WHEN Ben Haslam became one of the youngest trainers in UK horse racing in 2010, he knew he had big shoes to fill. At just 25 he had the unenviable task of taking over from his father Patrick, a widely respected trainer for 37 years. But with plenty of winners under both codes the early signs are that Ben is set to follow in his dad’s footsteps. He spoke to Horse Racing Chat…
Ben, you’re a dual purpose trainer. But do you have a preference for flat or NH?
Actually no, I am always very grateful to train a winner of both codes. Both have their different appeals, but I get the same kick out of winners wherever they come from.
How would you say the current flat season is going for the yard?
It has undoubtedly been frustrating with the weather. We have got some nice horses ready to win when/if we get better ground. It is not the end of the world as a lot of our horses are young and improving so the more time they get the better. When you are a smaller yard we tend not to look at racing in seasons but more when the horses are ready, as you know there is flat racing around the year for horses at our level.
You took over from your dad at Castle Hill Stables aged just 25. Does being one of the youngest trainers bring any added pressures?
A little I suppose, more pressure from the reputation that my father left behind him. He was widely respected by many and trained winners at every level for a consistent period of 36 years, which is no mean feat. Hopefully I can achieve the same level of success in time.
Your father trained more than 1,000 winners. Do you think you’ll better that?
It is hard to say. If I get the numbers up in the yard then there is a lot more racing, which would give me a better chance of having more winners than he was able to have when he was training earlier in his career. But even so, it is a lot of winners by anyone’s standards and it may take some time!
And what sort of role does he play now?
He is still very active in the yard and will be in and about the place during the mornings making sure we are on our toes!
Has the economic situation had an adverse effect on Castle Hill, especially in attracting owners?
It has affected the majority of racing stables around the country. The wealthy owners can still afford to have horses but for the racing enthusiasts that want a little share in a 2yo it has become harder for them. That is why we try to make it as affordable as we can, through syndicates or leasing etc…
You’ve spent a big chunk of your life in Middleham: would you consider training elsewhere?
Middleham has everything to offer as a training centre and it is by far the cheapest place to own a racehorse so it would be hard to move away. Location wise it is obviously a little far from catchment areas of the rich and famous, but that is also a selling point as it is such a good place for owners to escape to for the weekend and enjoy the countryside.
What about a horse to follow, maybe a two-year-old?
We have a very nice 2yo gelding called Woodley Wonder, who has not run yet. He is in one of our syndicates, Go Alfresco Racing. He will be running in the next 3-4 weeks and I rate him quite highly.
Away from racing, what do you do to relax?
Unfortunately us working trainers don’t get an awful lot of time away from the horses but I always try to get away for 4/5 days to somewhere warm in the winter during a week when things might be quiet. Luckily I enjoy good food and wine, and the same can be said for most of my clients!
Who’ve you got on your iPod?
My taste in music is very flexible but you can’t beat The Beatles, Queen, Oasis and Coldplay.
If you had a magic wand what one thing would you change about racing?
Increase the levels of prize money. Racing would lift off to another level if that was possible.
If you trained Frankel, would you have gone go for the Arc?
A very hard call to make. It’s virtually impossible to walk away from a race he is almost certain to win at Ascot worth £1million. There is no doubt he would beat every opponent he faced in the Arc, but around Longchamp with a bad draw he could have been a hostage to fortune. So no, I would have gone to Ascot too.
And finally, what race would you love to win more than any other?
Any classic on the flat would be a dream come true but I doubt you would get the same feeling from winning any race as the feeling you would get from winning the Grand National. It is a magical race that is like no other. Though owning and/or training the winner of the Derby or a Guineas wouldn’t do me any harm either!
For more details of Ben’s training operation and current horses for sale please visit http://www.benhaslamracing.com/