Andrew Balding: My highlights from a fantastic Flat season
The Betway ambassador reviews a season to remember that brought four winners at Royal Ascot and a nail-biting contest in the Trainers' Championship.
It’s been a fascinating season – we got off to a great start and it just snowballed from there.
The staff have, yet again, been tremendous and are the reason why we’ve had such a great campaign. Their hard work and dedication knew no limits and I can’t thank them enough for their commitment.
There are plenty to choose from, but Alcohol Free’s win in the Sussex Stakes at Goodwood in July was so pleasing for us, for Jeff [Smith, her owner] and for everyone else involved.
It’s one of the premier races of the summer and is always incredibly difficult to win as it’s so hotly contested.
It’s a hugely prestigious race and we’ve been incredibly lucky to win it before, but this time felt so special to do it with such a talented filly.
Alcohol Free getting beaten in the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in May was a real disappointment. After her brilliant two-year-old season, she was the horse we’d been dreaming about all winter and we had high hopes for her coming into the spring, too.
She had a tough task in the Fred Darling, but that trial race was meant to put her spot-on for the Guineas, but she just wasn’t herself on the big day. She ran very well in the circumstances, but you only get one shot at a Classic, so it was disappointing for all the team.
Going into Royal Ascot, you always hope that you can get one winner but, this year, we had a such a good team of horses going that we would have been disappointed if we’d hadn’t got one.
The horses were in fine form and getting a winner on the first day with Berkshire Shadow in the Coventry was grand. It really took the pressure off.
To have another three winners was nothing short of amazing. We had such a good week, getting winners when it really mattered. It was a real boost for the whole team and it’s what we do it all for. Each of the winners will live on in my memory.
I have to say an additional well done to Oisin Murphy who rode three of them and to David Probert, who gave Sandrine a brilliant ride to win the Albany.
Trainers’ championships are so tough to win, and you need plenty of a certain type of horse to be able to compete on the final day of the season.
Take nothing away from what we have achieved, though – it was a great effort for us to be leading going into the latter few weeks of the season having led from early on.
We’ve loved it and are working on getting those types of horses in that are required to win a title – we’re certainly hoping it won’t be our last attempt!
There is definitely one moment that stands out for me. I never enjoy seeing people make mistakes but, on this occasion, I found it very amusing.
William Haggas is an exceptional man and an exceptional trainer. He is incredibly professional, and most people will know him for being a complete perfectionist.
So, when he forgot to put a weight cloth on a horse at Royal Ascot, it was so rare that it was very, very funny! He simply had no one else to blame but himself and he definitely wouldn’t have been happy.
Horses to watch next season
We’ve got some wonderful horses in the yard and there are plenty to get excited by, but I do love Sandrine. If things had gone slightly differently, then she’d have been unbeaten in other seasons.
She kept improving and ran to a very high level and was unlucky in the Cheveley Park, where she was drawn on the wide outside yet still ran with great credit. There is a lot more to come from her as she progresses and develops into a three-year-old.
I will also add in Filbert Power, who made his debut at Doncaster recently. He’s a very smart horse who had been showing some good signs at home.
He perhaps wouldn’t have been truly suited to the softer conditions on his debut but ran with great promise and will be winning races next season, that’s for sure.
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