Three months on

It is hard to believe that as we write this it is 3 months since we purchased and moved into Newlands Stables and set up Principle Racing.

Myself and Hazel are both very ambitious, but as we also have lots of experience in business, with horses and in racing, we also know what is and isn’t realistic. In moving to Lambourn the single most important thing for us was that we had every facility, both in our yard and on the Jockey Club gallops, to train every type of horse to the very highest level. 

The combination of us both being ambitious and also enjoying the challenge of getting the best out of every single horse, meant that neither of us could have settled for living and working from a training facility that had limitations – this would’ve only enabled us to  train a horse up to a certain level. Constraints would’ve frustrated us immensely and resulted in us having to move again so that we could do things properly.

Having been owners for over 10 years and had horses that have won Group 2’s, Group 3’s, Listed & big handicaps, the only time I ever get nervous at the races is when I know that my horses have had compromised preparations. The way that we have always used data to measure the performance, stride lengths, recovery rates and speed on the gallops, takes all of the guesswork out of it and you therefore know, when your horse goes to the races it is in peak condition.

Naturally, when we bought Newlands Stables, some people were shocked by us purchasing a very successful training yard; others, including our own families, were even more shocked that we had decided to leave our beloved North Yorkshire.

For us it was a very easy decision, and although we managed to pack up and move ourselves, our 2 boys, 5 dogs, 30 horses and even my grandmother to Upper Lambourn, we never questioned it or had any doubts we were doing the right thing.

3 months on, I also checked that all the family were happy and not missing our old home or way of life – and nobody was. We obviously miss a few very close friends and family, but I’m sure they will all be able to visit and see why we upped-sticks and made the Valley of the Racehorse our new home.

The other questions everyone keeps asking is… who is going to be the licensed trainer and when are we going to have our first runners?

We have kept saying, “hopefully soon” – not because we were fobbing anyone off, or that we weren’t chomping at the bit to have our first runner too, but the truth is, what we have set up and put in place is something which we want to do long-term and with lots of key differentials. Therefore, the most important thing was for us to do everything properly AND with the right people that genuinely wanted to do everything to the best of their ability, every single day without cutting any corners. It is exciting that we have had lots of interest in our new venture, plus lots of new and existing owners and syndicates wanting to send us horses to train. 

We could have put someone in place quickly and taken the horses; it was however crucial for us to work with the right person to train the horses, meaning we form an inclusive team using all of our varied skills and experience.

Alongside this, we have also both been prepared to give people opportunities to further themselves –  in giving people opportunities, even in a controlled way and environment, you then sometimes find that they are not the right fit for the long term or for the foundations of an outstanding team.

To be a good trainer you need to have so many different skills and be able to manage so many different tasks: Managing staff, suppliers, diet and nutrition, treating injuries, dealing with owners, buying and selling horses, handling pressure, coordinating staff , accounts, marketing & social media, race planning, data analysis… the list is extensive and each area overlaps into the next. 

There are very few people who can do all things equally well, so we knew having a team would leave no gaps and provide a better environment for our horses and staff, plus a significantly better experience for our owners. We were completely open minded to working with someone who hadn’t trained before as we knew we could help to fill the gaps in their knowledge or expertise on any of the key areas. 

We were also interested in working with someone who had already trained, or was currently training, as long as the fit was right and they genuinely believed in using data and marginal gains to maximise welfare and performance. The advantages to this are that for owners and syndicates, it may seem lower risk sending us a horse as they know from past results that the person has already demonstrated their ability to train winners. 

So why would an existing trainer want to join Principle Racing?

We have had lots of potentially suitable people approach us, which is of course flattering, each has had slightly different motivations.

The common theme is that many of them have taken their existing businesses as far as they feel they can as an individual, trying to spin as many plates as possible. If you imagine all the complex areas listed above, plus demands such as leading up at the races, travelling horses and not being able to share any of  the pressure, can result in spreading yourself too thinly every day just to make a living. Achieving a good work-life balance can become a thankless task. 

It also makes it almost impossible to take the next step both as a trainer and in a business sense. The demands affect the ability to attract better quality horses and owners with slightly bigger budgets. It impinges the ability to then buy a better quality of horse, to help you get some Saturday horses capable of competing for and winning, higher profile races.

So, while we have taken our time to employ the right trainer, we know it will have many longer term benefits for all of us and we are very excited to announce full details of the next stages of Principle Racing within the next week. As a final note, the horses we already have here are thriving and enjoying life, our social media accounts provide frequent updates and some lovely images of life at Principle Racing.

Ritchie Fiddes