The Marlborough area is becoming more and more of a home to horseracing’s trainers. At the last count of British Horseracing Authority licensed trainers there were twelve in the SN8 and SN4 postcodes.
All of which begs the question ‘Where do trainers come from?’ – you can’t take a degree in being a trainer and there’s certainly no ‘A Level’ in training. Answering the question is Laura Thomas – she is starting out training point-to-point horses and hopes to make a career as a licensed trainer of race horses.
She began three years ago when her farming father downsized and moved to Hackpen Farm just over the downs from Barbury. Its 250 acres now include a mile long gallop, a five furlong gallop, what looks like miles of fencing, schooling fences, a horse-walker and seventeen horses.
Half the horses belong to her father the other half to owners – all hoping to find a potential race horse among the point-to-pointers. A couple of wins in point-to-points can add a couple of noughts to a horse’s value.
Just as it is in a licensed yard, Laura’s training is a 24/7 responsibility with daily exercise and health checks and balancing the horses’ feed. She has two permanent staff members – Gemma Crosbie Dawson and James Seivwright , who wants to become a jockey.
She also has part-time use of Nico de Boinville who works for Nicky Henderson at Lambourn and is one of the Henderson yard’s amateur jockeys. In his spare time, so to speak, he looks after the French seven year-old Long Run – one of Henderson’s most successful horses with thirteen wins under rules, including the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup. (And, by the way, it’s worth a small bet this Boxing Day when Long Run tries for a second King George VI at Kempton.)
Laura enjoys starting from scratch with horses – breaking in the youngsters and then getting them ready to race. And she loves the racing – the point-to-point season runs from November till the end of May.
Laura grew up with horses and hunting. She has ridden since she was three years old and lots of hours in the saddle later went on to do some eventing.
She started work in an office – not her environment of choice. She worked in the race sponsorship and public relations side of the Blue Square bookmakers.
Training is where she wants to be: “I love the way of life”. And she dreams to ‘train under rules’ – joining the big names and training racehorses for hurdles and steeple chases.
Soon she would like to start an owners’ syndicate – with the emphasis on the ‘fun and friendliness’ of horse racing.
Just over the hill from Laura’s yard is the yard of Alan King at Barbury. She’s very grateful for the advice he gives her – and also for the occasional use of his Sharpridge all-weather gallop.
So how’s it going? She had four winners last season and two winners the season before. The start of this season was delayed by the rain.
This training business is not always a simple ride. Not everything went to plan at the delayed opening point-to-point of the season – the South Devon meeting. Driftwood Pride came in fifth having taken a strong dislike to the very wet ground.
And then Laura’s real hope, Our Joe, who stands 17.1 hands, took exception to the whole outing and refused to race. Now that’s sorted out Laura is very excited that she can get all her horses out and racing in the clutch of point-to-points held after Christmas – on December 28 and 30, and on January 6.
She hopes they’ll bring the yard a good end to 2012 and a good start to 2013.
Laura likes to treat horses as individuals. So there will be a bit ‘ironing out’ to do with Our Joe: “The endgame is about winners – but you have got to be happy if you have trained a horse to its full potential.”
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