November 2020

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Cartier Racing Awards which I have been lucky enough to have been involved with since the very beginning in 1990. I remember like it was yesterday Cartier’s racing advisor, Wing Commander Tim Vigors, calling me to ask whether I would compere the first live show at the Four Seasons hotel in London. He told me that Brough Scott and John Francome had refused and that he had therefore come to me having sat through one of my after dinner speeches! I jumped at the invitation and here we are thirty years later and what will be a very different ceremony tonight!

Usually there is a black tie gala dinner at the Dorchester, a fabulous evening with delicious food, wine and attended by all of the top owners, trainers and jockeys as well…

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Usually there is a black tie gala dinner at the Dorchester, a fabulous evening with delicious food, wine and attended by all of the top owners, trainers and jockeys as well as the racing press. It is every owners dream to win one of these iconic Cartier Awards trophies and each ceremony brings its fair share of high emotion as connections struggle to put into words what it all means. There are eight horse awards and one human award called the Cartier/Daily Telegraph Award of Merit. This goes to the person who, in the opinion of Cartier’s sixteen strong jury of racing industry professionals, has done most for European racing and/or breeding either over a lifetime or some remarkable achievement over the past year. Frankie for example won this award after riding all seven winners at Ascot in 1996.

Frankie Dettori and Pat Smullen

The list of winners in this category is a who’s who of great racing people. HM The Queen won a special Millenium Award in 2000 which resulted in Arnaud Bamberger, Cartier’s Managing Director and I setting off for Buckingham Palace where my late father would be waiting with Her Majesty to be filmed being presented with the award. She won the Stayer Award with Estimate in 2013 which was another emotional presentation at Buckingham Palace!  Other Award of Merit winners include Lester Piggott in 1992, Sir Peter O’Sulleven in 1997, the Head family in 1998, John Magnier in 2001 and Sheikh Mohammed in 2008. Richard Hannon Snr was given the award in 2010 but sadly couldn’t be at the Dorchester to receive it as he was recovering from a heart operation in hospital. Watching his son Richard Jnr alongside his mother Jo struggling to get the words out due the enormous emotion of the moment was one of those very special memories of the past thirty years. Last year the late great Pat Smullen defied ill health to fly over and attend the dinner and made one of the great acceptance speeches which left no dry eye in the room. A great man and hugely missed. 

Every year has celebrated some amazing equine athletes. Frankel won five awards - champion two year old colt, three year old colt, Older horse and Horse of The Year twice! Enable also won five Awards and the mighty Yeats won four Stayers Awards. This year Stradivarius might win his third! At Highclere we have won two with Tamarisk in 1998 and Petrushka in 2000 and I was lucky enough to be presented with a special Cartier Award (for long service!) at their 20th anniversary in 2010. So do tune in tonight at 8.30pm on Sky Sports Racing (Channel 415) and watch the Cartier champions of 2020 being crowned.

Douglas with team Juddmonte receiving their award in 2019

I am very grateful to Douglas Erskine Crum, Juddmonte’s chief executive, agreeing to be interviewed by Rolf for this month's newsletter. The result is I think a fascinating piece. Douglas and I are great friends having worked together to set up the Royal Ascot Racing Club, not to mention our mission to Russia! In setting up the Royal Ascot Racing Club it seemed as though we were working against impossible odds and the one nightmare which reoccurs even now in the middle of the night is the one where I have to pitch the RARC idea to the Trustees of Ascot with lawyers and accountants in attendance at St James Palace. Sir Piers Bengough was Her Majesty’s Representative at the time and when my moment came to walk into that room at St James’s Palace I could hardly breathe letalone properly explain the concept! As I finished my pitch Sir Piers shook his head slowly and said “well I didn’t understand a word of that, let’s take a pee break”. Standing in the loo with the beady lawyer on one side and the accountant on the other, all of us staring straight ahead, the lawyer spat out the words “it will never work” before doing up his flies and walking out! Douglas and Stoker Devonshire had other ideas as you will read and when the Club officially opened to a full membership just over eighteen months later it was a very special moment indeed! Winning the Derby with Motivator was of course the icing on the cake too! 

Motivator winning the Derby

The yearlings are going through the breaking process really well. Do look at our Highclere Experience site to see the updates on them. There are a few shares still available so take a close look, especially if you are looking for that perfect Christmas present for someone special!

Stay safe.

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

By Frances Howard

It is always an enjoyable time of year on the track as the flat winds down and some of the later starting 2yo's emerge whilst the jumps season starts properly…

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It is always an enjoyable time of year on the track as the flat winds down and some of the later starting 2yo's emerge whilst the jumps season starts properly rolling. One 2yo in particular we have all been excited about is Parachute - a lovely son of Sea The Stars. This colt, nursed along slowly by Ed Walker, has always been held in high regard at home and last weekend the proof was in the pudding! He took on a very strong field of novices at Lingfield on Saturday and showed a good deal of class to win well from the widest draw. Needless to say hopes and dreams are high for Parachute who, on breeding, should be a different animal next year. 

Title 2yo colt by Camelot

Another hugely promising effort came from Title, who was pitched in at the deep end by Roger Varian on his debut. This striking Camelot colt went to Newbury for a very competitive novice and on heavy ground came from almost last to almost first - beaten only a neck by a smart horse of Ralph Beckett's who went on to win again next time. He will also improve as a 3yo and is another very exciting prospect for the spring. Lorca, one of our summer breeze-up purchases by first season sire Lucky Lion, made a good start in a maiden up at Nottingham earlier this month. He is very much for next year but he showed plenty of promise in testing conditions, and he is likely to run again before being put away for the spring.

Lorca on his way down to the start at Nottingham

Fantial on her way down to the start at Kempton

Yesterday, we watched Fantail very nearly end her career as she started it – with a win on the all-weather. This filly has been somewhat frustrating for her shareowners as she has a tendency to race very keenly and throwing away opportunities in the process. The Crisford team sent her up to Newcastle yesterday where she was held up by James Doyle, before storming home and so nearly catching the favourite, only to be denied by half a length! We wish her well now as she heads to the December Mares Sale, as a winning filly with a string of good performances on her record.

We are yet to celebrate our first winner in the National Hunt sphere but came oh so close with a lovely 4yo gelding by Milan in training with Philip Hobbs. Orbys Legend impressed us all on his debut at Newbury in a very hot bumper where he travelled powerfully under Richard Johnson and showed a smart turn of foot at the business end of the race. Unfortunately he got tired in the dying strides and was mowed down late on, but it was a highly impressive debut and we can look forward to seeing him run over hurdles in about a fortnight’s time.

Orby's Legend a close 2nd at Newbury

Conceal at Ben's yard

Conceal made a promising start over obstacles up at Sedgefield where he finished a good second behind a smart horse of Olly Murphy’s. He will no doubt come on leaps and bounds for the run and his trainer Ben Pauling, expects to see him finish much closer next time. The Paul Nicholls trained Whiskey Lullaby also finished second on her seasonal and hurdling debut up at Ayr. It was an excellent effort in testing conditions and she is another expected to put up a bold show on her next outing – which will be in a mares novice hurdle at Exeter on Sunday.

Evander winning over hurdles last season

Evander has got his career over the larger obstacles off to a good start. He showed improvement from his first outing to finish a good third at Market Rasen yesterday and this dual hurdles winner is sure to have his head back in front before long.

The Brigadier – in charge!

By Rolf Johnson

Anyone who calls it “fishing in the Itchen” gives the game away: it’s always fishing “on the Itchen”. Then again certain words, phrases: privilege, amateur, real tennis, MCC, grouse moor,…

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Anyone who calls it “fishing in the Itchen” gives the game away: it’s always fishing “on the Itchen”. Then again certain words, phrases: privilege, amateur, real tennis, MCC, grouse moor, a double-barrelled name (not those of England footballers Loftus-Cheek and Calvert-Lewin) provoke stereotyped reactions. Throw in a military prefix, say Brigadier, and an honours list suffix, say CBE, and you have most of the components you need for a heavy caricature.

Horse and carriage: add postillion and you have a readymade prejudice. And then you encounter in person the archetype such words conjure up: Douglas Erskine Crum CBE once the youngest Brigadier (son of a Lieutenant General) in the Army with twenty four years service in the Scots Guards: after Eton 1962-67. And if  your prejudices aren’t dashed by his company you’re beyond redemption.

My interview with the former boss of Ascot, of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and currently in charge at Juddmonte Group is no hagiography  but when all is said and done the only thing ‘double-barrelled’ about Douglas is his infectious laughter. When he was appointed chief executive of a wobbling Ascot in 1994 the media bristled under starters orders. One journalist wrote: “The naysayers who say neigh to everything imagined the former Brigadier wearing a monocle and thought of P G Wodehouse and the Charge of the Light Brigade.” (Why he left out reference to the ‘Old Contemptible’ baffled me).

The scribe gave the game away when describing the new CEO’s arrival at “horseracing’s home of privilege and class segregation. All seemed set for Ascot to be misruled by a jolly decent chap.”But to be fair to the writer, he changed his tune: “Against the odds Erskine Crum has achieved much respect. The traditional after-race singalongs remained more Ascot gavotte than Oh What a Lovely War.” .

“Ladies and Gentlemen

Ev'ry duke and earl and peer is here

Ev'ryone who should be here is here.

What a smashing, positively dashing

Spectacle: the Ascot op'ning day.”

That’s not to say would-be ‘Eliza Doolittle’s’ were encouraged:  Audrey Hepburn might have got away with screaming home her fancy, “Come on Dover move your arse” but that was in a film, My Fair Lady. Such behaviour would not be countenanced at Royal meetings where proprieties had to be observed – even under the new regime.

Douglas humanized the bowler hat brigade: oversaw the birth of the Royal Ascot Racing Club. No, their Derby winner Motivator wasn’t named  for him. It surely could have been because he drove the biggest project in Ascot’s history, in British racing history: as important as when Queen Anne rode across from Windsor Castle to Bagshot sands in 1711 and pronounced: “This is where I want my racecourse”.

In the last twenty months of his twelve year stint Douglas was parent to the £220m rebuilding of Ascot which saw the rise of the landmark grandstand from which you could see the new Wembley taking shape in north London – though it took six more years before you could see Ascot from Wembley.

And still there were complaints. Four months after completion, he moved on. There had been criticism involving some dabbling with the new monolith - but then wasn’t Michelangelo constantly returning for more stabs at the roof of the Sistine chapel?

From some quarters came the predictable, facile cliche that Douglas fell on his sword. The sword remained sheathed and Douglas was quickly carving out a new career as horseracing’s ‘Rishi Sunak’, as chief executive of racing’s ‘piggy bank, the Horserace Betting Levy Board. The Duke of Devonshire, Her Majesty’s representative at Ascot, said at the time. “Douglas has taken Ascot into the 21st century. The most off-putting part of the job will be the act to be followed.” 

Alan Delmonte, Douglas’s successor at the HBLB had this valediction. “I remember saying at Douglas's farewell with the staff that the best things about working with him were his unfailing good humour and his approachability. He is a great supporter of his team, an encourager rather than a criticiser, and gets the best out of people as a result."

His term on the Levy Board was up in 2013 and he was swiftly appointed chief executive at one of the most prestigious owner/breeder enterprises in the world, on a par with Coolmore and Godolphin; Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte.

Although he likes a bet – “If I hadn't bet, I wouldn't have begun to understand racing”- Douglas is more comfortable managing change at ‘the front’ than the changing commercial relationship with the betting industry. If you want a real bet, try employing the Juddmonte services of Frankel and Kingman this coming covering season. You would see no change from £175,000 from the former or £150,000 from the latter.

“My father’s parents spent most of their lives in India, as did their parents. My father was a brilliant army officer and at twenty eight was a major influence in Mountbatten’s secretariat. After several distinguished postings he became General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland as the ‘Troubles’ took off.

“He died of a heart attack in Belfast, aged 52. He was a keen racing man, owned horses. We spent many happy days during holidays on racecourses so much so when I left school I wanted to be a trainer. I wasn’t encouraged in that direction and so changed course to University to study law. That didn’t survive the chance to go to Sandhurst: I decided when I was nineteen the Scots Guards were for me.

“My time at Sandhurst and those early years in the Army – the first six or seven years in the Scots Guards, were a bigger influence than school. The biggest influence of all has been my marriage to Jacqui.

“I had a great time serving all over the world, commanding the Second Battalion and then the Third Infantry Brigade in Northern Ireland just before the ceasefire. Then a surprise call came to put my name forward for CEO at Ascot. As soon as I’d overcome my surprise, I was in.”

With massive understatement he says: “What surprised me a bit was that Ascot was actually losing money and was a touch old-fashioned. There isn’t a great deal of difference really – the principles of running any organization are universal. So we managed to put ourselves in a position to finance and manage the redevelopment. ‘Stoker’ Devonshire led on the design of the new grandstand (after all the Duke had overseen ‘refurbishment’ of the stateliest of England’s stately homes, Chatsworth); my focus was on taking Royal Ascot to York (2005) a business plan for the future and getting it done on time and in budget.

The Royal Ascot Racing Club

“Of course another great highlight was setting up the Royal Ascot Racing Club with Harry Herbert twenty years ago. We were told by some that we were mad, we wouldn’t get any members and it was ridiculous to think we would ever have any horses good enough to even run at Ascot.

The Royal Ascot Racing Club

In the first year the Club was filled and we had a winner at the Royal Meeting; the next year the fourth in the Two Thousand Guineas and then to crown it all, the great Motivator, chosen as yearling by John Warren. One of the outstanding, exciting moments of my career in racing was standing next to Harry during the 2005 Derby and we looked at each other as the field reached the three furlong marker because, even at that stage, it was blindingly obvious that the Club’s horses was going to win the most prestigious race in the world – what a thrill!

Motivator in the winners enclosure having won the Derby

“One failure, if you must apply that word to a project that could have changed the course of racing history came after Ascot’s redevelopment. An approach came to run a $500m plus project in Moscow for a Russian businessman, consisting of a new racecourse, training centre, buying many horses, residential property, hotels – a great and grand design.

Harry and John helped. The highlight was when we taken on a private visit  to the inner sanctum of the Kremlin. We started the racecourse but it didn’t last – our marketing persuaded us that the Muscovites were not sufficiently interested and the 2008 crash brought the curtain down on the project.”

The new Grandstand at Ascot

The closest approximation he comes to a controversial opinion is when recalling the HBLB’s achievements – achievements which he hardly needs to extoll.

“My dear friend Tristram Ricketts died quite suddenly and I took his place at the HBLB. I was told that it would be wound up within two years, in 2010. A previous CEO had been told that it would be wound up in 2004. It’s still going!  Through no fault of its own it is a part of the decision that was taken in the late 1950s by Government. The then-burgeoning betting industry and racing leaders, and at that time the Jockey Club, opted to go down the route of off -course bookmakers rather than a pari-mutuel (ie Tote) system: great for the punter with so much choice – not so marvellous for money coming back into racing.”

Seven years ago the Juddmonte job ‘came up’. Douglas eulogises: “How fortunate are we who work for Prince Khalid. At Juddmonte we see ourselves as working for him rather than a business or company. The loyalty and passion of the staff is unique.

The mighty Frankel following his win in the 2011 Sussex Stakes with jockey Tom Queally, Henry Cecil and Prince Khalid

“But then so is Juddmonte. Any owner would be delighted to own one legend: Prince Khalid has had four - Dancing Brave, the top-rated horse until Frankel came along, Arrogate and now Enable. About one-third of Juddmonte’s operation is in Kentucky and I had a soft spot for Arrogate, the big grey horse with the colossal stride. Very sadly he died this year at just seven-years-old. For one reason or another my other favourites were Rainbow Quest, Flintshire and Kingman.

“Looking to the future, whatever is thrown at us who love our racing and breeding, from pandemic to political and cultural changes, there are rock solid foundations. The future will not be the same as the past but it will still be rewarding, enjoyable and full of surprises, hopefully good. May Highclere continue to thrive and be the world leader that it so obviously is.” 

As someone said of Douglas’s time, thus far, in the highest echelons of racing, “A new broom sweeps clean but an old one knows all the corners.” What is surprising is that high among his recreations is ‘barging’. Hard to imagine a man whose life has careered along,  quietly chugging along the drowsy  canals of Britain. Oh I don’t know though – the barges, despite the ups and downs of many locks,  always get there in the end.

What do Canterbury and Reims have in common?

By Alex Smith

When a centuries old French champagne house and friend of Highclere, Taittinger, purchased 40 hectares of prime Kent land in 2015, it was perhaps the ultimate irony that such a…

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When a centuries old French champagne house and friend of Highclere, Taittinger, purchased 40 hectares of prime Kent land in 2015, it was perhaps the ultimate irony that such a giant of the champagne world recognised the growing importance of English sparkling wine and the need to satisfy ever increasing demand for the fizzy stuff.

Ironic for me too, as during my time in the wine trade in London a house champagne produced by Taittinger and named Saint Evremond gave me the opportunity to sell into the best hotels and restaurants in town, a huge opportunity as volumes were substantial. Unfortunately Taittinger decided that the wine was too good to be poured as house fizz and priced it at a level which meant we could not compete and my dreams of conquering the house champagne market in the on trade were shelved. With no unique selling point the brand rather fizzled out and sales were such that Taittinger withdrew it from the market and mothballed it for an opportunity in the future.

With the purchase of land in Kent the opportunity was clear and Domaine Evremond, as it is now known, will be available on our shelves from next year.

2020 Harvest at Evremond

Taittinger was the first champagne house to buy land in England (Pommery followed with 40 hectares in Hampshire in 2017) but it has a history of expanding its interests abroad having produced a Californian sparkling wine, Domaine Caneros, since 1987 with a full blown French chateau open to the public. The Domaine Carneros château is a California wine country landmark. Inspired by the classic 18th century Château de la Marquetterie in Champagne, France - home of Champagne Taittinger - the château was completed in 1989.

Planting vines in chalk soil

Domaine Evremond will be made from the three key classic grapes that are used to produce Champagne-Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunière, the vines planted in chalk soil on south-facing slopes, the ideal combination for vineyard development and very similar to the soil in the champagne region. However the current pandemic has changed the landscape somewhat, champagne sales dropping by £1.53 billion, a decline of a third, a greater fall than during the Great Depression, with 100 million bottles potentially going unsold this year. Such is the concern that the region’s producers, numbering around 16,000, called a special crisis meeting in August. The berries could be destroyed or turned into hand sanitiser to the horror of many producers.

Yet this reflects the stark reality that for much of this year people haven’t been buying champagne. In France, where over half the world’s champagne is bought, sales fell by 70% during the first two month lockdown. Drastic measures were called for and Comite Champagne agreed a yield limit of 8,000kg per hectare in 2020, an equivalent to a production of 230 million bottles, the lowest limit in recent times. So how might this affect the market? With huge stocks sitting in their cellars will Champagne houses decide to cut prices to reduce stocks which could have an effect on the sales of English sparkling wines, which according to Sainsbury’s have doubled in the past decade thanks to interest in “drinking local”. “Covid has accelerated trends that were already creeping in” according to one industry source, “one of them is a greater interest in new styles from new regions”.

With sales of other sparkling wines at Majestic stable, this prompts the question: is champagne uniquely ill-suited to a pandemic? It’s key markets, events, weddings, night clubs, receptions parties all but wiped out. The preconceived image of champagne is both its biggest selling point but also a potential hindrance. This is something producers are acutely aware of and prompting a development in marketing strategy to change its image from celebratory drink to a wine in its own right, with a place at the table alongside food. Without wishing to dampen enthusiasm for this objective, I remember the exact same concerns when I was in the trade over thirty years ago and little has changed.

Champagne Taittinger

But Champagne has survived multiple crises before and will bounce back-sales were up 50% during August-as Brits decided to celebrate-perhaps prematurely. The connection between Canterbury and Reims? Jean Taittinger twinned the two towns over 45 years ago while he was Mayor of Reims. The links have been strengthened with the development of Domaine Evremond and look set to grow stronger as the wine becomes part of the local fabric.

Chicken And Mushroom Pie

By Clodagh McKenna 

Here's a delicious and easy to whip up Chicken and Mushroom Pie from my new book Clodagh's Weeknight Kitchen. If anyone of you would like a personalised signed copy of…

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Here's a delicious and easy to whip up Chicken and Mushroom Pie from my new book Clodagh's Weeknight Kitchen. If anyone of you would like a personalised signed copy of my new book you can order it here.

Serves 4


30g butter

4 skinless chicken fillets, diced

1 leek, finely sliced

200g kale, sliced

Chicken and mushroom pie

280g button mushrooms, quartered

1 tablespoon flour

250ml milk

100ml single cream

500g pack of puff pastry (use butter puff or brush ordinary puff with a little butter)

1 egg, beaten

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.
Set a large saucepan over a medium heat and melt the butter. Add the chicken, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the leek and cook for a further minute.
Add the mushrooms and kale to the saucepan and cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle over the flour, stir and cook for another minute, then pour in the milk and cream and cook until the sauce has thickened.
Roll out the pastry and cut it into four pieces big enough to cover four small pie dishes. Spoon the chicken mixture into the four individual pie dishes and brush the rims with beaten egg.
Lift the pastry on to the pies, trimming off any excess. Press down and crimp the edges with a fork. Cut a couple of slits in the pastry to let the steam out and brush all over with the rest of the beaten egg.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.


A sparkling new recruit to the NH team

Emma Lavelle, along with her top team spotted this stunning 3yo by the up and coming sire of the moment No Risk At All. His pedigree is a young but very much improving…

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Emma Lavelle, along with her top team spotted this stunning 3yo by the up and coming sire of the moment No Risk At All. His pedigree is a young but very much improving one. No Risk At All has already sired the Champion Hurdle winner Epatante and has a whole host of smart youngsters coming through. The dam is by another top NH sire in Saints des Saints and there are plenty of good winners in the family.  
Since he has been with Emma, Nollyador has done nothing but please her – click here to watch a video. As you can clearly see he is a big powerful horse with bags of class and scope, and at this early stage the signs are hugely encouraging that he is a very smart horse in the making. 
We were delighted to secure Nollyador for £82,000 and the Nollyador Syndicate consists of 20 shares at a cost of only £6,950 plus VAT per share.

Please contact for more information. 

Getting To Know... Emma Lavelle

By Rolf Johnson

When Emma Lavelle was eleven, she was torn between being Prime Minister (she was devotee of Mrs Thatcher) and being a racehorse trainer. So, she started riding at Toby Balding’s…

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When Emma Lavelle was eleven, she was torn between being Prime Minister (she was devotee of Mrs Thatcher) and being a racehorse trainer. So, she started riding at Toby Balding’s Hampshire stables where her father had a horse – and never looked back. Easy to say that politics loss was racing’s gain.

She began training a couple of miles away from where she had graduated to be assistant with the late, great Toby; spent seventeen years there at Little Hatherden and is now firmly established at Bonita Stables on the Downs a couple of miles outside Marlborough.

Having preceded Emma at Toby’s establishment, and then her neighbour when she started training on a friend’s farmland, we marvelled over the latest addition to her Bonita Stables, Highclere’s Nollyador. I brought up a horse with whom he will be compared.

Emma with Highclere new recruit - Nollyador

“Highclere have just bought another just like him,” I said. “They could be running against one another at Cheltenham in a couple of years’ time.

“What’s one’s that?” said Emma, subliminally - “Your other one had better be bloody good in that case.”

“Rockstar Ronnie, he’s gone to Dan Skelton,” I replied.

“But I was b***** underbidder for him,” she exploded. Would she consider swapping? Without hesitation she came back: “Certainly not, Nollyador is everything I look for in a jumper.”

And what Emma looks for is a champion. She has a full yard of seventy selected animals; they are not ‘cavalry’.

“I don’t want an army of horses, I want the good ones, I want winners like anybody else, but I want the big ones. Being champion trainer is not the be all, end all.”

Horses would never leave the village of Ogbourne Maisey in the time of perhaps the greatest trainer never to have won the title, Bob Turnell, unless they were ‘best turned out’. Emma’s horses carry on that tradition.

That little fish are sweet is not writ large in the Lavelle manifesto – which is not to say that she doesn’t cater for all sorts. But she is a great advocate for prize money to reflect achievement.  She’s sees the pyramid of horses as corresponding to life. The big rewards are at the top.

I once asked her only domestic boss, Toby, how his assistant would cope when she went training, did she understand horses?

“She is a horse, he said.”

Toby had a way with words: he was affirming that Emma had touch and instinct, the knowledge of what was going off in horse’s heads.

Emma laughs: “I wish I always knew what was going off in racing’s mind. Toby had the gift, with horses and people. I went to Toby’s because my father’s horse Jade and Diamond was there – I was eleven and Toby had me out riding work! He could deal with people on any level. His secret was to involve them in the game.”

The Gold Cups, Grand Nationals and Champion Hurdles that came out of Fyfield left their mark on her ambition. Like Toby was, she is President of the National Trainers Federation – don’t Presidents take precedence over Prime Ministers?

Her successor is Ralph Beckett – “We’re yin and yang” which defines as complementary if often conflicting forces interacting to form a dynamic system. “Like you and Barry?” I suggest.

Emma and Barry

She laughs. “It depends. I will run everything by Barry. We’ve both got pretty strong opinions on things but ninety-five per cent of the time, we will be coming from exactly the right direction, as near perfection as you can get.”

They first met at a water-tap in the yard at Fyfield, Emma daughter of an eminent surgeon, educated at the elite St George’s School for Girls in Ascot, Barry, a dairy farmer’s son from County Tipperary who had left school at 14, determined to become a jockey. He retired in 2008 after a pummelled career including five broken legs and a Whitbread Trophy. Fortuitously Emma’s brother Jonathan is an orthopaedic surgeon. Barry never had to deal with Emma’s father Richard though. He was an ENT specialist.

Barry recalls: “It got to a point where I’d be lying at the back of a fence, Emma would arrive, and I’d go ‘ring Jonathon – it’s gone again’. She would phone him before I’d even got in the ambulance.”

Barry and Emma are united by their resolve and certainly the Gold Cups, Grand Nationals and Champion Hurdles that came out of Toby’s Fyfield left their mark on their ambition.

Emma trained Crackaway Jack and Pause and Clause to win at the Cheltenham Festival winners but outgrew Little Hatherden.

“I rented the stables. If I didn’t succeed, I didn’t want the liability of a place around my neck. But I finally realized to move to another level I had to find our own place. Mark Kershaw alerted me that Bonita, Peter Makin’s old yard, was available and we took the plunge.”

The view from Emma's gallop

The establishment covers over one hundred and fifty acres with an exceptional variety of gallops the gently rising ‘Bungalow Mile’; the five furlong ‘Starting Gate Canter’; ‘Four-Mile Clump’ (ten furlongs with an uphill finish) and the stiff ‘Five Furlongs’ uphill gallop used for fast work). They have added an all-weather gallop meandering through the valley in the Marlborough Downs – a world away from the single sand gallop they coped with all those developing years.

Overlooking them all is a run-down dwelling, where Sir Gordon Richards secretly spent six months living, while he recovered from the tuberculosis. Racing can always make connections. Sir Gordon held the record for the most number of winners ridden in a season which has only been beaten once – by Sir Anthony McCoy. Barry and McCoy shared a house when they rode for Toby Balding. “I would be out with the lads; AP would be back home watching replays of his races,” confessed Barry.

Bonita Racing Stables

Emma and Barry are only the third owners of Bonita Racing Stables since it was built in the late 1890s. They have transformed a place which history seemed to be passing by; there many like it in this area of the world  where individual yards such as Druids Lodge had individual histories as opposed to being locked in a racing metropolis such as Lambourn and Newmarket.

With a background in dressage, she rode to Prix St Georges standard, Emma likes all the horses to go in an outline, which is good for developing their muscles and top-lines, plus, she adds, it is beneficial for racehorses should they enjoy post-racing careers, such as dressage or showing.

Paisley Park with winning owner and HTR shareowner Andrew Gemmel

“I’d love to saddle a Gold Cup winner because it is the Blue Riband, but the most exciting race to win would be the Champion Chase as jumping and galloping is so important. Sometimes just a good stayer wins the Gold Cup, but the Champion Chase is very rarely won by anything other than a truly outstanding horse.”

Nollyador’s sire No Risk At All and his sire’s brother Nickname are siring outstanding horses one after another. No Risk At All only went to stud in 2013 and already he’s got Champion Hurdler Epatante and this year’s most exciting young chaser Gumball. Among a host of others Nickname is the sire of Cyrname, arguably the best jumper around. Which leads us to Paisley Park, the best staying hurdler.

Paisley Park winning the Stayers Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival

“I took Paisley to Newbury for a change of scenery this morning and he fairly hummed round. If there was a heart problem at Cheltenham last March, there is no evidence of it now. He goes back to Newbury on the 27th for the Ladbrokes hurdle and I’m happy he’s back to his super best.

“Nollyador is going on the grass this week; he’s cantering away” and she uses a phrase I’ve heard before but which doesn’t stale. “He’s our Duracell Bunny.” (The ‘bunny’ was the star of Duracell’s campaign to show their battery lasted longest).

The 'duracell bunny'

Emma and Nollyador

Certainly, as the trainer removed Nollyador’s rug, as though unveiling a masterpiece, she revealed a big horse, 16.3 with legs built to carry his tremendous frame. He has a temperament to match. His head had been in his feed bowl when we trespassed. When we’d done drooling and replaced his clothing, with a sigh Nollyador stuck his head back in his pot.

No, you wouldn’t swap him – perhaps, one day, even for Paisley Park.

Out And About With The Highclere Camera

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