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!

Danoli: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post and part 3 of me new What Makes a People’s Horse series. Today I am bringing you a Twitter suggested horse from none other than racings very own Richard Hoiles. When I asked who people would like me to research, Richard replied to my tweet with Danoli, a horse which was a little before my time, so of course I had to research this one as I have no idea who he really is. After Richard’s tweet I then had multiple other people tweeting and suggesting I definitely look into him, so today that is exactly what I am doing!

Danoli was foaled 14th May 1988, by The Parson (GB) out of Blaze Gold (GB). He was bred by Francis Austin in Ireland. As a three year old gelding he was sent to the Goffs Sale in June 1991 but failed to attract a buyer and was subsequently acquired by Dan O’Neill who sent him into training with Tom Foley in County Carlow. He was named Danoli by combining his owner’s name Dan O’Neill with his daughters name Olivia.

Danoli’s career started in 1992, when on 31st October he appeared in a National Hunt Flat Race (also known as a bumper) at Naas over 2 miles. He started the race at 16/1 with Mr P English on board. Danoli, shocking absolutely everybody, ended up winning the race, beating 11/10 favourite Atours.

We then move into 1993, on 30th January Danoli appeared back at Naas again in a bumper race this time over 2 miles 3 furlong, he started this race at 10/1 again with Mr P English riding. Continuing to surprise racing fans, he once again won, this time beating odds on 9/10 favourite Sea Gale. Three weeks later on 21st February Danoli then headed to Punchestown for another bumper race, returning to 2 miles, this time starting as the 5/2 favourite under Mr P English for the first time, he also won this race making it three out of three.

Danoli then took a 268 day break before returning to the track on 16th November 1993, this time at Fairyhouse in a maiden hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs, he went into the race as the 4/6 favourite, with Charlie Swan riding. Not many people were shocked at this point to see him get another win under his belt. A couple of weeks later on 5th December he returned to Punchestown for the Ballycaghan Hurdle over 2 miles where he won as the 8/11 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding. On 27th December Danoli headed to Leopardstow for a Novice Hurdle over 2 mile 2 furlong with Tommy Treacy riding again. Shocking many racing fans, he only managed to finish 3rd as the 4/5 favourite being beaten by Winter Belle (3/1) and Minella Lad (3/1) who, interestingly was trained by one of the greatest trainers I have ever seen, Aidan O’Brien.

After suffering the first defeat of his career Danoli returned to action in 1994 on 23rd January at Leopardstown in a Grade 1 hurdle race over 2 miles, dramatically stepping up in class against more experienced hurdlers. He went into the race at 12/1 with Charlie Swan riding. Not disgracing himself, he managed to finish second behind odds on 4/5 favourite Fortune And Fame. Just a couple of weeks later on 13th February he returned to Leopardstown for a 2 mile 2 furlong hurdle race, where he started the race as the odds on 4/5 favourite, winning under Charlie Swan.

Next up for Danoli was his first trip into the British mainland for the Cheltenham Festival’s Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 5 furlong where 23 ran on 16th March 1994. Danoli went into the race as the 7/4 favourite and won by two lengths under Charlie Swan. George Ennor wrote in the Racing Post:

They cheered him down to the start, they cheered him as he started, they cheered more loudly as he took the lead, and they raised the roof as he passed the post in front.

https://www.irishracing.com/news?headline=DANOLI-IS-RETIRED&prid=2487

If you want to watch his famous Cheltenham win, including shots of him returning to the the winners enclosure, then you can do so right here (I highly recommend you do, it is fantastic and the reaction from the crowd gave me goose bumps when watching!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRONfw1A3qk

Danoli returned to the British mainland a month later on 9th April 1994 where he faced a much tougher field in the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 4 furlong. Starting the race at 9/2 under Charlie Swan, Danoli shocked many by winning by a massive 8 lengths, finishing the season with another classy victory.

After taking a 211 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 6th November 1994 at Punchestown for the Morgiana Hurdle Grade 2 race, starting as the odds on 1/5 favourite with Charlie Swan riding. Surprising nobody, Danoli won easily by 8 lengths. A month later on 4th December Danoli travelled to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Hurdle, where he started, once again, as the odds on 4/6 favourite where he won, again under Charlie Swan, this time by 4 lengths to Dorans Pride (7/2). Next was the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle Grade 3 on 28th December where positions were switched. Danoli started as the odds on 1/2 favourite under Charlie Swan, this time finishing second behind Dorans Pride (7/2).

We then move into 1995 and after a 76 day break, Danoli returned to the track at the Cheltenham Festival on 14th March for the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 where he started as the 4/1 joint favourite. Danoli ended up finishing third under Charlie Swan behind Alderbrook (11/2) and Large Action (4/1J). One month later, Danoli returned to the British mainland for his final race of the season at Aintree in a Grade 1 hurdle race on 8th April. Danoli started as the 2/1 joint favourite and won by 3/4 of a length with Charlie Swan riding. After this race Danoli returned to the stable very badly lame, further examinations revealed that he had a fractured cannon bone in his right foreleg. He was very swiftly operated on at University of Liverpool’s Leahurst Veterinary College but at this point, his racing career was left hanging in the balance, with many worrying he may never be fit enough to return.

However after a 288 day break, trainer Thomas Foley worked wonders to get Danoli back on the track. Returning to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 21st January 1996, where at 10/1 he finished 3rd with Tommy Treacy riding. However, his comeback was so strongly received by the public that eventual winner Collier Bay (5/1) was basically ignored as all of the attention was on Danoli’s huge comeback, which many thought would never happen.

Next for Danoli was the Red Mills Trial Hurdle Grade 3 at Gowran Park on 17th February 1996, where he attracted a record crowd! Winning as the 2/5 favourite under Tommy Treacy, the scenes were electric with the Daily Record describing it as:

a huge, happy, raucous party.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Not+so+much+a+horse+race…more+a+lap+of+honour.-a061279920

Danoli then headed to the Cheltenham Festival again to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 12th March 1996, with Tommy Treacy riding, Danoli finished fourth at 5/1 behind winner Collier Bay (9/1), Alderbrook (10/11F) in second and Pridwell (33/1) in third. Danoli then headed straight to Aintree for the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 on 30th March, finishing 3rd as the 5/2 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding, behind winner Urubande (100/30) trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Danoli’s other regular jockey Charlie Swan, with Strong Promise I (25/1) finishing in second place.

After a 216 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 1st November 1996, interestingly the day I was born, at Clonmel for his first race over fences, this time winning as the 4/5 favourite under Mr P Fenton. Just 8 days later, Danoli returned to Naas for a Novice Chase on 9th November, winning as the odds on 2/7 favourite under Tommy Treacy. With his chasing career off to a seemingly flying start, Danoli headed to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on 1st December. He started the race at 100/30 with Tommy Treacy riding, however he ended up taking his first fall of his career. But do not fear, on Boxing Day 1996, Danoli headed to Leopardstown for a Grade 1 chase, starting as the 5/2 joint favourite and coming back from his first fall with a bang, winning under Tommy Treacy.

Moving into 1997, Danoli sadly started the year with a fall on 19th January at Leopardstown with Tommy Treacy on board as the 9/10 favourite, however a couple of weeks later on 2nd February 1997 he returned to Leopardstown where he won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Grade 1 at 6/1, again under Tommy Treacy. Next for Danoli was the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 13th March 1997, being rode by Tommy Treacy, he went into the race at 7/1 where he unfortunately fell 2 out.

Due to multiple injury problems, the next time Danoli would be seen on a racecourse is after a 580 day break when he made his much anticipated return at Gowran Park on 14th October 1998. He finished 3rd at 15/2 under Tommy Treacy behind winner Dorans Pride (7/4F) and second place Hill Society (5/2). However, he was then hit with injury again, meaning another extended break from the track. This time being 480 days.

Danoli returned on 6th February 2000, now as a 12 year old, for the Leopardstown Gold Cup Grade 1. Starting the race at 40/1 Danoli unseated jockey Tommy Treacy after making a bad mistake 3 out. 13 days later on 19th February 2000 Danoli appeared at Gowran Park for the Red Mills Trial Chase where he finished 3rd at 5/2 under J R Barry. One week later Danoli then went to Naas for a Grade 2 chase on 26th February, where he finished second at 5/1 under J R Barry behind 7/4 favourite His Song.

On 25th March 2000, Danoli headed to Navan for a 2 mile 4 furlong Chase where he started as the 7/4 favourite under J R Barry, showing his class once again, he ended up winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Just over a month later Danoli headed to Punchestown, for what would be his final ever race, the Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 on 3rd May. He started the race at 16/1 under J R Barry, however ended up falling.

In August 2000, Danoli’s retirement was announced with trainer Thomas Foley saying:

He’s given us some great memories and is a horse we’ll hardly ever see the like of again. We just don’t want to take any kind of chance with him in a chase and see him being put down.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Racing+News%3A+Danoli,+hero+of+a+nation,+is+retired.-a064142287

Danoli ended up spending the majority of his retirement at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, where he became inseparable from Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop.

Sadly in April 2016 Danoli was suffering with a severe bout of colic and unfortunately had to be put down at 18 years old. Thomas Foley saying:

He was a great horse for us, and we will always have fond memories. They tried everything they could and had no choice but to put him down, which was a great pity.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

Charlie Swan also spoke out about the death of Danoli saying:

People loved him because he was such a tough and genuine horse, If he could have jumped fences as well as he did hurdles, he could have even been a Gold Cup horse.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

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

Firstly, I am going to go through Danoli’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

111/1132111/11231/3143/11F1F1F/3/U321/F/

So let’s now sum those numbers up! Apart from falling 4 times, unseating his rider once and finishing 4th once Danoli always finished within the top 3! Now let’s narrow that down:

32 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th
4 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Danoli. He was a horse that always gave his best and even when he took a fall he’d always come back and give it his best next time out. I was born in the middle of Danoli’s career so of course I don’t remember it, but I have sat watching videos, reading articles and interviews and speaking to some followers who did witness his greatness and I could only dream to have been around to watch him, especially his 1994 Cheltenham Festival win. I linked a YouTube video further up this post with footage of him entering the winners enclosure and if you haven’t watched it then please do, I loved watching it, seeing him push and push to the line, then the crowds reaction, it blew my mind. Clearly he was such a loved horse and the true definition of the people’s horse, being known as the ‘People’s Champion’ during his career and even a plaque being placed on his stable door saying so.

Again, I really hope you enjoyed this post. I am thoroughly enjoying researching and writing them and so far the feedback I have had is incredible and I am super grateful for that. If you haven’t already seen, I do have a further 2 posts in this series so far, Native River and Faugheen so please do also check them out. I asked on Twitter for suggestions of the horses people want me to focus on in this series thinking I would receive 10, maybe 20 to look into. However, it went a little bit wild and I received over 100 suggestions, so gradually I am working my way through the list and I will be posting more of these posts throughout the year. I also have plans for a couple of new interviews and more posts in my Horse Racing History series so plenty of content during 2021. I am sticking to my schedule of 2 posts per week, one on Wednesday evening at 6pm and one on Saturday morning at 11am. It seems to work for myself, and with the blog figures I have had lately it seems to be working for my readers too.

Again, I want to thank Richard Hoiles for this suggestion and thank you to everyone else who has suggested names too! Hopefully I will see you all on Saturday for my next post!

Faugheen: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a brand new post! Today I am bringing to you the second post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series! And I am bringing to you another one of my personal favourites, Faugheen!

Faugheen was foaled 2nd May 2008, by Germany (USA) out of Miss Pickering (IRE). He was bred by Dr John Waldron in Ireland. As a foal he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland Sale and brought for 4000 by Peter Quinlan. In June 2011, his brother Tom Quinlan sent the now three year old to the Goffs National Hunt Sale where he was brought for 12000 by Meadowview Stables. He then went into training with Andrew Slattery on the amateur point-to-point circuit.

On 29th April 2012 Faugheen competed at the Ballysteen meeting, starting as the 2/1 second favourite where he won by eight lengths. During the summer of 2012 he was then purchased by Mrs S Ricci and was sent straight into training with Willie Mullins. Very quickly Faugheen became the subject of support for the 2013 Champion Bumper without setting foot on a racecourse, however due to an injury Faugheen was out of action for over a year before returning to the track in 2013.

On 11th May 2013, he returned to Punchestown for a National Hunt Flat Race being ridden by Willie’s son Patrick Mullins winning as the 11/8 favourite. After taking a summer break, Faugheen returned to Punchestown, for a Maiden Hurdle, ridden by Ruby Walsh, this time winning as the odds on favourite at 1/5. A couple of weeks later he reappeared at Navan on 7th December 2013, again under Ruby Walsh, winning as the odds on 1/9 favourite. Three weeks later on 28th December 2013 he then went to Limerick under Emmet Mullins, again winning as the odds on 8/13 favourite.

He took a 74 day break, before returning for the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 for the Novice Hurdle on 12th March where he impressively won by 4 1/2 lengths under Ruby Walsh as the 6/4 favourite. Six weeks later he returned to Ireland for the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle Grade 1 at Punchestown on 29th April where, unsurprisingly, he won again under Ruby Walsh as the odds on 1/2 favourite.

Faugheen then took a long summer break of 207 days before returning on 22nd November 2014, this time running in England at Ascot in the Ascot Hurdle Grade 2 race, where he started again as the odds on 1/4 favourite, again, unsurprisingly winning under Ruby Walsh. Next up for Faugheen was the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day 2014, where again he started as the 4/11 odds on favourite, once again wnning under Ruby Walsh.

We then move into 2015, where Faugheen went straight to the Cheltenham Festival competing in the Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy on 10th March. Once again starting the race as the odds on favourite at 4/5 and as expected he produced another win with his regular rider Ruby Walsh. He then went to Punchestown to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 1st May 2015, where, now unsurprisingly he started as the 1/6 odds on favourite, where he won with Ruby Walsh riding. Maybe interesting to note, Tiger Roll also competed in this race, coming 4th out of 4. What different routes these two horses took!

With a 198 day summer break, Faugheen then returned to the track on 15th November at Punchestown, where he started as the 1/6 favourite with Ruby Walsh, however, a shock to many, he ended up coming second, only a half furlong behind stable companion Nichols Canyon (7/1) rode by David Mullins. We then move on to the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton on Boxing Day 2015, where Faugheen was ready to redeem himself after his first loss by retaining his Christmas Hurdle crown. He went off as the 1/4 favourite and won once again under Ruby Walsh.

Now moving into 2016, one month after his last win Faugheen returned to Ireland where he competed in the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown on 24th January 2016, winning as the 30/100 favourite, again partnering with Ruby Walsh. Just a month later on 17th February 2016, Willie Mullins announced Faugheen would be out of the Cheltenham Festival and beyond due to injury, tweeting:

Unfortunately #Faugheen will not run @Cheltenhamraces. He has a sore suspensory ligament”

https://twitter.com/WillieMullinsNH/status/699952230187798533?s=20

Later explaining:

We were just bringing him back. We had 28 days from yesterday to the Champion Hurdle and I said ‘I better start doing a bit with him’ and getting serious. He was just a little bit sore and our vet confirmed he had a small suspensory (injury) and I didn’t want to risk going any further. I just took a view that it was better to stop now and he’d be back for next year.”

https://www.rte.ie/sport/racing/2016/0217/768714-faugheen-ruled-out-of-cheltenham-festival/

Faugheen was expected to return for the start of the 2017 year, however Willie Mullins pulled him out of the Irish Champion Hurdle and eventually missed out on the 2017 Cheltenham Festival too.

Faugheen finally returned to the track in November 2017 after 665 days off the track, making a lot of racing fans happy to see him back! Even after a very very long break away from the track, he still returned to be the 4/11 odds on favourite on 19th November, where he surprised absolutely nobody by winning the Grade 1 hurdle, this time under Paul Townend. He then went on to run in the Ryanair Hurdle Grade 1 at Leopardstown on 29th December 2017, where upsettingly to many, he was pulled up by Paul Townend, much to the concern of the racing public.

We then move swiftly into 2018, where Faugheen returned to Leopardstown on 3rd February for the Irish Champion Hurdle, this time placing second under Paul Townend as the 9/10 favourite behind Supasundae (8/1) for Robbie Power. Next for Faugheen was the Champion Hurdle on 13th March 2018 at Cheltenham. This was the first time I had seen the Champion Hurdle in person and I was actually quite emotional this day, I remember seeing Faugheen come down the shoot from the parade ring and hearing people around me say how this may be his last time in England and he won’t continue much longer – Little did those people know right? Anyway, he went off at 4/1 back with regular jockey Ruby Walsh, where he finished 6th, with Buveur D’Air (4/6F) winning.

Just when people thought Faugheen was down and out, he returned to Punchestown on 26th April 2018 where he competed in the Stayers Hurdle Grade 1 over 3 miles under David Mullins where he won at 11/2 – The biggest odds he had ever started at in his entire career, beating favourite and stable companion Penhill (2/1) under Paul Townend.

After a 206 day summer break, Faugheen returned to Punchestown on 18th November for a Grade 1 Hurdle race, back to being the 2/5 odds on favourite under Ruby Walsh. However, he finished second behind stable companion, also owned by Mrs S Ricci, Sharjah (7/2) again rode by Paul Townend. Next was just over a month later when he went to Leopardstown for the Christmas Hurdle on 28th December, starting at 7/2 with Ruby Walsh, however falling 2 out with odds on favourite Apple’s Jade (8/13) being the eventual winner.

We then move into 2019 where Faugheen went straight to the Cheltenham Festival running in the Stayers Hurdle on 14th March, where he placed 3rd at 4/1 with Ruby Walsh, behind Paisley Park (11/8F) ridden by Aidan Coleman and Sam Spinner (33/1) ridden by Joe Colliver. Next was the Aintree Hurdle at Aintree on 4th April, where Faugheen got pulled up by Ruby Walsh after the 5th at 4/1. It was later found that he was suffering from atrial fibrillation. Definition: Atrial fibrillation is a condition that causes an irregular and often fast heartbeat.

Faugheen then took a 226 day break. In this time it was decided he would go chasing so on 16th November 2019 Faugheen returned to Punchestown, to run in a Beginners Chase. He started as the 8/11 favourite and won with Paul Townend on board. Next was a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Limerick on Boxing Day 2019 where he went off at 2/1 with Patrick Mullins riding, here he beat 4/6 favourite Samcro.

We then swiftly move into 2020 and arguably the weekend that brought all racing fans together. The Grade 1 Novice Chase at Leopardstown on 2nd February where Faugheen blew the roof off with Paul Townend winning as the 13/8 joint favourite. I remember this day so so clearly, I can’t remember a time where social media was as buzzing as it was after this win. As a whole, racing fans everywhere wanted to see Faugheen back to his best and this day was something very very special, one I will probably never forget watching!

Faugheen then went to the Marsh Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on 12th March where he went off as the 3/1 favourite, he came 3rd behind Samcro (4/1) for Davy Russell who won as well as stable companion Melon (14/1) who finished second.

Faugheen has not rode since, with Patrick Mullins saying about Faugheen and Douvan in January 2021:

They’ve both had setbacks. Faugheen is in the yard, he got clipped during the week”

https://www.irishmirror.ie/sport/horse-racing/faugheen-douvan-likely-miss-years-23284269

So at 13 years old, it looks highly unlikely we will see Faugheen again this season and we have no clear indication of where we may see him again, if we do. So it’s a waiting game until Willie Mullins announces the plans for Faugheen if there are any.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a brilliant career, I want to just explain a few facts about Faugheen which I researched and read into and I couldn’t get my head around.

So firstly, I am going to go through Faugheen’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

 1/11111/1111/1211/1P261/2F3P/1113-

So, summing it up, apart from being pulled up twice, falling once and finishing 6th once, Faugheen has always finished within the top 3.

So, summing it up, Faugheen’s professional career, which is those above minus his one point-to-point run, so far in numbers:

26 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 6th
1 x Fall
2 x Pulled Up

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Faugheen. In his career, he has made over £1.1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. When we look back at 2020 and how many people were talking about Faugheen, it was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it and I know so many others who did too. I would love to see Faugheen at least one more time and go out with a bang and another win to his name. But I also want him to end his ridiculously successful career on his own terms, so in that respect, it is purely down to Willie and connections on what will happen next. Owner Rich Ricci did say at Cheltenham the following so nobody really knows what could happen next, especially as he’s had a setback this year too:

I don’t know (what happens next), it is a good question. We’ve got the Punchestown back in Ireland and I think the Irish would like to see him one more time, so if he is fit and well and ready to rock we will probably call it a day then. I’m not sure we will come back for a Gold Cup next year at the age of 13, but we will see what the horse tells us.”

https://www.rte.ie/sport/racing/2020/0312/1121870-samcro-edges-melon-in-photo-to-win-marsh-novices-chase/

Thank you so much for reading this post, last weekend I put on Twitter all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! However, if you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus in on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

Native River: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, today’s post is a little different, but I am hoping to make this into a potential new series called ‘What Makes a People’s Horse?’ And I thought after a brilliant weekend of racing, there is no better time to focus in on one horse who finally found himself back in the winners enclosure and who happens to be my all time favourite horse, which is, of course, Native River. Social media on Saturday was absolutely buzzing with happiness after seeing him win at Sandown and I wanted to write a post, breaking down some of his achievements as well as thinking about how he’s become such a popular horse amongst racing fans. So without further ado, shall we jump right in?

So, first things first, who is Native River? Native River was foaled 4th May 2010, by Indian River (FR) out of Native Mo (IRE). He was bred by Mr Fred Mackey in Ireland and in November 2010 he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland National Hunt Sale. He was brought by John Dineen for just €6000 who found owners, husband and wife, Garth and Anne Broom, better known as Brocade Racing.

Native River then began his racing career on the amateur point-to-point circuit. On 17th March 2014, he unseated his rider at a meeting at Dromahane before being sent to England to Colin Tizzard’s yard to start his professional career.

He didn’t get off to a bad start, finishing third out of seven in a National Hunt Flat Race at Newton Abbott on 10th October 2014 under Brendan Powell, before winning his first Novices’ Hurdle just three weeks later on 30th October 2014 at Stratford under Brendan Powell again, at 8/1 beating the 11/4 favourite Mount Haven. The good streak continued, when on 29th November 2014 he won again, this time at Newcastle in a Class 2, again under Brendan Powell, this time at 10/1 beating the odds on 8/11 favourite Definitly Red.

Native River then got stepped up in class for his first Grade 1 at Newbury, maybe a little too soon, as he came 6th out of 6 runners in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle on 29th December 2014. The next time he ran was at Cheltenham on 24th January 2015 in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle where he fell 2 out. His next race came pretty swiftly, on 8th February 2015, this time at Exeter where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 9/2, beating the odds on 4/5 favourite Emerging Talent. Next up for Native River was the big one, the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. A very good line up set to run, after making a mistake and losing places, he finished 9th in the race.

So, where to next? Novice chasing was the way to go and that is exactly what the Tizzard team did. His next race came on 10th October 2015 at Chepstow in his first Novice Chase, where he did not disgrace himself at all, finishing 3rd at 10/1, before very swiftly winning his first Novice Chase just a couple of weeks later on 3rd November 2015 at Exeter as the 11/8 favourite under Brendan Powell again, this time winning by a massive 16 lengths. An interesting fact, in this race he beat Abracadabra Sivola, who was actually rode by Native River’s now jockey, Richard Johnson.

He was then stepped up in class for the Worcester Novices’ Chase over three miles at Newbury on 26th November 2015. He took the lead approaching the final fence before pulling away to win by almost four lengths from 6/4 favourite Un Temps Pour Tout. After this race one of his owners Garth Broom had said:

He’s only five and giving weight away against older, more experienced horses… He’s got it all. He can stay and he can quicken.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/26/colin-tizzard-winner-native-river-newbury

He was then made favourite for the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton’s Boxing Day meeting. After a couple of awkward jumps he finished third as 6/4 favourite, with Tea For Two winning under Lizzie Kelly. His next race came just over a month later on 6th February 2016 at Wetherby in a Grade 2 Novice Chase where he came third at 11/4 behind winner Blaklion (4/1) and second place Definitly Red (3/1). Next up was the Cheltenham Festival where he rode in the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase on the Tuesday of the festival, 15th March 2016, where he did not disgrace himself in the slightest, coming second behind Minella Rocco (8/1), under Mr Michael Legg at 7/1. He then went onto Aintree on 8th April 2016, for the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase, where arguably one of the best partnerships in horse racing began, winning under Richard Johnson at 11/2.

Native River then started the new season, surprisingly to some, in a Grade 2 hurdle race at Wetherby on 29th October 2016, coming second under Richard Johnson again, at 5/2. Next up was a big one though, the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Newbury on 26th November 2016, where he went on to win as the 7/2 favourite, again under Richard Johnson. This was swiftly followed up by a race just as big, if not bigger, the Coral Welsh Grand National over 3 mile 5 1/2 furlongs at Chepstow on 27th December 2016 where he went on to win as the 11/4 favourite under Richard Johnson once again.

Then into 2017, Native River had a month before his next run which came on 11th February 2017 at Newbury in the Denman Chase, where he won, this time under Aidan Coleman at 11/10. Interesting fact to mention, the brilliant Bristol De Mai, who has had some brilliant races with Native River over the years, ended up coming third in this race as the 10/11 favourite. Next up for Native River was the big one at the Cheltenham Festival, on 17th March 2017 he competed in his first Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, however, again not disgracing himself in the slightest, Native River finished 3rd at 7/2 back under his now regular jockey Richard Johnson, behind winner Sizing John (7/1) and Minella Rocco (18/1).

With the Gold Cup being an extremely gruelling race, Native River then took a 330 day break. During his break, I actually conducted my first ever interview which was with Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, which you can read right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and during that interview he said the following:

I would love to think Native River could come back in the Gold Cup and go two spots better than he did last year. He was 3rd in the race last year and ran really really well. Erm you know, this season we will be geared for him to be running in the Gold Cup again so I suppose he’s my big hope.”

Bare that quote in mind for a few minutes!

Native River then made his return to the track to retain his Denman Chase crown on 10th February 2018, winning as the 8/11 favourite under Champion Jockey and now best friend Richard Johnson, after using that as his prep run, next up The Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup.

Arguably, my favourite race to watch back over and over again and also the first time I was there to witness a Gold Cup in person so definitely a day I will never ever forget! Friday 16th March 2018, the Grade 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase where Native River went on to win at 5/1, beating 4/1 favourite Might Bite. The duel between these two horses is one never to be forgotten, a brilliant battle between two incredible horses. Side note: I do want to take a second to wish Might Bite the happiest of retirements from racing and I wish him the best in whatever he goes on to do next, an incredible horse and I am so glad he’s been retired on his own terms.

Native River then went on to take a 253 day break before returning on 24th November at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, again, the first time I had been to Betfair Chase Day and what a race it was to watch! With only 5 horses competing, but the best in the country in my opinion, favourite Might Bite (Evens), Native River (5/2), Bristol De Mai (13/2), Thistlecrack (10/1) and Clan Des Obeaux (11/1). Native River finished second behind the incredible Bristol De Mai. Then going in to the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, finishing 3rd at 9/2 behind Clan Des Obeaux (12/1) and Thistlecrack (15/2).

After a 79 day break, we go into 2019 and straight into the Cheltenham Gold Cup to try and retain his title, however it was not meant to be, not to be disgraced, he finished in 4th place with reining Gold Cup Champion Al Boum Photo winning his first Gold Cup at 12/1. Native River then took a long summer holiday with a 267 day break.

During this time, I was honoured to have been able to visit the Colin Tizzard team at Venn Farm where I met my absolute hero Native River. You can read all about it right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/vip-stable-visit-to-colin-tizzards-venn-farm/. But in brief, I was able to watch Native River on the gallops, before then walking him off the walker to his stable, where I fed him and put his blankets on. I was asked to do this by their team as they knew how much I adored him and I can honestly never thank them enough for it, to them it was nothing, but to me, a girl who had followed this horse, travelled to see this horse and just absolutely love him, this was a dream come true. A day I will never ever forget truthfully.

He then returned on 7th December 2019 at Aintree for the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, where he won as the 5/6 odds on favourite.

Next up was 8th February 2020, the Denman Chase at Newbury, however regular jockey Richard Johnson was unfortunately injured at the time so the Tizzard team called up conditional jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr for the job where he easily steered Native River around to win as the odds on 2/5 favourite.

However, bad news struck for the Tizzards and Native River fans when just 11 days later on 19th February 2020 it was announced that he was being ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tendon injury with Joe Tizzard telling Racing TV:

Unfortunately we’ve had to scratch Native River from the Gold Cup this morning – he’s picked up a suspensory tendon injury, which means his season is over.”

https://www.racingtv.com/news/injured-native-river-out-of-gold-cup

Bringing joy to so many, Native River finally returned to the track after a 301 day break on 5th December 2020 at Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase where he came 3rd at 9/4 behind Lake View Lad (16/1) and favourite Santini (13/8).

Then this weekend on 6th February 2021, Native River showed his class once again, returning to the winners enclosure when he won the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown at 13/2 where he beat 9/4 favourite Bristol De Mai.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a crazy career, I want to just explain a few facts about Native River which I researched this weekend and I couldn’t get my head around. If you follow me and have for a while, you’ll know that this horse is a horse that I absolutely adore and have travelled the country up and down to visit, but I did not realise just how good the statistics are.

So firstly, I am going to go through Native River’s race record of all of those races I have just went through:

U/3116F19/3113321/21113/11/234/11-31

So, summing it up, apart from 1 unseated, 1 6th, 1 fall and 1 9th – all in his p2p/hurdle days, Native River has always been within the top 3, with 1 4th in the entirety of his career and since chasing he’s only finished outside of the top 3 once.

So, as explained above, Native River started his chasing career on 10th October 2015, he did run one hurdle race in 2016 where he came 2nd, this has not been including in these figures, the following figures are purely chasing figures:

20 Races
11 x 1st
2 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th

Which includes winning:

2 x Grade 1’s
6x Grade 2’s
2 x Grade 3’s

Now, Native River’s professional career as a whole, hurdling and chasing, not including his one point-to-point:

28 Races
14 x 1st
3 x 2nd
7 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 6th
1 x 9th
1 x Fall

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves. In his career, he has made over £1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. He’s a horse that as a racing fan, you might not choose to bet on every single time he races, but if and when he does win, you love to see it. (Personally I do bet on him every single time he runs but that’s just me aha). I have loved seeing so many lovely tweets about him this past weekend and I had to share his story and stats!

When I went to the Tizzard’s yard, Joe was very open about how loved he is, he told us how he’s one of the calmest horses in their yard and people are always drawn to him when they visit. You can just see how loved he is by his team and racing fans in general.

On a final note, if Brocade Racing, Colin Tizzard, Joe Tizzard, Richard Johnson or any other connections read this, when he retires I volunteer to take him off your hands if you do not already have a plan. (Cheeky little plug, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, right?)

Thank you so much for reading this post, a little different for me, but I want to take a chance in 2021 and really venture out and try new things, I did put on Twitter this weekend all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! I am super excited for this series as it is all about opinions, the words ‘people’s horse’ can be interpreted in so many ways, for me a horse like Galileo is a people’s horse, but more for what he’s done since retiring from racing opposed to whilst racing, but then you have the greats like Kauto Star who is known for the unreal racing career he had, but then Native River like today’s post who is still going and is still performing to his best. There are so many ways you can look at why a horse is so popular and that is why I am going to love this series so much as it’s a range of ideas, suggestions and opinions from racing fans. If you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Kian Burley featuring Hannah Burley

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with the one and only Kian Burley. I spoke with Kian and his mom Hannah on the phone last weekend where we discussed all things racing so without further ado, let’s jump straight into it!


Me: First things first, what made you get into horse racing?

Kian: So I like watching it on the TV and it’s the best sport and it’s so much fun because it is interesting when they have hurdles and fences.

Me: And when you went to Cheltenham last year, what was your favourite winner that you seen?

Kian: Shishkin.

Me: Do you think it will win again this year?

Kian: Yeah!

Me: What do you think is one horse that will definitely win at Cheltenham this year? What is the best horse going to Cheltenham this year?

Kian: I think Appreciate it for Willie Mullins.

Me: Do you think Willie Mullins will win another Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo or do you think something else will win?

Kian: I think something else will win it this year.

Me: Do you know who yet or have you not decided who yet?

Kian: I don’t now yet!

Me: And what about the Grand National, do you think Tiger Roll will win again?

Kian: I think Tiger Roll will win it again.

Me: And now, of course I have to ask you Kian, obviously Paddy Brennan is your favourite jockey, why do you love him so much?

Kian: Because he’s the best jockey in the whole wide world.

Me: And apart from Paddy, what other jockey’s do you like watching?

Kian: Connor Brace, Liam Harrison, Max Kendrick, Will Kennedy, Harry Skelton, Callum Rodriguez and Eoin Walsh. I like them all!

Me: And when you went to Cheltenham and you got to meet all the jockeys and trainers, who was your favourite person to meet?

Kian: Gary Windass.

Hannah: He met Gary Windass off Coronation Street and that’s all he ever goes on about! He was sat on the table next to us at Cheltenham and now that’s all he ever goes on about. Who was your favourite jockey to meet though?

Kian: PADDY!

Me: And when Paddy walked into your school Kian, how did you feel?

Kian: Amazed! I nearly fell of my chair!

Hannah: To be fair, only his class teacher, headteacher, me and my mom knew about it. The school had sent a letter out to get permission for other children to be on camera so Kian came home from school and said ‘aw we’re gonna be on camera but I don’t know what for. So me and my mom were saying ‘oh we don’t know what that is’. Then Barry from The Jockey Club had rang me and said if we ask people who wants a microphone on them do you think Kian will put his hand up and I said 100% yes he will, so when Barry came in and said we need a helper to have a microphone on do we have any volunteers, Kian put two hands up, he was making sure he got picked!

Me: How did it feel at Cheltenham Kian when everybody knew who you were?

Kian: Amazed! I had about 4 people ask for selfies!

Me: What was your favourite part of the day?

Kian: When the cameras were following me around.

Me: And of course you go down to Ravenswell to see Fergal and the team too, who’s your next favourite trainer aside from Fergal?

Kian: Erm… No one.

Me: Just Fergal?

Kian: Yes!

Me: How often do you go down to Fergal’s?

Hannah: It’s whenever we can get down there really, they’re 3 hours away from us, so when we go we have to set off at 4 in the morning…

Kian: We’ve gotta be down there for half 7!

Me: I was lucky enough to go down last year and I loved it down there. I think the whole team are just lovely to speak to.

Hannah: They are! They’re lovely. They’ve all got so much time for Kian as well and the Doc, Dr Simon is absolutely brilliant with him. They’re all just so nice.

Me: When you do go down to Ravenswell, who’s your favourite horse?

Kian: All of them!

Me: All of them? You don’t have a favourite?

Kian: No.

Hannah: He does… It is Imperial Alcazar?

Kian: Yeah!

Me: And what do you think when Fergal has a horse and he runs miles and miles ahead of all the others? He’s had quite a few that I’ve seen that just run off a million miles ahead!

Kian: I think what are you doing? Like Totterdown!

Me: So apart from Fergal’s horses, what’s your favourite horse you’ve watched?

Kian: Cue Card!

Hannah: When you watch your YouTube videos, what’s the race you always watch?

Kian: Cue Card winning the King George!

Me: And what race courses have you been to so far?

Kian: Everywhere!

Me: What one is your favourite?

Kian: Market Rasen!

Me: And obviously I know you get on really well with Doctor Simon and I seen the other day you was winding him up on Twitter about his cardigan, what did you think of his cardigan, have you seen it yet?

Kian: Not yet.

Hannah: What do you think of cardigans? Would you wear one?

Kian: NO!

Me: Do you think it will suit Doctor Simon wearing a cardigan?

Kian: NO!

Me: I feel like I have to ask you because Fergal is known to love his cakes, so what’s your favourite cake?

Kian: Victoria Sponge.

Hannah: You little fibber! You like chocolate cake!

Me: I seen on Twitter that you wrote a letter to Boris didn’t you?

Kian: Yeah and an email!

Me: Did you get a reply?

Kian: No! I wrote to Her Majesty the Queen!

Me: What did you say to the Queen?

Kian: About her horses.

Me: Do you watch flat racing and jumps?

Kian: I like them both!

Me: What’s your favourite flat race?

Kian: St Leger!

Me: And what’s your favourite jumps race?

Kian: Gold Cup! I remember when Paddy won it on Imperial Commander!

Hannah: You don’t remember it, you’ve seen the videos of it.

Me: And your mom’s always tweeting saying how you scream the house down whenever you’re watching the racing and now you have the biggest trending quote in racing…

Kian: GO ON PADDY LAD!

Me: Everybody shouts it now don’t they?

Hannah: When we were at Cheltenham and we were walking through people were stopping him to say go on Paddy lad! Even now when he goes into school people will shout go on Kian lad!

Me: What do you want to do next after lockdown?

Kian: Get back to racing!

Me: Where do you want to go next?

Kian: Every racecourse!

Me: Is that the plan? To do every racecourse?

Hannah: We’re going to try and go to Ireland too and see some Irish racing.

Me: Talking about Irish racing, I seen you met Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham too, what did he say to you?

Kian: Aye up Kian lad!

Me: Everyone just knows who you are!

Kian: And I met Ruby Walsh!

Hannah: When we first went through the gates Ruby Walsh was stood there and he said ‘hiya Kian’.

Kian: I spoke to Davy Russell, Nico de Boinville and Harry Cobden. I spoke to everyone!

Me: To finish off Kian, what are we telling everyone to bet on for Cheltenham?

Kian: Imperial Alcazar.

Me: And as Fergal’s assistant, do you know what race he’s going into yet or have you not decided?

Kian: We haven’t decided. I had a look and I think the 3 mile staying hurdle.

Me: With Fergal do you advise him on what to do or does he advise you?

Kian: I advise him!

Me: Thank you for talking to me today Kian!

Kian: Thank you!


Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Kian and Hannah for having a chat with me, I thoroughly enjoyed our call and talking about all things racing. I think Kian is absolutely brilliant for the sport and I think he has a long future in the sport with whatever he chooses to do next.

And secondly, if you haven’t already seen, Kian has started up his very own blog and I highly recommend going over to his page to have a read of his work: https://theassistanttrainer.wordpress.com/.

Again thank you to Kian and Hannah for their time and I hope my readers enjoy this informal interview/chat as much as I have!

An Interview with Rachael Blackmore

Hey guys!

Today I am so excited to bring to you an interview with the incredibly talented Rachael Blackmore! Let’s jump straight into it…


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

Rachael: My first winner at Cheltenham on A Plus Tard was very special and a big relief! And one I didn’t win would be completing the Grand National on Valseur Lido, he gave me an unbelievable spin over the fences and that was memorable in itself.

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

Rachael: Istabraq was one of the first horses who really caught my attention in racing and also Enable.

Me: The last two seasons you’ve been neck and neck with Paul Townend to be the Champion Jockey in Ireland, with both of you arguably at the top of your game, how competitive does it get between you?

Rachael: I’d say it’s competitive for about a week then he goes into the Christmas festivals and rides about 8 winners! You would want to have a good few winners up on Paul going into the Punchestown Festival in May to even give yourself a squeak.

Me: Following on from that, when I spoke with AP McCoy, he sad he always loved the rivalry between himself, Richard Johnson, Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty, however he also said they were all the best of friends who always helped each other along, is it the same between yourself, Paul Townend, Jack Kennedy and many others that fight it out each year?

Rachael: The weighing room dynamics are very different to other sports, there is a lot of respect between each other and your fellow jockeys understand things more than most, so it’s great to have good rivals but also friends in the weighing room.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you and as a female myself, I know how hard it can be to maintain my weight, how hard do you find it to maintain certain weights in order to ride certain horses in certain races? How strict do you have to be with yourself? And do you feel like female jockeys should be given more of an allowance or do you like the fact it’s always a level playing field with the male jockeys?

Rachael: I’m not sure there would be many happy jockeys in the weighing room if Hollie Doyle suddenly got a weight allowance. For me, if you work hard enough you will get the chances and if you’re good enough and things go right for you then anything can happen. Male or female it doesn’t matter. As for weight, it’s never been something I’ve had to worry about riding over jumps, our bottom weight is 9.12 and that is easily done for me. I live with two jockeys who do not share the same fortune, so I realise how lucky I am.

Minella Indo gave you your first Grade 1 in the UK with Honeysuckle giving you your first Grade 1 in Ireland, how special is it when you win a big race on such powerful horses?

Rachael: It’s an incredible feeling, both winning and also repaying the faith put in you by the owner and trainer. Been giving the chance to ride horses of that calibre is very special and what every jockey strives for.

Me: Henry De Bromhead, of course, has some incredible horses who you get the privilege of riding, how did your partnership with him come around?

Rachael: Eddie O’Leary suggested to him at the start of summer 2018 that I start riding some of the Gigginstown horses that Henry had, it all snowballed from that. Essentially Eddie getting my foot in the door brought my career to a whole new level.

Me: As a female jockey, do you ever feel any pressure when riding in the big races as the sport is predominantly run by males?

Rachael: I definitely feel pressure alright, but not gender related.

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

Rachael: Ruby Walsh and Davy Russell were always two I looked up to.

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

Rachael: The Gold Cup

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

Rachael: Bob Olinger.

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

Rachael: I love Leopardstown, especially over fences. It’s a fair track and if you can get into a good rhythm jumping it’s a brilliant place to ride around.

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

Rachael: If you have a passion for something, you’re lucky. Some people can’t find a passion so don’t waste it. Work hard on it which will bring you enjoyment and you would never know… It could turn into you living your dream.


As always, I want to thank Rachael for her time, I know how busy she is at the moment so I appreciate her taking some time out of her day to speak all things racing with me. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Being a female who writes about a very male dominated sport can be difficult sometimes, but females like Rachael who dominates the sport in her own right, inspires me to continue doing what I love even on the bad days. She’s proof that no matter your gender, you can absolutely smash whatever you’re doing and that is so so inspiring to females everywhere.

I really hope you all enjoy this one as much as I did, I will see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for a new Horse Racing History series post!

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!

An Interview with Danny Mcmenamin

Danny Mcmenamin

Hiya guys!

Today I am bringing to you an interview with conditional jockey Danny Mcmenamin, he is a jockey that is coming through the ranks and is definitely one to watch out for in the future. I hope you enjoy!

—–

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

Danny: Winning the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham is surely a day I will never forget. The amount of times I have dreamt of that in my head and for it to happen was the best day in my life. Cheltenham is a special place, festival or not it is the home of racing.

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

Danny: Kauto Star, he’s a horse which I fell in love with when I was growing up. His ability was freak like, the whole racing community loved him. He was a proper horse.

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

Danny: My opinion on the whip is that it needs to stay for jockeys and other horses safety. There has been a massive improvement over the years with new rules and newly designed whips and I am sure things will improve further.

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

Danny: To be honest I’m very lucky with my weight as I’m small, so I get to eat pretty much what I wish to eat. Obviously I just don’t eat junk food, all my meals are homemade and healthy, thanks to my girlfriend.

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

Danny: Everyone has their right to an opinion, but horses aren’t forced to race, they do it because they enjoy it. It’s in their nature to compete. The horses in racing get extremely looked after.

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

Danny: When I get some time to myself, which isn’t often, I like to play football and taking the dogs on a walk, which both are a good way to maintain fitness. I’m pretty much into anything outdoors.

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

Danny: The person I look up to would be Brian Hughes. The way he rides is admirable, everything just looks smooth. He’s always in the right place at the right time in races. He has helped me a lot since I started out and I have a huge amount of respect for him.

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

Danny: The one race I would love to win would be the Grand National. It has always been a dream of mine. Toby Dobbin, who’s from the same town in Northern Ireland as me and is a family friend, won it, so it would be great to win it.

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

Danny: My overall goal would be just to try and ride as many winners as I can and to keep improving and learning over the years.

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

Danny: My horse to watch over the next year or two would be Marown trained by my boss Nicky Richards. He is currently unbeaten in 3 starts, one in a bumper and two over hurdles. He’s a big, strong type, proper chasing type. In time he can only improve from what he has done now. Will be exciting to see what the future holds for him.

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

Danny: My favourite course, I have to be honest, but one would be Carlisle because, one, it’s only 20 minutes away which helps, but also it takes getting used to, you have to be in the right place at the right time around there. You need a horse which can travel and if you go too soon, you’ll never get home, but if you leave it too late, it’s hard to make ground up that hill. Timing and jumping is everything around there.

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

Danny: My advice to anyone who has a passion for something, whether it’s sport or other things, is to never stop chasing that passion, no matter if people put you down, people will always doubt you, but when you prove them wrong it will all be worth it. If you believe in it, you will achieve it, it’s just some hard work, dedication and self belief, that’s all that’s needed.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Danny for taking the time to talk to me. I think he is definitely someone to keep an eye on, he is very knowledgeable in the sport and always open to learn more, which is always a good thing. I, for one, can’t wait to watch his progress!

Thank you for reading. I will see you all next Saturday at 11am for An Interview with Phillip Dennis.