Today’s post is an interview with the brilliant Luke Harvey, retired jockey and now pundit for the likes of ITV Racing. I had a brilliant time interviewing Luke, he is so funny, so down to earth and so honest. I hope you all enjoy!
Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?
Luke: My favourite race was winning the Welsh Grand National on a horse called Cool Ground. And he was a big favourite leading up to the race and I just wasn’t nervous, I thought he was a certainty and it never works out like that in horse racing, but luckily it did.
Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training, what horse would you choose?
Luke: If I could ride any horse now… I love Altior. Whether he runs at the Cheltenham Festival or not, I don’t know. (*we now know he didn’t.) I just love… he’s a winner. You know if you see a boxing match and you see a boxer walk around, he’s like that, he’s just got the swagger. I don’t know, he just enjoys going to the races, he enjoys his work, he loves to do it and I love people like that, I hate lazy people.
Me: What are you opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?
Luke: They have changed dramatically, I think now that if you break the rules, you should lose the race. I wouldn’t have said that if you had asked me that question 6 months ago, I definitely wouldn’t have said that. But we have boxed ourselves into a corner where I don’t think it’s acceptable and I don’t think the public think it’s acceptable that a cheat, theoretically if you’ve broken the rules, gets the race. And I think… welfare and the use of the whip is massive in racing and I think the people that bury their head in the sand and think it’s going to go away are fools. Because that is the biggest talking point and the biggest thing that will affect racing going into the future, so I think it’ll get kicked out if they win.
Me: What is your favourite racecourse as a rider and as a pundit?
Luke: I love Cheltenham, whatever. As jockey I wasn’t particularly successful, to be honest I wasn’t particularly successful anywhere. The track I was most successful was Towcester and they’ve finished, typical. No, I love the Cheltenham Festival, it’s my favourite, I really enjoy Aintree, I love dressing up and going to Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood. In all honesty, I like them all. They’ve all got their days. And I like the smaller tracks like here at Stratford and because I come from the West Country I love Newton Abbott. But yeah I like them all.
Me: What is one race you never won but would have loved to?
Luke: Loads I never won. I would have liked to get around in the Grand National. But no, I would have loved to have won the Grand National, I only rode in the race twice and one year I rode a horse called Country Member and he was about third or fourth favourite and you know what I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so nervy about it because I genuinely thought he was going to win and anyway, he fell at the first.
Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ over the next couple of seasons?
Luke: Erm, I really like a horse that is running at Cheltenham called Brewin’upastorm (*we now know he fell on Tuesday). He’s won his only two starts over fences and he’s ridden by Richard Johnson, Champion Jockey and I think he could have a really big future in front of him. And Shishkin who runs in the first race at Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson’s horse (*we now know won), he could be… he’s just under that bracket where he could be another Altior, he looks that good.
Me: You obviously work for some of the biggest broadcasters in racing, some jockey’s never go down that route, why do you think you went into that? What do you enjoy about it?
Luke: Erm, I was lucky to get involved in that. I was lucky I got a job for Radio 5 Live and I dunno, I was interviewed a couple of times for the original racing channel and as you can tell I can’t shut up and that’s quite good if you’re going to be a pundit and I just sort of fell into it. You won’t be surprised to learn I’ve never had any training and look, I think if you know your subject and you’re passionate about it… I’m 53 and I go racing and I get excited, I still get excited now and if you do that… I think if you’re false the viewers will always see through you. People that put things on and try and be someone they’re not, they always get caught out and I think, there will be plenty of people who don’t like me but I am who I am and I’m honest with it.
Me: Beyond the Cheltenham Festival, we have the Grand National soon approaching, who do you think has a good chance? Have the weights helped or hindered anyone? And can Tiger Roll win for a third time?
Luke: Well first, lets start off with Tiger Roll who has been the most remarkable horse, I’ve followed him throughout his career and to go and equal what Red Rum did… Red Rum is one of my favourite horses of all time so it’ll be mixed feelings if he went on to equal it. But I’d love it and it would be great for racing if he could do it. If he runs the same race he run last year, he will win in my opinion. There’s a horse called Le Breuil who runs in the race that I really like. He stays really well, he’s trained by Ben Pauling. I don’t think the weights… look if you have the best horse you’re going to have the highest weight and anyone who winges about that… you get more weight on a horses back for winning so if you’re a winner you’re gonna get more weight. A couple of pounds either side when they were going on about Tiger Roll, it’s one jump, one little mistake, it’s irrelevant to him. If he’s in the same form, he will win.
Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks horse racing is animal cruelty?
Luke: Learn. Come to a stable. In my sort of job I’ve had people come onto me on Twitter. Come to a stable, you can find out, someone like myself can take you to a yard and you can go there… I ride out every single day of my life and will continue to do so, you can go somewhere at 6 o’clock in the morning and watch how those horses are treated. You go there and see how well they’re fed, how well they’re kept, how happy they are. Anyone who thinks you can make half a tonne of animal race when it doesn’t want to, I don’t see… it just doesn’t happen. Any athlete, a footballer, if you’ve got 11 players in a team and 10 are eating healthy and doing exercise all of the time and 1 eats McDonalds and doesn’t do anything in the week, I can guarantee he’s the one not doing any good. And it’s the same with horses, if they’re not given the best, treated the best, they cannot be the best. And so, it’s impossible. That’s another thing that racing has got to do. We’ve go to educate people, show them. People don’t know. It’s very easy someone like myself, I can just explain to them, but they just think we whip the horses and make them do what they don’t want to do, you can’t do that, it’s an impossibility. But as I said, it’s our job to educate people.
Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?
Luke: My favourite day is Grand National morning. Not necessarily the Grand National itself, but last year I did a course walk interviewing Bryony Frost at quite a few of the fences and just to go up to those fences again, it gets me buzzing. And the other thing I like, Cheltenham is brilliant, it’s got a great atmosphere, we’ve all got tweed brown coats on, but you go to Aintree and it’s a different feel. You’ve got people who go racing once a year, they dress up, they don’t care what the weather is, they’ll dress up exactly the same and it’s a different atmosphere and I like that. I like when they have concerts, I like to introduce as many different people as we can. Racing should be fun, it’s a recreation and yeah, I just like as many people to come along and enjoy it.
Me: What is your best piece of advice for a young people trying to follow their goals and their dreams?
Luke: If you come into horse racing it is the most brilliant… it educates you and is the most brilliant sport you will get involved in. I actually left school at 16 and I haven’t got one single qualification… 25 metre breaststroke badge… But apart from that, I learnt so much, I was going out like a young person would but I knew I had to be up early to muck out because I knew if I didn’t someone else would have to, so someone always made sure I was out of bed. It gives you good work ethic. My brother is actually chief feature writer for The Sun, he was a very poor rider, but he was so well educated he couldn’t get another job so he came into horse racing and he worked as a stable lad for 2 years and he was a very poor rider, but even now he says ‘it put manners on me’. You learn… you’re looking after an animal and you’re responsible for that animal and it’s just… it gives you a work ethic and that’s what I base everything in life on.
I firstly want to say a massive thank you to Luke. I personally love Luke, he is such a passionate person and I love that, he clearly loves this sport and I think people like him are key to the future of this sport, truly passionate, educating people and sharing his knowledge.
I really hope you enjoyed reading!