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Festive stars: the fledging racehorse trainer on learning from Nicky Henderson and riding Altior

Over this festive season, we are shining a light on up-and-coming talent across the equestrian disciplines. These are riders you really need to keep an eye out for during the 2020 season...

After five years as assistant to top trainer Nicky Henderson, Toby Lawes has set up on his own and joined the professional training ranks.

Over the summer he moved to the Surrey yard of racehorse owner Andrew Wates, from where the 1996 Grand National winner Rough Quest was trained.

“We have fantastic facilities here, including a one-mile all-weather gallop, grass gallops and plenty off hacking on 600 acres of land,” says Toby of the Beare Green yard.

The young trainer has 17 horses in-training at the moment, 11 of which are owned by Andrew.

“We found a gorgeous Getaway four-year-old called Zacony Rebel for Andrew on the Irish point-to-point circuit, who will hopefully prove to be a nice bargain. He’s a big, raw horse,” says Toby, who also likes the prospect of Doyen filly Old Times — another pointing graduate.

“I moved to my new yard in the summer and got my training license through in October,” he adds.

“At Seven Barrows, Nicky taught me everything I know. It was an amazing opportunity to be involved with that calibre of horses and an incredible team of people.”

Toby was fortunate to have the best education in the game thanks to his former boss’ expert training philosophy.

“The main thing I learnt during my time at Nicky’s is not to overwork a horse. As a new trainer, it would be easy to do too much with my horses, but it’s about listening to each horse and knowing when they may need a rest or a step back from their training,” explains Toby. “It’s about knowing when you can push them and knowing when it is time to back off.

He was also lucky enough to ride the likes of champion chaser Altior.

“It was a special responsibility riding horses like Altior,” he said. “I always made sure I held onto the neck strap with my irons long just in case!”

He adds: “I learnt that working as a team is important, gaining feedback and communicating well with each other too.”

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In terms of goals for 2020, Toby is taking it all “one step at a time”.

“I am hoping for more horses through the door and a couple of winners on the board in the new year,” he says. “But I always want to make sure I am hungry for success, that’s most important.”

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