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Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Former pro polo player Peel hoping to hit the target at Tattersalls Guineas Sale

James Thomas speaks to the man at the helm of the Egerton Stud draft

Lot 321: Egerton Stud's Toronado filly out of Manbaa
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Trying to break into the breeze-up consignor ranks seems like a daunting task.

It is a notoriously unforgiving market in which to sell racehorses - a point vendors have been given a harsh reminder of throughout 2018 - and competition is fierce, with some extremely talented and vastly experienced operators plying their trade in the breeze-up game. This is not a marketplace for the faint-hearted.

You might, then, expect a first-time consignor to be feeling the pressure. But in the case of Egerton Stud's Jamie Peel, who will offer a trio of lots at Friday's Tattersalls Guineas Sale, this could not be further from the case.

Peel is a former professional polo player - a field he enjoyed some notable success in, including when winning the prestigious British Open Gold Cup in 2008 - so pressure might be something he is used to dealing with.

But having cut his teeth on the polo field, like so many other horsemen before him, Peel found himself being bitten by the racing bug, and is now entering his third year operating under the Gow Equine banner.

At present the core of the business is boarding, spelling and pre-training, but the latter element in particular has put Peel in contact with some major industry names, with David Simcock, William Haggas, George Scott and Lucy Wadham among the client base.

"I was a professional polo player but started dipping my toe into the racing industry, going to the sales and the like, and I was fortunate enough that people started sending me horses to do some breaking in and pre-training," Peel says.

"We've got a lot of spellers and a lot on basic rehab, that's got the business up and running and enabled me to meet people in the industry and gave me an idea of how things work."

Jamie Peel with the Heeraat filly out of Molly Marie (lot 327)

But for a man with an inherently competitive spirit, spellers and breakers can only do so much. And last November saw Peel and his team move into Egerton Stud, a picturesque property nestled just a stone's throw away from David Elsworth's historic yard on the edge of Newmarket, to begin preparing a team of breezers.

"We turned the key and hit the ground running," says Peel on the subject of the move.

"As much as I enjoy the pre-training work, you get to a point where you're about to do something exciting with the horse and then it gets taken off you. With the breeze-ups, it gives you a hands-on opportunity to produce a horse to a high standard."

Among those that Peel has had the chance to put through their paces on Egerton's tree-lined gallops are a colt by Makfi (Lot 197) and fillies by first-season sires Toronado (321) and Heeraat (327), and it is this trio who make up the draft for Friday's sale.

"This year has been all about finding the system, getting things right, and not overloading everyone too much," he says on getting his breeze-up operation up and running.

"We're very lucky that we have very good facilities and we've got a system in place that achieves a good base of fitness, gets the horse looking right and keeps them mentally fresh.

"Of course you have good days and bad days and it's been a steep learning curve but we have some great people looking after these horses. Our head girl, Sabrina Ciccone, has a lot of experience working in racing and did her time with Dermot Weld.

"She's been an extraordinary asset. She's a workaholic, an absolute machine, and a great person to have around."

The transferable skills associated with polo ponies and breeze-up horses may not be plentiful, but Peel says there are certain fundamentals that have stood him in good stead for preparing sharp two-year-olds.

"Polo is obviously very different but, as with any equine industry, the key is having good riders. These horses are very young and you have to have the right people on every day.

"Also the polo season is long so keeping the horses sweet and enjoying what they're doing is so important, and the same goes for the breeze-up horses."

As a newcomer to the game, Peel also brings with him a modern approach, and has utilised some hi-tech pieces of kit to ensure that his two-year-olds are finely tuned ahead of their date with the auctioneer.

Lot 327: the Heeraat filly out of Molly Marie that will be offered by Egerton Stud

"I'm a great fan of technology, whether it's a heart rate monitor or a weigh board, all these things assist with what we're trying to achieve," he says. "It doesn't necessarily make the horse any better but it can help ensure you have the horse in the best possible condition."

Of course, the issue of time is never far away when it comes to the breeze-ups, and Peel makes no secret of the fact his horses have been pitted against the stopwatch at home.

"We weren't concerned about times during the early stages, but as we've got closer to sales day we've had the clock on them," he says.

"In the latter stages of training it gives you clarity and a bit of confidence as to where the horse is at. If it's doing those times on a regular basis you know you're in the right place.

"Timing is something I'd like to learn more about, especially given the emphasis they place on it during trackwork in places likes Australia and America.

"But with the breeze-ups, you still have to back yourself and be confident about where your horse is at. When you start panicking about doing times is when you can over-train a horse. And at the end of the day only one person can have the fastest time at a sale."

The polo field and the breeze-up sales may seem a world apart. But having conquered one already and with everything in place to make his new venture a success, it is no wonder that Peel is approaching the Guineas Sale with the utmost confidence.


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