RIP Presenting Percy: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! After hearing the upsetting news recently that Presenting Percy has passed away, I thought it would nice to have a look back at his career.


Presenting Percy’s career started at Punchestown on January 31st 2016 when he trainer Patrick G Kelly sent him to a 2 mile INH Flat Race (bumper) under Mr S D Bohan who claimed 7. He was a huge 50/1 and shocked almost everybody when he finished 2nd by just 2 and 1/4 lengths to Battleford who was the 4/6 favourite for Willie Mullins and Patrick Mullins.

Presenting Percy then took a 75 day break before heading to Ballinrobe on April 15th 2016 for a Ladies Pro/AM Flat Race over 2 miles 1 furlong, this time Ms Katie Walsh took the ride on the 1/2 favourite and at 5 years old, carrying 12 stone, he had his first win by 6 lengths to his eventual new trainer Gordon Elliott’s horse Carrig Cathal (5/1).

Just a couple of weeks later Presenting Percy headed back to Punchestown for his first Grade 1, this proved to be a little bit too much too soon for him when he could only manage a 7th place at 10/1 under Miss J M Mangan.

After a 167 day break, on October 11th Presenting Percy went to Galway for his Maiden Hurdle and his first ride under his eventual long term partner Davy Russell, he was 2/1 but could only manage a 4th place, finishing 19 lengths behind the 4/5 favourite Le Martalin for Noel Meade and Sean Flanagan.

Just a few weeks later on October 30th Presenting Percy went back to Galway for his second Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles, this time Sean Flanagan took the ride and at 9/4 he beat the odds on 8/11 favourite Canelie for Gordon Elliott and Mark Walsh by 2 lengths.

On November 19th 2016, Presenting Percy headed to Punchestown for a Novice Handicap Hurdle, again under Davy Russell and this time as the 4/5 odds on favourite. He won by 3 lengths to Llancillo Lord (7/1) for Thomas Mullins and Paul Townend.

Just over a month later, on December 28th, Presenting Percy was declared for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle Qualifier at Leopardstown over 3 miles, he was the 5/1 joint favourite however could only manage a 5th place under Davy Russell.

It would be February 5th 2017 when we next seen Presenting Percy again, this time back at Punchestown for his second Pertemps Network Group Handicap Hurdle Qualifier again over 3 miles, this time under David Mullins at 8/1 he managed a 4th place finishing 4 and 1/2 lengths behind the 11/2 winner Isleofhopeandreams for Willie Mullins and Danny Mullins.

On February 25th, Presenting Percy appeared at Fairyhouse for the first time for a Handicap Hurdle over 2 mile 4 furlongs, with Davy Russell back on board and as the 2/1 favourite he won by 3 and 1/4 lengths.

On the 16th of March 2017, Presenting Percy made his way over the Irish sea to the British mainland to appear at his first ever Cheltenham Festival. As an 11/1 shot in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle – a listed race over 3 miles. Impressively, Presenting Percy at 6 years old won with Davy Russell riding, carrying 11 stone 11 pounds, by 3 and 3/4 lengths.

Just over a month later on April 26th, Presenting Percy went back to Punchestown for a Grade 1 Novice Hurdle and at 5/2 could only manage a 6th place under Davy Russell. Interestingly, he finished behind horses such as dual Cheltenham Festival winner Penhill, Martin Pipe winner Champagne Classic, Gold Cup 4th place Monalee and back to back Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo.

Presenting Percy then took a 187 day break before returning to Galway on October 30th 2017 for a Beginners Chase over 2 miles, 6 and 1/2 furlongs. He was 11/4 and Davy Russell took the ride again, this time beating the 2/1 favourite De Plotting Shed for Gordon Elliott and Keith Donoghue by 3 lengths.

A few weeks later on November 19th, Presenting Percy headed to Punchestown for a Grade 2 Novice Chase and as the Evens favourite under Davy Russell, he finished 3rd behind winner Jury Duty (6/1) for Gordon Elliott and Robbie Power and 2nd placed Shattered Love (11/4) for Gordon Elliott and Sean Flanagan.

On December 3rd at Fairyhouse, Presenting Percy ran in a Grade B Handicap Chase, and as the 7/2 joint favourite, under Davy Russell he won impressively by 11 lengths to Forever Gold (10/1) for Edward Cawley and Chris Timmons.

Presenting Percy then took a 53 day break before returning to the track, this time Gowran Park on January 25th 2018 for a Grade 2 Hurdle race, as the 9/4 joint favourite, this time under Davy Russell once again, he won by 5 and 1/2 lengths beating Augusta Kate (8/1) for Willie Mullins and David Mullins.

On February 17th, Presenting Percy headed back to Gowran Park for the Grade 2 Red Mills Chase, this time as the Evens favourite, under Davy Russell he finished second by 1 length to Our Duke (5/2) for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power.

Next up for Presenting Percy was his second visit to the Cheltenham Festival, this time the Grade 1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase. And in impressive style as the 5/2 favourite under Davy Russell, he won by 7 lengths to Monalee (100/30) for Henry De Bromhead and Noel Fehily.

Presenting Percy was then off the track for 316 days before returning to Gowran Park on January 24th 2019 for another Grade 2 Hurdle race, again under Davy Russell and as the 9/4 favourite, he won the race by 1 and 1/4 lengths to Bapaume (11/2) for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

It was then time for a 3rd trip to the Cheltenham Festival for Presenting Percy, this time being the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup, he was the 100/30 favourite, however under Davy Russell, they could only manage an 8th in the race, behind horses such as Clan Des Obeaux (5/1), Native River (6/1), Bristol De Mai (18/1) and of course, the winner Al Boum Photo (12/1) for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

After a 268 day break, on December 8th at Punchestown, Presenting Percy returned to Punchestown for a Grade 1 Chase, this time at 10/1 under J J Slevin he finished 3rd behind odds on winner Min (8/11) for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend and 2nd placed Hardline (25/1) for Gordon Elliott and Keith Donoghue.

On December 28th 2019, Presenting Percy headed to Leopardstown under Davy Russell, finishing 5th at 7/2 in the Grade 1 Savills Chase, finishing behind winner Delta Work (11/2) for Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy, Monalee (8/1) in 2nd, Road to Respect (7/2) in 3rd and 7/4 favourite Kemboy in 4th.

We then move into 2020 and on February 2nd Presenting Percy ran in the Grade 1 Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, at 100/30 he finished 3rd under Davy Russell behind winner Delta Work (5/2) for Gordon Elliott and Jack Kennedy and 2nd placed 5/4 favourite Kemboy for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

It was then the 4th journey to the Cheltenham Festival for Presenting Percy and a 2nd attempt at the Grade 1 Gold Cup. At 10/1, under Davy Russell he unfortunately fell 2 out.

On October 8th 2020, Presenting Percy then changed trainer from Patrick G Kelly to Gordon Elliott and his first race under his new trainer quickly approached and on October 31st 2020, he headed to Down Royal for the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Champion Chase, he was 3/1 and Denis O’Regan took the ride, this time finishing 4th behind the winner, The Storyteller (9/2) for Gordon Elliott and Keith Donoghue, the 5/2 favourite Chris’s Dream in 2nd and Tout Est Permis (8/1) in 3rd.

On November 19th 2020, Presenting Percy returned to his winning way, to the joy of so many racing fans, when he headed to Thurles and under Jack Kennedy, he won at 3/1 in the boomerang.ie Chase (Listed Race), beating 11/10 favourite Kemboy for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

The last time we would see Presenting Percy would be on December 28th at Leopardstown when he ran in the Grade 1 Savills Chase and at 8/1 under Denis O’Regan however he could only manage an 8th, 76 lengths behind eventual winner A Plus Tard (15/2) for Henry De Bromhead and Darragh O’Keeffe.


Sadly on April 16th 2021, owner Philip Reynolds announced that Presenting Percy at 10 years old had passed away after suffering from a blood infection. He told Racing TV that there had been a three month battle against the blood infection with Fethard Equine Hospital working to save his life and allow him to retire but sadly that wasn’t to be. He could not be saved and he had to be put to sleep. He also said the following:

The sudden sadness of his passing is hard to contemplate, and the wonders of ‘what if’ will remain. To everyone who shared our love for Percy, we are so sorry. The horse of my lifetime – and my honour to have been called his owner.”

https://www.racingtv.com/news/dual-cheltenham-festival-winner-presenting-percy-dies

For me, the words of Philip Reynolds says everything, he was a special horse and so many people fell in love with him, including his long term partner Davy Russell. It makes me sad that he couldn’t have the retirement he truly deserved. It’s sad when any horse passes away and this was no different, the day it was announced everybody on social media was speaking about him and his talent. I think he was a very talented horse and maybe we didn’t get to see him show his full potential. After his win in November 2020, I think we all held out hope that the old Presenting Percy was back and we’d go on to see him continue winning and coming back stronger than ever, it breaks my heart that we will never get that opportunity now.

I hope you’ve enjoyed having a look back at this legends career, like I did whilst writing. Rest in peace Presenting Percy.

I will see you all in my next post Wednesday evening at 6pm.

Don Cossack: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. Before I get into today’s post I would like to make a few announcements, unusual for me, I know, but I am super excited and proud and would like to share with my readers!

Firstly, I would like to formally announce I am officially working with Careers In Racing to continue to create content and promote the sport I love. I am truly honoured to be given this opportunity and I cannot wait to get started! You can read my opening interview right now on their website: https://www.careersinracing.com/careers-in-racing-social-creators-zoe-smith/ where I introduce myself and also answer some questions I never have before. I am super exited for this project and I know it will be incredible, so keep an eye on my website and my social media for more information!

Secondly, I was asked by someone you probably all know, William Kedjanyi, to write up his Just William column for Star Sports this week and I absolutely took him up on that opportunity. I focus in on social media within horse racing, amateur jockey’s not being allowed to ride at the Cheltenham Festival as well as Tiger Roll and his future. You can read that right here: https://www.starsportsbet.co.uk/just-william-zoe-smiths-racing-takes/. I thoroughly enjoyed writing this up, something totally different to my usual work and I hope you all enjoy.

Now, with those being said, let’s just jump right into today’s post. My Dad is my number one fan who reads every post I write and always gives me ideas for new posts I can look to write. So today I decided to focus in on a horse who my dad absolutely loves and followed throughout his career and that is Don Cossack. So without further ado, let’s get right into it!


Don Cossack was foaled 21st March 2007, by Sholokhov out of Depeche Toi. He was bred by Gestut Etzean in Germany. Don Cossack was sent to Ireland where he entered ownership of W. B. Connors who sent him into training with Edward Hales.

Don Cossack’s career started on 3rd May 2011 when he ran in a 4 year old National Hunt Flat Race for Mares and Geldings where he finished 5th out of 24 under Robbie McNamara at 6/1. Very shortly after, on 24th October 2011 Don Cossack was brought by the Gigginstown House Stud and move to Gordon Elliott’s yard. After an 179 day break, on 29th October 2011, he was sent to Naas for a National Hunt Flat Race where he started as the 2/1 favourite under Nina Carberry where he won his first race.

Don Cossack then had a 50 day break before returning to the track, this time to Navan on 18th December for a Grade 2 National Hunt Flat Race. He won by 1 1/2 lengths under Nina Carberry as the 4/6 favourite. He took another break, this time of 113 days, not returning to the track until the 9th April 2012. This time to Fairyhouse, winning by 17 lengths as the 6/5 favourite, again under Nina Carberry.

After a 230 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Navan, this time for a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles. He started the race as the 30/100 favourite, this time under Davy Russell and impressively won by 9 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was a Novice Hurdle at Navan on the 16th December 2012, where he started the race as the odds on 8/15 favourite under Davy Russell. Shocking everyone, this was the first time Don Cossack had lost in his career, taking his first fall. After this race, Gordon Elliott did say that he was found to be lame.

We then move into 2013, on the 3rd February, Don Cossack went to Punchestown for the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle over 2 miles. Under Davy Russell he started as the 6/5 favourite. He ended up finishing 2nd by 1 length behind Mozoltov (9/4) trained by Willie Mullins with Ruby Walsh riding. Three weeks later, Don Cossack went to Naas to compete in a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle. He started at 5/2, again under Davy Russell. He ended up finishing 3rd behind the winner Annie Power (5/2), the Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh partnership and in second place Defy Logic (13/8F) with AP McCoy on board for Paul Nolan.

Don Cossack then took a 246 day summer break, returning to the track, this time going to Galway for a Beginners Chase on the 28th October 2013 over 2 mile 6 1/2 furlong. He won the race under Andrew Lynch as the 10/11 favourite and in a very stylish way too, winning by 20 lengths. A very impressive start to his chasing career. Three weeks later, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown where he ran in a Grade 2 Novice Chase over 2 mile 6 furlong on the 17th November. He finished second as the odds on 4/5 favourite, this time with Bryan Cooper riding. The eventual winner, by 1/2 length, was Morning Assembly (6/4) for Ruby Walsh.

Two weeks later on the 1st December 2013, Don Cossack headed to Fairyhouse to compete in a Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 4 furlong. This time with Davy Russell taking up the ride and winning as the 13/8 favourite. Don Cossack took a 70 day break before returning in 2014, this time to Leopardstown on the 9th February, for another Grade 1 Novice Chase over 2 mile 5 furlong. With Bryan Cooper taking the ride, he started as the Evens favourite. Finishing second by 4 lengths behind the duo of Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins with Ballycasey (2/1).

The next time we would see Don Cossack was when he took his first trip across the pond to go to the biggest stage of them all, the Cheltenham Festival on the 12th March 2014. Here he ran in the Grade 1 RSA Chase, he started at 11/1 under Bryan Cooper, sadly he fell only for the second time in his career. However, his season wasn’t quite over yet. Gordon Elliott sent Don Cossack back to England, this time to Aintree on the 4th April 2014 to run in a Grade 1 Novice’ Chase over 3 mile 1 furlong. He started at 4/1 under Davy Russell, however only managed second place behind the very powerful duo of AP McCoy and Jonjo O’Neill with Holywell (7/2). Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on the 29th April, at 4/1. He finished 4th out of 5 with Barry Geraghty riding. Out of the 3 horses who finished ahead of him, 2 had previously beaten him before, 3rd place Morning Assembly (7/4F), 2nd place Ballycasey (3/1) and winner Carlingford Lough (7/2).

Next for Don Cossack was a 170 day summer break before returning to Punchestown on the 16th October 2014 for a Grade 3 Chase where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 11/10 under Bryan Cooper by 5 1/2 lengths. Next for Don Cossack was on my 18th birthday, 1st November 2014, where he headed to Down Royal for a Grade 2 Chase. He beat the odds on 8/11 favourite, Wonderful Charm, who finished in second place. Don Cossack won by 8 1/2 lengths under Bryan Cooper at 6/4. One month later, Don Cossack headed back to Punchestown for a Grade 1 Chase, this time beating the 11/10 favourite Boston Bob who finished in second place. This time by 4 1/2 lengths under Brian O’Connell at 13/8.

We then move into 2015 and on the 15th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles with Bryan Cooper riding, making it 4/4 for the season, this time winning at 6/4 by a massive 44 lengths. He then took a 56 day break before returning to England to have a second shot at the Cheltenham Festival, this time the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on the 12th March. He started as the 5/2 favourite under Bryan Cooper, however could only manage a 3rd place behind the winner Uxzandre (16/1) for AP McCoy and Alan King and in second place Ma Filleule (5/1) for Barry Geraghty and Nicky Henderson.

Don Cossack returned to England on the 10th April 2015 for the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree, where he started as the 3/1 joint favourite. This time he was rode by a new jockey as Bryan Cooper was currently serving a suspension, the new jockey being Champion Jockey AP McCoy. He ended up winning by 26 lengths to the horse I focused in on Wednesday, the brilliant Cue Card. With trainer Gordon Elliott saying in an interview:

I said a couple of years ago he was the best horse I’ve trained. It didn’t work out then, but he looks it now. AP (McCoy) said he just gallops and gallops. It will be the Gold Cup now.”

https://www.independent.ie/sport/horse-racing/don-on-gold-cup-trail-after-impressing-for-mccoy-31133904.html

Don Cossack ended his season at Punchestown on the 29th April beating 2/1 favourite Djakadam in the Irish Gold Cup, this time by 7 lengths at 5/2 under Paul Carberry with regular jockey Bryan Cooper opting to ride Road To Riches. With trainer Gordon Elliott later saying:

We wanted to find out if he stayed the trip or not at this stage of the season so we would know where we are going next year. He’s always been the apple of my eye and this is one of the proudest days I’ve had training horses so far. I feel sorry for Bryan (Cooper, who chose to ride Road To Riches in the same colours as the owner Michael O’Leary) but he had to go with the other horse after being third in the Gold Cup. But I’m delighted for Paul; he’s been associated with me for a long time and to give him a Grade One is brilliant. We were nervous about running him but it’s the Gold Cup so we took our chance and now I’ll be safe in the job for another year, please God. I’m just so happy with the way he did it; he put seven lengths between them on the way to the line.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/apr/29/impressive-don-cossack-punchestown-gold-cup

After a 169 day summer break, Don Cossack returned to Punchestown on the 15th October 2015 for a Grade 3 Chase, winning as the 1/4 favourite with Bryan Cooper on board, this time by 12 lengths to stable companion Roi Du Mee (14/1). Two weeks later, Don Cossack headed to Down Royal with Bryan Cooper again, for a Grade 1 Champion Chase over 3 miles. He won as the odds on 2/11 favourite by 8 lengths. For his final race of 2015, Don Cossack headed back to England, this time to Kempton on Boxing Day for the King George Chase. He started the race as the 15/8 favourite under regular jockey Bryan Cooper, however ended up falling 2 out, with Wednesday evening’s post hero Cue Card winning (9/2).

We then move into 2016 and on the 14th January Don Cossack headed to Thurles for a Grade 2 chase over 2 mile 4 furlong, he started as the odds on 1/8 favourite under Bryan Cooper where he won by 9 1/2 lengths. So, where to next for Don Cossack, a third appearance at the Cheltenham Festival and little did we know, would be his last appearance, not only at the Festival but in racing altogether. Don Cossack was made the 9/4 favourite for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup where, under Bryan Cooper, he won by 4 1/2 lengths to Djakadam (9/2). With jockey Bryan Cooper saying:

Everything went perfect. I didn’t want to get him crowded and we got into a lovely jumping rhythm. I knew turning in that there was only one winner bar a fall. He could have gone round again. There was a lot of press around saying that I couldn’t get on with the horse and I think I’ve proved you all wrong now, so I’m delighted.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/mar/18/bryan-cooper-cheltenham-gold-cup-favourite-don-cossack

Sadly, we would never see Don Cossack on track again. He was being prepared to run at the Punchestown Festival in April 2016, when he sustained a serious tendon injury. After seemingly recovering from his injury, he returned to training, with retaining the Gold Cup being his main goal. However in January 2017, it was said that Don Cossack had suffered a recurrence of the leg injury and the decision had been made to retire him from racing. With Gordon Elliott saying:

It’s a real sickener for Gigginstown, myself, Bryan Cooper and the whole yard. We knew it was never certain we would get him back to the racecourse and, even after that, to get him back to his best, but we were hopeful and he was on track for a run. He’s a horse of a lifetime and he owes us nothing. I said all season that if he had any sort of setback at all we would not abuse him and retire him straight away. It was one of the highlights of my career when Don Cossack won the Gol Cup for us last year and he retires a champion. A peaceful retirement awaits him out in Gigginstown.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jan/11/cheltenham-gold-cup-winner-don-cossack-retired-injury-setback-horse-racing

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

Firstly, let’s go through Don Cossack’s race record

5111/1F23/1212F2/4111131/111F11/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

27 Races
16 x 1st
4 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 5th
3 x Fall

So all in all, he had an unreal career, winning £907,365 in total. It may have been a short career, but what a career it was. I was lucky enough last February to visit Olly Murphy, who was Gordon Elliott’s assistant trainer at the time of Don Cossack’s peak. He told me the following about Don Cossack:

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

https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/02/16/a-stable-visit-to-olly-murphys-warren-chase-a-full-interview/

For me, I think Don Cossack can be classed as a people’s horse because he showed people time and time again that he could come back. He would fall or have a bad race, but he would always return and fight his heart out and no matter what he would always try his best. Personally, Don Cossack was the first horse I bet on in the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup and ended up being my first Gold Cup winner too so he will always be special to me and I am gutted that we never go to see him again, I think we only seen half of what he was capable of and it’s a real shame that a recurring injury made sure he could never show that to the world.

I have the upmost respect for Gordon Elliott and the O’Leary’s, they didn’t try to overwork him, they made the decision to retire him as a champion so he could live a happy and healthy retirement.

Don started a new career with Irish Olympic eventer Louise Lyons. With Louise saying:

He has been with me for about a month and we have been to three shows – he is loving it and is really enjoying the attention. At shows we have had people coming up to stroke him and have their picture taken with him.”

https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/don-cossack-racehorse-retraining-louise-lyons-658114

Honestly, I am just so happy and relieved that Don Cossack got to finish on his own terms, I am so happy that the team decided to retire him and not push him for that extra run which could have ended disastrously. He was an incredible talent, but also a lovely horse and I am honoured to have been around to be able to watch him.

So, there we have it, Don Cossack in all his glory. I am thoroughly enjoying doing research into these posts, reading news articles, re-watching videos, searching their careers, it’s been incredible and I am really loving it and from the reaction on social media, so are my followers. I am still working my way through the 100’s of suggestions I have had sent to me, as well as focusing on more history stories and also a few new ideas I have in the works. I also have a few interviews planned leading up to Cheltenham, so if all goes as planned then it is all roads lead to Cheltenham! I am currently sticking to a strict schedule of 2 posts per week and I think that is working well for me at the moment, I am unsure if this will change at any point, but for the time being I will be continuing to post every Wednesday at 6pm and every Saturday at 11am.

Thank you again for reading, I will see you all in my next post!

An Interview with John McConnell

John McConnell

Hey guys!

Today’s interview is with Irish flat and national hunt trainer John McConnell, I hope you enjoy!

—–

Me: What’s your favourite day of the racing calendar?

John: Grand National Day.

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

John: The Grand National. I grew up watching both the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals every year but the Grand National continues to captivate me to this day. Just to have a runner would be so fulfilling and is a childhood dream of mine. 

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

Me: Pinatubo. He looks like a superstar in the making and I quite fancy winning a Classic or two. 

Me: How supportive are other trainers with any help and advice?

John: It does vary but generally everyone is fairly supportive within the industry. 

Me: Who do you look up to in the racing game?

John: Gordon Elliot because he hasn’t come from a privileged background. He had a great Cheltenham festival and I have the height of respect for him. 

Me: Do you ever get any down time? What’s your favourite thing to do when you do get some spare time?

John: Very rarely but I like comedy gigs such as David O’Doherty, Micky Flanagan, etc. 

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

John: Don’t get me started on those people or I’d be here for a day. It’s not cruelty, here end’th the lesson.

Me: What is your ‘horse to watch’ that you train? 

John: Happaugue he’s won twice this year in Dundalk and is constantly improving. 

Me: What’s your favourite racecourse to visit?

John: Punchestown. It’s my home track and hosts the best festival of the year. 

Me: What’s your favourite race to watch back over the years?

John: Dúl Ar An Ól winning for us in Fairyhouse on Easter Sunday 2010. We landed a nice gamble that day. 

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

John: It’s pandering to the anti’s and the whips these days are so cushioned that they are pain free for the animal. 

Me: What is your best piece of advice for a young person following their passion, whether that be in racing or something else?

John: It’s better to live one day as a lion than one hundred years as a lamb. I gave up veterinary to follow my dream and I would have greatly regretted it if I hadn’t. 

—–

Firstly, as always, I want to say a massive thank you to John for giving me his time. I think John has a bright future ahead, he has goals for him and his team and such a smart business brain, I can see brilliant things coming from his yard.

I really hope you enjoyed this interview!

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

Olly Murphy

Hey guys!

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

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

IMG_7885

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

IMG_7873  IMG_7870

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

IMG_7956  IMG_7957IMG_7959  IMG_7958

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

IMG_7955

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

IMG_7894IMG_7897

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

IMG_7960

—–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—–

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

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

IMG_5514    IMG_7953

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

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

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

IMG_7877

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

Thank you for reading!