L‘Man Press will be made as flawless as his eight opponents before he sets off for the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Monday, but away from the public eye as he relaxes at Venetia Williams’ Herefordshire stable , the seven-year-old has a dirtier side to her character.
“He’s the muddiest of the mud,” Andy Edwards, owner of L’Homme Presse, said this week. “[His groom] Beth says I let him out and the first thing he does is get covered in mud. His carpet is hardened, his mane, everything, constantly, because he loves it.
The seven-year-old gelding who loves nothing more than to roll in the mud took Edwards, Williams and Charlie Deutsch, his jockey, to the edge of what would be a memorable and heartwarming success in the race’s star event of Boxing Day. program.
Deutsch showed immense strength of character to return to the top after a prison sentence for reckless driving in May 2018. Williams, meanwhile, has always allowed her horses a freedom that many of those housed in the Big training centers rarely appreciate it, making her an ideal trainer for Edwards and his co-owners of DFA Racing, his wife, Pam, and close friends, Peter and Patricia Pink.
Some racehorse owners do little more than sign the checks, or the modern equivalent, and look forward to an afternoon or two at the races. Edwards is the opposite, an owner who takes a close and intense interest in the day-to-day welfare of his horses from the moment he first sees them in a field.
Edwards spends the summer touring France, “listening”, as he puts it, to the yearlings and colts in their paddocks, then, if he can, buying those he befriends. A photograph on the DFA Racing website shows him with his hand on the forehead of an 18-month-old yearling in the Jura mountains who has never been handled, let alone broken in in training.
“If I can make a connection with a horse by listening to it, then I make a purchase if I can,” Edwards says. “I can’t buy them all, of course, but where I can I take something and then feed it like you would your child in a football or rugby team. You want to bring them in and make them feel good and positive about themselves, so they believe in themselves.
“I communicate with horses, but from a human perspective it’s easier to say connect, because humans think communication is verbal. It’s very humbling to be able to do that, and when people say how you do it, I say I’m listening. Empty yourself of everything and the horse will show you what it needs.
“I say 20% [of performance] is the physical structure and 80% is mental and emotional, and if you talk to a sports psychologist with the best [human] athletes, they will tell you the same thing.
The Press Man suffered a tendon injury when Edwards bought it, but its new owner was undeterred. “Other people might think it was a little crazy,” he says, “but it worked out well, so it can’t have been so crazy, can it?”
Williams, meanwhile, stuck to “the golden rule of DFA, which is if you don’t come out after work, you don’t get one of my horses.”
“It’s part of the mental and emotional process,” he says. “More emotional, because they have emotional freedom and they feel appreciated. They work, they get washed, and they can have a play and no one cares.
“If a horse calls me I’ll hang out with him and the things that will come out of it are really interesting and varied but most of them center around anxiety. As adults, if you’re arguing with a friend or something is wrong, the consequence of becoming anxious has a massive effect on your physical body and it is the same with horses.
The circumstances, of course, are very different, but Deutsch received similar and invaluable support from Williams after his prison sentence four years ago, and hasn’t looked back since returning to his job as a horse jockey. stable.
“He got the support he needed from his family and friends, as well as from Veneto,” Edwards said. “He’s a lovely lad and a very, very good rider, and he connects with the horse.
“Some people ask for instructions, but Venetia said early on, if we have to give our stable jockey instructions, we’ve used the wrong stable jockey.
“The only thing I’m saying is connect with each other and be one, and if you look at Charlie and L’Homme Presse, it’s very much like one entity, not two.”