It is our pleasure to bring you an interview with George Baker, the trainer!! A life that has taken him from the hustle & bustle of London to the tranquil settings of his yard.

Have horse will travel is the mantra of George Baker Racing and whether it’s winners in the UK or abroad, the team of around 40 are always looking for openings…


GB

You have been training race horses for a while and have moved to your own yard… Why did you change career to become a trainer?

I have held a licence to train racehorses for the past 11 years – something that I never imagined that I would do for most of my life !! I followed horse racing as a passionate fan, and used to attend all the major Festival meetings. But I could never have conceived of being a racehorse trainer during my years of commuting into the City on the Tube.

With the demise of Barings Bank in the mid 90’s (it was not all my fault) brought an end to my time in the Square Mile. After a few years living in Vietnam, I returned to the UK. I met trainer Paul Webber, and he was looking for an Assistant. And that opening set me on this mad path.

How many horses did you start training with and how many do you have in the yard now?

We started with 2 horses, a hoof pick, and a mad dream. At present, we have 40 horses on the places. There is always room for more.

How did you go about starting your training business and what obstacles did you have to overcome?

We have been lucky to have the support of some wonderfully loyal owners, all of whom have become great friends. We operate an “Open house” policy at Robins Farm, and owners are with us most mornings to watch horses work. Obviously, we are always looking for new owners.

The present global insecurity is not ideal for those of us involved in selling luxury goods, but through my “rose tinted” spectacles I see better times ahead. And once the present chaos settles down, hopefully people will be freer with their leisure spend !!

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George Baker Racing Club

What are your thoughts on Syndicates or Racing Clubs?

We have always welcomed the involvement of Syndicates, and train for the likes of Highclere, Thurloe Thoroughbreds and Hot To Trot Racing. We also have our own “George Baker Racing Club”, and cater for all levels of racehorse ownership. For many, being involved in a Syndicate is preferable to sole ownership. Because of affordability, and the social mix at the yard and at the races.

From the start with a few horses, you have had over 400 winners…

What was the first winner?

I remember the first winner, Music Box Express, as if it were yesterday. MBE had been beaten at Lingfield the previous afternoon, but we loaded him onto the lorry and headed to Wolverhampton. Apprentice Jockey Matthew Davies kicked him into a clear lead from the off, and he was always holding on up the home straight. Sadly, in a later race on the same card, we had a filly that was badly injured. The highs and lows very evident from the beginning.

Which winner gave you the most pleasure?

Belgian Bill winning the Royal Hunt Cup at Royal Ascot was a special day, and one that I will never forget. But every single winner is incredibly rewarding, and those days when the lesser lights get into the Winner’s Enclosure can be especially pleasing.

And Which race would you like to win the most?

The Arc De Triomphe. Or The Grand National.

When purchasing horse, what criteria do you look for?

When buying yearlings, I look for horse’s whose dam performed to a decent level, or who has produced quality offspring. There are far too many average broodmares whose chances of producing winning offspring are, to my mind, limited.

Conformation is important, and I particularly like horses with a kind and willing eye. And if they are on edge and nervous at a young age, they tend to remain so going forward. The good horses tend to have laid back demeanours.

You have had winners in a lot of countries, with your moto ‘Have horses will Travel’…

Do you actively seek horses for these races?

Yes, we target French-bred horses. With the 60% Breeders Premium on top of prize money in France, there is the chance of a realistic return on investment. And geographically we are well situated for cross Channel raids.

A 3-year-old filly called Adelante, who is French bred, has won over €23,000 for finishing 3rd, 4th and 2nd in Chantilly maidens this spring. She would have won a tenth of that in similar contests here.

What was your first winner abroad?

I can’t remember which horse provided us with our first overseas success. But we are always happy to travel when the right opportunity presents itself. And have trained winners in France, Belgium, on the frozen lake in St Moritz, Jersey and Guernsey, Germany, Dubai and Turkey. Have horse, will travel !!

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Belgian Bill

And which winner abroad gave you the most pleasure?

Belgian Bill’s victory in Istanbul was very pleasing. I had travelled to Turkey with my daughter Tallulah, and it was a great thrill to watch BB win well. And to see Tallulah presented with the trophy.

With the recent Prize Money debate, where do you stand of this situation?

The prize money situation is not a sudden overnight crisis. When Betting Shops were legalised before I was born, the nail in the coffin of UK prize money was hammered home. Jurisdictions with a Tote and PMU monopoly will always be able to provide significantly better prize money than is available here.

It is a great shame that some racecourse owners treat those who provide the product with such distain, although the recent united stand (by most..?!) against Arena Racing’s slash to prize money levels gives hope that common sense will prevail. A fair return to the Owner is not too much to ask, and transparency on what racecourses make from media rights would help those of us providing the product to understand what that “fair return” should be.

Staff shortages are often mentioned in the media, have you had any problems with staff shortages?

We are incredibly lucky to have such a dedicated and loyal team. The hours are long, and conditions in the bleak midwinter can be pretty brutal. But thankfully we all laugh at the same jokes, and celebrate properly together when we are lucky enough to have a winner. Attracting and retaining good staff is never easy, and I am forever aware of how lucky I am with the guys and girls who are helping me to live my dream.

Horse welfare is always a hot topic,… What are your thoughts on the subject?

Horse welfare is of paramount importance to us all. Our team do everything within their powers to ensure that these wonderful animals are treated with the utmost care and diligence. They live in Five Star luxury, and are much loved by those who care for them. Injuries are inevitable in every sport, and are tough for all to take.

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And finally, do you have a horse for our readers to follow for the season ahead?

I am very hopeful that CRISTAL SPIRIT, who finished 2nd at Doncaster recently, will be a progressive staying horse once stepped up in trip.

 

Thanks to George for his time, we will be keeping an eye across all his string this season & beyond. We would like to wish George and his team all the best for the season ahead & the future…

Interview – Rich Williams

Photo’s – George Baker Racing Website.

http://www.georgebakerracing.com

Except Belgium Bill (Archives)

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