PAUL Midgley’s gain is controversial footballer Joey Barton’s loss as Internationaldebut bids to complete a resounding four-timer at York’s 2011 finale.
The form of the horse, which cost the ill-tempered Barton and sports agent Willie McKay a mere £220,000, was modest at best – just three token victories on the all-weather at Lingfield in late 2008.
Yet, two years ago, Barton and McKay cut their losses, with Midgley and owner Andy Taylor picking up the bay gelding at Doncaster Sales for a mere £25,000.
And, while success was not instantaneous, the horse has won his last three outings at York, Doncaster and Beverley after forming an effective partnership with Malton-based Freddie Tylicki, the 2009 champion apprentice.
Now Internationaldebut is one of the favourites for the Coral Sprint Trophy, the £75,000 six-furlong sprint that forms the centrepiece to today’s card.
While Midgley is not among the four Yorkshire trainers vying to be the Knavesmire’s most successful yard, he is safe in the knowledge that Internationaldebut has helped his stable at Westow, York, accrue a season-best 47 winners – two more than the 45 victories celebrated in 2009.
Today will not be easy; his stable star beat Marine Commando, Richard Fahey’s 2010 Royal Ascot hero, at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting and has gone up in the weights as a result.
“He’s in good form and it will be fantastic if he can make it four in a row,” Midgley told the Yorkshire Post.
“Any horse that wins three successive races, at any level, is amazing. This would be exceptional. He’s got a good chance, but he does have a lot of weight. Mind, they don’t give weight to bad horses.”
Midgley was a journeyman jump jockey who enjoyed modest success in the saddle before switching to the training ranks and saddling his first winner in 2004.
His base at Westfield Farm is very much a family yard – his father Tim keeps the all-weather gallop in good order while his mother, Wendy, is first in the yard at daybreak to feed the horses before putting them on the walker.
If she is not in the yard, she is ironing and washing silks – or heading off into York to buy supplies for the 30-horse string.
A modest training establishment in comparison to those stables in the York and Malton area that are spearheading a special new era for Yorkshire racing, horses like Internationaldebut have helped to raise Midgley’s profile.
That he has a horse good enough to compete in a race as significant as the Coral Sprint Trophy helps offset the frustrations – Thursday’s long drive to Ayr saw one runner finish down the field, and then racing was abandoned before his second horse was due to race.
Midgley admits to gaining more satisfaction from training winners than riding over obstacles, but he would just like to know when Internationaldebut will perform to his optimum.
Though sprint races are notoriously fickle, and today’s contest is no exception, he adds: “He has always worked like a proper good horse at home.
“Every time you race him, you expect him to win – he has that much ability. It’s only in the last three races that he’s done so.
“The obvious reason is that he gets on well with Freddie, and Freddie’s style of riding suits him. The thing about Freddie is that he has so much confidence, in a nice way, that he thinks he is better than everyone else, and that is transmitted to the horse. But it can’t be the whole reason.”
Of the market rivals, Irish raider Nocturnal Affair seeks a double in Yorkshire – he won the Portland Handicap on Doncaster’s St Leger card for County Tipperary-trainer David Marnane.
The South African import was only having his second run since joining Marnane via a spell in Dubai, with the new handler hoping there is still more to come from the five-year-old.
“We had planned to keep him for a Listed race a Dundalk, but it’s a good pot so it’s worth going for,” said Marnane.
“He only went up 4lb and I thought he idled a little bit in front at Doncaster. He’s in great form, he travelled over really well. He’s got a good enough draw (seven) – the speed horses seem to be around us.”
As for Midgley, he could not be more relaxed about Internationaldebut. “It’s just great to have a chance to win these big prizes.”