Donn's Articles » Raydara


It wasn’t really the plan that Raydara would make her seasonal debut in the Tattersalls Ireland 1000 Guineas at The Curragh this afternoon. Trainer Michael Halford was hoping that she would be ready in time for the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket three weeks ago, but she wasn’t. It went right to the wire, but she just didn’t make it.

“With the wet spring that we had,” says Halford, “it took her a while. She nearly got there. They generally tell you when they’re ready, and she wasn’t. As a wise man once told me, you never see impatience rewarded.”

That’s Michael Halford for you: patience personified, the manner in which he trains his horses an outward reflection of his very character. That is why he is one of a carefully selected handful of trainers who train racehorses for HH the Aga Khan. Every victory for the green silks with the red epaulettes on the racecourse is a victory for patience, the product of a breeding empire that goes back generations. Nothing rushed, everything carefully planned.

Every autumn, about 15 yearlings arrive at Halford’s yard at Doneany in County Kildare from the Aga Khan. In 2013, Raydara was one of the 15.

“We liked her from the very start,” recalls the trainer. “She was always very straightforward, she was always a good-moving filly, a good looker, clear-winded. We were looking forward to getting her going.”

Halford allowed her find her rhythm, allowed her progress at home before allowing her set foot on a racecourse. When she did, at The Curragh on Irish Derby weekend last year, she was allowed go off a 25/1 shot.

“We wouldn’t be known for rushing our juveniles. His Highness wouldn’t want that anyway. We prefer to get them going, get them ready to run, do what’s right by them, allow their racing bring them forward. We like our young horses to enjoy their experience on the racecourse and to progress for it.”

Raydara enjoyed her racecourse debut all righ, belying her inflated odds to finish a clear second. When she went back to the racecourse three weeks later, different story. Sent off the 4/6 favourite, Shane Foley bounced her out of the gate, and the pair of them made all the running to win doing handsprings.

Stepped up in grade to a Group 3 race for her next run, the daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar could only finish fourth behind one of today’s rivals Jack Naylor. Halford was disappointed, but not despondent.

“We had ridden her handily when she won her maiden at Leopardstown, so we thought that we would ride her the same way, use her big long stride. We felt that we did the right thing on the day, but it didn’t work. We never lost faith in her though, we always thought she was a high-class filly.”

Halford brought her home, freshened her up and got her ready for the Group 2 Debutante Stakes back at The Curragh in August. In the lead up to that race, she did a piece of work which told her trainer that, although she had plenty of stamina in her pedigree, she had speed as well as an ability to gallop. So they rode her that way. They rode her for speed. Foley held her up, bided his time, then produced her turn of foot with precision to get her up to win by half a length from the top class Lucida, subsequent Rockfel Stakes winner and 1000 Guineas runner-up.

They decided to put her away for the season after that. The Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes was tempting, but her owner and her trainer had decided that she had done enough for the season, bided their time, did what was right by the filly. There’s that patience again.

“We are very happy with her,” says Halford. “She has strengthened up during the winter and she is ready to run. She has never been beyond seven furlongs, but she should get a mile easily. You’d imagine you could stretch her out to 10 furlongs at least, she switches off nicely in her races. The drying ground is in her favour, and we’re hopeful of a big run.”

© The Sunday Times, 24th May 2015