An Interview with Jonjo O’Neill Jr

JonJo

Hi guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you all very soon for my next post!

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

Olly Murphy

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading!

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

Fergal O'Brien

Hi guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Are you going to do another pub crawl?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

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A Horse Racing Question & Answer – Answering YOUR questions!

Q&A

Hiya!

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

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1) How did you get into horse racing?

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

2) What horses do you have shares in?

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

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

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

4) True opinions of the Owners Group?

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

5) Are you planning on visiting any smaller yards?

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

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

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

7) Flat or jumps?

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

8) Opinions on Little Rory Mac?

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

9) Are you going to Cheltenham?

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

10) Who is your favourite horse past or present?

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

11) Best stable visit you have had so far?

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

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

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

13) How long have you liked racing?

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

14) What is your goal for 2020?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18) Opinions on a 5 day Festival?

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

19) Who is your favourite trainer and jockey?

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

20) Opinions on bloggers interviewing people on race days?

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

21) Favourite racecourse you have been to?

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

22) Thoughts on Bryony Frost?

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

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

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

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

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

25) Are you going to visit any Irish yards?

I hope so! Keep your eyes peeled.

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

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

27) Tip of the Festival?

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

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

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

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

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

30) What are your plans for your YouTube channel?

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

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

See you all in my next post!

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An Updated Interview With Champion Jockey Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Hi guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for reading.

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Worcester Races + EXCLUSIVE Interview with Richard Johnson

worcester

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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