Newmarket-based trainer, Tom Clover opens up to NHRM and is the next subject of our “Day in the life” series of interviews based around the Sport of Kings, which luckily for us has its origins firmly embedded in Newmarket.
Tom has been in racing all his life, riding in point-to-points while still a student, before joining Charlie Longsdon as pupil assistant. He soon stepped up to assistant trainer there, before a season in Newmarket as David Simcock’s assistant, extended to 5 years. He took out his own license in 2016 and after 3 years in rented stables moved into his late father-in-law’s yard, Kremlin House Stables, last year.
Thank you for the chance to ask you some questions about racing; your top tips for the rest of the season and some general racing banter for our National Horseracing Museum followers.
When you arrived in Newmarket, as assistant trainer to David Simcock, did you always have the belief you could make a career as a trainer in your own right?
The training was something I always wanted to do – it’s not easy starting from scratch but I feel if you want something enough and work hard – then you have to believe that you’ll make it work.
You run Tom Clover Racing with your wife Jackie, how does a husband-and-wife business operate, and would you recommend your partnership approach to other couples looking to combine skills?
We each have our own roles within the business – I run the training side and she runs the office. Yes, we are sounding boards for each other and discuss everything but ultimately the horse decisions are taken by me and I try not to interfere too much in the general running of the business. We love working together –to have someone to share the highs and the lows with is a real help.
You are regularly mentioned in a lot of circles as an “Up & Coming” Trainer, and with 26 winners last year, an impressive track record, how do you intend to build on that momentum?
Our main aim each year is to increase the quality of the horses we train – yes having more horses is great – but ultimately it’s having winners at big meetings that drives us. Having winners attracts owners and builds momentum. You hope then you can invest in facilities that attract new owners and continue to move the business forward.
Newmarket has long been the base for many of the best-known trainers in flat racing, who would you say is your biggest inspiration locally?
The biggest influence on my career has been my former boss David Simcock. He and his wife Jennie set up from scratch and now have a string of over 100 horses. He has trained Group 1 winners all over the world and has built an extremely successful business. That’s what we strive to achieve.
Can you relax on a race day – and if so how?
No! Raceday – especially if you fancy the horse running, is always stressful and you feel nervous and excited. You just want everything to go smoothly.
Sum up your training methods to five key elements you believe make a winning horse?
That’s a tough one as there are so many factors that go into training any athlete be it horse or human. Most importantly is health – horses only win races and perform to the best of their ability if they are healthy. Factors to help this includes making sure they are fed the best hay and feed, have clean stables with good airflow and are regularly checked by myself and the vet. Combine this with employing competent staff who give good feedback and know how to ride the gallops properly and the horse then has the best chance of going to the races in top shape. A horse has got to want to win and have the mental capacity to handle race day. Will to win is a huge factor in whether a horse fulfills its potential.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since starting Tom Clover Racing?
It has to be the COVID-19 pandemic and everything that has happened over the past year. Racing was stopped during the first lockdown and at that point, we weren’t sure when it would start again. Understandably owners didn’t want to keep paying to keep horses in full training when there wasn’t any racing. Luckily the BHA did a great job getting racing back as soon as possible and as a result, our owners were incredibly patient and most of them kept their horses with us. Despite racing being back on, with a cut in prizemoney and no owners attending, it has been hard to sell our product, and attracting and meeting new owners has been hard. Hopefully, as the vaccine is rolled out and people can go racing again this will improve.
In recent months female jockeys have rightly taken their place in the headlines, which female jockey is your top tip to go to the top?
I don’t think of female riders any different to men – they are all jockeys and recently have proved that they can do the job equally as well. Hollie Doyle on the flat and Rachael Blackmore over jumps have risen to the top of their profession and I hope our apprentice Laura Pearson can follow in their footsteps. She has had a great winter and long may it continue.
…. Jump racing or flat racing?
Best Mate was the horse who gave me the racing bug but it’s flat racing for me now.
What’s been your biggest career highlight so far?
Saddling Celsius to win at Glorious Goodwood in 2019 was a real thrill. Winning races at the big festivals is what we strive for and he was a well-backed favourite for owners who had been with me from the start.
We have to ask this, but what style of art do you most admire or covet?
I am a big art fan and French impressionism would be my favourite. That said, I wouldn’t say no to a Munnings!