“Irish native Sally Ann Grassick is a lady of many talents”.
She well-recognised for being a TV Presenter with ITV Racing, RTE Racing and French channel Equidia, alongside being a Freelance racing Journalist with several main-stream publications. Grassick has verified her proficiency of the French language on numerous occasions with the most notable one being on All Weather Finals Day a few years ago when asking questions and interpreting answers from English to French and vice versa on the walk in after one of the races.
Our columnist @Wattyracing recently had the opportunity to get to know her a bit better – putting some less ‘orthodox’ questions to her which she kindly responded.
Favourite racecourses? Del Mar in California is one of my favourite tracks in the world. In France, I love Clairefontaine for how picturesque it is and Chantilly because I rode my first winner there. My grandfather trained in the Phoenix Park and, although I was young when the racecourse finally closed for good, I still think it was one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve ever been to.
Favourite racehorses? This list could be endless as I have fallen in love with so many horses in every yard I’ve worked in over the years! San Sebastian gave my family some great days out when I was growing up, especially winning twice at Royal Ascot and being placed twice in the Prix du Cadran. My father Brian, who was a Bloodstock Agent, bought him as a yearling for a client and my uncle Michael trained him.
Thousand Stars, who I fell in love with when Willie Mullins sent him over to run at Auteuil while I was living in France. I had a lot of fun following him around Ireland, England, France and even Italy when he ran and was lucky enough to ride him a lot too. He had a character even bigger than his hurdling talent and it makes me very happy to see him enjoying retirement with Katie Walsh. More recently, Footpad who I first met while I was working for Robert Collet in France and then continued to follow his career when he moved to Willie Mullins’ yard. My first winner Monarchs Way, who gave me one of the best days of my life when I won the biggest female amateur race in France on him on Prix de Diane day at Chantilly for Andre Fabre and Sheikh Mohammed. I have to mention Gottingen who is the least talented on the list but probably had more personality than all of them combined, and not necessarily in a good way. He is the first racehorse I ever bought into and my best friend Amy Weaver trained him during her time in France. I adored him and Amy despised him, which is 100% why I am putting him on the list! He point blank refused to win a race for us, but loved to finish a close second or third, and wreaked havoc on the gallops every morning but we had lots of fun days out and came out of it with a profit! He is still going strong today at 10 years of age with almost €260,000 in earnings to his name, not bad for an average claimer with a massive personality issue!
Favourite race meetings? I have had so much fun at the Deauville August meeting over the years since my first trip to France as a very naive 17-year-old. The Cheltenham Festival will always be special to me as that is where I first realised, I wanted to work in television while doing work experience for Channel 4 Racing.
Favourite racehorse trainers? I have been lucky to work for some wonderful trainers over the years and to interview some very interesting people since I started working in television. Criquette Head and John Oxx were two of my earliest bosses and they both played a huge role in teaching and guiding me as a teenager. Andre Fabre and Robert Collet were both very good to me during my time riding as an amateur jockey in France. Television wise, Sir Mark Prescott is one of my favourite people to go and visit for an interview as his stories are unbeatable. It also really bothers my old boss James Fanshawe whenever I mention Sir Mark and not him in an interview so it’s worth it for that alone!
Favourite jockeys? Olivier Peslier was my idol growing up and I never would have imagined that I would end up riding work alongside him and working for his agent during my time in France. I won’t mention anyone else or I will just get myself into trouble with the ones I leave out!
Favourite post-race pubs? You’re always guaranteed a good meal and some fun at The Hanged Mans after The Curragh and I love the food in The Brown Bear in Two Mile House or The Ballymore Inn in Ballymore Eustace after Punchestown. The Brok Cuban bar in Deauville is a must for any visitor to the town after racing or the sales.
Favourite journey to a racecourse? Selfishly, I would have to say Punchestown or The Curragh as they are less than 10 minutes from my family home! I do love the annual drive over on the ferry on the weekend before the Cheltenham Festival. After so many months of looking forward to the Festival, that drive makes it feel like it is finally here.
Favourite place for a breakfast? I love the breakfasts in France and USA when I’m travelling, Wild Eggs near Keeneland Racecourse is a particular favourite.
Favourite bands you’d like to see play a racecourse concert? I went to see The Killers in concert in Dublin a few years ago and the atmosphere was amazing. I’m not sure they would be up for playing a racecourse just yet though.
Favourite biscuit to go with a brew? Chocolate Hobnobs
Favourite sports teams? My Nana is Scottish, so I have supported Scotland in rugby since I was young as well as Ireland and Leinster. I love a bit of ice hockey too from my time living in Canada and Calgary Flames are my team.
Favourite movies? I’m a huge Johnny Cash fan so Walk The Line is my favourite as well as A League Of Their Own, Sense And Sensibility and musicals like My Fair Lady and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.
Favourite comedies? Movie wise Talladega Nights and on television Father Ted, Schitts Creek and Derry Girls
Favourite ways to unwind outside racing? I go to a cattle ranch in Sundance, Wyoming called Kara Creek Ranch twice a year and that is my happy place. I ride the new horses, work with the cattle and help with the guests. It gets harder and harder to come back to reality every time. When I’m in Ireland, I love taking my Quarter Horse Win and Border Collie Poppy out exploring new forests and beaches, walking around the stud in the evening checking the horses, or going out on with my boyfriend Mark on his boat on Loughderg.
Favourite race of all time? The races I have been lucky enough to witness that stick in my head are Moscow Flyer’s Tingle Creek win, Moonlight Cloud winning two Group 1s in the same week in Deauville and Enable beating Crystal Ocean in the King George as I was standing at the winning post waiting to interview the winning jockey for ITV. The Arc win of Sea The Stars was a very emotional one as my father had died earlier that year and he had worked closely with owner Ling Tsui.
Non racing sporting event you’ve attended. PBR Rodeo in Deadwood, South Dakota and Ice Hockey game in Madison Square Gardens.
Favourite places to go for a meal? The Ballymore Inn in Ballymore Eustace near Punchestown is my all-time favourite restaurant in a lovely village, so much so that I bought a house there!
Favourite town and cities? Florence, Bordeaux, Kenmare in Kerry
Favourite races you wished you had been on course for? I wish I’d been there for Kauto Star’s fifth King George Chase win and Goldikova’s third Breeders’ Cup Mile success.
Choose your own favourite of anything? My dog, my horse… and my boyfriend I suppose!