Race relations - Anna Lisa Balding on the love of racing, laddered tights, and Royal Ascot style

Anna Lisa Balding is a force of nature. The wife of champion race horse trainer Andrew Balding and a mother of three, she somehow manages to juggle a hectic family life (two teenage boys and a girl not far behind them no less!) with many aspects of the family business including the management of the staff and admin at Park House Stables, Kingsclere, one of flat racing’s busiest and most successful yards. For many of us, just ‘surviving’ said responsibilities would be challenge enough, but Anna Lisa seems impervious to stress (extended exposure to children and animals will do that to a person), thanks to an undimmed positivity that rubs off on all around her. If Andrew is the engine that continues to drive the 152-year-old yard forward from success to success, then Anna Lisa is the nuts and bolts keeping all parts from spinning out of control. We caught up with her recently (and admittedly strong-armed her into appearing in our Royal Ascot photo shoot) to chat life at Kingsclere, Royal Ascot style tips, and much more... 

Describe a typical day for you at Kingsclere?

During the season, every day is pretty much the same really, beginning with an early start around 5.50am, getting the children to school and preparing for owners arriving. That keeps me busy right the way through until breakfast at 9am, when we all have a big catch-up around the island in the kitchen, and try to work out what’s running where, and who’s going where, all the logistics for the day. The vet often joins us and has a chat through everything and then often I will go off racing and Andrew will carry on at Kingsclere or go racing more local. If I’m home we’ll then have lunch together about 1pm and then I’m head down in the office until school-run time! I’m in bed by 10 to do it all over again the next day!

Westminster Coat Khaki Cow Parsley Crease Resist Linen

Westminster Coat Khaki
Cow Parsley Crease Resist Linen

Westminster Coat Mint Jekyll Crease Resist Linen

Westminster Coat Mint
Jekyll Crease Resist Linen

Westminster Coat Dawn Madras Silk Suiting

Westminster Coat Dawn
Madras Silk Suiting

What's your most memorable day of racing?

It probably has to be the day when Casual Look won the Oaks in 2003, which was Andrew’s first classic, and it sticks in my mind so vividly because it was the first really big day of racing for me. It was for William S. Farish III who was the American Ambassador at the time and it was just a big landmark day for Andrew. And it was before I had children so the celebration was truly raucous! No real responsibilities!

What is it about horse racing that still gets you excited?

I suppose it’s the unknown really. You are turning up at the races every day hoping you’ll have a winner. Yes, there are some days when you don’t think you’ll have a winner - I mean I’m heading out to Chester as we speak and the chances of having a winner are pretty slim, but hopefully the horses will all run well. And yet I get in the car every day dreaming that there will be winners! We're lucky in a sense that we have a lot of owners who go racing a lot and so to go with them and spend time with them, living and breathing racing with them is fantastic. These guys pay a lot of money to be involved, so in many ways we live the dream with each and every one of them. And sometimes pick up the pieces afterwards too!

What are you most looking forward to about Royal Ascot this year?

Royal Ascot is always a highlight of the racing calendar - it’s great fun but also a totally exhausting week. It’s very difficult to have winners so we’re always realistic going into the week – one would be fantastic, two amazing, three phenomenal – so it’s about managing expectations a little more than usual. We always have people who stay all week so it’s total chaos in the house. From the minute you get up in the morning you’re cooking sausages or you’re cleaning top hats or you’re getting your clothes out and hoping they’re clean! And all this while trying to help Andrew get the horses out, and get to a 12 o’clock lunch at Ascot - it’s total mayhem for five days on the trot. 

Serena Longer Circle Dress Magenta Plain Silk Georgette

Serena Longer Circle Dress
Magenta Plain Silk Georgette

Serena Longer Circle Dress Blush Plain Georgette

Serena Longer Circle Dress
Blush Plain Georgette

What piece of advice would you give ladies dressing for Royal Ascot?

Keep a spare pair of tights in your bag!! Seriously! I was once in the pre-parade ring at Royal Ascot when Sheikh Mohammed’s wife at the time, Princess Haya Bint Al-Hussain, very politely came up to me and said “I must let you know you have a ladder in your pantyhose!” I thanked her profusely! So yes, spare tights are a godsend. From my point of view, dressing for Ascot has to be practical because I'm walking a long way every race from the pre-parade ring to the paddock to the track then back to the unsaddling.  You want to be comfortable, practical and also very smart and fashionable, and look glamorous, all at the same time!

Where is a place that means a lot to you?

It would have to be Kingsclere - it is such a beautiful place. I’ve lived there since 2000 and I couldn’t imagine ever living anywhere else. Whenever I leave to go racing, and the day is over, I genuinely cannot wait to get back to Kingsclere.

Carnaby Coat Rainbow Ivory Mikado Linen

Carnaby Coat Rainbow
Ivory Mikado Linen

Carnaby Coat Navy Ortensia Silk Satin

Carnaby Coat Navy
Ortensia Silk Satin

Carnaby Coat Stone Red Medici Silk Satin

Carnaby Coat Stone
Red Medici Silk Satin

What is the object that you could never be without?

Well I’m not going to say my phone because I’m sure I could cope without it, so the other thing I simply could not live without are my contact lenses! I am incredibly blind and not a glasses person so without them I’d be literally and figuratively lost. 

What piece of advice would you now give to the 18yo Anna Lisa?

I was actually given some excellent advice just before I was 18. I was given £100 and I was absolutely intent on buying a new dress that I’d had my eyes on - but I was told to buy a dress for £50 and keep the other 50 for a rainy day, which is just excellent advice for life. Don’t spend everything you have because you never know what is around the corner, and getting your finances in check early on in life will stand you in good stead. I would also advise young people today to never miss an opportunity - you must be prepared for those spontaneous moments when you might meet someone who could be a lead for your future.

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