Behind the scenes at Middleham Stables
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 May 2018
The Yorkshire home of racehorses open their doors.
The busy racing centre of Middleham in Richmondshire has been the Yorkshire home of racehorses in training for more than 200 years. And it’s showing no signs of flagging in its most recent furlong either, producing at least 400 winners a season for the last 38 years.
There are currently 15 training yards in and around the North Yorkshire town, 12 of which took part in the recent annual Middleham Stables Open Day, which sees thousands of visitors flock (drove, string, stud or team perhaps?) to the area to see stunning race horses up close in all their muscled glory.
This time around they saw stars from Mark Johnston’s stable (only the third British trainer ever to produce 4,000 winners) going for a swim at his Warwick and Kingsley House Stables; a host of exciting horses from Jedd O’Keeffe at Highbeck Lodge, which enjoyed a record-breaking year in 2017 including two listed flat race wins from More Mischief and Lord Yeats; a fox hounds parade from Bedale West of Yore; a jumping demonstration by two-year-olds at James Bethell Racing; a schooling display of National Hunt horses by Micky Hammond’s yard; celebrity pony (he’s got his own range of books, merchandise and a boutique now) Little Alf with his trusty human sidekick Hannah Russell; and a series of races including a new but very popular addition to the card – a donkey derby.
Regular visitor – and one of the undisputed stars of Middleham Stables Open Day – Trooper Middleham got a hero’s welcome when he strode majestically back into town this year. The military working horse, a valued four-legged member of the Household Cavalry, was stabled at Barry Keniry’s Warwick Lodge for the duration of his stay.
He has taken part in many state ceremonies over the years, including the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s Birthday Parade, as well as military jumping competitions as part of the Blues & Royals Squadron.
This year’s open day, sponsored by ARC (Arena Racing Company), followed in the highly successful hoofsteps of the 2017 event, which attracted big crowds and raised much-needed money for Racing Welfare’s Hill House development (racingwelfare.co.uk) in memory of Jessica Bethell, who died of meningitis in 2012 but whose spirit endures through the Jessica Bethell Foundation (jessicabethellfoundation.co.uk), set up to specifically raise funds for worthy causes in Middleham.
Further funds were also donated to Yorkshire Air Ambulance, Riding for the Disabled, Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Middleham Sports & Wellbeing Association.
‘Middleham has so much racing history and some fantastic equine talent in the yards,’ said Sarah Fanning of Racing Welfare, the only charity that supports everyone working in racing – stud, stable and support staff. ‘The open day is always a great opportunity for the public to come and see the likes of Cheltenham runner Sam Spinner and exciting horses for the season ahead.’