Lacey's double at Uttoxeter underlines a growing powerhouse in Herefordshire
Tom Lacey is an old school trainer, even down to his choice of clothing and headgear in public. However, this former head lad who learnt the trade the old-fashioned way now ranks among Herefordshire's finest of the current generation, and season winnings have consistently been exceeding £350,000 for several seasons which indicates some quality animals in his charge. The old school approach masks an avant-garde approach to building a training business. Lacey remains in a minority in promoting his business on LinkedIn for example.
Horses like Kimberlight Kandy (2020 Classic Chase and a leading contender for the 2021 Grand National), Adrimel (Winner of the 2021 Leamington Novices Hurdle before disappointing in the Albert Bartlett and Mersey Hurdles), and Tea Clipper (winner of Chepstow's Silver Trophy last October and third in the Coral Cup) have ensured the Lacey yard is well represented at the highest level in the winter and spring among graded races and major handicaps.
The 2021-22 season has started well, with 9 winners from 46 runners, but more importantly, 8 individual winners. And at today's Uttoxeter fixture, those stats were enhanced by a back-to-back double with 2m 4f handicap chaser Neville's Cross, and six year old French-bred Fox's Socks, breaking his duck in a novices' handicap hurdle, after a switch from Nicky Henderson's in late May.
The Three Counties respresent something of a powerhouse in the National Hunt racing market all year round. Gloucestershire's prominenceis well documented, on the back of major yards like Jonjo O'Neill, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Fergal O'Brien and Kim Bailey, and a growing rank and file that has been leading the charge in these early months of the Jumps season.
Hereford & Worcestershire trainers, further away from the country's capital, and less fashionably located outside the Cotswolds, have to work harder to recruit and retain owners, especially with a lower density of urban centres where owners can develop their own businesses to finance a racing hobby. It's a simple fact that especially among what can best be described as social owners - those that relish the yard visits and companionship as much as the crack of a winner - and in particular among syndicate owners, a higher population enables trainers to grow their audience significantly.
Herefordshire, despite a low-ranking racecourse, manages this remarkably well. Lacey, a former Point-to-Point rider of 27 winners, Venetia Williams and Michael Scudamore are just three of the leading lights carving out a precarious living from training thoroughbreds in the county. This density of interest permeates to the amateur ranks of Point-to-Points, enabling venues like Knightwick to generate interest and footfall to their events. And Knightwick is one of several fixtures capitalizing on the growth of fixtures in the autumn, with a switch from April to November, where similar weather but better ground will encourage higher field sizes.