Wednesday, 16 November 2011

On The Road!

From October to December every year, my car becomes my caravan and I spend most weekends travelling to the next race meeting where I juggle signings and interviews for the Racing Post authors, and try to catch a few races in between.
We are particularly thrilled with how Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse is doing, already having gone to reprint once and looking like we still may need more to cover the busy Christmas period. When you have seen a little book like this one grow from an initial idea from Brough Scott at the Runnymede Hotel in May to it fast becoming a publishing sensation and selling over 10,000 copies in its first month and with press coverage to die for, it makes all the hours put in over the summer to get it to print on time, completely worthwhile.
We are all looking forward to our trip to the Isle of Wight on 30th November, where Warrior was born and died, to do an evening there with Waterstones in Newport.  There are still people on the island who remember Warrior, one lady telling a tale the other day how as a girl she was allowed to go and visit him at home as a special treat. The horse was, and remains, a local legend. And if the book continues to do well, one of the plans is to set up a Warrior Trust and memorial barn in the field where he ran as a yearling so people can follow in his island hoofprints...
Brook Beach on the West Wight where Warrior learned to swim - much the same now as it was then!
The Racing Post Annual 2012 and Edward Whitaker’s masterpiece, Beyond the Frame, are both also doing well and we hope to sell loads more copies in the next six weeks. The Annual has some fabulous new content with the inside stories on Frankel, Long Run, Monet’s Garden and plenty more, as well as some great quirky stuff and awards. My favourite is the ‘Ryan Moore Award for Extensive Media Debriefing after a race’ which goes to Tom Queally when Vita Nova was beaten at Haydock after the saddle had slipped.
‘Tommo’ (chasing Queally across the parade ring after the race): “What happened?”
Queally: “A blind man could see the saddle had slipped.”

In autumn 2012 Racing Post Books will be publishing one of our most exciting titles ever, a biography of Sir Henry Cecil, and preparation for this again took me to Warren Place
a few weeks ago to see Henry.  The atmosphere is noticeably more relaxed now that Frankel’s season is over and I had the most amazing time with Henry, whizzing about in his new car Dukes of Hazzard style, seeing Midday’s full sister work and looking around the house and garden with Henry telling me some of his fascinating tales. Sometimes I can’t quite believe what I do for a living and to spend some time with this legend is a special privilege I shall never forget.

Whilst in Newmarket, I also popped in to the Injured Jockeys Fund and Lisa Hancock gave me a quick tour of the warehouse, which is the nerve centre for all the Christmas sales. It’s amazing the business they do (and the business they need to do) at this time of year and I’d encourage all of those who haven’t already done so to take a look at and buy some of Francome Goes Crackers (with the jokes censored!), Choc’s Choc, a Lady Oaksey Rose, Monet’s Garden jigsaw, or some of their amazing other gifts which all make brilliant presents as well as serving a vital cause at the heart of our industry. 

Another very worthy cause is the Bob Champion Cancer Trust and they hosted a fabulous charity race day at Lingfield last week with a special guest in Hayley Moore, who did her first jumps race commentary. She’ll be giving those boys a run for their money soon!  This week we have a Fish n Chips evening at the Bluebird in the Kings Road on Thursday and are in the process of planning a few very exciting events for next year.  Again, if you haven’t already, please support the charity by buying some of their Christmas cards which are really stunning this year

Sam Thomas and I attended his sponsor Markel’s charity boxing match a few weeks ago and were thrilled to be able to have a chat with two absolute legends in Joe Calzaghe and Chris Eubank.  Sam is really starting to get the hang of the C4 presenting lark too and is getting noticeably more relaxed in front of the camera.  His ‘Dark Horses’ pieces have now taken in the yards of Venetia Williams, Tom Symonds, Oliver Sherwood, Charlie Mann, Kim Bailey, Charlie Longsdon, Ferdy Murphy and Alan Swinbank and hopefully they’ll be more to come over the winter months.

Sam with legends of the ring!
 I also managed to squeeze in a quick visit across the channel to Paris to see how Richard Dunwoody is getting on with his photo journalism course, and he seems to be doing brilliantly so far. I think he has a natural talent for photography and hope to see his pictures in the newspapers at some stage in the future. I think he won’t be giving Ed Whitaker a run for his money though and will have his sights set on subjects further afield – travel, war zones, girls in bikinis…?!!
Paris in autumn - one of Richard's early pictures. Even with just a small amount of training, he already has an eye!
In spite of the madness of the autumn schedule, every Saturday morning I make sure I fit in a slight detour to Barbury Castle to get my fix of riding a few of Alan King’s horses and to hang out with the great staff he has.  It sometimes means having to change for racing in five minutes flat at a motorway service station, but it’s definitely worth it to be part of a top jumps yard in full autumn swing.  A few of my ‘rides’ have been running really well – Balzacchio winning two, Secret Edge winning one and coming third at Cheltenham and the legend that is Kings Troop continuing to pull my arms out every Saturday but starting now to get the hang of the hurdling game (with a great ride from Charlie Huxley at Sandown a few weeks ago).  I’ve been riding a lovely little unraced filly too, called Tickety Bleue, who has a really genuine attitude.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy going there and I find it both the most relaxing and exciting thing I do.  It also means that every day I follow the Barbury runners on and when the ones I ride, or ride with, are running, scare my dog by shouting at the TV!  Happy autumn days indeed.
Washing Habbie Simpson down after a work morning at Barbury!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Racehorse and a War Horse

Sometimes a horse comes along and captures the public imagination. Desert Orchid, Moscow Flyer, Best Mate and Denman being a few of the names in recent years who have done that. These horses have the ability to make you shout out loud, experience amazing highs and occasionally, sickening lows too.
Sea the Stars was a great horse and I remember shouting him home in the Arc but we really only had a year to enjoy him and the public were just starting to get to know him when off he went to stud.

Then along comes a horse called Frankel.

In a time when racing (especially the flat) desperately needs its stars, this freakish, difficult and unbelievable talented horse bursts his way onto the scene. And what’s more, the fates give him to a man whose has both scaled the heights and witnessed the depths of despair, the fragile and publicly adored genius that is Sir Henry Cecil.
We have loved and been fascinated by Frankel since he was a two year old. The horse who could out gallop a train, whose stride was twice as long as anything else’s and yet who was always one slip of the rein away from an uncontrollable bolt into the next county.
In the wrong hands, Frankel would have been a basket case. But in the right hands Cecil has brilliantly used his lifetime of experience to nurture this quite exceptional talent, control his complex temperament, but has never broken the colt’s spirit. 
To be at Ascot last Saturday was one of those great days that will stay with you forever. Necks craning as the horse first stepped into the pre-parade ring, the crowd screaming as he surged to the front a few furlongs out, the mad dash to get back to the winner’s enclosure and then the euphoric cheers for both Cecil and his horse that seemed to go on for ever and which no one wanted to end.
I was so glad to be there.
Frankel enters the pre-parade ring on Saturday

Yesterday morning, Brough Scott sent me through his copy on the Frankel Story for our forthcoming Racing Post Annual – it is an absolute genius piece of writing.

To another great horse now and we were absolutely thrilled to have a double page spread on Warrior in the Daily Mail last Saturday
The book is also appearing on the One Show tonight, and we really hope that it is going to capture the public’s imagination.

Warrior was born on the Isle of Wight before the First World War and was one of the first horses off the boat to France with his owner, Jack Seely, in 1914.
Spending four years on the Western Front, he survived every imaginable disaster and was at all the major battles such as the Somme, Passchendaele and Ypres.
But Warrior came home in 1918 when 8 million horses, mules and donkeys did not.
Four years to the day after he had led a famous charge at Moreuil Wood, Warrior won the local point to point. 
He was still being ridden in 1938, as depicted in our book, with the horse and rider having the combined ages of 100 years (Seely, 70, Warrior, 30). 
Few horses have obituaries in the national newspapers when they die. But this one did.
They hailed him as ‘The Horse the Germans Could Not Kill’.

Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse contains the original line drawings and paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings  who first painted Warrior at the front in February 1918 and again at home on the Isle of Wight after the war.
The forthcoming Spielberg film, War Horse, is fiction. Our story is 100 per cent true.
Queen Mary comes to visit Warrior at home on the Isle of Wight after the war

Friday, 7 October 2011

I spend this time of year pretty much flat out and don’t have much time to update my blog so please excuse my rather fragmented scribblings!

A few weeks ago Ed Whitaker’s stunning book, Beyond the Frame, launched with an exhibition at the Osborne Studio gallery in London, and we were thrilled with the great turnout from the racing fraternity. Jilly Cooper, who has written the foreword to the book, came all the way from Gloucestershire, Nicky Henderson was there buying up the Binocular prints, and jockey Christian Williams, recovering from two broken arms, came all the way from Wales. C4 were also there and did a great piece in the book on the Morning Line. It’s also already had great reviews in the Telegraph and Mail.

The launch of Beyond the Frame, Osborne Studio Gallery
We also have set up a new Facebook page about all our new Racing Post titles now so do have a look

It was then straight from London to Lambourn for me for an early morning on the gallops at the yards of Oliver Sherwood and Charlie Mann to see how Sam Thomas was getting on with his filming as the new jockey presenter on the Morning Line for their ‘Dark Horses’ slot.  When you’re not used to it, it’s very hard to get used to talking to a camera as if ‘it’s a person’ but Sam is already doing a great job under the skillful tuition of C4 producer supremo, Sophie Veats. She came up with an idea for Sam to wear an arm as well as a hat cam so the footage will be interesting to see with the first piece going out on 15th October.

Sam on the Lambourn gallops with his hat and arm cams!
In the last few weeks I’ve also had my hands full with the launch of our book, Warrior.  Trying to ensure it’s out in the shops and the publicity machine is rolling to the right timings is all rather a juggling act. The book looks awesome though and we’ve now also launched its own website I’m hoping the Daily Mail are going to run a review of it in the next few weeks, plus we’re set for an appearance on the One Show on 18th October.  

I’ve been busy with the Bob Champion team too in the last few weeks planning some exciting events for 2012.  More news to follow on these soon.
Up and coming events include our Fish, Chips and Champagne evening on 17th November at the Bluebird in London. All details are on the website

One of my meetings this week took me to the Tattersalls sales, which is a totally fascinating experience if you’ve never been – and definitely worth the visit. I still find it totally amazing that the big players pay hundreds of thousands (even millions) of guineas for horses that have never raced (and may never race!). I think The Green Monkey at 16 million dollars was the most expensive purchase ever, running three times with his best placing a third!  But of course it’s all in and about the breeding. You could sit at one of these sales all day just watching the proceedings and never be bored. 

Whilst in Newmarket, I also dropped in at the Injured Jockeys Fund for some Christmas planning. Their gifts this year are great fun – I’m loving Francome goes Crackers and Choc’s Choc – and everyone should be doing their Christmas shopping here

Next week we’ll be back at Cheltenham again but with a slight diversion to Ascot on the 15th where I’ll have everything crossed that Frankel reigns supreme again. Having spent some time with the Cecil team recently, I know the pressure the whole yard feels having this colossus in their midst and I’ll be praying everything goes smoothly for them.  
One of my favourite pictures of Frankel!
To finish, I’d just like to recommend an equine back therapist, Grace Maxwell, who came out to see my horse this week. He suffers from a slight problem with the trigeminal nerve in his head and she was absolutely brilliant at explaining how the bone structure and nerve system all connects up. She practices something called McTimoney, which to me seemed a very gentle yet effective way of straightening him out (the last guy I had literally threw him round his stable!). She also explained to me exactly what she was doing and let me feel the before and after changes she made. It was fascinating that one minute his spine headed off to his right side when I ran my hands down it and when she’d done her thing, it was back heading back to his tail again!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Autumn again!

Autumn is always my busiest time of year when I chase around from pillar to post attempting to juggle a million things at once. But it's also my favourite time of year with the jump racing season starting to rev up. And as soon as we get back to Cheltenham in October, it feels wonderfully familiar and a bit like coming home. So I'm going to have a real decision on my hands whether to abandon it to see Frankel at Ascot. I suspect Frankel will win (on all levels) and having had the privilege to visit him at home over the summer (not to mention that memorable day at Goodwood), I want to carry on being privy to his amazing story. He may be the best horse we've ever seen. Read Brough Scott's awesome article in the Racing Post last Sunday for a fascinating insight

Frankel just being a horse at Warren Place

Racing Post
Once again, Racing Post Books have got some great titles for Christmas. Tuesday this week sees us back at the Osborne Gallery in London for the launch of Edward Whitaker's stunning new book, Beyond the Frame, with an exhibition of some of his best photos from the book.
Channel 4 are coming to film the exhibition for the Morning Line and Ed's star continues to rise as his photographs receive the acclaim they deserve.

One of the stunning images in Beyond the Frame
After that, we move quickly on to Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse, which is a true story along the same theme as Spielberg's War Horse due to hit our cinema screens in December.
The Daily Mail are planning to serialise it, which we hope will really engage public interest. And I defy pretty much anyone not to be moved by the story of a horse who was one of the first off the boat to France in 1914, survived every imaginable disaster, saw out some of the major battles on the Western Front, but made it back in 1918 - and went on to live until the early 1940s. Not many horses have an obituary in the Times when they die. But Warrior did. And the 'Horse the Germans Could Not Kill' in my opinion deserves its place on the bestseller lists!
Both these, and our first ever Racing Post Annual will be available on all the major racecourses throughout the build up to Christmas and we're excited about our 'racecourse roadshow' taking to the road once again.
All of our titles can be bought from

Bob Champion and The Bob Champion Cancer Trust
After the success of the John Smith's Aintree Legends race in April, I continue to work closely with Bob (the Facebook addict!) and Lucy Wilkinson who runs the Trust and we've got a few great events in the pipeline including a charity day at Lingfield on 8th November and a Fish, Chips and Champagne evening at the Bluebird in Chelsea (details to follow soon). Alex Embiricos, the daughter of Aldaniti's owners, is also planning an amazing Lands End to John O'Groats Cycle Challenge on her bike 'Ruby Walsh' in May next year and people are invited to join her. Bob may even make an appearance on his heavily re-enforced bike, Aldaniti!
Details of all of these events can be found on

Brough Scott
With helping Edward with Beyond the Frame, working on getting Warrior ready for publication, and researching his biography of Sir Henry Cecil, due out in 2012, Brough rarely has time to take breath. How he manages to then produce the quality of writing he does for the Racing Post, Times, and occasionally Horse and Hound is beyond me. Yet Brough remains one of the finest writers around. Recently, we have developed his website and he's been more than holding his own in the modern world of Twitter (@broughscott)! 

Injured Jockeys Fund
In the last few months, I have helped the great team at the IJF, led by Lisa Hancock, develop their social media ( / Twitter @ijf_official). 
We are currently looking to recruit some key industry figures as IJF 'Ambassadors' - details to follow soon.

Richard Dunwoody
Not one for a quiet life, Richard has spent most of the summer abroad leading holidays for Wild Frontiers ( but has just moved to Paris to embark on a photo journalism course. He has a real talent in this area and is on for both a full on and very hard-working year.  I can't believe it's over two years now since we spent 42 exhausting but amazing days as part of his epic 1000 Mile Challenge. If anyone can cope with going 'back to school' in his '40s, then Richard is the man I'd put my money on!

My favourite photo of the 1000 Mile Challenge - it's the last morning and the strain is starting to tell! If Richard can cope with this, he can cope with anything...

Sam Thomas
We had a great day out on the 'flat' at Goodwood in the summer but Sam is excited that the jumps season proper is about to get going. We are thrilled that equine insurance company, Markel, are going to sponsor him for the third year and we have been really made to feel a part of the 'Markel family' attending some brilliant events with them. Great too that their sponsored flat jockey, William Buick, has brought them some nice front pages over the summer.
It is also announced this week that Sam is going to join Channel 4 as a 'Jockey presenter' and this week we're starting his 'from the saddle' filming at the yards of Venetia Williams, Tom Symonds, Oliver Sherwood and Charlie Mann.

On a personal note, after riding the Henry Ponsonby owned (, Kings Troop, at Cheltenham last March, I have continued to ride out for his trainer, Alan King (, every Saturday so I shall also be really looking forward to seeing Alan's horses run well over the winter.  When you spend a lot of the week sitting at a computer, it's a real pleasure to be part of a top racing yard every weekend and to be with the actual people who make the horses.
My own horse, the ex racer Lord's Bidding, also continues to make great progress and I hope that his RoR competition days may not be too far away! (