The hottest jumps trainer in the country right now is not one of the familiar big-name operators but a woman who has only eight horses in training in her stable in Wales.
In the last two weeks all five runners that Sheila Lewis has saddled have won. Her seasonal tally is seven wins from 32 runners, a strike rate of 32 per cent.
That becomes an even more remarkable achievement when you consider Lewis had trained only five winners in the previous four seasons as she juggled her training career alongside running a beauty salon which means shortly after riding out she can be administering a spray tan.
In the last two weeks all five runners that Jumps trainer Sheila Lewis has saddled have won
Lewis, 52, who trains in the village of Three Cocks, five miles from Hay-on-Wye and 10 from Brecon, might not have finished yet.
Cotton End, Straw Fan Jack and Knight Commander, who all won at her local track Hereford on October 13 as Lewis landed an 1,182-1 treble, are all due to run again next week alongside stablemate Volcano.
Lewis, speaking before administering a hot-stone massage to a client at her salon The Beauty Mill on Friday, admitted: ‘I can’t believe it.
‘I only have eight horses and that includes two youngsters, but they’re bouncing and before they ran I did feel they were in the best form I’ve ever had them.
‘Knight Commander has won two races and probably should also have won before that. He got badly hampered when looking like the winner at Uttoxeter.
Sheila has overseen an amazing revival in her horse training career while also running a salon
‘I’ve juggled the two jobs for five years. It has been really tough because they’re completely opposite. I’m out with the horses then I have to get my act together and get my glam kit on for the salon.
‘In March we were locked down so I had to close the salon. I concentrated on the horses and threw myself into the training. I think there’s definitely a connection.
‘In July we opened up again but my salon has taken a huge hit and I’m only taking a third of what I was taking. The positive is it has all turned around. The horses are now paying for the salon rather than the salon topping up the horses.’
Her only help at the stables is 18-year-old Katie Powell, whose first two rides as an amateur jockey this month on Knight Commander have been winners.
Lewis added: ‘I’m up with the horses at 6am and I have Katie who lives in the next village. We manage it together and I do four lots before I start in the salon at about 11am.
Training horses has been a pleasant distraction for Sheila as her salon was closed due to Covid
‘I go back up at night to the horses and it’s just me. It’s nothing for me to be up there until 8pm or 8.30pm, especially if we have a horse racing the next day. I feel like this is four years of hard slog to get to this.’
With changes to the Covid-19 rules instigated in Wales the closed signs had to be put up at the salon again on Friday.
Lewis, who said her dream would be to have a horse good enough to run in a big race at Cheltenham, said: ‘We are shut for two weeks. As it is, it has worked out quite well because I have three days next week when I’m away racing. I would have had to juggle clients, but they’re very good and understanding. They back the horses and love to hear the stories.
‘The horses are a huge distraction. I feel so blessed to be able to go and get lost with them as opposed to being stuck in the house.
‘They have given everyone here in the village a lift and it’s a nice positive story at such a glum time.’