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…..
Monday 8th October
I always go into the boss’s yard (Chris Grant) every Monday morning. This morning was a fairly quiet one. I had the 3 lots to ride out, 3 really nice unnamed bumper horses to look forward to for the up and coming season. It’s important for trainers to keep things fresh and the best way to that is by getting new youngsters in before the season starts. That way you have a rough idea what you’re working with and can get them ready the way you want them for their first days racing. Horses often run green first time they see a racetrack so it’s good to get them on the go nice and early and teach them as much as you can beforehand. Some come on a lot quicker than others so rushing them often does more harm than good. That is something else the boss is very good at! If you watch his younger horses first time out they are very straight and know the time of day. A good example is Lucematic winning first time out last year at Newcastle; she looked like she had been doing it all her life, very professional.
Because I did a lightweight yesterday I was keen not to gorge and put it all back on again. Now for me that’s a lot easier said than done! All I ate was a light lunch and went for a run with the dogs in the afternoon to try and keep light as possible. I am keen to keep my weight down so I can claim my 3 pound allowance off 10 stone all season. It’s a nightmare if you get offered a ride and have to say no because you’re too heavy and it just doesn’t look professional. Spare rides are difficult to come by at the minute as it is and it’s often the ones that do come by have lightweight weights anyway, so with just a bit of a dedication saying no to those light rides will be a thing of the past.
Tuesday 9th October
I was back into Mark Johnston’s this morning; thankfully we start there at 6.30am now as the mornings are getting darker. The extra half an hour in bed is something I am very grateful for as I am a big fan of sleeping. After first lot we go into the canteen where all the staff have access to a buffet style free breakfast. You can have the full English if you like, which most people opt for, or you can head down the healthier route of toast or cereal. The only problem for me is you have to walk past the bacon, sausage, egg, beans and toast before you get to the cereal! I would normally only have a fried egg on a slice of toast or a bowl of muesli, but there is the odd occasion when the will power is non-existent and the temptation to have the full shebang gets too much.
After riding out 3 lots there I went home and pretty much had the rest of the day to do whatever I pleased. My agent Paul Brierley rang me to say I was due to ride a nice bumper horse called Fair Loch for Elaine Burke the next day down at Towcester. I’ve rode him plenty at home and I think he has lots of ability so I was grateful to Mrs Burke for giving me the ride on him.
There’s many a time when you don’t get the rides on horses that you’d hope for or get you ‘jocked off’ for someone else. It’s never easy to take but that’s life, I just keep my mouth shut, get the head down and work as hard as you can to try and get back on them. Ranting and raving will get you nowhere in this game thats for sure, a good attitude and the will to work is all that is required.
Wednesday 10th October
I wasn’t due to ride at Towcester till the last race which was the second division of the bumper. I squeezed few lots in the morning at Mark Johnston’s. After riding out news came through my ride was now a non-runner. I was gutted because I was certain he would have been very close and probably won. However, Fair Loch had a slight temperature in the morning, nothing serious but there’s no point in taking chances. Unfortunately horses can’t tell you if they are feeling under the weather and Mrs Burke made the decision to withdraw him. There’s always another day.
On the plus side I was booked this morning to ride Dot Or Feather for Mrs Burke tomorrow in the conditional jockeys chase at Worcester. He ran well last weekend and the race which he was due to run in looked more than winnable. I have never ridden him in a race before so I did a bit of homework by watching his last run and 2 others, (one of which he won) just to get an idea on the best way to ride him. It all goes back to preparation-prevents-poor-performance. I also watched a few replays of the other fancied runners in the race to try and spot any weaknesses. Horses are a lot like humans, just like us they have strengths and weaknesses. So of course the simple thing to do is to try and play to your horses strengths and try to exploit your opponent’s weaknesses, it’s all about keeping that 1 step ahead and getting an advantage. With the season about to start I’ll do every bit of homework I can to get a few winners on the board and get the ball rolling.
Thursday 11th October
I was looking forward to riding at Worcester as it is a track I have visited in the past but have never ridden around. With just the one runner I decided to go in the horsebox with Kelly. She asked me if I wanted her to drive or if I was happy driving, but before I even got a chance to answer she was in the passenger seat like a shot. We got to Worcester about 3 hours before Dot Or Feather was due to race. After leading him around to loosen of I handed him over and took myself for a walk around the track. I had no issues with the ground or the track so I was really hopeful for a good run.
Dot Or Feather travelled and jumped brilliantly but when push came to shove he didn’t have an awful lot left to give. He had only ran 4 days previous and unfortunately that race had left it’s mark on him. I looked after him and pulled him up turning into the homestraight.
After riding him my work for the day was far from over. After loading him back onto the wagon Kelly was again straight into the passenger seat, the long drive home is always a longer one when things haven’t quite gone as you’d of liked. Nevermind, everyone was in one piece and we live to fight another day.
Friday 12th October
It was another schooling morning today, this time at Elaine Burkes. Doynosaur got declared for Hexham so it was her last chance to have a pop over fences before her chase debut tomorrow. Not wanting to do too much with her I schooled her over 3 fences in which she was brilliant so we left it at that. It’s important to always finish on a good note. We also schooled a few other novices and thankfully all went well.
We had to be at Middleham church for 2pm to attend the funeral of Jess Bethell. It’s was to be the fourth funeral I had been to this year, for a 22 year old that’s just not normal. Horse Racing is very much like a close knit family and when someone dies it is felt throughout every yard in the country. There was a great turnout for Jess and the service was beautiful. She will be sorely missed in this neck of the woods that’s for sure.
Saturday 13th October
I headed for a run around the Middleham low moor after riding out at Elaine Burkes, before heading off to Hexham where I had 3 rides.
My first ride was Doynosaur in the novice chase. She travelled and jumped well but didn’t handle the heavy ground. The ground was pretty desperate in all fairness and I knew from an early stage she wasn’t handling it. She will have learned a lot from the experience and will be a very different horse on better ground, not a horse to be writing off.
My second ride was on Julia Too for Willie Amos, my first ride for him. I have schooled her at home and was really looking forward to riding her. It was her first run over hurdles and she travelled like a dream. I got headed after the last flight but she battled on gamely to win by a couple of lengths. She loved the heavy ground and in time will be better suited to trips beyond 2 miles. With me due to ride Lie Forrit next week I was delighted things started well with Willie, he’s a good trainer and someone I hope to share some success with this winter.
My ride in the bumper Golden Court didn’t handle the heavy ground at all. She is a very small filly and found life difficult trying to get through it.
Sunday 14th October
I was back in to Mark Johnston’s for 4 lots just for some extra pocket money. Sundays are always a quick morning in there and it doesn’t do me any harm at all to get out of bed early and ride out.
I rang Willie Amos in the morning to make sure Julia Too came out of her race ok and I was happy to hear she was 100%.
Hopefully now I can keep the ball rolling and get as many winners on the board as I can…
I will see you all again next week…
All the best – Zander Voy (@Zander_Voy on Twitter)