Visiting Charlie Poste and Francesca Nimmo’s Yard

Hi guys!

Today’s post is a very exciting one, it’s my first yard visit since the Coronavirus Pandemic started and boy it was an exciting one! I was lucky enough on Monday to visit Charlie Poste and Francesca Nimmo’s breaking in/point to point yard and it was definitely up there with one of my favourite visits. Back in March I interviewed Charlie (which you can read here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/03/21/an-interview-with-charlie-poste/ ) and I thoroughly enjoyed doing so as he was so knowledgeable and he helped me to understand a lot about point to point and breaking in that I never previously knew, so I knew that this visit would be a very educational one and it did not disappoint! So, lets get straight into it!

We arrived at around 9am as the team were preparing to take some 3 and 4 year olds out. The team were all lovely and very welcoming as always! We were informed that Charlie and Francesca currently have around 60 horses, some of which they are breaking in and some of which they own themselves and are preparing for point to point races.

We headed down to the warm up area where the horses simply jumped over sets of tyres. Before heading into the field to see them do their work.

In between jumping the fences the jockey’s on board would tell Charlie and Francesca what they thought, whether a horse was jumping left or right, anything that may be slightly off etc, then Charlie and Francesca would switch the horse to another side or change the order they jumped and they would make sure they were taking on board the jockey’s opinions before switching what the horse was doing to ensure it was just as best as it possibly could be. I found it interesting listening to how they used the different things the jockey’s were saying to switch how things would be done next time round.

I asked the team a few questions as our morning went on, including how long it would take them to break a horse in. Charlie told us that normally a horse would stay with them for around 6 weeks, they would start a horse off stepping over a pole, then move onto a log, then onto a barrel, then the tyres and then finally over fences, this process would take around 4 weeks to get the horses comfortably jumping and cantering. I can honestly say I am amazed at the work Charlie and Francesca and their whole team do. From a horse that has never had someone on their back to a horse fully jumping fences in 6 weeks – that is pretty incredible.

I also asked about point to point racing as this is something I am not very knowledgeable and wanted to know more. Working at the yard is the Point to Point Men’s Champion Jack Andrews so of course their team know a thing or two about point to pointing. We were told that the rules are pretty much the exact same as regular under rules racing, however there are a few differences. For example, the weights are done totally different. For example, in a 4 and 5 year old race, 5 year olds may have a 12 stone weight across the board, however a lesser experienced 4 year old may have an 11 stone 7 weight across the board. As well as the jockeys who can ride in point to points, which is different. Anybody who is an amateur and below can ride. So essentially if you would like to ride in a point to point you would need a BHA jockey coach to sign you off to say you are competent enough to not be a danger to yourself or anyone else and then once you receive this certificate you are able to ride in a point to point race.

The horses we seen went over the tyre gallops to warm up before doing 2 or 3 rounds of jumps before being washed down and put on the walker to cool down. This is something that the team do daily.

Speaking with Charlie and Francesca you could see how passionate they both are about what they’re doing, they are both very much into the horses and racing and you can see the passion they have just by watching them at work. They also informed us that all decisions made are made between them. So, talking about decisions being made, I was very curious as to how they make a decision to buy a horse at the sales. If a trainer and/or owner is buying a horse they normally have a point to point back ground or an under rules race under their belts, so they can base their purchase off of that, however for Charlie and Francesca, they are buying a horse that has basically done nothing, so how do they choose what horses they want?

They told us that there’s an almost routine to choosing their horses. Firstly they will go to the sales and they won’t look in the catalogue beforehand, instead they simply do it from the gut feeling and the look of the horses when they see them in person. If a horse takes their interest it is only then that they will check the catalogue. When looking in the catalogue, Charlie told us is it Francesca who has an eye for the confirmations, for example if a horse has feet that turn in or out, or anything that may be of interest. They then go on to check the pedigree and see if this horse is going to be marketable later on in it’s life. Charlie explained to us that they have to be marketable as at the end of the day they run a business and there is no point in buying a horse that you cannot sell. Certain horses from certain Sire’s sell better than others and that’s just horse racing for you. After doing this, if they think this horse is the one they will set themselves a budget and they will go for it. If it goes past their budget they simply move on and try and find another.

Charlie and Francesca have had some brilliant success stories since starting up their business. Including Olly Murphy’s Thomas Darby who went on to come second in the Grade 1 Novice’s Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019 as well as going on to win the Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle back in January at Ascot. And another name some of you may recognise is Fergal O’Brien’s Courtandbould who just on Friday came second to McFabulous at Chepstow in the Grade 2 Novice’s Hurdle. Since leaving the yard and moving to Fergal’s Courtandbould has won 3 of his races, came second in 3 races and came third once. So he looks to be a very very classy horse and could go on to be something pretty special. However a slight sidenote to this story is that Courtandbould was purchased for a decent amount of money (out of respect for Charlie and Francesca I do not want to put this information out there) and after only managing to come second in his two Point to Point races, was sold for less than the price they paid. Charlie explained to us that sometimes you have to take the hit, it’s a business and sometimes you make money, sometimes you lose money and now he’s gone on to prove he’s a pretty decent horse.

Whilst at the yard we were also introduced to a few hopefully exciting future prospects. Including Fox in the Box who is by Presenting x Forces of Destiny – who Charlie actually mentioned in our interview in March – who unfortunately was due to ride a lot earlier in the year however due to Coronavirus hasn’t been able to run as of yet, however he is ready for a run pretty soon.

We also met a 3 year old unnamed by Jet Away x Cherry Island who was purchased for a decent amount of money and Charlie thinks could be an exciting horse in the future. He was such a calm horse and as you can see below, he was very interested in my phone. Genuinely one of the loveliest horses I have ever met.

Overall I think what Charlie and Francesca do is incredible. When we go to a race meeting you see the finished article, a horse jumping, running, winning but I think people forget that these horses start out with no idea what they’re doing and it’s people like Charlie, Francesca and their team who take them from having nobody on their back to jumping and racing. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with their team, they are all so knowledgeable and welcoming and I loved learning how a horse goes from zero to hero in such a short space of time. I was very impressed by the fact that they will only have a horse 6 weeks to break them in, in all honesty I had no idea how long it would take to break a horse in, but for some reason 6 weeks surprised me and seemed a very short space of time.

I want to thank Charlie and Francesca for allowing me to visit them and meet their gorgeous horses and really learn about the early steps in a horses career. I had the best time along with my parents and it really opened my eyes to a whole different sector of the sport that I hadn’t really looked into before.

I really hope you enjoyed this post and enjoyed an insight into the hard work and dedication it takes to get a horse up to the standard we all see at a racecourse! I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

AP McCoy – The Greatest of all Time?

Hi Guys!

So as this post goes live, the 11th of October it is actually my Dad’s Birthday. And as my Dad is one of my top supporters and is subscribed to my blog and will receive his weekly email, what better way to honour him and his special day than to do a post all about his favourite ever, all time jockey. Mr Anthony McCoy. I think we can all agree that he broke all sorts of records and will go down in history as one of the greatest. Even if you don’t follow horse racing you know the name AP McCoy. But I thought it would be super interesting to get into the nitty gritty and look at the facts and figures behind the great man and really investigate his career. I love these sorts of posts and find them so interesting to research and write up and the response I had from my followers in regards to my Ryan Moore post were incredible so I will hopefully be making this into a series where I look at jockeys and trainers and really investigate their story and their career.

Disclaimer: The facts, figures and stats are all from different sources online and I have simply compiled them altogether into one post, I have tried to use multiple sources to ensure all facts are as accurate as possible. I apologise if anything is incorrect. Please feel free to tweet me anything that may be incorrect so I can change it. At the time of writing this post 10/10/20 all of the figures are accurate according to my online sources used. So with that being said… Let’s jump right into it.

Sir Anthony Peter McCoy was born on May 4th 1974 in Moneyglass, County Antrim, making him currently 46 years old. He rode his first winner at just 17 years old on March 26th 1992 for Jim Bolger on a horse called Legal Steps at Thurles Racecourse in Ireland. Initially AP was an apprentice for Jim and whilst riding out for him one morning he suffered a really horrible fall and ended up with a broken leg. By the time he recovered he had continued to grow taller and decided at this point that it was best to become a jump jockey.

It was then in 1994 AP moved across the Irish Sea and began riding in England. It didn’t take long for AP to have his first winner on English soil. On September 7th 1994 he won at Exeter for Gordon Edwards on Chickabiddy. In his first full season in the UK he was a conditional jockey for Toby Balding which ended with him winning the Conditional Jump Jockey’s Title in 1995 before becoming the Champion Jockey for the first time in 1996.

After his very successful start in the UK, AP attracted the attention of the leading trainer Martin Pipe and an upcoming current leading trainer Paul Nicholls. In 1997 he joined forces with Martin Pipe which proved to be a very strong partnership which dominated National Hunt Racing.

By the new millennium AP McCoy had set a new National Hunt record for winners in a season with 253, he equalled the record of five winners at the 1998 Cheltenham Festival and he also became the fastest jockey to reach 100 winners in a season in 2001. He went on to beat Gordon Richards record for the total number of winners ridden in a season which was held since 1947. McCoy has always said this is his biggest achievement, despite all of his success after this. On December 11th 1999 AP rode his 1000th winner Majadou at Cheltenham.

He broke the record on Valfonic at Warwick on April 2nd 2002 and then went on to set a new record of 289 winners in a season. On August 27th 2002, he rode Might Montefalco at Uttoxeter to victory which meant he had surpassed Richard Dunwoody’s all time jumps record and became the leading jumps jockey.

AP joined forces with JP McManus in 2004 after reportedly being offered a £1 million a year retainer.

On January 17th 2004 AP rode his 2000th winner Magical Bailiwick at Wincanton. On October 3rd 2006, he then won his 2500th winner Kanpai at Huntingdon. He then reached 3000 winners just 3 years later when winning on Restless D’Artaix for Nicky Henderson on February 9th 2009.

At this point, AP McCoy had won pretty much every race he could win, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Chase, King George VI Chase and so much more, he still hadn’t won the Grand National. He had finished 3rd three times, in 2001 and 2002 on Martin Pipe’s Blowing Wind and in 2005 on Jonjo O’Neill’s joint favourite Clan Royal who was still traveling well until he was hampered by a loose horse. Finally, on his 15th attempt Anthony Peter McCoy won the Grand National on April 10th 2010 on Jonjo O’Neill’s horse Don’t Push It owned by J.P McManus.

After winning the Grand National, AP was named the 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year and therefore became the first jockey to win the award.

On November 7th 2013, AP had his 4000th career win on Jonjo O’Neill’s Mountain Tunes at Towcester. On December 16th of the same year AP reached the 150 winners landmark after riding a double at Ffos Las. This was the 18th time out of the 20 season he had been riding in Britain that he surpassed 150 winners. He was then crowned Champion Jockey for the 19th consecutive time, extending his record even further.

The next year on June 10th 2014, AP recorded his fastest ever half century of winners after winning on Bob Keown for Rebecca Curtis at Worcester. He reached 50 winners in just 44 days. That same season on July 19th 2014, AP reached a huge milestone by surpassing 4191 winners which his friend and mentor Martin Pipe achieved before retirement in 2006. He then broke his own record for the fastest century of winners in a season, his 100th winner coming on Arabic History at Newton Abbot on August 21st just 116 days into the season, beating his previous record of 130.

AP McCoy then announced live on Channel 4 that he would be retiring at the end of the 2014-2015 National Hunt Season after winning the Game Spirit Chase on Mr Mole which was his 200th win of the season. His last professional ride would be the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in April 2015.

In the 2016 New Year Honours, Anthony Peter McCoy was knighted for his services to horse racing.

So, onto the important facts and figures.

Firstly, the big wins in AP McCoy’s career. The list is a pretty long one, so bare with me.

Firstly his Cheltenham Festival winners:

  • Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle x 3
  • Arkle Challenge Trophy x 3
  • Byrne Group Plate x 1
  • Cathcart Challenge Cup x 2
  • Champion Bumper x 1
  • Champion Hurdle x 3
  • Cheltenham Gold Cup x 2
  • County Hurdle x 2
  • Festival Trophy Handicap Chase x 1
  • JLT Novices’ Chase x 2
  • Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1
  • Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase x 3
  • Pertemps Final x 1
  • Queen Mother Champion Chase x 1
  • RSA Chase x 1
  • Ryanair Chase x 3
  • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle x 1

Next up is his major nationals:

  • English Grand National x 1
  • Irish Grand National x 1
  • Midlands Grand National x 1
  • Scottish Grand National x 1
  • Welsh Grand National x 1

The list is endless so I haven’t included absolutely every big win AP has won, but there is just a little insight.

Sir Anthony Peter McCoy to this day, holds the record for the most wins with a massive 4358, including 4348 jumps and 10 flat. The closest to him is Richard Johnson, who currently, at the time of writing this has 3745 wins. AP rode 17630 horses to get his 4358 wins meaning he won 24.72% of his rides.

Interestingly, AP McCoy won most of his rides for Jonjo O’Neill with 808. Secondly is Martin Pipe with 694. Thirdly is Nicky Henderson with 197. Again these stats were found only on one source so I’m hoping they are as accurate as possible.

As far as my research took me, I found that AP has also rode a winner at every racecourse in the UK apart from Epsom Downs and Goodwood. Don’t quote me on this as I could only find it on one source!

Now, like with Ryan Moore, I searched high and low to find accurately how much prize money AP McCoy won and after a lot of research I found that he made £39,299,843 in total.

Overall I think everyone knows Sir AP McCoy is one of the best jockeys of all time and certainly the best I have ever seen in my life time. Personally I don’t see someone over taking the records he has set in a very long time – if ever.

Before I finish I wanted to include a photo I have found. AP McCoy basically broke every bone in his body whilst riding and still came through it to continue.

What do you think? Is AP McCoy the best of all time? Also, who else would you like me to research into? Please let me know via Twitter! On another note, I was lucky enough to interview AP McCoy back in March at the Cheltenham Festival and you can read that right here if you haven’t already: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/03/11/an-interview-with-20-time-champion-jockey-ap-mccoy/

This one was a tough one to write up as I have read different figures on different pages so I didn’t know what was 100% accurate, so it took a lot of different sources stating the same things before I wrote it. If anything is incorrect then please do let me know via Twitter.

See you in the next post!

1913: The Forgotten Epsom Derby Winner

Hiya guys!

Today’s post is another part of my Horse Racing History series. It is a little bit of a shorter story but one I found interesting and wanted to share.

On the 4th of June 1913, it was the 134th running of the Epsom Derby. And in a massive twist of events, Aboyeur won at 100/1 for jockey Edwin Piper and trainer Alan Cunliffe. However his win was very much overshadowed by other events that happened at Epsom on that day.

The race is now regarded as one of the world’s most famous horse races of all time, but it isn’t for the performance of the horses on the track. Let’s jump straight into why this 1913 Derby is so highly remembered.

The day starting off pretty normally with no major issues. When the Derby started – again no major issues, until there was an interference. Craganour, ridden by Johnny Reiff, hung left bumping into Aboyeur who then veered towards the railing and by doing so badly hampered Shogun, Louvois and Day Comet. Aboyeur’s jockey Edwin Piper then struck him with his whip in his left hand, which caused him to hang sharply back into the centre of the track again colliding with Craganour and attempting to bite him.

Into the final furlong Reiff had his whip in his right hand and Piper had his whip in his left hand which lead to the horses continuously bumping into each other, eventually Craganour crossed the line first just ahead of Aboyeur.

After a brief pause, Mr Robinson, the judge for the race announced the result stating that Craganour was first with Aboyeur second and Louvois third, controversially missing Day Comet who was on the inside who had been obscured by the other runners. However the result was not made official until the Stewards announced they were happy with the race and everything was okay.

After a short delay, as expected, the result was withdrawn. It was announced that an official objection had been made against the winner, however not by a rival jockey, but by the Stewards themselves. Which led to a very lengthy Stewards enquiry.

Finally, after interviewing the jockeys and the judge, the Stewards disqualified Craganour on the grounds that he had failed to keep a straight course and therefore ‘jostled’, ‘bumped and bored’ and ‘interfered’ with other runners. Therefore it was announced that Aboyeur would be awarded the race, winning at 100/1.

Even though the race itself was full of drama during and after, that was not the reason that the race was remembered, it was something far more sinister. It was due to the death of suffragette Emily Davison.

So, who was Emily Davison? Born on the October 11th 1872, Emily Wilding Davison was an English suffragette who fought for women’s rights to vote. Before this incident she had been arrested on nine occasions, went on hunger strike seven times and was force fed on forty nine occasions. She grew up in a middle-class family and studied at the Royal Holloway College in London and the St Hugh’s College in Oxford before becoming a teacher and governess. In 1906 aged 34 she joined the Woman’s Social and Political Union also known as the WSPU and pretty soon she became an officer of the organisation and a chief steward during marches. She was known within the organisation for her daring militant action, with her tactics including breaking windows, throwing stones, setting fire to postboxes and on three occasions, hiding overnight in the Palace of Westminster.

So, why did her death cause the Derby to be overshadowed? Well, that’s because her death was directly caused by the race, at the race course, by a horse in the race.

Emily Davison was stood at the Tattenham Corner, the bend before the home straight. Some horses passed her and at this point she ducked under the guard rail and ran onto the course. She reached up and grabbed the reins of Anmer – King George V’s horse who was being ridden by Herbert Jones. She was hit by the horse who would have been travelling at around 35mph within four seconds of her stepping onto the track. Anmer fell during this collision and rolled over his jockey who’s foot had got caught in the stirrup. Emily was knocked to the ground and reportedly kicked in the head, however a surgeon who later operated on her said that:

I could find no trace of her having been kicked by a horse.”

The whole event was captured by three news cameras, being broadcast to thousands as well as an estimated 500,000 people in attendance including the King and Queen. It is still unclear to this day as to what her purpose in attending the Derby and walking onto the course was, she had not discussed her plan with anyone or left a note. However several theories have been raised, these include, she was intending to cross the track and believed all of the hoses had passed or she wanted to simply pull the King’s horse down or she was trying to attach a WSPU flag to a horse or that she just intended to throw herself in front of a horse.

Bystanders rushed onto the track and attempted to help jockey Herbert Jones as well as Emily Davison and they were both taken to the Epsom Cottage Hospital. Whilst in hospital she received a large amount of hate mail from the thousands who had witnessed the whole event either in person or via the news.

Two days later on the June 6th she was operated on in hospital however she never regained consciousness and subsequently, four days later on June 8th at just 40 years old Emily’s injuries proved fatal as she died in hospital.

The only belongings found with Davison were two suffragette flags, the return stub of her railway ticket to London, her race card, a ticket to a suffragette dance later that evening and a diary with appointments for the following week. These belongings alone suggest that whatever her intentions were on this day, she did not plan on her life being ended.

As I previously mentioned, King George V and Queen Mary were both present at the race and it was in fact the King’s horse that Emily grabbed onto. They both enquired about the health of both Emily and Herbert whilst they were in hospital. As we know, Emily died, however Herbert luckily got away with mild concussion and other minor injuries, he spent one night in hospital before returning home on June 5th. He later said he could only recall a very small part of the event stating:

She seemed to clutch at my horse and I felt it strike her.”

Luckily he recovered pretty quickly and was able to ride Anmer at Ascot two weeks later. Anmer luckily remained uninjured in the whole event.

Interestingly, the King and Queen also both had opinions of the event that they recorded in their own personal journals. With the King stating it was:

A most regrettable and scandalous proceeding.”

With the Queen simply stating that Emily Davison was a:

Horrid woman.”

On June 10th there was an inquest held into Emily Davison’s death, Herbert Jones was not in attendance due to his health not permitting him to be fit enough to do so. Many spoke at the inquest including Captain Henry Davison – Emily’s half brother. The coroner said that in the absence of any evidence to prove so, Emily Davison did not commit suicide, instead the final verdict of the inquest was read as follows:

Miss Emily Wilding Davison died of a fracture of the base of the skull, caused by being accidentally knocked down by a horse through wilfully rushing on to the racecourse on Epsom Downs during the progress of the race for the Derby; death was due to misadventure.”

On June 14th Davison’s body was taken from Epsom to London where a service was held at St George’s in Bloomsbury, before being taken by train to Newcastle upon Tyne to the St Mary the Virgin church for her funeral which was watched by thousands.

This race is now known as the world’s most famous horse race due to the death of Emily Davison and not for the very controversial events in the race that day. Aboyeur, the eventual winner won at 100/1 which is something pretty special, but unfortunately his win is completely forgotten.

Personally, I have read so many articles about Emily and this day in particular and I have no idea why she did what she did. Of course, any life lost is horrible, but I don’t think people really ever looked into why. For an inquest to come back with a verdict of ‘misadventure’ I think is a little disappointing. I think if this had happened in today’s world, they would have had psychiatrists speak up about the event and potentially understand why or how this was allowed to happen. Aside from that, I do think it’s a real shame that Aboyeur managed to win at 100/1 in what sounds like a very action packed race but this was all overlooked.

I do just want to add that if you choose to do your own research into this story please please be careful as there are pictures and videos of the incident, they are really poor quality, however this may still be distressing for some.

I found this such an interesting story to research as it is one I have never heard of, so I hope you all enjoyed. See you all very very soon!

Is Ryan Moore one of the Greatest Flat Jockeys of our Time?

Hi guys!

Today’s post is something a little different to my usual horse racing posts, however I thought it would be an interesting one. On social media Ryan Moore is a highly debated person within racing, some people love him, some people hate him – a little bit like Marmite. So I thought today we would just stay neutral and go through some of the facts and figures of Ryan’s career. I found it very interesting looking through different articles and figures and I though why not share with my audience. So today we will simply look at Ryan Moore as a whole, his life, career and more importantly his stats!

Disclaimer: The facts, figures and stats are all from different sources online and I have simply compiled them altogether into one post, I have tried to use multiple sources to ensure all facts are as accurate as possible. I apologise if anything is incorrect. Please feel free to tweet me anything that may be incorrect so I can change it. At the time of writing this post 27/09/20 all of the figures are accurate according to my online sources used. So with that being said… Let’s jump right into it.

Ryan Lee Moore was born on the 18th of September 1983, making him currently 37 years old. Ryan was born into a horse racing family, his grandad Charlie Moore was a well known trainer, his dad is ex jockey and now trainer Gary Moore, he has two jump jockey brothers Jamie and Joshua and his sister Hayley Moore was a top amateur now TV pundit, so overall I would say Ryan being involved in the sport was just meant to be.

Ryan Moore starting riding horses at just 4 years old, he had lessons at his Grandad’s yard and with a pony club. And when he was 12 years old he led National Hunt jockey AP McCoy over hurdles as they schooled some of Ryan’s fathers horses. Ryan later said he was inspired by his drive and dedication stating:

He wanted to ride everything in the yard. His work ethic was huge.

Ryan didn’t always know he wanted to be a jockey, as he very much enjoyed his football and he did in fact have trials for Brighton and Hove Albion as a youngster. However, being a jockey was the direction Ryan went in and he has not looked back since.

Ryan Moore had his first winner at just 16 years old on a horse called Mersey Beat on the 15th May 2000 at Towcester over hurdles for his dad Gary Moore. At this point his mom actually tried to convince Ryan to stay in school and focus on his A-Levels however after just one month of doing his A-Levels he decided to leave and focus on his riding. Ryan also rode a couple of winners for his grandad before he passed away in 2000.

In 2003 Ryan became the British Flat Racing Champion Apprentice before winning his first group race in 2004 on the 29th of August when he won the Group 3 Prestige Stakes at Goodwood, followed by a Group 2 in the September in the Mill Reef Stakes on Galleota for Richard Hannon.

In 2006 Ryan then rode his first Group 1 winner in the Juddmonte International at York on Notnowcato for Sir Michael Stoute, this was the year he then first became the British Flat Racing Champion Jockey.

The following year, in 2007, Ryan rode Notnowcato to victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland and then in the Eclipse. During 2007 Ryan rode more winners for Sir Michael Stoute (47 out of his 126) over his then mentor Richard Hannon (33 out of his 126). However Ryan spent 3 months injured so he never retained his jockey championship, instead finishing 3rd. At the end of 2007 Ryan was then offered the position of stable jockey for Sir Michael Stoute.

In 2008 Ryan retained the jockey’s championship and kept it in 2009 also. Over the course of 2009 and 2010 Ryan travelled the world riding in the big races. He won the Breeders Cup, then he won the Derby on Workforce – in a record time – and the Oaks on consecutive days. He then won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Workforce. He later broke his wrist costing him the chance of another jockey championship. However most involved with the sport were already calling him an ‘all-time great’ including former jockey Willie Carson who said he could be as good as Lester Piggott.

In 2011 Ryan’s vision changed. Instead of wanting to retain his jockey championship he wanted to concentrate on fewer bigger races instead so he could focus on his family. At this time he started riding for many celebrity owners including Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Ashley Cold and Sir Alex Ferguson. He also rode Carlton House to victory in the Dante Stakes at York and 3rd in the Epsom Derby for the Queen. He then finished 2011 by winning on Snow Fairy in a Japanese Grade 1.

It was around November 2011 when rumours starting circulating that Ryan Moore was being lined up to join Aidan O’Brien as his stable jockey. However Ryan didn’t want to move his family from England to Ireland so it was instead agreed that Ryan would stay in England and ride for Aidan O’Brien in Ireland at major meetings. Following this decision, in 2012 Ryan won the 1,000 Guineas on Homecoming Queen and the 2013 Derby on Ruler Of The World for Aidan O’Brien.

In 2015, Joseph O’Brien who was the Ballydoyle number 1 jockey ahead of Ryan was struggling to make the weight to ride in major races, so therefore in the April it was confirmed that Ryan would now ride all the number one horses in Classics and any other major races. By the end of 2017 Ryan had won over 2000 races in Britain.

Now lets talk statistics, races and records.

Firstly, Ryan’s major wins in the 20 years he has been riding. He has won the 2,000 Guineas twice (2015 & 2017), the 1,000 Guineas four times (2012, 2015, 2016 & 2020), the Epsom Derby twice (2010 & 2013), the Epsom Oaks three times (2010, 2016 & 2020), the St Leger Stakes twice (2017 & 2018), the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes twice (2009 & 2016), the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe twice (2010 & 2016), the Japan Cup once (2013), the Melbourne Cup once (2014) and the Breeders Cup Turf four times (2008, 2009, 2013 & 2015).

At the point of me writing this (27th of September) Ryan has had 2701 winners, including 136 Groups 1’s, 118 Group 2’s, 165 Group 3’s and 170 listed races. He has also placed in 4042 races, including 229 Group 1’s, 173 Group 2’s, 233 Group 3’s and 248 listed races. These are out of 15553 starts, 890 Group 1’s, 643 Group 2’s, 849 Group 3’s and 896 listed races.

So let’s put all of those figures into perspective. Essentially Ryan has won 15.28% of the 890 Group One races he’s started in and he has placed in 25.73% of those 890 starts. Overall meaning he has at least placed or won 41.01% of the 890 Group One races he has started in. So looking at his figures as a whole, Ryan has won 17.37% of the 15553 starts he has had in his career, he has placed in 25.99% of those 15553 starts meaning overall, in the whole of his career he has won or placed in 43.36% of the 15553 starts he has had.

I have searched high and low for an accurate figure of how much Ryan Moore has won in prize money from the beginning of his career until now and the most highly shared is that of $282,026,720 which with today’s exchange rate is the equivalent to £221,284,228.09 over a 20 year period.

Another interesting thing I have found is the winners Ryan has had per trainer he has rode for. Ryan Moore has rode in 2637 races and won 572 of those and placed in 773 for Sir Michael Stoute. Of which 21 were Group One’s, 37 Groups Two’s, 60 Group Three’s and 45 Listed Races. Winning $40,825,902 / £32,032,880.47 in prize money.

In second place is Richard Hannon, where Ryan has rode in 2202 races for Richard Hannon where has won 306 and placed in 528. Of which, only one was a Group One, 7 Group Two’s, 8 Group Three’s and 16 Listed Races. In total he has won $8,472,916 / £6,648,032.06 in prize money for Richard Hannon.

Then comes in Aidan O’Brien in third place, where Ryan has rode in 1186 races and won 271 and placed in 343. However interestingly, maybe, probably predictably, Ryan has won the most amount of money for Aidan totalling $97,425,309 / £76,441,992.09 with a total of 83 Group One wins for Aidan O’Brien, 44 Group Two wins, 53 Group Three wins and 39 Listed Races.

Another interesting set of stats is the Group One races Ryan has won around the world. So number one on the list is Great Britain where he has won 58 Group One’s, Ireland is next with 21, followed closely by France with 18. Next up is USA with 13, Japan with 8, Hong Kong with 6, Canada with 4, UAE with 3, Australia (Victoria) also with 3, Germany and Italy both with 1 and then the three places he has rode in but hasn’t won a Group One is Australia (New South Wales) where he has placed once in seven Group One’s, Singapore where he has placed once in two Group One’s and South Africa where he placed in the one Group One he has had there.

Something I found interesting and wanted to just add in was the horses Ryan has had the most wins on. First up on the list is Galeota who Ryan rode 18 times, won 8 times and placed twice. Secondly is Mostarsil who Ryan rode 21 times, won 8 times and placed twice. Third is Order Of St George who Ryan rode 12 times, won 7 times and placed 3 times.

Following on from that I do want to look at his wins as a percentage. First in that order is Crystal Ocean who Ryan rode 7 times and won 6 times (85.71%) and placed once. Next is Minding who Ryan rode 9 times and won 7 times (77.78%) and placed twice. And third is Envision who Ryan Rode 9 times and won 6 times (66.67%) and placed one.

I have tried to keep this post as neutral as I possibly can using statistics alone to show who Ryan Moore is and how his facts and figures line up. However now I will give a little bit of my opinion and I would love to hear yours over on social media! I think the stats don’t lie, Ryan Moore is a brilliant jockey. I think over the years his priorities have changed – as they would with anyone – due to his children growing up and him wanting to focus on them, however his work ethic is still one of the top in the game. He rides winners for fun and has done for many years and I know many people say “it’s because of the horses he rides” but you can say that about anyone. It isn’t Ryan’s fault that he is given a leg up on some of the best horses around. Apart from the fact Ryan loses whenever I bet on him or put him in my pick 7, I can’t fault him. He is a brilliant jockey, who sometimes gets into a bad position that he can’t get out of – which jockey doesn’t though? Ryan may not be a people person and we all know that from when he’s been interviewed over the years, but there is no doubt about it he is very much a horse person and I love watching him.

Today’s post was a little different for me but I thoroughly enjoyed doing the research into this and I really hope my audience enjoy it. I have a few posts lined up over the next few weeks including more of my Horse Racing History series as well as more posts similar to this where we break down the facts and figures for different jockey’s, flat and National Hunt as well as a stable visit to one of the best National Hunt trainers in the country and a point to point yard where horses are broken in for some of the biggest trainers around so we can have an in depth look at how that is done, which I am super excited for. You can now subscribe to my page to ensure you receive an email every time I post, to do this simple press the ‘Follow zoelouisesmithx.com’ button on the right hand sidebar to this post.

See you all very soon in my next post!

Our Trip to the North West

Hiya guys!

As people may or may not have seen from my social media profiles, last week I had a little mini getaway where I went to visit the North West and explore a little bit. And luckily I was able to partner up with a brilliant team in Blackpool to explore some of their most famous and wonderful attractions. So today I am bringing you something a little different and telling you all about our experience at the Blackpool Tower, Madame Tussauds and Sealife Centre.

Our first experience was on Tuesday the 15th when we visited Blackpool Tower, which I was so excited for as I had never been up the tower before so this was something totally new for me to experience. When we arrived there was a member of staff outside of the attraction checking people had prebooked their tickets and enforcing the rule of wearing a mask whilst indoors. When we entered there were perspex screens in reception where you booked in with the staff at the desk.

Once booked in, we made our way up to the 4D cinema following the one way arrows on the floor. When we got up to the 4D cinema there was a small queue of people waiting to go inside, all of whom had masks on, as well as spread out using the floor markers ensuring social distancing was adhered to. The lady at the desk let in one group/family at a time, collecting your glasses before having some souvenir photos taken then following the route around to the cinema room. Again, there were spaces clearly marked on the floor to ensure social distancing was adhered to and you were safe the whole time. I won’t say too much as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone that wants to visit, but the 4D cinema was fantastic, it’s a short video but it’s brilliant and really makes you feel a part of the scene with the 4D aspect.

Once we had finished in the 4D cinema it was time to queue back up and get ready to go to the top of the tower. Again whilst queuing, there were one way arrows on the floor and plenty of signs on the floor ensuring social distancing. We then got into the lift and went up to the top floor, there were windows in the lift so as you were going up you could see for miles the length of Blackpool as well as all the work that had gone into making the tower you were currently in the centre of.

When we reached the top of the tower we stepped out almost immediately onto the glass floor and very hesitantly I stepped onto it and even had some photos. The whole time we were there it was pretty busy but we felt safe as social distancing was heavily monitored by staff and everybody wore a mask. We also went up to the next level where you could see for miles at 401 feet above ground.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tower and we felt safe the entire time. Personally, like many, I was a little nervous about being in such a public place around so many people, however once actually there I couldn’t have felt any safer. The staff kept on top of the social distancing and wearing masks the entire time and even though it seemed busy, it was never busy enough to not be able to keep a safe distance from others at any part during our visit.

Overall, our first tourist experience of our trip was a very very good one and I highly recommend a visit to the Blackpool Tower to really feel like a tourist.

Before we knew it day 2 then came around where we had a full packed day to enjoy. Starting with, a must if you’re in Blackpool, that is of course Madame Tussauds. I remember going to the Blackpool Madame Tussauds many many years ago as a little girl and I loved it, so I knew this time there would be so many changes from the last time I visited and I couldn’t wait. Again, before entering they had staff on the door ensuring you had prebooked tickets and you were wearing a mask. They were allowing so many groups in at a time so there could be a space between them so people could easily social distance. As this was being done there was a little wait outside before entering, however the weather was lovely so we didn’t mind at all and we knew they were doing it for our own safety and we could see everybody in the queue felt the same. As long as we were safe we didn’t mind the waiting.

Again, as before in the Blackpool Tower, there were one way arrows and social distancing lines and guides on the floor the whole way around so we felt safe the whole time. And just like when I was little I thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of my favourite celebrities like Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Wayne Rooney, Ant and Dec, the cast of Strictly Come Dancing, the cast of Corrie and even the Royal Family. Overall they had a range of celebs suitable to any audience, children would love it, adults would love it. I was actually thoroughly impressed by the whole set up especially being able to sit in Corrie’s famous Rovers Return for a drink. Again, I don’t want to ruin too much for people planning to visit, but they have some brilliant layouts, scenery and interactive aspects to your visit and we absolutely loved visiting.

The final tourist part of our day was to visit the Sealife Centre and I must say I was so impressed. Again, there were staff on the door ensuring masks were worn and people had prebooked their tickets. Again, there was a one way system all marked by arrows on the floor as well as plenty of signs stating masks must be worn as well as social distancing adhered to.

Now when I say I was impressed I mean I was genuinely really impressed. I have visited a few different Sealife Centres and they have all been really good, but this one was something so different and just incredible. There was so much more included in this centre than any others I have visited. Not only more sea creatures but just a more visually pleasing set up – if that makes any sense at all. Including a room with floor to ceiling windows looking into the sea creatures – which was our favourite room.

I love animals in general so somewhere like the Sealife Centre is always my favourite place to visit and this was no different. We absolutely loved our time here and I will definitely be going back when we visit Blackpool again.

Overall we had the best time visiting three of Blackpool’s main tourist attractions. We not only loved each place, but we also felt super safe at each place and in today’s current circumstance I think that is the most important thing. It is of course an inconvenience having to wear a mask everywhere however we are all in this together and we all need to stick to the rules so we can get out of this mess sooner rather than later. Attractions like the Blackpool Tower, Madame Tussauds and Sealife Centre are trying their best to make sure your experience is still as good as it would be if Coronavirus didn’t exist (oh what a time to be alive) and I think they did a very good job in doing so.

If you’re feeling a little nervous, anxious or sceptical to visit somewhere like I was, I highly recommend just going for it. Places are ensuring you’re as safe as you possibly can be and right now they need our business more than ever. We loved our time being tourists in Blackpool and I highly recommend to anyone.

I want to thank the lovely team for making this trip possible as well as all of the staff in the three attractions mentioned for making our visit as comfortable and safe as they possibly could do.

Thank you for reading this different, but enjoyable post to write. Now my break has come to an end I am hoping to get more posts up the next few weeks or so with a very exciting stable visit planned for early October with one of the best current National Hunt trainers – if all goes to plan with our good old friend Coronavirus. Hopefully in time we can start planning more fun things to be doing and I can get back to enjoying my blogging again! See you all very very soon!

Legal Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I was gifted the tickets for the three attractions mentioned.

What Happened to Shergar?

Shergar Correct

Welcome to the second post in my new Horse Racing History series!

I am someone who very much enjoys researching into the past. History has always been a passion of mine, so I decided to combine horse racing with history and this series will be a bunch of historical, interesting horse racing stories. I hope you enjoy!

I feel like everybody has heard of Shergar within the racing world, but I couldn’t do a historical horse racing series without including, probably, the most well known historical story within the sport.

Shergar was born in March 3rd 1978, he was an Irish bred, British trained racehorse. The Aga Khan – Shergar’s owner – sent him to Michael Stoute – now Sir Michael Stoute after being knighted in 1998, although not for his service to horse racing but instead for his services to tourism in Barbados where he was born – for training in Britain in 1979 and 1980.

On September 19th 1980 Shergar ran his first race in the Kris Plate at Newbury with Lester Piggott on-board. The race was a two year old colts and geldings race over 1 mile. Shergar went into the race as the favourite at a short price of 11/8 in a field of 23. He ended up winning on debut by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

His second and final race that year was on October 25th in the 1 mile William Hill Futurity Stakes run at Doncaster. Lester Piggott again took the ride, with Shergar’s starting price being 5/2 in a small field of seven, but a much more experienced field at that. Shergar finished second in this race, this time losing by 2 and 1/2 lenghts. After this race Shergar was then priced up at 25/1 to win the following 1981 Epsom Derby.

On April 25th 1981 Shergar returned to the track running in the Guardian Newspaper Classic Trial at Sandown, this time with Walter Swinburn riding. He went on to win triumphantly by 10 lengths. After this impressive win Shergar’s odds for the Epsom Derby shortened dramatically to 8/1.

(Sir) Michael Stoute then decided that Shergar needed more practice on a left handed course, so he selected the Chester Vase on May 5th, of course, held at Chester. He went on to win, once again, this time by 12 lengths.

 On June 3rd 1981 he ran in the much anticipated Epsom Derby held at Epsom Downs Racecourse. Set over 1 and 1/2 miles, the Derby is a Group 1 flat race which is open to three year old colts and fillies. Shergar went into the Epsom Derby as the 10/11 favourite with Walter Swinburn taking the ride. On the final turn of the course Shergar opened up a massive leader over his rival. With commentator Peter Bromley famously saying “there’s only one horse in it – you need a telescope to see the rest.” With such a lead Swinburn eased up a little, with Shergar winning the Epsom Derby by 10 lengths, which is the biggest winning margin in the races history.

After his impressive win, the Aga Khan was offered $40 million to syndicate Shergar, which he refused. He instead decided to set up his own syndicate selling 40 shares at £250,000 – valuing him at £10 million, which at the time was a record for a race horse. He retained six shares for himself remaining the biggest shareholder then sold the other 34 individually to buyers from nine countries.

On June 15th there was a bit of a scare when Shergar was on the gallops where he threw off his rider and ran through a hedge and onto a road where he trotted into a local village. He was spotted by locals who followed him and once he came to a stop they led him back to the stables. Luckily Shergar was not harmed in the incident which Stoute later said was “very lucky” as there was a crossing right by where he got out.

Just three weeks after impressively winning the Epsom Derby Shergar went over to the Curragh in Ireland where on June 27th he rode in the Irish Derby with Lester Piggott back riding him, where he won by four lengths. After this race Lester Piggott went on to tell people he was the best horse he had ever ridden.

On July 25th Shergar then went to Ascot where he rode in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes where he went on to win by four lengths. After this (Sir) Michael Stoute and the Aga Khan considered entering him into the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe however decided he needed one more race to prepare.

Stoute and the Aga Khan decided to enter him into the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster taking place on September 12th – little did they know at the time that this would be his final race. Ten days before the race on September 2nd, a news article by Sporting Life was published saying Shergar had no been training well. All of which Stoute claimed were rumours that were untrue. The ground was soft at Doncaster which was ground Shergar did not like. When Swinburn tried to get him to accelerate, he simply did not respond. He ended up finishing fourth.

The dramatic change in Shergar surprised Stoute and the Aga Khan who decided to run a number of tests on him. Every test came back saying he was in perfectly good health and Stoute said how he worked well in training after this race. However, unwilling to risk the horse without a real reason as to what actually happened at the St. Leger, they decided not to enter him into the Arc. Instead, the Aga Khan decided to retire him, sending him to Ballymany Stud near the Curragh. The Aga Khan later told journalists that:

‘He had run so uncharacteristically in the St. Leger, we knew something had gone wrong, but we didn’t know what it was, so it was an easy decision to retire him.’

The Aga Khan was offered large amounts of money to put Shergar to stud in America, however he wanted him to go to Ballymany Stud, so in October 1981 Shergar arrived in Ireland and was paraded down the main street of Newbridge, County Kldare. At the time newspapers reported that Shergar was a:

‘National hero in Ireland, one of the most recognisable sports personalities – horse or human – in Ireland.’

In 1982 Shergar had a pretty successful breeding season, covering 44 mares of which 36 foles were produced. 17 colts and 19 fillies. Out of these three won Group races, the most successful being Authaal who was sold for 325,000 Guineas when sold as a weanling before being sold on just one year later for 3.1 million Guineas. He went on to win the 1986 Irish St. Leger. It was later said by representatives of Ballymany that:

‘Perhaps not a disappointing first crop, but certainly below expectations for a horse with Shergar’s racing prowess.’

In early February 1983 Shergar’s second stud season was about to begin. He was in extremely high demand and already had a book full of 55 mares to cover, expecting to earl £1 million for the season. However, on February 8th 1983, something terrible happened.

On February 8th 1983 at around 8:30pm three men who were all armed and wearing masks entered the home of Jim Fitzgerald – the head groom at Ballymany. They were a part of a group of at least six men but possibly up to nine. One of the men said to Fitzgerald:

‘We have come for Shergar. We want £2 million for him’.

Fitzgerald told police that the men were not rough with him or his family, there was one who carried a pistol who was very aggressive, but the others, not so much. His family were locked in a room and at gunpoint Jim Fitzgerald was taken out to Shergar’s stable and ordered to put him in the back of a stolen horsebox.

Shergar was then driven away in the horsebox – never to be seen again. Fitzgerald was then told to lie on the floor of a van where the men covered his face with a coat. He was then driven around aimlessly for four hours before being released near the village of Kilcock, which was 20 miles away from Ballymany. He was told he couldn’t ring the Gardaí (Irish Police) or he and his family would be killed. He instead had to wait for the gang to contact him. He was told the gang would use the code phrase ‘King Neptune’ to identify themselves by when they rang. Fitzgerald recalled that one of the men had a Northern Irish accent and another seemed to have experience with horses, however they never told him they were from the IRA nor did they give any other indication of who they were.

Fitzgerald was released and walked on to the village where he called his brother to come and pick him up. He arrived back at Ballymany where he rang Ghislain Drion who was the Aga Khan’s stud manager at the time. He informed him of the theft and urged him not to call the police as he was scared of the threats made to his family.

This is where it gets a little complicated, so please try and follow the trail as best as possible. At this point Drion attempted to reach the Aga Khan who was in Switzerland, before ringing Stan Cosgrove who was Shergar’s vet, who was also a shareholder. Cosgrove then contacted Sean Berry who was a retired Irish Army captain and the manager of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Berry then contacted Alan Dukes who was a friend of his who was also the serving Minister for Finance. Dukes then suggested speaking to Michael Noonan, the Minister for Justice. Noonan and Dukes both told him to call the Gardaí. Eventually by 4am Drion had managed to contact the Aga Khan who told him to ring the Gardaí immediately. It was only then, eight hours later, that they made the call to the Gardaí and at this point, any possible trail they had, had already gone cold.

At this point I just want to throw in an opinion, why did it take 8 hours going from person to person to person to actually make the decision to call the Gardaí? I just think it’s a little weird and a whole lot of confusion. Anyway – back to the timeline.

Before Fitzgerald was even back at Ballymany and before he could even tell anyone what had happened, the first call from the thieves took place. The call was to Jeremy Maxwell who was a horse trainer based in Northern Ireland. They demanded £40,000 and later raised it to £52,000, he was told that the negotiations would only be held with three British horse racing journalists. Derek Thompson and John Oaksey from ITV and Peter Campling from The Sun. They were told to be at the Europa Hotel in central Belfast, this hotel was known as the most bombed hotel during the Northen Ireland Conflict.

The three men arrived at the Europa as instructed and were then contacted via phone and told to go back to Maxwell’s house to await further instructions. At this point the Gardaí instructed the three men that they had to keep the thieves talking for as long as possible when they rang so they could trace the call. The first call took place, Thompson tried to keep them talking, however they cut off after 80 seconds, which was not enough time for the call to be traced. Throughout the night there were a series of calls then at around 1:30am Thompson managed to keep the caller talking for over 90 seconds, which was long enough to trace the call. However the person that was doing the call intercepts had finished his shift at midnight and gone home – an opportunity missed.

On February 9th, the thieves opened up a second line of negotiation, directly contacting Ballymany Stud and speaking to Drion. The call took place at 4:05pm and was very short as Drion was not a fluent speaker of English and struggled to understand the Irish accent of the caller. The caller also had issues with Drion’s heavy French ponunciation. Around 90 minute later, they called again. This time Drion asked him to speak slowly. They demanded £2 million for the return of Shergar as well as a contact number in France where further negotiations could be made. Drion provided them with the number for the Aga Khan’s French office.

At this point, Shergar’s owners brought in Control Risks, a risk and strategic consulting firm who were to handle the negotiations from the Paris office. 

On Friday February 11th, the negotiators demanded proof that Shergar was still alive, as many, including the press, had speculated that Shergar was no in fact dead. The thieves said that a representative should go to the Crofton Hotel in Dublin and ask for a message for ‘Johnny Logan’ who was an Irish singer. Stan Cosgrove, Shergar’s vet, went to the hotel and did as instructed. With him were armed members of a Special Detective Unit who were undercover. However no messages had been delivered so Cosgrove returned home. Not long after, the negotiators received another call, they were furious at the presence of the police and threatened that if any member of their gang were captured or killed that the negotiators and the police would be murdered in retribution.

On Saturday February 12th the thieves contacted the negotiators and said that the proof had been left at the Rosnaree Hotel. This was collected and it contained several polaroid close up pictures showing a horse. Some of which were pictured next to a copy of the Irish News dated February 11th. Cosgrove was seen these and he confirmed it:

‘Definitely was him.’

Although, he did say that:

‘It wasn’t proof that the horse was alive, at this point, you’d want to get much more definite evidence. If you’d have seen the complete horse it would have been different, but this was just the head.’

On that same day at around 10:40pm the thieves called the negotiators again where it was explained that the syndicate were not satisfied with the pictures as this was not enough proof that Shergar was still alive. The caller simply replied ‘if you’re not satisfied, that’s it’ and ended the call. No further contact was ever made. The syndicate attempted to re-establish contact, but there was simply no response to any request to do so.

Onto why the Aga Khan wouldn’t pay the ransom money, even though he was worth a ton of money. Well, there were several reasons. The first being that he was only one of 35 members of the syndicate, meaning he could not negotiate or pay on behalf of the others. Secondly, he was unsure whether Shergar would be returned even if they money was paid. And thirdly, he was concerned that if the kidnappers demands were met, it would make every high-value horse in Ireland a target for future thefts.

The shareholders were also totally divided on what they should do. Brian Sweeney, who was a veteran of the American Horse Racing Industry said:

‘If you ask a mother who has had a child that has been kidnapped if a ransom should be paid, I think the answer would be ‘yes and quickly’.

However, another shareholder Lord Derby disagreed with this, saying

‘If ransom money is paid for this horse then there is a danger of other horses being kidnapped in the years to come and that simply cannot be tolerated.’

So all in all, everybody was totally torn on what they should be doing in this situation.

The syndicate had a committee who later put together a full report for the rest of the members. This report examined the motives behind the theft of their most precious horse. The report concluded that the theft was either undertaken to ‘create confusion and publicity’ rather than obtaining money. Or that the negotiations were ‘undertaken with naivety’. They concluded this after taking a number of factors into account. Including the fact that many of the demands were actually impossible. For example, they demanded the ransom be paid in £100 notes, which simply did not exist. Another example being in one call which took place at 5:45pm to Drion in Ballymany, he was told to deliver £2 million to Paris by noon the following day, then a call at 5pm to the Paris negotiators, they were told to get the £2 million by the end of the night, both after the banks had closed. In another call, the negotiators in Paris was told to get an agreement for the ransom to be paid but they couldn’t contact anyone in Ireland, even though some of the shareholders were in Ireland. The report also concluded that it became very clear that over the few days whilst negotiations were taking place that the gang had thought that the Aga Khan was the sole owner of Shergar, they actually had no knowledge that there were shareholders and they also did not take into account how difficult it would be liaising and organising all 35 shareholders into a position of agreement.

Now lets look at the police investigation into the theft. As expected, the investigation was immediately hindered as they only found out about the crime taking place 8 hours after it had happened. It also didn’t help that there was a local Thoroughbred auction taking place at the time meaning several horseboxes were in the area at the time. 

Chief Superintendent James Murphy took the lead in this investigation, he was a highly experienced detective. Interestingly, in his first press conference he told reported:

‘I have no leads’.

However this was a lie, he in fact had kept a lot of information from the media, including the fact that the police had found a magazine for a Steyr MPi 69 submachine gun, which suggested to them immediately that there was a link to the IRA active service unit in South Armagh. After a lot of comedic references being made, he was replaced as the public figure of the investigation, meaning he no longer attended press conferences, even though he continued to lead it behind the scenes. We can only assume this step was taken to prevent the media getting carried away with comedic references rather than focusing on the fact a multi million pound horse had in fact been stolen.

On February 16th the police released a description of the horsebox used by the thieves from what Fitzgerald had said. It was either light green or light blue with no working lights and no licence plates. There was a huge police search in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland of potential hiding places for Shergar, however no trace of him or the horsebox were found. At one point, up to 70 detectives were working on the case at one point, which is a huge amount. After two weeks of no new leads, no contact from the thieves and no new evidence, the police search was scaled down, although the investigation has always continued.

As you can imagine, with a story this big and the police limiting what they released to the public, the media had a field day in speculating what had happened to Shergar. Including a claim that Shergar had been stolen by Colonel Gaddaf as part of a deal to supply arms to the IRA, another claim by the Sunday Sport newspaper was that Shergar had been spotted being ridden by the missing Lord Lucan, another was that a Middle Eastern horse breeder had stolen him for stud as well as, in my opinion, the craziest one, that the Mafia had taken him to punish the Aga Khan over a previous sale of a horse which had gone badly. 

After eight weeks, with still no real information, a senior detective approached Stan Cosgrove and introduced him to Dennis Minogue who was a horse trainer who claimed to have a contact within the IRA who had shown him a photograph of Shergar. He said that he could help get Shergar released for a random of £80,000. Cosgrove was asked by the detectives to assist them in a sting operation to try and lure the thieves out, to which he agreed. So on July 20th 1983 Detective Martin Kenirons assisted the operation. He put the money in the boot of his car in a remote village, which Minogue was to collect after the horse had been released. However, the following day Kenirons returned to his car to find the boot had been forced open, the money was missing and Minogue was also missing. The money was never recovered. Kenirons was then dismissed from the force for breaching regulations. However in 2018 he again reiterated his innocent saying ‘when it all went wrong, everyone jumped for the high ground. They (senior officers) all denied that they had anything to do with the ransom.’

To this day, the police and intelligence sources consider the IRA as the most likely suspects behind Shergar’s disappearance and supposed death. In 1981, according to intelligence which was received by intelligence sources, due to the success of previous operations including kidnapping human beings, it was decided by the IRA that they were to undertake another ransom through kidnapping or theft. This time focusing in on Shergar.

More potential evidence to back up this theory is that in 1999 Sean O’Callaghan who was a former member of the IRA who had been working within the organisation as a ‘supergrass’ for the police since 1980 published an autobiography. In his autobiography he stated that the plot to steal Shergar was thought of and planned by Kevin Malon who was a leading IRA member at the time, he reportedly came up with the idea whilst serving time in prison. He went on to say that two weeks after Shergar’s disappearance Gerry Fitzgerald, another IRA member told him that he had been involved in the theft and that Shergar had actually been killed very early on in the process. He panicked and nobody involved could cope with him, in a panic Shergar damaged it’s leg and the decision was made to kill him. O’Callaghan states that:

‘Shergar was killed within days’.

In 2004 he appeared on TV, again stating that Gerry Fitzgerald ‘strongly suggested that Shergar had been killed within hours of his kidnap’. Saying the IRA then kept up a deception that he was still alive and in their care.

Based off the information O’Callaghan gave, Irish journalist Kevin O’Connor identified that there were potentially three parts of the gang. One part were to undertake high-profile activity in Belfast to focus media attention in the North, one discreetly negotiating with the Aga Khan and the third part were to guard the horse.

O’Callaghan has also said that when they failed to get the ransom money for Shergar, they went on to kidnap a businessman called Galen Weston. The police found out and took over Weston’s house whilst he was visiting the UK. After a lengthy gun battle Gerry Fitzgerald and four others were arrested. They all received very long prison sentences. O’Callaghan stated that:

‘Essentially the same team that went to kidnap Shergar went to kidnap Galen Weston’.

However, to this day no arrests have ever been made in relation to Shergar’s death and nor have the IRA ever admitted any role in the theft and all of those named by O’Callaghan have denied any involvement. It’s important to note that many do not believe O’Callaghan’s version of events. A journalist has stated:

‘A confessed informer whose life depended on his ability to weave a convincing web of lies. Without more evidence, O’Callaghan’s story is just that… an interesting story.’

Something else I want to mention is that in 2008, The Sunday Telegraph did a special investigation and they allegedly obtained information from a different IRA member who said that O’Callaghan had not been told the full story, saying that:

‘The gang was so embarrassed by what happened.’

According to the unnamed source, a vet that the IRA had arranged to look after Shergar did not turn up because his wife had threatened to leave him if he did. He also goes on to say that when the IRA realised that the Aga Khan was not going to pay, the Army Council ordered for Shergar to be released. However due to the extensive searches by the police, they couldn’t release him. They also thought they were under close surveillance and that it was just too risky to release him, so therefore he was ordered to be killed. The unnamed source went on to tell the newspaper that two men went into the stable where Shergar was being held, one of them carrying a machine gun. He said:

‘Shergar was machine gunned to death. There was blood everywhere and the horse even slipped on his own blood. There was lots of cussin’ and swearin’ because the horse wouldn’t die. It was a very bloody death.’

So, if the sources are correct and the IRA did have some sort of involvement with Shergar’s disappearance and death, where are his remains? His body has never been recovered or identified, however according to several sources, including O’Callaghan, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer, it is highly likely that his body was buried near Aughnasheelin near Ballinamore, County Leitrim. O’Callaghan has said that as far as he knew the remains were buried on a farm of an IRA veteran from the 1940’s and it would be difficult to get permission to dig on the land.

I think it’s important to note that there have been several claims of equine skeletons being Shergar’s. However equine pathologist Des Leadon has assisted the police in those claims, all of which were proven not to be Shergar. He has retained some strands of hair from Shergar’s mane and tail which he has said contain sufficient DNA to confirm or deny an identification.

I also want to mention the fact that Shergar was, of course, insured through several insurance companies. Hodgson McCreedy covered £3,625,000 of the total and had a theft clause within their policy. Other shareholders who were accountable for £1.5 million worth of shares had insurance that did not include a theft clause. Shareholders who owned £3 million worth of shares did not take out insurance, including the Aga Khan. Cosgrove (Shergar’s vet and shareholder) had an insurance police that was ‘mortality only’ with Norwich Union (now part of Aviva), who refused to pay, even when it became clear that Shergar was most probably dead. Also worth a mention that in June 1983, after legal advice was taken, the 20 policies that included a theft clause were all settled in full.

Oh boy that was a long one! If you’re still here, then hi, congrats, you reached the end! I just want to finish up with a few of my opinions on the whole situation and I would love it if you stuck around a little longer to give them a read and then sent over your opinions via Twitter, I’d love to hear them!

Personally I find it a little strange if I’m honest. Why did it take 8 hours and so many random calls before they notified the police? They lost a lot of precious time whilst they were messing around. In those 8 hours they could’ve taken the horse anywhere in the country or even to a different country before the alarm was even raised. I think it definitely sounds like an organised crime group, the fact they had researched enough to know a local auction was taking place and this would be a perfect time to strike tells me it wasn’t just a ‘lets steal a horse on a whim’ kind of thing. However, controversial maybe, but I don’t know if I quite believe it was the IRA. I mean, surely an organised group like them would’ve done more research into Shergar and known that there wasn’t just one owner and he now had multiple? I feel like an organisation like the IRA would’ve had so many different people with different expertise that this is something they would or should have picked up on beforehand? 

Overall I just find it a heartbreaking story, not for anyone other than Shergar to be honest. I can’t imagine just how scared he must have been surrounded by strangers, no idea where he was or who he was with. That thought just breaks my heart. I would love to think he was released and lived a happy life with a family who had no idea who he was, that’s what my heart wants to believe. But in reality, I just hope he had a quick and painless death because inevitably, death is probably what happened to him.

I feel like I had to cover this story even though everybody probably already knows it, but it wouldn’t be a Horse Racing History series without including the biggest story of them all. If you didn’t know it, I hope you understand it now and if you did know it, I hope you found out something you may not have known before!

Thank you for reading!

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Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association ends THIS WEEK! So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause!

The Story of Frank Hayes: The Dead Winning Jockey

Frank Hayes

Welcome to my new Horse Racing History series!

I am someone who very much enjoys researching into the past. History has always been a passion of mine, so I decided to combine horse racing with history and this series will be a bunch of historical, interesting horse racing stories. I hope you enjoy!

When I read this story online, I knew I had to research into it a little more and I did not expect to read what I did. 

It was June 4th 1923, a warm, sunny day at New York’s Belmont Park and the favourite Gimmie was a clear favourite for the second race on the card. Little did the punters know that Frank Hayes would win on board a 20/1 Sweet Kiss winning his first ever race as a jockey. But… all was not as it seemed.

Frank Hayes was born in 1888 into an Irish-American family in Brooklyn, New York. From a very young age, he, along with his family, knew that his life was going to be spent with horses. As a young boy he lived with his mother and sister, however he was rarely home as he spent all of his time dedicating himself to horse racing.

His first step into horse racing was when he became a stable hand for a horse breeder called James Frayling who saw Frank Hayes as a potential trainer. Hayes spent his days schooling horses, most of which became race winners. However his passion lay in the saddle. He wanted to become a jockey, not a trainer, and he was pretty determined to do so. He wanted to be in the saddle, not watching them and welcoming them back into the winners enclosure. Hayes was the mastermind behind the victories, however when a winning horse came back into the winning enclosure he very quietly washed down the horse and led them back to the stable whilst the jockey took all of the credit.

Miss Frayling had a horse called Sweet Kiss and in June 1923 she wanted to see her horse out on the track. However, she was struggling to find a jockey at such short notice. Hayes offered to ride for her, but she declined, telling him his weight would hamper his chances of finishing in the top five. However Hayes persisted and eventually after a lot of persuasion, she agreed to let him ride. Immediately after the agreement was made, Hayes started an extreme weight loss campaign so he could meet the weight requirements. And in only a few days he went from 142 pounds to 130 pounds.

When June 4th finally came around, Hayes was ecstatic to finally be putting on the racing silks of Miss Frayling and finally make his jockey debut at 35 years old. The jockeys in the weighing room at Belmont Park later recalled how excited he was, even saying ‘today’s a good day to make history’ when they got down to the starting post. Little did he know, he would indeed be making history. Just not the kind he had hoped.

The race started as expected with the favourite Gimmie leading from very early on. Once the two mile course and 12 fences were almost cleared, Hayes and Sweet kiss surprised everyone by taking the lead on the final bend. The seven year old mare crossed the line just a head in front and the crowd roared as the 20/1 shot beat the pundits favourite Gimmie. As they passed the winning post Hayes was slumped forward on the horse and at the time, many thought he was emotionally whispering in the mares ears. 

The mare continued to run before easing into a cantor for another 100 yards before eventually coming to a stop. Hayes at this point was slumped over the horses neck. The owner and trainer ran straight over to Hayes and Sweet Kiss to realise he was totally unresponsive. Seeing this very weird situation, Dr John Voorhees, who was the Belmont Park physician at the time, ran to the scene and very quickly declared Frank Hayes dead, stating it could have been possible heart failure.

It was later confirmed that Hayes did in fact die from heart failure shortly after taking the lead in the race. It is widely believed, as speculated by the New York Times, yet never confirmed, that the heart failure was due to the fact he had trained so strenuously to make the weight alongside the excitement of taking the lead, that his heart simply gave up on him.

As a mark of respect for Frank Hayes the Belmont Jockey club waived all of the rules so the race was never contested and he was declared the official winner despite not weighing in after the race.

Three days later on June 7th Frank Hayes was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, wearing the silks he wore on his first and only winner as a jockey.

The ruling that the Belmont Jockey Club made means that Frank Hayes is the only jockey to win a race whilst deceased. In fact, to date, he remains the only dead person to win in a competitive sporting competition.

As for Sweet Kiss, she was nicknamed Sweet Kiss of Death almost immediately amongst racing fans and newspapers. Her owner Miss Frayling found it incredibly hard to get jockeys to ride her due to them being very superstitious, so the mare was retired without racing again, remaining with an unbeaten record. One race – One win.

I found this story so interesting. It’s something I had never heard about before until I started to research into it. How many of my readers have never heard of this story before?

This is just the first part of what I hope to be an on-going series on my blog full of historical stories within horse racing. 

Thank you for reading!

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Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association is now LIVE. So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause! The raffle ends on the 29th so just over 1 week left to enter!

An Interview with Rossa Ryan

ROSSA RYAN 12TH

Hiya guys!

Today I have an interview with the up and coming flat jockey Rossa Ryan. Please note that this interview was conducted before the continuation of racing. I hope you enjoy!

—–

Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Rossa: To date, the Celebration Mile in Goodwood would be my favourite race I have won.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?

Rossa: If I had my choice in whatever horse in history I could have ridden, I would have to say Sea The Stars.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Rossa: I honestly am against banning it. I have done a few tours with people who have came racing to meet a jockey and I have showed them the whip and they could see after I showed them that it doesn’t hurt and it really changed their opinion of the whip after that. I could hit myself as hard as possible and it wouldn’t hurt. It’s only there to encourage horses to go forward for jockey’s.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, so what would you eat on a regular day?? Are there any periods across the year where you can actually just eat everything and anything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Rossa: Well, it all depends on the weight you have that day. If, for instance, I had a light weight, I would eat little to nothing and if I had a heavy weight that day or the next I would eat dinner, if I was hungry. All depends day to day I suppose.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Rossa: I think they’re very wrong. I would love for the general public to actually witness the love that the stable staff, owners, trainers and jockeys have for these horses. We love our sport and we love horses. And the care the horses get is completely pampered to be honest. They’re so well looked after and you see it day to day how happy horses in racing are.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Rossa: Well I’m from Ireland so when we get our time off I usually go home to visit my family and have a little holiday at home.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Rossa: Well I have always followed James Doyle on his style and also Sean Levey, he’s helped me massively in little guidelines to becoming a better jockey and is always there to give me advice if I need it.

Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming few years?

Rossa: My overall goal, to hopefully ride a Group 1 winner and maybe, just maybe, be Champion Jockey.

Me: What is your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Rossa: My horse to watch for the upcoming year would be Duke of Hazzard. He gave me my biggest win last year and he is on the upward curve to hopefully being a Group 1 horse this year.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Rossa: I think if you want to achieve a goal in life or make a dream come true… well I think for the best sports people of the world, they only got there through hard work. Going that extra mile where possible and putting that bit more practice in.

—–

Firstly, as always, I want to thank Rossa for his time. I personally think he has a promising future ahead, he is a brilliant rider and a credit to our sport. The fact he is so young sets him in good stead to have a long and hopefully successful career. I am excited to watch his journey over the upcoming years to see where he ends up.

Thank you for reading.

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Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association is now LIVE. So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause!

 

How Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Affected the Horse Racing Industry? PART FOUR!

PART 4 CORONA

Hiya guys.

A little bit later than planned, but welcome to the fourth and final part of my Coronavirus series. Let’s just jump straight into it!

I spoke with Paddy Aspell who filled me in on how he stayed busy during lockdown.

“Well I think it’s fair to say 2020 has been a real rollercoaster for the world collectively, the racing world included. We find ourselves already in July but the racing season is now being quite compacted to try and make some late gains. I personally have managed to keep pretty busy, riding out every day at Mark Johnston’s in Middleham and general fitness to try and make a return from injury if at all possible.”

Paddy went on to tell me how he feels about the resumption of racing with the new rules in place.

“Since the resumption of racing behind closed doors, I think the BHA, racecourses, trainers, staff and more have done an incredible job to overcome the logistical issues they’ve faced to keep the industry going. It appears to me that the riders have adjusted to things like face masks and social distancing in weighing rooms extremely well. It certainly can’t be straightforward.”

He concluded with moving forward within the sport.

“We are living in strange times – for now, something referred to as ‘the new normal’ so we basically have to take every day as it comes, make the best of every situation and hope that going forward racing can, one day, get back to something like we remember our great sport. Fingers crossed for the future.”

Paddy has always been very supportive of my work and always helped me where he can, which I am very grateful for. Hopefully we do get to see Paddy back out on the course after his injury.

I also spoke with William Kedjanyi who works for Star Sports. He filled me in on how the pandemic has affected his work.

“It’s impacted everyone hugely, but I’ve been luckier than most. My parents are key workers and I’ve always felt I had an understanding for the effort NHS staff put in, but that’s increased tenfold – I’ve been lucky that I can work from home.

It’s been a real blow on lots of fronts, but the cancellation of racing (when it was absent) was personally incredibly difficult as an integral part of my daily routine was gone (with nothing else to fill it). I was thankful for the US tracks still going (and I’ve used my time to sharpen up in that area) but low grade racing from there wasn’t the same, although to be fair, my mind may have been on other matters.

My title is political – and it’s a huge part of what I do – but I love racing and am writing previews for every big weekend (and have been for most of my time with Star) whilst I’ve attended lots of the big meetings with them and the pitch over the past 18 months.

You miss the people you work with a huge amount too. Thankfully there are more ways than ever to keep in touch, but not rushing around the course and bolting from pitch to pitch – usually to see Martin ‘Lofty’ Chapman and Shelb, or Flynn (our head of on course) – and also the routines of raceday as well. The excitement of the train, meeting people in the nearest town/city beforehand, and the excitement of getting together with friends to watch too and discuss what’s happened.

In terms of a specific event, we missed Aintree incredibly badly (every bookmaker does) not only for the online business but especially on course, but as a whole the earliest weeks of lockdown – an unprecedented situation where we had all of our most popular sport cancelled for weeks on end – were very hard on everyone. The team at work (Star Sports) have been wonderful with great support and my editor (David Stewart) has worked around the clock to make sure things keep going, but lockdown put us in a very rough spot – we had a 60% drop in bets from out pre-Cheltenham 2020 average.

Thankfully France Galop – and a huge hand has to go to Olivier Delloye who’s fought brilliantly for racing there – managed to get back by mid-May with quality racing, which turned the corner – we saw a 26% increase in bets taken overall and it proved to be an excellent springboard.

That was surpassed by the return of British racing, which came not one moment too soon and got an incredible reception: we took 350% more bets compared with May, and it appears that plenty of people had been waiting too, as we’ve eventually had more than double the bets we would during a normal month. We took plenty of action from Ireland too which has meant things are really positive actually – we’ve got more people betting with us than this time last year.”

Will went on to tell me how he occupied his time whilst the racing was cancelled.

“I’ve spent much more time with my family, which has been lovely, and we’ve all gotten along, touch wood. Work on political and media stuff for Star, we’ve got a great inventive team, also we’ve managed to really improve output, firstly focusing on the Labour Leadership content (and Deputy), the next Shadow Chancellor, and BBC DG were all markets we got up before focusing on America. Thinking outside of the box has allowed us to broaden our offering now and things can only get better – Tony Blair voice – in the months ahead on that score.

But I did manage to find plenty of time to fill the absence of racing, starting with doing something I should’ve been doing lots more of – Read! I’d been so busy with all the sport and politics that I hadn’t really been able to make time for good books and I’ve loved catching up. My favourite read was Not Buying It by Charlotte Hawkins but I also finally had the chance to read across multiple subjects – I finished ‘Equal’ by Carrie Gracie.

It’s given me a chance to get into my history again too, and I’ve loved ‘The Betrayal of Mary, Queen of Scots’ by Kate Williams. This is a marvellous journey into one of the ugliest feuds in British history and worth every second you’ll spend on it if you want some escapism (and who doesn’t these days?)

I also got the chance to get some proper TV binging in, and one of the big benefits of this whole thing has been the chance to watch The Sopranos for the first time. One of the best TV shows ever made.

I’ve also enjoyed re-watching 30 Rock – the best comedy NBC’s made, yes I said it – Gangs of London and Money Heist – and in movie terms, I’ve been binging on the thrillers. I was particularly gutted that Daniel Craig’s last Bond film was pushed back so I’ve enjoyed his four movies, along with plenty of Jason Bourne too.”

So how does Will think the new rules being implemented will or has affected racing thus far?

“There’s obviously a significant financial hit to racing, namely in the shape of lost gate revenue. The biggest courses will suffer most but they’ll also be in the best shape – smaller tracks who are paying £50,000 to set up a safe meeting at a time when many courses are already feeling the heat. A bigger worry would be racing inside local lockdowns – we’ve had clearance for two meetings at Leicester but the optics of racing inside an area where the infection rate is soaring is something we must consider strongly.

However, one of the benefits of racing’s nature is that it can take place with social distancing, and we should be thankful that the sport takes place in such suitable grounds. The infection protocols at the courses are the most stringent I can think of outside of hospitals. 

72 hour declarations have been a huge help for most, if the weather’s played ball.”

Will then concluded our discussion with how racing behind closed doors has affected the sport as well as how helpful the furlough scheme turned out to be for the sport.

“It’s been a body blow for the vast majority involved, there’s no way around it. The furlough scheme has been vital – I can’t bear to think of how many jobs would have gone in the industry without it – and thankfully things have came back in the nick of time for most. My worry in the coming months would be for lower level trainers, many of whom were on the breadline beforehand, and courses without big financial backings. Things still feel a long way away from returning fans to the racecourse in significant numbers, so much will depend on how the reopening of closed retail spaces goes.”

Will has always supported me with my blogging and I appreciate it greatly. If you don’t already follow Will I highly suggest you do. He has tremendous knowledge of many subjects and I thoroughly enjoy reading his blog posts for Star Sports and it has been an honour having him work with me on this post and series. Will and the team at Star Sports have also very kindly donated two £25 bets for my raffle for the Stroke Association. All information will be at the end of this post with how you can enter!

I also spoke with James Watson who runs the Turf Talk Podcast. Of course running a racing podcast with no racing would be difficult. He filled me in on his time in lockdown.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, like many racing fans, I wondered how I was going to cope. Keeping myself occupied whilst this large void was missing was probably the hardest thing during lockdown. Not seeing live sport was difficult for me as I must watch 10 hours of it a day. However, my time watching racing during the day soon changed to the night or the morning. I watched a lot more international meetings such as Meydan, Breeders Cup and Melbourne Cup but an average card at Sha Tin on Sunday morning never tickled my fancy, however this began to fill the void. As well as that, I spent a lot of time reading autobiographies too. Tyson Fury’s was the most fascinating in this case, showing us throughout his life and what he has had to cope with. Mental health in individual sports is a big talking point and people need to be aware that they are not the only ones. He has been a trailblazer in promoting mental health and I fully commend him for that. I also read Patrick Veitch’s autobiography which was a rollercoaster of a tipster who’s life was turned upside down. I would strongly advise it to any racing fans as it’s a fascinating read.”

So, how did no racing affect his racing podcast?

“Being one half of Turf Talk Pod, we have struggled to come up with ideas. This has affected the listener-ship in recent weeks as well. We have decided to go more personally so our listeners could get to know us more by talking about iconic moments in our racing lives and our top 5 favourites of all time. This seems to have had a good response, however, as people normally listen to our pod when travelling to work or going to places, it probably did not do as well as we would have liked. Also in the fact that there is not a lot of pods out there. Lewis and I started in the first year of university three years ago when there was only the Final Furlong Pod. Now there is such a wide choice which is great to see but other people may want to listen to them rather than us. Our fanbase is very loyal and I’d like to thank them for all their support.”

James went on to tell me how he feels the new rules have affected racing.

“The new rules that are in place post-Coronavirus are what we need at this time I think. As a sport we did a good job of showcasing how to carry on the sport after these events. Facemasks, keeping your distance and seeing no crowds has almost become the normal in recent months. I think we need to slowly re-introduce the rules back in the coming months when it is safe to do so.”

And finally, James finished our chat with his opinions surrounding racing behind closed doors and how this has affected racing.

“Racing behind closed doors is weird for most racing fans. However, I think if anything, this period of time in lockdown has aided the sports image, having taken a knock from the Cheltenham Festival. ITV have done a tremendous job publicising the sport and this shows by the viewing figures. Having racing on national television channels is important for the sport. We saw 1.5 million people viewing the racing on a Saturday and if we can keep 10% of them then that would be great. As much as I would love to go to a racecourse in the upcoming weeks, I am happy to wait until we get the all clear before heading to one. Safety of the people is what matters here first before crowds returning to racing.”

If you wish to listen to James and Lewis’ Turf Talks Podcast you can do so right here on any of these links: https://m.soundcloud.com/user-418292204https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/turf-talk-pod/id1439648005#episodeGuid=tag%3Asoundcloud%2C2010%3Atracks%2F854170852 or https://open.spotify.com/show/35pjNCOGtg0Vk7R6Mm6yh4.

I want to thank Paddy, Will and James and everybody else who has took the time out to be involved in this project/mini series. I found it very interesting to actually get the opinions of different sectors within the industry and how it has affected them all so differently. This project was something totally different to how I normally present my work. Let me know via Twitter if you enjoyed it and if I should do more mini projects like this.

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Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association is now LIVE. So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause!

How Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Affected the Horse Racing Industry? PART THREE!

PART THREE CORRECT

Hey guys!

Welcome to Part Three of this project. If you haven’t already seen the first two please view them before this one.

Part One: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/06/30/how-has-the-coronavirus-pandemic-affected-the-horse-racing-industry-part-one

Part Two: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/07/02/how-has-the-coronavirus-pandemic-affected-the-horse-racing-industry-part-two

Let’s get straight into it!

The cancellation of racing has, of course, massively impacted trainers, so I spoke with Johnson White, Philip Hobbs’ assistant trainer who gave me a little insight into how the whole situation has affected them.

“This whole period has been very difficult for everyone! As soon as we knew that there was not going to be any racing we roughed most of the horses off and furloughed the majority of staff.”

He went on to tell me that very very soon, their team will all be reunited!

“The staff and owners have been fantastic throughout this whole time period and we are all looking forward to most of the staff and horses coming back into work on the 6th of July to prepare them for the Autumn. We have a number of horses to run through July and August and we can’t wait to get going again and hopefully return to some kind of normality!”

I visited Philip’s yard earlier this year and every person I met were in love with their job so I can imagine it being very hard on them as a whole. Johnson and Philip have donated a stable visit with a morning on the gallops followed by tickets to a local meeting for 4 people for my raffle for the Stroke Association. All information will be at the end of this post with how you can enter!

I also spoke with Debbie from Go Racing Green who also had the normality of life put on hold once coronavirus caused horse racing to stop. For those who don’t know who Debbie is I highly suggest you pop over to her Twitter and have a look through her website. She has created a safe space and SO much more at so many courses for people who may need a time out when at the races. As someone who has suffered with my mental health I think it is brilliant what she has done and I highly suggest people go and check her website out for more information! You can find it here: https://goracinggreen.co.uk/ as well as Debbie’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/novicefilly

So, how did the lockdown and cancellation of horse racing affect Debbie in general? She told me the following:

“I have to admit that I didn’t realise what an essential part of my life racing is now. As someone who is still fairly new to the sport and someone who has struggled with social situations for many years, when lockdown came about, at first I thought I would cope well – after all, staying at home and not seeing people had been normality for me for so long. It felt like I would just be slotting easily back into what I knew to be a normal and comfortable way of life. However, it became apparent very quickly that I depended on racing and horses for so many things – even socially. Racing is usually on in the background at home every day, and whilst I don’t bet, just simple things like looking through the race cards every day and picking out a few horses who I already follow, or horses I liked for whatever reason, had become a part of my day. I had some fantastic #GoRacingGreen visits in the pipeline too throughout April, May and June – Tweenhills, Juddmonte, Sue Smith’s, the Go North tour, a big Newmarket day out which included Dalham Hall and a #GoRacingGreen Race Day at Nottingham, all which obviously had to be cancelled, which was so disappointing. I found lockdown increasingly difficult as the weeks went on, and very much struggled at times. The not knowing when and if things would ever return to what we know, even though I still struggle with lots of things, was very scary for me. Most, I have missed seeing all the friends I have made through racing and of course, not having contact with horses, which is a key factor in my metal well-being. My mental health suffered quite a severe wobble at the end of February, so I didn’t go into lockdown in the best frame of mine. I have had some pretty dark days if I am honest, too much time on your hands isn’t always a good thing for the mind, but the relaxation of some of the rules certainly came at the right time for me, and I have now seen some friends and starting tentatively reorganising some #GoRacingGreen events, and that hope going forward is what I needed.”

Debbie went on to tell me what she did to occupy her time whilst she couldn’t visit racecourses or stables.

“It was very important to me to keep in touch with the #GoRacingGreen community virtually. I knew that I was struggling, so I knew many others would be too. The lockdown left people cut off, not just from racing, but many other branches and networks of support. At first the #GoRacingGreen Grand National was just, what I thought, a silly whim of an idea, but I was so touched by the amount of people that got involved, from within the racing community and the industry, including jockeys, trainers and of course Richard Hoiles for commentating. It actually kept me sane for those first few weeks, taking the horses out for photoshoots, making the fences and organising everything, so it was brilliant that so many more people wanted to be involved, which led to the #GoRacingGreen Guineas, when Mark Johnson did the commentary. I was quite overwhelmed by the number of people who messaged me and said it was keeping them going too, and how much they were enjoying it. Also, every evening throughout the key period of lockdown before rules began to relax, I did a Twitter chat, sometimes about racing related things, sometimes not and so many took part in this. I have done twice weekly Zoom chats which are still happening, and behind the scenes every day I have been talking to people that need support. Some people have messaged me as a one off, some I have been and am still, talking to every day to try and support them as much as I can. Helping people actually helps me. I am not a counsellor but do have a fair bit of life experience which I am happy to share, and people say they talk to me because I am  honest about what I have experienced and they feel they can relate to me. Wherever I could have tried to keep people’s spirits positive and I am very grateful that Unibet Racing have continue their support throughout lockdown to enable me to continue supporting people every day.”

Of course, we are all aware that racing has now returned, but it isn’t what we would normally see. There are a bunch of new rules introduced, which Oisin went through earlier in this post. So does Debbie think the new rules will affect racing at all?

“I try and keep away from racing ‘politics’ and any politics for that matter, as to be honest, I am still so new to this and have so much to learn. The world has faced a completely unique situation that we have never seen before in our lifetime, and sincerely hope we will never see again. Obviously everyone’s health and safety needs to be at the forefront of anything that is being implemented now and going forward. Whilst it is fantastic that there is light at the end of the tunnel, I would love us to be back racing in time for the National Hunt season ‘proper’ in October. So the industry needs to play its part in the huge puzzle keeping everyone safe to avoid a second wave that could potentially affect that. The industry was faced with a situation no one could have prepared for and as someone on the outside, I believe they have done their best to get racing back behind closed doors, and hopefully this is just the start of better days coming.”

Following on from that, I asked Debbie, does she think having racing behind closed doors has affected the sport, here is what she said on that matter:

“Racing fans are obviously all disappointed that we are being kept away, but there is a much bigger picture as to why this is necessary. I personally feel it is a bit bizarre that people can go to Ikea for example but small crowds – particularly for the benefit owners – are unable to go racing. That’s just my opinion and is in no way criticising the racing industry and how they are handling the resumption of racing. Obviously there has been a significant financial impact to the industry too, so it was important that racing resumed as quickly as possible. Spending a lot of time on social media and being a member of various racing related Facebook groups, it certainly hasn’t dampened anyone’s enthusiasm for the sport as far as I have seen, in fact I think it has done quite the opposite. I look forward to the day when we can all be reunited at the races and enjoy it again.”

I think what Debbie has done is incredible, as I said before, if you haven’t, do check out her social media and website. 

As a blogger I know I struggled to make decent content with no racing, so I spoke with Neil Watson who also writes his own blog as well as others. 

“When racing was cancelled due to Coronavirus I was disappointed at first but like many, this was a purely selfish emotion as like all racing fans it felt like having the one thing you enjoy being taken away from you. But taking a few steps back, you realise it was the correct thing to do in the circumstances at the time. To begin with, a few days after Irish racing was cancelled too, I was actually quite pleased because it did mean I could have a full break from racing as it can be an all consuming sport so I looked upon it as a chance to recharge the batteries and I guess part of me was expecting it to be short but with the death rate going up, I realised that we were in it for the long haul.”

He went on to tell me how he’s been spending his time:

“Like a fair few, I spent my Saturdays and Sundays going for morning walks with my brother – Normally on Saturdays we do our own thing most of the year – So this gave us a chance to spend more time together and it helped as we worked out it was better to do this and be there for each other as we were both in the same boat, he couldn’t see his best mate and I couldn’t go to see any live sport.”

He told me how he feels about the new rules in place and potentially what he can see happening next.

“Of course it’s good to have racing back. It will take time before we are allowed back. Next step will probably be owners then annual members then the general public on a limited number before hopefully a full resumption of racing with crowds. The protocols seem to be working, certainly better than in football from what I can see so far. Royal Ascot at home worked very well and the fact it was 100% pure racing made it even better than the other elements normally shown.”

And finally, he spoke to me about how he thinks racing behind closed doors has affected the sport:

“Going behind closed doors, whilst not our preferred option as we all want to be allowed to go racing, it is still better than nothing and as the old saying goes… “The longest journey starts with a single step.” It can sound odd watching the racing especially as some of the commentators know how to work the crowd and get the energy levels up, but this has to be accepted if we are to resume to normal life.”

Being a blogger is never easy when having to compete with others and come up with original content, but the whole period was particularly hard as there was nothing happening so nothing really to write about, so I for one can relate to Neil in the fact that other things have had to take over as a priority in life, to, I suppose, fill the void of racing.

Another area that, of course, would be impacted by the pandemic is the horse racing trading. I spoke with Matt Gibson who runs Hunting for Profit.

“Being a full time horse racing trader, I often come across situations I can’t influence and this pandemic has been no different. Just like when Equine Flu hit the racing industry last year. I had to remain calm and wait for things to resume when it was safe to do so, therefore this pandemic has been no different really. If you can’t control the situation there is no point wasting energy over the issue. I think this is the right mindset to have not only in trading, but in life as well. Social Media turned into a forum of pandemic experts over night. I get it, people were scared, worried of the unknown, both for their health and others, but also their wealth. I lost my main income streams overnight. Bluntly, no racing meant no income for me.”

Matt went on to tell me how he tried to occupy his time during the lockdown.

“The BHA stopped UK racing and then the Irish racing stopped about a week or so after, once that happened, I decided to enjoy the weather. I enjoyed the first few weeks doing a bit of gardening and drinking cider in the sun. I treated it like a holiday at home. It was a welcome break to be honest because I work very hard when racing is on. I spend a very large part of my day studying races and race cards, writing watch lists for a Betfair horse trading group I run called Hunting for Profits. Also, I trade in-play horse racing and mentor our groups members so I am busy most days. So the break was welcome after a good jumps season that was coming to an end, although we had sadly lost the Aintree and Punchestown meetings.”

Matt explained how he tried to keep his members involved during this time.

After two or three weeks, I started to get very bored so I spent my time putting together some content for the trading group for when racing returned. Write up, of course, from an in-play traders perspective and some other content I am yet to finish, which is in essence, guidance around race research. Like many people, I applied for the NHS Volunteers Scheme, but nothing came of that, so I was still very bored waiting for some sort of light at the end of the tunnel. I was aware there was still racing in other parts of the world but the liquidity in the in-play trading markets on Betfair is extremely poor outside of UK and Irish racing, so they were not a viable option for me.”

Matt went on to explain how the slow return of racing has affected his business.

“Lots of questions will have been asked from all areas of racing. When will it resume? Will things be the same? Will the trading markets be the same? My approach when racing resumed was one of caution. Often it is a quiet period for betting and trading when the racing season transitions from jumps to flat and visa-versa anyway, then factor in the disruption of a pandemic and many potential niggling problems can arise. As it stands, the month has been okay from a trading perspective. What I have noticed is I am still enjoying watching racing as a spectacle the same as I did before lockdown. The lack of a crowd at the races does not really affect watching it on TV. I have watched some football recently and it is odd watching it without spectators, but with racing I don’t really notice it as much on TV.”

Matt told me how he feels about the return of racing in general and the handling of the return from the BHA.

“The BHA seemed to get some unfair criticism before racing resumed. I think they deserve some praise for the way they have dealt with things. They got racing back on the first possible date that the government allowed. Clearly they were proactive in the background. I think racing is lucky compared to other sports with the possibility that social distancing will still be necessary. The cancellation of racing has obviously impacted the flat season as it will the summer jumps season. When losing so many races in the calendar, some horses won’t get to run as many times as they would have done in ideal conditions. My initial concerns were if the virus went on for too long and these were compounded if we then get a second wave of this virus at some point and subsequently racing is cancelled again. Smaller yards in particular could struggle, some owners won’t want to be paying out for training fees when horses are not running.”

Matt rounded up our discussion with his opinions on how the Coronavirus has affected racing in general and his hopes for a safe return to normality.

“Hopefully with the measures the BHA and HRI have put in place, racing can continue safely. Of course, long term racing needs spectators. They put money back into racing, particularly with the levy derived from betting, which will give owners better prize money to aim for. I don’t think there will be many that won’t have been affected by it, from the on-course book makers, to race courses, owners, trainers, jockeys – particularly those at the lower end of the income scale. I just hope that racing will continue in a safe environment and slowly gets back to what it was before lockdown, which was a great spectacle for all to enjoy, work in and watch.”

Matt was very open with me in regards to how he’s been affected and I think, even if you don’t gamble in any way, shape or form, within the sport, it’s important to realise how it’s impacted those who’ve took the gamble to be a full time gambler/trader etc. With no racing, it doesn’t just affect those directly involved in the sport like the trainers, jockeys and courses, it affects a much wider community and I am so grateful Matt came forward to speak to me so I could get a new perspective. Matt’s website is: https://huntingforprofit.co.uk/ if you want to see what he does or you’re interesting in joining his growing team.

And that is the end of part three! I want to thank Johnson, Debbie, Neil and Matt for their time. I hope you enjoyed part three of this project. 

Part 4 will be coming Monday evening at 6pm. Part 4 includes Paddy Aspell & more! You can now also subscribe to my blog so you receive an email whenever I post, if you’d like to do that scroll down on the side bar and you will see a Follow My Blog section, if you enter your email, every time I post you will receive an email so you don’t miss a thing!

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Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association is now LIVE. So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause!