NB This Q&A was originally produced in June 2020. Thankfully, we are now emerging from lockdown and the horse numbers in Nikki’s yard will be rising.
A farmer’s daughter who studied at agricultural college and rode in point-to-points, Nikki Evans and her family have a strong connection with horses. They were, in fact, always part of her formative years, whether riding ponies, show jumping, eventing or hunting.
Furthermore, prior to taking out a training permit and then a full licence, her mother owned horses trained by John Edwards, who enjoyed great success in a near-30-year career, not least with the dual-Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Pearlyman (1987-88) at the Cheltenham Festival, where he saddled ten winners in total.
As the Q&A will reveal, Nikki spent a period of time with another hugely-successful trainer, one who was crowned champion National Hunt jockey in Britain on four occasions prior to switching careers.
Nikki took the plunge into training in 2004 and her initially small stable has risen now to around 15 horses. An advantage, though, of a smaller operation is, as Nikki puts it, “We have the chance to treat every one of our horses as an individual”.
That said, the dual-purpose handler, who is ably assisted by her husband Paul, is ambitious and is always looking to expand and develop.
It is very much a hands-on establishment that doesn’t pay fancy prices for horses so the success that has come Nikki’s way is well earned. This serves as an advert for what can be achieved. As does the view from her training establishment (see below) that was recently posted as a video onto Nikki’s Twitter account @PenbiddleRacing.
I wish her well, along with continued success, and I thank her for taking the time to answer my questions.
TRAINER QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS —- NIKKI EVANS
NAME: NIKKI EVANS
WHERE ARE YOU BASED? ABERGAVENNY, SOUTH WALES (WHICH IS AROUND SIX MILES FROM THE ENGLISH BORDER)
— Nikki Evans (@PenbiddleRacing) May 9, 2020
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB IN RACING?
MY FATHER HAD A PERMIT AND WAS MASTER OF HOUNDS AND THE POINT-TO-POINT. I DID BOTH JOBS, WORKING ON THE “QUIET ONES” BEFORE I SPENT A LONG SUMMER AT JOSH GIFFORD’S
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO TRAIN RACEHORSES?
I GUESS FOLLOWING IN THE FAMILY FOOTSTEPS. MUM HAD A LICENCE, BUT WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL I WANTED TO GO AND DO SOMETHING IN FARMING OR GET INTO POLITICS
HOW LONG IS YOUR NORMAL WORKING DAY?
I FEED AT 6AM AND THEN MY EVENING FEED IS AT 6PM
HOW MANY HORSES HAVE YOU IN AT THE MINUTE?
DUE TO COVID-19, ONLY 9 FLAT HORSES
DESCRIBE THE FEELING OF YOUR FIRST WINNER AND WHAT HORSE WAS IT?
A HORSE CALLED PITHY. THE OWNER WASN’T THE EASIEST TO DEAL WITH AND HE LIKED TO MOVE HIS HORSES AROUND A LOT, SO THAT HORSE WINNING WAS BRILLIANT AND IT TOOK THE PRESSURE OFF
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH DIPS IN FORM OF THE HORSES?
WE ALL LIKE THEM TO RUN WELL ALL OF THE TIME BUT THEY ARE ANIMALS WITH MINDS OF THEIR OWN. RATHER LIKE US, WE DON’T FEEL GOOD EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK, WE JUST TRY AND PUT THE HEAD DOWN AND WORK HARDER
CAN YOU GIVE US THE NAME OF ONE HORSE TO FOLLOW WHEN WE GET BACK INTO ACTION:
GLOBAL FRONTER, WHO IS A LOVELY JUMPER AND WHO IS FOR SALE
FAVOURITE RACECOURSE AND WHY?
NEWBURY: I HAVE BEEN VERY LUCKY THERE
TOUGHEST COURSE AT WHICH TO TRAIN A WINNER:
THESE DAYS, ANY COURSE. RACING IN GREAT BRITAIN IS VERY COMPETITIVE BUT WE ALL HAVE SAT NAVS AND WHEELS
IS SOCIAL MEDIA SOMETHING YOUR TRAINING ESTABLISHMENT USES A LOT?
I’M NOT VERY GOOD AT IT, BUT SINCE THE LOCKDOWN IT’S SOMETHING I HAVE TRIED TO GET BETTER AT TO HELP THE OWNERS
WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE WINNER?
PECKER DUNN AT TOWCESTER: IT HELPED PAY FOR MY WEDDING!
IF YOU COULD TRAIN ONE HORSE WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A TOP TWO-MILE CHASER; THE LIKES OF MASTER MINDED WOULD SPRING TO MIND
IF YOU WEREN’T A TRAINER WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD BE DOING NOW?
A FARMER; I WENT TO AGRI COLLEGE AND IT’D BE A SHAME TO WASTE THAT
A GOOD STEAK
HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF RACING:
GOLF, WHICH I PLAY BADLY!
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN THAT YOU DON’T HAVE ALREADY?
MY HUSBAND WOULD TELL ME A NEW TRACTOR!