There will be no runners from Castle Stables at Arundel until next March but with 160 horses in the three yards at John Dunlop's 'factory' backroom business goes on as usual.

John's younger son, Harry, 27, has just completed his first year as assistant trainer after a long apprenticeship in various aspects of the racing business and he explained work never stops at the stables.

"Although we have no runners the's just as much to do at home, if not more, than in the height of the season," he said.

The yearlings - they will be two-year-olds on January 1 - have to broken and ridden away, the older horses have to be exercised as usual so there is no excuse for taking it easy."

Harry, who shares the task of assistant with Castle Stables veteran Robert Alcock, reckons to arrive in the yard from his home five minutes away by 5.45am. By this time the horses have had their first feed and well before 7am the first lot of perhaps 50 horses are on their way up to the training grounds.

"I ride out with the first lot," explained Harry. "The sprinter Vision of Night has been a regular ride for me this year while Dad will come up by car to see the horses canter.

"After breakfast the second lot goes out at 9.30am and the remainder, which are horses on the easy list doing very little, at around 11am."

Harry is quick to acknowledge the support of Robert Alcock. "He's been here for ages and has been a tremendous help to me over the past 12 months," he said. "Robert is a superb judge of a horse. He used to produce Dad's show hunters which won at all the big shows and as a sideline he buys foals to sell on as yearlings (known as pinhooking) and does very well at it."

Harry's three years as pupil-assistant to Henry Cecil at Newmarket could hardly have been in greater contrast to life back home at Arundel.

"Because Newmarket is a totally racing orientated town, and acknowledged as the headquarters of British racing, I had the opportunity to meet almost everyone who is anyone in the bloodstock business, and with the principal sales taking place there that meant people from all over the world."

Cecil's traing methods, too, are quite different from those of the equally successful Dunlop pattern.

"Henry worked his horses mostly on the grass gallops and they would often go a mile or a mile and a quarter," said Harry. "At Arundel, the work is done on the Polytrack which is six and a half furlongs uphill."

The conclusion to be drawn, once again, is that there are as many ways of training racehorses as there are trainers. Harry was with Cecil when Love Divine won the 2000 Oaks and Beat Hollow finished third to Sinndar and his father's Sakhee in the Derby the following day.

"You can't deny Henry Cecil's record as one of the top trainers of the past 30 years, and one of the most important things I learnt was patience, to give backward horses as much time as they need."

Prior to his year in Newmarket, Harry spent 12 months in America preparing yearlings for the August sales at Saratoga in upstate New York. "That was valuable experience," he says. "I was fascinated by the way those young horses are produced to go into the sales ring like show horses. And why not? Breeders are seeking the best price they can get in a very competitive market."

So when Harry took Olden Times to Chicago for the Arlington Million a couple of months ago, the American way of doing things was familiar to him."

"Our senior travelling head lad, Robert Hamilton, was there to hold my hand," said Harry. "He's travelled horses all over the world and from an organisational point of view everything went extremely well." Unfortunately, Olden Times, having trained brilliantly up to the race, ran disappointingly.

Another aspect of Harry's experience has been race riding. He has ridden point-to-point winners as well as having rides as an amateur at Ascot, Sandown and Kempton Park. "That does add another perspective," he says. "One gets a glimpse of how a jockey's mind is working through a race. I won't ride under rules again, although it would be fun to take part in the occasional charity event or perhaps the members race at our local point-to-point."

Although the 80 odd winners achieved in 2003 fell well well below Castle Stables' best, more than £1million was won in prize money. "What we have lacked this year were top three-years-olds, horses good enough to win Classic and Group One races," said Harry. "But we have some decent two-year-olds and 2004 is another year."

Among the older horses staying in training are Big Bad Bob, Prince Tum Tum and Dandoun and Harry also mentioned four horses who will become three-year-olds on January 1. They are Kodiak, Zaqrah, Iqtesaab and Spotlight, the latter having provided Pat Eddery with the final winner of his illustrious career.

In the meantime, arranging a holiday and organising his own syndicate are ocupying Harry's spare time.

The syndicate plan to buy an inexpensive yearling, gather a group of like-minded young folk, choose some colours and a syndicate name and enjoy some racing as owners next summer. They could do worse that get Alcock to choose the horse while the syndicate is being put together and although the horse will be officially trained by John Dunlop, there's no doubt Harry will have a major imput. Harry would welcome interested callers on 01903 884548.