Paul Webber has followed in the footsteps of his father John, a successful trainer of three hundred winners, including two at the Cheltenham Festival.
Maybe it was also fate: ‘I was fortunate to be educated at Eton College. I got many O Levels,’ chuckles Paul. ‘But not enough A Levels, so racing beckoned!’
Since 1995, Paul, 63, has kept the winners rolling at Cropedy Lawn, near Banbury in Oxfordshire. The National Hunt list is long: a Scottish Champion Hurdle in 2001, three Red Rum Chases with Flying Instructor in ’99, Jungli in ’00 and Tidour in ’04 and two victories at Royal Ascot, Ylundi ‘02 and Full House in the Ascot Stakes in ’07. Most recently, Time For Rupert was a flagbearer, winning eight, three of which were round Cheltenham, and the aptly named Indefatigable has so far won six, giving Paul a first Cheltenham Festival win in 2020.
Paul is married to Ku, and has a daughter and a son from his first marriage: Sophie has ridden out for Ballydoyle for four years and works in the office for Coolmore, and Hugo hopes to head into the property business in the very near future.
The great Time For Rupert
Did you have a horsey childhood?
My Father, John, always had ‘pointers and a brood mare. When he retired from riding in 1974, he started training. So, I grew up around horses. Captain Pugwash was my first pony. I passed my Pony Club D Test, be it a borderline pass on a review, on a dear pony called Bambi.
What is your first racing memory?
When Dad was still riding, I remember being packed into the back of the Land Rover alongside the tack, equipment and the big picnic. That Land Rover was always the last vehicle to leave, usually in twilight.
Were you a jockey?
I rode as an amateur and was Champion Amateur with thirty-two winners in the 1980-81 season. I had a couple of offers to turn professional and nearly did so but stayed amateur because I always struggled with my weight and I knew that my future might eventually be as a trainer.
A memorable day as a jockey was winning the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase on Master Davenport. On the same day, 1st December 1979, my brother Anthony won the big hurdle race of the day, the Mecca Handicap Hurdle.
Did working in racing ever take you abroad?
As a jockey, I rode in the Maryland Hunt Cup and I was the first Englishman to get round.
When I was a Director of the Curragh Bloodstock Agency, I bought horses in the USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Argentina.
I have trained winners in Spain, France and on the snow at Saint Moritz. I do love an overseas raid!
Paul's New Agenda winning the White Turf Longines Grand Prix
What was the best advice your dad gave you about training racehorses?
He said, ‘Keep it simple, stupid!’
Also, a legendry trainer called Jimmy Fitzgerald told me that when somebody asks you about your horses’ chances, tell everyone something a little bit different. That way, one person will think you’re a genius!
Which was your favourite racecourse as a jockey?
Aintree. I didn’t ride a winner there but I had seven rides in the Foxhunters’, finishing second and third on many occasions. I had one ride in the Grand National in 1981, where my brother also rode a horse for my dad in the race that Aldaniti won and Spartan Missile was second.
Photo Credit: Bet365
Which was your favourite racecourse as a trainer?
Sandown. I’ve trained lots of lovely winners there, including the Imperial Cup, Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase and other big handicaps.
What’s been your best day in racing so far?
Winning the last race, the conditional jockeys’ race, at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival with Indefatigable by a short head. The country went into lockdown a few days later. Some people said that the meeting shouldn’t have gone ahead but thankfully it did.
Which have been your favourite racehorses?
As a trainer, it’s very difficult to pick one, but Time For Rupert was a wonderfully solid horse. It’s a tossup between him and Indefatigable.
From when I was involved in bloodstock, it’s Last Second. I bought her as a yearling and she became the foundation mare for Denford Stud. I also brought both the sire and dam of Tiznow as yearlings.
Which race would you love to train the winner of most?
Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
What is the best aspect to horseracing?
Bringing new people into racing who then discover how fascinating, interesting, frustrating, exciting and successful it can be.
And, the worst aspect to horseracing?
Walking back up the track with an empty bridle or ringing owners with bad news.
Who is your racing hero?
John Magnier, for his vision and creation of Coolmore by being such a brilliant judge of humans and animals.
Favourite drink: Too many, too much!
Favourite meal: Every meal in Frantoio, 397 King’s Road, London.
Favourite book: Puckoon by Spike Milligan.
Favourite music: I have a lot of playlists on Spotify but nothing beats Bruce Springsteen.
Favourite film: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Favourite holiday destination: It used to be Formentera but I haven’t been there for so long so now, I have to say it Gocek in Turkey.
*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview, who first published it in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up go to https://mailchi.mp/2f6ba62d6182/racing-weekly-lead-capture