Former vet James Tate has two hot favourites for Royal Ascot


Newmarket trainer James Tate has two hot favourites for Royal Ascot but the former veterinary surgeon is no stranger to dealing with pressure

  • Newmarket trainer James Tate will saddle two hot favourites at Royal Ascot
  • New Graduate in Royal Hunt Cup and Invincible Army in Diamond Jubilee Stakes
  • But Tate, a former veterinary surgeon, is no stranger to dealing with pressure

When you have never even got close to training a Royal Ascot winner, the anticipation of having two of the hottest favourites of the week could be a little nerve-shredding.

But Newmarket trainer James Tate, who will saddle New Graduate in Wednesday’s Royal Hunt Cup and Invincible Army in Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes, learned about keeping calm under pressure long before he became a trainer.

After graduating as a veterinary surgeon from Glasgow University in 2004, two years in a mixed rural practice in Cumbria produced experiences which would not have looked out of place in a James Herriot novel.

Invincible Army, pictured under PJ McDonald, is fancied to win the Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Invincible Army, pictured under PJ McDonald, is fancied to win the Diamond Jubilee Stakes

Such as the day Tate got an SOS call from panicking children who had removed their pet dog’s surgical colour allowing it to attack stitches from a recent operation.

‘The chocolate labrador had its guts all over the kitchen floor and there were three kids saying, “Help!”,’ Tate said

‘I had to do an operation on the kitchen table thinking, “How many antibiotics have I got in the car? I’ll give it everything”. I am not sure if that was the text-book way to do it, but the chocolate labrador survived.

‘Two years in mixed practice in Cumbria is very grounding, dealing with some lovely people and some weird and wonderful situations.’

Despite all that, Tate has never had to deal with a situation like the one facing him this week. Since taking out a trainer’s licence in 2011, he has had close to 350 winners, but the closest he has come to a winner at Royal Ascot was when Lamar was seventh in the 2014 Sandringham Stakes.

Tate has a multitude of family connections in racing. His father Tom trains in Yorkshire, and he is the nephew of three-time champion jumps trainer Michael Dickinson. Tate’s wife Lucinda is the daughter of retired trainer Len Lungo.

Until this season Invincible Army, the mount of P J McDonald and owned by Tate’s main backer, Saeed Manana, had consistently fallen short in big races, but he tops the Diamond Jubileee betting after an impressive comeback win at Doncaster followed by another comprehensive win in the Group Two Duke of York Stakes, the biggest win of Tate’s career.

Newmarket trainer James Tate will saddle two hot favourites at Royal Ascot this month

Newmarket trainer James Tate will saddle two hot favourites at Royal Ascot this month

‘Everything just seems to have clicked with him,’ Tate said. ‘One of the main differences is his maturity. He just knows what the game is and what he has to do.

‘In both his races this year he strolled around the paddock like an old jumper, stood as quiet as a lamb at the start and raced professionally and not over-exuberantly. Then he has been quiet and posing for the cameras after the race.


‘He fully understands what is required of him and enjoys it, as opposed to previously wasting energy in silly ways. That coincided in him maturing into a strong, muscle-bound sprinter.’

Tate has booked Frankie Dettori to ride New Graduate, the 5-1 favourite for the Royal Hunt Cup, a race his father won in 2012 with Prince of Johanne.

Four-year-old New Graduate has run just four times but effortlessly won by five lengths on his reappearance run at Ripon. Tate, who spent six seasons working for trainer Mark Johnston, added: ‘People look for what they think is a group horse in a handicap and he looks like he could be one.

‘On the other hand, he is inexperienced and we don’t know too much about him. For anyone supporting him, his chance comes with those risks but he has been very impressive in his homework.’

Frankie Dettori, whose Royal Ascot mounts include Too Darn Hot in the St James’s Palace Stakes, has been cut to 5-2 by Coral to be the meeting’s top jockey. Ryan Moore is 8-11 favourite. His opening day rides include Le Brivido (Queen Anne Stakes) and Coventry Stakes favourite Arizona.

Trainer Jeremy Noseda has ruled two-year-old Bomb Proof out of the meeting because of injury. Noseda retires after running Cenotagh in Saturday’s Wokingham Handicap.


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