Mick Channon: Irish horses are “the best in the world”

Image: Royal Ascot grandstand collection ring

Legendary racing trainer Mick Channon has hailed the Irish as “the best in the world” at breeding great racehorses and that Royal Ascot was always a meeting he would target with his horses as a trainer. 

Channon, a former England striker with 46 caps for his country who turned to racehorse training full-time in the 1990’s, handed the keys over to his West Ilsey yard to son Jack in 2022 as he took a step back from the sport. 

Ahead of Royal Ascot next week, Channon – who trained 19 Group One winners in his racing career – has said it was a meeting he always targeted because, as a smaller yard, it was one where he was able to compete. 

Speaking to BoyleSports, who offer the latest Royal Ascot odds, Channon said: “Ascot in the early days used to be about two-year-old racers and when I started out we made an effort to compete there. It was the only place we could compete at the top level, in the two-year-old division.

“We were lucky enough to find some good fillies, and a few colts who were good enough to go and win there. We won the Queen Mary Stakes twice, Queen’s Logic was very good when she won it (in 2001).

“We targeted Ascot, basically, with two-year-olds because we never had what the other trainers did. Even to this day, only four or five trainers really can win the Derby or the Oaks at Epsom, because they’ve got all the middle distance horses.

“We’ve worked with what we have and cut the cloth to fit, so to speak. So that’s why we were fortunate to win those races, and that’s where Ascot comes into play for us and, latterly, we’ve enjoyed some successes with older horses.

“We have great memories of Royal Ascot though, winning all of the two-year-old races down the years. We had a good stayer called Baddam who, in 2006, won on the Tuesday and then again on the Saturday!”

The Britain vs Ireland battle continues to rumble in racing, with the Irish very much having the upper hand over the Jumps and the dominance of super-yards such as Aidan O’Brien’s Coolmore operation has seen the Irish hold the advantage over the Flat as well. 

Channon added: “The Irish are doing what they’ve always done, and that’s breeding great horses! They’re the best in the world at it, it’s part of their DNA. They’ve got all the countryside around and everything else which goes with it to make them so successful.

“It’s a way of life for them, and they’re brilliant at it. You have to hold your hands up to them and acknowledge their success.

“It’s healthy for them to dominate, but then egos come into it and people with big money eventually get in to buy the horses. 

“It’s a bit different with the Jumps, where you can buy success, but not quite the same on the Flat. They’re rich lads, and they want to be up at the front, and be seen winning, and they’ve gone to the right place because the Irish are the best in the world, no doubt about that.”

Away from the track, Channon – who scored 21 goals in 46 caps for England and had a stellar football career with Southampton and Manchester City before moving into racing, revealed how he once fell foul of high-profile Three Lions manager Don Revie by sneaking out of a training camp with Kevin Keegan to watch some racing. 

“Me and Kevin Keegan got in real trouble with Don Revie and got a terrible bollocking once because we sneaked out of the England camp near Newbury to go to the races at Devon and Exeter to watch the races,” Channon added.

“We went to see a horse I had been interested in, trained by John Baker down in Devon. Thankfully the horse won. I dragged Keegan down and Revie wasn’t happy that we had gone AWOL.”

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