I was lucky enough to meet Worcestershire trainer David Dennis recently after he had a winner on the opening day of Cheltenham’s racing season. David very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his time in racing, ending by highlighting the horse in his stable he’s most looking forward to this season. That horse, Golan To War, makes his racecourse debut in the last race at Chepstow this afternoon.
How did you become involved in racing?
I grew up around horses as my parents always had racehorses and point to pointers. Racing was bred into me with my Father being a permit holder and I took out my amateur jockey’s licence at the age of 16 before turning professional in 2001.
What was the highlight of your career as a jockey?
This has to be winning the Grade 1 Challow Novices Hurdle aboard Brewster at Newbury in 2004. (David also performed the rare feat of winning the same race in three successive years on the same horse, Kingsmark, in the Edward Hanmer Memorial chase at Haydock).
What do you look for when you are buying a horse? How do you weight the different factors?
I look for athleticism, a good temperament with a kind eye and of course as correct conformation as possible. Finding perfection in a horse on a budget is not an easy task so it’s a case of weighing up all the pros and cons in a horse and deciding what you can work with.
How do you decide on which races to enter a horse for? How much involvement does an owner have? How far ahead can you plan?
Choosing races for a horse is dependent on a lot of factors such as fitness, suitability of the race conditions along with the going and how well the track will suit the horse.
We take any requests owners may have very much into consideration. For example if an owner wishes to attend a meeting then we will enter relatively locally making it more convenient for them to travel there. We can usually plan around 3-4 weeks prior to a race depending on owner’s requests and a horse’s fitness.
What does a raceday involve for a horse?
A horse’s workload will be altered accordingly in the last week leading up to a race. On the day they will get their breakfast nice and early and depending on the time of the race and how early they need to leave may go on the horse walker or out for a short ride to ensure they are loosened up. Then it’s off in the lorry, leaving plenty of time to get to the racecourse nice and early.
After the race, the horse is washed down and walked off to make sure that they are fully recovered without any problems before making the journey home for a well earned supper.
The next morning, the horses have the clay washed from their legs and are trotted up to make sure they are sound. Provided there are no problems they go out in the field for the day to relax.
Do you have a special routine for any of your horses? How does that differ from your core training programme?
We add swimming to our horse’s routine work. Most of our horses swim once or twice a week but those needing extra fattening work may swim more. It is an ideal way of getting work into a horse without putting any extra strain on joints or tendons.
Golan To War is a lovely 5yo by Golan who won a point to point in Ireland back in April. He took part in a hurdling schooling race at Bangor On Dee racecourse at the end of October where he was very pleasing. He will make his debut in a bumper this month before then going novice hurdling.