We are delighted to be able to bring you an interview with Trainer & Innovator Martin Smith, we talk everything from the early days as a jockey, training videos, Equi – Ping & re-homing race horses….
Having been brought up in an equine background, with your father being a jockey & trainer was it inevitable that you would follow the same path?
Yes it was, although I always had aspirations of becoming a pilot I found myself working on the yard from the age of 11 and the flying thing always seemed to be beyond my reach. I’m glad to say I have had several hours of a ppl course (mostly in Dubai) and having done a few solo flights it really was every bit as good as I imagined it would be!
You have travelled the world before returning to the UK, can you tell us a little bit about that period of your life?
I moved away to Belgium just before I turned 3 and Came back a couple of times a year to visit family so I have I have a grown-up travelling and always enjoyed it.
One of the best things about working in horseracing is that they race in lots of different countries around the world so there are always plenty of opportunities to travel.
For me the experience I have had abroad has been invaluable I have met some wonderful people and had some great memories!
The life of a trainer can be very busy, especially at smaller yards, how many horses do you manage at any one time and how do you deal with all the stress and strains that it brings?
I have 14 in at the moment and can take up to 22 in my current yard. The pressure and stress can be tremendous sometimes but I have learned to deal with it over the years. Adopting a positive attitude and keeping busy are a big help and if things get really bad there is always meditation.
There are lots of highs and lows in racing, lets start with the highs, the best day at the race track?
There have been lots of highs and it would be difficult to choose just one! Riding my first win at 14 was one as was riding my last winner and being crowned champion amateur jockey in Dubai.
The most phenomenal horse I was lucky enough to ride every day and handle was Kingsgate Native, saddling him to win the Nunthorpe is a memory I will certainly never forget!
As a trainer there have also been lots of highs, purchasing Hillbilly Boy from a seller and getting him to Royal Ascot 6 months later was one and I always get a kick when I have a winner and beat Godolphin and the other top yards!
What has been the saddest day and how do you mange that experience?
The saddest days are when a horse loses their life, I lost Gorgeous Geezer in a freak accident at home and it was heartbreaking to lose Khaleefa Bay in another freak accident at Southwell.
Equi – Ping… Can you tell us a little bit about this and how it came about?
I got the idea for equi-ping from seeing accidents at home when horses have been tied up improperly and then have panicked and hurt themselves trying to break free. I had the idea for several years before I had the means to do anything with it.
The first horse I ever owned a share in was Christopher Wren, after winning three races on the flat he was sold to JP McManus for £150,000. I used my share of that to take Equi -Ping to market, launched at BETA and the response was amazing!
Your gallop videos have been very popular, where did the idea come from and did you expect the response it received via social media?
I enjoy making videos in my spare time so the Gallop videos were just a natural progression. It’s great to get such a good response on social media and broaden our reach.
Speaking of Social Media, how do you find that experience and do you feel it is a good way to reach out to racing fans?
Yes social media is a great way of letting everybody know what you are doing, it’s nice to feel part of such a large community. And although people are very quick to criticise when things go wrong they are also generous in their praise when things go right.
The BHA recently announced a change in National Hunt racing regarding hind shoes, what is your view on this?
Although I have never done it I have heard a lot of people in support of keeping horses barefoot and it didn’t slowdown Zola Bud in the 80s. However if the BHA have statistical research that proves running horses barefoot is dangerous then in my view they have taken the right action.
The Staffing crisis in racing has been very prominent in the last few weeks, what is your opinion on this and do you think it is related to Prize money in racing?
People are always talking about a staffing crisis but I have worked my entire adult life in racing and I can tell you from my experience there is a serious shortage of good bosses. It’s because of this experience that I have always done my best to look after my staff as well as I can and I am pleased to say I am always fully staffed.
The staff get a small percentage of any prize money we win so obviously if there was more money available it would mean they could earn more doing the job they love.
Thermal imaging helps with finding niggles with the string
How hard is it to attract owners and do you think that racing syndicates will be the way forward?
Attracting new owners is the toughest part of my job. Most of the investors with large sums of money follow the advice of their Racing Managers or Bloodstock Agents who all grew up with their trainer friends who they send the horses to or like sheep they just follow everybody else.
Most of my clients are owner breeders or people with one or two horses in training. Syndicates are a good way for somebody to get involved without shelling out thousands of pounds every month. However in my experience with syndicates it’s a similar story of the big ones are getting bigger and naturally they want to have their horses trained by bigger trainers.
The best way to attract new owners is to be seen to be training winners so I am constantly working to improve the quality of my string.
And finally, you help in the Re-homing of retired race horses, can you tell us about this please?
As an animal lover I take it upon myself to make sure all our horses find as good a home as possible when they retire from racing. It can take some time but we always try to make sure they go somewhere where they will be just as loved as they are here and we keep in touch with everybody who has one of our horses so we can find out how they are progressing.
Boris The Bold was our first winner and he can be followed today on Facebook, his current owner has given him his own page called “A horse called Boris”
We would like to thank Martin for his time and wish him & his team all the best for the rest of the year and the future ahead, which is looking bright.
Interview – Rich Williams
All Photos courtesy of Martin Smith Twitter account – @MartinPBSmith