Racing: New faces for the new year: Bookies blanch in the face of Bravery: Paul Hayward on the Newmarket handler building his reputation with bargain buys

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The Independent Online
JUST once do you have to sting the bookmakers for them to panic when you approach, as Giles Bravery discovered last year in his first season as a racehorse trainer.

Bravery had an unraced horse called Time's Arrow. 'It was horrendously bred,' he recalls. 'About as bad as you can get. It had no family, no nothing.' But what it did have was some impressive form on the home gallops, and a 'horrendously' easy first target in the shape of a selling race round Southwell's all-weather track.

Few people had heard of Bravery. He was probably assumed to be another demented optimist who had defied economic logic by starting up as a trainer just when soup kitchens were threatening to be needed in Newmarket. What sustained him, though, as he strode towards the bookies at Southwell was the memory of a particular workout involving Time's Arrow and a growing belief that when he had bought his small team of ill-bred animals a year previously he had bought spectacularly well.

'We worked Time's Arrow with Mark Tompkins's horses (a fellow Newmarket trainer) and Nigel Day had ridden him,' Bravery says. 'The thing was, though, he bolted and the others couldn't catch him, to such an extent that he won the gallop by two furlongs. Nigel got off him and said: 'I think this'll win'.'

As Bravery says, the race at Southwell was so poor that Time's Arrow had only to survive the six- furlong journey to win. 'In the ring we had about pounds 500 on at 6-1,' he says. 'There were about six people there, and normally if you put pounds 50 on a horse in those conditions it ends up going off at even money. But we were having all this money on and the bookmakers were saying, all right, all right (in effect: keep it coming).' Far from shrinking, the odds against Time's Arrow drifted out to a starting price of 10-1, while the Tote return after he had glided in by four lengths was a credulity-snapping 33-1.

Anonymity can clearly pay. Time's Arrow was again heavily backed when he won his next race - once again without breaking sweat - and finished the season with three victories from four runs. Wynona, probably the classiest of Bravery's nine residents, landed a similar touch when wining a Newmarket seller at 6-1 on her debut before taking a pounds 25,000 nursery on the same course, and by now the word had circulated that Bravery was both a skilful trainer of unpromising horses and a shrewd selector of suitable races.

Securing such a reputation was not all helpful. 'I picked up three or four owners,' Bravery says, 'but also had one or two very dodgy approaches. I had to tell one fellah to go and jump in the lake before he even arrived because it was so obvious what he wanted to do.

'It's one of those Catch 22's. You need to get a few quid in but at the same time you don't want to be seen as the next . . . who can I say without being slanderous? The next big gambling trainer, anyway. I wouldn't like to think of myself as a gambling trainer. Gambling doesn't make you money. Buying horses, being successful with them and then selling them on makes you money. Time's Arrow I bought for 3,500gns and he was eventually sold for pounds 35,000. I still train him.'

By the end of the 1992 Flat season Bravery had sent out just 23 runners, but with five winners from that total his strike-rate (22 per cent) was one of the highest in Newmarket.

With precision like that, and his ability to spot untried but capable athletes in the bottom reaches of the bloodstock markets, Bravery looks a certainty to gain in prominence in 1993, and will be watched closely by some of the larger owners in Newmarket, not to mention the bookmakers. He speaks most highly of un-named two-year-old colts by the stallions Reprimand and Double Schwartz, as well as a half-sister to Wynona bought for just pounds 3,000.

Bravery is also making an impact on the social scene in Newmarket, as an old friend, Wally Pyrah, of the bookmakers Coral, says. 'I remember the first time I met Giles was for a cricket match and he turned up in this yellow, blue and red striped blazer and hooped cap. He looked just like one of the old school. The sort of bloke you want to bowl a bouncer down at and knock his cap off. But he's not like that at all. I remember him screaming blue murder in the stands when Time's Arrow won at Southwell.'

Those bookies must have joined him.

(Photograph omitted)