Donn's Articles » Gavin Cromwell

Gavin Cromwell

There was a weekend at the end of October when nearly every horse that Gavin Cromwell ran won.  Literally.  Midnight It Is and Limerick Lace won at Clonmel.  My Mate Mozzie and Encanto Bruno won at Cheltenham.  Charming Fortune won at Sligo.  Flooring Porter won at Cheltenham.  Hascoeur Clermont won at Galway.  It was one of those weekends.  If he had had a runner in the Grande Course de Haies de Fontainebleau, you would have backed it at any price.

That’s Gavin Cromwell for you: he goes wherever he thinks there are opportunities for the horses that he has.  Fits the horses to the contests.  And he operates at the highest level across the spectrum, in all disciplines.  Flat and National Hunt, summer and winter, speed and stamina.  

There is hardly a more versatile trainer with a licence at present.  At Royal Ascot in June 2021, at the height of the British summer with top hats and fascinators and Pimms and good to firm ground, he won the Queen Mary Stakes over five furlongs with Quick Suzy.  At Chepstow in January 2018, in the depths of the British winter with woolly hats and scarves and gloves and deep, deep winter ground, he won the Welsh Grand National over three miles and five and a half furlongs with Raz De Maree.

It is difficult to find a starker contrast in two horse races on these islands than the contrast that there is between the Queen Mary Stakes and the Welsh Grand National.  The different attributes that are required for each contest could not be more dissimilar.  One a flat race for two-year-old fillies run over the minimum distance and usually on fast ground, which tests pace and speed and precocity.  The other a jumps race for wizened warriors run over almost as long a distance as racehorses are asked to go, usually run on heavy ground and over 22 obstacles, one of the longest horse races on the racing calendar, which tests grit and determination and endurance.  Raz De Maree was 13 years old when he won the Welsh National.

Gavin Cromwell peppers the racing spectrum, all areas of it.  A farrier by trade, on the flat he won the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu in 2018 with Princess Yaiza, and last June he doubled his Royal Ascot tally when Snellen won the Chesham Stakes.  Over jumps, he won the Punchestown Champion Novice Hurdle with Jer’s Girl and he won the Albert Bartlett Hurdle with Vanillier and, famously, he won the Champion Hurdle with Espoir D’Allen.  And, of course, he has won two Stayers’ Hurdles and a Christmas Hurdle with Flooring Porter.

He doesn’t over-face his horses.  He had two winners from five runners last Sunday.  On Tuesday, he sent just one horse to Tramore, Leish Oscars Son, who won.  He had two runners at Dundalk on Friday night, one of them finished third, the other finished second, beaten a nose.  He had five runners at Cheltenham’s October meeting, three of them won and two of them finished second, one of them beaten a neck.  

Today, Gavin Cromwell can concentrate on matters closer to home, much closer to home, as he has a strong team going down the road to Fairyhouse.  The team is headed up by Letsbeclearaboutit and Encanto Bruno, both among the favourites for Grade 1 contests on one of the biggest days of the year at the County Meath track.

“Letsbeclearaboutit is well,” says the trainer.  “He was very good at Cork the last day.  I expected him to run well, but he surprised me a bit.  He travelled sweetly and his jumping was good.  Clearly he’s a better chaser than hurdler.”

Letsbeclearaboutit was a good hurdler last season.  A good bumper horse too three seasons ago, never out of the first two in five runs in bumpers, he was off the track for over a year with a cracked pelvis.  But, given the time that he needed to recover by his connections, he returned last season as good as ever, he won his maiden hurdle over three miles at Punchestown last January, and he competed in some of the top staying novice hurdle races.  His best performance over hurdles was at the Cheltenham Festival in March, when he finished fourth in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle.  

Signs were that he could take a high rank among the top staying novice chasers this season, but the pace that he showed at Cork over two and a half miles has opened up options.  The two-and-a-half-mile trip of today’s Bar One Racing Drinmore Chase looks ideal.

“He ran too freely in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle,” says Cromwell.  “But over fences, there’s more jumping, he’s settling better and he’s travelling so well.  I was making the entries for Christmas the other day, there are Grade 1 novice chases over an extended two miles, over almost two and a half miles and over three miles.  I put him into the first two.  I didn’t even enter him in the three-mile race.”

Encanto Bruno has an engagement at Christmas as well, in the Future Champions Novices’ Hurdle at Leopardstown, but he has a more immediate one in the Royal Bond Hurdle at Fairyhouse this afternoon.  When he won that race at Cheltenham’s October meeting, he was racing for the first time for Gavin Cromwell.

“We were delighted with him at Cheltenham.  The way that he travelled.  We hadn’t seen that pace from him at home.  He’s coming back in trip on Sunday, and I’ve been told all along that he wants nice ground, but I’m hoping that he’ll be fine with the distance and the ground.  We’ll know more after Sunday.”

Gavin Cromwell has never won the Royal Bond Hurdle or the Drinmore Chase, but he went mighty close to winning both two years ago.  My Mate Mozzie made a mistake at the final flight, and was beaten a short head by Sanctuaire in the hurdle race, and Gabynako got in tight to each of the last two fences in the chase, and was run down close home by Beacon Edge.

Percival Legallois runs in the Drinmore Chase today too, Brides Hill goes in the mares’ handicap chase, His Nibs runs in the bumper.  It could be another one of those weekends.

© The Sunday Times, 3rd December 2023