Career in training gets off to a Flyer for former Hawick jockey

STONEFIELD FLYER ridden by Paul Mulrennan & Trained by Keith Dalgleish wins at Newcastle 3/5/11'Photograph by John Grossick
STONEFIELD FLYER ridden by Paul Mulrennan & Trained by Keith Dalgleish wins at Newcastle 3/5/11'Photograph by John Grossick

BEING the new boy on the block as far as racehorse training is concerned, Keith Dalgleish is prepared for an onslaught of well-meaning advice.

But having already had a promising career as a jockey cut short at the age of 21, the Hawick-born handler knows exactly which of these gems of wisdom will stand him in best stead – ‘You’re only as good as your last race’.

“I think that was the best piece of advice anyone has ever given me and it has stuck with me,” says Dalgleish.

Fortunately for the now 28-year-old father of one, since receiving his license in February when he took over the running of Belstane Racing Stables at Carluke, he hasn’t had long to wait between victories, having notched up 16 winners over the last six months.

The state-of-the-art Belstane yard is owned by businessman Gordon McDowall who asked Dalgleish to step through what has became commonly known as the revolving door of change at the Lanarkshire venue.

The move for Dalgleish, who joined the set-up in January 2010 as head lad to Noel Wilson, saw the fifth change to the top job in less than three years. Ian Semple, Linda Perratt, Semple again, Wilson and Val Donoghue each enjoyed varying degrees of success in the post before they either chose to move on or were asked to do so by McDowall.

Since taking his license Dalgleish has made a bright start. Doc Hay has done him proud by becoming a prolific winner in sprint handicaps and Stonefield Flyer came close to providing him with a dream Royal Ascot win in his first season earlier this month following a six-length winner at Newcastle on his previous outing,

But the young race ace is only too aware of the ups and downs of his chosen career path and since taking his feet out of the stirrups has them planted firmly on the ground.

He added: “I know it sounds pretty boring, but I am just going to take it one day at a time.

“I am ambitious, but don’t really want to tempt fate and in this game you are usually only a few minutes away from disappointment.

“I am happy with the way things have been going so far, so I will just keep working away, doing what I am doing and hope things keep going right for me.”

One of Britiain’s leading apprentices at the turn of the millennium, Dalgleish, who rode for Mark Johnston’s Middleham stable, went on to enjoy considerable success as a fully-fledged jockey, but he fought a continuous battle with the scales throughout his five years in the saddle.

And, after chalking-up more than 280 winners, including the much celebrated locally-owned mare Attraction, he was forced to concede defeat in 2004. But having been involved with horses since the age of 11, the former Hawick High School pupil was determined to continue with his chosen career path.

“I rode at the Common Ridings when I was younger and that’s what really started it,” he explained. “From there I progressed to pony racing and then onto flapping and I never really looked back. I consider myself fortunate to have grown up being able to enjoy the benefit of all that experience and feel it has helped get me where I am today.”

Indeed Dalgleish believes that the Borders is a prime breeding ground for turf talent and has introduced some of it to his new post through local jockey Ewan Whillans.

“Ewan is a good friend a talented rider and, although he is mainly a jumps jockey and most of my horses are flat runners, he comes up here a couple of times a week to help out,” he added.

On Saturday, Dalgleish makes a return to Ascot where the appropriately-named Sound Advice is entered in the 2.05 listed race, while he also has Clueless (4.05), Doc Hay (4.40) and Machir Bay (5.50) entered at Newcastle. At Carlisle on Sunday, Intiqaal (4.10 or 4.45) and Chookie Royale (4.45) are both on the card.