A DAY IN THE LIFE OF: A Jumps Trainer
For the new instalment of our ‘Day in the Life of…’ series, we follow rookie trainer and former assistant to Paul Nicholls, Harry Fry, for a busy day in the stables and on the racecourse…
4.45am – Monday morning and the alarm goes off slightly earlier than normal with us heading racing this day. Straight down to the yard and Ciara O’Connor, my girlfriend and assistant, feeds the horses as I put all the morning hay out.
6am – Head to the office where I like to spend at least an hour before the rest of the team arrive for work. This is a key part of the day as this is the brainstorming session where I write up the daily exercise board and formulate the weekly training and schooling plans. Ciara joins me once she has finished mucking out Rock On Ruby and we concentrate on putting the right jockeys on the right horses and looking ahead to tactics for the coming days.
7am – Put the exercise board out in the yard and then set off in the lorry with my Travelling Head Girl, Sian Gogan, for the three-and-a-half hour trip to Plumpton, where we have a runner in the second race. Normally I would put the board out half an hour later, just in time for the rest of the team to have mucked out their horses and be ready to pull out for first lot at 7.45.
9am – Stop off to switch driving with Sian, so that I can ring Ciara and discuss how first lot went. I then spend the rest of the journey making entries for the weekend, looking through the programme book of races and speaking to owners. The great thing with living in the iPhone age is that I can make entries and plan ahead for the future on the go. I also utilise this time to speak to jockeys’ agents and see where our principal rider, Noel Fehily, will be riding for the rest of the week.
10.45am – Arrive at Plumpton and Sian takes our runner, Opening Batsman, straight down to the racecourse stables. I like to arrive at the track at least two hours before the scheduled race time, in order to let the horses settle in, and Sian gives Opening Batsman a walk out to let him stretch after the journey.
11.30am – Head down to the Weighing Room to declare the horse and then head to the Owners & Trainers’ Bar where some of the owners who make up ‘The Twelfth Man Partnership’ have converged. We look at the race ahead and discuss the potential rivals as we wait for the rest of the syndicate to turn up.
12.10pm – An hour before our race and I go the Weighing Room to collect a saddle from Noel Fehily and then head to the stables to saddle up Opening Batsman. With the more inexperienced horses I like to be able to saddle them in a quieter environment away from the hubbub so that they don’t get on their toes. I can hear the commentary from the opening race whilst I’m saddling up on this occasion. Ring Ciara again on the way back from the stables to check in on how third lot went. Each ‘lot’ features 7/8 horses at our yard, though this will obviously be more at bigger stables, and the third of ours go out daily from 11-12.
12.45pm – Myself and the owners are the first ones into the paddock and we discuss the chances of Opening Batsman; we know he’s really well within himself but we’re not exactly confident on his chances as he has around 10 lbs to find with the principals on official handicap ratings. Noel comes in to join us and it’s great to see he’s full of confidence after having already won the first race. Give Noel the leg up into the saddle and then head to the stands to watch the race with the owners. On the way we see that Opening Batsman is available at 25/1 with some bookmakers, which we all believe this to be a huge price in a six-runner maiden chase but are too superstitious to actually have a bet!
1.10pm – The Jill’s Big Birthday Beginners’ Chase gets underway and from the outset Opening Batsman travels really well, to the point where Noel actually has to rein him back at some points. He jumped and travelled best over the two and a half miles and there was a huge cheer from us as he loomed up large turning in! He finds plenty from the last and there is plenty of cheering and back-slapping as he gets up to win by three-quarters of a length! Most of this echoes around the racecourse as we excitedly return to the Winners’ Enclosure. Noel jumps off and we debrief and both agree that he will be better off going right-handed. Luke Harvey then comes up to grab me for a quick interview on Attheraces. I admit to being pleasantly surprised and he comments on the fact that the horse we beat into second is trained by my former boss, Paul Nicholls. Paul later sends me a text, which makes me laugh, being mainly expletives followed by a ‘well done’!
A delighted Ciara phones before we pick the trophies up and head to the winning connections room for a celebratory drink. Noel pops in after getting changed to say thank you for the ride and we congratulate him on his 2-2 record for the day! The phone continues to beep with congratulatory texts and the long journey has been well worthwhile.
1.40pm – Leave the hospitality room in time for the next race and pick the silks up from the Weighing Room before saying goodbye to the owners. Sian has readied Opening Batsman for the journey home and we set off half an hour later. We split the drive again and I utilise the time when I’m not behind the wheel to review entries for the weekend, reply to texts and missed calls.
5.45pm – Arrive back at the yard and Ciara is just cleaning up and turning off the lights after afternoon stables. The lads return at 3pm every day for this and muck their horses out until 5.15. I will normally head out around 4 and check the horses’ legs and Ciara will take care of them medically and see to nicks/cuts etc. I return to the office, respond to emails from the day and debrief with Ciara. I also begin work on the paperwork and invoices from last month.
8.00pm – Leave the office and return to the flat. We quickly grab something to eat and watch a re-run of the race, though I’m soon falling asleep and we’re in bed by 9 after a long but very enjoyable day!