Newmarket trainer Ben Brookhouse sends Sarsons Risk on Cheltenham Festival audition in Grade 2 contest at Kempton Park
Sarsons Risk will always hold a special place in the heart of Ben Brookhouse, but he could go up further in his estimations at Kempton Park tomorrow by securing the fledgling trainer a breakthrough Grade 2 success in the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.
After providing the Newmarket handler with his first ever winner at Doncaster earlier this month, the gelded son of Caravaggio will now bid to give him another landmark victory by maintaining his unbeaten record over jumps in the £80,000 two-mile contest.
Despite Sarsons Risk, who Brookhouse describes as a ‘dude’, being one of the least experienced over jumps in the eight-runner field, the 29-year-old feels he merits his place in the line-up judging by the manner of his victory on Town Moor.
He said: “When we purchased him it was the same day that we unfortunately lost Kingbrook, who was a really exciting horse. Whether there is a little bit of emotion connected to Sarsons I don’t know but you can’t help but love Sarsons as he is a dude.
“He seems to have come out of Doncaster well and he is a likeable type and seems to want to do it. He only had three days off after Doncaster but it was like a piece of work to him in all fairness. We are just pressing on now and looking forward to the Adonis.
“I think he is very special and that he has a big engine now that we have sorted his wind issue out. His jumping at Doncaster was as slick as you liked which is a big thing for juveniles.
“I think he definitely deserves his place on Saturday. There is the voice in your head telling you he we will win this without too much fuss, potentially, but then you have the realistic voice in your head saying everyone is thinking this.
“It all comes down to who turns up on the day and I’ve done the best to prepare him. He has done two bits of work since Doncaster, and they have been brilliant. I think he has got a very good chance but the opposition is strong.”
While Sarsons Risk possessed a rating of 82 on the Flat, Brookhouse, who only took out his licence in December, admits he had reservations about the four-year-old hitting the ground running over jumps.
He said: “He looked amazing but he was fresh after having his palate done and his hobday. He looked like he was carrying extra condition. He had only done two bits of work but they had been stellar bits.
“I was happy to run him but when it is a race about stamina and they are showing so much speed in their work you are a bit unsure of it. I was constantly waiting for him to take a blow and fall in a heap but he didn’t and he kept on travelling.
“To have him as my first winner was great as there was a lot of people there to see him do it but the manner in which he did it was fantastic. Once he crossed the line it was all a bit of a blur and I was speechless.”
At the moment Sarsons Risk does not hold an entry in the JCB Triumph Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival, however that could all change depending on how he performs at the weekend.
Brookhouse added: “Robbie Dunne said after he won on him at Doncaster why isn’t he in the Triumph Hurdle. I was so busy focussed getting the horse right I hadn’t thought about that aspect of it.
“We haven’t really considered it for him, but if he was to win comfortably hard held on the bridle at the weekend then we might think about supplementing him.”
Although looking forward to saddling his first Graded race runner at the weekend, Brookhouse’s career could have taken another direction with horsepower of another kind.
He said: “When I was 15, I worked out on the farm with the horses on and it all stemmed from there. I did study to be a mechanic but I learnt very quickly that if a car breaks you have got to fix it and if a horse has an issue all you have got to do is give it time.
“I had a bad experience with a car that I rebuilt. I dropped something in the engine and I just threw my spanners down and said screw this I’m not doing this any more.
“I went to the Northern Racing College, which was enjoyable, and then me and dad went to Worcester races one day and we bumped into Ian Williams. He has always been a good friend of dad’s and he said send him up to me and I will look after him.
“I worked for Ian for three years before I went anywhere else. I went to Ireland to work for Eoin Griffin and I then made the transition from there to Henry de Bromhead’s while I was waiting to get into Jim Bolger’s.”
Certain figures within the sport are so commanding that they can strike fear and nervousness into most, something Brookhouse can testify to on his first meeting with Classic-winning handler Bolger.
He added: “I remember going to Gowran Park to meet Jim Bolger and he was in owners and trainers. I was so nervous of meeting this man I walked straight past him and out onto the balcony.
“I walked in full of it thinking just be professional and I just bottled it. I came back in after calming down and I introduced myself to him.
“He is a genius and an amazing man, but I get nervous now still thinking about him. However I ended up staying there three years.”
After a year spent in Newmarket with Hugo Palmer, a second spell working for Williams, who he describes as like a ‘second father’, beckoned for Brookhouse before he decided to take the plunge and go it alone.
He said: “After Hugo, Ian was looking for an assistant and he took me on. I was there for five years until I was ready to sprout wings and go it alone.
“Ian has been like a second father to me and he always will be. He taught me a lot through some tough times and good times and I’m always grateful for what he taught me.
“He has been a life coach and a mentor. I wouldn’t be where I am today, or who I am today without him.”
Setting up as a trainer in this day and age requires plenty of support to which Brookhouse is thankful for his dad, and Cheltenham Festival-winning owner, Roger for offering, to help him get off the ground and turn his dream into reality.
He added: “I’ve got all of dad’s UK horses that are in training, and the only other ones in the UK are either on holiday, in pre-training or being broken in. That is a massive vouch of confidence from dad.
“He hasn’t given me five and said play with them he has given me 30. He has given me a lot of support and confidence.
“It would have felt wrong to have my first winner for anyone bar dad but I couldn’t let that stop me from winning with someone else’s horses, but luckily we were able to do it and do it well. He seems to be really enjoying it with me training the horses.”