With prize money heading towards £150,000 and his best tally of winners since 2000, this could well prove to be one of Micky Hammond’s most successful winter's.
He came late to the world of horseracing. At the age of 16 with little idea of a career path, it was suggested to him that at five foot tall and weighing a mere seven stone he was the right size and shape to become a jockey.
The idea appealed to him and he contacted local trainer Brian Swift based at Epsom, in the hope of becoming an apprentice jockey. Whilst waiting for that opportunity to come to fruition he landed a weekend job with another local trainer TM Jones. He soon learned the basics of horse care, as well as learning to ride. At the end of his final school year, Mr Jones persuaded him to stay on at the yard.
In the couple of years that followed Hammond shot up to 5ft 7 and went from seven to nine stone. A career on the flat became unrealistic. He decided to go and work for Hugh O’Neill at Coldharbour in Surrey. A jumps stable housing almost 30 horses, Hammond became a stable lad and then a conditional jockey riding his first winner aboard Excelsior in a chase at Windsor in 1982. He went on to ride out his claim with around 70 winners over three seasons.
After injuring his back during a race he decided a change of scenery was in order and took up a post in Middleham with owner George Dawes and trainer George Moore. With just 18 horses split between flat and jumps, Hammond worked in the yard and rode over the jumps.
He won the Scottish National at Ayr, and picked up many of the best rides from the various Middleham trainers. He rode 63 winners in 1987/88 season, and was lying second to Peter Scudamore in the jockey’s title when he broke his leg in April 1988. He was out of action until September but shortly after returning broke his leg once again in a nasty schooling accident. Although he returned to action in March 1989, he decided to retire from race-riding on 1 January 1990 and turned his attention to training.
During his last couple of years with Moore, he had gained valuable training experience, taking over whenever the boss was away on holiday. He had gained in confidence, and when the switch became permanent he was more than ready for the challenge.
He took out his licence in May 1990 at Tupgill Stables alongside the Low Moor at Middleham. Starting with just 15 or so horses the yard soon expanded to 30. The stable went on to have 32 winners in that first year, 38 in his second jump’s season and 51 in his third. He had established himself as one of the top new training talents and started to attract major owners such as Trevor Hemmings.
Towards the end of the 1990s, Hammond was regularly amongst the top dozen trainers, and a leading light in the North. He moved to Oakwood Stables, his present home, in 1997.
A successful dual purpose yard, 2015 is proving to be one of Hammond’s best. Off the back of his best ever flat campaign, the jumps team are now stepping up to the plate.
The five-year-old hurdler Maxie T won at Kelso last time out, storming clear to win by almost 20 lengths. He looks sure to continue on a steep upward curve. And on the same card, Hammond saddled Caraline to a similarly impressive success. The mare is three from three this winter; with two victories over fences and one over hurdles. She’s a nicely bred daughter of Martaline out of a Villez mare and is open to plenty of improvement.
The yard’s star is arguably the two-mile chaser Just Cameron. He had a cracking spring of 2015 when second in a Grade 1 at Punchestown behind Un De Sceaux. His reappearance at Sandown may have been a little under-whelming, nevertheless he is a horse of quality, and is sure to make his mark over the coming months.
The yard is also buzzing from the success of having three of the team shortlisted for this year’s prestigious Godolphin Stud & Stable Staff Awards. Gemma Hogg, Becky Smith and Lauren Lucas have made the final ten in their respective categories.
Hammond and his team are certainly moving in the right direction. It looks like being a winter to remember for the North Yorkshire yard.