Racing Behind Closed Doors: Behind the Scenes at Harry Whittington Racing
This week we were lucky enough to get a behind the scenes look at Harry Whittington Racing pre-Cheltenham festival next week. Harry and his lovely wife and racing secretary Alice were so welcoming, especially since we lugged around our 1960's model mannequin, Elvira, for a little photoshoot around the yard with the horses (which you can see over at @elvira_the_mannequin on Instagram) which probably looked incredibly bizarre, especially in the wind and rain!
Harry is a grade one winning trainer and after Launching Harry Whittington racing in September 2012 he made quite the impact, achieving a strike rate of 20%, with 3 wins from 15 runs. Since then his success, and yard, have continued to grow whilst maintaining a consistently high strike-rate. Harry has two horses racing at Cheltenham next week, Saint Calvados and Rouge Vif and the team here at SB wish them the best of luck! Harry and Alice kindly answered all our questions about how they got into business, their lives as horse trainers and the tribulations of racing in a pandemic.
Why did you start your business?
In a nutshell - A passion for horses coupled with a huge amount of ambition!
How did you get into Racing?
I started my pre-training business here at Hill Barn back in 2007 with very few facilities but plenty of equestrian experience and a huge amount of ambition. My Grandfather, the late Colin Nash, was a very successful point-to-point and Hunter Chase owner/breeder/trainer and is most famous for giving Richard Dunwoody his first winner. I learnt my trade under top pre-trainer/consigner and ex-jockey Malcolm Bastard. These important years gave me the grounding and knowledge in the discipline of caring for racehorses, as well as how to select quality thoroughbreds at bloodstock sales internationally. Roll the clock forward after a successful spell as a pre-trainer with key clients such as Tom Dascombe and Nicky Henderson. In 2010, I had the opportunity to set up a satellite yard at Hill Barn for neighbour Nicky Henderson. The yard went from strength to strength and in 2012 I took the leap, and along with Alice launched Harry Whittington Racing in 2012 and began training under rules with just 5 horses.
What has been your biggest highlight/proudest moment since starting the stables?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one moment in particular as there have been so many highlights. The breakthrough success in the first season at Newbury on 2nd March 2013 when Dubai Kiss (on his racecourse debut) sliced through a competitive junior bumper field to win very impressively at 100/1 was pretty special. Another key milestone reached along the way was in April 2016 when Arzal landed a Grade 1 victory at The Grand National Festival at Aintree. And finally last year when we landed a 3-2-1 at the Cheltenham Festival with Rouge Vif (3rd in the Arkle), Saint Calvados (2nd in the Ryanair) and Simply the Betts (our first Festival winner – The Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate).
What has been the biggest challenge that lockdown has provided?
The pandemic itself has caused a number of problems in racing over the past year, not only did it bring racing to a halt in the first lockdown but since then although racing has been able to continue behind closed doors, virtually all of the meetings have gone ahead with no owners present. Prize money has also been affected so much like a lot of industries out there racing has taken quite a hit over the past year.
Any big plans for 2021?
Heading back to Cheltenham with Saint Calvados and hoping we can make some more dreams come true…
What is your favourite racecourse?
This would have to be our local track Newbury it’s a very fair track and a great place to run horses. You can’t beat the atmosphere there at their big meeting in November (The Ladbrokes Trophy – formerly the Hennessey Gold Cup).
What are you most looking forward to doing when we can get back out and socialise?
Being able to host owners at the yard and go racing with them – these are the key highlights of ownership so it has been a real shame that we haven’t been able to do this for some time. We are extremely grateful for the phenomenal support of our owners over this past year and we hope that their patience can be rewarded soon.
What advice would you give for someone looking to start their own business?
There is no substitute for hard graft. If you work hard, believe in yourself (and the team around you) - you can achieve anything.
To see and read more about Harry Whittington racing visit: Harry Whittington Racing
or visit @harrywhittingtonracing on Instagram