12 February 2014
The Racing UK presenter caught up with Charlie Fellowes in Newmarket to discuss working for James Fanshawe, the progeny of Makfi, and disappearing chicken kievs.
How did you get into racing?
My mum was a member of a syndicate that had horses in training with Geoff Wragg and James Fanshawe.
The first horse she was involved with was called Sveltana trained by Fanshawe and my mum and I drove to Yarmouth to watch her run. She duly won and we picked up the prize. From that moment I was hooked
Where have you served your apprenticeship?
With Nicky Henderson, Richard Gibson in France, Godolphin, Darley, Lee Freedman in Australia, and James Fanshawe
What did you learn from each different experience?
I learned how to ride and generally the life of a lad at Henderson’s and Gibson’s. At Godolphin I learned all about bandaging, checking legs and medication. At Darley I was breaking in yearlings. Then at Freedman’s and Fanshawe’s I learned how to train a horse.
James Fanshawe was your boss for many years, what did you learn from him?
Patience is the key to everything! Fanshawe is a master at working out when you can step a horse up and when they are not quite ready. Hopefully I have taken a bit of this on board!
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
The best piece of advice was when my dad told me to go to university, rather than take up a job offer at Godolphin.
Horseracing is all-consuming and leaves very little time for a social life, so I made a lot of friends, met my girlfriend, had a lot of fun and generally got it all out of my system before I dedicated my life to training horses.
I also got a decent degree in philosophy which hopefully won’t come in useful but could if things don’t go the way I hope.
How tough a decision was it to go it alone?
The actual decision itself was not hard at all. Both Fanshawe and I felt I was ready to make the leap. Life since then has been far tougher
What were the main challenges you faced when setting up?
Mainly all financial! But also having the confidence to believe that what you are doing is right.
How have you found the first few months as a trainer?
I would be lying if I said that it hadn’t been stressful but I think that is a good thing as it shows how much I care about making a success of this.
It is very difficult not to question everything you are doing until you start having runners and then hopefully winners.
Give us some horses in your yard to look out for?
Buckland was four lengths behind Estimate in last year’s Sagaro Stakes. He went off the boil slightly. If I can get him back to the form that he was in at the beginning of last year then we could have a lot of fun. I also have a beautiful yearling called Boarding Party, owned by Elite Racing. He is stunning and built like a bull and one of those horses that gets you dreaming!
What are your ambitions for the first season?
Main ambition is to train a winner. I don’t care what class race, or which track. A win is a win and it will be the biggest thrill of my life to walk in to that winners’ enclosure. For me Royal Ascot embodies everything that is good about racing in this country and so as a more ambitious target a winner at Royal Ascot would be amazing.
What is Newmarket like as a town to train from?
Newmarket is the best place in the world to train a racehorse. There is absolutely nothing here that is missing. My yard is over by the Rowley Mile racecourse and is positioned perfectly so that I can use the famous Warren Hill for my steady work, and have the benefits of the best gallops in town by the racecourse.
What’s the one part of the job you love the most?
Working with the horses. They are the most incredibly intelligent animals and you can build very strong relationships with them. You have to get them on your side so that you are working in tandem with them, rather than against them. If you and your lads can do that then hopefully the winners will follow.
The one part of the job you hate the most?
Early mornings in the winter. There is absolutely nothing worse than dragging yourself out of bed in early January when the wind is battering your window and the rain is hammering it down. Equally as enjoyable, however, is a beautiful summer’s morning out on the gallops.
You have a large number of Makfi juveniles in your yard. What have you made of his progeny so far?
None of them are at all alike physically. I have got big weak backward Makfis and then a couple of smaller, slightly more precocious types.
What they do all have is a great attitude and very obvious competitive nature, which is crucial for them to develop into a good horse. It doesn’t matter how good looking an animal is, if they don’t want to win, they won’t!
If you could win one race and one race only, what would it be?
That is basically an impossible question. Just one race I would probably have to say the Derby, although it is very close between that and a Group One at Royal Ascot
Who will you use to ride your horses this season?
Both Martin Lane and Hayley Turner have been a huge help over the last couple of weeks. They have been coming in and riding work and giving me a very valuable professional opinion on where I am with a few of my horses. Freddie Tylicki is also riding out a bit and we worked together at Fanshawe’s
If you could have five people over for dinner who would it be?
Billy Davies (the saviour of Nottingham Forest), Rob Brydon (to add some humour), Natalie Portman (because she is beautiful), Khalid Abdulla (the brains behind the most successful breeding operation in the world), and Archie Birkmyre (my grandfather whose love of sport I inherited and who I never got to spend enough time with)
Ideal holiday destination?
Kenya. It has got everything. White sandy beaches, beautiful wildlife and very friendly people. It’s a very special place.
Favourite horse of all time?
Easiest question of the lot- Society Rock. I checked him twice a day, every day and he became very special to me. He was the toughest horse I have ever come across and shouldn’t be alive today but he showed more strength and courage than most horses have put together to battle back from a horrific bang on the head. I can’t wait to train his progeny.
And finally...what is your party trick?
I have been known to make two chicken kievs disappear in under a minute.