adena Springs, while Hill ‘N Dale Farms has recently added Flintshire (GB) to the list. Deep Impact (Jpn) has been among those registered by Shadai Stallion Station since 2014, and he heads a list of 17 Japanese stallions with EBF-eligible status. In total, the number of ‘international’ sires now stands at 40, a rise from just 12 in 2013.

Murphy notes, “The change we have really noticed is in the number of stallions covering an increased number of mares. We set the fees for each stallion on a graduated payment scheme. The majority of stallions–around 400 in Europe–are covering fewer than 65 mares, but those now covering more than 120 mares has gone up from 50 to 83.”

From these yearly payments into a rolling fund, the EBF has now committed more than €120-million to prize-money through race sponsorship in Europe. The Irish wing of the EBF is in fact the biggest sponsor of racing in Ireland, while its British counterpart (BEBF) is the third-largest sponsor of British racing.

With Philip Freedman as chairman, the co-ordinating committee of the EBF, whose member countries are Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and Switzerland, meets three times annually. Italy is temporarily suspended from the EBF owing to ongoing governance and funding issues within the country’s racing programme.

Murphy explains, “It’s a really strong committee of people from within the industry and we are grateful for all the knowledge and experience that they bring with them. In France we have Criquette Head-Maarek and Henri Pouret, who is the director of racing at France Galop and a very dynamic new member of the committee. From Ireland we have John O’Connor and Joe Foley, from Britain we have Philip Mitchell and Julian Richmond-Watson, and we also have representatives from Germany and Switzerland.”

She continues, “Outside the member countries, we invite any country in Europe to have their stallions signed up, so we currently have horses nominated from the Czech Republic, Spain, Austria, Hungary and Turkey. There are many more stallions who are signed up at the minimum fee than the higher fee and they are all important to us. The key to the success of the EBF is keeping everyone in and the member countries all agreeing and working together to spend the fund well. That way, stallion owners will have the faith to remain involved.”

The BEBF recently published its first annual review, detailing allocation of £1.6-million to Flat racing across 636 races in 2017 as well as £125,000 for 84 National Hunt races. In addition to ‘ring-fenced’ funds for veterinary research and development, the BEBF also lends its support to a valuable series of 20 fillies’ races first launched in 2016 in association with the TBA and BHA, as well as stallion parades and an annual National Hunt foal show.

“We work closely with all the racing authorities in the various countries,” says Murphy. “The British EBF spend has changed quite dramatically over the last few years. Because we have so many maiden races in this country, the money was being watered down a little bit too much. So it has been concentrated it in certain areas. Feedback has been really good on the fillies’ series. There are four £50,000 handicaps on finals’ day but the races through the series are all valuable too. The first race at Ascot in May is worth over £40,000, which is partly EBF money but also thanks to Ascot putting up a really good pot.”

She adds, “Because we’re quite lightly resourced–just three of us here in Newmarket, one person in Ireland, and the committees all working for nothing, we do rely on and use research documents from the various TBAs. I must give credit to the BHA and TBA for the fillies’ series, which is a great example of teamwork.”

In Ireland, a new Flat auction race series, a project initiated by the IEBF and backed by commercial sponsor Foran, is about to enter its second term.

“The Irish EBF is very innovative and tends to support the lower market. This is now a €120,000 series based on sales prices of the individual to help smaller owners and smaller trainers. The IEBF has also devised an auction hurdle series and really got behind the start of the Irish Champions Series,” Murphy says.

Of course, the introduction of any new scheme within racing and breeding will always invoke criticism as well as support from the industry. That was no different back in 1983. John Hislop, Willett’s fellow bloodstock journalist and owner-breeder of Brigadier Gerard (GB), described the EBF as “unethical, impracticable”, while the former Home Secretary William Whitelaw was among many who viewed it as “an outstanding example of self-help.”

Highlighting a theme which has persisted in the intervening years, Willett wrote at the time. “The idea appealed strongly to all sections of the British racing community because the industry had been plunged into financial crisis as a result of the cutbacks, both actual and forecast, in the Levy Board’s contributions to prize-money.”

And a glimpse of the attitude that made Willett such a revered member of the racing community he served so well is found in his later statement: “The authors of the EBF are not so foolish as to claim that they have achieved perfection at a stroke, or to deny that modifications may be necessary in the light of experience.”

Slight changes have indeed been incorporated over the decades, such as a stallion’s contribution reflecting not just his average nomination price, as was once the case, but also the number of mares covered. Yet the fundamental premise remains intact.

“There is no doubt that this has proved to be a great self-help initiative,” says Murphy. “We like to think that every stallion owner who pays into the scheme feels recognised and feels that the money is being well spent. We run things as tightly as we possibly can and distribute the funds in what we hope is the best way to help each individual member country’s racing.”

Guineas entries show strong EBF support

Fri 9 Mar 2018

Over half of the entries received for the 2018 running of the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile Racecourse this spring have either won or been placed in a British EBF race as a two-year-old.  The list of horses still aiming for the first Classic of the new flat season, which was published on 7th March, consists of no fewer than 36 potential runners that graduated from an EBF Novice or Maiden race (52%).

Of particular note are the three entries of ELARQAM (Frankel), HERCULEAN (Frankel) and MERLIN MAGIC (Camelot) who all won British EBF supported Sire/ Dam Restricted Maiden races.  These contests have been designed specifically to provide high value opportunities for progeny of stallions or race mares who were stayers themselves to race against each other as juveniles.  The races are in their third year and the average field size has increased year on year, as have the number of races in the programme.

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