Claire Hart lives at Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds. She combines working for Charlie Longsdon with training a string of around 6 Pointers of her own. Claire rides in the South Midlands, West Midlands and Welsh border areas. She is also a Press Officer for the South Midlands area. Claire has ridden 23 Point-to-Point winners and 1 Hunter Chase winner and this season she won the AGA Ladies Point-to-Point Championship. Here she talks to Emma Forman.
What has been your finest hour in racing?
Winning the Racing Post Weekender Ladies Hunter Chase at Stratford last May on Lady Myfanwy.
How good was winning on Palypso De Creek in the famous Dawson colours at Dingley last Saturday?
It was awesome! That has to be one of the most rewarding winners as we sold the horse to the Dawson's; it was great that he won for them first time out and even better that Jill asked me to ride.
Claire winning aboard Palypso De Creek in the famous Dawson colours at Dingley
Photo Courtesy of Graftonwood
What has been your biggest disappointment?
Falling at the last on Findlay's Find in a Hunter Chase at Stratford in March this year; we would have won! Also I lost a gorgeous little horse called Master Wolfe in April. It had taken us two seasons to get the hang of him. He won the Ladies Open at Brafield by 25 lengths and then got kicked. Two weeks after the kick he broke his leg overnight. It was such a shame as there was so much more to come from him. Master Wolfe belonged to my Uncle Simon, we called him Mickey at home and he was our favourite; it was so sad.
What do you think is the best thing about Point-to-Point racing?
Generally the atmosphere, the picnics, the people and the laughs.
What do you think is the worst thing about Point-to-Point racing or the thing you would like to see changed?
The prize money; it is ridiculous. It hasn't changed much in 10 years while the cost of everything else has gone up. The prize money for winning the Ladies Open at Dingley on Saturday was £200 which is a joke.
What is your opinion of the whip rules?
I totally agree with the whip rules, I think from the point of view of public perception the racing authorities have done the right thing. The guidelines are very clear and it has also meant a return to some good old fashioned riding before jockeys resort to the whip.
Who is your favourite horse?
Which horse do you wish you could ride?
I ride lots of good ones so without taking anything away from them I would have to say Sprinter Sacre. To jump and travel at the speed he does is amazing.
Which is your favourite Point-to-Point course?
Kingston Blount; it's a well maintained course, there is always good racing, a great atmosphere and it's just a fabulous day out.
Best advice given?
When I left school I went to work for Henrietta Knight and I remember Terry Biddlecomb looking at my stirrups one day and saying; "Drop them two holes and you'll be alright kid."
Have you ever had such a bad day that you have thought of giving up?
No, I just love riding. Even on the really bad days I have never ever considered it. One day when I'm old I will have to give up!
If you didn't ride horses what would you like to be doing instead?
I'd like to be a racing journalist; maybe I should have tried harder at school! I do some press work for the South Midlands area and love it; I just do the previews now and Andrew Norman does the reviews. At one time I did the reviews as well but it was difficult when I was riding; I had to get my Mum to find the information and ended up trying to ring people at night for quotes which wasn't ideal as most people having had a winner were drunk at the pub!
What is your big ambition?
To ride a winner at Cheltenham. My Mum won a Hunter Chase there in the early 1980's.
Apart from your boyfriend Matt, who would be your ideal man?
Peter Andre and Jude Law; a cross between the two of them would make an amazing man!
What music do you like to listen to when you are travelling to the races?
I usually travel to the races in the horsebox; there are usually about 10 people in it and lots of chat so we don't have any music. We usually have a bit of a party in the lorry on the way home, it's always rose champagne if we have had a winner. After my Mum's horse Power Shared won at Littlewindsor we knew I was going to ride at Cheltenham and everyone was drunk as we travelled up the M5; all except for Bob Hope our family friend who drives the lorry. When we got home he was the only one capable of seeing to the horses! After that there was a box of empty rose champagne bottles outside the tack room and a visitor to the yard was looking at it strangely; I had to explain it was from the party after racing.
What is your favourite TV programme?
It was Dating in the Dark but I have lost the Sky Channel that it was on so it's Home and Away now.
When you treat yourself what is your favourite guilty pleasure?
A wonderful meal with good wine and talk of horses, either with the girls or with my boyfriend Matt.
If you and Matt gave a dinner party and could invite anyone you wanted who would be on the guest list?
I would invite Peter Andre and Jude Law; and also employ a bouncer as they would fight over me! I would also invite Sir Henry Cecil, my Uncle Simon and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall from River Cottage for Matt to talk to.