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An Interview with former Assistant Trainer Roderick Trow

Updated: Feb 11, 2023

Roderick Trow is a fan of numerous sports, and horseracing is up near the top of the list. He has ridden in races as an amateur and worked as Dr Richard Newland’s loyal assistant for seventeen years, overseeing many big winners, including of the Grand National in 2014. ‘Rod’ only left working for ‘the Doc’ last month; yet he doesn’t want to leave racing. Rod loves this sport too much and treasures the winners, the horses and the riding out. After so much success in racing, it would be hard for him to let go.

Rod,60, is born and bred in Worcestershire, living in Worcester with his partner Jess. He has two children, Ellie and Kieran, and one granddaughter. It’s not all about sport though: ‘I’m a Spotify addict too,’ grins Rod. ‘I love to share new music with friends.’

Did you have a horsey childhood?

Yes, I rode on the lead rein, and did Pony Club, eventing and hunting as I grew up.

How did you get into racing?

My mum had a ‘pointer, which I started on when I was sixteen. For a couple of years, I rode out once a week for Martin Tate. I started to own horses with friends, including the Doc, in 2002. He asked me to help him when he took out his licence.

Left: Rod with Ellie and Kieran at the Cheltenham Charity Race, March 2015.

Middle and right: Winning a Warwick charity race in May 2017 on Trafalgar Rock.

Were you a jockey?

It would breach the Trade Descriptions Act to describe me as jockey – I had nine winners ‘pointing, and probably fell off twenty-nine times. When I look at amateurs and young conditionals now, and our riders on the yard, I realise how ropey I was. Whilst ‘pointing, I was at university and then had a full-time job, so was only riding out once or twice a week. I nearly fell off the first time I tried to use the stick in a race. My highlight was a double at the Golden Valley – North Down and Colislinn – amazingly on outside rides. At the time, I was still at university and there was a story in the Birmingham Post which amused my uni mates: the headline was ‘Trow rides maiden double!

In 2017, I won a charity race on Trafalgar Rock at Warwick wearing Richard Johnson’s boots (nobody else’s would fit my calves). In what other sport does this kind of thing happen? The thrill of a lifetime, the boots and the winning.

Spot the rider. One of Rod's falls.

How did being a jockey influence you as an assistant trainer?

It made me realise how skilled jockeys are. When done well, race riding looks easy, but it is flipping difficult. It also made me realise how critical it is to have excellent people riding out. They truly affect performance on the track.

On Moralist, 1979.

Please explain your role as an assistant trainer:

I was responsible for getting the horses fit and then maintaining it once the Doc and I agreed the routine. I organised schooling, went racing, liaised with staff, owners, jockeys and contractors to the yard. I had input into buying new horses and maintained the database of information about each horse’s health, performance and training regime.

What were your best days as an assistant trainer?

In 2009, I started riding out again after a 19-year gap on a wonderful horse called Glimmer Of Light (won six races for us after costing £3000). I’d forgotten how fantastic it was to ride a racehorse.

Pineau De Re in the 2014 National is the stand-out. I lost my voice and feeling in my hands in the last mile of the race. Whilst travelling back home with the Crabbie’s sponsorship plastered over the lorry, we had dozens of people taking selfies, hanging out the windows of their cars and tooting their horns all the way back from Liverpool. That is the magic of horse racing. Everyone loves a horse.

Ebony Express, a tiny, gorgeous horse, winning the Imperial Cup in 2015 under Will Kennedy was breath-taking. A daring ride with an unconsidered horse.

At Worcester in June 2017, I went to claim a horse called Mr Caffrey for £3000. I called the Doc and said: ‘I like him.’ He answered, ‘Claim Beau Bay for £4000 as well.’ I did and they won thirteen races between them, with Beau Bay winning the Sefton at Aintree under Charlie Hammond. Also, watching Charlie, Cillin Leonard and Luke Scott do well is a constant joy.

Rod with Sam Twiston-Davies, Charlie Hammond and Wayne Jones.

Favourite racehorses:

Le Patriote – the absolute best horse I was ever fortunate enough to ride. I only rode the easy ones and he made you look like you knew what you were doing. He was like riding a TT motor-bike when everyone else was on a scooter. He won plenty but when he swooped under Sam Twiston-Davies to win the Swinton, I’d gone to heaven.

One More Go was another I rode at home. He was a powerful five-year-old with a huge future, before breaking a leg at Chepstow. It still touches me to talk about it.

Favourite racecourse:

Worcester because Jess and I walk or cycle down there every meeting. The staff are lovely, and we’ve had plenty of success there. For X-factor I chose Aintree and for quirkiness, it’s Cartmel.

On La Patriote in May 2019

Favourite meeting:

The Summer Plate day at Market Rasen. Realistically, we didn’t have the firepower for the major festivals, so we would target this meeting. We once took nearly half our yard there, all with chances.

How has the training of racehorses evolved over the years?

I’ve been using monitors for heart rate/speed/stride length/recovery rate since 2018 to assess and improve fitness. I love analysing the data, looking for an edge and I see the industry using the tech more and more as an aid.

On Ebony Express, December 2014

How has racing changed for the better over the years?

The structured training opportunities for staff are superb. The development of the racing syndicate model has bought new people into the sport. Even COVID bought benefits, such as not having to sign horses in on raceday, or present blinkers to the Clerk of the Scales. Little things, but well-thought-out changes.

And for the worst?

Can we be sure that doping is under control? The FBI exposed the use of EPO (via SGF-1000) being given to over 1000 winners in the USA by trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis. Navarro is due to re-pay $25million in prize-money. Both trainers are going to jail. No dope test was failed, until the FBI oversaw a blood test on Maximum Security, which revealed the use of EPO. Come on BHA.

Generally, what does racing do well at?

The TV coverage is exceptional; the BHA staff on race day are tremendous and the promotion of big meetings is excellent.

In which areas could racing improve?

There should be a minimum food standard for stable staff at every racecourse. My test would be if the Chairman of the racecourse would not entertain guests in the Staff Canteen, it isn’t good enough. No ifs or buts.

And boringly, prize money. In 2002, Richard Johnson won on our horse Xellance, a novice hurdle worth £4,725. In 2021, our horse Feivel won his maiden hurdle at £4,193. An inflation calculator tells you the 2021 win should have been worth £7,800.

Who is your racing hero?

Captain Guy Disney. He schooled Catamaran Du Seuil for us pre-Royal Artillery Gold Cup. The meeting was abandoned but experiencing his verve for life made a real mark on me.

With a winning YCCS Portocervo at Uttoxeter, June 2021

Favourite jockey:

I grew up wanting to be Lester Pigott and Andy Turnell, because they rode outrageously short and seemed to float above their horse. I bought a silver salver of Lester’s at auction years ago. It was for M & B Sportsman of the Month, but I’ve forgotten which month and year!

Then Peter Scudamore, then AP McCoy and then Brian Hughes.

What plans do you have for the future?

If I could consult in other yards using my experience of getting horses fit, that would be superb. And I’d like to use my marketing and copywriting expertise for yards, staff and jockeys.

In 2018, I saw twenty-four different sports in a year. It would be good to round that up to fifty. Plus, I’d love to see more bands play live.

Is social media positive or negative?

I think it is brilliant. It takes people behind the scenes of the racing world in a way that was impossible before now. But there should be a legal mechanism to shut down people who abuse it.

Favourite drink: A latte at an indie café with Jess and friends.

Favourite food: Belgian bun at Greggs.

Favourite holiday destination: Watching baseball in the USA.

Favourite book: Anything by Linda Castillo, which are crime thrillers set within the Amish community.

Favourite movie: Goodfellas.

Favourite music: EDM/house and indie/country; Armand Van Helden, Chicane, Disciples, Ward Thomas, Sons Of The East.

Other interests/hobbies: I adore making videos of horses for owners and staff. When we were a smaller yard, I worked as a freelance marketing consultant.

I am a qualified Netball Coach. I coached netball at club level up to National League Premier 1 (equivalent of the Championship in football), also University of Warwick and RGS Worcester (an independent school). I missed Burntoakboy winning at the 2007 Cheltenham Festival as I was coaching a netball match!


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