Whether you’re a trainer or jockey, loyalty counts for a lot - and one long-serving stalwart of the game is pleased to have the backing of one of its greatest supporters.
Ever since JP McManus purchased his first horse with Brendan Powell in 2005, he has had horses in training with him each season.
What has been a successful partnership with plenty of winners unfortunately endured a tragic start, as Tokala had not nearly reached his potential when he suffered an injury in running when favourite for Sandown’s EBF Final.
“He was a serious horse,” Powell told www.cdhorseracingtours.com.
“He was second in the bumper at Cheltenham’s November meeting and we needed an owner for him.
“We approached Frank Berry, the horse was vetted and JP bought him.
“He won his first two hurdles under AP McCoy and was favourite for the Sandown race. He was mapped out for that and unfortunately we lost him. He was only five.”
Powell’s team soldiered on admirably and as ever they are hoping they may have found another good young horse to run in the green and gold hoops, novice hurdler In The Pipeline.
The yard trained the dam Kerriemuir Lass for JP and the five-year-old is her first son by Oscar.
“He’s a gorgeous individual,” said the Upper Lambourn trainer, who has more than 750 winners to his name.
“I could see him winning something like the Scottish National in a few years.
“He finished third at Towcester behind a nice horse of Nicky Henderson’s and then was unlucky not to win his second start over hurdles.
“He has a mark of about 109 so we will start off in a handicap and go from there.”
McManus retired a couple from last season including Lettheriverrundry, who won on his debut in a bumper but rather lost his way and Le Curieux, as he couldn’t repeat what he was showing at home on the track.
Powell’s daugheter Jenny also called it a day back in the spring, but his namesake son Brendan is of invalubale assistance when it comes to assessing the yard’s horses.
His father, who won the Grand National in 1988 on Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, used to do a lot of it himself until a health scare six years ago told him to slow down a bit.
He said he would ‘have to do it competitively or not at all’, so has resisted the invitation of a few charity races to hang up his boots for good.
Powell says he still loves the sport as much as when he started, in a career which saw him fight back from heavy falls and build up a fine partnerships with old favourites like Dublin Flyer.
But he admits highly competitive sales make it difficult for trainers with smaller yards, as horses that are barely proven in the pointing field can go for five-figure sums or more.
“I have an unnamed Flemensfirth in the field from one hell of a family and I think he’ll win a bumper first time out,” he said.
“But he’s a horse I will probably have to sell on.
“It can be hard to make a living. At the sales you are competing with the same sort of dozen people the whole time.
“For a bumper horse you could be talking £100,000 plus.”
In that field a few months ago, Powell started off a nice young horse called Big ‘n Better, a giant of a horse at 18 hands.
Beaten under four lengths at Ffos Las on debut, he then went to Worcester and made the running, showing plenty until tiring in the latter stages.
“If we had made more use of him on his first start, he may well have won,” said Powell.
“At Worcester I should have pulled him out. He’s had a month off and should make a nice 2m 4f horse. For one his size, his constitution is unbelievable.”
The yard enjoyed a memorable few years on the Flat with dual Dubai scorer Dark Emerald and several used to starting stalls at Frenchmans Lodge could switch codes this winter.
Ishallak has transferred from Ralph Beckett’s yard, a move the owners made with his half-sister Kallisha who finished second in the 2016 Listed Fred Archer Stakes.
“Ralph sent Ishallak to me as like the sister he couldn’t work him out, so hopefully he will enjoy some juvenile hurdling,” said Powell.
“Kasperenko was bought as a Triumph Hurdle horse. He went well until he choked in the Adonis and at Huntingdon he looked like he might win but he all but fell at the sixth.
“He’s come back and won a valuable race at Chelmsford a couple of weeks ago. Whether he’ll take to jumping again I don’t know.
“Our recent winner Phoenix Dawn is going to Henrietta Knight’s to school over fences as he’ll get a lot of weight for a four-year-old.
“Gannicus is another who Brendan thinks will jump a fence and if we find out De Bruyne Horse stays he could hurdling.
“One I’m hoping that will come back is Mere Ironmonger. I bought him from Mike De Kock unraced for £5,000 and he hacked up in a bumper in 2016.
“Lots of winners came out of that race. We were training him for Cheltenham that November and he picked up a tendon injury. He’s been off since.
“He did his first piece of work this week with a couple of Willie Muir’s and I was very happy with him.
“He was something like an £800,000 yearling.
“I hope we can win a novice hurdle with him.
“I think he’s quite special. He’s probably good enough to win on the Flat over 1m 4f too.”