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P2P Q&A - Richard Pugh

26 November 2020

Richard Pugh800600

You are founder and Director of P2P.ie. How did P2P.ie start and what role does it play?

It started in 2003 as a hobby. There appeared to be a need for information. People of my generation will remember that entries for P2Ps were only available in the Irish Field on a Saturday. Results were again only in the Irish Field the following weekend. With the internet emerging, there was a gap for coverage. It was a hobby until 2007 when I decided to give it a go full-time. When we started you could see very quickly there was demand. People wanted to search for horses or look at the results, news, and photographs we had. P2P.ie has gone on to be the main provider of entry-taking, form, results, entries, photographs, videos, and really a one-stop-shop for P2Ps. When we started, the world was starting to take note of P2P horses through horses like Best Mate (IRE). So the website fell at a time when several factors came together to cause P2Ps to progress. Firstly, foot-and-mouth, which brought about an autumn season, meaning people could structure an entire business around selling horses. Secondly, Brightwells started bringing select horses to a select Sales environment at Cheltenham. Since then Tattersalls have taken over and Goffs do it as well. So instead of someone in England calling and saying have you seen a nice horse, now that same person could compare 10, 30, or 50 horses and decide themselves. Thirdly, through the website people could watch videos, speak to handlers, and make a decision. And fourthly, with the world getting smaller through the internet, a lot of flat horses that might have gone jumping got a bit more expensive and went worldwide. I’m not sure we’ll ever see another Istabraq (IRE) again. So this has all played into the development of the website. Nobody ever sat down and said this was the plan, but it’s been a fascinating journey.

What is your involvement at Tattersalls Ireland?

In 2015, I took over the Sales at Cheltenham and Ascot, when they were purchased from Brightwells. It’s been quite incredible some of the graduates we have had. Envoi Allen leads the charge, then there’s Ballyadam (IRE), Sir Gerhard (IRE), Shishkin (IRE) who won earlier in the week, and many more. You could pick out four or five more Cheltenham Festival favourites from over the past few years. That business is now run from Newmarket. I am a Director of Tattersalls Ireland Horses-In-Training Sales and involved in lots of different aspects of the National Hunt division at Tattersalls.

What is a ‘normal’ week for Richard Pugh?

It depends on the time of year, but during the P2P season the week begins on a Saturday. I go to P2Ps Saturday and Sunday. Then on Monday we are clearing up what happened at the weekend and what horses are appropriate for sale. We are looking back at results and in contact with various people querying what horse might suit what Sale. By Tuesday we are looking forward to the following weekend because entries are closing. My busiest four days are Saturday to Tuesday. Then on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, we are tyring to do any other work and maybe get a bit of time for yourself as well.

How did you first get involved with horses and racing?

I grew up with Hunting. My father was Master of the Sligo Harriers and the Galway Blazers. I went Hunting every single Saturday. The natural progression from there was to your local P2P track. P2Ps looked as exciting if not more exciting than Hunting. I rode in P2Ps until I was 19. I did four seasons, thoroughly enjoyed it, and made a lot of friends, so I was keen to stay involved, which is where the commentary and website came from.

How have P2Ps developed in your time?

Back when I was riding from 93 to 96, it was still hugely competitive in terms of riders, with the likes of the Costelloes, Paddy Graffin, Enda Bolger, John Berry, Tom Lombard, and Tony Martin. But the horses were very differently prepared. Not necessarily better or worse, just differently. The same importance wasn’t given to having to market your horse and therefore prove that he could go out the first day, win like Arkle (IRE), and be sold accordingly. Back then Padge Berry famously would run them two or three times and have three Ps beside their name before he’d even consider making them competitive in a race. But I think this is true of everything. People have to be more aware and careful of the marketing of horses. So it’s naturally become more professional. The fact that people were able to race horses and sell them on has led to the racing becoming more competitive, because as you sold a horse you were able to go and reinvest in a slightly better calibre of horse. Then these more expensive horses end up going into the same race, one wins, and you end up getting paid a little bit more handsomely. So there has been a perfect storm of people reinvesting at a higher level. If you go back to around 2005 to 2010, the bottom end of the Tattersalls Ireland August NH Sale was being hoovered up by P2P guys. Some those guys are now top-end buyers, so the calibre of horses going point-to-pointing is notably different. We had Gold Cup winners in the 70s and 80s, but there are just more high-quality horses now.

What are some of the greatest horses you have seen in the P2P field?

I’m so lucky to have seen so many. Best Mate (IRE) has to be one, as he won three Gold Cups. It was a two-runner race in Tuam he won, but the runner-up was no slouch. Probably the most under-rated was Imperial Commander (IRE), who won at Summerhill and went on to win the Gold Cup, beating Kauto Star and Denman (IRE) in their prime. The second he went by the line you thought you’d seen a Champion, whereas with Best Mate (IRE) you only knew as the years progressed. It’s not always obviously apparent. Simonsig was hugely talented. I saw Beef Or Salmon (IRE) and Mr Mulligan (IRE) win their Maidens. Following these horses as they progress is fascinating.

Why do you think P2P horses go on to be so successful on the track?

It’s the perfect way to introduce a horse to racing. In fairness to Gigginstown, they completely got the concept. Michael O’Leary is a businessman and clearly he didn’t feel that spending a nice amount of money on a store to then run him for 500 quid in a field somewhere was a lucrative starting point. So why did he take all his stores to P2Ps? That has to be because over three miles and fences it gives a horse time to learn how to race. You can jump out and, with riders like Derek O’Connor and Jamie Codd in particular, they have time to take them back, get them jumping a few fences, get their rhythm, their breathing, and their confidence, so they can relax and develop into a race. People think three miles is too much to ask of a four-year-old. I actually think two miles or two-and-a-half is too much as it doesn’t give them time to develop into a race. So I think the concept of allowing them to jump and travel into a race is hugely important. Gordon Elliott was asked recently about the schooling of Envoi Allen and he said he hadn’t had to do much because he was down in Colin Bowe’s for the early part of his career. That early schooling never goes away, like riding a bike or driving a car. Envoi Allen had that core discipline put into him before ever he was racing. So now the progress of his career is far more simple, just like Shishkin (IRE) who was impressive in jumping on debut. Like ourselves, they learn things more easily when they are younger, so to teach the discipline of jumping to a jumping horse early in their lives is perfectly logical.

All Irish point-to-point 4yo Maidens in 2020 will be available to view on the ITM YouTube channel. Subscribe here.

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