Racing: Pitt finds new base to launch fresh ascent

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The Independent Online

This week marks a significant step in the rebuilding of a most promising career. Tim Pitt, the training shooting star of the 2006 Flat season, had the rug pulled from under his feet earlier this summer when he suddenly lost his job at Willie McKay's yard in South Yorkshire. Now his character and mettle will be tested as he starts again, this time his own boss, in Malton.

Pitt, 33, formerly an assistant to John Gosden and Peter Chapple-Hyam, is to rent a 15-box barn at Tim FitzGerald's Norton Grange Stables. He has 10 horses due to move in, and will be looking at embryonic talent at Doncaster, where the season's first yearling auction starts today. "It will be a small beginning," he said yesterday, "but I have proved I can do it once, and am more than determined to succeed a second time."

Last year, in a fairytale first full season with a licence, Pitt landed the Group One sprint double of the Golden Jubilee Stakes and July Cup with McKay's six-year-old Les Arcs, whom he upgraded from being an ordinary handicapper. In addition, he sent out Admiral to win the Chester Cup and returned a 33 per cent strike-rate with two-year-olds.

This year started moderately, however, and in the spring he shut up shop for several weeks after the horses were affected by a virus. Then in June it was announced that McKay, whose day job is as a football agent, had brought in another trainer, Danny Murphy, to his Bawtry yard and a few days later Pitt left the premises.

"When something like that happens," he said, "the most important thing is the support of your family. I sat down with my wife and we decided that the one thing we were good at in life was training winners, and that we wanted to go on doing so.

"But you can't just go from one yard to another, so we took some time out. I started looking at various yards across the country and knew straight away that Norton Grange was the right place as soon as I saw it. It has great facilities and excellent gallops."

In a trade as precarious as training racehorses, winners are vitally important and Pitt's last one was Chicken Soup (another improver, from 70 to 103) in a Wolverhampton handicap in January.

"I can remember standing at the top of the gallop one day," said Pitt, "and thinking that the job takes a lot of self-belief on a day-to-day basis. You watch something unfolding on the gallop and you have to rely on your judgement to make a decision to take it to the public arena of the racecourse. Sometimes your confidence does take a dent. But in this case the regrouping started the day after I left Bawtry. And now we've got this new place sorted out, we can get on with it the quicker.

"The plan is that we'll move in a couple of weeks. I realise that it will be a long and winding road; I could train for another 30 years and not have another Group One winner. But we'll be giving it a go."

Pitt takes inspiration from his former guv'nor Chapple-Hyam, with whom he served in his time at Manton (and those who have pledged to back Pitt second time round include the Sangster family). "My setback has been on a minor scale compared with what happened to Peter," he said, "but he's a better trainer for it. And he's one of the best role models you could have."

Fears for the Melbourne Spring Carnival, including the famous Cup at Flemington, are receding, despite an outbreak of equine flu in Australia that has caused a lockdown of horse sport and movement. The highly contagious disease is currently rife among non-thoroughbreds in New South Wales, but no instance has been recorded among racehorses there, or any horse in neighbouring Victoria and racing is expected to go ahead on Saturday at Melbourne's other major track, Caulfield.

Leigh Jordan, director of Racing Victoria, said yesterday: "The Melbourne Cup is still going to be run on the first Tuesday in November."

There will be strict quarantine protocols for the European challengers, currently Purple Moon (Luca Cumani), Bellamy Cay (Dermot Weld) and Yeats (Aidan O'Brien), but last year's Cup one-two Delta Blues and Pop Rock will not be travelling from Japan, also in the grip of a flu epidemic and a likely source of Australia's problems.

The richest contest of yesterday's domestic Bank Holiday programme, the £30,000 Two-Year-Old Trophy at Ripon, went to the odds-on favourite Fat Boy, a first-crop son of former crack Australian sprinter Choisir. The Richard Hannon-trained colt, ridden by Richard Hughes, made all to win by an easy three lengths, and will step up to group company next time.