Racing: Worthy heir to dynasty of Doves: A family firm could add to the credit on its balance sheet in tomorrow's big race at Newbury. John Cobb reports

THERE are 600 breeding ewes and 150 beef cattle on the Price family farm at Leominster in Herefordshire, but it is one of the 12 racehorses stabled there, a seven-year-old bay mare called Flakey Dove who contests the Tote Gold Trophy at Newbury tomorrow, that could have the greatest economic bearing on the family's future.

Not only is there a first prize of around pounds 50,000 on offer for what is traditionally one of the most competitive handicap hurdles of the season, but a pounds 50,000 bonus if the winner goes on to success in the pounds 120,000 Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. And that is very much the plan that her trainer, Richard Price, has for Flakey Dove.

Last season Flakey Dove won four of her seven races and was placed in the other three, yet Price maintains that she is 'a stone better this year, she's so much stronger'.

'When the odds came out for the Tote Gold Trophy I couldn't believe they'd priced her at 28-1. I had to have a bet. We're not big gamblers, but at those odds you don't need to have very much on.'

Evidently there are others with similar respect for Flakey Dove, particularly since she made a highly satisfactory reappearance at Stratford last Saturday, and 9-1 are the odds now available.

But listening to Price makes even those figures seem attractive: 'Don't forget when she won at Aintree last year that was only her 10th race over hurdles and she's been in the money every time except her first run over hurdles when she fell.

'She's tough too. The Aintree win came just a week after her hardest race of the season at Ascot. She thrives on it so I've repeated the pattern by running her last Saturday. I'm very confident.'

And a Champion chance in a year when many of the leading candidates have dropped away and those left standing have a lot to prove? 'She's rated 133 by the official handicapper, and the favourite, Coulton, is only on 148 so we've got to have a go.' Particularly if the mare's improvement has been as dramatic as Price calculates.

At least the trainer, who is in his third season with a full licence, is aware of the standard required as the yard sent out Stans Pride to be third to See You Then at odds of 100-1 in the Champion Hurdle of 1985.

She was just one of the many fine mares sent out by the Prices - Richard, his father Tom and uncle Gordon - over the years. Most bear the word Dove in their name, a legacy of the Price's foundation mare, Red Dove. She owes her origins to the judicious purchase of her dam, Cottage Lass, for pounds 25 at Ludlow cattle market in the Fifties. At a cost of pounds 10 she was mated with a stallion who travelled the country called All Red and the outcome was Red Dove.

Red Dove bred six winners who won 59 races between them including the 13 contributed by Shadey Dove, the dam of Flakey Dove. All three mares have occupied the same special stable.

'Shadey Dove was due to go back to Oats, the sire of Flakey Dove, but he died the week before she was to visit so unfortunately we won't be able to produce a full brother or sister to Flakey.'

Nevertheless, with two younger siblings to Flakey Dove, another by the Ascot Gold Cup winner Little Wolf on the way, and a new generation of Prices in Richard's children, two racing dynasties are maintained. And the cycle of farm life goes on too. 'It's lambing at the moment so there isn't much time for the horses, just mainly in the mornings. You can do the farm work in the dark.

'Any money we win with the horses goes back into the land. It's the farm that supports us. And it's a good way of getting away from the racing. I like to get stuck into the farming, it takes my mind off the races coming up.'

Out of mind maybe, but not out of reach.

(Photograph omitted)

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