Philip Hobbs is one of the most successful national hunt trainers in the United Kingdom. His Somerset-based Sandhill Racing Stables has been sponsored by MS Amlin for a number of years.
Philip rode 160 winners in a 10-year professional career and started training, with help from his wife Sarah, in August 1985 with only six horses. The couple have three daughters, Caroline, Katherine and Diana who ride out at the stables.
Philip has trained more than 2,500 winners in his career and been in the UK’s top six trainers for the past 20 years. He has more than 100 horses at his Sandhill Stables near Minehead and has produced winners for all the major festivals in England, Ireland and France.
His first jockey is another MS Amlin sponsored, Richard Johnson, the reigning and two-time champion jockey.
“Richard is massively uncomplicated, very hard working,” said Philip. “One day last season he left home at 4am to go to Kempton Park to gallop some horses, he then drove to Catterick and rode two winners, drove to Derby for a Cheltenham preview, he then drove to his home and left his home at 5am the following day to come to us.”
That amounts to 11 hours driving and more than 600 miles covered – and that is not counting the 240-mile round trip the following day.
Sandhill needs good riders like Richard but Philip gave an insight into the other essential elements that help him maintain continuity of success.
“The secret is getting the right horses in the yard in the first place,” he said. And having a system and facilities that keep horses sound and gets them fit.
“All winners are very important, even the smaller races because it’s never easy to achieve any winner. We are very fortunate to have some very good owners that believe in us and trust us.
“Consistency of staff is a key thing too. Our senior staff have been with us for a very long time. Without the right team you have absolutely no chance. We also have a number of lads who have licences and without them training the horses properly you’re never going to get winners.
“It’s very much a team. It’s unfortunate that you have to have the trainer’s name next to the horse because you really need a good team behind you or nothing would work at all. If it was Sandhill Racing next to the horse’s name I think that would be more appropriate than just my name.
“We also have a lot of people that help us to buy the right horses. You need good contacts to know when theses horses are available. The continuity of relationships is massively important.”
Philip also keeps a close eye on some key pieces of data that help him do his job effectively.
He said: “The most important piece of data that I have accumulated over the years is the probability of horses getting tendon injuries. That’s the most likely injury and the worst injury because they will need 12 months off the racecourse.
“Based on my data from thousands of horses I can tell you that eight per cent of horses that have never had a tendon problem before will end up the season with a tendon problem. And 40 per cent of horses will get a reoccurrence in their first season back and that helps me decide if I keep a horse or not. We don’t keep the horse unless it’s very good in those circumstances.
“The form is essential data and that’s now all available online. When you are entering a horse for a race you want to assess the form of the other horses in the race. It’s about trying to place the horses in the races that they’re most likely to win.”
Philip makes it sound simple but the number of trainers below him in the winners’ rankings shows just how difficult it can be.