Camilla Henderson

Camilla Henderson daughter of trainer Nicky Henderson enjoying the first day of the Cheltenham racing festival. Pic:Mark Condren 11.3.2014

Camilla Henderson daughter of trainer Nicky Henderson enjoying the first day of the Cheltenham racing festival.
Pic:Mark Condren

Your dad is Nicky Henderson, so horses and riding is inevitably in your blood. What was it like growing up with such a renowned racehorse trainer as a father?   

Yes it is certainly in the blood, suppose I haven’t really known anything different really!

Horses & ponies were part of our upbringing but it was never forced upon us though, it was always a choice. Myself and my sisters did lots of pony club things, three day eventing, and my eldest sister did a lot of polo, and still does. I now ride as an amateur and gave up Three Day Eventing at national level when I was 18. Its been really fun growing up surrounded by horses, and really fun going to the races with Mum and Dad as a child to support the team and the runners and I have lots of amazing memories.

The horses often come first though, and everything was orientated around them, it was just part of our lives, we all love horses so its not like we would want to be doing anything else at a young age.  We never think of our father as anything else but just our ‘Dad’, he can be stressed at times, that can’t be helped,  he loves to stress and think that feeds his eagerness to do the best for his horses and his owners. He is a very loving and caring man and at times can be very emotional – perhaps more over the horses than us though! (ha!) 

What is an average day like for you, if there is one? 

I am up at 6am every morning, although I don’t work for my father full time I ride out ( exercising the racehorses) one or two lots before work.  I usually finish riding out by 9am and then it’s  off to work. I am a sport psychologist under the British Psychological Society, training for my accredited chartership status. I’m currently working four days a week at Swindon Town FC Academy  and also Bristol Rugby one day a week, including other work with individual athletes in other sports people ( equestrians quite often!)

Then I often pop to Oaksey House Gym 3/4 times a week after work.  I try and get on the mechanical horse as much a possible, gets the legs working in prep for my race riding! I am ‘point to pointing this season, and have one horse in Shropshire and one near Marlborough ( Wiltshire) so I am forever in the car darting around trying to ride them as much as possible in-between work, also I have one at my fathers so I ride him every morning.

I also do part time work for Your Golf Travel and Events Manager for The Albatross Club, and have a few jobs abroad this year lined up, the Ryder Cup in Minnesota is one of them, so that’s very exciting!  Lots to pack in, but its fun to mix it all up. I’m non stop, and very rarely go out in the week!  

When you are not busy working, what do you like to do to unwind and relax?

I do wish I had more time to unwind and relax! In my free time I like to exercise, go for a run or go to the gym, prefer going with a couple of buddies to push each other on!. I always feel much better for it afterwards! (not during though!)

I also love cooking, and baking, so when I have the time, I get really into it.  I enjoy trying out sugar free recipes when baking, paleo, and gluten / dairy free – when trying to be good, but experimenting with it! On a Saturday evening, if I’m out and not riding the next day – I do like a gin or two!

For first time goers and novices, what day would you suggest going to the Cheltenham Festival? 

Every day is really fun, no day is particularly better than another!. The Gold Cup Day is the biggest crowd day so avoid it if you hate massive crowds and queues!

What is Ladies Day?

Ladies day is on the Wednesday of the Festival. The day is based around the ladies and the fashion, and having fun with it! The theme is ‘Colour me March’ – There is a best dressed prize worth up to £5,000 plus prizes for best hat and runners up, so it’s competitive! Ladies can enter this competition through social media, then the final selection are picked and asked to come to the fashion tent later in the day.

 Last year I wore an Edel Ramberg Clashing colours eccentric hat – Red with Bright pink spiky feathers. It sounds so wrong, but it did look amazing in real life! I wore a bright orange mulberry dress with this and a bright pink Ted Baker coat. It was a crazy outfit but it all blocked together so well. It made the daily mail anyway, not sure if that’s a good thing, but no negative comments thank god! 

Camilla has curated a Cheltenham Preview event at The Kings Head in Cirencster, in aid of The Injured Jockey’s Fund. Tickets are £15 per person, including wine and canapes,  and further information in available online at

Is there a big difference between the Cheltenham gold cup, champion hurdle, queen mother champion chase, and world hurdle?

Each day has a different featured Grade 1 race. ( The big money races with the best horses qualified for them) 

The Tuesday is the Champion Hurdle Day. – it’s the Opening day so expect big crowds. 

This race is over hurdles ( instead of the larger chase fences)  it is  very exciting to watch, and jumping accuracy and pace is essential! 

The Wednesday is the Queen Mother Champion Chase Day – Also Ladies day!

Dodging Bullets won it last year, we have Sprinter Sacre in it this year, he won it in 2013. It will be a big ask for him,  but he has fought hard this season and we hope we just has a nice time round and comes back safe. 

The Thursday is the World Hurdle Day – Also St Patricks day, be warned for rather  drunk Irish men, particularly in the Guinness Village!  Be careful of flying Guinness…and suede shoes and fur hats! 

 The Friday is the Gold Cup Day – Biggest crowd day and it often a sell out a a few weeks before. This race is the most prestigious race in the National Hunt Calendar (other than the National) – this is THE one to win. Three miles and two furlongs over 22 fences. £575,000 in prize money for this race.  

Our horse Bobsworth won it in 2013, and Longrun won it in 2011. Days we will never forget! 

What style and fashion advice would you give to ladies visiting the Cheltenham Festival? 

Its a long day, and often you end up there longer than expected so wear something practical, and comfortable footwear is essential!

The ladies often dress up a bit more to the festival and put in a bit more effort in the glam stakes, especially the Irish girls. Quite often people will associate Cheltenham with tweed, and ONLY wear tweed when attending! Now I love tweed, and it can look so smart, but I love to be more adventurous with colour ( take after my father !) – so love wearing bright colours, and extravagant hats for the festival.

On the smaller days in the season I love wearing trilbies, structured floppy hats, capes, trousers & knee high boots , however when it comes to the Festival, I would try to add a touch more elegance, so going for a classic suede court shoe stiletto instead of long suede boots can add that extra elegant and feminine touch. I have been given some lovely hats this year to wear from Layla Leigh Millinery, Cara Meehan Millinery, & Edel Ramberg millinery.

I will also will be wearing some amazing Katherine Hooker London coats, who have provided me with amazing outfits over the last three years.  I was lucky enough to win the ladies best dressed at the Cheltenham Festival in 2014, wearing a Long pale blue Katherine Hooker coat and a Cara Meehan Head piece.  

My top tips are:

  • Wrap up warm, and wear sensible clothing – you don’t have to wear silly footwear to look stylish. Practical and comfortable is more important! Nothing worse that being lame on your trip back home ( but if you are then piggybacks are then therefore essential for the walk out the racecourse!)
  • Have fun with hats, be adventurous and try out different shapes and styles. A classic trilby is always a good idea, or a structured floppy hat. Make sure they are fitted correctly before wearing. Anything too loose will fly off in the wind!
  • I tend to prefer smaller head pieces rather than large hats. I get them pinned on –  to be extra secure!  I am quite small, so big hats are not suited, I tent to knock people over with them and cannot see out! But if you are tall – go for the bigger statement hats! 
  • Have fun with tweeds, Vintage garments, lace, veils, velvets, different textures and colours. 
  • Try not to wear evening wear, silk dresses and silk hats are just not Cheltenham.
  • Go for classic wool suits, wool dresses, roller neck dresses, pencil dresses, and pencil midi skirt, or even trouser suits.

What would be the key mistakes to avoid?

At Cheltenham you see a lot of girls wearing matching light tweed suits with matching mini skirts covering the bare minimum, with their bare legs out…not elegant!  Mix up your tweeds, and don’t be too    ‘matchy matchy.’

  • No Bare legs, very chilly, and not very elegant. 
  • No bare toes, no sandal stiletto shoes or peep toes, save them for evening or the summer.
  • No evening dresses, floaty dresses long gowns or silks, – keep your silk hats and pretty silk fascinators and fluffy delicate flowers for your summer racing!
  • Don’t wear hats that swamp you or cover your face. Make sure they fit properly, get help from your local milliner or hairdresser.
  • Wear Gloves, leather gloves always look elegant and stylish.
  • Try to put hair up if you are wearing a small head piece, accentuates the piece. In a neat chignon / bun. ( try to avoid an essex doughnut tight bun if possible! )
  • Have fun with colour, you don’t HAVE to just wear tweed.

What should people look out for when betting on a horse? Are there any good tricks to picking a winning horse?

Ask someone who has a bit of knowledge of what to look for before placing money on a horse.  I do try to encourage my non racing friends to have a small flutter on a couple of races, as it does make the viewing more fun and interesting for them to follow and shout on a horse! 

Have a look at the price of the horse first, look at the horse in the paddock, look at their coats, shinny good condition, or looking a bit rugged and hairy? Look at the way they move, and their general presence walking around in   the paddock. If they are strutting their stuff and floating through the air with swagger – then I like to back those ones! If they are sweating up and getting a bit over hyped, then think again, it may have already run its race around  the paddock in excitement! It might be tired by the time it gets down to the start line up! 

My top tip – only bet small, and save your pennies for your evening & your dinner, eating before your night out is essential! 

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