Richard Fahey is now among the leading trainers in the country – but 25 years ago he was still trying to make his way in his new career.
A jump jockey in his youth, Fahey at the time was a dual-purpose trainer based at Butterwick, near Malton and began training in 1993.
It took a while for him to make an impact, though, and he looked a long way from his current base at Musley Bank from where he trains around 200 horses, and sent out a then record-equalling 235 winners in 2015.
Nowadays he is known for the exploits of Group One winners like Ribchester, Perfect Power, The Platinum Queen and current stallion sensation Wootton Bassett.
But 25 years ago all his eggs were in the Superior Premium basket.
A useful two-year-old without making a significant impact, he won a Listed race first time out at three at Haydock before missing most of the summer. He came back to be third in the Ayr Gold Cup at 33-1, hinting that he loved the hustle and bustle of a big sprint handicap.
He failed to make much of an impact in the first half of 1998 before massively outrunning his 40-1 odds when third to Selhurstpark Flyer in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot, just the second time he had been ridden by a young 5lb claimer by the name of Robert Winston.
Winston kept the ride when he won next time out, before Kieren Fallon stepped in for another win at Haydock.
Goodwood came next where he was reunited with Winston, and sent off 14-1 in a 29-runner Stewards’ Cup, he came home a length and a half clear of Ansellman.
“It seems a long time ago, we also had the third that year with Eastern Purple I remember,” said Fahey.
“What I can remember is there was a false rail and it rained a lot, so if you weren’t drawn anywhere near the far side there was a favourable strip of ground.
“I think the first three were all drawn very high (which are low numbers now following a change in 2011), so that obviously helped but Superior Premium was obviously a very talented horse, he went on to win the Cork And Orrery at Ascot (now the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes).
“Another way you could look at it was if he’d got beaten at Goodwood, I was probably a bad trainer!
“He was only 3lb higher at Goodwood than he was at Ascot and he won twice in between. That might have been because I was only a small trainer at the time. You certainly wouldn’t have got handicapping like that maybe 10 years ago, but I do feel in the last couple of years they are being a kinder.
“There was a time if you won a race you would get hit hard, but they seem to have settled down a bit.
“He was a really good winner for us, obviously our first major one and definitely the first highlight of my career. He wasn’t just a flash in the pan, he carried on doing it for a good few years and he was the Saturday horse all trainers need and he helped me a lot.
“We even took him over to Sweden to win a Listed race, to Taby, which has closed down now and whether it was broken I don’t know, but he broke the track record there.”
Despite the distance from his Malton base, Fahey has enjoyed plenty of other good winners on the Sussex Downs.
“Lady Bear was a talented mare, she won the Golden Mile for us there, we’ve had some good winners there,” said Fahey.
“The Platinum Queen won for us there last year, Garswood won the Lennox (2013), it’s a specialist’s track and it’s very nice to have winners. I think you need a horse with pace, that seems to help with the undulations.”
They have not all been good memories, however. Arguably the best horse Fahey has trained to date has been multiple Group One winner Ribchester.
However, he had two attempts at winning the Sussex Stakes and came up just short twice.
“We took him as a three-year-old after he had won the Jersey and he was third, beaten a neck and a short head (by The Gurkha and Galileo Gold),” said Fahey.
“Then when we went the following year, the weather was atrocious. They had had a load of rain, but it was also blowing a gale if I remember.
“I was on my way to the stewards’ room to tell them he was a non-runner, but on my way there someone rang me to tell me Aidan O’Brien had taken Churchill out and they were joint-favourites.
“It wasn’t really the soft ground I was particularly worried about, it was just the general conditions – there was inches of water in the parade ring and a strong wind blowing them all over.
“Here Comes When beat him and I remember going into the toilets after the race, taking my shoes off and wringing out my socks into the sink, that’s how wet it was.”