George Boughey interview: Flat racing's rising star on getting hands dirty and aiming for Royal Ascot glory

·5-min read
George Boughey is rising star is quickly making a name for himself - JASON BAX
George Boughey is rising star is quickly making a name for himself - JASON BAX

A number of young Flat trainers completed their first full season during 2020 and, despite the pandemic, it was pretty clear most of them knew what they were doing – but it would appear that George Boughey in Newmarket is ascending the fastest.

In July it will be two years since Boughey set up at Saffron House Stables on the town’s Hamilton Road with four horses, two of whom were owned by syndicates of friends.

One, Cotton Club, was originally bought out of a selling hurdle at Newton Abbot for £6,000, and two others, George Dryden also for £6,000 and Three C’s, were bought privately. Boughey announced his arrival by running all three, nearly all of his yard, at Bath on the same day later that July.

George Dryden came an agonisingly close runner-up, Cotton Club won two starts later and Three C’s, sourced for the 0-50 classified race at Bath, gave the fledgling trainer his first winner next time out and has since won another five and set the Boughey ball rolling. Now up to 50 horses, next month he will have in the region of 10, including six two-year-olds, to take to Royal Ascot.

If Boughey, 29, the eldest son of a Dorset farmer, had not had other ideas he could have had farming on a plate.

“It was there,” Boughey says, “but it never got me out of bed in the morning. I even went to Newcastle University to do agriculture and business management but that was more for the business management. It was always bloodstock I was interested in.”

Growing up, Richard and then Nick Mitchell had trained on the Boughey family farm and Rooster Booster, the 2003 Champion Hurdle winner, was born in a paddock at home.

George Boughey is quickly making a name for himself  - JASON BAX
George Boughey is quickly making a name for himself - JASON BAX

“He was jungle-bred,” explains Boughey. “He was by Riverwise, a horse dad owned who never won a race, fell on his hurdling debut and was pulled up at Newton Abbot on his last start. The mare, Came Cottage, belonged to Richard Mitchell. Riverwise bred only six winners but one of them won £700,000 and the Champion Hurdle.”

By his own admission, Boughey was a moderate rider but he determined to work his way into bloodstock. He spent a couple of sales seasons with bloodstock agents Luke Lillingston and Tom Goff.

Essentially he was holding Lillingston’s coat, fetching him coffees and going ahead pulling out yearlings for him to look at.

“But they introduced me to everyone they saw,” recalls Boughey on what he got in return. “That opened doors. Luke arranged for me to go to Gai Waterhouse in Australia and she sent me to Lloyd Williams, an owner who had six runners in the Melbourne Cup the year I was there. I couldn’t have done less if I’d tried – it was the most over-staffed place in the world and I mean that in a complimentary way. Every horse had one person looking after it, its own paddock and the highest level of everything. But I wasn’t stuffed out the back, I was given responsibility – I was there saddling runners.”

Returning to Britain there were no assistant jobs going but Hugo Palmer was making a blistering start to his training career.

“He had 35 horses when I came back and wasn’t in the position where he needed an assistant,” Boughey recalls. “But I made myself useful. I rode out three lots, I mucked out 16 between first and second lot, I got my hands dirty.

“I remember Hugo telling me his grand plans for his two-year-olds in January 2014; Aktabantay won the Solario Stakes, New Providence also won a Group Three. It snowballed and two years later I was running a 50-horse yard for him on the other side of Newmarket.

“He gave me great freedom and I had as much responsibility as I’d have had training under someone else’s name.

“In 2018 I gave him a year and a half’s notice – he knew what I wanted to do.”

William Haggas’s son Sam, a bloodstock agent, is a “huge part” in sourcing horses with Boughey and Tattersalls gave him credit. “We were buying horses without owners for them. It didn’t help me sleep very well with such huge debts.

“But we chipped away at paying it back and Involved [25,000 guineas] was sold to Australia which helped balance the books. Songkran [20,000 guineas] won four on the bounce, went up 28lb and we were hoping the better horses would come.”

“It’s all about winners,” adds Boughey, who has already had 36 winners this season, explaining his philosophy. “Obviously if you set the bar high you have to keep hitting it but that’s what I want to do. I want to train at a higher level. There’s a pressure to maintain it but that’s a pressure I want.

“For me placing horses in the right races is as essential as sourcing the right horses. I can’t understand running horses in races they just can’t win. I’d rather go somewhere to win than just have a runner at Ascot. It slightly goes back to how I got into it and wanting to be a bit more analytical about it.”

With the winning juveniles Beautiful Sunshine, Thunder Love, Cashew, Superior Force, Navello and Forca Brasil all Ascot bound, the better horses and bigger owners are not just finding their way to Saffron House Stables, it appears they are knocking down the gates to get in.