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Monday, 15 October, 2018

'I was at Preston when Becks was there but I decided it was racing for me'

The North Yorkshire dual-purpose trainer, 38, takes the weekly grilling

Philip Kirby: keen to make an impact on the Flat and over jumps
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What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
You can do almost anything if you put your mind to it and try hard enough.

What is your earliest racing memory?
Watching racing on TV on a Saturday with my dad as I grew up.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
My mum and dad have always been very supportive about some of my slightly mad ideas. I grew up training greyhounds with my dad, walking miles and going racing every night, so I was well travelled and worked hard as a child. I learned loads and there was no-one better than my dad at producing dogs for finals and special days when they had to win. I've used a lot of the same concepts in how we train our horses.

You're a dual-purpose trainer. How important is it for you to maintain a presence in racing throughout the entire year?
We now have a new purpose-built yard and it's very important to keep it as full as possible 12 months of the year. If that means having Flat, jumps, all-weather or summer jumps horses I don't really mind. I just feel it's important to keep trying to improve the quality as we go along.

When did you first know you’d become a trainer and why?
It was what I always wanted to do after I'd finished playing football, only that ended before it really got started. I didn't think it was a realistic career choice at school, but it shows anything is possible if you put in enough work and time.

Lady Buttons has starred for you this season. What is the plan for her and how far do you think she can climb?
She has loads of natural ability. I managed to run her over the wrong trip again in Ireland last week but at least I know for sure she doesn't quite get two and a half miles in top-class races. She has loads of speed and is going to make into a top two-mile chaser. Her jumping is so good and she handles plenty of cut in the ground. I might find a nice small novice chase for her next and then find a better race for her towards the end of the season.

What’s the best bet you’ve ever had?
Amazing King at Yarmouth when I first started in 2009. He made the first year or so a lot easier for us.

David Beckham: played for Preston at the same time as Philip Kirby

If you could be involved with any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
I was fairly handy at football and was on the books at Preston North End at the same time as David Beckham was on loan there. I decided to go into racing and, when I think back, it probably wasn't one of my greatest plans!

What do you think racing does best?
It's amazing how they gear the whole season on the Flat and jumps to the festivals and make them such a carnival.

Other than better prize-money, what is the one thing you would change about racing?
Racecourses delaying live pictures on course and on the big screens is a joke. There are times when they go out of sight and the commentator tells the racegoers and owners their horse has made a mistake, or fallen, and they are nowhere near the fence on the big screen. Owners deserve being treated better than that.

How can jump racing in the north change the attitude of people so that it's not seen as weaker compared to the south?
It's maybe getting a bit better, but some of the big northern owners sending horses down south and to Ireland certainly doesn't help. I'm sure the north will get back to being on a more level playing field before too long, as some decent-profile races have been won by the north just recently.

Has enough been done by the BHA and race planners to support jump racing in the north?
It's difficult to say 'support jump racing in the north' as everyone is free to travel anywhere, and all the big southern yards travel up here. We're also capable of travelling, as northern trainers have wagons too. I think we're holding our own at the moment.

Nakeeta: Australian adventure has inspired Philip Kirby

Which country would you most like to race in that you haven’t yet?
I've had runners in France and I'm definitely going to take some more over as I really enjoyed it. I'd love to have a runner in Australia after seeing how well Iain Jardine's horse Nakeeta got on over there in the Melbourne Cup. He seemed to have a great time.

Kauto Star or Denman?
They were both class but I loved Denman.

What’s your biggest ambition in racing? And outside of racing?
To be competitive on a regular basis at the highest level, whether that is on the Flat or over jumps. Outside of racing just for us as a family to all stay happy and healthy.

What is your worst habit?
My wife Pippa says I never put anything away or tidy up.

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
I think I'd enjoy a few nights out with George Best.

What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Having the bright idea a few years ago to ride in the Grimthorpe Gold Cup, a four-mile point-to-point race, and managing to miss a marker and being disqualified after passing the post in front.  

What is your most treasured possession?
My family.

How do you relax away from racing?
Having a few pints in the local pub.

Adam Nicol, riding Lady Buttons, is one to watch this year

Which northern-based Flat and jump jockeys do you think can make an impact in 2018?
There are lots of really good Flat and jump jockeys in the north who are all more than capable given the right opportunity. Adam Nicol and Tommy Dowson are full-time with us and are a big part of our team. I just hope I can keep improving the quality in the yard so they get the opportunities they deserve.

What’s your biggest fear?
Simon Olley, my main man, calling at 4.30pm as I know that's when he's checking round the legs in the yard. It's not usually good news when he calls.

Do you have a nickname?
Not that I've been told anyway.

Social media – friend or foe?
I can take it or leave it, but from a business point of view it's very important.

Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
Pippa, my two girls Izzy and Indy, and John Hanson, my good friend and owner who would definitely keep the party going once they've all gone to bed.

Who’s your biggest fancy for next week?
I'll be short on runners next week as we have a couple of busy weeks, but I can't wait for Top Ville Ben. He bolted up at Haydock and could turn out a bit special when he goes novice chasing.


Your guide to jumping in the north


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It's never usually good news when my assistant Simon calls
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