Shaun Keightley is a new addition to the ranks of trainers for The Gold and Green Crowd, and he trains Volunteer for the members. Shaun did train Image of The Moon also, but she was retired to stud after a productive year with 3 good second places. This post is to help members get to know a little more about Shaun, his background and ambitions.
Shaun started riding out when he was 12/13 in Melton Mowbray for Walter Wharton, he was then apprentice for Willie Stephenson until he left school. A month after leaving school he had his first ride. In his first season he had two rides on the flat and in the February had his first ride over the jumps, Shaun commented that he “I was a bit light, I weighed 7st 7lb and the horse had to carry 11st 7lb”.
At the age of 17 Shaun Keightley rode his first winner at the last ever meeting at Lanark Racecourse, the following winter Shaun rode his first winner over the jumps at Southwell.
It was a move to Lambourn next for Shaun to join the Richard Head stable, after a few winners Shaun headed for Pat Taylor’s yard, also situated in Lambourn, during his time there he finished 3rd/4th in the conditional jockeys’ championship.
Shaun Keightley always rode both codes of the sport, he was the first person to ride at every Racecourse in England, Scotland and Wales, he achieved this feat by riding in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle, although it wasn’t until it was on the TV he actually knew of his achievement.
Having moved to Newmarket he continued as a freelance jockey and racked up 200 winners over both codes, mostly jumping with around 40 on the flat.
His biggest wins came on 1983: Rowland Meyrick Chase – Phil The Flutter,1989: Coral Golden Hurdle – Roger’s Princess, 1989: John O’Gaunt Stakes – Weldnaas.
It was then off to Australia for Shaun where he spent 4 years namely with Bart Cummings where he rode some terrific horses, namely Saintly (Melbourne Cup & Cox Plate), Dane Ripper (Cox Plate), Dashing Eagle (1000 Guineas), Shaun rode over the jumps at Melbourne before returning to the UK in 2000, in 2006 he turned his hand to breaking and pre-training.
A few stints in America ensued before Shaun returned to the training ranks a little over 2 years ago as an employed trainer but 2020 he has gone freelance, starting with 8 horses, he now has 35 in training, “we’ve had a good year with 17 winners on the flat and one over the jumps”.
AMBITIONS TO EXPAND?
Would love between 40 & 50 horses, wouldn’t want to get much bigger because he like to keep a handle on the progress on every single horse in his care and that would be lost if he got much bigger than that.
THIS YEAR HAS SEEN AN INCREDIBLE STRIKE RATE, IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU PUT THAT DOWN TO?
There’s nothing in particular, its mainly down to being patient with the horses, and when they come right, campaigning them at the right level. One advocate of this is Alpine Mistral, who luckily has patient owners who Shaun assured that “she will be alright”, having not shown much at 2 because she was a big, raw, backward filly. She is now racing off an official mark of 89 and has some improvement left in her. Shaun believes “if you do the right thing by the horse then they will do the right thing by you in the long run”.
THE HORSES SEEM VERY HAPPY UNLIKE AT SOME YARDS, WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?
We don’t overwork them, we try to work around a routine that best suits each individual horse. He admits to probably being a bit too easy on the horses rather than too hard but its easier to remedy that than the other way around.
He loves training fillies, and due to his style seems to get the most out of them and achieves the marks that their potential deserves.
WHAT DO YOU PREFER? JUMPS OR FLAT?
Shaun prefers training flat horses because he dislikes any of the injuries associated with come with training jump horses.
During his riding days he much preferred the jumps as it meant that he could eat his dinner and ride the next day!
ANY FAVOURITE JOCKEYS?
Josie Gordon, you can trust her a million percent, she comes into the yard and rides out the horses, she’s a team player and a very good jockey. As Josie rides the horses at home then there are very few instances where she wouldn’t ride them in a race.
Male or female it makes no odds, you can either ride or you can’t, Hollie Doyle has proved that point.
“When some people say that a jockey has lifted a horse over the line, its wrong, you cannot lift them they weight half a tonne! You either get them to run and respond for you or you don’t”, That’s my view expresses Shaun, but not everyone shares that opinion.
Shaun Keightley also has a very talented stable apprentice in the form of Molly Presland, who Shaun explains “She’s excellent riding at home and around the yard, she’s already ridden 3 winners with a bit more practice she can hit the same level as Josie”.
Shaun continues “most riders start on ponies from a very early age and coming into racing just adds that little bit of polish to their riding techniques to what they’ve already learnt taking them to the next level”.
THE TRAINERS YOU ADMIRE/TAKE INSPIRATION FROM?
David Elsworth, at his peak he was one of the best dual-purpose trainers ever.
Willie Stephenson, my first boss, won the Derby, Grand National and 3 Champion Hurdles.
Bart Cummings, just another brilliant trainer who Shaun has worked with.
Shaun commented “There are a lot of very good trainers out there but it depends what you get in your stable, if you get lucky and have a good one then you get a higher profile”.
WHAT ARE THE RACE(S) YOU WANT TO WIN?
Jump – Coral Golden Hurdle – As he won it as a Jockey
Flat – Either Guineas – as they’re now better than winning the Derby.
Past or Present are there any horses you’d have loved to train?
Flat – Frankel – “But it doesn’t mean I’d do as good a job as Sir Henry Cecil, but you’d love to have a horse like that” Sea the Stars and Enable are the other 2 Shaun would’ve loved to train
Jumps – Desert Orchid – “I take my hat off to horses like that”, It doesn’t matter what level a horse is. if they put their head on the block for you, then that’s as good as it gets, you cannot ask any more of them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seller or a classic, if you do the best for them then you hope they will do their best for you.”
Molly Presland – Stable Apprentice
Josie Gordon – Work Rider & Stable Jockey
Percy – Work Rider
Eva – Work Rider
Nadine – Work Rider/Yard Person
Norman – Yardman
Elizabeth – Yard Person
Arabella – Work Rider & Admin – Shaun admits paperwork isn’t his forte, it wasn’t at school and it isn’t now! So Arabella (ex travelling head lass for Ed Vaughn) is a great addition to the team.
Volunteer has had two runs for us this year, and both showed that he does need further to be seen at his best. His work at home had shown more speed than previously so Shaun was keen to try him again at 2 miles, but he will be stepped up next time. Click here to see his form
He jumps well and will jump a fence.
There should be a few handicap hurdles in him over that trip and as long as he keeps running well and getting some wins over hurdles then next season will see him going novice chasing.
We’ve schooled him over the brush hurdles and mini fences and he jumps those better than normal hurdles, he doesn’t jump the normal hurdles badly but he gives the brush hurdles more respect and jumps them so well even Shaun can school him! With that in mind when he’s fully fit Shaun will be aiming him at places that use the brush hurdles with Southwell, Haydock and Worcester in mind.
You can get involved with Volunteer, Shaun Keightley and the remainder of our string by joining The Gold and Green Crowd which is only £100 for 12 months. More information can be found by clicking here.