An Interview with Jonjo O’Neill Jr

JonJo

Hi guys!

Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with a brilliant up and coming young jockey, Jonjo O’Neill Jr. Jonjo has rode some incredible horses in some incredible races and he is only just getting started, I was lucky enough to interview Jonjo and really get an insight into to him and his career.

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

Jonjo: Favourite race, I would say has to be the Martin Pipe Conditional Race at Cheltenham last year. It was my first festival winner and you know, you never forget your first.

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

Jonjo: I suppose Kauto Star probably in his prime, he is the best horse in the modern era.

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

Jonjo: Regarding the whip, erm it’s an absolute necessity for a jockey to have a whip. For safety and for encouragement. The whips nowadays are so well padded, they don’t hurt whatsoever, they just make a sound. So yeah, it’s vital for a jockey to carry a whip with them.

Me: JP McManus is obviously a huge name in racing, what is it like riding for him as an owner?

Jonjo: Yes, I feel very lucky to ride for JP, on a relatively regular basis. I have had quite a bit of luck for them in the past couple of seasons and hopefully that can continue. Obviously it’s the most recognised colours in England, Ireland and France probably. He’s great for the sport and got loads of nice horses and it’s great when we have winners for them as they’ve been great supporters of ours and he’s a gentleman.

Me: No pressure, but when I asked Richard Johnson his bet of the season, he said Lostintranslation to win the Betfair Chase, which of course he did, so what is your bet of the season?

Jonjo: Tiger Roll to win the Cross Country Chase would be my bet of the season.

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

Jonjo: Racing is not cruel, you know, it’s been a sport in this country for centuries. The Queen is involved and has loads of horses. So many influential people. It is not a cruel sport. These horses have been bred for hundreds of years to do this sport. You know, you got horses like Tiger Roll winning two Grand Nationals and going for his third Grand National, you can’t say he doesn’t like racing.

Me: Obviously AP McCoy has regularly played a huge part in the Jackdaws team – How important has it been to your career having someone as good as him to idolise and look up to?

Jonjo: Yeah AP is definitely someone I have looked up to when I was a kid watching racing and he was riding for Dad and JP. We are very lucky to be able to ask advice from him and you know, he is very good like that and he is obviously a top class sportsman and you can only learn from him.

Me: What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by your dad?

Jonjo: Best advice would probably be, be good to everyone you meet on the way up because you’ll meet them all again on the way down.

Me: You have rode Native River to win the Denman Chase, my all time favourite horse, how was that for you? How special of a horse is he? What do you think his chances are in the Gold Cup this year? And with a lot of people speculating, do you ever, personally, see him being a National horse?

Jonjo: Yeah, Native River, he was absolutely deadly last weekend. It doesn’t look like he’s lost any sparkle, he won nicely and jumped great. If the ground came up soft in the Gold Cup, he isn’t without a shout, it’s a very open Gold Cup. Whether I think he’d suit a National? He’d definitely suit the National. Whether he goes for it this year or maybe more next year, he looks to be well weighted this year. He got compressed two pounds. You know, it looks like it would suit him down to the ground, but when it’s an open Gold Cup you’d have to chance your arm in the Gold Cup as well.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Jonjo: It would be between the National and the Gold Cup. But I would love to win the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is usually the best horse in the season, it’s the most prestigious race of the season.

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

Jonjo: Erm, Soaring Glory, he’s won two bumpers and will probably go to Aintree. He’s a very nice horse and hopefully he’ll have more of a future over hurdles next season.

Me: You’re still so young and have already achieved some incredible things, what is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Jonjo: Just take every little bit of advice and help from everyone that has experienced the game. You can never stop learning in racing and you know, it’s full of ups and downs. And you just have to stay grounded, because there are some serious highs and some serious lows as well, so I think just literally take every bit of advice from everyone as it can help all the way down the line.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Jonjo for taking time out of his day to allow me to interview him. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to interview Jonjo and I hope you have all enjoyed reading it!

See you all very soon for my next post!

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An Interview with Donnacha O’Brien

Donnacha (1)

Heya guys!

Today’s post is another ridiculously exciting one, an interview with Donnacha O’Brien. Donnacha has only recently retired from the saddle at 21 years old as the Irish Champion Jockey and now he has followed in his father and brother’s footsteps and taken up training. I was lucky enough to grab a few precious moments during Donnach’s very busy morning to interview him, I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: You obviously won some incredible races as a young jockey, what is the big goal now as a trainer? What is one race that you would love to win?

Donnacha: The Epsom Derby is the pinnacle of flat racing, so long term that would be a goal. I don’t want to set any short term goals really as I’m still just figuring things out.

Me: You were riding, arguably, the best you ever had when you decided to retire from the saddle, how hard of a decision was that? What pushed you to finally decide now was the time?

Donnacha: It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but there was never going to be a good time to make that call. I am happy with the decision I made and I am looking forward to next season as a trainer.

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

Donnacha: The whip is a very well designed device that helps get the most out of the horses without hurting them. I know myself from getting hit by other riders in the heat of a finish that it doesn’t hurt. I understand the argument that it’s the perception of it that hurts racing, but I feel we should be concentrating on education people about it, instead of banning it.

Me: Is it difficult to come from such a massive racing family, with the pressure of constantly being compared to your dad or your brother?

Donnacha: Not really. I’m used to it as this stage. I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

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

Donnacha: I got a real buzz out of Kew Gardens at Ascot. I always thought he could beat Stradivarius and to do it the way he did was very exciting.

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

Stop reading things from people that don’t know what they are talking about. Go to a yard during an open day and meet the horses and people that look after them in person and then decide for yourself.

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

Donnacha: It would have to be Frankel. He was the best I’ve seen and possibly the best ever.

Me: You bowed out at the top as the Irish Champion Jockey for two consecutive seasons – Do you have any regrets in your riding career? Or any races you wish you could have won?

Donnacha: Of course there’s plenty I didn’t achieve, but you can’t achieve everything. I was very lucky in my career and I don’t have any regrets.

Me: Your dad and brother are obviously incredible trainers – How much advice have you taken from them? What’s the best advice you have been given?

Donnacha: I have learned everything I know from my family. Dad always says “you can only do your best, so if things don’t go right you have to accept it and move on.”

Me: What is one of your horses that you think we should look out for this season?

Donnacha: Fancy Blue is probably the highest profile horse I have. She is two from two and will hopefully contest some classic trials next year.

Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?

Donnacha: Royal Ascot is a very exciting week for everyone in flat racing. That along with both the Irish and English Derby days.

Me: You’re only 21 and already achieved some incredible things, what is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Donnacha: Try and always be pleasant to people. It’s never an advantage to make someone dislike you regardless of whether you agree with them or not. After that, all you can do is your best.

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I want to firstly say a massive thank you to Donnacha for taking some time out to answer some questions, he truly is a gentleman. Donnacha has some very exciting prospects in his yard and I am sure he will be adding to his yard more and more as he progresses. I really hope you enjoyed this interview and I will see you all in my next post!

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A Stable Visit to Olly Murphy’s Warren Chase + A Full Interview

Olly Murphy

Hey guys!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit Olly Murphy’s Warren Chase Stables, so today’s post is all about our visit with Olly and his team and a full interview with the man himself!

When we first arrived the stable staff were preparing for the fourth lot to go out onto the gallops. Olly explained that they had started a lot earlier yesterday due to the weather so they wanted to get the horses out and back in before things got too bad. So whilst we waited Olly made us all a hot drink and a quick check of the news to see if the racing in Haydock (where Olly had two runners in the 4:25) was still going ahead. One thing I can say is Olly makes a very good cup of tea!

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Going out to watch the horses on the gallops, as always, was a brilliant experience. That’s where you really get to watch the trainer at their best, doing what they love and what they are best at. Olly is a very hands on trainer, even with over 120 horses in training he knows them all by name and knows of any issues or problems they may face with each horse. Overall he’s a brilliant trainer. He may only be young and relatively new to the training game but he knows what he’s doing and you can tell he has great things to come.

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We then got to walk around the yard and see some of Olly’s stable stars and upcoming younger horses, which as always, is my favourite parts of a stable visit. Being able to meet some of these incredible animals who are gorgeous but also ridiculously talented.

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We had to meet the brilliant Brewin’upastorm who is just a real softy. I know a lot of people love this horse, so a quick update from Olly was that he would go straight to the Arkle at Cheltenham and if Richard Johnson is fit, which he hopes to be, then he will be riding him. Here is dad and I having a little chat with him!

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We also got to see some of Olly’s facilities, which are all incredible. You can see these horses are literally treated like royalty.

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After seeing some of Olly’s facilities and horses, I then got the chance to sit down with Olly and interview him.

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Me: We have to start with Itchy Feet, your first Grade One winner, how special was that for you and what are your plans for him now?

Olly: Yeah, no, it was magic. It’s something we’ve dreamt of doing here at Warren Chase ever since we set up. So the plan is to go to Cheltenham on Thursday for the Marsh Chase, which is the old JLT. He’s come out of his run really well and we’re really looking forward to running him again.

Me: And do you think he’s got a chance?

Olly: Yeah I do. He’s nearly head of the market now. I think he’s a horse that’s going to keep on improving and it will only be his third run over fences, so we’re really looking forward to going to Cheltenham.

Me: What’s the best advice you have received from Gordon? You obviously worked with him for a long time.

Olly: I have said this a few times, but it’s keep yourself in the best company and your horses in the worst. It’s a results driven business this and you need to be winning so your horses need to be in the right races. So yeah, keep yourself in the best company and your horses in the worst.

Me: What is the goal for you and the team? The Gold Cup, Grand National, Champion Hurdle – What’s the dream?

Olly: I suppose all of these big races, you want to win them all really. But to put Warren Chase firmly on the map in National Hunt racing, I think we’re well on the way to doing that. In time, I’d love to make this place a fortress and have it at the top of the tree in National Hunt racing, so obviously to keep winning Grade 1’s and big races, but I’d love to be at the top of the tree in National Hunt racing.

Me: If you could train one horse that is currently in training somewhere else, what horse would you choose and why?

Olly: Oh, very good question. Erm, a horse of Nicky Henderson’s called Chantry House. I think he could be very very good. Lovely style of racing and yeah, I think he could be a future champion.

Me: You’re obviously a young trainer, so how supportive are other trainers and helpful with their advice?

Olly: Yeah, some more so than others. Some like up and coming younger lads and some are set in their old ways and would rather probably not see younger lads coming through, but unfortunately that’s sport for you. But yeah, you have certain trainers who have been very good since I kind of started up from Gordon to Alan King who I used to work for, Dan Skelton is kind of friends of ours from down the road. There’s a competitive rivalry between a good few of us but there’s plenty of us that are friends at the end of the day, so yeah some more so than others.

Me: Do you ever get any down time? What do you do when you aren’t here with horses?

Olly: I love playing golf in the summer, I wouldn’t be a big TV man now but I’m an avid Aston Villa fan so obviously we’re only half an hour from Birmingham so I love seeing them play when I can.

Me: You were with Gordon when one of my favourite horses Don Cossack won the Gold Cup, how special was that for you working with such a top class horse?

Olly: Yeah, it was magic. He was the apple of Gordon’s eye from a young age. And it was great to be there and see him go through the ranks and in a Gold Cup. It was probably my biggest days racing aside from coming home and training myself. Being at Cheltenham and seeing him win a Gold Cup, it was magic, the emotion the whole day was second to none and yeah, he’s a horse who unfortunately we probably didn’t get to see the best of either.

Me: No pressure, but when I asked Richard Johnson his bet of the season, he said Lostintranslation to win the Betfair Chase, which he did, so what’s your bet of the Festival?

Olly: Uh, that’s a very very good question. I think at a price Skandiburg in the Pertemps. And a horse which isn’t mine, I think Epatante will win the Champion Hurdle.

Me: What is your best piece of advice for a young person wanting to follow their goals?

Olly: I suppose follow your dreams. Keep going until you achieve your dream. It’s possible. Listen, I got a leg up in the fact I’ve come home to kind of a family run place here. But you still have to work hard and train winners. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to train at a high level and be involved in a professional sport and I’d like to think I’ve reached that and yeah, just never give up.

Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?

Olly: I love Aintree. I love Cheltenham for the fact it’s the four days of our Olympics really for this sport, but Aintree is great for us. We get to get in the car and go away for three days and stay in a hotel and have a bit of fun as well. And it’s a fantastic three days of racing, with some great sights as well.

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

Olly: It’s a load of rubbish. We’re up at 6 o’clock in the morning and with these horse until 5 o’clock at night and they get love, care and attention that no other animal or human being gets in the world. Erm, we love our horses. They are bred to race, but they get more care and attention than I can imagine in the world at present.

Me: Why do you think Irish trainers will send horses over here, but British trainers are not as good at sending horses over to Ireland?

Olly: Very good question. Erm, it’s a thing I’d love to do in time, send more horses over to Ireland, but obviously you’ve got two powerhouses over there in Gordon and Willie and the likes of Joseph and Noel Mead as well. It’s very very hard to win over there and we have two massive Festivals over here in Cheltenham and Aintree and I don’t think people want to go over to Ireland and get beat in their Festivals and have their hearts shattered before Cheltenham in March.

Me: It’s an interesting one to look at.

Olly: It is yes, it’s a very good question. I can see why the Irish Racing Board may think we don’t support their calendar the same as they support ours. But it’s a funny time of year, their Dublin Racing Festival for us to travel horses over there. I’m not sure if we had a festival that time of year whether they’d come over 5 weeks prior to Cheltenham to be honest. But it’s a great idea and they’ve got some great prize money over there and it’s something I’d love to support in time.

Me: Because obviously you worked with Gordon over there, so how different is it over there compared to over here?

Olly: Yeah, it is a lot different, they run things a lot differently. You can see they race in almost any weather conditions when over here we probably would not race. Erm, it’s a lot more of a laid back way of life over there, from day to day jobs to even going racing. I think over here we have a lot more tracks that are up to date and with the times, but look I had a fantastic time over there. There are some tracks you wouldn’t even believe are race tracks but they have a great feel to them and they get very well supported with good runners as well. 

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

Olly: Again, going back to people going on about animal cruelty, these whips are air cushioned, they don’t hurt, they are an encouragement. Some of these horses are colts and they’re big boisterous horses and listen, we don’t hurt horses, we don’t wish to hurt horses, they’re there for an aid, not there to punish.

Me: A lot of the jockey’s I have spoke to have said they would feel unsafe on a horse without having that sort of protection for them, do you agree with that?

Olly: They’re big, heavy things and there’s only so many times that they can be reminded with a whip. I think whip is the wrong word for what they’re using as it doesn’t hurt, they’re air cushioned and they’re there as a reminder, not there for punishment or pain and I don’t think these do-gooders believe in what a whip actually is. As I said earlier, we love and care for these horses like nothing else in the world and a whip isn’t there to hurt a horse.

Me: What is your horse to watch that you train and that someone else trains?

Olly: Good question. I love a horse that I train called Nickolson, I have had a very tough time with him kinda this year training wise, he’s been sick since he ran at Wincanton. He’s actually going to miss Cheltenham. You’re the first person to know that bar his owner. And he’s a horse that is hopefully going to go to Aintree, but yeah he has a massive engine. For a horse that someone else trains, good question. Going back to Nicky Henderson again, I was lucky enough to go and spend a morning with him three weeks ago and I think Shishkin could be very good. He has a very smart bumper horse there in Flinteur Sacre who’s obviously the relationship of Sprinter Sacre and I thought he looked good at Wincanton the other day.

Me: Yeah, he looked impressive since there was a lot of pressure on him because of Sprinter.

Olly: Yeah, big time. You’re usually there to be shot at when you’re in relation to a good horse, but he looked fairly smart didn’t he.

Me: Final question, what is it like training for JP McManus, he’s such a huge name within racing and his colours are obviously known by everyone, how big is that for you as a smaller, just starting out trainer?

Olly: Yeah, it’s massive. They’re colours you want to see on the back of a horse you train, erm so yeah it’s a complete privilege to be a part of their setup. There are an awful lot of trainers and I’m lucky enough to train three horses for them. A couple of smart horses in Collooney and Notre Pari so it’ll be nice to have a winner for them on the big stage and hopefully they will be part of my setup for a long time to come.

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 Honestly, Olly was truly a gentleman and he made it so easy for me being so chatty and informative in his answers, which I thought was brilliant. I want to thank Olly for his time and answering everything I threw at him.

Before we left, I had to go and meet Olly’s incredible first Grade 1 winner, Itchy Feet who had just come off the walker. He is honestly the biggest softy, he just wanted his food, no photos.

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Overall we had a brilliant morning with Olly and his team, everyone we spoke to was lovely and I cannot thank them all enough for their hospitality. Olly is a very local trainer to myself so it was brilliant to visit him and see how he works compared to some others. 

For me, personally, I can see Olly doing incredible things, he knows what he wants and with a brilliant team behind him he can achieve a lot. I wouldn’t be very surprised if Olly was crowned Champion Trainer at some point in the future.

Again, I want to thank Olly for allowing us to have a look around his facilities and meet his horses and watch him work, it truly was an honour.

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I hope you have all enjoyed reading about Olly’s stables and his interview as much as I did writing them.

Thank you for reading!

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An Interview with Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy

Oisin Murphy

Heya guys!

So today’s post is such an exciting one, an interview with Champion Jockey Oisin Murphy. He is only 24 years old and is already travelling all over the world to ride winners and now he is also the Champion Jockey. I am lucky enough to have been able to interview Oisin and I truly hope you enjoy!

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Me: As a flat jockey, what jumps races do you most look forward to watching?

Oisin: I’m a huge national hunt fan and I suppose nothing beats the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup every year. They’re my two favourite spectacles, very hard to separate them. As one is an incredibly fast and entertaining pace and the other race is, I suppose, the gold cup holds a lot of significance.

Me: Did your Uncle, Jim Culloty inspire you to go into racing after winning 3 Gold Cups on Best Mate? Did it ever inspire you to go into jumps racing?

Oisin: Of course, I admired Jim’s success riding, obviously, three Gold Cup wins in a row on Best Mate. At that stage, 2004, I had wanted to be a jump jockey, but it became apparent as I got older that I was never going to be very tall so my allegiance changed a little bit more to following flat racing.

Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?

Oisin: There are many days I look forward to, erm I love watching the Breeders Cup. Possibly in Britain, the QIPCO Champions Day, it isn’t part of a festival, it’s kind of the big day of the year here. The Irish Champions weekend is a very good initiative, Arc Day at Longchamp, Dubai World Cup day. I’ve had Group 1 winners at all of those meetings, so obviously I look forward to them.

Me: What is your favourite track to ride at and why?

Oisin: My favourite track is York, erm with Doncaster being a close second. I love the make up of it, left handed, very flat, the best horse usually wins, great atmosphere, jockeys are well looked after, the Clerk of the course is fantastic, it’s very well managed and I’ve had lots of winners there, so it’s a very happy place.

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

Oisin: These horses receive the best care and attention you can imagine. And, you know, there is no doubt they are very well looked after. If we stop horse racing, what’s going to happen to all of the horses? There wouldn’t be any funding or finance to look after them, we’d probably have to put many of them to sleep, because there would be no reason for them. Remember, thoroughbreds are not riding horses, they’re quite high tempered, so it’s very difficult to say we can rehome every thoroughbred. It would have catastrophic results to the breed. It’s just very simple, if people think racing is cruel, what’s the alternative? These horses get five star treatment.

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

Oisin: Again, very difficult to answer as there has been many. Benbatl winning the Dubai Turf, Roaring Lion in the Juddmont International, Acclaim being my first Group 1 in la Foret, Suave Richard in the Japan Cup. There are many, many highlights, it’s very hard to pick one out if I’m honest.

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

Oisin: I thought Frankel was spectacular and more recently Cracksman and his annihilation of the field in the Champion Stakes at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day was unbelievable. To they eye, his stride length and the closing three furlongs on soft ground was a very very fast time. And I suppose, as a jockey you appreciate things like that. But ultimately Frankel in the 2000 Guineas was just something very special and I think he went on to a similar performance in the Queen Anne later on in his career.

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

Oisin: I don’t normally discuss the whip as I don’t feel the rules need changing in any way. We are very heavily regulated in Britain. We can talk about the whip as much as we like, the media like to create a frenzy when there’s none needed.

Me: Last season you won Champion Jockey, what is your next goal?

Oisin: I’d like to be Champion Jockey again in the future, it will be very difficult as Britain is possibly the most competitive riding environment, that’s proven by the success of our jockey’s abroad. Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori, William Buick, James Doyle, Andrea Atzeni and now the likes of  Tom Marquand, David Egan and Jason Watson. Even at home, Rob Hornby and Kieran Shoemark are doing very well, so it will be difficult but I’ll give it my best go.

Me: With two top jockey’s, Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien retiring from the saddle at such a young age due to their battles with the scales, how do you conquer that yourself?

Oisin: Fortunately, I am much smaller than Donnacha and Joseph. Every jockey, or most, has a small or large battle with the scales, depending on your size. But, you need to make light weight sometimes. I tend to, particularly in Japan because that’s where I do my lightest weights, go to the gym on Friday and then sweat a bit in the bath and then in the sauna, but I break it up in stages, that way I can lose 3kg and still ride at a high level.

Me: The whole racing world was heartbroken over Roaring Lion’s death. Just how special was he to you?

Oisin: Roaring Lion was very special as he was a World Champion 3 year old. He was going to make a big impact in the bloodstock world. He was amazing from the point of view, very laid back, he could switch off very easily, a great constitution, very sound, powerful, unbelievable turn of foot.

Me: The dream for a jump jockey is to win the Grand National, the dream for a flat jockey is to win The Derby. It took AP McCoy years to finally win the Grand National – Hopefully you win The Derby a lot sooner, but how would you personally stay motivated if you were in a similar position to AP with the Derby? Winning every other race but not the one your heart is set on. What would motivate you to keep going to finally reach that dream?

Oisin: Yeah, perhaps, every jump jockey’s goal is to win the Grand National, it only comes around once a year. And being a flat jockey, you can appreciate many of the classics as it takes a world class animal. For me, the Derby and the Arc hold equal weight. I would like to win both, but I’m aware I may never win either, I suppose you just have to keep trying. Your body will tell you at an age when it’s time to stop and one must respect that as well. I don’t intend riding past a time where I can’t ride at a high level.

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I absolutely loved being able to interview Oisin, I think he is a brilliant young ambassador for our sport and also one of the most down to earth people I have spoken to. I want to thank Oisin for taking the time out of his ridiculously busy schedule to answer some questions! I really hope you have enjoyed reading this post, it was an absolute pleasure being able to speak with Oisin and have an insight into his thoughts an opinions surrounding the sport.

Thank you for reading. I will see you all in my next post!

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Retired Racehorses by Charlotte Bullimore

Retired

Hey guys!

Today’s post is brought to you by the lovely Charlotte at Scratch & Reveal. So without further a do, let’s get straight into it.

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Thank you so much for taking the time out to read my blog about my thoughts on protecting the future of retired / retiring racehorses.

As I sit down to start writing, I have just arrived home from visiting an ex-racehorse as part of a voluntary role I carry out for a thoroughbred charity (more on their fantastic work later!) after my ‘day job’. It’s been a long but rewarding day, getting my horsey fix and seeing the good progress the horse has made since I last saw him around 11 months ago.

If you are wondering why I have decided to write about such a subject, it may help if you know a bit about my background…. I’ve ridden horses since being 4 years old and rehomed my first ex-racehorse aged 16. For those who remember the Epsom Dash 2010 winner, Bertoliver, that is him! A popular horse – I had people messaging me across multiple social media platforms asking to meet him and racecourses inviting us to parade days. It was like being a PA for a celebrity! He really was a sweetheart. I also have worked in racing yards and experienced first hand the different needs and requirements of the thoroughbred. Each horse was catered for individually from nutrition to shoeing to how they prefer to travel or graze. I think it’s great that some trainers are fortunate enough to have their horses turned out at grass – it’s great relaxation and socialisation for the horses. Since returning to my office job, I have been extremely fortunate to part own a lovely national hunt mare with Chris Down in Devon who after winning 2 hurdle races for us, retired due to a re-occurring injury and has gone to a lovely home as a broodmare.

Something that makes me so passionate about retired racehorses securing a home for life is the joy and pleasure they give us. My best memories are either at the races or enjoying a relaxed morning watching our horse cantering on the gallops.

The amount of negative or upsetting news out there is very upsetting – for every success story, it feels like there is a sad one to follow. I often see the ‘popular’ or ‘legendary’ horses that retire from racing often end up with their own social media page and fans can follow their re-training journey which is lovely. But the average racehorse who maybe won a 0-60 handicap almost seems to disappear once their journey starts, or end up making headlines for the wrong reasons.

Due to the large numbers of racehorses retiring (I have shared 4 posts today alone), many are offered for free or for a very small price. The experienced horse owners know the effort and time required to rehabilitate and retrain such an athlete, however it’s only too common that an ex-racehorse gets into the wrong hands. As they are cheap, they are seen as a project or a good buy to sell on in 6 months or so and that is when the future of the individual horse can be placed at risk. Don’t get me wrong, some ex-racehorses can be an absolute dream to retrain, whereas others are challenging and require a lot of time and TLC (plus expensive feed, bespoke shoes and unlimited hay and vets bills!!) Thankfully, many trainers keep the horses on their own yard and meet the potential new owners and only agree to sell with a non-racing agreement. However I know of cases personally whereby trainers have a relationship with a local ‘dealer’ who ships the retiring horses off there to find a new home in good faith that the new owners will be vetted.

Every time a horse changes hands, we are reliant on the new owner updating the passport with Weatherbys which often does not happen. Just like that, the horse is now untraceable. How can we guarantee this horse will get the retirement he/she deserves?

There are many charities and organisations that rehabilitate and re-home ex racehorses however some of these are purely reliant on donations and the longevity of these wonderful places also needs future proofing. Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) and the BHA also contribute to the re-homing and re-training of ex racehorses however further steps are needed in the right direction.

The charity who I volunteer for as a ‘Welfare Officer’ is called The British Thoroughbred Retraining Centre – https://britishtrc.co.uk/. On arrival at the centre, the horses are assessed for any injuries or quirks and begin a programme of rehabilitation. Horses are only placed up for loan when they are fully sound and able to go to a riding home. All potential loaners are invited to the centre in Lancaster whereby they ride the schoolmaster to assess their riding skills. If suitable, they are then required to ride their potential equine partner a couple of times to ensure they are a good match. Once the horse is in his/her new home, a Welfare Officer attends at least once per year to assess the quality of stabling, grazing, tack, vaccinations, shoeing and body condition of the horse. I have the pleasure of being a Welfare Officer and look after horses in Sheffield, Derbyshire & Peak District, Lincolnshire and Humberside. It is a role I thoroughly enjoy and I am proud to be a small cog in the very well oiled machine that future proofs the lives of our lovely thoroughbreds. If only BTRC was 100 x bigger and could help many more horses…

A big thank you to anyone reading this who take the time out of your hectic schedules to advertise and personally rehome your retiring ex-racehorses. And for those who do it differently, please consider using a reputable charity and paying the small fee to guarantee the horse a retirement he/she deserves.

Charlotte x

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I thoroughly enjoyed reading Charlotte’s piece and I hope you did too. I will see you all in my next post Sunday at 11am which will be an interview with Oisin Murphy!

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A Stable Visit to Fergal O’Brien’s Ravenswell Farm + A Full Interview

Fergal O'Brien

Hi guys!

Welcome to a brand new post, this weekend I was lucky enough to be able to visit Fergal O’Brien at his brand new facilities at Ravenswell Farm very near to Cheltenham, so today’s post is going to be all about the morning we spent with Fergal and his team and a full interview with the man himself!

When we arrived we met with Simon, who we then stayed with for the rest of the morning, we then watched Ask A Honey Bee being washed down and put into the horsebox ready to go racing at Wetherby (where he later won). He was a really cool and calm character and it was lovely to see the team preparing a horse for the race, which is something behind the scenes that you never really get to see.

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Simon then took us over to Fergal’s control tower to meet Fergal who explained a little bit about his new facilities to us. He currently has 70 acres of land, with a 4 furlong hill gallop and a plot where they are hoping to build a 3 furlong circle sand gallop once the ground isn’t as wet and they can actually dig it out. In August 2019 Fergal moved 10 horses to the new facilities and from then on, every time a horse raced they were moved back to the new place rather than going back to the old yard. Fergal only moved in fully in October 2019, which I found phenomenal. It was an incredible set up and the fact he had only been fully moved in for 3 months blew my mind. He currently has enough space for 70 horses with a further 10 still being built, plus living accommodation for the staff, Fergal’s office and an Owners room, which are being built above the 10 stables still being built.

Fergal took us out onto the gallops to watch the first lot of horses. Sal, Fergal’s partner, was with us and named all of the horses as they cantered past. (Fergal wasn’t so good at the naming of the horses). Fergal has some really great prospects. The last horse in the photos below is an unraced 4 year old by Kayf Tara nicknamed ‘Betty’ who looks like she’s going to be some horse. Great stamina, great speed and Sal said she is really impressed by what she has seen so far.

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After watching the first lot we went back down to the stables to have a warm drink and meet some of the stable stars. Similar to other visits I have been on, the horses were all so calm and loving. There were a few grumpy horses who liked to have a bit of a bite, but the majority were so calm and happy for people to fuss them and cuddle them. You can really tell how well looked after these animals are.

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We then went back up to the gallops to watch the second lot before returning back to the stables where we got to enjoy some cake. Is it really a visit to Fergal O’Brien’s yard without eating cake?

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I was then lucky enough to have 10 minutes with Fergal to interview him before he shot off to Sandown where he had two runners. I asked him a bunch of questions, some from myself and some from my followers who had sent them in.

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Me: With Cheltenham less than 6 weeks away what is your best chance? And what is your bet of the Festival? Any trainer, any horse.

Fergal: Envoi Allen would be my bet of the Festival, he looks very impressive, he’s unbeaten and has won at the Festival already so he’s got that experience. And our best chance… crickey that’s a difficult one. I suppose, you know, maybe Champagne Well. Erm, if he goes in one of the handicaps, I think he would struggle to win one of the novices so, I suppose Champagne Well.

Me: If you could train one horse from another stable at present, what horse would you choose?

Fergal: Ooo, a very difficult one again. Erm, crickey. I think Henderson’s horse that won last week… Was it Santini? You know, I think he… I love the way he travelled through the race, erm Twiston-Davies’ horse is a real good yard second, you know he kept coming back at it and he put it to bed very easily and it never looked in doubt to be fair.

Me: How supportive are other trainers with their experiences and advice?

Fergal: Oh, they’re pretty supportive. You know, you find these things out really when you’re going through a bad time, but they are, they’re pretty good. All trainers, you know this is a sport, it’s like football, you go up and down a little bit, so yeah, there are people you get on better with than others but yeah, on the whole we all want to see each other getting on okay, as long as they’re not doing too well.

Me: Why do you always seem to excel when you go to Cheltenham?

Fergal: Erm, I don’t know really. I think the track suits our horses, erm you know, some people put it down to the lack distance we have to travel, it’s literally down the road, it’s 7 miles from the yard here. The horses do run well here, it’s a good up hill finish and as you can see we train on a hill, so I think there isn’t one factor, there’s probably a number of little factors. Yeah, we just love going to Cheltenham.

Me: What is the end goal? Cheltenham Gold up, Grand National, Champion hurdle. What is the dream for you and the team?

Fergal: The dream is to stay solvent to be honest and not go bust. It’s a very difficult game this is, they’re all lovely dreams to have, a Grand National, you know, we’ve had a fourth in the Grand National with Alvarado, I haven’t had a Gold Cup runner yet or a Champion Hurdle runner yet, so I haven’t had them. But erm… It’s never really the dream, it’s what you hope they come along one day, but the dream is, you know, that I’ve got something to hand over to my children really, you know. That’s the main thing, is that there’s something here in twenty years time and if one of my girls want to do really. And just to make them proud of me and to have a business that’s viable and that people get a lot of fun. You can see this morning we’ve had plenty of owners here and that’s what I love, I love people coming and enjoying it and getting the most out of it. It’s an expensive hobby, whatever way you try and dress it up. You go on about prize money or whatever, it’s an expensive hobby. It is, for jumps racing especially, it’s people’s hobbies and it’s important you give people a nice time. You see this morning, there’s lots of nice ordinary people here, who have just got ordinary jobs, not all millionaires, but they own bits of horses and they get a lot of fun out of it and that’s what I enjoy. So, yeah, the end goal… It would be lovely to win any of those races, so I couldn’t pick one of those. But the end goal, the dream is that we are successful and we can keep going.

Me: Now it’s time for the nitty gritty, the serious stuff people really want to know the answers to. Lemon Drizzle or Carrot Cake?

Fergal: Definitely not carrot cake. You shouldn’t even put carrot and cake in the same sentence, it’s wrong in itself. I love lemon drizzle, one of my old owners, Jim Collett used to bring one from the WI every week when I was training the pointers, so yeah, lemon drizzle. Victoria sponge is my favourite, but definitely lemon drizzle over carrot cake, for sure.

Me: Who is the real brains behind the Twitter account?

Fergal: Oh, Doctor Simon Gilson who you met this morning. I would love to take the credit for it but he’s just so sharp. The picture of the couple proposing on Cleeve Hill last week just sums our sense of humour up, I thought it was hilarious but I wouldn’t be quick enough to think of it. Erm, it was obviously a person proposing to his girlfriend to get married and he turned that into it was some bloke trying to be for four days at the festival. So, you know, we got such great feedback from that, it was fantastic, but that’s because he’s just such a sharp man.

Me: Are you going to do another pub crawl?

Fergal: Again, that’s down to… I’m actually a teetotaler so I’ve never drank. I’ve probably been drunk four times in my life, I’ve never drank. So, again that was another great success, I think on the Friday they had about 22-25 people in the end and did about 7 or 8 pubs, so that was brilliant. 

Me: Do you prefer a button up or a zip up cardigan?

Fergal: Oo, definitely a button. It’s not a cardigan, it’s a jumper if there’s a zip. I don’t know what it is but it’s definitely not a cardigan.

Me: Is a Jaffa Cake a cake or a biscuit?

Fergal: I’m very lucky, in one of my owners was involved in this when it went to Parliament for VAT or whatever and it is a cake. 100%.

Me: You’ve got two at Sandown today, one at Wetherby, what’s your best chance?

Fergal: I think Ask Dillon has a good chance, especially each way at an each way price. I also like Ask A Honey Bee, he’s going for a third bumper which is a hard thing to do. There isn’t many horses can win three bumpers. He’s got a double penalty, but he’s got a very good lad on there Liam Harrison who takes 7 off who won on him last time, so he knows the horse, so fingers crossed.

I can now clarify, Fergal was correct with his predictions, Ask Dillon came second at 7/1 and Ask A Honey Bee won at 11/10F, so he definitely knows his horses! 

I think overall, we had an amazing morning with Fergal and his team. I want to thank Simon in particular who was lovely, very knowledgeable and made us feel super welcome the whole time. Fergal is such a down to earth, honest person who was open to speak to anyone and answer any questions, so for that I want to say thank you to Fergal and the whole team. I also think it was lovely to hear Fergal say his only goal is to make his children proud and to leave them something in 20 years if they want to go into it. Most trainers want the fame and glory, but Fergal wants to enjoy what he’s doing and leave something for his children and if the success comes then that is just a bonus and I personally loved that about him.

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I really hope you enjoyed this post and I will see you all soon for my next!

Thank you for reading.

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A Horse Racing Question & Answer – Answering YOUR questions!

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Hiya!

Welcome to this weekends post, it is a slightly different post, but one I felt I should do, I get asked so many questions about racing and my love for the sport so I thought I would get them all answered in one post. Throughout this week I have placed a question box on multiple Instagram stories for you to throw your questions at me and I had so many more than I imagined. So I am going to jump straight into it and get answering every single one of them! Some were similar questions to others so they will be answered within one question if that makes sense! So lets go!

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1) How did you get into horse racing?

This is probably my MOST asked question EVER. My dad has always watched racing, so from a very young age I watched it with him. One of my earliest memories in my life is when I was around 5/6 years old and we were at Stratford racecourse in the centre of the course, AP McCoy had had a fall around the back, so was walking back around and I shouted “look mom it’s AP” because at that point he was one of the only people I actually knew in racing. And as he always has been, he was a complete gentleman, who came straight over to us and took photos and signed my dad’s programme and I guess growing up I stuck with the sport and now I absolutely love it.

2) What horses do you have shares in?

So as everybody knows by now, I have shares in Pentland Hills trained by Nicky Henderson. I also have Sabrina trained by Paul Nicholls, Paris Dixie trained by Nicky Henderson, Gylo trained by Dan Skelton, Gilka trained by Dan Skelton and Cable Guy trained by Charlie Fellowes.

3) Do you still think Pentland Hills can win the Champion Hurdle after Haydock?

Personally I say we can’t rule him out, with more pace – which the CH should have – I think he would be perfectly fine and certainly come close. I’m not saying he’s a record breaking horse, but he is still very very young, only 5 years old, if it doesn’t happen for him this year he has plenty of time to achieve great things. He has already done incredibly well, so he owes us nothing at all.

4) True opinions of the Owners Group?

For me, there are many many aspects I don’t like about Owners Group, these I have voiced to the management of Owners Group and are being investigated so I won’t comment any further. But for £40-£60 a year and a taste of being an ‘owner’ I can’t complain. It’s more for the passion of the sport rather than trying to make money etc. 

5) Are you planning on visiting any smaller yards?

This is literally a question I am asked so much. And the simple answer is yes, I have a few smaller, lesser known yards planned for this year. If anyone has any yards in particular they would love me to cover then drop me a message and I will try my best to arrange those!

6) Do you get paid for the content you create?

The simple answer is no, I don’t. I have worked in social media and blogging for a long while so some posts I have across Instagram & Twitter are occasionally sponsored/paid/ads/gifted, all of which I always hashtag due to new laws, but as far as blog content is concerned I don’t get paid for it, it is simply a passion!

7) Flat or jumps?

To put it simply, jumps. I have always preferred jumps racing, I don’t really know why, that’s just my preference. I do still enjoy flat racing, I just very much prefer jumps!

8) Opinions on Little Rory Mac?

I have spoken out about this situation a million and one times over on Twitter, he’s now gone to new owners and a new trainer so I guess we will see what happens. I dislike the owner, I think his attitude is disgusting and I think the BHA need to do more to stop him from essentially bragging on social media with a photo of a handbrake etc, that is all I am saying on the matter, I am sure most of you have seen my opinions loud and clear on Twitter.

9) Are you going to Cheltenham?

I am. I will be there on the Tuesday and Friday this year, my personal favourite two days!

10) Who is your favourite horse past or present?

Okay, so personally I have 2 favourite horses ever, one is Native River, the other is Faugheen. Each for their own reason, they’re just the two horses I truly adore with my whole heart.

11) Best stable visit you have had so far?

Honestly, I don’t have a favourite. I have thoroughly enjoyed each visit I have had, they have all been so welcoming and I’ve loved every single one. Every yard is ran slightly differently so I have loved every one of them and learning how different they all are.

12) What other plans do you have for your blog this year? Interviews? Yard visits?

I actually have so much planned. More stable visits, more interviews, more guest posts, honestly some amazing content. Keep your eyes peeled is all I can say!

13) How long have you liked racing?

I went racing with my parents from a very very young age, I only really started to understand it and get into it properly from around 15/16 years old though.

14) What is your goal for 2020?

Within racing/blogging my goal is to continue doing what I love, to continue introducing new people into the sport I love and just enjoying what I do. I think if you enjoy what you do then it’s all worth it in the end.

15) Do you have a bucket list? Dubai World Cup? Breeders Cup?

Of course! What horse racing fan doesn’t? The two I have always wanted to see are the Melbourne Cup and Breeders Cup!

16) Cheltenham Festival – Who wins the Supreme, Ballymore and Triumph?

I think it’s still so early to be able to tell, trainers have so many options for their horses so for me I can’t call it this early, however personal views… Triumph – Allmankind is a very impressive horse, 3 from 3 so far, Dan (Skelton) has said he’ll now be rested until the Festival, I think he’s a class horse, definitely in with a shout. Ballymore – Envoi Allen is just a class horse, I don’t see anything beating him. Supreme – I like the look of Andy Dufresne, I think Gordon will avoid Envoi Allen personally so 100% a strong contender for the Supreme if entered.

17) What race are you most excited for at the Cheltenham Festival this year?

Ooo, interesting question, I think for me this year it has to be the Champion Hurdle. Normally it’s typical Buveur d’Air to win, but this year with him out, it is so wide open. I can’t call it, so many talented horses potentially to run, I think it’ll definitely be an exciting race to watch!

18) Opinions on a 5 day Festival?

Erm, I don’t see the point really. I mean 4 days is sufficient, I feel as though they will dilute the rest of the week just to add another day. Quality over quantity springs to mind. Personally think it’s just a money making idea.

19) Who is your favourite trainer and jockey?

Interesting question, for me my favourite jockey is probably between Richard Johnson – Just a brilliant ambassador for the sport and probably Sam Twiston-Davies who was one of the first jockey’s I really started to follow when I was getting into racing. I don’t particularly have a favourite trainer, there’s a few I follow and like but I wouldn’t say I have a favourite.

20) Opinions on bloggers interviewing people on race days?

Personally I don’t see an issue with it, if the jockey/trainer/owner is happy to be interviewed then what’s the issue? It’s the 21st century, the sport needs to get with it and realise that blogging and social media is absolutely massive right now and only getting bigger, so surely they should be encouraging younger people to blog and post on social media to get the sport reaching a new and younger generation.

21) Favourite racecourse you have been to?

I loved York. I think it is just a gorgeous place, definitely one of my favourites so far.

22) Thoughts on Bryony Frost?

I think she’s incredible. She is doing incredible and she’s a brilliant ambassador for the sport.

23) Would you like to do blogging as a full time job?

I mean, what blogger wouldn’t? It would be a dream to do something I love as a full time job, maybe one day!

24) Favourite horse you have met so far on your visits?

There is only one answer to this question and of course that is Native River. If you know me you’ll know that Native River is and always has been one of my favourite horses, so to finally meet him and have a cuddle was a dream.

25) Are you going to visit any Irish yards?

I hope so! Keep your eyes peeled.

26) Honest (not biased) opinion, is Pentland Hills as good as he was last year?

Erm, it’s a tough one. I think last year he surprised a lot of people, even those who had brought shares, he just sort of came out of nowhere. I think he’s had two decent runs, first run maybe disappointing, second run to be pipped on the line is heartbreaking. I think he’s looking good, I just don’t think we can compare him to last year because he’s gone up to a whole new level. He’s only five years old, so we need to see how things go I suppose.

27) Tip of the Festival?

Surely after yesterday’s performance it has to be Paisley Park? Ridiculously talented horse, think he’s incredible honestly.

28) Do you think Pentland Hills wins the Champion Hurdle?

I mean it would be nice, but the Champion Hurdle is wide open this year so anyone could win it really.

29) Who do you go with to the racing/tours?

I go with my Mom and Dad, nothing better than spending time with the two most important people in my life doing something we all love and enjoy!

30) What are your plans for your YouTube channel?

I am planning to do a lot of Vlog style videos visiting stables/races etc. I have so many videos from stable visits that never get posted anywhere so I would love to put them into Vlog style videos!

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So there we have it, the top 30 questions I have been asked this week about racing. I hope it gives you a bit more of an insight into me and why I love racing. I have some super exciting posts the next couple weeks so keep your eyes peeled.

See you all in my next post!

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