Trevor Hemmings: exclusive interview with iomtoday

Racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings, with his unique collection of three Grand National Trophies

Racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings, with his unique collection of three Grand National Trophies

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  • Businessman grants rare interview following third Grand National success
  • Andreas resident expresses delight that so many Manx residents backed Many Clouds
  • ’The island reminds me of when I was a young man where neighbours talked to neighbours’
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Incredible three times Grand National winning owner Trevor Hemmings is delighted so many Manx people backed his horse, Many Clouds.

The businessman, a familiar figure on racecourses, put the Isle of Man firmly on the map after Many Clouds romped to victory in the Aintree marathon.

Racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings shakes hands with Isle of Man Newspapers business editor Duncan Foulkes, alongside his collection of three Grand National Trophies

Racehorse owner Trevor Hemmings shakes hands with Isle of Man Newspapers business editor Duncan Foulkes, alongside his collection of three Grand National Trophies

Mr Hemmings has now revealed to iomtoday he is determined to scoop a record-breaking fourth victory in the world-famous race.

Known for his famous flat caps the straight-talking businessman says he would also still like to win the coveted Cheltenham Gold Cup.

In a rare interview from his office at the impressive Ballaseyr stud in the north of the Isle of Man Mr Hemmings said he was pleased so many island folk wagered on Many Clouds whose starting price was 25 to one.

iomtoday told last week how Sid Cunningham, director of Joe Jennings bookies, described Many Clouds’ victory as a ‘total disaster’ for the company’s five shops in the island. The Ramsey shop even ran out of money because so many people had invested some of their hard-earned cash on the winning horse.

Winning jockey Leighton Aspell (left) and Many Clouds owner Trevor Hemmings (right) celebrate after victory in the Crabbie's Grand National Chase during Grand National Day of the Crabbies Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Winning jockey Leighton Aspell (left) and Many Clouds owner Trevor Hemmings (right) celebrate after victory in the Crabbie's Grand National Chase during Grand National Day of the Crabbies Grand National Festival at Aintree Racecourse, Liverpool (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

Mr Hemmings said: ‘I think the ownerships of these betting shops might be less happy than the punters but then why not? Why should it not be shared out, that’s what it’s all about.

‘I’m always delighted when we get followed. I can tell you seriously, the village of Kanturk in the north of County Cork, is where Many Clouds as a foal grew up and they ran out of cash just like Ramsey’s betting shop.’

Kathryn Revitt, chief executive of Mr Hemmings’s interests said: ‘We popped to the hotel [the Ramsey Park which Mr Hemmings owns] and a gentleman came up to him and said: ‘‘I’d like to thank you very much Mr Hemmings. I won enough to buy my wife a spring outfit.’’ ’

Mr Hemmings said Many Clouds would be shortly stepping on to Manx soil for a summer break. He will join new pals Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs who won the race in 2005 and 2011 respectively and who live in happy retirement at Ballaseyr.

Trevor Hemmings with Grand National winners Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs at Ballaseyr, Andreas

Trevor Hemmings with Grand National winners Hedgehunter and Ballabriggs at Ballaseyr, Andreas

But later this year it will be ‘back to work’ as Many Clouds will be returning to trainer Oliver Sherwood’s yard in Lambourn, Berkshire, in a possible bid to retain his crown.

Asked if he would try his chances over the National fences again Mr Hemmings said: ‘Oh yes, he will have another go. He’s only got one more pound to carry, unless they [the horse racing authorities] change the rules.’

He added: ‘Many Clouds could do it again. He’s got the age, he’s got two more years that he could run and both those years he could carry top weight on him whatever we do.’

Bookmakers are already offering ante-post odds on next year’s Aintree thriller. As the paper was going to press Paddy Power was offering odds of 25 to one on Many Clouds retaining his title. William Hill was giving 20 to one.

Mr Hemmings revealed it was his decision to let Many Clouds run even though trainer Mr Sherwood felt it might be a year too soon.

Recalling the victory he said: Hand upon heart I felt good about Many Clouds. To the extent I put some money on [him winning] a month before. I got a nice 33 to one.’

The horse, who is eight years old, was second top weight in the famous race, at 11 stone 9 pounds.

‘This horse is an athlete and a special one,’ said Mr Hemmings who at 79 retains an awe-inspiring passion for the sport of horse racing.

He has cut his string of racehorses in recent years down to around 35 in a reflection of economic conditions.

But the canny owner uses around 14 trainers in the UK and Ireland including Paul Nicholls and Yorkshire couple Sue and Harvey Smith. Some of racing’s top jockeys including AP McCoy, who retires this year, and Ruby Walsh, who was on Hedgehunter, have ridden for him.

Racing fans can expect to see his green and yellow quartered colours appear on courses across Britain.

And many of Mr Hemmings’s horses have Isle of Man linked names such as Andreas, Gansey and Jurby.

Ballabriggs was named after a property on Mr Hemmings’s sprawling Ballavoddan estate.

As for Many Clouds he said: ‘On the day in question I looked up at the sky here in the Isle of Man and I thought the clouds seemed busy in the sky. So that was it: Many Clouds.’

What also influenced the name was that the horse’s sire [father] is a horse in Ireland called Cloudings who stands at the Old Road Stud. Mr Hemmings is no stranger to success with this sire as he also owned Cloudy Lane who was a Chaser who won races at the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals.

It is acknowledged in racing circles that Many Clouds confirms the ability of the sire to get winners at the highest level.

And Mr Hemmings said that horses originating from Cloudings ‘give their all’.

Mr Hemmings spoke to iomtoday as a whirlwind week of celebrating his National success was drawing to a close. He had just returned from a trip to Kanturk in Ireland with the impressive trophy which he carefully placed next to his two other Grand National winning trophies.

‘We’ve been flat out busy but it has been enjoyable,’ he smiled.

Sitting behind his desk in his office he pointed across the room to another trophy revealing that it is for another Grand National winner. ‘That’s the fourth. Specify won that in 1971. Fred Pontin [of Pontins holiday fame] was the owner. He said to me : ‘‘When I die I’m going to leave you this trophy because you will never win one.’’ ’

Mr Hemmings said he loves living in the Isle of Man and he very rarely spends a night away from the island.

His chief executive Kathryn points out that last year he spent only about 10 nights away from the island and his beloved Ballavoddan which he moved to around 13 years ago.

The exception is the Cheltenham Festival in March which he treats as a holiday week.

He has had victories at Cheltenham but victory in the coveted Gold Cup has always eluded him. Many Clouds indeed ran in that race this year but could only finish sixth.

Mr Hemmings hinted he has a horse in mind for next year’s Gold Cup which he would also dearly love to win, but he said the world will have to wait to see which horse it will be.

Asked about the Isle of Man he said: ‘I first came to the island in 1952. I came here like people did for Wakes Weeks. And then I came back in the 1960s with various businesses.’

Mr Hemmings added: ‘I literally am one of those people who has worked in France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Spain, all over, so you have to settle down sometime.

‘So you settle where you feel safe. And the island reminds me of when I was a young man where neighb ours talked to neighbours. A place where you could do all those things you could do as a young man and I love the thought of having that available to me.

‘The Manx people are lovely.’

Asked if he would ever considering retiring he said bluntly: ‘No, what for?’

He said: ‘I get up in the morning very early and I walk my two little Jack Russells for about a mile. I take them back and then I make my own breakfast, I have Weetabix or porridge alternate.’

Mr Hemmings owns Preston North End football club which is bidding for promotion from League One. He said it is now up to the team as it bids for promotion in the last few days of the season.

The former owner of Blackpool Tower says he employs around a couple of thousand people in total and in the island employs around 15 or 16 people.

Ballaseyr Stud is a purpose built facility which is also home to retired horses where Ballabriggs and Hedgehunter are undoubtedly the most famous residents.

Mr Hemmings said he has always had a passion for horses recalling: ‘I used to hawk you know, as a kid with a horse and a cart selling goods. I was 12, I would go to market with a horse and cart.’

He said he started work as a builder’s apprentice and he went to night school to get his ‘qualis’ [qualifications].

‘In my business life I’ve had to climb the business and financial ladder by doing better next year than I did last year and that’s what life’s about.

‘You have to work longer hours than everybody and you have to be on site seven days a week. Today I’m available seven days a week, people contact me seven days a week, let’s put it like that.

‘I’ve got family in business but that’s their life, I can’t speak for them.’

He insists that as a racehorse owner: ‘I’m a listener. I make my decision after asking questions of different people.’

Looking at his latest trophy he said: ‘It’s very heavy, remember I had to lift that above my head.’ He said it was a lovely feeling winning the National three times which he said was ‘massive’ for the Isle of Man.

Mr Hemmings puts his trademark Barbour flat cap on for photographs but then reveals that another lucky ‘mascot’ for him has been the same tie he has worn on the occasion for the three Grand National wins.

He is an owner who backs both ‘codes’ of horse racing, the jumps (National Hunt) and on the flat. He readily admits however he is happiest with the ‘winter game’ on the jumps. He said: ‘National hunt people are totally different to the flat people. National hunt people are down to earth and love their racing. If you are wrapped up to go racing you’ve got to love to do it.

‘Summer racing is something different and a different part of society goes there. I’m less comfortable with the flat than I am with the National Hunt.’

Having said that Mr Hemmings has owned some fantastic racehorses both on the flat and jumps. And there will be plenty more.

Mr Hemmings is happiest talking about his passion for racing. He started ownership in 1984. ‘I needed time out from working seven days and seven nights. Somebody once said : ‘‘Find yourself a hobby.’’ But I’ve always been around horses.’

And he also has horses involved at the very top in the equestrian world. Princess Anne’s daughter Zara Phillips rode Mr Hemmings’s horse High Kingdom in the World Equestrian Games. Britain took an eventing silver medal overall, securing their place in the Rio Olympics in 2016.

Away from talking about horses Mr Hemmings did give a hint that successful businessmen such as himself who live in the island would be happy to help the Manx government and Tynwald.

The down to earth multi-millionaire said: ‘If people who have achieved things and live in the Isle of Man were asked their advice I’m sure they would give it. I would be one of them too. All over the island there are successful people who I’m sure will be only too pleased to help.’

Mr Hemmings has built his business success in property including his Chorley based property group Northern Trust and his Trust Inns pub chain.

He was looking forward to travelling across in his helicopter to Ayr the following day (Saturday) for the Scottish Grand National to see his horse, bottom weight Vintage Star in action. After chasing the leaders early on the horse pulled up before the 19th fence.

Mr Hemmings’s dream remains to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and that fourth Grand National.

You leave his office thinking he could well do just that!