Mick Easterby

SECRETS OF HOW TO ENJOY THE GOOD LIFE AT 70

Interview with Mick Easterby from the Racing Post, 25th November 2001

 

"There isn't any mystery about training horses. You can either do it or you can't, simple as that."
As he owns prodigious swathes of Yorkshire and has amassed more wealth than most trainers ever will from their farming and racing businesses, the irrepressible Mick Easterby concedes that although he doesn't need the money, his ambition is to scoop the National Lottery jackpot. "I'd get them Camelot chappies to pay me in tenners, and I'd hoard every note," he says, rubbing his hands together. "I'd get far more pleasure counting it every day than I would from spending it. I'd be quite happy just to stare at it."

At 70, Easterby is as astute as ever in all matters financial.  His is a particularly noble expertise because he'll never stray from the truth in pursuit of a gain, a fact confirmed by many of those to have come off second-best to him. There are other ways. Easterby has never needed a pack of cards to play poker. A classic example was his shrewd purchase, as a foal, of the chaser Meadowbank, rated by the trainer as very similar in every respect to Mr Snugfit, runner-up to Last Suspect in the 1985 Grand National.

In detail, Easterby relates the story of what he clearly regards as another of his smartest transactions. "I went to the paddock with the breeder with the intention of buying the Efisio foal Future Perfect, when out of the corner of my eye I saw this other foal," he says. "I daren't risk a second look because I thought the breeder might see I was interested and bump up the asking price. It's vital to play it cool, you see, and I didn't even ask what it was by.

"That one glance was enough for me, anyway. Everything was right about that foal. I knew I had to have him. I'd have given whatever the breeder had requested, and it was something of a coup that I got him for £2,750.

"Rarely have I been so keen on a horse-the last time was probably when I bought Mrs McArdy as a yearling. She won us the 1,000 Guineas. Too many trainers look at the pedigree before looking at the horse. When I bought Mrs McArdy I got her in a package deal of eight horses for £6,000. I didn't want the other seven, but if I'd picked her out the breeder would have asked for more than £6,000 for her alone."

A three times winner under rules, Meadowbank was bought as a foal by Mick Easterby
His story of the deal is authenticated as wholly accurate by the other party involved, breeder Sarah Yorke, who has three mares at Hutton Wandesley Hall, 20 minutes from Easterby's stable, although she remembers that they shook hands-probably with a sealing cover of spit from the trainer-at £3,000.

She says: "Mr Easterby is a very difficult man to do business with, but at least when he buys one off me I can be certain I'll get my money on the day he promises. I asked for £3,000, he gave me £3,000. He'll always be welcome here, though I know he'll never make me wealthy.

"When Meadowbank won a couple of point-to-points the winter before last, Mr Easterby kept telling me the horse was too slow to run under Rules. After the horse's recent win at Wetherby, he'd revised that opinion to 'a bit special'. "On the day he bought Meadowbank, he also bought Future Perfect. I'll never forget his face when the horse won first time out. It wasn't fancied and he admitted to being in a state of shock."

Never a victim of depression, self-doubt or a sleepless night, and convinced that he is going to live forever, Easterby's doctrine merits his own 'Good Life' manual. Even at 70, every morning he "tingles with excitement from head to toe" at the prospect of the day ahead. That has nothing to do with that fact that the previous night he'd have sunk a pint at 10pm, another at 10.30, and a third at 11. Three pints a night, in a pub or at home, has been his routine for the best part of 30 years.

"Never once have I woken up in the night," he says with pride. "I sleep like a pig and probably snore like one. I drop off into a state of unconsciousness. You could take a pneumatic drill to my bedroom walls and I wouldn't stir.

"I'm on such a permanent high that some folk reckon I'm on that wacky baccy stuff."
"The secret of life is to keep looking forward and never worry yourself about it coming to an end. Too many worry about dying when they should be concentrating on living. The other important thing is to always tell the truth. That's why I can sleep well. I always tell the truth. "I'm on such a permanent high that some folk reckon I'm on that wacky baccy stuff. I'm not. It's just that I enjoy the challenge of the job so much. A day never passes without me thinking for a minute or two how fortunate I am to be training racehorses."

Seeing an opportunity for some business, he adds: "Put in the article that I'd like to train one of those French-bred jumpers. Everyone else is, but I haven't got one. I like them because they have stamina. Of course, they don't last as long as the others because the French start them off so young. You can have a horse at its best early in life, or late in life, but it's almost impossible to have the two."

Up at 6.45am for a breakfast of porridge and eggs, Easterby works with the horses until lunchtime-sirloin steak and chips-and spends the afternoon patrolling his various farms. Supper will be beans on toast, four poached eggs, three slices of toast, duck or chicken. His favourite place for a night out is York's Mount Royal Hotel, where, summer or winter, he'll get stuck into Pimms No 1.

"I need to eat a lot because I put a lot of energy into everything I do," he explains. Although best known as a Flat trainer, he won the Triumph Hurdle 25 years ago with Peterhof (bought for 800gns out of a York seller) and prefers jumping, identifying it as the perfect sport. "Everything about it is so beautiful and I regard it as the perfect game. Apart from that, I like jump jockeys far more than those Flat boys because they're braver and don't do so much squealing."

He adds: "There isn't any mystery about training horses. You can either do it or you can't, simple as that. One thing's for certain, though, it's impossible to turn a bad trainer into a good trainer. "The best advice I can give to all up-and-coming trainers is to keep veterinaries out of their yard. They mislead you."

Easterby insists his retirement as a trainer will coincide with notification of his death. He says: "Word will go round that poor old Mick has died, and some will say 'thank God for that'."

Others will mourn the passing of a unique character who brought such rich colour to the sport, and was a darned good trainer, too.

Meanwhile, he says he'll continue to live as if he'll be around for forever.

More Mick Easterby here.


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