Alan King: The Master of Horse Racing

Updated: 269 Horse Racing

Delve into the world of horse racing with Alan King, the renowned trainer. Gain valuable insights from exclusive interviews, and information of this first class dual purpose trainer.

Alan King: The Master of Horse Racing
Steve Madgwick Editor-In-Chief

Editor-In-Chief with 20 years experience covering the betting angles to breaking news stories. Daily slots player, Portsmouth fan and League Snooker Player

Welcome to the captivating world of horse racing, where exceptional trainers like Alan King reign supreme. In this article, we will take you on a journey through King's illustrious career and provide exclusive information from insightful interviews. Join us as we unravel the secrets behind King's success and unlock the thrilling allure of this timeless sport.

From Jockey to Respected Race Horse Trainer

In the world of horse racing, Alan King's name commands respect and admiration. Renowned for his expertise and dedication to the sport, King has carved out a notable career as a race horse trainer. Let's delve into his journey, achievements, and the influence he has had on the racing world.

Early Life and Beginnings:

Born on April 29, 1966, in Sussex, England, Alan King's fascination with horses began at an early age. Growing up near Goodwood Racecourse, he was exposed to the racing world from childhood, developing a deep love and understanding of these magnificent creatures. At the age of 16, King decided to pursue a career in horse racing, and his journey as a jockey took flight.

Peter Trimming / View Towards Goodwood Racecourse

Jockey Career:

During his time as a jockey, Alan King showcased his skills and determination both on the flat and over hurdles. Although his riding career didn't reach the heights he had hoped for, King's experiences on the track laid the foundation for his later success as a trainer. Perseverance, hard work, and a keen eye for horses became his greatest assets.

🏇🎓 Alan King: From Jockey to Trainer 🏆🐎

King's jockey career laid the foundation for his future success as a trainer. Perseverance and a keen eye for horses led him to transition from the saddle to the training yards. 💪🔜👨‍🏫 In 1999, he received his training license, setting the stage for an illustrious career in horse racing. 🌟🥇

Transition to Training:

After retiring from his jockey career in the late 1980s, King embarked on a new chapter as a race horse trainer. He gained invaluable experience working with renowned trainers such as David Nicholson and Kim Bailey, honing his skills and gaining valuable insights into the training process. In 1999, Alan King received his training license, marking the beginning of an illustrious career beginning at Jackdaw's Castle stables before moving to his home since 2000 Barbury Castle in Wiltshire.

Achievements and Notable Horses:

Over the years, Alan King has achieved remarkable success, with numerous victories under his belt. His talent for maximizing a horse's potential has yielded memorable moments for both him and racing enthusiasts. Some of his famous charges include the Hennessey Gold Cup winner "Smad Place," dual Grade 1-winning chaser "Medermit," and the prolific hurdler "Yanworth." These victories have firmly established King as a leading trainer on the national hunt racing scene.

Smad Place at Barbury Castle Photo: Carine06 on Flikr

The King's Stables:

Based at Barbury Castle Stables near Wroughton, Alan King's training establishment is known for its state-of-the-art facilities and picturesque surroundings. The yard's serene setting provides an ideal environment for nurturing thoroughbreds, with King's passion and attention to detail combining to create an atmosphere of excellence and care.

Photo Credit: Alan King Racing

Continuing Influence:

Alan King's expertise and dedication extend beyond his own yard. He has been instrumental in shaping the future of the sport, mentoring and inspiring aspiring trainers. King has nurtured and supported young talents, passing on his knowledge and teaching them the significance of patience, hard work, and compassion for the horses under their care.

Alan King's journey from jockey to renowned race horse trainer is a testament to his unwavering commitment and love for the sport. His passion, determination, and expertise have helped him carve a niche in the racing world, earning him the respect and admiration of his peers. As we witness the ongoing success of his stables, it is evident that Alan King's influence on the world of horse racing shows no signs of waning.

Interview October 2023

In an interview with Alan King, the renowned horse racing trainer reveals his survival as a dual-purpose trainer during the summer months, the success of his facilities at Barbury, his thoughts on summer jumping, and the need to maintain prize money to prevent horses from leaving for the Middle East and Australia. He also expresses concerns about the Gambling Commission's approach, the fixture list, and the sport's pandering to outside influence. King discusses his top horses, including Trueshan and his collaboration with jockey Hollie Doyle. He touches on the future of horse racing and mentions potential cuts in his operation. Lastly, King shares his views on the Grand National, television coverage, sales market challenges, and the emergence of new owners and trainers. Patience, he emphasizes, is crucial in the world of horse racing. #HorseRacingInsights 🐎

I wouldn’t have survived the summer months without being a dual-purpose trainer

I had to. Barbury is a wonderful place to train but it is expensive to be here. I would not have survived in the summer months with nothing coming in. I don’t like summer jumping and never have done so. We have had almost 350 winners on the Flat so it’s been a positive step.

We have been lucky enough to have some very good horses over the years. Trueshan is the exceptional one but four Royal Ascot winners too, which is always my favourite week of the year. It’s a great place to run horses and if you’re lucky enough to get a win it is very special.

Summer jumps are bookmaker fodder

It’s up to the individual. But I know Martin Keighley for instance is very keen to buy yearlings or breeze up horses to try and do that. There is a lot of damage done on the summer jumping which is putting people off. It’s bookmaker fodder.

Most racing is. Why are we racing on a Sunday evening? There’s only one reason. Bookmaker fodder.

The Gambling Commission are clueless with affordability checks - more and more will turn to the black market

I don’t know where they are coming from. The Gambling Commission just doesn’t understand. They are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. 

Most of the problem gamblers to my mind are the guys on slot machines and casinos, going in with a credit card.You can’t win on those machines.

I don’t see what right they have to ask for this sort of information. It is worrying. If they don’t back down, more and more gambling will go on to the black market and no-one wants that and no-one wins from that. Even the Government would lose a huge amount of income and racing would be in a serious state.

We need to keep prize money up as we can’t keep losing horses to the Middle East and Australia

The Gambling Commission is a huge worry if it goes the wrong way. It’s a pity because prize money has been going up quite substantially. 

There is certainly not the gulf there was between England and Ireland now. It is closing all the time and it would be a great shame if they suddenly knock us back.

We need to keep trying to get prize money up because we can’t afford to keep losing these Group 3 horses disappearing to the Middle East or Australia. That is hurting.

Let’s hope there is a solution but anything to do with the Government and the Gambling Commission doesn’t fill you with a lot of confidence.

Sunday night racing is an appalling idea

I think we will have to see how the new fixture list impacts. I feel sorry for the tracks that have done well on a Saturday afternoon getting big crowds in and they are going to have the races moved. We probably had to try something.

I can be selective. I have very few runners on a Sunday and I will try not to. Why do we have to be racing on a Sunday night though? I think it is appalling.

The UK will eventually reign in Ireland's dominance of jumps racing

We will match Ireland. Even some of their Graded races are worth less than ours. The big issue, for instance from talking with Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson the other day, is getting their good novice chasers started is almost impossible because there aren’t any races. 

The sport has to be careful. You’ve got to bring these young horses through. They are saying the fields are too small.

I started following racing in the mid 1970s, good novice chases never had big fields. Fulke Walwyn and Fred Winter as trainers with only four or five runners. That is where you made your future champions. Young horses need to be taught to do their job.

I am cutting back on my operation - a few smaller trainers might get squeezed out soon

One or two smaller trainers will get squeezed. I am well down on numbers, probably 25 jumpers fewer than last year. Mainly because in the last 18 months five or six really good owners have died and they have not been replaced. Plus I have several other owners who are in their 80s.

We are going to cut back. I have given notice on our second yard Sharpridge so I won’t be training from there next year. I shall be training 90 horses from Barbury and I have to look to get the quality up as well.

I can’t get into the position where Sharpridge is only half full and get it back to a number I enjoy. That would be tough financially and I am pre-empting that. I am 57 this year. 

Horse racing is relentless - I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to

I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to! It is relentless. Look back at say Fred Winter’s day. There was no summer jumping, no evening racing, no Sunday racing. It was a very nice way of life.

When Sunday racing was first mooted we weren't going to race on Mondays. But that didn’t happen. The product is getting more and more diluted.

The fixture list is too big. I have been saying for some time, there is far too much racing.

Trushan has been a remarkable horse - he and Hollie Doyle are great together

He has been a remarkable horse and he has now won over £1.8m. That is quite a feat. He has given us some wonderful days - three group ones, three group twos. He is maybe not quite the force of old but he is still running to a pretty high level. He will have a good winter off and come back for another year.

Hollie won on him in his first race as a three year old at Wolverhampton. It is her ride when she is available. They have done well together.

Hollie is wonderful for the sport and hopefully going to get stronger. She had a tough start to the year with injury and took a long time to get back from that.

She already is and will continue to be a great ambassador for the sport. It depends on how far she wants to take it.

Frankie Dettori had a phenomenal season

He has been great for the sport. He has been remarkable. He is riding as well now as he has ever done. He has had a phenomenal season, Classic winners, handicaps, the Ebor was a great ride. He has been wonderful for the sport. AP and Ruby quit when they did but you can’t compare Flat and National Hunt.

Primetime docuseries can only help the sport - exposure is so important

Getting primetime television can only be a help. We are so lucky generally with the coverage that ITV gives the sport. It infuriates me when anyone in the sport criticises it. If you don’t like it then watch one of the racing channels.

We are so fortunate to have the coverage we do. I wouldn’t be here now but for the television coverage. In the mid 70s I was hooked watching the BBC and World of Sport. I had no racing connection. I was about eight or nine. A lot of sports that are no longer on terrestrial TV have struggled. Exposure is so important.

I’m not a Grand National fan - but we might have a runner this year

I am not a Grand National fan, it’s never been a race that has got me excited. We might have a runner this year, Major Dundee. He would have to go up quite a way in the handicap especially now that the field has been reduced from 40 to 34. A slightly shorter run to the first fence makes sense to get them down to the start quieter.  

The sport is 100% pandering to outside influence

100%. You are not going to win over critics whatever you do. They won’t be happy until racing is stopped. Why give minority groups so much say?

Three from the yard to watch out for this season?

We had a very good bumper crop last year with seven winners and a lot placed. My old guard is getting old, though Sceau Royal is 11, bless him, for instance - I need the youngsters to come up to the mark.

Harbour Lake is going to go novice chasing, we like him. He’s a good solid handicapper, mid 130s-rated horse.

I’m A Lumberjack was second in his only run at Newbury in a bumper and Irish Chorus is a lovely filly too.

I should also mention Helnwein, a Noel Fehily syndicate horse,  who is going novice hurdling.

It’s hard to find good horses at the sales - I am not spending anymore than I did 20 years ago

It is very difficult. We don’t spend fortunes. I am not spending more than I did 20 years ago.  You get left behind. We just don’t have the owners who will give £200-£300,000 for an Irish pointer. 

I have weakened my hand on the jumping front a bit because I buy a lot of Flat horses now. It is a 60/40 split.

The lower end of the sales market is very weak 

The top end is incredibly strong. But the middle and lower market is very weak. The yearling sales this year have been very hit and miss. There are a lot of vendors who probably haven’t covered their stallion fees. It is not all rosy. Same with the jumps.

The Qatari’s are going to be huge players in the future of horse racing - dynasties are still living on though

Cheveley, David Thompson, Sheik Hamdan Abdullah. Sheika Hissa, his daughter, is still keen but on a much smaller scale. Juddmonte is still buying. They seem to be very keen. They were never the size of Godolphin. It was a larger operation but they were very focussed on quality.   

Nothing last’s forever. As a kid there was Nelson Bunker Hunt, who was huge, who tried to corner the silver market and went down. Robert Sangster in his pomp was huge as well. 

There will be new ones. I think the Qataris are going to be huge.

I plan to cut back - racing has become more competitive and is too expensive now

Cut back a little bit and try and up the quality. A few more of the graded horses. I have had a few and you miss them. I was very spoiled 15-20 years ago. I thought the job was relatively easy. We had My Way De Solzen, Katchit, Voy Por Ustedes, Nenuphar Collonges - they just kept rolling along.

Racing has become more competitive. When I started I bought a lot of horses out of France. But it’s too expensive now. I bought My Way for £30,000, Smad Place was £30,000.

New owners are like young trainers - there will always be new kids on the block

There are but they like young trainers. I am probably not getting as many interested clients as I used to. There are always new kids on the block. But we are fine. If I do it right financially, we can last many years.

I won’t go to Cheltenham just to make up the numbers

Last year I only ran two horses there. I won’t go there just to make up the numbers. We will get the novices going and if we think it’s a good horse will have it in the back of our mind. But we have got a long way to go. We are only just getting started. If one or two get there then brilliant.

George Boughey and Ben Pauling are two young trainers to watch

George Boughey has done phenomenally well. Ben Pauling has spent a fortune on his new facilities and he’s had a tremendous first season.

Personally, I am really looking forward to getting this season out of the way, finishing at Sharpridge, consolidating and then really taking it forward.

Patience is key for a racehorse trainer - there’s no need to rush anything

I am a better trainer now than I was in all the glory years. I have learned to be more patient with them. Give them time. Don’t rush anything. Patience is key for a racehorse trainer.  Don’t kid yourself. If you see a little niggle back off.  

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