Doctor Richard’s special medicine helps horses win
Nick Townsend talks to Dr Richard Newland the GP turned highly-sucessful trainer
Four years ago, Pineau De Re transformed one man’s stature in racing from a healer with a hobby, a medic with a penchant for training racehorses, to ‘Grand National winning-trainer’ Dr Richard Newland. It is a prefix which even five-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson cannot yet boast.
It led the Worcestershire trainer to reflect in the euphoric aftermath of Leighton Aspell’s 25-1 five-length Aintree triumph on his 11-year-old: “When something happens like this, you think you should stop now because it can’t get any better.”
Of course, there was never a chance of that. There could be no antidote that would quell his desire to seek further success; maybe even prepare another National winner. Indeed, the stable’s Abolitionist was bought from Ireland early this year with that one calendar date in mind: the first Saturday in April.
What the Worcestershire trainer did say rather more emphatically in that National-capturing year was that his current total of 12 horses was “manageable”, adding that 25-30 would be too many for a man who is also full-time head of a health care business, having stopped GP surgery practice early in 2014.
Yet today you find him with 20 charges in training, and anything up to another ten in pre-training. “Every box has been full for five, six years,” he says. “My problem has been squeezing horses in. I’m lucky in that I’m not relying on racing for my income. I can be selective.”
Pressure will soon be eased. Newland reveals that a new yard, with 40 boxes, is under construction a few minutes’ drive from his Linacres Farm stables, north of Worcester, which will accept its first charges at the start of May. It will take his capacity up to 60.
Newland, 55, is chief executive of CHS Healthcare, a supplier to the NHS. “We help the NHS discharge patients. It’s a significantsize business and we employ 350 people. But I’m going to have a bit more time next year. I’ve got some additional staff coming.”
Newland has learnt to multitask, switching effortlessly from watching schooling sessions – Sam Twiston-Davies and Charlie Hammond have been at the yard this morning – to business conference calls. The yard is thriving. From his only four runners recently, three were winners, including Caid Du Lin, who secured a valuable handicap Chase at Ascot two weeks ago. His prolific seven-yearold Vosnee Romanee, winner under both Flat and Jump codes, also won at the Berkshire course last month, taking his tally to 14.
Newland is currently eighth in the jump trainers’ championship table, with 44 winners for the season. More importantly, 75 of the 104 horses he has trained in the last five years have won. It is one of the best rates in the country, and some feat, considering he entered the training ranks simply “as a huge enthusiast, loving racing and big races like the National”.
He adds: “At first, I owned legs in horses, but then thought ‘I’d love to have a go at this training thing’. I don’t come from an equestrian background, but I learned to ride in my 30s and I did understand a lot about racing because I’ve been following it a long time.”
Newland started out as a permit-holder and, from his first four horses, Overstrand won two big handicap hurdles and Burntoakboy the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. After that, he got his full training licence.
“I have enjoyed every aspect of racing, as punter, to owner, to trainer. Punting is not really my driving force. I’m much more interested in the satisfaction of finding horses and winning races. We pride ourselves in at least winning a race with them.”
Newland tends to source horses from other yards that are no longer exhibiting the ability they once possessed, but whom he believes can be revitalised.
“We all see these horses going for £100,000 at Cheltenham sales who’ve won a maiden point-topoint,” he says. “You won’t see me buying them.
“If you’re going to buy a horse to win at Aintree or Cheltenham, they’ve got to probably run to 150 (handicap rating) level. Probably only 1%, are capable of that.”
That’s why it’s more likely he’ll be found acquiring a horse that has at one time run at 150-level, going for, say, £10,000 at Ascot Sales. “I’d prefer to buy ten of those than one winning point-topointer,” he says. “At least they’ve shown they’re capable of winning.”
A change of scenery can benefit horses, but Newland is also an advocate of turning his charges out, rather than confining them to boxes. “We think it’s a nice way to treat horses, and, of course, we’re really lucky because we’ve only got 20 horses on the premises at any one time, so we can do that,” says Newland, whose knowledge of medical science helps informs his philosophy of training. “But it’s also because we fundamentally think it’s good for them.”
With Pineau De Re, now aged 14, enjoying a contented retirement as an eventer, the trainer yearns to write a sequel to his National story. Abolitionist, like Pineau De Re, was bought from Ireland, specifically with Aintree in mind.
The 10-year-old won comfortably over hurdles at Aintree a month ago, but has been withdrawn from today’s Becher Chase for which he was ante-post favourite
Instead Newland’s strategy is for Abolitionist to have one preparatory race before the National, but not until the weights have been published in February. He is currently on a handicap rating of 145 (Pineau De Re won off 143), and he wants to protect his fragile charge and the weight he will be set to carry.
“It was planned he’d run in this year’s National,” explains Newland. “But it didn’t work out because of stress fractures in his pelvis. But he’s come out this year and done really well. He showed in that hurdle race that the fire still burns.
He adds: “He’s been round the block a bit, he’s got one or two issues, and he’s not that easy to train. Whether we can get him there on the day, we’ll have to see.”
Newland, whose Catamaran Du Seuil, comfortable winner at Wetherby last month, runs in the Betway Grand Sefton Handicap Chase this afternoon, adds: “It was a complete dream to win the National. All you want to do is try to repeat it. It’s a magical race, and it all came right for us. It’s not so much about luck as having no bad luck. That’s the key thing.”
“Newland sources horses from other yards that are no longer exhibiting the ability they once possessed, but whom he believes can be revitalised”
National hero: Pineau de Re with trainer Dr Richard Newland