WHEREVER you look there is a long face poking out of a barn. If there is space, there is a box and there is also an occupant in it.
The inn at Tony Coyle’s Highfield yard, in Norton, is full to bursting.
It’s the most immediate measure of his progress.
Two and a half years ago, Coyle turned his breaking and pre-training yard into a racing stable and has never looked back.
Now he has 20 two-year-olds, a total intake of thoroughbreds closer to 50 and a couple of talented animals he hopes can land him big prizes when the new season kicks into gear in a few weeks.
Fifty-eight winners over Flat and jumps is just the start, reckons Coyle, who is beginning to make horse watchers sit up and notice.
“We’ve a nice bunch of horses in at the moment,” he says of his current crop. “Last year they were just hitting the crossbar early on and then they just clicked into gear and everything we ran nearly won.
“We had a great end to the year and the jumpers kicked in as well. Things are going well.
“I suppose we have had plenty of winners and people take note of that. We’ve a lot of new owners who have sent us horses.”
It started with Thatcherite. Bought for just £800, he’s won five for Coyle, while City Zen, sold for six times more than he cost when he fetched £50,000 last year, gave the Coyle team a day to remember when winning a York maiden.
New Hampshire cost £20,000, won £40,000 in prize money and then made his owner Brian Dunn £120,000 in a subsequent sale.
All savvy business.
This year, in Lily Rules, he has a filly who has already achieved Black Type success when third in a Listed race at Haydock last September. Coyle is excited about her prospects. “We will try her in one of the Guineas trials and we will see,” he adds.
“She’ll not be a filly to carry big weights in handicaps but she was only beaten a length by Chriselliam into third at Haydock in a Listed race and look what she went on and did (won the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket and the Breeders’ Cup Juveline Fillies’ Turf at Santa Anita).
“We don’t have to go chasing Black Type now as she has it. We’ve turned down a lot of offers for her.
“We will see where we will go with her. If she improves again – she looks well and she’s done well – I don’t see why she shouldn’t go over the 100-rated mark.
“She’s pretty useful. She is a good filly.”
What’s remarkable about Coyle is how relaxed he is about the future. In some yards, trainers have literally trembled with excitement about their stable stars – and wished their lives away counting down to D-Day.
Coyle barely bats an eyelid.
He is softly spoken and is as laid-back as they come.
It’s not a show either.
When the staff roar in for breakfast, and the air fills with the noise of a boisterous lot enjoying each other’s company, Coyle hardly has to whisper, yet everyone knows exactly what is demanded of them.
It’s an attitude that extends into every facet of the yard.
“I’m fairly chilled out and I don’t lose much sleep over things,” he reveals. “You will never see me out there shouting or roaring. They know what to do and that’s it. It’s that simple.”
Coyle’s training philosophy is equally straightforward – “you just get them fit and you keep them ticking”.
“Don’t gallop them,” he says. “Run them, keep them happy and let them run out in the field.
“The likes of the sprinters – we would only ride them three or four days a week. We wouldn’t ride them all the time. Once they are fit, just keep them happy, and feed the heck out of them.
“Give them as much grub as they can eat. Build them up and the gallops are stiff.
“When they go to the races, they find it easy.”
Easy enough that Coyle will probably have double the number of runners he enjoyed last year.
With two or three of his younger charges ready to go in the Brocklesby Stakes, the opening two-year-old contest of the Flat season at Doncaster, he is hoping to get off to a fast start.
And who knows? By then – with Son Of Flicka and Lucky Landing set for the Cheltenham Festival next month – he may even have a huge race trophy on the mantelpiece.
“They are a good bunch and they look it,” he says of his new generation of Flat warriors. “They are fairly forward. They’ve been up the grass and we have bunched a few of them up.
“We will definitely have two or three entries for the Brocklesby. That’s how forward they are. We’ll only run one but, which one, I don’t know.
“We are happy with them and happy in general. They are running well and we have got plenty to go to war with as well. That’s the main thing. We’ve plenty of numbers and it is grand.”