My life with horses – and racing
Sasha Thorbek-Hooper is closely connected with the area’s ‘horse industry’. Below, in her introductory column for Marlborough News Online's Horsebox, she explains her interests and work – among her roles she manages The Perfect Day Partnership racing syndicate. The syndicate’s mare Carnival Flag - known at the yard as ‘Ginger’ - is one to watch for the coming jump season.
I suppose you could say that I was born with horse racing in my blood. As a Dane, my father Erik Thorbek, discovered racing when he arrived on our shores (not by longship but on a ferry from Esbjerg to Harwich) and embraced it to the extent that he went on to own several racehorses in his own right and also sponsored for many years a prominent National Hunt steeplechase, The H&TWalker Gold Cup at Ascot Racecourse. That’s how keen he was to put something back into the sport that he had fallen in love with.
Having just graduated from Leeds University with a degree in Animal Science, rather than follow in the footsteps of my grandmother, who was an extremely noted Danish scientist in the field of animal metabolism and nutrition, I was drawn into the world of horse racing. Jodhpurs won over lab coat.
I remember walking through the gates of Newbury Racecourse having driven from my home in Kent for a job interview and being overwhelmed by a wave of déjà vu. I knew I had been here before but couldn’t quite recall when.
It then dawned on me that I used to come racing here with my father as a small child. Being the only family member with a passion for horses, I used to tag along with ‘ET’ on his racing trips and can still clearly recall the sensory overload of being surrounded by discarded tweed jackets and felt trilbies, cigar smoke, screams of “go on son!”, and the confetti of ripped-up betting slips raining down on me - as I hugged a warm glass of coke and a crumpled packet of crisps. So walking into Newbury Racecourse in 1998 so many years later was like a homecoming.
Sixteen years on and now a freelance, I look back on an entire career working within the racing industry - experiencing it from many, many angles including race riding. But the thing I love most about the industry is that it’s a way of life – a family, but one I’ve thankfully been able to choose!
I still work at Newbury Racecourse, but just on race days looking after the Owners and Trainers. The Berkshire track has changed a lot in the last decade and a half that I’ve been there, but with a new helmsman in the form of Julian Thick, it’s now definitely on a straight course.
In 2008, I was lucky enough to be asked to be racing correspondent for BBC Radio Berkshire and have experienced joyous moments such as commentating on the mighty Frankel in his last ever race, seeing Yates win his fourth Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and not forgetting the Queen’s filly, Estimate, winning the same race in 2013.
Probably the most magical time was shouting the awesome AP McCoy home to his 4,000 winner at Towcester in the dying light on a grey November day – we were the only radio station broadcasting live at the track that day, something I am secretly rather proud of.
I also enjoy the privilege of managing a racing syndicate, The Perfect Day Partnership, out of champion trainer Nicky Henderson’s yard in Lambourn and I also ride out there several times a week. This season my syndicate has a really special 5-year-old mare called Carnival Flag. And her sixteen syndicate owners are hopeful of great things from her after a very promising first season….like so many of us girls, she’s a tricky one but well worth the effort to tame her!
The other string to my bow (apart from my five amazing children – Paddy, Isabella, Scarlett, Otto and Lucy) and in fact the one that I am most passionate about, is that two years ago I took on the role of Fundraiser at Greatwood Charity. Based just outside Marlborough, this inspirational charity now has my heart one hundred per cent.