Don’t Shoot The Messenger!

In his blog, Assistant Trainer Tom Messenger gives you the lowdown on those behind some of our Cheltenham contenders…

With Cheltenham upon us, I thought I would try and give an insight into the build up from inside the yard. Through the winter we have seen many of our horses prove their credentials to challenge at the Olympics of our sport, and we look to have a strong team of around 12-14 runners. So much emphasis is put on these four days, and we spend the winter developing and protecting the talent of our equine athletes.


Behind each horse is a strong support team. Great staff is essential when trying to train winners, and we are lucky to have a fantastic team. Between Dan, myself, Polly Freeman (head girl at Lodge Hill), and Tolley Dean (head lad at Badbury), we try and leave no stone unturned in the horses’ training and we could not do this without the team of stable staff and work riders to back us up. Every detail is essential, from the grooms noticing the smallest change in their horses’ behaviour to the work rider knowing every detail of how the horse regularly moves and feels. We try and keep regular riders on most horses through the season for two reasons. Firstly the horse and rider need to be a good partnership; not every rider suits every horse, and vice versa. Secondly, keeping a long term partnership intact helps us to notice the smallest detail in the horse’s wellbeing. We place a lot of faith in the staff for good reason; they know their horses inside out, and their feedback is essential to the horse’s success.

Ch’tibello – Champion Hurdle

Groom – Sophie Boast

Sophie is one of the longest serving members of staff at Lodge Hill, having been with us since the start of the 2014-15 season.  Sophie has looked after Chitty since he arrived in the yard, and he is a film favourite of hers. She can normally be found of an evening pampering him under the heat lamps!

Ch’tibello & Stacey Heweston

Rider- Stacey Heweston

Stacey is one of our part time work riders, with about 15 years of experience with in racing. A mother of two she treats her regular rides like one of her children. She starts every morning with a bag of carrots which will have been devoured by the end of third lot!

Mister Miyagi- Coral Cup

Groom- Natalie Fisher

Natalie is not only new to us having joined in the summer, but also new to racing having taking an unusual route into the sport. A qualified Physio with a master’s degree, Natalie spent a few years working in Football becoming first team physio for AFC Wimbledon and Newport County. She therefore enhance’s “Maggi’s” footballing connection, as he is owned by footballers Ben Turner and Jay Tabb.

Rider- Bill Kinsey

Bill had previously never sat on a horse before joining the racing school, but has since proved himself a natural. Bill has been here for a few years after joining us from Alan King’s yard. Having ridden “Maggi” last season in his prep for a 6th place in the supreme, Bill is confident of a big run this year.

North Hill Harvey- County Hurdle

Eddie Tobin & North Hill Harvey

Groom- Eddie Tobin

Eddie joined us last year after spending eight years at Willie Mullins’ yard, so he is no stranger to looking after Cheltenham winners. Eddie has looked after a long list of Graded winners in his time at Willie’s, and hopes “Harvey” can add the Grade 3 County hurdle to his Grade 2 success in the Greatwood. Eddie is a big character in the yard who can make you laugh on the dullest of days, and there is no doubt he will be leading the celebrations if we are lucky enough to get a winner this week.

Rider- Sophie Boast

Sophie has a long term relationship with “Harvey”, having ridden him nearly every day since he joined the yard. He has always been a complete professional with a great attitude, and pretty much everyone in the yard covets Harvey; he is a super ride and complete legend to boot.

So here’s hoping for a successful week but more importantly for everyone involved the horses that we love and care for every day come home safe and sound. You need a lot of luck to get a winner at the Festival, and that is out of our hands, but I can safely say everything that is in our power has been covered and we go into these four days with a well prepared team. Now it’s time to just enjoy the ride!

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