The History of the British Jump Jockey Championship

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com! Today I am going to take a look at the history of the British jump jockey championship and a little look at this years competition, so without further ado let’s get right into it.


The British Jump Jockey Championship’s inception was in 1900. For the first 25 year, the award was given to the jockey who had ridden the most winners during a calendar year, however beginning in 1926, this changed to the way we see it today, the award would start going to the jockey who had ridden the most winners during a season.

Surprisingly, it was not until the 2015-2016 season that the Champion Jockey won prize money, with the 2015-2016 Champion Richard Johnson receiving £15,000 and smaller prizes going to the next 4 on the leader board. From 2016 any Champion Jockey receives a new trophy designed by Asprey and chosen by the award winning Champion Jockey Sir AP McCoy after the previous one was gifted to Sir AP McCoy upon his retirement.

This years title race will be decided between Saturday 1st May 2021 and Saturday 23rd April 2022.


Now let’s take a look at some winners! Please bare in mind any winner before 1925 was within a calendar year – beyond that is in a season.

The first ever winner in 1900 was H. S Sidney 52 wins, he was also an amateur at the time of winning the title. We then see Frank Mason win for the first time in 1901 with 58 wins, he then won it again in 1902 (67 wins), 1904 (59 wins), 1905 (73 wins), 1906 (58 wins) and 1907 (59 wins).

If we then skip forward a little in 1920 Fred Rees won with 64 wins before winning again multiple times. 1921 (65 wins), 1923 (64 wins), 1924 (108 wins – the first time a jockey hit a century of wins) and again in the 1926-1927 season with 59 wins.

The next 5 seasons were dominated by Billy Stott who firstly won in the 1927-1928 season with 88 wins, 1928-1929 with 76 wins, 1929-1930 with 77 wins, 1930-1931 with 81 wins and in 1931-1932 with 77 wins.

Gerry Wilson was the next jockey to dominate when winning 7 times in 9 seasons starting in 1932-1933 with 61 wins, 1933-1934 with 56 wins, 1934-1935 with 73 wins, 1935-1936 with 57 wins, 1936-1937 with 45 wins, 1937-1938 with 59 wins then again in the 1940-1941 season with 22 wins.

The two seasons in between Gerry Wilson’s victories were won by Fred Rimell, in 1938-1939 with 61 wins and then in 1939-1940 with 22 wins.

Racing was suspended in the 1942-1943 season as well as the 1943-1944 season before returning in the 1944-1945 season where it was actually a draw with Frenchie Nicholson and Fred Rimell both finishing the season on 15 wins. Fred Rimell then won it on his own in the 1945-1946 season with 54 wins.

Skipping forward a few years Tim Molony won 4 years in a row starting with the 1948-1949 season with 50 wins, 1949-1950 with 95 wins, 1950-1951 with 83 wins, 1951-1952 with 99 wins.

Fred Winter then won for the first time in 1952-1953 with 121 wins, before winning again in 1955-1956 with 74 wins, 1956-1957 with 80 wins and 1957-1958 with 82 wins.

If we skip forward a little bit in 1968-1969 Terry Biddlecombe and Bob Davies both finished with 77 wins and sharing the title.

Other winners include John Francome in the 1975-1976 season with 96 wins, 1978-1979 with 95 wins, 1980-1981 with 105 wins, before sharing the title in 1981-1982 with Peter Scudamore after both finishing with 120 wins. He then continued to win the title in 1982-1983 with 106 wins, 1983-1984 with 131 wins and again in 1984-1985 with 101 wins.

In between John Francome’s reign, Jonjo O’Neill won the title twice, firstly in 1977-1978 with 149 wins and again in 1979-1980 with 115 wins.

Starting in the 1985-1986 season we see Peter Scudamore’s reign begin with 91 wins, followed up in 1986-1987 with 123 wins, 1987-1988 with 132 wins, 1988-1989 with 221 wins (setting a new record for most wins and the first time a jockey had 200 or more winners in a season), again in 1989-1990 with 170 wins, 1990-1991 with 141 wins and again in 1991-1992 with 175 wins.

The next 3 seasons were won by Richard Dunwoody with 173 wins in the 1992-1993 season, 197 wins in the 1993-1994 season and finally with 160 wins in the 1994-1995 season.

In the 1995-1996 season the record breaking reign of Sir AP McCoy began:

1995-1996: 175 wins
1996-1997: 190 wins
1997-1998: 253 wins (breaking Peter Scudamore’s record of most wins in a season)
1998-1999: 186 wins
1999-2000: 245 wins
2000-2001: 191 wins
2001-2002: 289 wins (breaking his own record of most wins in a season)
2002-2003: 258 wins
2003-2004: 209 wins
2004-2005: 200 wins
2005-2006: 178 wins
2006-2007: 184 wins
2007-2008: 140 wins
2008-2009: 186 wins
2009-2010: 195 wins
2010-2011: 218 wins
2011-2012: 199 wins
2012-2013: 185 wins
2013-2014: 218 wins
2014-2015: 231 wins

When Sir AP McCoy retired, we then see Richard Johnson win 4 consecutive titles starting in 2015-2016 with 235 wins, in 2016-2017 with 180 wins, 2017-2018 with 176 wins and in 2018-2019 with 200 wins.

The final two winners were Brian Hughes in 2019-2020 with 141 wins and in the 2020-2021 season Harry Skelton with 152 wins.


So some records within the race. The jockey with the most titles and most consecutive titles is Sir AP McCoy who won 20 times consecutively between 1995 and 2015.

The jockey with the most wins in one season is also Sir AP McCoy who won 289 times in the 2001-2002 season.

The jockey who came second the most times is Richard Johnson who finished second behind Sir AP McCoy before finally winning the title after Sir AP McCoy’s retirement.


So onto this years title. (All odds are via PaddyPower and are correct at the time of writing this post and all winner figures so far are also correct at the time of writing this post – 25/05/2021 at 22:15)

The current favourite at Evens is Brian Hughes who has currently had 135 rides with 23 wins. A strike rate of 17%.

The second favourite is Harry Skelton at 11/8 who has had 52 rides with 14 wins. A strike rate of 27%.

The third is Harry Cobden at 4/1 who has had 15 rides with 4 wins. A strike rate of 27%.

The rest are 33/1 or bigger, including Sam Twiston-Davies, Aidan Coleman and Nico de Boinville all at 33/1 and Sean Bowen, David Bass and Tom Scudamore at 66/1 and Bryony Frost at 100/1.

The season has only just began so there is a long way ahead of us and the current standings will of course change once the winter comes around and more jumps horses are running. However I do think it’s going to be another exciting renewal. Last years came down to the wire between Brian Hughes and Harry Skelton and with Harry Cobden in the running and hopefully free this time around it could be a quite exciting one to watch. For me I think Harry Skelton could retain the title, but it’ll be too close to call.


I hope you all enjoyed this one and I will see you all Saturday at 11am for a new post!

Richard Johnson – Years at the Top – Happy Retirement!

Good Morning!

Welcome to a new post here at zoelouisesmithx.com. After the news a couple of weeks ago that Richard Johnson was retiring from the saddle I have decided to have a look at some facts and figures of his career so I can compile them all into this post for you all. As many people know by now, Richard was the first person within racing to give up his time and allow me to interview him (twice) and has always supported me and helped me with anything I’ve ever needed, which I appreciate more than anyone realises. The day I first interviewed him, he knew it was the first one I was doing and he knew I was nervous, so he took his time, didn’t rush me and he allowed me to make mistakes, he then spoke to me after the interview and gave me encouragement and support to continue doing what I loved and that’s exactly what I did and I am so glad I did! If you missed my interviews with Richard you can read them here… 2017: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2017/10/20/worcester-races-exclusive-interview-with-richard-johnson/ and 2019: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2019/11/22/an-updated-interview-with-champion-jockey-richard-johnson/ . I hope you enjoy those! However, without further ado, I’m just going to jump right into it.


Richard Johnson OBE was born on July 21st 1977 in Hereford, England into a racing family, especially with his mother being Sue Johnson, a horse racing trainer. At 16 years old Richard left school to work for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first win came in April 1994 when he won on Rusty Bridge at Hereford, which turned out to be his only win of the season. However, the following season the 1995-1996 season, Richard rode 56 winners and became the Champion Conditional Jockey at just 18 years old. And he didn’t stop there, the next season 1996-1997 was the first time Richard rode 100 winners in a season ending up with 102 and from that year Richard rode 100 winners every single season (apart from the 2020-2021 season when Richard has retired on 73 winners).

1996 was a pretty good year for Richard, not only did he ride 100+ winners, but those winners also included some pretty big races. Starting with the Towton Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2) at Wetherby on the 11th of January on Mr Mulligan, a 3/1 shot who beat the 11/10 favourite Call It A Day by a massive 15 lengths.

Richard then won again on Mr Mulligan a month later on February 14th in the Reynoldstown Novices’ Chase (Class A Grade 2), this time as the 9/4 favourite, beating 4/1 shot Nahthen Lad by 15 lengths again.

It was then April 11th when Richard had another big win when winning the European Breeders Fund ‘national hunt’ Novices’ Handicap Hurdle Final (Class A Grade 3) at Cheltenham on board Miss Optimist, a 9/1 shot for David Nicholson.

Richard’s first Grade 1 win of many also came in 1996 on April 24th when he won the Heineken Gold Cup on Billygoat Gruff for David Nicholson at 7/1.

Moving swiftly into 1997, we then have another brilliant season for Richard, starting with a win in the Seagram Top Novices’ Hurdle (Class A) on April 3rd on Midnight Legend (11/2) beating the team of Mick Fitzgerald and Nicky Henderson with the 100/30 favourite Sharpical by 2 lengths. The very next day, on April 4th another Class A came along, when Richard won the Belle Epoque Sefton Novices’ Hurdle on board Forest Ivory (11/2) actually beating a rare Aidan O’Brien horse, Private Peace (11/2) in second being rode by Charlie Swan.

Richard then headed over to Ireland and Punchestown where he won the Country Pride Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 2) on the 7/4 favourite Midnight Legend, beating the Aidan O’Brien and Paul Carberry partnership with Whats The Verdict (9/1) by 2 and 1/2 lengths.

Moving into the 1997-1998 season, Richard started with winning the William Hill Haldon Gold Cup Chase Limited Handicap (Class A Grade 2) at Exeter on board Viking Flagship (9/1) for David Nicholson, beating stable mate Mulligan (2/1) by 5 lengths.

Richard then won the Bonusprint Bula Hurdle (Class A / Class 1) at Cheltenham on December 13th on board Relkeel for David Nicholson, beating the Martin Pipe and AP McCoy team with the 13/8 favourite Pridwell by 1 and 3/4 lengths. Just 2 weeks later on December 27th, Richard headed to Wetherby with 4/9 favourite Viking Flagship, winning the Castleford Chase (Class A / Class 1).

It was 1998 when Richard would win another Grade 1 when heading to Punchestown on April 30th on board the 2/1 favourite Zafarabad winning the I.A.W.S Champion Four Year Old Hurdle by just a neck. It was almost a year before Richard won another big race, this came on March 18th 1999 when he won the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle Grade 1 at the Cheltenham Festival on a 40/1 shot Anzum, beating the 2/1 joint favourite Le Coudray who was owned by JP McManus, trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Charlie Swan by just a neck.

The following month on April 9th, Richard headed to the Aintree Festival and won the Grade 2 Mumm Mildmay Novices’ Chase (Class A) on the 100/30 favourite Spendid – Coincidentally beating a horse trained by who would become Richard’s number 1 trainer, Philip Hobbs with Village King (11/2).

Richard travelled back to Ireland on April 29th where he won the Grade 1 Ballymore Properties Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Anzum (7/1). Richard had plenty of Grade 2 and 3 success during the year, however his next Grade 1 came on December 18th 1999 at Ascot when he won the Cantor Fitzgerald Long Walk Hurdle (Class A) on again on Anzum (4/1) beating the 4/9 favourite Deano’s Beeno by 17 lengths who was rode by AP McCoy and trained by Martin Pipe.

Moving into the 21st century, Richard won the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase Showcase Race Grade 1 in March 2000, on Looks Like Trouble (9/2). He then had many Grade 1, 2 and 3 success over the years including the Tingle Creek Chase and Queen Mother Chase, both with Flagship Uberalles, the County Handicap Hurdle and Victor Chandler Bula Hurdle both on Rooster Booster and many more.

Also want to note that Richard came second on What’s Up Boys in the Grand National in 2002, which turned out to be his best position in the race, also meeting this when coming 2nd again in 2014 on Balthazar King.

The next race I want to mention is the Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) in 2003 when Richard won on 9/2 shot Rooster Booster for Philip Hobbs by 11 lengths. When I interviewed Richard he said this was one of this favourite rides of his career.

I am going to jump ahead a little while now as if I went through every single graded race Richard won I would end up having a post which is about a 3 hour read. So let’s jump to 2012 and on March 13th Richard won the Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country Chase) at the Cheltenham Festival on Balthazar King (11/2). In 2014, Richard won the same race on the same horse, this time at 4/1 and in the same year he finished 2nd in the Grand National on Balthazar King at 14/1 which was the closest Richard got to winning the big race (for a secon time) and again, when I spoke to him, he said that was also one of his favourite races in his career.

We also have the Midlands Grand National in 2014 when he won on Goulanes (13/2F). The Peterborough Chase in 2014 with Wishfull Thinking (13/2). The Denman Chase in 2015 on Coneygree (15/8F) as well as the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at Haydock in 2015 on the recently retired Definitly Red (9/4).

We also have my favourite ever horse, Native River who partnered with Richard when winning the Mildmay Novices’ Chase, Hennessy Gold Cup Chase in 2016 and the Welsh Grand National all in 2016, followed by the Denman Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2018, the Many Clouds Chase in 2019 and the Cotswold Chase in 2021.

There was also La Bague Au Roi who won the OLBG Mares Hurdle in 2017, Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase and Kauto Star Novices’ Chase in 2018, Flogas Novice Chase in 2019. As well as Thyme Hill who won the Persian War Novices’ Hurdle, Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Challow Novices’ Hurdle in 2019 as well as the Long Distance Hurdle in 2020.


Now we’ve had a brief overview, I want to look at Richard Johnson vs AP McCoy because their rivalry ruled the sport for a long while so let’s just have a little look. Overall AP McCoy finished with 4204 British career wins and 144 Irish career wins whereas Richard Johnson finished with 3799 British career wins and 19 Irish career wins.

From the 1995-1996 season until the 2014-2015 season AP McCoy won and retained the Jump Jockey Championship, however Richard was always on his tail and in the 2015-2016 season after AP retired, Richard took over as Champion Jockey and ended up winning it 4 times, before Brian Hughes won it in the 2019-2020 season.


Now, I’ve summed up Richard’s career, but now let’s look at the Big Race Wins. Let’s start with the Cheltenham Festival:

Cheltenham Gold Cup x 2 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000 & Native River – 2018)
Champion Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2003)
Queen Mother Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2002)
Stayers’ Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Triumph Hurdle x 3 (Made in Japan – 2004, Detroit City – 2006 & Defi du Seuil – 2017)
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Menorah – 2010)
Champion Bumper x 1 (Cheltenian – 2011)
Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle x 1 (Massini’s Maguire – 2007)
Arkle Challenge Trophy x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase x 1 (One Knight – 2003)
Centenary Novices’ Handicap Chase x 1 (Copper Bleu – 2010)
Coral Cup x 1 (Monkerhostin – 2004)
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase x 2 (Balthazar King – 2012 & 2014)
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Flying Tiger – 2017)
Pertemps Final x 1 (Fingal Bay – 2014)
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase x 2 (Dark Stranger – 2000 & Young Spartacus – 2003)
County Handicap Hurdle x 1 (Rooster Booster – 2002)

Now let’s look at some notable races in Britain:

Tingle Creek Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2000)
Long Walk Hurdle x 4 (Anzum – 1999, Mighty Man – 2006 & Reve di Sivola – 2012 & 2013
Henry VIII Novices’ Chase x 1 (Fair Along – 2006)
Kauto Star Novices’ Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2018)
Finale Juvenile Hurdle x 3 (Franchoek – 2007, Le Rocher – 2013 & Defi Du Seuil – 2016)
Challow Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Fingal Bay – 2012 & Thyme Hill – 2020)
Ascot Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2014)
Manifesto Novices’ Chase x 2 (Wishfull Thinking – 2011 & Menorah – 2012)
Anniversary 4-Y-O Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Lord Brex – 2000 & Detroit City – 2006)
Betway Bowl x 1 (Escartefigue – 1998)
Top Novices’ Hurdle x 5 (Midnight Legend – 1997, Phardante Flyer – 2000, In Contrast – 2002, Mighty Man – 2005 & Lalor – 2018)
Mildmay Novices’ Chase x 3 (Spendid – 1999, What’s Up Boys – 2001 & Native River – 2016)
Sefton Novices’ Hurdle x 2 (Forest Ivory – 1997 & Saint Are – 2011)
Liverpool Hurdle x 2 (Mighty Man – 2006 & 2007)
Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase x 1 (Sporting John – 2021)

And now a quick look at Irish notable winners:

Irish Gold Cup x 2 (Florida Pearl – 2001 & 2004)
Punchestown Gold Cup x 1 (Planet of Sound – 2010)
Champion Stayers Hurdle x 1 (Anzum – 1999)
Punchestown Champion Chase x 1 (Flagship Uberalles – 2003)
Ladbrokes Champion Chase x 1 (Looks Like Trouble – 2000)
Dr P. J. Moriarty Novice Chase x 1 (La Bague Au Roi – 2019)
Herald Champion Novice Hurdle x 1 (Midnight Legend – 1997)
Ryanair Novice Chase x 1 (Captain Chris – 2011)
Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle x 2 (What’s Up Boys – 2000 & Spirit of Adjisa – 2011)
Champion Four Year Old Hurdle x 1 (Zafarabad – 1998)

Also think it’s so important to note here that Richard Johnson rode in the Grand National 21 times without winning which holds the record for the most rides without a win, the closest he got was 2nd in 2002 on What’s Up Boys and 2014 on Balthazar King. So let’s sim up his 21 rides:

1/21 = Unseated
6/21 = Fell
5/21 = Pulled Up
2/21 = Placed
4/21 = Finished
2/21 = Brought Down
1/21 = Refused


Things to note… Richard Johnson became the eighth National Hunt jockey to ride 1000 winners in April 2003. In December 2009, at Newbury, Richard became the second jockey to hit 2000 winners, only joining AP McCoy. In January 2016, Richard had his 3000th winner and after being runner up 16 times to AP McCoy, he finally became Champion Jockey.

I also want to note, even though everybody knows by now, that Richard Johnson was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to Horse Racing. And on April 3rd 2021, Richard Johnson announced his immediate retirement at Newton Abbot.


So there we have it, I know this post was a little bit all over the place, but I hope it all makes sense as it does to me! I hope you all enjoyed.

I will hopefully see you all in my next post on Wednesday at 6pm!

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!

The History of the Grand National

Good Morning!

Happy Grand National Day! Welcome to another post here on zoelouisesmithx.com. With the Grand National just hours away, today’s post is all about the history of the Grand National. Here, I go through the history of the race as well as some key facts and figures I have found. At the very end of this post you can also find some winning trends, maybe this will help you choose a winner today!

Before we get into it, as some of you may or may not know, I am an official partner blogger with Careers in Racing and this week I got to sit down and speak with Clerk of the Course at Aintree Sulekha Varma on their behalf. We discussed how she is the first female Clerk of the Course to take charge of the Grand National, how different this years Festival has been, protocols in place, what happens to the fences after the Grand National plus much more. You can read the interview right here:

Part One: https://www.careersinracing.com/sulekha-varma-talks-aintree-with-zoe-smith/

Part Two: https://www.careersinracing.com/i-think-its-a-buzz-and-theres-a-real-shot-of-adrenaline-throughout-the-whole-experience/

So with that being said, I hope you all enjoy this one and hopefully you all learn something new about the big race! So without further ado, let’s just get right into it!


The Grand National is a National Hunt Race which is ran left handed over 4 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs (4 miles and 514 yards) over 30 fences (16 separate fences jumped multiple times) at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. It is for 7 year olds and over which are rated 120 or more by the BHA (British Horseracing Authority) and have been previously placed in a recognised chase of 3 miles or more.

It was first ran in 1839 on the 26th of February and is the most valuable jump race in Europe. It is widely believed that the first running took place in 1836, however the 1836, 1837 and 1838 races were all disregarded as it is believed that they took place at Maghull and not at Aintree. The 1839 Grand National – which is believed to have been the ‘real’ first Grand National – was won by Lottery who was rode by Jem Mason. Interestingly, it was not until 1843 that the Grand National was made into a handicap, by Edward Topham who was a respected handicapper at the time and held a great influence over the National, for the first 4 years it had been a ‘weight for age’ race.

During the First World War, from 1916 to 1918, Aintree Racecourse was taken over by the war office so an alternative race took place at Gatwick Racecourse – which is now land that is occupied by Gatwick Airport. In 1916 the race was called the Racecourse Association Steeplechase, in 1917 and 1918 the race was called the War National Steeplechase. However, these three races are not classed as ‘Grand Nationals’ and the results of these three races often get left out of the winners list.

During the Second World War, from 1941 to 1945, no Grand National was run as Aintree Racecourse was used by the armed forces for defence use. So the Grand National did not return until 1946 where it was ran on a Friday. However it was only in 1947 that it was moved to a Saturday as the Home Secretary James Chuter Ede thought it would be better for a wider audience of working people, from then on, it has been ran on a Saturday each year.


Moving on to some key winners of the Grand National. The first ever winner, as mentioned above, was in 1839 and it was a horse called Lottery for jockey Jem Mason, trainer George Dockeray and owner John Elmore. He was the 5/1 favourite and carried 12 stone where he won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The first horse to win multiple Grand National’s came in 1850 and 1851 when Abd-El-Kader won in 2 consecutive Grand Nationals. In 1850, he won carrying 9 stone 12 pounds for jockey Chris Green, trainer and owner Joseph Osborne in a time of 9 minutes 57.5 seconds. He then won again, in 1851, this time for jockey Tom Abbott carrying 10 stone and 4 pounds.

We then move forward to 1868 where The Lamb won the race at 9/1 for jockey George Ede, trainer Ben Land and owner Lord Poulett carrying 10 stone 7 pounds, he then retained his title in 1871 where he won for jockey Tommy Pickernell and trainer Chris Green for the same owner Lord Poulett, this time at 7/2 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds. In the 2 years during his two wins, they were both won by a horse called The Colonel, in 1869 he won carrying 10 stone 7 pounds at 100/7, then he won again in 1870 carrying 11 stone 12 pounds this time as the 7/2 favourite. Both times for jockey George Stevens and trainer R. Roberts.

In 1908, the race was won by Rubio who I wrote a post about earlier this year, you can read this right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/03/rubio-the-retired-grand-national-winner/

In 1928, the record for the fewest finishers in a Grand National was set, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

I am now going to jump forward a little bit to the 1950’s. Here, trainer Vincent O’Brien won 3 consecutive Grand National’s with 3 different horses. In 1953, he won with Early Mist who was carrying 11 stone 2 pounds, being rode by Bryan Marshall at 20/1 for owner Joe Griffin. In 1954, he won with Royal Tan who carried 11 stone 7 pounds again rode by Bryan Marshall at 8/1, again for owner Joe Griffin. In 1955, he won with Quare Times who carried 11 stone with Pat Taaffe riding at 100/9 for owner Cecily Welman.

The next noticeable winner is Foinavon who won at 100/1 in 1967, this is such a noticeable win as you may recognise the name as a fence in the Grand National is named after this horse. In 1967, the rest of the field fell, refused, were hampered or brought down at the 23rd fence, which led 100/1 shot Foinavon to winning the race. So in 1984, that exact fence was named after Foinavon.

We then move into the 1970’s, which were totally dominated by the incredible Red Rum. My midweek post just gone was all about Red Rum and his career so if you haven’t already, then do go and check that out! Red Rum won the race in 1973, 1974 and again in 1977 all for trainer Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain and owner Noel Le Mare. In 1973, he was rode by Brian Fletcher as the 9/1 joint favourite, in 1974, he was again rode by Brian Fletcher at 11/1 and in 1977 he was rode by Tommy Stack at 9/1.

1981, we had Bob Champion win on Aldaniti, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, you can read that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/03/06/1981-grand-national-bob-champion-the-greatest-comeback/

In 1993, the race was declared void, you can read that whole story right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/06/1993-the-grand-national-that-never-was/

And in 1997 there was a delay in proceedings and the race didn’t take place until the following Monday. The full story plus insights from someone who was in attendance is right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/02/20/1997-the-postponed-grand-national/

We then move into the new millennium where we have winners such as 16/1 shot Monty’s Pass for Barry Geraghty, Jimmy Mangan and Dee Racing Syndicate in 2003, 7/1 favourite Hedgehunter for Ruby Walsh, Willie Mullins and Trevor Hemmings in 2005 and 100/1 shot Mon Mome for Liam Treadwell, Venetia Williams and Vida Bingham in 2009.

In 2010, we have Don’t Push It who gave 20 time Champion Jockey AP McCoy his first and only Grand National as the 10/1 joint favourite for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus.

We then have some big prices come into play, with Neptune Collonges winning at 33/1 for Daryl Jacob, Paul Nicholls and John Hales in 2012 followed by 66/1 winner Auroras Encore in 2013 for Ryan Mania and Sue Smith. In 2014 we have Pineau De Re at 25/1 for Leighton Aspell and Richard Newland followed by another 25/1 shot, Many Clouds again for Leighton Aspell, this time for Oliver Sherwood in the Trevor Hemmings colours. In 2016 we are followed up by Rule The World at 33/1 for David Mullins and Mouse Morris in the famous Gigginstown House Stud.

Now onto the last three runs of the Grand National. In 2017, 14/1 shot One For Arthur won for jockey Derek Fox, trainer Lucinda Russell and owners Deborah Thomson and Belinda McClung. The next two years were both won by Tiger Roll for jockey Davy Russell, trainer Gordon Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud. In 2018 carrying 10 stone 13 pounds at 10/1 and in 1029 carrying 11 stone 5 pounds as the 4/1 favourite.

The 2020 renewal of the Grand National was cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic.


Next up, let’s move onto the fences. There are 16 fences on the Grand National course, all 16 are jumped on the first lap and then on the final lap the runners bear to the right onto the run in so they avoid The Chair and the Water jump. Here is a summary of the fences and their heights:

Fence 1 & 17: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 2 & 18: 4 feet 7 inches (1.40 metres)

Fence 3 & 19: Open Ditch – 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch

Fence 4 & 20: 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 metres)

Fence 5 & 21: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 6 & 22: Becher’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with landing side 6 inches (15cm) to 10 inches (25cm) lower than the takeoff side

Fence 7 & 23: Foinavon – 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 8 & 24: Canal Turn – 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 9 & 25: Valentine’s Brook – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inches (1.68 metres) brook

Fence 10 & 26: 5 feet (1.52 metres)

Fence 11 & 27: Open ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 6 feet (1.83 metres) ditch on the take off side

Fence 12 & 28: Ditch – 5 feet (1.52 metres) with a 5 feet 6 inch (1.68 metres) ditch on the landing side

Fence 13 & 29: 4 feet 7 inches (1.4 metres)

Fence 14 & 30: 4 feet 6 inches (1.37 metres)

Fence 15: The Chair – 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 metres) preceded by a 6 feet (1.83 metres) wide ditch

Fence 16: Water Jump – 2 feet 6 inches (0.76 metres)


Let’s jump into some records for the Grand National!

Leading Horse:

Red Rum – 1973, 1974 and 1977

Leading Jockey:

George Stevens – 1856 on Freetrader, 1863 on Emblem, 1864 on Emblematic and 1869 an 1870 on The Colonel

Leading Trainers:

George Dockeray – 1839 with Lottery, 1840 with Jerry, 1842 with Gaylad and 1852 with Miss Mowbray

Fred Rimell – 1956 with E.S.B, 1961 with Nicolaus Silver, 1970 with Gay Trip and 1976 with Rag Trade.

Donald ‘Ginger’ McCain – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum and 2004 with Amberleigh House

Leading Owners:

James Octavius Machell – 1873 with Disturbance, 1874 with Reugny and 1876 with Regal

Noel Le Mare – 1973, 1974 and 1977 with Red Rum

Trevor Hemmings – 2005 with Hedgehunter, 2011 with Ballabriggs and 2015 with Many Clouds

Gigginstown House Stud – 2016 with Rule The World and 2018 and 2019 with Tiger Roll


The fastest run Grand National was in 1990 when Mr. Frisk won in a time of 8 minutes 47.8 seconds. The slowest was the first running of the Grand National in 1839 when Lottery won in a time of 14 minutes and 53 seconds.

The oldest winner was in 1853 when 15 year old Peter Simple won. The youngest horses to win have all been 5 years old and they are Alcibiade in 1865, Regal in 1876, Austerlitz in 1877, Empress in 1880 and Lutteur III in 1909.

The oldest jockey was 48 year old Dick Saunders who won in 1982, the youngest being Bruce Hobbs who won in 1938 when he was just 17 years old.

The biggest priced winners were all 100/1 when they won and we have a few, these are Tipperary Tim in 1928, Gregalach in 1929, Caughoo in 1947, Foinavon in 1967 and Mon Mome in 2009. With the shorted priced winner being 11/4 Poethlyn in 1919.

The biggest Grand National was in 1929 when 66 horses ran, the smallest being in 1883 when only 10 horses ran.

The most horses to finish a Grand National was in 1984 when 23 horses finished, the fewest being in 1928 when only 2 horses finished, you can read all about that right here: https://zoelouisesmithx.com/2021/01/27/1928-the-record-breaking-grand-national/

The jockey who has had the most rides in the Grand National is Richard Johnson who was had rode 21 times and is still yet to win the race. After his retirement being announced this past weekend, Tom Scudamore who rides the favourite Cloth Cap this afternoon is the jockey who has rode the most times without a victory with 18 rides in the race.

The first female jockey to enter the race was Charlotte Brew in 1977 who rode 200/1 shot Barony Fort.

The first female jockey to complete the race was Geraldine Rees on Cheers in 1982.

The best result for a female jockey was in 2012 when Katie Walsh finished 3rd on the 8/1 joint favourite Seabass.

The female jockey with the most rides in the Grand National is Nina Carberry who rode in her 5th in 2010.

There has been 4 female trainers who have won the race. Jenny Pitman in 1995 with Royal Athlete, Venetia Williams in 2009 with Mon Mome, Sue Smith in 2013 with Auroras Encore and Lucinda Russell in 2017 with One For Arthur.


Onto some other interesting facts to note… In the 70 races of the post war era (not including the 1993 void race) the favourite or joint favourite have only won the race 10 times, these were:

1950: Freebooter at 10/1

1960: Merryman II at 13/2

1973: Red Rum at 9/1 JF

1982: Grittar at 7/1

1996: Rough Quest at 7/1

1998: Earth Summit at 7/1

2005: Hedgehunter at 7/1

2008: Comply or Die at 7/1 JF

2010: Don’t Push It at 10/1 JF

2019: Tiger Roll at 4/1


Only 13 mares have ever won the Grand National and all of these were prior to 1951:

Charity in 1841

Miss Mowbray in 1852

Anatis in 1860

Jealousy in 1861

Emblem in 1863

Emblematic in 1864

Casse Tete in 1872

Empress in 1880

Zoedone in 1883

Frigate in 1889

Shannon Lass in 1902

Sheila’s Cottage in 1948

Nickel Coin in 1951


Only 3 greys have ever won the Grand National and these are:

The Lamb in 1868 and 1871

Nicolaus Silver in 1961

Neptune Collonges in 2012


Now onto international winners. There have been 2 French trained horses who were Huntsman in 1862 an Cortolvin in 1867.

There has only ever been one Welsh trained horse who was Kirkland in 1905 and 2 Scottish trained winners who are Rubstic in 1979 and One For Arthur in 2017.

There has been 16 Irish winners since 1900, which includes 9 since 1999, these are… Ambush II in 1900, Troytown in 1920, Workman in 1939, Caughoo in 1947, Early Mist 1953, Royal Tan in 1954, Quare Times in 1955, L’Escargot in 1975, Bobbyjo in 1999, Papillon in 2000, Monty’s Pass in 2003, Hedgehunter in 2005, Numbersixvalverde in 2006, Silver Birch in 2007, Rule The World in 2016 and Tiger Roll in 2018 and 2019.


Now onto some interesting winning trends. I have sat and collated this information myself via the Racing Post website and created the different trends, so I apologise if I have got anything slightly incorrect, but I have tried to verify this information as best as I possibly could but as you can imagine sitting with a pen and paper trying to work this out isn’t the easiest of tasks! These are all based on the last 20 runs since 2000.

4/20 have been 8 years old
6/20 have been 9 years old
5/20 have been 10 years old
4/20 have been 11 years old
1/20 has been 12 years old

2/20 have carried 10-6 or less
17/20 have carried between 10-6 and 11-6
1/20 has carried 11-6 or more

10/20 had their previous run between 20 and 30 days before
5/20 had their previous run between 31 and 40 days before
3/20 had their previous run between 41 and 50 days before
2/20 had their previous run over 51 days before (2017 winner One For Arthur having his previous run 84 days before making him the one with the longest break between his final run before the Grand National)

16/20 had previously ran at Aintree
8/20 had previously ran in the Grand National
20/20 had ran 3+ times in the season leading up to their Grand National win

5/20 won last time out before the Grand National
7/20 finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th last time out before the Grand National
6/20 finished outside of the top 4 last time out before the Grand National
1/20 fell last time out before the Grand National
1/20 pulled up last time out before the Grand National

4/20 were favourite or joint favourite

One thing I also wanted to mention is that the owner of current favourite Cloth Cap, Trevor Hemmings won the Grand National in 2005, 2011 and 2015. The years ending with 5 and 1, so could 2021 be his year again?


So there we have it, I have tried my best to include as much detail as I possibly could into this post with plenty of facts ad figures and some winning trends which may or may not help you choose a Grand National winner today. Who are you backing? Let me know over on my Twitter: zoelouisesmithx.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you all enjoyed this one and I hope you all pick a few winners today, including the Grand National winner. I hope to see you all Wednesday evening at 6pm for my next post!

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!

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!