Training is all about progression, learning new things and developing facilities, to give every horse an opportunity to succeed and to encourage new owners.
In the Blackmoor Vale, North Dorset, Brian Barr and his partner Daisy, have been gradually building up their accumulated experience, whilst converting the facilities at Tall Tree Stud into a state of the art centre for nurturing talent and giving horses that have maybe lost their way elsewhere, a second lease of life.
Course Specialist was privileged to catch up with Brian recently, to learn how things have progressed, since he first obtained a public licence during the winter of 2014/15.
Are you from a racing and equine background and if not, what attracted you to the sport?
No I’m not originally from a racing background, or a horsey background for that matter. I grew up in a small west coastal town near Glasgow and used to frequent the bookies from a young age to miss school!
Who were the horses and people you first followed?
I remember watching Frankie Dettori win on Lochsong and thinking how easy it looked, so from that I found the British Racing School which is where I went at 16, after leaving school at 14 and working a couple of jobs before then.
At that time Godolphin were basically at the top of their game and won everything so I followed and backed most of theirs! As well as Martin Pipe with AP, again you could back blind as they usually won!
How and when did you first get into racing as a career and what did you do?
All I knew is I needed to get out of Scotland where I was getting in far too much trouble so after I completed the racing school my first proper job was at Jamie Osborne’s in Lambourn. I worked hard in the yard and was as enthusiastic as you could find and for that Jamie let me ride out and I progressed from there really.
How did your career progress and what horses were you associated with?
I worked for several of the biggest and best flat trainers in the country, including Sir Michael Stoute, John Gosden and Barry Hills.
I got to ride a number of high profile horses in work, including Derby winner North Light, Golan, Notnowcato, Russian Rhythm for Sir Michael Stoute. Dark Angel and Celestial Halo for Barry Hills as well as breaking in 1,000 Guineas winner Ghanaati.
At the time it was normal for me to ride horses of this quality, now as a trainer I realise quite how good those horses actually were!
When did you decide to become a trainer and why at that time?
Training was never an ambition of mine, it kind of just worked out that way, I was given an opportunity and I took it with both hands. Something I am very grateful of.
How many horses did you start with and what were the facilities like when you arrived?
I started training with my partner Daisy out of her mother’s yard and when we started we had about 10 boxes and a horse walker with a few fields.
We used to box away to use other people’s gallops which restricted the numbers we had, we started on a permit anyway so I think we started with about six horses.
How challenging was it to make the books balance economically?
To be fair the books were easy to start with, having a such a small string we had a very high strike rate for horses finishing in the first three and used to bring back a lot of prize money, and as I say we started on a permit so didn’t have to worry about invoicing and chasing owners for payment. It was very easy back then!
Who were your biggest training influences and who do you turn to for advice?
Having never been an assistant trainer to anyone starting training was simply my own opinions mixed with different bits and pieces from all the brilliant yards I’d previously worked in, I could never turn to anyone apart from Daisy really so we have worked it out together, of course making plenty of mistakes, but also doing many things we are very proud of.
What improvements have you made to your training centre?
The difference in Tall Trees since we started really is quite dramatic!
Having started with 10 boxes, a walker and some fields, we now have over 50 boxes in brand new American barns, all with back windows, over a mile of all weather gallops, an oval ring and a straight gallop, lunge pens, schooling grounds, solarium, wash bays, staff accommodation and the list goes on.
I couldn’t have done any of this without the amazing help from my parents in law who I will always be grateful to.
How many horses do you have in training now?
We would now have about 40 horses on site, with a fair mixture of NH, flat, and young stock from a couple of resident broodmares!
Inspire Racing Club (https://inspireracingclub.co.uk/) have become our biggest owners, with eight horses here and they really are a fantastic racing club with the nicest members.
How challenging has it been to scale up and maintain the same ethics and culture?
One of the hardest things with scaling up I would say is the staff, trying to find more and more reliable, capable staff.
We have tried very hard to keep all the same ethics from when we started, we train horses very much as individuals and try to keep them as happy as possible, another reason why it is key to have the right staff, happy and enthusiastic staff.
We work as a team and I believe we have a great one at present. Obviously since we started there have been some things we have changed, things we have learnt from and things we have introduced as we have gone on, but the basics stay the same.
How does scaling up affect the finances?
Again the finances kind of work themselves out, our owners are generally very good, we operate on a payment by return system which works for us.
Daisy does all the office work and the books as very sadly Katrina her Mum passed away last year and she had previously done all this, as well as being the general mum of everyone! As long as you keep on top of everything it’s easy to do, so Daisy tells me anyway as it’s not something I have much involvement in!
What would be the maximum number of horses you would feel comfortable training?
As I said previously we have 53 boxes and if we had them full we would be happy. That’s a nice size and you then have a steady flow of horses running. So we have some space for a couple more!
Which horses have given you the most success?
Our biggest win to date would be Blaine winning at the Lockinge meeting at Newbury under Frankie Dettori, after a seven-month absence, it was a good day. The progression of Castlemorris King would probably stand out for us, starting off with a mark of 97, he progressed to 132 winning six times, he was a brilliant horse for us and one we loved dearly.
We generally do very well with horses that have lost their way in other yards, we have had quite a few win for us first time out and that is something we are very proud of, our ability to turn horses round in a short space of time.
What have been the most important things you have learned since taking out a training licence?
Wow! The most important thing I have learnt since starting training, that’s a hard one, but maybe I would say patience, it’s a hard one to learn but you don’t have much choice in this game!
What have been the biggest changes you have made to your training since starting out?
We haven’t really changed anything major since we started to be honest, I suppose you could say we have experimented with a couple of things but I cant think of anything specific that we have changed.
What are your big hopes for 2019?
Our biggest hope for 2019 is to continue to improve, hopefully gain some more owners and it would be nice to find that “good” horse to take us to the next level.
For more information on Brian Barr Racing and ownership opportunities, please visit: http://www.brianbarrracing.co.uk/