Today I am bringing to you an interview with the brilliant Paddy Aspell. Another very interesting one that I thoroughly enjoyed conducting, I hope you enjoy reading!
Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?
Paddy: Well I was lucky enough, back in my jumping days, to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010. I rode a winner on the Tuesday, the William Hill Chase on Chief Dan George. We didn’t really fancy him, he was a 33/1 shot and I was actually driving down to Cheltenham that day when Sedgefield was always on the first day of the Festival and I could have had plenty of rides there, but I was going down to ride this 33/1 shot in the William Hill Chase but anyway, it turns out he won. It was an incredible day, very enjoyable. You know, he was a good horse to me, because I finished 5th in a Scottish National on him when I didn’t particularly give him a good ride the year before and then the year after the Cheltenham win, I had a spin round in the National on him and got round as well. Both me and my brother rode in the same National together, the year Ballabriggs won in 2011, so yeah, that was probably my favourite.
On the flat, maybe, I won the Brocklesby at Doncaster for Mick Easterby. I’d been working there all winter and actually sort of prepped him and done everything with him so when he came out and won that on debut it was quite a satisfying win so that was probably the best one for me on the level.
Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose?
Paddy: For me I’d probably go jumping and probably go back a few years as well and say One Man of Nicky Richards. I just thought he was an incredible horse. It was heartbreaking at times to see the amount of times he folded up the hill at Cheltenham, it looked like it was a track he was never going to conquer but it was such a brave move and an incredible bit of training by Nicky, or Sir Gordon Richards at the time, I should say. To drop him back to two miles and erm, you know it was incredible. Bryan Harding came in for the ride late on as Toby Dobbin had been injured. It was just a great story all round, he’s the one that sticks out in my mind.
Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?
Paddy: Well I think it’s never going to be an open and shut case, there’s a lot of grey areas. I do think it’s needed and necessary but yeah, there can certainly be improvements to be made but that’s down to the jockey’s, it’s entirely in our hands basically. But no, I could never see it being banned, because at times, it’s there for safety so it can’t be banned really.
Me:As a jockey, weight is obviously a huge thing for you guys, so what would you eat on a regular day? Are there any periods across the year where you can actually just eat everything and anything or is it a strict kind of diet all year around?
Paddy: I think I’ve gotten into… I’ve been the same for years now, certainly since I’ve switched to the flat, it wasn’t too bad when I was riding over jumps because I was a very light jump jockey, but as it turns out when I made the switch I was a heavy jump jockey so I have had to get into a routine. I generally eat once a day and it would generally be towards the end of the day, especially if you’ve been working. You get to know what you can and can’t eat and you get to know your body so so well. Some mornings I wake up and I don’t even need to get on the scales because I know down to .1 or .2 what weight I am, that’s how well you get to know your body. It’s all about routine. For me, I don’t like to get very heavy, I know it’s enjoyable at the time, you can eat loads and what you want but really you’re just making the hill steeper in the long run. There’s always times when you have to drop weight but every day when you need to drop two or three pound in the bath and you know exercise, I love exercising, that becomes the norm. But if you have to lose four to five pounds that’s really tough on your body and you do feel it so I like to try and keep it pretty consistent across the board and yeah you treat yourself here or there, but look you only make it harder for yourself in the long run if you go crazy on stuff like that.
Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?
Paddy: I would say it’s another one like the whip debate, there are grey areas and people who maybe aren’t educated as much as we are on the sport. Visually it can look quite tough at times but luckily it doesn’t happen that often, but accidents are accidents and they can happen in all walks of life and I can see people’s perceptions if that’s what they think. It’s an opinion and it’s not totally unfounded. As a sport and as far as horse racing goes, the horses are cared for and looked after.
Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?
Paddy: Well it’s mad I suppose, when you do actually get some down time it’s trying to do as little as possible really. Recharge the battery. You know, I have a daughter, she doesn’t live with me now, but when I’m not busy I try and get to see her as much as I can. You know, it’s exactly as the question said, it’s down time, relax and recharge the batteries. I’m currently injured and have been for a while so I’ve got other stuff on, but it’s all about recharging the batteries enough to do your job well but at the same time you have to have an escape and refresh really.
Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?
Paddy: I suppose when I was riding over the jumps there was quite a few guys really. I thought Bryan Harding was an incredible guy, very hard working, dedicated. Erm, on the flat, there was quite a few, I think some of the older guys you’re going to look up to, very grounded and have a real good work ethic. I think, I suppose even the way Graham Lee does it now on the flat, he’s very dedicating, he’s a teetotaller and has to work hard on his weight like all of us, he’s very driven. But yeah just a real good guy… he’s a winner.
Me: What is one race you’d love to win?
Paddy: I’m not really sure I have any one race. It all depends who you ride the winner for and the connections. For me, my roots are jumping and I’d have loved to win the good rides over jumps. I think… my brother Leighton has been lucky enough to win two Nationals and I think that’s a well known race. I think if the question was would I rather be Champion Jockey or win the National, I think I’d say that. It’s a race for the nation and I think that’s what I’d go with.
Me: What’s your overall goal in racing over the upcoming years?
Paddy: I suppose giving my current state, to try and stay injury free. But I don’t really set goals to be honest, I just want to be as successful as possible and earn a living from the game. I just enjoy it and keep enjoying it, it’s a short career so make hay whilst the sun shines but try and enjoy it along the way and make the best of what you can.
Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?
Paddy: Well there’s a horse of Kevin Ryan’s that I was really really impressed with last year and he might not be that familiar to a lot of people but a horse called Juan Elcano. He runs in the yellow and black. I was really taken by this horse last year, I thought he was a long year off the finished article but still put in some real good performances last year and it’ll be interesting to see how he shapes up if he stays sound.
Me: What is your favourite race course to ride at and why?
Paddy: Well over jumps, my favourite course always because it’s my local track and I got so many rides there was Sedgefield believe it or not, Kelso was a close second, I really did like Kelso. But Sedgefield because it’s my local and I had plenty of success there. On the level, when I lived in New Market, I really really enjoyed riding at Great Yarmouth, lovely track and I found the best horse always won and just a real nice track. Properly up north it would be Hamilton on the flat, a very very well run track and I just got loads of rides there and was lucky enough to ride a treble there so I have so many good memories there.
Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow whether that be racing or something else?
Paddy: Well probably, the best advice I can give is you’ve got to have a real drive for what you do, you don’t want to just settle for something or choose something because you think oh well it’s the best option. You’ve got to have a real push and desire to do it. Listen to people and take your time because you know, if you listen to people and get as much help as you can, you’ve got to want to do it and for the right reasons, because if you do you’ve got more chance of succeeding and doing the best you can.
I want to thank Paddy for taking time out to allow me to interview him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, a genuine person who has some incredible stories in the sport.
I hope you all enjoyed!