Taylor Swift gave Richard Phillips the idea of National Racehorse Week

An idea spawned from Taylor Swift dropping out of an appearance at the Melbourne Cup… trainer Richard Phillips wants people to see the true face of racing at National Racehorse Week

  • Richard Phillips was alerted by Taylor Swift dropping out of the Melbourne Cup
  • The trainer then came up with the idea for National Racehorse Week
  • Phillips believes there is lack of knowledge about how racing works
  • He hopes to get people to see the true face of racing when it starts next month   

An idea spawned when animal rights activists claimed credit for forcing global music star Taylor Swift to drop out of an appearance at the 2019 Melbourne Cup will come to fruition when racing stables in Britain throw open their doors to the public next month.

A series of fatalities in Australia’s greatest race prompted an anti-racing social media campaign pressurising Swift to stand down, something that was ultimately blamed on a scheduling issue.

But for trainer Richard Phillips it was a red-alert moment. 

Trainer Richard Phillips got inspiration for National Racehorse Week from Taylor Swift

He believes a lack of knowledge about how racing works behind the scenes has become far too easy to exploit, especially with negative stories about the sport.

His solution was a National Racehorse Day.


Phillips said: ‘When I read that Taylor Swift would not sing at the Melbourne Cup that got me thinking.

‘One day I heard on the radio that it was National Nut Day. I thought, ‘If you have a day for nuts, why not have one for racehorses?’

‘Horse racing is a wonderful industry but a lot of people have no idea about it.

‘This is all about going on the front foot and letting the general public decide for themselves whether they think racing is cruel. Life is not perfect but what racehorses do for people and what people do for racehorses is a great story and it is about time we told it.’ 

He came up with the idea after Taylor Swift pulled out of an appearance at the Melbourne Cup

So successful has the initiative proved that the day has been extended to a week starting on September 12 with 136 trainers spread across England, Scotland and Wales throwing open their doors.

They range from some of the biggest names of the sport in the training centres of Lambourn, Middleham and Newmarket to smaller operations in virtually every county of Britain with 50 per cent of trainers already filling their visitor capacity. 

The recent BBC Panorama investigation which largely focused on racehorses from Ireland being shipped to an abattoir in Wiltshire inevitably attracted bad publicity. So did the picture which circulated of leading Irish trainer Gordon Elliott sitting on a dead horse on his gallops. It earned him a six-month suspension.

Phillips, who will open up his Gloucestershire stable on the opening day of National Racehorse Week, says: ‘Ironically, since I came up with the idea we have been helped by the Panorama programme and a certain picture of a trainer on a horse. It has woken people up who were sleepwalking.

‘We are in a different world with social media and things that can sway people’s minds without having full knowledge. That’s why I think the more people who know what we do, the happier they will be.  

Phillips believes there is a lack of knowledge on how racing works behind the scenes

‘I don’t think we will change the minds of a minority of people who don’t believe that animals should be asked to do anything but we have to explain racehorses have been bred to race and must enjoy what they do otherwise they wouldn’t do it.

‘There are people with extreme views on either side but they are not huge percentages. In the middle are the people who are undecided. That is who we are trying to encourage to visit. It’s not about the Red Arrows flying past or other attractions — just racehorses. Whether the general public know about animals or not, they will be able to tell whether they were happy or not.

‘I think racehorses probably get better looked after than people. They have 24-hour care and are all on BUPA.

‘They don’t have to queue up for an operation, have physiotherapists and are members of a spa. They have a balanced diet and an exercise programme — how many humans have that and wouldn’t we be better off if we did?

‘The intention is for this to be an annual event. It is racing’s way of connecting and unifying — only if we are together on this will we win the argument.’

Search for a stable near you by postcode and book a visit at www.nationalracehorseweek.uk

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