Lambourn Open Day – Stable Tours

Good Friday 22 April 2011



Higgy's Boy r.jpg

Spirit Son r.jpg

Finian's Rainbow r.jpg

Higgy’s Boy

Spirit Son

Finian’s Rainbow

Long Run r.jpg

French Opera r.jpg

Kid Cassidy r.jpg

The centre of attention

Gold Cup Winner

Long Run

French Opera

Newbury Survivor


Kid Cassidy

Binocular r.jpg

Nadiya De La Vega r.jpg

Mad Max r.jpg


Nadiya De La Vega

Mad Max

Bobs Worth r.jpg

Forzy Origny r.jpg

Bobs Worth

Forzy Origny


Darstedly Dick & Lesley r.jpg



Lesley with Darstardly Dick

(Oliver Sherwood’s yard)



Naughty Naughty

(Brendan Powell’s yard)

Naughty Naughty r.jpg







As the Lambourn yards opened at 08:30 in the morning, I set my alarm for just after 05:00, with the hope of setting off from home just before 07:00.  This would be my third consecutive visit to the Lambourn Open Day; my fourth in total, having attended the 1990 event.  I recall the year, as I remember visiting Kim Bailey’s yard to see the Grand National winner, Mr Frisk.


This year, my friend Lesley had expressed an interest in accompanying me so, as she lives in Bedfordshire, she had agreed to pick me up and drive us to Berkshire.  Having showered, washed and dried my hair, applied sun block and warpaint, I was ready by 06:45; at 06:55 Lesley texted me to say she was just leaving home.  She arrived to pick me up at 07:20 ... oh well never mind, she has never been the most punctual of people!


Spring had definitely arrived, as my local horse chestnut trees were covered in ‘candle’ blossom.  One of my favourite sights at this time of the year.


Our route took us via the M25 and M4; traffic was moving a little slowly between junctions 16 and 15 (we were travelling anti-clockwise) of the M25 but, apart from that, there were no travel problems.  The village of Lambourn is situated close to Junction 14 of the M4 so, having left the motorway, we took a right turn and headed into the ‘The Valley of the Horse’. 


As always, the first port of call was to Nicky Henderson’s yard at Seven Barrows.  The sign-posted route to his stables took us through Great Shefford, East Garston, and Eastbury to Lambourn.  Upon reaching the latter, we turned onto the Wantage Road and bore left along the lane past Barry Hills’ yard and onwards to our destination. 


Entry was £12 each to cover all the yards during the morning, and also admittance to the afternoon events at the arena.  A programme cost £3, and free copies of the ‘Weekender’ were being handed out too.  Having parked up, we set off to see the horses.


Just outside the main yard, the two boxes to our left were occupied by Nadiya De La Vega and Be There In Five respectively; in the single box to the right was Eldred.  We entered the main yard via the archway and did an anti-clockwise tour of the stables.  Horses of particular note were Binocular; the sweet-natured Kid Cassidy (who survived the Newbury electrocution incident in February); French Opera (who would win Sandown’s Celebration Chase the following day); old stagers visiting for the day – Fondmort and Dempsey; Gold Cup winner Long Run; and Finian’s Rainbow; also the White Admiral in one of the ‘inside’ boxes – who is, as the name suggests, a true white horse.


We then went to look in the barns to the right of the main entrance, where Mad Max, Bobs Worth and Mossley were amongst those stabled.  Further along, the grey ex-Alan King trained Forzy Origny was in an open-fronted box, alongside the very bad tempered Lifestyle!  We also went to look at the horses stabled in the two large barns, which were mainly lesser known youngsters.  Finally it was the turn of the animals in the L-shaped row of boxes, Higgy’s Boy (who is evidently a great character) and Spirit Son being two of those stabled here.


Our tour complete, we headed back to Lambourn, driving past the IJF’s Oaksey House, where Choc spent much of his time during his rehabilitation from both his back injury suffered in January 2010, and his serious knee injury which occurred last July.  Cars parked along the High Street caused a little delay, but we were soon on our way again, parking in Car Park No.1 opposite Harry Dunlop’s yard.       


From this car park we set off to visit the yards in Upper Lambourn, our route taking us past the field where the afternoon events would take place.  We took the footpath which cut across a field between Car Parks 2 and 3, and which led us to the Malt Shovel pub.  From here we visited Oliver Sherwood’s yard and, following that, we went to Newlands Stables where Brendan Powell trains; Seamus Durack having recently taken over one of the stable blocks.  Seamus’ horses are notable for the fact that most of them had warning notices on their doors stating that they bite!  The cutest inmate in Brendan’s yard was a Shetland pony!  And Brendan was there too. 


We decided not to visit Charlie Mann’s Whitcoombe House Stables, although each Open Day there is a ‘shuttle’ service to the yard.  On my previous two visits to the Lambourn Open Day I’d walked to the yard, but Lesley isn’t a keen walker like me!  


The next yard we visited was Jamie Osborne’s facility; the trainer also putting in an appearance here too.  Following that, we set off to join the Astbury road and started our journey back towards the field which would be the setting for the afternoon events.


On the way we visited Stan Moore’s yard; there were a number of horses which had arrived within the past week, a couple of these just the previous day; one even had the lot number sticker still attached to its rump!  But I think the star of the show was Stanley the coloured cob, who regularly makes racecourse appearances when ponying the yard’s horses to the start!


Just next door was Tor Sturgis’ yard; which we also took a look around.  Our last yard visit was to that of Michael Blanshard.  Our favourite horse therein was Dishy Guru, a flashy chestnut two-year old colt.  When we first looked over the stable door, he was lying in the cool depths of his box.  However, he was also sharing it with ... three rats!  They were climbing up and down by his food manger.  But the horse did decide to get to his feet and came across to say hello; he was sweet natured.


Following what was our final yard visit, we set off for the short walk down the lane to reach the field ahead of the afternoon events.  There was a Farriers demonstration taking place when we arrived.  We took a look around a number of the trade stands; I purchased a couple of linen summer scarves for a total of £12.  It was then time for refreshments – I ordered a banana milkshake, Lesley an iced coffee.  Afterwards we went to find a vantage point beside the arena.


The first event was a parade of the Vine and Craven Foxhounds; children being permitted to enter the arena to pet the dogs.  This was followed by a Sheepdog display with David Seamark; amusingly the sheep escaped from the arena and it seemed to take ages for the sheepdogs to round them up before herding them back in again!


The next event was Horseball, the teams taking part presented Lambourn vs. the ROR (Retraining Of Racehorses).  At the start of the second half, four flat race jockeys joined the teams, two per side – Fergus Sweeney, George Baker, Eddie Ahern and Dane O’Neill.  The jockeys picked up the game skills quickly, retrieving the ball from the ground whilst on horseback and scoring too.  The substitute riders were replaced with a few minutes to go; the game ended as a draw.


Whilst the equipment was being removed from the arena, events moved to the ‘schooling’ area.  First there was the Parade of Champions; these included Long Run, Binocular, Bobs Worth, and Spirit Son; plus golden oldies Fondmort and Dempsey who, evidently, are inseparable; plus the Jamie Osborne trained grey Geordieland, who his trainer hopes to run in the Ascot Gold Cup.


It was then time for the schooling session; the jockeys taking part were Andrew Tinkler (who rode Higgy’s Boy), Sam Waley-Cohen (his first visit to the Lambourn Open Day), AP McCoy and John Francome (he’d initially gone AWOL, there being a tannoy announcement asking him to report to the schooling arena).  As the horses being schooled represented the Nicky Henderson yard, he was on-hand to oversee them.  The riders set off to jump the ‘brush-topped’ hurdles individually, then in pairs - Andrew Tinkler with Sam Waley-Cohen, AP McCoy with John Francome.  This style of hurdles is often seen on Irish racecourses, as a single panel of the traditional style hurdles costs around £1,000 and proves expensive to replace once damaged!


The session having been completed, everyone returned to the arena for the final event of the day, which was the Jockeys’ Puissance event.  There were six jockeys/ex-jockeys taking part – Sam Waley-Cohen, who rode a bay; Andrew Tinkler, who rode a dun; John Francome, who rode a horse of an indeterminate colour (it appeared cream in colour with a white mane and tail ... but it had black points on its legs!; John Reid, AP McCoy and Eddie Ahern all rode skewbalds – AP’s had a wall eye, and Eddie’s mount was called Charlotte!  


Both AP’s and John Francome’s mounts were a little temperamental – AP’s mount refusing to jump the practice fence on one occasion, John’s mount possessed a strong herd instinct and was reluctant to leave the other horses!  Two fences were set up in the arena, one was the practice fence, the other being raised in height each time all the horses had taken their turn to jump it (it was a Puissance after all!).  


The first elimination was John Reid; then AP McCoy.  Sam Waley-Cohen, Andrew Tinkler, and John Francome were all eliminated in the same round.  This left Eddie Ahern and Charlotte to take the prize having been the only horse to clear the fence.  Eddie asked for the bar to be raised again, but this time they knocked it out of the cups.  ATR’s Luke Harvey, who was acting as commentator, was making humorous remarks about Eddie and Charlotte – so I take it that Eddie has a reputation as a womaniser!      


Merrick Francis, son of Dick, also acted as a commentator – he’s very funny!  And his ‘laugh’ is something else!


The Puissance victor’s prize was presented by Robert Waley-Cohen, father of Sam.


The award for the best presented stable went to Michael Blanshard; presumably the judges hadn’t seen Dishy Guru’s stable companions!


After a second visit to Daisy Dix’s trade stand; where we purchased two additional scarves, another for me and one for Lesley, we set off to walk back to Lambourn village to collect the car.  Not surprisingly, as the day was sunny and hot, the car was very warm inside.  We sat with the doors open and enjoyed a snack of cheese rolls and hot-cross buns (it was Good Friday) before setting off for home.


Our journey took us out of the village and up Hungerford Hill; upon reaching a road junction we turned left and headed through Woodlands St Mary; right at the next road junction and then joined the eastbound carriageway of the M4.  We took a brief detour into a Service Station near Reading to top up on petrol before recommencing our journey. 


There were no problems on the M25 and Lesley dropped me back at home at 18:00; and I was looking forward to a day out at Sandown’s Bet365 fixture the following day.  However, upon logging on to the internet, I discovered that the dry and warm weather had resulted in Alan King withdrawing all but one of his runners at the meeting, the only runner now being Awesome George ridden by his usual pilot Charlie Huxley.  It transpired that Choc would travel to Haydock Park instead.  Damn, the remainder of my weekend had been spoilt ... and I was actually quite tearful because I didn’t know when my next opportunity would arise to see Choc as, after tomorrow, National Hunt racing would ‘go quiet’ for the summer.


   *    *    *    *    *    *    *


As I write this diary, I’ve also rummaged through the books on the top shelf of my bookcase (okay, I confess, I’m a hoarder – I keep all my race-cards too) ... and I’ve actually found the programme from the 1990 Lambourn Open Day, priced £1.  It took place on Friday the 13th April that year. 


The yards on the ‘map’ that year were Peter Walwyn who trained at Seven Barrows at the time; Nicky Henderson who trained at Windsor House Stables, which is now occupied by Harry Dunlop (I recall See You Then and Remittance Man from my visit that year); Charlie Brooks; Fulke Walwyn; Oliver Sherwood; Kim Bailey; Nick Gaselee; Merrick Francis; Michael Blanshard; Kim Brassey; Douglas Marks; David Murray-Smith; Jenny Pitman; Rod Simpson; and Tim Thomson-Jones.


That year the afternoon events took place on the downs – Cantering on the All-Weather; Schooling, and a Celebrity Relay Race! 


Click Here for Afternoon Photos








Rounded Rectangle: RETURN TO HOME PAGE