City slicker Ed’s still wheel­ing and deal­ing

Ed de Giles tells Nick Townsend how he turned a City nest egg into a train­ing ca­reer

The Racing Paper - - Feature -

While there are many dif­fer­ent routes into the pre­car­i­ous world of race­horse train­ing, few have fol­lowed the model adopted by Ed de Giles.

This was a char­ac­ter who be­came an eq­ui­ties trader in the City with the prin­ci­pal aim of ac­quir­ing the sig­nif­i­cant funds nec­es­sary to launch his sec­ond ca­reer.

His ra­tio­nale is sim­ple. “Why did I go into the City first?” he says. “Be­cause I didn’t want to start rent­ing a yard as a trainer at the age of 27, 28, or what­ever, try­ing to make ends meet. Now we’re in a for­tu­nate po­si­tion that we have man­aged to pur­chase our yard, and de­vel­oped great fa­cil­i­ties. We own it all. It’s a more com­fort­able po­si­tion to be in.”

De Giles, 49, and his wife Claire have been based at Lilly Hall Farm sta­bles, near Led­bury, Here­ford­shire, since 2010. With an equine oc­cu­pancy of lit­tle more than 30, he has al­ready despatched 121 win­ners from a yard, set in 75 acres, which boasts fa­cil­i­ties in­clud­ing an equine swim­ming pool. He has sent out three win­ners in the last 11 days.

Yet, the ques­tion can­not be avoided: what pos­sesses a man to forego a lu­cra­tive City ca­reer to ini­ti­ate his own train­ing regime in a do­main of some 600 ri­vals?

Or to put it an­other way: why not merely par­tic­i­pate as a well-heeled owner and al­low oth­ers to throw their wealth into what many believe can eas­ily be­come a money-pit?

Well, he tried own­er­ship and, among his suc­cesses, was the former Ham­dan Al Mak­toumowned, Freddy Head-trained Markab, which he ac­quired for 33,000gns. The son of Green Desert, trained by Henry Candy, pro­ceeded to win the 2010

Group 1 Bet­fred Hay­dock sprint as a seven-year-old and just over £400,000 in to­tal. But it was not enough for de Giles; never would be, if truth be told.

“I ac­tu­ally found it frus­trat­ing not do­ing the job my­self,” he says. “I’m a coun­try boy at heart, born and bred.” He adds: “This is in my blood.”

Orig­i­nally from Kent, and brought up on his fa­ther’s farm, af­ter univer­sity and agri­cul­tural col­lege de Giles went to work for two years with Nick Gase­lee, first as pupil as­sis­tant, then as­sis­tant trainer, in a pe­riod when the sta­ble’s Party Pol­i­tics won the 1992 Grand Na­tional.

He was then of­fered a po­si­tion at Fran­cois Doumen’s sta­bles at Chan­tilly, suc­ceed­ing Ian Wil­liams. The charis­matic Doumen, who re­tired last year be­cause of ill-health, will be long re­mem­bered for the ex­ploits of top jumpers such as Bara­couda, First Gold and, mem­o­rably, The Fel­low, who be­came the first French­trained win­ner of the Chel­tenham Gold Cup in 1994.

It was an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity – but one de Giles de­clined. “I rather an­noyed him (Doumen), af­ter he’d of­fered me the job, that, no, I was go­ing to do some­thing dif­fer­ent. I de­cided to go to the City.”

He adds: “I thought rather naively and rather ar­ro­gantly I’d go to the City for five years, earn my for­tune and then come and start train­ing. It wasn’t un­til 15 years later that I thought I’d bet­ter get on and do it!”

He spent the ma­jor­ity of those years at Klein­wort Ben­son. “I was a se­nior trader, in eq­ui­ties, mak­ing de­cent money, and then a team of us left to go to Kaupthing Singer and Fried­lan­der to set up the cap­i­tal mar­ket di­vi­sion there,” he says. “That was ex­tremely prof­itable and suc­cess­ful, but the bank as a whole went un­der in the Crash. I also had a brief spell with Cenkos.”

De Giles had al­ready iden­ti­fied the lo­ca­tion for his new train­ing ven­ture, and had started im­prove­ments while still work­ing in Lon­don.

“When we came here, it was a bit run down, and things that needed chang­ing,” he says. “We’ve been solid, 30-40 horses ev­ery year af­ter the first three years. Yes, it’s an in­cred­i­bly hard busi­ness to make money in. But we’ve done in­cred­i­bly well with what we’ve got. Ob­vi­ously, we’ll al­ways be want­ing to grow.”

He adds: “There are def­i­nitely ar­gu­ments for be­ing in a ma­jor train­ing cen­tre, but I’d much rather be out on a limb, do­ing it on our own, away from every­one in a great en­vi­ron­ment. The costs of run­ning an op­er­a­tion like this, with all the over­heads, are mas­sive. I think you do need a cer­tain num­ber to do OK and my as­pi­ra­tions are to get num­bers up to 50-60 but prob­a­bly no more.”

He is quoted else­where as say­ing that his wife Claire isn’t keen on horses. Could that pos­most sibly be true?

“Well, she doesn’t ride,” he says. “But she’s got no choice. She has to be keen on them.” He swiftly adds: “She’s great, does all the of­fice work and all the ad­min.”

In many re­spects, de Giles’s pre­vi­ous life still in­flu­ences his think­ing. “It’s all about turning horses,” he says. “Don’t fall in love with them – but turn them when you think the time is right. It’s no dif­fer­ent from trad­ing. I like buy­ing low and sell­ing high which you do all day long in the City.” His Kash­miri Sun­set, for ex­am­ple, was sold for more than ten times the pur­chase price

He adds: “Work­ing in the City you had to be right on the ball. If you weren’t all over it and didn’t keep your clients in touch, you’d fail very quickly. That’s prob­a­bly one of the key strengths we’ve brought to this job. And I was an owner for quite a long time, and I know what it was like get­ting a bill ev­ery month. An owner can very quickly get bored if he feels he’s just churn­ing out money and it’s just point­less – as I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced my­self.”

Pri­mar­ily a Flat trainer, de Giles has sad­dled win­ners over jumps. In­deed, Ajzal was his first win­ner, in April 2011, land­ing a hand­i­cap chase at Hunt­ing­don by 17 lengths, part­nered by his nephew Felix de Giles, who now rides in France.

The sta­ble’s Prince Of Dreams, a son of Sadler’s Wells, won the 2013 Scot­tish Cham­pion Chase, again un­der Felix de Giles. “An owner of mine wanted a horse to go jump­ing with – and what a lot of fun the horse gave us.”

While, like all small to medium train­ers, he craves a po­ten­tial su­per­star to come his way, de Giles prides him­self on en­hanc­ing the abil­ity of horses that ar­rive at the yard.

“Of course, you want a Royal As­cot win­ner, you want pat­tern race win­ners. It’s about at­tract­ing the own­ers to get the right horse. But horses like Lucy The Painter, Frosty Berry and Kings­gate Choice have all come here and im­proved.

“If the abil­ity’s there, we’ll eke it out of them. With fa­cil­i­ties we have, if any­one is ca­pa­ble of get­ting the op­ti­mum abil­ity out of a horse, we can.”

Of his three re­cent win­ners, one was Liberisque at Chelms­ford. “It was par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing to see her win,” says de Giles. She’s quite nicely bred, and a horse that will gal­lop off a cliff for you. If ev­ery horse had that at­ti­tude the job would be very easy.”

De Giles knows full well by now that it’s any­thing but. “I tell you what,” he says. “I worked hard in the City, but I never worked so bloody hard do­ing this job.”

“What pos­sesses a man to forego a lu­cra­tive City ca­reer to ini­ti­ate his own train­ing regime in a do­main of some 600 ri­vals?”

Learn­ing curve: Party Pol­i­tics wins 1992 Grand Na­tional

Turning a profit: Kash­miri Sun­set was sold for ten times its pur­chase price In­set: Ed de Giles

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