With the Chester May festival only recently behind us, we thought we’d look back on an ex-Musley Banker who won in back-to-back years on the Roodee.
A 26,000gns purchase as a yearling, Forest Ranger ran a total of 24 times between 2016 and 2020; winning on six occasions, placing second in three and third in two. In this time he achieved a peak, official rating of 113 and amassed more than £380,000 in prize money; thanks predominantly toa pair of Group 3 and Group 2 successes.
These two Group 2s came courtesy of consecutive victories in Chester’s 1m2f Huxley Stakes, won this year by Sir Michael Stoute’s Solid Stone.
His first win in the contest came in 2018 on good ground and under bright Lancashire skies. Travelling comfortably behind the leader for the entirety of the race, he hit the front turning into the straight and strode out definitively to a length and a quarter victory. Musley Bank legend and track specialist Gabrial chased his stablemate home in third that day.
This win came a month after the horse’s first Group-success in the Group 3 Earl Of Sefton Stakes at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile; the track where he won his second Group 3 (Darley Stakes) later on that year.
Three runs into the 2019 season, The Ranger returned to the Roodee to defend his Huxley crown. On rain-soddened ground, he again travelled through the race just off the pace of the leaders. Despite the mud (this was his only win on soft) and in a carbon copy of the previous year, he took up the running at the top of the straight and stayed on strongly to the line. Meydan Grade 1 dirt winner Matterhorn followed him home that day, ahead of famed mud-lark Success Days and globe-trotting superstar and four-time Group/Grade 1 winnerAddeybb.
He never entered the winners’ enclosure again and was retiredafter a below-par effort at Newmarket in July 2020. He was duly moved to a new home with Chloe Briody – his groom since his two-year-old days. We asked Chloe some questions about her relationship with The Ranger…
When did you begin to think that you’d like to rehome him?
He was always a big, friendly giant and an absolute legend, so I knew that if I ever got the chance to rehome him, I’d have to go for it. I began to think about it more seriously when he came into the 2020 season (his last) and I was just so grateful to Norman and Helen Steel for entrusting me with him when the time came. He is the one and only horse I’ll ever do thisfor because he’s a very special animal to deal with.
Does he have a nickname?
He got given the yard name ‘Alan’ as a yearling – after his dam’s name Alava – which has stuck ever since. I still call him Alan now!
What have you been doing with him since he has been in your care?
After he finished, I decided to give him a year off. I wanted him to settle into a new way of life free from any stresses or worries. He handled the switch very well thank god. At the moment he is still a leisure horse, but down the track I’m hoping to get him out and about and hopefully show him off in some way or another.
What made him a good racehorse?…what was his greatest asset?
Definitely his personality. He had a brilliant attitude when it came to his work, whilst being sweet and good fun alongside that. He was a very genuine racehorse who always tried his hardest.
What was the best day you had with him on track?
The most memorable day we had together was when he won his first Group race – the Earl of Sefton Stakes, Group 3 at Newmarket in 2018. I was so emotional when he crossed the line, because we had all been waiting for him to show us how good he really was. It was such a well-deserved win.
What does he enjoy the best in life?
He enjoys eating the most and also loves a good roll, especially after he’s been ridden!
Could you sum him up for us in three words?
Genuine. Legendary. Handsome.
Tony Hamilton, who rode Forest Ranger in all but one of his races, shared his thoughts on the horse:
I’ll always remember him fondly because he gave me some fantastic days. He was a very determined horse, who always tried his hardest and never knew when he was beat. We shared some great success together and that’s all thanks to Norman and Helen Steel who always showed great faith in me and the horse.
Musley Bank’s trainer also remembers the horse with great affection:
He was an absolute star that everyone on the yard loved. He was a gentleman to deal with on the ground and a very relaxed ride up the gallop. He didn’t show a whole heap in his work at home – he was probably a better horse on track – but he was genuine to the last. After the good days he gave us, we’re so pleased that he’s gone to such a good home with Chloe.