Harry Skelton vs Brian Hughes

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a quick look back at one of the most exciting Champion Jockey season’s we have had in a very long time, so with just one week to go, I wanted to briefly have a look at the season so far.

The Jumps Jockey Championship started on July 1st 2020 and ends next Saturday on April 24th 2021 and right now it’s probably the closest it’s been in my lifetime with Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes fighting it out neck and neck for the last few weeks and it’s been a pretty exciting situation to watch, I have no idea who will win but it’s been great for racing fans to see it so close for a change.

I won’t go through every single win that both Harry and Brian have had this season, I think I’d be here all year, so I have had a look at some of the bigger wins they have both had and I think we should just jump right in.

So, first up I’m going to start with Harry Skelton and the bet365 Hurdle Grade 2 (Registered As The West Yorkshire Hurdle) at Wetherby on October 31st 2020 where Harry won on Roksana as the 13/8 favourite by 8 and 1/2 lengths for brother Dan Skelton.

Two weeks later on November 14th 2020 Harry won the Karndean Designflorring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) (GBB Race) on Elle Est Belle (16/5) at Cheltenham for brother Dan Skelton. The race was (potentially controversially) declared a deadheat with joint winner Ishkhara Lady (11/2) for Sean Bowen and Harry Fry.

One week later on November 21st 2020 Brian Hughes won the Betfair Supports Safer Gambling Week Handicap Chase (Class 2) at Haydock on Snow Leopardess (9/2J) for Charlie Longsdon by 1/2 length to Commodore.

Eight days later on November 29th 2020, Brian then won the Houghton Mares’ Chase (Listed Race) (GBB Race) at Carlisle on My Old Gold (4/1) for Nicky Richards, winning by 1 and 1/2 lengths to Chilli Filli.

We then move forward to December 5th where we had a rather successful day for both jockeys with Brian Hughes heading to Aintree and Harry Skelton heading to Sandown. First of we had Harry Skelton win the 1:50, the Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) on Allmankind (2/1F) beating Hitman (11/4) by 2 and 1/2 lengths for brother Dan Skelton. He then won the 2:25 – Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) on Politologue (11/8F) for Paul Nicholls beating stable mate Greaneteen (5/2) for Harry Cobden by 7 lengths.

15 minutes later at 2:40, Brian Hughes then wins the William Hill Many Clouds Chase (Grade 2) with Lake View Lad (16/1) for Nick Alexander, beating Santini (13/8F) by 1 length.

Moving forward a couple of weeks and on December 18th, Harry Skelton wins the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on My Drogo (9/1) beating 2/1 favourite Llandinabo Lad by 2 and 3/4 lengths, again for Dan Skelton.

The following day on December 19th, Brian Hughes then wins the Betfair Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (Class 2) on Sam’s Adventure (14/1) for Brian Ellison, beating Sojourn the 11/4 joint favourite by 4 lengths.

One week later on boxing day 2020, Harry then wins the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Kempton on Shan Blue (7/4F) for Dan Skelton, beating The Big Breakaway (16/5). Following that up with another win at Kempton the following day December 27th when he won the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase (Grade 2) on Nube Negra (20/1) for Dan Skelton, beating Evens favourite Altior by 3 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into 2021, we have Harry Skelton kicking us off on January 23rd when he won the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on Roksana (8/15F) for Dan Skelton, beating Magic Of Light (9/2) by 8 lengths.

On February 7th Brian Hughes headed to Musselburgh where he won the bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle (Listed Race) on Fiveandtwenty (6/4F) for Donald McCain beating Historic Heart (5/1) by 4 lengths.

Harry Skelton then had a busy two days when he won the Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) at Exeter on Wilde About Oscar (16/5) for Dan Skelton on the 14th of February beating Evens favourite The Glancing Queen by 7 and 1/2 lengths. Followed up by 2 quick wins at Warwick the following day on February 15th when winning the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) on Allmankind (4/7F) for Dan Skelton, beating eventual Cheltenham Festival winner Sky Pirate (3/1) by 14 lengths. Followed by the next race on the card, the St Marys Land Warwick Mares’ Hurdle (Listed Race) on Molly Ollys Wishes (7/2) for Dan Skelton, actually beating Brian Hughes in second place on the Evens favourite Paul’s Saga by 15 lengths.

On February 20th 2021, Harry then won the “My Oddsboost” on Betfair Swinley Chase (Listed Race) at Ascot on Captain Chaos (10/1) for Dan Skelton, by a head to Regal Encore (12/1).

The following day, Brian Hughes headed to Market Rasen where he won the Ballymore Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) on Minella Drama (13/8F) for Donald McCain, beating Stoner’s Choice (9/4) by 3 lengths.

Swiftly moving into March, on the 6th Harry Skelton won the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Kelso on My Drogo (2/1F) for Dan Skelton beating Do Your Job (10/1) by 9 and 1/2 lengths. One week later on the 13th of March, Harry then won the Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) at Sandown on Langer Dan (5/1) for Dan Skelton beating Miss Heritage (8/1) by 4 and 1/2 lengths.

We then move into April and the final month for both jockey’s to get the wins on the board ready to be crowned Champion Jockey. We start off on April 8th when Harry Skelton won the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Aintree on Protektorat (17/2) for Dan Skelton, beating The Shunter (7/2) by 3 and 3/4 lengths. Followed up on the 10th of April when winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) on 5/4 favourite My Drogo, again beating Brian Hughes on the second placed Minella Drama (12/1) by 9 and 1/2 lengths.

Also want to include here that Harry Skelton finished 6th in the Grand National on Blaklion (50/1) on the 10th of April for brother Dan Skelton, making them the first British trained horse to cross the line.

We then head into the April meeting at Cheltenham where both jockey’s had a pretty successful time. On April 14th, Harry Skelton won the 1:30 Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) on 4/6 favourite Faivoir for Dan Skelton, winning by 2 and 3/4 lengths to Witness Protection (8/1). Harry then won the 2:40 Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) on 7/2 joint favourite Proschema for Dan Skelton, winning by 6 and 1/2 length to Winds of Fire (9/1). Moving on to the 4:25 Weatherite Handicap Chase (Class 2) where Brian Hughes pulled one back when winning on Domaine De L’Isle (6/1) for Sean Curran, beating Coo Star Sivola (5/1) by 1 and 1/2 lengths.

The following day on April 15th, Brian Hughes claws another one back when winning the Citipost Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) on Bannixtown Glory (9/1) for Donald McCain, beating Harry Skelton on the 5/2 favourite Eglantine Du Seuil by 1 and 3/4 lengths.

Yesterday both Brian and Harry headed to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National meeting and in doing so, Harry Skelton has now pulled ahead after winning the first race on Stepney Causeway (4/9F) for Dan Skelton, beating Brian on Mrs Hyde (15/8) by 19 lengths and also the last race on I’d Better Go Now (11/2J), again for Dan Skelton, beating Manetti (33/1) by 3/4 of a length.

So, all in all we start today with Harry Skelton on 143 and Brian Hughes on 139 with just 8 days of racing left. It’s still very very close and either could win so I am very excited to see how this final week goes. Both have been going for it and picking up as many spare rides as possible so I think this last week could be very interesting.


Personally, I would love to see Harry Skelton win the Jockey Championship for a couple of reasons. He is based very close to where I live, so it would be nice to see a local jockey win, but also because the majority of Harry’s rides have came from his brother Dan Skelton and as far as I’m aware (correct me if I’m wrong), the last time a jockey won the Jockey Championship with the majority of their rides coming from one stable was when AP McCoy won it whilst riding for Martin Pipe, so for me that is a huge achievement. I won’t take anything away from Brian Hughes, but I feel like he has the opportunity to ride a lot more horses for a lot more trainers and personally, I think if Harry Skelton had the opportunity to ride as many horses as Brian Hughes has then he would be a mile ahead in the title race. The fact that Brian has had over 200 more rides than Harry and Harry has still been fighting it out at the top shows just how incredible Harry’s season has been. Overall, it’s been a huge season for the Skelton team and I think that Harry winning the Champion Jockey title would just be the best way to end it. Again, I want to reiterate I am not taking anything away from Brian Hughes and if he wins it then he deserves it, but for me, I would just love to see Harry Skelton do it.

I have found looking back over this season actually really interesting and I hope everyone else has found it interesting to read too. If there are any similar posts like this you would like to see me do for particular jockeys, trainers, owners, horses etc then please do let me know over on Twitter (https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx) and I will try my best to have a look into it because I find researching these posts so interesting and from my viewing figures for similar posts like this, they have seemed to be pretty popular.

I actually have an extra post coming tomorrow morning at 11am where I look into the history of the Scottish Grand National ahead of tomorrow afternoons renewal, including some winning trends, facts and figures which may help you pick your winner, so keep your eyes out for that one! See you then!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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.  

IMG_4445 (1).jpg

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:

IMG_4445IMG_4433IMG_7498  IMG_7501IMG_7505IMG_7515  IMG_6595

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.

IMG_4431

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!