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The Racing Life of Claire Hart

Updated: Mar 27

A lot may have changed in Claire Hart’s life but horses have remained a constant. In March 2022, Claire and partner Gareth Price moved to their present yard in Blockley, Gloucestershire, and they welcomed their son Brody last October.


Together they run a pre-training, retraining, breaking and rehab yard. ‘If all the stables are full and we’re busy, that's all that matters,’ Claire adds, reiterating how she’s grateful to the ‘Supportive owners who kept sending us horses.’ A former tree surgeon, Gareth is heavily involved with the yard. Though not horsey originally, Claire taught him to ride and he has worked full time in the yard since the move. He desperately wants to ride in point-to-points, which Claire is equally excited about.

 

  A former amateur, Claire rode about a hundred and twenty winners, and had associations with prolific pointers such as Lady Myfanwy, Palypso Du Creek, Western Diva and Dabinett Moon. She was the winner of the South Midland Area Leading Lady Rider multiple times, the first ever winner of the Aga Championships, runner up in the national Ladies Championship twice and leading Hunter Chase Rider in the 2015-16 season.

Claire is still very much immersed in the amateur side of racing, training a few between the Flags every winter – pointing is where her heart lies: ‘Racing creates so many wonderful stories,’ she says. ‘The stories I love are the ones like Gina Ellis’ Latenightpass winning the Aintree Foxhunters’ in 2022 and might run in the Grand National. Anything involving amateur David Maxwell creates a story… especially when he rides winners round Cheltenham or Ascot. Racing is a special world and definitely is a community.’

Claire, Baby Brody and Julie Wadland, who trained many winners that Claire rode

Claire talks candidly about twenty-week-old Brody, and about how she worked throughout the pregnancy. However, Claire did stop riding at four months-pregnant, explaining that, ‘I never thought I'd have a family so I didn't want to chance losing him.’ It took only three months after Brody was born for Claire to get into the saddle again: ‘It's lovely being back on board and reassuringly, the business hasn't suffered.’

Yet, no yard would fail with bubbly, talented, brave Claire as its helm, who can still run a busy yard whilst adapting to motherhood, making everything run smoothly. And all with a big smile on her face too.

 

Did you have a horsey childhood? I was practically born in the saddle. I was in the Pony Club and did showjumping, eventing and hunting.

I had an amazing dun pony called Piglet, who jumped anything, was as lazy as hell and bucked for fun.

 

How did you get into racing? My mum and my Uncle Simon had always had point-to-pointers, and I’d always gone with them when they had runners. When I left school, I went to work for Henrietta Knight. I fell in love with racing and decided I wanted to have a go at riding in a race.

At Hen’s, I loved that everything was done properly. The horses were properly ridden and they did a lot of flat work. It influenced me to always do my horses in the same way – they are well schooled and jump poles.

 

What trainers have you worked for? At Hen’s, I was stable staff and I left to come home to freelance. I rode out for all sorts of people and settled for years at Charlie Longdon’s. Here, I really got going with my race riding and I did loads of schooling. Without Charlie or his head lad Alan Roche, I wouldn’t be where I am today or have achieved which I did.

 

Best days as a jockey: Palypso Du Creek winning the Mallard Hunter Chase at Leicester; his owner had died a fortnight before so it was a very special day.


Claire and Dabinett Moon winning in 2019

Photo Credit: Neale Blackburn


Favourite racehorses: I was very lucky, I had so many awesome days but Dabinett Moon was my best. She’ll always hold a special place in my heart because I broke her in.

 

Favourite racecourse between the Flags: I liked Kingston Blount, and Mollington too.

 

Favourite racecourse under Rules: I had three winners round Stratford – I loved it there.

 

What young riders have you helped to make their way in racing? Jordan Nailer and Lilly Pinchin both had their first pointers and first rides with me; both have since turned pro and are doing really well.

 

Over the years, how has racing changed for the better? I think that ownership has changed with all these syndicates. Inclusivity is now huge: anyone can own a racehorse now, whether it’s a leg share, a quarter or a whole horse. Anyone can go racing, feel involved and become involved.

 

For the worse? Racing is representative of life in general: respect and discipline has been lost. When the old school jockeys retired, like AP McCoy, Dickie Johnson and Choc Thornton, a lot of the old school respect disappeared.

When I first started in racing, I remember Mick Fitzgerald helping me and, at Longsdon’s, Noel Fehily helped me. I looked up to them both and hung off every word they said. It’s not like that now; none of the younger ones learn off the experienced ones.


What do you love most about racing? I find it absolutely overwhelming how in times of disaster, the racing community pulls together. In a world where we're all competing together, the bottom line is that we do all appreciate how hard it is for every single competitor and in incidents like JT McNamara, Jacob Pritchard Webb, Graham Lee and, this week, with Richard ‘Sparky’ Bevis – how many people donate to the GoFundMe pages is fantastic.

 

Does racing have a positive future in relation to animal rights? I can’t begin to believe that racing won’t ever exist but I do think it’s still hugely under threat. Look at the Grand National: the less horses they allow in it, the faster the jockeys will go, causing more accidents. We're surrounded by so many anti people that there is always a possibility racing will be banned but how quickly will that happen?


How do you juggle motherhood of running a yard? I have a massive support team. Gareth is amazing. Between us we make it work – either he's in the house or I am, we’re always swapping. Someone who used to work on the yard now does cleaning and childcare, and she has swapped roles and now works for me in the house first thing in the morning. Plus, the Grandparents help and, on Mondays, the lady who does my paperwork doubles up as a babysitter. Though, at the moment, it's easier because Brody is so little and sleeps a lot.

Originally, I thought all I wanted was to be at home and look after my new baby but over Christmas, my Uncles stayed and they looked after Brody, leaving me free to do the horses again. This made me realise that I needed the old ‘me’ back – going back on the yard again at six made me feel alive again. Gareth had been running the show amazingly and I have great staff. It's that fine balance of not missing out on anything with Brody and being out on the yard as well.


Have you changed since becoming a mum? Having a baby has put a different perspective on everything. Whatever I achieved race riding, running a successful business and having contact with a lot of amazing horses, I always wanted to become a mum after I finished race riding. Now, I finally feel complete and it is amazing being a mum, but still love my job and want to run a busy yard.

I don't have the feeling I need to be something different or stressed about anything. I always strived to be better than what I was in every way but now, I am what I am. I don't need to be anything else because I've got everything I ever wanted.

 

What is your favourite part of running a yard? Seeing the progression of the young horses as we break them in and teach them their job.

 

Hopes and dreams for the future: To continue the success of the business and for the youngstock we bred to go on to do good things. Plus, for Gareth to ride in races.

 

Best racing party you’ve been to: There have been so many! We did the Challenge in Ireland a few years ago, plus Gina and Tom Ellis’ end of season parties always ended up a lot of fun.

Oh, and I’ll never forget the Bridget Andrews’ 21st birthday celebrations...I was hungover for two days!

Gareth

 

Favourite meal: Roast dinner.

Favourite drink: G&T or rosé.

Favourite snack: Cheese and onion crisps.

Favourite holiday destination: I went to South Africa once and it was amazing. Yet, I also love holidaying anywhere in this country when the weather is decent.

Favourite book: I struggle to get stuck into books but I've read The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans about a hundred times.

Favourite film: The three Bridget Jones ones, Dirty Dancing or anything like that.

Favourite music: Anything poppy on the radio.

Other hobbies: I love my garden.


*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview. They published it first in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up, go to https://mailchi.mp/2f6ba62d6182/racing-weekly-lead-capture

 

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Convidado:
23 de mar.
Avaliado com 5 de 5 estrelas.

Great read as ever!

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Convidado:
22 de mar.
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Great interview

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