• Posted: Wednesday, 27th July 2022
  • Author: Jake Exelby
  • Photo: Neale Blackburn

Charlie Marshall has been one of the leading riders in the South East since he rode his first winner – on his debut ride – on Kornati Kid. All his family have ridden between the flags – parents Fraser and Charlotte briefly, while sister Izzie is one of the leading female jockeys in Britain and brother Alfie has a 100% record in points, albeit from just one ride, and is a top eventer. Charlie’s partner Hannah Clarke is also from the South East, where her parents Neal and Sarah rode, and the pair are now based in Milton Abbas, Dorset. Jake Exelby zoomed with the young couple last week to find out more about them and their plans for the future.

How did you get into point-to-pointing in the first place?

(Charlie) Mum trained the pointers that Dad rode and also for other owners. I started riding in pony races and had my first ride over fences at Barbury in 2013. I should have given up then! I think I’ve had 43 winners so far.

(Hannah) I never rode in points – just in one pony race, which I won. I’m a perfectionist and want to be the best at everything! Mum and Dad just did it for fun and, when they moved to Dorset, I started training, having worked for Mark Gillard, Caroline Keevil, Charlie Mann and Fiona Shaw, who I learnt the most from.

Who's inspired you most in the world of pointing?

(Charlie) Will Biddick. He’s the AP McCoy of pointing and great to have a beer with after racing!

Will Biddick - inspiration (photo: Caroline Exelby)

(Hannah) As well as Fiona, Mum and Dad taught me everything. I admire the likes of Fran and Charlie Poste and Tom and Gina Ellis and aspire to do what they are with young horses. Charlie gives us lots of advice.

Which jockeys do you most admire? Why?

(Charlie) Jack Andrews and John Dawson. They’re both so tall and it’s amazing how they keep their weight down. I’m blessed that I’m small!

Jack Andrews - admired (photo: Caroline Exelby)

(Hannah) Charlie’s sister Izzie has worked very hard to get where she is but no-one can top Gina Andrews.

Who have been your favourite horses?

(Charlie) Never Complain took me to Aintree three times but Glint Of Steel was the best I rode and I won my only Hunter Chase on him.

Charlie (third right) with family, friends and Never Complain (photo: Caroline Exelby)

(Hannah) I haven’t been training very long, but it has to be Monmouth Hill. He’s a home-bred and not the easiest to train – he’s nine, but has only run ten times – but we’ve found the key to him this season and watching him progress gives me the best feeling. I’ve learnt so much from training him.

Charlie and Hannah with Monmouth Hill after his win at Kingston Blount (photo: Neale Blackburn)

Which are your favourite courses? Why?

(Charlie) To ride and to attend, Parham, which is a classic South East course. For young horses, Kingston Blount and Kimble – you know you’ll get good ground and the fences are inviting.

Racing at Parham

(Hannah) I loved Barbury, even though I never had a winner there. It’s a beautiful location, a fair track but one that takes some jumping and good horses run there.

What do you love most about pointing?

(Both) Being able to do it together with our families and owners who are our friends. That’s what pointing’s about – it’s your job, but also your hobby. We work together every day and live together, but we haven’t killed each other yet!

What's been the highlight of your time in the sport?

(Charlie) Winning on Who’s My Jockey, trained by Hannah and owned by Mum and Dad, at Parham. It took me time to work out how to ride him, but I finally got the job done! Also when Alfie became the third Marshall to win on Conkies Lad.

Charlie (centre) with Izzie (left) and Alfie - all later won on family horse Conkies Lad

(Hannah) Training my first winner – Shanoule Wood at Parham – with Charlie riding and family and friends there. It made me think, “I can actually do this.”

What are your ambitions in pointing?

(Charlie) To keep riding successfully and injury-free, increase my personal bests, have more winners on our own horses, get more outside rides and ride more in Hunter Chases and under rules.

(Hannah) To build up the yard and get more youngsters – I love breaking-in horses.

What changes have you seen during your time? For better, for worse?

(Charlie) I’m keen to help out the smaller trainers and one-horse yards. We still need them and there aren’t as many as there used to be – every farmer used to have a horse. It’s hard to keep being beaten by the big guns – and a great feeling when you do, but how long do you keep going and how much money do you spend before you give up?

It’s also hard to keep up with the jockeys who are getting the best rides. I’m the jockeys’ PPORA representative for the South East and I want to make all riders feel included and not be intimidated by the more successful ones.

(Hannah) I agree. The Oriental Club races (for owner-trainers) are great and we need to make it easier for that type of yard.

Pointing is becoming more professional, which is a good thing, as it won’t survive if it doesn’t move with the times. We want to keep supporting hunting, but the hunts have got to embrace commercialism. Look at the meeting at Cocklebarrow – it’s successful, it makes money and it encourages people into the sport.

What would you do if you were in charge of the sport?

(Charlie) That would be dangerous! I’d be more open so the PPA works more closely with owners, trainers and jockeys. But I wouldn’t want the job – I couldn’t do it half as well as Peter Wright!

(Hannah) Peter’s doing a great job and should keep pushing the sport forward. I’d spread meetings out more and have fewer over Easter, but I wouldn’t want racing to become too scarce, as we need to have options.

With horse numbers at their lowest ever level, what are your concerns about the future and what reasons do we have to be optimistic?

(Charlie) The sport’s become commercial and more recognised by the professional game. It’s now a buying and selling market – a lot of money’s being exchanged and should be rolled over, not just into more horses, but better infrastructure. It really helps novice riders to go to places with good facilities.

(Hannah) I hope the sport’s got a huge future and we’re already seeing better quality horses. Tracks are also making more of an effort with the ground. Take Parham last season – both meetings were Good to Firm, but they’d spiked and rolled the course and done a fantastic job. Fixtures need to give more going updates… and be honest.

What are your plans for next season and what are you most looking forward to?

(Charlie) Right Hand Of God ran really well first time out at Barbury then had a nasty fall at Milborne St Andrew and hasn’t run the same since. We hope we’ve found the problem and that we can get him across the line first next season – that would be a big achievement.

Charlie on Right Hand Of God

(Hannah) I’ll have 14-15 horses, a similar number to last season but hopefully they’ll be higher quality. I’d like to have more winners and that the “babies” run well – I’m hoping to have five or six four and five-year-olds. I’m excited by Timino Road, which may seem ridiculous on form, as she was fourth twice and sixth, but she’s an amazing jumper who loves racing but wasn’t getting home. I ride her every day, she’s had a wind operation and I think she’ll improve next year.

What would you be doing if you weren't riding and training?

(Charlie) We wouldn’t be together for a start! Probably something in farming or agriculture.

(Hannah) I’ve dreamt of horses since I was tiny, although I’ve always wanted to be a paramedic so I can help people. I think I’m good at first aid with horses.

Who are your favourite authors?

(Charlie) I can’t answer that as I can’t read! (Note: Charlie has a degree from the Royal Agricultural University).

(Hannah) He bought a book when we went on holiday to Italy recently but it took him three hours to read three pages so he gave up and just played cricket games on his phone.

And bands?

(Hannah) Coldplay. They’re just incredible. I thought I’d buy tickets to see them for Charlie’s birthday but he said, “No, you’re just buying them for yourself.”

Coldplay - incredible

Where is your dream holiday destination?

(Hannah) A horse safari in South Africa. It’s my dream to ride alongside a giraffe.

(Charlie) That will be our honeymoon if I’m ever brave enough to ask her to marry me!

Riding safari - Hannah's dream

What superpower would you choose and why?

(Charlie) To be able to click my fingers and end up at my destination straightaway. I’m not a patient person.

(Hannah) To read peoples’ minds, so you can find out their ideas, what makes them tick and what they think about you.

Do you have a nickname you're willing to share?

(Charlie) Big Marsh. Because I’m so small!

Who would be your ideal dinner party guests?

(Charlie) I wouldn’t be cooking, but I’d invite Jack Whitehall, Jeremy Clarkson and Romesh Ranganathan. They’re my favourite people to watch on TV and I also love Top Gear and Outback Truckers – Ice Truckers is Hannah’s favourite.

What irritates you about the other one and what is their best feature?

(Charlie) She always accuses me of being a horrendous driver, but I’m not. (Hannah) You are!

I can’t think that she’s ever put herself first, before me, her family or her friends. There are few people like her.

(Hannah) He’s a fumbler and gets flustered and can’t think straight. Charlie, just take a breath!

But he’s easy to do things with – he just gets on with it.