BRITISH 2yo RACING
2014 - Trainer Review
1st January, 2015
Another Article which had intended to be 'Blog' length which got out of hand. Hopefully the other articles intended to be Blogs written over the Winter will conform to the expected size. This article is not meant to be an exhaustive study of the trainers with their 2yos but more to highlight notable performances and interesting trends.
2014 saw the first rise in the number of trainers with 2yo runners since the downturn began in 2010. The trainer total reached a peak in 2007 at 327 but then dropped in each year from 2010 to 2013 to reach a low of 256 trainers. A drop of 71 (22% decrease from the peak total) in the number of trainers represented to 2013. The figure was up to 277 in 2014.
The number of individual 2yos that have run in each season have shown a similar pattern with the peak number in 2008 of 3,093 horses running at least once. That decline appeared to bottom out in 2012 with 2,575 individual runners. That was 518 horses fewer than the peak number and a 17% overall decrease in the total..
To complete the Story, with small field sizes a big issue in British Racing at the time of writing, the number of 2yo races in 2014 was 1,047 and down by 37 on the 2009 peak and a 3.4% overall decline to compare to the decrease in the horse total. The Table following summarises the differences between 2009 and 2014. A major point to note is that the Average Strike Rate increases as the Race Field Size decreases. This means that an 'Average Trainer' used to compare to the actual records of trainers has a notably higher Strike Rate in 2014. It is also interesting to note that the average of the number of runs each 2yo makes has decreased a little to 2014 to add further to the decrease in Field Size change.
Always worth making the point of how uneven the distribution of available 2yos is between the 277 trainers with runners in 2014. Only 73 of the 277 had 10 or more juveniles running for them or, put the other way 204 of those stables (74%), had 9 or less 2yos run for them. 65 of the trainers (23.5%) ran just a single 2yo and only 6 of that 65 had a winner. Less than half of all the trainers had a juvenile winner in 2014 with the 132 trainers with a 2yo winner the lowest total in the records since, at least, 2002. A lot of trainers just making-up-the-numbers and it is hard to see how they are making a living.
The imbalance with runners means that a person can get a long way with understanding how 2yo racing 'works' by knowing a lot about the top 20-30 trainers and their methods. While treating the rest as a 'background' the bigger yards play in front of. The following table shows the top end of the trainer cast with the Top 10 Trainers by number of 2yo Runners ranked for the past 5 seasons. Useful information to get a good understanding of who main yards are and the numbers of 2yos they handle. The Top 10 trainers in 2014 handled close to 30% of the total 2yos who ran, and were responsible for nearly 40% of race wins. The figures in brackets are the number of individual 2yos that ran for each stable that season. In 2014 they are coloured Green for stables with an increased number of 2yos over 2013 and Red if less.
|1st||RJR Hannon (153)||R Hannon (174)||R Hannon (158)||R Hannon (157)||R Hannon (142)|
|2nd||RA Fahey (113)||RA Fahey (88)||MA Zarooni (83)||MA Zarooni (92)||MR Channon (77)|
|3rd||C Appleby (75)||M Johnston (85)||RA Fahey (78)||RA Fahey (78)||M Johnston (72)|
|4th||M Johnston (68)||C Appleby (70)||M Johnston (66)||M Johnston (78)||BJ Meehan (71)|
|5th||CB Hills (66)||SB Suroor (67)||MR Channon (64)||MR Channon (65)||RA Fahey (68)|
|6th||WJ Haggas (59)||MR Channon (62)||KA Ryan (57)||BJ Meehan (65)||MA Zarooni (67)|
|7th||M Stoute (58)||JHM Gosden (60)||TD Easterby (56)||KA Ryan (60)||JHM Gosden (64)|
|8th||JHM Gosden (57)||KA Ryan (54)||BJ Meehan (53)||JHM Gosden (59)||BW Hills (62)|
|9th||KA Ryan (56)||CB Hills (53)||CB Hills (49)||M Stoute (57)||WJ Haggas (51)|
|10th||RP Varian (49)||AM Balding (47)||AM Balding (47)||AM Balding (55)||RM Beckett (48)|
The Chart below displays how the number of 2yos each of 5 of the largest stables have had from 1996 through to 2014. Interesting in a number of ways and, with hindsight. it is possible to see how the ups-and-downs fit with the histories of the stables over that period. For example, Richard Hannon had bumbled along around 100 individual runners for a long period then something happened in 2008 and the numbers took off. Looking back you could suggest that was when Richard Hannon Jnr. stopped chasing female TV presenters around and really set his mind to turning the satellite yard into 'his' stable. Also when he set out to attract new, and very wealthy, owners as his father has complimented him on. Interesting to see that in his first year with the licence in his name the number of 2yo runners dropped by 19. You wonder Why?
The chart also shows how Mark Johnston managed to take Top Spot off the Hannons in 2006-07 but how his stable strength has dwindled since. Look at his record in more detail and it shows how heavily reliant he is on Maktoum family and associates to provide the horses he trains. As their plans and interest drifts around his record follows. The record of the Channon stable shows what seems to be an accelerating decline which needs some urgent action to prevent. An issue covered in more detail in the 'Fading' Section. Saeed bin Suroor's record, like Johnston's, wanders spikily about as SBS provides a dutiful backstop who fills the holes left by other Godolphin trainers, and the whims of the Boss. Loder going a bit odd?, the Fabre experiment not really working?, the mercurial Mr Zarooni royally messing things up? SBS trundles along picking up the slack with his record bouncing around.
But, probably the most striking feature of the Chart is the slow, but relentless, rise of the Fahey yard. Go back to 2002 and he ran 8 x 2yos and had a single win. At which time he was a trainer B2yoR did not take seriously and his early season runners usually looked clueless and ran like Derek Shaw's still do. Slow improvement but by 2007 he was still comfortably below average in Strike Rate. But, a remarkably good improvement since then and another big step forward in 2014 in number of runners to a clear second place. The funding of the yard in terms of price paid for the purchased 2yos also increased notably in 2104. Can he take his total higher in 2015?
While the Fahey record is now well above average in most ways there is one area where he is still a long way behind the Hannon set-up. That is is getting winners in the highest class 2yo races and a measure where the Hannons Top the Table. Until 2013 Fahey had not had a British juvenile Group winner, although Wootton Bassett had won a French Group 1 (failed to win at 3yo). In 2013 he managed Group wins with Good Old Boy Lukey and Supplicant and perhaps things were improving? But, a poor 2014 with no Group win and just a single Listed race win by Izzthatright who was claimed from Nigel Tinkler out of a seller.
Look back to his 2013 Group winners and Supplicant did not win at 3yo and ended the year well beaten in a handicap off OR96 and a 'soft' Group win. Good Old Boy Lukey was sold to race in Hong Kong after his Group win and not something the Hannons would allow unless they thought the horse did not have a longer term Group level future. Good Old Boy Lukey had not won in Hong Kong on last check but another 2013 Fahey juvenile winner - Peniaphobia - has won at Graded level there and then finished second in an important Grade 1 sprint as just a, Northern Hemisphere, 3yo and is seen as being a top sprinting prospect if he develops normally with age there. Again, why was he sold after his Supersprint victory instead of contesting Group races for Fahey?
[Update April 28th, 2015. For interest and reference. The picture below shows an Aerial Photo of Fahey's Yard which he retweeted on April 28th. Showing the different phases of building, overall scale, etc.]
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Top billing in this Section goes to two trainers who both 'returned' to training in 2014 via different routes. Martyn Meade trained his first NH winner way back in 1972 and had some success with 2yos during the 1990s. In 1995 the juvenile Lunar Mist won a seller on debut and later ran up a 5-timer in Nurseries starting off OR62 and the last off 83. Lunar Mist ran until a 5yo but never added to those 2yo successes. Meade's last 2yo runners were in the 2004-06 period but that period yielded no wins from 10 individual juvenile runners. In 2013 he mostly retired from his role in a Private Equity company and purchased the Sefton Lodge Stables in Newmarket and spent money on modernising the facility.
Meade said that he wanted to target higher class wins but initially wanted to make an impact with his string of 2yos in 2014, his first year as a full-time trainer. The results were very good in 2014 and getting towards 'terrific' when the purchase prices of the 2yos is factored in. He ran 17 different 2yos in 2014 with 14 bought for €11,000, or less. Which is the basement level. His 3 'expensive 2yos cost 20,000gns, €24,000 & €16,000 and lower level prices in the recent sale's markets. You could easily come up with a list of trainers who have spent more money than that on 2yos over a period of years and produced only the occasional win.
Meade's record was 10 of the 17 individuals winning a race (excellent) and a 26% Strike Rate (terrific). One debut winner and 9 others made the first 4 FTO. With the exception of nursery winner Explain (too free on Debut) all the 2yos looking competent on debut and showing the ability they had. Wins throughout the season and 7 wins from 14 runners in October, plus a Listed placing for a filly who cost €8,000. A record suggesting a very organised and meticulous trainer. With that training nous added to what seems a good ability to find usable 2yos at low level prices then a trainer to take seriously. Interesting to see whether he can continue that strong start in 2015 and whether he does better with more money to spend.
Karl Burke finally got his name back on the Training Licence for his Spigot Lodge Stables fully for the 2014 season having been banned for a year in 2009 for passing on inside information. For various reasons he did not get his licence back until later 2013 so 2014 was effectively his full return. In the interim his father-in-law Alan Jarvis (finally refused a licence by the BHA in 2014) took over the stable for a short period then his wife Elaine held the licence until late 2013. If you compare Burke's record to Richard Fahey then in 2002 both had just a single 2yo win from a small number of runners. In the period through to 2009 Burke had made more progress than Fahey with 2yos and had a better record all round.
Burke came back in 2014 with an Annus Mirabilis with his highest total on individual winners, wins and his best career Strike Rate at 20%. The purchasing of horses underlying that record with a winners to runners ratio at a remarkable 71%. His approach as a trainer had always been to build into a season and then have a wave of wins at some point and in 2014 he had a terrific August. During one period it was hard to convince yourself to back one against his runner no matter what the profile it presented. The successes including a Group win for cheaply bought Toocoolforschool and three other runners making the first 4 in Group races. Given his liking for buying bigger horses at the sales (which B2yoR approves of) it will be worth following how his career develops from here. Also to try to find that 'Purple Patch' in 2015 as it starts not halfway through. Oh, and to try to remember he had his biggest profit with second time out (STO) runners in 2014 on his return having recorded a profit with STOs in every season 2003-09.
A number of younger trainers have been making a good impression in recent seasons and the one having the best 2014 was probably Hugo Palmer. He had produced good results in his first three seasons with small sets of cheap to middling priced 2yos. Getting the wins at a low level in an orderly manner. 2014 saw a strong step forward with an increased number of 2yos and 3 bought at higher prices at the sales. 11 individual winners from 18 x 2yo runners lifting him to rank 11th, of the 277 trainers, by the measure of winners to runners. The ability to recruit competitive horses being absolutely essential before even thinking about the training ability.
Palmer managed a 20% Strike Rate overall and got wins throughout the season starting with early wins by cheaper types. In 2014 he also stepped up in quality and achieved his first Group win with Aktabantay and then his second 5 days later with New Providence. When interviewed he was usually lucid and informative and showed real evidence of there being some thought and planning in the background. On the evidence so far a trainer who can progress to be in the comfortably 'above average' tier of trainers, as a minimum, with more equine resources.
A brief mention of two other Newmarket trainers with smaller strings who continued to do well. Philip McBride was noted in the 2013 article on 'Trainer String Quality' as someone who did very well with acquiring cheap but competitive 2yos. He excelled himself in 2014 and sold on his most 'expensive' purchase, who was bought at a loose change level of 5,500gns, to Qatar Racing after her win. He stands out as a trainer who is worth extra funding. B2yoR finally realised also that the Charlie McBride who is always interviewed on course is actually the brother of the trainer. Get there in the end, notably out of breath.
R. (Rae) Guest had another very good season with a small string and another 2 debut wins, again at Leicester. His Strike Rate in the last 3 seasons has been between 18-22% and he seems to be very good at identifying ability at home. He is also worth a mention since he is one of 6 siblings of whom 3 are now licensed trainers. His brother R. C. (Richard) Guest continued in 2014 his individual way of producing below average results. His sister Jane Cecil started her career as the trainer at Warren Place with no win from 24 runs of 8 individual 2yos. The horses being a mix of new partnerships and a small number of 2yos from wealthy owners with long-term links to the Cecil yard. You wonder how long the awkward issues of loyalty to the Cecil name and the reality of getting your horse trained by the best handler you can will take to play out.
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After a good start in his first season Olly Stevens had a dreadful second one. He was head-hunted by Sheikh Fahad al Thani to be the salaried trainer at the Stables the Sheikh bought off Peter Winkworth. 2013 produced 8 individual 2yo winners from 17 runners and a number of high class wins. That included a Listed win at Royal Ascot by Extortionist, Green Door winning the Flying Childers and Group places from the fillies Hoku and Lightning Thunder. Looking back at the end of 2014 then only one of his 8 individual winners won in Britain as a 3yo. Extortionist winning a 5f Group 3 and a handicap. 4 of his other 2yo winners were sold off as 2yos and Green Door, Gamesome & Lightning Thunder failed to win at 3yo.
With hindsight you might suggest he was a trainer that needed high class horses to win with. But, even those sort of niggles do not explain why 2014 was so poor. His sole 2yo win was a debut success by Peace And War in a weak Lingfield AW maiden. That expensive filly ran ok in the Group 3 Albany and placed in a Novice race before being sent to race in the US. On her first run there she won a Grade 1 for fillies on a Dirt surface. Typically, the Twitter output never shut up about her but was notably silent in explaining why the rest of the results were so poor.
The set of horses he was given to train in 2014 were clearly less able as a group than in 2013 and he presumably has a remit to produce high class winners. The prospective handicappers being sold off as 2yos. But, even given that background you can find fault with Stevens' overall efforts in 2014. His earliest two runners - The Paco Kid & Shackled N Drawn were smaller types and probably overdone for debut and failed to progress with racing. The debuts were mostly uncompetitive overall and a similar lack of progress with racing showing up. A number of runs looked 'odd' and what on earth was his plan with Total Demolition?
The season also saw Bellajeu transfer to race for Ralph Beckett 3TO after two runs looking underdone for Stevens. That filly beaten in a photo in a big field Newbury maiden on her first outing for Beckett. Stevens has never really convinced B2yoR in his interviews, possibly because, despite having a chin, he trips the 'Chinless Wonder' alarm. He seems more pleased to be there and isn't it all going marvellously rather than hard nosed planning and assessment. Leaving you hoping his wife - Hetta - is as competent as everyone says and isn't letting the training slip a bit because she has to run the Office and do the child rearing as well. It should be informative to see how his performance in 2015 pans out. Is he a below average trainer who needs high class horses to win with or does he have a wider range of abilities?
At the anecdotal level you wonder why Bellajeu was moved to Beckett. Sheikh Fahad showed late in 2014 that he can be decisive in removing people from his 'Team' if he thinks he can find better people. Jamie Spencer being relieved of his job as First Jockey in favour of Andrea Atzeni. How long will Stevens last if things do not go better? How long will Redvers last if he buys a lot more like some of the high priced garbage in 2014? Oh, and can he stop buying horses by the stallion he stands at his own Stud with other peoples' money? Spencer, meanwhile, flounced around a lot and said he was going to retire but then reversed that position in late season. Bloody marvellous, cannot even make a swift, decisive, job of retiring. Which means 2015 will bring more rounds of the debates over whether he is any good as a jockey. B2yoR is with the Sheikh and Aiden O'Brien in this debate. They both sacked him.
Peter Chapple-Hyam has had a varied record with 2yos since his return from Hong Kong for the 2004 season. Having built his reputation with his astute handling of 2yos he has said in recent seasons that he goes easier on them in training before they run these days. But, while still identifying their ability at home and with his Debut (FTO) Red-Amber-Greens (FRAGs) showing how he front-loads his competitive 2yos and streams those needing longer distances. The better ones still win FTO and often with some Market hint that they are the ok ones. He had a very bad year in 2009 with just 3 wins and he said he recognised his issues with handling the communications with owners and employed a manager to handle that side of business.
2010 to 2013 saw an improvement in numbers of juveniles and also with wins until a dip in 2013. The dip continued in 2014 with less horses and back down to just 4 wins. Those included 2 debut wins and the front-loading of the competitive 2yos still evident. But, a worry over the drop in horse numbers and whether the lack of quality in 2013-14 has been just natural variation or something more fundamental. Look at the path of his career since 2004 and it has been generally downwards with a brief improvement which coincided with him taking targetted measures to address some issues. In his Twitter persona he always comes across as relaxed and easy to deal with, if a little world weary. Worth tracking whether 2013-14 was just a random blip in his record or the start of a trend.
Ed McMahon took over his father's stable in 2005 and had a very good record with his 2yos until 2012. That was not a surprise given that his father had targetted 2yo racing strongly and been one of that small cast of trainers who used to win most of the very earliest juvenile races each season. McMahon junior has shown more build-into-the-season training approach and 2yo wins rare before later May with mid-summer into the autumn for the time when most wins occur. He was notable for planning runs and getting notably high Strike Rates overall.
Then 2013 was a poor year by his standards with just 3 wins in total and a well below average Strike Rate. Just a good trainer having a bad year and he should be back to normal was the thought. 2014 turned out to be even worse with only 9 individual 2yos running for him and no wins at all. Checking around B2yoR could not find any information explaining what the issues were which caused such a slump. The usual story in these cases is that the horses have been ill in some form and never getting to full fitness and performance. Clearly a pattern to check further from May onwards in 2015.
It is useful to also consider McMahon's links with owner John Fretwell who had horses with his father Bryan for many years. McMahon senior continued as an advisor to Fretwell after he retired including helping with, perhaps leading, the buying team. Fretwell has always tried to make owning a profitable business and recently has owned around 10 juveniles each year with the aim being to get enough OR90+ raters that he can sell on for inflated prices to pay for the others. In 2013 Fretwell did not have a single winner from 11 individual 2yos runners of which Ed McMahon trained 7 and David Brown (who rents part of Fretwell's Aversham Park training establishment) handling 4. The returns for Fretwell in 2014 with just 2 winners from 10 juveniles of which McMahon only trained 2 and Brown had 8 including both winners. The winners were around OR70 standard and no use as business savers. Why the decrease in the McMahon trained 2yos for Fretwell in 2014?
The following link - Picture - goes to a photo of the McMahon & Fretwell team on May 20th, 2013 at Leicester. They are trudging back to the Car Park, presumably using the helicopter to get from Nottinghamshire to Leicester is a bit over-the-top, after a poor run by Capitulate. That horse being one of the early runners for McMahon and should have been one of his competitive 2yos. He didn't win in three runs and was sold off, at a loss, for 9,500gns at the end of 2013. The mood does not look good for the team and they perhaps knew they did not have much better than Capitulate and that the season was a write off. You wonder how they looked as 2014 progressed and matters had not improved much. McMahon is in the lead on the far side with a dejected looking Fretwell to his left. The dark haired younger man in rear is Fretwell's son and probably his Racing Manager and you would worry for his long term job prospects, if he were not family.
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The following Section covers a number of established trainers whose results with 2yos has declined in recent years. Those examples show that just being a solid trainer who has reached a certain level of achievement is often not 'enough' in a competitive Market. A trainer has to continue working and improving to stay in the same place unless they are very lucky with the contacts they have. For example, even a trainer at the level of Michael Stoute had seen his 2yo numbers drop in the last 5-6 years until a bounce back in 2014. Not a rise as such and more getting back to the level he used to be at and enough to stop him getting into the 'Fading' list.
The first example is C. B. (Charlie) Hills and someone who it would be easy to dismiss given his head start and contacts. He took over the successful stable of his father and has two brothers who were successful jockeys, one to assist him and another to provide a contact to Hamdan Al Maktoum's extensive string of horses. But, he has increased his number of runners each full year with a licence and his high of 66 in 2014 meant he was getting up to the number his father had at his peak. The overall results have been above average but leave some room for improvement and he has had a good set of higher class winners in each season.
2013 saw him train 3 different juvenile Group winners including Chriselliam who won at Group 1 level in Britain and then a Grade 1 in the US. Although a mixed story his Group winner from 2012 with Just The Judge only won twice in full 3yo and 4yo seasons. But they were in the Irish Oaks and a Grade 1 in Canada. In 2014 he had another 3 individual Group winners with Cotai Glory, Muhaarar & Dutch Connection with each developing with racing. The overall record would have been better but for Cotai Glory throwing away the Group 2 Flying Childers when clear into the last 100 yards and Group placer Strath Burn losing his debut win.
Still room for improvement for Mr. Hills but a good start and he seems to have more about him than his nervousness, and youngness, suggests when he is interviewed. Also worth noting that he doesn't seem to be just a 'front' with his driven father still in control in the background. Father Barry had already been involved in his own project of providing a pre-training facility for the Hamdan 2yos when his other trainer son John died in 2014 after a short illness with cancer. Barry then taking over John Hills' yard as the license holder to keep the business going for John's dependents. Charlie does seem to be driving himself, in both senses.
Next to a another younger trainer although one starting from a base level, although with a good background and contacts. Ed Walker was in his 4th season in 2014 and he has improved his returns in all areas with a new high of 20 individual 2yo runners with 13 race wins at a Strike Rate near 21%. He appears to assess the ability of his 2yos realistically at home and plans appropriate careers. For example, in 2014 it was interesting to watch how he dealt with the career of Invincible Gold after a poor debut in earlier season which made the hype around the horse seem odd. After a break of two months the horse came back to improve with racing and stand up much of the earlier judgement.
Walker had moved location in Newmarket 3 times in a short career starting by renting some of the St. Gatien Stables then moving to Grange House Stables in late 2012. It is refreshing to see on his website that he admits that the move and change of work routines caught him out and it took time to get his 2yos into full form in 2013. The final results were fine despite that change. In 2014 he moved again to take over part of Henry Cecil's Warren Place Stables. With the increased support he has got as his good results and approach have brough positive results then a fascinating task in 2015 to track how his career progresses. In particular, his preparation of the 2yos before they run has often meant Profits backing his horses on their first, and/or second runs in a short career. If you can find the right combinations and signals.
A few other established trainers have hinted at pushing on to a higher level in recent seasons so worth considering here although not obviously rising notably. In interview in 2014 William Haggas actually said as much and that he wanted to join the 'Premier League' of trainers. He had trotted along until 2009 with around 30 individual runners each season and producing good returns. A rise since then and 2014 saw him with his highest total of 59 juveniles and his second highest number of wins with a rather too long tail on uncompetitive ones after a strong start. In the same interview he said he felt he had finally learnt how to delegate and particularly to let his wife Maureen (nee Piggott) 'in' to add her expertise fully. You would hope that with a better set of 2yos in 2015 and he would set his record figures in several categories.
Finally, to name two trainers who have made recent increases in their string in recent yards and need tracking for how that progress continues. Also a chance to add in some more Northern based yards it what feel like a Southern biased article overall. J. J. (John) Quinn has increased his 2yo numbers in 2013-14 with a good number expensively bought at the sales. The returns have been good with the increase and the debut & STO runs looking to be targetted for wins and the Market of some help in this instance. Michael Dods had his record number of 2yos in 2014 and also a record for the Wins total. He is always an interesting trainer to follow because of the way he goes about handling debut and STO runs.
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This Section is to note the poor records of a number of long established trainers any of whom could have been in the 'Poor' Section above. But, in each of these cases there seems to be more to the issue than a one-off bad season which any trainer can have. In these instances there seems to be a longer term decline in equine resources and lesser returns with their 2yos linked to that.
Top of the list is Mick Channon who has ranked in the Top 3 for 2yos on various measures, number of juvenile runners and winners for example, over an extended period. Many early season races have depended upon Channon & Hannon to add some longer term significance to small and low quality fields. Channon built his stable strength up notably early this century to reach a peak in 2006 when he had his record number of 2yo runners, winners, and wins. He has run less 2yos in every year since 2006 and 2014 saw a collapse down to just 45 individual horses running which was under half the total he ran in 2006. His returns in 2014 were back down to his mid-1990s level when he was building the stable up. The stable has regressed by 20 years in the last 5.
But, for a rash of late season nursery wins by horses who had run umpteen times for him, a typical part of his approach, the returns would have been grisly. Channon always had a set way of doing things with his training regime and that does not appear to have changed. Which leaves the obvious answer to the problems as the lack of funding to acquire more, and better quality, horses. As his record shows for the source and cost of his 2yos 2014 saw less sales bought 2yos running for him at all levels. Those in the above £100,000 level had gone entirely and even the cheap levels there were few buys. Added to that problem he seems to have an increasing number of horses which he has bred himself out of cheaper mares or through his connection with the Norman Court Stud (owned by a friend of Channon - Peter Trant). He had a good record of winning 'something' with those trainer breds but too many were owned by Channon or in partnerships with friends and associates. B2yoR in the past has used the phrase "Me, my friends & the Maktoums" to characterise the core of what the stable focussed on. That seems to have become "Me and the friends who are still with us..".
Look through his list of owners in 2014 and a lot of long standing friends of Channon but most with just 1 or 2 horses and a number of those owner bred. No evidence of any new money coming into the yard. Most notable is the lack of much 'Arab Money' with just two horses from those sources. Unlike a wide range of trainers he seems to have missed out on getting onto the Qatari 'Gravy Train' and his links with the Maktoums have all but disappeared. A stable that desperately needs someone to go out and attract new owners to increase the equine resources which are dwindling as Channon relies on his very longstanding friends.
Jeremy Noseda has always operated at a different level to Channon. The most individual 2yos he has ever run in a season is 32 and he had 30 in both 2011 & 2012. He was more of a 'bespoke' trainer to wealthy owners and 2yos which cost less than 40,000gns were rarities. He also runs his 2yos a lot less than Channon with an average around 2.6 runs per 2yo compared to Channon's which is usually above 5.5. This approach usually leading to high Strike Rates and around a very high 20% in 2011 to 2012. He had two different juvenile Group winners in 2011 and another in 2012. Which is all fine.
The big question then is what has happened in the last 2 seasons? A poor 2013 with just 13 runners and a small number of wins and none above maiden level. That proved not to be a blip and the returns in 2014 were even worse with just 9 runners and 3 individual 2yo winners and all lower quality. A check of the source and prices of his 2yos show a similar issue to that with the Channon Stable. A lot less purchased 2yos and less at all levels but most notably at the level above 60,000gns. A look through his owners and none from the Dubai nor Qatar sources and perhaps another example of a trainer finding his group longstanding wealthy owners lessening in numbers and in the amount of horses they have? The Strike Rates he has achieved in 2013-14 show that the training ability is still there but a lesson in ability is of little use if you do not have the equine resources. What direction will the performance graph go in 2015?
Some similarities to Channon with the decline of the 2yo returns for Bryan Meehan with both having been Hannon assistants early in their careers. Meehan's yard reach it's peak in terms of horse numbers and funding at a similar time, 2007 in the Meehan case. Numbers had started to dwindle around 2010 but reached a record low in 2013 with 2014 at least looking as if the situation had stabilised. Or, bumping-along-the-bottom given the physical size of the training establishment he is contracted to. One item to note is that in the period when Channon and Meehan have both dropped around 45 x 2yos per year in stable strength the Hannon stable has increased its 2yo string by 70-80 horses. The opportunities are still there.
Unlike Channon, marital problems have coincided with the 2013-14 slump with his wife Kim asking for a divorce in late 2012 and Meehan moving out to live in a cottage on the Manton estate. Kim Meehan (nee Allison) was a key part of the training team being the daughter of a trainer and ridden and trained herself. She was also said to be a very important part of the buying team at the sales. During this period Meehan's assistant trainer also moved on to work for a different trainer. From the outside it is hard to say how much the personal issues have contributed to the decreasing 2yos results.
A look at the source and prices of his 2yos show the same problem as Channon & Noseda. A lot less horses bought and a collapse in the numbers of expensive purchases. You could hypothesise about the 2008 Global Financial problems removing some of the wealthy owners over the next few years for and then not being replaced, for all three trainers. An anecdotal positive for the Meehan stable returning to more focus is that Meehan's Website is now up-to-date, on checking for this article, having fallen into a poor state during 2013.
On checking trainer records for the article a number of other trainers showed up as being in declines with regard to their 2yo returns. Two others worth mentioning who fit into that category are Marcus Tregoning & James Fanshawe. Both were good trainers that B2yoR took seriously and both had interesting wrinkles in their approaches which added useful information to profiling 2yo races. They achieved just 3 wins between them in 2014 and it takes a mental 'gear change' to realise that they belong in the Smaller Stable category now with little influence on juvenile races. Tregoning appears to be another classic example of the funding and the backing for his stable diminishing while the Fanshawe change is less discernible. What is clear is that no matter how good a trainer you are you need to make the right contacts and schmooze the right wealthy people. As ever, it is 'Recruitment, Recruitment, Recruitment...', equine & human, before the training nous and quality even get tested.
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The question mark in the title of this Section indicating that it is the place to note both changes with trainers' methods but also non changes. For example, Michael Bell turned 54 in October and has held a licence since 1989 and more than 25 years into the job. The link from his name in the last sentence goes to a list of his record with 2yos from 1996 to 2014. It seems about as consistent a record as you are going to find. It drifts up and down but presumably just reflecting the random variation in the quality of horses in an individual season rather than a targetted change or move.
The results are a bit above average consistently but with a Median for the sales bought 2yos in his stable even further above average and a below average result with those factors combined. He has had just 1 juvenile Group win and 2 at Listed level since the start of 2005. Is that consistency good enough? Is he showing the sort ability that would mean he should be pushing on to a higher level? Thinking about Bell's position it starts to feel like the 'Arsene Wenger' question in football? Are we underestimating the ability being shown to keep his stable at the same level, and presumably solvent which many trainers do not achieve, for 25 years or is Sir Alex right? With the resources he has Wenger should have won more than a solitary F. A. Cup in 10 years and more, which makes him a serial 'loser'.
On the same tack of a trainer who has been doing the same thing for a long time then what to think of Tim Easterby's record? He has a reputation as a trainer who targets 2yos and ranked 13th in 2014 by number of individual 2yo runners. But, a look at his record shows he has settled into a steady record of 40-50 runners each year but they produce well below average returns. Poor strike rates overall and a Winner to Runners that is too low - a dreadful 16% in 2014. He seems to buy a lot of horses but more in hope that some will prove usable rather than it looking a fine tuned operation. The over-riding question that comes to mind is why Mr Easterby, or a close associate, sit down with him and be honest about the shortcomings. Then plan what needs to be done to improve things.
Next to Godolphin and the changes that became apparent in the 2014 season after the turbulent 2013. The changes seeing Saeed bin Suroor and Charlie Appleby given more freedom in how they organised their stables as well as in the preparation and running of the horses. At one very visible level this saw a big change in the use of jockeys with the former retained Barzalona packed off back to France and Sylvester de Sousa mostly sidelined. Both trainers saying they would use the best available with Adam Kirby making the most of the new opportunities. It was somewhat predictable that Kieron Fallon managed to alienate another supporter in Suroor, to add to the pile of people disappointed in him.
The biggest change in 2yo terms was in the presentation of the horses on their early runs. In the past B2yoR has noted that Godolphin 2yos often looked wired very tight in terms of fitness and attitude on debut and many horses peaked on their first or second runs and did not progress with racing. The number who disappeared entirely as 3yos or who had just the odd, usually disappointing, run was also noteworthy. From the outside an entirely different approach to, for example, Stoute or Cumani who are not that interested in 2yo racing and want to develop careers over 3-4 seasons. 2014 looked very different and especially with the Charlie Appleby 2yos, by the end of July he had just 2 x debut wins from 27 runners. A lot of those horses looking both underdone in physical terms and clueless mentally to some extent. For someone used to the wired-to-the-moon Godolphin debuts the first half of the season felt a little disorientating.
While the attempt to make the training methods more attuned to producing careers rather than juvenile impact and ludicrously high Strike Rates is to be applauded, Godolphin did seem to lose it way in some areas. They had a number of later season wins in nurseries on 4TO runs or later which sounds ok. But, what were they doing winning handicaps with horses rated 56, 63, 68 & 69? On August 27th Godolphin set their record for the lowest Official Rating one of their 2yos had when winning a nursery twice in one day. Hopefully that was just letting the trainers try out some new regimes with expendable stock.
A couple of subtle changes to report to finish this section starting with an apparent shift of emphasis for Andrew Balding. He finished his 12th season with a licence in 2014 having taken over a successful stable from his father Ian, going back to Mill Reef and beyond for those with longer memories. The numbers of 2yo runners has varied between 28 and 55 in that period with him peaking at 10th ranked amongst trainer by his number of individual 2yos. But, his Strike Rates and especially his Winners by Runner percentage have often struggled to even reach average and not good considering the financial resources and contacts he has.
The stable used to be represented by cheaper buys and over 5-6f from relatively early in the season. In recent seasons he seems to have purposely targetted buying horses with more staying pedigrees and his 2yos have run less often. He has not given up on 2yo racing but he now looks like a stable who seems to see it more as preparation for the 3yo+ careers. 2014 saw a further decline in the number of runs and the best Strike Rate he has ever achieved which seems to go along with the plan to target 2yo racing less. Looks at the table of his Wins to Runs by Race Distance and they show how his stable is now heavily biased towards 7f to 8f 2yos and the wins coming later in the season.
T. D. (David) Barron is a trainer B2yoR has long had a lot of time for. Partly because of the way he deals with breathless and gushing TV interviewers who doorstep him in the Winners' Enclosure. Always refusing to get caught up in the hype and instead quietly and calmly explaining to the gusher what quality his horse really is and how that will work out in future. Effectively telling the interviewer how racing really works. If you look at his record since 1996 then, unlike Bell for example, it does change over the years and goes through phases. The Winners to Runners ratio never that strong and the Strike Rates varying from excellent to moderate with 2 of each type in the 4 years 2003 to 2006.
Then, look at his returns for the last 4 seasons from 2011 to 2014 and 'something' seems to have happened and his record has become excellent in all areas, including Winners to Runners percentage. He has run his 2yos less often and the Strike Rates have taken off to be at the level of selective operators like Godolphin. His record with debut runners has improved further including profits at general SP by backing all his FTO 2yos in each season. Looking at his record over the last 4 years and you get the impression that a very good trainer, who has been tinkering with his approach previously, has found the absolute best approach and has the experience to apply it with confidence. A trainer who has taken himself to a new level and needs following more carefully in 2015.
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More of an 'Eye Spy' Section considering what we might expect to see in 2015 from some trainers - if the regulatory system is up to finding the evidence. To put the concerns in context a brief diversion into matters of 'disappointment' and how it hides in plain sight until people are ready to see it. In the end it is often hard to know who to blame, except perhaps all of us. To a large extent a 'discussion' section with the Racing related wrap up towards the end. You have been warned.
It is late 2012 and you are someone who takes a keen interest in Horse Racing but try to keep up at a more general level with a number of other sports, including Cycling. The rumours about drugs and doping in Cycling have been around for at least 20 years and there have been a few high profile cases of cheats being caught. But, a very small number and the sport had somehow managed to keep the pretence going of those being isolated cases undertaken by, usually lone, cowboys. The production of a 1,000 page report by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in October 2012 finally broke down the collective resistance to believing what had been apparent to many people outside of the Cycling Groupthink club. The admissions of doping started at that point with Lance Armstrong's choreographed guilty plea on the Oprah Winfrey Show the marker which told everyone the game was up.
For a follower of Cycling it meant you had to admit you had wasted at least 20 years of your life watching sham events between doping cheats. A lot of the results of the Tour De France for that period have been expunged and in those that remain they are completely tainted. You can play a game of going down the final result to try to find the first person on the list who has not been found guilty of doping, or admitted to it themselves. Cycling still has problems but on the plus side the sport has admitted to them and actively does a lot of tests and has an open culture where doping is seen as wrong.
There seem to be a lot of other sports still in the 'Denial' stage with doping and believe they do not have a problem. Which means they do hardly any testing and find negative results in the few they do. Cycling was able to hush things up for 20 years and more with that approach and the same rumours that circulated around Armstrong do the rounds about top athletes in other sports today. For example. the "Too big to fail" rumours which stick to one of the top tennis stars who has apparently had a suspect test result made to go away, just as Armstrong did.
As a brief diversion then October 2012 was a huge knock for anyone who placidly believed it was all 'ok' and those in charge were doing the right things. In the same month Operation Yewtree started after the death of Jimmy Savile and, after 30-40 years, the rumours about his sexual predator activities were finally taken seriously and investigated. As that Operation has developed, and depending upon your age, you then realise that what seems the majority of highly praised celebrities who were on prime-time TV and Radio from the 1960-80s were paedophiles, rapists and the like. With the management of various organisations turning 'Blind Eyes' if not actively assisting the Stars who were too-big-to-fail. So you chuck away that part of of your memory of culture as you were growing up.
Start thinking back over the other sport you have watched through the years and you wonder how much of that should really be chucked away. We now have real evidence that the Soviet Bloc countries, notably Russia and the DDR (East Germany) pressed any and all drugs and suspect methods into service so we can remove a good deal of the athletics and Olympic sports from the 1960s onward. The apparently endless 2 Year Bans of sprinters in athletics from all countries makes taking athletics seriously a problem to this day. Maybe it interested you that in the Barcelona Olympics the Spanish team won more Gold Medals than they had done before or since. The advantage of being the Home Nation, surely? Then you find out that one of the central figures in doping in Cycling learnt his trade while working on the preparation of the Spanish Team for Barcelona. So we can chuck out those results as well.
What about Lasse Viren winning the 5,000m and 10,000m double at both the 1972 and 1976 Olympics? A triumph for the underdog from a small Nation that can be celebrated by everyone. Then you find out what the Finnish Federation approved of in terms of preparation, which included the blood doping by putting a donated sample of your own blood back into your arm before the race to increase your red blood cell count. Which was not on the lists of banned techniques then, perhaps because no-one had thought people would be stupid enough to do it.
And so it goes on with a German TV Programme in early December claiming to have evidence that 90% of the current Russian Athletic team use suspect methods, such a Xenon gas. In Cycling the Kazakhstan teams continue to produce positive tests for drugs to the point of nearly losing their licence to compete on Ethical grounds. Leaving their Italian star cyclist to be quoted as saying, in translation, "The imbecile's mother is always pregnant" as a reference to his team mates activities. The manager of the Kazakh team was banned for 2 years in his cycling career and has never admitted to any wrongdoing despite putting in some obvious visual demonstrations of 'different' performances as covered below. The attitude in many of the Soviet Bloc countries towards doping and 'novel' methods does not seem to have altered since the political changes in 1989. Let us not get started with China.
One thought that comes to mind while wading through this, shitty, field is why do we not set up two different Organising bodies for every sport. Not in the sense of the umpteen different versions of 'World Title' in boxing but one for Clean Sport and one for Anything Goes. Body Building has accepted the use of steroids and the like but works outside of the usual Sporting Orgnaisations. Which seems like an honest approach. Take your activity away and let it run under drug accepting rules and let it develop, thrive or be a very minor sport, on its merits. The professional Wrestling Circuses take the same approach and are clearly more popular and profitable in most countries than the Olympic sanctioned version. Why doesn't Russia and China, and whoever set up an 'Anything Goes' Athletics circuit and let people decide which they want to follow. Rather than making the existing versions of many activities so muddy that it gets hard to believe in anyone, even if they are completely clean.
To start to link back to Horse Racing it is worth considering how the cheating in Cycling became so central to the sport and was the accepted norm for so long. A big part of that is that people within the Sport had too much invested in letting the situation carry on and too many people were rendered Blind inside the club. A lesson which a number of organisations in Horse Racing might need to learn and fight against if the sponsorship being lavished on them currently turns dirty on them and they find there has been no due diligence done.
In Cycling the classic example was commentator Phil Liggett who is now into his 70s and working. He had been part of the Cycling circus since the 1950s and Lance Armstrong made an effort to make him a personal 'friend'. Which meant Blind Phil was still saying, the week before Armstrong appeared on Oprah Winfrey, that he believed Armstong was Clean. Then looking bemused and lost afterwards but not feeling he had any need to apologise to the Cycling audience nor step down. Despite having totally missed the biggest story in Cycling while stood in the middle of it for 20 years and more.
You might think that Liggett could not have known about such undercover activities. Leaving aside the endless rumours there was plenty of circumstantial evidence that Liggett made have taken time to ponder. A lot of things about the performance of Cyclists in general changed very quickly in the mid 1990s which could not be explained by improved training methods and activities. Times for ascents up climbs tumbled and the appearance of the '75kg or more Climber' appeared. Specialist climber usually being smaller men weighing around 65kg or less. Almost overnight, tall and heavy powerhouses were suddenly flying up steep mountains without breaking sweat.
Worth noting here than Bradley Wiggins must rank as the tallest ever Tour De France (TDF) winner at 190cm (6' 3'') and weighed 84kg in his Gold Medal winning Track Pursuit days. He took several years to get down to 69kg for his TDF win, never looked comfortably on the steepest hills and never did unusual times. Liggett could have listened to the many stories of veteran professional cyclists who said in the 1990s that one year they could compete fine in the peleton of riders and do their support roles. The next year, with the arrival of EPO, they could not keep up with the others unless they joined the club and took the drug. Mr Liggett might also have listened more to the cycling journalists and support staff who could be found laughing in front of a TV screen as Armstrong produced one of his turbo-charged zips up a mountain dropping all his rivals and overtaking motorbikes. Meanwhile Blind Phil was telling the rest of us how terrific Armstrong was on the commentary.
Which brings us to British Horse Racing and the position there. For many years the received wisdom was that Britain was Clean and that we did not give banned drugs to horses nor indulge in cruel techniques. That was the sort of thing which went on in 'rougher' racing regimes like the US or Australia. How much was that sitting in the Racing Groupthink stage of ignoring the obvious? Not doing enough testing, no testing away from the races and certainly none when horses were not on premises licenced by the authorities, usually meaning the Trainers' Stables. 2013 brought the first large scale doping stories with Mahmood al Zarooni & Gerard Butler banned for long periods. Another set of trainers who had been using Steroids let off because of the circumstances of the administration of the Drug. 2014 a quiet one in Britain although an Irish trainer was banned for 3 years late in the year for possession of a large quantity of steroids.
Perhaps it is just scepticism brought on by the catalogue of 'disappointments' detailed above but B2yoR saw a number of performances by a small set of trainers in 2014 that looked 'different'. This is 'oddly different' rather than the normal use of 'Different' to mean a performance that looks high class in some way. Like Limato or Ivawood cruising through races in 2014 then able to produce a quickening effort at the finish of the race. Those performances looked Different in the sense of being believable efforts by a high class athlete.
In the 'oddly different' case these are smaller or average handicapper type 2yos who are producing efforts which do not fit with their physical type and available power. The efforts are also unlike the others in that they reach a peak and then that performance goes away. The peak performances often presented as a bit odd in being sweaty and fired up in the preliminaries. Despite that, and often running too free the horses manages to find unusual responses when tackled by others later in a race. Finding a response out of line with their type and the effort they have already expended. In the cases of a couple of trainers in 2014 B2yoR would take into account the likelihood of some of their horses running well above their profile in some races and changing the betting approach. As the title of this Section alludes to you want to be careful backing against horses who are running unusual PEAK efforts and with their Eyeballs Out. That will wear off on later runs but will change results on the day.
Which means that B2yoR will be following those trainers especially thoroughly in 2015 to check if the world weariness has tipped into over-scepticism or whether there is something to find. In the general sense the recent experiences has taught B2yoR that there are always people, whole countries perhaps, at it if you scratch below the surface and going looking for issues. Which means we should expect to see another major doping scandal in 2015. Perhaps the use of steroids away from training premises which would perhaps be 100 points. More points if it something novel in horses like Xenon gas or transfusion blood doping. Extra points if it is a major stable and not a desperate act by a fading trainer.
[Update on Jan 14th, 2015. Perhaps a story like this one from Australia - What is Cobalt? - would be the type that could pop up in Britain in 2015. EPO, delayed self blood transfusions, Xenon Gas, Cobalt Powder, all increasing the red blood cell count and expressed performance while putting the User's health in grave danger. In particular in to relation Heart problems given how the thicker blood puts extra pressure on the heart to pump it around. Red blood cells are large and heavy by molecular standards. Also more evidence that if they think they can get away with even high profile trainers will take the chance. ]
[Update on Feb, 24th, 2015. As always seems to be the case with British Racing if you look at other countries then they have been 'there' much earlier. A recent @TRCommentary article on cheating in US Racing harked back to an earlier article written by Andrew Beyer in 1998. The Beyer article is recommended to read as it puts the sub-conscious fretting in this document in a much more concrete and understandable form. A more mature take on the "Should you adjust the bets you make given your concerns about the activities of certain Trainers?" issue. ]
[Update on Feb, 24th, 2015. The British Horseracing Authority put out a Press Release in February 2015 detailing the new Policy it was going to introduce in 2015 related to Anabolic Steroid use. These rules appear to make any Steroid use illegal at any point from a racehorse being foaled until it retires. It also allows for the BHA to do tests on any premises during the career of the horse. It appears to be a strong statement of intent by the BHA to root out all illegal Drug Use. Although titled a Policy on 'Anabolic Steroids' the Press Relase also says that the following types of drugs and treatments are also illegal and fall under the same blanket ban :-
[Update on March, 20th, 2015. The following link goes to an article in the US written by a native Australian working in America - "Op-Ed: U.S. Must Get Tougher on Cobalt". Which covers the sorry saga of Cobalt use in the US including saying - "..North American racing administrators have known for well over two years that cobalt chloride administration had become widespread." Then detailing how the top level Racing administrators in the US have failed to take any action to this Date. Let alone before the individual State bodies then follow the top level lead.
A couple of other very worrying quotes from the piece, firstly relating to Cobalt's efficacy in aiding performance . An Australian Vet who admitted providing Cobalt to trainers in his country saying he did it - "..after watching the 'incredible' success cobalt had achieved in racing in the U.S.". The second quote regarding the harmful side effects of Cobalt Chloride use in horses - "Cobalt is toxic. There is evidence suggesting that in addition to hyperthyroidism, cobalt salt in high doses may cause severe gastrointestinal, endocrine, cardiovascular, hematological, reproductive, neurological, and immunological responses".
Given the background it is exceedingly hard to believe that Cobalt Chloride has not been used in Britain. The only report of a response from the BHA was that they may have done some tests and found no levels of Cobalt to suggest doping was in use here. The BHA's catch-all ban on Blood Manipulation and Oxygen Carriers presumably covers Cobalt but are the BHA currently doing any tests for Cobalt? If so, then what concentration level in a sample are they using as evidence of it being administered illegally? Again, interesting to see in 2015 if the 'Eyeballs Out' merchants of the previous 2 years in Britain seem to have lost their magical horse preparation skills.
[Update on March, 30th, 2015. Nothing new, ever. This article above suggests a dual 'System' for Sports where there is a 'Clean' association and another that allows Performance Enhancing Drugs and Techniques (PEDT). This link goes to an article by Michael Easter on the fivethirtyeight.com website where he considers the differences that have developed in Powerlifting in the USA. This Sport has split into a variety of bodies which range from ones with a Zero Tolerance on PEDTs to others which do no testing at all. The article even uses the "anything goes" phrase used in this article. The '538' article gives an interesting set of data which compares the Total Weights lifted by competitors at the different events which different testing policies for PEDTs. Displaying the sort of difference in performance which makes people, even basically 'honest' ones, tempted by their use. It also records how in the 1980s Powerlifting went through the same process as Cycling did. With PEDTs becoming the 'norm' and that leaving every competitor with a choice over whether to join the Club or to resist and effectively give up their competitive sport. ]
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The Table below lists the New Trainers in 2014 who had not had a British raced 2yo before then, along with the Returning Trainers who had 2yos runners at some time prior to 2013 but none in that year. The links from the names goes to the main 2014 Season Summary Page for the trainer. For the majority of the New Trainers that Page includes a brief summary covering their background.
|New & Returning Trainers in 2014
The following table lists the trainers who had runners in 2013 but none in 2014. The links from the names goes to the main 2014 Season Summary Page for the trainer. There are various reasons for their absence, for example, Henry Cecil died in 2013. Elaine Burke handed the licence back to her, banned then financially constrained, husband Karl and Richard Hannon passed his on to his son. Fawzi Nass employed a salaried trainer - George Peckham - in 2014 rather than run horses in his own name.
Gerard Butler & Mahmood al Zarooni both began long bans for using illegal drugs on their horses in 2013. Alan Jarvis was (finally for decades long financial issues) refused a licence renewal in early 2014 and his son Tim was allowed a licence after a drawn out process. Jarvis senior being the father of Elaine Burke. Ian McInnes was banned in 2013 for cruelty having run a horse after a de-nerving operation. A small set are foreign trainers, from Ireland, France & Germany. The greater number though are smaller stables and presumably out-of-business or having not acquired any 2yos to run for them.
|Trainers with Runners in 2013
but missing in 2014
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