22 January 2019
Racing is a game of ups and downs and thankfully the last week has been a lot more successful than the previous one. At this point last week I was looking for a change in luck and was looking forward to riding Little Miss Poet at Ludlow in her first start over fences. The mare went on to win nicely, she was probably flattered by the fact that the Nicky Henderson trained favourite Kupatana disappointed, but she showed a decent level of ability and she jumped well.
It was a good result for Little Miss Poet’s owners who only bought her a couple of weeks ago for breeding. This win will have seen her value rise. She is entered in a listed chase for mares at Huntingdon on Friday.
On the same card at Ludlow I also had two other wins on nice young horses which I expect to progress. It was good to win on Back On The Lash for my very old friend Martin Keighley. I also won the 2 mile 5 furlong maiden hurdle on Rapper for Henry Daly and the local Home Farm Partnership. This horse will make a nice staying chaser in time.
At Chepstow on Friday I was really pleased to win on Samburu Shujaa for owners Robert and Janet Gibbs. They’re the best kind of owners, really longstanding and loyal owners with Philip Hobbs who have had horses in the yard for many years.
Their best horse was One Knight, a real star which won the Royal and SunAlliance Chase in 2003. He was also a Chepstow specialist, winning a novice hurdle, the Persian War, the Rising Stars Chase and the Rehearsal Chase at the course.
Samburu Shujaa will have to go some way to match that, but he was a very convincing wide margin winner of this maiden. It will be no surprise to see him line up in a decent novice chase at Chepstow next year – he’s a staying chaser in the making.
At Haydock on Saturday I finished second in the Peter Marsh chase on Robinsfirth behind Wakanda. It was a decent reappearance for Robinsfirth and I expect he’ll go for a handicap at the festival next. Western Ryder ran well enough in the Champion Hurdle Trial to finish third. No excuses, he just wasn’t quite good enough, and it’s difficult because at this level you’re always going to come up against top class horses.
I noticed this week that Kayley Woollacott sent out her mare Goodgirlteresa to win at both Ffos Las and Chepstow, four days apart. It’s great to see Kayley doing well, a year on from her husband Richard’s death. She’s done a great job in keeping the horses running and winning, keeping her team together and looking after her young daughter at such a difficult time. Richard is in our thoughts this week.
Being a trainer isn’t just about training horses. Trainers have to wear many hats, they have to try to keep their yards full and it’s important that they keep their owners happy and keep them informed. It’s also important that they have good staff, and there has been much discussion recently about the shortage of stable staff for some trainers.
Working in a yard isn’t an easy job, particularly in winter, and the hours are long. But it’s a rewarding job, and there was nothing else I wanted to do when I was a youngster. There is a movement towards trainers putting more effort into looking after their staff. They are often able to help with arranging accommodation for staff and there is usually a great team atmosphere within a yard.
Some people leave the industry as they get older, because the long hours and weekend work aren’t particularly family friendly, but trainers are now trying to offer more flexible working hours, better pay and more perks. This can only be for the good and I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off a career in racing, there’s nothing like it!