West Ilsley Stables

As Mick explains in the accompanying video, West Ilsley Stables incorporates a traditional stable design centred around the Main Yard with the adjacent barns converted into more modern "American Style" facilities. It's a combination of old and new and very much an ongoing project as we continually improve facilities for the horses and staff alike.

The indoor school covers almost a furlong and is invaluable in assessing soundness before exercise as well as providing a safe environment for breaking yearlings and introducing them to the starting stalls. In the bleakest of conditions, the school also ensures that horses can be exercised on the rare occasions that the Downs are inaccessible due to snow and frost.

The actual site upon which Hodcott House and its adjacent stables at West Ilsley now stand received several references in the Domesday Book, with Ralph de Mortimer named as its original landholder back in 1086.

It wasn't until a few years later though that Mick Channon came along to succeed a long list of successful trainers, as West Ilsley made the switch from livestock farming to racehorse training at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Captain Richard Gooch was the first documented trainer to lease the yard from the Lockinge Estate in 1919, before Jack Colling truly began West Ilsley's emergence as a base famous for preparing top class thoroughbreds.

Colling was famous for saying ‘Give me a stable of geldings and I’ll have the bookies crying for mercy’. He was a stout believer in the soundness, consistency and courage of geldings and famously trained the Hyperion gelding High Stakes to win 34 races.

Although capable of training very good horses such as West Ilsley's first Classic winner Ambiguity and top class performers Hornbeam, Counsel and Rosalba, he was a master at placing moderate horses to win races and good horses to win plenty.

Upon his retirement in 1962, Colling sold the yard to a long standing patron, The Hon. John Jacob Astor. Astor's appointment of Colling's successor and subsequent expansion of the yard, led to West Ilsley becoming a dominant force in racing.

Astor appointed Major W.R Hern, who would become a horseracing legend. From 1963 to 1989, The Major sent out no fewer than 25 Classic Winners from West Ilsley, with Brigadier Gerard, Bustino, Henbit, Troy and Nashwan among them.

Height of Fashion might not have been a Classic Winner, but the Major's handling of her to multiple group victories was enough to convince Sheikh Hamdam Al Maktoum to purchase her from The Queen. Her Majesty in turn, bought West Ilsley with the proceeds in 1982.

After Major Hern's departure from West Ilsley at the start of the 1990's, his successor Lord Huntingdon continued the Yard's tradition of sending out top class performers. He won three successive Ascot Gold Cups with Indian Queen in 1991 before Drum Taps made the race his own in 1992 and 1993.

In 1999 the current incumbent arrived, some 913 years after The Domesday Survey was commissioned. M.R Channon's own surveyors consented to his purchase of the yard from Her Majesty and although he's not exactly from the same mould as Captain Gooch, R.J Colling, J.J Astor, Major Hern or even Queen Elizabeth II, Mick is well aware of the tradition surrounding West Ilsley.

It's a history he's seldom allowed to forget.

The West Ilsley Stables - Video