Carroll clocks up first Jumps winner to brighten the advent of summer

Out in my paddock is a one time hurdle winner trained by Tony Carroll, who taught my eldest son and I to race ride. All three of us are now in honourable retirement.

Not so Danse Macabre's former trainer, whose expertise is more fruitfully applied to the flat race scene nowadays. However, a rare foray to Market Rasen this afternoon proved worthwhile when 6 year old gelding French Kiss, until 2018 with Hughie Morrison, finally broke his maiden under either code in a novices handicap chase. There's an old adage: "there's a race in every horse", but you sometimes need the patience of Job to tease it out.

I bumped into Tony at Stratford a few months back at one of those behind closed doors fixtures that didn't make the heart beat faster. Over the past few years, jumping winners have been hard to come by for the amiable Cropthorne handler. He's much better known around the likes of the All-Weather surfaces of Kempton, Lingfield, Wolverhampton and Southwell where ordinary horses race for ordinary prizes on ordinary days.

One stand out however is Brighton, where Carroll-trained horses have a very acceptable 49% chance of reaching the frame. Seventy winners since 1996 testify to a liking for the switchback on the cliff that makes Brighton so unique; it's a course that walks straight out of a Dick Francis novel. Tony's a big fan, responding to the re-opening of Brighton after 18 months away in the Racing Post by saying,"It's been a lucky place for us, we seem to have done okay, to be fair, and we had a good year last year irrespective of Brighton being closed. Everything went well for whatever reason, but it's great to see it back."

Don't expect the Carroll yard to produce a flashy two-year old. Almost all his winners are from older horses. And considering that 3 1/2 months of 2020 disappeared in a puff of Covid, the year delivered what would, in all probablity, have been his best ever season. £495,000 in prize money testifies to a lot of hard work and graft around modest racecourses.

I don't think we're going to see former Jumps jockey Carroll growing his involvement in the winter sport any time soon, but it's good to know he heasn;t lost his touch. Meantime, I can gaze out on my paddock in the knowledge I was sold a winner.