Harry Skelton vs Brian Hughes

Good Morning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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!

The History of the Stayers’ Hurdle

Good Evening!

I hope day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival was a successful, enjoyable one for you all. Today I am looking back at the history of tomorrow’s Stayers’ Hurdle, so let’s get right into it!

The Stayers’ Hurdle began back in 1912 and is ran over 2 miles, 7 furlong and 213 yards. It is for four year olds and older and is ran on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival each year.

The first winner of the race in 1912 was Aftermath for jockey J. W. Pullen for trainer Newey Hednesford for owner A. Newey. The next two runs of the race in 1913 and 1914 were both won by Silver Bay for jockey W Catling, trainer Fitton Lewes and owner G. H. Hearman.

The next notable winner was called Warwick, who won once in 1923 for I. Morgan, trainer Tabor and owner S. Cohen, then again in 1925, for jockey George Duller, trainer W. Payne and owner Jesse Brown.

The next notable winner would be over 50 years later when Galmoy won in 1987 for jockey Tommy Carmody, trainer John Mulhern and owner Miss D. Threadwell the again for the same trio a year later in 1988.

We then wait for over 10 years, when in 2002 and 2003 we had Baracouda who won both times for jockey Thierry Doumen, trainer François Doumen and owner J.P. McManus. A few years later Inglis Drever would achieve this also winning twice in a row, three times in total, once in 2005 for Graham Lee, trainer Howard Johnson and owners Andrea & Graham Wylie, then again 2 years later in 2007 for jockey Paddy Brennan, then again in 2008 for jockey Denis O’Regan for the same trainer and owner.

Next up would come the most successful horse in the Stayers’ Hurdle to date, Big Bucks. Big Bucks starting his winning streak in 2009 winning for jockey Ruby Walsh, trainer Paul Nicholls and owners the Stewart Family, he would then win again in 2010, 2011 and 2012 for the same trio.

Some horses to note in the following years include More Of That (2014) for Barry Geraghty, Jonjo O’Neill and J.P. McManus. Thistlecrack (2016) for Tom Scudamore, Colin Tizzard and John & Heather Snook. Nichols Canyon (2017) for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Andrea & Graham Wylie. Penhill for Paul Townend, Willie Mullins and Tony Bloom, Paisley Park (2019) for Aidan Coleman, Emma Lavelle and Andrew Gemmell. The finally the 2020 winner, Lisnagar Oscar for Adam Wedge, Rebecca Curtis and owners, Racing For Fun.

Now onto some interesting things to note about the race. The Festival was not run between 1916 and 1919 because of World War 1. Between 1928 and 1929, the race was dropped from the Festival programme. The race was then abandoned in 1931 due to frost and again in 1937 due to flooding. Between 1939 and 1945 it was once again dropped from the Festival programme, before in 1947 it was abandoned due to snow and frost. The race was also cancelled in 2001 due to a foot and mouth crisis.

As I mentioned above, the most successful horse (since 1972) in this race up until today is Big Buck’s who won a total of four times in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The leading jockey (since 1972) being Ruby Walsh, who won a total of 5 times on Big Buck’s (2009,2010, 2011 & 2012) as well as Nichols Canyon (2017).

Moving onto the leading trainer (since 1972), Paul Nicholls, who has won a total of 4 times, all four times with Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012).

There are two leading owners in the Stayers’ Hurdle (since 1972), both with 4 wins each:
The Stewart Family – Big Buck’s (2009, 2010, 2011 & 2012)
Andrea & Graham Wylie – Inglis Drever (2005, 2007 & 2008) and Nichols Canyon (2017).


So there we have the history of the Stayers’ Hurdle. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s renewal, I think it should be a brilliant race. I hope you all enjoyed today’s post and again, learnt something new.

I shall see you in tomorrow’s post where at the same time of 6pm for The History of the Cheltenham Gold Cup!

The History of the Queen Mother Champion Chase

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all had a brilliant first day of the Cheltenham Festival. I hope you all had plenty of winners and are excited for tomorrow’s day. Focusing in on tomorrow, tonight’s post is all about the Queen Mother Champion Chase, I hope you enjoy and I hope you learn something new as you read!

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt Steeplechase and is ran over 1 mile 7 furlong and 199 yards and is open to five year olds and older. The race takes place at the Cheltenham Festival on the 2nd day, the Wednesday, first taking place in 1959.

The first winner in 1959 was Quita Que for jockey Bunny Cox, trainer Dan Moore and owner Mrs D. R. Brand.

The first horse to win twice in a row followed up for the next two years, 1960 and 1961, both won by Fortria, both times for jockey Pat Taaffe, trainer Tom Dreaper and owner George Ansley.

The next horse to win twice in a row was Drinny’s Double who won in 1967 and 1968, both times for jockey Frank Nash, trainer Bob Turnell and owner Paul Mellon. This wouldn’t happen again until 1976 and 1977, when Skymas won for jockey Mouse Morris, trainer Brian Lusk and owner Matt Magee. It then happened again for the next two years when Hilly Way won the 1978 and 1979 running of the race, firstly for jockey Tommy Carmody, trainer Peter McCreery and owner J. W. Sweeney, the second time with Ted Walsh riding.

The next notable horse was Badsworth Boy who, to this day, holds the record for being the most successful horse in the race. He won in 1983, 1984 and again in 1985. All three times with Robert Earnshaw riding for owner Doug Armitage, the first two runs being for trainer Michael Dickinson and the final time for trainer, from the same family, Monica Dickinson.

The next notable name is Pearlyman, who won twice, once in 1987 and again in 1988. The first time rode by Peter Scudamore for trainer John Edwards and owner Valerie Shaw, the second time with jockey Tom Morgan on board. The next two years were then won by the Barnbrook Again, in 1989 Simon Sherwood rode for trainer David Elsworth and owner Mel Davies, in 1990 with Hywel Davies on board.

We then have Viking Flagship who won twice, once in 1994 and again in 1995. Firstly for Adrian Maguire riding for trainer David Nicholson for owners Roach Foods Ltd, secondly for Charlie Swan.

Other notable winners include One Man in 1998, Edredon Bleu in 2000, Moscow Flyer in 2003 as well as 2005, Master Minded who successfully won in 2008 and 2009, both times for Ruby Walsh riding for Paul Nicholls for owner Clive Smith. We then have Sizing Europe winning in 2011, Sprinter Sacre who won in 2013 and again in 2016, Sire de Grugy who won in 2014, Altior who won in 2018 and 2019, both times for Nico de Boinville, Nicky Henderson and owner Patricia Pugh. We then have the 2020 winner of this race, Politologue for jockey Harry Skelton for Paul Nicholls for owner John Hales.

Some interesting things to note, in 1980 Chinrullah finishished first, however was later disqualified after testing positive for a banned substance. And the 2001 running was cancelled due to a foot and mouth crisis, a substitute race was later run at Sandown.

As I mentioned above, the most successful horse is the only horse to have won this race 3 times and that is Badsworth Boy who won in 1983, 1984 and 1985.

There are two leading jockey’s in the race, both with 5 wins:
Pat Taaffe – Fortria (1960 & 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966) and Straight Fort (1970)
Barry Geraghty – Moscow Flyer (2003 & 2005), Big Zeb (2010), Finian’s Rainbow (2012) and Sprinter Sacre (2013)

There are 3 leading trainers in the race, all with 6 wins each:
Tom Dreaper – Fortria (1960 & 1961), Ben Stack (1964), Flyingbolt (1966), Muir (1969) and Straight Fort (1970)
Nicky Henderson – Remittance Man (1992), Finian’s Rainbow (2012), Sprinter Sacre (2013 & 2016) and Altior (2018 & 2019)
Paul Nicholls – Call Equiname (1999), Azertyuiop (2004), Master Minded (2008 & 2009), Dodging Bullets (2015) and Politologue (2020)

We then have three leading owners, all with 3 wins each:
George Ansley – Fortria (1960 & 1961) and Straight Fort (1970)
Doug Armitage – Badsworth Boy (1983, 1984 & 1985)
John Hales – One Man (1998), Azertyuiop (2004) and Politologue (2020)


So there we have it, the history of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I am very much looking forward to tomorrow’s renewal of the race, I think it always turns out to be a good race and tomorrow should be no different. I hope you all enjoyed this post and hopefully learned something new whilst reading.

I will hopefully see you all in tomorrow’ evening’s post at the same time of 6pm for The History of the Stayers’ Hurdle!

An Interview with Ed Chamberlin

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. I hope you have all been enjoying the extra posts here this week and are starting to feel excited for the Cheltenham Festival. I will have 5 more posts after this one in the week to follow, they will be going up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday all at 6pm and on Saturday at 11am. Today’s post, I am very excited for. I got to sit down and talk to someone I look up to in the industry and that is of course Ed Chamberlin, who you all may know as the face of ITV Racing. We spoke about all things racing, including him being the ambassador for WellChild – a charity who will be working closely with the Cheltenham Festival in the week ahead and the work they do and why they are so important. I will leave a link at the bottom of the interview to their website so you can read more and look at ways you can support them. Ed was very supportive and offered me a lot of helpful advice which I am super grateful for. I really enjoyed this one so I hope my readers will too!


Me: For the first question, I am going to throw you straight into the deep end and ask if you could own any horse currently in training, what horse would you choose and why?

Ed: Gosh, good question. It would be… either… there’s three and they’re all novice chasers. It would be one of Envoi Allen, Monkfish and Shishkin. The Gold Cup is the race I’d love to win more than any other, so that rules Shishkin out, as brilliant as he is. And I think, I’d go for Monkfish. I think Monkfish is an extraordinary looking animal. I’m no judge of a horse and I’ve referred to him a couple of times on ITV as a monster but actually when you see him in the flesh he’s not. He’s tall but he’s also quite thin. He’s like a ballerina at his fences, he’s just the most brilliant athlete who’s obviously got stamina to burn. And if ever… A bit like lego, if you were ever to put together a Gold Cup winner, I think you would probably put together like Monkfish. And look Envoi Allen might have more brilliance than him and might be more mercurial than Monkfish, but they don’t always win Gold Cups. It’s a really tough question, but I’m going to go for Monkfish.

Me: What are your first memories of racing?

Ed: The first memories would be as a 7 year old with my Grandfather who lived in Somerset. He was mad about racing, to such an extent that my mother’s 18th birthday present was a Tote credit account. My Grandfather loved it. His passions in life were cider and betting on the Grand National was his favourite thing and I just got caught up in that. The first race I can remember was the 1981 Grand National where, he always let me have a couple of quid on a horse and I had it on Spartan Missile who finished second in that Grand National and I was gutted. I had no idea that this was the greatest racing story of all time with Bob Champion and Aldaniti winning the Grand National. And from that moment I was hooked! I took on the huge responsibility of being in charge of the family sweepstake. And I start looking forward to the Grand National weeks in advance, I always remember sleeping better as a small boy the night before Christmas than I would the night before the Grand National because my excitement was just off the charts for the Grand National. And yeah, I was just totally consumed by it and once you get into something like that, it just snow balls and racing very quickly became a passion of mine.

Me: Following on from that, what is your favourite race to watch back?

Ed: To be honest the 1981 Grand National is right up there. There’s so many, I love going back down memory lane on Racing TV and I love all the high profile ones, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid’s Gold Cup. And lots of flat racing since we’ve covered the sport. Crystal Ocean against Enable is one that leaped off the page, Big Orange beating Order of St George in the Gold Cup as well was just a great battle. We’ve been very lucky to have some great performances. But my favourite horse of all time, it’s a bit random to be honest, Dublin Flyer was my favourite horse ever. There were two performances he put in, one was over the Grand National fences and he jumped them as good as any horse you’d see jump them in the John Hughes Memorial but my favourite race of his, it was called the Mackeson then, now the Paddy Power Gold Cup when he rallied to get up and beat Egypt Mill Prince, I think that’s my favourite race of all time.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse to present at and why?

Ed: You are horrible asking that question! Oh goodness, that’s so difficult! The best thing about my job is every week – well not at the moment – but in normal times every week is different. Going to a different track every week is so exciting because they’re all so different and so cool in so many different ways. I’m not going to sit on the fence, but the ultimate buzz to present is the Grand National because obviously it’s to around 10 million people in this country and hundreds of millions worldwide so that gets the adrenaline going more than any other. But I also love doing the smaller days at Kelso and my local track Wincanton, I love those days. But the big festivals are just fantastic to present. Cheltenham Festival, Glorious Goodwood, York, Royal Ascot and everything that goes with that. Royal Ascot is the hardest to present because I have to be on top of everything from the Royal Procession through to the singing on the bandstand and the races in between. I think my single favourite day to present is Derby day. Because it’s the one day, just to sum it up, that I have to wear two ear pieces so I can hear my director, it’s that noisy. It’s like a cauldron and it’s the closest I get with the way that, the straight at Epsom, with the crowd on either side, the open top buses, it’s the closest I get with my old job which was presenting football at old fashioned grounds like Anfield and the old White Hart Lane which just used to have an intensity that’s very hard to describe because you were just so close to the action and the crowds felt on top of the pitch. And you get that at Epsom. And on Derby day, I get moved to the front of the stands for the classic, the Derby, and that is just unbelievable, it really is. And that would be my favourite experience of a normal year. The year gone by sadly, it was probably the worst experience I’ve had on a racecourse just because I love it so much. I actually didn’t present the Derby very well in 2020. If I could have another go at one race it would be the Derby. It was just so, it was a really depressing day with marshals guarding the fence, not to let people in. A Derby run in silence was a pretty desolate experience.

Me: At the beginning of the year I interviewed Mick Fitzgerald who spoke very highly of you, telling me how you aim to get the best out of everyone you work with and that’s why people love working with you. What do you enjoy most about being a part of the ITV Racing team?

Ed: It’s a very good question Zoe. Gosh, that’s very kind of Mick Fitzgerald. I feel like I want to be the referee, I don’t want anyone talking about me. When you’re the presenter, it should never be about you. I never offer an opinion on much because I’m there to get the best out of other people. And the one thing I’ve tried to install since joining ITV in 2016 to start in 2017 was to try and create a team ethic. I always wanted us working as a team and the first thing I did was to introduce a rule where everyone had to get together the night before a meeting at 6 o’clock. Obviously that’s difficult now, but we’ll do it for Cheltenham next week. And I wanted to create an environment where we’re in it together, whether you’re Anthony McCoy or the runner that makes cups of tea, I wanted us all to be working together. I wanted us to have a production meeting together, eat, drink, laugh as a team. And I think we’ve really go that ethic which hopefully shines through on screen because we obviously have our disagreements but we are one big family on ITV Racing across the board, everyone behind and in front of the camera, we all work together. Summed up by last week, which was a very tricky week, you know, we were… various whatsapp’s, zooms and we really stuck together and worked together and I think that’s really important in any walk of life – working as a team. And I really do love the team dearly and I hope that comes across on screen. And Mick is such a big part of that, I’m surrounded by a lot of really good team players and that’s what I wanted when I started.

Me: Since working with ITV Racing, what’s been your favourite moment to present?

Ed: Lots of ups and downs. Day 1 didn’t go to plan, I remember that, January the 1st 2017 – That was the hardest. There’s been lots of lows and lots of highs. We learn from the lows and we keep the highs in perspective. If I was to say one, Tiger Roll obviously was the closest to my heart, when he won the Cross Country and the Grand National, I was very emotive. It was a bit like presenting a Southampton win in my old job in Premier League football, it’s very hard to keep your emotions in check. That horse, I just became very close with him. But if I have to say one hour that suck out, I’ll always say the best moment I’ve had in television is when Manchester City won the Premier League with the iconic Agüero goal and Martin Tyler’s commentary. But the hour at Cheltenham a couple of years ago when Bryony Frost won the Ryanair on Frodon which had us all choking up because her interview was so good. It was a very emotive experience. And then immediately to have that followed by Paisley Park winning for Andrew Gemmell, Emma Lavelle, Barry Fenton, Aidan Coleman and just this warrior of a horse in Paisley Park, honestly it was… I remember being praised in the newspapers afterwards for being a bit like Des Lynam in not saying much, I let the pictures breath, which is a very important skill for a presenter. But that wasn’t a choice by me, that was because I found the whole thing emotional and I wasn’t capable of speaking even if I wanted to. Because Emma is one of my favourite people and to see Andrew Gemmell who’s been blind since birth getting such a thrill and enjoyment out of Paisley Park winning was just an extraordinary bit of sport. We called it the golden hour, it was magical and that’s what we need next week. We need stories like that to show just what a magnificent sport this is and how wonderful the horses are and get racing back on the back and front of the newspapers for the right reasons. Stories that only racing can write.

Me: Before you moved over to ITV, you worked for Sky, how did you find the transition from football to horse racing?

Ed: I found it really really difficult. Incredibly difficult. Switching sport is not something I’d recommend to any young presenters out there. I still don’t find it easy now, but I got it very wrong at the time, I thought… When I left football Leicester had just won the Premier League and I thought I needed to know everything about racing, because you know, I’d been in football nearly 20 years and I thought I needed to know absolutely everything. I went everywhere trying to learn every aspect of racing, but in hindsight, that was a mistake because in my job you don’t need to know everything. It helps to have it stored away but you don’t need to use it because as I said earlier, you’re there to get the best out of other people. And ITV Racing, I very quickly learnt that the real racing fans, there aren’t very many. The large bulk of our audience… Like Cheltenham next week, we’d like to think we’ll get well over a million each day, and only in the tens of thousands of those are the real racing fans, the rest are generally just sports fans who like to dip into racing. We are part of the entertainment industry and it’s got to be entertaining and I quickly learnt you can’t please everybody every show we do. People say ‘we need to see more of the horses’ or ‘we need something else’ or ‘we need more betting’ or ‘we want more social stable’ and you have to accept you can’t win and you need a thick skin to stick to what we’re doing. I’ve learnt a lot in the four years and trying to get that balance right is very difficult and we’re never going to get it 100% right, of course we’re not but the way we’ve grown our audience over the four years is very satisfactory because it’s been nice to prove people wrong. There are a few articles last week, where one journalist said jump racing was in danger of extinction, well more people are watching jump racing now than they have in a very long time. We’ve obviously got a challenge to keep those people, but it’s very popular right now on ITV and during lockdown that’s obviously accelerated dramatically with people watching so that’s quite satisfying for me, but I want to keep doing that. I want to keep getting people to enjoy what I think is a brilliant sport. Our mantra has always been since day one to make racing accessible to as many people as possible and that’s something I’m passionate about and will continue to do.

So to answer your question, it was a lot harder than I expected it to be and a lot more challenging but I’ve learnt rapidly and hopefully the viewing figures back up the way we’ve done it.

Me: I think it’s important because with ITV Racing it is presented in such a way that you don’t need to be an avid racing fan to truly understand what’s happening.

Ed: The key thing there, to any presenter watching, television is very subjective. Everyone has a different opinion on television but the media training I do, the key thing as a presenter is to make people feel welcome, to make people feel warm and a part of the show. Particularly now when a lot of people suffering and a lot of people are fed up, give them an escape for a couple of hours, feel part of our coverage, make people feel welcome to it – That’s always what we’re trying to do. Make racing welcoming to everybody.

Me: That always comes across when you are watching ITV Racing.

Ed: I always say, people sometimes like to compare us to racing channels, you don’t need to do that. My ethos is if I can get people into racing and enjoying it and they then take out a subscription to Racing TV then I’ve done my job. That’s what I want to happen.

Me: With Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, what would you say is the best bet of the week?

Ed: Best bet of the week… There’s a few I fancy actually. I think Soaring Glory will go very well in the opener, the Sky Bet Supreme. But I think if I had a bet of the week, I’d love Paul Nicholls to have a winner at the Festival because he’s so good for the game and I just hope the love is shared and Willie Mullins doesn’t just win absolutely everything… So I think I’ll go for Bravemansgame in the Ballymore. Challow Hurdle winners at Newbury have got an awful record in the race, but hopefully he can break that because his owner is a good friend of mine in John Dance and I just think Bravemansgame has got something very special about him. And he’ll go off at a decent price because on the preview circuit their talking about Bob Olinger as if he’s absolutely past the post already so that’s going to make the price for Bravemansgame, so I’ll go with him.

Me: And in terms of the Festival, WellChild have been announced as an official partner, you’ve worked with them for many year as an ambassador, can you tell us a little bit more about what they do and how important they are and what partnering with the Cheltenham Festival will do for them?

Ed: I’m so pleased you’ve asked that because… I find it very emotional to talk about actually. For me, it’s very surreal. I’m looking at the Cheltenham Festival magazine here supporting WellChild and when I first starting working with WellChild 10 years ago they were just a very small charity in Cheltenham. They just struck a note of something that meant the world to me, someone who was very ill 10/11 years ago and seeing a children’s cancer ward was like no experience I’ve ever gone through or ever want to see again. It was much worse than the experience I was going through in the ward next door. And, I said to myself then, if I can come through the other side of this, if I can do anything to help get children out of hospital and looked after at home. The sight of a young child in hospital just broke my heart and what WellChild does is it looks after and nurses seriously ill children and it nurses them at home which I think is the most important thing. So things like my annual golf day, WellChild awards, marathon runners – that type of thing, helps fund the nursing at home. There are some desperately sad stories, yes. But there are also some of the most inspiring young people you’ll ever meet. We’ve got them drawing pictures for this year and this is the biggest boost for WellChild at a really difficult time. They’ve had a torrid year, when you think that all their fundraising events have been cancelled. My golf day – cancelled. London Marathon – cancelled. WellChild Awards- cancelled. And they’ve really suffered, then suddenly this idea came about.

The local community in Cheltenham is one of the things we’re really going to support this year, it’s the theme of the first day, we’re doing a theme each day. Day 1 is local community and WellChild ticks that box as well as B&B’s, hotels, taxi firms in Cheltenham. And for WellChild, the exposure and hopefully fundraising is just going to make the wold of difference to a lot of WellChild families and a lot of seriously ill young children. Which I just find emotive and surreal and incredible what Cheltenham and the Jockey Club have done here. And again, it just shows how awesome racing is.

It’s given everybody who works for the charity a huge boost, it’s given the nurses a huge boost and I just hope the families get a real buzz out of it. I had to do a judging of the pictures the young kids had drawn. With kids as young as 5 drawing picture of horses and Gold Cup’s… How am I supposed to pick the top 3? I wanted to pick all of them! I can’t give too much away for next week but there’s going to be some very clever signage and little touches to support the kids. Which again, I might go a little bit quiet on ITV and you doing this interview you’ll know why I’ve gone quiet. It just means the world to me.

The Jockey Club and Cheltenham have got so behind the cause and you’ll see what they’ve done at the racecourse just how much they’ve committed to it. Because some people say ‘it’s ridiculous, a charity shouldn’t be spending money at Cheltenham’ but actually, they’re not spending any more. This is all the Jockey Club and Cheltenham supporting the charity.

Me: Beyond the Cheltenham Festival is the Grand National, with it being announced Tiger Roll won’t be running, who do you fancy now to take that crown from him?

Ed: I fancy one quite strongly actually. I think after what Cloth Cap did the weekend, he’ll take the world of beating, he was on springs around Kelso, he will absolutely love jumping those fences. And I would absolutely love to see Trevor Hemmings win the Grand National for the 4th time. If he doesn’t warm people’s hearts and boost spirits, nobody will. His enthusiasm is infectious at his ripe young age. But from a betting point of view, I think Secret Reprieve. Now I, it sounds like he’s definitely going to bypass Cheltenham and it sounds like from Evan Williams quotes, even though he’s not committing him, it sounds like the Grand National might be the plan. And off 10-1 after his performance in the Welsh Grand National he’s going to be absolutely running free. And that day, he just looked like a Grand National winner, the way he jumped and he obviously has stamina in abundance. The Grand National these days is a race where they go pretty quick and stamina now is more important then ever, you’ve got to stay every yard. You’ve got to look for a horse that stays and Secret Reprieve we know he stays, he’s off a great weight clearly and he’s made for the race. The owners have gone so close in the National before, it would be great for them to win it and I think Secret Reprieve stands out a mile.

Me: Another thing I wanted to touch on was social media, you worked in TV before social media was really a thing, how much would you say it has changed your job, the industry and sport as a whole?

Ed: I think it’s changed the world a lot, I wouldn’t say it’s changed my world. I’d be someone that says as a presenter if you listen and broadcast to social media then turn out the lights and give up the game because it’s a dangerous thing to do. I used to really embrace social media, I enjoyed it and I’m talking about Twitter here primarily, but I feel very differently about it now. I worry about it, not for myself, it doesn’t bother me, but I worry about it for young people like yourself because it can be a horrible, horrible place. And some of the messages I have to receive and to be fair, most of them I am old and uglier enough to just laugh at but, come on, why can’t people post under their real identity? I just don’t understand that. I’ve seen you upset on there few times, I’ve seen other people upset on there and it really worries me. I have two kids and I don’t want them growing up having to listen to some of the stuff and I don’t want them to read the stuff about their daddy. People need to think before they post, they need to be kinder and they should have their name on their profile. I spend very little time on their now. It can be a very good information source, it’s got lots of brilliant people, but the last week… Lee Mottershead, it sums it up. The reaction to Lee Mottershead to what he said on Sunday, fine don’t agree with him, I didn’t particularly agree with what he said, but the vile, horrendous stick he had to take just makes me despair. 24 hours after I had said the lesson of this whole episode is that racing needs to listen and we need to be better at listening, accepting criticism, learning from criticism and then that happens and I just despair sometimes. As I said, I’m old enough and uglier enough, it doesn’t worry me and I don’t spend a lot of time on there. But then things like Instagram I absolutely love, it’s great fun! You must not get too caught up in it because Twitter does not reflect real life, I promise you. I listen to everything, I read everything but most of the stuff I just laugh at. I used to react to it, but I try not to do that anymore because it’s just not worth it.

Me: What would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion they want to follow?

Ed: Go for it. Be determined, you just… In life you need a bit of luck but when you get that bit of luck, take advantage. So my lucky break was one of the senior executives at Sky was watching Bloomburg Television one day, I think one man and his dog watches Bloomburg Television, but I used to go on there to do a sport preview show and they saw me there. I had no interest in working in television at the time, I was a journalist. And that was my lucky break and when I got my lucky break and was invited into Sky my attitude was take advantage. The door had opened for me, it was up to me to barge my way through it and then really make the most of it and that’s what I did. Then I had another lucky break when I became the face of Premier League football on Sky when Richard Keys and Andy Gray left sky, again the door opened for me and I took advantage. That’s the way to do it. But these days it’s very different to when I started. For someone like yourself, you’re doing exactly what I recommend to people. Get yourself out there with interviews, blogs, podcasts – there’s so many things you can do now to get yourself out there and get yourself seen an I know it’s a cliché, but it only takes one pair of ears or one pair of eyes to see what you’re doing and think ‘that’s good’ and then you might get an opportunity and take advantage. So if you’re interested in the media, if you’re interested in writing, journalism holds the key. So, I would be very disappointed if anyone that does a role similar to mine turned down an interview from a young person like yourself. And you’ve just got to have that initiative and that determination to do it, which you’ve clearly got in spades and I’m full of admiration for that. So my advice to young people is be brave, get yourself out there and work damn hard.

Me: Just to finish the interview, I’ve been asked to ask you by my friend Kian Burley, if he can still have your job with ITV Racing when you decide to step down?

Ed: Bit worried about my mortgage at the moment so he might have to give me just a few more years yet. And I’m rather enjoying what I’m doing at the moment – The question I get asked more than any other in supermarkets and garages is why did I leave Premier League football and they also asked me when will I go back to Premier League football. To which my response is I’m in no hurry whatsoever, I’m enjoying what I’m doing. So you’ll have to tell him, I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

Me: That’s everything from me, I want to thank you for taking your time outto speak with me, I really appreciate it.

Ed: Honestly, to see someone showing a bit of initiative like you are, I’m all in favour of supporting. I turn down lots of things as you can imagine, but I will never say no to something like that. You can tell hopefully from my ethos and attitude. But you have to promise me one thing… Don’t get too upset by people on social media.


After the interview ended, Ed spoke with me about everything I was doing in more detail and gave me so much advice and support and I just want to say a huge thank you to him, I understand totally how busy he will be in the run up to Cheltenham but for him to give up his time to sit and speak with me on a lengthy phone call and give me some support and advice also, meant a lot to me, especially as he’s someone I look up to in the industry.

As I mentioned at the top of the page WellChild are an incredible charity and I am so glad I got to speak to Ed about the work they do. There website is: https://www.wellchild.org.uk/ – I urge everyone to check out their website where you can find out more about the work they do and also donate if you can afford to.

I am really grateful I got to speak with Ed and I really hope everyone enjoyed this one as much as I did! Leading into the Cheltenham Festival I have a post Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening’s at 6pm and another next Saturday morning at 11am so a very busy week ahead on my website and I hope to see you all back here for all of those!

Thank you so much for reading, I will see you tomorrow at 6pm for my next post: The History of the Champion Hurdle.

Kauto Star: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to another post in the What Makes a People’s Horse series here at zoelouisesmithx.com. This series is turning out to be a very popular one and I am super excited that I have been given 100+ horses to look into as per my followers on Twitter. So this means I will be continuing to share more posts and focus on horses that have been suggested. Today’s is all about Kauto Star who was suggested to me by 100’s of people, however the first being @G_Carter31 over on Twitter. So without further ado, let’s get right to it!


Kauto Star was foaled 19th March 2000, by Village Star out of Kauto Relka. He was bred by Mrs Henri Aubert in France. Originally he was sent into training in France by Serge Foucher.

Whilst in training with Serge Foucher, Kauto Star made his hurdle debut at Bordeaux Le Bouscat Racecourse in France on the 1st March 2003, where he finished second out of two horses. He then ran again on the 14th April 2003, this time at Enghien where he won, before heading to Auteuil on the 4th May 2003 for another hurdle race over 1 mile 7 furlong where he won again by a head.

After a 146 day break, Kauto Star returned to Auteuil another 3 times during 2003, on the 27th September, 11th October and 2nd November, where he won, fell and placed 2nd respectively. We then head into 2004, after a 126 day break Kauto Star headed to Auteuil another 4 times, on the 7th March, 27th March, 24th April and 30th May, where he finished 3rd, 5th, 3rd and 1st respectively.

During this time, Kauto Star caught the attention of Paul Nicholls who had seen a video of him in action. He arranged to buy Kauto Star through Anthony Bromley, a bloodstock agent in France. Paul then arranged for owner Clive Smith to purchase him for €400,000.

On the 15th November 2004 Kauto Star officially moved to Paul Nicholls’ yard in Ditcheat ready for the 2004/2005 season. His first race in the UK took place on the 29th December 2004 when he headed to Newbury for a Novice Chase with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. Starting as the 2/1 joint favourite, Kauto Star won by 9 lengths to the other joint favourite Foreman under AP McCoy.

We now move into 2005 and on the 31st January Kauto Star headed to Exeter where he finished 2nd out of 2 finishers in a Novice Chase with Ruby Walsh riding as the 2/11 favourite behind Mistral De La Cour (20/1) for Andrew Thornton.

Kauto Star took a 274 day break, before returning to Exeter on the 1st November 2005, again with stable jockey Ruby Walsh riding. He started at 3/1 for the Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup Chase, where he finished 2nd behind Monkerhostin (10/1) for Richard Johnson and Philip Hobbs. On the 3rd December, Kauto Star headed to Sandown for the Grade 1 Tingle Creek, where he started as the 5/2 joint favourite with Mick Fitzgerald taking the ride. He ended up winning by 1 1/2 lengths to the other joint favourite Ashley Brook for AP McCoy.

With his first Grade 1 under his belt, Kauto Star took a 102 day break before heading straight to the Cheltenham Festival in 2006 on the 15th March for the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He started as the 2/1 favourite under Ruby Walsh, however ended up taking his first fall on British soil. Paul then gave Kauto Star a 221 summer break before heading to Aintree on the 22nd October 2006 for the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase where, under Ruby Walsh, he won as the Evens favourite, beating stable companion Armaturk (13/2) by 21 lengths.

Kauto Star then headed to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 18th November 2006 where he won as the 11/10 favourite under Ruby Walsh. Kauto then made a reappearance in the Tingle Creek at Sandown on the 2nd December to try and retain his title. Successfully doing so by winning by 7 lengths as the odds on 4/9 favourite, again with Ruby Walsh. Next for Kauto Star was the second leg of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the King George Chase on Boxing Day 2006, where he won by 8 lengths as the 8/13 favourite, again under Ruby Walsh.

Heading into 2007, Kauto Star went to Newbury on the 10th February for the Grade 2 Aon Chase. As the odd on 2/9 favourite, again under Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star won by a neck to AP McCoy on L’Ami (6/1). We then move on to the third and final leg of the Stayers Chase Triple Crown, the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on the 16th March 2007. With Ruby Walsh on board and starting the race as the 5/4 favourite, the pressure was well and truly on. Everybody had their hearts in their mouths when he hit the final fence, however, he stayed on strong and won by 2 1/2 lengths to AP McCoy on Exotic Dancer. By winning the Betfair Chase, King George and Gold Cup, Kauto Star won the Stayers Chase Triple Crown £1 million bonus and also finished the season as the top rated chaser.

Kauto Star then took a 226 day, very well deserved, summer break, before returning to Aintree on the 28th October 2007 to try and retain his Old Roan Chase crown. Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Kauto Star with Ruby Walsh on board, finished second as the 11/10 favourite, 1 1/2 lengths behind Monet’s Garden (9/4). He then headed to Haydock to retain the Betfair Chase title, this time under Sam Thomas due to regular jockey Ruby Walsh being out injured with a dislocated shoulder. He started the race as the odd on 4/5 favourite where he beat Barry Geraghty riding Exotic Dancer. We then move on to the King George on Boxing day 2007, where Kauto Star aimed to retain his next crown. With regular jockey Ruby Walsh returning to take the ride, they started as the odd on 4/6 favourite, winning easily by 11 lengths to Our Vic (12/1).

Swiftly moving into 2008, Kauto Star took a 52 day break, before returning to the track, this time at Ascot on the 16th February for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase. He started as the 4/11 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride. At this point in the career, stable jockey Ruby Walsh had announced his intention to ride Kauto Star in the Gold Cup opposed to Denman, who Sam Thomas would be booked to ride. In his final preparation for the Gold Cup, Kauto Star won by 8 lengths to Monet’s Garden (6/1).

The question on everyone’s lips when heading into the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the 14th of March 2008 was if Kauto Star could successfully complete the Stayers Chase Triple Crown once again, or if his very successful and talented stable mate Denman would hinder that. Kauto Star started as the 10/11 favourite to try and retain his crown, with Denman starting at 9/4. With Ruby Walsh riding Kauto Star and Sam Thomas riding Denman, this looked to be a brilliant head to head. Denman took up the race with a circuit to go and ended up winning by 7 lengths, with Kauto Star finishing second by a short head to another stable companion Neptune Collonges (25/1) with Mick Fitzgerald riding. Kauto Star’s season ended at Aintree on the 3rd of April 2008 in a Grade 2 Chase. He started as the 4/7 favourite under Ruby Walsh, where he lost by just a nose to Our Vic (9/1).

We then head into the new season and after a 212 day summer break, Kauto Star headed to Ireland to Down Royal on the 1st of November 2008 for a Grade 1 Champion Chase. He started as the 2/5 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride again. This time beating Mark Walsh on Light On The Broom (50/1) by 11 lengths. Returning back to England, next for Kauto Star was his attempt at another Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 22nd of November. Regular jockey Ruby Walsh was out injured with a ruptured spleen, meaning Sam Thomas took the ride. Starting as the 2/5 favourite, his old fierce competitor Exotic Dancer (7/2) being his main opposition in the betting. Unfortunatly it was not meant to be, with Kauto Star stumbling on landing and unseating Sam Thomas after the last.

Kauto Star then headed to Kempton on Boxing Day 2008 to try and win his third King George. Kauto Star started as the 10/11 favourite with regular jockey Ruby Walsh returning to take the ride. Despite making a mistake at the last, Kauto Star went on to win by 8 lengths to AP McCoy on Albertas Run (25/1).

Moving into 2009, Paul Nicholls made the decision that Kauto Star would best run fresh, so unlike previous season, he would not run again before Cheltenham where he would be aimed for the Gold Cup, again taking on the current holder and stable companion Denman. So after a 77 day break Kauto Star headed to the Gold Cup where he started as the 7/4 favourite with Ruby Walsh taking the ride, with second favourite being Denman at 7/1 and third stable companion Neptune Collonges being 15/2 then Kauto Star’s fierce rival Exotic Dancer at 8/1. Kauto Star moved into the lead after jumping the third last fence, before pulling clear and going on to win by 13 lengths to Denman (7/1). He then ended the season as the top rated steeplechase horse for the second time.

Kauto Star started the new season after a 253 day break, heading to the Betfair Chase at Haydock on the 21st November 2009. He started the race as the 4/6 odds on favourite with Ruby Walsh riding. Kauto Star and Imperial Commander were 24 lengths clear from Madison Du Berlais, with Kauto Star winning by just a nose to Imperial Commander (9/1). Kauto Star then headed straight to Kempton on Boxing Day to attempt to win his fourth consecutive King George VI Chase. With Ruby Walsh riding again, starting as the 8/13 favourite, Kauto Start went clear with three fences left to jump, before eventually winning by 36 lengths to Madison Du Berlais (10/1). Winning by such a distance, meant he broke Arkle’s 44 year old record of winning by 30 lengths which directly lead to a rule change dispensing with the traditional winning distance of “a distance” which had previously been used for wins of more than 30 lengths.

After winning the King George for a 4th time, Kauto Star was awarded a Racing Post Rating of 192, the highest ever earned by a Nation Hunt horse. Timeform also gave him a rating of 191, the highest given to a horse in almost 40 years. This made him the joint third highest rated steeplechase of all time, level with Mill House and only behind Arkle who was rated 212 and Flyingbolt who was rated 210. Kauto Star was officially rated 193, which is the highest ever awared to a chaser.

We now move into 2010. After an 83 day break, Kauto Star headed straight to the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup on the 19th of March. With Ruby Walsh taking the ride again, he started as the 8/11 favourite. He travelled well throughout, before crashing through the 8th fence which knocked him back a few places. Then at the fourth to last fence, in fifth place, Kauto Star fell awkwardly, landing on his neck. Luckily, he got to his feet, looking unscathed. When he returned to the unsaddling area, he was applauded by everyone in the grandstands who were just happy he had survived an awful fall to fight another day.

After a 232 day break, Kauto Star headed to Down Royal for a Grade 1 Champion Chase. He started as the 4/7 favourite under Ruby Walsh and went on to win by 4 lengths to Sizing Europe (5/1).

With the Kempton Boxing Day meeting being postponed due to snow, the King George took place on the 15th of January 2011 and this is where Kauto Star headed next. With regular jockey Ruby Walsh being injured, Champion Jockey AP McCoy came in for the ride. Starting the race as the 4/7 favourite, unfortunately he could only manage a 3rd place behind winner Long Run (9/2) and second place Riverside Theatre (10/1), both trained by Nicky Henderson. This was the first time that Kauto Star had finished outside of the top two in a completed race, due to this there were calls for Kauto Star to be retired. After the race, it was discovered that he was suffering from an infection and for the first time in his career, he had bled during the race. However, trainer Paul Nicholls announced that Kauto Star would still be trained for the Cheltenham Gold Cup as originally planned.

So that is exactly what happened, Kauto Star headed straight to the Gold Cup on the 18th of March 2011 after a 62 day break. He started the race at 5/1, meaning for the first time since 2005, he was not starting as the favourite of this race. With Ruby Walsh taking the ride, they only managed a 3rd place behind favourite Long Run (7/2F) and stable companion, Denman (8/1). Kauto Star headed to Punchestown on the 4th of May 2011 for the Punchestown Gold Cup. He started as the 10/11 favourite under Ruby Walsh, however ended up being pulled up with Ruby Walsh saying he was “never travelling”. As before, Kauto Star was applauded as he returned to the stables.

After being pulled up at Punchestown, the call for Kauto Star to be retired were even stronger than before. However, connections said that their intention was to bring him back into training after a summer break and assess his condition to see if he could continue, only if they were happy with his physical and mental wellbeing.

Kauto Star took a 199 day summer break, before heading to Haydock on the 19th of November to compete in the Betfair Chase where he started the race at his longest odds in his UK career at 6/1 under Ruby Walsh. Kauto Star made this is fourth victory in this race, winning by 8 lengths to the favourite Long Run (6/5F). Kauto Star had now won the Betfair Chase in 2006, 2007, 2009 and now 2011, meaning that he became the only horse to have won two different Grade 1 jump races four times, with the other being the King George, which he had won in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. Speaking of the King George, that is what came next for Kauto Star on Boxing Day 2011. Starting at 3/1, Kauto Star with Ruby Walsh riding, beat the Evens favourite Long Run, by 1 1/4 lengths.

In 2012 the main aim was to go straight to the Gold Cup. However at the end of February, Paul Nicholls announced that Kauto Star had suffered a fall during routine schooling at Ditcheat, which put his Gold Cup hopes in doubt. However, after intensive physiotherapy and walking exercise, he showed a rapid improvement and just a week before the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kauto Star headed to Wincanton for a racecourse gallop. Here, he pleased connections and the decision was finally made that he would run in the Gold Cup. He started the Gold Cup at 3/1 under Ruby Walsh, however he was pulled up with Ruby Walsh saying he was “not stretching out”. No major injury was revealed, however owner Clive Smith made comments that he would most likely be retired.

As expected, at the end of October 2012, Kauto Star’s retirement was announced. With owner Clive Smith saying:

He’s had a magnifficant career and I’m mighty proud of him. We’ve decided to retire him as of today. I’d always thought he had done enough. It’s been the journey of a lifetime. He’s a wonderful, wonderful horse and a good friend of mine.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

And trainer Paul Nicholls saying:

Clive and I had been talking about it during the summer. We both knew it was the right thing to do, it was an unanimous decision. We have had nine superb years with the horse but, after seeing him in his work these past few weeks, myself, Clifford (Baker, head lad) and Dan (Skelton, assistant trainer) were of the opinion that the time had arrived to retire him. Of course, as owner, the final decision rested with Clive, but he agreed that the horse had done enough.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

Paul also described the horse as:

He’s definitely one of the greatest, it’s hard to compare generations but in my lifetime he’s been the best and probably will be the best.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

With Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star’s regular jockey also commenting on him:

He’s the horse of my lifetime. I’m very lucky to be the one who got to ride him. He was an amazing horse to ride and an amazing horse to be part of and I loved every minute of riding him.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

And Mick Fitzgerald, who rode Kauto Star in his 2005 win in the Tingle Creek saying:

You’d have to say Kauto Star is right up there with the best (there’s ever been).”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/horse-racing/20137124

When being retired, trainer Paul Nicholls and owner Clive Smith disagreed on what should happen with Kauto Star now. On the 11th of December 2012, Kauto Star left Ditcheat and was sent to Laura Collett and Yogi Breisner, who coached the Great Britain dressage team, who assessed him to determine if he would be suitable for their sport. At the time, owner Clive Smith said of Paul Nicholls:

He is trying emotional blackmail, saying that Kauto Star would be better off staying at Ditcheat to be Clifford Baker’s hack. I always want to do the best for Kauto Star. We are going to try it, what is wrong with that?”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/horseracing/9738182/Kauto-Star-dressage-row-sparks-split-between-Clive-Smith-and-Paul-Nicholls.html

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

Firstly, let’s go through Kauto Star’s race record

21/11F2353/112/21F/111111/211122/1U11/11F/133/P11P/

So let’s now sum those numbers up!

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

So, all in all, Kauto Star won over £3.7 million pounds in prize money including a £1 million bonus for winning the Stayers Chase Triple Crown and a £400,000 reward for heading the BHA Table of Merit, both in the 2006/2007 season. In his career, Kauto Star won the Gold Cup twice in 2007 and 2009, he won the Betfair Chase 4 times in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011 and he won the King George a record of five times in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

On the 24th of June 2015, it was announced that Kauto Star was seriously injured when taking a fall in his paddock. He was sent to the Valley Equine Hospital where he received intensive medical treatment over the weekend. However multiple injuries were to severe and on the 29th of June at 3pm, Kauto Star was sadly put to sleep. The veterinary assistant, Hattie Lawrence, reporting that:

Three bones appear to have been fractured. There also appears to have been a fracture to the spine at the base of the neck. This ultimately was the most significant injury as it produced the paralysis that made it impossible for him to stand.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

With Laura Collett saying:

It’s an honour and a privilege to have been involved with him and had him in the yard. It’s just horrendous. He was out in the field, the same field he was out in very day, we don’t really know what happened.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Owner Clive Smith also commenting:

I was away at the time. I saw him on Friday and by that time he’d had what appeared to be a mild injury, but things gradually changed. He was not responding to treatment on Thursday and Friday and various complications came over the weekend. Although he made an improvement and rallied, as he always did in races, on Monday morning it was very bad. I came back down from Scotland and the decision was taken with Hattie Lawrence to euthanise the horse.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Clive Smith then went on to describe the last few minutes with him:

The real injury that has caused the problem is a neck injury, at the base of the neck between C6 and T2 (vertebrae). It affects the spinal chord and in the end, it paralyses through the legs. When I saw him yesterday afternoon, he was lying there and I fed him some grass and stroked him and tried to spend the last few minutes with him. The decision had to be taken an there was no other course of action to take. Unfortunately he was not able to stand and then he had the pelvic injury.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

Clive Smith also commented on Kauto Star and how much he was truly loved:

He had a beautiful nature and he will be sadly missed by a lot more people than you could ever imagine. The response I used to get around the racecourses, people used to come and talk about him all the time. He really has been well loved by everybody and I’m sure he’ll continue to be so. He just loved the attention, he was a little bit of a show off. He liked being stroked and given lots of Polos. He was a particularly extrovert type of horse and he was so talented as well, which makes it all the more difficult to take in. I just feel so sorry he didn’t have chance to have a longer life.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/jun/30/kauto-star-put-down-badly-injured-fall

So, in summary, Kauto Star was a ridiculously talented horse and will always go down as one of the most successful steeplechasers in racing. He won some huge races, had some massive rivalries but all in all was just an incredible horse all round. I was lucky enough to grow up watching Kauto Star as a child with my dad, I don’t remember much, but researching this post I have sat watching YouTube videos and I have loved it. The crowd go wild each time and it’s clear to see how loved he was, is and always will be.


I really hope you all enjoyed this post and I will hopefully see you all in my next one!

An Interview with Harry Cobden

Good Evening!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry: One hundred and ten percent the Gold Cup.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

A VIP Stable Visit to Paul Nicholls’ Ditcheat

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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!