So this is probably my most anticipated post EVER. So many people who knew about my interview with Richard Johnson have been super excited to be able to read it, especially a very very EXCLUSIVE never before discussed Cheltenham Festival tip, which will be hidden somewhere in this post so make sure you read all the way through!
So onto the post… I was lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people at Worcester Racecourse to a day of racing to experience their track and to interview a jockey or trainer of my choice. I chose one of the most successful jockeys of our time and the current Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, so that interview will be all included in this post. The aim of this collaboration is to show people, especially younger people that horse racing is not animal cruelty like most people think, in fact, these horses are some of the best treated animals I have ever seen. The people who care for them have true love and adoration for their animal and they treat them like royalty.
Firstly I would like to thank Worcester especially Katherine who arranged for this to happen, I am super grateful for the opportunity to work with them as a company. The racecourse in itself is probably one of my favourite courses that I have been to. It is quite an open course so from the stands you can see 99% of the course, some courses I have been to the most part is behind trees etc and you don’t see much apart from the home straight, so I loved the fact it was so open and you could see the majority of the course. I attended Worcester twice within a few days, once invited and then I decided to go again on my own accord and I love it as a course overall.
For me, I have always loved horse racing, it is something my parents, especially my dad, watched a lot whilst I was growing up and I took a real interest in it at around 16/17 years old, at 18 I began working for a bookmakers, which made me even more interested in horse racing as I was around it all day, every day and since then I have fallen in love with attending different courses, seeing different horses, meeting different jockeys and trainers and it really is something I enjoy doing.
Over the two days I was lucky enough to meet a few different people, including Jonjo O’Neil and Nicky Henderson, two world class trainers as well as Chris Hughes from Love Island who was part of the Jonjo O’Neil team and someone I never imagined I would meet as he very very rarely rides outside or Ireland, Barry Geraghty which was truly an honour as a massive horse racing fan.
And of course I met the incredible Richard Johnson who I had the privilege of interviewing. So here is the part you have all been waiting for. I sound recorded the interview, so here it is written word for word how it went down. Including the very exclusive Cheltenham tip so do not miss that part!
Me: What would you say to anyone who says jumps racing is animal cruelty?
Richard: Definitely not. To be honest anyone that thinks that they should always come and actually see what the horses do on a daily basis. They are literally cared for 24 hours a day, you know in great accommodation, their stables are fantastic, they literally have first class treatment you know, they get fed 3 or 4 times a day and they are cared for and the girls and lads that look after the horses, they’re like their pets basically. They don’t own them obviously, but they look after them as if they’re their own. And they have a fantastic life and they enjoy racing, no way in the world me as a jockey could make one of these horse jump one of these fences today you, know. I can’t physically make them go over, you know they have to enjoy it. Yes, unfortunately there are injuries along the way and that’s sad for everybody, but erm you know. The horses do enjoy it and I rode ponies when I was young because I enjoyed it and we all get enjoyment out of it and hopefully the public that come racing regularly, that’s what they see and enjoy.
Me: What is your favourite day in the racing calendar?
Richard: Oh god, it’s hard. I’m very spoilt because obviously I get to ride lots of nice horses as well. But I think the Cheltenham Festival is four days rather than one day but the Cheltenham Festival it’s a big build up throughout the whole season. That’s like our Olympics or World Championship I suppose, each year. The Irish come over in their droves to come to the races and the horses, it’s a massive outing, the Irish horses come over to run and yeah the four days at Cheltenham, obviously I’m from Hereford, not far from Cheltenham and I’ve lived around there for a long time so the atmosphere there is fantastic and anyone that, Worcester is obviously a great track for the Summer, but Cheltenham, if you want to go and get the atmosphere of a big race day there’s no better place.
Me: Do you miss AP (McCoy)? And if you, what’s the biggest thing that you miss about him?
Richard: I miss him. I miss him in the weighing room because he was a great friend obviously and I rode with him for over twenty years, so erm yeah we were great friends and I miss him as a great friend in the weighing room. I don’t miss him on the race course, in the fact he used to beat me regularly. But again, he was great to ride with because he was a great jockey and you know, it helped me try to chase him and made me more hungry and hungry to try and ride more winners and try to beat him and you know we had a great sort of competitiveness between us and erm again, we were also great friends and we had ups and downs and you know we both had good and bad days so you know it was always nice to have a friend in the weighing room to talk to as well.
Me: Looking ahead to the new National Hunt Season horses, what do you think will be your best ride at Cheltenham?
Richard: Oh gosh, again, very hard, like we just said Cheltenham is a long long way away but even now people are still talking about it. Erm, I would love to think Native River could come back in the Gold Cup and go two spots better than he did last year. He was 3rd in the race last year and ran really really well. Erm you know, this season we will be geared for him to be running in the Gold Cup again so I suppose he’s my big hope. I think for me, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is, I’ve been very lucky to win it once before a long time ago in 2000 but if I could win in any race that would be the one I would like to win.
Me: Do you every get nervous before or during a race?
Richard: Erm, I think I always get a little bit nervous before a race, I think you, you want the horse to perform to it’s best level it can, erm you’re always thinking about the race and trying to work out what you want to do and you’ve always got a plan, plans don’t always go exactly how you want, but again that’s sort of you know, you’re always, you just want things to go right and as soon as you jump off in the race, your focus is on what’s going on and I think a little bit of nerves is probably a good thing. If you’re not nervous at all then you’re a bit over confident and sometimes, yeah it’s never good to be over confident.
Me: During your time as a jockey, what has changed in regards to social media being introduced and younger fans?
Richard: Erm, massively. You know obviously even you know, with two racing channels now on TV and social media whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or all the other things, you’re sort of out in public light I suppose and you know you’ll have good days where obviously you’ll get lots of lovely messages and good praise and then obviously you have bad days where things don’t go right and you know you get the other side of it. And it is sad, you’ll read things about yourself and think everybody out there is doing their best and you know, mistakes can happen and do happen and that’s a part of life really. Sometimes stuff that is put on some of the social media isn’t very pleasant and it would be lovely to think there is a way of stopping it but that’s life and I think we’ve all seen good and bad social media but on the whole social media is brilliant, it gives everyone a chance to have an opinion and hopefully everyone’s got the common sense behind what they say as well.
Me: What’s your most memorable race, win or lose?
Richard: Erm, again, erm, I suppose, erm.. two really. Rooster Booster winning the Champion Hurdle, again, a few years ago now erm, he literally, I was a passenger. I went around on his back and he travelled really well, he jumped fantastic and he flew up the hill at Cheltenham. And honestly, I can’t believe, even to this day, how easily he won. Erm, it was just, yeah, a dream ride for me and I suppose finishing second in the Grand National on Balthazar King, he was just an amazing horse for use for a long time and I must admit going to the last, I thought I was going to win and from the last to the winning post we just couldn’t get past the one in front and he gave two hundred percent and you know there was no disappointment, it was just you know sad for him not to win, but again I had an amazing ride on him and I suppose, yeah, that’s the one, I finished second but it was still an amazing ride.
Me: Does it still play on your mind that you haven’t won the (Grand) National yet?
Richard: Erm, it’s obviously a race I would like to win. Erm, I mean again, I’ve been second in it twice and sometimes when you finish second it’s almost worse than finishing third because you think well if this and if that and erm, the Grand National is one of those races I think you’ve got to take what you’re given really because you never really know what’s out there with forty horses running in the race. Erm, I’ve had lots of good rides in it and again we’ve gone close twice and it’s a race I would like to win before we finish.
Me: We go to the Gold Cup and Grand National next year for the first time so no pressure.
Richard: If I win both the Gold Cup and Grand National next year, if that’s the case you’ll have to come to every Gold Cup and Grand National after that.
I just want to take a moment to thank Richard for being one of the loveliest people, this was my first time interviewing someone so I am so grateful he was so lovely, patient and kind when with us. He was also super honest and so easy to get a long with whilst asking him questions and having a chat.
For me, you’ve heard it from the current champion jockey just how in love and well looked after the horses are. He said that the horse is 5 times the size of a jockey so they wouldn’t be able to force it to do something it just didn’t want to do, so clearly the horses enjoy it or they wouldn’t be there doing it. Did you all pick up the cheeky Cheltenham tip too? Native River is currently being rode out and geared up for the Cheltenham Gold Cup and himself and the team think he has a better chance this year. So definitely a horse to keep your eye on as he is already in training for the big race!
I am so happy and grateful I had this opportunity and really can’t thank Worcester, Katherine and Richard enough for everything. Worcester have one last race day this year so check out their website here if you’d like to attend that, something I definitely recommend: http://www.worcester-racecourse.co.uk/
I personally love horse racing, the atmosphere is great and in person you really do see how well looked after the horses are and I would recommend it to anyone. If you’re a student, Katherine did inform me that they have started doing a student race day at Worcester, normally held in May, so definitely keep your eye out for that because it is such an interesting sport and a great day out for families, friends, couples, everybody can enjoy it.
I really hope the wait for this post was worth it, I hope you enjoy my very first ever interview and I hope you keep your eyes peeled for Richard Johnson’s tip. I will see you all in my next post!