By Simon Mapletoft
Three decades ago, journeyman jump jockey Tony Carroll was making the most of the short-lived discipline of hurdles racing on the All-Weather, notching up a string of victories on a chestnut gelding called Cosmic Dancer for emerging trainer Sean Woods.
Today, almost 26 years since getting the seven-year-old home for the fourth time in a 2m6f handicap hurdle on the Southwell Fibresand, Stan Mellor’s former stable jockey is plotting Flat success on the All-Weather circuits - but this time from behind his trademark binoculars.
Now a well-established dual-purpose trainer with his own extensive facilities in picturesque Cropthorne in deepest Worcestershire, Carroll is determined to build on last year’s career-best total of 81 and is enjoying a highly productive All-Weather season.
At the half-way point, he had saddled 18 winners for a third place position in the trainers’ table behind champion Mick Appleby and John Gosden. In fact, only Appleby could match him for winners in the first two weeks of the new decade.
Carroll also remains focussed on winning a major National Hunt prize this year with his Triumph Hurdle fourth Nelson River, who is being aimed at the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury in February and may take his chance in the Champion Hurdle.
Almost a third of those All-Weather winners came from a rather surprising source. They were partnered by the stable’s 7lb claimer Elisha Whittington, who returned a level stakes profit of more than 53 points for the stable in an eye-catching spell.
Four of her wins came on the prolific Silverturnstogold, who is in the running to become the winning-most horse of the season after racking up a four-timer on the Fibresand surface that Carroll knows so well.
And in Silent Attack he has a live contender for the £150,000 Mile Final at Lingfield Park on Good Friday. The Godolphin cast-off’s victory under top jockey Ben Curtis at the Surrey track in the second week of the new year elevated his rating to 102.
“I’m very lucky to have my own purpose-built yard which is always full, and a great team of staff and owners behind me,” says Carroll. “I enjoy every minute of it and after such a successful 2019 I’d love to have a go at reaching 100 winners for the first time this year.”
Here, Carroll nominates 12 horses to follow for the second half of the All-Weather season.