Bloodstock Blogger: Part Sixteen

Regular blog writing seems to have gone out the window. What to write is always the question! Something topical is usually a good bet to get people to read it but quite honestly I am happy when things at Culworth Grounds are not topical. It is amazing what can become an issue in life. Currently our Forge Coffee venture in the village of Culworth is growing and a new shop being opened in the village of Evenley. Apparently the colour of the shop window is causing some controversy which just shows that topical can sometimes be very uninteresting!!

The last few months on the farm have been busy. We expanded our foaling this year from four to sixteen foals which were all safely delivered, by our now well settled in foaling manager Kate Leatherbarrow. There have been no disasters and they are all still alive and well which is always a bonus.

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The first of the yearlings are starting prep and we also have a new yearling manager on the team. Katina Nason has worked many seasons prepping yearlings with top vendors around the world. I am delighted to have her on board and look forward learning from her experiences to make our yearlings even better than before. Also coming back to the team is Lucy Steel. Lucy went and did a yearling prep season at Widden Stud in Australia. I did wonder whether she would come back but luckily for us she has. Lucy will be working in the office and also with the yearlings. Hopefully you will see her in action at the sales honing her new Aussie skills!

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I am really pleased with my bunch of yearlings this year. I try not be too blind to their faults because they are mine but I just hope some trainers and bloodstock agents have the same taste as me! I am not saying they are all book 1 sale toppers but they are nice horses that have their place in the market. This time of year is exciting as there is nothing better than getting all the yearlings in and putting them to work. You get to learn more about them and how they tick. Most of the  hard work is already done and a well fed Winter in the field means they are all looking in good nick so it is just the muscling up and fine tuning to try and give them that stars in your eyes moment.

To help us with this ‘Stars in your Eyes’ moment, we are very pleased to be working with NAF. NAF have a great range of nutritional formulas, supplements, topical applications and care products which we will use to help give our yearlings the best, both inside and out. They are the official sponsor to the British Equestrian Team which shows the high regard in which they are held within the UK. I have used NAF products on my show horses and having the NAF team on board for the yearlings will mean they will work with us to provide the best support for each individual.

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The big excitement of the month was breeding our first winner. Everybody has to start somewhere and for Culworth Grounds that start was the purchase of Hanella. Hanella is by the super daddy Galileo and was purchased for £5000 from Tattersalls December Sales in foal to Orientor who stands at Sidehouse Stud in Scotland. The Orientor filly she produced was never going to be a sale topper mainly due to fashion but she was a solid, correct, good walking individual and statistically Orientor rates well in terms of getting you a winner. Thankfully he obliged and “Sparkles” as she was known here, won in Italy. Naples may not be Newmarket but a win is a win and a good start for the homebreds. Long may it last!


Bloodstock Blogger: Part Fifteen

With 2019 in full swing and the foaling season well under way it feels like Spring is back in the air. The mares on the farm have been very slow to give birth this year and for no apparent reason which I find extremely frustrating. Probably because the excitement builds as the due date comes close and then nothing arrives. When you wait eleven months every day over feels like an eternity.


Our new foaling manager Kate Leatherbarrow is nearly half way through foaling with seven foals on the  ground. We are also lucky to have Rachel Gray who is on night watch whilst studying for a degree in mechanical engineering.  Apparently it is much easier to study at night! So other than Rachel there is a lot more sleep going round compared to last year! We have five fillies and two colts on the ground so far. I know this trend is probably going to continue as I bought several mares at the sales so I suspect there will be several more fillies on the way! People say fillies can be tricker to work with but in my opinion you cant beat a bit of girl power. Just ask us nicely and treat us like princesses, simple really!


One of those fillies has already had her tv moment when Sky Sports Racing came and made a programme which featured her birth. Now aptly named ‘Sky’ she kept us all waiting for several days. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but when you have to schedule camera men, edit rooms and programme airing there was added pressure and anticipation. Hopefully all being well we will follow ‘Sky’ through her formative years and beyond and give people at home the change to experience journey of her life. You can watch the film by clicking on the link below.

The Breeze up Sales got under way at Ascot and I took a trip down to support my first home bred colt, ‘Bruno’ who was being sold by Hyde Park Stud. All that trotting up the gallops paid off for Bruno who breezed the 12th fastest time and was bought by Middleham Park Racing. He is going to be trained by Keith Dalgleish in sunny Scotland. Hopefully he will become a winner for his mother Lolamotion who has a yearling by Tweenhills stallion Havana Gold and is visiting Pearl Secret at Chapel Stud this year. Bruno always took life in his stride so we are hopeful he will go on to be a success for his new owners.

With the Grand National in the press PETA and other similar organisations seem to be back on the cruelty to racehorses bandwagon. It is dis-hearting for all the people who put in effort and care on a daily basis for these horses. There seems to be a real lack of understanding that a life has to be nurtured and cared for to get a horse to the stage where it can even reach the racetrack let alone be a top performer. Education is an important part of this understanding and Michael Owen featured in a very good film where he compared the horses to himself as a professional athlete and showed the surroundings in which they live and are cared for. At the same time it is important for the racing industry not to rest of their laurels and realise that we always have to be questioning what we do and how we do it, especially when it comes to the welfare of the horse.

Bloodstock Blogger: Part Fourteen

Blogging seems to have gone somewhat astray recently but as the year comes to an end it feels like a good time to sum it all up. Right now, sentiment in the bloodstock industry all seems to be doom and gloom with articles like, ‘the harsh reality at the bottom of the foal market’ and ‘66% of all British breeders lost money’ flying around twitter.

Luckily my husband doesn’t follow Kevin Blake or Racing Post Bloodstock, but if he did, our monthly budget meetings may become more frequent. However he would be the first to trot out one of Warren Buffets famous lines, “be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful!”

The reality is that breeding is a bit of a lottery, there are so many, “what ifs?”. You can breed the best mare to the best stallion and still get a crooked foal that nobody would want to buy, but generally even at the bottom end of the market, a good individual will always sell.

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Every commercial breeder is aiming to breed a sales topper, but we all know that it is not that straight forward. Unless you have a large budget to buy a black type mare or producer is not that easy so we all have to try and do the best with what mares we have got.

At this time of year I get out the excel spreadsheets and run statistics on all the stallions that I am interested in using. Figures are a great way to look at the stallions that have already had runners and sales horses. Then the boring part is that usually half of the stallions have to be taken off the list as they don’t suit physically, don’t suit on pedigree and for the me the most common theme is that they are too expensive!

2018 was my third year consigning yearlings and it has been a steep learning curve. I sold yearlings at Doncaster, Tattersalls Ascot, Tattersalls Ireland and Tattersalls Books 1,2 and 3 - it has been a good experience getting a feel for the different venues and how they operate. It is also a great way to meet new consigners and to watch and learn. Everybody has a different way of doing things and it is great to have the opportunity to see others in action. The other big positive was that every yearling found a new home and ahead of budget. Big relief!

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There are seven new foals to add to the two homebreds this year and yes of course they all have names. So this year the colts are…. drumroll….. Horace the Havana Gold, Colin the Cable Bay, Peter the Pearl Secret, Tyson the Adday, Kennedy the Ruler of the World, Cuban another Havana Gold and Fred the Fulbright. The girls are smaller in number but both by Fast Company and have been named Sparkledust and Petal, names which have been saved up for many months by head namer Athena Buckley! As well the foals, another four mares were also purchased so here’s hoping they will not be helping me join the 66% of British breeders that made a loss.

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It always feels like Christmas comes early for me when the new arrivals step off the lorry but its time to stop buying things for myself and start buying for everyone else! Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Bloodstock Blogger: Part Thirteen

Winter and horses is hard enough but the Beast from the East has made it feel like a really long haul.  The yearlings have spent most of the Winter out, other than when I took pity on them during the snow. They will certainly be a tough bunch and should be nice and hardy.


All the mares so far have decided that foaling is a bad idea and kept us all awake at night on the longest foal watch ever. Foaling has been challenging and although small in numbers we have had some large challenges to face. It really showed the skills and capabilities of the team. It’s moments like that when you realise how lucky you are to have good people around you.

We have a new member of staff. Maira Ferkdadji, has grown up with horses but has a degree in biochemistry, physiology and neuroscience with a masters in nutrition and food safety. She has worked in quality control in the food industry for seven years. It might seem a strange change of direction but as things expand and grow, to have a Head of Quality Control will be beneficial. She oversees all the work and management that goes on with the horses and keeps us and our standards on our toes!


She is also in charge of putting new systems in place, the first of those being Equicity. Equicity is a horse management software. It logs every moment of the horses life from its exercise regime to when it needs worming and includes photos and videos. Everybody on the yard is armed with the App on their phones and can log in each piece of information as it happens. The aim is to be as efficient and streamlined as possible, creating detailed historical data.

So far we have all of our mares and boarders in foal which is a good start. Every year my stallion deliberations seem to take longer and longer, so long, that I have one mare with nowhere to go! We are still a long way from sending a mare to Frankel but we did have seven boarding mares who were in foal to him so it felt like we were one step closer and we will enjoy following their journeys.

This year we have sent Hanella by Galileo to Starspangledbanner at Coolmore. He is a stallion with some fantastic statistics with 15% black type winners to runners. David’s Duchess is going back to Havana Gold at Tweenhills who also looks like he could hit the dizzy heights of stallion stardom with two listed winners already in the bag for 2018. My new mare King’s Siren is going to visit Hot Streak.  She has already produced a black type performer and is a half sister to two black type sprinters. Her dam Blue Siren by Bluebird was disqualified to second in the G1 Nunthorpe Stakes. It made sense to go back to speed and Hot Streak’s sister is a black type performer by Bluebird which shows the nick has had success before. As for poor old Lolamotion, she has yet to be decided.



Last Echo is visiting Ulysees at Cheveley Park Stud. I thought he looked like a fabulous model and just oozed class. He also has a top class middle distance pedigree. There is lots of debate about breeding only for speed. It is easy to see why people take that route. If you want to make money then you have to follow the market. Markets are inefficient and the bloodstock market is no exception. Whilst it is evident that the pinnacle of success in the flat racing world is to win a Classic, the emphasis from an investment perspective continues to be in the early maturing sprinters. So, as contrarian investors we have decided not to put all our eggs in the speedy basket!





Bloodstock Blogger: Part Twelve


Time flies by and 2018 has arrived. Looking back, 2017 was a good year with lots of fun and plenty of progress. On the horse front, all of last year’s yearlings have been sold. Overall they went well and the pinhooking ended positively - so that will keep the husband happy!

Before the sales, he announced that he had a better probability of making a profit by going to Ladbrokes for the afternoon with £100k than buying foals, keeping them alive for 10 months, praying that some of their siblings win the Derby, and then persuading someone to pay more for them than we paid for them the previous year. Luckily he doesn’t spend any time at Ladbrokes!


The star of the sales show for Culworth Grounds was Dazzle the Slade Power filly, who was the commercial two year old type that everybody is looking for these days. She is now in training with Mick Channon and I am hoping that she will be the pocket rocket that we predicted.

Our lovely Sepoy filly Elsa was sold to Sarah Lynham who is starting out her first season training this year. She was a really athletic filly and we all loved her at home.

Anna, the Bated Breath, went to Matthew White who is producing her for the breeze up sales. The reports are very positive. I did point out that I didn’t doubt she would be after her special education up the gallops with Big Arch.

Melo, the Fast Company, was sold to Ed Walker. Ed and I used to sit beside each other in equine industry lectures at The Royal Agricultural College, so I am hoping that she proves as good as some of her siblings.


As soon as the last yearling has been sold we are back out at the sales looking for the next big thing - a quick trip to Tattersalls Fairyhouse saw three colt foals on their way back to Culworth Grounds. The children were straight onto the big task of naming and we have King the Kingston Hill, Greg the Gregiorian and Dennis the Dandy Man.

Next stop, Goffs, and another three foals were purchased - we bought a grey Guitifan filly now named Snowflake, followed by another grey colt by War Command (who is aptly named Frosty) and a Night of Thunder filly. There were a couple of days deliberating and most of the school run was spent discussing what we might name her, and Cupcake became the top choice. Very hard to not to be tempted by a very nice Cupcake!

The last stop was Tattersalls UK where we purchased a Hot Streak Filly who is now named Sprinkles -no point having a good Cupcake without some Sprinkles!

It was a very competitive market and there was a lot of competition for the best foals. It felt like we spent most of the time being outbid, which can get quite demoralising. However, the team agreed that we gave every horse we liked, a good rattle in terms of bidding and didn’t feel there was anything that we would have done differently.

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The latest exciting development at Culworth Grounds is the new parade ring. I am not sure how I managed to get this passed the boss but I think it will really finish off the office building (well that is my excuse!). As with most projects, it was a bigger job than expected, but when Spring arrives and grass grows, it will all be worth it.

We are also welcoming a new recruit, Amy Rimmington, to the team. Amy has worked at Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand for three years and with the slowly expanding broodmare band she will be in charge of foaling down mares.

The Culworth Grounds website has had a refresh - we had great fun working with Kingdome Creative for the bloodstock section putting together a small insight into life for the horses at Culworth Grounds. Big Arch managed to get a staring role and for all of those people who wonder how I lead ‘crazy’ yearlings around, it is worth watching. Not a crazy horse in sight!

Happy New Year to you all, let’s hope that 2018 is a good one.

Useful Links

Bloodstock Blogger: Part Eleven


Sophie Buckley: First win, sales countdown & film crews

It’s all go at Culworth Grounds as Sophie Buckley celebrates her first win plus there’s hours of yearling prep and an encounter with a film crew.

We had great excitement this month with the first yearling that was produced and sold at Culworth Grounds running. He was bought by Sackville Donald for the trainer Tom Dascombe. He is called Spud which I thought was rather apt. I was wondering if being sold by an Irish farmers daughter who has done many hours potato sorting had anything to do with it! It turns out he is half owned by a potato farmer who is not Irish!



Spud showed that he was a force to be reckoned with and won by 15 lengths. He was a highly intelligent horse and a very fast learner so I will be surprised if he doesn’t go on to better things. It was great off the mark and produce the first winner. It was a brilliant result for all connections and I can say have 100% runner to winner ratio, for now!!

Rory the Requinto was the first yearling to be sold in 2017 at the new Ascot yearling sale. He went well and was very popular. He didn’t quite make the price that I thought but he was still in the top 10% of the sale so it was just the market on the day. He did have faults but I really liked him at home and thought that he was an athlete with a fabulous temperament.

I will be surprised if he doesn’t win races. He was bought by the Spear family who were very busy patting him and feeding him apples after the sale. When you are in a commercial industry it is nice to feel that owners can take the time to bond with their horse and it will hopefully make their experience in racing so much more than a day out at the races.


The countdown is on for the other yearlings. There are four yearlings going to Tattersalls this week. Two fillies in Book 2 and two more in Book 3. So it is girl power for Culworth Grounds this year. They are by Sepoy, Slade Power, Bated Breath and finally Fast Company, the sire of Spud.

I have been very lucky so far this year and the yearlings have been a lot less stressful. Suicide attempts are definitely down but there is still time! There have been some positive updates for all the fillies since I bought them last year so that will hopefully help. They have been a great bunch to work with and I have really enjoyed them and I think they will be runners.



On the farm it has been a good Summer. All the harvest is in but there are a few tetchy men around the place as it has been very wet and we are behind with the drilling. The place feels like it is covered with pheasants and partridges especially when you are walking around the place with yearlings. They jump less than I do when one fly’s up from the undergrowth!



We had a fun day filming with Kingdom Creative last week. They are on a mission to help me produce a short promo film to show the best of Culworth Grounds and what it has to offer. I certainly slept well that night and decided that being a film director was not something I fancied doing.

The horses were all great actors and Hottie the Hot Streak foal is definitely keen for life in front of the camera. He put on a fine display of speed on cue for the camera. I am hoping he is just practising for running very fast on ITV in the Derby in three years’ time!

Bloodstock Blogger: Part Ten


With the showing and racing season both in full swing things have been busy at Culworth Grounds for Sophie Buckley, The Bloodstock Blogger.

In the world of showing it has all been about The Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead. This is where all the best of each generation compete to be the Champions. All my horses qualified but this year due to lack of time I decided to only take The Prof.


Personally I feel these classes can be somewhat of a lottery. There are up to forty horses competing in one class and they are all winners in their own right. It is a very difficult task to pick the best of the best. As an amateur it is also not easy competing against the professionals. They often have large teams of horses and staff and they are riding several horses a day. If you work on the 10,000 hour rule they should be considerably better than a one horse amateur jockey.

However instead of whinging about being beaten the amateurs should take a closer look at the pros doing their job and try and learn from them and raise our game. This year The Prof managed to do just that, we came third in the open middleweights behind Jane Ross and Robert Walker, two of the country’s finest. There was a rather large gasp from the crowd when our name was called out but it shows that you should not be afraid to take on the big boys and they are not all unbeatable. Third place is not usually what I am aiming for but on this occasion it was a great result.

We also had another great result with my farrier Sean Wheelan winning best shod for the second year running. This is a great achievement as a lot of the best farrier’s in the country are competing for the accolade. I am also delighted as I know the time and effort that he puts in and it is great to be rewarded for it. Having a great farrier on board is essential and as the old saying goes, no foot, no horse.


All the yearlings are now in for prep and they are all off to Tattersalls. Prepping is well under way and the team of Rory, Sparkles, Elsa, Anna, Dazzle, Glitter and Melo are all happy in their new routines. As far as exercise is concerned they will do something different everyday including a day off. I like to keep them thinking and happy, so they do a mixture of hand walking, lunging, walker, hacking and trotting up the gallops. Not every horse fits the mould and not every horses routine will be the same. They are all treated as individuals.


One exercise technique I use is leading the yearlings from another horse. Personally I think it is great for them. They are led by Big Arch who is an 18 hand hunter. Big Arch is like a grandfather figure for the yearlings, he is calm, reassuring and takes no nonsense. They hack down the gallop beside him and then do a slow trot home. The horses are exercising in a straight line which is better for their joints, they are learning to trot alongside another horse in open countryside and they can listen to the voice aids coming from above which will be normal for them when they are broken. They love it and it’s ears pricked all the way!.


For me preparing a yearling is all about trying to make them as best prepared for the next person who will buy them from me. It is about giving the trainer something to work with so hopefully they will come back and buy again. It is not just about having the horse looking good on the day of the sale, although that is of course important. I want the customer to have the best product. Being an athlete whether horse or human is about gaining an edge and that is what I am thinking about when I am prepping my yearlings. How can I give this horse an edge?

Races can be won and lost by a whisker so if you can help a horse keep a good mind, start his training well so that they are balanced and respond well to aids, that could be the start that helps them progress to winning the race by a whisker or not. I suppose at the end of the day it’s a bit a like my father’s parenting advise to me: the most important thing a parent can do for their child is to prepare them to leave home.

Bloodstock Blogger: Part Nine


Foals, kamikaze yearlings and Havana Gold excitement at Royal Ascot

Sophie Buckley chats to TGP’s Racing columnist, Vanessa Ryle, ahead of a busy week at Royal Ascot with excitement building over Havana Gold’s progeny and shares the latest news from Culworth Grounds. 

This month’s Bloodstock Blog comes to you in a new format, something we are working on rolling out for new content over the coming months on our Youtube channel. We hope you enjoy it!

The Bloodstock Blogger: Part Eight


I was a little late in deciding stallion nominations this year but securing a nomination to Frankel, Galileo or Dubawi is not something that I will probably have to worry about for many years to come.

One of the main reasons for the long deliberation was that Lolamotion and David’s Duchess both needed speedy stallions with plenty of strength about them, which when you narrow it down there are not that many standing in the UK especially at a reasonable stud fee.

Lolamotion is out of Ocean View who was multiple G1 placed. She is a winner and a half-sister to two black type horses. David’s Duchess is a well rated winner who was fourth in the Weatherby’s super sprint and is also a half-sister to a black type horse in Strange Magic so both have some good attributes which they can hopefully pass on. These two mares are going to Havana Gold who stands at Tweenhills. Having unsuccessfully tried to buy some of his foals in previous years breeding one seemed like the next best thing. He had some great looking strong, athletic foals and yearlings and has made a great start to 2017 by having his first winner on the track and having the fastest breezing two year olds at both Ascot and Doncaster selling for prices over £100,000. Let’s hope the mares produce one of those!!

My other filly Last Echo is also a multiple winner by Whipper who is proving to be a good broodmare sire and the cross with Kodiac has produced several black type horses. With Kodiac being slightly out of budget I went for his very good looking son Adday who is a new first season sire standing at Whitsbury Manor Stud.


Adaay © Steven Cargill/

Adaay © Steven Cargill/


The yearlings are proving testing at the moment and are on suicide watch. As the sun starts to shine and the spring grass comes through they seem to be on a mission to self-harm. I give them a daily pep talk but it doesn’t seem to be working and as much as I love watching them gallop around the field sometimes I wish they would just slow down a little!

The power of Twitter came to the fore when my half bred mare Blossom lost her foal in February. Within a couple of hours a foal in need was found and Blossom was on her way up to Yorton Farm in Shropshire. It is the first time that I have experienced losing a foal and I’m sure it won’t be the last but I can say that I spent a couple of days with a very heavy heart. It was a reminder that nature can sometimes be cruel and that life is not all about value.

On a more positive note, Lolamotion, had a lovely colt foal by Casamento. After much debate amongst the children he is now called Bruno! She had a really easy birth and she is taking to motherhood very well. There is something really special about having a foal around, they are the perfect timewaster. Hanella is due at the beginning of May to Hot Streak so hopefully all will go well. She will probably be rested this year unless she decides to pop the foal out a couple of weeks early and then I really might be making a very last minute stallion decision!

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There are also lots of non-equestrian projects on the go. A new gate lodge is going up behind the old one and hopefully it will be a huge improvement. Not far from the farm we have several development projects. The most fun one being a modern agricultural steel framed barn which we are converting into a house. My participation in these projects is mainly at the beginning and the end much to the relief of the builders who said I am like the person on DIY SOS who constantly goes round asking, how long until you are finished? They love me really!

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On the farm it is all go as Culworth Grounds is getting bigger. We recently purchased a nearby farm. There is plenty of work to do but hopefully it will be another great spot for yearlings and mares of the future. #ExcitingTimes

The Bloodstock Blogger: Part Seven


Living with a non -horsey, spreadsheet minded husband has it’s pros and it’s cons. He thinks that buying foals is like building a business based on furry lottery tickets, writes Sophie Buckley. He might well be right but it doesn’t help my business plan when he also charges me rent for the stables. Opportunity cost, apparently!

Luckily as with most marriages we don’t do everything that the other one recommends and I have had a very busy but successful couple of months’ horse shopping. There was less dithering and more focus and I came home with shares in seven foals. This year six of them were fillies and only one colt. So the target to double the number of foals was reached.

The shopping started at Tattersalls Ireland, followed by Goffs Ireland and then off to Tattersalls in Newmarket. The fillies are by Slade Power, Fast Company, Sepoy, Bated Breath, Compton Place and a colt by Requinto. So overall there is a lot of gambling with stallions going on and some of them have plenty to prove but generally they have all made a good start to their careers! It has kept my six year old daughter very busy on the naming front so we now have, Sparkles, Glitter, Dazzle, Elsa, Anna and finally Rory.



The shopping didn’t stop there and a slight diversion from the foals I bought a couple of fillies from the Tattersalls December Sales. David’s Duchess will be resold at the Tattersalls February Sale and Last Echo will be put in foal and resold in December. She is a half-sister to Manjaam trained by Ed Dunlop, so we all need to cheer him on this year and give Echo’s page a nice update.

One of my favourite parts of the industry is following all the stallions and seeing how they progress. This year’s slight obsession was with Ballyhane’s stallion Battle of Marengo, it became a running joke with the team, throughout the sales season. Sadly, I didn’t manage to get my hands on one of his foals. I thought they were a great bunch overall and I am looking forward to seeing how they get on next year at the sales.

Battle of Marengo © Caroline Norris

Battle of Marengo © Caroline Norris

It is hard not to be influenced by other people’s advice but sometimes stallions are killed off even before they have started. I find it particularly boring and I cannot see how you can write a stallion off after its first year. There are so many variables to success that are needed for a racehorse to win, surely it can’t be all up to the stallion and his first 100 runners.

I was particularly pleased to see that Tweenhills stallion Harbour Watch managed to get another Group 2 winner at the end of the year. There will be a few braver pinhookers than me who could do very well from backing him.

Another that I will be cheering on to overcome the bloodstock agent gloom is Casamento, but I would say that with a foal on the way by him! Unfortunately, and sometimes frustratingly I have to play it safe as I don’t have the numbers to take to many risker gambles. Maybe one day!


Back on the farm we have lots of holiday makers out in the field enjoying the nice December weather. Building works are still underway with a new house at the end of the drive started and the office has been moved into. I have been demoted downstairs, which is not finished or started! More opportunity cost chat from the spreadsheet husband on that matter!


This time of year can be frustrating as it feels like there is mud and building mess everywhere but there are hopefully some more new major building plans for 2017 so the muddy mess will continue and I just need to get over it! Roll on 2017.

The Bloodstock Blogger: Part Six


This blog is slightly delayed, mainly due the fact that I couldn’t bring myself to talk about the yearlings just in case I jinxed them getting to the sales. Luckily the news is good and all three yearlings made it and have found new homes, writes Sophie Buckley.



It was not without lots of stress and I felt like I didn’t sleep for about two weeks before the Book II Sales at Tattersalls. I would not describe myself as somebody who has OCD but for those couple of weeks I think I gave OCD a trial, which was probably less than pleasant for everybody around me.

It was a great feeling loading them up to take them to the sales but there is still plenty of work to be done when you get there. There were lots of early starts with each of the yearlings being hand walked at 5am. Tattersalls at 5am is like watching DIY SOS. People, horses and mess everywhere and it has all totally disappeared by 7.30am with gleaming horses, raked walkways and maybe just a few bleary eyed stable lads showing a hint of the previous night’s escapades, giving away what had gone before.



Of course, the main aim of the game is to come home with a profit but when you are doing something for the first time you are never quite sure what to expect. I liked the horses but there is no perfect horse and two of them had a very interrupted preparation so were not looking as strong as I would have liked. Overall it was a great experience but what really made it was all the help and support that I received.  There were lots of tips and advice and it really showed that although everybody is busy doing their own thing, they still have the time to wish somebody else well, which in today’s world is very refreshing.

Gonzo: Quite the transformation from February

Gonzo: Quite the transformation from February

Both Speedy and Gonzo made a good profit and Quick made a small loss. Overall it produced a good return on investment after costs so it was a great start. There always has to be a first time for everything but I am pleased to get this first time out of the way.

I am excited going forward to next year to see if I can improve. It was sad saying goodbye to them and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t shed a small tear. I knew they would be sold when I bought them but it is hard not to form some sort of attachment. I also care what happens to them and you are sending them into another unknown. I’m sure over the years I will harden up but hopefully not too much!

The team

The team

The show horses are currently looking more like hairy monsters than champions and although I can’t bear seeing them look such a mess they have a relaxed air about them. Let’s face it, a holiday is good for us all and I haven’t missed riding them one bit. I’m sure if they could speak they would say the same!  

Both horses and humans need down time to switch off and hopefully come back with renewed enthusiasm. I have warned them both that they need to up their game for next year. Mimic’s aim is to win some novice workers and Prof’s is to jump some open workers. Much to my husband’s dismay this means that I will have to do some showjumping this winter to ensure that both horses, and more importantly the rider, have plenty of clear rounds under our belt. When he said, is this really necessary, he received the reply of, Yes, if you want to win!


Meanwhile, at home the farm is awash with pheasants, ducks and partridge for the shooting season, our second batch of 1000 pigs have arrived, followed closely by 50 cattle to fatten and three new chickens.

I just need to go and buy some foals this month to finish off the animal farm. It’s not very holiday like but life certainly isn’t dull!

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Bloodstock Blogger: Part Five


Sophie has been viewing some of the finest horse flesh around, whilst eating lobster and drinking champagne…clearly the July Sale Darley stallion parade is the place to be. 

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Well what a Summer, lots of rain, a bit of sun, Brexit and a new female prime minister! It’s all go. As for Brexit, it was definitely a bit of a surprise for everybody, whether you were in or out! It is certainly going to be interesting times in the horse business. I was rather hoping that when I went to the July sales there might be a few nervous people keeping their money in their pockets and I would be able to find some value. No such luck. With the pound dropping it was the perfect time for all the international buyers to get spending. The sale was up 71% from the year before and business was booming. So hopefully it will be onwards and upwards from here.

Darley stallion parade

Darley stallion parade

There is great atmosphere at the July sale with sun shining and an invitation to the Darley Stallion parade. If you like viewing some of the finest horse flesh around, whilst eating lobster and drinking champagne this is the place to be! It was great to see Casamento again and so far he has managed to sire a few winners. It is so difficult for these first season sires to live up to expectation, people expect so much so soon. But then again it doesn’t help when you have a freak like Frankel having a near enough 100% strike rate with his runners so far.

Speedy smiling

Speedy smiling

The yearlings at Culworth Grounds have started their preparation for the sales. After about day two they decided that they loved coming in to a big deep bed of straw and spending most of the day eating and sleeping! They have taken well to their new routine and work and they all have got good brains and are fast learners. (I would say that because they are mine!!) However, it is not all a bed of roses and sometimes it seems like they have a death wish. The other day one decided that he wanted to try out a new field and jumped clean out over the fence. After a few unpleasant Irish words, I had to remind him that he was bred for the flat and I didn’t need him practising his jumping technique but I suppose it is always good to have options.

Dublin Horse Show

Dublin Horse Show

The showing season is in full flow and I made the annual pilgrimage to the Dublin Horse Show to try and spot some future talent. It was great to see the improved quality down the line in all the show classes. I think it is starting to show that the breeding of Irish horses is going back to the traditional Irish Draught cross Thoroughbred. The best hunters from the Dublin Horse Show generally get sold to England so it is always interesting to follow their journey across the water.

From one Royal Show to another, the next stop was The Royal International at Hickstead. The pressure was on after winning the amateur lightweights last year on The Prof. This year I had Nutwood Mimic who more than improved to come second. It is great to compete with the best and the hunter classes had entries of up to forty horses and really take some winning. If anybody is looking to lose weight, forget dieting and come to Hickstead with me next year. Two days with two horses and lots of running up and down hills is better than any gym membership.

Mimic at RIHS

Mimic at RIHS


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Bloodstock Blogger: Part Four


my normal wardrobe staples…

my normal wardrobe staples…

The Gaitpost’s Bloodstock Blogger, Sophie Buckley, jumped at the chance to swap her everyday gear for a Personal Shopping session at Bicester Village to help prepare her wardrobe for a busy summer of racing fixtures.

…to enjoying the VIP Lounge at Bicester Village!

…to enjoying the VIP Lounge at Bicester Village!

“Clothes were never something that I thought about growing up. My mother dressed me and looking back at the photos it wasn’t a good look. Corduroys and knitted jumpers were definitely my wardrobe staple.

Even now I can mostly be found sporting jodhpurs, jackets and woolly hats. It is not a great look but practical. However, going racing requires some significantly smarter outfits. Dressing for racing as a woman can be difficult, mainly because of the weather. Looking good and staying warm is not easy!

My first and only high fashion experience came when I was nineteen years old. My old boss and friend John Martin had Lady of Chad running in the French 1000 Guineas. Over lunch the day before he decided that he wanted to dress me for the occasion.

The Bentley was summoned and John and I were driven into Paris with his two black Labradors. Also following in the car behind were the other lunch guests, my uncle Christopher Musgrave, bloodstock agent Hugo Merry and James Ramsden.

We pulled up outside Chanel. At this point I was definitely feeling nervous. Especially when I went inside and was instructed to find an outfit. This was a big task for a nineteen-year-old, non-fashion conscious, farmer’s daughter from Ireland. Within minutes John was waving his black amex card around, half the shop had been shut off and Christopher, Hugo, James and the two black Labradors were sitting on a large sofa which had been moved for better viewing. 

Then came the pretty woman moment when there were clothes coming at me from every angle. There were constant gasps of horror from the shop assistants as I said no to about 90% of the apparently ‘in fashion items’ I was shown. They were probably wondering what woman in their right mind would turn down such beautiful clothes. During the process John was running around draping handbags over my shoulder and sunglasses on my head and the three men on the sofa were enjoying the rather bizarre but funny performance. The dogs that were adorned in Gucci collars and leads were looking thoroughly bored. In the end I was fully kitted out head to toe in Chanel and went racing looking suitably chic. Unfortunately, Lady of Chad was not placed so it was not a totally happy ending. 


The Bicester Village Personal Shopping was a lot less stressful. The lovely personal shopper Fiona Huntingford whisked me around the shops that she thought were suitable. It soon became clear that clothes shopping was rather like being at the horse sales, I like everything that it is out of budget!

Luckily, Bicester Village has a huge range of shops with some great deals, both designer and high street, and we were soon mixing and matching to put together a capsule collection that would set me up for the summer ahead. Having a Personal Shopper is like working the horse sales with a good bloodstock agent. They know where you might find that perfect dress, like a horse that is a potential black type performer.


As I am not a keen shopper I was starting to go off the bridle by about 12pm but after a quick pit stop we were off again. Accessories, the ‘investment’ jacket that Fiona assured me would be on parade for the next decade or two and shoes were all tried with pleasing results. I enjoyed my second Pretty Woman moment with far more enthusiasm that my Chanel experience. Fiona looked after my every need, helping source different sizes in the changing room, bringing more suggestions, guiding me through tricky colours combinations and taking care of all my purchases.


It was a great day and I have recommended Fiona to many friends in the same situation, who like me, could not believe this really is a free service. The Royal Ascot outfit was purchased along with a few other totally necessary items! It was great to get some advice from an avid follower of fashion who helped me find things and push my fashion boundaries.

I crossed the finish line tired but with a great result (I just hope my husband isn’t reading this!)

Reader Invitation

Bicester Village will treat the first 20 people who book a complimentary Personal Shopper to:

– VIP Valet Parking

– the VIP Lounge for the duration of your visit

– AND a Champagne breakfast on arrival.

To book your visit, email or call 01869 250727 and quote The Gaitpost to verify your place. We’d love to hear how you get on!

The Bloodstock Blogger : Part Three



In the countdown to the Dubai World Cup, Sophie Buckley goes racing at Meydan, Dubai, and ponders the question: is bigger really better?

There is a big change in our household at the beginning of February. The shooting season is over and my husband becomes a more familiar sight. It is not for long, however, as the showing season starts around the middle of March.

Soon after we got married we realised that a deal was going to have to be struck on the hobbies front. He shoots all Winter and I show all Summer and nobody is allowed to whinge! It generally works pretty well but there is definitely the odd reminder that a gun doesn’t need feeding all year round.


Introducing Gonzales – a new friend for Speedy!

Introducing Gonzales – a new friend for Speedy!

I had a trip to Tattersalls February sales where the remit was to try and buy another mare. Instead I came home with a yearling colt. Note to self, DO NOT IMPULSE BUY!

My excuse is that I tried to buy his listed placed mother but didn’t quite manage it. I have to admit to a quick trip to google to look up his sire, Caradak who is certainly far from fashionable but, it seems he was good horse himself and has produced some useful performers which, considering he stands in Spain, is probably not a bad achievement.

My friend and Irish event rider Aoife Clark was with me for this unexpected purchase and was looking decidedly nervous during the bidding process. I thought you were going to stop bidding at x price was repeated several times! She did the honours of naming him so the new Spanish boy is called Gonzales.

With my husband and I having a break from hobbies we went on a family holiday to Dubai. There was plenty of racing chat with racehorse trainers Charlie Hills and Johnnie Portman and bloodstock agent Alaistair Donald and their families all being on the same holiday.

We all went racing to Meydan where the Hills and Donald family both had runners. The Donald’s came out on top this time much to the devastation of the youngest Hills’s boy who was inconsolable for at least an hour. Nothing like having a bit of pressure from your children to win! 


Meydan Racecourse

Meydan Racecourse

With the countdown to the Dubai World Cupunder way Meydan will be preparing for its big night. Much like everything in Dubai, Meydan is all bigger, better and shinier! But is bigger always better? It seems that by nature people are always wanting more, but maybe when we are gaining more we are losing without realising it.

With the boom in corporate hospitality, segregation seems to be becoming the norm. I think I might be a hypocrite on this topic, as I love a warm hospitality box but when it is done on a large scale some of the magic of racing can be lost.


Thirsk Racecourse

Thirsk Racecourse

My most enjoyed racing last year was at Thirsk. That might seem strange to many but it was a glorious evening, the sun was shining, you can get close to the horses, champagne bar, bookies and I enjoyed great conversations with total strangers.

It is that intimate feeling that makes people comfortable and everybody is friends even if they have never met before.

In contrast, Meydan is so big that finding a friend has to be done with a mobile phone and then trying to locate them might take half an hour. But there is a place for everything and it is a great showcase for Dubai and what they stand for.


Hedge planting

On the farm we have been busy planting some more trees and hedges. With the hedging we are now starting to see the benefit of some of the planting we did when we arrived, but the trees will really be for the next generation to enjoy.

Whilst on the topic of the next generation, they took part in this year’s hedge planting but this child labour was far from cheap at 10p a spiral!

The breeding season is well underway and the mares have been under lights since January. The endless scanning has begun. I feel for both the mares and my lovely vet Bridget Gatehouse, there really are several downsides to being female and in a mare’s case scanning is one of them. It is not particularly glamorous for the vet either!

Luckily everything is going as it should and the first mare went to stud last week. So fingers crossed that next month I will telling you that she is in foal!



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