An Interview with Niall Houlihan

Niall Houlihan

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niall: Grand National. Every jockey’s dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An Interview with Georgia Cox

Georgia Cox

Hiya guys!

Today’s post is with the lovely Georgia Cox who is currently an apprentice jockey for William Haggas, she has gave a cracking interview with some brilliant, detailed answers and I thoroughly hope you enjoy!

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

Georgia: Theydon Grey’s hat trick on the Knavesmire definitely stands out in my mind. looking back now wish I had of enjoyed those days more, as I know now more often that not things don’t always go to plan or as perfectly as we did. Sheikh Ahmed’s yellow and black silks have always been my favourite, having been able to ride a lot of nice horses for him and his team. So, bringing any of their horses  back to the winner’s enclosure means a lot to me. I have always loved watching Mtoto’s replays who of course is also the sire of the great Shaamit and a huge part of Somerville Lodge history!

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

Georgia: This is probably a biased answer but for me it would be Sea of Class. If anyone had read the newsletter I wrote, they would know my thoughts about her greatness. She had a breathtaking presence, an extraordinary aura and gumption beyond belief. She was just completely unique.

Me: What are you opinions surrounding the discussion of banning the whip?

Georgia: This topic has been done to a death. For me it’s about as boring as Brexit and the question “what’s it like being a girl race riding” Nothing annoys me more than our sport getting a slating. I have felt a smack by other riders during a tight finish so I know that it does not hurt. Unfortunately, horses can’t speak English so you use actions to explain the game, it’s used to keep them going, to cajole them into line. It’s similar to a boxer getting a slap/receipt from their coach. It’s a means to get them to concentrate. These horses weight 500kgs, the stick is air cushioned and it lands on the thickest bit of flesh when their adrenaline is at a high. They are naturally flight animals, but often when I’m waiting to get the leg up in the mornings, my horse will play with my stick, I could rub it all over their face without them flinching. If they associated it with pain, there is no way I would be able to do that, ill-formed and uneducated perception of the stick is ancient.

Me: You ride for William Haggas, as an apprentice jockey, What is it like working for him?

Georgia: I walked in to Somerville Lodge fresh faced at 16 and very shy. Once I started to find my feet, my passion grew stronger and talking about the horses is how I found my voice. 98% of my vocabulary might be horses but that’s when I’m most confident doing what I love. Our horses have everything they could possibly need from: treadmills; salt boxes; vibe plates; 5 horse walkers; spa’s; physio’s; top class farriers and vets and heat lamps fitted everywhere that is possible. So much thought goes into these animals everyday rituals. Having been nearly 7 years now I know a lot of their pedigrees first hand which I find particularly interesting finding the traits they pass down their family. I know our yard like the back of my hand and everything gets done to the highest standard. Somerville Lodge is where the attention to detail and organisation gets taken to another level our horses certainly live the riches life.

Me: What is your favourite race course and why?

Georgia: I have had some great days at York in the past. The facilities there are top class, it’s a very fair track and the best horse always wins. It’s topped off by always having a good atmosphere too. You can’t ask for much more than that.

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

Georgia: The Derby is the race that every jockey dreams about winning. Even people who are not into racing know about how prestigious the Derby is.

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

Georgia: It’s hard to pick just one right now, so many unexposed raw types with so much potential especially at this time of year when they are all coming back in from their winter holidays. Strengthened up, fresh and raring to go. The dream is very much intact for all. They are getting back into their individual routines suited best for them so we are all hoping that ducklings have turned into swans and their top class pedigrees shine through.

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

Georgia: As mentioned above, I’ve been at Somerville Lodge since I was 16 so I can only say based on our yard and if every yard is like ours, no one would dare question the welfare of our horses. We look after our horses better than we do ourselves,  the minute details never go amiss for each individual horse. I know every single one of our horses from sight, pedigree, conformation, character and racing form. These horses are the best looked after animals in the country. If you ever look through the photos in our phones you’ll be swamped with so many photos of horses. They truly are the apple of our eyes.

The racing photographers and twitter pages (like Racing tales/Micheal Harris) should also be commended as pictures can say a thousand words, the moments captured between grooms and horse you can see the love in there eyes. Good twitter pages should be shown support by the likes of itv racing to get more people hooked deeper into the history of the sport.  I think all the yards should be more transparent and you will find more video gems like the Harry Bentley in the stalls to go viral, as things like that happen constantly everyday.

There are so many stories in racing that should get made into movies like Frankel is great but I’d love to see one on the great Sir Henry Cecil himself and how inspiring his journey was. To hit the heights that he did, to then go between 2000 – 2006 not having a single group 1 winner in 2005 only trained a dozen winners to go from 200 horses shrank to 50 how he came back from that is an inspirational story that everyone could do with!

Racing tickets should be cheaper and there should be more competitions for people to win tickets/ merchandise. We are always happy to see more young people to cherish the roots of racing instead of just going for the music concert after. All the good that our sport does could do with being exposed more. There are so many issues with social media and young people these days. Horses are an escape from that. They don’t judge you, they don’t care what you look like or how many followers you have. You see when you have such a strong passion about something, it gives you something to focus on, when other in life is going wrong it’s something to turn too, perhaps even a sense of purpose and direction in life, these days so much of our lives are consumed into staring endlessly at our phones that seem to takes over so much of our lives. when social media gets to much you can always count on the horses to be there waiting for you, they are always happy to see you and can only be good for mental health.

These equine athletes earn us a living and none of them owe us anything. Every horse that comes through our yard, I follow their journey after they leave wherever that might be that they go to. I have many pictures of them in retirement. They give us a reason to get up in the morning. I, like so many others would be lost without these animals. It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle. A contagious, infectious, addictive lifestyle. It’s a passion like no other. It’s a game like no other where adrenaline is on tap. It’s living in the fast lane. We are the sport of kings and we shall drown out the nonsense.

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

Georgia: Royal Ascot has to be the pinnacle of the sport. Five days packed full of top class racing. So much history and so many superstars, human and equine, have passed under that tunnel. It is where dreams are either made or shattered. It is something that every jockey owner, breeder and trainer want on their CV, a Royal Ascot winner.

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

Georgia: If you have a passion for something, follow it. Mine has taken me all over the world and led me to a pretty exciting life. I believe having a good work ethic can get you anywhere. Life is a marathon not a sprint but have your blinkers on to remain focused and un-distracted from your goals. The quickest way to get somewhere is a straight line after all. Having good people around you is important, as a support system but also to inspire you and help you achieve your best. It’s not what happens in life, it’s about how you deal with it all. Be humble and laugh it off!

Me: You have previously ridden in the Queen’s colours, how special was that for you?

Georgia: It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and hugely proud of, to be able to put her majesty famous silks on, has been an absolute honour and I wish there to be many more times ahead yet!

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Interviewing Georgia was fantastic, she is so open and passionate about the sport it is incredible to see. So firstly, as always, I want to say a massive thank you to Georgia for taking the time out to have a chat with me and answer some questions.

I really hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I did writing it.

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An Interview with Charlie Poste

charlie poste

Hiya guys!

Today’s post is a very interesting one. I got to sit down with Charlie Poste and interview him and I can honestly say he is one of the most knowledgeable people within the sport that I have had the honour of speaking with. He genuinely knows so much about the sport, I thoroughly enjoyed this interview, I hope you guys enjoy it too. Without further-ado, let’s jump straight into it!

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

Charlie: Win or lose, erm I suppose winning the Welsh National on Le Beau Bai, it was like my first big winner. I had been riding for a good while and you start wondering whether you’re ever gonna have those big winners and those nice pictures on the wall when you retire and so that was a massive moment for me. I rode a lot for Richard Lee in my career as well and the horse himself, he was a lovely horse, tough, good jumping, just a proper proper race horse, so that was the best day.

Me: On from winning the Welsh National, Chepstow is a hard track to ride around, a lot of jockey’s have said that, what’s the secret? How do you get a horse to win at Chepstow?

Charlie: I don’t know. I suppose a lot of my big winners in my career were related in staying chasers on bad ground, which meant I rode a lot of slow horses more than anything. But I think around there, it is a nutritional test because of the ground but the fences come in lovely places, it’s a proper rhythm track and certainly the likes of Le Beau Bai, he was a real accurate great jumper, he’d always land in rhythm whether he was in deep or standing off a fence and that stood him in some stead that day. Giles Cross made the running and I just followed him the whole way really and he didn’t miss a beat the whole way around so on bad ground like that you’re always saving energy because you’re jumping well and not missing fences and having to chase him back into the bridal and I think that’s key around tracks with bad ground, rhythm is the most important thing.

Me: You currently break in horses including a Cheltenham winner and Supreme Novice second in Thomas Darby for Olly Murphy, how much joy do you get seeing a horse you’ve broke in go on to succeed and do so well?

Charlie: It’s massive, you know. Along side the breaking we also produce horses to run in point to points and sell and we’ve got Third Time Lucki who runs in the Champion Bumper (*We now know he came fourth for Dan and Harry Skelton). We are very well supported by Olly, we break in most of his youngsters and the likes of Thomas Darby are special talents. And I look at it now, my life has changed and you’re sort of running an academy, like a youth academy and to get on these horses initially, the likes of Thomas Darby, who has loads of athletic ability to start cantering him and jumping him, it’s a bit of alright, you know? I can’t wait to see him go and to see them actually go and back it up on the track, they’re not like your kids, but as I said, it’s like being a youth team coach at a Premier League football club and seeing someone and thinking ‘he’s a bit special’ then seeing them go through the ranks and go on to do them on the big occasion, it’s very special.

Me: And do you have any horses with you currently you think can go on and be something special?

Charlie: From the point to pointing group we’ve got this time, we actually sell a horse at Cheltenham on Thursday night called Kenyan Cowboy who won on debut, he looks very good. And we’ve had, actually because of the weather we’ve been held up, but we have a lot of young horses ready to come out. We’ve got a lovely horse by Court Cave called Adjournment that looks like he could be very special, he might make his debut this weekend at Larkhill (*We now know he came second. He is currently for sale so if interested contact Charlie via his Twitter page). Another called Fox in the Box by Presenting, again they’re both not far off being ready to run and you’re hoping with a bit of luck they’re able to win their point to point and go to the sales and make plenty of money because that means the wheels can keep on turning and then what you want, a bit like Thomas Darby and all these horses we break in, to become high achievers, because that’s the most special thing.

Me: If you could ride any horse that is currently in training, what horse would you choose and why?

Charlie Poste: Erm, I’m gonna give two to you. For a proven one, I’d love to ride Altior, I just think he’s the most special horse. To win a Supreme Novice, Arkle, 2 Champion Chases and he just looks like the most lovely horse to ride. You can put him anywhere in a race and you know he’s going to hit a bit of a flat spot, but you know when it really happens and the turbo kicks in, he’s always hitting the line very strong. I love to see that in a race horse where they’re galloping through the line in a finish. I think he’s, not an underrated champion but I think he is a very very special horse. And for emerging horses, I think Envoi Allen looks like he has the world at his feet. I was at the sales when he won his point to point and was sold for big money and then I was lucky enough to be in the paddock at the Champion Bumper last year and he just looks like the most beautiful, big, scopey model just walking around, taking it all in, acting like he owned the place and then backed it up with a tremendous performance. His hurdling career has been perfect so far, you want to see him win in the Ballymore (*We now know he did in fact win the Ballymore at 4/7F for Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell). and then sort of move on and whether he goes chasing or stays hurdling next year in the Champion Hurdle. But we need these elite level horses that are absolutely the best of the best because that’s what really markets the sport.

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

Charlie: Erm, I think it’s difficult. Now, from the outside looking in, I remember when the whip rule got reduced from sort of 16 to 8 and we were all up in arms about it, saying ‘this could never happen, it’ll ruin racing’ but actually what it did was make riding better because all of a sudden riders are thinking about when to use the whip, not going for it too early. And for me the most obvious solution is, we need strong leadership from the BHA. Of course we don’t want to pander to the outside world, but we have to accept in a modern world that perception is key to maximise the marketing potential of the sport and to invite other people in. And I think the most sensible thing in the short term is the BHA come out and say if you go over the limit, you get disqualified and what would happen is, even if it happened once or twice, trial it in a period where there aren’t big festivals so the riders can get used to it and if it happened once or twice, it would never happen again. And I think what would happen then is you would have riders that, if it was 8 over jumps, you’d probably only go to 4 or 5 because you’re gonna think I’m not even gonna risk losing count or maybe being 8 or 9 and not sure. And I think riding would improve again for it. I don’t feel unfortunately there is a tide and a wave behind it where the whip will eventually go but short term, to prolong it, because I do think it’s a useful aid for a jockey then the disqualifying anyone who goes over whether that’s a placed horse, unplaced horse or a winner, that’s the most sensible solution.

Me: Looking beyond the Cheltenham Festival, the Grand National is soon approaching. Who do you think has a good chance? Do you think any horses were helped or hindered with the weights? Do you think Tiger Roll can win again? (*We now know the Grand National is cancelled, however I have kept this question in because I found Charlie’s answer interesting).

Charlie: I mean Tiger Roll, we all know the O’Leary’s play this game every year moaning about the handicapper and whatever else and you know, Tiger Roll is off 170 and I know he’s got a couple of pounds extra because of his Aintree factor, but it’s fair enough isn’t it when you win 2 Grand Nationals. And in any other era, Tiger Roll could easily go in for a Gold Cup, he’s a horse with an enormous amount of ability, I’d love to see him go on and do it and again, it would be great for racing and the wider world looking in. Another one I think would be pretty special, I’d love to see Ramses De Teillee win the Albert Bartlett then win the Grand National, I think that would be a pretty unique double to win. A novice hurdle at the Festival then the Grand National.

Me: Are there any horses currently who are just starting out that you can see going on to win the big ones like a Gold Cup or Grand National?

Charlie: I suppose because we’re in the infancy of what we do, a lot of these horses are only just emerging on the scene, for Olly called Here Comes McCoy who was in the market for the Champion Bumper, I don’t think he runs, I think maybe he goes to Aintree, but he looks like a horse with an enormous amount of talent. Other ones coming through like I K Brunel I think he could be a very special horse when he goes novice chasing. I mean and looking at the Festival itself, you’re looking at horses like The Big Breakaway, The Big Getaway of Willie’s, you know these novice hurdlers are laden with talent and what you’re hoping for is something from there steps up to the next grade and becomes a real superstar.

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

Charlie: My favourite day, the Cheltenham Festival it’s the Tuesday, everyone is tingling with excitement and I think the racing across the board with the Arkle, Champion Hurdle, Supreme Novice, I think it’s unrivalled, the quality of racing. From a spectators point of view I love Glorious Goodwood, we go every year for a couple of days and as far as flat racing goes, it’s as good as it gets. There’s a slightly more sort of interested crowd that go rather than Ascot where people go for the social. I think Glorious Goodwood is as good as anything.

Me: What would you say is your favourite track you ever road at?

Charlie: I mean the smaller ones, like Towcester, I had a lot of success there, like I say riding slow horses but I always enjoyed riding around there. For the bigger tracks, Cheltenham is a stand alone, everyone says Cheltenham. My favourite track to ride at was the chase track at Sandown, the 7 fences down the back, it’s just a massive test of jumping and to go round there on a speedy 2 mile chaser, you can’t beat it.

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

Charlie: I think they need to come in and actually… I think it’s like anything, it’s easy to have an opinion from the outside looking in. But if you want to come in and see the care these horses are given and all that goes into and you still feel like that, then fair enough, but I think it’s a lot of throw away comments that people make. I think you have to remember, when all is said and done, we love these animals but they are selectively bred to do this job, if there was no racing, there would be no thoroughbred. If you go into the yards and see the care given day in, day out and the love showered upon these horse by the stable lads and girls and the jockeys, I assure you now, when I have ridden a horse and it’s ended up losing it’s life, it bloody hurts and you have to move on from it, but you go home and you feel like hell about it, it’s the last thing you want to happen. And when all is said and done, when I see the care and love that’s given to them all, it’s a compromise that I am willing and completely comfortable with because I actually drive around the roads and see horses stood in the fields that are malnourished with no care and attention. These guys and girls, the horses they’re given, they’re given 24/7 the best of the best and it is terrible when we lose the odd one, but as I said, it’s a compromise I think I am completely comfortable with.

Me: And the final question, what is your best piece of advice for a young person with a dream that they want to follow whether in racing or outside of racing?

Charlie: Get in and work hard. There’s not substitution for working hard. As a young rider, if you want to get on in the sport, regardless of your riding ability, come in, work hard, know form inside out, get fit, be polite as well. Good manners and a great work ethic will take you a long way.

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Again I would like to say a massive thank you to Charlie for his time, he was an absolute gent and as I said before, he knows so much about the sport it’s incredible. 

I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I have conducting the interview and writing it out.

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An Interview with Luke Harvey

Luke Harvey

Hiya guys!

Today’s post is an interview with the brilliant Luke Harvey, retired jockey and now pundit for the likes of ITV Racing. I had a brilliant time interviewing Luke, he is so funny, so down to earth and so honest. I hope you all enjoy!

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

Luke: My favourite race was winning the Welsh Grand National on a horse called Cool Ground. And he was a big favourite leading up to the race and I just wasn’t nervous, I thought he was a certainty and it never works out like that in horse racing, but luckily it did.

Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training, what horse would you choose?

Luke: If I could ride any horse now… I love Altior. Whether he runs at the Cheltenham Festival or not, I don’t know. (*we now know he didn’t.) I just love… he’s a winner. You know if you see a boxing match and you see a boxer walk around, he’s like that, he’s just got the swagger. I don’t know, he just enjoys going to the races, he enjoys his work, he loves to do it and I love people like that, I hate lazy people.

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

Luke: They have changed dramatically, I think now that if you break the rules, you should lose the race. I wouldn’t have said that if you had asked me that question 6 months ago, I definitely wouldn’t have said that. But we have boxed ourselves into a corner where I don’t think it’s acceptable and I don’t think the public think it’s acceptable that a cheat, theoretically if you’ve broken the rules, gets the race. And I think… welfare and the use of the whip is massive in racing and I think the people that bury their head in the sand and think it’s going to go away are fools. Because that is the biggest talking point and the biggest thing that will affect racing going into the future, so I think it’ll get kicked out if they win.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse as a rider and as a pundit?

Luke: I love Cheltenham, whatever. As  jockey I wasn’t particularly successful, to be honest I wasn’t particularly successful anywhere. The track I was most successful was Towcester and they’ve finished, typical. No, I love the Cheltenham Festival, it’s my favourite, I really enjoy Aintree, I love dressing up and going to Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. In all honesty, I like them all. They’ve all got their days. And I like the smaller tracks like here at Stratford and because I come from the West Country I love Newton Abbott. But yeah I like them all.

Me: What is one race you never won but would have loved to?

Luke: Loads I never won. I would have liked to get around in the Grand National. But no, I would have loved to have won the Grand National, I only rode in the race twice and one year I rode a horse called Country Member and he was about third or fourth favourite and you know what I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so nervy about it because I genuinely thought he was going to win and anyway, he fell at the first.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ over the next couple of seasons?

Luke: Erm, I really like a horse that is running at Cheltenham called Brewin’upastorm (*we now know he fell on Tuesday). He’s won his only two starts over fences and he’s ridden by Richard Johnson, Champion Jockey and I think he could have a really big future in front of him. And Shishkin who runs in the first race at Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson’s horse (*we now know won), he could be… he’s just under that bracket where he could be another Altior, he looks that good.

Me: You obviously work for some of the biggest broadcasters in racing, some jockey’s never go down that route, why do you think you went into that? What do you enjoy about it?

Luke: Erm, I was lucky to get involved in that. I was lucky I got a job for Radio 5 Live and I dunno, I was interviewed a couple of times for the original racing channel and as you can tell I can’t shut up and that’s quite good if you’re going to be a pundit and I just sort of fell into it. You won’t be surprised to learn I’ve never had any training and look, I think if you know your subject and you’re passionate about it… I’m 53 and I go racing and I get excited, I still get excited now and if you do that… I think if you’re false the viewers will always see through you. People that put things on and try and be someone they’re not, they always get caught out and I think, there will be plenty of people who don’t like me but I am who I am and I’m honest with it.

Me: Beyond the Cheltenham Festival, we have the Grand National soon approaching, who do you think has a good chance? Have the weights helped or hindered anyone? And can Tiger Roll win for a third time?

Luke:  Well first, lets start off with Tiger Roll who has been the most remarkable horse, I’ve followed him throughout his career and to go and equal what Red Rum did… Red Rum is one of my favourite horses of all time so it’ll be mixed feelings if he went on to equal it. But I’d love it and it would be great for racing if he could do it. If he runs the same race he run last year, he will win in my opinion. There’s a horse called Le Breuil who runs in the race that I really like. He stays really well, he’s trained by Ben Pauling. I don’t think the weights… look if you have the best horse you’re going to have the highest weight and anyone who winges about that… you get more weight on a horses back for winning so if you’re a winner you’re gonna get more weight. A couple of pounds either side when they were going on about Tiger Roll, it’s one jump, one little mistake, it’s irrelevant to him. If he’s in the same form, he will win.

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

Luke: Learn. Come to a stable. In my sort of job I’ve had people come onto me on Twitter. Come to a stable, you can find out, someone like myself can take you to a yard and you can go there… I ride out every single day of my life and will continue to do so, you can go somewhere at 6 o’clock in the morning and watch how those horses are treated. You go there and see how well they’re fed, how well they’re kept, how happy they are. Anyone who thinks you can make half a tonne of animal race when it doesn’t want to, I don’t see… it just doesn’t happen. Any athlete, a footballer, if you’ve got 11 players in a team and 10 are eating healthy and doing exercise all of the time and 1 eats McDonalds and doesn’t do anything in the week, I can guarantee he’s the one not doing any good. And it’s the same with horses, if they’re not given the best, treated the best, they cannot be the best. And so, it’s impossible. That’s another thing that racing has got to do. We’ve go to educate people, show them. People don’t know. It’s very easy someone like myself, I can just explain to them, but they just think we whip the horses and make them do what they don’t want to do, you can’t do that, it’s an impossibility. But as I said, it’s our job to educate people.

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

Luke: My favourite day is Grand National morning. Not necessarily the Grand National itself, but last year I did a course walk interviewing Bryony Frost at quite a few of the fences and just to go up to those fences again, it gets me buzzing. And the other thing I like, Cheltenham is brilliant, it’s got a great atmosphere, we’ve all got tweed brown coats on, but you go to Aintree and it’s a different feel. You’ve got people who go racing once a year, they dress up, they don’t care what the weather is, they’ll dress up exactly the same and it’s a different atmosphere and I like that. I like when they have concerts, I like to introduce as many different people as we can. Racing should be fun, it’s a recreation and yeah, I just like as many people to come along and enjoy it.

Me: What is your best piece of advice for a young people trying to follow their goals and their dreams?

Luke: If you come into horse racing it is the most brilliant… it educates you and is the most brilliant sport you will get involved in. I actually left school at 16 and I haven’t got one single qualification… 25 metre breaststroke badge… But apart from that, I learnt so much, I was going out like a young person would but I knew I had to be up early to muck out because I knew if I didn’t someone else would have to, so someone always made sure I was out of bed. It gives you good work ethic. My brother is actually chief feature writer for The Sun, he was a very poor rider, but he was so well educated he couldn’t get another job so he came into horse racing and he worked as a stable lad for 2 years and he was a very poor rider, but even now he says ‘it put manners on me’. You learn… you’re looking after an animal and you’re responsible for that animal and it’s just… it gives you a work ethic and that’s what I base everything in life on.

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I firstly want to say a massive thank you to Luke. I personally love Luke, he is such a passionate person and I love that, he clearly loves this sport and I think people like him are key to the future of this sport, truly passionate, educating people and sharing his knowledge. 

I really hope you enjoyed reading!

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An Interview with Cieren Fallon Jr

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Hiya guys!

Today’s post is another interview with an up and coming jockey who has the potential to achieve great things. Following in his dad’s footsteps young Cieren Fallon Jr is gradually making his way in the racing world and I was lucky enough to speak with him and ask him some questions.

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

Cieren: It has got to be Haydock on Time To Study.

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

Cieren: Frankel.

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

Cieren: The whip is a tool, it’s not just for hitting a horse, it’s for encouraging them, that’s why we wave it at them. It’s also used to help correct them and helps if you have a loose horse sniffing around your horse. Some horses are lazy and need a tap to get the best out of them, that’s just my thoughts on the whip.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse and why?

Cieren: Epsom as it’s a very unique racecourse and the best fillies and colts win on that track.

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

Cieren: I’ve never really been interested in betting.

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

Cieren: People need to remember we work with horses because we love them, we look after them as much as we can when they are racing and they are really well looked after at home. We get really attached to them.

Me: What is the best advice you’ve been given by your dad?

Cieren: Best advice from my dad is to keep fit. The best advice from my mum is to believe I can win on everything I ride and always believe in myself.

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

Cieren: The Derby.

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

Cieren: Born With Pride.

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

Cieren: Follow your dreams, anything is possible.

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As always, I firstly want to say a massive thank you to Cieren for taking time out to let me ask him some questions and answering them so honestly. I know a jockey can be incredibly busy, so I appreciate the time they take out to answer some questions. Cieren is still very young and has already achieved plenty with some brilliant winners, so he has a long and successful career ahead of him. 

I really hope you have enjoyed reading Cieran’s answers and I will see you all in my next post very soon!

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An Interview with Adrian Heskin

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Heya guys!

I have been lucky enough to interview the brilliantly talented Adrian Heskin, I really hope you enjoy reading what he had to say to me!

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

Adrian: The 2010 Glenfarclas Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival. On A New Story. It was a kick-start to my career and a memory I will have forever.

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

Adrian: Sprinter Sacre. Best 2 mile chase I’ve seen in my opinion and he must have been some thrill to ride.

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

Adrian: I think the racing press is our own worst enemy about the whip as it gets brought up far too often to the public. I don’t see anything wrong with the rules as they stand.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse and why?

Adrian: Aintree is a favourite of mine. Always beautiful ground, fair track and a good test of a chaser.

Me: You’re the retained jockey for the McNeill family, how is that for you? They’re obviously very well known in the sport so do you feel any pressure when you put their silks on?

Adrian: I’m in a very privileged position to ride for such a good owner. It gives me an opportunity to have relationships with a lot of top trainers in the country which is great. I don’t feel pressure to be honest, I just try to perform to get the best out of each horse. It’s a big team effort.

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

Adrian: The Gold Cup. And in my current positioning, I think it’s a realistic dream for one day.

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

Adrian: Tiger Roll in the Cross Country in March.

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

Adrian: A horse of the McNeill family’s and Prodec Networks called I K Brunel. He will make into a smashing chaser next season.

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

Adrian: For people who think this sport is cruel, they need to have a closer look. It’s a fantastic sport and the horses have the best care taken of them.

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

Adrian: The 26th of December. The busiest day in the racing year and it’s fantastic if you have a good Christmas period.

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

Adrian: If you have a passion, before you pursue it you have to be 100% dedicated to succeed.

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I know how busy Adrian is, so firstly I want to say a massive thank you to him for taking time out of his day to let me ask him some questions. Adrian is a brilliant talent and with the powerful horses he is able to ride, he will definitely succeed and do great things within the sport.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I have writing it.

See you all very soon for my next post!

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A Stable Visit to Racefield Stables + A Full Interview with Phil and Grace Mcentee

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Heya guys!

So this weekend I went down to Newmarket where I spent the morning with Phil Mcentee and his family at their Racefield Stables, I can honestly say it was one of my favourite mornings. Even though we were in the middle of a storm, it was an amazing morning and the whole family are just lovely.

When we arrived Phil explained to us that there are only four members of staff and he is one of them. It is a small operation with currently 19 horses in training. Phil has been at Racefield Stables for 10 years now and it is a lovely set up that he has. Shortly after arriving Bernie’s Boy was getting ready to leave for the first at Lingfield, where we now know he finished second with Grace on board, which is another brilliant win for the whole family.

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One thing I noticed about Phil’s yard is it is very much a family occasion, the whole family are involved in one way or another and I think that is so special, as each winner is a huge family victory.

We then went up onto the famous Newmarket gallops to watch a couple of horses exercising. Phil explained on a day like today they will do an hour on the walker then a run up the gallops for around 4 furlong and then back into their stable for some food and rest.

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Of course, we also got to go around Phil’s yard and meet all of his horses, which is always brilliant.

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The one thing I did notice during the tour around his horses is how passionate Phil is for every horse he owns. You can see he loves them and they clearly love him too.

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One thing many people don’t see is the hard work that goes into getting a horse to the racetrack and what I absolutely loved about the visit was seeing how hands on Phil is with his horses. Some trainers aren’t as hands on with their horses, but Phil told us he makes up 25% of his workforce so therefore he has no choice but to be hands on, but he also said he loves his job so he doesn’t mind doing the, not so glamorous, things.

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After a lovely cup of tea, I was then able to sit down with Phil and Grace and interview them. Here is what they had to say…

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Me: What is the best advice you have received from another trainer or another jockey?

Phil: For me, I would say… I think Olly Murphy quoted this one, it’s the old one we’ve all been told. Keep yourself in the best company and your horses in the worst. But, no listen, as long as your horses are healthy that’s the most important thing. Work hard and as I say, place them properly.

Grace: I’d probably just say patience is key really, you’ve gotta be patient. It doesn’t just come straight away, you’ve got to work hard at it. But when it does pay off it’s worth the wait.

Me: This question we have already spoke about briefly, but where do you stand with people that say the whip should be banned?

Phil: Erm, yeah, I mean I’d be anti banning the whip absolutely. The problem is, the perception is probably, people that don’t really truly understand the thoroughbred or the horse at all are the ones that want the whip banned. In the long term, the whip has got to remain a part of racing, it’s there as a corrector. My view on going forward, what’s the best way to get rid of the whole whip debate, I personally think you should disqualify the horse if the jockey goes over and I think that very soon you’ll see a huge change in what happens with jockey’s that go over using the whip.

Grace: I think if you ask most jockey’s in the weighing room every single one of them would say they don’t want to go out there without a whip, because it is there as a guidance to the horse, it’s not necessarily used to tell them off, it is just a guidance, so if you’ve got one hanging, you can correct them. And I don’t think it really should get banned as it doesn’t even hurt them, it’s cushioned and I don’t think a lot of people realise that.

Me: If you could pick one horse that you haven’t had any involvement in from the past or present, what horse would you choose?

Phil: For me, jumping, it’s a horse I was involved in, I worked for David Elsworth from 86 to 89 and Desert Orchid, I got to ride him out. The head lad at the time used to ride him a lot, well all of the time, but on the odd Sunday when he wasn’t around I got to sit on him a couple of times. He was really keen and there was just one canter he used to go up and, without blowing my own trumpet here, but obviously Elsworth obviously thought I was good enough and had good hands. When I was an apprentice, I used to ride Desert Orchid very occasionally. So for me, the time I was at Elsworth’s Desert Orchid was in his prime and that was brilliant. And on the flat, I’ve got to say standing in the Grand Stand at Newmarket when Frankel went 8 clear in the Guineas, that was something I’ll never forget. So for me, Frankel and Dessie.

Grace: Yeah, obviously I’d have to choose Frankel. I think he’d be most people’s favourite just because of, no other horse being like him. So I’d have to say Frankel.

Me: What racecourse do you love to go to? What is your favourite?

Phil: I’ve got to say, erm, Cheltenham is just around the corner, so to go as a spectacle, four days at Cheltenham, every horse in every race trying for it’s life, the absolute best in all the disciplines is right up there. And I was very fortunate, I was a rubbish jump jockey for a couple years and I got to ride a winner at Cheltenham, So the feeling of jumping the last and coming up that hill at Cheltenham is second to none, so for me I’d say Cheltenham.

Grace: I’d probably say Ascot, my favourite day’s racing their is Champion’s Day and I just think the track itself an the atmosphere, I’d say it’s my favourite track.

Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose? What sticks in your head the most?

Phil: I’m going to say when Emily Goldfinch…

Grace: I was going to say we’ll both say the same.

Phil: Again, it’s all personal with us, you know, every horse I train… I’ve got some brilliant loyal owners and every winner we’ve trained for them has been really good. Grace rode a winner at the Rowley Mile, last year, two years ago?

Grace: A year ago, yeah last year.

Phil: On Emily Goldfinch, owned by her sister, in her colours, trained by me, Grace’s first ever winner of the Rowley Mile. And my first as I’d had winners at the July course but not the Rowley Mile. So, yeah that was a special day.

Grace: Yeah that would be mine. It’s kind of, I think that was possibly my third winner for Dad and obviously my sister owning it, at our local track, it was just the highlight of my career so far.

Me: If you could choose one horse, who is in training with someone else, to ride or train, what horse would you choose?

Phil: The problem is you all want to train the superstars don’t you? On the flat, Enable, what she’s done, Breeders Cup, Arc’s, you know, she’s been an unbelievable filly. And we get to see her every morning on Newmarket Heath too as well. That’s the glory of this game, especially training here at Newmarket, I’ll be sat waiting for the horses to come up and all of a sudden Enable comes past you and Stradivarius. At the moment the horses in Newmarket are brilliant, so on the flat Enable. Over the jumps, gosh there’s been so many good ones over the years, but Native River – horses like that the longevity you get out of horses like that, with jumps horses, we don’t really have that so much over the flat so yeah I’d say because she’s in Newmarket and I see her every day Enable would do me, a trip to the Arc and the Breeders Cup.

Grace: I knew we was going to have the same answer to a lot of these. Just for the same reasons, we will ride past her in the mornings and she’s just one of the best there is. I’d love to ride Enable but the chances of that happening are very very low.

Phil: We see them and get close to these horses even though they’re not yours.

Grace: Yeah, they’re almost famous in their own rights.

Me: With people like Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien retiring from the saddle due to struggling with their weight, how difficult is that for you to keep your weight to a healthy weight? Have you found that difficult or quite easy?

Grace: To begin with my weight was quite good and I could more or less eat whatever I wanted. But as I have got older I have got slightly heavier, erm so like Monday just gone I went to speak to a diet nutritionist, so there are plenty of people out there who can help you out and keep your weight but doing it in the right way. Obviously a lot of jockey’s sweat and it’s not the best thing for you, so trying to sort out a diet, it’s more kind of trying to maintain that weight.

Phil: Yeah you have to be disciplined in doing it. But ultimately of course the sacrifices have to be made. Grace is lucky that I can know a week or two in advance if there’s going to be a light one pop up and also she realises now, it helps that she’s just lost her seven pound claimer, but with 48 hour declarations, you might get a call up and have to lose a couple of pounds.

Grace: I’d say that in a jockey’s life, that’s what is the most stress for them. Every single day that’s all you’re worried about, jumping on the scales and checking your weight and doing it the right way. It’s part of the job and you know going into it it’s something you’re going to have to deal with but it’s worth it when you have the winners.

Phil: With Donnacha and Joseph, they were riding classic winners, so it’s slightly easier going to Southwell on a Tuesday, but they all have to make their sacrafices.

Me: Obviously here you have a small team, but you can see just how loved every single horse is, what would you say to someone who thinks horse racing is animal cruelty? For me, you can see how much they are loved by everyone here, but a lot of people still have those comments to make.

Phil: Yeah, I mean, the problem is they’re making a judgement call on 60 seconds or 90 seconds they see on a Saturday where they think the horses are being abused. They are looked after like…

Grace: They’re literally pets at ours. We don’t see them as just horses, we see them as our pets. Like we have bonds with every single one of them and we would be absolutely devastated if anything happened to any one of them or they had to get sold.

Phil: I think it’s the treatment they get, they get fed three times a day, they have duvet rugs on, they get groomed, they get lovely bedding, they get nice feed, they get the best of everything these horses. They have the best of everything. There are a lot of humans around the world in a lot worse condition than these horses are, trust me. They are so well looked after and loved by the people who look after them and ride them, the people that own them. As I say genetically over hundreds of years these guys have been bred to race and that’s what they’re here to do. And as we said, the whip now is cushioned and people have no idea the concept of what goes on behind the scenes.

Me: Obviously every jockey and every trainer has a dream, what is the big dream for you? What’s the one race you’d just love to win?

Phil: Erm, listen, the reality is I’m probably never going to have a classic horse or a Gold Cup horse, trainers are only as good as their owners budgets really. But this year we’ve got a filly we got from Book 1, a little yearling and we’ve never had a Book 1 yearling before, by Golden Horn and I’ve acquired her and I own her myself so erm, she’s a bit of an ugly duckling at the moment, but the dream, who knows? With her pedigree, her grandmother was a champion, her dad was a champion, so this year the dream is could she go and do something spectacular? It would be brilliant if she could. And as I own her and Grace to be on her, if she’s any good and could be good enough to run in a group race with Grace to ride her. I won’t set the goals too high but to have a group winner with Grace riding it, anywhere is my dream right now.

Grace: Yeah, I would love that dream. But realistically for me now I just want to ride as many winners as I can. There’s no specific grades…

Phil: Well if you can win the Hands and Heels series today.

Grace: Yeah and possibly the All Weather Championship for apprentices. My main goal is just to ride my claim out really and have a safe career and just enjoy it and get what I can out of it.

Me: So obviously you rode out your 7 pound claimer this week and Phil told us earlier he got very emotional about it, how special is that for the both of you to share that relationship by riding out your claim on one of your dad’s horses and obviously seeing your daughter succeed like she is on one of your horses and being able to succeed together?

Phil: Yeah, for me, two or three years ago when Grace got her amateur license she was going to college and she wasn’t going to be a jockey.

Grace: Yeah, it was a dream from when I was a young kid but as I got older I wanted to do eventing and I wasn’t as interested in racing as I once was when I was younger. But then I started working for dad and I fell in love with it again.

Phil: Yeah, exactly. To be able to share this with Grace and as you’ve seen my daughter has just gone off racing and my other daughter and we’re all off going there today. So yeah, it’s really good. It’s given it an extra buzz every day coming in the yard. We’ve got horses here that are winning and the yard is in good form and to know potentially you can have a winner or two and to have Grace riding them is brilliant.

Me: And Grace your dad told us earlier you’ve grown up around a lot of successful women, Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle, how inspirational is that for you as you’re coming through the ranks, being able to work with such successful female jockey’s?

Grace: Yeah, they’ve just proven it can be done. Josie was champion apprentice, Hollie has won over hundred winners so they’ve proven that is can be done so it gives you hope and faith that you can follow in their footsteps as it has been done before. There is people out there who do believe in girls and want to use girls so yeah, it’s just good really to have them as a guide to follow.

Me: And what would be your horse to watch for the season?

Grace: I think Split Down South when he gets on the turf, I think he can improve even more from what he has done on the all weather. I think he’s one to look at on the turf and see how he goes.

Phil: Yeah, with him, the grey horse race at Newmarket is definitely on his radar, it’s on ITV, it’s a Saturday race and there’s good prize money on offer. I think when he goes in a straight line on the turf he’ll be nice as well. I think, as I mentioned earlier, the Golden Horn filly, she’s an unnamed two year old at the moment, she’s the one, the golden ticket. Because as you’ve seen, we are a very small team, there’s not a lot of funds floating around the yard at any stage, so I managed to acquire her and I own her myself and with her pedigree if she wins a maiden or does any good she might be worth a bit of money, so who knows? We might get to go on holiday. 

Me: And my final question, what would be your one piece of advice for a young person with a dream or passion they want to follow whether that be within racing or outside of racing?

Grace: I’d say just give it time. Things don’t happen over night, just stay at it, keep trying and just be patient. That’s all I can say.

Phil: Yeah, never give up on your dream, whatever you want to do in life. Speaking in the horse industry, there are so many avenues to get into it and when you are in it, it is so rewarding and so many highs and lows and the every day stuff, it’s a brilliant industry to be in. But ultimately as a youngster, you have to work hard and never give up on your dreams.

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I want to say a massive thank you to Phil, firstly for allowing us to visit his gorgeous set up and a massive thank you to Phil, Grace and the whole team for a brilliant morning. I thoroughly enjoyed this visit, it was incredible to see such a small team compared to others I have visited, but they care so much about these animals and I love to see that. For me I think Phil is an incredible trainer and the passion he has for the sport you can see a mile away. Grace is a ridiculously talented rider and in my personal opinion I would love to see more trainers give her the opportunity to ride in the bigger races because she could give any male jockey a run for their money and I hope more trainers do take notice of how well she is doing and give her those opportunities.

Overall we had an incredible morning and as discussed with Phil, we will hopefully be working together again in the future which will be very exciting.

Thank you for reading, I thoroughly hope you have enjoyed reading!

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