Racing: McManus and Johnson give Powell unique role

In football, great managers often emerge from the margins of their playing days. No doubt because of a common understanding of adversity, much the same is true of those jockeys who start training racehorses. Certainly there is no better test of a trainer than to win a bad race with a worse horse. And while Brendan Powell rode some very good steeplechasers in his time - after all, this is the man who once got Rhyme 'N Reason off his knees at Becher's Brook to win the Grand National itself - the unique distinction he disclosed yesterday has been achieved only through a blend of graft and craft.

Powell has just become the first trainer anywhere, to his knowledge, to count both David Johnson and JP McManus among his patrons. The two biggest spenders in jump racing are very different men, but in Powell both have recognised one innocent of self-importance or calculation, and a trainer who is rapidly earning his stripes. Johnson now has three animals stabled at Powell's Hampshire yard, while McManus has bought one of its most promising inmates in Tokala - winner of his first two bumpers and then second in the strongest such race of the British season so far, at Cheltenham last month. "I must admit that when the silks arrived we did leave them lying casually in the kitchen for two or three days," Powell said.

Tokala is due to make his first start over hurdles between Christmas and New Year. "Not many horses defy a penalty in a bumper, especially four-year-olds," his trainer said. "He ran a blinder at Cheltenham, too, and has already won both on summer and tacky ground. He's a big, good-looking horse, a lovely mover, and he has schooled well. More than anything else, though, he just loves racing - he's so enthusiastic."

This attitude has manifestly been borrowed from his trainer, whose endeavours as a jockey were barely sane. He would drive 100,000 miles a year, schooling horses in Scotland one day and Dorset the next. When he finally retired, five years ago, only Richard Dunwoody had matched the 7,000 mounts he had taken over the preceding 19 seasons. He rode more than 600 winners in all, but he also rode a lot of mediocre animals and some dangerous ones. His retirement was accelerated by a terrible fall at Newton Abbot, in which his chest was crushed and he ended up in intensive care, though naturally Powell himself would happily still be riding now, at 45.

"It just seemed that every year another one would come along, right to the end," he reflected. "Dublin Flyer, Monsignor, Young Kenny. I did enjoy it, all the different people you would meet every day. Whereas this game, now - I didn't realise how stressful it would be. Every time you walk into the yard you find a new problem that you are going to have to explain to someone. But by the same token, I get much more buzz from training a winner than I did from riding one."

Powell enjoys relief from the attrition with his Flat horses, and has mustered a combined score of 43 this year, but his most practical chance of breaking into the big time is probably with jumpers. He nearly did so with Colonel Frank last winter, but he is likely to remain on the sidelines until later in the season, when Punchestown could be on his agenda. "The great thing is that a couple of years ago, for the first time, we were able to buy some unbroken horses," Powell said. "Before we had no choice but to take over horses with problems and try to patch them up. But the horses we have had from day one, they were all unspoilt, all of them could be anything, and I hope they will start coming through."

Powell is also nurturing some talented young riders, though he remains obstinate when it comes to surrendering his own schooling duties. A few weeks ago he fractured a vertebra on the gallops and was told that he would need to spend three months in a brace before daring the saddle again. He got rid of the brace after two days, and was riding out again a fortnight later. Powell's new patron may have many better horses than Tokala, but none will be handled with more devotion.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project