Today’s post is a very exciting one, it’s my first yard visit since the Coronavirus Pandemic started and boy it was an exciting one! I was lucky enough on Monday to visit Charlie Poste and Francesca Nimmo’s breaking in/point to point yard and it was definitely up there with one of my favourite visits. Back in March I interviewed Charlie (which you can read here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2020/03/21/an-interview-with-charlie-poste/ ) and I thoroughly enjoyed doing so as he was so knowledgeable and he helped me to understand a lot about point to point and breaking in that I never previously knew, so I knew that this visit would be a very educational one and it did not disappoint! So, lets get straight into it!
We arrived at around 9am as the team were preparing to take some 3 and 4 year olds out. The team were all lovely and very welcoming as always! We were informed that Charlie and Francesca currently have around 60 horses, some of which they are breaking in and some of which they own themselves and are preparing for point to point races.
We headed down to the warm up area where the horses simply jumped over sets of tyres. Before heading into the field to see them do their work.
In between jumping the fences the jockey’s on board would tell Charlie and Francesca what they thought, whether a horse was jumping left or right, anything that may be slightly off etc, then Charlie and Francesca would switch the horse to another side or change the order they jumped and they would make sure they were taking on board the jockey’s opinions before switching what the horse was doing to ensure it was just as best as it possibly could be. I found it interesting listening to how they used the different things the jockey’s were saying to switch how things would be done next time round.
I asked the team a few questions as our morning went on, including how long it would take them to break a horse in. Charlie told us that normally a horse would stay with them for around 6 weeks, they would start a horse off stepping over a pole, then move onto a log, then onto a barrel, then the tyres and then finally over fences, this process would take around 4 weeks to get the horses comfortably jumping and cantering. I can honestly say I am amazed at the work Charlie and Francesca and their whole team do. From a horse that has never had someone on their back to a horse fully jumping fences in 6 weeks – that is pretty incredible.
I also asked about point to point racing as this is something I am not very knowledgeable and wanted to know more. Working at the yard is the Point to Point Men’s Champion Jack Andrews so of course their team know a thing or two about point to pointing. We were told that the rules are pretty much the exact same as regular under rules racing, however there are a few differences. For example, the weights are done totally different. For example, in a 4 and 5 year old race, 5 year olds may have a 12 stone weight across the board, however a lesser experienced 4 year old may have an 11 stone 7 weight across the board. As well as the jockeys who can ride in point to points, which is different. Anybody who is an amateur and below can ride. So essentially if you would like to ride in a point to point you would need a BHA jockey coach to sign you off to say you are competent enough to not be a danger to yourself or anyone else and then once you receive this certificate you are able to ride in a point to point race.
The horses we seen went over the tyre gallops to warm up before doing 2 or 3 rounds of jumps before being washed down and put on the walker to cool down. This is something that the team do daily.
Speaking with Charlie and Francesca you could see how passionate they both are about what they’re doing, they are both very much into the horses and racing and you can see the passion they have just by watching them at work. They also informed us that all decisions made are made between them. So, talking about decisions being made, I was very curious as to how they make a decision to buy a horse at the sales. If a trainer and/or owner is buying a horse they normally have a point to point back ground or an under rules race under their belts, so they can base their purchase off of that, however for Charlie and Francesca, they are buying a horse that has basically done nothing, so how do they choose what horses they want?
They told us that there’s an almost routine to choosing their horses. Firstly they will go to the sales and they won’t look in the catalogue beforehand, instead they simply do it from the gut feeling and the look of the horses when they see them in person. If a horse takes their interest it is only then that they will check the catalogue. When looking in the catalogue, Charlie told us is it Francesca who has an eye for the confirmations, for example if a horse has feet that turn in or out, or anything that may be of interest. They then go on to check the pedigree and see if this horse is going to be marketable later on in it’s life. Charlie explained to us that they have to be marketable as at the end of the day they run a business and there is no point in buying a horse that you cannot sell. Certain horses from certain Sire’s sell better than others and that’s just horse racing for you. After doing this, if they think this horse is the one they will set themselves a budget and they will go for it. If it goes past their budget they simply move on and try and find another.
Charlie and Francesca have had some brilliant success stories since starting up their business. Including Olly Murphy’s Thomas Darby who went on to come second in the Grade 1 Novice’s Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2019 as well as going on to win the Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle back in January at Ascot. And another name some of you may recognise is Fergal O’Brien’s Courtandbould who just on Friday came second to McFabulous at Chepstow in the Grade 2 Novice’s Hurdle. Since leaving the yard and moving to Fergal’s Courtandbould has won 3 of his races, came second in 3 races and came third once. So he looks to be a very very classy horse and could go on to be something pretty special. However a slight sidenote to this story is that Courtandbould was purchased for a decent amount of money (out of respect for Charlie and Francesca I do not want to put this information out there) and after only managing to come second in his two Point to Point races, was sold for less than the price they paid. Charlie explained to us that sometimes you have to take the hit, it’s a business and sometimes you make money, sometimes you lose money and now he’s gone on to prove he’s a pretty decent horse.
Whilst at the yard we were also introduced to a few hopefully exciting future prospects. Including Fox in the Box who is by Presenting x Forces of Destiny – who Charlie actually mentioned in our interview in March – who unfortunately was due to ride a lot earlier in the year however due to Coronavirus hasn’t been able to run as of yet, however he is ready for a run pretty soon.
We also met a 3 year old unnamed by Jet Away x Cherry Island who was purchased for a decent amount of money and Charlie thinks could be an exciting horse in the future. He was such a calm horse and as you can see below, he was very interested in my phone. Genuinely one of the loveliest horses I have ever met.
Overall I think what Charlie and Francesca do is incredible. When we go to a race meeting you see the finished article, a horse jumping, running, winning but I think people forget that these horses start out with no idea what they’re doing and it’s people like Charlie, Francesca and their team who take them from having nobody on their back to jumping and racing. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with their team, they are all so knowledgeable and welcoming and I loved learning how a horse goes from zero to hero in such a short space of time. I was very impressed by the fact that they will only have a horse 6 weeks to break them in, in all honesty I had no idea how long it would take to break a horse in, but for some reason 6 weeks surprised me and seemed a very short space of time.
I want to thank Charlie and Francesca for allowing me to visit them and meet their gorgeous horses and really learn about the early steps in a horses career. I had the best time along with my parents and it really opened my eyes to a whole different sector of the sport that I hadn’t really looked into before.
I really hope you enjoyed this post and enjoyed an insight into the hard work and dedication it takes to get a horse up to the standard we all see at a racecourse! I will hopefully see you all in my next post!