Racing: Realism lightens Loder's task: Quantity outweighs quality as Newmarket's latest recruit breaks through the economic gloom: A rejuvenated talent testifies to his young handler's potential. David Yates reports

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The Independent Online
RACING has never been renowned for its appeal to the level-headed. Rather it attracts the irrational optimist for whom 'the big one' is just around the corner. Be they owners, trainers or punters, racing folk, it seems, cannot bear much reality.

A person who begins a career training racehorses in the midst of the century's bleakest economic years cannot, you might suppose, boast self-preservation as his strongest instinct. David Loder, though, is no lemming.

The newest resident of Newmarket's Bury Road, 29-year-old Loder had his grounding with a French merchant bank, with one of America's most successful trainers, Jonathan Sheppard, and with one of Britain's most pragmatic, Sir Mark Prescott.

When he left his last position, as assistant to fellow Newmarket trainer Geoff Wragg, to take over at Sefton Lodge stables last summer, he was fully prepared in almost every respect. What caught him by surprise was the swiftness of his success.

The 40-box yard was soon full and victory with Lupescu in a listed race at Newmarket gave the stable an ideal start.

Nevertheless, with the tenants of Sefton Lodge described by their trainer as 'largely bread- and-butter horses', the emphasis is not on quality. 'Last year at Geoff Wragg's we had 13 runners at Royal Ascot and 11 either won or were placed. But I'm in a different position, and I have to concentrate on numbers rather than on big races. At this stage I'd sooner win 10 pounds 2,000 races than two worth pounds 10,000.'

This approach has led Loder to campaign his horses on a surface largely ignored by many of his neighbours, the all-weather strips at Southwell and Lingfield.

'At the start of the year,' he explains, 'it was evident that we didn't have many outstanding horses, so the all-weather gave us a chance to pick up a few races before the start of the turf season.

'If your horses don't win races, your owners won't stick with you. I tell anyone thinking of having a horse with me to be prepared to put in pounds 15,000 and that there is no guarantee they'll get anything in return. The colour of the money's the same, and it's easier to win a maiden at Southwell in February than a maiden at Leicester in mid-April.

'Some people turn their noses up at the all-weather, but it will become accepted in time. In the States, many weren't keen on turf racing when it first began, but they don't object to it now.'

Loder's practical approach extends to the prize-money on offer in Britain. Rather than dwell on the opportunities which would accompany a Tote monopoly, he tries to make full use of the current situation. Loder also points out that comparisons between French and British purses are illusory in that those making them tend to survey no further south than the Bois de Boulogne.

'While prize-money isn't as good as at the Paris tracks, it's a lot better than at the provincial courses in France,' he says, 'and it's better than it's ever been here. What people forget is that most countries don't stage as many fixtures as we do. If we raced twice a week, at Ascot and Newmarket, and forgot about everywhere else, our prize-money would be better.'

Around pounds 185,000 of that cash has been won by Sefton Lodge horses this season, mostly in association with Frankie Dettori, and the young Italian's rejection by the Hong Kong Jockey Club earlier in the year should ensure that they will continue to benefit from his assistance.

Loder's chief hoarder has been Peter Davies. The chestnut, who took the Racing Post Trophy for Henry Cecil in 1990, faltered at three and then crossed the Channel for a fruitless sojourn with Andre Fabre. Following his return, Peter Davies has provided sound testimony to his trainer's skill, with wins at Epsom and Sandown earning him favouritism for Goodwood's Schweppes Golden Mile.

The sequence ended there spectacularly when Peter Davies beat just one of 18 opponents. Rather than blame the 'Needleman', Loder offers no excuse or explanation. 'He just didn't go on the day. I've asked the horse to explain himself but he's not saying anything.'

Loder's confidence in Peter Davies has certainly not been diminished. Instead he has lifted his sights to the Arlington Million in Chicago later this month.

His own target has also been raised. Having forecast 20 winners as a suitable first-season figure, he has now almost doubled that score with 36. 'I'll have a go for 50 before the end of the season. Next year, I hope to get a few owners, but in this game you never know.'

'It's a competitive sport, and you've got to keep firing in the winners. There are plenty of trainers around, and, ultimately, there's no law requiring people to have a horse in training at all.'

If anything is to prevent David Loder succeeding, it will not be complacency.

(Photograph omitted)

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