THE pride etched across Richard Guest’s face is palpable as he recalls a conversation with his teacher shortly after his mother’s death at a tragically young age. He was in his teens and his mind invariably wandered to the gallops.
“Mrs Finch, she taught geography, asked if I was okay. I nodded and she said ‘you will be all right because you’re a survivor’,” he reminisced.
“I said I didn’t want to be a survivor. I wanted to be successful. She said ‘if you survive, you will be successful’.
“I’ve never forgotten that.”
Not only has Richard Guest survived, but he has also been successful. He can claim to be one of the few horsemen to have ridden the future winners of the Epsom Derby, Champion Hurdle and Grand National at some stage in his life.
His claim to fame is that he was the work rider who discovered the legendary Shergar’s full potential before he turned his hand to National Hunt racing and celebrated wins on the late Toby Balding’s Beech Road in the 1989 Champion Hurdle and then the aptly-named Red Marauder in the monsoon National of 2001 when just four equine warriors completed the marathon – and two of those had been remounted halfway around the famous Aintree course.
Guest has since overcome financial ruin and he is now undertaking the next great project of his colourful life; the transformation of Ingmanthorpe Stables, just off the A1M at Wetherby and a short canter from the town’s famous racecourse, into one of this North’s most successful, and respected, yards.
With the backing of businessman and one-time amateur jockey David Aarons, and a carefully-picked team of staff, the enthusiastic 49-year-old is looking to expand his string to 45 racehorses. He is not bothered if they race on the Flat or over obstacles, he just wants to be successful – and for his owners to have fun – because racing is supposed to be in the entertainment business.
“I don’t want to be champion trainer,” he tells The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview. “That’s a lie. I would love to be champion trainer, but it wouldn’t be possible with 45 horses unless they were all Shergars. Now there’s a thought...
“But we want to do well and we want our owners to have fun and be involved, too, irrespective of whether they own a racehorse on their own or have half a leg in a syndicate. It’s about them – and their horse.”
Guest has even registered Red Marauder’s red and blue colours, which have not been since on a racecourse for a decade, so they can be carried by his syndicate-owned horses.
Racing devotees can hear about the plans for themselves next Tuesday when the yard stages an open day at the palatial Ingmanthorpe Stables prior to the afternoon’s racing action at Wetherby.
They will see the new paddocks, laden with carrots, where horses roll and buck around before morning gallops on newly-cultivated land. They will see some of the most modern stabling blocks in the county. They will also hear about future plans, including the installation of a network of cameras around the 40-acre yard so owners can simply switch on their computer and see live pictures of their horse at any time of day – or night.
And they will see the passion of a man who, contrary to racing convention, always wanted to be a trainer first – and a jockey second.
This is not the only contradiction to Richard Guest. His outward-going persona is the polar opposite to the shyness invariably shown by his sister Lady Jane Cecil, who nursed her cancer-stricken husband Sir Henry in his final years as he masterminded the career of the fabulous Frankel. “She’s an angel and looks after everyone in the family, she is so fair-minded,” says the trainer.
Yet it was inevitable that the siblings – and their brother Rae, who is the third licensed trainer in the Guest family – would become so devoted to the sport that has so shaped their lives.
Their father, Charlie, was a jump jockey of some repute while their mother, Joyce, was a racing pioneer as one of the very first stable girls to be employed in this country.
From an early age, Guest set his heart on being a trainer – he loved the management of horses – and helped to ‘break in’ yearlings before his family moved from Hampshire to Newmarket where he worked for the late trainer Jeremy Hindley (where his sister Jane was already racing secretary) and then Sir Michael Stoute.
“When I was 13, I rode out Shergar. He was the biggest and most laid back horse you will come across,” said Guest, who went on to describe how he was riding the future Derby winner on the gallops when Stoute signalled to him to stop.
The champion trainer thought his young rider had taken leave of his senses. Guest, however, had no idea that this raw horse had pulled so effortlessly clear of two other horses. “I said ‘Boss, boss, I was only cantering’,” he explained.
“Stoutey, well he wanted to say something else but he thought Richard likes his horses so much that this one must have natural ability. I never sat on Shergar again and he won his maiden by some 15 lengths three weeks later. The rest is history. He was just a freak. Such a lazy, laid back, kind and gentle horse.”
Guest is the first to admit that he lost his way when his mother died unexpectedly and that he struggled to meet the burden of expectation created by his prowess with horses on the gallops. “Everyone was tipping me to be the next Lester Piggott. I got to 20 and thought I needed to get off my arse to earn some money,” he said. “I wanted to be a trainer, but the only route I had was to get some experience and ride as a jockey even though I was always interested in how a horse was thinking rather than how fast it could go.”
A natural horseman, he enjoyed many memorable days with Balding including Beech Road’s Champion Hurdle win. It was particularly poignant because it was in the shadow of Cleeve Hill where Guest’s late mother liked to ride. “It remains my proudest moment,” he said.
His education in racing, and life, continued with Sue and Harvey Smith in Eldwick when their National Hunt yard was in its infancy before Guest moved to County Durham to ride, and train, for Norman Mason. A lifetime with horses, and all the experience gained, came to fruition in the 11 minutes that it took Red Marauder to conquer Aintree.
The downside was that Guest then lost most of his savings when he became a trainer and has been playing catch-up ever since.
He is now content in his surroundings – home is a mobile caravan that he shares with wife Alison and their new-born son Richard junior – while the stables are renovated. He looks content after an afternoon harrowing the gallops in the winter rain before discussing the well-being of the horses with his fresh-faced assistant Shane Byrne, a shrewd jump jockey in his own right. “I never look back,” said Guest. “I’m not interested in yesterday. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do today.”
That is Richard Guest – a born survivor and a very successful one to boot.
The Richard Guest story ....
RICHARD GUEST’S family connections paid off when he was 12 years old and he needed a lift from Newmarket to Goodwood to lead up a mare called Becalmed.
“I rang Lester Piggott expecting to get his wife and he answered,” said Guest as he took up the story. “I said ‘Lester, it’s Richard Guest and I’m trying to get a lift’. There was a pause. ‘You’re Charlie’s son?’ he asked. ‘Yes’, I said. ‘I know where you live’, he added. How he knew things, I still don’t know.
“It was brilliant. He picked me up in the morning – I made sure I was not late – and I just sat and listened.
“Here was, perhaps, the greatest jockey of all giving a stable lad a lift and I’m just soaking it all up. He was absolutely superb. I can’t remember how the horse ran, but I do remember the day I spent with Lester. It was just an education.”
Born in Andover, Hampshire, Guest was one of six children born to his father Charlie and mother Joyce.
His elder brother, Rae, is a successful trainer whose very first winner after a riding stint with the legendary Sir Gordon Richards.
His sister, Jane, came to prominence when she married the late Sir Henry Cecil and masterminded the career of the incomparable Frankel. She became a Group One-winning trainer in her own right last year thanks to the exploits of the James Doyle-ridden and Prince Khalid Abdullah-owned Noble Mission.
For further details about Tuesday’s open day, telephone 01937 587552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org