An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The History of the Champion Hurdle

Good Evening!

This week, in honour of the Cheltenham Festival, I have decided to write up one post per evening at 6pm, and it will be a new series within itself where I pick one race for the following day and I focus in on the history of the race. Past winners, records and hopefully new bits of information you and I may not even know! So, with that being said, let’s just get right into it.

The Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race ran on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival over 2 miles and 87 yards, and is for horses who are 4 years and older.

The first running of the Champion Hurdle took place on the 9th of March 1927. There were 4 runners and it was won by 8 lengths by the 11/10 favourite Blaris who was rode by George Duller for trainer Bill Payne and for owner Mrs H. Hollins at a time of 4 minutes and 13.6 seconds.

On the 1st of March 1932, there were 3 runners and the 4/5 favourite Insurance won by 12 lengths for jockey Ted Leader, trainer Basil Briscoe and owner Dorothy Paget in a time of 4 minutes 14.2 seconds. The following year, he was the first horse to successfully retain his crown. On the 7th of March 1933, Insurance won again as the 10/11 favourite out of 5 runners, this time winning by 3/4 of a length in a time of 4 minutes 37.6 seconds, this time with a different jockey on board, Billy Stott.

The next horse to successfully retain his crown 2 years in a row would be over 10 years later. National Spirit won the race firstly on the 12th of April 1947 by 1 length in a time of 4 minutes 03.8 seconds at 7/1 for jockey Danny Morgan, trainer Vic Smyth and owner Len Abelson, beating 13 opponents. Following it up with another victory on the 2nd of March 1948, winning by 2 lengths in a quicker time of 3 minutes 54.8 seconds. This time with Ron Smyth riding and beating 11 other competitors as the 6/4 favourite.

We then have Hatton’s Grace who successfully won the race 3 years in a row. Starting on the 7th of March 1949 winning by 6 lengths at 100/7 against 13 other competitors at a time of 4 minutes 0.6 seconds for jockey Aubrey Brabazon, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Mrs Harry Keogh. Followed up by another win on the 7th of March 1950, winning as the 5/2 favourite against 11 other competitors by 1 1/2 lengths in a slightly quicker time of 3 minutes, 59.6 seconds for the same jockey Aubrey Brabazon. We then move forward a year to the 6th of March 1951, where once again Hatton’s Grace won by 5 lengths at 4/1 this time under Tim Molony at a time of 4 minutes 11.2 seconds beating 7 other competitors.

Sir Ken then went on to do the same thing, winning on the 4th of March 1952 as the 3/1 favourite, the 3rd of March 1953 as the 2/5 favourite and the 2nd of March 1954 as the 4/9 favourite, all for jockey Tim Molony, trainer Willie Stephenson and owner Maurice Kingsley.

It would then be over 15 years before another horse did the same successfully. Persian War won on the 20th of March 1968 at 4/1 again on the 19th March 1969 as the 6/4 favourite and again for a third time on the 18th of March 1970 as the 5/4 favourite. All for jockey Jimmy Uttley, trainer Colin Davies and owner Henry Alper.

The next two years, the Champion Hurdle would be won by Bula. Firstly on the 18th of March 1971 as the 15/8 favourite then again on the 15th of March 1972 as the 8/11 favourite, both for jockey Paul Kelleway, trainer Fred Winter and owner Bill Edwards-Heathcote.

The next horse to win the Champion Hurdle twice, however not two years in a row, would be Comedy of Errors. He was only one of two horses to ever regain the Champion Hurdle title after losing it. Firstly on the 14th of March 1973, winning at 8/1 for jockey Bill Smith, trainer Fred Rimell and owner Ted Wheatley. On the 13th of March 1974, Comedy of Errors then came second as the 4/6 favourite behind Lanzarote (7/4) for jockey Richard Pitman, trainer Fred Winter and owner Lord Howard de Walden. The next year on the 12th of March 1975, Comedy of Errors then made a comeback and won as the 11/8 favourite, this time for jockey Ken White.

We then have Night Nurse, who won twice, once on the 17th of March 1976 as the 2/1 favourite and again on the 16th of March 1977 at 15/2. Both for jockey Paddy Broderick, trainer Peter Easterby and owner Reg Spencer.

The second placed horse in 1977, Monksfield then won twice in a row. Once on the 15th of March 1978 at 11/2 for jockey Tommy Kinane trainer Des McDonogh and owner Dr Michael Mangan followed up by another win on the 14th of March 1979 as the 9/4 favourite, this time for jockey Dessie Hughes.

The next two years were then won by Sea Pigeon, on the 11th of March 1980 at 13/2 for jockey Jonjo O’Neill, trainer Peter Easterby and owner Pat Muldoon. Then winning again on the 17th of March 1981 as the 7/4 favourite, this time for John Francome.

Another notable winner is Dawn Run who won on the 13th of March 1984, winning as the 4/5 favourite under Jonjo O’Neill for trainer Paddy Mullins and owner Charmian Hill. Dawn Run went on to win many races including the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2 years later.

The next winner to strike three times in three years is See You Then. Firstly on the 12th of March 1985 winning at 16/1, again on the 11th of March 1986 as the 5/6 favourite then again on the 17th of March as the 11/10 favourite, all for jockey Steve Smith Eccles, trainer Nicky Henderson and owner Stype Wood Stud.

The next notable winner to win the race 3 years in a row was Istabraq. He won on the 17th of March 1998 as the 3/1 favourite, again on the 16th of March 1999 as the 4/9 favourite then again on the 14th of March 2000 as the 8/15 favourite. All three times under Charlie Swan for trainer Aidan O’Brien for owner J.P. McManus.

The next horse to mention is Hardy Eustace who firstly won on the 16th of March 2004 at 33/1, then again the following year on the 15th of March 2005 this time as the 7/2 favourite. Both times for jockey Conor O’Dwyer, trainer Dessie Hughes and owner Laurence Byrne.

Now we move on to Hurricane Fly, who is only the second of 2 horses to regain his Champion Hurdle title after losing it. His first win coming on the 15th of March 2011 as the 11/4 favourite. Then on the 13th of March 2012, he finished third as the 4/6 favourite behind winner Rock On Ruby (11/1) and second place Overturn (9/2). Then on the 12th of March 2013, he regained his title, this time winning as the 13/8 favourite. Both times winning for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Willie Mullins and owner Creighton / Boyd.

We then have winners such as Faugheen (4/5F in 2015) and Annie Power (5/2F in 2016), both for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Susannah Ricci.

The next horse to win the Champion Hurdle twice in a row was Buveur d’Air who successfully won for the first time on the 14th of March 2017 at 5/1 for Noel Fehily, trainer Nicky Henderson and owner J.P. McManus. In his second win, he won on the 13th of March 2018 as the 4/6 favourite, this time under Barry Geraghty.

On the 12th of March 2019, J.P. McManus had another win, this time Espoir d’Allen at 16/1 for jockey Mark Walsh and trainer Gavin Cromwell. Followed up by another winner on the 10th of March 2020, Epatante as the 2/1 favourite, this time for jockey Barry Geraghty and trainer Nicky Henderson.

Things to note: In the 1947 running of the Champion Hurdle, it was finally run on the 12th of April after being postponed twice due to winter snows. In 1931, the race was abandoned totally due to frost. In 1943 an 1944, the race was not run due to World War 2. And then in 2001, the running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, instead a substitute race was run at Sandown.

Now onto some interesting statistics and records. The 2008 winner Katchit and 2019 winner Espoir d’Allen are the only horses who were 5 years old to win since See You Then in 1985, in fact, 13 of the past 16 winners were aged between 6 and 8 years old. Extended on from that, only four horses over the age of 8 have won the race since 1951, the most recent one was Hurricane Fly who was aged 9 when winning in 2013.

Another interesting fact is that 11 of the past 19 winners have been trained in Ireland and 19 of the last 28 winners had actually won at Cheltenham before. 14 of the past 18 winners had raced in the previous 7 weeks and 24 of the last 27 winners were in the top 6 of the betting. Also worth mentioning that 31 of the past 37 winners won the last time out.

On to the most successful horses in the race, winning 3 times each:
Hatton’s Grace – 1949, 1950 and 1951
Sir Ken – 1952, 1953 and 1954
Persian War – 1968, 1969 and 1970
See You Then – 1985, 1986 and 1987
Istabraq – 1998, 1999 and 2000

Now onto the most successful jockeys, all with 4 wins each:
Tim Molony – Hatton’s Grace (1951) & Sir Ken (1952, 1953 and 1954)
Ruby Walsh – Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013), Faugheen (2015) and Annie Power (2016)
Barry Geraghty – Punjabi (2009), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2018) and Epatante (2020)

The leading trainer in the race is Nicky Henderson who has had 8 wins in the Champion Hurdle, those being: See You Then (1985, 1986 & 1987), Punjabi (2009), Binocular (2010), Buveur D’Air (2017 & 2018) and Epatante (2020).

With the leading owner being J.P. McManus who has had 9 wins, those being: Istabraq (1998, 1999 & 2000), Binocular (2010), Jezki (2014), Buveur D’Air (2017 & 2018), Espoir d’Allen (2019) and Epatante (2020).


So there we have it, the history of the Champion Hurdle. I, for once, cannot wait for tomorrow’s run of the Champion Hurdle and the Festival to start as a whole, so I enjoyed looking through the history of the race. I hope you all enjoyed reading and hopefully you have all learned something new, I know I did.

I shall see you all tomorrow night at the same time of 6pm for The History of the Queen Mother Champion Chase!

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 Mick Fitzgerald

Hey guys!

Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year and we’re all back to make 2021 a good one. I am super excited to bring you my first post of 2021 which is an interview with ex jockey, now TV pundit, Mick Fitzgerald. Mick took time out of his morning Tuesday to speak to me all things racing, so I hope you all enjoy!


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

Mick: Favourite race of my career I think to win was the Gold Cup, it was the one race I wanted to win more than any other. I was 15 when Dawn Run won in 1986 and you know, it was one of those moments that you never forget. I always wondered what it would feel like to win the Gold Cup and to walk into that winners enclosure and thankfully I was able to win that.

Me: If you could ride any horse that is currently in training, what horse would you choose and why?

Mick: I think I would choose Shishkin, because those good horses, especially ones like him, they’ve got very high cruising speed. He’s a bit of a natural athlete in that he’s got a lot of scope jumping and he’s just, he’s already proven on a big stage, winning the Supreme at the Festival. Erm, but he looks like he’s a shining star.

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

Mick: I disagree with it, I think that we need something that… People have to understand that when you’re in control of an animal that size, you sometimes need something that will give you the upper hand. I think when you carry a whip it is mainly for correction purposes. If you’ve got a horse that is being unruly or it’s a danger to other people and other horses, you need to be able to give it a slap down the shoulder to basically correct it to stop it misbehaving really.

Me: You obviously work for some of the biggest broadcasters in racing, some jockey’s never go down that route, why do you think you went into that? What do you enjoy about it?

Mick: Erm, why did I, I think in the past maybe, some jockey’s didn’t feel like it was an avenue they wanted to go down. I have always found working on TV enjoyable and I think as a pundit, having been there and done it, you know, I have an opinion that is valid in a sense that I know how it feels like to get it wrong and I know how it feels like to get it right. And I know, I’d like think with my coaching background now, I can kind of pin point areas where some jockey’s need to be better and areas where jockey’s excel. I enjoy it as a job, well it’s not really a job. I get to go racing at a time now, especially at the moment, when it’s a horrible time for a lot of people. If you’re an owner of a race horse you’re not allowed to go and watch your horse run, whereas I feel very privileged that I am able to work in a sport that I love and be able to convey that to the people who are watching.

And how do I feel? As you say, I have been very lucky. Ed Chamberlin – our lead presenter on ITV – is a great man to work with. He’s very… He’s not… It’ not all about him. He very much wants to get the best out of his co-presenters, whether it is Francesca (Cumani), whether it’s me, whether it’s AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh or Luke Harvey. He wants to get the best out of us, that’s what he feels his job is. Erm, and obviously when I worked for Channel 4 and BBC, I worked with Clare Balding, who was one of the best I have ever worked with. She is very professional and brilliant at her job and she has a great way of being able to talk to the person sat at home as if they were sat down beside her. She had… a super way. Nick Luck, obviously he is very professional and so natural. He is a very good communicator and he’s a really good operator. And then when I did work in radio, people like Mark Pougatch and John Inverdale, they are titans of their profession. Really really good presenters who are exceptional at what they do. Eleanor Oldroyd is another one I worked with on Five Live. She is a brilliant presenter, again, she has got a great… I think the key to good presenting is making the person sat at home, whether they’re listening to you or watching you, feel like they are the only person in the room and you are talking directly to them. That is what all of those people I have mentioned have done and still do brilliantly.

Me: You touched there on being a jockey coach as well, are there any upcoming jockey’s that you’re looking forward to that could potentially come close to AP McCoy’s record?

Mick: Oft, I don’t know about AP’s record, I think that… To put it into context Zoe, somebody has to ride 200 winners for 20 years consecutively to get near AP’s record… To get near it – not beat it. So that is a mountain and I certainly haven’t seen anybody that can be that dominant at the moment. But there is a good batch of young riders coming through, you’ve got Danny McMenamin who’s a very good rider based up the North, you’ve got Jack Tudor who is one of the lads I coach, he’s a very big talent. Liam Harrison is another young man I work with who is very good. Lilly Pinchin who I work with, I think she is very good. Erm, there is… The great thing is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female, I’ve worked with the Bowen brothers, I’ve worked with Bryony Frost throughout her career and as far as I’m concerned, what sex a person is has nothing to do with their ability to ride a horse. You have to work hard, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you want to improve and only then will you improve.

Me: Do you believe Tiger Roll can go on to win a third Grand National? If not, are there any horses you fancy to take the crown?

Mick: It’s a big ask for Tiger Roll this year, like, there’s a lot of young… I think he had a better chance off winning it last year than he does this year. Obviously he’s a year older and it’ll be hard for him now. Erm, I would love to see him do it but I think it will be tough. I quite like a horse called The Conditional trained by David Bridgwater. He I think has… He ticks all the boxes for me. He’s a big horse.

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

Mick: Well, all they have to do is see how they are looked after. These horses… People have to… We need to educate people to show them as well. These horses are bred to race and if you turned them out into a field… We have horses here and if you turn them out in the field they gallop. They love to gallop and they love to jump and as far as I’m concerned these horses are bred to do this and it’s what they like doing. If they’re not being forced to do it, they still do it, so you know, I don’t see the cruelty. Horses that are looked after like these are? That’s not cruelty in my eyes.

Me: What would be your horse to watch for the next couple of seasons?

Mick: I think Shishkin. Definitely. He’s the one who should be on the top of everybody’s lists really.

Me: What is one race that you never won that you would have loved to win?

Mick: Champion Hurdle. I never won the Champion, I was 3rd in it and I never won it. That’s definitely the one.

Me: What was your favourite course to ride at and what is your favourite course to be a pundit at?

Mick: Erm, Cheltenham is my favourite because there is nowhere quite like it. To be a pundit, I think it’s a toss up between Ascot and Cheltenham. I think Ascot is such a fantastic Grand Stand and arena that it’s hard not to be impressed when you stand there and look up at that structure. Even when you drive in to Ascot you can see it and it’s really impressive and to work at it’s kind of got everything in terms of ease of access and how you’re looked after, that’s pretty good. And Cheltenham… I would have to say Cheltenham Zoe really, on both counts. You know, like it doesn’t get any better than there. I know I’m a bit biased and it sounds wrong for me to say Cheltenham and Cheltenham but it feels like it’s Cheltenham.

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

Mick: Favourite day of the racing calendar? Erm… It is the Tuesday of the Cheltenham Festival. Purely because it is the start of four days of absolute top draw racing.

Me: For the last question, what is your best piece of advice for young people who want to follow their passion, whether that be in racing or elsewhere?

Mick: Erm, don’t ever be put off by what other people tell you. If you want something and it’s something you care and are passionate about… Follow it. You might have to work harder than everybody else to get there, but it will be worth it in the end. If you care about something and you’re passionate about it, let that passion be what drives you forward. Never be afraid to chase your dream.

Me: Thank you for your time today Mick, I appreciate you’re busy so I am grateful you have taken time out to speak with me.

Mick: No not at all. The very best of luck, continue with what you’re doing.


I want to say a huge thank you to Mick for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with me and supporting the work I am doing on my blog. It’s an honour to speak with someone who is such a huge name in a sport I love. Mick gave some in depth answers that really gave an insight into the sport and I thoroughly enjoyed our talk.

I hope you all enjoyed this interview as much as I did.

Thank you all so much for reading my first post of 2021. I will be back on Saturday (09/01/2021) at 11am where I am bringing to you an interview with Jamie Moore.