By Simon Mapletoft
Only eight trainers saddled more winners than Antony Brittain last season but none could match his remarkable strike rate of winners to runners.
The unassuming York handler won with 67 per cent of his performers during the official All-Weather Championships Season 7 – a staggering 22 per cent better than his nearest rival among the winning-most handlers, Richard Hughes.
Now Brittain, buoyed by a squad of proven campaigners and promising new talent, is relishing further success throughout the new season after beating his previous best annual score of 28 and reaching 100 career winners in mid-October.
“Most of my horses are at their best on the All-Weather but we never set out to specialise. It’s just evolved that way,” he says. “We keep them sweet at home and let them do their racing on the track – it’s as simple as that.”
Since taking over from his late father Mel Brittain five years ago, the Warthill handler has wound down the breeding operation at Northgate Lodge which has made him less reliant on homebreds making the grade on the track.
He hasn’t yet found anything to emulate Mel’s Group-winning sprinter Grey Desire, but with the help of bloodstock agent David McGreavy, Brittain has recruited a string of shrewd purchases from the horses in training sales including Shadwell cast-offs Tathmeen, Mutabaahy and Daafr, who have won 16 races between them.
Brittain, who splits his time between training and running the steel business his father ran so successfully, puts much of his success down to the experience of his long-serving staff – head lad Neil Jordan, travelling head lad Ron Forsyth and racing manager Garry Marshall.
“They worked for my dad and have been here for as long as I can remember,” adds Brittain, whose horses carry the familiar maroon and gold checks that were synonymous with his father’s runners for several decades. “Between them they are vastly knowledgeable and are an invaluable part of the team here.”
A comment that applies to the trainer’s ambitious young stable jockey Cam Hardie, who is itching to get back in the saddle after sustaining a shoulder injury in a fall. “Cam is very passionate about our horses and is a true team player, so he fits in very well,” he adds.
“He deserves the chance to ride better horses for bigger yards and if that chance comes along I wouldn’t stand in his way. My dad helped Alan Munro and David Allan take their careers to a high level and no one would be happier than me to see Cam ride some big Saturday winners.”
Brittain also relies on the burgeoning talent of apprentices Harry Russell – based in nearby Malton with Brian Ellison - and teenager Angus Villiers, whose first seven rides for the yard yielded a remarkable four winners.
Here Brittain nominates 12 of his horses to follow this winter.