Tag Archive for: Philip Hobbs

Hobbs team hit by loss of stable stalwart Thyme Hill

Multiple Grade One winner Thyme Hill has died after suffering a fatal injury on the gallops.

The nine-year-old won three times at the highest level for Philip Hobbs – landing the 2019 Challow Hurdle, the 2021 Aintree Hurdle and the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton last Christmas.

Having finished fourth on his seasonal reappearance at Wetherby earlier this month, Thyme Hill was being readied for the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury on Friday week – a race in which he beat Paisley Park three years ago – but his connections are now mourning the loss of a stable stalwart.

Johnson White, who joined Hobbs on the training licence earlier this year, said: “It’s very sad for the whole yard. He’s been phenomenal for some lovely owners and has taken them on a fantastic journey. We’ve been very lucky to have him.

“His run at Wetherby was OK the other day and he would have gone to Newbury on December 1. He was just doing a routine piece of work this morning and what happened happened, sadly.

“I feel very sorry for the whole yard as he’s been our flagbearer for a number of years now. Hopefully we have some nice young horses to reach his heights, but they take some replacing.”

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Staying stalwart Thyme Hill returns to action over hurdles

Thyme Hill and Dashel Drasher lock horns in the bet365 West Yorkshire Hurdle at Wetherby on Saturday.

Thyme Hill, now trained in partnership by Philip Hobbs and his long-time assistant Johnson White, has been a regular in major staying hurdles over the past few years and rarely runs a bad race.

Last season connections elected to embark on a novice campaign over fences, but while he managed a Grade One win in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton, he disappointed in the Brown Advisory at the Cheltenham Festival in March and reverts to the smaller obstacles for his reappearance.

The son of Kayf Tara is approaching the twilight of his career as a nine-year-old, but Hobbs feels the fire still burns bright judged on what he is seeing on the gallops at his Somerset base.

“He’s very well indeed, we’re well happy with him,” he said.

“Maybe his confidence wasn’t great over fences, so we thought we’d start back over hurdles and he handles very soft ground.”

Dashel Drasher has similarly been a fine servant to his trainer Jeremy Scott, proving himself a top-level operator both over hurdles and over fences.

The 10-year-old made a successful start to last season in a small field conditions race at Aintree before finishing second in the Many Clouds Chase, the Relkeel Hurdle, the Cleeve Hurdle and the Stayers’ Hurdle.

An outing at Aintree’s Grand National meeting proved one too many, but Scott is looking forward to her stable star’s return to action.

He said: “He looks a picture. Like a lot of horses he may well need the run, he usually does need the run on his first outing anyway, but he looks very well and looks stronger than ever, so we’ll see how we get on.

“He won at Aintree over two and a half first time out last season. We didn’t feel we had him at his best then and I think he’s probably be in a better place than we did this time last year, anyway.

“It will be soft old ground – it’ll be testing. He does go on that ground, whether it ekes out his stamina a bit much, I don’t know.”

Gary Moore’s Botox Has was two places behind Dashel Drasher when fourth in the Cleeve Hurdle in January and makes his first competitive appearance since this weekend.

Jamie Snowden’s Paddy Power Gold Cup hero Ga Law, Peter Fahey’s Irish raider Ambitious Fellow and the Paul Nicholls-trained Red Risk complete the line-up.

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Johnson White bidding for dream start to new career with Thyme Hill

Johnson White has been Philip Hobbs’ right-hand man for nearly three decades and he will join the Somerset handler on the training licence for the first time when Thyme Hill lines up in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

White, who first met Hobbs as 15-year-old schoolboy with dreams of becoming a jockey, is now a still youthful 49 and the former assistant hopes Thyme Hill can follow up his impressive victory in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day with another top-flight success.

Third in the Champion Bumper in 2019, Thyme Hill quickly established himself as a top-class hurdler, landing the Challow at Newbury.

Having gone close in the 2020 Albert Bartlett and been runner-up to Flooring Porter in last season’s Stayers’ Hurdle, his liking for Cheltenham is obvious.

He opened his account over fences at Exeter in November and while beaten by McFabulous at Newbury, he gained revenge on that rival, romping to a 15-length success when equipped with first-time cheekpieces at Kempton.

White feels the nine-year-old has every chance of beating another elite field this time round.

“We particularly kept him back for this race after Kempton and we could not be more delighted with how he is fitness and ground-wise,” said White.

“The ground won’t be a problem and he goes there with a very live chance. He won easily at Kempton and is actually very versatile ground-wise, but the softer ground just brings his stamina into play, which he has got bundles of. We could not be happier with where he is going into the race.”

Grade One success would be a remarkable start to White’s training career, and he added: “Even if you win at Cheltenham and people say it is a weak year or whatever, try going there and winning one.

“It is very difficult with the cavalcades who are coming from Ireland and this country alike. No one goes there confident, but you go there as hopeful as you possibly can be.”

Micheal Nolan replaces the injured Tom O’Brien, who has ridden Thyme Hill in all his previous eight starts since Richard Johnson hung up his boots.

White added: “Micheal has been second jockey to us since Dicky retired. We have every confidence in him. He’s schooled Thyme Hill a couple of times and that has gone really nicely.

“Obviously it is very sad for Tom, but a big opportunity for Micheal on the big stage, which he has long deserved.”

Gordon Elliott is still trying to find out how good Gerri Colombe is
Gordon Elliott is still trying to find out how good Gerri Colombe is (Steven Paston/PA)

Despite quickly establishing himself with 34 Cheltenham winners heading into the Festival, this is a race that Gordon Elliott has yet to win.

He would appear to have his best chance of breaking that duck in Gerri Colombe, who goes into the race unbeaten in seven starts, with three chase wins, including two at the top-level.

His latest, in the Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase at Sandown, came over two and a half miles and Elliott feels the longer trip should suit.

He said: “I’m not worried about the ground. He’s a good horse.

“He won his beginners’ chase in Fairyhouse, Limerick was the obvious place to go after that and then I was trying to split him and Mighty Potter up, so I went to England with Gerri Colombe.

“In Sandown, when the other horse passed him (Balco Coastal), I loved the way he dropped his head and wanted to win.

“Sandown is a big jumping test and I think, over a longer trip, he can get into a beautiful rhythm.

“I don’t know how good he is. If you work him with an ordinary horse, he’ll work with them, and if you work him with a good horse, he’ll work with them. I honestly don’t know what is underneath the bonnet.”

The Willie Mullins-trained Sir Gerhard bids to win the race on only his second start over fences and is one of five representing the Closutton handler.

The Irish pair dominate the market, yet the British challenge is a strong one, with Patrick Neville’s Dipper winner The Real Whacker sticking to novice company rather than the Gold Cup and Dan Skelton’s mare Galia Des Liteaux bidding to back up her Grade Two Warwick success under ideal conditions, with ease in the ground and the benefit of a weight allowance.

“She will very much appreciate the ground and has been in very good form at home,” said Skelton. “Without the rain we wouldn’t have been able to run her.

“She gets 7lb for being a mare and I think it puts her right in the mix.”

Dan Skelton feels the weight allowance could be key for Galia Des Liteaux
Dan Skelton feels the weight allowance could be key for Galia Des Liteaux (Jacob King/PA)

Thunder Rock finished in the frame in both the Dipper and Scilly Isles, and trainer Olly Murphy feels he again holds place claims.

“He’s a horse who’s puzzled me a little bit, as I never thought he’d be going three miles, though it’s definitely the right thing to do,” said Murphy. “I think his jumping needs a staying trip but his body probably doesn’t.

“He works like he’s got plenty of gears, so we’ll drop him in and ride him to run well. Hopefully he’ll come home strong and we’ll ride him to be placed. He’s in very good form and hasn’t done a lot wrong this year.

“The Real Whacker is about 9-2 for that race and we’re 14-1, but I think we’d have beaten him if we’d have got into a better rhythm at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Maybe we’re a little bit overpriced as such.”

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Hobbs anticipating Great test for Zanza at Newbury

Philip Hobbs feels his “staggering” stable stalwart Zanza has plenty on his plate in his bid for a sixth victory at Newbury in Saturday’s BetVictor Greatwood Gold Cup.

The nine-year-old has been beaten only once in six previous appearances at the Berkshire circuit and that was when sixth in the 2020 Betfair Hurdle.

He ran away with a handicap chase at Newbury in November, but few gave him much of a chance in last month’s Grade Two Denman Chase, in which he powered seven lengths clear of the high-class Hitman.

Hobbs said: “That win was obviously fantastic and we were very lucky in a way that it happened in an ITV race, with Tom O’Brien riding as well. It was all great.”

The Minehead handler is looking forward to sending Zanza back to his favourite track this weekend, but feels a 15lb hike in the weights, coupled with a drop in distance, will make life difficult.

“He is also in the Premier Chase at Kelso on Saturday, but Newbury is his first preference and that was always the plan,” Hobbs added.

“He is a staggering horse, in that his form at Newbury is so much better than elsewhere.

“Unfortunately now, though, for winning the Denman, which obviously the handicapper didn’t think he would, he has paid the penalty and gone up a hell of a lot, and actually two and a half (miles) is on the short side as well. I think this time, it might be a little less easy than it has been before.

“They have altered the ground to good and have taken out the good to firm in places. As far as Zanza is concerned, fast ground is not an issue anyway. The biggest issue now is his new handicap mark.”

Paint The Dream in action at Newbury
Paint The Dream in action at Newbury (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Zanza is one two horses set to carry the welter burden of 12st along with last year’s winner Paint The Dream.

Fergal O’Brien’s charge reverts to handicap company after finishing a well-beaten third behind Pic D’Orhy in the Grade Two Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton in January.

O’Brien said of his three-time course winner: “He’s in great form and we’re very happy with him. Fingers crossed he can do it again.

“It’s a slighter harder task than last year, but he’ll be doing his best.

“He loves the place and he’ll love the ground, so we’re looking forward to it.”

The Tom Lacey-trained Sebastopol makes his first appearance since springing a surprise in a Grade Two novice event at Newbury in November, while Chris Gordon’s Lord Baddesley – another previous Newbury winner – bids to follow up an impressive recent verdict at Plumpton.

Gordon said: “He jumped beautifully at Plumpton and has grown up a lot this year. He’s got a few more races under his belt and I was really thrilled with him at Plumpton.

“If we can just progress a little bit more, hopefully we’ve got a great chance.

“He’s got a good racing weight (10st 2lb), although I’m not sure the jockey (Tom Cannon) would agree as I think it’s the lightest he’s done for a while – he could be pretty hungry on Saturday!”

Espoir De Guye (Paul Nicholls), The Big Bite (Henry Oliver) and Gemirande (Venetia Williams) complete the septet.

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Dunwoody praise for Hobbs after landmark 3,000th winner

Richard Dunwoody is strangely happy that Philip Hobbs, who achieved a remarkable milestone in saddling his 3,000th winner when Zanza scored in the Denman Chase at Newbury on Saturday, still has that tea tray.

Of all the memories the three-time champion jockey has of riding for Hobbs, the two-mile Charles Dawson Retirement Novices Chase at Hereford on June 9, 1999, is etched alongside the highs of Grand National wins and partnering such equine stars as Desert Orchid and One Man.

Dunwoody was coming to the end of his illustrious career. His neck and arm injuries, which eventually caused him to retire the following year, were giving him grief.

“At the time, because of my neck, my balance wasn’t great. I was unseated off about four or five horses in a month. I thought, ‘What am I doing?’. But Premier Bay was the one that really tore at me,” said Dunwoody.

“He was a right little monkey, but the worst thing was, I’d ridden an absolutely brilliant race to get him there.

“It was one of his first times over fences. I’d got on AP’s (McCoy) inside at the second-last, I’m galloping down to the last, we’re well clear, and I saw the stride as soon as I turned into the straight.

“I’ve gone for that stride and Premier Bay said, ‘Absolutely no way am I coming up for that one’.

“He stuck the brakes on, jinked to the left and I fell clean off him. It was the most embarrassing thing ever. AP went on to win the race on Galix.”

Richard Dunwoody with One Man during his riding days
Richard Dunwoody with One Man during his riding days (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Dunwoody, 59, was brought up to learn his craft by David Nicholson, yet he considers his “two or three years” riding for Somerset handler Hobbs before retirement as “probably the most enjoyable of my whole career”.

He added: “I really enjoyed riding for him. He was extremely good to ride for, in that basically he left it to you.

“You’d know what to do, or he’d offer the advice you needed if there was a horse you hadn’t ridden before.

“He was always the same. If you came in after a big winner or came in on one that got beat, he was generally always the same.

“It took the pressure off. I was riding for owner Robert Ogden and had a retainer that ended just before I retired, but I would love to have kept going for another two or three years, just riding for Hobbsy, really.

“Mind you, I think Dicky (Richard Johnson) would have come along and jocked me off after a year anyway,” he laughed.

Richard Dunwoody and Dr Leunt win the Racing Post Chase at Kempton for Philip Hobbs in 1999
Richard Dunwoody and Dr Leunt win the Racing Post Chase at Kempton for Philip Hobbs in 1999 (Tony Harris/PA)

“To put it into context, I rode about 90 winners for him and Dicky probably rode well over 1,200 for him.”

Dunwoody was quick to pay tribute to the team at the Minehead yard after reaching the 3,000 winner landmark.

“They have a great team down there with Johnson White (assistant trainer) and Sarah (Philip’s wife) obviously helping.

“It was a long way away, but I enjoyed going down to school on the odd occasion and ride work.

“I rode a few good winners over those last few seasons, but he’s had a lot of good jockeys riding for him like Dicky, plus some of the younger lads now.

“To have 3,000 winners is a huge tally and obviously I’d like to offer my huge congratulations to Philip, Sarah and the whole team for this remarkable achievement.

“It is testament to their work ethic and ability. It is an incredible achievement – yet it should definitely have been 3,001.”

Dunwoody, who now resides near Madrid, Spain, with his partner Olivia and their daughter Milly, does visit England on occasion and chuckled at the memory of one particular visit to the yard.

“I went there about seven years ago,” he recalled. “Johnson was there, as Philip and Sarah were away racing.

“I walked into the kitchen and Johnson said, ‘I’ve got to show you something’.

“In the kitchen, there is a tray, with a picture of me, in sync, jumping the last fence at Hereford, alongside Premier Bay.

Richard Dunwoody/Premier Bay/Hereford
The Hobbs’ tea tray depicting Dunwoody and Premier Bay at Hereford in June 1999 (PA)

“I’d ridden all those winners and he’s gone and got a picture of me, on a tray, not just being unseated, but literally jumping off and flying through the air, with Premier Bay upsides.

“To think of the winners I rode for him – including one or two decent ones including Dr Leunt, who won the Racing Post Chase – and he has that.

“I would have been very disappointed if they hadn’t still got that tray – it is the only reminder he has got of me ever riding for him!

“When you talk about memories of rides, that one is pretty high. When I just look at my career, the day I fell off Premier Bay when 10 lengths clear of AP McCoy will certainly be one of the more unforgettable moments.

“I just hope Philip and Sarah celebrated with more than a nice cup of tea from that tray!”

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‘He has always been a fantastic trainer’ – Johnson full of praise for long-standing ally Hobbs

Former champion jockey Richard Johnson paid tribute to Philip Hobbs after Zanza gave the Minehead trainer his 3,000th winner when taking the Betfair Denman Chase at Newbury.

Johnson spent over two decades with Hobbs, partnering the likes of Rooster Booster to success in the Champion Hurdle, Flagship Uberalles in the Champion Chase and Captain Chris in the Arkle.

“It is a huge achievement – 3,000 winners is a huge amount, whichever way you look at it,” said Johnson.

“I don’t know how many have done it before, but there can’t have been too many.

“Philip’s consistency was always the thing when I was riding. I know he has had a couple of quiet years, but he was always sending out winners week-in week-out, throughout the year.

“For me, trying to be champion jockey, having the support of someone like him was always amazing.

“He has always been a fantastic trainer, whether it was at Newton Abbot in the winter or at Cheltenham in March.”

Hobbs was an accomplished rider himself, partnering 160 winners in a 10-year career, landing races like The Black and White Gold Cup at Ascot, the Killiney Novice Chase and Midlands Grand National on such good horses as West Tip and Artifice.

He started training in August 1985 with only six horses and quickly established himself as one of the country’s leading jumps trainers.

His first major success came with Bonanza Boy’s Challow Novices’ Hurdle win in 1987, while Kibreet gave the 67-year-old the first of his 19 Cheltenham Festival winners when taking the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase in 1996.

Hobbs and Flagship Uberalles at his Sandhill Stables
Hobbs and Flagship Uberalles at his Sandhill Stables (David Davies/PA)

“His record speaks for itself,” added Johnson. “He was a fantastic man to deal with and it’s huge congratulations to him. It is testament to what he has achieved and there will be plenty more winners ahead.”

Hobbs is not one to court publicity. Though considered and courteous, he does not take fools gladly.

Yet Johnson insists his measured approach is a strength that has endeared him to those who work for him.

“As a jockey, dealing with him was one of the nicest parts of the job, as he never got over-excited but he never got overly depressed, either,” added the four-time champion.

Captain Chris and Richard Johnson (left) took the 2011 Arkle for Hobbs
Captain Chris and Richard Johnson (left) took the 2011 Arkle for Hobbs (David Jones/PA)

“Obviously he was disappointed when they didn’t run well, but he was always very level.

“He was a brilliant man to work for and a thorough professional.

“Whatever he said to you was always spot on. He reads his horses very well and no matter what a horse’s ability was, he trained them with that in mind and got the best out of them, which is not easy to do.

“It is a team effort. All the way through, from Johnson White, who has been his assistant for almost forever.

“He has obviously had lots of good staff and people through his hands over the years, so it is a big team effort. Sarah, his wife, has also always been key part of the team as well.”

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Zanza records landmark success for PhIlip Hobbs in Denman Chase

Course specialist Zanza provided Philip Hobbs with his 3,000th winner in the Betfair Denman Chase.

Hobbs went the whole of January without a winner as he edged closer to the landmark figure – and it was apt that a stable stalwart like Zanza would provide him with it.

The nine-year-old has only won seven races under rules, with the last five of them now all being at Newbury.

The 16-1 chance was ridden by Tom O’Brien, who since the retirement of Richard Johnson has been stable jockey for Hobbs and his delight was evident as he raised his arm aloft on crossing the line seven lengths ahead of 9-4 favourite Hitman.

For Hobbs, trainer of the likes of Rooster Booster, Monkerhostin, Flagship Uberalles, Menorah, Captain Chris and Defi De Seuil, it was undoubtedly special to have such a winner in a Grade Two event.

He said: “It is extraordinary how this horse is so much better here than anywhere else. I’ve never had a horse to that extent. He’d only ever been beaten once here, which was in the Betfair Hurdle and he was only beaten about three lengths in that.

“I didn’t anticipate that – not on his previous form.

“The obvious race to come for is the handicap in three weeks’ time, but I don’t know what the handicapper will do after that.

“Cheltenham is possible, so supplementing I suppose has to be an option.”

On Johnson White, who has been with the yard for just under 30 years, coming onto the licence, he added: “It has been in the pipeline for some time – he has been with us a very long time and obviously he is a big part of the set-up.

“I think, maybe, if it has to be done, it has to be done sooner rather than later.

“He has got some people who will bring some horses to the table as well.

“The 3,000 has been a bit slow coming in the last few weeks, but we got there eventually.

“It has taken us a long while to do it.”

Asked about the big-race winners over the years, Hobbs said: “Rooster Booster was extraordinary, because he went 18 months without being beaten. He was the highest-rated hurdler in the country at the time. And more recently, Defi Du Seuil won seven Grade Ones.”

Asked about the lack of winners in recent times and whether he was still enjoying training, he said: “I still very much enjoy it. I’m going to be around for a long time.

“Early in my career, we had very few horses and not many winners, either. We have had a very good period in between. It has been a bit slow recently, but hopefully Johnson will bring more to the table.

“I’m a little emotional. It has been a long time, so I suppose that’s right – but not very emotional!

“I’m not thinking of drawing stumps in the slightest. I shall still be there very much as well.”

Hobbs’ wife, Sarah, said: “We have found it difficult as we’ve had about 12 seconds in the last two weeks. We have had 32 seconds and 21 winners, so it has been a nightmare.

“He doesn’t get emotional, but this has been quite difficult, because it has been 2,999 for so long. Everything you try to do, it gets worse.”

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