I always loved horses – there were lots of horses around where I was born and brought up in rural Carmarthenshire and I used to enjoy following the hunt. The local grocer’s shop was also a smallholding, and I was allowed to ride ponies when I was younger. My sister and I were singers; we sang duets at the Welsh festivals. My father used to say to us before we performed, ‘Just do your best’, and when I’m in the parade ring now that’s what I say to my jockey. If you don’t win but have done your best, that’s fine, and that’s the way I’ve looked at horseracing and ownership. Most of the time you’ll be up against superior or better-handicapped horses. But when you win you really enjoy it.
My first horse was Megabill. I remember going to Taunton for his debut – I was so nervous I couldn’t even talk. It was a November bumper and you’re up against big trainers and good horses. Christian [Williams] was our jockey and the instruction from the trainer was to let the horse enjoy his first race experience, in true Evan Williams style. It was an atrocious day weather-wise, but he just came through all these horses and won. We just couldn’t believe it – it was hook, line and sinker after that! My husband Peter must have spent all the prize-money – which wasn’t huge – buying people drinks in the pub when we got home.
West With the Wind was my first good one, bought at Doncaster sales. We wanted to buy Overturn but stopped at £75,000 – you can’t sulk if another owner has more money than you! West With The Wind cost £10,000 and won eight races for us. We were at an owner’s day when Peter told me to come and see a store for sale by Court Cave. He stood there with his back to this horse, and he kept coming up and putting his head on Peter’s shoulder. We bought Court Minstrel and he won 11 times, including two renewals of the Silver Trophy and the Scottish Champion Hurdle.
Peter died in his sleep in November 2022, just after we’d come back from holiday. He went to bed and didn’t wake up – it was very traumatic. We were due to watch Court Royale at Ludlow the same day, so I phoned Evan and asked him not to run. When I told him the news, apparently everyone in the yard just stopped. Peter was a lawyer and he’d talk to Evan about certain things and give advice and so on. They became good friends. He spoke at Peter’s funeral and said when we get to the 100, we’ll have that party you were always talking about.
After Peter died, I had to think about what I was doing with the horses. I talked to Evan and decided to rehome the ones that weren’t doing brilliantly, which meant I was down to five runners. Evan then went to the Cheltenham sales in April and said he’d bought two horses, both Minellas – Blueway and Missile. He asked me to come over and look at them. I said to myself that Peter would have done it – he always liked to buy two at the same time – so I did.
Evan said Minella Missile was a nice little horse and that he wanted to run in a novice hurdle at Chepstow. He was jumping well at the back and when he came to the last bend I didn’t care if he won or not. If they come back in one piece I’m pleased. Well, he passed the favourite, trained by Paul Nicholls, and I couldn’t believe it! His Grade 2 win at Cheltenham was the pinnacle in terms of the standard of race. My initial feeling after he crossed the line at Cheltenham was that I wished Peter was there. It was amazing, especially as the horse wasn’t expensive. As Evan has always said to me, the horse doesn’t know how much he cost!
I don’t think I’d still have horses if my trainer wasn’t as welcoming as Evan Williams. I’ve kept to Evan for 15 years and not even thought about moving. We’ve become friends but also know there’s a line between friendship and business. It is also important to me to speak to the day-to-day riders. We celebrated the 100th winner by having a small-scale party with all the staff in the yard, Evan and his wife Cath, their family and my sister and brother-in-law.
I started out as a teacher and by the age of 22 I was a head of department in a private school. By the age of 31 I couldn’t stand the staffroom any longer; I didn’t want to be a teacher for the rest of my life, so I started up a translation company, Prysg, named after the village where I lived. I built the business up to a point where we had 36 translators in an office. I had cancer at the age of 42 and reduced the size of the company to 24 staff.
I’m not keen on planning too far ahead. You’re always hearing about horses being quoted for the big races in March but there’s more to racing than the Cheltenham Festival. Yes, it’s fantastic to have a runner there, but I’m equally happy to go to Ffos Las and win a race and to chat to everybody. I’d be the first to enjoy a Cheltenham Festival winner but I’m not sure I enjoy the razzmatazz.
If a Grade 1 comes along then great. But it doesn’t mean that much to me; it’s not the be all and end all. I just want to enjoy my horses – and earn enough prize-money so that I don’t have to dip into my own pocket to pay for training fees.