Big goals set for Channon's premier team

Mick Channon likes to play the country fool. He likes us to imagine him as the simple boy from the Salisbury Plain with interests no more complex than staring at the night sky with an ear of corn in the corner of his mouth.

Mick Channon likes to play the country fool. He likes us to imagine him as the simple boy from the Salisbury Plain with interests no more complex than staring at the night sky with an ear of corn in the corner of his mouth.

Believe what you will, but this particular bumpkin won two Group races with juveniles last weekend and may collect another brace this, from the West Ilsley yard he has occupied for less than a season. Channon is not a salaried trainer at one of racing's most celebrated stables. He does not rent the place. He owns it. If he is the fool, heaven knows what that makes the rest of us.

There are good horses at West Ilsley but if the ghosts ever got together the question of the race of this century would be over prematurely. This has been the realm of Brigadier Gerard and Troy, Nashwan and Henbit, 26 Classic winners in all. Channon enjoys the history, but is not encumbered by it.

"We've been sending out winners, and it's not the place, it is the actual horses that count," he said yesterday. "The yard has proved that it can produce top-class horses. Finding the good ones is the problem, but then it has been since man and horse got together.

"You spend all your life striving to find good horses. The sales start again in earnest in the next two or three weeks and then it will be non-stop, it doesn't just happen. Two-year-olds don't just arrive here by accident, you have to find them and buy them.

"I am not making it out to be a chore. But you don't put a clock on what you do. It is not like you are paid by the hour. Horses have become your life."

Once again, Channon has unearthed a battery of promising juveniles this season. On Saturday, the modest background of Lady Lahar did not prevent her beating the likes of Aidan O'Brien and his extravagantly-bred Nureyev colt Bonnard in the Futurity Stakes at the Curragh (Channon would have particularly enjoyed this parable). The following day Ascension collected the Prix du Calvados at Deauville.

Coming up we have Golden Silca, possibly in the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp on Sunday, or alternatively in the Matron Stakes at the Curragh. Then there is the gruesomely titled Hotelgenie Dot Com, the ante-post favourite for the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes in Ireland on Sunday.

"That will end up being a great name if she's any good, won't it?" Channon says. "Look at Desert Orchid. That's a terrible name for a colt isn't it. Golden Silca has knocked on the door in Group Ones so I suppose I might be a bit greedy and go to Longchamp. The French way of running would probably suit her."

But then Mick Channon is a greedy man. He is hungry to get the best out of himself. To get the best out of life. "The idea is to build up a group of older horses that last two or three years because that can be the backbone of the whole operation," he says.

"But these staying types, these middle-distance horses, are hard to find. Godolphin and the Ballydoyle mob spend as much time looking around for these horses as we do. They take a little time coming. I have got some good ones on the scene now, like Talaash and Shuwaib, who might just be alright next year.

"Horses have no divine right. It is the same as footballers. No matter what reputation you have got, you have still got to go and produce. I enjoy trying to find good horses, trying to make good horses. That is part of the whole challenge of it all. When you think that Lady Lahar was by a little stallion who cost £1,200 [Fraam] and out of a mare which had a terrible joint and would not take racing.

"It makes it so rewarding to go and beat the big boys. All the same, I'll still have the Nureyevs if they come along."

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