Philip Hobbs has been training racehorses in West Somerset since 1985 and in February 2023 became the fourth trainer to chalk up over 3,000 winners in national hunt racing when Zanza triumphed at Newbury. Richard Walsh called in for a chat at the kitchen table

Soon after passing the 3000 landmark Philip announced that his long time assistant Johnson White was going to become joint licence holder at Sandhill Racing Stables at Bilbrook.

However any thoughts of the maestro stepping down from being one of the leading National Hunt trainers is very far away, 'Now that I have passed that target it’s onto the next 3000!' Philip said before going on to say, 'I have never had a winner in the Cheltenham Gold Cup nor in the Grand National although I have been second twice. Since Johnson has shared the licence things haven’t changed very much on a daily basis but he has brought some new owners on board which has been a great help.'

Great British Life: Philip Hobbs and Johnson White chat to Somerset Life about the seasonPhilip Hobbs and Johnson White chat to Somerset Life about the season (Image: Harry Trump)

Johnson who has been Philip’s assistant for over 30 years said, 'A lot of the day to day running hasn’t changed very much but we have encouraged more new owners and recently we bought four horses for one of them.'

Philip Hobbs was born in 1955, and after being educated at King’s College in Taunton, he went onto gain a BSc honours degree at Reading University. He enjoyed success as an amateur riding in point-to point races and National Hunt and when he was 21 he became a professional. Over a 10 year period he rode 160 winners including The Black and White Gold Cup at Ascot, and The Midlands Grand National but he was always wanting to pursue a career as a trainer and started off in August 1985 with a string of six horses based in a cowshed! The first runner Philip sent out was a winner since when he has never looked back and he has become one of National Hunt’s leading trainers and enjoyed many winners at the Cheltenham Festival along with numerous other big winners.

Great British Life: Philip Hobbs known at the yard as Guvnor keeping an eye on proceedings at the top of the gallops Philip Hobbs known at the yard as Guvnor keeping an eye on proceedings at the top of the gallops (Image: Harry Trump)

After spending an exhilarating morning at the top of the gallops at Sandhill against a backdrop of the Quantock Hills watching a string of the horses climbing the final few yards of the five furlong gallops Philip and Johnson chatted about some of the successes the yard has enjoyed and looked to the future. Philip said, 'My best winner would have to be Rooster Booster winning the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham. He was a pretty amazing horse at the time and went a year without getting beaten so he was a fantastic horse. But we’ve had lots of very good horses since then.' He then talked about some of the changes that have taken place since 1985, 'I believe we could do without Sunday racing given all the talk about a shortage of staff in the industry, that’s the biggest change to be honest. We also now have summer jumps racing in June and July which has caused problems with the fixture list, like we had earlier this season when we had so few runners in September.' I was to keen to know how the industry coped with the financial problems that have affected so many? 'The racing industry has always been financially difficult so nothing has changed much there. The arguments about the prize money in the industry and where it should come from has never changed and there has never been any solution to it. As far as the actual buying of horses in concerned we are seeing much larger figures being asked for and though some is inflation not all of it is. The Irish Point to Pointers have been very popular because so many people want a horse that's ready to go rather than buying one that takes 18 months before its even going to run.'

Sandhill also played a huge part in the Dream Alliance story, the racehorse who was owned by a South Wales village syndicate and went onto win the Welsh Grand National in 2009.Since then there have been two films made about Dream Alliance. Johnson said, 'Dream Alliance and the whole syndicate were just fantastic to be involved with. His background his ability and the injuries that he came back from, and the whole syndicate set up itself- none of it should have worked but amazingly it did!' On looking ahead he said, 'The horses have been running well which is great and we have got a lot of nice young horses that were bought back in May or young horses that ran once last season and progressed from there so these are encouraging times. My role is to get new owners and horses and carry on with the success that has been achieved over the last 40 years here. Buy quality horses and continue with Sandhill being one of the leading yards in the country.' to which Philip added, 'With Cheltenham just around the corner we will be hoping to add to our tally there!'