P2P Q&A - Richard Pugh
26 November 2020
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
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
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
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.