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Turf Talk: Dale and hearty for duo keeping to a quality beat
HOLIDAY homes and not horses have taken centre stage at Ann Duffield's Constable Burton yard - but only temporarily.
The Duffields pumped £500,000, helped by a substantial government grant, into four lodges at their Wensleydale base and they have been booked up ever since.
But while their latest business venture has been a roaring success, and should be more than worth its weight in gold as far as the couple's long term financial future is concerned, it has brought repercussions on the racing front.
The cash invested in the scheme means the pair have bought fewer horses for this year and, following on from a season which saw them post their lowest total of winners for six years - 20 - and run fewer horses (187) than at any period in nearly a decade, this may be a campaign of consolidation.
Not that the duo see it that way, of course.
"We only had 15 yearlings and we'd normally have between 20 and 30," said George.
"If the quality is good, it won't matter. If the 15 are all right, they'll compensate for the 15 you haven't got. We don't spend an awful lot of money on them.
"We buy a lot on spec. We don't buy for specific people. If we get one or two orders, it would be a lot but we normally go and stick our necks out and go and buy them off our own back and hopefully sell them once we get them back home - which we have done again this year.
"We are buying horses with a pedigree but are a little bit small. The pedigree is there but the size isn't. We just hope that they grow a bit, which some have. It makes up for the little money you have paid for it.
"It's all about having an engine. It's like everything else. If they have the engine and have got the heart to do it then they will go and win for you. The only thing is that when they are small, they don't normally train on to be three-year-olds.
"They are not scopey enough to go on for another year. They are what they are and that's why you are paying between £10,000 and £30,000 for them - because they are just going to be two-year-olds. If you buy a big horse, with a bit more money, then he will go on.
"We've got some nice middle of the year, back end two-year-olds there that we think will be all right. We've got a nice Lord Shanakill horse for the summertime and there's one or two of those.
"Buying horses now, your £10,000 horse is now £25,000. Your 25 horse is now 45. It's pushing the limits a little bit to what you can spend for the people you train for. It just ties you down a little bit.
"We've been pretty lucky. We've bought some cheap horses and they have done the business. They have gone and won for us.
"Those that were cheap and small have actually grown, if we have left them alone over the winter to mature a little bit, and it has paid dividends."
Having been through a period where some of their horses have been unwell, the Duffields have posted one winner from 28 runners in this Flat campaign to date.
For a yard that traditionally starts late anyway, it is only now, though, that the wheels will truly get into gear at Constable Burton.
They are facing the future without Just Lille, their reliable star that won 18 races for them down the years and was retired last November.
But Duffield feels a new performer could be just around the corner.
"They are horses that you start to concentrate on now," he added. "We never start early. It's normally May before we get into action. We will run horses in April time but nothing seems to win until May. I don't know why.
"We always seem to be a good month behind everybody. It's quite cold here. We are north facing, which doesn't help, and it just tends to hold them back a little bit.
"It's just about patience. Don't panic and wait until it materialises and crack on and have a good June, July and summer."
Duffield continued: "Just Lille was a star - a yardstick - and I think everyone wants a Just Lille don't they? Something that can tot up winners year in and year out.
"She won 18 races. Every yard needs a yardstick - someone that is going to give you three or four winners.
"You are going to miss her like hell, that's for sure, but hopefully something will take her place - maybe one of the three-year-olds.
"We quite like the three-year-olds. Some only had one and two runs last year so it has been a case of getting a mark for them this year. The ones we have run have gone very well and we are very pleased with them."
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