The names of Wayne Clifford and his company Bathwick Tyres have been a familiar sight on racecards for 30-odd years, both on the Flat and over jumps. Clifford sold Bathwick Tyres four years ago after growing it to 31 sites, the expansion having in no small part been down to his sponsorship of  hundreds of races in the West Country, but his involvement in racing as an owner and breeder is undiminished. His recent Ascot Grade 2 winner Coole Cody, successful in three major handicaps at Cheltenham, is one of the most popular chasers in training and was a winner at the recent ROA Horseracing Awards in the National Hunt Special Achievement category. Annsam is an up-and-coming  talent in the jumping ranks while homebreds Lil Guff and Trusty Rusty were among those to fly the flag on the Flat in 2022.

My wife Sarah decided back in the 1980s that she wanted a racehorse. I said no – but she went ahead and bought one anyway! Our first winner was Super Heights at Wolverhampton, and Stef Higgins rode him. That year [1994] we also had Seaside Minstrel, who won
four for me. Once we got involved, I realised how expensive it was going to be and that during the summer break for jumpers you still had to pay upkeep for the horses. As my business was expanding and I needed new warehouses, I decided to be crafty and buy a farm, using the buildings as warehouses and the fields for the horses.

The best thing I ever did for my business was getting involved in racing sponsorship. When you are trying to build a company up you always try to advertise in the right places, but it can be very difficult. I was very lucky when I decided to start sponsoring races, as down here in the south-west it put my name on the map. It was all down to racing sponsorship, rather than adverts on TV or in newspapers. We sponsored hundreds upon hundreds of races, on the Flat and over jumps. We did 33 in one year just at Salisbury. The company was sold a few years ago, but I didn’t want to stop and so we added Catridge Stud a couple of miles away from us to our Byerley Stud, making the farm up to 300 acres.

We’ve done Flat and jumps almost from the start. I love the jumpers because they are usually around for much longer and you’ve got a chance of competing against the best, which you can’t do usually on the Flat without spending millions. But when you get a winner at a Flat track like Salisbury, without being nasty to jumps tracks, it’s more upmarket and more sociable, although the actual owners over jumps are the most sociable of all and in a different league to anyone else. It’s nearly all homebreds now so we don’t tend to buy any more. The best we’ve bred was Verse Of Love – he won nine times. In 2022 we were quite successful with Lil Guff, who is with the Kublers, and Trusty Rusty, who is with Tony Carroll. We’ll breed from them one day. The Kublers are young, hungry and very keen. They’ve got new ideas and you can’t fault them. Tony is a proper professional who misses nothing. The horses are spread about, as they are also with Evan Williams of course, as well as Ron Harris, David Pipe and now Milton Harris. They sometimes move about, but I don’t fall out with the
trainers. It’s always in the interests of the individual horse.

Byerley Stud has become a commercial operation, run by my granddaughter Laura Clifford-Ward and Ian Bradbury. We have eight mares of our own to breed from – two jumpers and six Flat – and we’ve just had our best foal sale yet, selling one by Mohaather out of Sweet Cecily for 90,000 guineas, which was a nice profit on the stallion fee. Along with the mares themselves are their offspring and all told I think there are over 120 horses on the stud right now, with the rest all here for owner- breeders. I think we are due about 52 foals, so it’s going to be hectic for the staff.
Coole Cody was one we bought, for just £5,200, but Annsam, who won a big prize at Ascot last December was bred here out of Bathwick Annie, who we raced ourselves and is still with us at 26. She’s one of 11 retired mares we have here on the stud because what else do you do with them? We live on the premises so we see them every day – that’s part of the joy of it all.

Coole Cody is the sort of horse an owner dreams of – he’s been incredible. I was over the moon with his win at the ROA Horseracing Awards. He’s won four times at Cheltenham, and when he won the Grade 2 at Ascot in November it was his ninth win all told. When he first tried fences he just didn’t seem to jump, so I gave him a change of scenery. First time out for Evan Williams we were just hoping for a nice day out, but he won by ten lengths. It was very strange when he won the Paddy Power Gold Cup, as it was during lockdown and there were only a handful of us there watching him. When he won the Racing Post Gold Cup last December I fell over in my excitement, as I’d been pacing  about and then tripped over while running up the hill with him. Winning the Plate there in March was extra special as he was headed but just wouldn’t give in. We’ll hand pick races for him and the second he tells us he’s had enough he’ll come home for good.

Quite a few owners are going abroad these days and I can see why as there’s a lot more prize-money. I agree with those who are saying there’s too much racing; I’d like to see it scaled down to provide better prize-money for the races that remain. I’ve looked at racing abroad myself, but it’s not for me. I like to have my horses close to me, and I wouldn’t get the same enjoyment. Whether I have one running in the 9.10pm at Wolverhampton or at Royal Ascot, I’ll be there, but I wouldn’t want to go to France to watch one.