Visiting Michael Scudamore’s Eccleswall Court

Michael Scudamore

Hey guys!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Michael Scudamore’s gorgeous Eccleswall Court in Herefordshire, so today’s post is all about that visit and some real insights from Michael into various racing issues, such as bookmakers sponsoring jockeys and trainers, the whip and the Little Rory Mac scandal.

Firstly, we arrived at Eccleswall Court and can I just say how gorgeous it is, there is such a lovely view from the top of the hill, it is in the Hereford countryside and it is truly incredible up there.

Michael and his team only moved to Eccleswall in 2003 and at the time it was literally just a farm, so he has had to put a lot of work into making it what it is today. Michael currently has 40 horses in training, including 8 new horses that arrived this week from another yard.

Michael firstly took us down to the walkers and wash down area, he currently has 2 walkers. Every horse does a 20 minute warm up on one walker, then goes onto the gallops. Firstly the circle sand gallop which Michael only recently got installed at Eccleswall, they do 4 laps right handed, 4 laps left handed. They then do a sprint up the hill gallop before going back to the wash area, being washed off, having their blankets put on and then put onto the second walker and doing a 20 minute cool down.

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We were lucky enough to go up to the gallops and watch the horses on the sand gallop and the hill gallop. His horses all have incredible stamina and all of the work riders give top feedback to Michael each time they come around near him. For example one rider told him he could hear his horse had thick wind. Little bits of information which are vital to ensuring the horses get the best possible treatment and training they may need.

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One thing I can say, nothing against any of the other stables/trainers I have visited, but Michael is definitely the most hands on trainer I have been to visit. Always involved in every step of the morning set up which I thought was very very nice to see. He doesn’t just put his name to the yard, he is hands on every single day. For example, when a horse didn’t want to know on the gallops and the stable lass was having a bit of trouble, Michael ran straight down to get the horse going and didn’t bat an eyelid in doing so. A small gesture, but something I had never seen in any other visit I had been on.

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One of Michael’s new horses we did see was Fame and Glory, who looks as though he is gonna be a complete beast on the course. Good stamina, good speed and the stable lass was really impressed riding him for the first time.

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Michael then took us up to the stable blocks where we got to meet all of his horses. One thing I can say, is every single horse was calm and affectionate, with one even sticking it’s head and neck out even further as we got closer to him to make sure we didn’t miss him out.

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After seeing all parts of the yard, we were then invited into his house to have breakfast and a sit down chat where he answered all of our questions like a true gentleman. 

One thing Michael did talk about and was very honest about was his opinion on bookmakers sponsoring jockeys and trainers. His viewpoint is that our sport is very much about betting whether we like it or not, and he believes that a bookmaker should not be able to sponsor a jockey or trainer as they get a massive insight into the people they are sponsoring and that may mean the sport isn’t as transparent as it should be with the racing public. He also told us he believes the BHA jumped the gun with the Altior situation this past week. He believes that if the BHA don’t trust Nicky to make a decision for the horses best interest then they shouldn’t have given him a license in the first place.

Another thing Michael touched on was the BHA not being as consistent as they maybe should be. He believes there needs to be a panel of the same people each week who get together and discuss the previous week and anything that may need looking into in regards to enquiries etc. With the whole Dan Skelton, New Years Day situation this week, he said that some stewards see it one way, others see it another, so there is no consistency. Whereas if a panel of the same people made every decision per week then there would be more consistency. Which is something I totally agree on. Horse racing can very much be down to an individuals viewpoint of how or why something happened. If it were the same people then surely we would get more consistent results each time something happened? Obviously on a race day we have different stewards, but if one group of people were to look over everything each week then that would be better for our sport? Following on from that, he also believes the sport needs to be more open and transparent to the general public. For example, horses being weighed before a race and being declared to the public, like many other countries already do. Which again, another interesting point he has made. If a horse has weighed 470 all season but then weighs 500 going into a race then you know the horse is unfit. The trainers are being more transparent to the general public and it would certainly stop trainers sending horses out just for a racecourse gallop.

Another very important point he made is that before the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National Festival horses are made to trot before BHA stewards/vets etc to make sure they are fit to race. Michael believes that this should be the case at every meeting or none at all. “What’s the difference between sending a lame horse to Cheltenham or down the road to Chepstow? It should be consistent regardless of where or what meeting.” To me, that makes total sense, why have this set in place at certain meetings, but not others?

Another subject I found interesting, was the fact he believes that if a jockey uses the whip more than permitted they should be disqualified as this is essentially cheating. He said if a horse comes second is only whipped 8 times but the winner is whipped 10 times, did those 2 extra disallowed whips win the race for that horse? He also said he doesn’t believe the whip should be banned as 99% of jockeys stick to the rules and only flick the whip to make a noise to prick the horses up. I thought it’s interesting to note, Michael’s is the first yard I have been to where the stable riders don’t ride with a whip in hand. Every other yard I have visited they all have a whip in hand, even if they never use them. Michael said, this was as he didn’t believe there was a need for a whip as most of the horses love their work and don’t need encouraging. The only time he allows his staff to take a whip out is when the horse is new in from their holiday and may be a little lazy getting back into work.

One thing, of course I had to ask him was about Monbeg Dude and how he came about working with Mike Tindall, James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson. He said that they were at the Cheltenahm sales and after some, (many drinks), that day Mike put his hand up for a horse, showing off, but he thought someone else would outbid him. Turns out, nobody outbid him and he was stuck with a horse he didn’t really want. Zara was apparently totally fuming and said he either sold the horse or got someone else to buy into it, that’s how it came about. Michael, James and Nicky all took to the horse and in the end, it wasn’t a bad decision was it? A ridiculously talented horse at a bargain price of £12,000 as the previous owners were brothers and both thought the other had set a reserve, it turns out neither had so they got the horse so cheap, it was pretty unbelievable.

Michael also commented on wind ops, he believes they definitely work but, in his opinion, you only see it really showing in the 2nd or 3rd run when the horse is more used to breathing easily.

Michael also commented that he believes Richard Johnson will win champion jockey this year. He believes he deserves more credit for what he has achieved over the years and the work he has done for the sport as well as always making time for everybody and being a gentleman even on his bad days.

Overall, Michael was a lovely bloke, his staff were all lovely and yesterday was just incredible. A very knowledgeable group of people and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of our visit. I think it was definitely nice to see a smaller yard in action. Every yard I have visited has worked slightly different. Others I have been to are bigger than Michael’s so I found it very interesting to visit a smaller yard and really see how similar but different things are. All in all, I cannot thank Michael and his team enough for a lovely morning with them.

I really hope you enjoyed this post, I have plenty of new things coming over the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled.

Thank you for reading.

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A VIP Stable Visit to Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat

Paul Nicholls 2

Hey guys!

Welcome to my first post of 2020! First things first, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year! Secondly, I have some INCREDIBLE posts coming this year, today is just the beginning! Onto today’s post; I was lucky enough to be invited to Champion Trainer, now OBE Paul Nicholls’ yard twice last year, so I thought I would finally write up my post all about the visits I was lucky enough to go on. As I went on two tours, this is an overview of both visits, mixed into one.

I want to start by saying Geoff Derham is an absolute gentleman, he was so lovely and welcoming and made us feel so at home when showing us around the yard.

We started in the main yard where he took us into the silks room where we got to see all of the colours for their owners, which was amazing to be looking at some of the colours I had grown up watching on TV and to see just how many owners Paul actually trains for! He then also showed us all of the horse shoes, he showed us the difference between a regular shoe that the horses wear around the yard and working and then the shoes that they wear when racing. He also told us that the shoes are normally changed a day or maybe two before the horse races so they can get used to the change before race day. Then, of course we got to see all of the top names, including Cyrname, and Clan Des Obeaux, of course two of the biggest names in racing right now. Then we also got to meet a horse I absolutely adore, Frodon. Geoff told us Frodon isn’t always the nicest of horses to be around, constantly kicking at the door, having a bit of a nip at people’s jackets, as you can see from my face below I was not impressed! But I still adore him, I have followed him for a long time so it was an honour to finally get to meet him.

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Whilst there, we spoke to Bryony Frost and Harry Cobden who were both riding out, as they do most days for Paul. Which for me, was great to see, two top jockeys blending in with all of the stable staff, mucking in and doing everything they could. It is very rare in sport that the ‘top dog’ are amongst those lower down, but if you wasn’t a racing fan and had no idea who Bryony or Harry were then you would never have assumed they were out riding grade ones and competing in top races, they literally just blended in with the team.

We then went with Geoff to the first of Paul’s two gallops, a flat gallop where assistant trainer Harry Derham was keeping a close eye on the horses. Harry is an incredible assistant trainer and one day he will definitely be a top trainer. He knew every horse by name as they went past, knew every staff member by name as they went past and knew exactly what each horse needed and what the future plans were for each horse. Which as you can imagine is bloody incredible when they have so many horses in training! 

After seeing the second lot on the flat gallops we went up to the hill gallops and watched the third lot. One thing is for sure Paul’s horses have impeccable stamina, the hill was super steep, super tall but each and every one of them went up, around, down and back up again 3 times and all looked incredible.  

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For me, it was interesting to see both ways in which Paul trains his horses. Depending on what each horse needs, depends on what he does with them. They regularly take it in turns daily to go on the flat gallops or the hill gallops, of course if Paul feels a horse lacks stamina, their main route is hill gallops, but that’s totally down to Paul, Harry and Clifford.

After watching all of Paul’s horses work we were then taken to Paul’s smaller yard based at his home, the Highbridge yard where he keeps up to 43 horses I believe. On the day, we were told by Geoff that there were a few horses being kept up there that Paul wasn’t quite happy with, niggles here and there so they were being kept quiet and doing little bits of work. Here are some photos of both days, with a range of horses for you all:

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Visiting Paul’s yard both times was incredible, we got to meet some incredible stable stars and see a real insight into the work a Champion Trainer does. I always love seeing the behind the scenes, for example, Paul has the highest rated chaser in the country, so being able to watch how the team got him to that point and the work they ALL put in to ensure the horses are at their best is incredible. You get the feeling it is a real team effort, everybody helping each other, putting the horses first and just creating a really special environment to be in.

Overall, I had an incredible few days with Paul and the team. Again, I cannot thank Geoff enough for making us feel so welcome and being so warm toward us. However I do want to say thank you to the whole team in general, from the first person we spoke to, to the last person we spoke to, each person was completely lovely and made us feel welcome, answered any questions, spoke to us with enthusiasm and was totally honest about each horse we had seen.

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What I also find interesting, is with each yard I visit, the trainers have a totally different way of training their horses, but each different way works for them and brings them success, so for me it is super exciting to visit each yard and see what different things they bring to the table when training their horses.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading all about my two visits to Ditcheat. I have another 4 CONFIRMED stable visits during January and February as well as an interview with a head girl of a top stable, so be sure to subscribe to receive an email when I upload those posts.

Thank you so much for reading, I will see you all in my next post!

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VIP Stable Visit to Colin Tizzard’s Venn Farm

Colin Tizzard

Hi guys!

So if you follow me on social media, you will know just how excited I was about my day yesterday. Being able to visit Colin Tizzard’s yard and seeing my favourite ever horse Native River! We had the best experience and the team were all incredible. If you know me you will know how much I love horse racing and how much I love Native River, so yesterday was honestly just an incredible day that I will never forget.

When we arrived, we were met by Joe Tizzard, Colin’s son and assistant trainer, he briefly showed us around the stable, including meeting Native River for the first time, which was a dream. 

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We then went out onto the gallops to watch some of the horses work. Again, seeing Joe at work with the team was an honour to watch, he knew every horse by name, every member of staff by name, it was a lovely thing to see.

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We then was lucky enough to go into Joe’s office and watch him enter and declare horses for the next few days/weeks, including him declaring Lostintranslation for tomorrow Betfair Chase. Joe was very open with us and answered every question we had and showed us the behind the scenes that we don’t ever get to see. The hard, tedious work of finding races, putting horses into races and making sure all of the deadlines are met to enter and declare the horses. 

We then went back out to the gallops, where I had the absolute pleasure of watching my favourite every horse Native River working! He looked in great shape and Joe was very happy with him, it was truly an honour to watch a horse I have followed for years actually at work. We also seen Thistlecrack, who again, was in great shape and looked incredible.

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We spoke to so many members of staff, one in particular who was riding out on Native River, said he sometimes takes it for granted being able to work with such incredible athletes because he does it every single day and it isn’t until he sees people visit and sees how excited they get to meet these incredible stable stars that they really appreciate the job that they get to do every single day. Again, the staff were all lovely, everybody spoke and made us feel welcome and answered any questions we had.

Once back to the yard, Joe took us to meet an incredible horse who won on Wednesday The Big Breakaway, he took us into his stable and showed us just how soft a horse can be, cuddling up to everyone and just being really relaxed and chilled out. Which was so lovely to see.

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After we had our bacon rolls and a cuppa, we were then able to go around and meet more of the stable stars, which of course we took full advantage of!

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We then met the lovely Lostintranslation, who may I add, is the most calm, loving, gentle horse I have ever met. He was also the biggest poser you could ever imagine. But with a big race coming up, I loved being able to meet him before he becomes one of the most famous horses in the country.

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I then got the biggest honour ever, I got to walk Native River home to his stable and put his blanket and coat on. Which may seem like such a small gesture from the team, but to me it was an absolute dream. 

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Colin Tizzard is an incredible trainer along with his whole team, they all work so hard, they are literally non-stop all morning and they deserve every piece of credit they get. I want to say a massive thank you to Joe for his incredible hospitality and being so lovely and welcoming and giving us one of the most incredible days. 

One thing I can say, is if you get the opportunity to go to a stable visit, to any of the yards, then 100% take it, each stable visit I go to is completely different, but one thing that is the exact same in each yard is the love they have for these animals and how much they care and look after them. It’s an incredible setting and everybody involved in the sport are all lovely.

I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes of Venn Farm!

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An Updated Interview With Champion Jockey Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Hi guys!

So yesterday, whilst at Wincanton, I was lucky enough to do an updated interview with the Champion Jockey Richard Johnson. So without further ado, we will get straight into it!

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Me: Last time I interviewed you, you tipped Native River as your best chance at Cheltenham and you went on to win the Gold Cup with him, what is your top tip for 2020’s Cheltenham Festival?

Richard: Oh my gosh, erm, I suppose Thyme Hill I won on at Cheltenham the other day, you know, he’s just a really nice horse, he’s won two hurdle races already, they have both been grade 2’s so he’s already shown a very good level of form. And I don’t really know which race he will run in at Cheltenham yet but I know the plan will be to try and go there in March. So fingers crossed.

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

Richard: Look, I think, obviously the whip has been spoken about since I started riding, I think personally, the whip is in a really really good place at the moment. Obviously I think the rules we have over here are very fair for jockeys and the jockeys over here use the whip in a very good way. And I think that horse welfare is very important but I don’t feel like the horses are under threat at all and at the moment, again the whip rules are in a very good place and obviously it’s worth reviewing it all the time but I think in the world of horse racing we are at the front of the whip management. 

Me: How did you get involved in riding for Gordon Elliott over here?

Richard: I have ridden for Gordon for a long time, but I actually rode his first ever winner he trained and that was at Perth, I think that’s why he loves Perth so much, that was an awful long time ago, But he’s a great connection and when he brings horses over, particularly in the summer, I tend to ride a lot of them. So he’s a great man to ride for and a great trainer.

Me: As you are one of the leading jockey’s at Chepstow, what is the secret? Because when we visited there, we couldn’t pick a winner.

Richard: I think Chepstow is a track where you need the right horse, that’s the main thing. It’s always good competitive racing there, but it is a stiff track and you need a horse that stays. This year especially we have had all the rain, so you do need a horse that handles all of that, a proper winter national hunt horse rather than an ex flat horse who needs decent ground. It’s just having the right horses that’s the important thing and I am lucky that quite a lot of Mr Hobbs’ horses suit the track, again, he’s a great trainer, you know, he knows the right horses to ride there and that’s why he has a great strike rate there as well.

Me: Are you keeping AP’s record in sight? Do you see yourself equalling it or beating it?

Richard: Erm, well it is definitely in sight, I know where it is. But I think it’s a long long way away at the moment, my next ambition I suppose is to try and get to 4000 winners which you know, I have to ride a lot more to get to there, so it is one step at a time. But it’s always something people talk about, but for me I take every season as it comes.

Me: We are visiting Philip Hobbs’ stable soon, what is the secret behind the long running relationship you have with him and his team?

Richard: Look they’re a fantastic team to ride for, very professional. Philip is an absolute gentleman as well, he takes the rough with the smooth. Obviously everybody is a great winner but he is very level headed and takes the good and the bad all the same. We have been together and had a very good partnership and we understand each other quite well.

Me: With AP and Ruby now retired, we are seeing a generation of jockey’s slowly phasing out, what younger, upcoming jockey’s do you see becoming a future Champion Jockey?

Richard: Gosh, there’s an awful lot. Obviously there are the likes of Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman, Harry Skelton, you know that sort of brigade coming through sort of after me I suppose. And then you’ve got your James and Sean Bowen, Richard Patrick and a whole heap of, young Jonjo O’Neill now is doing really well as well and I’ve only named a few there and there is a awful lot of talent about out there and I’m just trying to stay one step ahead of them and hopefully they don’t push me out of the door too soon.

Me: There are some incredible women jockey’s at the minute, do you ever see a woman becoming Champion Jockey?

Richard: I can’t see why not. Like you say, I think Lizzie Kelly and obviously Bridget Andrews, they’re probably the two and obviously Rachael Blackmore in Ireland, obviously she came very close to being Champion Jockey in Ireland last year. Looks, it’s all, whether you’re male or female riding a horse, it’s the same for us all and the most important thing is riding the right horses. I am very lucky to consistently get lovely horses to ride and again, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, so I can’t see any reason why at some point that wouldn’t happen.

Me: With the Betfair Chase on Saturday, who do you tip to win and do you see a horse winning the Million Pound Triple?

Richard: Well look, obviously Kauto Star did it and you need to be a fantastic horse to win the Gold Cup and the King George, you know, in their own rights, those two races are very hard and different tests of a horse’s speed at Kempton and the stamina at Cheltenham. So you need a very very talented horse, there’s no reason why another horse can’t do it again. There’s only four there on Saturday now, Lostintranslation looks to have the world ahead of him and he’s the horse for me, that if he went on and won on Saturday, he’s the one, not saying he is definitely going to do it, but he’s the one looking open to the improvement to go in that direction.

Me: Finally, what do you think of Altior in the King George?

Richard: Again, a lot of good two milers have won a King George and stepped up in trip to do that. So there’s no reason that he shouldn’t. But again, we shall see him run on Saturday and I assume if he wins the King George will be his next run. But for me he’s one of the best horses I’ve seen, you aren’t unbeaten over fences for no reason, so he’s a fantastic horse and it’s always lovely to see him running.

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So there we have it! Some very interesting answers there from Richard. It was a pleasure interviewing him, as always he was a gentleman! So we have a top tip looking forward to Cheltenham and Richard’s pick for the Betfair Chase tomorrow! 

Thank you so much for reading.

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Visiting Jackdaws Castle – Home of Jonjo O’Neill Racing

Jackdaws Castle

Hi Guys!

Welcome back to my page, as you can see from the title today’s post is all about our incredible trip to Jackdaws Castle.

Today my family and I were lucky enough to be invited down to Jackdaws Castle, the home of Jonjo O’Neill Racing and I honestly was just in awe the whole time. 

If you know me, you know how obsessed with horse racing I am, I have loved the sport from a very young age so being able to visit one of the, arguably, most state of the art facilities within racing was just an incredible experience.

Firstly I would like to thank the whole team at Jackdaws for making us feel so welcome, feeding us, giving us lots of tea and champagne. It was incredible from the moment we turned up at the gate and got buzzed in. Everybody we met was lovely and welcoming and literally everybody spoke to us whether they were busy or not.

When we went into Jackdaws we had a good look around their stables, 120 of them to be precise. We got to meet some of their incredible stable stars and some of their staff who were getting some of the horses ready to get to work.

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We were also taken into their schooling area, their walkers and their pool and spa area, which was all just something I had never seen before. These animals are literally treated like royalty, everything they could ever wish for is right there next to their stables. I couldn’t fault any member of staff I came across, they all had their horses as their top priority. Once a horse was out of the pool you could see the staff rushing around to make sure the horse was washed with warm water, dried off and settled with a blanket on before they took them back to their stables, they honestly couldn’t do enough for the horse and it was incredible to watch them at work. 

A fact I found rather interesting whilst in this area, is a horse is weighed before leaving for a race and then again after and if he/she has only lost 1kg then they know it didn’t try in the race as they should at least lose a couple KG.

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We also had the honour of watching the 2nd out of 4 lots go out onto the gallops, seeing Jonjo at work with his team was truly spectacular, he knows so much about his horses and his style of training is something I have never seen before. It is very bespoke and each horse is trained in a way to suit them. For instance some horses who don’t settle well in a group were out on their own on a separate gallop to the group. It was something very different to what I had seen in other yards. Some of the guys also had walkie talkies so Jonjo could always communicate with them if he wanted certain things to happen.

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We had a lovely tour from Edward Gillespie, who now works closely with Jonjo, who used to be the Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, so as you can imagine he had some very very interesting stories to tell us about his 30+ years managing one of, if not the biggest racecourse in the UK. It was incredible to get such an insight from somebody who has seen almost everything that can happen in horse racing and had the job of organising, in my opinion, the biggest racing festival in the world. It was also incredible to hear how he witnessed the sport and that course in particular grow. He said there were only 14 people in the office when he started, but when he retired in 2012 there were over 40. Which to me still is quite a small number. So after speaking with him, I have the upmost respect for the workers who do an incredible job of running the racecourses around the world. To us we just see the race days and how incredible it is, but behind the scenes it takes a lot of hard work to organise everything and everyone in the right place at the right time.

We also had an incredible talk with Jacqui O’Neill, Jonjo’s wife who is honestly an incredible woman. She was busy continuously, rushing around making sure everything was okay and we had drinks and food and had seen everything. She is also an extremely knowledgeable woman when it comes to horses, racing and training.

We of course, had the opportunity to talk to Jonjo who filled us in on his plans for a couple of the stable stars. He was lovely and had all the time in the world to talk to us, no question was too far, nothing was too much for him. He is an incredible trainer and a lovely bloke who has deserved all of the success he has had and I am sure will continue to have. Below are some of the successes Jonjo has had as a trainer, which is just incredible.

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  Also a massive thank you to Joe O’Neill, Jonjo’s nephew, who was lovely and welcoming and always on hand for any questions or help.

Overall, we had a fantastic day, from start to finish I cannot fault any of it. What I can say is if you get the opportunity to visit a stable facility like Jackdaws Castle then 100% take it, it is just an incredible experience. We love horse racing, but a race day is only a very small part of the life of a race horse and being able to go and see a day in the life of these horses, trainers, jockeys and stable staff is something I recommend any horse racing fan sees.

What I also want to touch on is the people who say that horse racing is ‘animal cruelty’ as I hear it day in, day out as a racing fan. It 100% is definitely not. These horses are treated like royalty, they are looked after so well it is honestly ridiculous. They love their job, as soon as their stable girl/lad goes to them to get them ready to go out they are up and ready to go and some that we seen today love it so much they don’t like going back towards their stable as they know their work is done. These horses are 3/4/5 times the size of the people riding them, if they didn’t want to run, jump, swim or do anything like that then they definitely wouldn’t let a 10 stone woman/man force them to.

Thank you for reading today’s post. I have a few more VIP stable tours coming up very soon so I will be posting more about the behind the scenes of horse racing very very soon!

I will see you all in my next post. Don’t forget to subscribe so you get an email when I post!

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Worcester Races + EXCLUSIVE Interview with Richard Johnson

worcester

Hey guys!

So this is probably my most anticipated post EVER. So many people who knew about my interview with Richard Johnson have been super excited to be able to read it, especially a very very EXCLUSIVE never before discussed Cheltenham Festival tip, which will be hidden somewhere in this post so make sure you read all the way through! 

So onto the post… I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people at Worcester Racecourse to a day of racing to experience their track and to interview a jockey or trainer of my choice. I chose one of the most successful jockeys of our time and the current Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, so that interview will be all included in this post. The aim of this collaboration is to show people, especially younger people that horse racing is not animal cruelty like most people think, in fact, these horses are some of the best treated animals I have ever seen. The people who care for them have true love and adoration for their animal and they treat them like royalty. 

Firstly I would like to thank Worcester especially Katherine who arranged for this to happen, I am super grateful for the opportunity to work with them as a company. The racecourse in itself is probably one of my favourite courses that I have been to. It is quite an open course so from the stands you can see 99% of the course, some courses I have been to the most part is behind trees etc and you don’t see much apart from the home straight, so I loved the fact it was so open and you could see the majority of the course. I attended Worcester twice within a few days, once invited and then I decided to go again on my own accord and I love it as a course overall. 

For me, I have always loved horse racing, it is something my parents, especially my dad, watched a lot whilst I was growing up and I took a real interest in it at around 16/17 years old, at 18 I began working for a bookmakers, which made me even more interested in horse racing as I was around it all day, every day and since then I have fallen in love with attending different courses, seeing different horses, meeting different jockeys and trainers and it really is something I enjoy doing.

Over the two days I was lucky enough to meet a few different people, including Jonjo O’Neil and Nicky Henderson, two world class trainers as well as Chris Hughes from Love Island who was part of the Jonjo O’Neil team and someone I never imagined I would meet as he very very rarely rides outside or Ireland, Barry Geraghty which was truly an honour as a massive horse racing fan.

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And of course I met the incredible Richard Johnson who I had the privilege of interviewing. So here is the part you have all been waiting for. I sound recorded the interview, so here it is written word for word how it went down. Including the very exclusive Cheltenham tip so do not miss that part!

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

Richard: Definitely not. To be honest anyone that thinks that they should always come and actually see what the horses do on a daily basis. They are literally cared for 24 hours a day, you know in great accommodation, their stables are fantastic, they literally have first class treatment you know, they get fed 3 or 4 times a day and they are cared for and the girls and lads that look after the horses, they’re like their pets basically. They don’t own them obviously, but they look after them as if they’re their own. And they have a fantastic life and they enjoy racing, no way in the world me as a jockey could make one of these horse jump one of these fences today you, know. I can’t physically make them go over, you know they have to enjoy it. Yes, unfortunately there are injuries along the way and that’s sad for everybody, but erm you know. The horses do enjoy it and I rode ponies when I was young because I enjoyed it and we all get enjoyment out of it and hopefully the public that come racing regularly, that’s what they see and enjoy.

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

Richard: Oh god, it’s hard. I’m very spoilt because obviously I get to ride lots of nice horses as well. But I think the Cheltenham Festival is four days rather than one day but the Cheltenham Festival it’s a big build up throughout the whole season. That’s like our Olympics or World Championship I suppose, each year. The Irish come over in their droves to come to the races and the horses, it’s a massive outing, the Irish horses come over to run and yeah the four days at Cheltenham, obviously I’m from Hereford, not far from Cheltenham and I’ve lived around there for a long time so the atmosphere there is fantastic and anyone that, Worcester is obviously a great track for the Summer, but Cheltenham, if you want to go and get the atmosphere of a big race day there’s no better place.

Me: Do you miss AP (McCoy)? And if you, what’s the biggest thing that you miss about him?

Richard: I miss him. I miss him in the weighing room because he was a great friend obviously and I rode with him for over twenty years, so erm yeah we were great friends and I miss him as a great friend in the weighing room. I don’t miss him on the race course, in the fact he used to beat me regularly. But again, he was great to ride with because he was a great jockey and you know, it helped me try to chase him and made me more hungry and hungry to try and ride more winners and try to beat him and you know we had a great sort of competitiveness between us and erm again, we were also great friends and we had ups and downs and you know we both had good and bad days so you know it was always nice to have a friend in the weighing room to talk to as well.

Me: Looking ahead to the new National Hunt Season horses, what do you think will be your best ride at Cheltenham?

Richard: Oh gosh, again, very hard, like we just said Cheltenham is a long long way away but even now people are still talking about it. Erm, I would love to think Native River could come back in the Gold Cup and go two spots better than he did last year. He was 3rd in the race last year and ran really really well. Erm you know, this season we will be geared for him to be running in the Gold Cup again so I suppose he’s my big hope. I think for me, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is, I’ve been very lucky to win it once before a long time ago in 2000 but if I could win in any race that would be the one I would like to win.

Me: Do you every get nervous before or during a race?

Richard: Erm, I think I always get a little bit nervous before a race, I think you, you want the horse to perform to it’s best level it can, erm you’re always thinking about the race and trying to work out what you want to do and you’ve always got a plan, plans don’t always go exactly how you want, but again that’s sort of you know, you’re always, you just want things to go right and as soon as you jump off in the race, your focus is on what’s going on and I think a little bit of nerves is probably a good thing. If you’re not nervous at all then you’re a bit over confident and sometimes, yeah it’s never good to be over confident.

Me: During your time as a jockey, what has changed in regards to social media being introduced and younger fans?

Richard: Erm, massively. You know obviously even you know, with two racing channels now on TV and social media whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or all the other things, you’re sort of out in public light I suppose and you know you’ll have good days where obviously you’ll get lots of lovely messages and good praise and then obviously you have bad days where things don’t go right and you know you get the other side of it. And it is sad, you’ll read things about yourself and think everybody out there is doing their best and you know, mistakes can happen and do happen and that’s a part of life really. Sometimes stuff that is put on some of the social media isn’t very pleasant and it would be lovely to think there is a way of stopping it but that’s life and I think we’ve all seen good and bad social media but on the whole social media is brilliant, it gives everyone a chance to have an opinion and hopefully everyone’s got the common sense behind what they say as well.

Me: What’s your most memorable race, win or lose?

Richard: Erm, again, erm, I suppose, erm.. two really. Rooster Booster winning the Champion Hurdle, again, a few years ago now erm, he literally, I was a passenger. I went around on his back and he travelled really well, he jumped fantastic and he flew up the hill at Cheltenham. And honestly, I can’t believe, even to this day, how easily he won. Erm, it was just, yeah, a dream ride for me and I suppose finishing second in the Grand National on Balthazar King, he was just an amazing horse for use for a long time and I must admit going to the last, I thought I was going to win and from the last to the winning post we just couldn’t get past the one in front and he gave two hundred percent and you know there was no disappointment, it was just you know sad for him not to win, but again I had an amazing ride on him and I suppose, yeah, that’s the one, I finished second but it was still an amazing ride.

Me: Does it still play on your mind that you haven’t won the (Grand) National yet?

Richard: Erm, it’s obviously a race I would like to win. Erm, I mean again, I’ve been second in it twice and sometimes when you finish second it’s almost worse than finishing third because you think well if this and if that and erm, the Grand National is one of those races I think you’ve got to take what you’re given really because you never really know what’s out there with forty horses running in the race. Erm, I’ve had lots of good rides in it and again we’ve gone close twice and it’s a race I would like to win before we finish.

Me: We go to the Gold Cup and Grand National next year for the first time so no pressure.

Richard: If I win both the Gold Cup and Grand National next year, if that’s the case you’ll have to come to every Gold Cup and Grand National after that.

I just want to take a moment to thank Richard for being one of the loveliest people, this was my first time interviewing someone so I am so grateful he was so lovely, patient and kind when with us. He was also super honest and so easy to get a long with whilst asking him questions and having a chat.

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For me, you’ve heard it from the current champion jockey just how in love and well looked after the horses are. He said that the horse is 5 times the size of a jockey so they wouldn’t be able to force it to do something it just didn’t want to do, so clearly the horses enjoy it or they wouldn’t be there doing it. Did you all pick up the cheeky Cheltenham tip too? Native River is currently being rode out and geared up for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and himself and the team think he has a better chance this year. So definitely a horse to keep your eye on as he is already in training for the big race!

I am so happy and grateful I had this opportunity and really can’t thank Worcester, Katherine and Richard enough for everything. Worcester have one last race day this year so check out their website here if you’d like to attend that, something I definitely recommend: http://www.worcester-racecourse.co.uk/

I personally love horse racing, the atmosphere is great and in person you really do see how well looked after the horses are and I would recommend it to anyone. If you’re a student, Katherine did inform me that they have started doing a student race day at Worcester, normally held in May, so definitely keep your eye out for that because it is such an interesting sport and a great day out for families, friends, couples, everybody can enjoy it.

I really hope the wait for this post was worth it, I hope you enjoy my very first ever interview and I hope you keep your eyes peeled for Richard Johnson’s tip. I will see you all in my next post!

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