Phil Kirby reaping rewards of switch

Phil Kirby on the gallops at Middleham
Phil Kirby on the gallops at Middleham
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THREE winners in the past 10 days have more than vindicated trainer Phil Kirby’s decision to move to purpose-built stables in North Yorkshire.

One of the North’s foremost dual-purpose trainers, Kirby and his wife Pippa – a renowned equine artist – have led a Nomadic existence until now.

Now they are preparing to open the doors of Green Oaks stables near Richmond to the public on Sunday week, August 7, to showcase their new facilities.

Situated on 100 acres of rolling farmland just a short canter from Catterick’s racecourse, Kirby is already reaping the rewards of having his own four-furlong oval gallop as well as straight surface which is half-a-mile long.

“It’s only been finished 10 days and we have had three winners since then,” said the 37-year-old, who is hopeful of adding to his tally of winners when Factor Fifty and Bold Henmie line up at Market Rasen tomorrow.

“We have 45 horses in training and there will be 52 in winter. It’s nice that we can do what we want, when we want. If we want to go left-handed, right-handed, uphill, downhill, we don’t have to worry about anyone else. That’s the crucial difference.”

Born in Lancashire, Kirby made the journey across the Pennines when he joined Ferdy Murphy’s West Witton yard as an amateur rider.

It all went downhill, he jokes, after his first ride was a winning one – but he accepts that his tall frame was not exactly conducive to being a top flight jockey.

It prompted Kirby and his wife to start training horses from Castleton near Whitby while also leasing 10 boxes at Keith Reveley’s stables near Saltburn.

From there, they spent the past four years renting former trainer Kate Walton’s yard in Middleham – while commuting from Castleton each day – before finally moving to Green Oaks.

The past year, says Kirby, has been particularly challenging with the daily commute, the training of racehorses and then overseeing the construction of the new yard before the small matter of moving an entire string of horses.

Yet there is no doubting his ability – whether it be with Flat or National Hunt runners. Headline horses include Platinum, winner of Haydock’s prestigious Old Borough Cup in September, 2013, and Lady Heidi, who landed the Listed Tankard Stakes at Pontefract the following month under Silvestre de Sousa, the champion Flat jockey.

“Platinum was a very cheap buy and just kept improving while Lady Heidi was a two-year-old when we had her.

“It’s satisfying to win with different types of horses,” explained Kirby, who cites Stopped Out’s hurdles success at Sandown’s season-ending meeting in April 2013 as a career highlight over jumps.

The biggest difference, says Kirby, will be spending more time training racehorses rather than spending time on the road running a logistics operation.

He hopes, and believes, the improved results will speak for themselves.

“We’re in beautiful countryside while being very close to the motorway,” he added. “We hope people will come to the open day, see the parade of horses and share our love of racing.

“It was difficult to juggle everything when we were training in Middleham, on shared gallops with other trainers, while still living in Castleton on the other side of North Yorkshire. I won’t miss the driving!”

See for details of the open day which begins at 10.30am on August 7.