Classic-winning trainer, Andrew Balding took over the reins of the historical Park House stables in 2003 after his father, the legendary Ian Balding retired. Balding’s owners include racing royalty such as HM The Queen, and Qatar’s Prince Fahad Al-Thani and distinguished newcomers such as the late VichaiSrivaddhanaprabha, of the King Power duty-free empire.
Balding’s father, Ian was a well-known and influential figure in British racing for 50 years who will forever be associated with the equine legend Mill Reef, one of the greatest horses of the 20th century. The son of Never Bend won the Derby, Eclipse, King George and Arc under jockey Geoff Lewis during a memorable 3YO campaign in 1971 for his owner, the New York-based philanthropist Paul Mellon. Balding was British champion trainer that year. One of the great horse’s statues stands proudly at the heart of the Balding’s training establishment at Kingsclere, Hampshire, in the yard that bears his name.
Andrew, the 2000 Guineas-winning trainer has raced horses in just about every global jurisdiction and has won Group One races in the UK, Australia, Canada, Dubai and Hong Kong; 2021 sees him return to the Middle East with his best horses.
Here, paying tribute to his European style training, the Kingsclere heritage and honouring his father (Ian Balding), leading English trainer Andrew Balding shares his plans for the 2021 Dubai World Cup racenight and the Saudi Cup raceday.
Q: What are your plans for the upcoming Dubai World Cup Carnival and the Dubai World Cup itself?
A: We've got a couple of possibilities in the World Cup night. I am hoping to run Berkshire Rocco in the Sheema Classic after competing in the HH Amir’s Sword.
Bangkok and Spanish Mission are due to go to Saudi. Spanish Mission will compete in The Long Distance Turf Handicap (3000 metres) and then hopefully proceed to Dubai for the Dubai Gold Cup.
While I am hoping Bangkok will be ready to run in the Gr.1 Dubai Turf (1800m) on World Cup night.
Q: What sort of challenges have you faced due to COVID?
A: We have had plenty of challenges over the course of the year since lockdown was imposed in the UK. Thankfully our staffs have remained healthy and safe over that period. It had a huge impact on our lives and we are currently in a lockdown in the UK. Although racing has been allowed to continue, we have had to undergo several COVID compliance measures to enable this. The one advantage we have had is that current technology has made it possible for us to get footage (of the horses) across to our clients, thanks to Zoom and FaceTime as something that they all really miss is visiting their horses on the gallops.
Q: Which has been your favorite Dubai World Cup night and Why?
A: Since its inception, the (Dubai) World Cup night has been a wonderful event and a major boost to the racing calender. In the early part of my career, during the Nad Al Sheba days, we had a horse called Phoenix Reach that won the Gr.1 Dubai Sheema Classic, which was very exciting. We haven’t had many runners on World Cup night since then but we did have a horse called Side Glance who was fourth in two consecutive Dubai World Cup’s when it was run on Tapeta (2010 and 2011).
Q: What are your thoughts about the Saudi Cup?
A: All these races happening in the Middle East are fantastic for us. The travel is most convenient and at this time of the year, the climate is good and fair to all the competitors. By all accounts, they have done a tremendous job in Saudi with their turf as Meydan always do; so we are always happy to be running our best horses in those conditions. The Saudi Cup race meeting has been hugely positive for the horseracing community around the world.
Q: Please tell us more about your training style and how it evolved over the years?
A: My training style is very traditional European. We don't do fast intensive training. Our style of training is similar to what they do at Warren Hill (Gallops) at Newmarket. I tend to have later developing, more middle-distance horses.
Q: Which sales do you attend, annually?
A: I attend all the European Sales but Tattersalls (Book 1 and 2) and the Goffs Orby Sale, are mainly where our yearlings come from.
Q: And lastly, who has been your biggest inspiration?
A: I would have to say it's my father. Following him around was probably what got me wanting to become a trainer myself and so he has been my inspiration from the beginning.