Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
On the gallops every single day and propelling themselves into the public eye, there are two stars from the yard of Robert Cowell that have been cropping up in every single piece of video footage from the yard.
Alas, these are not thoroughbreds; meet Skye and Snowy, Cowell's dogs who follow their owner everywhere he goes. Jumping from seat to seat in Cowell's car and onto various members of the racing fraternity, these two have character in abundance that perfectly mirrors that of the equine members of the yard.
Things are changing for Robert Cowell. Long gone is the old office at the back of the yard which barely had a path leading to it. Success has led to the production of a new, glamorous office with desk space for all - there's even an area to freely consume caffeinated beverages nowadays.
Cowell's pride for what his yard has achieved is clear. On the walls of the new office are framed photographs detailing the yards biggest and best successes, with Prohibit's victory in Royal Ascot's Kings Stand Stakes of 2011 taking centre stage. However, for now there are a few stable stars who remain missing from the 'wall of success' but their time will come sooner than you think.
A stable for Classic dreams it is not but Cowell would be the first to admit that, and in a world where Classics form just a part of an established British Champions Series amongst the plethora of Group race contests readily available inside a race programme which also harbours the unique, enthralling spectacle of big field handicaps, is that of any real concern?
A love of speed and sprinters is in the veins of the Norfolk-bred handler, who continues to rise and surprise, holding his own and more amongst the very best of Newmarket's elite. A trainer with the well being of his horse's at the very forefront and heart of his operation, it is testament to that that the highly respected Chevely Park Stud chose Cowell as the trainer tasked with reinvigorating the career of Kingsgate Native.
An enigma of the racetrack, Kingsgate Native has long been a horse that proves to be a challenging being throughout a season which regularly shows promise, prior to characteristically providing us with a sub-par performance that has become an all too frequent routine in the campaign of the eight year old gelding. A trip to stud after a season topped by a runaway victory in the Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot proved a disappointing foray, eventually resulting in the son of Mujadil returning to training with Sir Michael Stoute.
Stoute enjoyed minor success with the gelding, notably in the Group 2 Temple Stakes of 2010, yet it is with Cowell where the horse finally seems to have regained his enthusiasm for the game and, in hope, a sense of remarkable consistency.
A shy, retiring newcomer at the end of his row upon our visit last year to the stable, the change in the attitude alone of Kingsgate Native is incredibly clear and an outstanding compliment Cowell and his staff. Long gone is that horse that would shy away from unfamiliar humans; enter an incomparable gelding who welcomes new friends, sticking his tongue out and nodding along to the sound of footsteps pacing outside his barn.
Directly infront of Kingsgate Native's box stands a new friend, a partner in crime who assists in a bold attempt to nip at Cowell's only Group 1 winner to date, Prohibit, as he walks through the barn to be washed off in the shade. Spirit Quartz has, to all intensive purposes, seemingly given Kingsgate Native someone to pass those long days by with.
Expected it may not have been, yet Spirit Quartz solidified the rank of Cowell amongst the sprint racing elite. To the quiet few who may have lambasted Prohibit's Kings Stand Stakes victory as a mere fluke, a victory that to all intensive purposes was anything but, the consistency of Spirit Quartz as he rose from Group 3 level to the echelons of the top tiers was somewhat taking.
Saturday's Temple Stakes at Haydock Park marks the next stop on the sprint to success for Spirit Quartz. A race which continued the improvement and consistency of the gelding's debut British season with a fine fourth-placed finish, this season the five year old son of Invincible Spirit still lacks the respect of the betting public as a general 12-1 shot.
On a visit to the yard last season, Cowell was clear in his view that 2013 would be the year for Spirit Quartz. A gelding who had yet to grow fully into his frame, anything Spirit Quartz achieved in 2012 was a bonus. Testament to the training expertees of Cowell, Spirit Quartz nearly pulled off the feat that many dared to dream with glory in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes. On Saturday, just like in his last start, Spirit Quartz will lock horns with his stablemate, Kingsgate Native, as a Cowell takes a double handed approach towards Temple Stakes glory. Who will come out on top? As Cowell so clearly puts, Kingsgate Native won't be far away if he puts in his best effort.
The long awaited return of Prohibit also looms boldly on the horizon. A return to Royal Ascot after a year off Has been the long term aim, but a run at Haydock Park remains a crucial stepping stone for the horse en route to his anticipated return. To Cowell, Prohibit has been working beautifully since the beginning of the season, continual reports of impressive gallops have been at the forefront of the reports from the trainer. One would hope that the horse whom thrust the stable in the forefront of the public eye could return to gain yet more glory.
Cowell's yard is expanding. A yard which reaps the rewards of a successful 2012, their capacity has increased with interest from a variety of owners knocking on their door with increasing regularity. Many away from the shores of the United Kingdom will admit they are yet to hear about the yard of Robert Cowell, but one thing is for sure, the same voices won't be repeating that view in the very near future.
Photos Courtesy of Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)