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Bradley Family Hopes for Royal Ascot Hero in The Ridler

The Ridler was bred under the Smarden Thoroughbreds banner.

Connections for The Ridler include trainer Richard Fahey (L) and owner Steve Bradley (R)

Connections for The Ridler include trainer Richard Fahey (L) and owner Steve Bradley (R)

Courtesy of Richard Fahey Racing

When Steve Bradley's Brazen Beau colt out of Colorada was foaled in February 2020, there was only ever going to be one name he could be called.

With that distinctive white blaze shaped like a reverse question mark, the green-suited villain of many a Batman story over the past 60 years was the obvious inspiration for the naming of Bradley's Norfolk Stakes (G2) contender.

"One of the costumes the Riddler wears has question marks all over it, including reverse ones," says Bradley, who now devotes most of his time to his family's breeding interests since selling the internet-based insurer he founded. 

However, there was a slight sting in the tail, as Bradley explains, saying: "When we tried to register his name with the two d's, as in the character, we couldn't so we had to go with one, hence the reason you could say it was misspelled."

Having his name spelled incorrectly never did Triple Crown hero American Pharoah  any harm, a fact not lost on Bradley, whose lifelong love of racing was sparked by seeing the Paddy Prendergast-trained Bold Lad win the Middle Park Stakes in 1966.

"What a horse," he exclaims. "He was an absolute beast of a horse. He won the Coventry, too, though I didn't see him race at Ascot. When you see your first top-quality racehorse up close, it stays with you forever and Bold Lad was that horse for me."

That is the direct line from the Coventry winner of 1966 to a Norfolk Stakes contender 56 years later. While Bradley had an interest in racing throughout his career in the financial services sector, it is only in the past half dozen years that his attention have come to encompass breeding. 

The Ridler was bred under the Smarden Thoroughbreds banner with Hilary Fitzsimons, who Bradley is quick to praise as the one who spotted the potential in a 4-year-old Lope de Vega mare who had two placed efforts as a juvenile to her name.

Colorada was offered for sale at the 2016 Tattersalls February Sale and the combination of her sire and broodmare sire, Sadler's Wells, as well as the horse in front of her was enough for Fitzsimons to want the chestnut. Being able to purchase her for just 2,500 guineas (US$3,834) was rather unexpected.

Poet's Voice was chosen as the first mating for Colorada and the resulting colt, Dylan de Vega, became Smarden Thoroughbreds' first homebred Royal Ascot runner when tackling the Windsor Castle Stakes in 2019.

A mishap in the stalls meant that their first chance of glory was over before it even started, and with his Brazen Beau half brother the Bradley family and Fitzsimons are hoping it will be a much more successful experience second time around June 16.

"It is a bit surreal because while you always dream of buying the mare, planning the matings and breeding the foals, to have a horse good enough to go to Royal Ascot, let alone compete, is a wonderful feeling," says Bradley. "It justifies everything you are trying to do."

His involvement in breeding and racing has increased exponentially in the last three years and now encompasses 12 broodmares who board at various farms in England, with two of them residing at Haras du Thenney in Normandy.

Richard Fahey is The Ridler's trainer08/07/20
Photo: www.tattersalls.com
Richard Fahey

The Ridler is one of three homebred juveniles that the Bradleys have in training with Richard Fahey. He made a pleasing debut to be fourth at Ripon and followed through on the promise of that run by winning on his second attempt over course and distance. He was third on his most recent run, this time at Beverley.

The June 14 Coventry Stakes (G2) was under consideration for The Ridler but following discussions at the weekend between Bradley, his son Leigh, Fahey, and jockey Paul Hanagan, it was decided to keep the colt at five furlongs for the time being.

"We were unlucky with the draw on his last run in Beverley; we think that he is better than that," says Bradley.

"We had him entered in the Coventry but Richard and Paul were both of a mind that although the Norfolk is over five furlongs, it's a stiff five and that should suit him down to the ground. As it turns out, the Coventry was one of the hottest renewals of the last 10 years."

Fahey trained the winner of last year's Norfolk Stakes, Perfect Power, who ended the season winning the race which ignited Bradley's passion for racing. If The Ridler could follow the path trodden by his stable companion, it would be a dream for his owner/breeder.

"He's a star and we have high hopes for him—we are living the dream," he says.

If he fulfills those hopes, The Ridler will have more than comic book tales written about him.