An Interview with Aidan Coleman

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Before we get into today’s post I want to mention Lorna Brooke as this is my first post since hearing about her tragic death. My thoughts are with her family, friends and anyone who knew her personally. It’s a heart-breaking time for the sport and anyone involved in the sport in any capacity. Jockey’s put their lives and bodies on the line every single day and people should appreciate that more than they do.


On to today’s post… I got the chance to speak with the Grand National 100/1 runner up, Aidan Coleman this week and after an incredible effort in the Grand National I am very grateful to get the chance to have a chat with him about all things racing, so let’s just jump right in. I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I have!


Me: You’ve rode some incredible horses in some incredible races such as Paisley Park, Put The Kettle On, Epatante and so many more, but what is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Aidan: Erm, I suppose it’s tricky, as I say, you’ve alluded to some great ones there. I suppose any of Paisley’s 3 Grade 1’s were special. Obviously the first one was our first Grade 1 which was brilliant because it took so long to do so that was special. His next one was the Stayers Hurdle at the Festival, he was one of the bankers so that was amazing, then also his last Grade 1 in the Long Walk just before Christmas, that was brilliant for a few different reasons, in the fact he was on a comeback trail after what happened to him in the previous Stayers Hurdle, so it was great and very satisfying to get him back and how he did it as well, he just pulled it out of the fire late on and that was very satisfying and a great thrill to win the race.

Me: The one question I think everyone wants me to ask is how is Paisley Park now after being pulled up at Aintree?

Aidan: Yeah, he’s great. I just looked after him, he ran brilliantly at Cheltenham and although he’d been showing the right signs at home, you never know until you get on the track and he was just feelings the affects of Cheltenham basically, so we looked after him and I have no doubt he’ll come back in great form next year and get back winning again.

Me: And we have to speak about what happened just over a week ago when you came second in the Grand National to Rachael Blackmore, which is brilliant in itself, but how did you really feel knowing you was so close to winning it for the first time?

Aidan: Terrible. Absolutely gutting. I’ve never been so down after a race as I was that. Look, its great to be involved in the race. I rode Henry’s other one and he had the 1-2 so it’s great to be a part of it, delighted for everybody but from a personal point of view to get that close and be doing so well turning in and nearly thinking you’re going to win the National and not, it’s very tough to take.

Me: If you could ride any horse that you never have, past or present, what horse would you choose and why?

Aidan: Kauto Star. He was just brilliant, from 2 miles to 3 miles 2 Gold Cup and longevity as well. Definitely Kauto Star.

Me: One question I like to raise to the jockey’s that I speak with is the discussion surrounding banning the whip, what are your opinions on that?

Aidan: I think it shouldn’t be a discussion. I can see where people are coming from but it’s not really a whip, it’s foam cushioned, it’s foam padded, it does not affect a horse, there’s no element of pain. It’s used very much as a safety measure. You have a lot of people say about the whole horse welfare thing but I think without the whip you’d have a lot more horse welfare accidents to be honest. I think it’s essential and it does not harm the horses.

Me: You’re now Olly Murphy’s number 1 stable jockey, can you tell us a little bit about how that partnership came to be?

Aidan: I suppose, Richard Johnson was his number 1 jockey, he didn’t have a stable jockey then over the years he’s built up a really exciting team and an ever growing team as well and it was getting to a stage where he needed a little bit more continuity. I think it was a hard decision for him because it was nothing to do with Richard – it was the opposite – it was nothing to do with Richard’s riding, he just had too many commitments basically. His team and the quality of horses he was building, he needed some more consistency. And as Richard was so popular and so good, that wasn’t always the case, so he needed someone more available.

Me: Who do you look up to in the weighing room?

Aidan: Erm, well it would always be Richard Johnson to be fair so if we did this a couple of weeks ago it would be easy. But look, I have a lot of respect for everybody who does the game over a long period of time. I think Richard was the ultimate professional and ultimate role model and I think especially with how things are these days with young lads – they don’t really understand it all. They’re very nice kids but it’s just a different generation, they don’t really get what it takes to do the job over a period of time. I think anyone who rides over jumps deserves a lot of respect but the years they ride and the more they ride, the more respect they get because they’ve done the hard graft. The more you do it, the more respect you deserve because it’s not easy.

Me: And on from that a little bit, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another jockey, trainer or owner?

Aidan: I suppose it’s not really advice for racing, it’s just advice in general… Just work hard and try your best, I think that’s the same in any walk of life and racing is the same. You get out what you put in, if you work hard and conduct yourself in the right way in any walk of life, the rest will fall into place.

Me: What is the one race you haven’t won that you would love to?

Aidan: The Grand National. Very very easy. The Grand National.

Me: If you could choose a horse to watch for the next season or two, what horse would you choose?

Aidan: That’s a good question. But if you’re watching it then you want to be riding it if you get what I mean? So I’m going to have to dodge that question I think Zoe.

Me: You’ve rode for some massive owners within racing including JP McManus in the famous green and gold silks, do you ever feel more pressure when you’re riding in silks like those that are so well known within the sport?

Aidan: No, simple as. Look its great to ride any good horse in any race and every owner is very important and the riding fee is the same so they all deserve for us to go and try our best. But on the other side, when you’re riding for owners like JP that you mentioned and some other big owners, these people have been in the game so long that ultimately, it’s not less pressure because you still have to go out and try your best but if things go wrong, they have been there and it’s happened and they’re very very understanding and you know, it’s almost, they’ve just been in the game so long and understand what can go wrong.

Me: What’s your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Aidan: I suppose it has to come to Cheltenham because it’s one of those places where it really matters, the Festival is magic. I suppose if you’re going midweek, I really like Uttoxeter, I do quite well around there. There’s not many tracks I don’t like, I’m quite happy to go to most of them, there’s a few that I won’t name that I’d happily never go to again, but because it’s nothing personal, nothing against the tracks or those that run them I won’t name them, it’s more that I just don’t like riding around them, but most tracks are very well run and as long as you’ve got good rides then you’re happy to go.

Me: And obviously over the past 12 months there hasn’t been any crowds allowed, personally have you found it easier or harder?

Aidan: I suppose at first it was a bit odd and we had to get used to it, but we’d just came back from 3 months without racing so we were just happy to be there and that was fine. I suppose after that you just get used to it like you get used to anything else in life don’t you? But we will welcome them back and we can’t wait for them to come back.

Me: With the end of the season being so close and the Jockey Championship being so competitive this year, who do you think will be crowned this weekend, Harry Skelton or Brian Hughes?

Aidan: Look, it’s very important for Brian to have a good Perth, it’s up north, he’s got 3 days at Perth to hopefully have a few winners. It’s very hard, I get on well with the both lads, they’re both top class. I’m being very diplomatic here, but it is very hard and I’ll be gutted for whoever loses because they don’t deserve to lose, whoever that may be Harry or Brian, there’s gonna be one of them… A draw would be fantastic to be fair, that would be the ultimate. It would be fantastic to be fair but it’s not usually how these things work, so yeah, it’s gonna be hard for whoever doesn’t win. Look, Brian’s been champion before, this will be Harry’s first go, but I don’t think Brian Hughes will only be Champion Jockey once in his career, I think he’ll have a few more championships before he retires and probably the same for Harry as well.

Me: What is your best advice for a young person with a passion they want to follow whether that be in racing or otherwise?

Aidan: I think it goes back to the best advice I’ve been given… Just go for it. Work hard and try your best and conduct yourself in the right way. You need to have a good attitude and try your best and you’ll get something out of it.


As always, I want to thank Aidan for taking time out of his day to speak with me. He was very honest, open and informative during our call and that makes my job as an interviewer so much easier. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with Aidan and getting a real insight to all things racing through his eyes and it is always brilliant to hear a horse like Paisley Park is okay and healthy back home. I have the upmost respect for jockeys, they put their bodies on the line every single day for the sport and I think we all take that for granted when we shouldn’t.

I will see you all Saturday morning at 11am for my next post!

Harry Skelton vs Brian Hughes

Good Morning!

Welcome to another post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today’s post is a quick look back at one of the most exciting Champion Jockey season’s we have had in a very long time, so with just one week to go, I wanted to briefly have a look at the season so far.

The Jumps Jockey Championship started on July 1st 2020 and ends next Saturday on April 24th 2021 and right now it’s probably the closest it’s been in my lifetime with Harry Skelton and Brian Hughes fighting it out neck and neck for the last few weeks and it’s been a pretty exciting situation to watch, I have no idea who will win but it’s been great for racing fans to see it so close for a change.

I won’t go through every single win that both Harry and Brian have had this season, I think I’d be here all year, so I have had a look at some of the bigger wins they have both had and I think we should just jump right in.

So, first up I’m going to start with Harry Skelton and the bet365 Hurdle Grade 2 (Registered As The West Yorkshire Hurdle) at Wetherby on October 31st 2020 where Harry won on Roksana as the 13/8 favourite by 8 and 1/2 lengths for brother Dan Skelton.

Two weeks later on November 14th 2020 Harry won the Karndean Designflorring Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Listed Race) (GBB Race) on Elle Est Belle (16/5) at Cheltenham for brother Dan Skelton. The race was (potentially controversially) declared a deadheat with joint winner Ishkhara Lady (11/2) for Sean Bowen and Harry Fry.

One week later on November 21st 2020 Brian Hughes won the Betfair Supports Safer Gambling Week Handicap Chase (Class 2) at Haydock on Snow Leopardess (9/2J) for Charlie Longsdon by 1/2 length to Commodore.

Eight days later on November 29th 2020, Brian then won the Houghton Mares’ Chase (Listed Race) (GBB Race) at Carlisle on My Old Gold (4/1) for Nicky Richards, winning by 1 and 1/2 lengths to Chilli Filli.

We then move forward to December 5th where we had a rather successful day for both jockeys with Brian Hughes heading to Aintree and Harry Skelton heading to Sandown. First of we had Harry Skelton win the 1:50, the Planteur At Chapel Stud Henry VIII Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) on Allmankind (2/1F) beating Hitman (11/4) by 2 and 1/2 lengths for brother Dan Skelton. He then won the 2:25 – Betfair Tingle Creek Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) on Politologue (11/8F) for Paul Nicholls beating stable mate Greaneteen (5/2) for Harry Cobden by 7 lengths.

15 minutes later at 2:40, Brian Hughes then wins the William Hill Many Clouds Chase (Grade 2) with Lake View Lad (16/1) for Nick Alexander, beating Santini (13/8F) by 1 length.

Moving forward a couple of weeks and on December 18th, Harry Skelton wins the Sky Bet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on My Drogo (9/1) beating 2/1 favourite Llandinabo Lad by 2 and 3/4 lengths, again for Dan Skelton.

The following day on December 19th, Brian Hughes then wins the Betfair Tommy Whittle Handicap Chase (Class 2) on Sam’s Adventure (14/1) for Brian Ellison, beating Sojourn the 11/4 joint favourite by 4 lengths.

One week later on boxing day 2020, Harry then wins the Ladbrokes Kauto Star Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Kempton on Shan Blue (7/4F) for Dan Skelton, beating The Big Breakaway (16/5). Following that up with another win at Kempton the following day December 27th when he won the Ladbrokes Desert Orchid Chase (Grade 2) on Nube Negra (20/1) for Dan Skelton, beating Evens favourite Altior by 3 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into 2021, we have Harry Skelton kicking us off on January 23rd when he won the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Ascot on Roksana (8/15F) for Dan Skelton, beating Magic Of Light (9/2) by 8 lengths.

On February 7th Brian Hughes headed to Musselburgh where he won the bet365 Scottish Triumph Hurdle (Listed Race) on Fiveandtwenty (6/4F) for Donald McCain beating Historic Heart (5/1) by 4 lengths.

Harry Skelton then had a busy two days when he won the Bet At racingtv.com Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) at Exeter on Wilde About Oscar (16/5) for Dan Skelton on the 14th of February beating Evens favourite The Glancing Queen by 7 and 1/2 lengths. Followed up by 2 quick wins at Warwick the following day on February 15th when winning the Agetur UK Kingmaker Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) on Allmankind (4/7F) for Dan Skelton, beating eventual Cheltenham Festival winner Sky Pirate (3/1) by 14 lengths. Followed by the next race on the card, the St Marys Land Warwick Mares’ Hurdle (Listed Race) on Molly Ollys Wishes (7/2) for Dan Skelton, actually beating Brian Hughes in second place on the Evens favourite Paul’s Saga by 15 lengths.

On February 20th 2021, Harry then won the “My Oddsboost” on Betfair Swinley Chase (Listed Race) at Ascot on Captain Chaos (10/1) for Dan Skelton, by a head to Regal Encore (12/1).

The following day, Brian Hughes headed to Market Rasen where he won the Ballymore Sidney Banks Novices’ Hurdle (Listed Race) on Minella Drama (13/8F) for Donald McCain, beating Stoner’s Choice (9/4) by 3 lengths.

Swiftly moving into March, on the 6th Harry Skelton won the bet365 Premier Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) at Kelso on My Drogo (2/1F) for Dan Skelton beating Do Your Job (10/1) by 9 and 1/2 lengths. One week later on the 13th of March, Harry then won the Paddy Power Imperial Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) at Sandown on Langer Dan (5/1) for Dan Skelton beating Miss Heritage (8/1) by 4 and 1/2 lengths.

We then move into April and the final month for both jockey’s to get the wins on the board ready to be crowned Champion Jockey. We start off on April 8th when Harry Skelton won the SSS Super Alloys Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) at Aintree on Protektorat (17/2) for Dan Skelton, beating The Shunter (7/2) by 3 and 3/4 lengths. Followed up on the 10th of April when winning the Betway Mersey Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) on 5/4 favourite My Drogo, again beating Brian Hughes on the second placed Minella Drama (12/1) by 9 and 1/2 lengths.

Also want to include here that Harry Skelton finished 6th in the Grand National on Blaklion (50/1) on the 10th of April for brother Dan Skelton, making them the first British trained horse to cross the line.

We then head into the April meeting at Cheltenham where both jockey’s had a pretty successful time. On April 14th, Harry Skelton won the 1:30 Join Racing TV Now Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2) on 4/6 favourite Faivoir for Dan Skelton, winning by 2 and 3/4 lengths to Witness Protection (8/1). Harry then won the 2:40 Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle (Class 2) on 7/2 joint favourite Proschema for Dan Skelton, winning by 6 and 1/2 length to Winds of Fire (9/1). Moving on to the 4:25 Weatherite Handicap Chase (Class 2) where Brian Hughes pulled one back when winning on Domaine De L’Isle (6/1) for Sean Curran, beating Coo Star Sivola (5/1) by 1 and 1/2 lengths.

The following day on April 15th, Brian Hughes claws another one back when winning the Citipost Mares’ Handicap Hurdle (Listed Race) on Bannixtown Glory (9/1) for Donald McCain, beating Harry Skelton on the 5/2 favourite Eglantine Du Seuil by 1 and 3/4 lengths.

Yesterday both Brian and Harry headed to Ayr for the Scottish Grand National meeting and in doing so, Harry Skelton has now pulled ahead after winning the first race on Stepney Causeway (4/9F) for Dan Skelton, beating Brian on Mrs Hyde (15/8) by 19 lengths and also the last race on I’d Better Go Now (11/2J), again for Dan Skelton, beating Manetti (33/1) by 3/4 of a length.

So, all in all we start today with Harry Skelton on 143 and Brian Hughes on 139 with just 8 days of racing left. It’s still very very close and either could win so I am very excited to see how this final week goes. Both have been going for it and picking up as many spare rides as possible so I think this last week could be very interesting.


Personally, I would love to see Harry Skelton win the Jockey Championship for a couple of reasons. He is based very close to where I live, so it would be nice to see a local jockey win, but also because the majority of Harry’s rides have came from his brother Dan Skelton and as far as I’m aware (correct me if I’m wrong), the last time a jockey won the Jockey Championship with the majority of their rides coming from one stable was when AP McCoy won it whilst riding for Martin Pipe, so for me that is a huge achievement. I won’t take anything away from Brian Hughes, but I feel like he has the opportunity to ride a lot more horses for a lot more trainers and personally, I think if Harry Skelton had the opportunity to ride as many horses as Brian Hughes has then he would be a mile ahead in the title race. The fact that Brian has had over 200 more rides than Harry and Harry has still been fighting it out at the top shows just how incredible Harry’s season has been. Overall, it’s been a huge season for the Skelton team and I think that Harry winning the Champion Jockey title would just be the best way to end it. Again, I want to reiterate I am not taking anything away from Brian Hughes and if he wins it then he deserves it, but for me, I would just love to see Harry Skelton do it.

I have found looking back over this season actually really interesting and I hope everyone else has found it interesting to read too. If there are any similar posts like this you would like to see me do for particular jockeys, trainers, owners, horses etc then please do let me know over on Twitter (https://twitter.com/zoelouisesmithx) and I will try my best to have a look into it because I find researching these posts so interesting and from my viewing figures for similar posts like this, they have seemed to be pretty popular.

I actually have an extra post coming tomorrow morning at 11am where I look into the history of the Scottish Grand National ahead of tomorrow afternoons renewal, including some winning trends, facts and figures which may help you pick your winner, so keep your eyes out for that one! See you then!

An Interview with Richard Pitman

Good Evening!

I hope you’ve all a brilliant final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Today I am super excited to bring you an interview with Richard Pitman. I had the honour of speaking to Richard this week about all things racing including that race Crisp vs Red Rum. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to Richard and I hope you all enjoy!


Me: You obviously won some incredible races in your career, but what was your favourite race, win or lose?

Richard: I’m afraid it’s pretty obvious, but it was 40 years before you were born, it was Crisp in the 1973 Grand National finishing second to Red Rum. And the reason being, Aintree is just a magical cauldron and for him to have made the running and jump the fences as if they were hurdles, until all the steam ran out… He won the Queen Mother Champion Chase which is run at the Cheltenham Festival and he won by about 20 lengths and then just to nearly win the national, it was an amazing ride.

Me: The one question I wanted to ask about that Grand National was how did you feel at the time when you got beat by Red Rum and did those feelings change over the years when you realised just how special Red Rum went on to be?

Richard: Well, that’s a good question. You see, the good Champion jockey’s… I was second in the jockey Championship twice but didn’t win it… The good Champion jockey’s, McCoy, Francome, Scudamore, Dunwoody, Dicky Johnson – Their tunnel vision, like Usain Bolt in running races. But I was more of a cavalier, I just enjoyed riding so although it was devastating to be caught – and I could hear him coming, it was fast ground so you could here his hoofed feet and he was a high blower so every time he exhaled his nostril flaps, so it got louder and louder but it was only the last two strides that he swept past me. So utter devastation but only a minute to recover and be elated because it was a ride money couldn’t buy, I had earnt it and it was my ride. Okay, I’ll be blamed for being beaten for many many things. Going on was one of them but that was our plan. He was such a bold jumper, in behind 40 horses he’d have jumped on someone else’s back so that’s what we had to do. I made a wrong decision taking my hand off the reigns to give him a whip half way up the running. You know, he was a big horse, tired, gone… I should’ve kept hold of his head, but there you are, you can’t go back. I remember every blade of grass in that race but I admire Red Rum… So much, you couldn’t not. I rode him for the BBC, I used to do lots of stunts afterwards around Aintree in the build up to the National, so I rode Red Rum with two other horses on the flat track there and Ginger McCain who was a larger than life, micky taking man, said “now then Pitman, you seen his backside in 73, you can look through his ears now lad” and gave me the leg up.

Me: Another question following on from that, I wanted to ask was how did you feel when history essentially repeated itself when your son Mark Pitman got beat on Garrison Savannah by Seagram in a similar fashion in the 1991 Grand National?

Richard: Yeah, good question! Well Mark was heavier than me, I was always a chubby little fella who had trouble with my weight, but Mark was taller and had more trouble. He used to be in his sauna from 5am to 7am in the dead of winter in his garage and then go out and ride 5 or 6 lots on the gallops in the freezing cold, it was really hard work and he was a good jockey. His mother would have hated it but he and I did discuss how to do things and I’m sure she would have done with him many times. And he asked for my advice and I said “Mark you won’t believe how quickly horses lose their petrol up the running if stamina comes into play.” And at elbow he hadn’t gone for Garrison Savannah and I put my coat on as I was working for the BBC and Bill Smith was with me, I said “Bill the replay is yours I’m going to see Mark come in” and as I got my coat on he said “you better turn around, the picture has changed” and as he got to the elbow, again he just flattened out. Once they go at that distance and lose their stamina, they just walk. He was beaten by Seagram who was very cleverly rode by Nigel Hawke coming wide and not challenging close up so not to galvanise Garrison but Garrison had gone. But he rode a great race.

Plus, he had won the Gold Cup 3 weeks before and two hours later was in Cheltenham general hospital with internal injuries and a fractured pelvis, but rode 3 weeks later in the National. But that was nothing to do with him getting beat because he was on plenty of pain killers, but I was so proud of him… I still am.

Me: If you could ride any horse currently in training now, who would you choose and why?

Richard: Aw, there are so many aren’t there? I think Cloth Cap is the biggest certainty we’ve seen in the National for years, providing nothing goes wrong. If you look at the previous videos of McCoy on Clan Royal going down to Becher’s for the second time, five or six clear, on the bridle, two loose horses run across him and force him into the wing of the fence. I mean… It’s such a race where you don’t know what’s going to happen. But Cloth Cap at Jonjo’s, I love the way he jumps, he goes on the ground, he gallops with his head quite low, not overly low, but quite low – which I love. It means a horse is looking at the bottom of the fence, rather than head up, fighting the jockey. So Cloth Cap for me, is the one horse I’d love to ride.

Me: And from your point of view, you retired many years ago, but how do you feel about the discussions to ban the whip? And how important was the whip for yourself when you were riding?

Richard: Right, now… I should not have used my whip on Crisp half way up the running at Aintree, it unbalanced him, I took my hands off the reigns. I think it did more harm than good. And I challenge anyone, anywhere to come up with a video showing me where the use of a whip has stopped a horse from running out or being the aide it’s meant to be. Of course, it’s meant to be used to encourage, but to me it puts a lot of horses off. That’s why I love watching the flat as well, the ground is so much better and there is a lot less use of the whip. I’d agree, let them carry it, but only give them a slap down the shoulder for encouragement, I would not want them to take their hand off the reigns or give them one behind the saddle. I am very strong on that and yet people say to me “but you used it” – Yes I used it, but not in excess. Fred Winter, my trainer would always say “you can give them two, but don’t give them three.”

Me: What was your favourite racecourse to ride at and why?

Richard: Probably Cheltenham because I was born there. I could always see the course and I have a field with my sister now on Cleeve Hill looking down into the racecourse. Cheltenham really grabs me and I rode a lot of winners there. I got beaten and should’ve won two gold cups but didn’t, so… Cheltenham is really mine.

Me: A lot of jockey’s don’t go into the TV side of things, what made you make the decision to do so?

Richard: Well, I’d been offered the job as a paddock commentator for the BBC 2 years before I retired but then I had 5 of the best horses in the country, now you wouldn’t give 5 horses up for anything. I didn’t care what the future was. But two years later I was offered the job again and if I turned it down a second time, it wouldn’t be available so I went to Fred Winter on the muck hill, where we were making the muck hill tidy in the morning, and I said to him this is the situation and he said for the first time ever John Francome shared the job with me, he was 10 years young and he was good but I was welcome to ride half the horses as long as I wanted to. But there was only 2 of my good horses left by then and I said to him would you run one in the Grand National, he said no his legs are dodgy so he wouldn’t subject him to it. So I said “well in that case, thank you so much for everything you’ve done for me” I shook his hand and joined BBC.

Me: What was your favourite or most memorable moment whilst working with BBC?

Richard: Well, I was involved for 35 years so there was so many. But Bob Champion and Aldaniti was a fairytale that will be hard to match. And if Aldaniti hadn’t won that day, the second was ridden by John Thorne who was 54 years old, he owned the stallion, owned the mare, bred it, trained it and rode it. So that would have been another fairy story. Another was the void race for two false starts and then of course the one that was put off due to the bomb scare and ran on the Monday.

But the two false starts one was just incredible, I finished my build up to the race, handed over to Peter O’Sullevan and then there’s these two false starts and a group of horses carried on going. The producer said to me ‘Pitman get off your backside and get out there and find out what can happen’ so I ran out of my little pod in the paddock, slipped on the scaffolding boards and I was winded, but we had floor managers so my guy, a great big ex rugby player, picked me up with one hand and pushed me through the crowd, knocking people out of the way as I was trying to get my breath back. I said to the starter “Keith, the whole world is watching, Hong Kong, Australia, America… What can happen?” and he said “I can tell you exactly what will happen. Only the 9 that didn’t fall or complete one circuit can run.” So we’d got the news. I thought I’d done a good job, so I was wondering back and the producer said “okay Pitman that was good but find a steward.” The stewards area that day was an area four ladders high up on some scaffolding and at the bottom was a soldier with a sword and big feathery hat on. He said “you can’t come up here son, it’s stewards only” and I said “I’m sorry, we’re BBC and they’ve asked us to come up to give us the news.” Well when we got one camera and sound man up there and knocked on the door of the porter cabin, out came Patrick Hibbert-Foy who was the stewards secretary he said “yes Pitman what do you want?” and I said “well Patrick, the whole world is watching and we need to know because the next race in Hong Kong can’t run until we’ve got the result of this one.” And he said “You will be told when the people on the racecourse are announced and told first. They’re the paying customers.” And I said “we’ve got 600 million people around the world” and he said “You’ll be told.” And that’s how they viewed it in those days. It was quite an amazing race, I won’t go through it but it had to be stopped. It was the second false start and it had to be stopped. And they put cones across the front of the chair fence which is the 15th and one of the officials stood in the middle of the fence in the cones and waved his arms trying to stop them, but the 9 guys who had carried on thought it was anti’s trying to make a demonstration and they galloped over the chap and through the cones and went around again. And of course once you had gone around once you couldn’t go again if it was raced later on. But it was so exciting.

And the bomb scare, well that was hairy. We kept losing TV positions one by one as they evacuated us along with everyone else and the last man standing was Jim McGrath commentating from a scaffolding very very high down by Becher’s Brook and he spoke for 28 minutes without drawing breath whilst mayhem was going on up in the stands.

Me: How much do you think racing has changed ssince you were riding?

Richard: Oh 360 degrees! I mean, we didn’t ride on Sunday’s, we didn’t have evening racing, we had 2 months off in the summer to recuperate. The styles have changed, we rode longer, we had some pretty good stylists in our day but before that they rode full length, the style has changed. The quality of racing has changed, we’ve had plenty of Gold Cup winners run in the Grand National, but the depth has changed. When I rode Crisp I had 12 stone, top weight, along with L’Escargot (Tommy Carberry) who had won two Cheltenham Gold Cup’s. But we were giving 25 pounds away to Red Rum. You know, it was a few at the top and a great void down the bottom and horses were running off 8 stone 9, they had to carry 10 stone, therefore you had to be rated 110 to get in the race. Now you have to be rated 140 and you still might not get in. So the general overall figure of the horses running at Aintree has improved tremendously. I just love it. I think jockey’s, we were cavaliers in our day, now they’re professionals. They’ve got drivers, nutritionists, people who look after your minds, psychiatrists. You know, like golf and tennis, they are top sportsmen.

Me: And on from that, how much do you think social media and new technology has changed racing?

Richard: Well, it’s very very good to come home and look at your races as a jockey and see what you’ve done wrong. I mean, (AP) McCoy was the most brilliant because he would come home having won 4 races and look to see why he hadn’t won the 5th but also look back at the 4 races he had won and thought should I have done anything different in that race, not to win further, maybe win easier. It’s a tremendous tool, accept with social media it allows people to be anonymous and be absolutely vile, are they called trolls? Now, that isn’t very fair and mentally it pulls people down. My answer to that is, if you’re being targeted by idiots, don’t look at it. Turn it off. It’s a hard enough game mentally, the weight loss, the travelling, the riding is great, but it’s a hard enough game without being pillared on social media.

Me: You mentioned AP McCoy there, do you think there is any current jockey riding who will come close to or beat his records?

Richard: Be very difficult, because Brian Hughes has been around a while, Dicky (Richard) Johnson won’t be going long enough to do it, I think if Dicky (Richard) Johnson’s body holds up, because he’s young, he’s fit, he doesn’t have the weight, no he’s not young sorry, he’s forty something now, his body is trim, he doesn’t have weight which is a huge advantage, but the falls have been taking it’s toll over the last few years on him. He could actually ride more winners than AP rode in history, as long as his body holds out. But we’ve got some great young jockey’s, but again for Sam Twiston-Davies, Tom Scudamore, Aidan Coleman, there’s a stack of very very good jockey’s, have they been riding long enough to get into the same mode as AP… He was Champion Conditional and then for the next 20 years Champion Jockey so right from that early start before he lost his allowance he was champion. You know… It’s going to be a very difficult thing to do.

Me: And talking about Champion Jockey’s, this year we have Harry Skelton, Harry Cobden and Brian Hughes all very close at the top, who do you think will get the edge?

Richard: Well, that’s difficult, I think Brian Hughes will because it matters to him, for example, he’s freelance, he can go anywhere, he’s popular, he’s the go to jockey. For instance, the first two days of Cheltenham he rode in the North so that means he wants winners, not particularly quality winners. In fact, the trainers he rides for don’t necessarily have these top ones. Whereas Cobden will have to go where Paul Nicholls wants him to go for the big races. And the Skelton’s have been amazing haven’t they? How they’ve come on in such a short time, quality and quantity.

Me: And for the final question, what is your best piece of advice for a young person who wants to follow their passion?

Richard: Right, you’ve got to be dedicated of course, but you’ve also got to enjoy it. If you enjoy a job, it isn’t work. Even though in stables it is hard graft and being a jockey, you know, I used to get up very early in the cold and drive with the sweat suit on to lose even more weight, you know it’s a hard old graft but the passion has got to be there, you’ve got to want it. My advice to any young person who goes to riding school is to look at the trainers and see who gives a chance to young people and go to them and make sure they’re not a 10 horse trainer because with a big trainer the crumbs off the table are big enough to feed you because if a senior jockey gets hurt then you come in and get your chance.


So there we have it, I want to say a massive thank you to Richard for his time, it was an honour speaking with him. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I hope everyone else has too! I also want to say a massive thank you to everyone for the support this week, I am so grateful to anyone who’s taken time out to read my work this week and I will hopefully see you all tomorrow at 11am for my final post in my 7 in 7 days series which is an interview with Eoin Walsh which you do not want to miss!

An Interview with Kian Burley featuring Hannah Burley

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with the one and only Kian Burley. I spoke with Kian and his mom Hannah on the phone last weekend where we discussed all things racing so without further ado, let’s jump straight into it!


Me: First things first, what made you get into horse racing?

Kian: So I like watching it on the TV and it’s the best sport and it’s so much fun because it is interesting when they have hurdles and fences.

Me: And when you went to Cheltenham last year, what was your favourite winner that you seen?

Kian: Shishkin.

Me: Do you think it will win again this year?

Kian: Yeah!

Me: What do you think is one horse that will definitely win at Cheltenham this year? What is the best horse going to Cheltenham this year?

Kian: I think Appreciate it for Willie Mullins.

Me: Do you think Willie Mullins will win another Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo or do you think something else will win?

Kian: I think something else will win it this year.

Me: Do you know who yet or have you not decided who yet?

Kian: I don’t now yet!

Me: And what about the Grand National, do you think Tiger Roll will win again?

Kian: I think Tiger Roll will win it again.

Me: And now, of course I have to ask you Kian, obviously Paddy Brennan is your favourite jockey, why do you love him so much?

Kian: Because he’s the best jockey in the whole wide world.

Me: And apart from Paddy, what other jockey’s do you like watching?

Kian: Connor Brace, Liam Harrison, Max Kendrick, Will Kennedy, Harry Skelton, Callum Rodriguez and Eoin Walsh. I like them all!

Me: And when you went to Cheltenham and you got to meet all the jockeys and trainers, who was your favourite person to meet?

Kian: Gary Windass.

Hannah: He met Gary Windass off Coronation Street and that’s all he ever goes on about! He was sat on the table next to us at Cheltenham and now that’s all he ever goes on about. Who was your favourite jockey to meet though?

Kian: PADDY!

Me: And when Paddy walked into your school Kian, how did you feel?

Kian: Amazed! I nearly fell of my chair!

Hannah: To be fair, only his class teacher, headteacher, me and my mom knew about it. The school had sent a letter out to get permission for other children to be on camera so Kian came home from school and said ‘aw we’re gonna be on camera but I don’t know what for. So me and my mom were saying ‘oh we don’t know what that is’. Then Barry from The Jockey Club had rang me and said if we ask people who wants a microphone on them do you think Kian will put his hand up and I said 100% yes he will, so when Barry came in and said we need a helper to have a microphone on do we have any volunteers, Kian put two hands up, he was making sure he got picked!

Me: How did it feel at Cheltenham Kian when everybody knew who you were?

Kian: Amazed! I had about 4 people ask for selfies!

Me: What was your favourite part of the day?

Kian: When the cameras were following me around.

Me: And of course you go down to Ravenswell to see Fergal and the team too, who’s your next favourite trainer aside from Fergal?

Kian: Erm… No one.

Me: Just Fergal?

Kian: Yes!

Me: How often do you go down to Fergal’s?

Hannah: It’s whenever we can get down there really, they’re 3 hours away from us, so when we go we have to set off at 4 in the morning…

Kian: We’ve gotta be down there for half 7!

Me: I was lucky enough to go down last year and I loved it down there. I think the whole team are just lovely to speak to.

Hannah: They are! They’re lovely. They’ve all got so much time for Kian as well and the Doc, Dr Simon is absolutely brilliant with him. They’re all just so nice.

Me: When you do go down to Ravenswell, who’s your favourite horse?

Kian: All of them!

Me: All of them? You don’t have a favourite?

Kian: No.

Hannah: He does… It is Imperial Alcazar?

Kian: Yeah!

Me: And what do you think when Fergal has a horse and he runs miles and miles ahead of all the others? He’s had quite a few that I’ve seen that just run off a million miles ahead!

Kian: I think what are you doing? Like Totterdown!

Me: So apart from Fergal’s horses, what’s your favourite horse you’ve watched?

Kian: Cue Card!

Hannah: When you watch your YouTube videos, what’s the race you always watch?

Kian: Cue Card winning the King George!

Me: And what race courses have you been to so far?

Kian: Everywhere!

Me: What one is your favourite?

Kian: Market Rasen!

Me: And obviously I know you get on really well with Doctor Simon and I seen the other day you was winding him up on Twitter about his cardigan, what did you think of his cardigan, have you seen it yet?

Kian: Not yet.

Hannah: What do you think of cardigans? Would you wear one?

Kian: NO!

Me: Do you think it will suit Doctor Simon wearing a cardigan?

Kian: NO!

Me: I feel like I have to ask you because Fergal is known to love his cakes, so what’s your favourite cake?

Kian: Victoria Sponge.

Hannah: You little fibber! You like chocolate cake!

Me: I seen on Twitter that you wrote a letter to Boris didn’t you?

Kian: Yeah and an email!

Me: Did you get a reply?

Kian: No! I wrote to Her Majesty the Queen!

Me: What did you say to the Queen?

Kian: About her horses.

Me: Do you watch flat racing and jumps?

Kian: I like them both!

Me: What’s your favourite flat race?

Kian: St Leger!

Me: And what’s your favourite jumps race?

Kian: Gold Cup! I remember when Paddy won it on Imperial Commander!

Hannah: You don’t remember it, you’ve seen the videos of it.

Me: And your mom’s always tweeting saying how you scream the house down whenever you’re watching the racing and now you have the biggest trending quote in racing…

Kian: GO ON PADDY LAD!

Me: Everybody shouts it now don’t they?

Hannah: When we were at Cheltenham and we were walking through people were stopping him to say go on Paddy lad! Even now when he goes into school people will shout go on Kian lad!

Me: What do you want to do next after lockdown?

Kian: Get back to racing!

Me: Where do you want to go next?

Kian: Every racecourse!

Me: Is that the plan? To do every racecourse?

Hannah: We’re going to try and go to Ireland too and see some Irish racing.

Me: Talking about Irish racing, I seen you met Gordon Elliott at Cheltenham too, what did he say to you?

Kian: Aye up Kian lad!

Me: Everyone just knows who you are!

Kian: And I met Ruby Walsh!

Hannah: When we first went through the gates Ruby Walsh was stood there and he said ‘hiya Kian’.

Kian: I spoke to Davy Russell, Nico de Boinville and Harry Cobden. I spoke to everyone!

Me: To finish off Kian, what are we telling everyone to bet on for Cheltenham?

Kian: Imperial Alcazar.

Me: And as Fergal’s assistant, do you know what race he’s going into yet or have you not decided?

Kian: We haven’t decided. I had a look and I think the 3 mile staying hurdle.

Me: With Fergal do you advise him on what to do or does he advise you?

Kian: I advise him!

Me: Thank you for talking to me today Kian!

Kian: Thank you!


Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to Kian and Hannah for having a chat with me, I thoroughly enjoyed our call and talking about all things racing. I think Kian is absolutely brilliant for the sport and I think he has a long future in the sport with whatever he chooses to do next.

And secondly, if you haven’t already seen, Kian has started up his very own blog and I highly recommend going over to his page to have a read of his work: https://theassistanttrainer.wordpress.com/.

Again thank you to Kian and Hannah for their time and I hope my readers enjoy this informal interview/chat as much as I have!