An Interview with Trainer Philip Hobbs
For three decades Philip Hobbs has been a top trainer. Based near Minehead in Somerset, the yard had been associated with many Festival successes, including Champion Hurdler Rooster Booster, Flagship Uberalles, four Triumph Hurdle winners, mostly recently with the talented Defi de Seuil and an Arkle. Philip, 66, won a Hennessy with What’s Up Boys, two Midland Grand Nationals, a Welsh National winner amongst many other big days. He’s also trained a Galway Plate and several Punchestown winners, plus two Cesarewitches and a Northumberland Plate, as well as top chasers such as Menorah, Wishfull Thinking and Fair Along. He had a lengthy association with Richard Johnson and now Tom O’Brien, who has been there for over fifteen years.
Racing was in Philip’s blood. Father Tony was a farmer and had a permit, training several successful homebreds to win in the family colours. When younger, Philip was successful at showjumping, riding at Hickstead, and progressed from the hunting field on to riding in ‘points and as an amateur under Rules before turning pro at twenty-one. Over a ten-year-career, he rode 160 winners, including a Midland Grand National on Northern Bay. He also studied at Reading University, graduating with an honours degree in Agriculture.
It was always Philip’s lifelong ambition to train and after marrying Sarah Hill in 1982, they began training in August ’85 at Sandhill, where Philip had lived from the age of seven. Sarah was a successful horsewoman and daughter of Bertie Hill, who won five Olympic Gold medals for eventing. She represented England in eventing and rode as an amateur ‘pointing, National Hunt and on the Flat.
Philip has over a hundred horses in training and is supported by a loyal team of staff and family. He and Sarah have three daughters Caroline, Katherine and Diana, who have all ridden ‘pointing. He’s shadowed by Archie, a Parson’s terrier.
How did competing in show jumping help you as a jockey?
It made me be a stride better.
What was the best horse you rode?
Artifice and West Tip.
How has being a jockey changed from your day to now?
Now, there’s more racing and there are jockeys’ agents now, which we didn’t have.
Do you still ride out?
Only on Christmas Day!
When did you start training?
I started in 1985 with six horses.
How has training changed since you started training?
There was no jump racing during June and July.
Which was your favourite racecourse as a jockey?
Which is your favourite racecourse as a trainer?
Which are your favourite racehorses?
Rooster Booster and Captain Chris.
So far, which have been your best days?
Winning the Champion Hurdle with Rooster Booster.
Please explain the importance of being backed by a good team:
It’s essential, especially good riders.
Which race would you most like to train the winner of?
The Cheltenham Gold Cup.
In your opinion, what does racing do successfully?
There are great journalists and TV pundits.
And in which areas could aspects be improved?
By looking after owners at the races better.
Which is the best racing celebration you have been to?
The party at Sandhill when Richard Johnson had won Champion Jockey for the first time.
What’s your favourite meal?
Steak and chips.
What’s your favourite drink?
Scotch (Famous Grouse).
Where’s your favourite holiday destination?
Shooting and skiing.