Wednesday 17 August 2022

Maurice Barnes


Maurice Barnes, 70, found fame as a National Hunt jockey when winning the Grand National on Rubstic in 1979. At the end of his riding career, he took out a combined training licence at his original base in Little Salkeld, near Penrith, Cumbria in 1989, before moving to his current home, Tarnside Stables in Farlam, near Brampton, to the east of Carlisle in 2000.

Barnes did not saddle a winner for his first three seasons as a trainer and did not reach double figures until 1993/94. However, that season he saddled 19 winners, his highest seasonal total so far, at a strike rate of 20% and won over £61,000 in prize money. He has not matched that strike rate since, but did reach double figures again in 1994/95 and every season between 2010/11 and 2019/20. Financially, Barnes enjoyed his most successful season in 2018/19, when he saddled 13 winners, at a strike rate of just 6%, but nonetheless amassed over £152,000 in prize money.

Barnes still harbours ambitions to saddle a Listed or Graded winner, but so far has failed to do so. Nevertheless, he remains philosophical and, when interviewed in 2019, turned to the wisdom of the late Arthur Stephenson, a fellow Cumbrian trainer, insofar that 'little fish are sweet, so why bother about the big ones?' In October, 2020, Barnes and his wife, Anne, were forced to move into a touring caravan after a fire, caused by an electric fault, devastated their home.

Tuesday 14 June 2022

John Quinn


Originally from Tipperary, John Quinn was a successful National Hunt jockey – albeit, by his own admission, 'a journeyman' – with nearly 200 winners to his name before turning his hand to training in 1994. Starting out with just two horses at his base in Settrington, North Yorkshire, his initial progress was slow. In his first three seasons, he saddled two, one and five winners, respectively, but steadily increased his winning tally thereafter.

He won his first Listed race on the Flat, the National Stakes at Sandown, with Taras Girl in 2000, but had to wait another six seasons before he won his next big race, the Lincoln, which was run that year at Redcar, with Blythe Knight in 2006. Crow Wood won the Grade 2 Elite Hurdle at Wincanton for the yard in November that year and a steady stream of high-profile winners followed.

Blythe Knight proved admirably versatile, winning the Top Novices' Hurdle at Aintree in early 2007, in the days when it was still a Grade 2 contest, and the Group 3 Diomed Stakes at Epsom that season and the next, to provide Quinn with his first Pattern race winners on the Flat. Other notable National Hunt winners included Character Building in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at the Cheltenham Festival in 2009 and his first Grade 1 winner, Countrywide Flame, in the Triumph Hurdle in 2012.

On the Flat, Quinn saddled the first of his seven Group 2 winners, Red Duke, in the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket in 2011 and his one and only Group 1 winner, The Wow Signal, in the Prix Morny at Deauville in 2014.

Thursday 5 May 2022

Ralph Beckett

Formerly assistant trainer to the late Peter Walwyn for three and a half years, Ralph Beckett took over the training licence at Windsor House Stables in Lambourn when Walwyn retired in 1999. In his first half a dozen full seasons, Beckett saddled just over a hundred winners, including his first Pattern race winner, Penkenna Princess, in the Group 3 Fred Darling Stakes at Newbury in April, 2005. A month later, he was narrowly denied his first Group 1 victory when the same horse was beaten a short-head by Saoire in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

In 2006, Beckett succeeded David Elsworth at Whitsbury Manor Stables, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire. In the next five seasons, he saddled over 240 more winners, including his first British Classic winner, Look Here, in the Oaks in 2008. In 2010, Beckett purchased his currrent base, Kimpton Down Stables in nearby Andover, and completed his move in time for the start of the 2011 season. Since then, he has saddled two more British Classic winners, Talent in the Oaks in 2013 and Simple Verse in the St. Leger in 2015; the latter also won the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot the following month to give Beckett the fourth Group 1 victory of his career.

Beckett took his career tally to 1,000 winners when the 6-year-old Another Boy won an apprentice handicap at Salisbury in August, 2019. In 2020, he enjoyed his most successful season so far, numerically, passing the landmark of a hundred winners on British soil for just the second time.

Wednesday 16 March 2022

Jenny Pitman Interview

An old yet fascinating interview offering numerous insights into the life of a horse trainer

Sunday 13 March 2022

Cheltenham Festival's Most Memorable Winners

 In the years since Cheltenham Festival became a globally recognised horse racing spectacle in the early 1900s, it has produced several worthy winners. It is, after all, the culmination of horse racing and having been held in one of the world’s most celebrated racecourses for over 100 years, it has attracted some of the world’s most renowned horses and jockeys to its 350-acre raceway. To familiarise yourself with Cheltenham Festival’s most memorable winners from over the years, continue reading.

Golden Miller

In a true testament to his name, Golden Miller, owned by Dorothy Paget, is one of the most memorable winners to have ever graced the famous racecourse at Cheltenham Festival. In the years between 1932 and 1936, for example, the gelding won the Gold Cup every single year and, to this day, remains the only competitor to have achieved such a feat. It was in 1934, however, that Golden Miller truly showcased his horse racing skills by winning both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National within the same year and setting yet another record in the process. In 1939, at the age of eleven, he retired with a total of 29 wins from 52 races under his belt.


It may be Golden Miller that remains on the top of everyone’s tongue when it comes to Cheltenham Festival’s most memorable winners but if we are talking about the Gold Cup, in particular, Arkle undoubtedly takes the lead. If it wasn’t his somewhat unconventional style of running that stole the headlines, for example, it was his ability to remain consistently brilliant by winning the Champion Hurdles three years in a row and, in doing so, eventually becoming the first equine millionaire. The most memorable winners simply can’t be celebrated without also celebrating some of the most memorable Cheltenham Festival trainers, however, with Tom Dreaper responsible for leading Arkle to victory time and time again. It may have been an injury that cut his award-winning career short but with the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Arkle Novice Chase named in his honour, his legacy continues to live on.

Best Mate

It may not necessarily sound like the most menacing of names but in 2002, 2003, and 2004, Best Mate, trained by Henrietta Catherine Knight, cemented himself as a true Cheltenham Festival legend by winning the Gold Cup three consecutive times with a triple threat that remains difficult to beat to this day. The gelding may not have had the opportunity to race for a fourth consecutive title as a result of his untimely death at the Exeter Racecourse in 2005 but with one of the most impressive racing resumes under his belt, he will always be remembered for his immeasurable contribution to the horse racing industry throughout the world.

It may still feel like the beginning of the year but with the 2022 Cheltenham Festival fast approaching, there is no time like the present to familiarise yourself with some of the event’s most memorable winners. This includes Golden Miller, Arkle, and Best Mate.

Thursday 10 March 2022

Rose Dobbin


Rose Dobbin, née Davidson, is married to former Grand National-winning jockey Tony Dobbin, whom she met while working as an amateur jockey and 'unofficial' assistant trainer to Nicky Richards in Greystoke, Cumbria. She enjoyed a successful riding career, with 56 winners to her name, by always harboured ambitions to become a trainer and, to that end, also spent her summers in Newmarket with James Fanshawe.

In 2009, Dobbin moved to her current base, Hazelriggs Stables in Chatton, near Alnwick, Northumberland which, together with her husband, she has substantially renovated and improved over the years. She saddled her first winner, Mirage Dore, in a beginners' chase at Market Rasen in January, 2010; Dobbin had ridden the same horse into second place in the Coral Cup at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival for previous trainer Lucinda Russell.

Dobbin enjoyed her first big race victories in February, 2016, when Jonniesofa won the Grade 2 Prestige Novices' Hurdle at Haydock and Rocking Blues won the Eider at Newcastle within the space of seven days. She achieved her most successful season so far in 2017/18, with 25 winners and over £203,000 in prize money. However, in 2018/19, her seasonal tally dropped to just seven winners and, in the summer of 2019, she was forced to close down her training operation completely after the yard was struck by a respiratory virus. Nevertheless, she saddled another big race winner, Bigirononhiship, in the Scottish Borders National in 2019 and increased her seasonal tally to 10 in 2019/20 and 21 in 2020/21.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

James Moffatt


Formerly a successful National Hunt jockey, with 78 winners to his name, James Moffatt served time with several experienced trainers, including Tommy Stack and Sue Smith, before taking over the family training operation from his father, Dudley, in late 2002. Based at Pit Farm Stables in Cartmel, Cumbria, Moffatt enjoyed a 'purple patch' in the spring of 2007, when Chief Dan George won two Grade 2 events, at Wetherby and Haydock, within the space of a fortnight, and the Grade 1 Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree.

Three seasons later, Chief Dan George also became the first and, so far, only Cheltenham Festival winner for the yard when rallying in the last half a furlong to win the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase by a head. More recently, Highland Lodge flew the flag for the yard, winning the Becher Handicap Chase, over the Grand National fences, in 2015, before being denied by the minimum margin in the same race in 2016.

Moffatt holds a combined licence, but has never saddled more than a dozen winners in a National Hunt season and never more than nine in a Flat season. However, in the 2021/22 National Hunt season, so far, he has saddled seven winners from just 19 runners, at a extremely healthy strike rate of 37%. Indeed, in the space of five days in late May and early June, he saddled five winners from 11 runners, at a strike rate of 45%, at his local course, Cartmel.