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 1st October
After a quiet week I was looking forward to the start of this one as it looks like I am going to be a little busier as far as racing is concerned. I was due to be in Chris Grants (My boss) yard for 7:30. I schooled a mare called Micro Mission who is owned by my sponsor David Armstrong. A lot of jockeys nowadays have sponsors and I’m very lucky to be sponsored by Dave’s company North Sea Logistics. He is a big owner at Chris’s and I’ve been lucky enough to share a fair bit of success with him, including Micro Mission who I won on at big prices last year around Kelso and Ayr. Our second victory was a valuable Mares Handicap Hurdle on the first day of the Scottish National meeting. She was the rank outsider at 28/1, a silly price. I never really look at prices when I ride. The way I see it is the horses don’t know what price they are and that’s good enough for me. She is only small but she is as tough as old boots. I popped her over a few fences this morning and she did not disappoint. She is a mare I like very much and I am confident we can make the winners enclosure again this year.
It was at Chris’s that morning I found out 2 horses that I had ridden in the past had only just been retired. The first one was Flaygray. I won on him last year in hurdle around Kelso. He had plenty of ability and was one of them horses who are just a pleasure to deal with. I hope he has a well-deserved long and happy retirement.
The other was Mardood. I had four days in the sunshine with him, each of them were all around Sedgefield. Some horses just love certain courses and for Mardood Sedgefield was his favourite hunting ground. He was a very clever horse, and probably a little too clever at times. If he was on a going day he was not a bad animal at all, but if he wasn’t on a going day he’d simply go out and mosey around at his own leisurely pace with minimal effort. Regardless of his quirks I loved him to bits, he was great to ride, at home and in a race, a dude of a horse. I will pay him a visit in the future for sure; I’m certainly due him a carrot two.
I had another session in the gym with Nathan Moscrop in the afternoon, this time we decided to wear all the sweat gear. Hats, Hoodies, sweat tops etc. We must have looked like a right pair of eegits! Everyone in there, head to toe in the correct gym attire and the pair of us dressed like we have just stepped out the North Pole. We had a good workout nonetheless.
On Monday I also watched relevant replays for my 3 rides at Sedgefield the next day. I find that it’s best to do this the night before just in case you don’t get time on race day. It’s no good going into a race knowing little or nothing about your horse or the horses you’re trying to beat. Preparation-Prevents-Poor-Performance; something I learned from a man called Frank Conlon when I was 16 in my days at The British Racing School.
Tuesday 2nd October
I had 3 rides at Sedgefield and was really looking forward to getting back in the saddle. I was in the first race at 2:20pm so had time to squeeze a few lots in at Mark Johnston’s first. When I got to Sedgefield I went out on to track and walked a full lap. Although we ride around these tracks all season they do make changes to hurdle positions, running rails, separate bends etc., so it’s best to do your homework first. I also walked the track to have a look at the ground for myself. To my surprise the ground was just on the softer side of good. No complaints at all there. The ground staff did a great job considering the rain we had last week.
My first ride was Gumnd for my boss. He has run plenty on the flat but it was his first run over hurdles. Chris’s horses usually always jump well. He was a top class jockey in his younger days so if anyone knows how to school a horse then it’s him. He has excellent schooling facilities at his yard and he’s not afraid to use them. Gumnd ran well enough, he was careful at his hurdles, which was costing him ground at times, but he is only a novice so that can be expected.
My second ride was on Muwalla. He settled and jumped well. In the last half mile he just got a little tired so he will be dropped back in trip next time.
My third ride was on Sinnamara for John Wainwright in the conditional jockeys handicap hurdle. She is a little fizzy so I was keen to settle her in near the rear for the first circuit. With horses like that it is important to get them relaxed and into “energy saving mode”, so to speak. It’s no good if a horse fights you as all that happens is they burn themselves out too early and nothing is left for the finish. I couldn’t have been happier with the way she was running when 5 hurdles from home she took a heavy fall at the next flight. She jumped the hurdle well enough but never got the landing gear out in time. Thankfully she got up quickly and no damage was done. I landed clean on my head, probably the safest place for me to take a knock.
No winners, but we left the races in one piece. We live to fight another day.
Wednesday 3rd October
I woke up a little sore and a bit stiff after my tumble yesterday. I got prescribed some painkillers earlier on this year when I fractured my back and I still have a few left over so I took a couple of them. They are brilliant, you could knock an elephant out with them, half an hour later I was right as rain. After a couple of lots at Mark Johnston’s I headed over to Elaine Burkes to give Doynosaur another school over fences. We jumped 6 and again I couldn’t fault her, for a big filly she is incredibly quick and light on her feet. I am looking forward to riding her in a novice chase in the next week or two. She was good enough over hurdles but she will be twice as good over fences; definitely one for the notebook.
Thursday 4th October
Although it was sunny here, there was a huge cloud hanging over Middleham this morning. News spread fast of the untimely death of 24 year old Jessica Bethell, Daughter of the trainer James Bethell and his wife Sally. I have only known Jess around two years but she was good friends with my girlfriend Kelly and it is actually through Jess that Kelly and I met. I remember the many summer nights where we would all go round to hers for barbeques and drinks. We would sit for hours afterwards and just laugh away amongst ourselves all night. She really was such a lovely, friendly, genuine person who will be sorely missed by everyone who knew her.
The last few months have been plagued with tragedy. It is true what they say, it only seems to happen to the good ones.
Friday 5th October
The good thing about Friday is its 48 hour declarations for Sunday. My agent rang me in the Morning asking me that question I hate the most….”how’s the weight Zander”? My reply went along lines of “I’m in between the weight of a hippo and an elephant” in which he hit me with “You’ve got 9 stone 11 Sunday”. Let the wasting begin!
I had 1 ride at Hexham so after 3 lots at Mark Johnston’s I headed straight to Barry Keniry’s house as it was his turn to drive. There’s a few jump lads based in and around Middleham so we all take turns on the driving front. It was Hexham’s first meeting of the season and the ground was very soft. When I got there I went and took a look at the new stable-lads accommodation which is named ‘The Campbell Gillies Lodge’. All his family were there and his mother Lesley opened the doors for the first time. Campbell had a lot of success around Hexham in his short career. I remember watching him ride his first ever winner around there when he was only 16. He also rode his final winner there so I think it’s a fantastic tribute by Hexham Racecourse to name the lads accommodation after him. It’s the first thing you see when you drive in and the last thing you see when you leave, a massive well done to everyone involved in making it happen.
There was also a memorial race for Campbell in which Lucinda Russell and Peter Buchanan took the honours, a fairy-tale result that was pretty emotional for everyone. Afterwards all the jockeys and valets came into the winners enclosure for the presentation, which I thought was a great gesture.
My ride on the day was Emirate Isle for Chris Grant in the final race. I won on him earlier on the year around Sedgefield but this was his first run after a break and he often needs one to put him 100%. He doesn’t mind a bit of cut in the ground but it was just too soft for him and he tired quickly because of it. On better ground and a sharper track he is a much more effective horse.
*Note from Ben (NTF) – Spot on from Zander re. Emerate Isle needing his first run back.
Horse’s record after a break of 60 days or more now reads – P-5-6-7-8-5-9-5
His 4 career wins have come after breaks of 5, 14, 19 and 21 days
Saturday 6th October
Today was mainly dedicated to losing weight. I woke up 10 stone 2, not too heavy but not really ideal when I need to be ideally 9 stone 8 tomorrow. I had 4 lots in Mark Johnston’s and rode out all morning in waterproofs and a sweat top. It was a nice sunny day thankfully so it didn’t take me long to start shifting the pounds. By the time lunchtime came around all I had taken in was a can of Red Bull. Obviously food was out the equation for me so I decided to get the running gear on and head off with the dogs for a lap of Middleham Low Moor which is about 4 miles. Not too far but far enough to get a good sweat on. There is a sauna at every racecourse in the country but I prefer to do most of sweating at home, and another good way to get the weight off is in the bath. I done an hour or so in the bath at night at was down to 9 stone 11 afterwards, Only 2lb to go. Happy Days!
Sunday 7th October
Sunday was an earlier start for me than normal. Willie Amos had contacted my agent through the week to organise a day for me to go into school Lie Forrit again. Because I was already due to head up that way for Kelso we agreed that Sunday would be best. I left at 5:30am to aim to be at Willie’s for around 8.00. When I got there Willie already had everything organised, Lie Forrit was tacked up and ready to get on with his business. I jumped 3 hurdles on him and 12 fences, he felt and looked a million dollars and negotiated all his obstacles effortlessly. I, and more importantly Willie, was very happy with him.
When I got Kelso I took myself for a walk around the track as they have a whole new layout from last season. They have changed the fences and now have separate run-in’s for the hurdle and chase races. I was quite impressed with the course, there was plenty covering of grass and the fences looked very inviting and safe. After a little stint in the sauna I was finally down to 9 stone 8lb.
The ground was just on the softer side of good, although it was lovely ground it didn’t suit either of my rides. My first ride Barr Head ran well for a long way but he likes the ground quick, so that little bit of cut in it just stopped him getting home over the 2 mile 7 furlongs. My second ride Ringagree Rosie was fancied and I was hoping for a big run. I finished second on her around Hexham on very soft ground earlier on this year and that form didn’t look too bad. There was no pace in the race so I decided to make the running on her as she needs a true gallop. I was still in front 1/2 a mile from home but she was one paced when push came to shove. She’s a nice filly who needs a true test of stamina and will be winning races over hurdles for sure.
I will see you all again next week…
All the best – Zander Voy (@Zander_Voy on Twitter)