The much-missed Patrick Haslam, considered by those in the know to have been a master of his profession, would be rather proud of the progress his son Ben has made this winter.
He has proven to be a chip off the old block with a succession of winners on the All-Weather and over jumps, evoking memories of Haslam senior’s success in both codes during a distinguished career in Lambourn, Newmarket and Middleham.
Ben, who cut his teeth with Godolphin in Dubai and Sir Michael Stoute in Newmarket, took over at Castle Hill Stables in 2010 - around seven years before the death of his father - and whilst it’s been a slow burn, the name ‘Haslam’ is clearly back up in lights.
A 20 per cent strike rate on the sand has been supplemented by a string of winners over jumps, including a double for one of his father’s most loyal owners JP McManus at Musselburgh at the end of February.
He has a serious Good Friday Finals Day contender in Castle Hill Cassie and will also saddle the McManus-owned Squouateur - ante-post favourite for the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase - at the Cheltenham Festival.
“I think father would consider it a miracle that the ship’s still afloat,” says Ben with the modesty you’d expect from a young man who has gone about his job quietly yet meticulously, even though at times - by his own admission - it’s been far from easy.
“When my father died it was very difficult to really focus on the business,” he admits. “It was tough to carry on without him but thanks to the support of some loyal owners and the help I’ve had from my wife Alice and my mother Anne, we’ve finally begun to make a real go of it.
“Mum was heavily involved in my father’s long career and it’s great to have her around the yard. Alice is a brilliant horsewoman with an eventing background. She also worked for John Ferguson and William Haggas, so has a lot of experience, and is an invaluable work rider.
“I’ve got a long way to go to catch my father up, though,” he adds, reflecting on such high profile winners as Group 1 star Kinnaird, Royal Ascot scorer Hawkley, Godstone, Pipe Major and King Revo. “He trained over 1,000 winners on the Flat and over jumps, but I’ve stuck by his principles and it’s finally paying off.
“He used to drill it into me that the most important thing is the programme book. The ability to place horses, particularly the lowly-rated ones, is key. They have to be in the right races - races they can win.”
Patrick, a straight-talking man who trained one of All-Weather racing’s most prolific performers China Castle to win 25 times, would acknowledge his son’s success with a quiet nod with approval. In Ben, his legacy certainly lives on.
Here, the young handler discusses 10 of his key performers with Simon Mapletoft of attheraces.com.