Famous Rugby Stars With A Love Of Racing

Features | 10th March 2022

After the bruising encounters of the Six Nations, many top rugby players love to relax with a day at the races.

Some have even dipped their toes into the world of racehorse ownership with great success.

Here’s a look at some of the Six Nations stars with a passion for racing.

Mike Tindall

It sounds like the script of some fanciful film.

The England rugby star, married to the Queen’s granddaughter, winning big races with a horse bought for a bargain £12,000 at the sales after a few too many beers. Even though Mike’s then soon-to-be wife Zara Philips declared him to be an “idiot” for buying a racehorse, he proved her wrong after roping in fellow international rugby players James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson to form a syndicate.

The horse was called Monbeg Dude. Having gone into training with Michael Scudamore – himself a former Wales under-19s rugby international – he won the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow in 2013.

Little more than two years later he finished third in the Grand National over the fearsome Aintree fences.

Jonathan Davies

When Jonathan Davies helped Wales to Six Nations Grand Slam glory three years ago, he had even more reasons to celebrate.

It was while on the pitch with his teammates following Wales’ victory over Ireland that he learned the horse he part-owned, Potters Corner, had won the Midlands Grand National.

Nine months later the talented chaser, trained in South Wales by Christian Williams, added the Welsh Grand National to his big-race haul.

The Covid-19 pandemic robbed him of a crack at that season’s Grand National but he did run out the winner of the virtual race run in place of the great Aintree contest.

Jonathan inherited his love of racing from his granddad, who also owned horses.

Stuart Hogg

There was a time when Scotland captain Stuart Hogg dreamed of being a jockey. The British and Irish Lions veteran was surrounded by horses from an early age.

Growing up as a youngster in Hawick – the same Borders town as jump jockey-turned- cyclist Wilson Renwick – he was so tiny it was a realistic dream.

After riding out at stables he soon realised he wasn’t going to be good enough or, as he grew, small enough. Rugby took over with great success but he has always maintained a huge interest in racing.

He owned Corked, trained near Hawick by Alistair Whillans, and he named Sir AP McCoy as his sporting hero.

Jamie George

England hooker Jamie George might not look the ideal shape for a jockey.

As the focal point of the scrum in the middle of the front row, the 31-year-old is, predictably, built for power. His neck and shoulders need the strength to repel the opposition forwards.

His size didn’t stop Jamie squeezing his frame into full jockeys kit to watch the Cheltenham Festival with friends three years ago.

The following day the Saracens star was pictured at the track enjoying the action. Luckily, the keen racing fan didn’t try to sneak into the weighing room in search of a spare ride.

He had ditched the jockey’s get-up in favour of a rather fetching three-piece tweed suit that blended in with the crowd much better.

Alex Cuthbert

Wales wing Alex Cuthbert grew up just 15 miles from Cheltenham Racecourse so it’s little surprise he has always had an interest in racing.

He also studied at Hartpury College, which happens to be situated right next door to David Redvers’ Tweenhills Stud, home of Qatar Racing’s powerful bloodstock operation.

Alex was a talented showjumper in his youth and regularly travelled around the country taking part in competitions.

The 6ft 6ins Ospreys star has been a regular for Wales’ Six Nations team for more than ten years and he has also appeared for the British and Irish Lions.

He still keeps a keen eye on racing and likes to go to the track when his many rugby commitments allow.

Tom Varndell

When Great British Racing asked Tom Varndell to take on Grand National-winning jockey Leighton Aspell in a fitness test he could have been forgiven for thinking it would be a breeze.

After all, the Premiership’s all-time record try scorer – standing at 6ft 2ins and more than 15st – was up against a skinny jockey used to watching his weight at all times.

The former Leicester Tigers, Wasps and Bristol winger was known for his pace and power but his admiration for Leighton was obvious after the professional athletes drew 2-2 in the special tests.

Perhaps, it’s no coincidence he was made player coach of Bury St Edmunds Tigers, just down from the home of horseracing in Newmarket.