An Interview with Top Trainer Charlie Longsdon
Charlie Longsdon was born and bred in Gloucestershire, with Cirencester as his local town. He grew up one of four children with two brothers and a sister and lots of ponies.
After graduating with a degree from Oxford Brookes University, Charlie, 46, succumbed to the racing bug. Charlie started training in 2006 and has so far sent out over six hundred winners from his base Hull Farm in Chipping Norton. After an exceptional season last year, in which the grey Snow Leopardess won the Becher Chase, he and his team are gunning for another successful term.
He is married to Sophie and they have three children - Milly and twin boys, Harry and Freddie. The family has a dog, numerous chickens, two ferrets and ponies.
Did you have a horsey childhood? I have always ridden - growing up in the VWH pony club, hunting every weekend in the Winter and then eventing during the Summer months.
How did you get into racing? My family had no active involvement in racing, but we did go racing as children and that is when I got hooked. We would always go to Cheltenham, the Hennessy meeting at Newbury and Ascot for the King George meeting. You can’t fail to get hooked when seeing top class horses race…
Which trainers have you worked for and in which roles? I started off with a couple of holiday jobs for Oliver Sherwood during my University holidays; basically, working as a ‘stable lad’. Then, when I left university, I spent three years with Kim Bailey as a pupil assistant. After that, I spent five years at Nicky Henderson’s as his assistant. All three were great people to learn from and set me up nicely for a training career.
Has working in racing ever taken you abroad? Despite being a National Hunt trainer, I have had the opportunity to travel. I was fortunate enough to win a scholarship back in 2004 (the Alex Scott memorial scholarship) which enabled me to spend over two months in the USA. There I worked for the leading flat trainer called Todd Pletcher up in Saratoga. I worked as a foreman (head lad) and had an amazing time – Todd was leading trainer at the six week-long festival with thirty-six winners compared to the next top trainer who only achieved thirteen.
This made me want to go and train winners over there... I have had a few runners in the American National but as yet, the best we have done is come third. Hopefully, we will be going back this Autumn.
I have also trained winners in France and Ireland – always great fun places to run a horse and have fun!
Which is your favourite racecourse? Sandown would definitely be my favourite track - it’s an amazing course especially with the iconic Railway fences. It also helps that we have had a few good winners there including the Imperial Cup with Paintball and the Veterans’ Final with Pete The Feat.
Which is your favourite meeting? The Grand National meeting. The Cheltenham Festival is great but with it being so close to home, it is hard work with a constant stream of owners visiting both in the mornings and evenings.
The Grand National meeting feels like the after party for Cheltenham. Great racing but we are away from home and therefore it gives all us trainers a chance to relax and have some fun!
Which race would you most like to win? The Grand National – it is the most watched and iconic race in the world… Who wouldn’t want to win it!
What have been your best days as a trainer so far? There have been a few – ranging from my first ever winner with Royal Katidoki in 2006 to the likes of Bentelimar’s big win at the National meeting and Snow Leopardess’ Becher Chase win last December.
In which areas does racing generally do really well? Racing is very good at rallying around in someone’s hour of need. It can be a dangerous sport, but when something does go wrong, I’d like to think that the racing community is one big family…
Where could improvements be made? It is improving all the time but there is plenty more room for improvement in prize money and for the race day to look after owners. Some racecourses look after the owners exceptionally well and that can be said also with prize money, but there are plenty of courses that lag behind.
Which horses would you most like to train? Growing up, my two favourite horses were Remittance Man (the best two-mile chaser of that generation) and Desert Orchid – a true icon of National Hunt racing.
Who is your racing hero? Sir Mark Prescott – the most interesting man you’ll ever meet. A fountain of knowledge and a very shrewd trainer.
Which is the best party or celebration you’ve been too? I’ve been lucky enough to have been to a few. AP McCoy’s retirement do in Ireland was probably the most special. A proper all-night party with Robbie Williams being the star attraction.
What is the best advice you’ve been given? Not to panic and to be patient when your horses are running badly. Do not change the way you train. You know how to train winners so be patient and they will come right and the winners will then start flowing again...
Favourite meal? Curry
Favourite drink? A good red wine
Favourite holiday destination? Cornwall with the children – there’s always something to do…
Favourite music? Anything from the ‘80-‘90s.
Favourite movie? Shawshank Redemption.
Other interests: I’m a big Rugby fan, but any sport really as well as following the children around with all their football, rugby, hockey and cricket…