Cue Card: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, I hope everyone is well and staying safe as these weird times continue! However on a positive note, Cheltenham Festival is just around the corner so we have a brilliant 4 days of top class racing to look forward to – even if it is from the sofa!

So, today’s post is all about the brilliant Cue Card and I want to thank Emma for this suggestion. If you don’t follow Emma then I highly recommend you do, my fellow Native River super fan! So, with that being said, let’s jump right into it!

Cue Card was foaled 30th April 2006, by King’s Theatre (IRE) out of Wicked Crack (IRE). He was bred by R T Crellin in Great Britain. As a yearling, Cue Card was sent to the National Hunt Sale in February 2007, where he was brought for €75,000 by Aiden Murphy. He then returned to the Derby Sale as a gelding in June 2009 where he was brought for €52,000 by Aidan Kennedy for the eventual owner Mrs Jean R Bishop who sent him to Colin Tizzard’s yard to be trained.

Cue Card started his career in a National Hunt Flat Race (Bumper) at Fontwell on 25th January 2010, starting the race at 6/1 under Joe Tizzard where he won easily by 6 lengths. So, with a win under his belt, Cue Card was sent straight to the Cheltenham Festival to contest in a Grade 1 Bumper. He was a massive outsider starting the race at 40/1 with Joe Tizzard riding again, however surprising everyone, he won the race very easily by 8 lengths beating Ruby Walsh on Paul Nicholls’ trained Al Ferof (8/1).

After two very easy wins, Cue Card took a 221 day summer break, before returning on 24th October 2010 at Aintree for his first Novice Hurdle race over 2 mile 4 furlong. With Joe Tizzard taking the ride again, he started as the odds on 1/2 favourite, where he won by an even bigger margin than he previously had, 13 lengths from Dear Sam (10/1). A few weeks later Cue Card returned to Cheltenham on 12th November 2010 for a Grade 2 Novice Hurdle, where again he started as the odds on favourite at 8/13, with now regular companion Joe Tizzard riding. Surprising absolutely nobody, Cue Card once again won, this time beating Dunraven Storm (5/1) ridden by Richard Johnson for Philip Hobbs by 8 lengths. Just one month later on 11th December 2010, Cue Card returned to Cheltenham for a Grade 2 International Hurdle, with Joe Tizzard on board. He started the race at 15/8, however this time he suffered his first defeat with Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs reversing the form and winning with Menorah (7/4F) by 4 and 1/2 lengths.

Cue Card took a 94 day break, before returning to Cheltenham for the Festival on 15th March 2011, this time for the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, again being ridden by Joe Tizzard. He started as the 7/4 favourite, however disappointingly for many, he ended up finishing 4th behind the winner Al Ferof (10/1), Spirit Son (5/1) in second and Sprinter Sacre (11/1) in third. A month later on 9th April 2011 Cue Card travelled up to Aintree for a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle, this time starting the race as the 5/2 favourite under Joe Tizzard, where he unfortunately came second to Spirit Son (3/1) by 13 lengths.

Cue Card took 182 days away from the track for his summer holiday, before returning on the 8th October 2011. This time travelling to Chepstow for his first attempt over the bigger obstacles in his first Novices’ Chase. He started as the odds on 10/11 favourite with Joe Tizzard taking the ride once again. Cue Card took to jumping fences like a duck to water, winning by 3 and 1/2 lengths. A month later on 11th November 2011, Cue Card’s next run would take place at Cheltenham for another Novices’ Chase, starting at 7/4. Cue Card was travelling well before he blundered and unseated his rider Joe Tizzard. Just two weeks later on 25th November 2011, Cue Card went to Newbury for a Grade 2 Novice Chase, this time starting at 2/1 with Joe Tizzard taking the ride again. Cue Card ended up losing by a short head to Evens favourite Bobs Worth, both ending up 35 furlongs ahead of the remaining two horses in the race. On 31st December 2011 Cue Card returned to Newbury, this time winning at 5/2 under Joe Tizzard.

After a 73 day break, Cue Card returned to the Cheltenham Festival for the Grade 1 Arkle Chase, where he finished second at 13/2 under Joe Tizzard, 7 furlongs behind the odds on 8/11 favourite Sprinter Sacre. After this, Cue Card took a 238 day summer break before returning on 6th November 2012 at Exeter for the Grade 2 Gold Cup Chase. He won easily by 26 furlongs as the odds on 5/6 favourite with regular jockey Joe Tizzard on board. After a 50 day break, Cue Card headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2011 for the Grade 1 King George, where at 5/1 under Joe Tizzard, he ended up finishing 5th behind winner Long Run (15/8F), Captain Chris (16/1) in second, Grands Crus (7/1) in third and Champion Court (25/1) in fourth.

Heading into 2013, Cue Card took a 52 day break before returning to Ascot on 16th February 2013 for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, where as the 15/8 favourite under Joe Tizzard he won by 6 lengths. On 14th March 2013, Cue Card headed straight for the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase. He started the race at 7/2 with Joe Tizzard taking his normal place riding. This time he beat the 2/1 Irish trained favourite, First Lieutenant, pretty easily by 9 lengths. Cue Card’s final race of the season came on 5th April 2013 at Aintree in the Grade 1 Melling Chase under Joe Tizzard, starting at 7/1, where he finished 4 and 1/2 lengths behind 1/3 odds on favourite and eventual winner Sprinter Sacre.

Cue Card took a well deserved 214 day summer break before returning on 5th November 2013 to Exeter where he went for the Haldon Gold Cup, starting as the 11/10 favourite with Joe Tizzard. Cue Card finished 3rd behind winner Somersby (9/2) and second placed Module (8/1). Cue Card headed to Haydock for his next race on 23rd November 2013 for the Betfair Chase. He started the race as an outsider at 9/1 with Joe Tizzard riding. Shocking everybody, he won the race comfortably in the end by 4 and 1/2 lengths. When interviewed, trainer and father of winning jockey, Colin Tizzard was visibly emotional saying the following:

My daughter rung up in tears as well. It is embarrassing of me to cry but that’s what it’s like. It’s a big one for us.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/nov/23/cue-card-betfair-chase-haydock-joy

With son and winning jockey Joe Tizzard saying:

I think that’s the first time I’ve seen him in tears, we all put a lot of work in. The horses, they haven’t been flying as much as we’d like them to at the start of the season, but the big ones are the ones that count.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2013/nov/23/cue-card-betfair-chase-haydock-joy

One month later on Boxing Day 2013, Cue Card returned to Kempton to go for the King George once again! This time starting the race as the 100/30 joint favourite, he went 3 better than the previous attempt, this time finishing second behind Silviniaco Conti (7/2).

Cue Card was then being aimed for the Cheltenham Festival with the Gold Cup, Ryanair and Champion Chase all being considered, however on 25th February 2014 Colin Tizzard announced that he had sustained what looked to be a muscle injury to his back so he would miss Cheltenham. However, an x-ray later revealed that Cue Card had a stress fracture to his pelvis, which ended up ruling him out for the rest of the season. With Colin saying:

We were getting nowhere. When we said he wasn’t going to run (at the Festival) we stopped riding him. The week before that, one day he’d be sound and the next he wasn’t. We said it must be a muscle. The physio said it was muscle, the vet said it was muscle, so we assumed that’s what it was. It’s a good job we did what we did. If we had given him a spin on a good day, God knows what could have happened. It’s a gut-wrencher really. You try to say it’s only a horse and there are worse things in life but expectations were high for all of us. We’ve had some brilliant days with him and hopefully we can have a few more.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2014/mar/06/cue-card-aintree-mount-benbulben-cheltenham

After taking 313 days away from the track, to the joy of so many, Cue Card did in fact return to the track on 4th November 2014. This time heading to Exeter to compete in the Haldon Gold Cup again, this time under Daryl Jacob, after regular jockey Joe Tizzard had announced his retirement. He started as the 13/8 favourite, finishing 4th, behind winner God’s Own (8/1), who interestingly enough was rode by Cue Card’s eventual partner Paddy Brennan, Balder Succes (4/1) in second and Oscar Hill (50/1) in third. Next for Cue Card was the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 22nd November. He started as the 3/1 favourite, again under Daryl Jacob, where he again finished 4th behind winner Silviniaco Conti (100/30), second placed Menorah (10/1) and third placed Dynaste (9/2). Cue Card then headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2014 for the King George, this time finishing 5th at 11/2 under Daryl Jacob, behind winner Silviniaco Conti (15/8F), Dynaste (7/1) in second, Al Ferof (7/1) in third and Champagne Fever (9/2) in fourth.

Cue Card didn’t head to Cheltenham, he started 2015 going to Aintree on 10th April for the Melling Chase, where he finished second under Daryl Jacob at 6/1 26 furlong behind joint favourite at 3/1 Don Cossack being rode by the Champion Jockey AP McCoy for Gordon Elliott. Cue Card finished his season by going to Ireland on 29th April 2015 heading to Punchestown for the Grade 1 Gold Cup. Starting the race as an outsider at 12/1 rode by Aidan Coleman, he ended up finishing fourth behind winner Don Cossack (5/2), Djakadam (2/1F) in second and Road to Riches (4/1) in third.

Cue Card took an 185 day summer break before returning on 31st October 2015 at Wetherby for the Grade 2 Charlie Hall Chase under a new, soon to be regular, jockey Paddy Brennan and starting as the 11/4 favourite, Cue Card won by 3 and 3/4 lengths. With Colin Tizzard later saying:

If you saw the DVD of the trapped epiglottis it was like a plug in his wind pipe. And horses will remember when they’ve had a problem like that. I think he needed the runs at Aintree and Punchestown to know himself that he was OK. I think it wasn’t until the Charlie Hall this year that the horse realised ‘this isn’t going to hurt when I come under pressure’. Going to the last I was thinking ‘is he going to empty?’. But then he went again and I think that was the tell-tale sign with him, realising that he could breathe.”

https://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/other_sports/14157281.cue-card-ready-for-boxing-day-bash-at-banishing-ghost-of-christmas-past/

Three weeks later on 21st November 2015 Cue Card headed to Haydock for the first part of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the Betfair Chase, starting at 7/4 under Paddy Brennan. He won by 7 lengths to the 2014 winner Silviniaco Conti (5/4F). Next, the second part of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the King George on Boxing Day 2015 at Kempton, under Paddy Brennan. He started at 9/2 and won in a photo finish by a head to Ruby Walsh on Willie Mullins’ trained Vautour (3/1). So now, it was onto the final step of the Stayers Chae Triple Crown and a possible £1 million bonus for the Tizzard team. heading straight to Cheltenham after an 83 day break on 18th March 2016, for the Gold Cup. Starting as the 5/2 second favourite under Paddy Brennan, Cue Card was travelling well and disputing the lead when he fell 3 out. (Don’t kill me, but I actually bet on eventual winner Don Cossack (9/4F) on this day!) But I think the question on the lips of almost every racing fan was, is and probably always will be… If he hadn’t have fell, would he have won the Triple Crown?

His season didn’t end there though, Cue Card bounced back for a Grade 1 Chase at Aintree on 7th April 2016, where as the 6/5 favourite under Paddy Brennan he won easily by 9 lengths to second place Irish trained Don Poli (4/1). To finish the season, Cue Card headed back to Ireland for the Punchestown Gold Cup on 27th April 2016, as the odds on 4/6 favourite under Paddy Brennan. He could only manage 4th place behind 12/1 winner Carlingford Lough, Djakadam (9/2) in second and Don Poli (6/1) in third.

Cue Card then took a very well deserved 185 day break before returning to Wetherby on 29th October 2016 for the Charlie Hall Chase where he started as the odds on 8/11 favourite under Paddy Brennan. However, disappointingly only managing to finish third behind inner Irish Cavalier (16/1) and Menorah (12/1). He then headed to Haydock three weeks later on 19th November 2016 to see if he could retain his crown in the Betfair Chase. Starting as the 15/8 favourite, Cue Card won under Paddy Brennan by 15 lengths to second place Coneygree (2/1). Of course, next was the King George on Boxing Day 2016 at Kempton, where he started as 5/4 second favourite under Paddy Brennan and ended up finishing second behind the 11/10 favourite and stable companion Thistlecrack.

To start 2017, Cue Card headed to Ascot on the 18th February for the Ascot Chase, starting as the odds on 4/9 favourite under Paddy Brennan. He surprised absolutely nobody when he won by 15 lengths to Shantou Flyer (22/1) in second place. So, next for Cue Card was the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup on the 17th March, with Paddy Brennan on board, starting at 5/2 Where he unfortunately took a fall at the same fence as in 2016, three from the finish. He then headed to Aintree on the 6th April for the Grade 1 Chase, where as the 2/1 favourite under Paddy Brennan he finished second by a neck behind 10/1 shot Tea For Two.

After taking a 212 day summer break, Cue Card returned to the track at Wetherby on the 4th November for the Charlie Hall Chase, at 5/2 under Paddy Brennan he unfortunately fell. He then headed to Haydock on 25th November 2017 for the Betfair Chase, where he started at 2/1 and ended up finishing second by a massive 57 lengths under Harry Cobden behind 11/10 favourite Bristol De Mai who was rode by one of Cue Card’s previous riders, Daryl Jacob. He then took an 84 day break before returning to Ascot on the 17th February 2018 for the Ascot Chase, where he was a 9/1 outsider who finished second under Paddy Brennan behind the 2/1 favourite Waiting Patiently.

Cue Card’s final race came on the 15th of March at the Cheltenham Festival in the Ryanair where he started the race at 9/2 however was pulled up by Paddy Brennan before the 12th. It was later said Cue Card would have one final run at Sandown on the 28th April 2018, however Colin Tizzard had said he was not training well enough for him to be declared for the contest. His owner Mrs Jean R Bishop told the Racing Post:

It was a bit of a shock but not a hard decision because apparently Cue Card has not been working well. Normally we would just leave him to get over it and wait for another race. But because this was his retirement race, we decided he wouldn’t be 100 per cent, so he wouldn’t be entered. It is the end of an era. I feel quite sad about it but all good things come to an end. We knew it was imminent but happening like it did was unexpected.”

https://www.racingpost.com/news/all-good-things-come-to-an-end-owner-bishop-reflects-on-cue-cards-career/327830

Cue Card ended one career, but went into another. He joined Katie Jerram, a show horse producer in Essex as part of the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) programme, where he later competed in The Royal Windsor Horse Show. I also managed to see Cue Card in the 2020 RoR Parade at Cheltenham and he looked an absolute picture!

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

Firstly, let’s go through Cue Card’s race record

11/11242/1U212/15112/312/4452/4111F1/43121F2/F22P/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

41 Races
16 x 1st
11 x 2nd
2 x 3rd
5 x 4th
2 x 5th
3 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider
1 x Pulled Up

I don’t even think I need to sum it up anymore than that, Cue Card was an all round legend who was loved by so many. His statistics are up with some of the best and I think one thing I have looked at and learned through researching these horses is that it doesn’t matter, win, lose, fall, whatever the outcome, a ‘people’s horse’ is a horse that will put everything out on the track and wear it’s heart on it’s sleeve. A ‘people’s horse’ is a horse who will try 110% every single time it races and will just keep going, they’re the horses that the masses fall in love with and end up going down in history. Not only has Cue Card got an incredible record in his career, winning 2/3 in the Triple Crown and so much more, he was a horse that everybody seemed to fall in love with. Even at Cheltenham last year when the RoR parade was taking place, it was packed out with everybody taking photos of him, he still holds that power in the racing world 2 years on from his final run and that is the true definition of a ‘people’s horse’. I think Cue Card is a horse that everybody wanted to see do well, even if you backed against it, like I did in the Gold Cup when I backed Don Cossack, I still wanted to see him do well and if any horse was to make my bet a losing one, I’d have wanted it to be Cue Card. I, for one, am so glad I got to witness the greatness that is Cue Card!

An Interview with Harry Cobden

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with someone I have been wanting to interview for a long time and that is of course Harry Cobden. I was lucky enough to sit down with Harry last week on a zoom call and discuss all things horse racing and I can promise you it is a good one so without further ado, let’s jump right into it!


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

Harry: I’d say my favourite replay to watch would be Topofthegame in the RSA, it was just tactically a great race and you know, some fantastic horses in the race, so yeah, it’s one I just love watching back.

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

Harry: I don’t know, I mean, Kauto Star was pretty spectacular and his race record was unbelievable wasn’t it? You know, if you could have a go on a horse like that, then you know, you only get one of them in a lifetime.

Me: When I have spoken to the likes of AP McCoy and Richard Johnson they have always said how the whip is a vital part of the jockeys kit in order to ensure the safety of the horses and yourselves, what are your personal opinions surrounding the whip and the discussion of people wanting the whip banned?

Harry: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with them any more really because the whip is vital, it’s there for the safety of the jockey, it’s there for the safety of the horse. The whips are actually made out of a foam sort of thing nowadays so they’re actually not there to hurt the horse, so I am all for the whip. And you know, I think it’s… We’re in a position now where safety is paramount isn’t it? I think we should continue using it. And one other thing I would say is that jockeys don’t abuse the whip either, if you look over sort of the last 10 years, whip bans have come down immensely and I think jockeys as a whole are doing a good job to make sure we don’t go over the permitted level.

Me: When I visited Colin Tizzard’s yard back in November 2019, Joe mentioned to us that they had offered you the stable jockey job there, obviously you took the job with Paul, how hard of a decision was that? Two massive stables fighting it out to have you as their main jockey.

Harry: Yeah, obviously a massive decision, especially when you’re only sort of 19 but, you know, thankfully we’ve, well I’ve stayed in with the whole Tizzard family and I’ve been very fortunate to have rode plenty of winners for them since. Yeah, I suppose I’m really grateful they’re still using me when I’m available. Yeah, it was a tough decision, but yeah I started off with Paul and he’s obviously been very good to me and I’m still riding plenty of good horses and lots of winners there so that was the decision really.

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

Harry: Erm, I suppose Richard Johnson would be the ultimate professional. He’s a proper gentleman and the way he conducts himself is absolutely fantastic and yeah, he is the ultimate professional in every way really on and off the track.

Me: Following on from that slightly, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by a fellow jockey?

Harry: Erm, I wouldn’t really specifically say I could think of something off the top of my head because I’ve been told so much in the past but, I’m struggling to think, but I’m sure I’ve been told to keep my head down and work hard or something.

Me: So, obviously Paul has some incredible horses in his yard, what would you say is the Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden banker of the Cheltenham Festival?

Harry: If I was going to pick one out now, I would probably say Bravemansgame in the Ballymore, he’d be looking like my best chance going into it if the Festival was tomorrow, but look, the Irish are obviously very strong so we’re not really sure what they’re going to bring over for that yet, but yeah, if the Festival was tomorrow I would say him. He’s a lovely horse and we’re very fortunate to have him.

Me: What is the one race you’d love to win that you haven’t yet?

Harry: One hundred and ten percent the Gold Cup.

Me: On to the Gold Cup, obviously everyone loves Cyrname and wants to know how he is after the King George, it was a gruelling race, how’s he come out of that and will we see him head towards the Gold Cup or is there other plans for him?

Harry: I’m not really sure, I mean myself and Paul have had a few discussions and I haven’t actually heard the final outcome, but it’s definitely still on the agenda and there is a big possibility he will go straight there. The King George was a bit of a strange one, I’m sort of still scratching my head over it now, he felt great going into the race and you know, everyone seems very pleased with him coming out of it, it was just one of those disappointing days where I’m not really sure what happened. I probably should have been more positive and erm, he’s not as keen as he was, he’s more relaxed now. Yeah, maybe I should’ve gave him a slap down the shoulder and sent him on and got him up there to be competitive. He’s quietened down a lot and that could be just what it is. Going forward he seems absolutely A1.

Me: So he’s absolutely fine coming out of that, there’s nothing to worry about?

Harry: Nothing to report and erm, Scott who rides him out every day seems pleased with him and yeah, it’s very odd, maybe he doesn’t like Kempton. But yeah, I’m still scratching my head now because there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the horse.

Me: In terms of the King George, Frodon won under Bryony (Frost), how special is that as a team? As the stable jockey who isn’t on the winner, how does that affect you? Do you still get involved in the celebrations as a team and feel the excitement even though it was Bryony riding a winner for Paul rather than yourself?

Harry: It is a massive team effort. Paul would employ 50 to 60 people to ride out on the yard and it’s a huge team effort, everyone puts so much in and it’s good for Bryony, it’s good for Paul and it’s great for racing I think. You know, for a girl to win the King George for the first time is fantastic and it’s good for racing. So back in the yard it was a great atmosphere on the Monday morning, so I’m certainly not going to be bitter over that one.

Me: I know first hand from visiting Paul’s yard and seeing the horses treated like royalty there, so what do you think when people say horse racing is animal cruelty?

Harry: Yeah, I mean, if they actually came and saw for themselves, you know, basically they just think that jockeys don’t really care for the horse and they’re just there for the money and all they care about is whipping the horse, but that’s really not what it’s like. The horses are obviously cared for seven days a week and the lads and lasses absolutely love the horses and you can really see the affection in the yard and when you go there in the morning… Like today I seen a video of Scott giving Master Tommytucker a carrot and stuff like that and just the way they’re treated. They’re mucked out, they’re groomed, they’ve got top quality feed, we’ve got a physio who goes around giving the horses physio. And you know, just the little things and if they could come in and see that for themselves then I’m sure they’d have a different view.

Me: Talking about Master Tommytucker, on Saturday (09/01/2021) I was watching from home and my heart was in my mouth watching you at the last, what was you thinking in that moment?

Harry: Yeah, it was obviously one of those hairy moments but he’s such a difficult horse to ride in the fact that I had got it right the whole way round then I came down to the last and sort of threw him at it which was erm… Probably not the brightest thing to do in the world, but yeah, he luckily stood up and we all got away with it but I was a little bit worried for a minute because it was a hairy old jump. But he’s obviously improving and yeah he’s going the right way. It’s almost taken me 4 or 5 races to actually learn how to ride him, he’s got his own way of doing things and I think now I’m starting to get the hang of it because he is quite difficult.

Me: And when we were watching on TV, Mick Fitzgerald said that the smaller field probably helped him a little bit, is that how you felt?

Harry: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people are saying he has to make the running but I disagree with that. He actually ran in the Caspian Caviar last time out and I just didn’t feel like he was 100% that day. When he bolted up at Haydock the time before it was really deep ground and we probably underestimated how hard a race he had.

Me: Obviously you’re still very young with plenty of riding years ahead of you, have you got AP McCoy’s record in sight? Do you think you can come close to it or beat it maybe?

Harry: No. I say I wouldn’t come anywhere near it. His record is absolutely phenomenal isn’t it? I don’t think it’ll ever get beaten ever again and I know for a fact it won’t be me beating it anyway.

Me: So, Paul has some younger horses in the yard, what would you say is the horse to watch, maybe not for this season but in the coming seasons?

Harry: I suppose we have had plenty of bumper winners this season and off the top of my head, I rode a really nice horse, one at Newbury called Petrossian, he seems a lovely horse, Mr Denmark owns him and he’s got loads of speed and loads of gears. I’m not sure he won the greatest bumper in the world but he is a nice type and he could just be one of those nice horses that goes on to do well in the 2 mile novice hurdle division next season. But you know, there are so many, the amount of bumper horses we’ve got this year, like the one Megan won on, Mr Glass, and she won the listed bumper, Silent Revolution, you know we could go on for a long time, but I suppose Petrossian would be the one that gave me a great feel on the way around.

Me: As the stable jockey at Ditcheat, was is the process if there is multiple horses in a race? Do you make the decision on what to ride or does that ultimately go down to Paul?

Harry: It’ll definitely be a joint discussion, obviously if Paul had his thoughts and I had mine we’d always talk about it beforehand. But I haven’t actually got it right too often as of late, I seem to be picking the wrong ones, but hopefully it’ll come right in a minute.

Me: What is your favourite track to go and ride at?

Harry: I’d say probably Wincanton because it’s 5 minutes from my house and I have a 40% strike rate around there.

Me: The final question from me is, what would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion in something, whether that be racing or not, that they want to follow?

Harry: You know, you’ve gotta believe in yourself and follow your dreams but at the same time be realistic and work hard.


I want to say a massive thank you to Harry for taking some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me and have a chat. This was probably one of my favourite interviews to date as Harry was very open, very honest and willing to discuss anything within the sport and I feel as though with his answers we got a real insight into Harry, Ditcheat and racing as a whole. That for me, is the whole point of what I do. I want to broadcast our sport to a wider, younger audience by being as transparent as possible and opening peoples eyes to behind the scenes that they may not get to see otherwise.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this as much as I did. I will see you all on Saturday for my next post which is another super excciting one where I interview Rachael Blackmore!

A VIP Stable Visit to Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat

Paul Nicholls 2

Hey guys!

Welcome to my first post of 2020! First things first, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and a happy New Year! Secondly, I have some INCREDIBLE posts coming this year, today is just the beginning! Onto today’s post; I was lucky enough to be invited to Champion Trainer, now OBE Paul Nicholls’ yard twice last year, so I thought I would finally write up my post all about the visits I was lucky enough to go on. As I went on two tours, this is an overview of both visits, mixed into one.

I want to start by saying Geoff Derham is an absolute gentleman, he was so lovely and welcoming and made us feel so at home when showing us around the yard.

We started in the main yard where he took us into the silks room where we got to see all of the colours for their owners, which was amazing to be looking at some of the colours I had grown up watching on TV and to see just how many owners Paul actually trains for! He then also showed us all of the horse shoes, he showed us the difference between a regular shoe that the horses wear around the yard and working and then the shoes that they wear when racing. He also told us that the shoes are normally changed a day or maybe two before the horse races so they can get used to the change before race day. Then, of course we got to see all of the top names, including Cyrname, and Clan Des Obeaux, of course two of the biggest names in racing right now. Then we also got to meet a horse I absolutely adore, Frodon. Geoff told us Frodon isn’t always the nicest of horses to be around, constantly kicking at the door, having a bit of a nip at people’s jackets, as you can see from my face below I was not impressed! But I still adore him, I have followed him for a long time so it was an honour to finally get to meet him.

IMG_4428  IMG_7510

Whilst there, we spoke to Bryony Frost and Harry Cobden who were both riding out, as they do most days for Paul. Which for me, was great to see, two top jockeys blending in with all of the stable staff, mucking in and doing everything they could. It is very rare in sport that the ‘top dog’ are amongst those lower down, but if you wasn’t a racing fan and had no idea who Bryony or Harry were then you would never have assumed they were out riding grade ones and competing in top races, they literally just blended in with the team.

We then went with Geoff to the first of Paul’s two gallops, a flat gallop where assistant trainer Harry Derham was keeping a close eye on the horses. Harry is an incredible assistant trainer and one day he will definitely be a top trainer. He knew every horse by name as they went past, knew every staff member by name as they went past and knew exactly what each horse needed and what the future plans were for each horse. Which as you can imagine is bloody incredible when they have so many horses in training! 

After seeing the second lot on the flat gallops we went up to the hill gallops and watched the third lot. One thing is for sure Paul’s horses have impeccable stamina, the hill was super steep, super tall but each and every one of them went up, around, down and back up again 3 times and all looked incredible.  

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For me, it was interesting to see both ways in which Paul trains his horses. Depending on what each horse needs, depends on what he does with them. They regularly take it in turns daily to go on the flat gallops or the hill gallops, of course if Paul feels a horse lacks stamina, their main route is hill gallops, but that’s totally down to Paul, Harry and Clifford.

After watching all of Paul’s horses work we were then taken to Paul’s smaller yard based at his home, the Highbridge yard where he keeps up to 43 horses I believe. On the day, we were told by Geoff that there were a few horses being kept up there that Paul wasn’t quite happy with, niggles here and there so they were being kept quiet and doing little bits of work. Here are some photos of both days, with a range of horses for you all:

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Visiting Paul’s yard both times was incredible, we got to meet some incredible stable stars and see a real insight into the work a Champion Trainer does. I always love seeing the behind the scenes, for example, Paul has the highest rated chaser in the country, so being able to watch how the team got him to that point and the work they ALL put in to ensure the horses are at their best is incredible. You get the feeling it is a real team effort, everybody helping each other, putting the horses first and just creating a really special environment to be in.

Overall, I had an incredible few days with Paul and the team. Again, I cannot thank Geoff enough for making us feel so welcome and being so warm toward us. However I do want to say thank you to the whole team in general, from the first person we spoke to, to the last person we spoke to, each person was completely lovely and made us feel welcome, answered any questions, spoke to us with enthusiasm and was totally honest about each horse we had seen.

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What I also find interesting, is with each yard I visit, the trainers have a totally different way of training their horses, but each different way works for them and brings them success, so for me it is super exciting to visit each yard and see what different things they bring to the table when training their horses.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading all about my two visits to Ditcheat. I have another 4 CONFIRMED stable visits during January and February as well as an interview with a head girl of a top stable, so be sure to subscribe to receive an email when I upload those posts.

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