To kick off the blogs for 2021, I turned the tables on the boss and managed to secure an exclusive interview! It’s actually one tough job to pin her down for long enough, but while tacking up a horse and in between rides we managed to grab a coffee and chat through her thoughts on the business, the weirdness that was 2020 and her hopes and dreams for the new year.
2020 was a challenging year for lots of us, can you summarise the year now looking back?
“It was definitely a challenging year! During January through to March we were normally busy, then obviously lockdown hit and pointing came to a halt. This was a real frustration because there were certain horses in the yard that we really wanted to run – the youngsters that we needed to know about and older horses like Western Diva and Reality Bites that had got some questions to answer. We’ve now sold Western Diva to be a broodmare which has been the absolute right thing to do but of course it was a shame that we couldn’t get her back to winning ways for her supportive syndicate and in terms of my riding – she was probably my last really good one to ride. When COVID struck we had to crack on and get all the summer jobs done earlier in the spring. Then we actually got really busy with holidayers all coming in which was brilliant, but then followed some really lean times when it was all too quiet. So yes, it was a strange year in some ways but it’s taught me a lot. I think it’s brought in some new ideas which will be really exciting moving forward, like working with the RoR’s, so there’s been lots of positives. There’s been plenty of lows as well but on the whole lots of diversifying, lots of new owners, lots of new challenges so that’s all good!”
During the restrictions what have been the main challenges, especially with keeping the pointers going?
“The main challenge with the restrictions overall has probably been just keeping up the juggling act. With my team of staff, the children that some of them have and the challenges that brings for them, my brain has been on fire at times getting the day to day running of the yard to work as it’s been so hard to tell who will be able to come when. In terms of keeping the pointers going, the first few days after pointing was stopped this time was a real head-fry because you get them fit, you run them, they’re well or they’re going to come on for the run. For instance Earcomesbob when he won, we were really looking forward to getting him going and by now you’d have hoped he’d have won his Restricted. So you kind of draw stumps for a while and then you kick on. Now it’s the will we/won’t we get going again!…but we’ve reached a level where psychologically for me they’re all coping, going well and in good form and we just have to hope and pray that we can start again in March.
Are you optimistc about the future of point to point racing?
“Yes I am optimistic about the future. I think in the end what’s happened over the last year can be a positive thing for pointing. Obviously lots of meetings have had to be cancelled and it’s disappointing but I think that less meetings will mean we’ll have better quality racing. The good horses are all going to have to take each other on – you might run a blinder and finish third instead of going off miles away and winning a bad old race. I know we all want winners but I think above all we need good racing. The live streaming has been a brilliant move forward in making the racing more accessible and bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds. Certainly for me it’s been fascinating to see as my business deals with a lot of National Hunt owners, so many of them know nothing about pointing which to me seems just crazy. It’s not a second rate sport, it’s a different sport with different ideas and different goals but it’s still bloody good racing. So yes I think pointing this season will be tricky, things will be difficult but I’m optimistic about the future.”
Despite the challenging year, can you think of any particular highlights?
“There have been loads! An overall definite highlight is how my team has massively come together. You’re always working at all the cogs turning in the right direction and everything running well and having a good routine. We’ve had quite a few changes staff-wise for various reasons and I’m really proud of how we have a seriously good team now. Another has been the RoR’s and the re-homing, I’ve had a real buzz from how successful that has been and all the lovely feedback we’ve received from new owners. The legendary Loose Chips also came to live with us and we’ve had some really high profile names through the yard. It’s an honour to look after the superstars and guide them on to new careers”.
Any favourite moments on the track for Fern Farm residents?
Absolutely! Lutrell Lad winning his bumper so impressively at Market Rasen, that was one of the most rewarding things ever! To have a horse that you’ve broken in, turned from a mouse into a man, had for his holidays, nurtured and cared for him along with trying to advise the owners on the best course….that was a defintite high point! Also Sandymount Rose getting her head in front not once but twice, absolutely amazing. I cried my eyes out the first time she won!…so rewarding for her owner Jonathan Wymark, the team, Hayley who adores her, it was just brilliant. Another one was Glimpse of Gala getting her black type and running so well. You’d better stop me, I could go on and on!
You’ve had lots of breakers through the yard over the year, are there any that you are most proud of?
“Well in terms of older ones that have run and done well Luttrell Lad and Glimpse of Gala again obviously, but as for last year’s I’m proud of all of them! Viks does a brilliant job with them and every one of them makes us proud for different reasons and in it’s own way!”
How has 2021 been so far?
“2021 has been amazing so far! I normally hate January more than anything – it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s snowing, it’s usually dreadful – but I’ve been buzzing this month! The yard is busy, we’ve got more horses than we’ve had for ages and the work is changing all the time. The team is all good and we’re in a really nice place. We have some exciting flat horses in at the moment, Australis and Musicality, for working winter holidays which is another twist on things as we haven’t had flat horses on holiday before. In these weird times it gives me a great feeling to be helping people out and to be able to provide services that are needed!”
It’s the name your favourite child question!..who’s your favourite horse that you have in a the moment and why?
“Oh my god!…this is so hard! Do you know this may surprise you, my favourite horse that I have in at the moment is a horse called Little Lord Campden. He’s a non-thoroughbred, showjumping-bred Irish sports horse who came to me five weeks ago, he could barely put one foot in front of the other and we sold him today. He has inspired me to want to go showjumping and do things! He’s been challenging, rewarding and very talented all rolled into one and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved with him.”
Any ambitions for CHE in the coming year and anything that you are most looking forward to?
I’m really looking forward to continuing to develop the RoR side of things. Becoming the go-to place for owners, trainers and clients is a huge goal. I think to take it to the next level is to have one that I compete myself so that I’m not just behind the scenes. I want to keep developing our facilities, to make sure we have absolutely top class facilities for the mares and foals. I’m really looking forward to getting back to pointing and having some racedays out. I can’t wait to run the youngsters, Earcomesbob as I mentioned, we also have a lovely five year old called Cody Jones who I think the world of, really looking forward to developing him and seeing where we can take him. Just everything really!…having a yard full of quality and diverse horses, keeping the team happy, having fun – it’s all exciting stuff!