By George! Boughey's out to make a name for himself on the sand
Simon Mapletoft profiles upwardly mobile young Newmarket trainer George Boughey, who is hoping to emulate some of the success he shared on the All-Weather during his spell as assistant to Hugo Palmer.
George Boughey, one of training’s brightest young talents, was skilfully unlocking the potential of some smart All-Weather horses even before he began operating in his own right.
During his time as assistant to Hugo Palmer, the upwardly mobile young handler helped mastermind the success of several top level winners, so it’s hardly surprising he is making such a big impact in his first year with a licence.
Boughey, who only began training last summer, was entrusted to run Palmer’s Newmarket satellite yard for two years, where he coaxed impressive results out of talented performers like Gulliver and Star Archer.
And the success of Palmer’s Good Friday heroine Heavenly Holly and Listed All-Weather scorers Gifted Master and Encrypted further whetted the 28-year-old’s appetite for success on the sand. “I’m a big fan of the All-Weather, and plan to have plenty of runners of my own over the winter,” he tells me. “After such a good summer, it’s important we keep the momentum going.
“It was touch and go for a while with the Covid situation when I was trying to get established with just a handful of horses, but the success we’ve had has far exceeded my expectations,” adds the trainer, who saddled his 25th winner of the year when the exciting Mirage Mac won at Southwell in early October.
“I have no desire to expand too quickly, I’d prefer it to happen naturally and, by surrounding myself with the right people, I’m happy with the way things are progressing,” he adds.
The son of a Dorchester farmer, Boughey has been operating at around a 25 per cent strike rate in his first year at Saffron House Stables on the Hamilton Road in Newmarket, and happily shares much of the credit with bloodstock agent and close friend Sam Haggas.
“Sam and I are good friends first and foremost, and his support has been invaluable. He’s a bright young guy who never misses a race. He’s always on top of the form, the stopwatch and the stride data, and will be by my side at the Autumn sales with the All-Weather in mind.”
He is hoping a new recruit from Sir Michael Stoute’s powerful battalion might be the horse to take him to the £1 million Finals Day next Easter. ATHEEB, a striking bay colt by Muhaarar, was knocked down to Haggas - son of top trainer William - at the Tattersalls August Sales for just 22,000gns.
“He looks a bargain at that price, but time will tell. He’s well bred and won twice for Sir Michael, so it was exciting to get him home. Sam is meticulous in his analysis of all the horses he buys and has him well ahead of his mark.
“He’s already rated 85 after winning a handicap over 1m at Lingfield back in June, so if we can improve him a bit, he could be a candidate for those nice mile and 10f races. I’ve given him a break as I like to strip my horses back and start again. If you run them straight out of a sale, you don’t get the opportunity to reboot and get them into your own system.”
Boughey also has high hopes for his two-year-old filly MIRAGE MAC, who won her first three races. She defied a penalty in a Newbury novice on her second start and made a big enough impact on her handicap debut at Southwell to earn a 10lb hike in the ratings to a mark of 84.
“I don’t mind her going up in the weights like that because she is progressing well and could be anything at this stage. William Buick, who rode her at Southwell, was really impressed and said she felt very smart,” he explains.
“Now we know she handles that kind of surface - and she’s bred to go on dirt - we might take her out to Dubai where she could be very competitive in those 3yo fillies’ races. She’s got good gate speed and a lot of physical presence.
“I wouldn’t rule out running her on the All-Weather again, but she is built to be much better next year so we’re not in a hurry. As you can imagine, she is attracting a lot of interest but thankfully her owner Adrian McAlpine doesn’t want to sell. She’s potentially the best horse I’ve got so I hope we can get some Black Type with her.”
Boughey has already achieved that feat with MYSTERY ANGEL, who vindicated her trainer’s faith by finishing third in the Group 3 Zetland Stakes at Newmarket in mid-October, having previously won a fillies’ nursery off a modest mark of 72.
“She’s entered in the mares’ sale later in the year but we might try and win a Listed or Group race with her before the end of the season,” adds Boughey, who also has four yearlings for his owners Nick Bradley Racing.
Boughey’s desire to train racehorses was fuelled by his father’s passion for National Hunt racing, but he uprooted to Newcastle to get a degree in Business Management and Agriculture before stepping onto his career path.
While working at Tattersalls Sales, Boughey met leading bloodstock agent Luke Lillingston, who was instrumental in getting him a job with legendary Australian trainer Gai Waterhouse in Sydney.
“I knew very little back then and was very green, but Gai took me under her wing. I went racing with her every Saturday and set my alarm for ten past two every morning to get up and start mucking out at 3am. My hands were in tatters, but it proved how determined I was to succeed.”
Following a spell with Lloyd Williams in Melbourne, another recommendation led Boughey back to Newmarket where he began working for another bright young talent in Palmer, but it was only the intervention of another close friend that made the partnership a success.
“Hugo was chatting to my good mate (trainer) George Scott about me and said that although he could see I was keen, he thought I might be surplus to requirements,” adds Boughey with a rueful smile. “Fortunately, George persuaded him to stick with me and find me something to do, and as Hugo got busier, opportunities began to present themselves.”
Boughey quickly began to prove an asset and eventually took up the challenge of running Palmer’s satellite yard at a time when he could have re-located to America to study the genius of brilliant trainer Todd Pletcher.
“I was all set to go, but Hugo gave me a great opportunity that worked really well for both of us. He was very supportive but left me alone to make my own decisions. It gave me the confidence to start training in my own right.
“I thrived over at that yard. I’ve always been a stats person, so loved planning and making entries, making sure the horses were in the right races at the right tracks. It was hugely satisfying to win a couple of races at Wolverhampton with Star Archer, who went on to run in the Easter Classic, and three on the bounce with Gulliver, who also went on to run on Finals Day.”
Given his rate of progress, and his unquestioned eye for success, you wouldn’t bet against Boughey playing more than just a supporting role among an all-star cast at Lingfield Park come Good Friday – perhaps with his bargain buy Atheeb …
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