Hugo Palmer took out a licence to train racehorses, in his own right, at Kremlin Cottage Stables in Newmarket as recently as 2011 but, from small beginnings, has developed into a highly successful young trainer. Palmer, 37, worked for Patrick Chamings, Hughie Morrison and the first lady of Australian Racing, Gabriel Marie “Gai” Waterhouse, before branching out on his own.
He started with just 11 syndicated horses, but saddled his first winner, Steady The Buffs, in a maiden worth £2,331.36 to the winner at Brighton in May 2011. However, Palmer fondly remembers Making Eyes, an expensive Dansili filly who won five races, including two Listed races, between 2011 and 2013, and ‘ really got me going’ according to her trainer.
Palmer took a further step forward the following year, saddling his first Group winner, Aktabantay in the Solario Stakes at Goodwood in August. During his post-race interview, Palmer said ‘piss up’ live on Channel 4, attracting hundreds of complaints from viewers. However, he put his indiscretion down the fact that he’d worked in Australia for 15 months where, he said, “you wouldn’t be surprised to hear those words on the news.” In any event, Palmer didn’t have to wait long for further Group race success, saddling New Providence to win the Dick Poole Stakes at Salisbury just five days later.
In 2015, Palmer saddled his first Classic winner, Covert Love, in the Irish Oaks at the Curragh, a victory he later described as a “fairytale”. Ironically, the €40,000 connections paid to supplement Covert Love for the race was more than it would have cost to buy her outright. Having just been touched off in a blanket finish for the Yorskhire Oaks, Covert Love went on to win the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp.
The following year, saddled his first English Classic winner, Galileo Gold in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and went perilously close to saddling his second when Architecture finished second, beaten 1¾ lengths, behind Minding in the Oaks at Epsom. Nevertheless, Galileo Gold also became his first Royal Ascot winner, reversing Irish 2,000 Guineas form with Awtaad to win the St. James’s Palace Stakes. That season, Palmer accumulated over £2 million in prize money and finished in the top ten in the Trainers’ Championship for the first time.
Hugo Palmer subscribes to a similar philosophy as Gai Waterhouse when it comes to the frequency with which he runs he horses. He once asked, rhetorically, “What is the point in having a fit, strong and healthy horse that is galloping at 40mph up Newmarket Heath for absolutely nothing when I could take it to the racecourse and run it for prize money?”