Today I’m delighted to welcome National Hunt jockey Zander Voy to the NTF Blog. Zander will be blogging exclusively for NTF every Tuesday, giving us a jockey’s eye view of life in and out of the saddle.
The National Hunt season proper is fast approaching and Zander’s Blog is guaranteed to become essential reading for all us racing fans, throughout the winter and all the way through to the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals next spring.
Me, Myself and Horseracing…
Before I start I would just like to introduce myself and tell you a little bit about me.
I am a 22 year old conditional jockey living in Middleham (North Yorkshire). I’m originally from a small town called Haddington which is only a stone’s throw away from Edinburgh. Horseracing is my passion and I consider myself very fortunate to make a living from a sport I love.
I hope my weekly column can be of interest and give you an insight if my day to day life, on and off the course! No doubt there will be a few laughs along the way…..
Mon 24th September 2012
Today I went to boxing training after riding out for my boss Chris Grant. I’m not planning a career change or anything buts it’s great for fitness. When I’d finished I had a text on my phone from my agent Paul Brierley asking if i would consider writing a blog for @Narrowthefield. Now at first I thought Paul had lost the plot as I am far from the next Dick Francis, but then realised he must have seen something in my writing from the cheeky text messages he gets from me! David Crosse, another weighing room colleague, also writes a blog so I rang him to ask for some advice and then came to the conclusion that I’d give it a go.
So here we are, a few weeks before the beloved jumps season and things are starting to pick up speed. I’ve spent most of my summer days riding out for my girlfriend’s parents Karl and Elaine Burke and also Mark Johnston to keep myself fit and occupied, I’ve also squeezed in a few rounds of golf along the way. It’s been a very eventful emotional summer to say the least. My childhood friend and professional jockey Campbell Gillies suddenly passed away the day before his 22nd birthday in a freak accident whilst on holiday in Kavos. I was going to go with him and the other lads but gave it a miss as myself and Kelly (my girlfriend) were due to fly to Cape Verde for a 2 week break only weeks later. Campbell was one of the funniest most likable lads you could ever wish to meet. As he would say he was “a right hit with the ladies”. He had an infectious smile and a fantastic sense of humour. As kids wherever there was one of us the other was never far away. We would argue like a married couple and laugh to together like the Chuckle Brothers. I always said Campbell would be my best man the day I get married (whenever that may be), and to be honest I would not have pursued my ambition of becoming a jockey if it were not for him. To lose my best friend at such a young age is just the most horrendous thing that has ever happened to me. As far as I’m concerned northern racing especially will never be the same again, he had the potential to go all the way to the top in this game and his death is a huge loss to horse racing as a whole.
One of the North’s best racehorses called Lie Forrit is owned by Campbell’s Grandad, Uncle and Mother Lesley. Campbell had ridden him in all his races to date winning 7 on him and earning a total of £49,347. I was taken by surprise when Lesley rang me last week asking me if I would ride Lie Forrit in the forthcoming season. A ride in which I am very grateful and I just hope I can do the family and Campbell proud the day I get the leg up.
Tue 25th September 2012
I was due to be up early on Tuesday morning to go and ride out up near Hexham which is around 1hour 45mins away. When I went to sleep the night before the rain was crashing against the window and it was the same story when I woke up in the morning. Now that’s never a great sign when you have to go and ride out in it. I ran out and hopped into the car and started making my way to ride out, I’d gone no further than 1/2 a mile down the hill when I met what looked like the Amazon River flowing down the road. A car was already stuck in the water and i sat for a minute or so to think on what to do. Not wanting to be late I decided to stick it into gear, shut my eyes and hope for the best. That turned out to be not one of my wisest decisions. I did get through it nonetheless however part of the front end of my car was not attached at the other side. I’d only got as far as Catterick when the phone rang from the trainer I was meant to be riding out for saying not to bother coming. Now of course it’s sometimes not a bad thing to get a day off whenever the weather is getting the better of you but it does mean I earn nothing. Now I’m in the process of buying my first house so days where there’s no income coming in are ones I could do without.
Wed 26th September 2012
No rides sadly at Perth on Wednesday for me due to small fields and lack of spares. Thankfully the weather didn’t hold me back as far as working was concerned. I had a 5.30 am start as I had to be in Mark Johnstons for 6.00am. These early starts never get easier but I always fill my travel mug full to the brim with milky coffee to give me a helping hand. After riding out I went straight to the hairdressers as I couldn’t take any more stick from the lads that I ride out with. They had a point to be fair as my hair was getting a little out of control. I rang Nathan Moscrop, who is also a conditional jockey. I have been friends with him for a while now. I think he is very much under-rated and is a steal for his 7lb claim. Not only is he a good rider he’s a nice lad all the same. Anyway, I rang him to see if he fancied going to the gym and do a bit boxing training. If there is no racing for me I always try and keep myself busy in the afternoons. It’s too easy to sit and watch films, eat too much and get fat. It’s the afternoons when there’s no racing that you have to watch what you eat. The way I deal with it is I always have lunch, let it settle for a couple hours then either go running with the dogs or go to the gym and do a spot of boxing.
Another early night for me as I had a very busy Thursday to look forward to. Nathan Moscrop and I were due in Willie Amos’s yard in the morning so I could have my first sit on Lie Forrit; a big day that has been on my mind for a while. I was praying we would click and all would go to plan.
Thur 27th September 2012
I had never been to Willie Amos’s yard before Thursday so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’ve known Willie long enough as I met him through Campbell years ago. It’s a bit of an unwritten rule that jockeys never really go and ride out for yards where other jockeys would ride the horses. It’s purely a matter of respect for the other jockeys who are already in the yard. Anyway, on Thursday morning I picked up Nathan Moscrop and we headed straight to McDonalds, breakfast was a double sausage and egg McMuffin washed down with a latte. Not exactly what the nutritionist wants to hear but we were hungry and needs must. Next stop was Hawick, a town in the Scottish Borders where Willie trains. When we got there we were told that we had 12 horses to school over a mixture and hurdles and fences. I love schooling mornings at the best of times but for me they are particularly special and exciting at this time of year. Getting a feel on old and new horses that you will hopefully be riding that season is what it’s all about. It makes me look even more forward for the season to get going. I schooled 6 horses that morning for Willie and there’s not 1 of them I would want to avoid getting on on race day, in particular Lie Forrit. He is very much an old fashioned type of horse with a very modern engine inside him. He has a lot of ability and has proved that himself underneath Campbell on countless occasions at the races. He was surprisingly very straightforward to school, Willie stood there casually with a fag in his mouth and said “whatever you do, don’t fall off this one, no pressure”. He laughed after he said it but deep down I knew he was deadly serious. I schooled him over 12 fences and could not have been happier with him. He felt classy from the word go, a horse very much to keep an eye on for this season. I will not be riding him alone, that’s for sure.
Afterwards I had the long drive to Perth Racecourse, not for a ride but to gallop one after racing for my old boss Lucy Normile. We got there in plenty of time so I made the most of it and got some physio from the on-course physiotherapist. I had a fracture to my spine last season in a fall, I don’t get any bother from it now but I do just like to keep on top of it and keep everything in check. Lucy’s horses looked fantastic and all worked very well. Lucy and her late husband Alan really got me going and I cannot thank them enough for everything they have done for me. She is a pleasure to ride for and hopefully I can kick them home a few winners this season.
The drive back from Perth never gets any easier and 4 or 5 cans of Redbull later I was finally home, straight to bed ready for another early start.
Friday 28th September 2012
On Friday I was back on the road early as I had to be in Mark Johnstons for 6:00am. I had 3 lots to ride out which got me done for around 10:30, so left me the rest of the day to whatever I wanted. I’m a keen golfer so the obvious choice was to get parked on the sofa and watch the first day of The Ryder cup but I opted for another boxing session in the gym with Nathan.
Now that I’m down to my 3lb claim life’s getting a bit tougher as it does for everyone, so I want to make sure I am as fit and strong as possible going into the season so there is no excuses. If I ever felt like I didn’t win on a horse because my fitness wasn’t up to scratch I would not forgive myself.
Sat 29th September 2012
On Saturday after riding out for Mark Johnston I headed over to school a well named horse called Doynosaur for Elaine Burke. Doynosaur is a massive filly I won on the first time I rode her last year at Wetherby in which turned out to be a decent novice hurdle. If you have seen the size of her you’d never think she would be a hurdler in a million years! If ever a horse was built for chasing, she’s it. I schooled her over 12 fences and was delighted with how it went. Doynosaur will be running in the next couple of weeks and is a horse I’m very much looking forward to this season.
Sun 30th September 2012
It’s a quick morning in Mark Johnston’s on a Sunday so I always go in there every week for 4 lots. There is rarely a day goes by when I don’t sit on a horse. Riding out in the mornings is always a great laugh, even when it’s raining or blowing a gale the craic that you have with the lads riding out is second to none.
This week has been quiet for me as far as racing is concerned, however, looking ahead to the fixtures next week things are looking a lot more positive. Sedgefield on Tuesday then the likes of Kelso and Hexham are starting again. The Jump Season is nearly here, Happy Days!!
I will see you all again next week…
All the best – Zander Voy (@Zander_Voy on Twitter)