An Interview with Trainer Richard Phillips
Richard Phillips has over twenty years of experience of training racehorses and previously spent eight years as Henry Candy’s assistant. He set up on his own yard in 1993 – early flag-bearers such as Time Won’t Wait, Gnome’s Tycoon and Nobel Lord proved that Richard could train to the highest standard,
In 2000, on David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson’s retirement he took up the opportunity of training at Jackdaws Castle. Following its sale a year later, Richard moved to Adlestrop. In his first year’s training there, he sent out La Landiere to win the Racing Post Chase in February at Kempton and a Cathcart Chase at the Festival.
Richard lives close to the yard in the village. He is always on hand, paying close attention when watching his string on the gallops and around the yard. He does incredibly accurate, amusing impressions and used to do hysterical voiceovers at the Lesters ceremony. Author Jilly Cooper once described Richard as 'the funniest man in racing.'
In the 2021 Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards, Richard won the Cummunity Award for raising a lot of money for charity and even sending out food boxes to those in need. In fact, his small team was highly succesful with four members shortlisted into the final ten, including assistant trainer Hannah Gregory in the Leadership Award. At a highly successful award ceremony, secretary and PA Joline Saunders won the Dedication to Racing category and Faisal finishing runner-up in the Rider-Groom section. This a sheer reflection on Richard Phillips as a man, an employer and a trainer.
Photo Credit: Jon Holton
Please briefly describe your background: I was born close to Epsom racecourse and I was lucky enough to walk up to the Downs at a very young age and was always obsessed with horseracing. I started working at a riding stables when I was 9 and worked after school and at weekends right up until leaving school. I went to Witney College to do a Stud and Stable Management course but had to get some racing experience first. Therefore, I knocked on doors for jobs and was lucky enough to work for Graham Thorner who gave me a great start to my education before becoming Henry Candy’s Assistant.
Were you ever a jockey? I was never a jockey and never wanted to be one. However, I did enjoy riding out and turning tricky horses into better behaved ones.
What is the most favourite horse you’ve trained? I’m lucky enough to have had a few favourites which I have trained, including La Landiere and Dark’n Sharp. However, one of my first good horses was Time Won’t Wait that I rode most days and therefore got great satisfaction from him winning so many races for us.
What is your favourite racecourse? My favourite racecourses are ones we win at the most; however I’ve always loved Goodwood as it’s the most beautiful racecourse in the world. I’ve always had soft spot for Fontwell as it was the first jump course I ever attended.
Richard with his team
Is there a horse you would have loved to train? Like every trainer, I like to train good horses as they make you look a better trainer. I saw Enable in the paddock for the Oaks and have loved her ever since, so she’d be high on the list.
Is social media positive or negative? I’m not a great social media person but it can be used positively for your business.
You write a blog, which is an interesting read – please give us an insight into the importance of blogging? I write a blog most days as I think it keeps supporters of the yard in touch with what is going on.
“Team” seems a huge concept within your yard – how important is this as a trainer? When it comes to teams, no one person trains a racehorse. Together everyone achieves more.
Who do you admire in racing? I admire those in racing who have stuck to the game for the longest, especially when it comes to training and riding. Sir Michael Stoute, Barry Hills, AP McCoy and Richard Johnson spring to mind.
Please explain the idea of a National Racehorse Day: I wrote a guest column in the Racing Post with the idea of a ‘National Racehorse Day’. Racing needs to be ahead of the curve on animal ethics and I think it would be great if every year, one day was put aside to celebrate the racehorse. An opportunity for yards, studs and racehorse rehabilitation centres to open their doors to the public so that they can see how well thoroughbreds are looked after compared to some other animals and people.
What are your other interests? I like to play a bit of golf if I ever have any time off.
What generally does racing do well? I think racing looks after its own well, e.g. the Injured Jockeys Fund, Racing Welfare and ROR.
Where could aspects in racing be improved? I think racing could be improved if there was more transparency between racehorses, bookmakers and the Horsemen’s Group. Then there might be more trust between them and racing could come up with a plan to suit all.
What does racing mean to you?! I am very lucky that horseracing has been an obsession since I was a young boy and always will be. Every day is different and every day is interesting.
(Left) La Landiere winning at the Festival under Richard Johnson
Photo Credit: Richard Phillips Racing