EACH week Sun Racing talks to one of the top names in the sport to find out their secret love outside of racing.
Next up is National Hunt powerhouse Paul Nicholls on his love for all things gardening.
My passion for gardening, in general, and roses, in particular, goes back decades.
In fact, the names of some of my favourite roses trip off my tongue as easily as some of the best horses I have trained over the years.
Roses like Remember Me, Ingrid Bergman, Tequila Sunrise and Whisky Mac top the list . . . in a similar way to the great horses like Kauto Star, Denman, Master Minded and Big Buck’s!
I first became interested in gardening through my father, Brian. I was a jockey between 1982-89 when I rode for David Barons.
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Then I often had time off in the afternoons and quite a nice house came with the job down at Kingsbridge, Devon, so I got some hanging baskets and started planting some roses.
But it was when I started training at Ditcheat, Somerset, in 1991, first with just eight horses, my interest really took off. I wanted the yard to look smart – to me, first impressions count.
At the start, I used to do everything myself: planting, feeding, weeding, pruning, deadheading. But now, because I am so busy, I have some help from my good friend Dan Weaver.
When I have my owners’ open day on the first Sunday in September, I like the yard to look smart with all the hanging baskets in full bloom and the roses looking good.
Seven years ago I finished my new house – it took three years to build from scratch – and since then I have gradually built the garden up.
My real passion is building the rose beds. I have eight raised beds near the house, plus four or five beds elsewhere and climbing roses on the walls.
Between my house and the top main yard, we have about 60 hanging baskets full of flowers such as begonias, petunias and fuchsias.
I love everything about roses – the bright colours, the fragrance and they look so good.
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I will choose the variety of rose depending on where I am planting it.
Most like plenty of sunlight, plenty of water and plenty of feed. My favourite is the Denman rose.
The flower is well named because Denman, the racehorse, used to love roses too – unfortunately it was eating them not caring for them!
Even now, lots of the horses try to nip off the flowers in the baskets if we let them get too close.
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Looking after the flowers is like looking after the horses – a team effort.
My head lad, Clifford Baker, takes as much pride in them as I do.
During the lockdown, I have been able to spend more time gardening. Which has been great.
Since I took up training I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a lot of success on the track but the job has its challenges – and gardening is a great way to relax and release some pressure.
I take a lot of pride in having a really special garden. Pride of place in my garden now is a statue of Kauto Star, who I trained to win two Gold Cups and five King Georges. A true legend.
So my racing and my roses go hand in hand.