The “horse of a lifetime” they paid only £16,000 for is among the favourites for the Group 1 showpiece at Royal Ascot after winning six races in succession for trainer Karl Burke.
“He’s put us in the premier league,” says Grange Park founder Alan Crombie, whose owners share the colt with John Hughes of Owners For Owners and Dr Chris Emmerson, whose colours he carries.
“I never thought we’d have a horse this good and we might never have one like him again, so we’re living the dream. It feels quite surreal to have the second favourite for a Group 1 race at Royal Ascot worth half a million pounds. We’re more used to running for a fraction of that in little handicaps in the north.”
Alan’s shareholders include his son Marshall, who works as a postman; a doctor, a fencing contractor and two more owners from the building industry, and all but one will be at Ascot to cheer El Caballo home.
Grange Park agreed to syndicate a half share in the son of Havana Gold after he arrived at Burke’s Leyburn stables from the sales for £30,000 as a yearling and by the following summer his owners quickly began to realise they had something special.
El Caballo finished a close second to subsequent Group winner Armor in a Doncaster maiden in April 2020 before romping home in a six-furlong novice at Carlisle three weeks later, only for a setback to curtail their plans to run in the Group 3 Prix du Bois at Deauville in France.
“He sustained a hairline fracture on the gallops which prevented him from running again until the winter, but it was probably a blessing in disguise,” recalls Alan. “It gave him time to grow and strengthen up before his comeback run last December.”
That was another clear-cut victory in a Wolverhampton sprint, this time a Fast Track Qualifier for the £150,000 All-Weather Championships 3YO Final at Newcastle on Good Friday.
Burke was keen to run him again before the Final and sent him to Gosforth Park for a dress rehearsal which he also won convincingly. That set him up for the Listed Spring Cup at Lingfield Park where he stepped up to seven furlongs to duly complete a four-timer with the minimum of fuss.
“To have a Listed winner was beyond out wildest dreams,” adds Alan. “If that had been the height of our success with him we’d have been happy but little did we know there was much more still to come.”
El Caballo then fulfilled his engagement in the All-Weather Final and produced another gritty performance to beat the highly regarded Tiber Flow in the hands of regular rider Clifford Lee – a performance Alan had to watch from home due to testing positive for Covid.