Saturday, May 22, 2010


In the late 1970’s Vincent’s BMW Radio 210 interviewed Ian Balding as follows:

‘If we move to the edge of Kingsclere we come to the home of Ian Balding and Ian is the Queen’s racehorse trainer.’

Question: “ Ian, lets talk first of all, a little bit, about Park House because it was built specifically for a trainer wasn’t it? ”

Ian’s reply: “Yes it was, it was built by a great trainer in fact, John Porter, just about a hundred years ago now, and he designed it I think I am right in saying himself. Certainly the stables he designed and he got one of his wealthy owners Sir Joseph Hawley to I think put up the money, but that was when it was first built.”

Question: “Why is it a good place to train racehorses?

Ian’s reply: “Well John Porter decided it was, I think, just before Park House was built. John Porter had a stable up on top of the downs (Cannon Heath Downs) and found that it was too cold up there to benefit the horses, and so he decided just at the foot of the hill of the downs here, would be an ideal place and I think he was right.”

Question: “Why? Because of the fact of the gallops are just right?

Ian’s reply: “Yes the gallops up on top of the downs that he used for many many years, and that successive trainers in Kingsclere have used since then, are marvellous. I mean that they are some of the best summer gallops anywhere in the world I would think. But the fact that the stables are situated much lower, I mean
745ft lower down just means that they are that bit warmer. Which is necessary really for racehorse.”

Question: “So it has always been a racehorse establishment since the 1880’s? “

Ian’s reply: “Yes it has, there was one period just before the war and during the war I think I am right in saying that Captain Arnold Wills owned it and at that stage it was used as a Stud Farm. But apart from that small period, when he in fact got Charles Hutchins to actually plant lots of avenues of trees and hedges. Which are still there now and are of great benefit to the horses for shelter and so on. But other than that of course it has been used for racehorses.”

Question: “Ian you are a very successful trainer, a very good trainer, what makes a good racehorse trainer ?”

Ian’s reply: “I think first and foremost you have got to be a horseman. I was very lucky I was brought up with horses. My father was a trainer and a great polo player, and really from the moment I could walk I could ride, and did ride, and in a lot of races in my younger days. So I think you have got to be a horseman to understand how horses work really, and how best to hopefully get the horses fit. But on the other side you have got to organise in my case here, anyway, a large staff and run the place so that it works, you’ve got to find owners, keep owners happy. And finally administration and office work to actually get the horses to the races and run them in the races that they are most likely to win. ”

Question: “Ian, to be a successful stable lad or jockey you have to keep your weight
around 7 stone at 18 is it because we are better fed and better brought up that it is difficult to find people like that ?”

Ian’s reply:: “ I think it undoubtedly is because even when I first started training over 20 years ago the boys came in at sort of 5 stone and they went maybe up to 7 stone when they were 18 and then stuck at about that. I remember the first good apprentice jockey that I produced was a man called Ernie Johnson who is still riding successfully now and he still does 7stone 9lb. But more recently we have had a wonderful couple looking after the hostel I mean they feed the boys extremely well and of course they just grow to big too quickly and I think that is part of the problem but its also difficult nowadays I think right from birth probably they are fed better, boys generally, and it is awfully difficult to find your 5 stone boy aged 16 which is really what we are looking for. ”

Question: “Ian you train horses for the Queen, we can all see what an enthusiastic person she is if we watch her on television. How much does she actually take part in what you do? ”

Ian reply’s: “Well I think it is inevitable she is unable to go to an awful lot of the races, but she is extremely knowledgeable, she knows exactly when her horses are running, she knows everything about those horses, she is kept in very good touch of course by her manager Lord Porchester. She is amazingly enthusiastic I think that it’s her one real hobby, and you know one would like to think that it gives her a lot of pleasure.”

Question: “ Does she often come down here and look at the horses?”

Ian reply’s: “ Well again I don’t suppose as often as she would like to, but we certainly see her probably three maybe, certainly three times a year anyway.”

Question: “Ian you have had some marvellous winners over the years is there any one horse that you have trained here that you rate above all others?”

Ian reply’s: “ Oh yes I think the general public would know probably that Mill Reef was certainly the best horse that I have trained here. I think he was the best racehorse that I have seen in my time actually, biased though I am, and what is even more exciting from my point of view because sadly the life of a flat racehorse only lasts probably three or four years, but he’s gone on to make into a wonderful stallion and we have had extremely good sons of his like Glint Of Gold, Diamond Shoal, and King of Clubs to name but three, and this is what is so exciting because although you know one tends to forget what a marvellous racehorse he was, you can see it in his offspring coming through year after year.”

Question: “ Ian, what had Mill Reef got then that perhaps other horses hadn’t ...? “

Ian reply’s: “ The extraordinary thing was about Mill Reef was that the further he went actually the faster he went, I mean I have never come across a horse with the sort of speed that he had whereby he won his first race at Salisbury for example,
over 5 furlongs in practically record time so easily, and it was the first time ever on a racecourse. He went on as you know to win the Derby and then he won King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at Ascot over a mile and a half, and the Prix de Arc de Triumph at Longchamp over a mile and a half, both times in record time, and this is very very rare that you get a horse who is a brilliant sprinter as he was as a two year old who goes on to be your champion middle distance horse and I think he was the best mile and a half horse I have ever seen. ”

“Ian, thank you very much for talking to me.”


Website: Andrew Balding was born on December 29th 1972. He follows along in his father Ian ‘s footsteps, taking over the trainers’ license at Park House from his father in 2003. A 100 box yard, set in 40 acres of paddocks, tree lined avenues and gallops. With further 200 acres of Downland gallops situated nearby. Facilities include 4 all weather gallops, equine swimming pool, all private and self contained.




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