Stories that combine gambling and drinking usually end in tears but Hugo Palmer says it was a combination of the two that led him on a path towards training.
He fondly recalls the two occasions, as a youngster, that led to him being bewitched by the thoroughbred.
“I was 16 and on the way to the pub with a school friend,” he said with a smile, “and we went into the bookies on the way. I think had a quid on me and he had two. We put them together and ended up backing eight or nine winners in the afternoon, walked out with about £60 each and went to the pub and got completely blind.
“Then I had an argument with the same friend about the Derby. I said Benny The Dip would win and he said it wouldn’t because Willie Ryan was riding – and that the last time he rode in the Derby he fell off.
“I always say to Willie Ryan he is responsible [for where I am now]. I won the bet, won the argument and backed Benny The Dip – and that was it, I was completely hooked.”
Palmer worked for Cheveley Park Stud and Highclere Stud before becoming assistant trainer to Hughie Morrison and then working with Gai Waterhouse in Australia.
He took the plunge to become a trainer in his own right in 2011, beginning with just 11 syndicated horses. Based in Newmarket, he now trains more than 100 horses – and for some of the world’s leading owners.
He had already made a bright start to his career when Galileo Gold won the QIPCO 2000 Guineas under Frankie Dettori in 2016 before landing the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. In between, he had found Awtaad too strong in the Irish 2000 Guineas.
Little more than a month after landing his first Classic, he almost added another – Architecture finishing runner-up in the Investec Oaks. Covert Love had won the Irish Oaks for him the previous year.
Palmer has not had a Group 1 winner since Galileo Gold but Powerful Breeze went close in the 2019 Fillies’ Mile. Sadly, she was injured and missed the 2020 campaign.