10th November 2017

“Cheltenham is everything”

With record-breaking crowds to start our season at The Showcase we look ahead to our next Cheltenham fixture, The November Meeting. Having got off to a winning start, we wanted to make the second edition of the blog a golden one too, so where better to go than a double winning trainer of The Showcase meeting? I had the pleasure of spending the morning with the Keighley team as they discussed the emotions of last month, and the preparations ahead of next weekend all while juggling an owner’s visit, declarations and runners at Uttoxeter that afternoon.

Arriving at their yard in the heart of the Cotswolds, I quickly made a friend for life in the family Labrador, George. Star of the show, Brillare Momento was enjoying a quiet week while recovering from his win at The Showcase as he headed the first-lot up the gallop. Martin couldn’t help but smile as we relived the fantastic race that justified favouritism in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.  He explained the pressure felt as Brillare Momento went off as favourite, it’s much more stressful when they are expected to win, laughed his wife Belinda. The reactions from the Keighley family are firm favourites around the course and epitomise all that jump racing is about. The passion and belief behind a horse as they begin to storm up the Cheltenham hill, and we were privileged to gain an insight into the prep that goes into those five or so minutes.

The relaxed nature of the staff and horses was enough to make anyone feel at home as I began chatting to Izzy, the Keighley’s Head Travelling Girl. Izzy explained the boost a yard has when you achieve success as they did at The Showcase – it makes the Monday after much easier! Izzy herself looks after the great Brillare Momento and explains the pressure that the staff put on themselves ahead of a big raceday. “You just want it to go well, especially at Cheltenham. It’s the place that everyone wants to win and when you think you have a chance you want to do everything you can to make the most of it.”

We made our way out to the newly implemented two-furlong circle gallop for second-lot as the mist began to enclose over the Cotswold Hills. As Martin’s thoughts turned to The November Meeting, he explained his hopes for Bobble Emerald to make his return on Sunday 19th in the Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. The win in the final race on the opening day of The Showcase was extra sweet for the Keighley team as his owners have been with the yard for ten years. Another one to look out for next weekend is Ballymountain Boy, who finished third in the Junior Jumpers’ Novices’ Hurdle at The Showcase. He is likely to run in The Martin & Co Jewellers Intermediate Handicap Hurdle Race (Class 3) which Martin believes will be well-suited to him.

The buzz around the yard as they relived the previous weekend and looked ahead to The November Meeting was undeniable. Martin and Belinda praised their great team as they explained how the pressures begin to build ahead of the bigger meetings, but the great impact a winning weekend has for all. There is no denying that Martin’s horses are in fantastic form. They love their local track, Cheltenham almost as much as the trainer. One to take note of next weekend is Spice Girl who is looking to run in the Mares Listed Bumper on BetVictor Gold Cup Day. Martin is looking forward to her run following her three bumper wins this summer.

With a relaxed and fun atmosphere, the Keighley team balanced a visit from us, owners, a mornings work and planning for the day ahead all without breaking a sweat. A huge thank you to all for making me feel so welcome and being so accommodating. In the words of the Keighley team, Cheltenham and The Festival™ is everything. As local trainers the support you get there is incredible and people say it’s not all about Cheltenham – but it is!