Linkslade Stables, home to trainer William Muir, has transformed over the years, which has aided success on racecourses around the world.
Muir and his team moved to Linkslade Stables in 1993 and a lot of work had to be done to ensure it was suitable to house horses.
He tells Liam Headd about his journey and how the future is bright, with a number of two-year-olds looking good for next year’s flat season.
“We came here in July 1993 when it was a complete wreck. It was an absolute war zone,” admitted Muir. “We had to work hard to build it up to what it is now.
“We do everything to keep the horses in the best possible conditions and it is a great yard for that because it works for everyone.
“It’s an ideal spot to train from because you’re 10 minutes from the gallops and it’s a nice trot up there so it’s a good warm-up.
“The yard itself has a furlong covered canter and we go in there when the weather is bad, so it’s good the horses can still exercise.”
Prior to taking out his own licence and becoming a trainer, Muir gained experience working some former trainers in the sport.
He said: “I have worked with thoroughbreds all my life, but I was with Nicky Vigors and Fulke Johnson Houghton, as well as being assistant to Kim Brassey for a while, until he stopped.
“That is what gave me the push to start training and from there I just kept moving forward.”
Muir has had some special horses during his career as a trainer, with Stepper Point being one of the stand-out performers.
“He was one of my best during my first two or three years,” he said. “I also got Averti from John Deere, which was fantastic.
“He was brilliant as a two-year-old and won his first two races in this country before going to Ireland.”
Averti performed well for Muir, winning several races, but was controversially stripped of victory in Germany in September 1998.
Muir said: “He also won a group 3 at Glorious Goodwood, finished third in the Diadem Stakes at Ascot and won the Goldene Peitsche at Baden-Baden before being disqualified.
“If I show you the clip, you wouldn’t agree with the decision, but we had to follow their rules which stated you had to be three lengths clear before moving across.”
“He was the first horse to come along that was really good and we’ve had a few others that have been too.”
Muir mentioned Saphira’s Fire, Kahlua Kiss and Purr Along as horses that did extremely well while at his yard.
The trainer has cut back on the number of horses based at Linkslade, but he has enjoyed another strong season.
“It’s been a great season,” he admitted. “We have had loads of placed horses that have competed at their peak all year and we have also had good winners.
“We have had the two-year-olds who have run fantastically. Pyledriver won his listed race and he is a big horse, while Final Option has been great for us.”
With eyes already on next year’s Flat season, Muir has big ambitions for Pyledriver and Final Option.
He said: “We have entered Pyledriver into the 2,000 Guineas, but he will be a high-class horse and he’ll be looking to run in those big races.
“We don’t know where he’ll finish because he is so big and I have been very lucky because the owners were offered big money and they wanted to keep him.
“Final Option will be a good filly next year because the family just get better and better with age, so I am quite excited with the two-year-olds for next year,” added Muir.
25 years and still going strong for Maria
ACROSS Lambourn and the surrounding area, stable staff put in a huge amount of effort to ensure standards are met every day and horses are treated correctly.
At Linkslade Stables, on the Wantage Road, it’s no different and a certain Maria Leader is aware of her role under William Muir.
Leader has been working with the trainer for 25 years and is certainly a key member of staff.
It was an industry she always wanted to move into, and Leader explained why.
“I moved to Lambourn with my husband and daughter and I desperately wanted to get back to riding out and that’s what I did.
“It suited family life because William was quite adaptable with me bringing my daughter and it also suited me because of my love for horses.
“It’s been a passion of mine since I was young and it’s a great yard to work in.”
Although Leader has fun spending time at the stables, it’s not easy work, particularly throughout winter when the cold mornings arrive.
She said: “The older I get the more I know how hard the work is, but if you enjoy it then you don’t realise it is work half the time.
“When you ride out and the weather is lovely and so are the horses, it is so much more enjoyable and those days make up for the real hard graft in the winter.
“We’re lucky that it’s a great yard because it’s more friends than colleagues and it helps the well-being of the staff and horses.”
Leader believes that having loyal staff is crucial to making the yard a positive place to work every day.
“I’m lucky because you get a lot of people that come and go as it’s not a job for everybody, but when people find a yard they like, they stay.
“We’re lucky that a lot of our staff are long-term members so we don’t have too many that come for a short space of time.
“I think that’s due to the size of the yard and also the attitude of people who they work with.”
Leader spent a short time in Dubai a number of years ago with Muir’s horses Big Baz and Stepper Point, but no matter the scale of the race, she is always thrilled with winners.
“I get just as much pleasure out of seeing a horse win a selling plate as I do with the big races and as long as I give my best and so does the horse, it will make me happy.”