When Ron suggested I took the four hour or so drive down to Harry Fry’s Dorset yard I confess that I had a very loose remit – introduce myself to Harry and the yard in a more relaxed setting than at the races, see if I could grab a few snaps of the horses, and basically report back what I thought of the place – easy enough to do, but not so easy to put in to words.
After driving up and down the small roads looking for the actual yard (and getting some very strange looks from the bemused locals who possibly hadn’t ever seen a two wheel drive car before), I pulled up ahead of schedule, parked up, and put on the obligatory boots required whenever you attend a working yard.
Greeted at the entrance by stable secretary Rachel I was invited in to the kitchen to wait in the warm for Harry where I was “bribed” (in the nicest possible way) with a coffee, a mince pie AND a flapjack, all freshly cooked in the coal fired Aga, and most certainly the way to get on the right side of any journalist, especially this one. A chat with other owners and a certain Richard Barber (legendary on the point to point scene over the years), preceded my informal meeting with Harry who took me straight down to the indoor school (owned by Anthony Honeyball but shared), to watch some of his novices go through their hurdling routines to brush up on their jumping ahead of their next outings. Meticulous was the first word that sprang to mind as Harry instructed each and every lad or lass ahead of second lot on the gallops, politely giving out his instructions to some of the 24 staff who looked about equally split between the sexes and. More interestingly, seemed very happy in their work. After watching them wheel off down the country roads en route to the gallops I used the opportunity to briefly grill Harry for his thoughts, and hopefully one dark horse for the future so here we go.
As a background, Harry started as pupil assistant to a certain Paul Nicholls for four years before taking over the satellite yard for a further two years then branching out on his own at a very young age in training terms. With the backing of Richard Barber, and the invaluable input of both assistant trainer and fiancée Ciara as well as jockey Noel Fehily, Harry has made an amazing start to his “new” career but trust me, he is not one to sit back on his laurels and is constantly tweaking and fine tuning as he looks for more winners. With the perfect location thanks to excellent facilities, quiet roads, uphill gallops for racing fitness, and a relaxed atmosphere that rubs off on the horses, Harry can focus on improving young horses finding them, building on their abilities, and then unleashing them at the track with great success. Able to identify every horse from a distance (he has 71 boxes with only about six standing empty at the time of writing), he not only takes his position seriously but also has a natural affinity with the horses as do all the very best trainers, and you only have to look at the career of Rock On Ruby to identify his abilities. Now at the Fry yard, he started off in Class Five bumpers before progressing through the ranks to win a Champion Hurdle for Paul Nicholls and I got the feeling (right or wrong), that he is the blueprint for all the young horses from now on and has certainly set a very high standard.
Looking at the four horses we have a part of (actually its three for the moment with Kilda’s Rock simply not cutting the mustard but she is still posher than me – she is off to play polo now and we await her replacement), they all looked happy as can be at home in the yard and there are certainly promising times ahead – these are class beasts and no mistake and if you aren’t overly excited don’t worry too much – I am excited enough for a whole bunch of us! With strike rates of 27% (2012/13), 25% (2013/14) and 25% so far this season, the plan is clearly working and all looks good in the racing world for both Harry Fry and Post Racing (what a partnership), and as we are now on friendly terms (and not just a name on an e-mail), I am sure the future is in the right hands!
P.S. As promised I did ask Harry for one dark horse to look out for and his name is Space Oddity. Currently an unraced son of Al Namix out of Schoune, I freely admit the breeding means nothing to me and as he is yet to hit the Racing Post database that is all I can tell you for now – he should be an interesting one to watch though if nothing else for this season and maybe beyond?