What do a QC and a racehorse trainer have in common? Well, in the case of Graeme McPherson it is the desire and ability to win, whether it’s in the courts or on the racetrack. Graeme’s training yard, Martins Hill enjoys an idyllic location near to Stow on the Wold in the Cotswolds and was the perfect location for the City Saddles group to visit before an afternoon at Cheltenham Racecourse ahead of the Open Festival.
Graeme founded his yard in 2005, having been involved in point-to-pointing and National Hunt racing for a number of years. Whilst his wife Seanin is relieved he is no longer race riding, Graeme has clearly found his forte training horses. In November 2009, Graeme took out a full licence and this season his win ratio exceeds 20% and his win and place ratio is close to 60%.
The visit to Martins Hill was the last event in the 2016 calendar for the City Saddles group whose inaugural year has included a visit to London Metropolitan Police’s Mounted HQ at Imber Court, Surrey, a talk by international three-day event rider Paul Tapner overlooking the Thames in London and a day behind the scenes at the Tattersalls October sale in Newmarket.
Friday’s event meant an early start for many of the City Saddles guests who were summoned to Martins Hill no later than 7.55am. Upon arrival, those who had braved the early start were rewarded with a glorious sunrise over the Cotswolds Hills, an area of outstanding beauty for good reason.
After coffee and introductions in the stables, it was time to see the second string warm up in the outdoor ménage and then head across to the five furlong Martin Collins all-weather gallop, which had already seen the first lot before the group’s arrival.
As the visitors huddled around the viewing platform, Graeme talked through each of the horses as they were being worked on the gallop and answered the many questions that were asked of him. Guests also had a chance to walk around some of the training fences, learning how youngsters progress from tyres and telegraph poles to hurdles and full size steeplechase fences.
After this, the group were treated to a delicious breakfast at Graeme and Seanin’s home where cockles could be warmed and conversations flowed. In the warmth, we had the chance to run through some of the entries on the racecard for the afternoon’s fixture at the home of jump racing, Cheltenham Racecourse for the Countryside Day. Graeme commented:
‘It was wonderful to welcome so many members of the City Saddles club to the Cotswolds to see the daily routine of a racing yard and to hear how it compared with their own experiences in other equine disciplines. Hopefully one or two will now be converted to the thrills of National Hunt racing!’
After breakfast, we were introduced to each of the horses one by one in their boxes, and had the chance to learn about each of their stable quirks as well as observing that there is little correlation between the money spent on a racehorse and the money earned by a racehorse – clearly it all comes down to the trainer. Whilst some of Graeme’s owners own their horses outright, he also runs Racing Clubs, which offer a relatively low cost entry point to those interested in owning a horse, these still enjoy many of the same benefits of owning a racehorse outright.
Louise Harrison of the City Saddles Committee commented –
“On behalf of the City Saddles committee, I would like to extend a huge thank you to Graeme McPherson and his team at Martins Hill for providing such a fascinating insight into racing with a morning on the gallops; the event raised over £200 for our chosen charity Spinal Research and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day.”
After a morning on the gallops, the City Saddles guests re-grouped at the Best Mate statue beneath the paddock at Cheltenham Racecourse, where the sun shone and an afternoon of jump racing was enjoyed.
To hear about future events with City Saddles, please join their Linkedin page. If you would like to make a donation to Spinal Research, please visit the Justgiving page here and for more information about Graeme racing clubs, click here.
Words and pictures by Louise Harrison