“An overrated jockey and an underrated trainer”
Trainer Jamie Osborne will downplay the achievements he has seen both in the saddle and preparing his stable members but on talking to him you are quick to see he is far greater than he suggests.
Growing up on a farm in Yorkshire, in the North of England, Osborne’s riding and training stages of his life would lead back to Lambourn.
“In my gap year I ended up coming to Lambourn to work for Nicky Henderson in the hope of becoming a National Hunt jockey,” he said.
“Thankfully that did happen, and I retired from that in 2000 and I’ve been training horses in Lambourn ever since.”
When asked why he pursued a career in saddle to start Osborne jokes but then says that it all was centered on him growing up around and his passion for horses from a young age.
“I was small and stupid – I couldn’t do anything else,” the trainer laughs.
“I'd grown up with horses as a child and National Hunt racing especially had sort of grabbed my attention from the age of 12.
“I thought I quite liked the idea of having a go at that. You never quite know what that entails until you're actually involved in it. But thankfully, it went quite well, and I really enjoyed it.
“My mother used to show jump at quite a high level. So, horses were always around, but there was never any real family racing connection at all.
“When that was coming to an end, I didn't really feel like I could leave the sport.
“I had a real passion for the sport, and I wanted to point in a slightly different direction. So rather than going down the route that everyone expected me to do, which was to become a National Hunt trainer I decided that we'd give the flat racing a go.”
Having ridden for 16 seasons he would receive his training licence in the Autumn of 1999 with his first full training season being that of 2000. The impact on his body throughout his riding career helped him come to the decision to retire from the hoop game.
“When I finished basically, my body wasn't really very capable of continuing. I had a couple of bad injuries. I'd had a very badly broken wrist the year before and I'd lost a lot of the feeling with some of the nerves in that hand a bit malfunctioning. It was getting increasingly difficult to ride carrying that. I think nowadays the jump jockeys understand their injuries much better than we did.
“We were pretty much each man for himself. You know we didn't have a support team like they do now. I think the jump jockeys’ careers were a bit shorter. I think, you know if I was riding in a different era, maybe I could have gone on a bit longer.
“But my body had about had enough by the time I packed up.”
Shifting Reigns, Training Successes
Reflecting on his achievements and success as a jockey and now as a trainer, Osborne is upfront and still greatly confident of what is to come.
“I think, you know, arguably you could say I achieved more as a jockey than I have yet, as a trainer.
“As a jockey, you've got a timescale – it’s not something you can do when you are my age.
“I still feel I have time to achieve a lot more as a flat trainer.
“I rode a lot of Cheltenham festivals- I think I rode twelve Cheltenham festival winners in the nineties. I was never Champion jockey, but I was runner up in the Championship a couple of times. I think the best season riding was 130 something winners, which at the time you know here through a winter that's quite a lot of winners.
“And that would have made me champion jockey in many of the years previously, but sadly it didn't that year.
“We've never reached that number of heights or number of winners as a trainer. I think the best season we have had so far was about 60 winners. We’ve never been massive – we train about 60 to 70 horses, and we try to train them well and try to compete.
“But you know this game is ever changing and some of the big yards now would have 250 horses plus so we are what would be considered to be a sort of small to medium size operation.”
As a trainer he prepared his first Royal Ascot winner three years in with Irony in the Windsor Castle Stakes before seeing Milk It Mick winning the stable’s first Group One in the Dewhurst Stakes – two victories that glitter in Osborne’s most memorable achievements.
“Well obviously three years in we've had a Royal Ascot winner and won a Dewhurst – so I was thinking it might be a bit easy this game but its whenever that you think that you realise that it’s not.
“We’ve had a steady flow since then. I think probably Toast of New York winning the UAE Derby in 2014 and then he went on that year to be beaten by a nose in the Breeder’s Cup Classic. He has been the highlight since, but we’ve had six Royal Ascot winners, we had a very good staying horse called Geordieland who was second in two Ascot Gold Cups behind Yeats.
“The last couple of years I would say we’ve lacked a star, a very big horse. But you know we are hopeful that the next one is just around the corner.”
The Right Team Is the Foundation For All Success
Osborne will be the first to tell you that its not all about him when it comes to the success of the stable and that the team you surround yourself with is vital to that continued success.
“A racehorse trainer it's not a one-man job. You have to build a team of people around you that know what they're doing and are an asset to the business.”
Saffie Osborne: Like Father Like Daughter
His daughter Saffie has come into her own as a jockey while also bringing a new level of family-esque team to Osborne racing.
“Saffie my daughter now joining in, which is a whole new dimension. You know we've turned it now almost It's like a family business. She's been through her apprentice a couple of years, and I think she's improved as times gone on and now that she's no longer claiming, I have no worries about putting her on the horses. I think she's a very safe pair of hands. She's progressed enormously this year and working with her while at times, it's a little testing, I actually really enjoy it.
“My wife is an artist and she'd never really wanted to be involved. I have three sons who are somehow over six foot and we're never going to be jockeys, and they never really showed any inclination to be involved at all.
“So, Saffie, being the youngest, she was always the one that was sort of really interested in it. She rode to a high level in eventing, and she won a European gold medal on her pony when she was 15. She then went back to European Championships on a horse the following year, and I think she won a silver medal. So, she potentially could have had a career in eventing.
“But I think racing was always her first love. Thankfully she decided that she would put all her eggs into the racing basket and it's working out well.”
“I think she really has got a chance to make it as a jockey and I think she’s turning out to be pretty good at it.”
Toasting The Carnival Again
Having tasted victory in the UAE with Toast of New York the region is one that the trainer is passionate about training for with the goal for further success throughout the Carnival.
“We have been coming for a long, long time. I would say probably for the last 15 years at least – since the start of Meydan.”
“I love coming to the UAE. Every year we try and bring horses for the Carnival, and we hope that we might have something good enough for World Cup night.
“It’s ever evolving. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has set his stall out to create something there and he's created it.
“As I said everybody enjoys going there and we get very well looked after.
“I think it's amazing! For us it’s in the middle of a fairly, English weather in the winter can be quite depressing.
“I think it is great to be able to come to the Middle East, where the facilities are fantastic, the prize money on offer and we can experience Arabian hospitality at its best. Especially for our UK clients, if we gave them the choice of whether they wanted to run here at Wolverhampton or get to Meydan, I don't think that's too hard a decision.
“So, all my clients really enjoy coming to the UAE, I enjoy coming to the UAE and I think that the racing at Meydan is a great spectacle. It's competitive racing as we know but it's not impossible to succeed there if you bring the right horse.”
For this UAE campaign, he prepares a stable of three in New York City, Ouzo and Hierarchy, with Osborne having a plan in place for the trio.
“A lot of planning goes into building a team of suitable horses to come to the carnival. Obviously, there's no point bringing a horse where there aren't sufficient races for them.
“But yeah, a lot of planning goes into it. Building a little squad to come out there is very much on my mind from the middle of the summer, and we were intending to bring more than three but it just didn't quite work out.
“We had a couple of horses that we were nearly bringing and then we thought potentially that it was not going to suit them as well as I'd hoped it was going to. Carnival horses are not easy things to find.
“The paths that these three take after their first races will really depend on how they get on there but there's a good program for all three horses in the region. They can hopefully all be busy while they're in the UAE.”
New York City is the 4YO Invincible Spirit colt who had his first start at Meydan in the Ertijaal Dubai Dash at the start of January. He would finish 12th beating home four of his competitors and has won twice in his career with the last victory in April last year.
“He was a bit slovenly in that race. But it was his first run for us, and I suspected the fast five furlongs there was going to be a little bit sharp for him.
“I wanted to get a run into him just to learn a little bit about him and we did that. While he didn’t run well, look he didn’t figure, but the race on the 27th over the six-furlong rated stakes is going to suit him a lot better.
“We learnt a lot about him in that run and I would expect and hope that he will get competitive during his time in Dubai. That race was just a little bit of sight to point us in the right direction and that six furlongs race is going to suit him much better.”
Ouzo is the 7YO gelded son of Charm Spirit and on UAE debut he ran a handy third placing in the Azizi Riviera over 1600m.
“He is rated 92 which makes him a little bit vulnerable to be on a ballot next week, but I think he's a very well handicapped 92 and I think he's a horse that can really succeed there if he gets into the right races.”
Hierarchy is the final member of the trio as a 4YO gelding who will line up in a five-furlong 90-100 ratings race.
The Move To Dubai
“They all fly in with all the international carnival horses on the same plane out to Stansted on the 28th of December, there were 62 horses on that flight. It's a big, bold operation.
“So, they've all landed in, and they're all training in the quarantine barns half a mile from the track which is a great facility.
“I have my right-hand man Jimmy McCarthy out there overseeing the whole thing and I'll just nip in and out for race days.
“Obviously the hope with a carnival horse, although this year I don't know, but the hope with a carnival horse is that they can progress through the duration of the Carnival and book themselves a ticket for World Cup night.
“Dubai World Cup Night in my mind is one of the greatest sporting events in the calendar. It's a phenomenal atmosphere and it's a great experience for anybody that owns a horse to have a horse there.”