IT may have been the wettest year on record, but the sun shone on Musley Bank in 2012 when, remarkably, lofty new heights were achieved.
A huge quantity of winners were once again accumulated, but with the quantity came the quality and two outstanding ‘firsts’; a first Group 1 triumph in Britain for Richard Fahey – and also for Paul Hanagan – courtesy of Mayson in the Darley July Cup at Newmarket, and a first transatlantic victory, thanks to the tough-as-teak Barefoot Lady, who lifted the Canadian Stakes, a Grade 2 event at Woodbine in Toronto.
Mayson enjoyed a truly magical year. Three times he travelled to Newmarket and three times he won; the Abernant Stakes in Listed company, the Group 3 Palace House Stakes and the July Cup, in which he recorded a runaway five lengths triumph, one of the biggest winning margins in the history of this prestigious event.
The majority share in David and Emma Armstong’s superb sprinter, who had been left orphaned soon after birth and who was hand-reared, was subsequently bought by Cheveley Park Stud. Consequently, Mayson paid one more visit to Newmarket in 2012, to join his new home as a stallion, but not before being narrowly beaten into second place in the Prix de l’Abbeye at Longchamp.
For sheer toughness, Musley Bank has seldom had a filly to rival Barefoot Lady, who gave her all every time she raced in top company and who, after gaining Listed honours at York in the summer, received her just desserts in Canada. Her fluent success under Irish-born jockey Davy Moran was a sight to behold and a fantastic feather in the cap of everyone involved in her memorable success. Having been purchased by a Japanese breeder, she left the yard at the end of the year and was shipped abroad; hopefully, in years to come, she will produce foals with her brand of courage and consistency.
On the domestic front, 2012 yielded prize money earnings of more than £2m, which saw Richard Fahey fill a hugely-creditable sixth place in the championship table. Furthermore, in the numerical list of winners, he finished third, with a score of 147, backed-up by almost 300 seconds and thirds.
By any standards, it was another highly successful year, further highlighted by a first Derby runner, with Mickdaam, who earned his place in Epsom’s premier Classic when displaying talent and tenacity in equal measure with a narrow victory in the Group 3 Chester Vase.
Mickdaam may not have proved a match for the Derby principals, but he ran a fine race to finish sixth to Camelot.
Looking forward and not back is typical of Fahey, a driven man, who enjoys the moment, but who seldom reflects on the past and is constantly planning for the future. It has paid dividends.
Remarkably, in the space of less than 20 years, Richard has gone from being yet another enthusiastic recruit, starting out with just a handful of horses, to becoming one of the country’s major players with more than 150 horses on his books.
By any standards, it’s been a massive ascent, from the ground floor to the heady heights of Royal Ascot glory and Pattern race achievement in England, Scotland, Ireland and France, a record of continued success, which speaks volumes for the ambitious nature, the hunger for winners, and the instinctive training talents of the man who has made it happen.
Richard Fahey has built his training career on the back of a successful stint as a jockey. Although refreshingly self-deprecating about his riding abilities, he chalked-up just over 100 winners, under both codes, in ten years in the saddle, the highlight of which was sharing the conditional jockeys’ title.
“I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t enjoying it and couldn’t see a future in it, so I gave it up before it gave me up,” is Fahey’s succinct reflection of his days as a jockey.
For a while afterwards, he concentrated on buying and selling a few horses and running a livery yard before he was encouraged by friends to give the training game a whirl. It’s a decision he has never had cause to regret.
From starting out, in the summer of 1993, from Manor Farm, Butterwick, near Malton, with a modest string, which barely reached double-figures, Fahey has never looked back.
Seven years in, and he got his name on the Royal Ascot roll of honour, courtesy of the horse, who did most to get his trainer noticed; the wonderful Superior Premium – a colt he’d bought as a yearling for only 2,800gns- who clinched a 20-1 triumph in the Cork And Orrery Stakes under Johnny Murtagh.
It was the start of something big. Having quickly elevated himself into the top 20 trainers in the country, Fahey has since progressed further up the ladder, thanks to consistent success, coupled with a natural aptitude and insatiable appetite for training horses that few can better.
Recent years have seen Fahey come firmly to the fore, his uncanny knack of being able to improve, season on season, being much in evidence.
In 2002, he won more than £500,000 for the first time in a Flat season. The following year, he did it again, while in 2004, his runners, which included 77 winners, raked-in a sizeable £740,000, and in 2005 – his first full year in his new yard at Musley Bank, Malton - the goalposts were raised again when Richard saddled 79 winners in Britain and accumulated just over £800,000 in prizes for his lucky patrons.
The progressive trend has continued. In 2006, he went through the £1m prize money barrier for the first time. More significantly, he has not only, never dipped below that sizeable figure since, but has continued to increase his stable’s earnings.
In 2008, when he saddled more than 100 winners for the first time, his prize money was up to £1.2m, the following year it was upped to£1.6m, combined with an incredible 165 winners and, in 2010, he reaped an extraordinary £2m-plus, 181 winners in Britain, and Wootton Bassett’s Group 1 romp in France, a campaign which enabled him, and his owners, to scale even headier heights.
“Owners are the lifeblood of this game,” he says. “Training decent horses for people, who are as enthusiastic and passionate as I am about racing, is what racing is all about, as far as I’m concerned. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing owners have winners, which is why I do everything in my power to make that happen.”
Among the stables’ best-known horses of recent seasons was Anna Pavlova, who developed into one of the most versatile mares in the country. Her mighty achievements ranged from ten furlongs to one and three-quarter miles, and her impressive roll of honour included nine wins from 18 starts, four Listed-race successes and a Group 2 triumph in October 2007 at Longchamp when, ridden by Frankie Dettori, she provided Richard with his first winner in France.
Fonthill Road, described as “a legend” by Fahey, won a whole host of valuable handicaps, including the 2006 Ayr Gold Cup, while Greenwich Meantime landed the Chester Cup in 2007. His highspots at his local York track – the “Ascot of the North’ – where he has been leading trainer for the last six years, have been considerable.
Three times he has won the John Smith’s Cup, including an unforgettable 1-2 with Charlie Tokyo and Flying Clarets in 2007. Fittingly, Flying Clarets, after her close call, went on to win it the following year.
In 2009, Utmost Respect, the apple of Fahey’s eye, enjoyed a momentous triumph at York when winning the Group 2 Duke Of York Stakes. Who could have imagined that in a matter of only a few months, this ace sprinter, the star of the stable, would have succumbed to serious illness and been forced to pay the ultimate price.
“Losing ‘Utmost’ hit me hard – it hit everyone here hard,” Fahey recalled. “You don’t like to lose any horse, and horses like him don’t come around too often.”
While crack juvenile Wootton Bassett, unbeaten in five races and a Group 1 winner in France, was the undoubted star of the show in 2010, the following season saw Rose Blossom continue to underline her ferocious prowess in high-class sprints, Sir Reginald winning a major prize at Newmarket and the admirable Barefoot Lady deservedly gaining her first dose of ‘black type’, an achievement she added to in 2012, which, as already mentioned, proved a remarkable year from start to finish.
Brae Hill won the Lincoln at Doncaster to set the trend on a season when Gabrial, Chapter Seven and Johannes were high-profile handicap winners and Ladys First, Sparkling Portrait, Majestic Myles and Garswood all scored in Listed company.
Furthermore, 2012 was the seventh year in succession that Musley Bank had topped £1m in prize money and the fifth successive year that more than 100 winners had emerged.
We all know that nothing in life, succeeds like success, and Richard Fahey is living proof that the same applies in racing. Quite how far he can go, nobody knows for sure. But those owners who, alongside him, have already ridden this exciting roller-coaster, have experienced far more ups than downs. Little wonder, then, that many of them believe that it’s onwards and upwards – with only the sky as the limit for the Richard Fahey stable in seasons to come…
by Tom O’Ryan (updated 26th Dec 2012)