Horse racing: Meet Britain's youngest trainer INTERVIEW

One year on from taking the reins, Middleham-ace Ben Haslam remains the youngest trainer in Britain.

Plenty of time then to match the amazing antics of father Patrick who sent out a winner at every course in the country!

Haslam was 25 when handed control of the Middleham stable last February after hugely experienced Patrick decided to call it a day.

And it was some career enjoyed by the popular handler who first took out a licence back in 1971 and went on to train more than 1,000 winners.

The Richmond Stakes, May Hill Stakes, Royal Hunt Cup, Victoria Cup and Bunbury Cup were among the big races snared by Haslam senior who also trained Kinnaird to win the Prix de l'Opera at Longchamp in 2005 but it is for his exploits in training a winner at every racecourse in England, Scotland and Wales for which he is famed.

Only nine have so far been ticked off young Ben's list but the youngest trainer in the country knows he certainly has time on his side!

Codes

"I think I have won at nine individual tracks so what's that – 50 odd left to go!" he laughed. "I've got 36 years to do it!

"We train under both codes so we will be all right but it will be places like Newton Abbott – you wouldn't be going all the way down there unless you were pretty sure you were going to have a winner!

"Hopefully that will come sooner rather than later!"

Reflecting on being the country's youngest trainer – at 26 – he added: "I'm certainly the youngest one as far as I am aware.

"Certainly with 10 or more horses anyway.

"It's very exciting, it was quite daunting to start with but I think generally the first year has gone quite well.

"We had 15 winners and a 30 per cent strike rate for horses placed in the first three.

"It was a solid year, nothing went too dramatically wrong but at the same time we didn't have any big, big winners.

"But it was a nice solid foundation to start on."

Haslam may be inexperienced and a trainer for barely a year but already has he gained valuable racing experience both on these shores and abroad.

Born in Newmarket where Patrick then trained, Haslam moved to Middleham as a six-year-old when his father re-routed his operations and in between his education the youngster rode out and went on to ride five winners as a jockey.

Haslam gained work experience with trainer Joey Ramsden in South Africa and then gained a place on Sheikh Mohammed's Darley Flying Start scholarship, based at the Curragh in Ireland, Kentucky in America,

Sydney in Australia and with Godolphin in Dubai.

Once back in the UK he gained more experience alongside the masterly Sir Michael Stoute in Newmarket no less, before becoming assistant trainer to his father.

It was then with excitement and not trepidation that Haslam took over last year.

"I was very, very keen and very, very excited – as you would be," he said.

"And I suppose I have had a lot of experience abroad and at home as

well with horses in a training area.

"I was certainly ready to take on the challenge.

"Experience-wise there is only so much you can have had when you are 25 but at the same time I had great support in the background from my father obviously who has been a great help on a day to day basis.

"I was in safe hands from that point of view.

"My father certainly put no pressure on me and it was very much my decision and when he was ready.

"I was very keen, and his health hasn't been the greatest over the last two or three years.

"That was a slight catalyst for it but at the same time he has been training for 37 years.

"Training 40 or 50 horses for 37 years is going to take its toll and there probably aren't many trainers who have managed that for 37 years straight.

"I think he was certainly ready to have a little break!"

There will be little in terms of breaks for young Haslam now who is one of the few trainers in the UK to send out runners under both codes – flat and jumps.

The Middleham-ace is particularly looking forward to this year's bunch of three-year-olds with some well-handicapped runners within.

"The two-year-olds last year were a nice but fairly backwards bunch," said Haslam, whose girlfriend Charlotte also works in the yard.

"There were six winners from in there but even they were later and I'm quite hopeful that now that they are three, there are six or seven there that I am looking forward to running in handicaps.

"I'm just hoping there's a couple in there that might be progressive and could go on to a few things.

"I've got a good bunch of fillies that could be good for sprints – Azzurra Du Caprio and a filly called Kinlochrannoch and they'll be targeted in fillies' sprint handicaps in April and May.

"Obviously they have not been in full work at the moment but when the sun comes up and things warm up, if they progress then they could be quite interesting.

"Then I've got half a dozen horses that again, I haven't pressed any buttons with but if they progress – they are all sort of rated in the mid 60s at the moment – but I'd like to think there's one or two in there that could end up mid-70s/80s.

"The aim is to get to the York meetings and things like that and while I might not have any Group horses among them, there's certainly some decent handicappers there.

"The two-year-old crop – again we are a little bit in the dark but they do seem a nice bunch."

Over the sticks, meanwhile, the feather in Haslam's cap is clearly training horses for legendary owner JP McManus and those famous gold and yellow stripey silks.

Haslam knows Front Of House and A Stones Throw are no Binoculars but nonetheless admits to being privileged to having horses in the owners' care.

"It's fantastic to train for JP McManus and I'm very, very honoured to have been given that opportunity," he said.

"The kind of horse we get might not be the same as what you get in Jonjo O'Neill's and Nicky Henderson's as they are going to have the good horses!

"But as long as we can win with the ones we are sent then that's all we can do!"

Haslam looks certain to find winning opportunities for the McManus duo this year and at just 26 years of age, who would bet against him having animals like Binocular in his care in years to come?

For, now, though, the youngest trainer in Britain is perfectly happy with his relatively small string operation and very much wants to learn to walk before he can run.

Looking ahead long term, Haslam said: "At the minute the facilities we have got are limited in terms of size but there are always stables in and around Middleham that we can expand into.

"But at the moment I am very happy with just short of 40 horses which is very manageable and I think it's the right amount, certainly for someone with my experience and with the facilities I have got.

"That's a good number to be training and I certainly wouldn't try and overdo it in the next three or four years.

"If I could have 40 horses to train every year for the next four years I'd be very happy but obviously at some point if things are going well then hopefully the owner base will expand and more horses will come in but I've got some very loyal owners and I'm very lucky to train for the likes of JP McManus.

"If we can just be stable for the next four years then, after that, naturally we probably will start expanding."

All hugely exciting times for the young trainer but needless to say – sending runners out under both codes there is little time for any hobbies!

Skiing and watching general sports are among the 26-year-old's other favourite activities – when he gets the chance!

"It is very much a full time job and it's quite a physical job as well," he said.

"I don't rush off to go and play squash after racing or anything but I enjoy going skiing, I like going on holiday where it's warm and I like watching football as well – football, Formula One – just things like that.

"But it is quite a 24-hour thing and I'll worry about the extra activities when I retire I think."

At just 26 years of age, that will be a long while yet.

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