Songe gives life to Longsdon dream

For once, the aesthetic charms of his working environment were this week lost on Charlie Longsdon. The Cotswolds rolled in their new white pelt, while snowy twigs and branches embraced intricately across the road. But Longsdon was impatient for a thaw. This is potentially the most important week of his career so far, and he could ill afford any hold-ups. For here is a young trainer in a hurry.

Still only 33, Longsdon wasted no time in making a name for himself in his first two seasons. Though he started off with just 10 horses, it was soon obvious that an Ivy League racing education – the last five years of which were spent as assistant to Nicky Henderson at Seven Barrows – had not been wasted. His third campaign, however, has taught him some difficult new lessons.

So far it has yielded just six winners, and a renewal in the yard's form has now been suspended by the weather. With any luck, the freeze will abate in time for Newbury to stage its biggest hurdle race of the year on Saturday. Songe, fourth in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, is second favourite for the Totesport Trophy after winning the Champion Hurdle Trial at Haydock last month.

"It's been a hard season, but I'd like to think we'll learn a lot more for it," Longsdon observed. "There was definitely something not quite right. Like a lot of people who've had similar problems, all the blood tests and tracheal washes came up with very little, but the horses weren't quite finishing their races. Up until this season we have had older horses, with fully developed immune systems. Now we have a lot of youngsters, so we haven't pushed them."

To that extent, there has been a calculated loss of momentum. Longsdon got himself started with a bunch of used vehicles, but has now been able to introduce the classic steeplechasing models. "It's the wrong way of doing it, I suppose, in this day and age," he said. "In our first two seasons, we were very lucky, we did get results – bang, bang, bang. But those were second-, third-hand horses. I guarantee that these babies we have now will be very nice horses, in two or three years' time, but they won't be an instant success. That's why it's so important to have a horse like Songe around the place."

Imported from France, Songe proved one of the best members of an exceptional crop of juveniles last winter. "He's been a great flagship for us," Longsdon said. "Technically, he is well handicapped, because he got put up 11lb for winning at Haydock and is running under a 5lb penalty. He has improved, largely because he has finally begun to settle. He was a tearaway on the Flat in France, and pulled like a bull when we tried him over fences earlier in the season. But now that he is settling so much better, he has much more left in the tank, turning for home."

Longsdon could yet end up towering over his contemporaries in more ways than one. An accomplished full-back in his rugby days, at six feet five he must have been a fairly alarming proposition in full flight. His racing CV meanwhile entitles him to be candidly ambitious, having interrupted his stint at Seven Barrows with a summer under Todd Pletcher at Saratoga, not to mention an initial grounding with Kim Bailey, Oliver Sherwood and Nigel Twiston-Davies.

"I've been spoilt, to have the chances I did," Longsdon said. "Todd Pletcher is an absolute dude, a smooth Texan who never raises his voice. I was one of his foremen at Saratoga when he set a record for the meeting – 36 winners in six weeks. The next best was 12. That's a measure of the man, an amazing guy."

Two of the horses in the barn that summer, Ashado and Speightstown, went on to win at the Breeders' Cup. But that was merely a privileged interlude; much the most lasting impression was clearly made by Henderson. "He always had good horses, there's no doubt, but their preparation was second to none," Longsdon recalled. "Use of the grass is a huge factor, and attention to detail. And he'd have as good a knowledge of legs as anyone. He's not standing on the outside, either, he knows them inside out. If you're new, in an important role, you get a good grilling before you're allowed to settle in. I didn't enjoy my first six months. But I stayed five years in the end."

All these advantages should not deceive anyone about Longsdon, because they certainly have not deceived him. Hours before he had his first runner, he was airlifted to hospital after a gallops fall. And his first good horse, Kerstino Two, shattered a pastern under him in a routine canter – one of three animals lost in freak accidents in his first season, when his tiny string was tended by just three people. "I thought he had a great each-way chance in the National," Longsdon said. "Things like that, they definitely have to make you stronger..."

The alternative is unspoken, but has demonstrably been rejected. Longsdon has laid the foundations and, newly married, is building towards the next level – quite literally. Having quickly outgrown his start-up premises – "bursting at the seams" with 36 horses – next summer he is moving down the road to Chipping Norton. With stabling and gallops to be installed, the stakes will be pretty high when Songe runs on Saturday.

"It's been a great start for me here, and we've been very lucky," he said. "But we're pretty limited. At the new place we'll have 46 to 50 boxes, with room to expand. Gradually we're trying to build ourselves up, and this is the next phase. It's really exciting."

* Tony McCoy's hopes of reaching the 3,000 winner mark rest with three rides today at Huntingdon, if that card passes an 8.15am inspection. Frost is the threat there and at the day's other turf meeting at Taunton. Kempton's National Hunt card tomorrow is already under threat.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesChuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf