Walking on Warren Hill at 7am was a truly magical experience, with the only noise the breeze on a picture perfect, glorious autumn morning.
Oh to be able to bottle the very essence of Warren Hill, its natural beauty, its peace and quiet, its exclusiveness and its history – imagine all of the great horses over the past 300-plus years, who have graced this location.
But on Sunday, September 22nd, what is normally the exclusive domain of owners, trainers, jockeys and stable staff, very much became public territory as Newmarket staged the second day of the Henry Cecil Open Weekend.
Warren Hill was just for starters, as 21 of the town’s racing yards opened their doors and provided a warm welcome to the public.
It all started for Course Specialist an hour before the very public gallops of some of John Gosden’s great stable stars.
Standing in isolation, I was joined by a lady who it turned out was the late Michael Jarvis’s former wife. We watched the two Tom Clover horses gallop up the famous all-weather strip and reminisced about Carroll House’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victory – some 30 years ago now.
Four Sir Mark Prescott horses were next to make their way up the famous hill.
Then Marco Botti appeared at the top of the hill to watch some of his string exercise, followed by some Roger Varian horses.
By 8am, the crowds were starting to gather, strung out along the perimeter, right the way down to the foot of the hill.
William Haggas took the microphone as two of his stable stars, Addeybb and Move Swiftly. He explained how his team of grooms had voted to wear bright fluorescent orange tops in the winter, meaning William has always been able to distinguish his horses amid the hurley burley of a normal exercise day.
Then came the moment in truth, that had brought most people to Warren Hill, as John Gosden took to the mic.
Accompanied by his wife, Newmarket’s current Mayor, Rachel Hood, John gave narrative as his seven horses made their way across, past Sir Mark Prescott’s yard and to the foot of the hill.
First up was Stradivarius, who John had told us was quick to let people know his thoughts. Indeed, having breezed past and up to the top of the hill, the five year-old superstar could be heard whinnying.
Next on the track was the recent St Leger winner Logician, who moved smoothly up the hill. He will not race again this year, but Gosden announced he would be dropping the colt in distance for next year’s middle distance races.
Enbihaar, Lah Ti Dar and Terebellum all came past and then the popular and improving grey Coronet breezed up the hill, with her trainer saying that she almost trains herself.
Then at last, it was the turn of racing’s Queen of the turf, Enable.
She smoothly made her way up Warren Hill with hundreds of cameras busy clicking away. And then she was gone, on what might be her last British appearance in public.
Enable of course has one chapter left to complete, in her bid to land an historic third Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victory.
I spoke briefly with John Gosden before and then in more detail with Lord Grimthorpe who was pleased with her effort.
He was also looking forward to the forthcoming run of Siskin, in the Middle Park Stakes, on the Rowley Mile.
From Warren Hill, I made may way to The Severals, where I bumped into ex-footballer Kevin Phillips, just another racing fan in town!
Then it was on up to Snailwell Road and Prestige Place, home of Marco Botti.
The immaculate yard looked resplendent in the sunshine and Marco is very much looking forward to the sales and next year.
Next door to Marco is the yard of Hugo Palmer, at the famous Kremlin House.
It was once again a privilege to see my old friend Gifted Master, who was his usual sociable self!
The imposing Mootasadir looked magnificent – and whilst initially reluctant to come and say hello, Emma-Jayne, who dotes on him, managed to coax him into the light.
Then it was time to meet the exciting Powerful Breeze – recent winner of the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster – and still unbeaten.
Not quite what I was expecting! If there is a vacant slot in Strictly Come Dancing, then Powerful Breeze could fill it!
She stood there, with her back turned, on three legs, with her hind leg pointed and tapping the floor and she grooved!
Eventually she did turn around and was a very sweet filly – but what a character!
Next on my tour was a visit to Beverley House, from where John Berry, former Mayor, television guest presenter and trainer, is based, on Exeter Road.
There was an instant warm welcome from Blakeney and Gus. AKA Emma’s Kerry Blue Terrier and John’s Dalmatian.
Roy Rocket was of course very much in demand and it was brilliant to meet Delatite and Kryptos, who should be out soon, two years after the setback that prevented him from running in the Cambridgeshire Handicap.
From John’s stables, my tour headed to Hamilton Road and the growing Southgate Stables location of Amy Murphy.
Amy’s stables are always popular and there were plenty of people wanting a look at Grade One winner Kalashnikov, who looked lean and ready to race, after a summer at grass. Amy is hoping to start him back in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree, in October.
Thegreatestshowman was back in his stable after a super run at Great Yarmouth, while Mercian Prince is slowly back in training after a summer operation. He is distinctive, as he has a large lump in his forehead, giving him the impression of a bay unicorn! Also at Amy’s yard was the wonderful Mercian King, who gave her the very first winner of her career.
Mercian King has suffered what may be a career-ending injury but owes nobody a thing and has a happy loving home for life.
He is a beautiful horse and was very friendly.
Lazarus proved very friendly too, although his party trick was to laugh and he has been known to escape his box!
It was great to visit Amy’s yard – the last time I was there she was still not full moved-in!
My final stop was at Trillium Place, home of David Simcock.
It was great to see a familiar face in Michael on welcoming duties and the first star on show was Breton Rock.
I got to see the exciting Spanish Mission, a recent winner at Belmont Park, of whom great things are hoped next year.
Desert Encounter, fresh from a Group Three victory the previous day at Newbury, was quiet but friendly and the mighty Sheikhzayedroad, sometimes a monkey by all accounts, but a happy hack nowadays in retirement, was also happy to say hello.
A quick stop at Palace House, home of the National Horse Racing Museum, where I bumped into friends and saw youngsters having a go on the racing simulator.
That same engagement was in abundance at every yard, where the horses were all impeccably behaved and where people of all ages were able to stroll freely and to pet and make a fuss of these horses.
I am sure that this is a good experience for the horses too – getting used to crowds and strangers.
It is educational for the public and a chance to see how much love and work goes into the upkeep of these magnificent creatures. But it also gives an insight into their individual characters.
So in summary: we saw world beaters and lesser lights. All were greatly loved and appreciated, as was the effort from everyone involved in making this event a success.
Bringing racing to the people and making it all about the horse is the best form of marketing racing has.
The Henry Cecil Open Weekend brings what may be perceived by the uninitiated as an exclusive sport, right into the open.
There were so many more things I wanted to see and do. Next year!
Huge thanks must go to The Jockey Club, the 21 trainers, Charlie Fellowes who played such an important part, Johnno Spence Communications, Discover Newmarket and sponsors Tattersalls.
This is a special weekend and one which will have created special, unique memories, for everyone who attended.
Websites to visit: