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 Simon Olley
Anna Dent Sarah Olley Megan Dent
Head Travelling Staff
Julie Heneghan Victor Coglan Katie Perkin
Tommy Dowson Joe Williamson
Henry Newcombe Nick Barratt-Atkin
Racing Grooms / Work Riders
Issey Gill Will Lanagan Stacey Clegg Thomas Story
Maisie Sharp Sammy McNicholas Megan Sutton-Walker
Phoebe Robinson Harriet Lees Bill Shanahan
Colm McCormack Ross Chapman Kane Yeoman
Toby Pedley Ben Gaskell Marike Bronk Dan Astle-Carter
Workaholic Phil is up at the crack of dawn to feed on a morning and not only trains the horses but rides and shoes some of them himself too – he is a trained Farrier although he leaves the bulk of that job to Toby Pedley now. He 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, and 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 Saluki Cross, Sukey and Lady, and latest addition, Betsy.
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 current top of it are Lady Buttons, Nicely Indeed, Stargazer & Shine Baby Shine. Retired favourites include Word of Warning, Andorn, Agglestone Rock, Simply Smashing & Amazing King.
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 (13) and Indy (10) are keeping up the family tradition of riding and they both take their ponies competing. Both girls have been lucky enough to compete at Horse of the Year Show twice. Indy is an avid racing fan and is definitely taking after her parents. Izzy enjoys it too but her first love is acting & singing as well as riding herself.
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. Phil says he would hate to have Simon’s job and Simon says he’d hate to have Phil’s! Perhaps why they work so well together. We all dread the time Simon goes away on holiday, even more so when he takes 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. He is also often seen on tractor duty harrowing the gallop when Phil is away and turns his hand to many an odd job to keep the yard going.
Anna Dent – Head Secretary & Accounts
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. 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 point to points 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. Regular visitors to the yard will of no doubt met Anna’s dog Skye, who accompanies her to work most days.
Sarah Olley ~ Head Girl & Assistant Secretary
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. Sarah enjoys taking her favourite horses racing and their dog Amber also loves a day out from time to time. 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 as well any other general office related jobs, including updating the website news and Facebook page. April 2018 saw the arrival of Simon & Sarah’s son Jack, who has been keeping Sarah busy…and it goes without saying he is Buttons number 1 fan!
Megan Dent ~ Assistant Secretary & Racing Groom
19 year old Meg has been with us for 5 years now. Starting out on weekends and school holidays but finds herself at the yard 6 days a week now. She does a large amount of marketing for the business including much of our social media & website, and has recently started her own photography business. Meg is also a familiar face at the races and loves leading up for us whenever needed…especially when her favourite Nautical Nitwit is running! Nitwit has since retired been retired last season and Meg is thrilled to now be his full time Mummy, he lives at her house with their other ex racer ‘Cool Operator.’
Julie Heneghan ~ Travelling Head Lass
Julie is a very valued member of the team and does a first-rate job, driving the box, turning runners out at the races and working full-time on the yard. She came to us from Johnston’s where she worked many years in a travelling role with her HGV licence, and prior to that started her racing career at Jonjo O’Neills straight from school at 16, alongside our head lad Simon and also Sarah. 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 much she since got her amateur license out at the age of 31 and she is proud to say it is one of her greatest achievements. Julie loves riding her favourite horses, a very special one was Pass Muster, who has since retired. She has a BIG list of favourites which includes Nautical Nitwit (retired), Kilcullen Flem (retired), Little Bruce, Tom Dooley, Man Of Verve and December Second. At the start of 2019 Julie had the pleasure of rehoming old favourite Courtown Oscar, we can’t wait to see how they get on together.
Katie Perkin ~ Travelling Girl
Katie joined us from the racing school and has recently re-joined after a small break to go and work in an eventing yard and subsequently realising this is where she wants to be! She has been with us for 4 years and has swiftly become a very capable member of staff, having worked her way up to be an important asset to our travelling team, as well as her riding improving massively from her early days. In 2017 she rode in the Doncaster Clock Tower Cup for stable staff on Iconic Figure – she loved it and wants to do it again. Her special favourite was Good Time Ahead who has since left us, but she has many favourites like a lot of us do including Oak Vintage and Gold Venture. Katie lives in Catterick with her two cats Leela & Joey, she loves getting ‘Best Turned Out’ at the races and hates slow walkers.
Victor Coglan – Travelling Lad
Victor started his racing career at W A Stephenson and rode his first winner within 10 months, but also suffered terrible seconditis! He went on to start training his own pointers in the same season as Phil and they both had 7 winners. To date he has trained 23 winners from 84 runs, a better than 25% strike rate. Victor is our all round superstar he can turn his hand to any job. He’s on the yard first thing to muck out, rides out and has his own horsebox which quite often goes racing. He is also our second travelling head lad, with many years experience to be relied on to do the job right and is always smartly dressed for the paddock. On afternoons he quite often finds some odd jobs to do including harrowing the gallop, moving the schooling fences, and general maintenance of the yard. He is our chief flower planter and is also in charge of the gallons of creosote it takes to keep the barns looking smart. A little known fact about Victor is that his name is actually Mark, but he prefers Victor. He can take a good joke but will give as good as he gets!
Tommy Dowson – Jockey
23 year old Tommy was 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 and then Maurice Barnes in Carlisle – both for 2 years before joining us. Tommy is a really good lad and was already an established and successful conditional in the North prior to joining the Kirby team, but as the winners have increased, so has his confidence and it shows in his riding, he rode out his claim at the end of May 2019 on Zigzag. 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! We’re all so pleased to see Tommy pick up a few ‘big ones’ for the yard following his Grade 2 successes aboard Nautical Nitwit and Lady Buttons, he’s picked up two listed wins teamed with Desaray Girl and Lady Buttons, as well as the Grade 3 Rowland Merrick on Top Ville Ben. He is sailing through the ranks at pace and it’s such an exciting time in his career. A fascinating fact about Tommy is that his love for ‘Little Bruce’ runs deep and he even has his name tattooed on his bum! Tommy’s biggest ambition is to ride a winner over the National fences and he loves watching the young horses in the yard progress. He loves his dog ‘Storm,’ and currently has 5 horses – all for sale we must add!
Joe Williamson – Conditional Jockey
23 year old Joe is one of our newest additions to the team having joined us at the beginning of March 2020. He started out his riding career in point to points before joining James Evans as a Conditional in the 16/17 Season. Since then he’s spent a couple of seasons with local trainer Gill Bonus and rode 8 winners in total under rules, plus 2 in Point to Points. He’s knowledgeable of the whole racing game, a capable rider and a great character. We wish him lots of success with us here at Green Oaks.
Henry Newcombe – Pupil Assistant & Amateur Jockey
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. Now part of the team for over 2 years, 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. His friendly, laid back personality ensured he fit right in with the rest of the team and we think highly of him. In March 2018 he took the opportunity to get his amateur license out and has enjoyed learning and improving on each ride since, supported not only by Phil but local trainers Sharon Watt and David Thompson too. Henry’s hard work paid off at the start of 2019 when he was promoted to pupil assistant / assistant head lad. He is most definitely Simon’s right hand man and is happy to drive the tractor, ride out, go racing or take care of things at home including routine medical procedures. We’re very grateful to have him around.
Nick Barratt-Atkin – Apprentice Jockey
Nick started coming into the yard on weekends and school holidays whilst in his last year of school but we were very pleased to have him join us full time early in 2018. Having grown up in the pony racing field he’s already gained a lot of experience in the riding front although only being 17 years old. He is a very stylish rider and is enjoying getting plenty of experience and guidance from the rest of the team. Nick got out his Apprentice license in the Summer of 2018 and has enjoyed plenty of placings in his first season. He’s racked up a total of 7 seconds to date! But we hold faith his first winner won’t be far away! Outside of work, Nick has recently passed his driving test and is enjoying the freedom of driving himself around and although he currently lives in our staff accommodation on site, he’s making the most of being able to drive home to Bishop Auckland to visit his family regularly. He’s a lovely young lad with a big personality and we’re sure he will have a big future ahead of him.
Issey Gill – Racing Groom
21 year old Issey is another who ventured down a different avenue before returning to the fold. She has spent the last 18 months following her dream of being a midwife and although she gave it a good go she has decided racing is where her heart belongs (much to our delight!) She is a lovely quiet rider and fits in so well with our team and owners. Issey is more than capable of being left in charge of things at home and enjoys going racing too. Issey’s Mum and Dad have recently joined The Silver Linings Partnership with ‘Winfola’ a horse who Issey rides at home frequently and has a real soft spot for.
Will Lanagan – Racing Groom
Will originally joined the team part time back in 2018 but has since joined us full time and must like it here! He learnt the ropes working for Alan Swinbank since leaving school and has developed into a capable & quiet rider and a great asset to our team. Will is actually a fully qualified Plumber and although he doesn’t find much time for it nowadays we do find him the odd plumbing / heating job on the yard to keep him busy! He certainly loves a challenge and a big ambition of his is to one day join the Household Cavalry – although the yard wouldn’t be the same without him.
Stacey Clegg – Racing Groom
Stacey has been riding from a young age and has a keen interest in dressage in which she competed her own horse before retiring him in 2015. She first began working in racing in 2015, completing a season with Kerry Lee before joining us in the Summer of 2016. Since then she travelled away to Nottingham to complete her Masters in Equine Performance before re-joining the team in September 2018. Her favourite parts of the job would be riding Lady Kyria, who she has a real soft spot for, and going racing with Julie.
Thomas Story – Racing Groom
Joining us straight from The British Racing School at the back end of 2019, 16 year old Thomas has proven himself as a keen and capable young man and a great addition to our team. He is a good rider and has a great attitude to work whilst always wanting to learn and improve. There is a huge wealth of experience amongst our team and it just shows when young lads / lasses like Thomas come and improve no end with their guidance and tuition. We’re sure he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Maisie Sharp – Racing Groom
22 year old Maisie joined us at the beginning of March 2020 from Mick Easterby’s yard. She has ridden on the flat and in Point to Point’s and currently holds her amateur license. Originally from Scotland, Maisie is a quiet and capable rider and another valuable addition to our experienced team.
Sammy Mcnicholas ~ Part Time Work Rider
From Hurwoth, Sammy started riding out to lend a hand when we were very busy over the 2017 Christmas period having had a large amount of riding experience over the years. She now comes in 6 mornings a week and must enjoy it here! Outside of work she spends a lot of time with her two children who will no doubt grow up with a love for horses too.
Megan Sutton – Walker
Megan joined us in June 2020 from an eventing background
Caitlin Hepburn – Part Time Work Rider
Caitlin began riding from a young age and first entered the racing industry in 2010. After spending time working for other trainers, taking out her pointing license and gaining valuable experience on the track, she joined the team in October 2018. She seems to be enjoying her time at PKR’s and we certainly appreciate the experience she brings.
Keith Walker ~ Yard man
Keith is our yard man. He comes into the yard everyday and only lives 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!
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 he goes above and beyond many times to ensure we get what we need, when we need it. We are in no doubt that his dedication to giving the horses the best care possible plays a huge part in our success.
Marike Bronke – Equine Physio
Marike is from Holland and visits the yard once a week to pamper our horses, often just before / after they run. She has a great passion for horses and a very caring, soft and happy personality, perfect for the job she does. As with humans, the aim of Equine Physio is to restore and maintain mobility and performance by manipulation. Her much loved 4 legged companion is also a welcome visitor to the yard.
Dan Astle-Carter – Dentist
Dan is our Equine Dentist who visits the yard every 12 weeks. As with humans it’s very important to keep on top of teeth as they can soon loose condition if they have an underlying problem. He’s another very important member of the team and very good at his job.