Rebecca Menzies: On the rise and into battle for the North

Rebecca Menzies has never been one to shy away from a challenge, from becoming the youngest trainer in Britain, to joining the fight with her northern-based colleagues against the traditional powerhouses in the south.

The 32-year-old dual-purpose handler, who saddled her 200th career winner last month, began her journey with an optimistic letter to her local stables.

What started as intrigue soon became an obsession, so much so it led her school deputy head to question whether she had a gambling addiction.

“I was about eight or nine and had been taken for the odd riding lesson before then but there was a yard near my house and I put a note through the door saying I wanted to come and help look after the horses,” Menzies told Sky Sports Racing.

“The guy rang my mother and she didn’t know much about it so she brought me up to see him and it turned out to be Walter Gott, who was quite a big owner at the time.

“I used to go there before and after school to help him. I couldn’t ride at the time but mucked out and did all the chores.

“As I got older I started to ride a lot of ex-racehorses to keep them ticking over out of training.

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Menzies pictured shortly after taking out her trainer’s license in 2013

“I used to have a notepad and became really obsessed with what was in the fields. All through secondary school I used to spend my lunchtimes and most IT lessons on Sporting Life, watching how they got on.”

After landing a job as a stable lass, Menzies worked her way from racing secretary and travelling head lass to assistant trainer with Cheltenham Festival winning trainer Ferdy Murphy.

At just 18-years-old, Menzies gained a HGV license in order to drive the yard’s lorry of horses up and down the country, as well as the occasional trip across the Irish Sea.

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Menzies, who became Britain’s youngest trainer at 24-year-old when starting out in 2013, says anything can be achieved if someone has the drive to do it.

“I got to go all over the place,” Menzies said. “I was going to Ireland with a lorry on my own. He [Ferdy] gave me that confidence to do it.

“At the time we didn’t really appreciate it. We knew they were good horses and we were going to Cheltenham every year, but it’s only since I started training that I’ve realised how difficult that would be, firstly to get that calibre of horse but also maintaining and develop them into something to win those big races.”

Having learned the tricks of the trade under Murphy, Menzies took the bold step to go it alone in 2013, then just 24 years old, becoming Britain’s youngest trainer at the time.

Menzies looks on as a horse practises leaving the starting gates

“I think anyone from any background can achieve what they want to achieve if they’re driven enough,” Menzies said.

“People had more of a problem with me being young than being female.

“There were a couple of comments made early on and it used to hurt a bit, but then you start training a few winners and the job does make you quite hardy.

“It’s taken me quite a long time to realise that this is what makes me happy. I’m at my happiest when I’ve got two days in the yard. That’s why I get up.

“It’s never ever felt like work. We’ve had some bad days but never have I had a problem bouncing out of bed when the alarm goes off.

“Every day is really different and it’s the best job in the world, most of the time.”

There have, of course, been challenges for Menzies, who admits having to become “better with people” in a bid to persuade more owners to send her their prized possessions.

A fun and engaging presence on social media, though, has proved popular and helped Menzies stand out from the crowd.

“For the first few years training I probably would have had a few more horses if I’d gone into the owners and trainers room,” Menzies said.

“Training isn’t all about working horses up the hill and getting them jumping, getting to know owners and the PR side of things is massively important.

“We try and match the riders to the horses and we talk to each other a lot. I think that’s where we find the edge.

“If there’s a horse that isn’t fitting into the mould, we can change what they’re doing and I think that’s worked for horses that have come here from other yards.

“Although I’ve got more horses now, we have still got a very small yard mentality.”

A horse works up the gallops at Menzies’ Howe Hills base

The mentality may be small, but Menzies certainly now has the base to take on the big guns.

Since 2016, she has taken up residence at John Wade’s establishment at Howe Hills at Mordon in County Durham, boasting 100 boxes and state-of-the-art facilities.

The next challenge is “clawing back” power from the South and Menzies feels ready for battle.

“When I first started out in racing the North was booming and we were often able to go down to Cheltenham and Ascot on a Saturday and compete,” Menzies said.

Menzies with horse Rainbow Applause, a one-eyed filly, who raised GBP20,000 for the NHS

“You can’t argue that there’s been a big lull in the last ten years but I think there are the right people up here now to try and start clawing that back.

“There are young people, like myself, who are very ambitious and some of the more established trainers too.

“Eventually, if we get the ammunition to go down there then we’re not afraid to do it.”

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