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Article 22nd August 2023 Newmarket

By Graham Clark

Carlisle Racecourse clerk of the course Harry Phipps hopes he can give his dad Fred a ‘run for his money’ when attempting to secure family bragging rights in the Newmarket Town Plate on Saturday (August 26th) which he admits would be a ‘real honour’ to taste victory in.    

The 27-year-old will swap his going stick for the saddle when taking part in the 353rd edition of the prestigious amateur contest, which was instigated in 1666 by King Charles II, who remains the only monarch to ever win the race (1871). 

Although having had a handful of point-to-point rides, and two spins on the Flat last year, Harry, who took up his current role at the Cumbrian track in April, insists he is looking forward to latest appearance on the racetrack given it is against his dad. 

He said: “Having watched dad in the race last year I thought there is every possibility of giving him a run for his money in the race this year.

“We were chatting a little bit earlier this year and we saw it as a good opportunity to grab something else to do together while we are both still fit enough to have a go at it.  

“Whether I give him a lead and he comes past me I don’t know, we will just have to play it by ear. 

“It will be a great event and I’m really looking forward to it and we will both being giving it a good go.

“If we can have a bit of a contest, whether that is in the main race, or just between ourselves, it would be great as not many people get the chance to ride against their relatives. It is something most parents and kids would dream of being able to do.

“It would be an amazing feeling to win the race as it has got a huge amount of history behind it. It would be a real honour to be anywhere near the front.”

While Harry, who lives in Rockcliffe, has been putting in the hard graft training for the Town Plate those efforts have doubled up in helping him prepare for his next challenge back on two legs when tackling the Lakes In A Day ultra-marathon on October 7th. 

Harry said: “Training has been good. I’ve been running and cycling quite a bit as I’ve got an ultra-marathon in October so training for the Town Plate has been a good prep for that. 

“The race I’m doing is called Lakes In A Day which is a 50 mile ultra-marathon from Caldbeck to Cartmel in the Lake District. 

“This is going to be my first ultra-marathon and I’ve not even done a standard marathon before. I don’t regret it yet anyway! 

“We have got High Pike, Blencathra and Helvellyn all to get up and over as well. It will be all good stuff.”

The battle on the racetrack might be between Harry and his dad, however he insists plenty of credit needs to be given to his mum Fiffa for helping prepare both his mount Passing Secrets, and his dad’s partner Christopher Robin ahead of their next assignment. 

He said: “I’m on a little horse called Passing Secrets and both he, and Christopher Robin are very much family horses. My mum Fiffa has been heavily involved with the training of the two of them and riding them out so it is a real family affair. 

“Passing Secrets has been a fairly consistent horse and finished in the frame at Cartmel last time out. He has been a wonderful horse to look after and ride. 

“Whether he gets the trip is a big question mark, but as long as we both enjoy it that is the main thing.”

As for Fred, who finished sixth in the race 12 months ago aboard Christopher Robin, he believes all the pressure in Town Plate, which is sponsored by sausage makers Powters and Newmarket-based menswear and womenswear shop Golding, will be on his son. 

Fred added “It was a fabulous thing to do last year and the horse, in fairness, I purchased with the Town Plate in mind. 

“Harry had a couple of rides on the Flat on him, I rode him in the Town Plate then Fiffa rode him in a mile and a half charity race in March.

“It is only my daughter who hasn’t ridden him, but she doesn’t seem that keen. It is a pleasure to be involved with a race like this. 

“Harry has had a few rides and he has ridden a point-to-point winner so he is already ahead of the game and he is younger, fitter, stronger and a better rider than me.

“As Harry has his Jockey Club job now I’m sure he will be feeling his own bit of pressure with people watching him, but it will be a fun thing to do and I’m excited to ride against him.”

Last year’s race was shortened down to just over two miles due to the impact of the extreme heat in the build up to the race which left parts of the track on the Round Course not being able to be watered fully. 

With this year renewal back up to its normal distance of three-and three-quarter miles, Fred, who runs the Mobile Catering Group Ltd, which operates a unit at Cheltenham Racecourse, expects his fitness to be given a much more thorough examination. 

The 58 year old from Kersoe in Worcestershire added: “To be honest my business has been very busy this summer and we have been at plenty of events including running a couple of units at Old Trafford for the fourth test match in this year’s Ashes. 

“I did the fitness test and that went okay and I’ve caught up with the riding over the last few weeks. 

“I’ve been riding out for D J Jeffreys and doing as much exercise as I can muster. I just need to keep the horse up and interested and get him into a rhythm. 

“I got very tired last year so the extra distance will be interesting for me. I don’t think I’ll be doing a driving finish that’s for sure, I think I’ll just be hanging on!”

The winner of Town Plate will be presented with the perpetual challenge plate, a voucher for Golding and boxes of Powters celebrated Newmarket Sausages, however one thing Fred doesn’t expect to be up for grabs is any side bets between father and son. 

He added: “We are both too tight to have a bet. It will be bad enough to lose, and to lose money as well would be too much to bear for both of us. 

“We really are riding for family honour and bragging rights. Whoever finishes in front I’m sure Fiffa will be on hand to console the other one.”   


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