Not only did Camptown’s Harriet Graham and Gary Rutherford this week notch up their first win since joining forces a fortnight earlier with Don Brocco but it was also the six-year-old grey gelding’s maiden victory – and at odds of 66/1.
That triumph came in the last race of the day at Carlisle on Monday, the 5.07pm Cambridge Handicap Hurdle, over three miles and one furlong.
Ridden by Borders jockey Ryan Mania, Don Brocco won from Shoeshine Boy, trained by Hawick handler Donald Whillans with Craig Nichol in the saddle. Dequall, ridden by Selkirk’s Sam Coltherd and trained by his dad Stuart, finished fourth.
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Graham, 63, originally from Devon, has had a long career in horse training and explained the new partnership was a natural progression as she and Rutherford, 33, had worked together for years.
“It was a way of giving him a start and taking a bit of the pressure off me,” she said.
“He is a great lad and he really knows horses. We have worked together for a few years already, so it seemed the sensible thing to do.
“I have only really trained national hunt horses but we hope to start training a few flat-racing horses as well, so we’ll have much more of a year-round rotation.
“In national hunt, you tend to be busier in winter and not so busy in summer.
“Gary’s side will be flat racing and I will probably stick with the national hunt. It's quite exciting.”
Jedburgh’s Rutherford used to ride for Graham as a jockey and has since worked with breakers and young pre-training horses.
Both are understandably delighted to have their first win, and Graham was especially pleased for her new business partner. “That was a real big deal. It was fantastic for him,” she said.
Rutherford added: “It was brilliant just to get off the mark and a little bit of a relief as well.
“We have a nice team of horses and good team of staff. I am quite looking forward to just getting going, keeping the horses healthy and hoping they all run well.”
Graham says she believes younger people should be kept in the sport and encouraged, although it is expensive and risky to start out on their own.
“The ones that work really hard need to have a bit of succession," added Graham.
The new partnership, she said, was in the fortunate position of Rutherford ideally making use of facilities built
up over a long period and gaining a trainer’s experience so he will hopefully be able to take over by himself when she finally steps back.
Graham, also a course clerk at Hamilton Park in South Lanarkshire, said it is good to be part of a supportive local sporting community.
“There are a lot of small trainers in the Borders and a lot of very good jockeys,” she said. “On the whole, we are very supportive of each other.
“We all have the same problems, like long hours, and it’s great when horses are running well but you get
times when they are not.”
Graham added the first person to congratulate them after Don Brocco’s win in Cumbria, bringing with it
prize money of £2886, was runner-up Whillans, a frequent winner himself over recent weeks.
“I love that about Borders sport – everybody respects each other,” she said.
“On the whole, it’s a really good community, which is really nice.”
Don Brocco, owned by a Jedburgh syndicate calling itself Rutherford Racing, could be running again at northern area finals in March, and another from the same stable, Shoughall’s Boy, is in line to race at Newcastle next week.
The main focus for Graham and Rutherford, however, is the Cheltenham Festival from March 15 to 18, said the former.