Tuesday 23 January 2018

Philip Hobbs: 2,500 Winners & Counting

Having ridden 160 winners during a 10-year career as a professional jump jockey, famously started his training career in 1985 with half a dozen horses he kept in a cowshed. Nevertheless, his first runner as a trainer was a winner and his Sandhill Racing Stables in Bilbrook, near Minehead, Somerset has subsequently sent out over 2,500 winners. Hobbs sets himself the target of 100 winners and £1 million in prize money each season, something he achieved with plenty to spare in 2016/17. In fact, aided by reigning Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, who’s been first jockey at Sandhill Racing Stables for 17 years, Hobbs has been in the top half a dozen National Hunt trainers in the country for the past two decades.

Philip Hobbs has saddled many notable winners during his career, but perhaps the most famous was Rooster Booster, a grey gelding by Riverwise, who gained his biggest successes in the yellow-and-black colours of Terry Warner. Originally trained by his owner, Richard Mitchell, for whom he’d won a maiden hurdle at Taunton, Rooster Booster joined Philip Hobbs in April 2000, but didn’t win his first race for the yard until two years later. That win, in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2002, was followed by five more the following season, culminating in an impressive, 11-length victory over Westender in the Champion Hurdle in 2003.

In truth, with 18 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name, there are few Festival races in which Hobbs hasn’t tasted success although, of the so-called ‘championship’ races, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup remain elusive. Last season, Hobbs named subsequent Triumph Hurdle winner Defi Du Seuil as his best hope of a Cheltenham winner at an early stage and, although his stable star has run poorly on both starts in 2017/18, he has plenty of fresh talent in his yard.

Potential ‘dark’ horses for 2017/18 include Duke Des Champs, who missed 2016/17 because of a tendon injury, Jerrysback, an impressive winner of both starts over hurdles and Musical Slave, who ran well in a ‘bumper’ on his debut at Punchestown last April and may have needed the run when well beaten on his reappearance at Market Rasen in November. At the time of writing, Philip Hobbs is only 13th in the trainers’ table, with 45 winners from 311 runners, at a strike rate of about 15% but, if previous seasons are anything to go by, followers of the yard should enjoy a profitable spring.

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