A Stable Visit to Racefield Stables + A Full Interview with Phil and Grace Mcentee

Mcentee's

Heya guys!

So this weekend I went down to Newmarket where I spent the morning with Phil Mcentee and his family at their Racefield Stables, I can honestly say it was one of my favourite mornings. Even though we were in the middle of a storm, it was an amazing morning and the whole family are just lovely.

When we arrived Phil explained to us that there are only four members of staff and he is one of them. It is a small operation with currently 19 horses in training. Phil has been at Racefield Stables for 10 years now and it is a lovely set up that he has. Shortly after arriving Bernie’s Boy was getting ready to leave for the first at Lingfield, where we now know he finished second with Grace on board, which is another brilliant win for the whole family.

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One thing I noticed about Phil’s yard is it is very much a family occasion, the whole family are involved in one way or another and I think that is so special, as each winner is a huge family victory.

We then went up onto the famous Newmarket gallops to watch a couple of horses exercising. Phil explained on a day like today they will do an hour on the walker then a run up the gallops for around 4 furlong and then back into their stable for some food and rest.

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Of course, we also got to go around Phil’s yard and meet all of his horses, which is always brilliant.

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The one thing I did notice during the tour around his horses is how passionate Phil is for every horse he owns. You can see he loves them and they clearly love him too.

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One thing many people don’t see is the hard work that goes into getting a horse to the racetrack and what I absolutely loved about the visit was seeing how hands on Phil is with his horses. Some trainers aren’t as hands on with their horses, but Phil told us he makes up 25% of his workforce so therefore he has no choice but to be hands on, but he also said he loves his job so he doesn’t mind doing the, not so glamorous, things.

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After a lovely cup of tea, I was then able to sit down with Phil and Grace and interview them. Here is what they had to say…

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Me: What is the best advice you have received from another trainer or another jockey?

Phil: For me, I would say… I think Olly Murphy quoted this one, it’s the old one we’ve all been told. Keep yourself in the best company and your horses in the worst. But, no listen, as long as your horses are healthy that’s the most important thing. Work hard and as I say, place them properly.

Grace: I’d probably just say patience is key really, you’ve gotta be patient. It doesn’t just come straight away, you’ve got to work hard at it. But when it does pay off it’s worth the wait.

Me: This question we have already spoke about briefly, but where do you stand with people that say the whip should be banned?

Phil: Erm, yeah, I mean I’d be anti banning the whip absolutely. The problem is, the perception is probably, people that don’t really truly understand the thoroughbred or the horse at all are the ones that want the whip banned. In the long term, the whip has got to remain a part of racing, it’s there as a corrector. My view on going forward, what’s the best way to get rid of the whole whip debate, I personally think you should disqualify the horse if the jockey goes over and I think that very soon you’ll see a huge change in what happens with jockey’s that go over using the whip.

Grace: I think if you ask most jockey’s in the weighing room every single one of them would say they don’t want to go out there without a whip, because it is there as a guidance to the horse, it’s not necessarily used to tell them off, it is just a guidance, so if you’ve got one hanging, you can correct them. And I don’t think it really should get banned as it doesn’t even hurt them, it’s cushioned and I don’t think a lot of people realise that.

Me: If you could pick one horse that you haven’t had any involvement in from the past or present, what horse would you choose?

Phil: For me, jumping, it’s a horse I was involved in, I worked for David Elsworth from 86 to 89 and Desert Orchid, I got to ride him out. The head lad at the time used to ride him a lot, well all of the time, but on the odd Sunday when he wasn’t around I got to sit on him a couple of times. He was really keen and there was just one canter he used to go up and, without blowing my own trumpet here, but obviously Elsworth obviously thought I was good enough and had good hands. When I was an apprentice, I used to ride Desert Orchid very occasionally. So for me, the time I was at Elsworth’s Desert Orchid was in his prime and that was brilliant. And on the flat, I’ve got to say standing in the Grand Stand at Newmarket when Frankel went 8 clear in the Guineas, that was something I’ll never forget. So for me, Frankel and Dessie.

Grace: Yeah, obviously I’d have to choose Frankel. I think he’d be most people’s favourite just because of, no other horse being like him. So I’d have to say Frankel.

Me: What racecourse do you love to go to? What is your favourite?

Phil: I’ve got to say, erm, Cheltenham is just around the corner, so to go as a spectacle, four days at Cheltenham, every horse in every race trying for it’s life, the absolute best in all the disciplines is right up there. And I was very fortunate, I was a rubbish jump jockey for a couple years and I got to ride a winner at Cheltenham, So the feeling of jumping the last and coming up that hill at Cheltenham is second to none, so for me I’d say Cheltenham.

Grace: I’d probably say Ascot, my favourite day’s racing their is Champion’s Day and I just think the track itself an the atmosphere, I’d say it’s my favourite track.

Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose? What sticks in your head the most?

Phil: I’m going to say when Emily Goldfinch…

Grace: I was going to say we’ll both say the same.

Phil: Again, it’s all personal with us, you know, every horse I train… I’ve got some brilliant loyal owners and every winner we’ve trained for them has been really good. Grace rode a winner at the Rowley Mile, last year, two years ago?

Grace: A year ago, yeah last year.

Phil: On Emily Goldfinch, owned by her sister, in her colours, trained by me, Grace’s first ever winner of the Rowley Mile. And my first as I’d had winners at the July course but not the Rowley Mile. So, yeah that was a special day.

Grace: Yeah that would be mine. It’s kind of, I think that was possibly my third winner for Dad and obviously my sister owning it, at our local track, it was just the highlight of my career so far.

Me: If you could choose one horse, who is in training with someone else, to ride or train, what horse would you choose?

Phil: The problem is you all want to train the superstars don’t you? On the flat, Enable, what she’s done, Breeders Cup, Arc’s, you know, she’s been an unbelievable filly. And we get to see her every morning on Newmarket Heath too as well. That’s the glory of this game, especially training here at Newmarket, I’ll be sat waiting for the horses to come up and all of a sudden Enable comes past you and Stradivarius. At the moment the horses in Newmarket are brilliant, so on the flat Enable. Over the jumps, gosh there’s been so many good ones over the years, but Native River – horses like that the longevity you get out of horses like that, with jumps horses, we don’t really have that so much over the flat so yeah I’d say because she’s in Newmarket and I see her every day Enable would do me, a trip to the Arc and the Breeders Cup.

Grace: I knew we was going to have the same answer to a lot of these. Just for the same reasons, we will ride past her in the mornings and she’s just one of the best there is. I’d love to ride Enable but the chances of that happening are very very low.

Phil: We see them and get close to these horses even though they’re not yours.

Grace: Yeah, they’re almost famous in their own rights.

Me: With people like Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien retiring from the saddle due to struggling with their weight, how difficult is that for you to keep your weight to a healthy weight? Have you found that difficult or quite easy?

Grace: To begin with my weight was quite good and I could more or less eat whatever I wanted. But as I have got older I have got slightly heavier, erm so like Monday just gone I went to speak to a diet nutritionist, so there are plenty of people out there who can help you out and keep your weight but doing it in the right way. Obviously a lot of jockey’s sweat and it’s not the best thing for you, so trying to sort out a diet, it’s more kind of trying to maintain that weight.

Phil: Yeah you have to be disciplined in doing it. But ultimately of course the sacrifices have to be made. Grace is lucky that I can know a week or two in advance if there’s going to be a light one pop up and also she realises now, it helps that she’s just lost her seven pound claimer, but with 48 hour declarations, you might get a call up and have to lose a couple of pounds.

Grace: I’d say that in a jockey’s life, that’s what is the most stress for them. Every single day that’s all you’re worried about, jumping on the scales and checking your weight and doing it the right way. It’s part of the job and you know going into it it’s something you’re going to have to deal with but it’s worth it when you have the winners.

Phil: With Donnacha and Joseph, they were riding classic winners, so it’s slightly easier going to Southwell on a Tuesday, but they all have to make their sacrafices.

Me: Obviously here you have a small team, but you can see just how loved every single horse is, what would you say to someone who thinks horse racing is animal cruelty? For me, you can see how much they are loved by everyone here, but a lot of people still have those comments to make.

Phil: Yeah, I mean, the problem is they’re making a judgement call on 60 seconds or 90 seconds they see on a Saturday where they think the horses are being abused. They are looked after like…

Grace: They’re literally pets at ours. We don’t see them as just horses, we see them as our pets. Like we have bonds with every single one of them and we would be absolutely devastated if anything happened to any one of them or they had to get sold.

Phil: I think it’s the treatment they get, they get fed three times a day, they have duvet rugs on, they get groomed, they get lovely bedding, they get nice feed, they get the best of everything these horses. They have the best of everything. There are a lot of humans around the world in a lot worse condition than these horses are, trust me. They are so well looked after and loved by the people who look after them and ride them, the people that own them. As I say genetically over hundreds of years these guys have been bred to race and that’s what they’re here to do. And as we said, the whip now is cushioned and people have no idea the concept of what goes on behind the scenes.

Me: Obviously every jockey and every trainer has a dream, what is the big dream for you? What’s the one race you’d just love to win?

Phil: Erm, listen, the reality is I’m probably never going to have a classic horse or a Gold Cup horse, trainers are only as good as their owners budgets really. But this year we’ve got a filly we got from Book 1, a little yearling and we’ve never had a Book 1 yearling before, by Golden Horn and I’ve acquired her and I own her myself so erm, she’s a bit of an ugly duckling at the moment, but the dream, who knows? With her pedigree, her grandmother was a champion, her dad was a champion, so this year the dream is could she go and do something spectacular? It would be brilliant if she could. And as I own her and Grace to be on her, if she’s any good and could be good enough to run in a group race with Grace to ride her. I won’t set the goals too high but to have a group winner with Grace riding it, anywhere is my dream right now.

Grace: Yeah, I would love that dream. But realistically for me now I just want to ride as many winners as I can. There’s no specific grades…

Phil: Well if you can win the Hands and Heels series today.

Grace: Yeah and possibly the All Weather Championship for apprentices. My main goal is just to ride my claim out really and have a safe career and just enjoy it and get what I can out of it.

Me: So obviously you rode out your 7 pound claimer this week and Phil told us earlier he got very emotional about it, how special is that for the both of you to share that relationship by riding out your claim on one of your dad’s horses and obviously seeing your daughter succeed like she is on one of your horses and being able to succeed together?

Phil: Yeah, for me, two or three years ago when Grace got her amateur license she was going to college and she wasn’t going to be a jockey.

Grace: Yeah, it was a dream from when I was a young kid but as I got older I wanted to do eventing and I wasn’t as interested in racing as I once was when I was younger. But then I started working for dad and I fell in love with it again.

Phil: Yeah, exactly. To be able to share this with Grace and as you’ve seen my daughter has just gone off racing and my other daughter and we’re all off going there today. So yeah, it’s really good. It’s given it an extra buzz every day coming in the yard. We’ve got horses here that are winning and the yard is in good form and to know potentially you can have a winner or two and to have Grace riding them is brilliant.

Me: And Grace your dad told us earlier you’ve grown up around a lot of successful women, Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle, how inspirational is that for you as you’re coming through the ranks, being able to work with such successful female jockey’s?

Grace: Yeah, they’ve just proven it can be done. Josie was champion apprentice, Hollie has won over hundred winners so they’ve proven that is can be done so it gives you hope and faith that you can follow in their footsteps as it has been done before. There is people out there who do believe in girls and want to use girls so yeah, it’s just good really to have them as a guide to follow.

Me: And what would be your horse to watch for the season?

Grace: I think Split Down South when he gets on the turf, I think he can improve even more from what he has done on the all weather. I think he’s one to look at on the turf and see how he goes.

Phil: Yeah, with him, the grey horse race at Newmarket is definitely on his radar, it’s on ITV, it’s a Saturday race and there’s good prize money on offer. I think when he goes in a straight line on the turf he’ll be nice as well. I think, as I mentioned earlier, the Golden Horn filly, she’s an unnamed two year old at the moment, she’s the one, the golden ticket. Because as you’ve seen, we are a very small team, there’s not a lot of funds floating around the yard at any stage, so I managed to acquire her and I own her myself and with her pedigree if she wins a maiden or does any good she might be worth a bit of money, so who knows? We might get to go on holiday. 

Me: And my final question, what would be your one piece of advice for a young person with a dream or passion they want to follow whether that be within racing or outside of racing?

Grace: I’d say just give it time. Things don’t happen over night, just stay at it, keep trying and just be patient. That’s all I can say.

Phil: Yeah, never give up on your dream, whatever you want to do in life. Speaking in the horse industry, there are so many avenues to get into it and when you are in it, it is so rewarding and so many highs and lows and the every day stuff, it’s a brilliant industry to be in. But ultimately as a youngster, you have to work hard and never give up on your dreams.

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I want to say a massive thank you to Phil, firstly for allowing us to visit his gorgeous set up and a massive thank you to Phil, Grace and the whole team for a brilliant morning. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit, it was incredible to see such a small team compared to others I have visited, but they care so much about these animals and I love to see that. For me I think Phil is an incredible trainer and the passion he has for the sport you can see a mile away. Grace is a ridiculously talented rider and in my personal opinion I would love to see more trainers give her the opportunity to ride in the bigger races because she could give any male jockey a run for their money and I hope more trainers do take notice of how well she is doing and give her those opportunities.

Overall we had an incredible morning and as discussed with Phil, we will hopefully be working together again in the future which will be very exciting.

Thank you for reading, I thoroughly hope you have enjoyed reading!

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An Interview with David Mullins

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Hiya guys!

Cheltenham week is almost upon us and I am very excited for the best week of the year to start! But first things first, today I am super excited to bring to you an interview the brilliantly talented David Mullins! So without further ado, let’s get straight into it!

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Me: Some jockeys go years, or even their whole career without winning the Grand National, how special was it to you to win it at just 19 years old on Rule The World? That must have been such a special day for you and your family.

David: It was a great day and weekend but it was something I didn’t want to rest on and let it be the only thing I’ve done as a jockey, as it has happened to others.

Me: You’ve obviously rode Kemboy very early in his career and won the Savills Chase on him in 2018. The past two runs for him, we would assume, haven’t went as Willie would have liked, how is he working back home? Do you think he will come back stronger for the Gold Cup?

David: I think he will. He’s came forward from his run at Christmas and I think he’ll improve again for this, leaving him in top shape for Cheltenham. Whether he’s good enough or not for the Gold Cup over 3 mile, 2 furlong is something we’ll have to wait and see for… the beauty of racing!

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

David: Thyeste days in Gowran Park, my local track. And it literally stops country Kilkenny, you’ll meet every racing fan there.

Me: Growing up around your Uncle Willie’s yard, how important has it been to your career to have someone as good as Ruby Walsh to idolise and look up to, as you have grown into a jockey yourself?

David: Ruby is a great asset to everyone that rode or rides horses. If you’ve sat in the same weighing room as him and haven’t taken a leaf from his book, you’re probably not the smartest jockey.

Me: Do you feel there is any pressure on you, growing up in such a racing family with your cousins and Uncle being such big names within the sport?

David: I feel there probably should be, but no there’s not. Gordon Elliot got me going in bumpers and as a conditional, Gigginstown used me plenty, along with others.

Me: You have already won some incredible races in your career, what is the next goal for you?

David: Cheltenham winner! Wouldn’t class myself as a successful jockey if I didn’t have one Cheltenham winner. I imagine it’s the same for flat jockey’s at Royal Ascot.

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

David: I’d have loved to have been associated with Dawn Run. A lot of people talk about her special times. Hurricane Fly as well because you just couldn’t put him on the floor.

Me: In Willie’s yard there is you, Patrick, Danny and Paul, all for of you are top jockeys, what is the competition like to be on the top horses in the top races? Is there a lot of banter between you to keep each other going? Do you all share the advice and knowledge you all have with each other?

David: Yes, Paul is obviously first and the rest kind of get split up, but there is not much point in trying to figure out what’s happening, Willie is going to do what he feels best anyway. We all share any information, it is a team effort.

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

David: I don’t agree with it at all. I believe it to be a persuader, but I think the authorities have let the situation get out of control and I’m afraid it doesn’t look good for it in the future. It’s a backwards step in jockeys safety. I’d feel naked on a horse without one.

Me: You have rode some incredible horses so far in your career, including Min and of course, the legend that is Faugheen. You can tell Rich Ricci loves his horses, how is it riding for him as an owner?

David: Rich is very passionate and gathers a following for all of his horses. It’s great to be a part of it. Very simple to ride for, he leaves it to Willie and his jockey’s.

Me: Following on from that, Faugheen is obviously one of the most loved horses in the sport, just how special is he? What’s it like riding a horse that just has a heart of gold and won’t quit?

David: He’s a legend. I haven’t rode better than Faugheen. Just oozes class! He’s a proper national hunt winter horse

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

David: I don’t know anybody in the sport that thinks it’s cruel. People that look as it as cruel, don’t know the sport.

Me: I have to ask you, your Uncle is obviously the legendary trainer Willie Mullins, what is it like working with him? He’s obviously got incredible horses and an incredible record, how special s it to have someone with that sort of experience as not only your trainer, but your Uncle too?

David: Willie is my boss, I don’t think I know anyone who has more attention to detail. Every horse is seen individually by him everyday. 

Me: No pressure, but when I asked Richard Johnson his tip of the season, he chose Lostintranslation to win the Betfair Chase, which of course he did, so what is your best of the Cheltenham Festival this year?

David: Paul Townend to be leading rider.

Me: You’re only 23 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?

David: Don’t be afraid to try something else. You can’t force yourself to like something. This game certainly is not for everyone.

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I want to firstly say a massive thank you to David for taking time out of his day to allow me to ask him some questions. Very informative answers and a pleasure to speak to.

I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to speak with some incredibly talented people from our sport and I really hope you all have enjoyed reading them.

I will see you very soon for my next post!

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An Interview with Jonjo O’Neill Jr

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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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