Mrs Danvers wins the Cornwallis Stakes from Clem Fandango Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newmarket Racecourse

Mrs Danvers wins the Cornwallis Stakes from Clem Fandango
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Newmarket Racecourse

While money is often a precursor to success in most sports on the racetrack it is by no means a cast-iron guarantee it will lead fame and fortune.

For all the millions that are spent each year at the sales trying to buy the next wonder horse, only a small percentage of that outlay will be paid back to an even smaller exclusive band at the top.

Every so often, however, a horse comes through the ranks to go on and achieve above and beyond what is expected and create the real life rags-to-riches tale.

Taking a punt is essentially what racing is all about and the one taken by Jonathan Portman on putting the unfashionably-bred Mrs Danvers into training this year is one he will never forget.

He said: “We received an email back in February from these people that had bred this horse and wanted it to go into training.

“They didn’t have the money to pay for it to go into training and were looking for someone to lease it. Usually you get the odd email like this and the horse either has two legs or no pedigree.

“I looked this pedigree up and she had a poor man’s pedigree, but she looked speedy and precocious. I was on holiday at the time with the children so I emailed back saying I would come and see her when I’m back, but if she is gone she is gone.

“When I went to see her I thought straight away she is the sort of filly I would like to run in the Super Sprint, but obviously to do that we had to get her through a public sales ring.

“We whisked her off to Ascot. If someone bid enough, she would be sold, but she only had one bid and they were not going to let her go for that.

“No one else bid for her so I agreed to bring her back and we knew that she would have no weight for the Super Sprint.”

Despite being sent-off an unfancied 33-1 chance on her debut at Lingfield, the daughter of former Coventry Stakes winner Hellvelyn immediately repaid that faith shown in her by the Lambourn handler to make a winning start, much to his surprise.

He said: “We got her ready for a race in June and her price she was embarrassing. A few of the lads had a bet on her and I had a small bet, so no one went home empty handed.

“I lost my bottle a bit as she was a bit difficult in the paddock and I knew Richard Hughes and Rob Cowell fancied their runners, so if she finished in the first three I would be happy.

“The plan was to come to Newbury for a maiden after that but she scooted up so that had to be scratched and she went to a conditions race at Windsor which she went and won.”

That winning momentum was to continue with victories in the Weatherbys Super Sprint at Newbury in July before returning to the track in September to take the St Hugh’s Stakes and rounding off the campaign with a win in the Group Three Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket.

Although her victory at Newmarket gifted her some valuable black type, for Portman his season was made when she defeated 22 other runners in the five-furlong cavalry charge at the Newbury on July 16.

He said: “I think the Weatherbys Super Sprint was the best win because that was her target all year and for us to get there and win it was awesome.

“The last race was pretty good, too. I had a sleepless night before that as I wanted her to go into the race unbeaten and to do that picking up a Group race was great.

“We’ve never been a magnet for wealthy owners and expensive horses and we operate on a low budget and we proved that we can win a Group race with a horse like that.

“We’ve had Annecdote win the Sandringham at Royal Ascot and Royal Razalma win a Group race, but to have an unbeaten two-year-old win a 250,000 sales race, a Listed and Group race she has to pretty much be number one.”

It remains to be seen whether Mrs Danvers, who is as short as 10-1 to win the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot next year, trains on at three, but Portman is keeping his fingers crossed she can keep the fairytale journey going for at least another year.

He said: “She is a lot faster than Royal Razalma and she never trained on, but hopefully this filly will and I don’t see why she won’t.

“I know that the stallion was a better two-year-old and the mother never trained on, so I simply don’t know if she will but I assume she will.

“It’s going to be tough for her next year if we go for all the things we want to, as she needs to prove she has trained on and that she gets six furlongs.

“It is great for the small breeder, the small stallion and the syndicate involved.

“It is great for me and the thing from my point of view that gives me great pleasure is that the owners and breeders let me plan her programme without interfering.

“They trusted me to make the calls. It just showed that it can all come off, as seldom does it go to plan.”