H&H visits the Somerset racing yard of Philip Hobbs — who was instrumental in helping Richard Johnson become champion jump jockey in the 2015/2016 season — during his annual open day
Philip Hobbs is among the top National Hunt trainers in the country and began training, with his wife Sarah, in August 1985 with just six horses.
Based near Minehead in Somerset, Philip now trains up to 112 horses at Sandhill Racing Stables — set within 500 acres of farmland and nestled in the picturesque Somerset countryside.
The trainer has a number of stable stars, both past and present, who have helped propel his training career and has resulted in him finishing in the country’s top six jump trainers every year since 1999. His current stable stars to watch for include Menorah, Wishful Thinking, Village Vic, Big Easy, Champagne West, Cheltenian, Dunraven Storm, Fingal Bay, Garde La Victoire.
Philip was also greatly involved in helping Richard Johnson claim last season’s champion jump jockey title — as the yard’s retained jockey, Richard rode and won many for the Hobbs team.
The now-retired Balthazar King was one of Philip’s popular flag bearers, winning the cross-country chase at Cheltenham on two occasions. In the 2015 Grand National, the gelding took a crunching fall when being ridden by Richard. He made a full recovery after sustaining broken ribs — and made a racecourse comeback — before connections decided to retire him aged 12.
Philip also trained Dream Alliance — a horse whose story was made into a film entitled ‘Dark Horse’. Having been bred on an allotment in Wales the now 15-year-old went on to win the 2009 Welsh Grand National.
The team at Sandhill comprises around 20 dedicated stable lads and lasses and the yard also has both conditional and amateur jockeys attached to it. Philip’s assistant trainer Johnson White and head girl Carol Burnett oversee the smooth running of the daily routine. Tom O’Brien is the second retained jockey alongside Richard Johnson.
All the jump horses at Sandhill have been enjoying their summer holidays and are now returning to the yard — ready to start work and build up their fitness ahead of the 2016/2017 National Hunt season.
The film star: Dream Alliance
The incredible story of the former Philip Hobbs-trained Dream Alliance was made into a film entitled ‘Dark Horse’ in 2014. Having been bred by his owners on an allotment in Wales, the gelding went on to win the Welsh Grand National in 2009. The 15-year-old is now happily retired from racing but still enjoys parading for his many fans.
Gearing up for the jump season!
These substantial looking brush fences have been spruced up and will be ready for schooling sessions during the National Hunt season.
There is an all-weather, fibresand schooling arena, which is used to school horses of all ages over poles, barrels and easyfix fences.
At Sandhill, there is a five furlong woodchip gallop with a good incline and drainage. During the jump season, this gallop will be used the most — with the horses going up it twice.
There is also a polytrack gallop which has an incline over three furlongs and can be used in temperatures dropping down to a chilly -12 degrees.
It is used for schooling when the usual schooling ground is unsuitable due to ground conditions.
This gallop is mainly used for the horses’ preparation work and building up their fitness ahead of the season — usually involving three canters up to three times.