A Brief Chat With James Millman

Training/season ahead insights from James Millman…

An unplanned post but I thought it may interest some of you – I, like a few of you in the comments, have been pondering what the Flat season may have in store, especially the first ‘half’ – and indeed what the thinking of trainers will be. 

James Millman (son of Rod Millman), who you may know from his riding days and/or his media work on RTV, is heavily involved with the family operation. He’s also active on twitter, open and opinionated. Twitter has it’s pros and cons, but when it comes to racing it has helped with accessibility. And there’s plenty of great racing content to be found.  I openly tweeted James a question and thought i’d post our brief chat... (you can follow him HERE>>>

There’s a few interesting nuggets worth pondering, both specifically to this season and more generally …



James, hope you’re all keeping well… Do tell me where to go, but how are you approaching training/preparedness given circs? …ie treat like your normal routine | horse by horse /horses more forward generally | ready to go first up /or will need more racing as gone easy etc. Cheers



No it’s a great question and one there isn’t really a clear cut answer to! In recent times nobody has trained horses where they have no defined targets and that’s a big problem – normally you work backwards from said target, especially with the better horses.

Everybody will be different but as a general rule we have stopped doing any proper fast work since racing stopped.

E.g Betty, (Bettys Hope) was being primed for 2 Listed races in April so was trained hard in March, today was first time I’ve gone a bit quicker again as reports suggests there is something to aim for.

A huge problem is that the older horses know they should be running after 10/12 weeks of training, even if not doing as much fast work, mentally it’s pretty draining on them and as racing ‘could’ return in 3 weeks, hard to know whether to give them a break or keep ploughing on.

Opposite is early 2yos, esp small sharp types that were ready for week 1. You can’t keep them near peak fitness as they will blow mentally, but you also can’t ease off completely as they will then miss their window when racing returns.

With every trainer doing things differently, there will be some pretty strange results on resumption, and it will mostly be luck if a trainer gets it right. I personally have no idea when Betty might run next and what work she should be having – let’s hope I get lucky!!



Thanks for your time James, depth of reply much appreciated. That mentality point is fascinating and for some, esp older, I suppose may not know impacts until they run. How challenging. Best of luck, you all work hard so the luckier you’ll be!



No problem! Yes mentally, while always a factor, will be even more so in 2020 and in this instance even the data guys will have trouble quantifying what will happen!!! Ah there will be a lot of luck in getting it right this year – staying in business probably the main aim!!



The paddock watchers may have the opportunity to have a real good time of it! Well yes true, and I a suppose that necessitates wanting winners/prize money/keeping owners happy ASAP, but at same time have to do best by horse etc and have a proper fitness plan/routine.



Those points are what good trainers do day in and day out anyway. Lots of people can train a horse but many can’t run a business and that last aspect will be more important than ever in the coming years



Yep agree. Point was more maybe that with an unknown | reduced prog etc I wondered if more pressure to perform in 1st half of whatever season we get, whereas before maybe less pressure/map out into latter part of season. But then if a softer ground horse that would be case anyway.



Yes for sure as sadly there will be owners that can no longer afford the training fees and will need £ money to cover costs. That kind of pressure rarely ends well. Agreed about paddock watchers and as for soft ground – recent seasons we have generally had soft somewhere most months especially with over-watering, so we seem to have lost the specific spring/autumn campaign (I.e this spring would have been good to firm all round)





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6 Responses

  1. Great. Now we have to try and quantify a horse’s mental state as well 🙂
    I intend to back off for the first few weeks anyway either with not betting at all or to very small stakes.
    Interesting post Josh, thanks.

    1. yep, i suspect being more patient in early weeks may be even more of a consideration this time around – plenty to ponder, which we all will. Saying anything with certainty at the moment re certain trainers etc is trickier than it has been though.

  2. I have said elsewhere that the yards with the ability to get them ready physically and mentally, and there are quite a few, will have the initial winner flow and I can see the big training centres such as Newmarket being disadvantaged whereas the likes of Mark Johnston and similar in and around Yorkshire may well have the edge as they can have a more relaxed regime.

    1. Thanks Tom – yep very interesting times – the big yard vs smaller yard (and pondering various facilities) and what the pos and negs will be. Yards of all sizes will face similar problems in terms of fitness/training cycles and impact on a horses mentality etc – many yards can get horses fit enough at home but clearly some trainers better at others, and some have far superior facilities / gallops/ staff (which is one of biggest impacts on fitness – actually having competent riders at home who don’t get run away with up the gallops etc) –

      It will be interesting to see who hits the ground running.

    2. I agree with most of what you say there Tom, but as James points out the mentality of the horse could be an even greater factor this year for all sorts of reasons. It’s certainly something to look out for even from the yards that are potentially well adept in those spheres, how you do that is beyond me! Millman’s yard doesn’t appear to be one that gets first time out winners, they usually need a couple of runs first. It’ll be sods law now if normal service is to be resumed while we all look for something that’s not there!!

      1. Absolutely agree with the last bit about looking for something that’s not there Chris and I for one will, in the main, be standing by my trusted approach to the start of the season with the massive help of the wonderful Geegeez site which I been a life member of for four or more years…I tend not to get too involved in the first month of the season anyway and with the extraordinary circumstances maybe a bit longer this year.

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