Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.


Eddery's Hearts in mouth on Classic debut

Former jockey finds nerves are much greater as trainer ahead of the 2,000 Guineas

Riding a top-class winner is one thing; training one quite another. Just ask Pat Eddery, 11-times champion jockey with three 2,000 Guineas winners (to skim just the surface of his superb time in the saddle) on his CV, courtesy of Lomond, El Gran Senor and Zafonic.

Now five years into his second career, there will be a thumping in his chest on Saturday like none he has yet known at Newmarket when he sends the pride of his small stable, the appropriately named Hearts Of Fire, to challenge for the Classic on the Rowley Mile.

The colt will be his first runner in such a race in his new role and Eddery, ice cool as a reinsman, is on hot bricks as the great day approaches. "I'm not the first to discover it," said the 58-year-old, "but this job is so much more difficult and challenging and emotional than riding. As a jockey, sure, you'd look forward to the big ones and there'd be some nerves but basically you turned up, got on, won or lost, got off, and on to the next race.

"As a trainer every day is nerve-racking; you're with the horses all the time, worrying about them being well and sound and happy. The pressures are so much more but then so is the sense of achievement when it goes right."

All the laurels in the world, and he had plenty, in one arena are no guarantee of success or support in another but, having started from scratch as a trainer, results are coming for the Irishman. He now has 41 horses in his care at his Musk Hill establishment in Buckinghamshire and in Hearts Of Fire hopes he has the horse to make the big-time breakthrough.

The son of Firebreak has already provided a few milestones, a step up the ladder each time, culminating in a first top-level victory, in the Gran Criterium in Milan.

It must be said that Italian racing is not the world's most competitive and its Group Ones are often soft targets. But credit to Eddery for identifying and capturing it and it should be noted that the horse in second place was Vale Of York, a subsequent Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner for the mighty Godolphin empire.

Hearts Of Fire, owned by a syndicate of 12 ordinary folk who put up £8,000 apiece for two years' fun with their horse, was spotted by Eddery for just £13,000 as an auctioned yearling. "That was a real good day," he said, "beating the boys in blue."

Hearts Of Fire is already a remarkable animal. He started by taking the Brocklesby Stakes, the first two-year-old race of the season and seven months on was a Group One winner, a feat unparalleled in any recent lifetime. Should he win the Stan James-sponsored race on Saturday, he will be the first to add a Classic to the Doncaster sprint.

"I thought the horse was going to be just a sharp two-year-old," said Eddery, "but after we gave him some time off with sore shins he did nothing but develop and improve and soon showed there was very much more to him."

Hearts Of Fire is rated a 25-1 shot against the big guns on Saturday. But one good judge in the saddle, Olivier Peslier, made a point of contacting the trainer for the ride. And another also likes what is under him, on a daily basis.

"You get only one El Gran Senor in a lifetime," said Eddery, "so I won't compare him. But the other two... well, this fellow gives me the feel of a pretty good horse. He's trained on and he's been working good. He'll go on any ground and he'll cope with the occasion. He'll walk round that parade ring like an angel."

Eddery is realistic enough not to believe completely in fairy tales. "A first-four finish would be a dream," he said, "and then we'd have Royal Ascot to go for. I spent 34 years jumping on and off horses but I've never felt a tingle like this."

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Fairy Shoes (7.35 Kempton)

Caught only in the final strides on her debut and she looked that day as if the outing would bring her on.

Next best

Xpres Maite (3.30 Pontefract)

Consistent at this grade and has shown he retains his competitive attitude.

One to watch

Official Style (Sir M Stoute) ran too keenly for his own good in a Newmarket handicap, but looks sure to exploit his mark.

Where the money's going

Paddy Power reports Canford Cliffs is 7-1 from 8-1 for Saturday's 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket.

Chris Mcgrath's Nap

Cityscape (3.20 Ascot)