Born in Lancashire in 1979, Philip Kirby is the son of celebrated greyhound trainer Geoff Kirby. Kirby Jnr. initially joined Ferdy Murphy in 1997 and, in the briefest of riding careers, rode The Tollah to an 18-length victory in an amateur riders’ handicap chase at Sedgefield in November, 1999.
He subsequently trained and worked as a blacksmith for the next six years, earning enough money to try his hand at training point-to-pointers. In his first season, with just four horses, he saddled seven winners and was the leading hunter chase trainer in the country. He later recalled, “It was brilliant and I cracked on and got my licence on the back of that. I wanted to start straight away.”
Kirby was initially based at Dibble Bridge Stables in Castleton, near Whitby, North Yorkshire and rented a further ten boxes from Keith Reveley at Groundhills Farm in nearby Saltburn-on-Sea. He saddled his first winner as a licensed trainer, Amazing King, in a juvenile novices’ handicap at Musselburgh in February, 2008. He later said of the King Charlemagne gelding, “We could take him anywhere and he would always do his running.”
At the start 2013, Kirby moved his string Sharp Hill Farm Stables in Middleham, previously occupied by Kate Walton, and commuted from the family home in Castleton every day. Kirby recorded his first major success in October, 2013, when 20/1 chance Lady Heidi was driven out by Silvestre De Sousa to win the Silver Tankard Stakes at Pontefract. In fact, 2013 was by far his most successful season, numerically and monetarily, on the Flat.
Lady Heidi aside, five victories for Just Paul, four for Platinum and three for Dr. Irv contributed to a total of 32 winners for the season and just under £210,000 in win and place prize money. The 2012/13 National Hunt season was also his most successful, so far, at that point of his career, with 25 winners and over £120,000 in total prize money.
However, Kirby found being away from his family increasingly difficult and, in 2014, left Middleham and returned to his previous arrangement. In April, 2016, he moved again, to Green Oaks – a purpose-built, 52-box yard in East Appleton, near Richmond, North Yorkshire – and, the following season, saddled his first high-profile winner, Lady Buttons in the Yorton Stallions Mares' Novices' Chase at Bangor, from his new, permanent base. At the time of writing, Kirby features in the current list of “Hot Trainers” in the Racing Post, having trained 7 winners from 25 runners, at a strike rate of 28%, in the last 14 days.