Being one of the better and most well-known horses in a yard as sizeable as Dan Skelton’s takes some doing, but Molly Ollys Wishes’ name certainly rings out thanks to an excellent race record compiled over the past few seasons.
The eight-year-old had won an impressive seven of her 20 starts at the time of writing and been placed a further seven times.
She looked as good as ever on her reappearance at the Charlie Hall meeting at Wetherby, really knuckling down well to beat the handy Martello Sky under the trainer’s brother Harry, in the silks of owner-breeder Dean Pugh.
He is understandably proud as punch of his mare, whose winnings have enabled him and wife Elaine to donate to the charity after which Molly Ollys Wishes is named, which was founded by their friends Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw.
Their daughter Molly was diagnosed with a Wilms tumour aged three and sadly died five years later.
Explaining where his interest in racing springs from, Dean Pugh says: “My father was always interested in National Hunt racing and so my two brothers and myself followed in his footsteps.
“The three of us formed a syndicate called PCJF Bloodstock back in the early 90s and had a lovely horse called Man Of Mystery with Nigel Twiston-Davies who won five times in a season, Perrier Jouet Handicap Chase at Aintree on the Friday before the Grand National.
“Our father was part of the syndicate along with some close friends. In later years my brother Kim and myself then got involved in breeding National Hunt horses from home, purely as a hobby.
“We started with Man Of Mystery and then on the proceeds of that successful season we bought a horse with Nigel called La Bella Villa – all the syndicate members were Aston Villa fans! – and we ended up breeding from her ultimately.
“I have also been involved in horses with a good friend at Philip Hobbs’s and even ventured into Flat horses with Andrew Balding. We bought a two-mile Flat horse from Mick Appleby called Brave Bugsy, who then followed Mick to Andrew’s yard, and I think he won five races.”
He adds: “My brother Kim and myself bred Molly Ollys Wishes from a broodmare bought from and recommended by Mick Appleby called September Moon and sired by Black Sam Bellamy.
“As she grew, my wife and myself decided to name her after a charity that is very close to our hearts – Molly Ollys Wishes [www.mollyolly.co.uk] was established following the death of Molly Ollerenshaw at the age of eight in June 2011. Molly’s last wish was that a charity be set up in her memory to help and support terminally ill and life-threatened children, and so her parents Rachel and Tim formed the charity and it was launched in our back garden in September 2011 in a marquee.
“My wife Elaine has been a volunteer for the charity ever since that day, and I run the annual charity golf day at my home club, Fulford Heath Golf Club, just outside Birmingham. Since 2011 this wonderful charity has helped over 16,000 children, has granted over 2,500 wishes, and has supplied over 13,000 Olly The Brave books and therapeutic toys to over 70 hospitals. In total the charity has raised over £3 million, which has predominantly been achieved with about ten regular volunteers.
“We actually bred a full-brother to Molly who we named Olly The Brave but sadly lost him with a broken pelvis two years ago.
“The idea of naming these two horses after the charity was to give the charity a bit of exposure should either of them ever win a race, but little did we expect that Molly would turn out to be the star that she is and Olly The Brave, bless him, won twice before his accident.”
Paul Nicholls’ former assistant Skelton was the kingmaker when it came to his younger brother winning the jump jockeys’ crown in 2020-21, and Molly Ollys Wishes is in good hands as far as
Pugh is concerned.
“We live in Lowsonford, near Henley-in- Arden, so when Dan started training in Upper Shelfield in 2013 it seemed the perfect trainer for us as I can drive to the gallops in about 20 minutes,” he says.
“I also feel Dan will ultimately become champion trainer and his facilities are state-of-the-art, plus Harry is a fantastic jockey and gets on brilliantly with Molly. When Dan started, my two brothers and myself had a horse called Amroth Bay who was getting to the end of his racing career and so he became one of the first horses in Dan’s yard.
“Despite having a leg injury when he arrived there, Dan still managed to win two races early the following season with him, including the Cambridgeshire National as a ten-year old. Apart from Molly Ollys Wishes, my wife has a four-year-old with Dan called Bizzy Moon who was also bred from September Moon. She Is by Telescope.”
Aside from her recent Listed mares’ hurdle victory at Wetherby, which meant back-to-back successes for Molly Ollys Wishes in that contest, her triumphs have also included the Grade 2 Warfield Mares’ Hurdle at Ascot, while there have been plenty of other memorable days down the years.
Pugh says: “I think magical moments are whenever your horse wins a race or runs a great race in defeat – thinking back, Man Of Mystery winning the Perrier Jouet Handicap Chase at Aintree all those years ago when my late father was with us and having been educated in Liverpool, it meant so much to him to be in the winner’s enclosure at his beloved Aintree the day before the Grand National with his three sons and his nephew, but all wins should be cherished.
“I remember Amroth Bay’s first ever run in a bumper at Chepstow when Andrew Balding surprised us by announcing that the great AP McCoy would ride him . . . and he hosed in by about five lengths!
“More recently, Molly Ollys Wishes has been an absolute star, winning seven times from 20 starts as we speak and giving the charity much needed exposure. When she won at Wetherby, after the interviews with Matt Chapman, Rachel told us that people who had backed her had donated some of their winnings to the charity online.
“I think the worst thing about being an owner is losing a horse. My two brothers and myself along with some friends [Can’t Do Ten Stone Any More Syndicate] had a lovely mare with Andrew Balding called Love Tattoo, who sadly broke a leg in a race at Salisbury in 2012.
“And, of course, we lost Olly The Brave two years ago who was a full-brother and a year older than Molly Ollys Wishes.”
He adds: “Business-wise, my two brothers and myself had a forklift truck business in the Black Country, but we have all retired now and are enjoying life, going racing and playing golf. My son and my nephew have carried on the business.”
Racing and golf doesn’t sound the worst way to spend retirement, and with Molly Ollys Wishes and Bizzy Moon continuing to boost Pugh’s enjoyment and involvement in the former, it should hopefully go with a swing into the new year and beyond.