Yard hopes new season brings luck
BOB Buckler had plenty of luck last season – but it was all bad.
"I don't want to go through another one like that," said the trainer who is desperately hoping for an upswing in his fortunes before moving from Henley near Crewkerne to The Quantocks next spring.
In the past 12 months long-serving warriors Culahill, Ethiopia, Double Dizzy and The Sawyer who produced eight wins and £70,000 prize-money during 2011-12 have all retired.
Three promising chasers were lost to fatal injury inside as many months, including Sulpius who scored four of the stable's nine wins in 2012-13.
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Southfield Vic, the impressive five-length winner of an Exeter bumper in April, has been transferred by owner/breeder Angela Yeoman to Paul Nicholls at Ditcheat and a virus struck the yard in February, knocking many of the younger horses sideways.
So where does all that leave Buckler as the major months of the NH campaign approach? With Mister Matt, Ballyegan and fit-again Saint Peray as the only tried and tested performers in a mainly young, inexperienced 15-horse squad who will be campaigned as Buckler's Buccaneers following a sponsorship deal with 10 Bridport businesses.
However, he is convinced there is abundant talent among the youthful brigade – and nothing epitomises his optimism more than the four-year-old Ugolin De Beaumont and The Happy Warrior, a five-year-old Luso gelding.
Buckler said of Ugolin De Beaumont: "A lovely horse – my next big chaser in the mould of I Hear Thunder. He is quite a character and moves beautifully – I have never seen a horse so balanced when he's schooling and he could be a really smart one for the future.
"He'll have a bumper and a couple of hurdles this season and is the sort of horse who will keep me training for a few years." The gelding is owned by Anthony Norman who had Hell's Bay with Buckler's next-door neighbour Keiran Burke this year.
The Happy Warrior is a half-brother to the ill-fated Warlord whom Buckler believed had the ability to be the best horse he had trained.
The handler said: "The Happy Warrior is a very classy mover but will need time to fill out into his frame – Lusos aren't the earliest maturing horses in the world.
"He is not yet mature enough to go over fences, so he will be hurdling this season but he is my type of horse – a Bob Buckler chaser in the making."
Two more five-year-olds with definite promise are Somerset Lias and Tinker Time whose last outings were both in bumpers on the same April day.
The Golan gelding Somerset Lias was a close fifth at Wincanton while Tinker Time – bought from fellow Somerset trainer Jeremy Scott – was a one-length second for Buckler at Ffos Las.
"Somerset Lias ran a nice race when second first time out, disappointed at Sandown Park in February – he showed signs of the bug afterwards – and then ran okay at Wincanton.
"From what we have seen he's got ability. He jumps nicely and he'll go hurdling over 2m-plus.
"Jeremy won a point-to-point with Tinker Time. All my horses have done well during the summer and Tinker Time has strengthened up. He can jump and will stay further than 2m. We'll hurdle him this season but he might have another bumper first."
Redlynch Rock is another with a win between the flags. "He was weak in the spring but has strengthened up. He's had two novice chases and will run in a third to get a handicap mark – I'm hoping he'll progress like Sulpius," said Buckler of the Brian Boru five-year-old who is for sale.
After starting his career in bumpers and maiden hurdles in Ireland Coin River registered his point-to-point win on these shores. "He'll go handicapping in the West Country on softish ground."
One baby to watch for is the two-year-old, as yet unnamed, by Fleetwood out of River Reine, a mare who won two hurdles for Buckler as well as a 7f juvenile maiden for Barry Hills. "He is a really smart young horse who is cantering and who should run in a bumper next spring."
By David Briers