Visitors to the Newmarket Open Day on Warren Hill

29th December 2013

The Training Grounds over Christmas and New Year

The Going asked Nick Patton and Will Riggall what the festive period held for the teams at Newmarket and Lambourn.

Nick Patton, Training Grounds Manager, Jockey Club Estates

"December and January in Newmarket last year was spent fighting the weather. This year the run up to Christmas was very mild but incredibly wet. We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weather stays mild as keeping the gallops open and operational in frozen weather is a real headache.

"My team in Newmarket,  like the training yards we support, will divide in two and each section will work  either Christmas or New Year’s Day giving the others a day off. This means that we all have a bit more to do, but is very similar to how we operate at weekends.

"At the end of the day, it is important that as far as the customer should not notice any difference. The foremen will still head round the gallops to make sure that everything is as it should be.

"If we get a cold snap, our routine changes. If we have freezing temperatures overnight, we start at 5.30am. We have 19 miles worth of all weather surfaces and we will need to power harrow them twice before the horses head out for exercise.

"In cold conditions we have to be careful to make sure the horse walks around the town are well gritted. We have 6 grit and salt spreaders and we grit by hand areas that they cannot reach.

"Snow is a real headache, but we work hard to keep the Training Grounds open. If conditions persist however, we will reduce the number of gallops available to trainers and concentrate our efforts on keeping a few gallops open. We hand remove the snow from the surfaces so that we can power harrow them. Fingers crossed that won’t happen though!

"It has been a great year for Newmarket trainers with The Fugue, Kingston Hill and Dank just some of the horses who have flown the flag for us. If we could top that next year, that would be a bonus!"

Will Riggall , Operations Manager, Jockey Club Estates

"The Christmas period at Lambourn is much like any job where you are involved in livestock management – it doesn’t matter what the day is, the horses still need to be exercised. So the Training Grounds at Lambourn are open throughout the festive season.

"We also need to think about our staff so providing the weather stays clement, we will divide the team into two like Newmarket. This allows us to keep a skeleton presence on the gallops but to also spend some time with our families.

"We have had a good year on the Training Grounds and we are now just hoping for a kind winter. Like everyone, I am looking forward to the days lengthening, although January is coming and I am sure that it will have some tricks up its sleeve.

"Last year it certainly did and we had some very early starts during the bad weather, including one at 2am to start harrowing the surface of the gallops after snow fell that night. If this winter was milder, well, I think all of my team would welcome that! Oh and a great season for Lambourn trainers in 2014."