Andrew Balding powered up for new campaign with biggest-ever string
Southampton fan Andrew Balding says Leicester City have become his second-favourite football team after enjoying a wave of support from the owners of the 2016 Premier League champions that has seen his string grow to 185 horses.
Balding will start the new Flat turf season with his biggest team since he took over at Kingsclere from father Ian in 2003 where – alongside long-standing patrons who include the Queen, Jeff Smith and Qatar Racing – the Srivaddhanaprabha family's King Power Racing have 33 horses.
The details are disclosed in the 2018 edition of Horses In Training, which show for the fifth year Richard Hannon will have the largest published string in Britain.
Hannon's is one of four stables whose numbers exceed or equal 200 horses, the others being Mark Johnston, Roger Varian and Saeed Bin Suroor.
Neither John Gosden (126) nor Richard Fahey (119) feature in this year's top ten list as they have declined to include their two-year-olds in the book.
King Power Racing was established last year, when six horses, including five Royal Ascot entries, were knocked down to representatives of Leicester chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha at the Goffs London Sale for £2 million.
Alongside Group 2 winner Beat The Bank, King Power Racing's numbers have swelled, with Balding training 20 of their two-year-olds, a number of which are prefixed 'Fox' after Leicester City, nicknamed the Foxes.
"We're all allowed to have a second team and Leicester are my second team now, obviously," said Balding, an avid Southampton fan whose team were beaten 4-1 at home by Leicester earlier this season.
"The likelihood is that Beat The Bank will probably start off in the Lockinge Stakes and we'll take it from there," said Balding.
"He's an exciting horse, and King Power have some very exciting young horses, as have many of my other owners. We're quite lucky to have a very nice intake this year."
Beat The Bank joined Balding after making a successful debut for Darren Bunyan at Dundalk in February last year, going on to win four of his next six starts, including the Group 2 Joel Stakes by five lengths, then was below his best when tenth in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.
Balding said: "We had concerns beforehand that it was a long time to keep him on the ball from when he won his maiden in Ireland to the end of the season. He didn't give his running that day and we put a line through that and will start again afresh this year.
"With a horse who wins a Group 2 by five lengths you're entitled to have Group 1 aspirations. He's a lovely horse to have in the yard. I think for the time being we'll stick to a mile."
UK FLAT STRINGS BY YEAR
|Saeed Bin Suroor||148||168||190||200|
|Sir Michael Stoute||170||171||164||154||151||165||165||162||163|
UK 100+ JUMP TRAINERS
IRELAND 100+ STABLES
FRANCE'S BIGGEST FLAT STRING
According to 2018 Horses In Training, published by Raceform
Horses In Training 2018, produced by Raceform, will be published on Friday. Pre-order now here