Synchronised: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I bring to you another post in my What Makes a People’s Horse series and I am focusing on Synchronised. Thank you to @Robster2337 on Twitter for the suggestion. Let’s just jump straight into it!


Synchronised was foaled on 7th March 2003 by Sadler’s Wells out of Mayasta. He was bred in Ireland at the Martinstown Stud in County Limerick by Noreen McManus, the wife of his owner J. P. McManus. Synchronised went into training with Jonjo O’Neill.

Synchronised started his career on 14th February 2008 at Chepstow when he took part in a Maiden Hurdle over 2 miles 11 yards. He started the race at 33/1 under Richie McLernon, who at the time was claiming 7 pounds. He surprised everyone, when he actually placed and finishedsecond behind Osolomio (20/1). After a decent enough start to his career, Synchronised then headed to Towcester for another Maiden Hurdle on the 23rd March 2008, again under Richie McLernon (7), this time with a lot shorter odds of 9/2. This time he went one better and beat the 5/4 favourite Debauchery by 3/4 of a length.

Synchronised then took a 228 day summer break, before returning to Towcester on 6th November 2008 for a Handicap Hurdle. He started the race at 4/1 under Richie McLernon (7), however was very disappointing when finishing 10th out of 12, 34 and 1/4 lengths behind the 15/2 winner Character Building. He then took an 84 day break before returning in 2009, on the 29th of January at Wincanton for a Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Again under Richie McLernon (6), he started the race at 5/1 and although blundering the last fence, he ended up winning by 3 1/2 lengths to Cashel Blue (6/1) in second.

A year to the date of his first ever run, on the 14th February 2009, Synchronised then headed to Haydock for a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier over 3 miles 1 furlong. He started the race as an 11/1 outsider, this time under Richie McGrath. He ended up beating Tazbar (8/1) by just a neck. Synchronised then headed to the Cheltenham Festival and on the 12th of March he was declared for the Listed Race, Pertemps Final. He started the race at 9/1 under Richie McLernon (5) and was one of many of the J. P. McManus horses to run. He was hampered on the bend after 2 out and was midfield when he fell at the last hurdle.

After his first fall of his career, Synchronised took a 251 day summer break before returning on the 18th of November 2009, this time at Market Race for his first attempt over the bigger obstacles in a Beginners Chase. This time, Champion Jockey AP McCoy to the ride, with Synchronised starting as the 7/4 favourite, his shortest odds to date. He impressively won by 2 lengths to Richard Johnson on 9/4 shot Bluegun. Synchronised had clearly not let the first fall of his career effect him and seemed to enjoy the bigger obstacles.

Just two weeks later on the 5th December 2009, Synchronised headed to Chepstow for a Novices’ Chase. Here he started as the 7/2 joint favourite under Richie McLernon (5), impressively winning by 4 1/2 lengths to Giles Cross (8/1). Synchronised then took a 51 day break.

Heading into 2010, on the 25th of January, Synchronised headed to Fontwell for a Novices’ Chase over 2 miles 5 furlong. Here he started at 9/4 under AP McCoy, however this time the partnership could only manage a third place behind winner Over Sixty (7/1) and Penn De Benn (22/1). After a 54 day break, Synchronised then headed to Uttoxeter on March 20th 2010 for the Midlands Grand National over 4 miles, 1 furlong and 92 yards over 24 fences, a massive step up from the races he had previously had. He started the race at 15/2 under AP McCoy, finishing the race very tired, Synchronised ended up winning by 3/4 of a length to Daryl Jacob on L’Aventure (12/1).

After a tough race, Synchronised had a 244 day break, before starting the new season on the 19th of November at Exeter where he took part in a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier. Starting at 9/1 under Richie McLernon (3), however he could only manager a 5th out of 6 finishers. He then headed to Cheltenham on the 10th of December for a Handicap Hurdle where under AP McCoy at 14/1 only finished 6th out of 11 finishers.

Swiftly moving into 2011, on the 8th of January, Synchronised headed to Chepstow for the Welsh Grand National over 3 miles, 4 furlong and 98 yards over 22 fences as a 5/1 shot under AP McCoy. Here, he won by 2 3/4 lengths to Harry Skelton on Giles Cross (12/1). Synchronised then took a 70 day break before heading to Uttoxeter on the 19th of March for his second shot at the Midlands Grand National over 4 miles, 1 furlong and 92 yards over 22 fences, with 2 omitted. He started as the 9/2 favourite under AP McCoy, however unfortunately he could only manage a third place this time round behind winner Minella Four Star (25/1) and second place Ballyfitz (16/1).

Synchronised then headed across the Irish Sea to Fairyhouse on the 25th of April for the Irish Grand National. He was rode by Alan Crowe as a 25/1 shot, unfortunately being pulled up before 6 out where the jockey said he was never travelling.

Synchronised then took a 181 day break before heading to Aintree on the 23rd of October 2011 for a Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Qualifier, here he was a 50/1 shot under Mr A J Berry (3), where he finished 7th out of 13 finishers. On the 19th of November, he then headed to Haydock for a Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle under AP McCoy as a 25/1 shot. Here he finished 3rd behind winner Dynaste (7/1) and Benny Be Good (20/1) in second.

HIs last race in 2011 came on the 28th of December when he crossed the Irish Sea once again, this time for the Grade 1 Lexus Chase at Leopardstown. Here he started at 8/1 under AP McCoy, winning impressively by 8 1/2 lengths to Rubi Light (9/4) in second and 13/8 favourite Quito De La Roque in third.

After a 79 day break, Synchronised then headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival and on the 16th of March 2012 he was declared for the Grade 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He started at 8/1 under AP McCoy. He made a couple of mistakes throughout the race, but these did not stop him from winning by 2 1/4 lengths to Tom Scudamore on 50/1 shot The Giant Bolster.

The next race for Synchronised, and sadly, unknown to everyone, would be his last ever, would be the Grand National at Aintree on the 14th of April 2012. He started at 10/1 under AP McCoy, however fell at the 6th fence, Becher’s Brook. AP McCoy suffered a soft tissue injury, however Synchronised did not look injured and continued to run rider-less until attempting to jump the 11th fence where he incurred a fractured tibia and fibula in his right hind leg, meaning racecourse vets had no choice but to euthanise him.

Synchronised was sadly put to sleep at just 9 years old.

Three days later, J. P. McManus issued a statement where he said he felt ‘deep sadness and sense of devastation’ at the death of Synchronised and explained that ‘losing any horse is very sad but one as brave as Synchronised is a very big loss for all involved’. He also revealed that the horse had been buried at Jackdaws Castle. (Source: https://archive.vn/20120910053035/http://www.racingpost.com/news/horse-racing/j-p-mc-manus-synchronised-aintree-cheltenham-mcmanus-we-feel-deep-sadness-and-devastation/1017222/top/)

A few weeks later, AP McCoy said that:

Synchronised is a horse that I won’t ever forget. It is one of those terrible things that you wish will never happen.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/horse-racing/17917755

In 2015, when AP McCoy retired, he described Synchronised as his favourite horse to have rode in his career, saying:

The mother of Synchronised, Mayasta, was my first winner for JP (McManus) in 1996 and Synchronised gave me the greatest day in racing. JP spent his whole life trying to buy a Gold Cup horse, and his wife bred one for him. He was a bit like I am as a human being. He probably wasn’t the greatest horse I’d ridden but he had the greatest will to win. As a jump jockey I’ve seen the human side of horse racing be really tough, but in equine terms what happened to Synchronised was the worst day I’ve had in racing. When he fell I can distinctly remember him galloping off. I remember being in pain but thinking at least the horse is all right. Afterwards when he was loose he managed to get injured. I was very sore, but I cried for days afterwards. That affected me more than any other horse. It’s personal and that’s why he’s number one.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/31737340


Regularly in these posts I would now go through the figures of a horses career, but on this occassion, for me, AP McCoy summed it up perfectly. Synchronised was a horse that was all heart, he had the will to win and he truly wore his heart on his sleeve. I will include Synchronised’s race record below so you can look at it and break it down for yourselves, but I, personally, think the words of AP McCoy was enough to end this post on the fact that he was loved, not for his facts and figures, but for his heart.

Synchronised Race Record:
21/011F/1131/5613/P7311F/

I want to thank you all for reading this post, I hope you enjoyed it as always and I will see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Good Evening!

I hope day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival was a good one for you all and I hope tomorrow’s fourth and final day is even better. This evening I bring to you my final post of the week, The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you enjoy this one and I hope you learn something new!

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt race run on the new course (since 1959), it was first ran in 1924 and is ran over 3 miles, 2 furlongs and 70 yards with 22 fences to jump. The race is open to 5 year olds and over and is ran on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival every March.

In 1924, the winner was Red Splash for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Fred Withington for owner Maj. Humphrey Wyndham.

The first horse to win the race twice in a row was Easter Hero who won as the favourite both times in 1929 and 1930. Firstly he won for jockey Dick Rees for trainer Jack Anthony and owner John Hay Whitney, the second time winning for jockey Tommy Cullinan for the same trainer and owner.

The next horse to make an impact in the race would be Golden Miller, winning in 1932 rode by Ted Leader, in 1933 rode by Billy Stott, in 1934 and 1935 rode by Gerry Wilson – all for Trainer Basil Briscoe and owner Dorothy Paget. Then a fifth and final time in 1936 for jockey Evan Williams, trainer Owen Anthony and owner Dorothy Paget.

We then move forward over ten years to 1948, 1949 ad 1950 where Cottage Rake won all three years for jockey Aubrey Brabazon, trainer Vincent O’Brien and owner Frank Vickerman

The next horse to dominate the sport wouldn’t be until Arkle came along in 1964, winning three years in a row in 1964, 1965 and 1966 for jockey Pat Taaffe, trainer Tom Dreaper and the owner, the Duchess of Westminster.

In 1970 and 1971, L’Escargot won for Tommy Carberry, trainer Dan Moore and owner Raymond R. Guest. In 1986, Dawn Run won for Jonjo O’Neill, Paddy Mullins and Charmian Hill. Desert Orchid won in 1989 for jockey Simon Sherwood, trainer David Elsworth and owner Richard Burridge.

The next horse to make an impact in the Gold Cup would be Best Mate who won in 2002, 2003 and 2004, each time with Jim Culloty riding for trainer Henrietta Knight and owner Jim Lewis.

We then move forward a couple of years to the Kauto Star vs Denman rivalry. In 2007 Kauto Star won for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith. In 2008, Denman won, beating Kauto Star by 7 lengths, for Sam Thomas, Paul Nicholls and Barber / Findlay. Then in 2009, Kauto Star winning again beating Denman by 13 lengths for Ruby Walsh, Paul Nicholls and Clive Smith.

We then have winners such as Imperial Commander (2010) for Paddy Brennan, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Our Friends in the North. Synchronised (2012) for AP McCoy, Jonjo O’Neill and J.P. McManus. Bobs Worth (2013) for Barry Geraghty, Nicky Henderson and The Not Afraid Partnership. Coneygree (2015) for Nico de Boinville, Mark Bradstock and The Max Partnership.

We also have Don Cossack (2016) for Bryan Cooper, Gordon Elliott and the Gigginstown House Stud – who I wrote about just a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/27/don-cossack-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

In 2017, Sizing John won for Robbie Power, Jessica Harrington and Ann & Alan Potts. In 2018, my favourite horse ever, Native River winning for Richard Johnson, Colin Tizzard and Brocade Racing, again I wrote about him a few weeks ago, you can read that here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/10/native-river-what-makes-a-peoples-horse/

We then have another double winner with Al Boum Photo winning in both 2019 and 2020 for Paul Townend, Willie Mullins and Mrs J Donnelly.

Some things to note, the race was abandoned in 1931 due to frost, again in 1937 due to flooding, the again in 1943 and 1944 due to World War 2. The 2001 running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, a substitute race was ran at Sandown.

The most successful horse in the race is Golden Miller who won a total of 5 times, one after another, in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936.

The leading jockey is Pat Taaffe who won a total of 4 times. Three times on Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and once on Fort Leney (1968)

The leading trainer with 5 wins in total is Tom Dreaper who won with Prince Regent (1946), Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966) and Fort Leney (1968).

The leading owner with 7 wins is Dorothy Paget who won with Golden Miller (1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 & 1936), Roman Hackle (1940) and Mont Tremblant (1952).

Now onto some interesting facts about the race. Out of the last 12 winners, 11 of them have been aged between 7 and 9. And out of those last 12 winners, 5 of them have been favourites or joint favourites, with 7 out of the last 12 being in the top 3 of the betting.

Out of the last 12 winners, 10 of them have won on their previous run before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, 9 out of 12 of the last winners had ran within the last 77 days and 12 out of 12 of the last winners had their last run 33 days or longer before the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Only 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on their last run, 2 of the 3 won. And 3 out of the past 12 winners ran in the Denman Chase at Newbury as their last run, all 3 of them won. Out of the last 12 winners, 9 of them were rated 166 or higher, with 6 out of 12 being rated 170 or higher. All 12 of the previous winners had won at least one Grade 1 race with 6 out of 12 winning at least 2.


So there we have it, the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. I hope you all enjoy tomorrow’s final day of the Festival, I know I’m very much looking forward to it! Again, I hope you all enjoyed this post and maybe learned something new.

My next post will be on Saturday (20/03) at 11am when I bring to you an interview with Eoin Walsh, so I hope to see you then!

An Interview with Jonjo O’Neill Jr

JonJo

Hi guys!

Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with a brilliant up and coming young jockey, Jonjo O’Neill Jr. Jonjo has rode some incredible horses in some incredible races and he is only just getting started, I was lucky enough to interview Jonjo and really get an insight into to him and his career.

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

Jonjo: Favourite race, I would say has to be the Martin Pipe Conditional Race at Cheltenham last year. It was my first festival winner and you know, you never forget your first.

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

Jonjo: I suppose Kauto Star probably in his prime, he is the best horse in the modern era.

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

Jonjo: Regarding the whip, erm it’s an absolute necessity for a jockey to have a whip. For safety and for encouragement. The whips nowadays are so well padded, they don’t hurt whatsoever, they just make a sound. So yeah, it’s vital for a jockey to carry a whip with them.

Me: JP McManus is obviously a huge name in racing, what is it like riding for him as an owner?

Jonjo: Yes, I feel very lucky to ride for JP, on a relatively regular basis. I have had quite a bit of luck for them in the past couple of seasons and hopefully that can continue. Obviously it’s the most recognised colours in England, Ireland and France probably. He’s great for the sport and got loads of nice horses and it’s great when we have winners for them as they’ve been great supporters of ours and he’s a gentleman.

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?

Jonjo: Tiger Roll to win the Cross Country Chase would be my bet of the season.

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

Jonjo: Racing is not cruel, you know, it’s been a sport in this country for centuries. The Queen is involved and has loads of horses. So many influential people. It is not a cruel sport. These horses have been bred for hundreds of years to do this sport. You know, you got horses like Tiger Roll winning two Grand Nationals and going for his third Grand National, you can’t say he doesn’t like racing.

Me: Obviously AP McCoy has regularly played a huge part in the Jackdaws team – How important has it been to your career having someone as good as him to idolise and look up to?

Jonjo: Yeah AP is definitely someone I have looked up to when I was a kid watching racing and he was riding for Dad and JP. We are very lucky to be able to ask advice from him and you know, he is very good like that and he is obviously a top class sportsman and you can only learn from him.

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

Jonjo: Best advice would probably be, be good to everyone you meet on the way up because you’ll meet them all again on the way down.

Me: You have rode Native River to win the Denman Chase, my all time favourite horse, how was that for you? How special of a horse is he? What do you think his chances are in the Gold Cup this year? And with a lot of people speculating, do you ever, personally, see him being a National horse?

Jonjo: Yeah, Native River, he was absolutely deadly last weekend. It doesn’t look like he’s lost any sparkle, he won nicely and jumped great. If the ground came up soft in the Gold Cup, he isn’t without a shout, it’s a very open Gold Cup. Whether I think he’d suit a National? He’d definitely suit the National. Whether he goes for it this year or maybe more next year, he looks to be well weighted this year. He got compressed two pounds. You know, it looks like it would suit him down to the ground, but when it’s an open Gold Cup you’d have to chance your arm in the Gold Cup as well.

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

Jonjo: It would be between the National and the Gold Cup. But I would love to win the Gold Cup. The Gold Cup is usually the best horse in the season, it’s the most prestigious race of the season.

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

Jonjo: Erm, Soaring Glory, he’s won two bumpers and will probably go to Aintree. He’s a very nice horse and hopefully he’ll have more of a future over hurdles next season.

Me: You’re still so young and have already achieved some incredible things, what is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Jonjo: Just take every little bit of advice and help from everyone that has experienced the game. You can never stop learning in racing and you know, it’s full of ups and downs. And you just have to stay grounded, because there are some serious highs and some serious lows as well, so I think just literally take every bit of advice from everyone as it can help all the way down the line.

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Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Jonjo for taking time out of his day to allow me to interview him. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to interview Jonjo and I hope you have all enjoyed reading it!

See you all very soon for my next post!

Visiting Jackdaws Castle – Home of Jonjo O’Neill Racing

Jackdaws Castle

Hi Guys!

Welcome back to my page, as you can see from the title today’s post is all about our incredible trip to Jackdaws Castle.

Today my family and I were lucky enough to be invited down to Jackdaws Castle, the home of Jonjo O’Neill Racing and I honestly was just in awe the whole time. 

If you know me, you know how obsessed with horse racing I am, I have loved the sport from a very young age so being able to visit one of the, arguably, most state of the art facilities within racing was just an incredible experience.

Firstly I would like to thank the whole team at Jackdaws for making us feel so welcome, feeding us, giving us lots of tea and champagne. It was incredible from the moment we turned up at the gate and got buzzed in. Everybody we met was lovely and welcoming and literally everybody spoke to us whether they were busy or not.

When we went into Jackdaws we had a good look around their stables, 120 of them to be precise. We got to meet some of their incredible stable stars and some of their staff who were getting some of the horses ready to get to work.

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We were also taken into their schooling area, their walkers and their pool and spa area, which was all just something I had never seen before. These animals are literally treated like royalty, everything they could ever wish for is right there next to their stables. I couldn’t fault any member of staff I came across, they all had their horses as their top priority. Once a horse was out of the pool you could see the staff rushing around to make sure the horse was washed with warm water, dried off and settled with a blanket on before they took them back to their stables, they honestly couldn’t do enough for the horse and it was incredible to watch them at work. 

A fact I found rather interesting whilst in this area, is a horse is weighed before leaving for a race and then again after and if he/she has only lost 1kg then they know it didn’t try in the race as they should at least lose a couple KG.

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We also had the honour of watching the 2nd out of 4 lots go out onto the gallops, seeing Jonjo at work with his team was truly spectacular, he knows so much about his horses and his style of training is something I have never seen before. It is very bespoke and each horse is trained in a way to suit them. For instance some horses who don’t settle well in a group were out on their own on a separate gallop to the group. It was something very different to what I had seen in other yards. Some of the guys also had walkie talkies so Jonjo could always communicate with them if he wanted certain things to happen.

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We had a lovely tour from Edward Gillespie, who now works closely with Jonjo, who used to be the Managing Director of Cheltenham Racecourse, so as you can imagine he had some very very interesting stories to tell us about his 30+ years managing one of, if not the biggest racecourse in the UK. It was incredible to get such an insight from somebody who has seen almost everything that can happen in horse racing and had the job of organising, in my opinion, the biggest racing festival in the world. It was also incredible to hear how he witnessed the sport and that course in particular grow. He said there were only 14 people in the office when he started, but when he retired in 2012 there were over 40. Which to me still is quite a small number. So after speaking with him, I have the upmost respect for the workers who do an incredible job of running the racecourses around the world. To us we just see the race days and how incredible it is, but behind the scenes it takes a lot of hard work to organise everything and everyone in the right place at the right time.

We also had an incredible talk with Jacqui O’Neill, Jonjo’s wife who is honestly an incredible woman. She was busy continuously, rushing around making sure everything was okay and we had drinks and food and had seen everything. She is also an extremely knowledgeable woman when it comes to horses, racing and training.

We of course, had the opportunity to talk to Jonjo who filled us in on his plans for a couple of the stable stars. He was lovely and had all the time in the world to talk to us, no question was too far, nothing was too much for him. He is an incredible trainer and a lovely bloke who has deserved all of the success he has had and I am sure will continue to have. Below are some of the successes Jonjo has had as a trainer, which is just incredible.

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  Also a massive thank you to Joe O’Neill, Jonjo’s nephew, who was lovely and welcoming and always on hand for any questions or help.

Overall, we had a fantastic day, from start to finish I cannot fault any of it. What I can say is if you get the opportunity to visit a stable facility like Jackdaws Castle then 100% take it, it is just an incredible experience. We love horse racing, but a race day is only a very small part of the life of a race horse and being able to go and see a day in the life of these horses, trainers, jockeys and stable staff is something I recommend any horse racing fan sees.

What I also want to touch on is the people who say that horse racing is ‘animal cruelty’ as I hear it day in, day out as a racing fan. It 100% is definitely not. These horses are treated like royalty, they are looked after so well it is honestly ridiculous. They love their job, as soon as their stable girl/lad goes to them to get them ready to go out they are up and ready to go and some that we seen today love it so much they don’t like going back towards their stable as they know their work is done. These horses are 3/4/5 times the size of the people riding them, if they didn’t want to run, jump, swim or do anything like that then they definitely wouldn’t let a 10 stone woman/man force them to.

Thank you for reading today’s post. I have a few more VIP stable tours coming up very soon so I will be posting more about the behind the scenes of horse racing very very soon!

I will see you all in my next post. Don’t forget to subscribe so you get an email when I post!