Boughey Quick To Make His Mark In Dream Job

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George Boughey on the Newmarket gallops | Emma Berry

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When working on a plan for a new business 12 months ago, few would have set out contingencies for a global pandemic. Fortunately for George Boughey, who this month celebrates his first anniversary as a Newmarket trainer, the shutdown of racing between mid-March and the beginning of June brought only a brief hiatus to the promising start made from when he saddled his first winner on Aug. 13.

That footnote in history belongs to Three C's (Ire), a Kodiac (GB) gelding who has won twice in the year before joining Boughey and who has really hit his stride since the start of 2020. He won three races from early February until the shutters came down on British racing and then bounced back from his enforced break to notch his fourth of the year, with his rating having improved 20lbs during that time.

The 6-year-old, who doubles as a reliable lead horse for some of the younger members of the Boughey string, is out in front again on a picture postcard morning on Newmarket's Summer Gallop. With the imposing Rowley Mile grandstand the only object rising from the otherwise flat and sprawling landscape of the famous training grounds, the trainer doesn't really need his binoculars to see for miles across East Anglia as he waits for his first lot to come speeding by. Hoofbeats and high-blowing are the only sounds to disturb the calm out in the middle of the acres of turf which provide a bucolic buffer from the nagging worries of the world at large. Out here it's business as usual: Thoroughbreds being primed to do the job they were bred for in the location used so successfully for this purpose across four centuries. Out here it's easy to see why young men and women are still drawn to the training ranks with frequency, even in uncertain times.

Calmness pervades back at Boughey's Saffron House Stables, with its easy access straight onto the gallops. The horses are relaxed and happy, and the small team of staff appear the same. It continues through to the trainer himself, who goes about the morning's work with a quiet confidence. In his own words, he is living the dream.

“I was lucky that I had a great grounding,” says the 28-year-old. “I started in Australia having left Newcastle University and went to work for Gai Waterhouse.”

If this sounds familiar, it was a path also trodden by Hugo Palmer, who was to become Boughey's boss in Newmarket after he completed a stint in Melbourne at the private stable of powerful owner Lloyd Williams.

“Hugo took me on when I came back, against his own will I think, but George Scott played a big part in getting me the job there. I had six seasons there and it was great to be around such good horses and good people,” he adds.

 

 

Boughey has taken over at Saffron House Stables since the move of the aforementioned George Scott, and it was also the original yard of Charlie Fellowes, who last year moved his increasingly large string to Bedford House Stables, the former home of Luca Cumani. Clearly, Newmarket, despite its competitive backdrop in being the base of some of the biggest stables in the land, can also work as an ideal starting point for young trainers.

Boughey says, “There's a great camaraderie among the people here. Everybody gets on well and, for me, the training grounds are second to none that I've worked on globally. From the vets, the owners, the sales, there's an endless supply of things here that for me makes it the best place in the world.”

Even in these strange times, Boughey is entitled to be full of enthusiasm and, refreshingly, he is not full of himself. He gives credit to young bloodstock agent Sam Haggas, who recently launched his own agency Hurworth Bloodstock and is a noted judge of form horses. With Haggas he bought Involved (GB) (Havana Gold {Ire}) for 25,000gns at last year's Tattersalls Horses-in-Training Sale and the 5-year-old's three runs for his stable have seen him beaten a neck in second on June 4, swiftly followed by two wins by decent margins. This in turn has seen his rating rise to 92 and has prompted interest from southern hemisphere buyers.

“I think his career may continue in Australia, through sadly not for me,” says Boughey. “I would love the horse to have stayed in the yard and to have gone down there for me but we have to run a business at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. But it's a huge attraction for me, the idea of taking horses down there and I hope we will do very soon. I think Involved will be very competitive [in Australia] and we will look forward to trying to find the next one and perhaps taking a bit of their prize-money.”

Another horse who has similarly impressive form figures since racing resumed in Britain and following his move to Boughey's stable is Songkran (Ire) (Slade Power {Ire}). A former €100,000 Orby yearling, the 4-year-old was bought by Hurworth Bloodstock last October for 20,000gns and has notched three wins in a fortnight during July.

“I owe a lot to Sam Haggas. He does a lot of work behind the scenes and we deal with the horses when they come to the yard,” says Boughey. “He has a fantastic brain for finding horses in training. He buys for people all around the world and we've been very lucky that we've found a few good horses that have improved and have racked up a bit of a sequence recently.”

Apart from Three C's, for whom the trainer understandably has a soft spot, the horse putting an extra spring in Boughey's step at the moment is the once-raced Arctic Victory (Ire) (Ivawood {GB}). Unsold by co-breeder Michael Downey at €9,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Yearling Sale, the 3-year-old made a smart debut in a fillies' maiden at Windsor on June 22 and has subsequently been sold to former BHA chairman Paul Roy, who was already an owner in the yard.

“Paul Roy's son Mikey had spotted a horse we had for sale on Instagram last year—a yearling I bought on spec with Alex Elliott—and it's a pleasure to be training for them,” Boughey explains.

“Arctic Victory won first time out the other day and she will run again at the end of the month. She looks a promising filly. She wasn't unfancied first time out but she was a big price and I think she might go on to be a better than just a maiden winner.”

The explosion of social media platforms over the last decade has in the main been of a huge benefit to racing in reaching a wider audience and allowing interested parties to have greater behind-the-scenes access. The technology has been embraced, particularly by younger trainers, and it really came into its own during lockdown when horses were still being trained on a daily basis but the main show had been taken off the stage.

Boughey says, “There's a huge following of racing on Twitter mainly, but also on Instagram and lots of other social media networks. I don't like to overdo it but I think it's a good platform to let people know what you're doing and to give them a good insight. Through lockdown I was getting messages from people who would never have watched racing before. As we started [racing again] we had a two- or three-week window and we had a couple of winners when more people were watching. Whether in the long term that is a benefit or not I don't know, but I think it can only help.”

He continues, “These are bizarre times that we are in at the moment. But I do think we are very fortunate to be racing and it's a huge compliment to the BHA and everyone behind the scenes for getting us back racing and keeping us racing.”

Maintaining the action and gradually reintroducing spectators to racecourses is the goal across the sport and there will be few keener than Boughey to see that happen. In this interrupted year he is currently operating at a strike-rate of 33%, with 13 wins from 39 starts made by his equine team, which currently numbers 26. A few extra recruits have meant that he has now rented the second of the two American-style barns available at Saffron House—a development which is as daunting as it is exciting. But on a spotless morning in high summer, whatever is happening in the outside world appears unlikely to dim the trainer's sunny outlook any time soon.

Boughey says plainly, without a hint of smugness, “It's a boyhood dream that is coming to fruition.” And in reality, his is currently a stable ripe with success.

 

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