Rose Loxton, who finished the season as the National Connolly’s Red Mills Trainer Champion (training seven horses or less) with a total of 17 wins, is based deep in the heart of Somerset at Whaddon Farm in the village of Bruton, writes Donna Harris.
She also has a full time job as assistant head lass for Paul Nicholls, whose Ditcheat yard is six miles away and, with her husband Sam, also runs a beef suckler herd, on 130 acres of hilly land, ideal for training racehorses.
Loxton originated from the west coast of Ireland, by the sea in County Galway, where she rode as a child and hunted with the Galway Blazers and the North Galway hounds. She said: “I worked at a flat racing yard on the Curragh, some 30 years ago. That’s where I met an English guy called Sam, came over to the UK on holiday and never returned. We were soon married. Sam used to ride point to point and rode a couple of winners. In the early days we had a dairy farm and milked cows.”
The couple now have three children, Martina, 28, Freddie, 26 and Polly, 24. Rose has a granddaughter, Millie Rose, and is delighted that her son Freddie is also due to give her another grandchild soon.
While her children did not really take to riding, Loxton had a hunter, Oslot, which she trained to have two seconds and a win at Bratton in 2012 under Leanda Tickle, after he had won a hunter chase. But the horse sadly fractured his shoulder in a hunting accident. “I was all set to give up training,” Loxton explained. “I just couldn’t face it, but then Paul Nicholls offered me a horse called Gwanako, who had lost his way in the National Hunt races, having previously won eight chases and five hurdle races. Paul was looking for a schoolmaster for his daughter Megan to graduate from pony racing onto point to point and I agreed to give him a go.”
“Sam helps me feed and muck out at 6.15am. I travel over to Ditcheat, help out there and come back to ride out at lunchtime. Gemma Groves rides Gwanako out every day come rain, hail or snow. I couldn’t do it without her or Sam. I would also like to thank all the owners for giving me the opportunity, and especially Paul who has also taught me the knack of how to keep a fit horse ticking over and staying fit.”
The Loxton’s farmland is an ideal location for training horses in a quiet environment, with more than 100 acres to ride around, plenty of hills to work up, and regular daily turn out, Gwanako soon started to enjoy his work again. Loxton was able to use Paul’s gallops to gauge how well he was coming on. She said: “I would think he would be blowing a bit up the hills, but when I took him to the gallops, he started to fly up them.”
Gwanako gave Megan her first point to point ride at the Cornwall Hunt Club meeting at Wadebridge in December. The pre-Christmas meeting always has a buzzy atmosphere, with an indoor market and plenty of spectators enjoying the fresh winter air. Loxton said: “We could hardly watch. We were really worried, as the conditions became a bit slippery after a shower of rain. I hadn’t wanted Gwanako to be too fit for Megan’s first ride, I just wanted him not to over jump and for them both to get around safely. Paul was there and we were both worried that if Gwanako and Megan had a fall, it could put them both off racing.” But they were delighted with the result, four lengths second to the prolific winning Byerley Bear. Megan had ridden a steady race in the sticky conditions, and had made an effort to catch Byerley Bear over the last.
Gwanako, owned by the Stewart family, went on to clock up six consecutive wins in Ladies’ Opens, and the combination were unlucky to finish second at Kingston Blount to Ravethebrave, having led until two out, which ended their winning streak.
The Loxton string is completed by two other horses – Join Together owned by Wendy Fogg, and the youngest on the yard and Current Event jointly owned by J Gane. I Fogg and Paul Nicholls.
Join Together, a nine year old gelding, is previous winner of two novice chases at Cheltenham in 2011, and a hurdle race. He had lost his form but was, this season, unbeaten in six points, three in the Devon and Cornwall Area. “His Bratton Down win was one of my favourite moments this season,” Loxton claimed proudly. “Megan led over the last, and drew clear up the hill to win by six lengths.” The horse could be targeted at the Cheltenham Foxhunters next year.
Current Event also had good form behind him, with five chase wins and a hurdle victory but seemed to have lost his confidence after running over Aintree fences. On his first outing pointing with Megan, he fell at the seventh fence at Paxford. But with much TLC from Rose, he was back jumping well again, with a win two weeks later at Little Windsor, in the Novice Riders’ race. The combination went on to win five consecutive races, which included two D&C Area meetings, Upcott Cross and Bratton Down.
The three horses saw Megan Nicholls win the National Ladies’ Novice Riders’ title, the Princess Royal Trophy (national lady novice riders U21), the Devon & Cornwall Ladies’ title, the Wessex Area Ladies’ title, the Wessex Novice title and a third place in the National Ladies’ title – not bad for a first season! Rose intends to continue to support and travel to the Devon & Cornwall Area meetings
Megan’s aspirations for the coming season are to bid for the national ladies’ point to point title. She said: “Rose has done a fabulous job with the horses. They looked great and ran amazingly last season. I will have, hopefully, two extra runners next season, based with Jack Barber – Aerial and Prospect Wells.”
Thank you to Tracy Roberts of www.turfpix.com for the photograph of Join Together and Tim Holt for the photograph of Current Event.