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Love spreads in Ann Duffield’s magic year
10:29am Friday 12th October 2012 in Sport
IF Ann Duffield can find another winning tune out of Melody Of Love at Newmarket tomorrow it will cap a season to remember for the Constable Burton trainer.
Her star juvenile is set to line up over six furlongs in the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at headquarters just a couple of weeks after striking on Ayr Gold Cup day and giving Duffield her first Group winner with her first-ever runner in that class of race.
It was a victory which confirmed her as one of Britain’s best women trainers, and a repeat performance in front of packed Newmarket stands would further fuel her ambition to hit the very top of the profession.
Melody Of Love stormed home at 7-2 in the hands of jockey Paul Mulrennan in the Group 3 Firth of Clyde Stakes at Ayr, having previously won on only her second racecourse outing and subsequently finishing runner-up in the Champion Two-Year-Old Stakes at Ripon.
But while her filly has been the stable standout, Duffield, who is supported by her husband and legendary ex-jockey, George, has been banging in the winners this season – with 24 successes and a strike-rate of around 50 per cent for runners finishing in the first four.
Impressive performers at Sun Hill Stables have included Yorkshire Icon, Grievous Angel, Lady Moonlight, Scentpastparadise, Just Lille – now a winner of 17 races for Duffield – and the promising eight-length first-time-out winner Willie the Whipper.
Success breeds success.
“Our yard is buzzing at the moment,” she said.
“Melody Of Love was our first runner in a Group race and to win it is beyond words. I can barely explain the thrill, the delight and the relief that goes with her win.
“I met Mrs Poilin Good, her owner/breeder with her husband John 17 years ago around the swimming pool at the Jebel Ali hotel in Dubai. It was the only hotel on the beach at the time and I was a budding trainer with only a handful of National Hunt horses.
“Never in a million years would I have believed she would, one day, provide me with the ammunition to win a Group race with my first-ever Group race runner.
“It’s hard to say, at the moment, how Melody Of Love will do at Newmarket. She is a very progressive filly and did well to win a Group 3. We can only be hopeful.”
Having got off the Group mark, Duffield is now already on the hunt for another.
Having been busy at the sales, she is hopeful she has found the next generation of performers to match what, with just a handful of extra winners between now and the second week of November, could turn out to be her best-ever season.
“We have some superb new horses here, who can hopefully emulate what has happened this season, when there have been so many wonderful memories,” she added.
“Apart from the home-bred Melody of Love, the success of many cheaply-bought yearlings stands out, with horses such as Chloes Dream, bought for £6,000, and dual winners Yorkshire Icon and Lady Moonlight, costing less then £6,000 apiece.
“Obviously winners help, and winners bring in more winners. Better quality horses have undoubtedly been the key, and the recession has helped us enormously in this regard, because better quality horses have been cheaper to buy.
“There has never been a better time for owners to come into racing, except for the prize money issue of course, which is being addressed now and will, eventually, improve.”
Her high-profile owners include former Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp, the philanthropist Sir Robert Ogden and Evelyn, Duchess of Sutherland, together with the successful syndicates Middleham Park Racing and Grange Park Racing.
“Like all trainers, we are keen to attract new owners and there are a lot of people out there who would like to get involved with ownership but don’t know how to go about it,” Duffield said.
“We help them to understand what is involved and to get as much enjoyment as they can. I try to tailor budgets to suit, however small or large.
“Our website helps enormously and I write a daily blog called Duffield Diaries which has a huge following, well into the thousands during the season. The blog has served to break the ice for many aspiring owners as reading it makes them feel involved in what’s going on here anyway, so joining us is often a natural progression.
“They often say it is addictive and like following a soap opera.
“We also have several open days, including the huge Middleham Open day on Good Friday, and in the autumn we host another, during which we show off our yearlings, giving owners or prospective owners, or interested followers, the chance to view the horses we are going to be racing the following year. This year’s date will be late in October or early November.”
There’s no doubt the Sun Hill soap opera will run and run – and there’s every chance of a happy ending.