Hi Noel, thanks for taking the time to talk to us at 3 Furlongs Out, we hope you & the team are well.
1 – How long have you been training & was this a career you had set out early in life?
I’m just coming into my fifth season with a licence. Training was something I only started to seriously consider in my early twenties. Although I had been competitively riding since a child, I was a very keen and fairly handy rugby player and was focused on pushing that forward. However It started to become apparent that although I had the ability I just didn’t have the size for the modern game so I changed tac and concentrated on the horses full time. I represented GB at U21’s Dressage and Evented at Advanced level, and produced plenty of young horses but couldn’t finance it when the “Young rider” funding dried up. I started riding out for Alan King and soon became his Assistant Trainer. That’s when I decided taking out my own licence was what I wanted to do. After 12 seasons with Alan I set up on my own.
2 – Many trainers have been jockey’s, does this help or hinder when becoming a trainer?
I don’t think it makes a difference to be honest. The most important thing is that you are a horseman. You also have to be fairly business minded these days. That doesn’t always come naturally to a lot of trainers but we have to learn to be as, unless there’s a lot of funding behind you, you simply won’t survive let alone be successful.
3 – Who, if anyone has influenced your career & training style?
I suppose spending 12 years as Alan King’s right hand man is going to rub off a fair bit! The basics of how I train would be fairly similar but I’ve moulded it to suit my own facilities and my own ideas and beliefs. Over the years I’ve worked for and trained with a lot of very successful and knowledgable people and I’ve taken bits and pieces from all of them. I’m also very interested in how other people train and their ideas, so I’m always listening and keeping my eyes open. I try to be open minded to new ideas and thoughts but at the same time I’m very confident in my own judgement so I also try not to let that become clouded.
4 – How many horses do you have in the yard at anyone time? & can you give us the breakdown(Chasers/Hurdlers/Flat) please?
I have about 25 horses in training at the moment. I can take about 10 more and it would be nice to have the yard full in time, but I have no interest in training large numbers. There are a number of younger guys out there who want to train 100 plus and try to be the next champion trainer, and that’s great to see. I feel you have to train a number that enables you to do the best job you can do personally. For one person that maybe 150, for the next person 10. For me personally it would be around 35. I feel I have to strike a nice balance. I’m also not prepared to train for people I don’t like! I’m ambitious and competitive for sure but if you want to be champion trainer you have to put up with the “less likeables” and the people who seem hell bent on being awkward, but for me life’s too short for that!
Most of the horses in my yard are young bumper and novice hurdlers. I’m light on chasers at the moment but I’m looking forward to seeing some of them jumping fences in time. I also have a couple of 2 year olds which will have a run or two this autumn with a view to going juvenile hurdling this time next year.
5 – Do you have retained Jockey’s or do you go through agents?
I don’t have a retained jockey. Wayne Hutchinson would by my first choice and if he’s not available I within reason use the best available. I’m an admirer of Leighton Aspell too so I’d always be happy to have him ride any of mine.
6 – Is Routine the best way to train or is it more of an individual thing?
Routine is important. Horses are generally creatures of habit so they appreciate having consistency in their life. That said there are always certain individuals that don’t suit a particular yards system, so although I work to a set routine it’s always flexible to accommodate a certain horses needs.
Routine within a workplace and having systems in place also means that it makes my staffs job easier and smoother, and means things are less likely to be missed or overseen.
7 – Do you set targets as trainer per season? Wins, certain races etc.
Not really. Certainly not numerically. The only targets I set are to have healthy happy horses that perform to the best of their capabilities. To keep the business financially stable, to have satisfied owners and to make sure I remain sane!
8 – What has been the most enjoyable moment of your racing career to date & who has been your favourite horse?
Briery Queen winning at Cheltenham on her seasonal debut last year. For a jumps trainer Cheltenham is the place to have winners and it was a first victory for me there so it was special. The way she did it was nice too, scything her way through bad ground to win impressively from what was a competitive field.
9 – What horse PAST or PRESENT would you like to have trained?
It probably sounds strange coming from a jumps trainer but I’d have to say Black Caviar. A winner of all of her 25 races including 17 Grade 1’s, she amassed a staggering $7.95 million in prize money. The added appeal for me is that she’s a mare and I like training fillies and mares. Being able to enjoy following her broodmare career and to possibly train some her offspring would also be a wonderful bonus.
10 – Away from racing , how do you relax & unwind?
In the summer I try to play cricket as often as I can. I play for Stonor CC, a Sunday team near Henley on Thames and a few league and cup matches a season on a Saturday for Uffington CC near Lambourn. I’m a wicket keeper and top order batsman. I don’t profess to be good but I’m very keen! It’s one of the few times that I’m not thinking/worrying at all about work so I see it as a good down time. I also try to socialise often with my non-racing friends as it reminds me that there’s a much wider world outside the “racing bubble” that we can find ourselves too wrapped up in if we’re not careful!
11 – If you had not became a trainer, what career would you have chosen?
I don’t really know. Perhaps something to do with criminal psychology as that’s a subject that has always really fascinated me.
12 – And Finally…… Can you give us a couple of horses to follow for the season?
I’m not going to name any individuals as that’ll surely jinx them! I did however have two or three bumper horses last season that ran really well without winning and, as I openly state that my bumper horses are always undercooked rather than trained hard so they progress, they must surely have a future. I’ll let you do the homework and work out which ones I’m referring to!
Many thanks for talking to us Noel. We wish you all the best for the coming season & look forward to seeing you in the winners enclosure.
Interview by Rich Williams(Not related) – 3 Furlongs Out & Arseonline