Kim Bailey admits his emotions are likely to be ‘quite strong’ if First Flow can successfully defend his Fitzdares Peterborough Chase crown for longstanding owner Tony Solomons at Huntingdon next month
After struggling to hold back the tears following the 10 year-old’s success in the Grade Two feature 12 months ago, the Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer expects to be in a similar state should he secure the same result on Sunday 4th December in the two and a half-mile contest.
First Flow has not been sighted since finishing third in his bid to win successive renewals of the Grade One Clarence House at Ascot in January, but Bailey reports his stable stalwart to be showing all his old ‘zest and spark’ following an away day in Lambourn earlier today ahead of his seasonal return.
First Flow and David Bass after working in Lambourn this morning (22.11.22)
Bailey said: “It did bring me to a tear watching him win the race last year for two reasons. Tony Solomons has been my longest serving owner and for him to have a big race winner like that again was great.
“Tony has been with me since my second season. He has had several Flat trainers but only one Jump trainer and I’m hugely thankful for that. Every year he has been unbelievably supportive. If he trusts you, he would do anything for you.
“The other reason why it meant a lot was that he had gone and won a race that you had stuck your neck out when everybody thought you were wrong and that was another plus point.
“If you can’t get emotional about victories like this then you shouldn’t be doing it. For everything to come right on a certain day is so difficult and when it does it is a very rewarding. I’m lucky I’ve had those big days and that was another.
“He had a very hard race in the Clarence House and that was race of the century. He was very bottomed out afterwards and that was his season over as the ground went against him.
“We have seen this morning that he seems in a very good place. He schooled very nicely this week and hopefully we can have a similar season. The zest and spark appear to be still there but he has got to do it on a racetrack.
“I don’t know what I would be like if he won the race again but I imagine the emotions would be quite strong.”
While Bailey can recall the stories of his many major race wins with great fondness, he also remembers the day he first set sight on First Flow on a bitter morning on the gallops in Lambourn.
He said; “He was owned by Carrie Fanshawe and she rang me up one day as the horse had been working with Brendan Powell’s horses.
‘She said I think you ought to come to Lambourn and see this horse work. It was a freezing day and it was snowing and sleeting.
“I said fine I will bring David Bass to come and ride him and I will bring another horse of mine to work with him then I can get a gauge of what he is like. By the time he came off the gallop we did a deal and bought him.
“Tony Solomons was looking for a horse to replace Harry Topper and I thought this horse is very similar to him.
“I rang up Tony and I said I’ve got you a new horse and then he looked at the pedigree with a bit of a shock as he has not got much of a pedigree.
“I said I promise you he will be alright and as time has told I was right, thank God.”
Although First Flow, who also holds an entry 24 hours before in the Grade One Betfair Tingle Creek at Sandown Park as a contingency plan, has eight chasing victories to his name, Bailey admits he has been surprised what he has achieved over fences.
He said: “He was a very good novice hurdler winning all three starts over them including a Grade Two at Haydock Park, though his chasing was always a worry to us as he has his own way of jumping and crashes through fences.
“We find the best way of dealing with him at home was to build a fence with tractor tyres so it is big enough for him to look at and respect and that is all we ever school him over now.
“It has undoubtedly surprised us what he has done over fences. I’ll never forget his first run over fences as I promise you I closed my eyes at most fences and I still do now.”
One person Bailey believes has been integral as to why First Flow has gone on to enjoy the career he has carved out on the racetrack is his relationship with jockey David Bass, who has ridden him in 20 of his 22 starts under Rules.
Bailey added: “David Bass and him get on well. His ride in the Clarence House (last year) was one of the great rides as was the one he gave him in the handicap at Ascot early on last season.
“They get on well together as they have a lot of respect for each other. I think they click for the simple reason that David is very brave and he makes the decision for the horse. When he sees a stride the horse will just give him everything.”
Victory in last year’s Peterborough Chase was the first time First Flow, has tasted victory beyond two miles and a furlong. Despite his regular pilot Bass having reservations over the trip Bailey was confident it would be within reach.
He added: “I thought I would get two and a half and David Bass thought he wouldn’t and that is why it gave me so much satisfaction as David hates to be wrong! It was a truly run race and he stayed well despite absolutely hammering the last.
“We definitely saw a different side to him in winning this race last season. He was more relaxed but he had to be more relaxed to get the trip.
“They went fast enough as well which was a big asset. David didn’t go out, like he does at Ascot, to fire him at every single fence, and he was able to sit there and be normal on him which was great.”
When it comes to yard favourites First Flow is close to the top of the pecking order, something Bailey feels would make a second Peterborough Chase all the more sweeter for his team back at Thorndale Farm.
He added: “He is a yard favourite and he really enjoys the attention he has got for being who he is. He always been a slightly miserable horse in the stable and he puts his ears back when he looks at you but he doesn’t mean it.
“He has got a plaque outside his door which he is very proud to have.
“I’ve won the Peterborough Chase with Charbel before as well (in 2018) but it would be lovely to win it with First Flow again.
“We took the trophy back last week and hopefully we can get it back a week on Sunday.”
For further information and to book tickets for Fitzdares Peterborough Chase Day, please go to https://www.thejockeyclub.co.uk/huntingdon/events-tickets/peterborough-chase/