Humorist: The One Lung Epsom Derby Winner

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today I am bringing to you a brand new post about a miraculous horse from the early 20th century and when I read about it, I knew I wanted to share his story. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.


Humorist was born in 1918 to Polymelus out of Jest. He was a chestnut colt with a broad white blaze and was described to have a ‘kind and intelligent’ temperament. He was bred by his owner Jack Barnato Joel who was a South African mining magnate and horse breeder. Humorist was sent to Jack’s private trainer Charles Morton at Letcombe Bassett in Berkshire.

When in training, Humorist confused his trainer and owner as he would switch from traveling easily to struggling in a matter of strides. Charles Morton would go on to say ‘all the time I felt there was something wrong with him… He would be perfectly well one day and listless the next’. It would only be after Humorist’s death that the reasons for this would be revealed.

In 1920, Humorist became one of the best two year olds of his generation when he won three times and finished second twice in five starts. His debut came in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom in June where he won by a neck, however he looked to have been set for an easy victory, the closeness of the finish confusing his connections once again.

Humorist was then found to be suffering with a cough so he ended up missing his intended target at Royal Ascot. His return came in the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster where he was beaten by a neck by Lemonora. Humorist then went on to win the Buckenham Stakes and Clearwell Stakes pretty impressively before heading to Newmarket for the Middle Park Stakes, where he was beaten by a neck by Monarch.

Moving into 1921 and now three years old, Humorist headed straight for the Classic 2000 Guineas without having a trial run beforehand. He started as the favourite of twenty six runners. He led the race well into the closing stages and looked like a clear winner, however he abruptly finished third behind Craig an Eran and Lemonora. The audience were less than impressed and many started to question his courage, however his jockey Steve Donoghue insisted there had to be a physical explanation. This being said, trainer Charles Morton changed Humorist’s training regime, working him very lightly in the lead up to the Derby.

Humorist went into the Epsom Derby as the second favourite at 6/1 with only Craig an Eran at a shorter price, going off as the 5/1 favourite. He tracked the leaders before being sent by Steve Donoghue through a gap on the rails and into the lead just two furlongs from the finish. He held off a sustained challenge from Craig an Eran to win by a neck.

After the race, Humorist appeared to be distressed and unsteady and had to spend the night in the racecourse stables before he was well enough to be transported back home.

The plan for Humorist was to head to Royal Ascot next, however during his preparations he was found to be bleeding from his nostrils so it was decided to rest him and miss Royal Ascot again.

In late June, Humorist was painted by artist Alfred Munnings, however just hours later he was found dead in his stable, in a pool of his own blood.

An autopsy was performed and it revealed that Humorist had been suffering from chronic tuberculosis, this would have affected him for months prior to his death. This diagnoses explains the concerns that his trainer had in regards to his sudden change when running and also the concerns of his jockey who knew something was not right. Essentially, this diagnoses means that Humorist had been running with one lung for the majority of his very short career, including his victory in the Epsom Derby. Steve Donoghue paid tribute to Humorist saying:

He gave me everything he had when it must have been agony for him. No horse ever showed greater courage.”

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1086635/2/index.htm

Humorist was buried at his owner, Jack Barnato Joel’s Childwick Bury Stud near St Albans.

To this day, many rate Humorist as one of the best horses of all time, but definitely one of the best of his generation.


What an absolute warrior of a horse. Of course in today’s day and age when there is an issue with a horse, straight away vets are in and doing everything they can to get to the bottom of it, but baring in mind this was in 1921 and it was a far less advanced time and the chances of them being able to detect this would have been a lot lower.

It breaks my heart knowing he was giving everything he had, whilst in excruciating pain and he managed to achieve everything he did.

This was a new story for me, so I hope you all took something from this post that you didn’t know before. I will see you Saturday morning at 11am for a new post!

The History of the Epsom Derby

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Ahead of today’s renewal of the Cazoo Derby, let’s have a look into the history of the race!


The Epsom Derby Stakes is a Group 1 flat race which is ran at Epsom Downs racecourse and is open to three year old colts and fillies. It is ran over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 6 yards and it takes place in late May or early June each year and the first running of the race was in 1780. It is Britain’s richest flat horse race and the most prestigious of the 5 Classic races as well as the middle leg of the Triple Crown, with the 2,000 Guineas before and the St Leger following. In the previous running in 2020 the race was worth £491,850 with the winner getting £283,550.


The first winner of the race in 1780 was a horse called Diomed for jockey Sam Arnull, trainer R. Teasdale and owner Sir Charles Bunbury. Jumping into the 1800’s, Robert Robson who dominated the Epsom Oaks, started to dominate the Epsom Derby winning firstly in 1802 with Tyrant who partnered up with Frank Buckle and owner the 3rd Duke of Grafton, winning again in 1809 with Pope for jockey Tom Goodisson and owner the 3rd Duke of Grafton. In 1810 with Whalebone for Bill Clift and owner the 3rd Duke of Grafton with plenty more victories to follow up to 1823.

In 1828, interestingly there was a deadheat, however Cadland for Jem Robinson, Dixon Boyce and the 5th Duke of Rutland ended up winning in a ‘run off’ against The Colonel.

Skipping forward quite a few years, in 1896, Persimmon won the race for jockey John Watts, trainer Richard Marsh and the Prince of Wales, with another winner for the Prince of Wales in 1900 when Diamond Jubilee won for jockey Herbert Jones and trainer Richard Marsh.

In 1909, Minoru won for jockey Herbert Jones, trainer Richard Marsh and owner King Edward VII.

In 1930, Aga Khan III won with Blenheim with jockey Harry Wragg and trainer Dick Dawson, winning again in 1935 with Bahram for jockey Freddie Fox and trainer Frank Butters and again in 1936 with Mahmoud for jockey Charles Smirke and trainer Fred Butters again. As well as a victory in 1952 with Tulyar for jockey Charles Smirke and trainer Marcus Marsh.

In 1954, Lester Piggott won the race for the first time on Never Say Die for trainer Joseph Lawson and owner Robert Sterling Clark.

In 1970, the very famous Nijinsky won the race for Lester Piggott, Vincent O’Brien and Charles W. Engelhard Jr. Mill Reef in 1971 for Geoff Lewis, Ian Balding and Paul Mellon.

Another notable name is Shergar who won the race in 1981 for Walter Swinburn, (Sir) Michael Stoute and Aga Khan VI. (If you don’t know the story of Shergar you can read all about it right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/07/25/what-happened-to-shergar/)

If we now skip forward to the 21st century, we see Galileo win the race in 2001 for Michael Kinane, Aidan O’Brien and Magnier / Tabor. (You can read all about him, his racing career and his career in stud right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/12/galileo-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/)

Motivator won the race in 2005 for Johnny Murtagh, Michael Bell and the Royal Ascot Racing Club. Authorized in 2007 for Frankie Dettori, Peter Chapple-Hyam and Al Homaizi / Al Sagar. In 2009, Sea The Stars won the race for Michael Kinane, John Oxx and Christopher Tsui. With Camelot winning in 2012 for Joseph and Aidan O’Brien and owners Smith / Magnier / Tabor, followed by Ruler of the World for Ryan Moore, Aidan O’Brien and Magnier / Tabor / Smith and in 2014, Australia for Joseph and Aidan O’Brien and Smith / Magnier / Tabor / Khing.

2015 we seen Golden Horn win the race for Frankie Dettori, John Gosden and Anthony Oppenheimer. And in 2016, the late, great, Pat Smullen won the race on Harzand for Dermot Weld and owner Aga Khan IV.

In 2019 the late Anthony Van Dyck won the race for Seamie Heffernan, Aidan O’Brien and Smith / Magnier / Tabor. And the most recent winner in 2020 which was ran in July due to the Covid 19 pandemic was Serpentine for Emmet McNamara, Aidan O’Brien and Tabor / Smith / Magnier.


Now onto some records within the race!

The fastest winning time was set in 2010 when Workforce won the race in 2 minutes 31.33 seconds.

The longest odds winners were Jeddah in 1898, Signorinetta in 1908 and Aboyeur in 1913 who all won at 100/1.

The shortest odds winner was in 1894 when Ladas won at 2/9.

The widest winning margin was in 1981 when Shergar won by 10 lengths.

The race with the most runners was in 1862 when 34 horses ran.

The race with the fewest runners was in 1794 when only 4 horses ran.


Now onto the leading jockey, trainer and owner!

Firstly the leading jockey who is Lester Piggott who won the race 9 times. Never Say Die in 1954, Crepello in 1957, St Paddy in 1960, Sir Ivor in 1968, Nijinsky in 1970, Roberto in 1972, Empery in 1976, The Minstrel in 1977 and Teenoso in 1983.

The leading trainer is Aidan O’Brien, who to date has won 8 times. Galileo in 2001, High Chaparral in 2002, Camelot in 2012, Ruler of the World in 2013, Australia in 2014, Wings of Eagles in 2017, Anthony Van Dyck in 2019 and Serpentine in 2020.

And the leading owner – including part ownership – like many of these posts I have done are Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor who have won it 9 times. Galileo in 2001, High Chaparral in 2002, Pour Moi in 2011, Camelot in 2012, Ruler of the World in 2013, Australia in 2014, Wings of Eagles in 2017, Anthony Van Dyck in 2019 and Serpentine in 2020.


So there we have it, a little look into the history of the Epsom Derby. Today’s renewal looks to be another brilliant race so I cannot wait to see how it goes! I hope you enjoyed this one and I will see you all on Wednesday evening for a new post and it is a very interesting post – Eight Interesting Horse Racing Facts You May Not Know!

The History of the English Triple Crown

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, today’s post is all about the history of the English Triple Crown which will soon be up on us. Let’s jump right into it!


The English Triple Crown is a three race competition which consists of the 2000 Guineas Stakes (1 mile), The Epsom Derby (1 & 1/2 miles) and the St Leger Stakes (1 mile, 6 furlongs & 127 yards.)

The term originated in 1853, before the American version, when West Australian won all three races in the same season. Since then, only 15 horses have completed the English Triple Crown, so let’s have a little look through the years!

In 1862, The Marquis came close when winning the 1st and 3rd legs, the 2000 Guineas and St Leger Stakes. The next year in 1863, Macaroni then came close when winning the first two legs, the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby. The following year in 1864, Blair Athol won the 2nd and 3rd legs, the Epsom Derby and the St Leger Stakes. But it was in 1865 when the next successful Triple Crown winner would emerge, that being Gladiateur who successfully won all 3 races, followed swiftly in 1866 by Lord Lyon who also won all 3.

Ten years later in 1876, we seen Petrarch win the 1st and 3rd legs, the 2000 Guineas and St Leger Stakes, the following year in 1877, Silvio won the 2nd and 3rd legs, the Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes. It was then 1881 until another horse came close when Iroquois won legs 2 and 3, the Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes. The following year in 1882, Shotover won the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby but could not complete the Triple Crown. In 1885 Melton won the Epsom Derby and the St Leger Stakes but it was the following year of 1886 when we would see a new Triple Crown winner when Ormonde won the three big races.

In 1889, another horse called Donovan won 2 of the 3 races, those being leg 2 – The Epsom Derby and leg 3 – the St Leger Stakes. However it would be 1891 when another horse became a Triple Crown winner and that horse would be a horse called Common who successfully won all 3 races, followed very quickly by Isinglass in 1893 who also managed to win all three races.

Ladas would be the next horse to come close when winning the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby in 1894. With Sir Visto in 1895 and Persimmon in 1896 both winning the Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes. The following year in 1897, Galtee More became the 7th horse to complete the Triple Crown, followed very quickly by an 8th winner in Flying Fox in 1899, and a 9th being Diamond Jubilee in 1900.

In 1902, Sceptre won the 1st leg – the 2000 Guineas and the 3rd leg – the St Leger Stakes, but the following year in 1903 we would see the 10th Triple Crown winner crowned when Rock Sand completed the treble. In 1904, St Amant won the first two legs, the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby however not the third, followed by Minoru in 1909 and Sunstar in 1911 who both also won legs 1 and 2 but not the third.

We then seen the 11th, 12th and 13th Triple Crown winners come very quickly, with Pommern in 1915, Gay Crusader in 1917 and Gainsborough in 1918.

In 1925, Manna then won the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby but not the St Leger Stakes, followed by Coronach in 1926 and Trigo in 1929 who both won the Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes. In 1931, Cameronian won the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby, with Hyperion in 1933 and Windsor Lad in 1934 both winning the Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes. The following year in 1935, the 14th Triple Crown winner was crowned when Bahram completed the treble successfully.

In 1939, potentially another horse could have won the Triple Crown when Blue Peter won the 2000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby, however the St Leger Stakes was cancelled due to World War II beginning, so I guess we’ll never know if he could have gone on to be in the history books.

It would then be 1949 before another horse came close when Nimbus won the first two legs, however could not complete the treble. This was followed by Tulyar in 1952 and Never Say Die in 1954 who both won leg 2 and leg 3. In 1957, Crepello then also won the first two legs, but not the third. 3 years later in 1960, St. Paddy then won legs 2 and 3. In 1968, Sir Ivor came close when winning the first two races but not the third. But it would be 1970 when the 15th and final Triple Crown winner was crowned and that was, of course, Nijinsky.

Since the final winning being crowned in 1970, there has been Reference Point who won legs 2 and 3 in 1987, Nashwan who won legs 1 and 2 in 1989, Sea the Stars who won legs 1 and 2 in 2009 and Camelot who also won legs 1 and 2 in 2012.

So, to sum that up, Nijinsky is the only horse to win the Triple Crown post World War II and one of the main reasons for this is the fact that most owners do not attempt to run their horses in the St Leger Stakes as the race is longer and it may diminish the horses stud value in the future. Interestingly enough, no horses that have won the first two races between 1987 and 2012, those being Nashwan, Sea the Stars and Camelot were actually entered into the St Leger Stakes.


So the real question is… Will there ever be another Triple Crown winner again? From my research, I think it would take a very talented horse but also a gutsy owner and trainer for a horse to win all three races again, but never say never. In racing, we all know that anything is possible.

I really enjoy researching the history of these big races and from my viewing figures my readers enjoy them too, so I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will see you all in my next post on Saturday at 11am!

An Interview with Ed Chamberlin

Good Morning!

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


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

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

Me: What are your first memories of racing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Running Rein: The Disqualified Epsom Derby Winner

Hi Guys!

Welcome to a new post in my Horse Racing History series. Today’s is a shorter post, however I found it very interesting so thought I would share!

On July 1st 1844, The Epsom Derby was run as normal, or so everybody thought… Let’s get straight into it.

For some context, the Derby is a race held every year, starting in 1780 and as continued up until today. The race itself is a race that is run over one mile, four furlongs and 6 yards and is open to three year old colts and fillies and is classed as one of the Classics of the flat racing season.

In the weeks leading up to the 1844 running of The Derby, rumours had started circling in regards to two attempts to substitute three year old horses with similar horses who were four years old and much stronger and mature. At the time Lord George Bentinck who was a well known gambler and owner as well as owning his own stables, sent formal objections to the Epsom Stewards alongside multiple other racehorse owners. However the Jockey Club refused to act.

Nevertheless, The Derby was run as normal. Running Rein owned by Abraham Levi Goodman won The Derby, beating Orlando. However, all was not as it seemed. When returning to the paddock, suspicion was raised by idol gossip of those in attendance, so severe were these suspicions that the horse and jockey were both greeted with catcalls and jeers when returning to the winners circle.

Following the on-going rumours, Lord George Bentinck filed suit on behalf of the runner up, Orlando’s, owners. They declared that they believed the winner, ‘Running Rein’ was not in fact 3 years old and further than that, that ‘Running Rein’ was not even ‘Running Rein’, he was in fact a four year old horse named Maccabeus.

A little later on, a London courtroom was packed out by horse racing enthusiasts who sat through hours and hours of testimony as to the vetting of ‘Running Rein’. This included a local hairdresser who sold hair dye to disguise tell-tale markings on the horse in question. The owner of the horse Abraham Levi Goodman, was told to show the horse to the court. His lawyers at this point admitted that ‘Running Rein’ had vanished and that their client had, for the first time, conceded that ‘some fraud had been practiced’.

It was described by the Solicitor General as ‘a gross and scandalous fraud’. At this point it was deemed that Abraham Levi Goodman was so desperate to win The Derby that he had brought four year old Maccabeus to run in the place of Running Rein. Previous to Goodman buying this horse he had been entered to run in races under his own name, so to keep the lie under wraps, he brought a five year old horse to compete as Maccabeaus. As Maccabeaus was four years old and there had been a massive case of fraud, ‘Running Rein’ was disqualified and the race was awarded to the original runner up, Orlando.

It was later found that this was done, not only to win The Derby, but also due to a monstrous betting ring who had plans to defraud bookmakers. Following one of the biggest scandals in racing, even to today, Lord George Bentinck made strenuous efforts to eliminate fraud within the sport. He proposed a set of rules to cover racing to limit the corruption involved in making and settlement of bets. Another interesting fact is that he is credited with inventing the flag start at race meetings, when introducing this at a race meeting at Goodwood. Prior to this, races were always started by the starter shouting. Just two years after the incident happened, he committed himself to his political career due to his father reportedly disapproving of his activity within racing and gambling, so he sold his entire stable and racing team for just £10,000Reportedly this was a very very low price for the facilities he had at the time.

I tried to research into what had actually happened to the real Running Rein, however I could not find any information whatsoever as to where he was or what had happened to him.


A little bit shorter than my regular posts, but I found this one interesting and thought I would share. Racing has come a long way since back then and there is no way that this would happen in today’s day and age. I hope you all enjoyed this story as much as I did!

1913: The Forgotten Epsom Derby Winner

Hiya guys!

Today’s post is another part of my Horse Racing History series. It is a little bit of a shorter story but one I found interesting and wanted to share.

On the 4th of June 1913, it was the 134th running of the Epsom Derby. And in a massive twist of events, Aboyeur won at 100/1 for jockey Edwin Piper and trainer Alan Cunliffe. However his win was very much overshadowed by other events that happened at Epsom on that day.

The race is now regarded as one of the world’s most famous horse races of all time, but it isn’t for the performance of the horses on the track. Let’s jump straight into why this 1913 Derby is so highly remembered.

The day starting off pretty normally with no major issues. When the Derby started – again no major issues, until there was an interference. Craganour, ridden by Johnny Reiff, hung left bumping into Aboyeur who then veered towards the railing and by doing so badly hampered Shogun, Louvois and Day Comet. Aboyeur’s jockey Edwin Piper then struck him with his whip in his left hand, which caused him to hang sharply back into the centre of the track again colliding with Craganour and attempting to bite him.

Into the final furlong Reiff had his whip in his right hand and Piper had his whip in his left hand which lead to the horses continuously bumping into each other, eventually Craganour crossed the line first just ahead of Aboyeur.

After a brief pause, Mr Robinson, the judge for the race announced the result stating that Craganour was first with Aboyeur second and Louvois third, controversially missing Day Comet who was on the inside who had been obscured by the other runners. However the result was not made official until the Stewards announced they were happy with the race and everything was okay.

After a short delay, as expected, the result was withdrawn. It was announced that an official objection had been made against the winner, however not by a rival jockey, but by the Stewards themselves. Which led to a very lengthy Stewards enquiry.

Finally, after interviewing the jockeys and the judge, the Stewards disqualified Craganour on the grounds that he had failed to keep a straight course and therefore ‘jostled’, ‘bumped and bored’ and ‘interfered’ with other runners. Therefore it was announced that Aboyeur would be awarded the race, winning at 100/1.

Even though the race itself was full of drama during and after, that was not the reason that the race was remembered, it was something far more sinister. It was due to the death of suffragette Emily Davison.

So, who was Emily Davison? Born on the October 11th 1872, Emily Wilding Davison was an English suffragette who fought for women’s rights to vote. Before this incident she had been arrested on nine occasions, went on hunger strike seven times and was force fed on forty nine occasions. She grew up in a middle-class family and studied at the Royal Holloway College in London and the St Hugh’s College in Oxford before becoming a teacher and governess. In 1906 aged 34 she joined the Woman’s Social and Political Union also known as the WSPU and pretty soon she became an officer of the organisation and a chief steward during marches. She was known within the organisation for her daring militant action, with her tactics including breaking windows, throwing stones, setting fire to postboxes and on three occasions, hiding overnight in the Palace of Westminster.

So, why did her death cause the Derby to be overshadowed? Well, that’s because her death was directly caused by the race, at the race course, by a horse in the race.

Emily Davison was stood at the Tattenham Corner, the bend before the home straight. Some horses passed her and at this point she ducked under the guard rail and ran onto the course. She reached up and grabbed the reins of Anmer – King George V’s horse who was being ridden by Herbert Jones. She was hit by the horse who would have been travelling at around 35mph within four seconds of her stepping onto the track. Anmer fell during this collision and rolled over his jockey who’s foot had got caught in the stirrup. Emily was knocked to the ground and reportedly kicked in the head, however a surgeon who later operated on her said that:

I could find no trace of her having been kicked by a horse.”

The whole event was captured by three news cameras, being broadcast to thousands as well as an estimated 500,000 people in attendance including the King and Queen. It is still unclear to this day as to what her purpose in attending the Derby and walking onto the course was, she had not discussed her plan with anyone or left a note. However several theories have been raised, these include, she was intending to cross the track and believed all of the hoses had passed or she wanted to simply pull the King’s horse down or she was trying to attach a WSPU flag to a horse or that she just intended to throw herself in front of a horse.

Bystanders rushed onto the track and attempted to help jockey Herbert Jones as well as Emily Davison and they were both taken to the Epsom Cottage Hospital. Whilst in hospital she received a large amount of hate mail from the thousands who had witnessed the whole event either in person or via the news.

Two days later on the June 6th she was operated on in hospital however she never regained consciousness and subsequently, four days later on June 8th at just 40 years old Emily’s injuries proved fatal as she died in hospital.

The only belongings found with Davison were two suffragette flags, the return stub of her railway ticket to London, her race card, a ticket to a suffragette dance later that evening and a diary with appointments for the following week. These belongings alone suggest that whatever her intentions were on this day, she did not plan on her life being ended.

As I previously mentioned, King George V and Queen Mary were both present at the race and it was in fact the King’s horse that Emily grabbed onto. They both enquired about the health of both Emily and Herbert whilst they were in hospital. As we know, Emily died, however Herbert luckily got away with mild concussion and other minor injuries, he spent one night in hospital before returning home on June 5th. He later said he could only recall a very small part of the event stating:

She seemed to clutch at my horse and I felt it strike her.”

Luckily he recovered pretty quickly and was able to ride Anmer at Ascot two weeks later. Anmer luckily remained uninjured in the whole event.

Interestingly, the King and Queen also both had opinions of the event that they recorded in their own personal journals. With the King stating it was:

A most regrettable and scandalous proceeding.”

With the Queen simply stating that Emily Davison was a:

Horrid woman.”

On June 10th there was an inquest held into Emily Davison’s death, Herbert Jones was not in attendance due to his health not permitting him to be fit enough to do so. Many spoke at the inquest including Captain Henry Davison – Emily’s half brother. The coroner said that in the absence of any evidence to prove so, Emily Davison did not commit suicide, instead the final verdict of the inquest was read as follows:

Miss Emily Wilding Davison died of a fracture of the base of the skull, caused by being accidentally knocked down by a horse through wilfully rushing on to the racecourse on Epsom Downs during the progress of the race for the Derby; death was due to misadventure.”

On June 14th Davison’s body was taken from Epsom to London where a service was held at St George’s in Bloomsbury, before being taken by train to Newcastle upon Tyne to the St Mary the Virgin church for her funeral which was watched by thousands.

This race is now known as the world’s most famous horse race due to the death of Emily Davison and not for the very controversial events in the race that day. Aboyeur, the eventual winner won at 100/1 which is something pretty special, but unfortunately his win is completely forgotten.

Personally, I have read so many articles about Emily and this day in particular and I have no idea why she did what she did. Of course, any life lost is horrible, but I don’t think people really ever looked into why. For an inquest to come back with a verdict of ‘misadventure’ I think is a little disappointing. I think if this had happened in today’s world, they would have had psychiatrists speak up about the event and potentially understand why or how this was allowed to happen. Aside from that, I do think it’s a real shame that Aboyeur managed to win at 100/1 in what sounds like a very action packed race but this was all overlooked.

I do just want to add that if you choose to do your own research into this story please please be careful as there are pictures and videos of the incident, they are really poor quality, however this may still be distressing for some.

I found this such an interesting story to research as it is one I have never heard of, so I hope you all enjoyed. See you all very very soon!

What Happened to Shergar?

Shergar Correct

Welcome to the second post in my new Horse Racing History series!

I am someone who very much enjoys researching into the past. History has always been a passion of mine, so I decided to combine horse racing with history and this series will be a bunch of historical, interesting horse racing stories. I hope you enjoy!

I feel like everybody has heard of Shergar within the racing world, but I couldn’t do a historical horse racing series without including, probably, the most well known historical story within the sport.

Shergar was born in March 3rd 1978, he was an Irish bred, British trained racehorse. The Aga Khan – Shergar’s owner – sent him to Michael Stoute – now Sir Michael Stoute after being knighted in 1998, although not for his service to horse racing but instead for his services to tourism in Barbados where he was born – for training in Britain in 1979 and 1980.

On September 19th 1980 Shergar ran his first race in the Kris Plate at Newbury with Lester Piggott on-board. The race was a two year old colts and geldings race over 1 mile. Shergar went into the race as the favourite at a short price of 11/8 in a field of 23. He ended up winning on debut by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

His second and final race that year was on October 25th in the 1 mile William Hill Futurity Stakes run at Doncaster. Lester Piggott again took the ride, with Shergar’s starting price being 5/2 in a small field of seven, but a much more experienced field at that. Shergar finished second in this race, this time losing by 2 and 1/2 lenghts. After this race Shergar was then priced up at 25/1 to win the following 1981 Epsom Derby.

On April 25th 1981 Shergar returned to the track running in the Guardian Newspaper Classic Trial at Sandown, this time with Walter Swinburn riding. He went on to win triumphantly by 10 lengths. After this impressive win Shergar’s odds for the Epsom Derby shortened dramatically to 8/1.

(Sir) Michael Stoute then decided that Shergar needed more practice on a left handed course, so he selected the Chester Vase on May 5th, of course, held at Chester. He went on to win, once again, this time by 12 lengths.

 On June 3rd 1981 he ran in the much anticipated Epsom Derby held at Epsom Downs Racecourse. Set over 1 and 1/2 miles, the Derby is a Group 1 flat race which is open to three year old colts and fillies. Shergar went into the Epsom Derby as the 10/11 favourite with Walter Swinburn taking the ride. On the final turn of the course Shergar opened up a massive leader over his rival. With commentator Peter Bromley famously saying “there’s only one horse in it – you need a telescope to see the rest.” With such a lead Swinburn eased up a little, with Shergar winning the Epsom Derby by 10 lengths, which is the biggest winning margin in the races history.

After his impressive win, the Aga Khan was offered $40 million to syndicate Shergar, which he refused. He instead decided to set up his own syndicate selling 40 shares at £250,000 – valuing him at £10 million, which at the time was a record for a race horse. He retained six shares for himself remaining the biggest shareholder then sold the other 34 individually to buyers from nine countries.

On June 15th there was a bit of a scare when Shergar was on the gallops where he threw off his rider and ran through a hedge and onto a road where he trotted into a local village. He was spotted by locals who followed him and once he came to a stop they led him back to the stables. Luckily Shergar was not harmed in the incident which Stoute later said was “very lucky” as there was a crossing right by where he got out.

Just three weeks after impressively winning the Epsom Derby Shergar went over to the Curragh in Ireland where on June 27th he rode in the Irish Derby with Lester Piggott back riding him, where he won by four lengths. After this race Lester Piggott went on to tell people he was the best horse he had ever ridden.

On July 25th Shergar then went to Ascot where he rode in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes where he went on to win by four lengths. After this (Sir) Michael Stoute and the Aga Khan considered entering him into the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe however decided he needed one more race to prepare.

Stoute and the Aga Khan decided to enter him into the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster taking place on September 12th – little did they know at the time that this would be his final race. Ten days before the race on September 2nd, a news article by Sporting Life was published saying Shergar had no been training well. All of which Stoute claimed were rumours that were untrue. The ground was soft at Doncaster which was ground Shergar did not like. When Swinburn tried to get him to accelerate, he simply did not respond. He ended up finishing fourth.

The dramatic change in Shergar surprised Stoute and the Aga Khan who decided to run a number of tests on him. Every test came back saying he was in perfectly good health and Stoute said how he worked well in training after this race. However, unwilling to risk the horse without a real reason as to what actually happened at the St. Leger, they decided not to enter him into the Arc. Instead, the Aga Khan decided to retire him, sending him to Ballymany Stud near the Curragh. The Aga Khan later told journalists that:

‘He had run so uncharacteristically in the St. Leger, we knew something had gone wrong, but we didn’t know what it was, so it was an easy decision to retire him.’

The Aga Khan was offered large amounts of money to put Shergar to stud in America, however he wanted him to go to Ballymany Stud, so in October 1981 Shergar arrived in Ireland and was paraded down the main street of Newbridge, County Kldare. At the time newspapers reported that Shergar was a:

‘National hero in Ireland, one of the most recognisable sports personalities – horse or human – in Ireland.’

In 1982 Shergar had a pretty successful breeding season, covering 44 mares of which 36 foles were produced. 17 colts and 19 fillies. Out of these three won Group races, the most successful being Authaal who was sold for 325,000 Guineas when sold as a weanling before being sold on just one year later for 3.1 million Guineas. He went on to win the 1986 Irish St. Leger. It was later said by representatives of Ballymany that:

‘Perhaps not a disappointing first crop, but certainly below expectations for a horse with Shergar’s racing prowess.’

In early February 1983 Shergar’s second stud season was about to begin. He was in extremely high demand and already had a book full of 55 mares to cover, expecting to earl £1 million for the season. However, on February 8th 1983, something terrible happened.

On February 8th 1983 at around 8:30pm three men who were all armed and wearing masks entered the home of Jim Fitzgerald – the head groom at Ballymany. They were a part of a group of at least six men but possibly up to nine. One of the men said to Fitzgerald:

‘We have come for Shergar. We want £2 million for him’.

Fitzgerald told police that the men were not rough with him or his family, there was one who carried a pistol who was very aggressive, but the others, not so much. His family were locked in a room and at gunpoint Jim Fitzgerald was taken out to Shergar’s stable and ordered to put him in the back of a stolen horsebox.

Shergar was then driven away in the horsebox – never to be seen again. Fitzgerald was then told to lie on the floor of a van where the men covered his face with a coat. He was then driven around aimlessly for four hours before being released near the village of Kilcock, which was 20 miles away from Ballymany. He was told he couldn’t ring the Gardaí (Irish Police) or he and his family would be killed. He instead had to wait for the gang to contact him. He was told the gang would use the code phrase ‘King Neptune’ to identify themselves by when they rang. Fitzgerald recalled that one of the men had a Northern Irish accent and another seemed to have experience with horses, however they never told him they were from the IRA nor did they give any other indication of who they were.

Fitzgerald was released and walked on to the village where he called his brother to come and pick him up. He arrived back at Ballymany where he rang Ghislain Drion who was the Aga Khan’s stud manager at the time. He informed him of the theft and urged him not to call the police as he was scared of the threats made to his family.

This is where it gets a little complicated, so please try and follow the trail as best as possible. At this point Drion attempted to reach the Aga Khan who was in Switzerland, before ringing Stan Cosgrove who was Shergar’s vet, who was also a shareholder. Cosgrove then contacted Sean Berry who was a retired Irish Army captain and the manager of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Berry then contacted Alan Dukes who was a friend of his who was also the serving Minister for Finance. Dukes then suggested speaking to Michael Noonan, the Minister for Justice. Noonan and Dukes both told him to call the Gardaí. Eventually by 4am Drion had managed to contact the Aga Khan who told him to ring the Gardaí immediately. It was only then, eight hours later, that they made the call to the Gardaí and at this point, any possible trail they had, had already gone cold.

At this point I just want to throw in an opinion, why did it take 8 hours going from person to person to person to actually make the decision to call the Gardaí? I just think it’s a little weird and a whole lot of confusion. Anyway – back to the timeline.

Before Fitzgerald was even back at Ballymany and before he could even tell anyone what had happened, the first call from the thieves took place. The call was to Jeremy Maxwell who was a horse trainer based in Northern Ireland. They demanded £40,000 and later raised it to £52,000, he was told that the negotiations would only be held with three British horse racing journalists. Derek Thompson and John Oaksey from ITV and Peter Campling from The Sun. They were told to be at the Europa Hotel in central Belfast, this hotel was known as the most bombed hotel during the Northen Ireland Conflict.

The three men arrived at the Europa as instructed and were then contacted via phone and told to go back to Maxwell’s house to await further instructions. At this point the Gardaí instructed the three men that they had to keep the thieves talking for as long as possible when they rang so they could trace the call. The first call took place, Thompson tried to keep them talking, however they cut off after 80 seconds, which was not enough time for the call to be traced. Throughout the night there were a series of calls then at around 1:30am Thompson managed to keep the caller talking for over 90 seconds, which was long enough to trace the call. However the person that was doing the call intercepts had finished his shift at midnight and gone home – an opportunity missed.

On February 9th, the thieves opened up a second line of negotiation, directly contacting Ballymany Stud and speaking to Drion. The call took place at 4:05pm and was very short as Drion was not a fluent speaker of English and struggled to understand the Irish accent of the caller. The caller also had issues with Drion’s heavy French ponunciation. Around 90 minute later, they called again. This time Drion asked him to speak slowly. They demanded £2 million for the return of Shergar as well as a contact number in France where further negotiations could be made. Drion provided them with the number for the Aga Khan’s French office.

At this point, Shergar’s owners brought in Control Risks, a risk and strategic consulting firm who were to handle the negotiations from the Paris office. 

On Friday February 11th, the negotiators demanded proof that Shergar was still alive, as many, including the press, had speculated that Shergar was no in fact dead. The thieves said that a representative should go to the Crofton Hotel in Dublin and ask for a message for ‘Johnny Logan’ who was an Irish singer. Stan Cosgrove, Shergar’s vet, went to the hotel and did as instructed. With him were armed members of a Special Detective Unit who were undercover. However no messages had been delivered so Cosgrove returned home. Not long after, the negotiators received another call, they were furious at the presence of the police and threatened that if any member of their gang were captured or killed that the negotiators and the police would be murdered in retribution.

On Saturday February 12th the thieves contacted the negotiators and said that the proof had been left at the Rosnaree Hotel. This was collected and it contained several polaroid close up pictures showing a horse. Some of which were pictured next to a copy of the Irish News dated February 11th. Cosgrove was seen these and he confirmed it:

‘Definitely was him.’

Although, he did say that:

‘It wasn’t proof that the horse was alive, at this point, you’d want to get much more definite evidence. If you’d have seen the complete horse it would have been different, but this was just the head.’

On that same day at around 10:40pm the thieves called the negotiators again where it was explained that the syndicate were not satisfied with the pictures as this was not enough proof that Shergar was still alive. The caller simply replied ‘if you’re not satisfied, that’s it’ and ended the call. No further contact was ever made. The syndicate attempted to re-establish contact, but there was simply no response to any request to do so.

Onto why the Aga Khan wouldn’t pay the ransom money, even though he was worth a ton of money. Well, there were several reasons. The first being that he was only one of 35 members of the syndicate, meaning he could not negotiate or pay on behalf of the others. Secondly, he was unsure whether Shergar would be returned even if they money was paid. And thirdly, he was concerned that if the kidnappers demands were met, it would make every high-value horse in Ireland a target for future thefts.

The shareholders were also totally divided on what they should do. Brian Sweeney, who was a veteran of the American Horse Racing Industry said:

‘If you ask a mother who has had a child that has been kidnapped if a ransom should be paid, I think the answer would be ‘yes and quickly’.

However, another shareholder Lord Derby disagreed with this, saying

‘If ransom money is paid for this horse then there is a danger of other horses being kidnapped in the years to come and that simply cannot be tolerated.’

So all in all, everybody was totally torn on what they should be doing in this situation.

The syndicate had a committee who later put together a full report for the rest of the members. This report examined the motives behind the theft of their most precious horse. The report concluded that the theft was either undertaken to ‘create confusion and publicity’ rather than obtaining money. Or that the negotiations were ‘undertaken with naivety’. They concluded this after taking a number of factors into account. Including the fact that many of the demands were actually impossible. For example, they demanded the ransom be paid in £100 notes, which simply did not exist. Another example being in one call which took place at 5:45pm to Drion in Ballymany, he was told to deliver £2 million to Paris by noon the following day, then a call at 5pm to the Paris negotiators, they were told to get the £2 million by the end of the night, both after the banks had closed. In another call, the negotiators in Paris was told to get an agreement for the ransom to be paid but they couldn’t contact anyone in Ireland, even though some of the shareholders were in Ireland. The report also concluded that it became very clear that over the few days whilst negotiations were taking place that the gang had thought that the Aga Khan was the sole owner of Shergar, they actually had no knowledge that there were shareholders and they also did not take into account how difficult it would be liaising and organising all 35 shareholders into a position of agreement.

Now lets look at the police investigation into the theft. As expected, the investigation was immediately hindered as they only found out about the crime taking place 8 hours after it had happened. It also didn’t help that there was a local Thoroughbred auction taking place at the time meaning several horseboxes were in the area at the time. 

Chief Superintendent James Murphy took the lead in this investigation, he was a highly experienced detective. Interestingly, in his first press conference he told reported:

‘I have no leads’.

However this was a lie, he in fact had kept a lot of information from the media, including the fact that the police had found a magazine for a Steyr MPi 69 submachine gun, which suggested to them immediately that there was a link to the IRA active service unit in South Armagh. After a lot of comedic references being made, he was replaced as the public figure of the investigation, meaning he no longer attended press conferences, even though he continued to lead it behind the scenes. We can only assume this step was taken to prevent the media getting carried away with comedic references rather than focusing on the fact a multi million pound horse had in fact been stolen.

On February 16th the police released a description of the horsebox used by the thieves from what Fitzgerald had said. It was either light green or light blue with no working lights and no licence plates. There was a huge police search in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland of potential hiding places for Shergar, however no trace of him or the horsebox were found. At one point, up to 70 detectives were working on the case at one point, which is a huge amount. After two weeks of no new leads, no contact from the thieves and no new evidence, the police search was scaled down, although the investigation has always continued.

As you can imagine, with a story this big and the police limiting what they released to the public, the media had a field day in speculating what had happened to Shergar. Including a claim that Shergar had been stolen by Colonel Gaddaf as part of a deal to supply arms to the IRA, another claim by the Sunday Sport newspaper was that Shergar had been spotted being ridden by the missing Lord Lucan, another was that a Middle Eastern horse breeder had stolen him for stud as well as, in my opinion, the craziest one, that the Mafia had taken him to punish the Aga Khan over a previous sale of a horse which had gone badly. 

After eight weeks, with still no real information, a senior detective approached Stan Cosgrove and introduced him to Dennis Minogue who was a horse trainer who claimed to have a contact within the IRA who had shown him a photograph of Shergar. He said that he could help get Shergar released for a random of £80,000. Cosgrove was asked by the detectives to assist them in a sting operation to try and lure the thieves out, to which he agreed. So on July 20th 1983 Detective Martin Kenirons assisted the operation. He put the money in the boot of his car in a remote village, which Minogue was to collect after the horse had been released. However, the following day Kenirons returned to his car to find the boot had been forced open, the money was missing and Minogue was also missing. The money was never recovered. Kenirons was then dismissed from the force for breaching regulations. However in 2018 he again reiterated his innocent saying ‘when it all went wrong, everyone jumped for the high ground. They (senior officers) all denied that they had anything to do with the ransom.’

To this day, the police and intelligence sources consider the IRA as the most likely suspects behind Shergar’s disappearance and supposed death. In 1981, according to intelligence which was received by intelligence sources, due to the success of previous operations including kidnapping human beings, it was decided by the IRA that they were to undertake another ransom through kidnapping or theft. This time focusing in on Shergar.

More potential evidence to back up this theory is that in 1999 Sean O’Callaghan who was a former member of the IRA who had been working within the organisation as a ‘supergrass’ for the police since 1980 published an autobiography. In his autobiography he stated that the plot to steal Shergar was thought of and planned by Kevin Malon who was a leading IRA member at the time, he reportedly came up with the idea whilst serving time in prison. He went on to say that two weeks after Shergar’s disappearance Gerry Fitzgerald, another IRA member told him that he had been involved in the theft and that Shergar had actually been killed very early on in the process. He panicked and nobody involved could cope with him, in a panic Shergar damaged it’s leg and the decision was made to kill him. O’Callaghan states that:

‘Shergar was killed within days’.

In 2004 he appeared on TV, again stating that Gerry Fitzgerald ‘strongly suggested that Shergar had been killed within hours of his kidnap’. Saying the IRA then kept up a deception that he was still alive and in their care.

Based off the information O’Callaghan gave, Irish journalist Kevin O’Connor identified that there were potentially three parts of the gang. One part were to undertake high-profile activity in Belfast to focus media attention in the North, one discreetly negotiating with the Aga Khan and the third part were to guard the horse.

O’Callaghan has also said that when they failed to get the ransom money for Shergar, they went on to kidnap a businessman called Galen Weston. The police found out and took over Weston’s house whilst he was visiting the UK. After a lengthy gun battle Gerry Fitzgerald and four others were arrested. They all received very long prison sentences. O’Callaghan stated that:

‘Essentially the same team that went to kidnap Shergar went to kidnap Galen Weston’.

However, to this day no arrests have ever been made in relation to Shergar’s death and nor have the IRA ever admitted any role in the theft and all of those named by O’Callaghan have denied any involvement. It’s important to note that many do not believe O’Callaghan’s version of events. A journalist has stated:

‘A confessed informer whose life depended on his ability to weave a convincing web of lies. Without more evidence, O’Callaghan’s story is just that… an interesting story.’

Something else I want to mention is that in 2008, The Sunday Telegraph did a special investigation and they allegedly obtained information from a different IRA member who said that O’Callaghan had not been told the full story, saying that:

‘The gang was so embarrassed by what happened.’

According to the unnamed source, a vet that the IRA had arranged to look after Shergar did not turn up because his wife had threatened to leave him if he did. He also goes on to say that when the IRA realised that the Aga Khan was not going to pay, the Army Council ordered for Shergar to be released. However due to the extensive searches by the police, they couldn’t release him. They also thought they were under close surveillance and that it was just too risky to release him, so therefore he was ordered to be killed. The unnamed source went on to tell the newspaper that two men went into the stable where Shergar was being held, one of them carrying a machine gun. He said:

‘Shergar was machine gunned to death. There was blood everywhere and the horse even slipped on his own blood. There was lots of cussin’ and swearin’ because the horse wouldn’t die. It was a very bloody death.’

So, if the sources are correct and the IRA did have some sort of involvement with Shergar’s disappearance and death, where are his remains? His body has never been recovered or identified, however according to several sources, including O’Callaghan, The Sunday Telegraph and The Observer, it is highly likely that his body was buried near Aughnasheelin near Ballinamore, County Leitrim. O’Callaghan has said that as far as he knew the remains were buried on a farm of an IRA veteran from the 1940’s and it would be difficult to get permission to dig on the land.

I think it’s important to note that there have been several claims of equine skeletons being Shergar’s. However equine pathologist Des Leadon has assisted the police in those claims, all of which were proven not to be Shergar. He has retained some strands of hair from Shergar’s mane and tail which he has said contain sufficient DNA to confirm or deny an identification.

I also want to mention the fact that Shergar was, of course, insured through several insurance companies. Hodgson McCreedy covered £3,625,000 of the total and had a theft clause within their policy. Other shareholders who were accountable for £1.5 million worth of shares had insurance that did not include a theft clause. Shareholders who owned £3 million worth of shares did not take out insurance, including the Aga Khan. Cosgrove (Shergar’s vet and shareholder) had an insurance police that was ‘mortality only’ with Norwich Union (now part of Aviva), who refused to pay, even when it became clear that Shergar was most probably dead. Also worth a mention that in June 1983, after legal advice was taken, the 20 policies that included a theft clause were all settled in full.

Oh boy that was a long one! If you’re still here, then hi, congrats, you reached the end! I just want to finish up with a few of my opinions on the whole situation and I would love it if you stuck around a little longer to give them a read and then sent over your opinions via Twitter, I’d love to hear them!

Personally I find it a little strange if I’m honest. Why did it take 8 hours and so many random calls before they notified the police? They lost a lot of precious time whilst they were messing around. In those 8 hours they could’ve taken the horse anywhere in the country or even to a different country before the alarm was even raised. I think it definitely sounds like an organised crime group, the fact they had researched enough to know a local auction was taking place and this would be a perfect time to strike tells me it wasn’t just a ‘lets steal a horse on a whim’ kind of thing. However, controversial maybe, but I don’t know if I quite believe it was the IRA. I mean, surely an organised group like them would’ve done more research into Shergar and known that there wasn’t just one owner and he now had multiple? I feel like an organisation like the IRA would’ve had so many different people with different expertise that this is something they would or should have picked up on beforehand? 

Overall I just find it a heartbreaking story, not for anyone other than Shergar to be honest. I can’t imagine just how scared he must have been surrounded by strangers, no idea where he was or who he was with. That thought just breaks my heart. I would love to think he was released and lived a happy life with a family who had no idea who he was, that’s what my heart wants to believe. But in reality, I just hope he had a quick and painless death because inevitably, death is probably what happened to him.

I feel like I had to cover this story even though everybody probably already knows it, but it wouldn’t be a Horse Racing History series without including the biggest story of them all. If you didn’t know it, I hope you understand it now and if you did know it, I hope you found out something you may not have known before!

Thank you for reading!

10

Sidenote: My raffle to raise money for the Stroke Association ends THIS WEEK! So you can pop over to my Twitter and view this tweet for all information: https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx/status/1277629857460113410?s=20 There are some fantastic prizes and it is for a fantastic cause in honour of the 10 year anniversary of my mom’s stroke. The Stroke Association help not only those directly affected by a stroke, but also their families. They helped my mom massively and I wanted to raise money for them so they can continue to help other people in need. I hope you can all join me in raising money for this incredible cause!

An Interview with Phillip Dennis

Phillip Dennis

Hiya guys!

Today I am bringing you an interview with Phillip Dennis, I hope you enjoy!

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

Phillip: My favourite race that I have won so far would have to be the Epsom Dash on Ornate. To win a big handicap just 40 minutes before the Derby was great and a real buzz, he also gave me my first Group One ride in the Nunthorpe this year, which would be up there for a favourite ride that didn’t win. Hopefully he can be seriously competitive in listed or group company this season.

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

Phillip: If I could have ridden any horse past or present, I’d have to say Frankel as an obvious one. He was just a freak of a race horse and his Guineas win and York win stand out for me. A less obvious one would be Sole Power, he looked a real character to ride.

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

Phillip: I think the whip issue could go on and on but it really is an important piece of equipment that the wider public don’t really understand. I’m not sure what the best way to go is, whether it’s tighten up penalties or reduce hits, but in my opinion, banning it would be crazy.

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?

Phillip: I’m fairly lucky with my weight that it stays quite level and I can eat relatively well, depending on what weights I have in the coming days. 48 hour declarations are definitely a help to get the weight sorted for a lighter ride. In the summer I’d watch it a bit more than in the winter. When it’s quieter you can use it as a bit of a break for the body.

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

Phillip: If I was to talk to someone who thought racing was cruel, I’d have to explain to them how well the horses are looked after, morning and night. People think they are forced to run, but the majority are only happy when they are out with a saddle on them. Stable staff do an unbelievable job and treat them like they are their own.

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

Phillip: During the odd days I get off I try to play golf… very averagely. But I’d be a fair weather player. So other than that I like to spend time with friends and family. During the lockdown I tried my hand at the odd bit of DIY and gardening.

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

Phillip: In the North, it’s a great bunch of jockeys, as people and riders, so it would be hard to single one person out that I look up to, but any advice I can get off the more senior riders is a massive help and I like to get as much as possible.

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

Phillip: The obvious races I’d love to win would be the classics, like any jockey. But on a more personal level, I’d love to win the Nunthorpe, being my local track and I love sprinters. Another one would be the Ayr Gold Cup. My dad used to take me and my mate up every year to watch it with him, so that one would be up there. When I was young it was always the Grand National, but not sure I’d be brave enough now, unless it was an old school master.

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

Phillip: In the coming season or two I’d like to keep building on numbers and also the quality of horses. Last year I got to 47 with a few nicer ones in there, so to keep riding in them sort of races would be great and to get above 50 would be nice.

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

Phillip: A horse to watch would be Que Amoro, a filly I won on for Michael Dods in the apprentice race at the Ebor Festival. She’s a seriously fast filly that stays the 5 furlongs strongly and on fast ground I think she’d be able to go up a level into a listed / group 3 company for them.

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

Phillip: York would have to be my favourite track, it’s my local, has the best racing in the North and arguably, the country. Always has a great crowd and the atmosphere is unbelievable.

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

Phillip: My advice to any young person would be hard work can always beat talent, so as long as you want something, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t or aren’t good enough. Just make sure you work as hard as you can and harder than anyone else and you’ll get to where you want to be.

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Firstly a massive thank you to Phillip for taking the time out to speak with me. From speaking to him I think he is someone who wants to learn and continuously improve in the sport and that is a great attitude to have and he will definitely be successful with that thought process. 

I hope you enjoyed and I will see you all next Saturday for An Interview with Tom Garner.

An Interview with Donnacha O’Brien

Donnacha (1)

Heya guys!

Today’s post is another ridiculously exciting one, an interview with Donnacha O’Brien. Donnacha has only recently retired from the saddle at 21 years old as the Irish Champion Jockey and now he has followed in his father and brother’s footsteps and taken up training. I was lucky enough to grab a few precious moments during Donnach’s very busy morning to interview him, I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: You obviously won some incredible races as a young jockey, what is the big goal now as a trainer? What is one race that you would love to win?

Donnacha: The Epsom Derby is the pinnacle of flat racing, so long term that would be a goal. I don’t want to set any short term goals really as I’m still just figuring things out.

Me: You were riding, arguably, the best you ever had when you decided to retire from the saddle, how hard of a decision was that? What pushed you to finally decide now was the time?

Donnacha: It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but there was never going to be a good time to make that call. I am happy with the decision I made and I am looking forward to next season as a trainer.

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

Donnacha: The whip is a very well designed device that helps get the most out of the horses without hurting them. I know myself from getting hit by other riders in the heat of a finish that it doesn’t hurt. I understand the argument that it’s the perception of it that hurts racing, but I feel we should be concentrating on education people about it, instead of banning it.

Me: Is it difficult to come from such a massive racing family, with the pressure of constantly being compared to your dad or your brother?

Donnacha: Not really. I’m used to it as this stage. I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

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

Donnacha: I got a real buzz out of Kew Gardens at Ascot. I always thought he could beat Stradivarius and to do it the way he did was very exciting.

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

Stop reading things from people that don’t know what they are talking about. Go to a yard during an open day and meet the horses and people that look after them in person and then decide for yourself.

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

Donnacha: It would have to be Frankel. He was the best I’ve seen and possibly the best ever.

Me: You bowed out at the top as the Irish Champion Jockey for two consecutive seasons – Do you have any regrets in your riding career? Or any races you wish you could have won?

Donnacha: Of course there’s plenty I didn’t achieve, but you can’t achieve everything. I was very lucky in my career and I don’t have any regrets.

Me: Your dad and brother are obviously incredible trainers – How much advice have you taken from them? What’s the best advice you have been given?

Donnacha: I have learned everything I know from my family. Dad always says “you can only do your best, so if things don’t go right you have to accept it and move on.”

Me: What is one of your horses that you think we should look out for this season?

Donnacha: Fancy Blue is probably the highest profile horse I have. She is two from two and will hopefully contest some classic trials next year.

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

Donnacha: Royal Ascot is a very exciting week for everyone in flat racing. That along with both the Irish and English Derby days.

Me: You’re only 21 and already achieved some incredible things, what is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Donnacha: Try and always be pleasant to people. It’s never an advantage to make someone dislike you regardless of whether you agree with them or not. After that, all you can do is your best.

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I want to firstly say a massive thank you to Donnacha for taking some time out to answer some questions, he truly is a gentleman. Donnacha has some very exciting prospects in his yard and I am sure he will be adding to his yard more and more as he progresses. I really hope you enjoyed this interview and I will see you all in my next post!