The turf

The man who takes the stress out of training horses

If anything ruffles Clive Cox, it doesn’t show

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

25 July 2015

9:00 AM

For all their formidable physical presence, racehorses spook easily. A sudden gust of wind flapping a plastic sack, a page from yesterday’s Racing Post blowing across the stable yard can provoke a fit of the twitches: eyes rolling, nostrils flaring and back legs snapping out a lethal kick. Trainers need a capacity for quiet reassurance and you don’t need long at Clive Cox’s Beechdown Farm in Lambourn to be struck by its overriding calm.

His charges had pounded up watered gallops dried by a breeze like a hairdryer and as Clive hosed down their sleek coats afterwards, he declared, sponge in hand, ‘This is the best part of the day, a proper de-stress.’ ‘Yes, they love it, don’t they?’ I replied — but he meant for him.

Tuning up four-legged athletes is stressful even with his experienced team. This year’s cold spring held back grass growth. The Lambourn poppies, normally in bloom by Royal Ascot, were a fortnight behind and the horses, too, had taken time. ‘You have to work with nature: only for the past two weeks have I felt that they were in full flow.’ But if anything stresses Clive Cox, it doesn’t show. As the string trotted around the spacious indoor school, part of the impressive premises rented from former champion jockey John Francome, the neatly shorn, hunch-shouldered trainer in his striped rugby shirt was the epitome of calm control. Every work rider was addressed by name, every one was given precise instructions for the work ahead: ‘Nothing fancy. I only want you to come through once. Just go upsides in the last two furlongs.’

Clive rode a respectable 100 winners over jumps and bears the usual scars. ‘There isn’t any part of my upper body that hasn’t been rearranged.’ He is first to admit that he wasn’t a superstar like Francome in the saddle, but he did ride for the likes of Oliver Sherwood and Fred Winter. ‘Fred never wasted a word but what he did say was absolutely all you needed.’ Yet, like champion jumps trainer Paul Nicholls or the flat’s Tom Dascombe and David O’Meara, Clive has again demonstrated that the lesser-known jumps riders often make the best trainers.‘The whole process of becoming a jump jockey means you are more closely involved with the horses — often a flat jockey would do no more than sit on them and then jump off to go racing.’

The son of a Somerset farmer who taught him about conformation, and the grandson of a hands-on small-garage owner who taught him about grafting, Clive Cox moved to Beechdown in 2000 after eight years working as assistant to the late Mikey Heaton-Ellis, who trained from a wheelchair. The story since has been a classic of steady progress by an unflashy man who leaves little to chance. When I commented on the atmosphere of calm, he replied, ‘We work at that, forever tweaking things to suit individuals. We want to be a step in front and plan as much as possible for the horses and the staff.’ The successes of veteran inmates such as Jimmy Styles, a Group winner in France at eight whom he refers to as ‘a close friend’, are testament to his insistence that ‘a horse is not going to do it for you if he is not enjoying life’.

The first horse to make Clive Cox’s name was New Seeker, winner first of the 2003 Britannia at Royal Ascot, then of the Tote International. The first Group winner was Beacon Lodge in 2007, and in 2010 Gilt Edge Girl brought him his first Group One when taking Longchamp’s Prix de l’Abbaye.

His reputation has been cemented by the Group One victories of Reckless Abandon and top sprinter Lethal Force, who not only won the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot but broke the course record in winning the July Cup. Along the way Clive and go-to rider Adam Kirby, with him since he was a 7lb-claimer, have grown together. What has particularly impressed the cognoscenti, though, is his eye at the sales: Lethal Force cost only €8,500, probably less than a week’s pocket money for a Qatari royal, while Gilt Edge Girl was bought for 17,000 guineas and Reckless Abandon for £24,000.

A potential classic contestant would be nice, admits Clive, ‘but with a Derby prospect’s pedigree you are talking a different budget. I am basically after an athletic horse we can train. There’s less patience these days and sprinting pedigrees are more affordable. The most important thing is making a living at a job which is a passion.’

Apple of the trainer’s eye among a good crop of three-year-olds is Kodi Bear, the pleasing winner of a recent listed race. Profitable, too, should live up to his name. I was impressed with the classy-looking grey Ice Lord, who will have to wait for more give in the ground. And the answer, when I asked Clive if he was a gambling man, told us a lot. ‘No. But I like a bet.’ Oh, to know when the Beechdown Farm money is down.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments
  • LordVilla

    New Seeker – loved that horse!

    • Conway

      Won the Britannia from stall 1, a rare event.

  • jeffreylmcnabb

    ********Brelliant Quality Of performance spec… <..~~~.. Find Here

  • Conway

    The first horse to make Clive Cox’s name was New Seeker, winner first of the 2003 Britannia at Royal Ascot, then of the Tote International. The first Group winner was Beacon Lodge in 2007” Both those horses were owned by Elite Racing Club (the latter a home bred), so no fancy rich owners.

  • Lisa Danley

    Hello Every One out here, Are you seeking for a love spell to being back the one you love??

    I have decided that i am going to spend the whole day on the internet just to make sure that a lot of people are able to read my testimony about Dr.Sam who is a powerful and genuine spell caster, My name is Lisa Danley,I am from Stevenage,UK .I’m happily married to a lovely and caring husband ,with three kids. A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my husband .so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce.he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn’t love me anymore.So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the email address of the spell caster whom he visited.{}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn’t call me for the past seven months,gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there who have any problem to please contact him through this email address: ,,,.