Henderson assistant Toby Lawes embarks on training career
Toby Lawes, the lucky man who has been the regular work-rider of the mighty Altior during his role as Nicky Henderson’s assistant, will embark on his own training career this year and cannot wait to get started.
Lawes, who has spent five years at Henderson’s famous Seven Barrows base, is due to take over from David Arbuthnot at Andrew Wates’s Henfold House Stables – a premises from where the late Terry Casey trained the 1996 Grand National hero Rough Quest.
Having grown up in the pony club, hunting and eventing spheres, Lawes started riding in point-to-points when he was 16, but jokes his limited success at that ignited his passion for training.
He spent school, university and Christmas holidays getting as much experience as he could, and enjoyed spells with James Eustace, Chris Wall, Neil King, Sarah Humphrey and John Ferguson before joining Henderson for a golden run, which has yielded two jumps championships along with many big-race triumphs.
The 27-year-old has had the pleasure of partnering 2017 King George VI Chase hero Might Bite and the indomitable Altior – a world record-holder having won 19 races in a row over jumps – on Henderson’s Lambourn slopes and has loved every minute of it.
“It’s been the best five years of my life, every part of it has been fantastic, working with the most amazing trainer and team of staff, the most wonderful bunch of horses and most brilliant and kind owners,” he said.
“You look forward to getting out of bed every morning just to go and ride Altior and Might Bite. There’s something so special about them and never before have I been around horses of that calibre. To get to ride them every day blew my mind and I had to pinch myself every day.
“The most amazing thing about Nicky is his wonderful patience with horses; he really allows a horse to come to its own and he’s such a brilliant judge at knowing when that is. That’s one of the key things I’ll take from there.
“I’ve been so lucky to learn from Nicky, Corky [Browne], Charlie [Morlock] and everyone at Seven Barrows. I went there thinking I half-knew what I was doing, but I soon realised the scale of everything. I can’t believe how much I’ve learned in the last five years.”
Lawes is halfway through his training modules and hopes to have his licence in place for the autumn.
He might, however, have to supply a finder’s fee for another Henderson protege, explaining: “A few people got the idea in their heads that I could start training this year, so I thought about it and how could I do it.
“This job came up and Nico de Boinville rang me and said, ‘You’ve got to go for this. It’ll be the most amazing job’.”
Arbuthnot, one of the few trainers to win races at the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot, will soon vacate Wates’s Surrey yard having been angered by the handling of a doping case.
Lawes continued: “Andrew will have about ten horses there and I’ve got space for a few more.
“It’ll be mainly jumpers because that’s certainly Andrew’s big passion, but I’d love a couple of Flat horses if someone wanted them with me.
“I probably won’t have runners until the autumn, end of October, as Andrew’s horses are all on their summer holidays now.”