ACCORDING to Waterford man and trainer William Butler (once protégé, now business partner to Sir Mark Prescott), Heath House has felt their bubble burst with a quieter start to the year than planned. A number of the horses have been slow to come and Kirsten Rausing’s four-year-old triple Group 1 mare Alpinista is one of them.
The talented Frankel daughter missed out on her planned seasonal debut at the Coronation Cup at Epsom last month and William says of her: “There are different barometers of health, our horses are scoped and bloods checked weekly for any underlying issues, but we feel a horse’s coat can be a mirror of what’s happening inside. Alpinista does get her coat late, but she’s taken a long time to bloom, she’s held onto her coat this year. It was disappointing to miss Epsom but we didn’t feel it was right to run her on the back of that.”
Alpinista also won’t run in today’s Hardwicke Stakes at Ascot, but will instead make her 2022 debut in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud over a mile and a half. “The idea this year is she’s entered in all of the big Group 1s and we just see which of them suit. The beauty is that she’s a triple Group 1 winner now. She deserves her chance to run in the big races, the King George, the Yorkshire Oaks, etc. That’s the mind-set anyway. She’s proved herself a genuine Group 1 performer.”
Training Alpinista isn’t complicated according to William. She does two canters every day and when she’s building up to a big race such as Saint-Cloud she will gallop twice a week; on a Tuesday and a Friday. “She may gallop seven or eight times before her seasonal debut. Once fit and racing, it’s a case of working back from the next target,” explains William. “The very good horses map out their own training in some ways. Once she’s fit she is exercised in her usual routine. The tricky bit is before a first run; avoiding complications, a lameness or a bad scope.”
William is keen on the saying ‘never try and make the horse fit the race, the race should fit the horse’ and that seems to be the sensitive strategy applied at the ever-forensic Heath House. Fed on race cubes and Canadian hay, Alpinista is a mare that gives no trouble, she’s ‘absolutely straightforward’ according to William.
Alpinista running the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud is a test over the same distance as the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which is no training accident and is the ultimate aim this year for this talented mare. Alpinista has already galloped and is currently at 80-85% fitness according to William concluding: “As long as she sheds this long coat, she’ll be worked this coming week, she will be fine-tuned and all things being well, will be cherry ripe to run on the 3rd in France.”