Early door yesterday I had to the good fortune to drive out into the Cotswolds to visit Grange Hill Farm stables. This is where Nigel Twiston-Davies and his business partner Carl Llewellyn train around 140 horses including top challengers for the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle in the shape of Imperial Commander and Khyber Kim.
It was a perfect crisp morning for watching the horses gallop up the all weather strip in the Spring sunshine. There are oak trees all around and the view across the Cotswolds is superb. In contrast to all this natural environment, a double decker bus is parked at the top of the gallops. It reminds me of the Sunday Sport headline: “World War 2 Bomber Found on Moon.
We see the big two and other contenders put through their paces and talk to Carl about horses. “Horses want to commit suicide,” he says. “And it’s our job to stop them.” So that’s the key to winning two Grand Nationals and helping running a top jumps stable then. Simples.
Next a tour of the various yards and boxes and there seem the be loads all over the large site. Carl says the place has expanded massively since he started riding but then we are talking about 48 years ago!
Nigel treats all his straw bedding to reduce the risk of dust and bugs to the horses. It’s interesting that not all trainers do this although many use shavings but this is more expensive. A man is employed solely to treat the straw day in and day out.
The outdoor swimming pool means that the horses have a fantastic view over the Cotswolds when they are doing a few lengths or to be more accurate a few circles. It’s used to build muscle and to help horses recover from injuries. Must be quite bracing having a dip on som occasions. Over at Jackdaws Castle (Jonjo O’Neills) they have an indoor pool and even a solarium but perhaps racehorses can be too pampered?
Yet more horses and more stables and we stop and say hello to Khyber Kim (pic on left), who has a good chance in the Champion Hurdle.
Carl says that winning races is about stamina and not speed. Horses that win tend to maintain a constant gallop from start to finish. He then says that Imperial Commander is slow. Yikes! This is not good as I really fancy him for the Gold Cup. But Carl reassures me and says Imperial Commander is all about stamina and will stay the Gold Cup trip. Although, through of as a soft ground horse Carl says he’ll love the likely good ground and thinks he has a great chance in the Gold Cup. He respects Kauto Star but doesn’t fancy Denman at all.
Someone mentions breakfast and it’s off to the Hollow Bottom for a great feast. The walls are adorned with racing paraphernalia and lots of Imperial Commander scarfs. I wonder if they are they taking the piss a bit?
After more racing talk and a quick flick through the Racing Post it’s time for Carl to head to Stratford races and for me to head back to Cheltenham.
Seeing a top class racing stables first hand with a racing professional was superb experience. The morning was arranged through Course and Distance Racing Tours. To find out more you can visit their website. As well as stable visits they also arrange trips to the Arc and the Velka Pardubicka.