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Keeping them racing all year round: Newbury's new Clerk of the Course has a weather eye on the turf


Newbury Racecourse's meeting on Wednesday (January 16) will be the first overseen by their new Clark of the Course, Keith Ottesen.

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Driving solo from west Wales to Mongolia raising funds for charity - with a stop-off to meet a local para-equestrian…


Thirty year-old Guy Simmonds' first stop on his epic solo 2019 journey - by any standards the journey of a lifetime - was Rockley.  He came to see para-equestrian dressage rider Alison Fryer.

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Newbury Racing: Betway Challow glory for Champ, a fond farewell for Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood & Richard…


Newbury Racecourse's final final fixture of 2018 (December 29) saw a classy Betway Challow Hurdle and two tight finishes.  But the day was as much about the people who make horseracing such a popular sport, as about the card of seven races.

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Paisley Park gives owner, trainer and jockey a Grade 1 Christmas present at Ascot


Marlboroughequestrian.news used to have a Horse in the Spotlight feature.  Then we changed it to a Horse Profile feature - currently featuring  Paisley Park on the strength of his amazing recent victory at Haydock.

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Newbury's Betway Challow Hurdle Day: first race will be named in honour of departing Clerk of the Course Richard…

19-12-2018 A Correspondent

It will truly be the end of an era at Newbury on Saturday, December 29, Betway Challow Hurdle Day, when Clerk of the Course Richard Osgood officiates at the track for the final time - 99 years after the first member of the Osgood family joined the racecourse staff.

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Barbury International Point-to-Point's new date sees good support and great racing

18-12-2018 Russell Smith

Sarah Rippon was full of praise for Sonneofpresenting after her new charge upset odds-on favourite Cousin Pete it the Barbury International Racing Club meeting at Barbury Racecourse (December 16) - a new pre-Christmas date for this innovative fixture.

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Laura Thomas: Barbury trainer faces economic truths - and keeps the pointers for fun


At present, Barbury trainer Laura Thomas has twenty horses at her yard, but she is standing back from training pointers to concentrate on pre-training, rehabilitation and box rest for racehorses - mainly for Alan King whose yard is just over the hill.

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Preview: Barbury International Racing Club's point-to-point takes on its new pre-Christmas & post Cheltenham date

12-12-2018 A Correspondent & Russell Smith

The Barbury International Racing Club's point-to-point on Sunday (December 16) is its second 2018 appearance.  This is because it has moved the fixture from a January to December - to follow on from Cheltenham's two-day International Meeting.

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Newbury: Sizing Tennessee leads Tizzard one-two in £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy - local interest Dingo Dollar is third

03-12-2018 A Correspondent

It may have rained for much of the afternoon on day two of Newbury's 2018 Ladbrokes Winter Carnival (Saturday, December 1), but the feature race - the £250,000 G3 Ladbrokes Trophy - turned into a Tizzard blizzard - led by Sizing Tennessee.

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Elegant Escape favourite of 23 runners for Ladbrokes Trophy - Dingo Dollar & Black Corton in good shape for £250,000…

26-11-2018 A Correspondent

Ante-post favourite Elegant Escape headlines the 23 five-day acceptors for the £250,000 Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury (Saturday, December 1) - the highlight of day two of the Ladbrokes Winter Carnival.

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Toby Balding: a racing world’s Who’s Who pays tribute at Marlborough College chapel memorial service

 Andrew and Clare Balding share their memories of Uncle TobyAndrew and Clare Balding share their memories of Uncle TobyThe great and good and the old and the young of horseracing and beyond gathered at Marlborough College chapel on Monday afternoon (December 15) for a service celebrating and giving thanks for the life of Toby Balding, OBE. 

He was a trainer who, Clare Balding told the assembled relatives and friends, "...didn't regard training racehorses as a job but as a way of life, and it was a life he loved." 

Toby Balding had been a pupil at Marlborough College – and the steps at the east end of the chapel sported the symbols of his racing life: a tribly, racing binoculars, his racing colours, two representative trophies and a portrait of the man.

He had trained racehorses for 48 years and saddled over 2,000 winners.  The service perfectly captured the spirit of a racehorse trainer who was renowned for nurturing winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Grand National and at Royal Ascot.  

But, as his niece Clare Balding told the packed chapel: “He was magical with horses, but even better with people.”

AP McCoy, Adrian Maguire, Richard Dunwoody, Jeff Pearce are just some names who were graduates through the Toby Balding stable – and proudly call themselves ‘the Balding babes’.   

Also there were the jockeys who rode his Grand National winners Eddie Harty (Highland Wedding) and Jimmy Frost (Little Polveir.)
Well-known racing aces in the congregation included Paul Nicholls, Mick Fitzgerald, John Francome, Graham Bradley, Ron Atkins, Jonjo O’Neill who were reflecting on Balding's genius touch with horses, people and life. 

A stunning service of hymns, poetry, anecdotes captured the many ways in which  Balding thoroughly enjoyed life.  He was a keen follower of Southampton Football Club – and the choir began the memorial service with an arrangement 'Oh When the Saints'.  And they also sang 'The Teddy Bears picnic' - a further wonderful reflection of his quirky sense of humour.
Toby's brother Ian Balding (left) & Ian's daughter ClareToby's brother Ian Balding (left) & Ian's daughter ClareEmotional tributes from the Balding and Geake families highlighted the impact he had made personally to them as a trainer, father, grandfather and uncle. A beautiful narrative and eulogy from Clare Balding and her brother Andrew, described the expanse of lives their Uncle Toby touched with his broad-minded wisdom.  

They told how Eric Clapton was among the frequent visitors to Balding's kitchen table for breakfast following mornings on the gallops.  And about the chaotic animal life at the stables.
During his training career and in retirement Toby was always generous with advice encouraging those eager to get on with it.   His grandson Sam Geake spoke one of the tributes to him - aptly finishing with a favourite saying of his grandfather at the end of a morning's work on the gallops:  "That's all folks, no action replays!"

John Francome John Francome Mick Fitzgerald of Channel 4 Racing Mick Fitzgerald of Channel 4 Racing Jonjo O'NeillJonjo O'Neill
Martin Pipe Martin Pipe John Mackie John Mackie Paul Nicholls Paul Nicholls
Eddie Harty who rode Toby Balding's first Grand National winnerEddie Harty who rode Toby Balding's first Grand National winner Jimmy Frost who rode Balding's second Grand National winner Jimmy Frost who rode Balding's second Grand National winner Former jockey Ron Atkins Former jockey Ron Atkins
Jonathan Geake - Toby Balding's son-in-law - also a trainer Jonathan Geake - Toby Balding's son-in-law - also a trainer The 'race card' or order of serviceThe 'race card' or order of service Toby Balding's son Gerald Toby Balding's son Gerald

 See:  Before the memorial service in Marlborough for Toby Balding, Ian Balding writes about his brother - the much respected racehorse trainer who died in September


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Before the memorial service in Marlborough for Toby Balding, Ian Balding writes about his brother - the much respected racehorse trainer who died in September


Toby Balding 1936-2014Toby Balding 1936-2014Next Monday (December 15) many members of the horse racing world – among them well known owners, trainers and jockeys – will gather in Marlborough for the memorial service to mark the life of the much respected and very successful trainer Toby Balding, who died in September aged 78.

The memorial service will be held in the Marlborough College chapel and will start at 2.00pm.

Toby Balding’s brother Ian was also a successful trainer.  He trained the legendary Mill Reef (who won the Derby in 1971.)  Ian Balding retired in 2002 passing his Park House (Kingsclere) training licence to his son Andrew.  Ian Balding’s daughter is Clare Balding the racing journalist and presenter.

Ian Balding has very kindly written this account and appreciation of his brother's life for Marlborough News Online:

Toby was born in England on 23 September 1936.  He went to the USA soon afterwards (our mother was American) and I was born there in 1938.

We stayed in America with our mother in Far Hills, New Jersey all through the war. Our father Gerald Balding, who was English and a famous polo player, fought in the war - with the Life Guards.  

After the war he took us all back to England where he set up as a racehorse trainer. We were both sent to school - first at Beaudesert Park and then to Marlborough College. In the holidays we quickly became cheap labour for him and found ourselves mucking out and then riding the racehorses.

Toby was always going to be too big to be a jockey, so being smaller I was the one destined to be the jockey and Toby the future trainer. In spite of that Toby actually rode a few winners under National Hunt rules – jump winners and a few point-to- point winners too.  

Our father trained at Westonbirt in Gloucestershire for a few years and then moved to Bishops Cannings in Wiltshire.  After a few years there he moved finally to a large stable at Weyhill near Andover.  

All this time his main patron was the American newspaper publisher, philanthropist and sportsman John Hay (Jock) Whitney, who was also Toby`s Godfather.  Toby, by the way, was christened Gerald Barnard Balding, but was always called Toby (after a great family friend) so as to distinguish him from his father.

Sadly our father died of cancer in 1956, and with Jock Whitney`s blessing, Toby who was then 20 and had recently returned from doing his National Service with the Life Guards, took over the training licence. He became the youngest ever trainer to have held a licence in this country.

Jock Whitney, who by now was the American Ambassador in London, was extremely kind and generous to both of us (he financed my further education at both Millfield and Cambridge University for example) and supported Toby very much with his training career.

My younger brother Robin and sister Gail will be very upset if I don`t mention them. They were born in England after the war. In fact they both went back to the USA with our mother soon after our father died. They both went to college over there, married Americans and have continued to live there ever since.

Toby`s training career was very much helped by a big winner on the flat very early on. He won the Portland Handicap at Doncaster with a horse called New World – and had a big bet on him at 25-1!

However, for many years, he was much better known as one of the leading National Hunt (jump) trainers.  He won the Grand National twice – first with Highland Wedding (ridden by Eddie Harty) in 1969 and then again in 1989 with Little Polveir (Jimmy Frost).

He won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham with Beech Road (Richard Guest) in 1989 and again in 1991 with Morley Street (Jimmy Frost).  He also won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Cool Ground (Adrian Maguire) in 1992.  And so he became one of the few trainers to have won all three of these great races.

Morley Street was the best horse he ever trained winning the Breeders Cup Chase twice in the USA and being voted American Champion Steeplechaser of the Year in America in 1990 and 1991.

Toby always enjoyed racing politics and played a big part in it for many years.  He virtually founded the National Trainer`s Federation and was its Chairman for many years.  After he retired from training he served on the British Horseracing Board for several years and was awarded the O.B.E. for his services to Racing in 2011.  He was elected an Honorary Member of the Jockey Club in 2006.

Toby Balding was a great supporter of young jockeys and helped both A.P. McCoy and Adrian Maguire on their way to successful careers.  When Toby Balding died the Daily Telegraph tweeted the news with a photo of McCoy and Balding – and AP added his own tribute:



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Hennessy Heaven! Newbury Festival fan Sasha Thorbek-Hooper explains why it’s the must-go sports event, how to enjoy it - and the Gold Cup runners

I know that Christmas is just round the corner when I turn the page in my diary and see the ‘Newbury Hennessy 3-Day Winter Festival’ marked heavily in bold. It’s always a huge highlight of my year, and not just because I am fanatical about jump racing, but because it is such a great social event in the local calendar.

A combination of the best horses in England, France and Ireland competing at the highest, nerve jangling level, all set in glorious surroundings, coupled with fantastic racecourse facilities and all harmoniously gelled together, thanks to the awesome atmosphere created by the 50,000+ crowd that’s sure to be there over the three days.

Steeped in history, Hennessy are the longest standing commercial sponsors of any race in the British Isles and past winners have included some of the equine greats:
•    the awe inspiring Arkle, winner of the race twice in ’64 and ’65 (as well as winning The Cheltenham Gold Cup three years consecutively and notching up a total of 27 race wins from his 35 starts)
•     the 18 hand giant – Mill House in ’63
•     Burrough Hill Lad (’84) trained by the legendary Jenny Pitman, the first woman ever to train a Grand National winner.
•    2007 and 2009 saw the nation’s darling, Denman carve a niche in Hennessy history by becoming only the third dual winner of the Berkshire track’s most prized race.

The race has had its fair share of grey winners in recent times too: One Man (’94); the equally loved Suny Bay (’97); Teeton Mill (’98); and What’s Up Boys in 2001.

I have watched the last 16 runnings of the Hennessy Gold Cup from the steppings of the Hampshire Stand, and my favourite year without doubt was in 2005 when the Nicky Henderson trained, Trabolgan defied a top weight of 11st 12lbs to hold off French raider L'Ami by two-and-a-half lengths.

What made the win so special was that his jockey, Mick Fitzgerald, had only just returned from a broken neck earlier that very week. Standing in front of the winning post, with tears pouring down my face it was a fairy tale race that raised the roof.

In a bitter sweet twist, the horse that Mick beat that year was the very horse that ended his riding career three years later when Fitzy took a crashing fall from L’Ami at the second fence of the 2008 Grand National.

As a seasoned Hennessy racegoer here are my top tips on how to get the most out of your day:

•    DRESS WARM: Hennessy Day is notoriously cold so first and foremost make sure you are comfortable. You don’t have to forego fashion - a stylish, winter coat over the top of something practical is the way to go. Leather boots or funky wellies will ensure that your feet will stay warm and dry too.

•    ARRIVE EARLY: Avoid the traffic, panic and last minute travel-related arguments with family and friends by getting to the track in plenty of time. The gates open early, so make a day of it by taking a picnic or having brunch at the course. You don’t have to come by car: there is an on-course train station, therefore making the fight over the designated driver a non-starter!

•    BUY A RACECARD: Well worth the few quid it will cost you. The racecard not only gives you a list of the ‘runners and riders’ (including a guide on how to understand the technicalities of each race), but it is filled with loads of useful information to make your day more enjoyable and stress-free.

•    SET A BUDGET: If you fancy a flutter, give yourself a budget for how much you want to bet on each race and don’t go over it. Put your betting money in your right pocket and your (hopeful) winnings in your left one - but don’t be tempted to dip into during the day. Hopefully by the end of the day you’ll be up and go home with an even bigger smile on your face.

•    RENDEZVOUS POINT:  If you are going in a crowd no doubt you’ll get split up at some point during the day. Mobile phone networks get jammed up, so decide on a rendezvous point just in case. This is especially important if you have children with you.

Runners for the 58th Hennessy Gold Cup (Saturday, November 29) at November 24:


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Alan King hunting for first Hennessy crown with Smad Place and Midnight Prayer


Smad Place (nearest the camera) and Midnight Prayer check out Newbury's going (Photo courtesy Newbury Racecourse & GJ Multimedia)Smad Place (nearest the camera) and Midnight Prayer check out Newbury's going (Photo courtesy Newbury Racecourse & GJ Multimedia)Barbury Castle trainer Alan King talks to Harriet Rochester about next Saturday’s Hennessy Gold Cup

Next Saturday (29 November), marks the 58th running of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury Racecourse. The race is one of the most significant handicap chases this side of Christmas. And Hennessy’s sponsorship of the race is the longest running commercial sponsorship in world sport.

Rich in horseracing heritage, the race’s winners include such names as Arkle and Denman, who both won the race twice – taking pride of place on its distinguished roll of honour.   The Hennessy Gold Cup is the jewel in the crown of the Berkshire track’s jump racing calendar and of the three day Bet365 Hennessy Festival, featuring two further fantastic days of racing on the Thursday and Friday.

Marlborough’s Alan King is planning a two pronged attack on the historic race with Smad Place and Midnight Prayer as his two confirmed runners, with a third, Medermit, also holding an entry, but likely to run at Haydock on Saturday. [Medermit did run at Haydock today (November 22) and was unplaced in the Betfair Chase.]

Smad Place leads up the all-weather gallop (February 2014)Smad Place leads up the all-weather gallop (February 2014)Smad Place who has not seen a racecourse since he was beaten a neck by O’Faolains Boy in the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last March is currently priced at 10/1.  The gallant grey had a progressive and impressive campaign last season, beating Sam Winner in February this year. He also was the convincing winner in a novice chase at Exeter last November.

Smad Place took part in a racecourse spin at Newbury on Tuesday along with stable mate Midnight Prayer, whose last race was also at the Cheltenham Festival when he won the four mile chase for amateur jockeys.

“It wasn’t serious work, but they both enjoyed it. They just cantered quickly down the back, breezed along – neither had a hard blow, they just did enough”, King explained at Newbury’s media launch.

Speaking from his yard on Friday, Alan King told Marlborough News Online:  “Smad Place’s form is very strong and progressive, his win against Sam Winner in February has franked this.”  

“His racecourse gallop on Tuesday should also tune him up nicely before next Saturday and he will work tomorrow and school next week, the only question mark is who will ride, as I am not sure if Wayne Hutchinson will be ready”.

Wayne Hutchinson is Alan’s stable jockey along with Robert Thornton. They have both been side-lined with injuries.

“Midnight Prayer’s main target is the Welsh National after Christmas and to be honest there aren’t too many options for him. His form is also very good and I am not worried about dropping him back in trip from four miles especially on soft going”.

In previous years King has not had many runners in the race and has yet to saddle a winner in the race:  “I love this fixture and its history and it would be marvellous to win the Hennessy”.

Newbury Racecourse’s Bet365 Hennessy Festival runs from Thursday 27 to Saturday 29 November.


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Another Manton sale: a bit of racing heritage for sale - & the source of Stonehenge’s sarsens


“Racing is set to lose another slice of its heritage with the famous Manton Derby Gallop included in the latest sale of land at the Wiltshire estate owned by the Sangster family” – that is how the Racing Post introduces its news story on the further sale of Manton Estate land.

The Wantage estate agents Adkin are advertising this sale as “A unique opportunity to acquire Land at Fyfield & Overton Downs, Marlborough, forming part of the Fyfield Down SSSI.”  And Strutt and Parker headline the sale as “A truly unique opportunity to acquire a protected landscape steeped in history.”

Adkin and Strutt & Parker are joint selling agents for 577 acres of Overton and Fyfield Downs at a guide price of £2,000,000 or as one agent has it ‘offers in excess of £2,000,000.  

The Delling The Delling This separate lot – one of seven into which the estate was divided for the sale  – includes a three-bedroom house, The Delling.  This house has been redundant for about 30 years and is need of ‘substantial renovation.’   This lot also includes 35 acres of woodland.

Fyfield Down is not only steeped in racing heritage:  it is a triple-S-I because it was the source for Stonehenge’s sarsen stones – and the ground still boasts many sarsen stones.  It is now one of the best places in the area for birdwatchers.  [SSSI = Site of Special Scientific Interest.]

The Racing Post report says that contracts have still to be exchanged between the Sangsters and Paul Clarke for his purchase of Manton training establishment now the base for trainers Brian Meehan and George Baker, and much of the estate’s agricultural land.

But the ‘little used’ Derby Gallop, which climbs 150 feet over seven furlongs, was not part of Mr Clarke’s purchase.  This mile-long grass gallop was used in the past by several Derby champions to prepare them for the Epsom course’s gradients – including most recently 1992 Derby winner Dr Devious.

Guy Sangster told the Racing Post: “The gallop is in the middle of nowhere, away from the main gallops, and is probably used by Brian [Meehan] twice a year to give the horses a bit of variety.  The Derby winners from Manton in the past would have gone out there for a day out because it’s a long way from the main gallops.”

Peter Chapple-Hyam who used to train at Manton explained to the Racing Post that Dr Devious and the two Classic winner Rodrigo de Triano (a horse bred by Robert Sangster) would have used the Derby gallop: “But I didn’t use it just before the Derby because it was a fair trip away.”


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Neil King's yard celebrate Southway Star's star performances: four wins in a row


Southway Star (with Trevor Whelan) winning at Fontwell [photo courtesy Fontwell Park Racecourse]Southway Star (with Trevor Whelan) winning at Fontwell [photo courtesy Fontwell Park Racecourse]Up at Ridgeway Racing, Neil King's training yard at Upper Herdswick Farm near Barbury Castle, they are all very proud of nine year-old mare Southway Star.

And justifiably so: she has now won her last four races - that is four 'chase victories in 18 days. She won on her first outing for King - at Fontwell, and went on to win again at Fontwell, at Fakenham and then on Tuesday (November 25) at Lingfield.

Her win at Fontwell on November 16 was especially sweet for Neil King.  Her win gave him a hat trick of winners for the day with Zeroshadesofgrey and The Boss's Dream winning at Uttoxeter - by 20 and 13 lengths respectively.

Southway Star has been winning well - if you add up her winning lengths in those four races, she's left the others behind by a total of 58 lengths.

Neil King, who moved to Barbury from Newmarket earlier this year, bought Southway Star at October's Ascot sales for £2,300.  She had, after all, begun her racing career in 2008.

Southway StarSouthway StarBefore Neil King bought her she had just seven wins to her name.  But she seems to have taken against winning over the last two years.

Neil King is obviously very fond of this "this cracking little mare who jumps for fun."  She is small - and, they say, calm and good natured.  She may be even getting to like the star attention she's being paid - even on a foggy day.

She is now owned by The Ridgeway Racing For Fun syndicate - and has won them over £15,000 in prize money in those last four wins.  The syndicate has fifteen shares - and to date they are not all sold.  But with a recent record like hers, you will have to hurry to secure a share.

She is usually teamed with the yard's main jockey Trevor Whelan.  But at Fakenham the Tuesday before last (November 18), he was racing elsewhere and she was ridden to victory by Bridget Andrews.

Southway Star's next outing may be at Plumpton on Monday (December 1.)  And that would put her back over hurdles in a race for staying mares.


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Darcy is by no means the only attraction at High Hope’s Stud at Chisbury


Darcy and Tom Hanlom at High Hope's StudDarcy and Tom Hanlom at High Hope's StudFor the latest news on Darcy the mare shot in the head while in a field at Chisbury - see Marlborough News Online news pages.

Darcy’s home is the High Hope’s Stud which is run by Mark Hope and Tom Hanlom.  They moved to what had been Chisbury Manor Stud in March. Mark had run a stud farm at Hungerford Park and Tom was based at Boomerang Stables in Chilton Foliat.

They have teamed up to run a multi-enterprise equestrian centre. They have been doing a great deal of renovation to house, barns, stables and fencing and have had the fields ploughed and re-seeded to provide better grass for the horses.

Across the road they are about to put in an arena with an all-weather silica sand and fibre surface.  They have sixty acres which includes part of the moat or ditch around Chisbury’s Iron Age fort.  

They lease indirectly from the Ramsbury Estate – both land and buildings were bought recently from the Crown Estate by Stefan Persson as part of his purchase of the ‘Savernake Estate’ agricultural holdings.

At the heart of their operation is the stud.  In the summer, when it is busiest, they can be taking in 40 mares a month.  They arrive, are either covered or artificially inseminated, get a 14-16 day scan to see if they are bearing twins, have a second scan at 28 days to check the foetus’ heartbeat – and if all is well, they go home.

Silver Pond Silver Pond The stud has a range of top class stallions.  The thoroughbred Silver Pond is one of the best known.  He raced flat and was placed in Group 1 and was a winner of Group 2 races, taking prize money of over £417,000 in his short racing career.

It was a career that ended in a disastrous anti-climax:  arriving for the Dubai World Cup – for which was a favoured entry – he left his horsebox with an injury and could not run.  And he had just been sold for £5million.  

He  is now a much favoured stallion.  Irish breeders are keen on him for flat and National Hunt progeny and the stud already have half a dozen bookings for January and February – and two people have recently tried to buy him.

Another stallion standing at High Hope’s Stud is Maxmillian Voltucky – a Dutch warm blood who won 32 national and international dressage championships in a row.  He was sired by Voltaire who in 1996 was rated number two in the world on the dressage and jumping index.

Nelson van de HelleNelson van de HelleWorld class show jumping stallion Nelson van de Helle is the newest addition at High Hope’s Stud and will be available this stud season for the first time since retiring from his show jumping career. 

A Belgian warm blood, Nelson jumped at top level in South Africa before moving to Europe to compete. He has numerous wins to his record including the South African Derby with international rider Ronnie Lawrence.

High Hope Condor on the way to a clear roundHigh Hope Condor on the way to a clear roundOne of their stallions bears the stud farm’s name:  High Hopes Condor is now with the highly successful French showjumper Dan Delsart competing in Fox Hunter competitions – with plenty of double clears.

Delsart is now running a training competiion yard with Victoria Wearing at Farndish on the Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire border.

High Hopes CondorHigh Hopes CondorCondor has had four seasons at stud.  He has appeared consistently in the top five in the annual ranking of showjumping sires.  One of his progeny, Condors Boy, was named Leading Showjumping Yearling in 2011.

The High Hope’s Stud’s other enterprises include livery at various levels – they currently have ten client horses.  They run a cleaning and repair service for pony and horse rugs.  

They stable horses for private owners and undertake pre-training work, work with ‘difficult’ horses and rehabilitation work.  Tom Hanlom is known for his skills with tricky horses and also teaches.  He and Mark laugh as they explain that they specialise in doing some of “the hard work” for owners – hard work and sometimes hard knocks.

As an undergraduate Tom studied equine science at Limerick University and then did a research MSc at Essex University.   He loves sport and was in the Irish judo team before switching to eventing.

Among the yard’s eventers he has a 14-year old gelding Uptown Jonny who is ‘sharp’ and quite naughty – but with “one hell of a jump”.   Uptown Jonny is returning to eventing having last competed in 2008.

It is difficult to find the time to push young horses up the eventing grades, but Tom says: “I am looking to build up the string for next season.”  He has already qualified for the Badminton Grassroots competition.  This is run before the main event to give young riders and young horses experience of that iconic eventing course.

[Click on photos to enlarge them.  Photos of the stallions are copyright of High Hope's Stud.]

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The Value of Horses: How a horse can impact on a 30-something female having a bit of a crisis


(Photo: Will Weaver)(Photo: Will Weaver)Harriet Rochester’s Marlborough Downs Uncovered column gets a bit personal

Globally horses play a diverse role.  From a reliant working member of the community in third world countries to a priceless competitor in sports from eventing to horseracing or as a much-loved pet or companion. 

This latter role was highlighted very poignantly earlier this month, when staff at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan granted Sheila Marsh's dying wish, by arranging a visit from her horse to her hospital bed (- photo at right.)  Mrs Marsh died the very next day.
It also cannot be ignored that these animals are also a valuable commodity in the horsemeat trade.  At last year’s World Horse Welfare conference, HRH The Princess Royal, who is the charity’s president, controversially highlighted this point.  When she addressed the 400 delegates at this year’s conference, The Princess Royal, perhaps not wanting to stir the pot quite so vigorously, asked: ‘What is the Value of Horses?’ 

It was a question that sparked debate for the remainder of the conference and has prompted me to quiz myself.
The value of horses spans money, utility and sentiment. This was demonstrated by several detailed studies across numerous scenarios during the conference.

Jason Hare addresses the conferenceJason Hare addresses the conferenceArguably the most thought provoking case was delivered by ex-Royal Marine Jason Hare.  He was “blown up twice” while serving as a Royal Marine, once by a suicide bomber and once by stepping on an improvised explosive device.  Jason suffered catastrophic injuries - losing his left leg, digits on his right hand, his left eye and he also suffered severe facial injuries and had to have his nose amputated. “I lost my facial identity,” he said.
It was at HorseBack UK, a charity which aids the recuperation of service men and women who have suffered physical or mental injuries, that Jason’s road to recovery began.
“I found working with horses extremely beneficial. It’s hard to be patient when you’re a patient, but working with these animals relaxed me and taught me perseverance.”
“In the Royal Marines we say: you have to improvise, adapt and overcome – it’s the same principal in this role.  It might take weeks, months or even a year but this gave me my mobility back - and with dignity.  I never thought I would be a horse owner but as I learnt to walk, my horse learnt new skills – we did it together.”
Jason’s words and experience inspired me to ask myself this question - what is the value of the horse to me? In addition to the important fact that a significant part of my PR business revolves around the horse-world, I am a mad keen racegoer and eventing groupie. But for the purpose of this exercise I am going to focus just on Thomas – my horse.
I purchased Tom a year ago, he is a former racehorse, who never made much of an impression on the track, despite boasting a rather smart pedigree.   My main aim was to have some fun and have a bash at eventing. 

A year on and we have successfully completed several BE 100’s, we’ve yet to snaffle that elusive rosette, but there’s always next year and I am pretty proud of us and our journey. [BE100 is a British Eventing class where the fences do not exceed 100cms.]
Tom came to me during what for me felt like a particularly low spot in my life.  On reflection this now sounds rather hollow, especially when we are reminded so frequently of the cruel curve balls life can throw – and particularly by Jason’s story. But our problems tend to be relative to us, however big or small.
Anyway, I was now responsible for a living being, someone who relied upon me to nurture, train and develop him. I began to start making plans, this was anything from Tom’s day-to-day exercise program to setting competition targets. 

Little did I know that I was ‘positive forecasting’ or for those who have read The Secret using ‘the law of attraction’.   Having learned this tool I then began apply it to other areas of my life - foremost to work. And lo and behold new business prospects began cropping up.  It was as if the world was a lamp with a genie within it and all I had to do was put my wish out to the universe, give it a little rub and it was granted. Happy days.
So one way I value the horse is its power to teach.  I believe we never stop learning, consciously or sub-consciously and what we gain in one experience we can more often than not transfer that skill into another area of our life, usually to our benefit. 
Returning to Jason’s story and the emotional and therapeutic value of the horse: to finish his address he told how he was asked how much he paid his therapist – his reply was "Feed, hay and water". Priceless - in my opinion.
Harriet Rochester  of  HRSM Ltd.


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Globe-trotting, gym bunnies, manicures, long lunches & Downton catch-up…. an event rider’s winter starts here

 Harriet & Thomas Harriet & Thomas Harriet Rochester’s Marlborough Downs Uncovered feature marks the end another eventing season:

This week my horse, Thomas, checked into his winter residence – a lush field of grass up on the Marlborough Downs, along with some of his equine mates who are there for a well-earned break after a busy eventing season.   

With a relentless schedule of competitions for professional riders between the months of March and October, one wonders what can possibly keep these equestrian adrenaline junkie’s amused during all that winter downtime?

So after some digging about I discovered what some of the Marlborough eventing tribe are planning to help the winter months fly by…


Andrew NicholsonAndrew Nicholson Andrew Nicholson                        Stables: Lockeridge

2014 highlights – triple wins at Landrover Burghley Horse Trials and at the Barbury International Horse Trials winner - riding Avebury.

Andrew wouldn’t admit that to avoid the winter weather he will often be found ensconced reading his new book Focused.  However, he says;

“Going jump racing at Cheltenham is as good as any holiday for me.   I also take some of the youngsters to hunter trials and give a lead to my nine-year-old daughter.    We will steal a few days away as a family in between doing general maintenance around the property, something that’s a bit of a bore but necessary.’

“Before we know it, December will be here and the horses will come back into slow work and then we’ll be preparing to do it all again in 2015”.



Sir Mark Todd                 Stables: Badgerstown

Eventing legend and International Equestrian Federation rider of the twentieth century.

“I manage the Brazilian event team so I am off to South America in November and back again in December for some training clinics.  I’m also off to New Zealand over Christmas and back via the States for more teaching."

 "There’s no rest for the wicked, but I expect I will find some time to nip to the beach whilst on my travels.”

“Each snow season, I try to make an annual pilgrimage to the mountains.  In order to help prevent any unwanted pre-season injuries as well as time on the piste, I always ensure there’s plenty spent experiencing and tasting the local après ski."


Sir Mark Todd Sir Mark Todd

Jesse Campbell              Stables: Ogbourne St Andrew

Up and coming New Zealand rider.

“When not riding the babies, I will be catching up on the back series of Downton Abbey and playing golf, we have a lad’s eventer’s trip to Prague planned in November – it’s tough going in the winter.  I also love giving the England Rugby team stick and supporting the All Blacks. "

“I am off to New Zealand at the end of the year to see my family and also spending some time in Australia with my girlfriend, where topping up my tan is on the agenda”.


Rebecca Howard             Stables: Mildenhall

Current Canadian rider of the year

In late November I’m heading over the pond to my homeland – Canada, where as well as catching up with my folks and sisters I have some teaching clinics planned in British Columbia.

Hands take a real beating across the competition season so my winter guilty pleasure is a regular manicure from Kreem boutique, Marlborough.   

I am also a dedicated follower of Shaun T – a Will Smith look-a-like. Him and his T25 video works out are a great incentive to help me out of bed during the winter mornings.  If it’s not Shaun T – then I head to the gym.


 Rebecca HowardRebecca Howard

After Tim’s victory at Luhmuhlen (photo: copyright Libby Law Photography)After Tim’s victory at Luhmuhlen (photo: copyright Libby Law Photography)Tim and Jonelle Price                  Stables: Mildenhall                          

2014 highlights: 1st Luhmuhlen 4 star (Tim and Wesko) and 4th in the World Equestrian Games (Jonelle and Classic Moet)

As well as being an ace pilot on a horse, Jonelle is renowned as a dab hand in the kitchen and the Price Sunday’s roasts have become legendary in the area.  

“What off season?! Looking ahead our winter looks pretty hectic with lots of travelling. Although, in previous winter’s us Kiwis have mastered the art of a long indulgent lunch, generally generously sponsored by numerous renowned wine regions from around the world”. Jonelle explains from the final four star event of the season at Pau in France, where she finished 4th riding Faerie Dianimo.

“Last year Tim and I went to Vietnam.  It was great to experience a totally different culture and be so far removed from our daily lives.  We plan to be in Germany and Sweden in November for some indoor competitions and then we are going to Puhinui, New Zealand in December for their big spring event and to spend Christmas with our families.  

“As much as we enjoy the lower intensity this time of year, it’s always good to get back to the horses”.

Whether it’s winter months with the latest TV period dramas, indulging hours at the beautician’s or some globe-trotting – rest assured, come early 2015,  the Marlborough event riders will be ready to roll and hungry for the competition season once more.

Tweet me @HatRochesterPR

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