Native River: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com, today’s post is a little different, but I am hoping to make this into a potential new series called ‘What Makes a People’s Horse?’ And I thought after a brilliant weekend of racing, there is no better time to focus in on one horse who finally found himself back in the winners enclosure and who happens to be my all time favourite horse, which is, of course, Native River. Social media on Saturday was absolutely buzzing with happiness after seeing him win at Sandown and I wanted to write a post, breaking down some of his achievements as well as thinking about how he’s become such a popular horse amongst racing fans. So without further ado, shall we jump right in?

So, first things first, who is Native River? Native River was foaled 4th May 2010, by Indian River (FR) out of Native Mo (IRE). He was bred by Mr Fred Mackey in Ireland and in November 2010 he was consigned to the Tattersalls Ireland National Hunt Sale. He was brought by John Dineen for just €6000 who found owners, husband and wife, Garth and Anne Broom, better known as Brocade Racing.

Native River then began his racing career on the amateur point-to-point circuit. On 17th March 2014, he unseated his rider at a meeting at Dromahane before being sent to England to Colin Tizzard’s yard to start his professional career.

He didn’t get off to a bad start, finishing third out of seven in a National Hunt Flat Race at Newton Abbott on 10th October 2014 under Brendan Powell, before winning his first Novices’ Hurdle just three weeks later on 30th October 2014 at Stratford under Brendan Powell again, at 8/1 beating the 11/4 favourite Mount Haven. The good streak continued, when on 29th November 2014 he won again, this time at Newcastle in a Class 2, again under Brendan Powell, this time at 10/1 beating the odds on 8/11 favourite Definitly Red.

Native River then got stepped up in class for his first Grade 1 at Newbury, maybe a little too soon, as he came 6th out of 6 runners in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle on 29th December 2014. The next time he ran was at Cheltenham on 24th January 2015 in the Classic Novices’ Hurdle where he fell 2 out. His next race came pretty swiftly, on 8th February 2015, this time at Exeter where he returned to his winning ways, winning at 9/2, beating the odds on 4/5 favourite Emerging Talent. Next up for Native River was the big one, the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. A very good line up set to run, after making a mistake and losing places, he finished 9th in the race.

So, where to next? Novice chasing was the way to go and that is exactly what the Tizzard team did. His next race came on 10th October 2015 at Chepstow in his first Novice Chase, where he did not disgrace himself at all, finishing 3rd at 10/1, before very swiftly winning his first Novice Chase just a couple of weeks later on 3rd November 2015 at Exeter as the 11/8 favourite under Brendan Powell again, this time winning by a massive 16 lengths. An interesting fact, in this race he beat Abracadabra Sivola, who was actually rode by Native River’s now jockey, Richard Johnson.

He was then stepped up in class for the Worcester Novices’ Chase over three miles at Newbury on 26th November 2015. He took the lead approaching the final fence before pulling away to win by almost four lengths from 6/4 favourite Un Temps Pour Tout. After this race one of his owners Garth Broom had said:

He’s only five and giving weight away against older, more experienced horses… He’s got it all. He can stay and he can quicken.”

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2015/nov/26/colin-tizzard-winner-native-river-newbury

He was then made favourite for the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton’s Boxing Day meeting. After a couple of awkward jumps he finished third as 6/4 favourite, with Tea For Two winning under Lizzie Kelly. His next race came just over a month later on 6th February 2016 at Wetherby in a Grade 2 Novice Chase where he came third at 11/4 behind winner Blaklion (4/1) and second place Definitly Red (3/1). Next up was the Cheltenham Festival where he rode in the Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase on the Tuesday of the festival, 15th March 2016, where he did not disgrace himself in the slightest, coming second behind Minella Rocco (8/1), under Mr Michael Legg at 7/1. He then went onto Aintree on 8th April 2016, for the Grade 1 Mildmay Novices’ Chase, where arguably one of the best partnerships in horse racing began, winning under Richard Johnson at 11/2.

Native River then started the new season, surprisingly to some, in a Grade 2 hurdle race at Wetherby on 29th October 2016, coming second under Richard Johnson again, at 5/2. Next up was a big one though, the Hennessy Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 furlongs at Newbury on 26th November 2016, where he went on to win as the 7/2 favourite, again under Richard Johnson. This was swiftly followed up by a race just as big, if not bigger, the Coral Welsh Grand National over 3 mile 5 1/2 furlongs at Chepstow on 27th December 2016 where he went on to win as the 11/4 favourite under Richard Johnson once again.

Then into 2017, Native River had a month before his next run which came on 11th February 2017 at Newbury in the Denman Chase, where he won, this time under Aidan Coleman at 11/10. Interesting fact to mention, the brilliant Bristol De Mai, who has had some brilliant races with Native River over the years, ended up coming third in this race as the 10/11 favourite. Next up for Native River was the big one at the Cheltenham Festival, on 17th March 2017 he competed in his first Gold Cup Chase over 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, however, again not disgracing himself in the slightest, Native River finished 3rd at 7/2 back under his now regular jockey Richard Johnson, behind winner Sizing John (7/1) and Minella Rocco (18/1).

With the Gold Cup being an extremely gruelling race, Native River then took a 330 day break. During his break, I actually conducted my first ever interview which was with Champion Jockey Richard Johnson, which you can read right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and during that interview he said the following:

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.”

Bare that quote in mind for a few minutes!

Native River then made his return to the track to retain his Denman Chase crown on 10th February 2018, winning as the 8/11 favourite under Champion Jockey and now best friend Richard Johnson, after using that as his prep run, next up The Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup.

Arguably, my favourite race to watch back over and over again and also the first time I was there to witness a Gold Cup in person so definitely a day I will never ever forget! Friday 16th March 2018, the Grade 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase where Native River went on to win at 5/1, beating 4/1 favourite Might Bite. The duel between these two horses is one never to be forgotten, a brilliant battle between two incredible horses. Side note: I do want to take a second to wish Might Bite the happiest of retirements from racing and I wish him the best in whatever he goes on to do next, an incredible horse and I am so glad he’s been retired on his own terms.

Native River then went on to take a 253 day break before returning on 24th November at Haydock in the Betfair Chase, again, the first time I had been to Betfair Chase Day and what a race it was to watch! With only 5 horses competing, but the best in the country in my opinion, favourite Might Bite (Evens), Native River (5/2), Bristol De Mai (13/2), Thistlecrack (10/1) and Clan Des Obeaux (11/1). Native River finished second behind the incredible Bristol De Mai. Then going in to the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day, finishing 3rd at 9/2 behind Clan Des Obeaux (12/1) and Thistlecrack (15/2).

After a 79 day break, we go into 2019 and straight into the Cheltenham Gold Cup to try and retain his title, however it was not meant to be, not to be disgraced, he finished in 4th place with reining Gold Cup Champion Al Boum Photo winning his first Gold Cup at 12/1. Native River then took a long summer holiday with a 267 day break.

During this time, I was honoured to have been able to visit the Colin Tizzard team at Venn Farm where I met my absolute hero Native River. You can read all about it right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/vip-stable-visit-to-colin-tizzards-venn-farm/. But in brief, I was able to watch Native River on the gallops, before then walking him off the walker to his stable, where I fed him and put his blankets on. I was asked to do this by their team as they knew how much I adored him and I can honestly never thank them enough for it, to them it was nothing, but to me, a girl who had followed this horse, travelled to see this horse and just absolutely love him, this was a dream come true. A day I will never ever forget truthfully.

He then returned on 7th December 2019 at Aintree for the Grade 2 Many Clouds Chase, where he won as the 5/6 odds on favourite.

Next up was 8th February 2020, the Denman Chase at Newbury, however regular jockey Richard Johnson was unfortunately injured at the time so the Tizzard team called up conditional jockey Jonjo O’Neill Jr for the job where he easily steered Native River around to win as the odds on 2/5 favourite.

However, bad news struck for the Tizzards and Native River fans when just 11 days later on 19th February 2020 it was announced that he was being ruled out for the rest of the season with a suspensory tendon injury with Joe Tizzard telling Racing TV:

Unfortunately we’ve had to scratch Native River from the Gold Cup this morning – he’s picked up a suspensory tendon injury, which means his season is over.”

https://www.racingtv.com/news/injured-native-river-out-of-gold-cup

Bringing joy to so many, Native River finally returned to the track after a 301 day break on 5th December 2020 at Aintree for the Many Clouds Chase where he came 3rd at 9/4 behind Lake View Lad (16/1) and favourite Santini (13/8).

Then this weekend on 6th February 2021, Native River showed his class once again, returning to the winners enclosure when he won the rescheduled Cotswold Chase at Sandown at 13/2 where he beat 9/4 favourite Bristol De Mai.

So, now that I’ve caught you up on a crazy career, I want to just explain a few facts about Native River which I researched this weekend and I couldn’t get my head around. If you follow me and have for a while, you’ll know that this horse is a horse that I absolutely adore and have travelled the country up and down to visit, but I did not realise just how good the statistics are.

So firstly, I am going to go through Native River’s race record of all of those races I have just went through:

U/3116F19/3113321/21113/11/234/11-31

So, summing it up, apart from 1 unseated, 1 6th, 1 fall and 1 9th – all in his p2p/hurdle days, Native River has always been within the top 3, with 1 4th in the entirety of his career and since chasing he’s only finished outside of the top 3 once.

So, as explained above, Native River started his chasing career on 10th October 2015, he did run one hurdle race in 2016 where he came 2nd, this has not been including in these figures, the following figures are purely chasing figures:

20 Races
11 x 1st
2 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th

Which includes winning:

2 x Grade 1’s
6x Grade 2’s
2 x Grade 3’s

Now, Native River’s professional career as a whole, hurdling and chasing, not including his one point-to-point:

28 Races
14 x 1st
3 x 2nd
7 x 3rd
1 x 4th
1 x 6th
1 x 9th
1 x Fall

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves. In his career, he has made over £1 million but also made so many fall in love with him. He is a horse who wears his heart on his sleeve and will give you a million percent every single time and I personally think that is why people love him so much. He’s a horse that as a racing fan, you might not choose to bet on every single time he races, but if and when he does win, you love to see it. (Personally I do bet on him every single time he runs but that’s just me aha). I have loved seeing so many lovely tweets about him this past weekend and I had to share his story and stats!

When I went to the Tizzard’s yard, Joe was very open about how loved he is, he told us how he’s one of the calmest horses in their yard and people are always drawn to him when they visit. You can just see how loved he is by his team and racing fans in general.

On a final note, if Brocade Racing, Colin Tizzard, Joe Tizzard, Richard Johnson or any other connections read this, when he retires I volunteer to take him off your hands if you do not already have a plan. (Cheeky little plug, but if you don’t ask you don’t get, right?)

Thank you so much for reading this post, a little different for me, but I want to take a chance in 2021 and really venture out and try new things, I did put on Twitter this weekend all about my new series and I received over 100 suggestions of horses that people want me to research and look into and write up about, so I have plenty more of this content to come this year and probably into next with the amount I was sent! I am super excited for this series as it is all about opinions, the words ‘people’s horse’ can be interpreted in so many ways, for me a horse like Galileo is a people’s horse, but more for what he’s done since retiring from racing opposed to whilst racing, but then you have the greats like Kauto Star who is known for the unreal racing career he had, but then Native River like today’s post who is still going and is still performing to his best. There are so many ways you can look at why a horse is so popular and that is why I am going to love this series so much as it’s a range of ideas, suggestions and opinions from racing fans. If you do have any other suggestions of horses you’d like me to focus on then do send them my way and I can add them onto my list, the list is very very long but I will be trying to get through them all at some point!

I will hopefully see you all in my next post!

An Interview with Harry Cobden

Good Evening!

Welcome to a brand new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. Today I am very excited to bring to you an interview with someone I have been wanting to interview for a long time and that is of course Harry Cobden. I was lucky enough to sit down with Harry last week on a zoom call and discuss all things horse racing and I can promise you it is a good one so without further ado, let’s jump right into it!


Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Harry: I’d say my favourite replay to watch would be Topofthegame in the RSA, it was just tactically a great race and you know, some fantastic horses in the race, so yeah, it’s one I just love watching back.

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

Harry: I don’t know, I mean, Kauto Star was pretty spectacular and his race record was unbelievable wasn’t it? You know, if you could have a go on a horse like that, then you know, you only get one of them in a lifetime.

Me: When I have spoken to the likes of AP McCoy and Richard Johnson they have always said how the whip is a vital part of the jockeys kit in order to ensure the safety of the horses and yourselves, what are your personal opinions surrounding the whip and the discussion of people wanting the whip banned?

Harry: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with them any more really because the whip is vital, it’s there for the safety of the jockey, it’s there for the safety of the horse. The whips are actually made out of a foam sort of thing nowadays so they’re actually not there to hurt the horse, so I am all for the whip. And you know, I think it’s… We’re in a position now where safety is paramount isn’t it? I think we should continue using it. And one other thing I would say is that jockeys don’t abuse the whip either, if you look over sort of the last 10 years, whip bans have come down immensely and I think jockeys as a whole are doing a good job to make sure we don’t go over the permitted level.

Me: When I visited Colin Tizzard’s yard back in November 2019, Joe mentioned to us that they had offered you the stable jockey job there, obviously you took the job with Paul, how hard of a decision was that? Two massive stables fighting it out to have you as their main jockey.

Harry: Yeah, obviously a massive decision, especially when you’re only sort of 19 but, you know, thankfully we’ve, well I’ve stayed in with the whole Tizzard family and I’ve been very fortunate to have rode plenty of winners for them since. Yeah, I suppose I’m really grateful they’re still using me when I’m available. Yeah, it was a tough decision, but yeah I started off with Paul and he’s obviously been very good to me and I’m still riding plenty of good horses and lots of winners there so that was the decision really.

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

Harry: Erm, I suppose Richard Johnson would be the ultimate professional. He’s a proper gentleman and the way he conducts himself is absolutely fantastic and yeah, he is the ultimate professional in every way really on and off the track.

Me: Following on from that slightly, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by a fellow jockey?

Harry: Erm, I wouldn’t really specifically say I could think of something off the top of my head because I’ve been told so much in the past but, I’m struggling to think, but I’m sure I’ve been told to keep my head down and work hard or something.

Me: So, obviously Paul has some incredible horses in his yard, what would you say is the Paul Nicholls and Harry Cobden banker of the Cheltenham Festival?

Harry: If I was going to pick one out now, I would probably say Bravemansgame in the Ballymore, he’d be looking like my best chance going into it if the Festival was tomorrow, but look, the Irish are obviously very strong so we’re not really sure what they’re going to bring over for that yet, but yeah, if the Festival was tomorrow I would say him. He’s a lovely horse and we’re very fortunate to have him.

Me: What is the one race you’d love to win that you haven’t yet?

Harry: One hundred and ten percent the Gold Cup.

Me: On to the Gold Cup, obviously everyone loves Cyrname and wants to know how he is after the King George, it was a gruelling race, how’s he come out of that and will we see him head towards the Gold Cup or is there other plans for him?

Harry: I’m not really sure, I mean myself and Paul have had a few discussions and I haven’t actually heard the final outcome, but it’s definitely still on the agenda and there is a big possibility he will go straight there. The King George was a bit of a strange one, I’m sort of still scratching my head over it now, he felt great going into the race and you know, everyone seems very pleased with him coming out of it, it was just one of those disappointing days where I’m not really sure what happened. I probably should have been more positive and erm, he’s not as keen as he was, he’s more relaxed now. Yeah, maybe I should’ve gave him a slap down the shoulder and sent him on and got him up there to be competitive. He’s quietened down a lot and that could be just what it is. Going forward he seems absolutely A1.

Me: So he’s absolutely fine coming out of that, there’s nothing to worry about?

Harry: Nothing to report and erm, Scott who rides him out every day seems pleased with him and yeah, it’s very odd, maybe he doesn’t like Kempton. But yeah, I’m still scratching my head now because there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the horse.

Me: In terms of the King George, Frodon won under Bryony (Frost), how special is that as a team? As the stable jockey who isn’t on the winner, how does that affect you? Do you still get involved in the celebrations as a team and feel the excitement even though it was Bryony riding a winner for Paul rather than yourself?

Harry: It is a massive team effort. Paul would employ 50 to 60 people to ride out on the yard and it’s a huge team effort, everyone puts so much in and it’s good for Bryony, it’s good for Paul and it’s great for racing I think. You know, for a girl to win the King George for the first time is fantastic and it’s good for racing. So back in the yard it was a great atmosphere on the Monday morning, so I’m certainly not going to be bitter over that one.

Me: I know first hand from visiting Paul’s yard and seeing the horses treated like royalty there, so what do you think when people say horse racing is animal cruelty?

Harry: Yeah, I mean, if they actually came and saw for themselves, you know, basically they just think that jockeys don’t really care for the horse and they’re just there for the money and all they care about is whipping the horse, but that’s really not what it’s like. The horses are obviously cared for seven days a week and the lads and lasses absolutely love the horses and you can really see the affection in the yard and when you go there in the morning… Like today I seen a video of Scott giving Master Tommytucker a carrot and stuff like that and just the way they’re treated. They’re mucked out, they’re groomed, they’ve got top quality feed, we’ve got a physio who goes around giving the horses physio. And you know, just the little things and if they could come in and see that for themselves then I’m sure they’d have a different view.

Me: Talking about Master Tommytucker, on Saturday (09/01/2021) I was watching from home and my heart was in my mouth watching you at the last, what was you thinking in that moment?

Harry: Yeah, it was obviously one of those hairy moments but he’s such a difficult horse to ride in the fact that I had got it right the whole way round then I came down to the last and sort of threw him at it which was erm… Probably not the brightest thing to do in the world, but yeah, he luckily stood up and we all got away with it but I was a little bit worried for a minute because it was a hairy old jump. But he’s obviously improving and yeah he’s going the right way. It’s almost taken me 4 or 5 races to actually learn how to ride him, he’s got his own way of doing things and I think now I’m starting to get the hang of it because he is quite difficult.

Me: And when we were watching on TV, Mick Fitzgerald said that the smaller field probably helped him a little bit, is that how you felt?

Harry: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people are saying he has to make the running but I disagree with that. He actually ran in the Caspian Caviar last time out and I just didn’t feel like he was 100% that day. When he bolted up at Haydock the time before it was really deep ground and we probably underestimated how hard a race he had.

Me: Obviously you’re still very young with plenty of riding years ahead of you, have you got AP McCoy’s record in sight? Do you think you can come close to it or beat it maybe?

Harry: No. I say I wouldn’t come anywhere near it. His record is absolutely phenomenal isn’t it? I don’t think it’ll ever get beaten ever again and I know for a fact it won’t be me beating it anyway.

Me: So, Paul has some younger horses in the yard, what would you say is the horse to watch, maybe not for this season but in the coming seasons?

Harry: I suppose we have had plenty of bumper winners this season and off the top of my head, I rode a really nice horse, one at Newbury called Petrossian, he seems a lovely horse, Mr Denmark owns him and he’s got loads of speed and loads of gears. I’m not sure he won the greatest bumper in the world but he is a nice type and he could just be one of those nice horses that goes on to do well in the 2 mile novice hurdle division next season. But you know, there are so many, the amount of bumper horses we’ve got this year, like the one Megan won on, Mr Glass, and she won the listed bumper, Silent Revolution, you know we could go on for a long time, but I suppose Petrossian would be the one that gave me a great feel on the way around.

Me: As the stable jockey at Ditcheat, was is the process if there is multiple horses in a race? Do you make the decision on what to ride or does that ultimately go down to Paul?

Harry: It’ll definitely be a joint discussion, obviously if Paul had his thoughts and I had mine we’d always talk about it beforehand. But I haven’t actually got it right too often as of late, I seem to be picking the wrong ones, but hopefully it’ll come right in a minute.

Me: What is your favourite track to go and ride at?

Harry: I’d say probably Wincanton because it’s 5 minutes from my house and I have a 40% strike rate around there.

Me: The final question from me is, what would be your best piece of advice for a young person who has a passion in something, whether that be racing or not, that they want to follow?

Harry: You know, you’ve gotta believe in yourself and follow your dreams but at the same time be realistic and work hard.


I want to say a massive thank you to Harry for taking some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me and have a chat. This was probably one of my favourite interviews to date as Harry was very open, very honest and willing to discuss anything within the sport and I feel as though with his answers we got a real insight into Harry, Ditcheat and racing as a whole. That for me, is the whole point of what I do. I want to broadcast our sport to a wider, younger audience by being as transparent as possible and opening peoples eyes to behind the scenes that they may not get to see otherwise.

I hope everyone has enjoyed this as much as I did. I will see you all on Saturday for my next post which is another super excciting one where I interview Rachael Blackmore!

An Interview with Theo Gillard

Theo Gillard

Hey guys!

Today’s post is an interview with Theo Gillard, who is currently a conditional jockey based with Donald McCain. Let’s get straight into it!

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Me: What is your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Theo: Riding a winner at Aintree has to be the standout one, but having a ride over the National fences was some buzz too.

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

Theo: Master Minded in his prime looked electric. There are plenty of others, but he stands out the most to me.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Theo: Same opinion as any of the other lads in the weighing room. It’s there for safety and encouragement so if you stick to the rules, which are spot on as they are now, I think they should stay the same.

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 eat anything and everything or is it a strict kind of diet all year round?

Theo: I tend not to eat breakfast, usually because I don’t get up in time for it! As for lunch, I tend to have mugshots or noodles, which work well for me with a but of fruit or something. For tea I try to stick to lean meats, but you’ve got to get takeout now and then to keep yourself sane. In the current situation I’m sure plenty of the lads will make use of the few weeks off we have, as I will too, to enjoy food a bit more than we normally would.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Theo: To anyone that thinks racing is cruel, I’d love to show any one of them around any racing yard in the country to prove how well they are looked after and loved by all stable staff in the industry. I’m sure it would widen plenty of peoples eyes to racing if they did a bit of proper research on it.

Me: Racing is an all year round sport, so when you do get some down time, what do you like to do?

Theo: We get a few weeks here and there in the summer, so it’s always nice to get away on a holiday or away with the Mrs to have some down time away from racing and feel like a ‘normal person’ for a few days.

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

Theo: There are a lot of good lads in the weighing room, but Dicky (Richard Johnson) is a proper role model. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ridden one winner or a thousand, he always has time for anyone and everyone and is an all round top man.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Theo: At this point in my career, winning any race is a great day for me. But the Gold Cup, as for many other lads is iconic, as well as the Grand National, but I wouldn’t be picky mind.

Me: What would be your ‘horse to watch’ for the next season or two?

Navajo Pass ran a great race to be the 4th in the Triumph at this years Festival and could be a real nice stayer in the future. But the unfortunate Goshen looked extremely impressive too an could turn out to be anything.

Me: What is your favourite course to ride at and why?

Theo: Ironically, I love riding at Bangor. Donald’s horses tend to run well there and I think front runners are hard to peg back round there, so that’s what makes it my favourite course. As well as it’s only 10 minutes from home, so it makes it ideal for me.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether it be in racing or something else?

Theo: Racing or not, starting off your career in anything, keep your head down and work hard but enjoy yourself. Take it seriously, but not too seriously, because your head can play some serious mind games with you if you get too worked up about everything. As long as you can look back at it and be proud of what you have you’re career, what you’ve achieved and be happy with it, then you’re grand.

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Firstly, as always, I want to thank Theo for taking time out to answer some questions. It is appreciated. Theo works for a top trainer with some brilliant horses and with the passion he has for the sport, you can see he will go on to do great things and I, for one, cannot wait to follow his career over the next few years!

I really hope you enjoyed this post! See you all in my next.

An Interview with 20 Time Champion Jockey AP McCoy

AP McCoy (1)

Hey guys!

Today I am ecstatic to bring to you one of the biggest interviews I have done to date. The legend that is AP McCoy. In my time AP is the best jockey I have witnessed, he is also a brilliant ambassador for the sport and an all round gentleman and for a while now we have been talking and discussing a potential date for when we could get together for an interview and yesterday on the first day of Cheltenham that finally happened! AP has been super supportive of the work I’m doing to reach out and introduce the sport to more people as well as showing people the behind the scenes and the things you may not get to see as a racing fan, which I have found super interesting, so to have the support from someone such as AP is huge for me and genuinely means a lot. I am so thankful to AP for taking some time out of his ridiculously busy day to have a chat with me. I really hope you enjoy!

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Me: When I interviewed Richard Johnson he said he missed you in the dressing room as a friend more than anything, what do you miss the most about Richard?

AP: I miss him torturing me every day to try and make myself better. We actually… even though we were competing against each other every day we were the best of friends. Obviously we were in the weighing room together every day together and we were the very few people in their every single day. Erm, since I’ve retired I’ve been really pleased he’s managed to win the last 4 jockey championships. He’s a great credit to himself and a great credit to the sport. Yeah I really miss competing against him because he always brought out the best in me.

Me: If you could ride one horse that is currently in training, what horse would you choose?

AP: Erm, I think I’d probably like to ride Tiger Roll going into a third Grand National because you know it’s a brilliant story him going on to try and win a third Grand National. Hopefully everything will go okay before then. But yeah, I’d probably say he’s a bit of a people’s horse, he’s a bit of a celebrity in his own rights so he’s probably the one.

Me: Onto the Grand National, do you think the weights have hindered or helped anyone in particular and do you think Tiger Roll can go on to win it?

AP: You know, it’s gonna be a tough task for him but I think he deserves the weight. And what I think and what a lot of bookmakers think is he’s gonna win. He’s a pretty outright favourite in my opinion and seemingly in everyone else’s opinion too.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks horse racing is animal cruelty?

AP: Erm, I never feel like I have to justify this sport to anyone. I think if a few of these protesters outside the Grand National at Aintree and you brought them a horse that was running in the Grand National and tell them to take them home and to look after them, I’d love to see what the reaction is. I don’t have to justify my love for the horses or my care I have for these horses to anyone, especially not someone who has no interest in the actual animal themselves and actually loving the animal and caring for the animal and doing what we do. So I think we spend too much time justifying ourselves to people like that.

Me: Obviously you suffered a lot of injuries during your career, just how important are the Injured Jockey’s Fund?

AP: Yeah the Injured Jockey’s Fund are hugely important, we’re very lucky to have such an organisation for current and past jockeys. It’s something that not every sport has and I think it makes me very proud of horse racing to have such an organisation.

Me: How important was Dave Roberts to your career as a friend and an agent?

AP: Dave Roberts was someone I spoke to every day for twenty odd years, he guided me in the right direction and gave me great advice. He has unbelievable knowledge of the sport and had as much of an obsession in winning as I had and I definitely wouldn’t have won or been half as successful without him.

Me: Do you see any young jockey’s now that could go on to break your record?

AP: I think records always get broken and mine are no different. There are certain things that I think will be obviously harder than others, you know I think in 2002 January to January for 7 years I rode for Martin Pipe who was numerically dominant, I don’t know if jockey’s now will ever be lucky enough to have that support from someone who is as numerically dominant as Martin Pipe was. So to ride 207 winners is something I think will be hard for another jockey to do in a calendar year. I broke Gordon Richard’s record in 2002 for 289 winners in a season and again, that would be tough. I think you need a little bit of luck to stay in one piece to win 20 consecutive jockey Championships so you know, they will need a little luck but it can be done.

Me: As an Irish man, do you ever regret not riding in Ireland more?

AP: No, look I, obviously being from Ireland I left there when I was 20. I spent four and a half years riding for Jim Bolger and that was the making of me. Would I have liked to ride in Ireland more? Yeah, I loved my time in Ireland. But I got into the position in this country where I as champion jockey for a period of time and that became my obsession maintaining that level and that’s why I spent as much time riding here as I did in my career.

Me: Onto the final question, what is your best piece of advice to a young person wanting to follow their dreams?

AP: I’m not from a racing family, you know I have 4 sisters and 1 brother who have never ridden horses in their life so it can happen. And as John Magnier said with Aidan O’Brien it’s hard work and it’s available to anyone you know, if you work hard enough then who know’s what could happen.

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Firstly, again I just want to say a massive thank you to AP for taking time out of his day to speak with me. He was truly a gentleman and I appreciate it so much. Personally I think he is a brilliant ambassador for our sport, not only is he the best jockey I have witnessed in my life time, he is also someone with extensive knowledge in every area of the sport and he is also someone who will make time for anyone, take as many photos that are requested by racing fans, talk to everyone, shake hands with everyone, just all round a brilliant guy.

I am of course ridiculously grateful to be given the opportunity to interview AP and I really hope you have all enjoyed this post!

An Interview with Adrian Heskin

Adrian (1)

Heya guys!

I have been lucky enough to interview the brilliantly talented Adrian Heskin, I really hope you enjoy reading what he had to say to me!

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Me: What s your favourite race of your career, win or lose?

Adrian: The 2010 Glenfarclas Cross Country race at the Cheltenham Festival. On A New Story. It was a kick-start to my career and a memory I will have forever.

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

Adrian: Sprinter Sacre. Best 2 mile chase I’ve seen in my opinion and he must have been some thrill to ride.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Adrian: I think the racing press is our own worst enemy about the whip as it gets brought up far too often to the public. I don’t see anything wrong with the rules as they stand.

Me: What is your favourite racecourse and why?

Adrian: Aintree is a favourite of mine. Always beautiful ground, fair track and a good test of a chaser.

Me: You’re the retained jockey for the McNeill family, how is that for you? They’re obviously very well known in the sport so do you feel any pressure when you put their silks on?

Adrian: I’m in a very privileged position to ride for such a good owner. It gives me an opportunity to have relationships with a lot of top trainers in the country which is great. I don’t feel pressure to be honest, I just try to perform to get the best out of each horse. It’s a big team effort.

Me: What is one race you’d love to win?

Adrian: The Gold Cup. And in my current positioning, I think it’s a realistic dream for one day.

Me: No pressure, but when I asked Richard Johnson his bet of the season he said Lostintranslation to win the Betfair Chase, which of course he did, so what is your bet of the season?

Adrian: Tiger Roll in the Cross Country in March.

Me: What would be your horse to watch for the next season or two?

Adrian: A horse of the McNeill family’s and Prodec Networks called I K Brunel. He will make into a smashing chaser next season.

Me: What would you say to anyone who thinks racing is animal cruelty?

Adrian: For people who think this sport is cruel, they need to have a closer look. It’s a fantastic sport and the horses have the best care taken of them.

Me: What is your favourite day of the racing calendar?

Adrian: The 26th of December. The busiest day in the racing year and it’s fantastic if you have a good Christmas period.

Me: What is your best advice for young people who have a passion they want to follow, whether that be racing or something else?

Adrian: If you have a passion, before you pursue it you have to be 100% dedicated to succeed.

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I know how busy Adrian is, so firstly I want to say a massive thank you to him for taking time out of his day to let me ask him some questions. Adrian is a brilliant talent and with the powerful horses he is able to ride, he will definitely succeed and do great things within the sport.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed this post as much as I have writing it.

See you all very soon for my next post!

Visiting Philip Hobbs’ Sandhill Racing Stable

Visiting Philip Hobbs' Sandhill Racing Stable

Hiya guys!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to visit Philip Hobbs’ incredible Sandhill stables based down in Minehead. Philip started in 1985 with just 6 horses, he now has 110 in training. With these 110 horses, Philip’s goal per year is to have 100 winners and £1 million in prize money.

When we arrived we met Philip who introduced us to his assistant trainer Johnson White. Johnson would be showing us around all day as Philip himself had a very important day at Ascot with Defi Du Seuil. But before Philip left he met us, took photos and spoke to us about Defi and what chance he thought he had, he also arranged for us to be guests of his yard at Taunton races, which was lovely of him. Thank you to Mr Hobbs and his team for being so lovely with us.

So before I get into the day , I want to say a massive thank you to Johnson who was very knowledgeable, answered all of our questions and was just a lovely person all around. Johnson started by showing us around the ins and outs of the yard, including his office, his head girls’ office. The stable have multiple lists around the offices including, what the horses have done on that day, if the horse has a cough or a cut or anything wrong with them, so they can always go back and look at the lists if there is ever an issue.

We were then shown one of the most important rooms, the silks room. Each owner of course has their own colours so it is a super important job to ensure the right colours go with the right horses. Yesterday Philip had multiple horses going to multiple places, so it was important to make sure everything was in line and correct.

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Then we were taken around to the walkers, where we met the lovely Thyme Hill who was warming up. Johnson told us, they all love Thyme Hill and he is definitely a horse to watch out for. The horses normally do 30 minutes on a walker to warm up, do their work and then 30 minutes to cool down after being washed off.

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Johnson also showed us the weighing scales, where each horse is weighed before they leave the yard for a race and then when they return. He said on average a horse will lose around 10kg, however a horse travelling a fair distance, like Haydock yesterday would lose around 15kg. But within 24-48 hours they are normally back to their starting weight. 

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Johnson then took us to meet the lovely Rock The Kasbah before he set off to Taunton for his race, in which he ended up coming second. Rock The Kasbah has always been a horse I have adored so it was a total dream to finally meet him and wish him luck for his big race. He is a super loving horse, so calm and cool and collected. Johnson did say that he would not like the heavy ground at all, but they were running him as they had no other options for him and if he didn’t run now it would be another 6-8 weeks before he ran at all. So hearnig that, it was very nice to see him come second even though he hates the heavy ground.

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We were then taken up to the gallops where Philip has two different gallops. He has a woodchip gallop and a polytrack gallop. Johnson said that regularly the horses train 6 days a week doing 3 times up the polytrack gallop or 2 on the woodchip gallop, depending on workload, racing plans etc.

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We got to see some very talented horses, including some younger horses yet to run and some incredible horses we all know and have probably bet on before.

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We walked up the hill to the top of the gallop and we were all breathing heavily and feeling it in our legs. So that showed us how much work these horses do put in every day to reach top fitness.

Johnson then took us down to their outdoor 12 foot pool. He said currently they only have one horse that swims, but if they feel swimming will help a horse without too much pressure on their legs and back then that’s the route they go down. Their pool is a gravity fed pool from their pond and then they add chlorine to make sure it is safe for the animals. He said normally a horse would do 6 laps around the pool and then come out and go onto a walker to dry before going back to their stable. 

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We were then welcomed into Philip’s house where we had some lovely breakfast and a cuppa where the team answered some of the questions we had.

Johnson told us he had worked for Philip for 25 years and that the whole team love working for him. He also told us Richard Johnson, Philip’s stable jockey and Champion jockey, visits the yard at least once every 2 weeks to ride out for him. However he did say that the majority of the staff Philip has are jockeys/amateurs/conditionals so they don’t need Richard there every single day as they have the capacity to ride the horses out and school them. But having Richard there is obviously an added bonus as he is probably (almost definitely) the person who will be riding these horses on the track. So it’s good to have him school the horses and get a good feel for them.

We were then allowed to walk around the yard and meet some of their stable stars, including Thyme Hill, Reikers Island, Horse Force One (one of the most loving horses I have ever met), Brother Tedd and JP’s Jerrysback.

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Both Philip and Johnson both said Defi is in top form going into yesterday’s race and they fully expected him to win. They wouldn’t give too much away about which route at Cheltenham they would go down and said they would leave it until the ‘last possible moment’ to make any decisions in regard to Defi and Thyme Hill’s futures. He said they regularly make a plan of action for horses but they leave it down to the last possible second to decide what they actually want to do.

Overall we had an amazing day at the yard, the whole team were lovely and very knowledgeable. They were understaffed due to having so many runners in different places so their staff were out with their horses. But they all mucked in to make sure all of the work was done and the horses were all looked after. Again, another visit where the horses welfare is at the forefront of everything they do. You can just see how much the stable staff adore the horses and how well looked after they truly are.

I want to say a massive thank you to Philip, Johnson and the whole team for their incredible hospitality and being so lovely, even on such a busy and hectic day!

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We were then lucky enough to pop down to Taunton whilst down there and be guests of Philip’s at their Portman Cup Day, which was an honour. So again, thank you to Philip for personally sorting that for us. It was truly an incredible end to an incredible day with his team.

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I find it super interesting when visiting different yards, that each trainer does the same thing with the same goal, but they all do it slightly different. Again, yesterday was the same concept but slightly different in how Philip does it. It’s amazing to have that insight into how such a successful trainer operates. He has been in the top 6 trainers for over 2 decades, which is an achievement in itself, so it truly was an honour spending the morning with his team and I am grateful to Philip for allowing me the opportunity.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed reading and I will see you all again soon, in my next post!

Visiting Michael Scudamore’s Eccleswall Court

Michael Scudamore

Hey guys!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Michael Scudamore’s gorgeous Eccleswall Court in Herefordshire, so today’s post is all about that visit and some real insights from Michael into various racing issues, such as bookmakers sponsoring jockeys and trainers, the whip and the Little Rory Mac scandal.

Firstly, we arrived at Eccleswall Court and can I just say how gorgeous it is, there is such a lovely view from the top of the hill, it is in the Hereford countryside and it is truly incredible up there.

Michael and his team only moved to Eccleswall in 2003 and at the time it was literally just a farm, so he has had to put a lot of work into making it what it is today. Michael currently has 40 horses in training, including 8 new horses that arrived this week from another yard.

Michael firstly took us down to the walkers and wash down area, he currently has 2 walkers. Every horse does a 20 minute warm up on one walker, then goes onto the gallops. Firstly the circle sand gallop which Michael only recently got installed at Eccleswall, they do 4 laps right handed, 4 laps left handed. They then do a sprint up the hill gallop before going back to the wash area, being washed off, having their blankets put on and then put onto the second walker and doing a 20 minute cool down.

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We were lucky enough to go up to the gallops and watch the horses on the sand gallop and the hill gallop. His horses all have incredible stamina and all of the work riders give top feedback to Michael each time they come around near him. For example one rider told him he could hear his horse had thick wind. Little bits of information which are vital to ensuring the horses get the best possible treatment and training they may need.

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One thing I can say, nothing against any of the other stables/trainers I have visited, but Michael is definitely the most hands on trainer I have been to visit. Always involved in every step of the morning set up which I thought was very very nice to see. He doesn’t just put his name to the yard, he is hands on every single day. For example, when a horse didn’t want to know on the gallops and the stable lass was having a bit of trouble, Michael ran straight down to get the horse going and didn’t bat an eyelid in doing so. A small gesture, but something I had never seen in any other visit I had been on.

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One of Michael’s new horses we did see was Fame and Glory, who looks as though he is gonna be a complete beast on the course. Good stamina, good speed and the stable lass was really impressed riding him for the first time.

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Michael then took us up to the stable blocks where we got to meet all of his horses. One thing I can say, is every single horse was calm and affectionate, with one even sticking it’s head and neck out even further as we got closer to him to make sure we didn’t miss him out.

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After seeing all parts of the yard, we were then invited into his house to have breakfast and a sit down chat where he answered all of our questions like a true gentleman. 

One thing Michael did talk about and was very honest about was his opinion on bookmakers sponsoring jockeys and trainers. His viewpoint is that our sport is very much about betting whether we like it or not, and he believes that a bookmaker should not be able to sponsor a jockey or trainer as they get a massive insight into the people they are sponsoring and that may mean the sport isn’t as transparent as it should be with the racing public. He also told us he believes the BHA jumped the gun with the Altior situation this past week. He believes that if the BHA don’t trust Nicky to make a decision for the horses best interest then they shouldn’t have given him a license in the first place.

Another thing Michael touched on was the BHA not being as consistent as they maybe should be. He believes there needs to be a panel of the same people each week who get together and discuss the previous week and anything that may need looking into in regards to enquiries etc. With the whole Dan Skelton, New Years Day situation this week, he said that some stewards see it one way, others see it another, so there is no consistency. Whereas if a panel of the same people made every decision per week then there would be more consistency. Which is something I totally agree on. Horse racing can very much be down to an individuals viewpoint of how or why something happened. If it were the same people then surely we would get more consistent results each time something happened? Obviously on a race day we have different stewards, but if one group of people were to look over everything each week then that would be better for our sport? Following on from that, he also believes the sport needs to be more open and transparent to the general public. For example, horses being weighed before a race and being declared to the public, like many other countries already do. Which again, another interesting point he has made. If a horse has weighed 470 all season but then weighs 500 going into a race then you know the horse is unfit. The trainers are being more transparent to the general public and it would certainly stop trainers sending horses out just for a racecourse gallop.

Another very important point he made is that before the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National Festival horses are made to trot before BHA stewards/vets etc to make sure they are fit to race. Michael believes that this should be the case at every meeting or none at all. “What’s the difference between sending a lame horse to Cheltenham or down the road to Chepstow? It should be consistent regardless of where or what meeting.” To me, that makes total sense, why have this set in place at certain meetings, but not others?

Another subject I found interesting, was the fact he believes that if a jockey uses the whip more than permitted they should be disqualified as this is essentially cheating. He said if a horse comes second is only whipped 8 times but the winner is whipped 10 times, did those 2 extra disallowed whips win the race for that horse? He also said he doesn’t believe the whip should be banned as 99% of jockeys stick to the rules and only flick the whip to make a noise to prick the horses up. I thought it’s interesting to note, Michael’s is the first yard I have been to where the stable riders don’t ride with a whip in hand. Every other yard I have visited they all have a whip in hand, even if they never use them. Michael said, this was as he didn’t believe there was a need for a whip as most of the horses love their work and don’t need encouraging. The only time he allows his staff to take a whip out is when the horse is new in from their holiday and may be a little lazy getting back into work.

One thing, of course I had to ask him was about Monbeg Dude and how he came about working with Mike Tindall, James Simpson-Daniel and Nicky Robinson. He said that they were at the Cheltenahm sales and after some, (many drinks), that day Mike put his hand up for a horse, showing off, but he thought someone else would outbid him. Turns out, nobody outbid him and he was stuck with a horse he didn’t really want. Zara was apparently totally fuming and said he either sold the horse or got someone else to buy into it, that’s how it came about. Michael, James and Nicky all took to the horse and in the end, it wasn’t a bad decision was it? A ridiculously talented horse at a bargain price of £12,000 as the previous owners were brothers and both thought the other had set a reserve, it turns out neither had so they got the horse so cheap, it was pretty unbelievable.

Michael also commented on wind ops, he believes they definitely work but, in his opinion, you only see it really showing in the 2nd or 3rd run when the horse is more used to breathing easily.

Michael also commented that he believes Richard Johnson will win champion jockey this year. He believes he deserves more credit for what he has achieved over the years and the work he has done for the sport as well as always making time for everybody and being a gentleman even on his bad days.

Overall, Michael was a lovely bloke, his staff were all lovely and yesterday was just incredible. A very knowledgeable group of people and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of our visit. I think it was definitely nice to see a smaller yard in action. Every yard I have visited has worked slightly different. Others I have been to are bigger than Michael’s so I found it very interesting to visit a smaller yard and really see how similar but different things are. All in all, I cannot thank Michael and his team enough for a lovely morning with them.

I really hope you enjoyed this post, I have plenty of new things coming over the next few weeks so keep your eyes peeled.

Thank you for reading.

An Updated Interview With Champion Jockey Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson

Hi guys!

So yesterday, whilst at Wincanton, I was lucky enough to do an updated interview with the Champion Jockey Richard Johnson. So without further ado, we will get straight into it!

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Me: Last time I interviewed you, you tipped Native River as your best chance at Cheltenham and you went on to win the Gold Cup with him, what is your top tip for 2020’s Cheltenham Festival?

Richard: Oh my gosh, erm, I suppose Thyme Hill I won on at Cheltenham the other day, you know, he’s just a really nice horse, he’s won two hurdle races already, they have both been grade 2’s so he’s already shown a very good level of form. And I don’t really know which race he will run in at Cheltenham yet but I know the plan will be to try and go there in March. So fingers crossed.

Me: What are your opinions surrounding the discussions of banning the whip?

Richard: Look, I think, obviously the whip has been spoken about since I started riding, I think personally, the whip is in a really really good place at the moment. Obviously I think the rules we have over here are very fair for jockeys and the jockeys over here use the whip in a very good way. And I think that horse welfare is very important but I don’t feel like the horses are under threat at all and at the moment, again the whip rules are in a very good place and obviously it’s worth reviewing it all the time but I think in the world of horse racing we are at the front of the whip management. 

Me: How did you get involved in riding for Gordon Elliott over here?

Richard: I have ridden for Gordon for a long time, but I actually rode his first ever winner he trained and that was at Perth, I think that’s why he loves Perth so much, that was an awful long time ago, But he’s a great connection and when he brings horses over, particularly in the summer, I tend to ride a lot of them. So he’s a great man to ride for and a great trainer.

Me: As you are one of the leading jockey’s at Chepstow, what is the secret? Because when we visited there, we couldn’t pick a winner.

Richard: I think Chepstow is a track where you need the right horse, that’s the main thing. It’s always good competitive racing there, but it is a stiff track and you need a horse that stays. This year especially we have had all the rain, so you do need a horse that handles all of that, a proper winter national hunt horse rather than an ex flat horse who needs decent ground. It’s just having the right horses that’s the important thing and I am lucky that quite a lot of Mr Hobbs’ horses suit the track, again, he’s a great trainer, you know, he knows the right horses to ride there and that’s why he has a great strike rate there as well.

Me: Are you keeping AP’s record in sight? Do you see yourself equalling it or beating it?

Richard: Erm, well it is definitely in sight, I know where it is. But I think it’s a long long way away at the moment, my next ambition I suppose is to try and get to 4000 winners which you know, I have to ride a lot more to get to there, so it is one step at a time. But it’s always something people talk about, but for me I take every season as it comes.

Me: We are visiting Philip Hobbs’ stable soon, what is the secret behind the long running relationship you have with him and his team?

Richard: Look they’re a fantastic team to ride for, very professional. Philip is an absolute gentleman as well, he takes the rough with the smooth. Obviously everybody is a great winner but he is very level headed and takes the good and the bad all the same. We have been together and had a very good partnership and we understand each other quite well.

Me: With AP and Ruby now retired, we are seeing a generation of jockey’s slowly phasing out, what younger, upcoming jockey’s do you see becoming a future Champion Jockey?

Richard: Gosh, there’s an awful lot. Obviously there are the likes of Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman, Harry Skelton, you know that sort of brigade coming through sort of after me I suppose. And then you’ve got your James and Sean Bowen, Richard Patrick and a whole heap of, young Jonjo O’Neill now is doing really well as well and I’ve only named a few there and there is a awful lot of talent about out there and I’m just trying to stay one step ahead of them and hopefully they don’t push me out of the door too soon.

Me: There are some incredible women jockey’s at the minute, do you ever see a woman becoming Champion Jockey?

Richard: I can’t see why not. Like you say, I think Lizzie Kelly and obviously Bridget Andrews, they’re probably the two and obviously Rachael Blackmore in Ireland, obviously she came very close to being Champion Jockey in Ireland last year. Looks, it’s all, whether you’re male or female riding a horse, it’s the same for us all and the most important thing is riding the right horses. I am very lucky to consistently get lovely horses to ride and again, it’s all about being in the right place at the right time, so I can’t see any reason why at some point that wouldn’t happen.

Me: With the Betfair Chase on Saturday, who do you tip to win and do you see a horse winning the Million Pound Triple?

Richard: Well look, obviously Kauto Star did it and you need to be a fantastic horse to win the Gold Cup and the King George, you know, in their own rights, those two races are very hard and different tests of a horse’s speed at Kempton and the stamina at Cheltenham. So you need a very very talented horse, there’s no reason why another horse can’t do it again. There’s only four there on Saturday now, Lostintranslation looks to have the world ahead of him and he’s the horse for me, that if he went on and won on Saturday, he’s the one, not saying he is definitely going to do it, but he’s the one looking open to the improvement to go in that direction.

Me: Finally, what do you think of Altior in the King George?

Richard: Again, a lot of good two milers have won a King George and stepped up in trip to do that. So there’s no reason that he shouldn’t. But again, we shall see him run on Saturday and I assume if he wins the King George will be his next run. But for me he’s one of the best horses I’ve seen, you aren’t unbeaten over fences for no reason, so he’s a fantastic horse and it’s always lovely to see him running.

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So there we have it! Some very interesting answers there from Richard. It was a pleasure interviewing him, as always he was a gentleman! So we have a top tip looking forward to Cheltenham and Richard’s pick for the Betfair Chase tomorrow! 

Thank you so much for reading.

Worcester Races + EXCLUSIVE Interview with Richard Johnson

worcester

Hey guys!

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.

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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.

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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!