May 2021

I rather dreaded going to Newbury for the Greenham Meeting where we had some important runners. The “behind closed doors” feel at other racecourses had proven to be singularly depressing with little or no atmosphere.

The spring meeting at Newbury has always been one of my favourites and over the years Newbury has had the privilege of hosting HM The Queen on numerous occasions. Both…

Read more…

The spring meeting at Newbury has always been one of my favourites and over the years Newbury has had the privilege of hosting HM The Queen on numerous occasions. Both with my father and now with my brother in law John as her Racing Managers, she stayed at our home and had four days or so of seeing all of her horses based with her local trainers such as Andrew Balding, Richard Hannon and Roger Charlton.

HM the Queen all smiles following the victory of Call To Mind

She would then head to the races and thankfully on many occasions she would enjoy a winner or two. Of course all her trainers whether local or from Newmarket were instructed to do their best to provide her with the best opportunities! Sadly in this Covid year that simply couldn’t happen. So I suppose that I was somewhat full of melancholy as I arrived at my home track on a glorious sunny day. I soon realised that with tables outside the Newbury owners building adjacent to the pre and main parade ring that actually there was a great feeling of bonhomie between all owners creating a rather special atmosphere as a result.

Call To Mind after making a winning debut at Newbury back in April 2017 for HM The Queen, William Haggas and Ryan Moore

Highclere sponsored three races on the Friday including the two year old novice which we tried to win with Tyson. Sadly he ran too free ruining his chance but he proved at Doncaster next time when just being denied by a neck that he is a talented colt to go to war with this season. Our two divisions of the Highclere three year old fillies maiden boasted some of the best pedigrees in the stud book and as always the races produced fillies who look sure to go on to group and possibly classic glory in the future. On Greenham Day Nugget stormed to victory in The Spring Cup with Ryan Moore on board and Title just got beaten a nose in the Novice. It wasn’t racing as it should be with so many owners being excluded but the six attending on both days more than made up for others absence as they cheered their horses home!

Nugget and Ryan Moore all out in the Spring Cup at Newbury

With reduced crowds returning on Monday and normality at last on June 21st we are nearly there. We continue to lobby the ROA and other industry bodies to do everything that they can to ensure that the allocation of owners badges and general access for syndicate owners is increased as soon as possible. Your patience over the past year or more has been absolutely amazing. It’s time now to return to the racecourse and to cheer your horse home to glory. All of us at Highclere can’t wait to see you there!

Harry Herbert, Chairman

On The Track

By Frances Howard 

The flat season has got off to a really good start – as previously mentioned by Harry, Nugget was emphatic in the mile handicap at the Greenham meeting and then…

Read more…

The flat season has got off to a really good start – as previously mentioned by Harry, Nugget was emphatic in the mile handicap at the Greenham meeting and then only just denied in the Thirsk Hunt Cup next time. He was very unlucky not to have won that day and is clearly a horse who is improving rapidly. Unfortunately a minor set back means we won’t be seeing him out again until the end of the season but we will be looking forward to some big days with him then.

Nugget and Ryan Moore victorious at Newbury

Spycatcher – the highest rated maiden 2yo in the country finally shed that tag on the first start of his 3yo campaign in very good style. He then ran an absolutely cracking race in the G3 Commonwealth Cup Trial finishing a close third and leaving us all dreaming about a possible engagement at Royal Ascot. That will be determined after Saturday when he is due to run in the Listed Carnarvon Stakes at Newbury.

Spycatcher winning at Pontefract

Parachute made amends for a below par (albeit somewhat unlucky) run on his seasonal reappearance at Redcar when beating an odds on Godolphin horse at Newmarket next time, and he is another who looks set to compete at the Royal meeting. The question will be in what race – as trainer Ed Walker mulls over a handicap or something slightly more grown up!

Parachute storming to victory at Newmarket

We look to have a very strong group of 2yo’s this year. The two who have already made it to the track – Tyson and Cashew, were just narrowly denied on their second starts and both look to be winners in waiting next time out. Excitement builds around one or two others who edge ever closer to making their racecourse debut’s. The George Boughey trained Cachet - a very powerful filly by Aclaim, has been burning up the gallops (spotted by the RP gallops watch!) and she has been declared to run at Newmarket on Saturday over 6f. 

The Bordeaux En Primeur circus is back in town

By Alex Smith

A recent email for Justerini and Brooks announcing the release of Chateau Cheval Blanc 2020 was headed "the horse has bolted" The venerable wine merchant based in St James’s street had…

Read more…

A recent email for Justerini and Brooks announcing the release of Chateau Cheval Blanc 2020 was headed "the horse has bolted" The venerable wine merchant based in St James’s street had been on a Zoom call (even wine merchants do Zoom calls???!!!) with the owner the previous afternoon and there was no hint that the release of the price for this year’s wine was imminent. Such is the nature of this campaign, once the most popular way for wine lovers to invest at an attractive price before the wine was bottled and pay the duty once it was shipped.

Alas those days are long gone. Each vintage receives more hipe than the last, wild exaggerations from some merchants, exhorting customers to pre order-even before the price is known- to make sure they do not “miss out” on their favourite Chateau.

This year is no exception with very positive comments from experts such as “Early reports put Bordeaux 2020 as the third in a trilogy of outstanding vintages for the region” “It may be the first time in the history of Bordeaux that we have a trilogy of super vintages”-James Suckling, wine writer. “I have found myself falling back in love with St-Émilion' Jancis Robinson.

The good news is that for the first time in many years the alcohol level (far too high in recent vintages) is generally lower and the wines have a more classical style, which the Bordelais (who now how to sell the stuff) have jumped on with more than one Chateau owner saying “we have made great wine for the UK”

You get the drift. Wine merchants bombard buyers with daily releases from Chateau, a process which goes on for weeks, with many being praised as “possibly the best ever made” and lower down the scale “fill your boots” and so on. I must confess my view is somewhat jaundiced by the fact that I am now at a certain age where some of the wine I used to buy in my youth will take too long to be ready for drinking so that most of the nectar would be falling down my chin rather than being enjoyed in my mouth!

So does there remain a case for buying en primeur? Yes, possibly, maybe-the financials aren’t as convincing as they used to be. If you are rich enough the most reward would probably come from buying a case of Cheval Blanc from a good vintage (which 2020 undoubtedly is) and waiting twenty years before selling it. Personally if I had my time again I would sell the lot and buy wines from lesser vintages as and when I needed them (they are rarely much more expensive than when released at the en primeur stage). But then I wouldn’t have the pleasure of going down to the cellar and dusting off a bottle of Chateau Leoville Barton I bought twenty years ago and enjoying something really very special with friends and family- as long as it isn’t corked!

Over To Richard Hoiles

By Rolf Johnson 

Commentator’s nightmares must be judged against Frank Bough’s 1973 prize bloomer, “Now over to Harry Commentator the Carpenter”. The doyen of boxing broadcasters, Carpenter OBE, was unruffled. ITV’s Richard Hoiles…

Read more…

Commentator’s nightmares must be judged against Frank Bough’s 1973 prize bloomer, “Now over to Harry Commentator the Carpenter”. The doyen of boxing broadcasters, Carpenter OBE, was unruffled. ITV’s Richard Hoiles is likewise bombproof.

Every sport has a non-pareil and the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan was rightly dubbed “The Voice of Racing”. His mellifluous chords filled up the senses; they were Michelin-starred comfort food.

Even Sir Peter though might not have purred his way through the tight finish at Monmouth Park, New Jersey between My Wife Knows Everything and The Wife Doesn’t Know. Try that one at home.

The modern-day commentator barely draws breath, for the interminable Cesarewitch or the stream of consciousness required for the Nunthorpe dash. But when Richard is on the ‘mike’ you can rely on a compelling delivery, laced with insight, gaffe-free - with sweet spots.

“There’s a six-second time limit for pauses,” said Richard and, half tongue in cheek he adds, “Those following proceedings on 0898 numbers are due their full money’s worth. People don’t believe you haven’t a pre-race script, I mean how could you prepare for Frankel blowing the start of his final race?”

Richard, the Ascot commentator, took his audience on that day’s epic journey, the unfolding story of the champion’s swansong. “It was one of those days reserved for posterity. You can add Harbinger’s King George and Motivator’s Derby, both of which I was honoured to call.”

Though starting betting as a thirteen-year-old it was as an accountant that Richard learned the value of weighing up odds. “Yes I made a profit, not enough to call myself a professional gambler – I hated it when I wanted to back a horse but if the price was wrong I was desperate for it to shorten further so I wouldn’t have to back it!

“I’d given many addresses out in the field, so I didn’t have first day nerves at Bath on Cup Final day, 1992. There I was, in a windy rooftop box, heard nationwide. It was mind blowing. I had to go into my local shop the following day to listen to the replay to believe it had actually happened!”

He can go to a cinema and turn on TV repeats to relive a unique broadcasting treble. Three of his commentaries, first heard in local betting shops, featured on the soundtracks of the acclaimed film Trainspotting and the TV ‘Soaps’ Coronation Street and EastEnders.

“Unfortunately, I don’t get royalties – or credits!”

Richard was invited to Hong Kong to hone his trade in the hotbeds of Happy Valley and Sha Tin where rat-a-tat precision calling of races of unrelenting maximum fields is obligatory. Tens of thousands of unforgiving Chinese punters wager fabulous amounts.

Since then he’s packed his voice for invitations to commentate around the world. Hong Kong though took him down the rocky road of racehorse ownership.

“Yes, I was involved in the Tendorra partnerships. In Hong Kong when a ‘working girl’ approaches a client her asking price is invariably “ten dorra, ten dorra” – the ladies’ interpretation of ‘ten dollars, ten dollars’. The name stuck.

“I’ve been involved in about fifty winners I suppose most memorably with Blue Sky Thinking who won at Ascot when I was commentating.”

It was a constant matter of wonder that when Peter O’Sullevan’s major winners jumped the final hurdle or led in the final furlong you wouldn’t have known that, had he not been commentating, he would have been choking with emotion. Richard has been equally adept at keeping his cool.

Even he might have to bite his tongue if the name Tendorra ever cropped up on his racecard.

Totally without conceit he can’t remember having an absolute catastrophe. “Some names keep me awake at night - Unique New York and Ducky Fuzz and Winker Watson are three I dread. Then again I love cleverly named horses; an especial favourite was Cliveden Stud’s One Over Parr, out of Seventh Bride.”

He laughs when I suggest he is on his guard when Commit No Nuisance, lately a Chelmsford winner, next attracts his binoculars: the words are painted on walls in Indian cities, warnings, not to use them as public conveniences.

It ought to be a lonely job but Richard is emphatic as to how much he owes his production team and though there isn’t a ‘commentators union’ he said that they all understand the demands of the job and appreciate what their fellow callers achieve.

And now ITV have had the foresight to integrate him, complete with headset and microphone, for between race insights (no script) from his commentary box.

“I enjoy constantly being a part of the programme, it keeps you focused. We try to act as team on ITV. This has given me a bit more scope to contribute other things, to justify one’s presence!”

At 55 Richard sees himself commentating for the rest of his racing days though he holds positions within JETS (trustee) which supports jockeys during and beyond their careers, and on the committee of Wincanton racecourse.

“I would like extension of funding for the excellent BHEST scheme which encourages school children to attend race meetings as part of the education process. I must emphasize (though Richard’s ‘emphases’ are never emphatic) involvement and participation at a young age is crucial.”

To this observer, far from alone in despairing over the constant internecine warfare between racing’s authorities, Richard’s emollience could only help pacify warring factions.

“Fundamentally we need to attract new fans. Racing is far more challenging than any quiz show yet plays second fiddle to Countdown to Channel 4 schedules. Sportsmen from all manner of sports find our sport compelling.

“I think to sum it up I just don't have the patience for politics and prefer sitting on a grandstand roof at Taunton!”

He has a point.

“A facilitator, I suppose that would be a role, a title I would enjoy,” he said.  Facilitator – “someone to make others happy, to make process and actions easier”.

It ties in with self-effacing Hoiles’ self-professed greatest wish is “to be invisible”. But a commentator is always ‘hiding in full sight’ – even when he was struck by lightning – twice!

“Once playing cricket when all of us with metal studs ended up on our backsides and once at Newmarket on 2016 Craven Day when the whole stand got hit and it fried the electrics, including my commentating hut. “

His quicksilver mind is on the ball whether at Plumpton or Ascot. “Trust yourself to find the words. I do the background prep overnight but only take note of the colours when the jockeys are out. As for courses, Doncaster has always been a favourite but Goodwood on a sunny day encapsulates everything that’s outstanding about Britain and British racing.

“Top of my list of commentaries? Probably Denman’s Gold Cup. The reaction of the crowd to every twist and turn of that race was just incredible and it was a real privilege to be able to describe it. Still when my young son, out of the blue, said I’d done a good job in this year’s National, well that counts for a lot.

“Cricket is the only other mainstream sport that I would be entirely comfortable commentating on, but the slower speed of the game compared to a horse race makes it the domain of ex -players. I wish I’d been in the commentary box for the Ashes victory in 2005.”

The problem with iconic commentators like Sid Waddell (darts) Murray Walker (Formula 1), Bill McLaren (Rugby Union), Eddie Waring (Rugby League), Peter Alliss (golf) is that their sports became identifiable by association with these idiosyncratic men when, as any commentator worth his microphone would agree with Richard, “the stars are still out on the track; they make the commentator, not vice versa.

“A pro helps the understanding but as a fan, and I include myself, can’t be utterly dispassionate. Still, we have to think of a wider audience.

Hoiles’ modesty could be attributed to bashfulness and he did seem taken aback by the early threat of anti-climax to that last outing of Frankel. But long before the inevitable conclusion, Frankel striding away majestically, Richard had recovered his poise – no script just his self-contained spontaneity:

“All comers, all grounds, all beaten”.

The words became the script – they were the conclusion to the order of Sir Henry Cecil’s memorial service.

Carrot Cake With Orange Blossom Frosting

By Clodagh McKenna

Yesterday on ITV This Morning I launched the pre-order of my NEW cook book IN MINUTES! In Minutes cook book is inspired by how much time you have in…

Read more…

Yesterday on ITV This Morning I launched the pre-order of my NEW cook book IN MINUTES! In Minutes cook book is inspired by how much time you have in your busy life and is packed with flavourful, speedy recipes that you can cook from start to finish in 10, 20 or 30 minutes. I hope it will become the most useful book in your kitchen, IN MINUTES is filled with 80 recipes that will soon be weekly staples, from Warm Lentil Salad with Goat's Cheese to Spring Garden Gnocchi and Chicken Katsu Ramen.

The book is divided into three chapters:

10-minute recipes - speedy salads to make you glow, pastas for the whole family and no-stress noodles

20-minute recipes - light and crispy tempuras, spicy curries for vegans and vegetarians alike, and single-serve ramens

30-minute recipes - healthy fish dishes, delicious tarts, mouth-watering burgers and one-pot chicken suppers

I love to create simple recipes that are not only super easy to cook, but look good and make you feel good too. I really want to encourage you to cook from scratch most nights of the week and to do this, speed and simplicity are key.

As a chef I talk to people about food every day. People talk to me in person, on Instagram and they even stop me in the street to chat about food - I absolutely love it! They love to swap recipes, tell you their food preferences and where to buy the greatest ingredients, but the number one topic is time, and how much or how little they have, and how that affects what they cook and when they cook it.

Every other part of our lives is timed very carefully. How long we sleep, how much time we should spend exercising, how long it takes us to get to work. But cooking... It depends how long you've got, or how much time you are willing to spend.

This month I’m sharing with you all a delicious recipe for Carrot Cake with orange blossom frosting, hope you enjoy it!

Warm wishes,

Clodagh xx

Carrot cake

Makes 1 Cake (10 portions) 


3 eggs 

140ml vegetable oil, plus extra for greasing 

220g light brown sugar 

1 tsp ground cinnamon 

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg 

350g grated carrots, (grated weight) 

100g golden raisins 

100g walnuts, chopped 

200g self-raising flour 

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 

For the orange blossom frosting

300g cream cheese, chilled 

70g butter, at room temperature 

300g icing sugar, sifted 

1 orange, zest only 

2 teaspoons of orange blossom water 



Preheat the oven to 180oC and oil and line a 13 x 23cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
For the carrot cake: beat the eggs in a large bowl, then add the oil, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, grated carrot, raisins and chopped walnuts. 
Sift in the rest of the dry ingredients and bring the mixture together using a wooden or large metal spoon until well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the surface and bake in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. If you’re using a ceramic baking dish then you’ll need to add 15 minutes to the cooking time.
Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for about five minutes before removing. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving. 
For the orange blossom frosting: beat the cream cheese and butter together in a bowl until well combined. Add the icing sugar, orange blossom water and finely grated orange zest and mix until the frosting is smooth and thick. Using a palette knife, spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake, dipping the knife into a bowl of hot water if the icing is hard to spread out. 
Decorate with orange zest on top of the frosting.


Atrium - Holy Roman Emperor ex Hail Shower 2019 B.C

Atrium is a really striking and powerful colt by Holy Roman Emperor, who is held in very high regard by his trainer Charlie Fellowes. Referred to as a 'speed machine' by…

Read more…

Atrium is a really striking and powerful colt by Holy Roman Emperor, who is held in very high regard by his trainer Charlie Fellowes. Referred to as a 'speed machine' by Charlie, this exciting 2yo is just a couple of weeks off making his racecourse debut. There are two shares left in this syndicate so please do get in touch if you would like to get involved in some imminent action. Click here for full details.

Rolf's Ramblings

By Rolf Johnson

“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity” – Burger King and General Motors were both set up in the Great Depression.

Then again ‘you don’t have to be…

Read more…

“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity” – Burger King and General Motors were both set up in the Great Depression.

Then again ‘you don’t have to be Einstein’ (his “opportunity” quote) to wonder what a Lambourn-based Irishman thinks he’s doing kicking off his training career in these benighted times? At the best of them, compared with racehorse training start-ups, steeplejacks, snake charmers and kamikaze pilots have it easy.

Brian O’Rourke has taken the plunge.

“Listen, things can only get better,” he said. “The timing is right for me. It’s always been my ambition to train after working with horses around the world.”

Brian has put down roots in Lambourn and his connection with Highclere is enduring. Aged nineteen he’d booked a one-way ticket from Tyrone to Australia; next stop America with top trainer ‘Shug’ McGauhey before vaulting to Highclere Stud to work under John and Lady Carolyn Warren. In nine years, he rose to stud manager at racing’s leading Sales consignor.

Five years ago, Brian became his own master at Old Manor Stables in Lambourn. His Highclere association went from stud ‘midwifery’ to loco parentis for Sales purchases and convalescents.

Brian’s pastoral care was the ‘best medicine’. Only last week the twin revivals of Thunderous and Nugget in high class events, advertised Brian’s skills: Civilian, having spent the winter with him, is full steam ahead in training at Newmarket.

And Brian, a keen breeder in his own right, is responsible for Classic winner Galileo Gold. The Highclere connection is renewed through Heretic, our fine-looking two-year-old son of the Guineas winner, currently pleasing Galileo Gold’s trainer Hugo Palmer.

The Courtyard of Old Manor is part of racing folklore. It once housed the true great Golden Miller and was where Kim Bailey trained his Grand National, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winners.

Brian has history as well as experience on his side.

So too his partner Hannah with whom he worked at Highclere. They have two young daughters Erin and Rosa - but then Brian’s speciality is bringing youngsters along.

Swedish businessman Mikael Magnusson fulfilled an ambition to train in this country when he bought the yard early this century. He is now backing Brian’s nascent training career.

Brian said: "We're lucky to have been pre-training for top class clients - Highclere, Rockcliffe Stud, Al Shaqab, David and Sue Ward and Bjorn Nielsen. Their youngsters came here as blank canvasses; we gave them a frame and their trainers applied the finishing touches.”

Will there be an early O’Rourke ‘touch’? His first runner, Ryknild Street, was an eye-catcher on her debut at Wolverhampton at the beginning of May.

The most popular name for public houses in Britain is ‘The Red Lion’. Red-haired O’Rourke is now master of Old Manor Stables, the most popular name for racing stables in the country. Racing fame is hard won, names, labels count for little, results are what count.

Associated with winners throughout their careers, the pressure is on Brian and Hannah to produce them in their own right.

Out And About With The Highclere Camera

Stay up to date

Sign-up to our email newsletter