Racing: Phillips gains the top perch at Jackdaws

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The Independent Online
COLIN SMITH, the millionaire businessman, confirmed yesterday that Richard Phillips will be the long-term replacement for David Nicholson at his luxurious Jackdaws Castle training complex. Smith suggested that Phillips' style will be rather different to that of his predecessor: "I think Richard will give an opportunity for the owners to enjoy themselves once again", he said.

"I wanted a younger man for the yard who had the ambition to be number one but had, perhaps, lacked the opportunity in the past," Smith said, "but has got considerable ideas about how the yard should be aggressively promoted.

"I think it is no secret that there has been a considerable leak of horses from the yard in recent times as the numbers are down from 100 plus to 70 odd at present.

"One of Richard's greatest strengths is communication and that's a major asset in a National Hunt yard these days as has been proved by the top trainers at present. I'm hoping Richard will bring in new owners and fresh horses as we will be marketing the yard together aggressively."

Smith was quick to point out that the current batch of owners at Jackdaws Castle would be welcome to stay, saying: "We have a number of owners who have been with David Nicholson since he started and I hope they will discuss the new situation with Richard in the near future and support him."

This week's announcement ended months of speculation as to who would succeed the now retired David Nicholson, whose former assistant, Alan King, is currently training at the state-of-the-art stables set in the heart of the Cotswolds. Phillips will takes over the licence on 1 June next year and King will switch to the late Mikie Heaton-Ellis's former stable at Barbury Castle.

"There will be some who support Alan King when he leaves to train in his own right, but I hope there will also be those who will support Richard here as well," Smith said.

Smith also dismissed rumours that staff at the yard will be departing with King early next summer. He declared: "All the senior staff here are staying as far as I know which is indicative I'm sure.

"As far as jockeys are concerned, Richard Johnson will be in the same position as he is now as he is not retained at Jackdaws Castle and never has been. But Richard likes riding winners and as long as we have horses here that can win he will ride for us I'm sure."

The appointment is a huge challenge for Phillips who has sent out only two winners so far this jumps season but will be plunged into deep waters next term. He has held a licence since April 1993 and has been renting Beechdown Farm yard in Lambourn from John Francome.

Before Phillips, 36, was confirmed as the new trainer at Jackdaws Castle, Oliver Sherwood had turned down the job and it was also rumoured that Jonjo O'Neill had been offered the post. Peter Chapple-Hyam viewed the property after his sacking from Manton before moving to Hong Kong.

In the former colony, the Hong Kong Jockey Club have offered the owner of last Sunday's Hong Kong Cup winner Jim And Tonic HK$1m if the gelding repeats his victory in the Queen Elizabeth Cup at Sha Tin next April. The Francois Doumen-trained Jim And Tonic, a five-year-old gelding, has already earned almost pounds 1m from his unbeaten spate of wins at Sha Tin.

His owner, John Martin, said: "My horse is clearly in love with Sha Tin and the Queen Elizabeth Cup is very much on the agenda, though we may first aim for a big race in Singapore in early March."

The winning spree began in last December's International Bowl, continued with his Queen Elizabeth Cup win in April and concluded with a runaway defeat of Running Stag and Lear Spear in Sunday's big race.

Martin made a hard-hitting comparison between the treatment of owners and trainers at the Breeders' Cup in Florida and the International Races at Sha Tin. "In Hong Kong they could not do enough for us. In Florida, they treated us like savages," he remarked.

n The Hong Kong stewards yesterday upheld an appeal by Wendyll Woods against a careless-riding ban picked up on Dolbridge at Sha Tin on 27 November. The appeal panel ordered the jockey's deposit to be refunded. The ban was set to run from 5 to 18 December, but he was allowed to continue riding until the appeal was heard.

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