I normally really enjoy a lie in on the weekends however, I was extremely happy to be up and out of bed at the crack of dawn in order to get up on the gallops in time for first lot...
We arrived at Warren Greatrex’s yard for 7:10 am where horses and riders pull out at 7:30 on the dot. Most racing yards work to a strict schedule in order to get all of the horses out and exercised before lunchtime. We were there to see two Albatross horses in training with Warren; Western Ryder and a Stowaway unnamed Filly (more recently named Miss Honey Ryder).
A normal day will consist of work riders attending to their small group of 3 or 4 horses for whom they are responsible. The morning routine involves mucking out, bedding down, feeding, and watering each horse...then it is time to tack up. Riders use a light saddle which replicates what might be used at the races however, there is more allowance for weight and comfort.
Once all of the horses in the first string are tacked up, it’s time to do a couple of laps of the yard and wait to be called out and told by what each horse will do for the morning. Trainers normally follow a routine day by day i.e. canter Monday, work Tuesday, rest Wednesday, school Thursday, gentle canter Friday and then run on a Saturday etc.
Once all of Warren’s horses were out and on their way to the gallops; just a short hack away, we set off in the car to get to the top of Kingsdown Gallops, ready to meet them as they came up. After waiting for a couple of minutes they began to appear, some in pairs, some in threes and some solo. We were given a bit of background information on each horse as they came cantering past; where they will run, which race/ground suits best, how they have been in training so far.
We then had a closer look at the two horses owned by the Albatross Club... good looking horses with lots of potential. Western Ryder ran at The Cheltenham Festival last year in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and finished in 5th; there are high hopes for better things this season.
After the first lot had returned to the yard and untacked, we headed down the road to Champion Trainer, Nicky Henderson’s yard, Seven Barrows. Nicky has some amazing facilities and the use of some fantastic grass and all weather gallops. As we walked into the house we were greeted by a whole host of racing stars including Nicky Henderson, retired Champion Jockey, AP McCoy and JP McManus’ first jockey, Barry Geraghty. After feasting on a wonderful spread of breakfast buns and several cups of tea, it was time to head out for second lot.
It was amazing to see the vast number of horses trotting around the sheltered sand track, 40 to be exact...and that was only the second out of four lots! We were there to see the Albatross Club owned Rebel Commander and Full Bore who were both on flying form. It was amazing how easily Nicky identified each horse as I would say nearly 80% were bay or brown!
Again we raced off in our vehicles up to the top of the gallops where we watched the vast number of horses canter up in similar sized groups to Warren’s. Amongst the string were some of the stars of the jumps; Altior, Whisper, Charlie Parcs and a few other potential stars. We watched some do three canters up the hill, some doing faster work than others whilst Nicky called out each one and gave a similar blurb to each horse's career and potential runs this season.
Returning back to the yard we had a quick look around the numerous stables and said hello to a few of the horses who had been out first lot. An incredible set up with lots of friendly people taking care of some very special horses.
A wonderful morning thanks to the Albatross Club, Warren and Nicky.