Beach A Winter Warmer For Chapple-Hyam

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Saffron Beach has her first canter of the year with Abi Harrison | Emma Berry

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With few natural barriers to blasts of icy wind, Newmarket's flatlands can make the winter feel extra arduous, particularly in a year which begins with the third British lockdown in the midst of a pandemic which refuses to abate.

More than ever, we all need something to look forward to, and for Jane Chapple-Hyam, hope is embodied in the form of a robust chestnut filly. The trainer is blessed with an irrepressible spirit which has surely seen her through some tougher times and, in early January, despite the absence of her annual return to her native Melbourne, she is full of aspiration for the season ahead. With a genuine Classic prospect in a stable of just 32 horses, it is easy to see why.

The filly who can be described as a proper winter warmer is Saffron Beach (Ire). She didn't enter training until last July but quickly became one of the star performers from the first crop of her Ballylinch Stud sire New Bay (GB). In fact, it was fortuitous that the filly came to Chapple-Hyam's stable in the first place. Initially bought as a foal by Liam Norris on behalf of the trainer's erstwhile step-brother Ben Sangster as a pinhooking prospect, Saffron Beach missed two yearling sales and was also withdrawn from last July's sale at Tattersalls as a foot problem took its time to be resolved. In partnership with co-owner James Wigan, Sangster and his wife Lucy eventually opted to place the filly in training with Chapple-Hyam, who the previous season had won the listed Chalice S. with Love So Deep (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) for a syndicate involving Sangster's brother Adam, the owner of Swettenham Stud in Australia.

“She had issues with her feet but Ben and Lucy's farrier and then my farrier Ian have sorted her out and we haven't looked back,” says Chapple-Hyam of Saffron Beach. “Everything has been fine, but that's why she came in very late. Back in July when the first lockdown was lifted I went down to Manton to view her and she was just about over all her issues.”

Whatever frustrations may have been felt at the filly missing her sales engagements were quickly dispelled when she made an eye-catching debut at Newmarket in late September, winning a seven-furlong maiden by more than four lengths. A fortnight later she was back on the Rowley Mile and made light work of the heavy ground to win the G3 Oh So Sharp S. It has been a short and sweet racing career to date, but very much one which entitles her connections to dream their way through lockdown.

Chapple-Hyam recalls, “As she was getting fitter, Abi Harrison, who rides her every day, said that she had a good gear change and that she really liked her very much.  Then I got Adam Kirby to come in and sit on her once and he also liked her, and away we went. But by then the turf season was getting close to finishing.”

This year, the trainer's eye will be firmly on the start of the turf season, with her preferred path to the 1000 Guineas being via the G3 Nell Gwyn S.

“The obvious thing for her would be to start just up the road in the Nell Gwyn. She's two from two at Newmarket so it makes sense to go there instead of the Fred Darling,” she says.  “She's versatile on the going having won on good and very soft. We haven't really seen what she can do on good quick ground. At the moment I'm just looking forward to the Nell Gwyn and we'll take it from there.”

Following her Group 3 success, Saffron Beach was turned out for a six-week break with the Sangsters at Manton, a place with which her trainer has had a long association. She started out working there for her stepfather Robert Sangster, initially when Michael Dickinson was the resident trainer and later under Barry Hills. During this time she met her now-former husband Peter Chapple-Hyam, to whom she was assistant trainer for 16 years before she started training in her own right in Newmarket in 2005 following their separation. 

“I must have had a good 18 years at Manton,” she says. “I took the filly back down there in the horse box so it was nice to have another tour around with Ben and Lucy. It has changed, as things do, but is's still a special place.”

Known at home as 'Petal', after her dam Falling Petals (GB) (Raven's Pass), who is a half-sister to the dam of young Tally-Ho Stud stallion Cotai Glory (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}), Saffron Beach appears to have blossomed over the winter and she undertook her first canter of the year under Harrison on Wednesday morning.

“She's definitely grown and she's a good doer, in fact she's a monster like that,” says Chapple-Hyam. “She loves her food and guards it in her stable. You want to leave her alone when she's munching but she has a lovely character though. She's sweet and kind, but as soon as the bridle and saddle are put on she turns into a pro athlete. And she has a lovely presence when she's out. You instantly look and say, 'who's that?'”

The trainer knows she is fortunate still to have Saffron Beach in her stable as, inevitably for a horse who made such a notable start to her career, the offers came in for her after her black-type win.

“I am obviously very pleased that Mr Wigan and Mr Sangster are both at that age when they don't really need to sell,” she says with a laugh. “I think we are all really excited to see how far we can go with her this season. To me, she has trained on. Physically you can see that. It's great for Ben and Lucy. They have another good filly [Sense Of Style] with Joseph O'Brien as well so it could be a good year for them.”

In Chapple-Hyam's first full season with a licence in 2006, with just ten horses in her care, she sent out the 100/1 winner of the Ebor H., Mudawin (Ire) (Intikhab), and has had a decent amount of stakes performers in the ensuing years, including treble Group 3 winner Mull Of Killough (Ire) (Mull Of Kintyre), from a string which has rarely grown beyond 30. 

She says, “Saffron Beach is certainly a nice one to progress with, but we also have some other older horses in the yard that we are looking forward to getting going again.

“Albadri (Ire) has a Saudi Derby entry, he's a Dandy Man (Ire) and I'm looking forward to him, and I'm also looking forward to seeing Ambassadorial running again. I'm aiming at Super Saturday in Dubai with him. He pulled up lame on the July Course at Newmarket but thankfully it wasn't anything that required surgery. We gave him the rest and the time and he's been cantering for the last few weeks. I don't know what the travel restrictions will be like for Dubai but we will aim to have him fit for then.”

She adds, “I still call myself a rookie trainer but I have been training for 14 years now so I guess I'm over that. But it's a thrill for me to be aiming at a Guineas. Obviously we don't know what's going to happen but I don't think she was just a 2-year-old. At the moment it's exciting enough for me that she is just having her first canter back.”

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