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 11th March
The eve of the Cheltenham Festival!! I won’t be at Cheltenham this week so I will have to make do watching all the action from the comfort of my home. There are only a few declarations for tomorrow’s meeting at Sedgefield but they are currently under a couple of inches in snow and with little improvement forecast their meeting is looking pretty doubtful. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I looked out the window this morning, a couple of inches snow and temperatures as low as -6 to go with it.
Cheltenham have covered the whole track with frost covers, enough to cover 45 football pitches, a serious effort from the groundstaff there. I was riding out this morning for Patrick Homes, a trainer who previously trained near York but has now moved to Middleham to train which is handy for me. Thankfully, he has an indoor school so I was able to ride all four lots sheltered from the snow and howling wind! It is John Winston’s (Buddy) stag do this Saturday in Liverpool and I am adamant to find him a funny outfit to dress him in, this is the best I could come up with…what do you think?
Tuesday 12th March
Temperatures dipped well below freezing and even though the whole course was covered at Cheltenham a 10:30am inspection had to made before the festival got underway. The cross-country race ended up getting abandoned and the first race was put back a further 40 minutes to give the sun a chance to clear the remaining frost. All I wanted to do was get the riding out over and done with and get back home nice and early to catch the build-up. I went into Karl Burke’s yard first thing to ride work on a couple of horses, one of them being Fair Loch who I won on a couple of weeks back at Catterick. He seems well and all being well he heads to the Aintree bumper on Grand National, something I am really looking forward to. Once I was done at Karl’s I popped into Patrick Homes who trains just across the road for a couple of lots as well before heading home to watch the big showdown. Unlike the owners and trainers at Cheltenham, I didn’t have a nice dinner and glass of champagne to go with the action, I had a chicken and mushroom pot noodle washed down with a sweet milky tea and a creme egg….the body is a temple and all that! The highlight for me today was young Brendan Powell Jnr riding his first ever festival winner. I spent a week with him last year down in Newmarket on a jockeys training course and he’s one of the nicest fellas you could meet, and go with he’s a serious pilot as he showed today!! For me, watching BP coming up the hill brought back memories of the late Campbell Gillies doing the very same thing on the Friday at last year’s festival!! I think Friday coming will be a very emotional day down there, especially when Mark Boylan sings “A Song For Campbell” in the paddock.
Myself and a few of the lads went along to Catterick Leisure Centre for a game of 5-a-side football later, we have been playing out on the astro-turf recently but that was closed as the pitch was frozen solid!!
Wednesday 13th March
I went into Mark Johnston’s this morning. With the mornings now getting that little bit lighter each day, we now have to be in the yard for 6am, which means I have to be up and ready to leave my house by 5:30. After last night’s football getting myself ready this morning was challenging as I was as stiff as a board! After three lots at Mr Johnston’s I went into Patrick Homes yard to ride out a further two lots. With no northern racing today, and as you would expect, I got myself comfortable on the sofa and spent the whole afternoon watching the racing. I can’t help but think that Channel 4 racing just isn’t quite the same without John Francome, he was one of them who actually talked plenty sense and at times would often stick up for the jockeys and the trainers when others wouldn’t. The Queen Mother Champion Chase was the feature race of the day and it’s one of my favorite races, over the minimum trip of 2 miles and at breakneck speed it’s always a great spectacle to watch and we weren’t let down. What a show by Sprintre Sacre, I think it’s fair to say he’s the best two miler there has ever been!
My night was also filled by sport, being an Arsenal fan I watched their Champions League match against the German giants Bayern Munich, we started off 3-1 down on aggregate so I wasn’t that hopeful of going through to the next stage of the competition. They nearly proved me wrong by winning 2-0!!
Thursday 14th March
The cold snap claimed today’s fixture at Hexham, the second northern meeting abandoned this week. I went into Mark Johnston’s yard for 6 O’clock this morning to ride out 3 lots before heading over to Patrick Homes yard to ride out a further couple of lots for him as well. Thankfully Cheltenham got the go ahead and they even managed to get the re-arranged Cross Country Chase on after it was postponed on Tuesday. J T McNamara is a jockey who knows the cross country course like the back of his hand having won round there several times on horses like good old Spotthedifference. However, he had to be air-lifted to hospital having taking a heavy fall from the Jonjo O’Neill trained Galaxy Rock in the Kim Muir. I am not aware how badly he is hurt but he did have to be put into an induced coma. Thoughts go out to him, his family and fingers crossed he will be ok. I thought it was very good indeed of Richie Mclernon (who had just ridden the winner of the Pertemps final) to give Campbell Gillies a mention his interview straight after the race, a true gent! Like everyone else, I love watching Cheltenham but I would do anything I could to be there getting involved in the action, instead I’ve been cuddled up with the dog watching it and she certainly doesn’t find it as interesting as I do!!
I got a phone call this evening from my mother to let me know one of my sisters (Louise) is now expecting her second child, making me an uncle for the third time. Very exciting news!!
Friday 15th March
This morning I was in at Karl and Elaine Burke’s yard for three lots. On my way home I went via Classic Boots in Richmond as I finally got round to dropping off my riding out boots for repair, I can’t handle riding out in my racing boots and getting freezing cold for much longer!! I was constantly checking Twitter all morning for updates on J T McNamara, all that has been said so far is he has two fractured vertebrae in his neck and has undergone an operation. It then goes on to say “He is in a very serious but stable condition”, reading that sent a chill straight down my back and I really hope he can pull through!! I had no plans today other than watching Cheltenham. It was great to see Bobs Worth flying up the hill to take the Gold Cup in quite some style giving Nicky Henderson another big winner. He is such a genuine tough little horse and he looks an absolute dream to ride, well done to everyone at Seven Barrows!!
I have a fairly rough weekend ahead of me as I am heading over to Liverpool with a few lads tomorrow afternoon for John (Buddy) Winston’s stag do!! I have never been on a stag do before so I am fairly excited about it; I had a very early night tonight to make sure I’m in top form tomorrow!!
Saturday 16th March
Before we headed off for our stag night I decided that I would still go in and ride out first so I went into Mark Johnston’s and done 3 lots. I headed home at lunchtime for a quick shower to be ready for the boys arriving. I still don’t know how but I have managed get the job as driver so with my car looking more like a tip I had to make some sort of effort of cleaning it before we do anything. We booked an apartment in Liverpool City Centre, not that we will be in it that long but it worked out much cheaper than booking hotel rooms for us all.
As you could imaging we had some craic and I can’t wait for the next stag do to come along, I’d almost go as far to say I’d nearly get engaged myself just to have another!
Sunday 17th March
There was few sore heads and tender tummies this morning! Poor Buddy was short of an eyebrow as well just to top things off!!
We had to be out our apartment by 11am and headed straight home where I got parked up on the sofa and slept the day away, can’t handle these mad nights out anymore!
With the greatest spectacle in racing now over for another year, all attention is turned to Aintree, as long as Fair Loch stays sound I’ll be going to there to ride him the bumper!
See you all next week and all comments very much appreciated 🙂
All the best – Zander Voy (@Zander_Voy on Twitter)