Nick Rhodes

There couldn’t have been a more fittingly-named horse to round off another smashing Ebor meeting at York than Eeh Bah Gum, and he was a popular winner too, starting a well-backed 7-1 chance for the £70,000 apprentices’ handicap,the final race of the four-day meeting.

There could have been no punter, however, quite as thrilled as the horse’s owner Nick Rhodes, who 54 years after first imagining what it would be like to own a winner at the Ebor meeting, was actually experiencing it.

“I was born in York and on August 20, 1964 my parents first took me to York races, and I picked my first winner in the Gimcrack, Double Jump,” he says.

“From that day on I dreamed of owning my own horse,hoping that one day too I would have a winning horse at that famous York festival. Fifty-four years later my dream became a reality.”

Rhodes, who is Divisional Chairman of New Homes Mortgage Helpline – “mortgage broking in the new-build industry” – is fairly new to ownership, his first experience of getting involved with racehorses coming five years ago when joining a Hambleton Racing syndicate with wife Lena.

“We had interests in five horses through Kevin Ryan and David O’Meara,” he says.

“Travelling up to the yards reminded me how beautiful my birthplace was, and we subsequently moved to Helmsley.

“Hooked by the excitement of horseracing, we decided to go it on our own to have the full and ultimate experience.

“Syndicates are the ideal way of experiencing a taste of whatowning a racehorse entails, but we now wanted to experiencethe full journey by choosing our own horse, designing our own silks, choosing the trainer and, subsequently with the trainer, choosing the jockey, track, distance, etc.”

He continues: “One day when visiting friends at the Cliff Stud in Helmsley we were taken by a yearling in one of the paddocks and then the decision was made.

“I made my first purchase, a bay filly by Sleeping Indian out of Cadeau Speciale, which I named Yorkshire Pudding, a tribute to my Yorkshire roots.

“I was looking for a local trainer and, following a number of enquiries with local yards, I immediately hit it off with Tim Easterby; perhaps both being staunch Yorkshiremen had some bearing on my decision.”

After waiting so long to own a horse, Rhodes might have deserved a flying start, but he didn’t get one. He explains: “Yorkshire Pudding went into training but regrettably was troubled by shin problems and other niggles that come with a two-year-old.

“The following season she eventually made it to the racetrack, being placed on a number of occasions, but continued to be plagued by niggling injuries which resulted inher being turned out in August to help her recover.”

One horse costs plenty, but an owner often feels the need to have their eggs in at least two baskets, and Rhodes admits:

“It was then I made the decision to look for another horse, but a colt this time, and I picked up a bay colt by Dandy Man out of Moonline Dancer at the Goresbridge Breeze-Up Sales.

“Sticking with the strong Yorkshire theme, I decided to name this little fella Eeh Bah Gum – which translated actually means ‘Oh My God’.”

So was this a turning point?

“Sadly, the bad luck continued,” says Rhodes. “As a two-year-old Eeh Bah Gum was constantly troubled with viruses and infections affecting his fitness, so I decided to turn himout at the Cliff Stud to allow him to recover.

“Whilst there he was gelded and then in February I sent him to Tim Easterby to keep Yorkshire Pudding company.”

Rhodes is always happy to keep Easterby company, and particularly enjoys the behind-the-scenes aspects of being an owner, and seeing his horses at the yard and on the gallops.

“Tim is such a down to earth honest trainer and with him living only 15 minutes away we were made to feel welcome any time of the day or week,” he says.

“I wanted to learn all I could about training horses and couldn’t have asked for anyone better as a tutor. Nothing is too much trouble for Tim, the whole family is a wonderful group.”

Yorkshire Pudding continues, however, to provide a test of skill and patience, of both trainer and owner, as Rhodes adds:

“Yorkshire Pudding is a prime example of frustrations, following the further setback of her fracturing her pelvis in her first race of this season. She’s recovered and hopefully will be fit to race again this autumn.”

Eeh Bah Gum, meanwhile, eventually found his feet, running three times as a juvenile without troubling the judge,but he has thrived at three, and his Ebor meeting triumph was his fifth since May, including four on the bounce. LookNorth, the local BBC news service, has sat up and taken notice, with reporter Mark Ansell doing a piece on the horse.

“Eeh Bah Gum’s racing record is there for all to see as he progressed through the handicaps, leading to our most memorable day at the Ebor meeting,” says his proud owner.

“He just loves the ground hard and fast, but he does notlike it at all when the going gets softer, as demonstrated by his run at York on July 27 [when he started favourite butfinished fifth].”

The Ebor meeting win was bound to be among them but, asked for his magical moments, Rhodes replies:

“Visiting the stud during the winter months, spending time with our horses,and regular visits to the yard, being up close and personal withour pride and joys Eeh Bah Gum and Yorkshire Pudding.

“And, of course, being there to see our boy win his first races, and then the icing on the cake for him to win on my home track of York at the Ebor meeting.”

Rhodes adds: “The best moments for us have been meeting the people involved in racing.

“We’ve set up Facebook pages for both horses, run by Lena, and the following they both have with friends made across the world has been truly humbling and amazing.

“Owning racehorses isn’t a business for us, it’s a true love. We had an offer from Hong Kong after Eeh Bah Gumwon at Redcar in June but turned it down. The horses mean so much to us. We’re on a journey, living the dream, and enjoying our friends being on it with us.

“Travelling the length and breadth of the country to see Eeh Bah Gum run has been great fun. Watch the replay of his win at York and you will see the crowd jumping with delight as he flies past the winning post. He was backed from 14-1 to 7-1.

“He is without doubt the ‘Pride of Yorkshire’, and I have made friends for life thanks to Pud and Gum.”

(October 2018)