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Naunton trainer Max Comley ready for Cheltenham Festival debut with Just Your Type

All Areas > Sport > Horse Racing

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Friday, 23rd February 2024, 09:00

Max Comley, right, and jockey James King are enjoying a fine season Max Comley, right, and jockey James King are enjoying a fine season

Max Comley is heading to this year’s Cheltenham Festival with a spring in his step.

The recently-turned 26-year-old, who is the leading point to point trainer in the country, will have his first runner at next month’s showpiece event and he readily admits: “It’s a dream come true.”

And it’s easy to see why because Comley, who is based in Naunton, has come a long way in a short time. And while he’s realistic about Just Your Type’s chances in the Foxhunters’ Chase on the final day of the meeting, he’s optimistic too.

“He’s an outsider but if he gets a clear round we can dream,” Comley told The Local Answer. “If he gets in a rhythm you never know, stranger things have happened.”

Indeed they have and Comley, who hopes to have a National Hunt trainer’s licence before the autumn, is no stranger to the bigger meetings because he saddled Wagner in the Foxhunters’ Chase at the Grand National meeting in April last year.

Comley has been in and around horses all his life.

“I grew up next door to Cheltenham Racecourse,” said the former Cleeve School pupil. “I’m not from a racing family but I’ve always had a love of horses.”

So much so that when he was 16 and had completed his GCSEs he spent the summer working at trainer James Evans’ yard at Broadway, just over the county border in Worcestershire.

“I was working there full-time,” recalled Comley. “I was due to go to Hartpury College in the September but about four days before I was supposed to go I thought, ‘I don’t want to go, I want to be a jockey’.”

At 6ft 5in, it was always likely that Comley’s time in the saddle was going to be short-lived but he enjoyed a handful of winners and rode around Cheltenham before hanging up his stirrups at the age of 21.

“I became too stocky to continue riding,” he admitted.

Fortunately, Comley’s love of all things racing meant he was not lost to the sport and after initially training a handful horses in Rendcomb, near Cirencester, he moved to his current base at Brockhill Lodge, which is owned by Neil O’Hara.

And Comley hasn’t looked back, so much so that he now has 30 horses in the yard, although not all of them are in training.

Those that are in training have been doing very well, of course, with Comley winning one of the showpiece races on the point to point circuit – the Lord Ashton of Hyde Cup – at nearby Cocklebarrow in each of the past two seasons.

He won it with Just Your Type last year and repeated the success with Oscar Montel a few weeks ago.

“They call me ‘Classic Comley’,” said Comley with a laugh. “I won the Grimthorpe Gold Cup in Yorkshire last year as well.”

That was with Just Your Type and his regular partner James King, the two-time point to point champion jockey.

“We’ve been very good friends for a while,” said Comley. “He’s a really key part of the operation.”

And he’ll certainly have a key part to play if Comley is to end the season in a few months’ time as champion trainer.

“There’s no reason why we can’t win the title as long as the horses continue running as they are,” he said. “We’re not targeting it but it’s obviously something in the back of my mind.”

Comley trained six winners last season but had 17 second places. At the time of writing he has 14 winners this season and he said: “We’re one of the top yards to ride for, we’ve taken a big step forward this year.

“We haven’t really changed anything but we’re probably placing horses in races better.

“I’m learning all the time but I think we now offer a good level of experience. We’re attracting more horses, more quality and more owners.”

Comley, who is sponsored by Dean Tyre and Exhaust Services in Bourton-on-the-Water, would welcome new owners to the yard.

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