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 Megan Dent
Sarah Olley Sue Heath (PKR Club)
Travelling Head Girl
Tommy Dowson Joe Williamson
Ross Chapman Dale Swift
Henry Newcombe Jay Kozaczek
Key Players, Work Riders & Racing Grooms
Megan Beswick Saffron Jacklin
Carolyn Woods Diaz Gibson
Keith Walker Nicole Nicoll
Toby Pedley Matt Argo
Ben Gaskell Mark Noble
Workaholic Phil is up at the crack of dawn every 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, and 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 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 13 ‘in house’ 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 Show Promise, Little Bruce, Stargazer & Shine Baby Shine. Retired favourites include Word of Warning, Andorn, Agglestone Rock, Simply Smashing, Amazing King and of course Lady Buttons.
The Kirby Daughters
Common race goer6 or visitors of the yard will of no doubt seen The Kirby daughters pitching in from time to time. Izzy (15) and Indy (12) 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. She is heading to sixth form life in a Musical Theatre School.
Simon Olley – Assistant Trainer
Bringing his wealth of experience from Jonjo’s, Simon plays a huge part in the yard to work 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 representing Phil in the paddock many times. He is also often seen harrowing the gallop when Phil is away and turns his hand to many an odd job to keep the yard going.
Henry Newcombe – Pupil Assistant Trainer & 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 3 years, he’s proved himself as a capable & confident rider, as well as a good asset to the schooling ground alongside Tommy and Joe. 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 Trainer and in July 2021 he rode his first Winner aboard Alsvinder. 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.
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 – Dual Partnership Manager & 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 brought tonnes of experience from Jonjo’s and we are very grateful that she decided to share her wealth of experience with us. Sarah enjoyed being Simon’s deputy on the yard for many years and loved taking her favourite horses racing and their dog Amber sometimes went along for a day out from time to time. Following the increasing number of Partnerships over 2016/17 Sarah transferred into working in the office to help Pippa with the running of them as well as 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
21 year old Meg started helping us on weekends and school holidays 5 years ago, but joined us full time once completing her A Levels in 2018. She works alongside Pippa, Anna & Sarah in the office, carrying out general office duties, as well as assisting in running our social media pages and website, she also loves going racing for us. She has lots of favourites but top of the list Nautical Nitwit who is now retired with Meg, of those still racing she has a real soft spot for Bushypark & Arthur Mac. She spent lockdown living in our staff accommodation and in that time started her own photography business focusing on horses, which has gone down a storm! Check out her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/megandentphotography.
Sue Heath – PKR Club Manager
Sue has taken on the role of Manager for our Racing Club launched in Dec 2020. It has proven fiercely popular with upwards of 250 members already (Jan ’21) and is keeping her busy! Having been Pippa’s best friend since school she has taken the plunge and bravely offered to help, running the clubs email, creating the welcome packs for every new member and acting as representative on race days at the track when needed. She is a keen racing follower and often goes for a days racing with Pippa when she can. Sue is very ‘horsey’ having had her own horses all her life and ponies for her young children Liam & Grace, cousins of Izzy & Indy..
Katie Perkin – Travelling Head 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 now worked her way up to be a diligent and hardworking ‘Travelling Head Girl’ alongside Victor in the role. 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 Alsvinder and Oak Vintage. Katie lives in Catterick with her two cats Leela & Joey, she loves getting ‘Best Turned Out’ at the races and hates slow walkers. Her plaits are legendary and she turns out the horses beautifully.
Tommy Dowson – Jockey
24 year old Tommy joined us 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
24 year old Joe 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 were delighted to see him ride his first Winner for us in November 2020 aboard Raiff and has enjoyed more success since then, loosing his claim at the end of last season. He’s formed particularly great partnerships with Wye Aye and Top Ville Ben who he rides at home everyday.
Ross Chapman – Jockey
Ross is a professional NH jockey who rides out for us most days when he’s not racing. A keen huntsman with the South Durham, he is a natural rider and a brave jockey as well as being a good laugh and a valued member of our team. He has formed a great partnership with the bold Epsom Des Mottes, and when the weather isn’t so kind he can be found sporting his super warm boiler suit!
Dale Swift – Jockey
Former successful flat jockey, Dale has been riding out for us since the start of 2021 prior to getting his license out again last month. He’s enjoyed lots of success in the UK over the years but also in Norway and Sweeden. He is a quiet and experienced rider, who really cares for the horses and we’re all looking forward to seeing him ride his first Winner back in the not so distant future.
Jay Kozaczek – Jockey
Jay also went abroad with Dale, and rode 8 winners over 2 seasons riding in Scandinavia. He has applied for his conditional license which he will hopefully have issued to him before long. Jay is a quiet and considerate rider, a good asset to the schooling ground along side Tommy, Ross, Joe and Henry, and an important member of our team.
Megan Beswick – Racing Groom
Megan lives near Leyburn and also owns one of our past horses, the lovely Nicely Indeed. She came for 2 weeks work experience here during high school, and once she had completed her GCSE’S went to the British Racing School and then joined us again full time in January 2021. She is a quiet rider who is enjoying learning from the rest of the team and going racing when she has time – she is a cheerful member of the team and fits in well.
Saffron Jacklin – Racing Groom
Saffron joined us October 2021 having learnt the ropes at Jedd O’Keefes for a number of years after leaving racing school. She has fit right into our team, a lovely personality, always smiling and willing to get stuck in and try new things. It’s clear to see Saffron really loves and cares for our horses and we know she’ll do well here.
Carolyn Woods – Work Rider
Carolyn rides out for us 6 mornings a week, whilst juggling her two girls Isobell and Polly. She is another highly experienced work rider and has competed at a high level herself – now her children are following in her footsteps.
Diaz Gibson – Work Rider
Diaz has joined us for the 21/22 season having recently graduated from university (Well done Diaz!) She is enjoying some time out from studying riding out for us, a good rider and lovely person too.
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.
Chris Napthine – Dentist
Chris is our excellent Equine Dentist. He visits the yard every fortnight dealing with any dental issues as well as routine check ups, every horse gets their teeth done at least every 12 months – most 6 months. He is highly experienced and serves many of the yards close to us.