The History of the Grand National

Good Morning!

Happy Grand National Day! Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. With the Grand National just hours away, today’s post is all about the history of the Grand National. Here, I go through the history of the race as well as some key facts and figures I have found. At the very end of this post you can also find some winning trends, maybe this will help you choose a winner today!

Before we get into it, as some of you may or may not know, I am an official partner blogger with Careers in Racing and this week I got to sit down and speak with Clerk of the Course at Aintree Sulekha Varma on their behalf. We discussed how she is the first female Clerk of the Course to take charge of the Grand National, how different this years Festival has been, protocols in place, what happens to the fences after the Grand National plus much more. You can read the interview right here:

Part One: https://www.careersinracing.com/sulekha-varma-talks-aintree-with-zoe-smith/

Part Two: https://www.careersinracing.com/i-think-its-a-buzz-and-theres-a-real-shot-of-adrenaline-throughout-the-whole-experience/

So with that being said, I hope you all enjoy this one and hopefully you all learn something new about the big race! So without further ado, let’s just get right into it!


The Grand National is a National Hunt Race which is ran left handed over 4 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs (4 miles and 514 yards) over 30 fences (16 separate fences jumped multiple times) at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. It is for 7 year olds and over which are rated 120 or more by the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and have been previously placed in a recognised chase of 3 miles or more.

It was first ran in 1839 on the 26th of February and is the most valuable jump race in Europe. It is widely believed that the first running took place in 1836, however the 1836, 1837 and 1838 races were all disregarded as it is believed that they took place at Maghull and not at Aintree. The 1839 Grand National – which is believed to have been the ‘real’ first Grand National – was won by Lottery who was rode by Jem Mason. Interestingly, it was not until 1843 that the Grand National was made into a handicap, by Edward Topham who was a respected handicapper at the time and held a great influence over the National, for the first 4 years it had been a ‘weight for age’ race.

During the First World War, from 1916 to 1918, Aintree Racecourse was taken over by the war office so an alternative race took place at Gatwick Racecourse – which is now land that is occupied by Gatwick Airport. In 1916 the race was called the Racecourse Association Steeplechase, in 1917 and 1918 the race was called the War National Steeplechase. However, these three races are not classed as ‘Grand Nationals’ and the results of these three races often get left out of the winners list.

During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1945, no Grand National was run as Aintree Racecourse was used by the armed forces for defence use. So the Grand National did not return until 1946 where it was ran on a Friday. However it was only in 1947 that it was moved to a Saturday as the Home Secretary James Chuter Ede thought it would be better for a wider audience of working people, from then on, it has been ran on a Saturday each year.


Moving on to some key winners of the Grand National. The first ever winner, as mentioned above, was in 1839 and it was a horse called Lottery for jockey Jem Mason, trainer George Dockeray and owner John Elmore. He was the 5/1 favourite and carried 12 stone where he won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The first horse to win multiple Grand National’s came in 1850 and 1851 when Abd-El-Kader won in 2 consecutive Grand Nationals. In 1850, he won carrying 9 stone 12 pounds for jockey Chris Green, trainer and owner Joseph Osborne in a time of 9 minutes 57.5 seconds. He then won again, in 1851, this time for jockey Tom Abbott carrying 10 stone and 4 pounds.

We then move forward to 1868 where The Lamb won the race at 9/1 for jockey George Ede, trainer Ben Land and owner Lord Poulett carrying 10 stone 7 pounds, he then retained his title in 1871 where he won for jockey Tommy Pickernell and trainer Chris Green for the same owner Lord Poulett, this time at 7/2 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds. In the 2 years during his two wins, they were both won by a horse called The Colonel, in 1869 he won carrying 10 stone 7 pounds at 100/7, then he won again in 1870 carrying 11 stone 12 pounds this time as the 7/2 favourite. Both times for jockey George Stevens and trainer R. Roberts.

In 1908, the race was won by Rubio who I wrote a post about earlier this year, you can read this right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/03/rubio-the-retired-grand-national-winner/

In 1928, the record for the fewest finishers in a Grand National was set, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

I am now going to jump forward a little bit to the 1950’s. Here, trainer Vincent O’Brien won 3 consecutive Grand National’s with 3 different horses. In 1953, he won with Early Mist who was carrying 11 stone 2 pounds, being rode by Bryan Marshall at 20/1 for owner Joe Griffin. In 1954, he won with Royal Tan who carried 11 stone 7 pounds again rode by Bryan Marshall at 8/1, again for owner Joe Griffin. In 1955, he won with Quare Times who carried 11 stone with Pat Taaffe riding at 100/9 for owner Cecily Welman.

The next noticeable winner is Foinavon who won at 100/1 in 1967, this is such a noticeable win as you may recognise the name as a fence in the Grand National is named after this horse. In 1967, the rest of the field fell, refused, were hampered or brought down at the 23rd fence, which led 100/1 shot Foinavon to winning the race. So in 1984, that exact fence was named after Foinavon.

We then move into the 1970’s, which were totally dominated by the incredible Red Rum. My midweek post just gone was all about Red Rum and his career so if you haven’t already, then do go and check that out! Red Rum won the race in 1973, 1974 and again in 1977 all for trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain and owner Noel Le Mare. In 1973, he was rode by Brian Fletcher as the 9/1 joint favourite, in 1974, he was again rode by Brian Fletcher at 11/1 and in 1977 he was rode by Tommy Stack at 9/1.

1981, we had Bob Champion win on Aldaniti, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, you can read that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/06/1981-grand-national-bob-champion-the-greatest-comeback/

In 1993, the race was declared void, you can read that whole story right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/06/1993-the-grand-national-that-never-was/

And in 1997 there was a delay in proceedings and the race didn’t take place until the following Monday. The full story plus insights from someone who was in attendance is right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/20/1997-the-postponed-grand-national/

We then move into the new millennium where we have winners such as 16/1 shot Monty’s Pass for Barry Geraghty, Jimmy Mangan and Dee Racing Syndicate in 2003, 7/1 favourite Hedgehunter for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Trevor Hemmings in 2005 and 100/1 shot Mon Mome for Liam Treadwell, Venetia Williams and Vida Bingham in 2009.

In 2010, we have Don’t Push It who gave 20 time Champion Jockey AP McCoy his first and only Grand National as the 10/1 joint favourite for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus.

We then have some big prices come into play, with Neptune Collonges winning at 33/1 for Daryl Jacob, Paul Nicholls and John Hales in 2012 followed by 66/1 winner Auroras Encore in 2013 for Ryan Mania and Sue Smith. In 2014 we have Pineau De Re at 25/1 for Leighton Aspell and Richard Newland followed by another 25/1 shot, Many Clouds again for Leighton Aspell, this time for Oliver Sherwood in the Trevor Hemmings colours. In 2016 we are followed up by Rule The World at 33/1 for David Mullins and Mouse Morris in the famous Gigginstown House Stud.

Now onto the last three runs of the Grand National. In 2017, 14/1 shot One For Arthur won for jockey Derek Fox, trainer Lucinda Russell and owners Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung. The next two years were both won by Tiger Roll for jockey Davy Russell, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud. In 2018 carrying 10 stone 13 pounds at 10/1 and in 1029 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds as the 4/1 favourite.

The 2020 renewal of the Grand National was cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.


Next up, let’s move onto the fences. There are 16 fences on the Grand National course, all 16 are jumped on the first lap and then on the final lap the runners bear to the right onto the run in so they avoid The Chair and the Water jump. Here is a summary of the fences and their heights:

Fence 1 & 17: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 2 & 18: 4 feet 7 inches (1.40 metres)

Fence 3 & 19: Open Ditch – 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch

Fence 4 & 20: 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres)

Fence 5 & 21: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 6 & 22: Becher’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with landing side 6 inches (15cm) to 10 inches (25cm) lower than the takeoff side

Fence 7 & 23: Foinavon – 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 8 & 24: Canal Turn – 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 9 & 25: Valentine’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 metres) brook

Fence 10 & 26: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 11 & 27: Open ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch on the take off side

Fence 12 & 28: Ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inch (1.68 metres) ditch on the landing side

Fence 13 & 29: 4 feet 7 inches (1.4 metres)

Fence 14 & 30: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 15: The Chair – 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 metres) preceded by a 6 feet (1.83 metres) wide ditch

Fence 16: Water Jump – 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 metres)


Let’s jump into some records for the Grand National!

Leading Horse:

Red Rum – 1973, 1974 and 1977

Leading Jockey:

George Stevens – 1856 on Freetrader, 1863 on Emblem, 1864 on Emblematic and 1869 an 1870 on The Colonel

Leading Trainers:

George Dockeray – 1839 with Lottery, 1840 with Jerry, 1842 with Gaylad and 1852 with Miss Mowbray

Fred Rimell – 1956 with E.S.B, 1961 with Nicolaus Silver, 1970 with Gay Trip and 1976 with Rag Trade.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum and 2004 with Amberleigh House

Leading Owners:

James Octavius Machell – 1873 with Disturbance, 1874 with Reugny and 1876 with Regal

Noel Le Mare – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum

Trevor Hemmings – 2005 with Hedgehunter, 2011 with Ballabriggs and 2015 with Many Clouds

Gigginstown House Stud – 2016 with Rule The World and 2018 and 2019 with Tiger Roll


The fastest run Grand National was in 1990 when Mr. Frisk won in a time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. The slowest was the first running of the Grand National in 1839 when Lottery won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The oldest winner was in 1853 when 15 year old Peter Simple won. The youngest horses to win have all been 5 years old and they are Alcibiade in 1865, Regal in 1876, Austerlitz in 1877, Empress in 1880 and Lutteur III in 1909.

The oldest jockey was 48 year old Dick Saunders who won in 1982, the youngest being Bruce Hobbs who won in 1938 when he was just 17 years old.

The biggest priced winners were all 100/1 when they won and we have a few, these are Tipperary Tim in 1928, Gregalach in 1929, Caughoo in 1947, Foinavon in 1967 and Mon Mome in 2009. With the shorted priced winner being 11/4 Poethlyn in 1919.

The biggest Grand National was in 1929 when 66 horses ran, the smallest being in 1883 when only 10 horses ran.

The most horses to finish a Grand National was in 1984 when 23 horses finished, the fewest being in 1928 when only 2 horses finished, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

The jockey who has had the most rides in the Grand National is Richard Johnson who was had rode 21 times and is still yet to win the race. After his retirement being announced this past weekend, Tom Scudamore who rides the favourite Cloth Cap this afternoon is the jockey who has rode the most times without a victory with 18 rides in the race.

The first female jockey to enter the race was Charlotte Brew in 1977 who rode 200/1 shot Barony Fort.

The first female jockey to complete the race was Geraldine Rees on Cheers in 1982.

The best result for a female jockey was in 2012 when Katie Walsh finished 3rd on the 8/1 joint favourite Seabass.

The female jockey with the most rides in the Grand National is Nina Carberry who rode in her 5th in 2010.

There has been 4 female trainers who have won the race. Jenny Pitman in 1995 with Royal Athlete, Venetia Williams in 2009 with Mon Mome, Sue Smith in 2013 with Auroras Encore and Lucinda Russell in 2017 with One For Arthur.


Onto some other interesting facts to note… In the 70 races of the post war era (not including the 1993 void race) the favourite or joint favourite have only won the race 10 times, these were:

1950: Freebooter at 10/1

1960: Merryman II at 13/2

1973: Red Rum at 9/1 JF

1982: Grittar at 7/1

1996: Rough Quest at 7/1

1998: Earth Summit at 7/1

2005: Hedgehunter at 7/1

2008: Comply or Die at 7/1 JF

2010: Don’t Push It at 10/1 JF

2019: Tiger Roll at 4/1


Only 13 mares have ever won the Grand National and all of these were prior to 1951:

Charity in 1841

Miss Mowbray in 1852

Anatis in 1860

Jealousy in 1861

Emblem in 1863

Emblematic in 1864

Casse Tete in 1872

Empress in 1880

Zoedone in 1883

Frigate in 1889

Shannon Lass in 1902

Sheila’s Cottage in 1948

Nickel Coin in 1951


Only 3 greys have ever won the Grand National and these are:

The Lamb in 1868 and 1871

Nicolaus Silver in 1961

Neptune Collonges in 2012


Now onto international winners. There have been 2 French trained horses who were Huntsman in 1862 an Cortolvin in 1867.

There has only ever been one Welsh trained horse who was Kirkland in 1905 and 2 Scottish trained winners who are Rubstic in 1979 and One For Arthur in 2017.

There has been 16 Irish winners since 1900, which includes 9 since 1999, these are… Ambush II in 1900, Troytown in 1920, Workman in 1939, Caughoo in 1947, Early Mist 1953, Royal Tan in 1954, Quare Times in 1955, L’Escargot in 1975, Bobbyjo in 1999, Papillon in 2000, Monty’s Pass in 2003, Hedgehunter in 2005, Numbersixvalverde in 2006, Silver Birch in 2007, Rule The World in 2016 and Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019.


Now onto some interesting winning trends. I have sat and collated this information myself via the Racing Post website and created the different trends, so I apologise if I have got anything slightly incorrect, but I have tried to verify this information as best as I possibly could but as you can imagine sitting with a pen and paper trying to work this out isn’t the easiest of tasks! These are all based on the last 20 runs since 2000.

4/20 have been 8 years old
6/20 have been 9 years old
5/20 have been 10 years old
4/20 have been 11 years old
1/20 has been 12 years old

2/20 have carried 10-6 or less
17/20 have carried between 10-6 and 11-6
1/20 has carried 11-6 or more

10/20 had their previous run between 20 and 30 days before
5/20 had their previous run between 31 and 40 days before
3/20 had their previous run between 41 and 50 days before
2/20 had their previous run over 51 days before (2017 winner One For Arthur having his previous run 84 days before making him the one with the longest break between his final run before the Grand National)

16/20 had previously ran at Aintree
8/20 had previously ran in the Grand National
20/20 had ran 3+ times in the season leading up to their Grand National win

5/20 won last time out before the Grand National
7/20 finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th last time out before the Grand National
6/20 finished outside of the top 4 last time out before the Grand National
1/20 fell last time out before the Grand National
1/20 pulled up last time out before the Grand National

4/20 were favourite or joint favourite

One thing I also wanted to mention is that the owner of current favourite Cloth Cap, Trevor Hemmings won the Grand National in 2005, 2011 and 2015. The years ending with 5 and 1, so could 2021 be his year again?


So there we have it, I have tried my best to include as much detail as I possibly could into this post with plenty of facts ad figures and some winning trends which may or may not help you choose a Grand National winner today. Who are you backing? Let me know over on my Twitter: zoelouisesmithx.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you all enjoyed this one and I hope you all pick a few winners today, including the Grand National winner. I hope to see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for my next post!

Best Mate: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a new post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series all about Best Mate, thank you to @WattyRacing for this suggestion. Let’s just get right into it!


Best Mate was foaled on 28th January 1995 by Un Desperado out of Katday. He was bred by breeder Jacques Van’t Hart and owned by Jim Lewis who sent him into training with Henrietta Knight.

Best Mate started his career on 14th November 1999 at Cheltenham in a National Hunt Flat Race (Bumper). He had Jim Culloty on board and a starting price of 10/1, shocking a lot of people, he won by 3/4 lengths to Hard To Start (14/1). A couple of weeks later, he then headed to Sandown on 3rd December 1999 for a Novices’ Hurdle where he started as the 5/4 favourite, again under Jim Culloty, he easily won by 10 lengths to Rosco (100/30).

We then move into the new millennium and on the 8th January 2000, Best Mate headed back to Sandown for the Grade 1 Tolworth Hurdle. Here he started at 4/1 under Jim Culloty, here he finished second by 2 and 1/2 lengths to the 11/8 favourite Monsignor.

Best Mate took a 66 day break before heading back to Cheltenham, this time for the Festival and the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the 14th March 2000. Under Jim Culloty again, he started the race at 6/1, where he finished second by 3/4 of a length to Sausalito Bay (14/1), however beating the 5/4 favourite Youlneverwalkalone by 1 and 1/4 lengths. Next up for Best Mate was Aintree on the 7th of April 2000 for a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle, where as the 4/11 odds on favourite, under Jim Culloty, he beat Copeland (9/2) for AP McCoy and Martin Pipe by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Best Mate then took a 193 day summer break before returning to the track at Exeter on the 17th of October 2000, this time for a Novices’ Chase. He started as the 1/2 favourite and unsurprisingly won by 2 and 1/2 lengths under Jim Culloty to Bindaree (3/1). Just under a month later, with Jim Culloty, Best Mate headed back to Cheltenham for a Novices’ Chase in the November meeting on the 12th of November. This time starting as the 8/13 odds on favourite, where he won comfortably by 18 lengths to Fathalkhair (33/1) for Richard Johnson and Brian Ellison.

Swiftly we move into 2001 and after an 83 day break, Best Mate returned to Sandown on the 3rd of February for a Grade 1 Novices’ Chase and as the 5/4 favourite, under Jim Culloty, he won by 13 lengths to Crocadee (5/1). Best Mate avoided Cheltenham and after a 63 day break he headed to Aintree on the 7th of April for the Grade 1 Aintree Hurdle, under Jim Culloty as the 3/1 favourite he finished second by 14 lengths to Barton (9/1) for jockey Tony Dobbin and trainer Tim Easterby.

Best Mate then took a 213 day summer break before returning to Exeter on the 6th of November 2001. As the odds on 8/13 favourite under Jim Culloty he won by 20 lengths to Desert Mountain I (14/1) for jockey Joe Tizzard and trainer Paul Nicholls. We then move forward a couple of weeks and on the 24th of November 2001 Best Mate headed to Ascot for the First National Gold Cup, here he started as the 8/13 favourite under Jim Culloty where he finished second by just 1/2 length to Wahiba Sands (4/1) for AP McCoy riding for Martin Pipe.

One month later, on Boxing Day 2001, Best Mate headed to Kempton for the King George Chase, this time being rode by Champion Jockey AP McCoy, where they started at 5/2, however they could only manage a second by 3/4 of a length behind Florida Pearl (8/1) for jockey Adrian Maguire and trainer Willie Mullins.

We then move into 2002 and back to the Cheltenham Festival, so after a 78 day break, Best Mate headed to Cheltenham on the 14th of March 2002 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Here he was back under his regular jockey Jim Culloty where they started at 7/1 and won by 1 and 3/4 lengths to Commanche Court (25/1).

After winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Best Mate had a 254 day summer break before returning to the track in November, this time heading to Huntingdon on the 23rd of November for the Peterborough Chase, starting as the 8/15 favourite under Jim Culloty, Best Mate won by 8 lengths to Douze Douze (7/2). Just over a month later on Boxing Day 2002, Best Mate headed to Kempton for the King George Chase, where as the 11/8 favourite, back under Champion Jockey AP McCoy, Best Mate won by 1 and 1/2 lengths to Marlborough (14/1) for jockey Timmy Murphy and trainer Nicky Henderson.

As we head into 2003, Best Mate took a 77 day break before returning to the Cheltenham Festival on the 13th of March 2003 to try and retain his Gold Cup title. With regular jockey Jim Culloty taking the ride on the 13/8 favourite, he won by 10 lengths to Truckers Tavern (33/1) meaning he was now a duel Gold Cup winner.

After impressively winning his second Gold Cup, Best Mate took a 254 day break before returning to Huntingdon for the Peterborough Chase, here he was the 8/13 favourite under Kim Culloty, however he could only manage a second place to Jair Du Cochet (100/30). To end 2003, on the 28th of December, Best Mate crossed the Irish Sea and headed to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Ericsson Chase, here he started as the 8/11 favourite under Jim Culloty where he won impressively by 9 lengths to Le Coudray (14/1).

The 2004 Cheltenham Festival quickly came around and after an 81 day break, Best Mate headed straight into his third Gold Cup on the 18th of March, where as the 8/11 favourite, under Jim Culloty, he successfully won his 3rd consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Best Mate then took a 246 day break before returning to Exeter on the 19th of November 2004 where he won the William Hill Chase as the 4/7 favourite, this time under Timmy Murphy. Best Mate ended 2004 by heading back over to Leopardstown for the Grade 1 Lexus Chase on the 28th of December 2004, however as the 9/10 favourite, back under his regular jockey Jim Culloty, he could only manage a second place, finishing behind Beef Or Salmon by 7 lengths.

The plan was for Best Mate to head straight to the Cheltenham Festival to try and win a 4th Gold Cup however just 8 days before he was due to run, he was withdrew from the race after he burst a blood vessel on the gallops. So therefore Best Mate wouldn’t be seen again until the 1st of November 2005, when he returned to Exeter, sadly, this day turned out to be the saddest day for racing fans, jockey Paul Carberry pulled up on Best Mate during the running of the Haldon Gold Cup, however when he dismounted, Best Mate stumbled and fell to his knees, sadly he collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack.

When Best Mate died, it made national news with everybody within the sport and outside of the sport feeling absolutely heartbroken at the loss of a complete legend. Government regulations meant that his body could not be buried at Exeter like his owner wanted, instead Best Mate was cremated and on the 10th of December 2005, his ashes were buried beside the winning post at his much loved course Cheltenham.

In March 2006, a life size bronze sculpture of Best Mate was unveiled at Cheltenham Racecourse, which still stands to this day. There is also a bronze stature near to the farm in Lockinge where he trained. In March 2007, Best Mate was named one of the ‘elite 12’ on the Cheltenham Hall of Fame.


So there we have Best Mate’s career. I don’t even think we need to go into much detail about his career, because as you can see he was a complete legend. However, let’s have a look at his career form:

11221/1112/1221/111/211/12/P/

So from that, as you can see, Best Mate had 22 races, winning 14 of them and finishing 2nd in 7 of them, the 22nd, sadly being where he pulled up before his life ended. This means that in Best Mate’s career, he never once fell. Matching Arkle’s record, Best Mate won three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cup’s and he was the first horse to win multiple Gold Cup’s since L’Escargot who won in 1970 and 1971.

So, to sum it up, Best Mate was an unreal horse who everybody fell in love with. I was alive during his time, but I was young and don’t really remember much about him, but even though, he is still a horse that I know of and have been told about many a times by my family and those online who were lucky enough to remember him. I don’t think I need to say anymore about him, he was a legend and always will be and I’m so happy that his statue remains at Cheltenham so generations like my own can respect him for what he did during his career.

I want to thank you for reading this post and I hope to see you all in my next one!

Synchronised: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I bring to you another post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series and I am focusing on Synchronised. Thank you to @Robster2337 on Twitter for the suggestion. Let’s just jump straight into it!


Synchronised was foaled on 7th March 2003 by Sadler’s Wells out of Mayasta. He was bred in Ireland at the Martinstown Stud in County Limerick by Noreen McManus, the wife of his owner J. P. McManus. Synchronised went into training with Jonjo O’Neill.

Synchronised started his career on 14th February 2008 at Chepstow when he took part in a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles 11 yards. He started the race at 33/1 under Richie McLernon, who at the time was claiming 7 pounds. He surprised everyone, when he actually placed and finishedsecond behind Osolomio (20/1). After a decent enough start to his career, Synchronised then headed to Towcester for another Maiden Hurdle on the 23rd March 2008, again under Richie McLernon (7), this time with a lot shorter odds of 9/2. This time he went one better and beat the 5/4 favourite Debauchery by 3/4 of a length.

Synchronised then took a 228 day summer break, before returning to Towcester on 6th November 2008 for a Handicap Hurdle. He started the race at 4/1 under Richie McLernon (7), however was very disappointing when finishing 10th out of 12, 34 and 1/4 lengths behind the 15/2 winner Character Building. He then took an 84 day break before returning in 2009, on the 29th of January at Wincanton for a Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Again under Richie McLernon (6), he started the race at 5/1 and although blundering the last fence, he ended up winning by 3 1/2 lengths to Cashel Blue (6/1) in second.

A year to the date of his first ever run, on the 14th February 2009, Synchronised then headed to Haydock for a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier over 3 miles 1 furlong. He started the race as an 11/1 outsider, this time under Richie McGrath. He ended up beating Tazbar (8/1) by just a neck. Synchronised then headed to the Cheltenham Festival and on the 12th of March he was declared for the Listed Race, Pertemps Final. He started the race at 9/1 under Richie McLernon (5) and was one of many of the J. P. McManus horses to run. He was hampered on the bend after 2 out and was midfield when he fell at the last hurdle.

After his first fall of his career, Synchronised took a 251 day summer break before returning on the 18th of November 2009, this time at Market Race for his first attempt over the bigger obstacles in a Beginners Chase. This time, Champion Jockey AP McCoy to the ride, with Synchronised starting as the 7/4 favourite, his shortest odds to date. He impressively won by 2 lengths to Richard Johnson on 9/4 shot Bluegun. Synchronised had clearly not let the first fall of his career effect him and seemed to enjoy the bigger obstacles.

Just two weeks later on the 5th December 2009, Synchronised headed to Chepstow for a Novices’ Chase. Here he started as the 7/2 joint favourite under Richie McLernon (5), impressively winning by 4 1/2 lengths to Giles Cross (8/1). Synchronised then took a 51 day break.

Heading into 2010, on the 25th of January, Synchronised headed to Fontwell for a Novices’ Chase over 2 miles 5 furlong. Here he started at 9/4 under AP McCoy, however this time the partnership could only manage a third place behind winner Over Sixty (7/1) and Penn De Benn (22/1). After a 54 day break, Synchronised then headed to Uttoxeter on March 20th 2010 for the Midlands Grand National over 4 miles, 1 furlong and 92 yards over 24 fences, a massive step up from the races he had previously had. He started the race at 15/2 under AP McCoy, finishing the race very tired, Synchronised ended up winning by 3/4 of a length to Daryl Jacob on L’Aventure (12/1).

After a tough race, Synchronised had a 244 day break, before starting the new season on the 19th of November at Exeter where he took part in a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier. Starting at 9/1 under Richie McLernon (3), however he could only manager a 5th out of 6 finishers. He then headed to Cheltenham on the 10th of December for a Handicap Hurdle where under AP McCoy at 14/1 only finished 6th out of 11 finishers.

Swiftly moving into 2011, on the 8th of January, Synchronised headed to Chepstow for the Welsh Grand National over 3 miles, 4 furlong and 98 yards over 22 fences as a 5/1 shot under AP McCoy. Here, he won by 2 3/4 lengths to Harry Skelton on Giles Cross (12/1). Synchronised then took a 70 day break before heading to Uttoxeter on the 19th of March for his second shot at the Midlands Grand National over 4 miles, 1 furlong and 92 yards over 22 fences, with 2 omitted. He started as the 9/2 favourite under AP McCoy, however unfortunately he could only manage a third place this time round behind winner Minella Four Star (25/1) and second place Ballyfitz (16/1).

Synchronised then headed across the Irish Sea to Fairyhouse on the 25th of April for the Irish Grand National. He was rode by Alan Crowe as a 25/1 shot, unfortunately being pulled up before 6 out where the jockey said he was never travelling.

Synchronised then took a 181 day break before heading to Aintree on the 23rd of October 2011 for a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier, here he was a 50/1 shot under Mr A J Berry (3), where he finished 7th out of 13 finishers. On the 19th of November, he then headed to Haydock for a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle under AP McCoy as a 25/1 shot. Here he finished 3rd behind winner Dynaste (7/1) and Benny Be Good (20/1) in second.

HIs last race in 2011 came on the 28th of December when he crossed the Irish Sea once again, this time for the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Here he started at 8/1 under AP McCoy, winning impressively by 8 1/2 lengths to Rubi Light (9/4) in second and 13/8 favourite Quito De La Roque in third.

After a 79 day break, Synchronised then headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival and on the 16th of March 2012 he was declared for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He started at 8/1 under AP McCoy. He made a couple of mistakes throughout the race, but these did not stop him from winning by 2 1/4 lengths to Tom Scudamore on 50/1 shot The Giant Bolster.

The next race for Synchronised, and sadly, unknown to everyone, would be his last ever, would be the Grand National at Aintree on the 14th of April 2012. He started at 10/1 under AP McCoy, however fell at the 6th fence, Becher’s Brook. AP McCoy suffered a soft tissue injury, however Synchronised did not look injured and continued to run rider-less until attempting to jump the 11th fence where he incurred a fractured tibia and fibula in his right hind leg, meaning racecourse vets had no choice but to euthanise him.

Synchronised was sadly put to sleep at just 9 years old.

Three days later, J. P. McManus issued a statement where he said he felt ‘deep sadness and sense of devastation’ at the death of Synchronised and explained that ‘losing any horse is very sad but one as brave as Synchronised is a very big loss for all involved’. He also revealed that the horse had been buried at Jackdaws Castle. (Source: https://archive.vn/20120910053035/http://www.racingpost.com/news/horse-racing/j-p-mc-manus-synchronised-aintree-cheltenham-mcmanus-we-feel-deep-sadness-and-devastation/1017222/top/)

A few weeks later, AP McCoy said that:

Synchronised is a horse that I won’t ever forget. It is one of those terrible things that you wish will never happen.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/horse-racing/17917755

In 2015, when AP McCoy retired, he described Synchronised as his favourite horse to have rode in his career, saying:

The mother of Synchronised, Mayasta, was my first winner for JP (McManus) in 1996 and Synchronised gave me the greatest day in racing. JP spent his whole life trying to buy a Gold Cup horse, and his wife bred one for him. He was a bit like I am as a human being. He probably wasn’t the greatest horse I’d ridden but he had the greatest will to win. As a jump jockey I’ve seen the human side of horse racing be really tough, but in equine terms what happened to Synchronised was the worst day I’ve had in racing. When he fell I can distinctly remember him galloping off. I remember being in pain but thinking at least the horse is all right. Afterwards when he was loose he managed to get injured. I was very sore, but I cried for days afterwards. That affected me more than any other horse. It’s personal and that’s why he’s number one.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/31737340


Regularly in these posts I would now go through the figures of a horses career, but on this occassion, for me, AP McCoy summed it up perfectly. Synchronised was a horse that was all heart, he had the will to win and he truly wore his heart on his sleeve. I will include Synchronised’s race record below so you can look at it and break it down for yourselves, but I, personally, think the words of AP McCoy was enough to end this post on the fact that he was loved, not for his facts and figures, but for his heart.

Synchronised Race Record:
21/011F/1131/5613/P7311F/

I want to thank you all for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it as always and I will see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all a brilliant final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Today I am super excited to bring you an interview with Richard Pitman. I had the honour of speaking to Richard this week about all things racing including that race Crisp vs Red Rum. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Richard and I hope you all enjoy!


Me: You obviously won some incredible races in your career, but what was your favourite race, win or lose?

Richard: I’m afraid it’s pretty obvious, but it was 40 years before you were born, it was Crisp in the 1973 Grand National finishing second to Red Rum. And the reason being, Aintree is just a magical cauldron and for him to have made the running and jump the fences as if they were hurdles, until all the steam ran out… He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase which is run at the Cheltenham Festival and he won by about 20 lengths and then just to nearly win the national, it was an amazing ride.

Me: The one question I wanted to ask about that Grand National was how did you feel at the time when you got beat by Red Rum and did those feelings change over the years when you realised just how special Red Rum went on to be?

Richard: Well, that’s a good question. You see, the good Champion jockey’s… I was second in the jockey Championship twice but didn’t win it… The good Champion jockey’s, McCoy, Francome, Scudamore, Dunwoody, Dicky Johnson – Their tunnel vision, like Usain Bolt in running races. But I was more of a cavalier, I just enjoyed riding so although it was devastating to be caught – and I could hear him coming, it was fast ground so you could here his hoofed feet and he was a high blower so every time he exhaled his nostril flaps, so it got louder and louder but it was only the last two strides that he swept past me. So utter devastation but only a minute to recover and be elated because it was a ride money couldn’t buy, I had earnt it and it was my ride. Okay, I’ll be blamed for being beaten for many many things. Going on was one of them but that was our plan. He was such a bold jumper, in behind 40 horses he’d have jumped on someone else’s back so that’s what we had to do. I made a wrong decision taking my hand off the reigns to give him a whip half way up the running. You know, he was a big horse, tired, gone… I should’ve kept hold of his head, but there you are, you can’t go back. I remember every blade of grass in that race but I admire Red Rum… So much, you couldn’t not. I rode him for the BBC, I used to do lots of stunts afterwards around Aintree in the build up to the National, so I rode Red Rum with two other horses on the flat track there and Ginger McCain who was a larger than life, micky taking man, said “now then Pitman, you seen his backside in 73, you can look through his ears now lad” and gave me the leg up.

Me: Another question following on from that, I wanted to ask was how did you feel when history essentially repeated itself when your son Mark Pitman got beat on Garrison Savannah by Seagram in a similar fashion in the 1991 Grand National?

Richard: Yeah, good question! Well Mark was heavier than me, I was always a chubby little fella who had trouble with my weight, but Mark was taller and had more trouble. He used to be in his sauna from 5am to 7am in the dead of winter in his garage and then go out and ride 5 or 6 lots on the gallops in the freezing cold, it was really hard work and he was a good jockey. His mother would have hated it but he and I did discuss how to do things and I’m sure she would have done with him many times. And he asked for my advice and I said “Mark you won’t believe how quickly horses lose their petrol up the running if stamina comes into play.” And at elbow he hadn’t gone for Garrison Savannah and I put my coat on as I was working for the BBC and Bill Smith was with me, I said “Bill the replay is yours I’m going to see Mark come in” and as I got my coat on he said “you better turn around, the picture has changed” and as he got to the elbow, again he just flattened out. Once they go at that distance and lose their stamina, they just walk. He was beaten by Seagram who was very cleverly rode by Nigel Hawke coming wide and not challenging close up so not to galvanise Garrison but Garrison had gone. But he rode a great race.

Plus, he had won the Gold Cup 3 weeks before and two hours later was in Cheltenham general hospital with internal injuries and a fractured pelvis, but rode 3 weeks later in the National. But that was nothing to do with him getting beat because he was on plenty of pain killers, but I was so proud of him… I still am.

Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training now, who would you choose and why?

Richard: Aw, there are so many aren’t there? I think Cloth Cap is the biggest certainty we’ve seen in the National for years, providing nothing goes wrong. If you look at the previous videos of McCoy on Clan Royal going down to Becher’s for the second time, five or six clear, on the bridle, two loose horses run across him and force him into the wing of the fence. I mean… It’s such a race where you don’t know what’s going to happen. But Cloth Cap at Jonjo’s, I love the way he jumps, he goes on the ground, he gallops with his head quite low, not overly low, but quite low – which I love. It means a horse is looking at the bottom of the fence, rather than head up, fighting the jockey. So Cloth Cap for me, is the one horse I’d love to ride.

Me: And from your point of view, you retired many years ago, but how do you feel about the discussions to ban the whip? And how important was the whip for yourself when you were riding?

Richard: Right, now… I should not have used my whip on Crisp half way up the running at Aintree, it unbalanced him, I took my hands off the reigns. I think it did more harm than good. And I challenge anyone, anywhere to come up with a video showing me where the use of a whip has stopped a horse from running out or being the aide it’s meant to be. Of course, it’s meant to be used to encourage, but to me it puts a lot of horses off. That’s why I love watching the flat as well, the ground is so much better and there is a lot less use of the whip. I’d agree, let them carry it, but only give them a slap down the shoulder for encouragement, I would not want them to take their hand off the reigns or give them one behind the saddle. I am very strong on that and yet people say to me “but you used it” – Yes I used it, but not in excess. Fred Winter, my trainer would always say “you can give them two, but don’t give them three.”

Me: What was your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Richard: Probably Cheltenham because I was born there. I could always see the course and I have a field with my sister now on Cleeve Hill looking down into the racecourse. Cheltenham really grabs me and I rode a lot of winners there. I got beaten and should’ve won two gold cups but didn’t, so… Cheltenham is really mine.

Me: A lot of jockey’s don’t go into the TV side of things, what made you make the decision to do so?

Richard: Well, I’d been offered the job as a paddock commentator for the BBC 2 years before I retired but then I had 5 of the best horses in the country, now you wouldn’t give 5 horses up for anything. I didn’t care what the future was. But two years later I was offered the job again and if I turned it down a second time, it wouldn’t be available so I went to Fred Winter on the muck hill, where we were making the muck hill tidy in the morning, and I said to him this is the situation and he said for the first time ever John Francome shared the job with me, he was 10 years young and he was good but I was welcome to ride half the horses as long as I wanted to. But there was only 2 of my good horses left by then and I said to him would you run one in the Grand National, he said no his legs are dodgy so he wouldn’t subject him to it. So I said “well in that case, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me” I shook his hand and joined BBC.

Me: What was your favourite or most memorable moment whilst working with BBC?

Richard: Well, I was involved for 35 years so there was so many. But Bob Champion and Aldaniti was a fairytale that will be hard to match. And if Aldaniti hadn’t won that day, the second was ridden by John Thorne who was 54 years old, he owned the stallion, owned the mare, bred it, trained it and rode it. So that would have been another fairy story. Another was the void race for two false starts and then of course the one that was put off due to the bomb scare and ran on the Monday.

But the two false starts one was just incredible, I finished my build up to the race, handed over to Peter O’Sullevan and then there’s these two false starts and a group of horses carried on going. The producer said to me ‘Pitman get off your backside and get out there and find out what can happen’ so I ran out of my little pod in the paddock, slipped on the scaffolding boards and I was winded, but we had floor managers so my guy, a great big ex rugby player, picked me up with one hand and pushed me through the crowd, knocking people out of the way as I was trying to get my breath back. I said to the starter “Keith, the whole world is watching, Hong Kong, Australia, America… What can happen?” and he said “I can tell you exactly what will happen. Only the 9 that didn’t fall or complete one circuit can run.” So we’d got the news. I thought I’d done a good job, so I was wondering back and the producer said “okay Pitman that was good but find a steward.” The stewards area that day was an area four ladders high up on some scaffolding and at the bottom was a soldier with a sword and big feathery hat on. He said “you can’t come up here son, it’s stewards only” and I said “I’m sorry, we’re BBC and they’ve asked us to come up to give us the news.” Well when we got one camera and sound man up there and knocked on the door of the porter cabin, out came Patrick Hibbert-Foy who was the stewards secretary he said “yes Pitman what do you want?” and I said “well Patrick, the whole world is watching and we need to know because the next race in Hong Kong can’t run until we’ve got the result of this one.” And he said “You will be told when the people on the racecourse are announced and told first. They’re the paying customers.” And I said “we’ve got 600 million people around the world” and he said “You’ll be told.” And that’s how they viewed it in those days. It was quite an amazing race, I won’t go through it but it had to be stopped. It was the second false start and it had to be stopped. And they put cones across the front of the chair fence which is the 15th and one of the officials stood in the middle of the fence in the cones and waved his arms trying to stop them, but the 9 guys who had carried on thought it was anti’s trying to make a demonstration and they galloped over the chap and through the cones and went around again. And of course once you had gone around once you couldn’t go again if it was raced later on. But it was so exciting.

And the bomb scare, well that was hairy. We kept losing TV positions one by one as they evacuated us along with everyone else and the last man standing was Jim McGrath commentating from a scaffolding very very high down by Becher’s Brook and he spoke for 28 minutes without drawing breath whilst mayhem was going on up in the stands.

Me: How much do you think racing has changed ssince you were riding?

Richard: Oh 360 degrees! I mean, we didn’t ride on Sunday’s, we didn’t have evening racing, we had 2 months off in the summer to recuperate. The styles have changed, we rode longer, we had some pretty good stylists in our day but before that they rode full length, the style has changed. The quality of racing has changed, we’ve had plenty of Gold Cup winners run in the Grand National, but the depth has changed. When I rode Crisp I had 12 stone, top weight, along with L’Escargot (Tommy Carberry) who had won two Cheltenham Gold Cup’s. But we were giving 25 pounds away to Red Rum. You know, it was a few at the top and a great void down the bottom and horses were running off 8 stone 9, they had to carry 10 stone, therefore you had to be rated 110 to get in the race. Now you have to be rated 140 and you still might not get in. So the general overall figure of the horses running at Aintree has improved tremendously. I just love it. I think jockey’s, we were cavaliers in our day, now they’re professionals. They’ve got drivers, nutritionists, people who look after your minds, psychiatrists. You know, like golf and tennis, they are top sportsmen.

Me: And on from that, how much do you think social media and new technology has changed racing?

Richard: Well, it’s very very good to come home and look at your races as a jockey and see what you’ve done wrong. I mean, (AP) McCoy was the most brilliant because he would come home having won 4 races and look to see why he hadn’t won the 5th but also look back at the 4 races he had won and thought should I have done anything different in that race, not to win further, maybe win easier. It’s a tremendous tool, accept with social media it allows people to be anonymous and be absolutely vile, are they called trolls? Now, that isn’t very fair and mentally it pulls people down. My answer to that is, if you’re being targeted by idiots, don’t look at it. Turn it off. It’s a hard enough game mentally, the weight loss, the travelling, the riding is great, but it’s a hard enough game without being pillared on social media.

Me: You mentioned AP McCoy there, do you think there is any current jockey riding who will come close to or beat his records?

Richard: Be very difficult, because Brian Hughes has been around a while, Dicky (Richard) Johnson won’t be going long enough to do it, I think if Dicky (Richard) Johnson’s body holds up, because he’s young, he’s fit, he doesn’t have the weight, no he’s not young sorry, he’s forty something now, his body is trim, he doesn’t have weight which is a huge advantage, but the falls have been taking it’s toll over the last few years on him. He could actually ride more winners than AP rode in history, as long as his body holds out. But we’ve got some great young jockey’s, but again for Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Aidan Coleman, there’s a stack of very very good jockey’s, have they been riding long enough to get into the same mode as AP… He was Champion Conditional and then for the next 20 years Champion Jockey so right from that early start before he lost his allowance he was champion. You know… It’s going to be a very difficult thing to do.

Me: And talking about Champion Jockey’s, this year we have Harry Skelton, Harry Cobden and Brian Hughes all very close at the top, who do you think will get the edge?

Richard: Well, that’s difficult, I think Brian Hughes will because it matters to him, for example, he’s freelance, he can go anywhere, he’s popular, he’s the go to jockey. For instance, the first two days of Cheltenham he rode in the North so that means he wants winners, not particularly quality winners. In fact, the trainers he rides for don’t necessarily have these top ones. Whereas Cobden will have to go where Paul Nicholls wants him to go for the big races. And the Skelton’s have been amazing haven’t they? How they’ve come on in such a short time, quality and quantity.

Me: And for the final question, what is your best piece of advice for a young person who wants to follow their passion?

Richard: Right, you’ve got to be dedicated of course, but you’ve also got to enjoy it. If you enjoy a job, it isn’t work. Even though in stables it is hard graft and being a jockey, you know, I used to get up very early in the cold and drive with the sweat suit on to lose even more weight, you know it’s a hard old graft but the passion has got to be there, you’ve got to want it. My advice to any young person who goes to riding school is to look at the trainers and see who gives a chance to young people and go to them and make sure they’re not a 10 horse trainer because with a big trainer the crumbs off the table are big enough to feed you because if a senior jockey gets hurt then you come in and get your chance.


So there we have it, I want to say a massive thank you to Richard for his time, it was an honour speaking with him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I hope everyone else has too! I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone for the support this week, I am so grateful to anyone who’s taken time out to read my work this week and I will hopefully see you all tomorrow at 11am for my final post in my 7 in 7 days series which is an interview with Eoin Walsh which you do not want to miss!

The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Good Evening!

I hope day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival was a good one for you all and I hope tomorrow’s fourth and final day is even better. This evening I bring to you my final post of the week, The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you enjoy this one and I hope you learn something new!

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt race run on the new course (since 1959), it was first ran in 1924 and is ran over 3 miles, 2 furlongs and 70 yards with 22 fences to jump. The race is open to 5 year olds and over and is ran on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival every March.

In 1924, the winner was Red Splash for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Fred Withington for owner Maj. Humphrey Wyndham.

The first horse to win the race twice in a row was Easter Hero who won as the favourite both times in 1929 and 1930. Firstly he won for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Jack Anthony and owner John Hay Whitney, the second time winning for jockey Tommy Cullinan for the same trainer and owner.

The next horse to make an impact in the race would be Golden Miller, winning in 1932 rode by Ted Leader, in 1933 rode by Billy Stott, in 1934 and 1935 rode by Gerry Wilson – all for Trainer Basil Briscoe and owner Dorothy Paget. Then a fifth and final time in 1936 for jockey Evan Williams, trainer Owen Anthony and owner Dorothy Paget.

We then move forward over ten years to 1948, 1949 ad 1950 where Cottage Rake won all three years for jockey Aubrey Brabazon, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Frank Vickerman

The next horse to dominate the sport wouldn’t be until Arkle came along in 1964, winning three years in a row in 1964, 1965 and 1966 for jockey Pat Taaffe, trainer Tom Dreaper and the owner, the Duchess of Westminster.

In 1970 and 1971, L’Escargot won for Tommy Carberry, trainer Dan Moore and owner Raymond R. Guest. In 1986, Dawn Run won for Jonjo O’Neill, Paddy Mullins and Charmian Hill. Desert Orchid won in 1989 for jockey Simon Sherwood, trainer David Elsworth and owner Richard Burridge.

The next horse to make an impact in the Gold Cup would be Best Mate who won in 2002, 2003 and 2004, each time with Jim Culloty riding for trainer Henrietta Knight and owner Jim Lewis.

We then move forward a couple of years to the Kauto Star vs Denman rivalry. In 2007 Kauto Star won for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith. In 2008, Denman won, beating Kauto Star by 7 lengths, for Sam Thomas, Paul Nicholls and Barber / Findlay. Then in 2009, Kauto Star winning again beating Denman by 13 lengths for Ruby Walsh, Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith.

We then have winners such as Imperial Commander (2010) for Paddy Brennan, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Our Friends in the North. Synchronised (2012) for AP McCoy, Jonjo O’Neill and J.P. McManus. Bobs Worth (2013) for Barry Geraghty, Nicky Henderson and The Not Afraid Partnership. Coneygree (2015) for Nico de Boinville, Mark Bradstock and The Max Partnership.

We also have Don Cossack (2016) for Bryan Cooper, Gordon Elliott and the Gigginstown House Stud – who I wrote about just a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/27/don-cossack-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

In 2017, Sizing John won for Robbie Power, Jessica Harrington and Ann & Alan Potts. In 2018, my favourite horse ever, Native River winning for Richard Johnson, Colin Tizzard and Brocade Racing, again I wrote about him a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/10/native-river-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

We then have another double winner with Al Boum Photo winning in both 2019 and 2020 for Paul Townend, Willie Mullins and Mrs J Donnelly.

Some things to note, the race was abandoned in 1931 due to frost, again in 1937 due to flooding, the again in 1943 and 1944 due to World War 2. The 2001 running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, a substitute race was ran at Sandown.

The most successful horse in the race is Golden Miller who won a total of 5 times, one after another, in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936.

The leading jockey is Pat Taaffe who won a total of 4 times. Three times on Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and once on Fort Leney (1968)

The leading trainer with 5 wins in total is Tom Dreaper who won with Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and Fort Leney (1968).

The leading owner with 7 wins is Dorothy Paget who won with Golden Miller (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 & 1936), Roman Hackle (1940) and Mont Tremblant (1952).

Now onto some interesting facts about the race. Out of the last 12 winners, 11 of them have been aged between 7 and 9. And out of those last 12 winners, 5 of them have been favourites or joint favourites, with 7 out of the last 12 being in the top 3 of the betting.

Out of the last 12 winners, 10 of them have won on their previous run before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, 9 out of 12 of the last winners had ran within the last 77 days and 12 out of 12 of the last winners had their last run 33 days or longer before the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Only 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on their last run, 2 of the 3 won. And 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the Denman Chase at Newbury as their last run, all 3 of them won. Out of the last 12 winners, 9 of them were rated 166 or higher, with 6 out of 12 being rated 170 or higher. All 12 of the previous winners had won at least one Grade 1 race with 6 out of 12 winning at least 2.


So there we have it, the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you all enjoy tomorrow’s final day of the Festival, I know I’m very much looking forward to it! Again, I hope you all enjoyed this post and maybe learned something new.

My next post will be on Saturday (20/03) at 11am when I bring to you an interview with Eoin Walsh, so I hope to see you then!

An Interview with Ed Chamberlin

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. I hope you have all been enjoying the extra posts here this week and are starting to feel excited for the Cheltenham Festival. I will have 5 more posts after this one in the week to follow, they will be going up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all at 6pm and on Saturday at 11am. Today’s post, I am very excited for. I got to sit down and talk to someone I look up to in the industry and that is of course Ed Chamberlin, who you all may know as the face of ITV Racing. We spoke about all things racing, including him being the ambassador for WellChild – a charity who will be working closely with the Cheltenham Festival in the week ahead and the work they do and why they are so important. I will leave a link at the bottom of the interview to their website so you can read more and look at ways you can support them. Ed was very supportive and offered me a lot of helpful advice which I am super grateful for. I really enjoyed this one so I hope my readers will too!


Me: For the first question, I am going to throw you straight into the deep end and ask if you could own any horse currently in training, what horse would you choose and why?

Ed: Gosh, good question. It would be… either… there’s three and they’re all novice chasers. It would be one of Envoi Allen, Monkfish and Shishkin. The Gold Cup is the race I’d love to win more than any other, so that rules Shishkin out, as brilliant as he is. And I think, I’d go for Monkfish. I think Monkfish is an extraordinary looking animal. I’m no judge of a horse and I’ve referred to him a couple of times on ITV as a monster but actually when you see him in the flesh he’s not. He’s tall but he’s also quite thin. He’s like a ballerina at his fences, he’s just the most brilliant athlete who’s obviously got stamina to burn. And if ever… A bit like lego, if you were ever to put together a Gold Cup winner, I think you would probably put together like Monkfish. And look Envoi Allen might have more brilliance than him and might be more mercurial than Monkfish, but they don’t always win Gold Cups. It’s a really tough question, but I’m going to go for Monkfish.

Me: What are your first memories of racing?

Ed: The first memories would be as a 7 year old with my Grandfather who lived in Somerset. He was mad about racing, to such an extent that my mother’s 18th birthday present was a Tote credit account. My Grandfather loved it. His passions in life were cider and betting on the Grand National was his favourite thing and I just got caught up in that. The first race I can remember was the 1981 Grand National where, he always let me have a couple of quid on a horse and I had it on Spartan Missile who finished second in that Grand National and I was gutted. I had no idea that this was the greatest racing story of all time with Bob Champion and Aldaniti winning the Grand National. And from that moment I was hooked! I took on the huge responsibility of being in charge of the family sweepstake. And I start looking forward to the Grand National weeks in advance, I always remember sleeping better as a small boy the night before Christmas than I would the night before the Grand National because my excitement was just off the charts for the Grand National. And yeah, I was just totally consumed by it and once you get into something like that, it just snow balls and racing very quickly became a passion of mine.

Me: Following on from that, what is your favourite race to watch back?

Ed: To be honest the 1981 Grand National is right up there. There’s so many, I love going back down memory lane on Racing TV and I love all the high profile ones, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid’s Gold Cup. And lots of flat racing since we’ve covered the sport. Crystal Ocean against Enable is one that leaped off the page, Big Orange beating Order of St George in the Gold Cup as well was just a great battle. We’ve been very lucky to have some great performances. But my favourite horse of all time, it’s a bit random to be honest, Dublin Flyer was my favourite horse ever. There were two performances he put in, one was over the Grand National fences and he jumped them as good as any horse you’d see jump them in the John Hughes Memorial but my favourite race of his, it was called the Mackeson then, now the Paddy Power Gold Cup when he rallied to get up and beat Egypt Mill Prince, I think that’s my favourite race of all time.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to present at and why?

Ed: You are horrible asking that question! Oh goodness, that’s so difficult! The best thing about my job is every week – well not at the moment – but in normal times every week is different. Going to a different track every week is so exciting because they’re all so different and so cool in so many different ways. I’m not going to sit on the fence, but the ultimate buzz to present is the Grand National because obviously it’s to around 10 million people in this country and hundreds of millions worldwide so that gets the adrenaline going more than any other. But I also love doing the smaller days at Kelso and my local track Wincanton, I love those days. But the big festivals are just fantastic to present. Cheltenham Festival, Glorious Goodwood, York, Royal Ascot and everything that goes with that. Royal Ascot is the hardest to present because I have to be on top of everything from the Royal Procession through to the singing on the bandstand and the races in between. I think my single favourite day to present is Derby day. Because it’s the one day, just to sum it up, that I have to wear two ear pieces so I can hear my director, it’s that noisy. It’s like a cauldron and it’s the closest I get with the way that, the straight at Epsom, with the crowd on either side, the open top buses, it’s the closest I get with my old job which was presenting football at old fashioned grounds like Anfield and the old White Hart Lane which just used to have an intensity that’s very hard to describe because you were just so close to the action and the crowds felt on top of the pitch. And you get that at Epsom. And on Derby day, I get moved to the front of the stands for the classic, the Derby, and that is just unbelievable, it really is. And that would be my favourite experience of a normal year. The year gone by sadly, it was probably the worst experience I’ve had on a racecourse just because I love it so much. I actually didn’t present the Derby very well in 2020. If I could have another go at one race it would be the Derby. It was just so, it was a really depressing day with marshals guarding the fence, not to let people in. A Derby run in silence was a pretty desolate experience.

Me: At the beginning of the year I interviewed Mick Fitzgerald who spoke very highly of you, telling me how you aim to get the best out of everyone you work with and that’s why people love working with you. What do you enjoy most about being a part of the ITV Racing team?

Ed: It’s a very good question Zoe. Gosh, that’s very kind of Mick Fitzgerald. I feel like I want to be the referee, I don’t want anyone talking about me. When you’re the presenter, it should never be about you. I never offer an opinion on much because I’m there to get the best out of other people. And the one thing I’ve tried to install since joining ITV in 2016 to start in 2017 was to try and create a team ethic. I always wanted us working as a team and the first thing I did was to introduce a rule where everyone had to get together the night before a meeting at 6 o’clock. Obviously that’s difficult now, but we’ll do it for Cheltenham next week. And I wanted to create an environment where we’re in it together, whether you’re Anthony McCoy or the runner that makes cups of tea, I wanted us all to be working together. I wanted us to have a production meeting together, eat, drink, laugh as a team. And I think we’ve really go that ethic which hopefully shines through on screen because we obviously have our disagreements but we are one big family on ITV Racing across the board, everyone behind and in front of the camera, we all work together. Summed up by last week, which was a very tricky week, you know, we were… various whatsapp’s, zooms and we really stuck together and worked together and I think that’s really important in any walk of life – working as a team. And I really do love the team dearly and I hope that comes across on screen. And Mick is such a big part of that, I’m surrounded by a lot of really good team players and that’s what I wanted when I started.

Me: Since working with ITV Racing, what’s been your favourite moment to present?

Ed: Lots of ups and downs. Day 1 didn’t go to plan, I remember that, January the 1st 2017 – That was the hardest. There’s been lots of lows and lots of highs. We learn from the lows and we keep the highs in perspective. If I was to say one, Tiger Roll obviously was the closest to my heart, when he won the Cross Country and the Grand National, I was very emotive. It was a bit like presenting a Southampton win in my old job in Premier League football, it’s very hard to keep your emotions in check. That horse, I just became very close with him. But if I have to say one hour that suck out, I’ll always say the best moment I’ve had in television is when Manchester City won the Premier League with the iconic Agüero goal and Martin Tyler’s commentary. But the hour at Cheltenham a couple of years ago when Bryony Frost won the Ryanair on Frodon which had us all choking up because her interview was so good. It was a very emotive experience. And then immediately to have that followed by Paisley Park winning for Andrew Gemmell, Emma Lavelle, Barry Fenton, Aidan Coleman and just this warrior of a horse in Paisley Park, honestly it was… I remember being praised in the newspapers afterwards for being a bit like Des Lynam in not saying much, I let the pictures breath, which is a very important skill for a presenter. But that wasn’t a choice by me, that was because I found the whole thing emotional and I wasn’t capable of speaking even if I wanted to. Because Emma is one of my favourite people and to see Andrew Gemmell who’s been blind since birth getting such a thrill and enjoyment out of Paisley Park winning was just an extraordinary bit of sport. We called it the golden hour, it was magical and that’s what we need next week. We need stories like that to show just what a magnificent sport this is and how wonderful the horses are and get racing back on the back and front of the newspapers for the right reasons. Stories that only racing can write.

Me: Before you moved over to ITV, you worked for Sky, how did you find the transition from football to horse racing?

Ed: I found it really really difficult. Incredibly difficult. Switching sport is not something I’d recommend to any young presenters out there. I still don’t find it easy now, but I got it very wrong at the time, I thought… When I left football Leicester had just won the Premier League and I thought I needed to know everything about racing, because you know, I’d been in football nearly 20 years and I thought I needed to know absolutely everything. I went everywhere trying to learn every aspect of racing, but in hindsight, that was a mistake because in my job you don’t need to know everything. It helps to have it stored away but you don’t need to use it because as I said earlier, you’re there to get the best out of other people. And ITV Racing, I very quickly learnt that the real racing fans, there aren’t very many. The large bulk of our audience… Like Cheltenham next week, we’d like to think we’ll get well over a million each day, and only in the tens of thousands of those are the real racing fans, the rest are generally just sports fans who like to dip into racing. We are part of the entertainment industry and it’s got to be entertaining and I quickly learnt you can’t please everybody every show we do. People say ‘we need to see more of the horses’ or ‘we need something else’ or ‘we need more betting’ or ‘we want more social stable’ and you have to accept you can’t win and you need a thick skin to stick to what we’re doing. I’ve learnt a lot in the four years and trying to get that balance right is very difficult and we’re never going to get it 100% right, of course we’re not but the way we’ve grown our audience over the four years is very satisfactory because it’s been nice to prove people wrong. There are a few articles last week, where one journalist said jump racing was in danger of extinction, well more people are watching jump racing now than they have in a very long time. We’ve obviously got a challenge to keep those people, but it’s very popular right now on ITV and during lockdown that’s obviously accelerated dramatically with people watching so that’s quite satisfying for me, but I want to keep doing that. I want to keep getting people to enjoy what I think is a brilliant sport. Our mantra has always been since day one to make racing accessible to as many people as possible and that’s something I’m passionate about and will continue to do.

So to answer your question, it was a lot harder than I expected it to be and a lot more challenging but I’ve learnt rapidly and hopefully the viewing figures back up the way we’ve done it.

Me: I think it’s important because with ITV Racing it is presented in such a way that you don’t need to be an avid racing fan to truly understand what’s happening.

Ed: The key thing there, to any presenter watching, television is very subjective. Everyone has a different opinion on television but the media training I do, the key thing as a presenter is to make people feel welcome, to make people feel warm and a part of the show. Particularly now when a lot of people suffering and a lot of people are fed up, give them an escape for a couple of hours, feel part of our coverage, make people feel welcome to it – That’s always what we’re trying to do. Make racing welcoming to everybody.

Me: That always comes across when you are watching ITV Racing.

Ed: I always say, people sometimes like to compare us to racing channels, you don’t need to do that. My ethos is if I can get people into racing and enjoying it and they then take out a subscription to Racing TV then I’ve done my job. That’s what I want to happen.

Me: With Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, what would you say is the best bet of the week?

Ed: Best bet of the week… There’s a few I fancy actually. I think Soaring Glory will go very well in the opener, the Sky Bet Supreme. But I think if I had a bet of the week, I’d love Paul Nicholls to have a winner at the Festival because he’s so good for the game and I just hope the love is shared and Willie Mullins doesn’t just win absolutely everything… So I think I’ll go for Bravemansgame in the Ballymore. Challow Hurdle winners at Newbury have got an awful record in the race, but hopefully he can break that because his owner is a good friend of mine in John Dance and I just think Bravemansgame has got something very special about him. And he’ll go off at a decent price because on the preview circuit their talking about Bob Olinger as if he’s absolutely past the post already so that’s going to make the price for Bravemansgame, so I’ll go with him.

Me: And in terms of the Festival, WellChild have been announced as an official partner, you’ve worked with them for many year as an ambassador, can you tell us a little bit more about what they do and how important they are and what partnering with the Cheltenham Festival will do for them?

Ed: I’m so pleased you’ve asked that because… I find it very emotional to talk about actually. For me, it’s very surreal. I’m looking at the Cheltenham Festival magazine here supporting WellChild and when I first starting working with WellChild 10 years ago they were just a very small charity in Cheltenham. They just struck a note of something that meant the world to me, someone who was very ill 10/11 years ago and seeing a children’s cancer ward was like no experience I’ve ever gone through or ever want to see again. It was much worse than the experience I was going through in the ward next door. And, I said to myself then, if I can come through the other side of this, if I can do anything to help get children out of hospital and looked after at home. The sight of a young child in hospital just broke my heart and what WellChild does is it looks after and nurses seriously ill children and it nurses them at home which I think is the most important thing. So things like my annual golf day, WellChild awards, marathon runners – that type of thing, helps fund the nursing at home. There are some desperately sad stories, yes. But there are also some of the most inspiring young people you’ll ever meet. We’ve got them drawing pictures for this year and this is the biggest boost for WellChild at a really difficult time. They’ve had a torrid year, when you think that all their fundraising events have been cancelled. My golf day – cancelled. London Marathon – cancelled. WellChild Awards- cancelled. And they’ve really suffered, then suddenly this idea came about.

The local community in Cheltenham is one of the things we’re really going to support this year, it’s the theme of the first day, we’re doing a theme each day. Day 1 is local community and WellChild ticks that box as well as B&B’s, hotels, taxi firms in Cheltenham. And for WellChild, the exposure and hopefully fundraising is just going to make the wold of difference to a lot of WellChild families and a lot of seriously ill young children. Which I just find emotive and surreal and incredible what Cheltenham and the Jockey Club have done here. And again, it just shows how awesome racing is.

It’s given everybody who works for the charity a huge boost, it’s given the nurses a huge boost and I just hope the families get a real buzz out of it. I had to do a judging of the pictures the young kids had drawn. With kids as young as 5 drawing picture of horses and Gold Cup’s… How am I supposed to pick the top 3? I wanted to pick all of them! I can’t give too much away for next week but there’s going to be some very clever signage and little touches to support the kids. Which again, I might go a little bit quiet on ITV and you doing this interview you’ll know why I’ve gone quiet. It just means the world to me.

The Jockey Club and Cheltenham have got so behind the cause and you’ll see what they’ve done at the racecourse just how much they’ve committed to it. Because some people say ‘it’s ridiculous, a charity shouldn’t be spending money at Cheltenham’ but actually, they’re not spending any more. This is all the Jockey Club and Cheltenham supporting the charity.

Me: Beyond the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand National, with it being announced Tiger Roll won’t be running, who do you fancy now to take that crown from him?

Ed: I fancy one quite strongly actually. I think after what Cloth Cap did the weekend, he’ll take the world of beating, he was on springs around Kelso, he will absolutely love jumping those fences. And I would absolutely love to see Trevor Hemmings win the Grand National for the 4th time. If he doesn’t warm people’s hearts and boost spirits, nobody will. His enthusiasm is infectious at his ripe young age. But from a betting point of view, I think Secret Reprieve. Now I, it sounds like he’s definitely going to bypass Cheltenham and it sounds like from Evan Williams quotes, even though he’s not committing him, it sounds like the Grand National might be the plan. And off 10-1 after his performance in the Welsh Grand National he’s going to be absolutely running free. And that day, he just looked like a Grand National winner, the way he jumped and he obviously has stamina in abundance. The Grand National these days is a race where they go pretty quick and stamina now is more important then ever, you’ve got to stay every yard. You’ve got to look for a horse that stays and Secret Reprieve we know he stays, he’s off a great weight clearly and he’s made for the race. The owners have gone so close in the National before, it would be great for them to win it and I think Secret Reprieve stands out a mile.

Me: Another thing I wanted to touch on was social media, you worked in TV before social media was really a thing, how much would you say it has changed your job, the industry and sport as a whole?

Ed: I think it’s changed the world a lot, I wouldn’t say it’s changed my world. I’d be someone that says as a presenter if you listen and broadcast to social media then turn out the lights and give up the game because it’s a dangerous thing to do. I used to really embrace social media, I enjoyed it and I’m talking about Twitter here primarily, but I feel very differently about it now. I worry about it, not for myself, it doesn’t bother me, but I worry about it for young people like yourself because it can be a horrible, horrible place. And some of the messages I have to receive and to be fair, most of them I am old and uglier enough to just laugh at but, come on, why can’t people post under their real identity? I just don’t understand that. I’ve seen you upset on there few times, I’ve seen other people upset on there and it really worries me. I have two kids and I don’t want them growing up having to listen to some of the stuff and I don’t want them to read the stuff about their daddy. People need to think before they post, they need to be kinder and they should have their name on their profile. I spend very little time on their now. It can be a very good information source, it’s got lots of brilliant people, but the last week… Lee Mottershead, it sums it up. The reaction to Lee Mottershead to what he said on Sunday, fine don’t agree with him, I didn’t particularly agree with what he said, but the vile, horrendous stick he had to take just makes me despair. 24 hours after I had said the lesson of this whole episode is that racing needs to listen and we need to be better at listening, accepting criticism, learning from criticism and then that happens and I just despair sometimes. As I said, I’m old enough and uglier enough, it doesn’t worry me and I don’t spend a lot of time on there. But then things like Instagram I absolutely love, it’s great fun! You must not get too caught up in it because Twitter does not reflect real life, I promise you. I listen to everything, I read everything but most of the stuff I just laugh at. I used to react to it, but I try not to do that anymore because it’s just not worth it.

Me: What would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion they want to follow?

Ed: Go for it. Be determined, you just… In life you need a bit of luck but when you get that bit of luck, take advantage. So my lucky break was one of the senior executives at Sky was watching Bloomburg Television one day, I think one man and his dog watches Bloomburg Television, but I used to go on there to do a sport preview show and they saw me there. I had no interest in working in television at the time, I was a journalist. And that was my lucky break and when I got my lucky break and was invited into Sky my attitude was take advantage. The door had opened for me, it was up to me to barge my way through it and then really make the most of it and that’s what I did. Then I had another lucky break when I became the face of Premier League football on Sky when Richard Keys and Andy Gray left sky, again the door opened for me and I took advantage. That’s the way to do it. But these days it’s very different to when I started. For someone like yourself, you’re doing exactly what I recommend to people. Get yourself out there with interviews, blogs, podcasts – there’s so many things you can do now to get yourself out there and get yourself seen an I know it’s a cliché, but it only takes one pair of ears or one pair of eyes to see what you’re doing and think ‘that’s good’ and then you might get an opportunity and take advantage. So if you’re interested in the media, if you’re interested in writing, journalism holds the key. So, I would be very disappointed if anyone that does a role similar to mine turned down an interview from a young person like yourself. And you’ve just got to have that initiative and that determination to do it, which you’ve clearly got in spades and I’m full of admiration for that. So my advice to young people is be brave, get yourself out there and work damn hard.

Me: Just to finish the interview, I’ve been asked to ask you by my friend Kian Burley, if he can still have your job with ITV Racing when you decide to step down?

Ed: Bit worried about my mortgage at the moment so he might have to give me just a few more years yet. And I’m rather enjoying what I’m doing at the moment – The question I get asked more than any other in supermarkets and garages is why did I leave Premier League football and they also asked me when will I go back to Premier League football. To which my response is I’m in no hurry whatsoever, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So you’ll have to tell him, I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

Me: That’s everything from me, I want to thank you for taking your time outto speak with me, I really appreciate it.

Ed: Honestly, to see someone showing a bit of initiative like you are, I’m all in favour of supporting. I turn down lots of things as you can imagine, but I will never say no to something like that. You can tell hopefully from my ethos and attitude. But you have to promise me one thing… Don’t get too upset by people on social media.


After the interview ended, Ed spoke with me about everything I was doing in more detail and gave me so much advice and support and I just want to say a huge thank you to him, I understand totally how busy he will be in the run up to Cheltenham but for him to give up his time to sit and speak with me on a lengthy phone call and give me some support and advice also, meant a lot to me, especially as he’s someone I look up to in the industry.

As I mentioned at the top of the page WellChild are an incredible charity and I am so glad I got to speak to Ed about the work they do. There website is: https://www.wellchild.org.uk/ – I urge everyone to check out their website where you can find out more about the work they do and also donate if you can afford to.

I am really grateful I got to speak with Ed and I really hope everyone enjoyed this one as much as I did! Leading into the Cheltenham Festival I have a post Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening’s at 6pm and another next Saturday morning at 11am so a very busy week ahead on my website and I hope to see you all back here for all of those!

Thank you so much for reading, I will see you tomorrow at 6pm for my next post: The History of the Champion Hurdle.

Kauto Star: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post in the What Makes a People’s Horse series here at zoelouisesmithx.com. This series is turning out to be a very popular one and I am super excited that I have been given 100+ horses to look into as per my followers on Twitter. So this means I will be continuing to share more posts and focus on horses that have been suggested. Today’s is all about Kauto Star who was suggested to me by 100’s of people, however the first being @G_Carter31 over on Twitter. So without further ado, let’s get right to it!


Kauto Star was foaled 19th March 2000, by Village Star out of Kauto Relka. He was bred by Mrs Henri Aubert in France. Originally he was sent into training in France by Serge Foucher.

Whilst in training with Serge Foucher, Kauto Star made his hurdle debut at Bordeaux Le Bouscat Racecourse in France on the 1st March 2003, where he finished second out of two horses. He then ran again on the 14th April 2003, this time at Enghien where he won, before heading to Auteuil on the 4th May 2003 for another hurdle race over 1 mile 7 furlong where he won again by a head.

After a 146 day break, Kauto Star returned to Auteuil another 3 times during 2003, on the 27th September, 11th October and 2nd November, where he won, fell and placed 2nd respectively. We then head into 2004, after a 126 day break Kauto Star headed to Auteuil another 4 times, on the 7th March, 27th March, 24th April and 30th May, where he finished 3rd, 5th, 3rd and 1st respectively.

During this time, Kauto Star caught the attention of Paul Nicholls who had seen a video of him in action. He arranged to buy Kauto Star through Anthony Bromley, a bloodstock agent in France. Paul then arranged for owner Clive Smith to purchase him for €400,000.

On the 15th November 2004 Kauto Star officially moved to Paul Nicholls’ yard in Ditcheat ready for the 2004/2005 season. His first race in the UK took place on the 29th December 2004 when he headed to Newbury for a Novice Chase with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. Starting as the 2/1 joint favourite, Kauto Star won by 9 lengths to the other joint favourite Foreman under AP McCoy.

We now move into 2005 and on the 31st January Kauto Star headed to Exeter where he finished 2nd out of 2 finishers in a Novice Chase with Ruby Walsh riding as the 2/11 favourite behind Mistral De La Cour (20/1) for Andrew Thornton.

Kauto Star took a 274 day break, before returning to Exeter on the 1st November 2005, again with stable jockey Ruby Walsh riding. He started at 3/1 for the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup Chase, where he finished 2nd behind Monkerhostin (10/1) for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs. On the 3rd December, Kauto Star headed to Sandown for the Grade 1 Tingle Creek, where he started as the 5/2 joint favourite with Mick Fitzgerald taking the ride. He ended up winning by 1 1/2 lengths to the other joint favourite Ashley Brook for AP McCoy.

With his first Grade 1 under his belt, Kauto Star took a 102 day break before heading straight to the Cheltenham Festival in 2006 on the 15th March for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He started as the 2/1 favourite under Ruby Walsh, however ended up taking his first fall on British soil. Paul then gave Kauto Star a 221 summer break before heading to Aintree on the 22nd October 2006 for the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase where, under Ruby Walsh, he won as the Evens favourite, beating stable companion Armaturk (13/2) by 21 lengths.

Kauto Star then headed to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 18th November 2006 where he won as the 11/10 favourite under Ruby Walsh. Kauto then made a reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on the 2nd December to try and retain his title. Successfully doing so by winning by 7 lengths as the odds on 4/9 favourite, again with Ruby Walsh. Next for Kauto Star was the second leg of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the King George Chase on Boxing Day 2006, where he won by 8 lengths as the 8/13 favourite, again under Ruby Walsh.

Heading into 2007, Kauto Star went to Newbury on the 10th February for the Grade 2 Aon Chase. As the odd on 2/9 favourite, again under Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star won by a neck to AP McCoy on L’Ami (6/1). We then move on to the third and final leg of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on the 16th March 2007. With Ruby Walsh on board and starting the race as the 5/4 favourite, the pressure was well and truly on. Everybody had their hearts in their mouths when he hit the final fence, however, he stayed on strong and won by 2 1/2 lengths to AP McCoy on Exotic Dancer. By winning the Betfair Chase, King George and Gold Cup, Kauto Star won the Stayers Chase Triple Crown £1 million bonus and also finished the season as the top rated chaser.

Kauto Star then took a 226 day, very well deserved, summer break, before returning to Aintree on the 28th October 2007 to try and retain his Old Roan Chase crown. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Kauto Star with Ruby Walsh on board, finished second as the 11/10 favourite, 1 1/2 lengths behind Monet’s Garden (9/4). He then headed to Haydock to retain the Betfair Chase title, this time under Sam Thomas due to regular jockey Ruby Walsh being out injured with a dislocated shoulder. He started the race as the odd on 4/5 favourite where he beat Barry Geraghty riding Exotic Dancer. We then move on to the King George on Boxing day 2007, where Kauto Star aimed to retain his next crown. With regular jockey Ruby Walsh returning to take the ride, they started as the odd on 4/6 favourite, winning easily by 11 lengths to Our Vic (12/1).

Swiftly moving into 2008, Kauto Star took a 52 day break, before returning to the track, this time at Ascot on the 16th February for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. He started as the 4/11 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. At this point in the career, stable jockey Ruby Walsh had announced his intention to ride Kauto Star in the Gold Cup opposed to Denman, who Sam Thomas would be booked to ride. In his final preparation for the Gold Cup, Kauto Star won by 8 lengths to Monet’s Garden (6/1).

The question on everyone’s lips when heading into the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the 14th of March 2008 was if Kauto Star could successfully complete the Stayers Chase Triple Crown once again, or if his very successful and talented stable mate Denman would hinder that. Kauto Star started as the 10/11 favourite to try and retain his crown, with Denman starting at 9/4. With Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star and Sam Thomas riding Denman, this looked to be a brilliant head to head. Denman took up the race with a circuit to go and ended up winning by 7 lengths, with Kauto Star finishing second by a short head to another stable companion Neptune Collonges (25/1) with Mick Fitzgerald riding. Kauto Star’s season ended at Aintree on the 3rd of April 2008 in a Grade 2 Chase. He started as the 4/7 favourite under Ruby Walsh, where he lost by just a nose to Our Vic (9/1).

We then head into the new season and after a 212 day summer break, Kauto Star headed to Ireland to Down Royal on the 1st of November 2008 for a Grade 1 Champion Chase. He started as the 2/5 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride again. This time beating Mark Walsh on Light On The Broom (50/1) by 11 lengths. Returning back to England, next for Kauto Star was his attempt at another Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 22nd of November. Regular jockey Ruby Walsh was out injured with a ruptured spleen, meaning Sam Thomas took the ride. Starting as the 2/5 favourite, his old fierce competitor Exotic Dancer (7/2) being his main opposition in the betting. Unfortunatly it was not meant to be, with Kauto Star stumbling on landing and unseating Sam Thomas after the last.

Kauto Star then headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2008 to try and win his third King George. Kauto Star started as the 10/11 favourite with regular jockey Ruby Walsh returning to take the ride. Despite making a mistake at the last, Kauto Star went on to win by 8 lengths to AP McCoy on Albertas Run (25/1).

Moving into 2009, Paul Nicholls made the decision that Kauto Star would best run fresh, so unlike previous season, he would not run again before Cheltenham where he would be aimed for the Gold Cup, again taking on the current holder and stable companion Denman. So after a 77 day break Kauto Star headed to the Gold Cup where he started as the 7/4 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride, with second favourite being Denman at 7/1 and third stable companion Neptune Collonges being 15/2 then Kauto Star’s fierce rival Exotic Dancer at 8/1. Kauto Star moved into the lead after jumping the third last fence, before pulling clear and going on to win by 13 lengths to Denman (7/1). He then ended the season as the top rated steeplechase horse for the second time.

Kauto Star started the new season after a 253 day break, heading to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 21st November 2009. He started the race as the 4/6 odds on favourite with Ruby Walsh riding. Kauto Star and Imperial Commander were 24 lengths clear from Madison Du Berlais, with Kauto Star winning by just a nose to Imperial Commander (9/1). Kauto Star then headed straight to Kempton on Boxing Day to attempt to win his fourth consecutive King George VI Chase. With Ruby Walsh riding again, starting as the 8/13 favourite, Kauto Start went clear with three fences left to jump, before eventually winning by 36 lengths to Madison Du Berlais (10/1). Winning by such a distance, meant he broke Arkle’s 44 year old record of winning by 30 lengths which directly lead to a rule change dispensing with the traditional winning distance of “a distance” which had previously been used for wins of more than 30 lengths.

After winning the King George for a 4th time, Kauto Star was awarded a Racing Post Rating of 192, the highest ever earned by a Nation Hunt horse. Timeform also gave him a rating of 191, the highest given to a horse in almost 40 years. This made him the joint third highest rated steeplechase of all time, level with Mill House and only behind Arkle who was rated 212 and Flyingbolt who was rated 210. Kauto Star was officially rated 193, which is the highest ever awared to a chaser.

We now move into 2010. After an 83 day break, Kauto Star headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup on the 19th of March. With Ruby Walsh taking the ride again, he started as the 8/11 favourite. He travelled well throughout, before crashing through the 8th fence which knocked him back a few places. Then at the fourth to last fence, in fifth place, Kauto Star fell awkwardly, landing on his neck. Luckily, he got to his feet, looking unscathed. When he returned to the unsaddling area, he was applauded by everyone in the grandstands who were just happy he had survived an awful fall to fight another day.

After a 232 day break, Kauto Star headed to Down Royal for a Grade 1 Champion Chase. He started as the 4/7 favourite under Ruby Walsh and went on to win by 4 lengths to Sizing Europe (5/1).

With the Kempton Boxing Day meeting being postponed due to snow, the King George took place on the 15th of January 2011 and this is where Kauto Star headed next. With regular jockey Ruby Walsh being injured, Champion Jockey AP McCoy came in for the ride. Starting the race as the 4/7 favourite, unfortunately he could only manage a 3rd place behind winner Long Run (9/2) and second place Riverside Theatre (10/1), both trained by Nicky Henderson. This was the first time that Kauto Star had finished outside of the top two in a completed race, due to this there were calls for Kauto Star to be retired. After the race, it was discovered that he was suffering from an infection and for the first time in his career, he had bled during the race. However, trainer Paul Nicholls announced that Kauto Star would still be trained for the Cheltenham Gold Cup as originally planned.

So that is exactly what happened, Kauto Star headed straight to the Gold Cup on the 18th of March 2011 after a 62 day break. He started the race at 5/1, meaning for the first time since 2005, he was not starting as the favourite of this race. With Ruby Walsh taking the ride, they only managed a 3rd place behind favourite Long Run (7/2F) and stable companion, Denman (8/1). Kauto Star headed to Punchestown on the 4th of May 2011 for the Punchestown Gold Cup. He started as the 10/11 favourite under Ruby Walsh, however ended up being pulled up with Ruby Walsh saying he was “never travelling”. As before, Kauto Star was applauded as he returned to the stables.

After being pulled up at Punchestown, the call for Kauto Star to be retired were even stronger than before. However, connections said that their intention was to bring him back into training after a summer break and assess his condition to see if he could continue, only if they were happy with his physical and mental wellbeing.

Kauto Star took a 199 day summer break, before heading to Haydock on the 19th of November to compete in the Betfair Chase where he started the race at his longest odds in his UK career at 6/1 under Ruby Walsh. Kauto Star made this is fourth victory in this race, winning by 8 lengths to the favourite Long Run (6/5F). Kauto Star had now won the Betfair Chase in 2006, 2007, 2009 and now 2011, meaning that he became the only horse to have won two different Grade 1 jump races four times, with the other being the King George, which he had won in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Speaking of the King George, that is what came next for Kauto Star on Boxing Day 2011. Starting at 3/1, Kauto Star with Ruby Walsh riding, beat the Evens favourite Long Run, by 1 1/4 lengths.

In 2012 the main aim was to go straight to the Gold Cup. However at the end of February, Paul Nicholls announced that Kauto Star had suffered a fall during routine schooling at Ditcheat, which put his Gold Cup hopes in doubt. However, after intensive physiotherapy and walking exercise, he showed a rapid improvement and just a week before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kauto Star headed to Wincanton for a racecourse gallop. Here, he pleased connections and the decision was finally made that he would run in the Gold Cup. He started the Gold Cup at 3/1 under Ruby Walsh, however he was pulled up with Ruby Walsh saying he was “not stretching out”. No major injury was revealed, however owner Clive Smith made comments that he would most likely be retired.

As expected, at the end of October 2012, Kauto Star’s retirement was announced. With owner Clive Smith saying:

He’s had a magnifficant career and I’m mighty proud of him. We’ve decided to retire him as of today. I’d always thought he had done enough. It’s been the journey of a lifetime. He’s a wonderful, wonderful horse and a good friend of mine.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

And trainer Paul Nicholls saying:

Clive and I had been talking about it during the summer. We both knew it was the right thing to do, it was an unanimous decision. We have had nine superb years with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself, Clifford (Baker, head lad) and Dan (Skelton, assistant trainer) were of the opinion that the time had arrived to retire him. Of course, as owner, the final decision rested with Clive, but he agreed that the horse had done enough.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

Paul also described the horse as:

He’s definitely one of the greatest, it’s hard to compare generations but in my lifetime he’s been the best and probably will be the best.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

With Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star’s regular jockey also commenting on him:

He’s the horse of my lifetime. I’m very lucky to be the one who got to ride him. He was an amazing horse to ride and an amazing horse to be part of and I loved every minute of riding him.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

And Mick Fitzgerald, who rode Kauto Star in his 2005 win in the Tingle Creek saying:

You’d have to say Kauto Star is right up there with the best (there’s ever been).”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

When being retired, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith disagreed on what should happen with Kauto Star now. On the 11th of December 2012, Kauto Star left Ditcheat and was sent to Laura Collett and Yogi Breisner, who coached the Great Britain dressage team, who assessed him to determine if he would be suitable for their sport. At the time, owner Clive Smith said of Paul Nicholls:

He is trying emotional blackmail, saying that Kauto Star would be better off staying at Ditcheat to be Clifford Baker’s hack. I always want to do the best for Kauto Star. We are going to try it, what is wrong with that?”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/9738182/Kauto-Star-dressage-row-sparks-split-between-Clive-Smith-and-Paul-Nicholls.html

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Kauto Star, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, let’s go through Kauto Star’s race record

21/11F2353/112/21F/111111/211122/1U11/11F/133/P11P/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

41 Races
23 x 1st
7 x 2nd
4 x 3rd
1 x 5th
3 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider
2 x Pulled Up

So, all in all, Kauto Star won over £3.7 million pounds in prize money including a £1 million bonus for winning the Stayers Chase Triple Crown and a £400,000 reward for heading the BHA Table of Merit, both in the 2006/2007 season. In his career, Kauto Star won the Gold Cup twice in 2007 and 2009, he won the Betfair Chase 4 times in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 and he won the King George a record of five times in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

On the 24th of June 2015, it was announced that Kauto Star was seriously injured when taking a fall in his paddock. He was sent to the Valley Equine Hospital where he received intensive medical treatment over the weekend. However multiple injuries were to severe and on the 29th of June at 3pm, Kauto Star was sadly put to sleep. The veterinary assistant, Hattie Lawrence, reporting that:

Three bones appear to have been fractured. There also appears to have been a fracture to the spine at the base of the neck. This ultimately was the most significant injury as it produced the paralysis that made it impossible for him to stand.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

With Laura Collett saying:

It’s an honour and a privilege to have been involved with him and had him in the yard. It’s just horrendous. He was out in the field, the same field he was out in very day, we don’t really know what happened.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Owner Clive Smith also commenting:

I was away at the time. I saw him on Friday and by that time he’d had what appeared to be a mild injury, but things gradually changed. He was not responding to treatment on Thursday and Friday and various complications came over the weekend. Although he made an improvement and rallied, as he always did in races, on Monday morning it was very bad. I came back down from Scotland and the decision was taken with Hattie Lawrence to euthanise the horse.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Clive Smith then went on to describe the last few minutes with him:

The real injury that has caused the problem is a neck injury, at the base of the neck between C6 and T2 (vertebrae). It affects the spinal chord and in the end, it paralyses through the legs. When I saw him yesterday afternoon, he was lying there and I fed him some grass and stroked him and tried to spend the last few minutes with him. The decision had to be taken an there was no other course of action to take. Unfortunately he was not able to stand and then he had the pelvic injury.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Clive Smith also commented on Kauto Star and how much he was truly loved:

He had a beautiful nature and he will be sadly missed by a lot more people than you could ever imagine. The response I used to get around the racecourses, people used to come and talk about him all the time. He really has been well loved by everybody and I’m sure he’ll continue to be so. He just loved the attention, he was a little bit of a show off. He liked being stroked and given lots of Polos. He was a particularly extrovert type of horse and he was so talented as well, which makes it all the more difficult to take in. I just feel so sorry he didn’t have chance to have a longer life.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

So, in summary, Kauto Star was a ridiculously talented horse and will always go down as one of the most successful steeplechasers in racing. He won some huge races, had some massive rivalries but all in all was just an incredible horse all round. I was lucky enough to grow up watching Kauto Star as a child with my dad, I don’t remember much, but researching this post I have sat watching YouTube videos and I have loved it. The crowd go wild each time and it’s clear to see how loved he was, is and always will be.


I really hope you all enjoyed this post and I will hopefully see you all in my next one!

Don Cossack: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Before I get into today’s post I would like to make a few announcements, unusual for me, I know, but I am super excited and proud and would like to share with my readers!

Firstly, I would like to formally announce I am officially working with Careers In Racing to continue to create content and promote the sport I love. I am truly honoured to be given this opportunity and I cannot wait to get started! You can read my opening interview right now on their website: https://www.careersinracing.com/careers-in-racing-social-creators-zoe-smith/ where I introduce myself and also answer some questions I never have before. I am super exited for this project and I know it will be incredible, so keep an eye on my website and my social media for more information!

Secondly, I was asked by someone you probably all know, William Kedjanyi, to write up his Just William column for Star Sports this week and I absolutely took him up on that opportunity. I focus in on social media within horse racing, amateur jockey’s not being allowed to ride at the Cheltenham Festival as well as Tiger Roll and his future. You can read that right here: https://www.starsportsbet.co.uk/just-william-zoe-smiths-racing-takes/. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this up, something totally different to my usual work and I hope you all enjoy.

Now, with those being said, let’s just jump right into today’s post. My Dad is my number one fan who reads every post I write and always gives me ideas for new posts I can look to write. So today I decided to focus in on a horse who my dad absolutely loves and followed throughout his career and that is Don Cossack. So without further ado, let’s get right into it!


Don Cossack was foaled 21st March 2007, by Sholokhov out of Depeche Toi. He was bred by Gestut Etzean in Germany. Don Cossack was sent to Ireland where he entered ownership of W. B. Connors who sent him into training with Edward Hales.

Don Cossack’s career started on 3rd May 2011 when he ran in a 4 year old National Hunt Flat Race for Mares and Geldings where he finished 5th out of 24 under Robbie McNamara at 6/1. Very shortly after, on 24th October 2011 Don Cossack was brought by the Gigginstown House Stud and move to Gordon Elliott’s yard. After an 179 day break, on 29th October 2011, he was sent to Naas for a National Hunt Flat Race where he started as the 2/1 favourite under Nina Carberry where he won his first race.

Don Cossack then had a 50 day break before returning to the track, this time to Navan on 18th December for a Grade 2 National Hunt Flat Race. He won by 1 1/2 lengths under Nina Carberry as the 4/6 favourite. He took another break, this time of 113 days, not returning to the track until the 9th April 2012. This time to Fairyhouse, winning by 17 lengths as the 6/5 favourite, again under Nina Carberry.

After a 230 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Navan, this time for a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles. He started the race as the 30/100 favourite, this time under Davy Russell and impressively won by 9 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was a Novice Hurdle at Navan on the 16th December 2012, where he started the race as the odds on 8/15 favourite under Davy Russell. Shocking everyone, this was the first time Don Cossack had lost in his career, taking his first fall. After this race, Gordon Elliott did say that he was found to be lame.

We then move into 2013, on the 3rd February, Don Cossack went to Punchestown for the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over 2 miles. Under Davy Russell he started as the 6/5 favourite. He ended up finishing 2nd by 1 length behind Mozoltov (9/4) trained by Willie Mullins with Ruby Walsh riding. Three weeks later, Don Cossack went to Naas to compete in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle. He started at 5/2, again under Davy Russell. He ended up finishing 3rd behind the winner Annie Power (5/2), the Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh partnership and in second place Defy Logic (13/8F) with AP McCoy on board for Paul Nolan.

Don Cossack then took a 246 day summer break, returning to the track, this time going to Galway for a Beginners Chase on the 28th October 2013 over 2 mile 6 1/2 furlong. He won the race under Andrew Lynch as the 10/11 favourite and in a very stylish way too, winning by 20 lengths. A very impressive start to his chasing career. Three weeks later, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown where he ran in a Grade 2 Novice Chase over 2 mile 6 furlong on the 17th November. He finished second as the odds on 4/5 favourite, this time with Bryan Cooper riding. The eventual winner, by 1/2 length, was Morning Assembly (6/4) for Ruby Walsh.

Two weeks later on the 1st December 2013, Don Cossack headed to Fairyhouse to compete in a Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 4 furlong. This time with Davy Russell taking up the ride and winning as the 13/8 favourite. Don Cossack took a 70 day break before returning in 2014, this time to Leopardstown on the 9th February, for another Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 5 furlong. With Bryan Cooper taking the ride, he started as the Evens favourite. Finishing second by 4 lengths behind the duo of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with Ballycasey (2/1).

The next time we would see Don Cossack was when he took his first trip across the pond to go to the biggest stage of them all, the Cheltenham Festival on the 12th March 2014. Here he ran in the Grade 1 RSA Chase, he started at 11/1 under Bryan Cooper, sadly he fell only for the second time in his career. However, his season wasn’t quite over yet. Gordon Elliott sent Don Cossack back to England, this time to Aintree on the 4th April 2014 to run in a Grade 1 Novice’ Chase over 3 mile 1 furlong. He started at 4/1 under Davy Russell, however only managed second place behind the very powerful duo of AP McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill with Holywell (7/2). Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on the 29th April, at 4/1. He finished 4th out of 5 with Barry Geraghty riding. Out of the 3 horses who finished ahead of him, 2 had previously beaten him before, 3rd place Morning Assembly (7/4F), 2nd place Ballycasey (3/1) and winner Carlingford Lough (7/2).

Next for Don Cossack was a 170 day summer break before returning to Punchestown on the 16th October 2014 for a Grade 3 Chase where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 11/10 under Bryan Cooper by 5 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was on my 18th birthday, 1st November 2014, where he headed to Down Royal for a Grade 2 Chase. He beat the odds on 8/11 favourite, Wonderful Charm, who finished in second place. Don Cossack won by 8 1/2 lengths under Bryan Cooper at 6/4. One month later, Don Cossack headed back to Punchestown for a Grade 1 Chase, this time beating the 11/10 favourite Boston Bob who finished in second place. This time by 4 1/2 lengths under Brian O’Connell at 13/8.

We then move into 2015 and on the 15th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles with Bryan Cooper riding, making it 4/4 for the season, this time winning at 6/4 by a massive 44 lengths. He then took a 56 day break before returning to England to have a second shot at the Cheltenham Festival, this time the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on the 12th March. He started as the 5/2 favourite under Bryan Cooper, however could only manage a 3rd place behind the winner Uxzandre (16/1) for AP McCoy and Alan King and in second place Ma Filleule (5/1) for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.

Don Cossack returned to England on the 10th April 2015 for the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree, where he started as the 3/1 joint favourite. This time he was rode by a new jockey as Bryan Cooper was currently serving a suspension, the new jockey being Champion Jockey AP McCoy. He ended up winning by 26 lengths to the horse I focused in on Wednesday, the brilliant Cue Card. With trainer Gordon Elliott saying in an interview:

I said a couple of years ago he was the best horse I’ve trained. It didn’t work out then, but he looks it now. AP (McCoy) said he just gallops and gallops. It will be the Gold Cup now.”

https://www.independent.ie/sport/horse-racing/don-on-gold-cup-trail-after-impressing-for-mccoy-31133904.html

Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown on the 29th April beating 2/1 favourite Djakadam in the Irish Gold Cup, this time by 7 lengths at 5/2 under Paul Carberry with regular jockey Bryan Cooper opting to ride Road To Riches. With trainer Gordon Elliott later saying:

We wanted to find out if he stayed the trip or not at this stage of the season so we would know where we are going next year. He’s always been the apple of my eye and this is one of the proudest days I’ve had training horses so far. I feel sorry for Bryan (Cooper, who chose to ride Road To Riches in the same colours as the owner Michael O’Leary) but he had to go with the other horse after being third in the Gold Cup. But I’m delighted for Paul; he’s been associated with me for a long time and to give him a Grade One is brilliant. We were nervous about running him but it’s the Gold Cup so we took our chance and now I’ll be safe in the job for another year, please God. I’m just so happy with the way he did it; he put seven lengths between them on the way to the line.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/apr/29/impressive-don-cossack-punchestown-gold-cup

After a 169 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown on the 15th October 2015 for a Grade 3 Chase, winning as the 1/4 favourite with Bryan Cooper on board, this time by 12 lengths to stable companion Roi Du Mee (14/1). Two weeks later, Don Cossack headed to Down Royal with Bryan Cooper again, for a Grade 1 Champion Chase over 3 miles. He won as the odds on 2/11 favourite by 8 lengths. For his final race of 2015, Don Cossack headed back to England, this time to Kempton on Boxing Day for the King George Chase. He started the race as the 15/8 favourite under regular jockey Bryan Cooper, however ended up falling 2 out, with Wednesday evening’s post hero Cue Card winning (9/2).

We then move into 2016 and on the 14th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles for a Grade 2 chase over 2 mile 4 furlong, he started as the odds on 1/8 favourite under Bryan Cooper where he won by 9 1/2 lengths. So, where to next for Don Cossack, a third appearance at the Cheltenham Festival and little did we know, would be his last appearance, not only at the Festival but in racing altogether. Don Cossack was made the 9/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup where, under Bryan Cooper, he won by 4 1/2 lengths to Djakadam (9/2). With jockey Bryan Cooper saying:

Everything went perfect. I didn’t want to get him crowded and we got into a lovely jumping rhythm. I knew turning in that there was only one winner bar a fall. He could have gone round again. There was a lot of press around saying that I couldn’t get on with the horse and I think I’ve proved you all wrong now, so I’m delighted.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/18/bryan-cooper-cheltenham-gold-cup-favourite-don-cossack

Sadly, we would never see Don Cossack on track again. He was being prepared to run at the Punchestown Festival in April 2016, when he sustained a serious tendon injury. After seemingly recovering from his injury, he returned to training, with retaining the Gold Cup being his main goal. However in January 2017, it was said that Don Cossack had suffered a recurrence of the leg injury and the decision had been made to retire him from racing. With Gordon Elliott saying:

It’s a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and, even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run. He’s a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away. It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gol Cup for us last year and he retires a champion. A peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/11/cheltenham-gold-cup-winner-don-cossack-retired-injury-setback-horse-racing

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Don Cossack, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, let’s go through Don Cossack’s race record

5111/1F23/1212F2/4111131/111F11/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

27 Races
16 x 1st
4 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 5th
3 x Fall

So all in all, he had an unreal career, winning £907,365 in total. It may have been a short career, but what a career it was. I was lucky enough last February to visit Olly Murphy, who was Gordon Elliott’s assistant trainer at the time of Don Cossack’s peak. He told me the following about Don Cossack:

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.

https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/02/16/a-stable-visit-to-olly-murphys-warren-chase-a-full-interview/

For me, I think Don Cossack can be classed as a people’s horse because he showed people time and time again that he could come back. He would fall or have a bad race, but he would always return and fight his heart out and no matter what he would always try his best. Personally, Don Cossack was the first horse I bet on in the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup and ended up being my first Gold Cup winner too so he will always be special to me and I am gutted that we never go to see him again, I think we only seen half of what he was capable of and it’s a real shame that a recurring injury made sure he could never show that to the world.

I have the upmost respect for Gordon Elliott and the O’Leary’s, they didn’t try to overwork him, they made the decision to retire him as a champion so he could live a happy and healthy retirement.

Don started a new career with Irish Olympic eventer Louise Lyons. With Louise saying:

He has been with me for about a month and we have been to three shows – he is loving it and is really enjoying the attention. At shows we have had people coming up to stroke him and have their picture taken with him.”

https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/don-cossack-racehorse-retraining-louise-lyons-658114

Honestly, I am just so happy and relieved that Don Cossack got to finish on his own terms, I am so happy that the team decided to retire him and not push him for that extra run which could have ended disastrously. He was an incredible talent, but also a lovely horse and I am honoured to have been around to be able to watch him.

So, there we have it, Don Cossack in all his glory. I am thoroughly enjoying doing research into these posts, reading news articles, re-watching videos, searching their careers, it’s been incredible and I am really loving it and from the reaction on social media, so are my followers. I am still working my way through the 100’s of suggestions I have had sent to me, as well as focusing on more history stories and also a few new ideas I have in the works. I also have a few interviews planned leading up to Cheltenham, so if all goes as planned then it is all roads lead to Cheltenham! I am currently sticking to a strict schedule of 2 posts per week and I think that is working well for me at the moment, I am unsure if this will change at any point, but for the time being I will be continuing to post every Wednesday at 6pm and every Saturday at 11am.

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

An Interview with Harry Cobden

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with someone I have been wanting to interview for a long time and that is of course Harry Cobden. I was lucky enough to sit down with Harry last week on a zoom call and discuss all things horse racing and I can promise you it is a good one so without further ado, let’s jump right into it!


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

Harry: I’d say my favourite replay to watch would be Topofthegame in the RSA, it was just tactically a great race and you know, some fantastic horses in the race, so yeah, it’s one I just love watching back.

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

Harry: I don’t know, I mean, Kauto Star was pretty spectacular and his race record was unbelievable wasn’t it? You know, if you could have a go on a horse like that, then you know, you only get one of them in a lifetime.

Me: When I have spoken to the likes of AP McCoy and Richard Johnson they have always said how the whip is a vital part of the jockeys kit in order to ensure the safety of the horses and yourselves, what are your personal opinions surrounding the whip and the discussion of people wanting the whip banned?

Harry: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with them any more really because the whip is vital, it’s there for the safety of the jockey, it’s there for the safety of the horse. The whips are actually made out of a foam sort of thing nowadays so they’re actually not there to hurt the horse, so I am all for the whip. And you know, I think it’s… We’re in a position now where safety is paramount isn’t it? I think we should continue using it. And one other thing I would say is that jockeys don’t abuse the whip either, if you look over sort of the last 10 years, whip bans have come down immensely and I think jockeys as a whole are doing a good job to make sure we don’t go over the permitted level.

Me: When I visited Colin Tizzard’s yard back in November 2019, Joe mentioned to us that they had offered you the stable jockey job there, obviously you took the job with Paul, how hard of a decision was that? Two massive stables fighting it out to have you as their main jockey.

Harry: Yeah, obviously a massive decision, especially when you’re only sort of 19 but, you know, thankfully we’ve, well I’ve stayed in with the whole Tizzard family and I’ve been very fortunate to have rode plenty of winners for them since. Yeah, I suppose I’m really grateful they’re still using me when I’m available. Yeah, it was a tough decision, but yeah I started off with Paul and he’s obviously been very good to me and I’m still riding plenty of good horses and lots of winners there so that was the decision really.

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

Harry: Erm, I suppose Richard Johnson would be the ultimate professional. He’s a proper gentleman and the way he conducts himself is absolutely fantastic and yeah, he is the ultimate professional in every way really on and off the track.

Me: Following on from that slightly, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by a fellow jockey?

Harry: Erm, I wouldn’t really specifically say I could think of something off the top of my head because I’ve been told so much in the past but, I’m struggling to think, but I’m sure I’ve been told to keep my head down and work hard or something.

Me: So, obviously Paul has some incredible horses in his yard, what would you say is the Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden banker of the Cheltenham Festival?

Harry: If I was going to pick one out now, I would probably say Bravemansgame in the Ballymore, he’d be looking like my best chance going into it if the Festival was tomorrow, but look, the Irish are obviously very strong so we’re not really sure what they’re going to bring over for that yet, but yeah, if the Festival was tomorrow I would say him. He’s a lovely horse and we’re very fortunate to have him.

Me: What is the one race you’d love to win that you haven’t yet?

Harry: One hundred and ten percent the Gold Cup.

Me: On to the Gold Cup, obviously everyone loves Cyrname and wants to know how he is after the King George, it was a gruelling race, how’s he come out of that and will we see him head towards the Gold Cup or is there other plans for him?

Harry: I’m not really sure, I mean myself and Paul have had a few discussions and I haven’t actually heard the final outcome, but it’s definitely still on the agenda and there is a big possibility he will go straight there. The King George was a bit of a strange one, I’m sort of still scratching my head over it now, he felt great going into the race and you know, everyone seems very pleased with him coming out of it, it was just one of those disappointing days where I’m not really sure what happened. I probably should have been more positive and erm, he’s not as keen as he was, he’s more relaxed now. Yeah, maybe I should’ve gave him a slap down the shoulder and sent him on and got him up there to be competitive. He’s quietened down a lot and that could be just what it is. Going forward he seems absolutely A1.

Me: So he’s absolutely fine coming out of that, there’s nothing to worry about?

Harry: Nothing to report and erm, Scott who rides him out every day seems pleased with him and yeah, it’s very odd, maybe he doesn’t like Kempton. But yeah, I’m still scratching my head now because there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the horse.

Me: In terms of the King George, Frodon won under Bryony (Frost), how special is that as a team? As the stable jockey who isn’t on the winner, how does that affect you? Do you still get involved in the celebrations as a team and feel the excitement even though it was Bryony riding a winner for Paul rather than yourself?

Harry: It is a massive team effort. Paul would employ 50 to 60 people to ride out on the yard and it’s a huge team effort, everyone puts so much in and it’s good for Bryony, it’s good for Paul and it’s great for racing I think. You know, for a girl to win the King George for the first time is fantastic and it’s good for racing. So back in the yard it was a great atmosphere on the Monday morning, so I’m certainly not going to be bitter over that one.

Me: I know first hand from visiting Paul’s yard and seeing the horses treated like royalty there, so what do you think when people say horse racing is animal cruelty?

Harry: Yeah, I mean, if they actually came and saw for themselves, you know, basically they just think that jockeys don’t really care for the horse and they’re just there for the money and all they care about is whipping the horse, but that’s really not what it’s like. The horses are obviously cared for seven days a week and the lads and lasses absolutely love the horses and you can really see the affection in the yard and when you go there in the morning… Like today I seen a video of Scott giving Master Tommytucker a carrot and stuff like that and just the way they’re treated. They’re mucked out, they’re groomed, they’ve got top quality feed, we’ve got a physio who goes around giving the horses physio. And you know, just the little things and if they could come in and see that for themselves then I’m sure they’d have a different view.

Me: Talking about Master Tommytucker, on Saturday (09/01/2021) I was watching from home and my heart was in my mouth watching you at the last, what was you thinking in that moment?

Harry: Yeah, it was obviously one of those hairy moments but he’s such a difficult horse to ride in the fact that I had got it right the whole way round then I came down to the last and sort of threw him at it which was erm… Probably not the brightest thing to do in the world, but yeah, he luckily stood up and we all got away with it but I was a little bit worried for a minute because it was a hairy old jump. But he’s obviously improving and yeah he’s going the right way. It’s almost taken me 4 or 5 races to actually learn how to ride him, he’s got his own way of doing things and I think now I’m starting to get the hang of it because he is quite difficult.

Me: And when we were watching on TV, Mick Fitzgerald said that the smaller field probably helped him a little bit, is that how you felt?

Harry: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people are saying he has to make the running but I disagree with that. He actually ran in the Caspian Caviar last time out and I just didn’t feel like he was 100% that day. When he bolted up at Haydock the time before it was really deep ground and we probably underestimated how hard a race he had.

Me: Obviously you’re still very young with plenty of riding years ahead of you, have you got AP McCoy’s record in sight? Do you think you can come close to it or beat it maybe?

Harry: No. I say I wouldn’t come anywhere near it. His record is absolutely phenomenal isn’t it? I don’t think it’ll ever get beaten ever again and I know for a fact it won’t be me beating it anyway.

Me: So, Paul has some younger horses in the yard, what would you say is the horse to watch, maybe not for this season but in the coming seasons?

Harry: I suppose we have had plenty of bumper winners this season and off the top of my head, I rode a really nice horse, one at Newbury called Petrossian, he seems a lovely horse, Mr Denmark owns him and he’s got loads of speed and loads of gears. I’m not sure he won the greatest bumper in the world but he is a nice type and he could just be one of those nice horses that goes on to do well in the 2 mile novice hurdle division next season. But you know, there are so many, the amount of bumper horses we’ve got this year, like the one Megan won on, Mr Glass, and she won the listed bumper, Silent Revolution, you know we could go on for a long time, but I suppose Petrossian would be the one that gave me a great feel on the way around.

Me: As the stable jockey at Ditcheat, was is the process if there is multiple horses in a race? Do you make the decision on what to ride or does that ultimately go down to Paul?

Harry: It’ll definitely be a joint discussion, obviously if Paul had his thoughts and I had mine we’d always talk about it beforehand. But I haven’t actually got it right too often as of late, I seem to be picking the wrong ones, but hopefully it’ll come right in a minute.

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

Harry: I’d say probably Wincanton because it’s 5 minutes from my house and I have a 40% strike rate around there.

Me: The final question from me is, what would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion in something, whether that be racing or not, that they want to follow?

Harry: You know, you’ve gotta believe in yourself and follow your dreams but at the same time be realistic and work hard.


I want to say a massive thank you to Harry for taking some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me and have a chat. This was probably one of my favourite interviews to date as Harry was very open, very honest and willing to discuss anything within the sport and I feel as though with his answers we got a real insight into Harry, Ditcheat and racing as a whole. That for me, is the whole point of what I do. I want to broadcast our sport to a wider, younger audience by being as transparent as possible and opening peoples eyes to behind the scenes that they may not get to see otherwise.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this as much as I did. I will see you all on Saturday for my next post which is another super excciting one where I interview Rachael Blackmore!

An Interview with Barry Geraghty

Hi guys!

I am very excited to bring to you all today an interview with, in my opinion, one of the best jockeys I have had the honour of growing up and watching. I am very grateful to Barry for taking time out of his day to allow me to speak all things racing. Let’s get straight into it!


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

Barry: I grew up dreaming of being a jockey and of winning the English Grand National. I hoped that some day I might get the chance to win it, but I never thought it would happen as easily as it did, and I presumed I would be a lot older than 23 by the time I’d won it.

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

Barry: To me, Istabraq was the ultimate hurdler. He had so much class, jumped brilliantly and was unbelievable around Cheltenham.

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

Barry: Personally I feel with all the modifications to the whip itself make it as harmless as it is brilliant and I also believe the rule changes in recent years to both reduce the number of strikes and penalising jockeys for hitting horses out of contention are sufficient. The whip is a vital piece of equipment to help control a horse for its safety and the safety of others.

Me: What is one race you’d love to have won that you never did?

Barry: I was very fortunate to have won most of the major races in England and Ireland throughout my career. The only Grade One at the Cheltenham Festival that I didn’t win was the Supreme Novice Hurdle, so I’ll go with that.

Me: You’ve rode some incredible horses in your career such as Moscow Flyer, Sprinter Sacre, Bobs Worth, Monty’s Pass, Buveur D’Air and so many more… What would you say is the best horse you rode and why? And not necessarily the best, but your favourite horse to ride and why?

Barry: I was very fortunate to ride a lot of great horses over the years an I’ve never been able to split Moscow Flyer and Sprinter Sacre. They were two amazing horses but very different. Sprinter oozed class and was always so impressive in his races but Moscow on the other hand would be an average horse by two to three lengths and beat Azertiyoup by the same, he also went four full years unbeaten. They were both a real thrill on the racecourse.

Me: What was your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Barry: There is no racecourse that you get the same buzz for winning whether you are a professional or punter as you get at Cheltenham.

Me: You finished your riding career as the 2nd most successful jockey at the Cheltenham Festival behind Ruby Walsh with 43 winners in total, out of all of those winners, what one stands out the most to you as the one you enjoyed the most?

Barry: I probably got my biggest kick out of winning the Champion Hurdle last year on Epatante for two of my biggest supporters JP McManus and Nicky Henderson. I knew going into the meeting that it was my last Festival as a jockey, so to win one of the feature races in my last year meant so much.

Me: The green and gold silks are arguably the most recognisable within racing, did you ever feel any pressure riding for JP McManus knowing people would automatically look at your horse due to the silks you were wearing?

Barry: There was always an element of pressure when riding for a big stable or owner but the pressure I always felt was more what I put myself under to get the result than external pressure from anyone else.

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

Barry: Like all field sports there is a risk of injury involved in racing, but it is in no way cruel. From the time a racehorse is born they are cared for like royalty, with the best feed, living accommodation and care any animal could wish for. That continues throughout their racing career and through their rehoming in retirement.

Me: You rode for some incredible trainers throughout your career, what was the best piece of advice you was given in general or for a specific race that you can remember?

Barry: When Nicky Henderson would give you your riding instructions at the Cheltenham Festival he would finish it with ‘have a nice time’, that is Nicky’s way of trying to take any pressure off you. It was always lovely to hear in that pressurised environment.

Me: You won Champion Jockey in Ireland twice, do you ever look back at your career and wish you had attempted to take AP McCoy’s crown and won the British Jockey Championship?

Barry: I enjoyed being Champion Jockey in Ireland on both occasions, but I was always drawn more to the chance to ride a good horse in a big race rather than chasing around the country every day of the week trying to find winners. Big days mattered more to me.

Me: If you could choose a banker for the Cheltenham Festival 2021, who would you currently choose?

Barry: Envoi Allen in the Marsh Chase.

Me: In the 12 months between 2004-2005, Kicking King went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the King George twice, for a young racing fan like myself who doesn’t really remember him, describe how good of a horse was he to ride?

Barry: Kicking King was very good, he was a big, strong horse with a lot of scope. He had a lot of natural pace as a three miler but also proved he stayed well when winning the Gold Cup, but for injury he could’ve won a few more.

Me: You’ve won the Grand National so you know what it takes, do you believe Tiger Roll could go on to win for a 3rd time? If not, is there any horse that has caught your eye that could take the crown?

Barry: Tiger Roll has proved how good he is around Aintree and with luck on his side there is no reason why he couldn’t return and win it again, the only problem is you need a lot of luck!

Me: In a great career, to finish as the fourth most successful British and Irish jump jockey with 1920 wins, do you look back and wish you had done anything different?

Barry: You always learn from your mistakes and that’s what makes you a better rider, so without the mistakes you won’t improve.

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

Barry: Follow your dream, give it all you can but most importantly try and enjoy it.


I want to say a huge thank you to Barry for taking time out to answer some questions and talk all things racing. I grew up watching Barry compete so it truly is an honour to have him take part in my blog and to support what I am doing and wish me luck moving forward. Hearing someone like Barry tell me how much he enjoyed answering these questions instead of regular every day questions means a lot to myself.

I absolutely loved this one, so I hope my readers enjoy it also.

I will see you all in my next post which will be Wednesday (20/01/2021) at 6pm which is a brand new interview with Harry Cobden!