Doc­tor Richard’s spe­cial medicine helps horses win

Nick Townsend talks to Dr Richard New­land the GP turned highly-sucess­ful trainer

The Racing Paper - - Feature -

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

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