Meet The Team
Our whole operation couldn’t run smoothly without our fantastic team behind the scenes as well as those you see at the races. We are very lucky to have such a hard-working group of people by our side and we’re very proud to call them Team Kirby.
Phil Kirby Pippa Kirby Anna Dent Steve Bocking
Simon Olley Sarah Olley Julie Henegan Pete Looker
Adam Nicol Tommy Dowson Sam Welton
Jennie Durrans Henry Newcombe Megan Dent
Katie Perkin Issey Gill Sam McNicholas Joanne Ford
Nick Barratt-Atkin Toby Pedley Ben Gaskell
Uncle Albert Keith Walker
Philip Kirby – The Trainer
Workaholic Phil is up at the crack of dawn and not only trains the horses but rides and shoes some of them himself too. Due to recently moving yards we’ve managed to swap the 90 minute drive to work every morning for a 10 second walk out the door as Phil now lives in the farmhouse on site with wife Pippa, and two children Izzy & Indy. He wouldn’t have put up with the long drive for 2 years if he didn’t love his job, and enjoys every winner from the smallest handicap seller to a big win at a Grade 1 track like Aintree or Haydock.
Phil is just as happy driving his horses to the races, leading up if required – or harrowing the fields at home when we get a dry spring…definitely a jack of all trades but dreadful when it comes to washing up and DIY!
It all started in 1997- without a previous Point to Point runner to his name, Lancashire born Philip ended the 2007 season as Britain’s leading Hunter Chase Trainer, beating the likes of Jonjo’s and Paul Nicholls, and all with just 4 horses. Two of these had never jumped a steeplechase fence on a racecourse before!
As well as his love for horses, he has a passion for another 4 legged animal. Phil’s only Greyhound ‘Feugo’ made the Quarter Finals of the World famous Waterloo Cup. Phil trained him himself to win two big meetings prior to that date. Dog aspirations have lowered a little since then – the family now have 2 whippets, a shitzu x dachshund and 2 Chihuahuas! With plenty of horses to keep him busy he doesn’t race dogs anymore,
but does take his saluki x greyhound ‘Sukey’ to the races and she likes to relax with him on the sofa after a hard day’s work.
Phil is defiantly ‘The Big Kid’ of the yard and is always cracking jokes and playing pranks on the rest of the team. The yard has a very relaxed atmosphere when he’s about – sometimes too relaxed! – and the hard work of his team is often recognised and rewarded with ‘Fish n Chip’ lunches, particularly the weather’s nice or when everyone needs a little loving.
Pippa Kirby – Website & Partnerships
Wife to Phil, Pippa manages the six Partnerships, updates the news pages and makes the videos. This is aside from her painting business which does get a bit neglected these days, their two children and their many ponies and dogs also taking up lots of her time. Visit Pippa’s art website to see her work, she paints under her maiden name http://www.philippaporley.co.uk and she has been painting professionally since 1995. Not the bravest of riders any more (self confessed wimp) , you won’t see her up the gallops but she does enjoy competing at dressage and showing. Her favourite race horse list is pretty long, but at the top of it are Platinum, Goldan Jess, Factor Fifty, Agglestone Rock, Call it On, Chloe’s Image and Lady Buttons. Retired favorites include Word of Warning, Andorn, Simply Smashing & Amazing King. Pippa is well into her running and goes out most days with eldest daughter, Izzy.
The Kirby Daughters
Common race goers or visitors of the yard will of no doubt seen The Kirby daughters pitching in from time to time. Izzy (10) and Indy (6) are keeping up the family tradition of riding and they both take their ponies competing in their spare time. Izzy’s pony ‘Freddie’ and their new Shetland ‘Midget Gem’ are also popular visitors to the yard and they enjoy racing up the gallops with their Dad!
Anna Dent – Secretary
Anna joined us in January 2014 and Phil & Pippa certainly breathed a huge sigh of relief! Knowledgeable about the whole racing game, Anna has worked in the Office at several top yards and brings with her a wealth of valuable experience. She is Mother to Meg who is updating these pages for us.
Before starting work in the admin side of racing, Anna was an amateur jockey. Her family has always been involved in racing and had many point to pointers – so when she and her brother got Amateur licences they were the perfect pair to ride the families horses at ptp’s and at the races. Her two favourite horses were Ben’s Birdie – who was owned by Anna and won 8 races on the flat in her colours, including one ridden by herself! And Crail Harbour who she also owned and ran.
Outside of the sport she enjoys playing golf and tennis, spending time with the family and riding her ex racer ‘Cool Operator’ (aka Howard), who spent 3 years with us before retiring in 2014. The yard is certainly more organised since Anna started working for us, and she is a very valued and respected member of staff.
Steve Bocking – Business Manager
Steve works along our Secretary, Anna, to manage the accounts and help out in the office. He also part owns some of the horses in the yard – King’s Grey, Factor Fifty and Transient Bay. He is a good listener with excellent organisational skills. Steve does a lot of his work from home so only comes into the office a few times a month but regularly communicates with Pippa and Anna via phone or email. Steve often brings his dog Islay with him to the office and she enjoys meeting everyone and accompanying Steve on the gallops to watch his horses work. We are extremely grateful for his continuing help.
Simon Olley – Assistant Trainer
Bringing his wealth of experience from Jonjo’s, Simon plays a huge part in the yard taking charge of feeding, working with Phil to manage the riding out board and ensuring each horses requirements are met. He is a first class horseman and along with Phil is also a jack of all trades. Simon is very much Phil’s right hand man and the yard certainly wouldn’t run smoothly without him. Phil dreads the times when Si goes away on holiday – it’s even worse when he takes his wife Sarah with him! Common race goers will have seen Simon leading up or stepping in as trainer for us many times. He is more than capable of taking over from Julie’s travelling role when she’s away, however the yard seems empty without him.
Sarah Olley ~ Head Girl
Alongside her husband Simon, The Olleys are the backbone of the yard having joined Phil late 2009 over in Castleton, and you couldn’t find two more capable people to leave in charge of the yard if Phil is away. Sarah has also brought tonnes of experience from Jonjo’s and we are very grateful that she decided to share her wealth of experience with us. As a yard we take great pride in how our horses look at the races, and with all the practice Sarah has had, she certainly doesn’t let us down when she’s in charge. Sarah enjoys taking her favourite horses racing and their dog Amber also loves a day out from time to time. We love having someone as knowledgeable and skilled as Sarah on the team. Following the increasing number of Partnerships over 2016/17 Sarah has transferred into working in the office to help Pippa with the running of them, emailing owners after runs, and any other general office related jobs, aswell as frequently updating the website news and Facebook page.
Julie Heneghan – Travelling Head Lass
Julie does a first-rate job, driving the box, turning runners out at the races and working full-time on the yard. She is a very valued member of the team and you’ll rarely see her not working. Ju came to us from Johnston’s where she worked many years in a travelling role, and she is a very stylish rider too.
The party animal award on the yard would definitely go to Julie…she is always going on nights out with her mates. Last year for Julie’s birthday she celebrated with a fancy dress party at one of the pubs in Middleham, she was dressed as Snow White and some of her closest friends turned up as the Seven Dwarfs!
In Summer 2015 Julie took part in a charity race at Doncaster in aid of Racing Welfare. Her and Quadriga finished a very impressive 2nd and she loved it so has since got her amateur license out. Ju absolutely loves riding her favourite horses, a very special one being Pass Muster, and she takes real pride in them too.
Peter Looker – Stable Lad & Work Rider
Pete came to us from Ann Duffield’s at the start of 2016. Having worked in racing his whole life it’s fair to say – what Pete doesn’t know, isn’t worth knowing! His chatty, friendly and funny personality has allowed him to form a great bond with the rest of the team and our owners. Pete’s experience shows on the gallops especially riding the young/tricky ones, and he is a great asset to the team.
Adam Nicol – Jockey
Originally from Alnwick, Northumberland, Adam has worked for us since January 2013 having graduated from the Northern Racing College and learning the tricks of the trade from Lucinda Russel. He’s had over 300 rides for us, with a third of them being wins or places. Adam rides out for us most mornings whilst juggling riding out for the likes of Nicky Richards, Mike Sowersby, Rose Dobbin, Lucy Normille and driving to the races. He’s kept busy with the vast number of rides he gets but any spare time is spent in the local gym or watching racing, whilst also enjoying a good night out….and heading back home regularly for his mothers cooking!!!
Adam’s been a constant figure in our two years at Middleham and is really enjoying working on the new yard, riding out his claim in late August 2016. He’s full of laughs and has a top personality, which allows him to have a great bond with the rest of the team and our owners.
Tommy Dowson – Conditional Jockey
21 year old Tommy is our new jockey recruit for the 2017/18 season. Once leaving school Tommy kicked off his career in racing working for Rose Dobbin in Northumberland followed by most recently Maurice Barnes in Carlisle but also often rides for the likes of Jonathan Haynes, Victor Thompson and Kenny Johnson. Tommy is a really good lad and already an established and successful conditional in the North. He is a valuable asset to the yard, always greets the day with a smile and keeps the team in good spirits with his humour! He has joined us claiming 5lbs and we aim to make plenty of use of it over the coming months as we are sure it wont last long! Having rode a handful of winner at the back end of the 2016/17 season for us including the likes of yard favourite Transient Bay and star hurdler Little Bruce he has proven his worth already.
Sam Welton – Work Rider
Sam joined us in October 2015. Having worked in racing since 2007, including having an amateur and conditional license, working for a number of top trainers and training his own point to point runners, he has a great knowledge of the whole industry. Sam spends most of his free time with daughter Polly and their dogs Mistree, Eva & Pixie. They enjoy attending a lot of the local shows and point to points throughout the year; last year he did a great job in managing to train his own point to point winner which Sam rode himself – an amazing achievement.
Although currently living near Thirsk, Sam has had a range of jobs over the country – and out the country! He kicked off his career working for George Moore in Middleham before going to David Pipe’s and most recently David Barron’s. In between riding out for several different trainers, as well as having a short working holiday in France riding out for top French jump trainer Francois Cottin in Chantilly.
Sam takes very fondly to Meg’s regular baking on the yard and in return did an impressive job of making her 16th birthday cake in August last year. His talkative personality and great sense of humour has ensured he’s settled in straight away and get’s on well with the rest of the yard and our owners. His vast amount of experience shows on the gallops as he is a very stylish, confident rider who works hard.
Sam has recently (Sept’17) taken the decision to try another career and has headed off to collage in the pursuit of a career in Architecture – we wish him the best of luck! He thankfully returns on the odd day to help out when we are extra busy.
Jennie Durrans – Stable Lass & Work Rider
Jennie is another addition for 2017. Having left Newmarket in the Summer she moved back in with her Mum just down the road, in Hackforth. She is an enthusiastic, stylish rider who has been a great help to us over the Summer in re-schooling some of our ex-racers before they head off to their new ventures. She’s an easy going and all round lovely girl to work along side, and her favourite part of the job is without a doubt riding her favourite Fingal’s Cave every morning!
Henry Newcombe ~ Stable Lad & Work Rider
We welcomed Henry to the team in the Summer of 2017, having learnt the ropes working for Alan King since leaving the Racing School in 2015. Although only being with us a short amount of time he’s proved himself as a capable & confident rider, as well as a good asset to the schooling ground alongside Tommy and Adam. He’s a hard working individual with a good all round knowledge of the industry, and certainly earnt himself a few brownie points bringing McDonald’s in for everyone within his first week with us! His friendly, laid back personality ensured he fit right in with the rest of the team and we already think highly of him. Hen has always wanted to one day get his license out and we’d love to be able to give him a few opportunities in the not so distant future.
17-year-old Meg, daughter of secretary Anna, has been with us for nearly 4 years now and helps out in a number of areas within the running of the yard. One thing we can safely say she is known for is her baking, and it’s rare for her to be on the yard without a plate of food bound for the tack room. She also helps editing the website, leading up, running the twitter page, taking photographs, talking to owners and making everyone breakfast.
Over the past 3 years with us Meg has fallen in love with every aspect of the job, but especially taking our horses racing. She’s just as keen to go to our local tracks like Catterick, Wetherby and Carlisle as she is to go to big tracks such as Cheltenham and Aintree. Having made her first lead up for us on Boxing Day 2014 a winning one, she is a regular face at the races and is more than happy to lead up or play trainer as well as Junior Travelling head lass to Julie.
Katie Perkin – Stable Lass & Work Rider
From a young age, 20-year-old Katie has had a passion for horses; with the majority of her spare time being spent around them. With over 10 years riding experience it made sense for Katie to look into getting a job in racing once leaving school, and joined the Northern Racing College in 2015; improving her knowledge of the industry and learning the ropes of working in racing.
She is a quick learner who enjoys all aspects of the job but especially going racing, and would love to be a travelling head lass in the future. She is keen to follow in Julie’s footsteps with a ride in a charity race one day too! Her favourite four-legged friends on the yard are ‘Cavalieri’ and ‘Transient Bay.’
Nick comes to the yard on weekends and throughout school holidays whilst in his last year of school but we’re pleased to say he’ll be joining us full time next year. Although only being 15 years old he is a very stylish rider and is enjoying gaining plenty of experience and guidance from the rest of the team and our jockeys before getting his licence out when he turns 16. Nick spends a lot of his time away pony racing and it’s a great way to start out before joining the big boys!
Owner, part time pork pie supplier and 2017 charity rider Jo first approached Phil towards the back end of 2016 after being chosen to take part in this years running of the annual Macmillan ‘Ride of your life’ at York Racecourse. Phil was quick to oblige with riding out beginning on the 3rd January, and we’re yet to get rid of her! The race itself took place on the 17th June with Jo and steed ‘Arabian Oasis’ finishing a highly creditable 2nd, beaten a length. Following the race Meg put together a video of the highlights from the six months training and the race day itself which gives you just a little glimpse of what it takes to be a jockey – watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCUVVmIQrUE. Whilst riding out 5 mornings a week Jo is able to track progress of their two horses, Arabian Oasis and Archippos and enjoys a day at the races cheering them home with husband Ian and two children.
Keith Walker ~ Yard man
Keith is our yard and ‘odd job’ man. He comes into the yard everyday and only lives a minute down the road so it’s the ideal job for him, and he’s the ideal worker for us! Keith’s duties include mucking out and helping to sweep the yard at the end of the morning, as well as completing odd jobs such as putting new equipment together and general DIY tasks. He is a very hard worker and you’ll rarely see him not grafting. The morning has been made a lot easier for the rest of the staff since Keith has started working here as they aren’t always rushing to get finished in time to pull out. It makes for happier staff and a happier yard!
Uncle Albert ~ Yard man
Uncle Albert comes in 5 times a week to help in the yard and he is seen a lot at the local racetracks where his duties range from parking cars to taking charge of the dope box. He enjoys getting to know the horses and working alongside the rest of the team. Uncle Al is also the known to have a few cheeky bets when at the races and is always giving the rest of the yard his tips for the day, (some more successful than others!) There is never a dull moment when Al is around and he knows when the yard is in need of cheering up when he get’s out his sweet tin! He’s worked at Sharp Hill since it first started and he claims we’ll never get rid of him – thank god for that!
Toby Pedley ~ Farrier
Having a high quality farrier is essential for us and we’ve certainly found that in 22 year old Toby. After graduating from Myerscough College Farriery in 2014 he started working for us in March 2016 when we moved to Green Oaks. Toby visits the yard two times a week, shoeing all the horses apart from the one off emergencies which Phil takes care of, as he is fully qualified himself. He does his job very well and his happy, friendly personality is a bonus!
Ben Gaskell ~ Vet
Another key member of the team is experienced vet, Ben. The Dad of three currently lives in Harrogate and as well as working in the business, takes a keen interest in all of the yards runners. His opinion is highly valued by Phil & Simon and his dedication to giving the horses the best care possible plays a huge part in our success.