Elysian Flame and Where’s Jeff will be tucked away in their stables at Michael Easterby’s New House Farm in Sheriff Hutton next Sunday when thousands will descend upon his land for the first of two Point to Point fixtures that sees the new Yorkshire season’s meetings under way at one of nine courses in the county.
Neither of those two successful flat racehorses will ever attempt the jumps organised by Mick’s farm manager Peter Marsden who has been with him for over 40 years.
“He’d like to retire but he’s not allowed to,” says Mick with his customary humour.
Mick, aged 88, became a racehorse trainer nearly 60 years ago having become a horse dealer. He loves Point to Point and he particularly enjoys hosting meetings on his land, something he’s done for nearly a decade.
“My father, William, was on a farm at Great Habton near Malton and rode a lot of Point to Point winners. I won about 30-odd myself. I look forward to the meetings here so much it’s unbelievable.
“I have five Point to Point horses, they are kept in a yard elsewhere to where I have 70 horses in training. I may run two or three of them next Sunday, but I can’t tell you which just yet as it’s a secret and I want to have a bet.”
There’s that twinkle in Mick’s eye that tells you how much of a kick he still gets from racing of all types whether professional or amateur, this from a man who has trained a 1000 Guineas winner (Mrs McArdy 1977) and great horses such as Lochnager and Peterhof in the 70s.
He’s had horses that have won all the big sprints and is particularly proud Lochnager was one he’d bred.
He’s just retired Hoof It, owned by golf legend Lee Westwood, a horse he describes as very difficult to train as he was highly strung, but who went on to great success.
Next Sunday, Mick’s attention will be firmly placed on enjoying and making sure everyone enjoys Sheriff Hutton Races, as the sign proudly proclaims at the crossroads leading out of the village.
“We started hosting the Yorkshire Area Point to Point Club about eight years ago and we raise money for Yorkshire Air Ambulance. It saved my granddaughter Jacqueline’s life and for that I will always be grateful. We’ve raised over £100,000 since we started.
“It is important to give something back and the meetings give us chance to do that.
“There was a Point to Point course near here back in 1921 that eventually moved to Whitwell on the Hill in 1929. I have a racecard from April 1867.”
Mick’s second Point to Point meeting of the year is the one that he took on for the Middleton Hunt that had been held at Whitwell on the Hill and had been held at the iconic course by the side of the A64 until seven years ago.
“There’s so much involved in putting on these days. Christine Drury plays a big part in making sure our races go ahead. If she wasn’t here we’d have to give up.
“Fortunately, she lives just a mile away at Stittenham.
“What I particularly like is those who come feeling that the meeting has become theirs. They’ll now say: ‘We’re going to our Point’. It’s like having a favourite racehorse and saying; ‘We’re going to see our filly run at York’.
“It becomes public property and that’s wonderful. I enjoy people and host my own marquee where everyone is welcome to come and try and back all the winners. That’s difficult I can tell you.
“My daughter Cherry always has runners and Wizadora did well for her last year. My nephew Will was second to John Dawson in last year’s Yorkshire championships.
“Will is making a good jockey but I don’t want anybody to tell him as I don’t want it to go to his head.”
Mick constantly keeps his eye out for new talent and was particularly impressed with Kate Lowcock who won the Yorkshire ladies title last year in her first full year of Point to Point.
“Kate did very well. I watch everybody. She’s already a very good jockey and could go places. I’d definitely give her a ride or two on my horses.
“Having a good eye for horses and jockeys has always been my ace. I don’t need anyone to hold my hand. I think trainers get far too much credit. If you buy a good horse he will win in spite of his or her trainer. A good horse doesn’t know who has trained it.
“It’s all about ability, like a human being. Just like being from a family one just pops out and becomes brilliant – and a sire might not breed a winner, same as humans.”
Mick became apprenticed to racehorse trainer Walter Easterby of Kirby Wharfe near Tadcaster and moved to New House Farm in 1955.
His farming enterprise has expanded to 2000 acres through land acquisition as it has come up. Today it is his son David who is mostly responsible for the business. Mick admits that having to do less is the part he finds most stressful.
“It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. David plays a big part here and I’ve two daughters who are out of this world and who have helped me get where I am. David sorts out all our runners.
“I work in the yard a lot, looking after the horses, breaking them. That’s where I started, and I haven’t changed. I used to buy hunters and sell them.
“I used to buy every horse that nobody else could ride.”
Next Sunday’s Yorkshire Point to Point season opener at Sheriff Hutton will in all likelihood feature some of Mick’s favourites, but he’s still not giving away to who they will be. Look for his name on the racecard!