Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. Here is a trainer you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2021 season and beyond...
Twenty-nine-year-old Kevin Philippart De Foy grew up with the ambition of setting up on his own as a trainer by the time he reached 30. And the French speaking Belgian (who possesses fluent English and has an unfloundering grasp of the wit, humour and sarcasm of our language) has done just that — testament to his dedication and talent for the job.
Kevin now finds himself training out of one of those dream-like traditionally built yards in the centre of Newmarket and a stone’s throw from the famous Warren Hill, with 25 horses currently in his care, with scope for 37.
He sent out his first winner on the sixth time of asking (Sealed Offer, pictured top with Kevin), which is no mean feat. Most other trainers who have set up in recent times have taken much longer to get off the mark. But in Kevin’s words; “it took five runners too long to win”, which is a key indicator of how competitive he is and his will to succeed.
Growing up, Kevin says his mother, Brigitte Jacques, who was a jockey for 30 years and has more recently trained her own small string, tried to keep her son away from the world of racing.
“I did more showjumping and eventing as a child — mum didn’t want me to get into racing at home, as the quality isn’t so good,” explains Kevin. “But then I started riding out and she realised I enjoyed it, so sent me to Chantilly to work for Criquette Head.”
It was here, surrounded by “many nice horses” that Kevin first started to properly learn his trade, and he even rode Treve at home, winner of the Prix de l’Arc du Triomphe in 2013 and 2014 and the 2013 Cartier Horse of the Year award.
“Criquette Head was like a mother to me and I very much enjoyed my four years there,” he says.
From there, Kevin completed a stint on the Curragh with John Oxx and later spent 18 months working in America for French-born trainer Christophe Clement.
“I then wanted to get some experience in the UK, and was put in touch with James Fanshawe,” he explains. And the rest is basically history.
Following five years at James Fanshawe’s as an assistant, Kevin moved to the other side of Newmarket into Machell Place in the early autumn to start up as a trainer in his own right. The yard, which was built in 1884, is traditional to look at, but has very modern facilities and Kevin is working hard to make the set-up as best as it can possibly be, thanks to very supportive landlord Colin Murfitt.
Starting out on your own in the midst of a global pandemic probably wasn’t the original plan, but Kevin had conversations with owners and backers and they agreed to power on. He realised that, more than ever, syndicates will prove to be essential in the current economic climate, so has created the Runaway Racing Syndicate, which gets you a 2.5% share in a horse and offers yard visits, Saturday morning breakfasts and much more.
“The Runaway Racing Syndicate is a great way to get people involved, as is the Midlands Racing Club, which was founded and is run by my secretary, Danielle Steed,” says Kevin. “It basically means that for £50 per month you get a 12 month lease on a horse we have in training. It’s a super-affordable way of getting involved in racing and is an ideal introduction to those who perhaps don’t know lots about racing.
“The team I have here are brilliant and are great at explaining things to owners and have very good attention to detail.”
This attention to detail is demonstrated perfectly when you spot one of Kevin’s runners at the racecourse, as they are all impeccably turned out.
“All of my runners are plaited and my lads and lasses are dressed smart and tidily — the racecourse is our shop window so we have to make it count,” he explains.
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In terms of goals, the obvious one is to train as many winners as possible, but Kevin explains a couple of his other targets, too.
“I would like to train a black type winner next year [races that are Listed, Group or Graded] and to have real quality horses,” he says. “Long-term, clearly I would like to train Group One and international winners.”
And I’m in no doubt that as such a focused and enterprising captain of the metaphorical Machell Place ship, but also most of all as an out and out horseman, that you will be hearing plenty more about Kevin and his winners in the not so distant future.
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