Richard Phillips hopes to build on success of first National Racehorse Week

Plans are already afoot to broaden the reach of National Racehorse Week as its creator Richard Phillips hailed the success of the inaugural event.

Cotswolds trainer Phillips devised last month’s welcome for the British public into yards countrywide, with a view to providing visitors with an authentic insight into the lives of British racehorses.

Running from September 12 -19, the week saw 140 trainers open their stables – with Newmarket, Malton and Epsom all involved alongside yards elsewhere.

While open days at the key centres already existed, National Racehorse Week combined them with many stable tours in other parts of Britain and drove media output focusing on the love of the racehorse.

The idea was first devised in 2019 and, as it came to fruition, prompted an industry-wide effort to illustrate the care and respect shown to equine athletes.

“I think it went well – the industry seemed to rally around it and support it,” said Phillips.

“It was great to see so many trainers embrace it.

“I think it’s (horse welfare) the one thing we can all agree on in the industry, so I do think it was a good start and something to build upon.

“The trainers really embraced it, and 140 opened – hopefully that’s a number we can build on. But even the trainers that didn’t open, everyone did something even though it doesn’t suit all yards to open – and I fully appreciate that.

“Everyone did what they could, and we’ll continue to think of ways that we can promote all of the good things that we do.”

Plans to launch the event were already in motion, but its inaugural staging proved particularly timely after the double blows dealt to the sport this year by the photograph of trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse and disturbing footage in a BBC Panorama documentary which showed several ex-racehorses ending their lives in a Swindon slaughterhouse.

The industry was united in condemning both stories, and Phillips’ concept was able to depict the care and attention provided to horses in training.

“We came up with the idea before that, but I think it concentrated the mind when we saw the negative press – and certainly those in racing know that is not typical in any way or form,” he said.

“The typical life for a racehorse is one we should celebrate, along with all the wonderful things that horses do for people as well.

“That’s the whole point of the week, and it seemed to work well.”

Inaugural National Racehorse Week to take place in September

A nationwide week-long celebration of racehorses will take place for the first time in September.

The inaugural National Racehorse Week will be held from September 12-19, with the aim of hailing the equine participants in the sport as well as highlighting the levels of care provided by trainers and grooms.

The existing ARC Malton Open Day and the Henry Cecil Open Weekend in Newmarket, as well as the Epsom and Middleham Open Days, will bookend the week – with organisers encouraging trainers across the country and outside of the main training centres to open their doors to the public.

A programme of virtual events will also be available, while the education charity Racing to School will promote the week across its beneficiary schools, colleges and Pony Clubs, with some activity days planned at training yards for groups of young people.

National Racehorse Week is the culmination of an idea from trainer Richard Phillips to create a single event across the racing industry in praise of the thoroughbred – with funding by the Racing Foundation, the Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust and Great British Racing, who will lead in the delivery of the project along with the National Trainers Federation.

Phillips said: “I am delighted to see the idea of National Racehorse Week spring into life.

“It truly is a fantastic opportunity for our wonderful owners, staff, trainers and jockeys to come together for a common love of the racehorse and a chance to show the public and policy makers that racing has absolutely nothing to hide.

“Racing has a great story to tell, so let’s get it out there and tell it.”

Rupert Arnold, chief executive of the NTF, added: “As we developed the plan for National Racehorse Week over the last six months, there has been overwhelming and enthusiastic support from trainers. Everyone wants a chance to show their respect for the racehorses to whom they give such exceptional care.

“I am confident that trainers and their staff, who forge such a close bond with their horses, will grasp the opportunity provided by National Racehorse Week.

“The National Trainers Federation looks forward to encouraging and supporting them.”