I’m often loathe to get too carried away with rookie trainers that shine early in their career. Racing is littered with trainers and jockeys that were unable to build on a highly promising beginning.
However, things might just be a little different with George Boughey, who appears to be making striking progress as a young trainer this season.
It’s not even June and Newmarket-based Boughey has already sent out 40 winners this term, which is more than powerhouses of the sport like Sir Michael Stoute, William Haggas and Charlie Appleby.
Of those 40 winners, 13 have been two-year-olds and it is with the juveniles that Boughey really is catching the eye.
Boughey, long-time assistant to Classic-winning trainer Hugo Palmer, has clearly developed quite a contact list during his career. Ten winners in the last fortnight is a stunning return for a trainer whose career remains in its infancy, but those ten winners have been spread across six different owners which bodes extremely well for him in the longer term.
Of course, the backing of big spending owners like Amo Racing and Highclere Thoroughbred Racing is always going to give him an edge over less fortunate trainers but that in itself brings a pressure on those young shoulders and, at the moment, he is delivering the goods.
Boughey and his team at Red House Stables clearly know their ducks from their swans, not that they seem to have many ducks right now.
Some of his juveniles are going off very short prices and the cash doesn’t seem to be getting left behind too often. There appears to be a shrewdness about the young trainer that few of his limited experience can match.
He’ll do well to keep up winners at his current rate but there is no doubt that Boughey’s stock is rising and trainers like Archie Watson and Richard Hannon, noted for their ability to churn out juvenile winners, are going to have to up their game if they are to keep up with the new kid on the block.
A winner at Royal Ascot would be the icing on the cake for Boughey and if he is going to strike on the biggest stage of all, it is likely to be with a juvenile. Navello, winner of Chester Lily Agnes Stakes, looks highly progressive and could be the one in a race like the Windsor Castle Stakes.
Boughey is the latest of a clutch of younger trainers like George Scott and Charlie Fellows that are helping to drag the sport into the 21st century.
Unlike many of the older brigade, this new breed of trainer is far more open to communication with owners and the media. They embrace new technology and make a concerted effort to engage with fans on social media.
There is a greater emphasis on building and maintaining a great relationship with owners, without which they could not survive. That burgeoning relationship leads to a much better overall experience for the owner and goes some way to explaining why Boughey has been able to attract such a broad spectrum of owners to his yard.
Change isn’t something the sport of racing does particularly well but the likes of Boughey bring fresh ideas to an industry that so often falls short when it comes to moving with the times.
You only need to spend a few minutes watching racing across other major jurisdictions like Australia and the US to come to the conclusion that the loading up procedure in this country needs an overhaul.
I don’t have data that backs this up, but I have watched what feels like a million races already this year and I feel certain that the number of horses that cause trouble during the loading up procedure is significantly higher in this country than others.
That leads to significant delays in the loading process, which effectively punishes horses that behave themselves and go into the stalls in an agreeable and cooperative manner.
Standing on the spot for long periods of time, sometimes up to ten minutes, is not helpful to any horse but especially so for inexperienced juveniles, for whom connections will be desperate that the whole racing experience is as pleasurable as physically possible.
It is also mightily infuriating to sit watching stalls handlers, for all that they do a tremendous job overall, give chance after chance to an unruly animal that quite blatantly isn’t willing to play ball.
Every horse must pass a stalls test before it races but that doesn’t look sufficient in some cases. It is obviously very difficult to replicate race day conditions with crowds and noise etc but more can surely be done in this area.
The current rules state that “If a horse refuses to be loaded, the starter may: withdraw the horse; make further attempts at loading to include: using a blindfold; and/or attempting a load without the jockey mounted.”
All perfectly reasonable, I’m sure you would agree. The problem with this is that it effectively gives the start carte blanche to allow as many loading attempts as he likes, which feels like a ludicrous state of affairs.
We have to go back to limiting the number of loading attempts or attaching a time limit to each horse’s loading process because far too many well-behaved horses are having their races ruined because others won’t cooperate.
The idea that trainers could be punished financially if horses from their yard prove to be persistent offenders will sound a little draconian but it doesn’t currently feel like there is enough of an incentive for connections to get every horse sufficiently prepared for the racecourse experience. That is something that needs addressing.