An Interview with 20 Time Champion Jockey AP McCoy

AP McCoy (1)

Hey guys!

Today I am ecstatic to bring to you one of the biggest interviews I have done to date. The legend that is AP McCoy. In my time AP is the best jockey I have witnessed, he is also a brilliant ambassador for the sport and an all round gentleman and for a while now we have been talking and discussing a potential date for when we could get together for an interview and yesterday on the first day of Cheltenham that finally happened! AP has been super supportive of the work I’m doing to reach out and introduce the sport to more people as well as showing people the behind the scenes and the things you may not get to see as a racing fan, which I have found super interesting, so to have the support from someone such as AP is huge for me and genuinely means a lot. I am so thankful to AP for taking some time out of his ridiculously busy day to have a chat with me. I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: When I interviewed Richard Johnson he said he missed you in the dressing room as a friend more than anything, what do you miss the most about Richard?

AP: I miss him torturing me every day to try and make myself better. We actually… even though we were competing against each other every day we were the best of friends. Obviously we were in the weighing room together every day together and we were the very few people in their every single day. Erm, since I’ve retired I’ve been really pleased he’s managed to win the last 4 jockey championships. He’s a great credit to himself and a great credit to the sport. Yeah I really miss competing against him because he always brought out the best in me.

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

AP: Erm, I think I’d probably like to ride Tiger Roll going into a third Grand National because you know it’s a brilliant story him going on to try and win a third Grand National. Hopefully everything will go okay before then. But yeah, I’d probably say he’s a bit of a people’s horse, he’s a bit of a celebrity in his own rights so he’s probably the one.

Me: Onto the Grand National, do you think the weights have hindered or helped anyone in particular and do you think Tiger Roll can go on to win it?

AP: You know, it’s gonna be a tough task for him but I think he deserves the weight. And what I think and what a lot of bookmakers think is he’s gonna win. He’s a pretty outright favourite in my opinion and seemingly in everyone else’s opinion too.

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

AP: Erm, I never feel like I have to justify this sport to anyone. I think if a few of these protesters outside the Grand National at Aintree and you brought them a horse that was running in the Grand National and tell them to take them home and to look after them, I’d love to see what the reaction is. I don’t have to justify my love for the horses or my care I have for these horses to anyone, especially not someone who has no interest in the actual animal themselves and actually loving the animal and caring for the animal and doing what we do. So I think we spend too much time justifying ourselves to people like that.

Me: Obviously you suffered a lot of injuries during your career, just how important are the Injured Jockey’s Fund?

AP: Yeah the Injured Jockey’s Fund are hugely important, we’re very lucky to have such an organisation for current and past jockeys. It’s something that not every sport has and I think it makes me very proud of horse racing to have such an organisation.

Me: How important was Dave Roberts to your career as a friend and an agent?

AP: Dave Roberts was someone I spoke to every day for twenty odd years, he guided me in the right direction and gave me great advice. He has unbelievable knowledge of the sport and had as much of an obsession in winning as I had and I definitely wouldn’t have won or been half as successful without him.

Me: Do you see any young jockey’s now that could go on to break your record?

AP: I think records always get broken and mine are no different. There are certain things that I think will be obviously harder than others, you know I think in 2002 January to January for 7 years I rode for Martin Pipe who was numerically dominant, I don’t know if jockey’s now will ever be lucky enough to have that support from someone who is as numerically dominant as Martin Pipe was. So to ride 207 winners is something I think will be hard for another jockey to do in a calendar year. I broke Gordon Richard’s record in 2002 for 289 winners in a season and again, that would be tough. I think you need a little bit of luck to stay in one piece to win 20 consecutive jockey Championships so you know, they will need a little luck but it can be done.

Me: As an Irish man, do you ever regret not riding in Ireland more?

AP: No, look I, obviously being from Ireland I left there when I was 20. I spent four and a half years riding for Jim Bolger and that was the making of me. Would I have liked to ride in Ireland more? Yeah, I loved my time in Ireland. But I got into the position in this country where I as champion jockey for a period of time and that became my obsession maintaining that level and that’s why I spent as much time riding here as I did in my career.

Me: Onto the final question, what is your best piece of advice to a young person wanting to follow their dreams?

AP: I’m not from a racing family, you know I have 4 sisters and 1 brother who have never ridden horses in their life so it can happen. And as John Magnier said with Aidan O’Brien it’s hard work and it’s available to anyone you know, if you work hard enough then who know’s what could happen.

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Firstly, again I just want to say a massive thank you to AP for taking time out of his day to speak with me. He was truly a gentleman and I appreciate it so much. Personally I think he is a brilliant ambassador for our sport, not only is he the best jockey I have witnessed in my life time, he is also someone with extensive knowledge in every area of the sport and he is also someone who will make time for anyone, take as many photos that are requested by racing fans, talk to everyone, shake hands with everyone, just all round a brilliant guy.

I am of course ridiculously grateful to be given the opportunity to interview AP and I really hope you have all enjoyed this post!

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An Interview with Adrian Heskin

Adrian (1)

Heya guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: What is your favourite racecourse and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adrian: Tiger Roll in the Cross Country in March.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you all very soon for my next post!

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A Horse Racing Question & Answer – Answering YOUR questions!

Q&A

Hiya!

Welcome to this weekends post, it is a slightly different post, but one I felt I should do, I get asked so many questions about racing and my love for the sport so I thought I would get them all answered in one post. Throughout this week I have placed a question box on multiple Instagram stories for you to throw your questions at me and I had so many more than I imagined. So I am going to jump straight into it and get answering every single one of them! Some were similar questions to others so they will be answered within one question if that makes sense! So lets go!

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1) How did you get into horse racing?

This is probably my MOST asked question EVER. My dad has always watched racing, so from a very young age I watched it with him. One of my earliest memories in my life is when I was around 5/6 years old and we were at Stratford racecourse in the centre of the course, AP McCoy had had a fall around the back, so was walking back around and I shouted “look mom it’s AP” because at that point he was one of the only people I actually knew in racing. And as he always has been, he was a complete gentleman, who came straight over to us and took photos and signed my dad’s programme and I guess growing up I stuck with the sport and now I absolutely love it.

2) What horses do you have shares in?

So as everybody knows by now, I have shares in Pentland Hills trained by Nicky Henderson. I also have Sabrina trained by Paul Nicholls, Paris Dixie trained by Nicky Henderson, Gylo trained by Dan Skelton, Gilka trained by Dan Skelton and Cable Guy trained by Charlie Fellowes.

3) Do you still think Pentland Hills can win the Champion Hurdle after Haydock?

Personally I say we can’t rule him out, with more pace – which the CH should have – I think he would be perfectly fine and certainly come close. I’m not saying he’s a record breaking horse, but he is still very very young, only 5 years old, if it doesn’t happen for him this year he has plenty of time to achieve great things. He has already done incredibly well, so he owes us nothing at all.

4) True opinions of the Owners Group?

For me, there are many many aspects I don’t like about Owners Group, these I have voiced to the management of Owners Group and are being investigated so I won’t comment any further. But for £40-£60 a year and a taste of being an ‘owner’ I can’t complain. It’s more for the passion of the sport rather than trying to make money etc. 

5) Are you planning on visiting any smaller yards?

This is literally a question I am asked so much. And the simple answer is yes, I have a few smaller, lesser known yards planned for this year. If anyone has any yards in particular they would love me to cover then drop me a message and I will try my best to arrange those!

6) Do you get paid for the content you create?

The simple answer is no, I don’t. I have worked in social media and blogging for a long while so some posts I have across Instagram & Twitter are occasionally sponsored/paid/ads/gifted, all of which I always hashtag due to new laws, but as far as blog content is concerned I don’t get paid for it, it is simply a passion!

7) Flat or jumps?

To put it simply, jumps. I have always preferred jumps racing, I don’t really know why, that’s just my preference. I do still enjoy flat racing, I just very much prefer jumps!

8) Opinions on Little Rory Mac?

I have spoken out about this situation a million and one times over on Twitter, he’s now gone to new owners and a new trainer so I guess we will see what happens. I dislike the owner, I think his attitude is disgusting and I think the BHA need to do more to stop him from essentially bragging on social media with a photo of a handbrake etc, that is all I am saying on the matter, I am sure most of you have seen my opinions loud and clear on Twitter.

9) Are you going to Cheltenham?

I am. I will be there on the Tuesday and Friday this year, my personal favourite two days!

10) Who is your favourite horse past or present?

Okay, so personally I have 2 favourite horses ever, one is Native River, the other is Faugheen. Each for their own reason, they’re just the two horses I truly adore with my whole heart.

11) Best stable visit you have had so far?

Honestly, I don’t have a favourite. I have thoroughly enjoyed each visit I have had, they have all been so welcoming and I’ve loved every single one. Every yard is ran slightly differently so I have loved every one of them and learning how different they all are.

12) What other plans do you have for your blog this year? Interviews? Yard visits?

I actually have so much planned. More stable visits, more interviews, more guest posts, honestly some amazing content. Keep your eyes peeled is all I can say!

13) How long have you liked racing?

I went racing with my parents from a very very young age, I only really started to understand it and get into it properly from around 15/16 years old though.

14) What is your goal for 2020?

Within racing/blogging my goal is to continue doing what I love, to continue introducing new people into the sport I love and just enjoying what I do. I think if you enjoy what you do then it’s all worth it in the end.

15) Do you have a bucket list? Dubai World Cup? Breeders Cup?

Of course! What horse racing fan doesn’t? The two I have always wanted to see are the Melbourne Cup and Breeders Cup!

16) Cheltenham Festival – Who wins the Supreme, Ballymore and Triumph?

I think it’s still so early to be able to tell, trainers have so many options for their horses so for me I can’t call it this early, however personal views… Triumph – Allmankind is a very impressive horse, 3 from 3 so far, Dan (Skelton) has said he’ll now be rested until the Festival, I think he’s a class horse, definitely in with a shout. Ballymore – Envoi Allen is just a class horse, I don’t see anything beating him. Supreme – I like the look of Andy Dufresne, I think Gordon will avoid Envoi Allen personally so 100% a strong contender for the Supreme if entered.

17) What race are you most excited for at the Cheltenham Festival this year?

Ooo, interesting question, I think for me this year it has to be the Champion Hurdle. Normally it’s typical Buveur d’Air to win, but this year with him out, it is so wide open. I can’t call it, so many talented horses potentially to run, I think it’ll definitely be an exciting race to watch!

18) Opinions on a 5 day Festival?

Erm, I don’t see the point really. I mean 4 days is sufficient, I feel as though they will dilute the rest of the week just to add another day. Quality over quantity springs to mind. Personally think it’s just a money making idea.

19) Who is your favourite trainer and jockey?

Interesting question, for me my favourite jockey is probably between Richard Johnson – Just a brilliant ambassador for the sport and probably Sam Twiston-Davies who was one of the first jockey’s I really started to follow when I was getting into racing. I don’t particularly have a favourite trainer, there’s a few I follow and like but I wouldn’t say I have a favourite.

20) Opinions on bloggers interviewing people on race days?

Personally I don’t see an issue with it, if the jockey/trainer/owner is happy to be interviewed then what’s the issue? It’s the 21st century, the sport needs to get with it and realise that blogging and social media is absolutely massive right now and only getting bigger, so surely they should be encouraging younger people to blog and post on social media to get the sport reaching a new and younger generation.

21) Favourite racecourse you have been to?

I loved York. I think it is just a gorgeous place, definitely one of my favourites so far.

22) Thoughts on Bryony Frost?

I think she’s incredible. She is doing incredible and she’s a brilliant ambassador for the sport.

23) Would you like to do blogging as a full time job?

I mean, what blogger wouldn’t? It would be a dream to do something I love as a full time job, maybe one day!

24) Favourite horse you have met so far on your visits?

There is only one answer to this question and of course that is Native River. If you know me you’ll know that Native River is and always has been one of my favourite horses, so to finally meet him and have a cuddle was a dream.

25) Are you going to visit any Irish yards?

I hope so! Keep your eyes peeled.

26) Honest (not biased) opinion, is Pentland Hills as good as he was last year?

Erm, it’s a tough one. I think last year he surprised a lot of people, even those who had brought shares, he just sort of came out of nowhere. I think he’s had two decent runs, first run maybe disappointing, second run to be pipped on the line is heartbreaking. I think he’s looking good, I just don’t think we can compare him to last year because he’s gone up to a whole new level. He’s only five years old, so we need to see how things go I suppose.

27) Tip of the Festival?

Surely after yesterday’s performance it has to be Paisley Park? Ridiculously talented horse, think he’s incredible honestly.

28) Do you think Pentland Hills wins the Champion Hurdle?

I mean it would be nice, but the Champion Hurdle is wide open this year so anyone could win it really.

29) Who do you go with to the racing/tours?

I go with my Mom and Dad, nothing better than spending time with the two most important people in my life doing something we all love and enjoy!

30) What are your plans for your YouTube channel?

I am planning to do a lot of Vlog style videos visiting stables/races etc. I have so many videos from stable visits that never get posted anywhere so I would love to put them into Vlog style videos!

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So there we have it, the top 30 questions I have been asked this week about racing. I hope it gives you a bit more of an insight into me and why I love racing. I have some super exciting posts the next couple weeks so keep your eyes peeled.

See you all in my next post!

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Visiting Philip Hobbs’ Sandhill Racing Stable

Visiting Philip Hobbs' Sandhill Racing Stable

Hiya guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Visiting Michael Scudamore’s Eccleswall Court

Michael Scudamore

Hey guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading.

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An Updated Interview With Champion Jockey Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Hi guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you so much for reading.

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Worcester Races + EXCLUSIVE Interview with Richard Johnson

worcester

Hey guys!

So this is probably my most anticipated post EVER. So many people who knew about my interview with Richard Johnson have been super excited to be able to read it, especially a very very EXCLUSIVE never before discussed Cheltenham Festival tip, which will be hidden somewhere in this post so make sure you read all the way through! 

So onto the post… I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people at Worcester Racecourse to a day of racing to experience their track and to interview a jockey or trainer of my choice. I chose one of the most successful jockeys of our time and the current Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, so that interview will be all included in this post. The aim of this collaboration is to show people, especially younger people that horse racing is not animal cruelty like most people think, in fact, these horses are some of the best treated animals I have ever seen. The people who care for them have true love and adoration for their animal and they treat them like royalty. 

Firstly I would like to thank Worcester especially Katherine who arranged for this to happen, I am super grateful for the opportunity to work with them as a company. The racecourse in itself is probably one of my favourite courses that I have been to. It is quite an open course so from the stands you can see 99% of the course, some courses I have been to the most part is behind trees etc and you don’t see much apart from the home straight, so I loved the fact it was so open and you could see the majority of the course. I attended Worcester twice within a few days, once invited and then I decided to go again on my own accord and I love it as a course overall. 

For me, I have always loved horse racing, it is something my parents, especially my dad, watched a lot whilst I was growing up and I took a real interest in it at around 16/17 years old, at 18 I began working for a bookmakers, which made me even more interested in horse racing as I was around it all day, every day and since then I have fallen in love with attending different courses, seeing different horses, meeting different jockeys and trainers and it really is something I enjoy doing.

Over the two days I was lucky enough to meet a few different people, including Jonjo O’Neil and Nicky Henderson, two world class trainers as well as Chris Hughes from Love Island who was part of the Jonjo O’Neil team and someone I never imagined I would meet as he very very rarely rides outside or Ireland, Barry Geraghty which was truly an honour as a massive horse racing fan.

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And of course I met the incredible Richard Johnson who I had the privilege of interviewing. So here is the part you have all been waiting for. I sound recorded the interview, so here it is written word for word how it went down. Including the very exclusive Cheltenham tip so do not miss that part!

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

Richard: Definitely not. To be honest anyone that thinks that they should always come and actually see what the horses do on a daily basis. They are literally cared for 24 hours a day, you know in great accommodation, their stables are fantastic, they literally have first class treatment you know, they get fed 3 or 4 times a day and they are cared for and the girls and lads that look after the horses, they’re like their pets basically. They don’t own them obviously, but they look after them as if they’re their own. And they have a fantastic life and they enjoy racing, no way in the world me as a jockey could make one of these horse jump one of these fences today you, know. I can’t physically make them go over, you know they have to enjoy it. Yes, unfortunately there are injuries along the way and that’s sad for everybody, but erm you know. The horses do enjoy it and I rode ponies when I was young because I enjoyed it and we all get enjoyment out of it and hopefully the public that come racing regularly, that’s what they see and enjoy.

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

Richard: Oh god, it’s hard. I’m very spoilt because obviously I get to ride lots of nice horses as well. But I think the Cheltenham Festival is four days rather than one day but the Cheltenham Festival it’s a big build up throughout the whole season. That’s like our Olympics or World Championship I suppose, each year. The Irish come over in their droves to come to the races and the horses, it’s a massive outing, the Irish horses come over to run and yeah the four days at Cheltenham, obviously I’m from Hereford, not far from Cheltenham and I’ve lived around there for a long time so the atmosphere there is fantastic and anyone that, Worcester is obviously a great track for the Summer, but Cheltenham, if you want to go and get the atmosphere of a big race day there’s no better place.

Me: Do you miss AP (McCoy)? And if you, what’s the biggest thing that you miss about him?

Richard: I miss him. I miss him in the weighing room because he was a great friend obviously and I rode with him for over twenty years, so erm yeah we were great friends and I miss him as a great friend in the weighing room. I don’t miss him on the race course, in the fact he used to beat me regularly. But again, he was great to ride with because he was a great jockey and you know, it helped me try to chase him and made me more hungry and hungry to try and ride more winners and try to beat him and you know we had a great sort of competitiveness between us and erm again, we were also great friends and we had ups and downs and you know we both had good and bad days so you know it was always nice to have a friend in the weighing room to talk to as well.

Me: Looking ahead to the new National Hunt Season horses, what do you think will be your best ride at Cheltenham?

Richard: Oh gosh, again, very hard, like we just said Cheltenham is a long long way away but even now people are still talking about it. Erm, I would love to think Native River could come back in the Gold Cup and go two spots better than he did last year. He was 3rd in the race last year and ran really really well. Erm you know, this season we will be geared for him to be running in the Gold Cup again so I suppose he’s my big hope. I think for me, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is, I’ve been very lucky to win it once before a long time ago in 2000 but if I could win in any race that would be the one I would like to win.

Me: Do you every get nervous before or during a race?

Richard: Erm, I think I always get a little bit nervous before a race, I think you, you want the horse to perform to it’s best level it can, erm you’re always thinking about the race and trying to work out what you want to do and you’ve always got a plan, plans don’t always go exactly how you want, but again that’s sort of you know, you’re always, you just want things to go right and as soon as you jump off in the race, your focus is on what’s going on and I think a little bit of nerves is probably a good thing. If you’re not nervous at all then you’re a bit over confident and sometimes, yeah it’s never good to be over confident.

Me: During your time as a jockey, what has changed in regards to social media being introduced and younger fans?

Richard: Erm, massively. You know obviously even you know, with two racing channels now on TV and social media whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or all the other things, you’re sort of out in public light I suppose and you know you’ll have good days where obviously you’ll get lots of lovely messages and good praise and then obviously you have bad days where things don’t go right and you know you get the other side of it. And it is sad, you’ll read things about yourself and think everybody out there is doing their best and you know, mistakes can happen and do happen and that’s a part of life really. Sometimes stuff that is put on some of the social media isn’t very pleasant and it would be lovely to think there is a way of stopping it but that’s life and I think we’ve all seen good and bad social media but on the whole social media is brilliant, it gives everyone a chance to have an opinion and hopefully everyone’s got the common sense behind what they say as well.

Me: What’s your most memorable race, win or lose?

Richard: Erm, again, erm, I suppose, erm.. two really. Rooster Booster winning the Champion Hurdle, again, a few years ago now erm, he literally, I was a passenger. I went around on his back and he travelled really well, he jumped fantastic and he flew up the hill at Cheltenham. And honestly, I can’t believe, even to this day, how easily he won. Erm, it was just, yeah, a dream ride for me and I suppose finishing second in the Grand National on Balthazar King, he was just an amazing horse for use for a long time and I must admit going to the last, I thought I was going to win and from the last to the winning post we just couldn’t get past the one in front and he gave two hundred percent and you know there was no disappointment, it was just you know sad for him not to win, but again I had an amazing ride on him and I suppose, yeah, that’s the one, I finished second but it was still an amazing ride.

Me: Does it still play on your mind that you haven’t won the (Grand) National yet?

Richard: Erm, it’s obviously a race I would like to win. Erm, I mean again, I’ve been second in it twice and sometimes when you finish second it’s almost worse than finishing third because you think well if this and if that and erm, the Grand National is one of those races I think you’ve got to take what you’re given really because you never really know what’s out there with forty horses running in the race. Erm, I’ve had lots of good rides in it and again we’ve gone close twice and it’s a race I would like to win before we finish.

Me: We go to the Gold Cup and Grand National next year for the first time so no pressure.

Richard: If I win both the Gold Cup and Grand National next year, if that’s the case you’ll have to come to every Gold Cup and Grand National after that.

I just want to take a moment to thank Richard for being one of the loveliest people, this was my first time interviewing someone so I am so grateful he was so lovely, patient and kind when with us. He was also super honest and so easy to get a long with whilst asking him questions and having a chat.

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For me, you’ve heard it from the current champion jockey just how in love and well looked after the horses are. He said that the horse is 5 times the size of a jockey so they wouldn’t be able to force it to do something it just didn’t want to do, so clearly the horses enjoy it or they wouldn’t be there doing it. Did you all pick up the cheeky Cheltenham tip too? Native River is currently being rode out and geared up for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and himself and the team think he has a better chance this year. So definitely a horse to keep your eye on as he is already in training for the big race!

I am so happy and grateful I had this opportunity and really can’t thank Worcester, Katherine and Richard enough for everything. Worcester have one last race day this year so check out their website here if you’d like to attend that, something I definitely recommend: http://www.worcester-racecourse.co.uk/

I personally love horse racing, the atmosphere is great and in person you really do see how well looked after the horses are and I would recommend it to anyone. If you’re a student, Katherine did inform me that they have started doing a student race day at Worcester, normally held in May, so definitely keep your eye out for that because it is such an interesting sport and a great day out for families, friends, couples, everybody can enjoy it.

I really hope the wait for this post was worth it, I hope you enjoy my very first ever interview and I hope you keep your eyes peeled for Richard Johnson’s tip. I will see you all in my next post!

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