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.

An Interview with Danny Mcmenamin

Danny Mcmenamin

Hiya guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Interview with Theo Gillard

Theo Gillard

Hey guys!

Today’s post is an interview with Theo Gillard, who is currently a conditional jockey based with Donald McCain. Let’s get straight into it!

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

Theo: Riding a winner at Aintree has to be the standout one, but having a ride over the National fences was some buzz too.

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

Theo: Master Minded in his prime looked electric. There are plenty of others, but he stands out the most to me.

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

Theo: Same opinion as any of the other lads in the weighing room. It’s there for safety and encouragement so if you stick to the rules, which are spot on as they are now, I think they should stay the same.

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

Theo: I tend not to eat breakfast, usually because I don’t get up in time for it! As for lunch, I tend to have mugshots or noodles, which work well for me with a but of fruit or something. For tea I try to stick to lean meats, but you’ve got to get takeout now and then to keep yourself sane. In the current situation I’m sure plenty of the lads will make use of the few weeks off we have, as I will too, to enjoy food a bit more than we normally would.

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

Theo: To anyone that thinks racing is cruel, I’d love to show any one of them around any racing yard in the country to prove how well they are looked after and loved by all stable staff in the industry. I’m sure it would widen plenty of peoples eyes to racing if they did a bit of proper research on it.

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

Theo: We get a few weeks here and there in the summer, so it’s always nice to get away on a holiday or away with the Mrs to have some down time away from racing and feel like a ‘normal person’ for a few days.

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

Theo: There are a lot of good lads in the weighing room, but Dicky (Richard Johnson) is a proper role model. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ridden one winner or a thousand, he always has time for anyone and everyone and is an all round top man.

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

Theo: At this point in my career, winning any race is a great day for me. But the Gold Cup, as for many other lads is iconic, as well as the Grand National, but I wouldn’t be picky mind.

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

Navajo Pass ran a great race to be the 4th in the Triumph at this years Festival and could be a real nice stayer in the future. But the unfortunate Goshen looked extremely impressive too an could turn out to be anything.

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

Theo: Ironically, I love riding at Bangor. Donald’s horses tend to run well there and I think front runners are hard to peg back round there, so that’s what makes it my favourite course. As well as it’s only 10 minutes from home, so it makes it ideal for me.

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

Theo: Racing or not, starting off your career in anything, keep your head down and work hard but enjoy yourself. Take it seriously, but not too seriously, because your head can play some serious mind games with you if you get too worked up about everything. As long as you can look back at it and be proud of what you have you’re career, what you’ve achieved and be happy with it, then you’re grand.

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Firstly, as always, I want to thank Theo for taking time out to answer some questions. It is appreciated. Theo works for a top trainer with some brilliant horses and with the passion he has for the sport, you can see he will go on to do great things and I, for one, cannot wait to follow his career over the next few years!

I really hope you enjoyed this post! See you all in my next.

An Interview with Jamie Spencer

Jamie Spencer

Hey guys!

Today I am bringing you an interview with Jamie Spencer who has achieved brilliant things within the sport. I hope you enjoy this little insight to him!

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

Jamie: Riding a winner at Cheltenham on Pizarro, lots of other more important flat races but jump racing I was born into as my father won the Champion Hurdle.

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

Jamie: Boring selection, but obviously Frankel. He’s been the best horse of my lifetime.

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

Jamie: If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it. Horses are herd animals and generally run together as a pack to see who’s the best, then they need a form of encouragement.

Me: You have won multiple classics in your career as well as being Champion Jockey both in Ireland and Britain, what do you class as your biggest achievement? What are you most proud of this far in your career?

Jamie: Winning the St Leger on Brian Boru in 2003, it was a month after one of my best friends and housemate Kieran Kelly had died from a fall at Kilbeggan.

Me: As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, is this ever a worry for you?

Jamie: My weight isn’t a major issue so I’m fortunate.

Me: You rode for Aidan O’Brien for a short while as his stable jockey at Ballydoyle, since then he has gone on to break all sorts of records, as have you. How was it working for him?

Jamie: He’s clearly broken all the records, been a genius in the sport. We are all older and wiser now and thankfully he’s supported me to win many Grade 1’s since then.

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

Jamie: We all start in racing because we love the horses, that sentiment never leaves, from a personal point of view.

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

Jamie: It’s an all year round sport, but as I have gotten older I do more for myself so I take plenty of time off. I can’t complain.

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

Jamie: I admire lots of people for varying reasons. For example, Luke Morris is a tremendous advocate of how there is no substitute for hard work. Then you get Andrea Atzeni who’s naturally a gifted horseman. And then there’s plenty who do very well but if I was an owner I wouldn’t use them, so who’s right and who’s wrong? Racing is all about opinions.

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

Jamie: The Derby.

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

Jamie: I’m on the back nine regards being a jockey, I’ve concentrated on other areas of the sport for many years and hopefully will utilise these efforts in the future. The beauty of racing is nothing is a given.

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

Jamie: I’m particularly hopeful Mohican Heights can progress, but like everything at this time of year, it’s a guessing game.

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

Jamie: Ascot. It’s been good to me and I love going there more than any other track.

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

Jamie: If you want to be involved in racing, there are no short cuts. I believe the jockeys adapt so well as they’re not educated enough to realise it’s madness the hours they put in and living the dream of finding the good horse. Outside of racing, well I know nothing else than this game, but I’m guessing if you follow people like Bill Gates or John Magnier’s advice, you won’t go far wrong.

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As always, firstly I want to thank Jamie for taking the time to speak with me, he is a ridiculously talented jockey who has achieved some incredible things so it was an honour to get the chance to ask him some questions.

I hope you enjoyed!

An Interview with Niall Houlihan

Niall Houlihan

Hey guys!

Today’s post is an interview with Niall Houlihan who is currently a conditional jockey based with Gary Moore and interestingly, he is also the groom who looks after the very talented Goshen! I hope you enjoy!

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

Niall: My favourite career race to date would probably be my last winner on Twenty Twenty for the boss at Fontwell last Saturday (14th March). He’s been a very unlucky horse for us this season, coming second three times in a row so to get his head in front was quite rewarding, especially after the events of the Friday in Cheltenham. Also was my first winner at Fontwell, our local track, which had been harder to get than expected.

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

Niall: For me, it would be Denman. He, for me, is just the perfect stamp of a National Hunt horse and is definitely a hero of mine.

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

Niall: I believe the current whip rules that the BHA enforce are correct and should be continued.

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

Niall: I’m lucky in the aspect that being 5ft 11 my weight will always have to be managed. I have a general diet plan that I got from a PJA dietitian but it will change if I’ve got light weights the following days. I never really take time off my diet as I actually quite enjoy my regime that I have and I am trying to be in the best physical state to try and improve my riding, so staying in that diet helps me keep focused.

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

Niall: Like anything, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. Above all else, I’m an animal lover and I’ve been brought up with horses in my life and for me, racing isn’t a cruel sport. Horses are given top class care all year round in our industry. I’d love to show those people who believe that the sport is cruel the lifestyle that the horses have and show them how much the horses are loved by the people involved in the sport.

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

Niall: Jumps jockeys get a week off racing both in April and August and for them weeks I’ll usually visit home to meet up with family and friends. I’ll probably be quiet throughout the summer as most of the trainers I ride for turn their horses out. Last year I used the downtime to travel to France where I rode out for French trainer Emmanuel Clayeax. Other than that I play a small bit of golf in the evenings, but I wouldn’t call it relaxing.

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

Niall: I always look up to the lads, Josh and Jamie Moore. They are very good to me and will always help me if they can. They are two of the most professional jockeys in the weighing room and I believe great role models to look up to. I go through any of my rides with both of them afterwards, seeing what they thought and what they would do differently.

Me: What is one race you would love to win?

Niall: Grand National. Every jockey’s dream.

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

Niall: To ride as many winners as I can and to be in the top tier in National Hunt racing for as many seasons as possible.

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

Niall: Goshen. Being his groom, I know I’m biased, but for me he’s a monster who only knows how to win.

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

Niall: Sandown. I had my first winner there for Gary and it’s a major track that the boss aims a lot of good horses, so I know if I’m going to ride one for him, it will probably have a chance at winning.

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

The best advice I was ever told was that you’ve got two ears and one mouth for a reason. If you have a passion for anything, you’ve got to follow it, but if you want to succeed at it, you’ve got to take all the advice you’re given.

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Firstly, a massive thank you to Niall for answering some questions for me. He has great potential to become a brilliant jockey and I cannot wait to follow his progress over the next few years.

I hope you enjoy reading as much as I have writing.

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

Fergal O'Brien

Hi guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Are you going to do another pub crawl?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.