CWC 2019 tour diaries: Proteas more 'Givinitsum' than 'Accidental Agent'


Hungerford - The village of Blewbury, Oxfordshire in the south east of England boasts some simply breathtaking views. 

Beautifully crafted churches, manors and estates make for stunning sights, while the open fields are green and vast. 

It is here where esteemed trainer Eve Johnson Houghton houses and works with around 75 racehorses on 200 acres of land at Woodway Stables. 

It is a family business that dates back all the way to 1952. 

From Tuesday to Saturday, next week, the equivalent of the World Cup of horseracing will get underway at Royal Ascot. 

It is one of the blockbuster events on the English social calendar and it will see over 30 races take place throughout the week. 

For trainers, owners and jockeys, this is as big as it gets. 

Johnson Houghton will have three horses running at Ascot next week, but her headliner is five-year-old Accidental Agent

2018 was a massive year for the Colt as he stunned the field to win the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot despite going in at 33/1 under jockey Charles Bishop. 

If Accidental Agent and Bishop win again this year, it will be the first time 112 years that the Queen Anne Stakes has a dual winner. 

Accidental Agent

Accidental Agent after his morning session on Wednesday...

On Wednesday morning, a few of us South African journalists who are sharing a house with Bishop were up far earlier than we would have liked to accompany him to the stables.

With no media planned for the Proteas, who are already in Cardiff, the mischievous yet infectious jockey extended an invitation that was difficult to refuse. 

When we arrived at Johnson Houghton's house, which flanks her stables, she sees us shivering and admits that it is particularly cold for this time of year.

Pouring us all a much-welcomed cup of coffee, she is full of stories and laughs.

When she heads out armed with a pair of binoculars to the gallops, though, she shows a level of professionalism that explains why owners from all over the world have entrusted her with their horses. 

The training is non-stop. 

Each horse has a plan that has been carefully mapped out by Johnson Houghton. She knows what is best for them, when and where they should race, and sets up the routines accordingly. 


A few of the stable staff warming up the horses ... 

The professionalism of it all is what strikes you. 

Johnson Houghton has around 25 stable staff working at all times, and then there are the jockeys who spend time 'educating' the younger horses. 

Bishop will only get back on 'Accidental Agent' on Friday. Until then, the horse will go through its paces with its regular, daily rider. 

The planning is intricate, but necessary, because winners in this sport - for most jockeys and trainers - are few and far between. 

Owners and managers pop into the stables all the time, hoping for a sign of encouragement that things are on track.

One such manager arrived on Wednesday to have a look at three-year-old Givinitsum, who is South Africa's only representative at the stables. 

Having won two races in South Africa in 2018, Givinitsum was bought by a Mr Norman Cheng and made the journey over to England in January. 

He hasn't done much since getting here, though, finishing stone last in one race and second-last in the other. 

Givinitsum, we are told, has struggled to acclimatise to English conditions, which might explain why he is growing his winter coat despite all the other horses shedding as England moves into summer. 

He is now being given time away from the track to, effectively, pull himself together.

Everyone at the stables still seems very excited by Givinitsum and they are hopeful that he has a bright couple of years ahead of him, but he certainly hasn't hit the English ground running the way they had hoped. 

It was almost impossible not to think of the Proteas who, like Givinitsum, came to England from South Africa in great touch and then fell flat. 

The difference is that, for Givinitsum, there is still time. 

He has the best people working with him every day and there is a planned way forward that will result in him peaking in the months ahead. 

When that time comes, Givinitsum might still lose, but at least he would have been given every possible chance for success. 

Can we honestly say the same for the Proteas and the way they prepared for 2019?   

@LloydBurnardis in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...


Givinitsum is South Africa's representative in Blewbury... 

Pics: Lloyd Burnard

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