Gallery: As Channel 4’s Jockey School reignites our passion for horse racing, we meet the Newmarket trainer who has battled her way to the top
PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 April 2014
In her yard overlooking The Severals, Amy Weaver is walking around with a mobile phone stuck to her ear.
She’s a busy woman.
“It’s been a pretty easy morning here for a change,” she says. “I’ve been riding out for another trainer and it’s a lovely morning. I don’t have to go out again,” she says.
It’s 10am and Amy has been up since 5.45am, looking after her horses and riding the gallops.
Amy is one of the town’s trainers and at 32 she’s already forged a niche for herself among the racing community.
She says: “I grew up in Cheltenham, which is great horsey country, but I didn’t ride until I was 13. I loved it and I have always been interested in racing. I remember watching racing on TV as a child, betting against myself with pennies. I’ve always loved the speed, the adrenalin and the spectacle.”
At 16 Amy enrolled on a nine-week stable staff course at the British Racing School – an experience not dissimilar to the Channel 4 show Jockey School.
Amy says: “I was mucking out, riding out, brushing and learning yard duties. It was the first step on the ladder. It was very hard work.”
After passing the course Amy got a job as an apprentice stable lass with a trainer in Wiltshire – a job that gave her valuable experience.
She says: “You can’t learn to ride until you are riding, really. It is something that comes by experience. I was earning £62.85 a week and living in a hostel at the yard. It is a way of life and it is not for the faint-hearted. You have to want to do it. You are out in all weathers.
“I was learning about being a stable person. I always wanted to be a trainer but I didn’t think it would ever really happen.”
After a couple of years in Wiltshire, Amy came back to Newmarket to work for trainer Michael Bell before doing a stint in France.
She says: “It was 2001 and I was 20 and I went to France as a pupil assistant trainer at a yard in Chantilly, north of Paris, which is like France’s equivalent of Newmarket. It was the first step of learning to be a trainer and it was a beautiful place to live and work.”
It was then Amy decided to have a break from the racing industry.
She says: “I worked in a casino in Mayfair for three years as a croupier. I didn’t have the money behind me to become a trainer and I fancied a change. It was a great experience and I saw a very different side to life.” But the pull of Newmarket proved to be too much and Amy came back to the town and started working for Michael Bell again as an assistant trainer.
She says: “I had still followed racing and still ridden out, so I knew I’d come back eventually. I worked for three years as an assistant trainer and really learnt what it was all about.”
It was in 2008 that Amy started out on her own.
She says: “I was lucky as I had an owner prepared to back me financially in the beginning. I had no experience of running a business, apart from a GCSE in business studies.”
Today Amy trains 10 horses in her yard close to the Newmarket gallops.
She has enjoyed several successes, not least by putting horses in for races abroad. She says: “My first runner was amazing and my third runner won, which was a big relief. I was the youngest female trainer at the time and I didn’t come from a racing family, so I was quite unusual.”
Amy, who is single, lives with her friend and top jockey Hayley Turner.
Her day starts early with riding out with her staff and looking after the horses from 6.30am onwards.
She says: “At 12.30 the stable lads go home and I come into the office in the afternoon to check emails and plan races. There are so many aspects to being a trainer but race planning – putting the right horses in the right races – is really important to get right.”
And of course there is the international travel and the race days, chatting to owners, dealing with phone calls and emails.
Amy said Sir Henry Cecil had been an important figure in her career: “He was a big mentor to me. He was friendly to everyone out on the heath and he was always happy to offer advice and encouragement.”
“When I’m out on the gallops on a lovely morning there is a thrill when the horses thunder past. It is then I think I am lucky to be doing this job.”