Trainer Magazine

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NEW: 'Hindsight' - Clive Brittain

HINDSIGHTWeb Master
  Hindsight - Clive Brittain         In a training career spanning more than 40 years, Clive Brittain and his Carlburg Stables in Newmarket became synonymous with high-profile success in Britain and on the international racing scene.       Clive’s lengthy resume of top-flight wins includes six British Classics and overseas triumphs in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Japan Cup, achieved by horses such as the legendary Pebbles, User Friendly, Jupiter Island and Warrsan.        Two years on from his retirement, Clive reflects on the pivotal moments and people in his amazing career.         During your time with Sir Noel Murless, you were part of the move from Beckhampton Stables to Newmarket, which has been your home for more than 60 years. What are your memories of working for Sir Noel Murless and what changes have you seen in Newmarket in this time?       “Sir Noel was a very good boss, a very fair man, and never changed. I started out as an apprentice jockey, but I made a very good stable man and went with Sir Noel and the team to Warren Place. At the time, the stable held around 70 horses, which was a lot in those days, as most of established trainers would have around 50 horses with Geoffrey Brooke possibly having around 60, most of which were two-year-olds.        “Sir Noel later became the first trainer to have more than 100 horses, but numbers today for the larger trainers are typically well over 150 horses per trainer. We later had 160 horses between two yards, Carlburg and one at Stetchworth, on Bill Gredley’s estate, of around 30 boxes.”         You achieved notable success with long-priced runners in the big races (such as Terimon's second in the 1989 Derby at 500/1). What do you think of the BHA's recent decision to put a minimum qualifying rating of 80 on contenders for the Group 1 races for three-year-olds and upwards?       “To put a limit on ratings you are taking a big risk. A lot of my big winners at home and abroad wouldn’t have qualified!        “You have to be careful as you do have owners spending big money, but you also must never exclude the other owners from the top table. It is still supposed to be a sport, after all. These races are the pinnacle for horse, trainer and owner. If you can afford to pay the entry fee, there should be no restriction.        “I was often accused of running horses out of their class, but I proved on more than one occasion that the horses justified their inclusion. You can’t ultimately assess a horse’s ability until they have finished racing.”        “I trained for some great owners, such as Marcus Lemos, who owned Azerof and Julius Mariner, who bred and initially owned Pebbles. Sheikh Mohammed came on board and I had a lot of success for Arab owners.”         40 years separate your first and last Group 1 winners (Averof, 1974 St James's Palace Stakes, and Rizeema, 2014 Coronation Stakes). What developments in training technique came along during your career, and which did you feel were the most beneficial?       “One of the biggest advances for Newmarket as a whole was the introduction of the all-weather gallops. These massively cut down the injury rate, particularly the Al Bahathri, which I think once we all got used to it, halved the injury rate.”         You were always reputed to be the first trainer to have his string on Newmarket Heath every morning. Was there a particular reason for this?        “Well, this goes back to the days before the all-weather gallops. I always wanted to be the first trainer on the gallops, before 6am, when the ground is freshest. I also chose Tuesday and Friday as my gallop days, as most other trainers worked on Wednesday and Saturdays. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, horses would end up queuing at the bottom of the gallops, which then meant they became frustrated and more stressed.”         As one who became a trainer after time served as an apprentice jockey and then stable lad, what are your thoughts on the current staffing shortage in the racing industry?       “Any job needs a bit of backbone. I treated my job as my life and I put in what I expected to get out. There do seem to be some people coming into the industry, through a racing school, yet don’t know about what they should be getting into a horse, and are going to the races as ‘ready-made jockeys’. You can’t do that.”       “It’s not a 9-5 job. Racing should be a passion for staff; our horses won a lot of best-turned-out awards.        “As a trainer, I made a few changes and we were one of the first yards to start sending out three lots, but also gave staff every other weekend off, rather than one weekend in three as was the norm at the time.       “Evening stables always take time but we always tried to avoid wasting time. One of my habits was to take a packet of Polo mints around with me, so I could more quickly find the horses who were out of sorts; if there was something wrong, the horse didn’t come for the Polo.”        You’re regarded as something of a pioneer for British trainers when it came to having runners at major overseas meetings. Were you aware that you were blazing a trail for British trainers in those early days?       “John Dunlop and Paul Cole were certainly among the first British trainers to go overseas, beyond Europe, which to me seemed the right thing to so, as the prize money was very good. This was something I noticed as a stable lad when attending races in Paris.        “A lot of the races used to be invitationals, so it was crazy to overlook them. Sir Henry Cecil wouldn’t run abroad for a long time, but when he did, he was soon converted.       “Travelling is now a lot easier than it used to be and the staff on flights are very good. If I had a horse now, I wouldn’t hesitate. After one disappointment with an overseas runner, we learned that it was best to keep everything simple and the same for the horse, particularly their eating routine, so feed and watering times were kept the same. Even a two-day interruption to the eating rhythm could cause trouble.”         Of all your achievements as a trainer, which were the most satisfying and why?       “The Breeders’ Cup Turf and Japan Cup are certainly up there. Even finishing second in the Kentucky Derby with Bold Arrangement. On breeding he should have been 1000/1, but nearly won! I did feel some pride in flying the flag for the country, and the money’s there, but the prestige far outweighs the money.        “Pebbles was very flighty and got upset very easily. She would be accompanied everywhere by Come On The Blues. Our head lad Jock Brown got on with her very well and would know exactly at what pace to go with her in her work. She wasn’t the soundest, either, and probably swam more miles than she galloped.       “It was with horses like Pebbles that all the little things you have learned over the years come into play, all of which essentially combine to take the stress out of training.”           Who has been the biggest influence on your career?       “It was while working for Sir Noel that I met my wife, Maureen, who was at that time his secretary. Maureen knows everything about breeding and with my brawn and her brains, the combination worked a treat when I was training.        “Maureen is now in a care home, Oaklands, just down the road in Bottisham, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the staff there. They’re so good and would make the perfect stable lad or lass, given the care and respect they show their residents.        “Sir Noel could undoubtedly get the best out of a horse, and was very good with fillies. Just as he influenced my career, I can draw parallels between the late Michael Jarvis and Roger Varian, who bought Carlburg from me. In fact, Michael and I once had a long chat about Roger and we both saw the potential that he has realised.”        Which horse, past or present, who you have liked to train?       “St Paddy, who I rode at home. He was a horse who pulled like a train and I managed to get him settled and relaxed. To see him win the Derby gave me a great deal of pleasure.”     
 

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Gallery

In a training career spanning more than 40 years, Clive Brittain and his Carlburg Stables in Newmarket became synonymous with high-profile success in Britain and on the international racing scene.

Clive’s lengthy resume of top-flight wins includes six British Classics and overseas triumphs in the Breeders’ Cup Turf and Japan Cup, achieved by horses such as the legendary Pebbles, User Friendly, Jupiter Island and Warrsan.

Two years on from his retirement, Clive reflects on the pivotal moments and people in his amazing career.

During your time with Sir Noel Murless, you were part of the move from Beckhampton Stables to Newmarket, which has been your home for more than 60 years. What are your memories of working for Sir Noel Murless and what changes have you seen in Newmarket in this time?

“Sir Noel was a very good boss, a very fair man, and never changed. I started out as an apprentice jockey, but I made a very good stable man and went with Sir Noel and the team to Warren Place. At the time, the stable held around 70 horses, which was a lot in those days, as most of established trainers would have around 50 horses with Geoffrey Brooke possibly having around 60, most of which were two-year-olds.

“Sir Noel later became the first trainer to have more than 100 horses, but numbers today for the larger trainers are typically well over 150 horses per trainer. We later had 160 horses between two yards, Carlburg and one at Stetchworth, on Bill Gredley’s estate, of around 30 boxes.”

You achieved notable success with long-priced runners in the big races (such as Terimon's second in the 1989 Derby at 500/1). What do you think of the BHA's recent decision to put a minimum qualifying rating of 80 on contenders for the Group 1 races for three-year-olds and upwards?

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