Former jockey Chris Honour is starting out on training career

Chris Honour with Coombe Hill (retired)

Chris Honour with Coombe Hill (retired) - Credit: Chris Honour

As well as jump racing's 'big-hitters' like Paul Nicholls, Philip Hobbs, David Pipe and Colin Tizzard, a new name on the West Country training scene is set to head to next month's Cheltenham Festival - less than six months after he took out a licence.

Former jockey Chris Honour is just starting out on his own training career, at a small yard near Ashburton, but he has saddled five winners this season, three since the turn of the year plus four placed horses.

It often takes trainers years before they have a horse good enough to run at the festival, but one of Honour's recent winners, Grumpy Charley, is already being aimed at the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

The horse is one of the few among his ten current charges that Honour hasn't bred himself.

Most of them are ridden by 21-year-old Bryan Carver, who also works for Nicholls' yard in Somerset, and his success for Honour could help propel him towards the Champion 'Conditional' Jockey title this season.

"Bryan never sat on a horse until he was 16, which is remarkable really, but he's a very talented rider, I think he's got a big future and we have a good friendship," said Honour.

Chris himself rode 74 winners, mostly for his friend and neighbour Jimmy Frost at Buckfastleigh, in a ten-year career which ended in 2012.

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"I had done some pre-training of young horses, but I had no real intention of training as a career after I gave up riding," he said.

"But then I was asked to train a wonderful hunter chaser called Coombe Hill, and I couldn't have asked for a better start if I'd tried."

Using his own brood mare Darn Hot, Honour has built up a small string, and he was ready to take out a licence in October.

"I never reached the heights as a jockey, but I made a living because I worked out at a lot at different yards," he explained.

"The heart of racing is those stable lads and lasses who look after and work out the horses - they're the most overlooked people in the sport by a long way.

"They know the horses better than anyone, and it's not an accident that the best of them look after the most winners.

"I'm a great believer that happy horses win races - I know you hear that all the time, but we do everything we can to make it true here.

"At one time I was on my own, riding out ten horses a day.

"Riding and teaching horses is what I love most, but that routine was killing me and I've now got a great group of people who help me.

"Hopefully the name of the yard will grow rather than my name, because that's how I see it."

Things have been tough through the Covid pandemic, and it's forced a change in emphasis at Higher Whiddon Farm, where Honour lives with his partner Becky and young daughter.

"We've also got a small holiday cottage business here and that was helping to subsidise the yard, but since Covid it's been the other way around," he said.

Names like Grumpy Charley, another winner Tile Tapper, Okhotsk and the very promising Mayhem Mya, who is down to run at Aintree's Grand National meeting in April, are all set to fly the flag for Honour over the next few months.

He's also seeking permission to lay out new gallops.

"It is hard work, but I love it and it's gone pretty well so far," he said.