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Interview: Lucy Wadham - Nine-box trainer with a strike-rate most would envy; Interview: Jon Lees talks to Lucy Wadham, bidding to enhance a fine season with Pagan King in tomorrow's Lanzarote Hurdle.

Byline: Jon Lees

BEFORE she opted for the outdoor life, Lucy Wadham was a member of the production team on the BBC's groundbreaking Breakfast Time show in the 1980s. Now, it seems, many people are waking up to her talents as a trainer.

Having graduated from the ranks of point-to-point trainers and permit-holders, Wadham has the occupants of her nine-box stable more than punching their weight in this, her fourth season with a licence.

Wadham, 43, is based next door to Moulton Paddocks-Godolphin's headquarters in Europe-and it could be argued that some of the magic must have worn off.

However, her current 33 per cent strike rate is one even Sheikh Mohammed might envy.

The main contributors to her nine wins from 27 starters this season have been Aspirant Dancer, who won his first two races over hurdles this campaign, and Fandango de Chassy, who has rattled up a hat-trick at Towcester since a victory in Newmarket's historic Town Plate.

Tomorrow, she bids for her biggest success with Pagan King in the Tote Scoop6 Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton. Victory would double her prize-money haul for the season, and confirm her as a trainer to note. And her representative has sound claims, having won over course and distance last time out at Kempton's Christmas meeting.

"He's certainly in form," Wadham says. "It's a question of whether the handicapper has been a bit harsh on him. He has a good weight of

10st 1lb and I would think he is going there with a bit of a chance. It's certainly the most valuable race we'll have had a runner in."

Wadham developed an enthusiasm for horses 20 years ago, when she would spend her days away from the studios competing on her own point-to-point horse.

Having moved into television after a spell in the City, she gained credits on Nationwide and the Money Programme before having to get up for breakfast with Frank Bough. It did not last.

"I didn't enjoy that-I could never stay awake," she says. "Training is much better. It's totally different. I never settled at the other things really."

When Wadham married her husband Justin, the former managing director of Darley Stud, they moved out of London. She trained around 50 point-to-point winners, then took out a permit.

She had two horses and one of those, Sheriffmuir, demonstrated her capabilities, winning five times before finishing second in valuable handicap hurdles at Aintree, Ayr and Haydock in the spring of 1997.

She says: "That introduced us to professional training. Then the Jockey Club decided that you would have to go on a course to get a trainers' licence and I felt I couldn't afford the time to do that. I'd been running my own yard for ten years and it seemed a bit ludicrous. So I took out a licence before the course was introduced.

"It wasn't a masterplan; it happened by accident really. But I did feel, `why should I run my point-to-pointers round for pounds 120, when I could be doing it for pounds 2,000 or more?' I was absolutely amazed, though, when my first two runners with a full licence won."

By then Wadham had moved into Newmarket from premises ten miles outside town. Though it may be unfashionable to train jumpers in the Flat capital, she says the benefits are enormous.

"I can't understand why there aren't more jumping trainers in Newmarket," she says. "It is the most fantastic place to train. The facilities are out of this world. We have 60 miles of perfect all-weather gallops as well as extensive grass gallops, although there aren't that many open at this time of year.

"We can go somewhere different every day or to the same place. The choice is amazing and it is beautifully kept, and the veterinary care is also first class. Tom Jones was a seriously good jumping trainer from Newmarket, so it's nothing new."

The quality of the training facilities will have contributed to Wadham's success, but there is undoubtedly something extra, though this self-taught trainer claims to have unearthed no great secret to the art.

"My husband has been involved in horses all his life, and between us we use our common sense and watch other people. He spends quite a lot of his time with his head in the programme book. It works very well," she says.

However, she does acknowledge the value of reliable staff such as Lisa Martin-Durrant, head girl for three years, Jane Fargher and Mandy Pennock, nanny to her three children-Rosie, 12, Mimi, ten and India, eight.

She adds: "We've always had quite a good strike-rate, even at

point-to-pointing, but it is much better this season. We have done some of the horses a bit differently, in that we didn't turn them right out-we kept them going on the horse walker and they were half-fit when they came back.

"They took their preparation very well, so somehow they were in good form from day one. Also, we had terribly wet ground last year. I have a lot of ex-Flat horses and I don't think they could show their true form on that bottomless ground. Horses like Aspirant Dancer and Pagan King have benefited from better ground.

"I've got some very good owners who are patient and don't put me under any pressure to run horses. For a good strike-rate that is very important."

Success has brought a new dilemma. Wadham's interview on Channel 4 following Pagan King's Kempton success triggered half a dozen enquiries from would-be owners. More horses have arrived since Christmas, but any further expansion is limited by lack of accommodation.

Wadham says: "Up to now it's not really been a problem, but with our recent run it has become an issue. I suppose we are going to have to address it at some point.

"I think if we are going to get bigger we need to do it sooner rather than later.

"When things are going well it's time to crack on, but I don't want to do it too quickly. Staffing is so important and you need to build a team up gradually. That's why I would be nervous about getting too big too quickly.

"I'm lucky with the staff I've got at the moment, including the nanny. I ride and muck out my three horses too. To be able to do that without the children's resentment, it is absolutely vital to have someone like Mandy, who is almost a surrogate mother."

More immediately, Wadham hopes her horses maintain their good form, in order to make an impact in some of the big races ahead.

She says: "Aspirant Dancer really has done us proud. We are probably going to go chasing with him.

"If it came up soft at Cheltenham, Fandango de Chassy might run in the Coral Cup. I've got quite high hopes of Tealby as well.

"I'm still at the level where I'd love to have a runner at Cheltenham. I've had one so far-Matt Holland ran in the bumper in 1999 but didn't do very well. It was quite fun for my first season in training, but I'd like to win a decent race now."

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Lucy Wadham: "I would be nervous about getting too big too quickly. You need to build a team up gradually"
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 18, 2002
Words:1219
Previous Article:In Brief.
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