Racing: Woods plans Little Indian ambush

John Cobb on the aspiring trainer out to take famous scalps at Sandown
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When Sean Woods realised that he was not going to become one of the top four or five jump jockeys, he decided that being in the second division was unacceptable and changed careers. After five years in his new profession as a trainer he is still some way from reaching the front rank, but each season brings him several winners closer. Punters or prospective owners looking for a trainer likely to make the highest grade should not take their eye off the 32-year-old Newmarket man.

If things go to plan on Friday he will not be difficult to find. Woods has the week's most important prize, the Group Three Solario Stakes, in his sights for his winning juvenile Little Indian. He is not the only one. John Dunlop plans to run Haami, already among the favourites for next year's 2,000 Guineas, and there are entrants from the camps of Saeed bin Suroor, Henry Cecil and Aidan O'Brien. Another possible rival in the Sandown race, Docksider, from the John Hills stable, finished a place ahead of him in the Vintage Stakes at Goodwood last time.

The point to remember, though, when assessing Little Indian's chance of taking some famous scalps is Woods's philosophy of not accepting second best.

"The track at Goodwood didn't suit him too well and Sandown will be much more to his liking," Woods said yesterday. "He was caught a little flat- footed behind Docksider, but made up eight lengths in the final furlong. He doesn't catch the eye, but the machinery is there."

The machinery is in place too at Woods's La Grange Stables on Newmarket's Snailwell Road. Having restored the abandoned yard, Woods has installed a solarium, weighbridge, horsewalker and indoor ride. His seven acres of paddocks and the facilities available to him at his family's Woodsway Stud at nearby Tuddenham would be the envy of many of his more established neighbours.

At La Grange there are 60 boxes and not all of them are occupied. But while most trainers are anxious to snare new faces to help pay the bills, Woods's attitude to life holds sway.

"I'm choosy about who I train for," he said. "Ninety per cent of my clients would now be personal friends.

"I wouldn't run a horse at Ascot just because an owner wants a day out. I make sure I send horses where they've got a chance and my places-to- runs record bears that out."

"My owners pay me money, a lot of money, to make decisions and do the job my way. So that's what I do. The man on the street has his own opinion about how racehorses should be trained, but if I go into a butcher's I'm not going to tell him how to cut a piece of meat and I don't expect other people to tell me how to do my job."

Woods does his job with the help of "very good staff -I won't tolerate mediocrity", unsurprisingly. He also has the assistance of his elder brother Dwayne, a bloodstock agent, when making purchases at the sales. Little Indian was bought for 21,000 guineas at last year's October Sales and looks cheap, particularly as he will be contesting a race with pounds 30,000 in prize money on Friday.

Woods, born in Bangalore and fluent in Hindi and Tamil, is part of a training dynasty that has had outstanding success in India. Another brother, Wendyll, was stable jockey, but is now in Hong Kong, riding for their uncle.

On the home front, Woods has another fine two-year-old prospect in Wuxi Venture, third to Godolphin's Classic hope Fantasy Island at Newmarket last Friday.

Then there is Green Card, who ran in the 2,000 Guineas and chased home Salmon Ladder at Windsor last week, and Ukraine Venture, who has been rested since disappointing in the Oaks and is being prepared for an autumn campaign.

Exact plans for the filly are fluid, but wherever she runs she will be expected to succeed. Mediocrity will not be tolerated.