Irish Racing – Featuring Visits to Listowel, Leopardstown and Galway by Stuart King

Irish Racing

Hiya,

Today’s post comes from Stuart King (juan_the_man21 on twitter) all about Irish racing. I hope you enjoy.

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Through this blog I want to review 3 of my visits to the Irish racing shores within 2019. Over the last few years I have begun venturing over to the emerald isle for my hit of pure thoroughbred racing and it has become somewhat of a fixture in my calendar year on year visiting different racecourses and sampling the local cuisine and nightlife. This blog reviews the three I visited last year.

My first visit was to the home of the newly established Dublin racing festival and the only racecourse within county Dublin. A 2 day festival with the quality I think, to rival if not surpass that of Cheltenham week. That said it is much easier to establish quality races within 2 days than it is the current 4 at Cheltenham. 2018 wetted our appetites with stellar performances from Footpad, Min, Supasundae, Samcro and the fairytale that was Edwulf winning the Irish Gold Cup even if it did cost me a nice Trixie.

2019 we saw the likes of Commander of Fleet win the 2m6f novice hurdle, then a performance from Apple’s Jade that had all the hallmarks at the time of a champion hurdles heroine and finally a bumper performance from Envoi Allen that had us all licking our lips for the 2019/20 season. Sir Erec duly followed on the Sunday and I thought we had seen the future stars but sadly Sir Erec was ill fated at Cheltenham when seemingly carrying the substantial wagers of many racing fans. Other top class wins were gained by Klassical Dream, Bellshill and Santa Rossa. This gives you an idea of the quality races Leopardstown offers and for the racing fan there is no better to place to see such quality racing over the course of 2 days.

The transport to the racecourse from the airport is very good indeed. There is a shuttle bus with pick ups throughout Dublin which drops you at the doorstep of the Clayton Hotel (extra bonus if your staying there), there is then a max 10 min walk to the racecourse. Definitely avoid the taxi’s unless you have your gold card ready, we fell for that on our first visit.

For the last 2 years we stayed at the Clayton hotel 2018 & 2019. It has to be said the second year there was much more atmosphere, I think helped by the fact Ireland and England we involved in a 6 nations titanic tussle. I did however notice the prices we on the increase from the first festival in 2017 so we are taking a leap of faith this year and booked an Air B and B in central Dublin.

We also paid a visit to the ‘Lep inn’ again that had good atmosphere and decent food but it was exceptionally busy. Other than the Lep there isn’t much in Leopardstown itself for evening entertainment. The racecourse put a band/ singer on and many people stayed after racing, this is the only element to me that the Dublin racing festival could improve upon, maybe they could take a leaf out of Galway’s book?

To the other side of Ireland and the west coast, when the wind if blowing make sure you have your best Thermal coat because even at the beginning of August you are more likely to come back with Pneumonia than your pockets full! But then again Galway isn’t as much about the racing as Leopardstown but more about the craic and the atmosphere. The reputation of Galway spreads far and wide and we as race goers wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

We landed at Dublin, collected our car from Avis and off we popped, pretty much one direct road from Dublin to Galway but whatever you do, don’t take the wrong exit at the first roundabout we ended up at the docs with the armed Garda. Once on the right road and the three wise men set on the journey this time in the right direction!

A couple of hours drive and we arrived at the apartments, we heard that the place to drink after racing was at the Clayton so we found some cheap apartments right next door to the Clayton. Check in was effortless and the room clean and spacious no need to pay 3 times the price to be in the Clayton. The second time we went we splashed out on the Clayton and I have to say they didn’t cater in the slightest for residents and they had no specific bar to be served at after racing. You can quite easily stay 100yards away for one third of the price and enjoy the vibe at no extra cost.

To the racing we went full of hope and excitement, a mix of flat and jumps, day an evening racing consisting of 7 days of bundles of handicaps and full speed cavalry charges with the odd sprinkling of class, but never discount the market movers. ‘Small’ trainers seem to make hay there, Sheila Lavery and Ado McGuiness I keep a particular eye on. We however can not last the full 7 days, we dropped from 3 days to 2 this year and went for the Monday and Tuesday of the festival. Good times for the O’Briens and Mr Mullins but even better for when Saltonstall won the premier Handicap at SP 9/1. A few Guinness were sunk courtesy of that one. But my fondest memory of all and something I never do is back a name rather than study the form and after the run in with the Garda on route to the festival in 2017, Mr De Bromhead ran a horse called Three Wise Men and these 3 wise men duly emptied the satchels of the bookies and had a night I presume I enjoyed as I can’t remember!

This leads me directly on to the reason why Galway is much loved within the racing community, we have done it the cheap way and the more expensive way but we always end up having the same enjoyable time. Yes the racing is a complete minefield but the craic and the atmosphere is the best I’ve ever experienced. Galway centre has pubs and bars aplenty, standing room only and lots of live music to choose from. I must also say that if you ever visit Galway and you have rented a car take a trip to Clarinbridge and visit Paddy Burke’s they have the finest baked Oysters and seafood chowder!

My final visit to Ireland in 2019 was my first ever visit to the Listowel Harvest festival, another 7 day meeting within the Irish racing calendar. This was a rather last minute

decision, no accommodation was available near the racecourse and we ended up staying in Limerick not too far but far enough to be a slight inconvenience at an Air B and B called Willmount on Ennis Rd only a walk across the bridge from the centre, which I have to say for the money was brilliant value and I couldn’t fault it.

The drive to Listowel proved to be shorter than expected as the roads were clear of traffic and the routes connecting Dublin to the likes of Galway and Limerick on the west coast are very easy to drive and are flowing. We took a walk around Listowel itself and we soon realised why there was no accommodation available. We only managed to spot 1 place to stay in the centre. That is not to say there aren’t anymore however if you’re looking to go and want to stay in Listowel you will need to book early. It is a quaint little town with all the amenities but if you’re like us and you like the craic then I can’t imagine it being buzzing in a similar manner to Galway.

Onto the racecourse and after being to Leopardstown and Galway I was expecting something similar and when we walked in it was very similar to that of a Ripon or Catterick somewhere between the 2 is the best way to describe it. However the use of space was very good, plenty of places to get a pint of the black stuff and several food stations with plenty to offer. The parade ring was easily accessible and the viewing very good, however if you want to watch by the rails it does feel as though you are below the track so to speak.

The racing started off fantastic with an EW steal in the first on a horse I have ear marked as one to follow, given a cunning ride from Derrick Fox, For Everyone nipped round the inner and obliged at 14s. He hasn’t run since but he gave weight and beat a horse called A Wave of The Sea whom has since run in a Grade 2, I suggest For Everyoneis is put in more notebooks than mine. Shock in the second Stratum gets turned over but surprisingly then wins the Ceasarewhich! Zola then breezes in at Even money after a massive drift and Wicklow brave shows all his class to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Cabaret Queen then finishes second and goes back to Listowel to win the Munster National.

On the Monday racing reverted back to the flat, oh no was the cry after the first day success. A couple of EW pokes were not enough to stem the flow of cash back to the bookie’s satchels. I somehow managed to miss a Hogan handicap blot and the good thing of the day Lancaster House. Franklin Street for JP O’Brien stemmed the flow with a good performance and the performance of the ill fated Angel’s Amy was a sight to behold routing the opposition by 7L over 8F. The lucky last a statement I have never believed in until the last race on the Monday, a paddock pick John Oxx’s, Clockers Corner looked the part and at 10s the price was too big to pass up. The butcher and I duly rowed in with cash aplenty EW, we didn’t need the EW element he duly hosed up. I do have put a special mention to Tuesday’s flat race as Soviet Pimpernel beat The Little Yank both of whom I think could be good horses over the coming 18 months.

After the success at the races we ventured into Limerick centre buzzing with students this was not the butcher’s scene but a tour round the pubs ensued and many a pint of Guinness was drunk. On our walk back through the city we stumbled into a small bar one for the road, why not, a bottle of Jameson’s later I don’t think we knew what day it was. Cheers to John Oxx! The following days drive back to Dublin Airport I spent cursing Mr Oxx for getting me in that state!

In summary all the trips above were done on a budget and as you all know these can be as expensive as you want to make them but for example the trip to Listowel including car (not petrol) and tickets was done on around £120 each whereas the trip to Galway staying in the Clayton opposite the racecourse was just shy of £300 per person. Some even do Leopardstown in the same day due to the transport links back to Manchester.

For the purist Ireland is most definitely worth a visit and I would recommend it to anyone.

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Thank you for reading this post, I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did when Stuart sent it to me! I will see you all in my next post, which is going to be a horse racing Q&A where I am answering all of your questions. If you have any questions you’d like answered there is a question box on my Instagram story right NOW so make sure you head over there: instagram.com/zoelouisesmithx and ask me any questions you have racing related. See you all the weekend with that post!

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Visiting Philip Hobbs’ Sandhill Racing Stable

Visiting Philip Hobbs' Sandhill Racing Stable

Hiya guys!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit Philip Hobbs’ incredible Sandhill stables based down in Minehead. Philip started in 1985 with just 6 horses, he now has 110 in training. With these 110 horses, Philip’s goal per year is to have 100 winners and £1 million in prize money.

When we arrived we met Philip who introduced us to his assistant trainer Johnson White. Johnson would be showing us around all day as Philip himself had a very important day at Ascot with Defi Du Seuil. But before Philip left he met us, took photos and spoke to us about Defi and what chance he thought he had, he also arranged for us to be guests of his yard at Taunton races, which was lovely of him. Thank you to Mr Hobbs and his team for being so lovely with us.

So before I get into the day , I want to say a massive thank you to Johnson who was very knowledgeable, answered all of our questions and was just a lovely person all around. Johnson started by showing us around the ins and outs of the yard, including his office, his head girls’ office. The stable have multiple lists around the offices including, what the horses have done on that day, if the horse has a cough or a cut or anything wrong with them, so they can always go back and look at the lists if there is ever an issue.

We were then shown one of the most important rooms, the silks room. Each owner of course has their own colours so it is a super important job to ensure the right colours go with the right horses. Yesterday Philip had multiple horses going to multiple places, so it was important to make sure everything was in line and correct.

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Then we were taken around to the walkers, where we met the lovely Thyme Hill who was warming up. Johnson told us, they all love Thyme Hill and he is definitely a horse to watch out for. The horses normally do 30 minutes on a walker to warm up, do their work and then 30 minutes to cool down after being washed off.

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Johnson also showed us the weighing scales, where each horse is weighed before they leave the yard for a race and then when they return. He said on average a horse will lose around 10kg, however a horse travelling a fair distance, like Haydock yesterday would lose around 15kg. But within 24-48 hours they are normally back to their starting weight. 

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Johnson then took us to meet the lovely Rock The Kasbah before he set off to Taunton for his race, in which he ended up coming second. Rock The Kasbah has always been a horse I have adored so it was a total dream to finally meet him and wish him luck for his big race. He is a super loving horse, so calm and cool and collected. Johnson did say that he would not like the heavy ground at all, but they were running him as they had no other options for him and if he didn’t run now it would be another 6-8 weeks before he ran at all. So hearnig that, it was very nice to see him come second even though he hates the heavy ground.

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We were then taken up to the gallops where Philip has two different gallops. He has a woodchip gallop and a polytrack gallop. Johnson said that regularly the horses train 6 days a week doing 3 times up the polytrack gallop or 2 on the woodchip gallop, depending on workload, racing plans etc.

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We got to see some very talented horses, including some younger horses yet to run and some incredible horses we all know and have probably bet on before.

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We walked up the hill to the top of the gallop and we were all breathing heavily and feeling it in our legs. So that showed us how much work these horses do put in every day to reach top fitness.

Johnson then took us down to their outdoor 12 foot pool. He said currently they only have one horse that swims, but if they feel swimming will help a horse without too much pressure on their legs and back then that’s the route they go down. Their pool is a gravity fed pool from their pond and then they add chlorine to make sure it is safe for the animals. He said normally a horse would do 6 laps around the pool and then come out and go onto a walker to dry before going back to their stable. 

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We were then welcomed into Philip’s house where we had some lovely breakfast and a cuppa where the team answered some of the questions we had.

Johnson told us he had worked for Philip for 25 years and that the whole team love working for him. He also told us Richard Johnson, Philip’s stable jockey and Champion jockey, visits the yard at least once every 2 weeks to ride out for him. However he did say that the majority of the staff Philip has are jockeys/amateurs/conditionals so they don’t need Richard there every single day as they have the capacity to ride the horses out and school them. But having Richard there is obviously an added bonus as he is probably (almost definitely) the person who will be riding these horses on the track. So it’s good to have him school the horses and get a good feel for them.

We were then allowed to walk around the yard and meet some of their stable stars, including Thyme Hill, Reikers Island, Horse Force One (one of the most loving horses I have ever met), Brother Tedd and JP’s Jerrysback.

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Both Philip and Johnson both said Defi is in top form going into yesterday’s race and they fully expected him to win. They wouldn’t give too much away about which route at Cheltenham they would go down and said they would leave it until the ‘last possible moment’ to make any decisions in regard to Defi and Thyme Hill’s futures. He said they regularly make a plan of action for horses but they leave it down to the last possible second to decide what they actually want to do.

Overall we had an amazing day at the yard, the whole team were lovely and very knowledgeable. They were understaffed due to having so many runners in different places so their staff were out with their horses. But they all mucked in to make sure all of the work was done and the horses were all looked after. Again, another visit where the horses welfare is at the forefront of everything they do. You can just see how much the stable staff adore the horses and how well looked after they truly are.

I want to say a massive thank you to Philip, Johnson and the whole team for their incredible hospitality and being so lovely, even on such a busy and hectic day!

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We were then lucky enough to pop down to Taunton whilst down there and be guests of Philip’s at their Portman Cup Day, which was an honour. So again, thank you to Philip for personally sorting that for us. It was truly an incredible end to an incredible day with his team.

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I find it super interesting when visiting different yards, that each trainer does the same thing with the same goal, but they all do it slightly different. Again, yesterday was the same concept but slightly different in how Philip does it. It’s amazing to have that insight into how such a successful trainer operates. He has been in the top 6 trainers for over 2 decades, which is an achievement in itself, so it truly was an honour spending the morning with his team and I am grateful to Philip for allowing me the opportunity.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed reading and I will see you all again soon, in my next post!

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Four Horses to Follow from the West Country by Joseph Bell

Four Horses to Follow West Country

Hiya guys,

Today’s post comes to you from Joseph Bell (jm_bell95 on Twitter) as a guest writer, I really hope you enjoy reading his post as much as I did.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I am passionate about National Hunt racing and particularly jump racing in the South West. Here I will give you four horses, based in yards here in Devon/Cornwall/Somerset or Dorset to keep your eye on for the future and during the season.

Cobra Angel (IRE) – 6yo Brown Mare

Breeding: Flemensfirth x Lemon Cello (Accordion)

Trainer: Chris Down (Cullompton)

Owner: Upton Racing 2

Form: P/6-246P5

BHA Rating: N/A

Chris Down began training in 2002 and has had some smart horses in their own right pass through his hands. Rhacophorus was the winner of the listed champion flat race at Aintree in 2006 when ridden by none other than Ruby Walsh. He would later be sold for £220,000 while Sir Harry Ormesher (Both owned by breeder Bill Bromley) was sold for £75,000. Since then, it’s been harder going for Down who also breeds horses himself. In recent times, he trained a smart mare named LOYAUTE who reached a mark of 132 in her prime.

Cobra Angel has a long way to go to live up to those named before her however she’s made an encouraging start to her rules career. She was purchased for £10,000 at Goffs back in August after reaching the frame in her last two Irish points. She made a satisfactory debut at Exeter behind the smart Queens Cave to finish 6th when just weakening close home. A disappointing run at Warwick in heavy conditions (15 started, only 3 finished) followed in December however she returned on New Year’s Day back at Exeter and finished 5th. Although her form is modest and she’s been beaten at long odds so far, she improved last time when doing her best work late on when staying on past beaten rivals. She’ll need another completion over hurdles to get an official mark however she is getting better and is likely to improve for a step up in trip and handicaps. She may only make into a low grade handicapper however she’ll be one to keep on the right side of in modest staying handicap hurdles around the west country tracks.

Tile Tapper (GB) – 6yo Bay Gelding

Breeding: Malinas x Darn Hot (Sir Harry Lewis)

Trainer: Jimmy Frost (Buckfastleigh)

Owner: No Illusions Partnership

Form: 3-41

BHA Rating: N/A

Jimmy Frost has been a household name in the South West since riding his first winner in a point to point in 1972 at the tender age of just 14. He would go an ride over 500 winners under rules including the 1989 Grand National and 1991 Champion Hurdle. He took over training from his father Richard back in 2001. His best season came in 2005/06 where he trained 21 winners and has been operating consistently in recent years average 5/6 winners a season with his small string of horses with Newton Abbot being his favourite place to have a winner.

Tile Tapper is a fine looking gelding who is a homebred for the No Illusions Partnership. He’s the half-brother to the two time winning handicapper Hot Ryan (Trained by David Pipe). He made his racecourse debut in March in a 4,5&6yo PTP flat race at Milborne St Andrew finishing third behind two nice rivals for local yards. He was switched from Chris Honour’s stable to Frost’s and made his debut in an Exeter bumper in December when beaten only four lengths back in fourth place behind the exciting Picanha. He was a long way behind that day and showed tremendous resolution to overcome traffic problems and still finish fourth. The three in front of him that day look to be above average and his promise was backed up and more on New Year’s Day at Exeter when overcoming another decent field. Although we couldn’t see much of the race, it’s clear this gelding has a fair engine and was staying on well right to the line. He had some well fancied, well regarded rivals in behind and gave his trainer his first bumper winner at the 132nd attempt. It’s great to see Jimmy have a really exciting horse to go to war with for the rest of the season and it’ll be interesting to see how he progresses throughout his career.

Woulduadamandeveit (IRE) – 7yo Bay Gelding

Breeding: Stowaway x Figlette (Darshaan)

Trainer: Sue Gardner (Longdown, Exeter)

Owner: Keith Harris & Tom Gardner

Form: 2302/876P-05

BHA Rating: 102 (Hurdles)

Sue Gardner is always a name to keep an eye on in particular when her runners are at their native Exeter or when they have an away day outside of Devon, if their horses attract market support, you know it’s likely to be a good thing. Alongside her husband Des, they’ve built an excellent racing yard alongside their breeding operation (Woodhayes Stud). It’s a family affair with daughter Lucy taking the ride on the majority of their horses. In recent times, Sue has enjoyed a couple of big days out with the apple of their eye COEUR BLIMEY who took the listed championship flat race at Ascot in December 2015. Trans Express is another stable star who’s 5 course wins at Exeter have all come over 2m2f including winning the same race on the last three occasions that it has been run.

Woulduadamandeveit made an eye catching debut at Stratford back in 2017 before going on to run an absolute blinder in the listed bumper at Cheltenham’s Paddy Power meeting later that year. He was coming with a real rattle before encountering traffic issues and still stayed on to grab third. A heavy defeat followed in a listed bumper at Ascot before running another mighty race on a big day when chasing home Acey Milan in the flat race on Betfair Hurdle day in 2018 beating rivals such as Good Boy Bobby and even Brewin’upastorm. His hurdling career sadly hasn’t lived up to the hype so far of his bumper promise failing to make the frame in his last 6 starts. He was well supported for his handicap debut off a mark of 107 at Uttoxeter before it all went wrong and he bled from the nose. After a long break, he ran flat once more when needing the run at Chepstow in October. He clearly improved for that outing in November when finishing 5th of 12 over 2m3f off a new mark of 103. He’s often shown a tendency to jump left handed and shapes as though a stiff 2m4f or further on a more galloping track will really suit him and providing all of his earlier issues regarding the bleeding are behind him, he should find races well within his grasp of his low mark given

he’s only had three starts in handicap company, he’s still relatively unexposed and he’s beginning to slowly get the hang of things.

Unwin VC (IRE) – 6yo Bay Gelding

Breeding: Black Sam Bellamy x Becky B (Alflora)

Trainer: Bob Buckler (Bridgwater)

Owner: Golden Cap

Form: 11/9392-431

BHA Rating: 133 (Hurdles)

Bob Buckler has been training racehorses since the 1988-89 jumps season. He’s based at Gibb Hill Farm on the Quantock Hills and has had some very nice horses in his care down the years. SEE ENOUGH delivered Buckler his first big success landing the Rendlesham Hurdle in 1996. His biggest success possibly came when NICHE MARKET landed the 2009 Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse at odds of 33/1, while THE SAWYER delivered Buckler two Grade 3 handicap chases victories in a career which saw him rated well into the 140’s during the peak of his career. In recent times, he’s flagbearer has been REGAL FLOW who took the 2018 Midlands National at Uttoxeter and ran a huge race last Saturday when just touched off in the Veterans Chase final at Sandown Park.

In the shape of Unwin VC, he has the potential to be one of Buckler’s best horses. He’s the frame of a trojan horse, he’s a big boy and was very raw and green on his racecourse debut (Feb 18’) when sensationally did everything wrong before rallying late on to produce an excellent victory. He’d back that promise up with victory in a Wincanton bumper at the end of the 2017/18 season. All of a sudden, the hype was becoming reality. He grew further over that summer and looked big and strong before running in a listed bumper at Cheltenham when ultimately outclassed. A satisfactory hurdle debut followed back at Exeter before a really disappointing display beaten over 70 lengths in a Chepstow maiden hurdle. He then would return to form with a nice 2nd back at Exeter beaten just under a length by Truckers Lodge (who’s finished second in a Welsh National). Since returning this season, he finished fourth in a decent novice hurdle on Haldon Gold Cup day at Exeter before being beaten 15l at Ffos Las on handicap debut. This striking gelding clearly has an obsession with Exeter as he notched up his third career success and second on Haldon Hill when destroying a novice hurdle field on extremely deep ground in December. He really is a big, powerful gelding who’s going to stay all day. It’s a waiting game really until we see him over fences which really will see him at the best of his ability. His trainer really does like this horse and has confirmed he’ll stay over hurdles this season. The ground is probably key to him as he wants it as deep as possible and you wouldn’t be surprised if in a few seasons, you seem him entertaining big, staying handicap chases on soft/heavy ground.

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Thank you for reading today’s post. My next post will be a Philip Hobbs’ stable visit and it will be live on Sunday (19th January) at 11am!

See you all then!

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Visiting Michael Scudamore’s Eccleswall Court

Michael Scudamore

Hey guys!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Michael Scudamore’s gorgeous Eccleswall Court in Herefordshire, so today’s post is all about that visit and some real insights from Michael into various racing issues, such as bookmakers sponsoring jockeys and trainers, the whip and the Little Rory Mac scandal.

Firstly, we arrived at Eccleswall Court and can I just say how gorgeous it is, there is such a lovely view from the top of the hill, it is in the Hereford countryside and it is truly incredible up there.

Michael and his team only moved to Eccleswall in 2003 and at the time it was literally just a farm, so he has had to put a lot of work into making it what it is today. Michael currently has 40 horses in training, including 8 new horses that arrived this week from another yard.

Michael firstly took us down to the walkers and wash down area, he currently has 2 walkers. Every horse does a 20 minute warm up on one walker, then goes onto the gallops. Firstly the circle sand gallop which Michael only recently got installed at Eccleswall, they do 4 laps right handed, 4 laps left handed. They then do a sprint up the hill gallop before going back to the wash area, being washed off, having their blankets put on and then put onto the second walker and doing a 20 minute cool down.

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We were lucky enough to go up to the gallops and watch the horses on the sand gallop and the hill gallop. His horses all have incredible stamina and all of the work riders give top feedback to Michael each time they come around near him. For example one rider told him he could hear his horse had thick wind. Little bits of information which are vital to ensuring the horses get the best possible treatment and training they may need.

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One thing I can say, nothing against any of the other stables/trainers I have visited, but Michael is definitely the most hands on trainer I have been to visit. Always involved in every step of the morning set up which I thought was very very nice to see. He doesn’t just put his name to the yard, he is hands on every single day. For example, when a horse didn’t want to know on the gallops and the stable lass was having a bit of trouble, Michael ran straight down to get the horse going and didn’t bat an eyelid in doing so. A small gesture, but something I had never seen in any other visit I had been on.

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One of Michael’s new horses we did see was Fame and Glory, who looks as though he is gonna be a complete beast on the course. Good stamina, good speed and the stable lass was really impressed riding him for the first time.

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Michael then took us up to the stable blocks where we got to meet all of his horses. One thing I can say, is every single horse was calm and affectionate, with one even sticking it’s head and neck out even further as we got closer to him to make sure we didn’t miss him out.

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After seeing all parts of the yard, we were then invited into his house to have breakfast and a sit down chat where he answered all of our questions like a true gentleman. 

One thing Michael did talk about and was very honest about was his opinion on bookmakers sponsoring jockeys and trainers. His viewpoint is that our sport is very much about betting whether we like it or not, and he believes that a bookmaker should not be able to sponsor a jockey or trainer as they get a massive insight into the people they are sponsoring and that may mean the sport isn’t as transparent as it should be with the racing public. He also told us he believes the BHA jumped the gun with the Altior situation this past week. He believes that if the BHA don’t trust Nicky to make a decision for the horses best interest then they shouldn’t have given him a license in the first place.

Another thing Michael touched on was the BHA not being as consistent as they maybe should be. He believes there needs to be a panel of the same people each week who get together and discuss the previous week and anything that may need looking into in regards to enquiries etc. With the whole Dan Skelton, New Years Day situation this week, he said that some stewards see it one way, others see it another, so there is no consistency. Whereas if a panel of the same people made every decision per week then there would be more consistency. Which is something I totally agree on. Horse racing can very much be down to an individuals viewpoint of how or why something happened. If it were the same people then surely we would get more consistent results each time something happened? Obviously on a race day we have different stewards, but if one group of people were to look over everything each week then that would be better for our sport? Following on from that, he also believes the sport needs to be more open and transparent to the general public. For example, horses being weighed before a race and being declared to the public, like many other countries already do. Which again, another interesting point he has made. If a horse has weighed 470 all season but then weighs 500 going into a race then you know the horse is unfit. The trainers are being more transparent to the general public and it would certainly stop trainers sending horses out just for a racecourse gallop.

Another very important point he made is that before the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National Festival horses are made to trot before BHA stewards/vets etc to make sure they are fit to race. Michael believes that this should be the case at every meeting or none at all. “What’s the difference between sending a lame horse to Cheltenham or down the road to Chepstow? It should be consistent regardless of where or what meeting.” To me, that makes total sense, why have this set in place at certain meetings, but not others?

Another subject I found interesting, was the fact he believes that if a jockey uses the whip more than permitted they should be disqualified as this is essentially cheating. He said if a horse comes second is only whipped 8 times but the winner is whipped 10 times, did those 2 extra disallowed whips win the race for that horse? He also said he doesn’t believe the whip should be banned as 99% of jockeys stick to the rules and only flick the whip to make a noise to prick the horses up. I thought it’s interesting to note, Michael’s is the first yard I have been to where the stable riders don’t ride with a whip in hand. Every other yard I have visited they all have a whip in hand, even if they never use them. Michael said, this was as he didn’t believe there was a need for a whip as most of the horses love their work and don’t need encouraging. The only time he allows his staff to take a whip out is when the horse is new in from their holiday and may be a little lazy getting back into work.

One thing, of course I had to ask him was about Monbeg Dude and how he came about working with Mike Tindall, James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson. He said that they were at the Cheltenahm sales and after some, (many drinks), that day Mike put his hand up for a horse, showing off, but he thought someone else would outbid him. Turns out, nobody outbid him and he was stuck with a horse he didn’t really want. Zara was apparently totally fuming and said he either sold the horse or got someone else to buy into it, that’s how it came about. Michael, James and Nicky all took to the horse and in the end, it wasn’t a bad decision was it? A ridiculously talented horse at a bargain price of £12,000 as the previous owners were brothers and both thought the other had set a reserve, it turns out neither had so they got the horse so cheap, it was pretty unbelievable.

Michael also commented on wind ops, he believes they definitely work but, in his opinion, you only see it really showing in the 2nd or 3rd run when the horse is more used to breathing easily.

Michael also commented that he believes Richard Johnson will win champion jockey this year. He believes he deserves more credit for what he has achieved over the years and the work he has done for the sport as well as always making time for everybody and being a gentleman even on his bad days.

Overall, Michael was a lovely bloke, his staff were all lovely and yesterday was just incredible. A very knowledgeable group of people and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of our visit. I think it was definitely nice to see a smaller yard in action. Every yard I have visited has worked slightly different. Others I have been to are bigger than Michael’s so I found it very interesting to visit a smaller yard and really see how similar but different things are. All in all, I cannot thank Michael and his team enough for a lovely morning with them.

I really hope you enjoyed this post, I have plenty of new things coming over the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled.

Thank you for reading.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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VIP Stable Visit to Colin Tizzard’s Venn Farm

Colin Tizzard

Hi guys!

So if you follow me on social media, you will know just how excited I was about my day yesterday. Being able to visit Colin Tizzard’s yard and seeing my favourite ever horse Native River! We had the best experience and the team were all incredible. If you know me you will know how much I love horse racing and how much I love Native River, so yesterday was honestly just an incredible day that I will never forget.

When we arrived, we were met by Joe Tizzard, Colin’s son and assistant trainer, he briefly showed us around the stable, including meeting Native River for the first time, which was a dream. 

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We then went out onto the gallops to watch some of the horses work. Again, seeing Joe at work with the team was an honour to watch, he knew every horse by name, every member of staff by name, it was a lovely thing to see.

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We then was lucky enough to go into Joe’s office and watch him enter and declare horses for the next few days/weeks, including him declaring Lostintranslation for tomorrow Betfair Chase. Joe was very open with us and answered every question we had and showed us the behind the scenes that we don’t ever get to see. The hard, tedious work of finding races, putting horses into races and making sure all of the deadlines are met to enter and declare the horses. 

We then went back out to the gallops, where I had the absolute pleasure of watching my favourite every horse Native River working! He looked in great shape and Joe was very happy with him, it was truly an honour to watch a horse I have followed for years actually at work. We also seen Thistlecrack, who again, was in great shape and looked incredible.

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We spoke to so many members of staff, one in particular who was riding out on Native River, said he sometimes takes it for granted being able to work with such incredible athletes because he does it every single day and it isn’t until he sees people visit and sees how excited they get to meet these incredible stable stars that they really appreciate the job that they get to do every single day. Again, the staff were all lovely, everybody spoke and made us feel welcome and answered any questions we had.

Once back to the yard, Joe took us to meet an incredible horse who won on Wednesday The Big Breakaway, he took us into his stable and showed us just how soft a horse can be, cuddling up to everyone and just being really relaxed and chilled out. Which was so lovely to see.

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After we had our bacon rolls and a cuppa, we were then able to go around and meet more of the stable stars, which of course we took full advantage of!

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We then met the lovely Lostintranslation, who may I add, is the most calm, loving, gentle horse I have ever met. He was also the biggest poser you could ever imagine. But with a big race coming up, I loved being able to meet him before he becomes one of the most famous horses in the country.

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I then got the biggest honour ever, I got to walk Native River home to his stable and put his blanket and coat on. Which may seem like such a small gesture from the team, but to me it was an absolute dream. 

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Colin Tizzard is an incredible trainer along with his whole team, they all work so hard, they are literally non-stop all morning and they deserve every piece of credit they get. I want to say a massive thank you to Joe for his incredible hospitality and being so lovely and welcoming and giving us one of the most incredible days. 

One thing I can say, is if you get the opportunity to go to a stable visit, to any of the yards, then 100% take it, each stable visit I go to is completely different, but one thing that is the exact same in each yard is the love they have for these animals and how much they care and look after them. It’s an incredible setting and everybody involved in the sport are all lovely.

I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes of Venn Farm!

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An Updated Interview With Champion Jockey Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Hi guys!

So yesterday, whilst at Wincanton, I was lucky enough to do an updated interview with the Champion Jockey Richard Johnson. So without further ado, we will get straight into it!

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Me: Last time I interviewed you, you tipped Native River as your best chance at Cheltenham and you went on to win the Gold Cup with him, what is your top tip for 2020’s Cheltenham Festival?

Richard: Oh my gosh, erm, I suppose Thyme Hill I won on at Cheltenham the other day, you know, he’s just a really nice horse, he’s won two hurdle races already, they have both been grade 2’s so he’s already shown a very good level of form. And I don’t really know which race he will run in at Cheltenham yet but I know the plan will be to try and go there in March. So fingers crossed.

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

Richard: Look, I think, obviously the whip has been spoken about since I started riding, I think personally, the whip is in a really really good place at the moment. Obviously I think the rules we have over here are very fair for jockeys and the jockeys over here use the whip in a very good way. And I think that horse welfare is very important but I don’t feel like the horses are under threat at all and at the moment, again the whip rules are in a very good place and obviously it’s worth reviewing it all the time but I think in the world of horse racing we are at the front of the whip management. 

Me: How did you get involved in riding for Gordon Elliott over here?

Richard: I have ridden for Gordon for a long time, but I actually rode his first ever winner he trained and that was at Perth, I think that’s why he loves Perth so much, that was an awful long time ago, But he’s a great connection and when he brings horses over, particularly in the summer, I tend to ride a lot of them. So he’s a great man to ride for and a great trainer.

Me: As you are one of the leading jockey’s at Chepstow, what is the secret? Because when we visited there, we couldn’t pick a winner.

Richard: I think Chepstow is a track where you need the right horse, that’s the main thing. It’s always good competitive racing there, but it is a stiff track and you need a horse that stays. This year especially we have had all the rain, so you do need a horse that handles all of that, a proper winter national hunt horse rather than an ex flat horse who needs decent ground. It’s just having the right horses that’s the important thing and I am lucky that quite a lot of Mr Hobbs’ horses suit the track, again, he’s a great trainer, you know, he knows the right horses to ride there and that’s why he has a great strike rate there as well.

Me: Are you keeping AP’s record in sight? Do you see yourself equalling it or beating it?

Richard: Erm, well it is definitely in sight, I know where it is. But I think it’s a long long way away at the moment, my next ambition I suppose is to try and get to 4000 winners which you know, I have to ride a lot more to get to there, so it is one step at a time. But it’s always something people talk about, but for me I take every season as it comes.

Me: We are visiting Philip Hobbs’ stable soon, what is the secret behind the long running relationship you have with him and his team?

Richard: Look they’re a fantastic team to ride for, very professional. Philip is an absolute gentleman as well, he takes the rough with the smooth. Obviously everybody is a great winner but he is very level headed and takes the good and the bad all the same. We have been together and had a very good partnership and we understand each other quite well.

Me: With AP and Ruby now retired, we are seeing a generation of jockey’s slowly phasing out, what younger, upcoming jockey’s do you see becoming a future Champion Jockey?

Richard: Gosh, there’s an awful lot. Obviously there are the likes of Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman, Harry Skelton, you know that sort of brigade coming through sort of after me I suppose. And then you’ve got your James and Sean Bowen, Richard Patrick and a whole heap of, young Jonjo O’Neill now is doing really well as well and I’ve only named a few there and there is a awful lot of talent about out there and I’m just trying to stay one step ahead of them and hopefully they don’t push me out of the door too soon.

Me: There are some incredible women jockey’s at the minute, do you ever see a woman becoming Champion Jockey?

Richard: I can’t see why not. Like you say, I think Lizzie Kelly and obviously Bridget Andrews, they’re probably the two and obviously Rachael Blackmore in Ireland, obviously she came very close to being Champion Jockey in Ireland last year. Looks, it’s all, whether you’re male or female riding a horse, it’s the same for us all and the most important thing is riding the right horses. I am very lucky to consistently get lovely horses to ride and again, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, so I can’t see any reason why at some point that wouldn’t happen.

Me: With the Betfair Chase on Saturday, who do you tip to win and do you see a horse winning the Million Pound Triple?

Richard: Well look, obviously Kauto Star did it and you need to be a fantastic horse to win the Gold Cup and the King George, you know, in their own rights, those two races are very hard and different tests of a horse’s speed at Kempton and the stamina at Cheltenham. So you need a very very talented horse, there’s no reason why another horse can’t do it again. There’s only four there on Saturday now, Lostintranslation looks to have the world ahead of him and he’s the horse for me, that if he went on and won on Saturday, he’s the one, not saying he is definitely going to do it, but he’s the one looking open to the improvement to go in that direction.

Me: Finally, what do you think of Altior in the King George?

Richard: Again, a lot of good two milers have won a King George and stepped up in trip to do that. So there’s no reason that he shouldn’t. But again, we shall see him run on Saturday and I assume if he wins the King George will be his next run. But for me he’s one of the best horses I’ve seen, you aren’t unbeaten over fences for no reason, so he’s a fantastic horse and it’s always lovely to see him running.

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So there we have it! Some very interesting answers there from Richard. It was a pleasure interviewing him, as always he was a gentleman! So we have a top tip looking forward to Cheltenham and Richard’s pick for the Betfair Chase tomorrow! 

Thank you so much for reading.

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