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 22 October
At the very end of last week I got a phone call from the local garage saying there must have been an electrical “blip” with my car and there was nothing wrong with it. When I handed it in it would barely go in a straight line so this sounded far too good to be true, unfortunately it was.
I have around an hour’s drive to the boss’s (Chris Grant) yard so I need to be on the road for half past 6 at the latest. I’d got as far as Leyburn which is only 2 miles or so before things started going downhill. I hate being late for anything (I very rarely am) so ringing up the boss to say I wasn’t going to be in at all this morning isn’t something I am too familiar with. There is a lot of organisation put into doing the board sorting out all the lads lots so when you ring up saying you’re not going to be in puts a big spanner in the works. My situation couldn’t be helped and thankfully I have a boss who is very laid back and understanding. I did, however, manage to get a spare lot out at Elaine Burkes which was a bit of a bonus.
Entries came out today for Aintree at the weekend and I was delighted to see my good old friend Garleton (who I have already won 6 races on) entered in the Veterans 3 mile 1 furlong chase. We have broken 2 track records together so far, he currently holds the track record for 3 mile 1 furlong chases around Wetherby and Bangor, an absolute legend of a horse!!
Tuesday 23 October
It was this morning I heard the news about Ian Popham breaking his pelvis for the second time in a year. He was down at Oaksay house last year at the same time as me, I was only there a week but Pops was there quite a while and he worked very hard in his time there to get back to race riding as soon as possible. He’s been desperately unlucky and I wish him a speedy recovery. It’s times like this where the Injured Jockeys Fund comes into play and they do a fantastic job looking after all the jockeys who are sick, lame and wounded.
I was booked on a couple of horses today for later on in the week that meant I would have to claim my 3lbs allowance off 10 stone. It’s a lot easier to shift those unwanted pounds when you have a 2 or 3 days’ notice as you don’t have to rush it; let the wasting begin!
After riding out 4 lots at Mark Johnston’s I didn’t have an awful lot planned so I met up with Nathan Moscrop and the pair of us headed of for a good session in the gym. All we usually do is 40 minutes running, 10 minutes on the bike, a few punch-bag routines and some core muscle strengthening exercises. The fitter and stronger you are the better your body copes with taking falls at the races, which is why the likes of AP McCoy seem to shrug off a lot of falls like there a minor inconvenience. The gym I use is in Leyburn, it’s nothing fancy but it does a job and that’s what counts.
Wednesday 24th October
I was back into to Mark Johnston’s again this morning for 4 lots. Breakfast is after first lot but I gave that a miss and headed back across Middleham moor to meet Kelly at the schooling ground, she had organised for me to school a couple for her parents and when I got there the horses were waiting patiently and ready to go. I schooled a 3yo filly called Baltic Fizz who I rode in a juvenile hurdle a couple of months ago around Stratford; she is entered to run in another juvenile on Friday at Fakenham. I was schooling with Kelly’s sister Lucy, who was riding Doynosaur, and the yards apprentice Conor Harrison, who was on Gangsterbanksters. Conor was like an excited 5 year old boy at Christmas when he found out he was schooling and he let everyone know afterwards just how well he thought he had done. I’m a big fan of schooling horses plenty at home; they learn a lot from repetition so the more work you put into teaching them as youngsters the more benefit they get from it.
After schooling I was back over to ride my other 3 lots at MJ’s. Between lots I was getting on yearlings in there stables, it is the first time they have been sat on so you have to go steady away with them and be patient.
This afternoon I was short of a gym partner so I decided to take my little dog for a run around Middleham moor which is about 4 miles. When I bought her I was told she was a Jack Russell and as a pup she looked just like one. However, she’s fully grown now and although she is still very small I’ve come to the conclusion she’s no more of a Jack Russell than I am! She’s a great little dog with a massive personality and I wouldn’t swap her for anything….well, almost anything!
Thursday 25th October
I was up in Willie Amos’s this morning where I schooled 6 horses. From my experiences up there I think the way Willie trains is brilliant, personally I think that if he can’t win with a horse then no one can. He can ready a horse better than most people and he proved that later on today by winning with Oil Burner who has been off the track for 645 days, a training performance any big name trainer would be proud of!! I wasn’t alone at Willie’s schooling as I had Grant Cockburn for company who is one of Lucinda Russell’s conditionals. We were done plenty early enough so we stopped off in Carlisle itself for a few games of snooker to kill a bit of time before going to the races.
My only ride on the day was a horse called Brieryhill Boy who had looked a difficult ride in bumpers in the past, today was his first attempt at hurdles. He jumped super but he was far too keen for the first mile and a half, he finished a creditable fourth under the circumstances and will no doubt be one to keep on the right side of when he learns to settle.
Friday 26th October
With Newcastle starting early today there wasn’t an awful of time to ride out. I did however manage to squeeze a quick lot in at Mark Johnston’s first.
I only had 1 ride again today; my ride was for Chris Grant on a horse called Gumnd. This was to be his second go at Hurdles after converting from the flat. I rode him on his first start around Sedgefield on which he was a little deliberate at his hurdles, so I was keen to get him into a nice rhythm and try to give him as much confidence as possible. I jumped him off very handy and gave him a good sight at his jumps. He jumped well and was still travelling sweetly turning into the straight but he was one paced when push came to shove and will benefit from a stronger gallop in future. It was only his second run over hurdles and he is still learning. I was pleased as he jumped with more confidence today and he seems to be heading in the right direction.
I was delighted to see that my good old partner in crime Garleton had been declared for Aintree tomorrow, so when I got home from Newcastle I was keen to go through his race and see if there was anyone else likely to challenge me for the lead. It is very important he makes the running as he is a horse who only runs well from the front.
Saturday 27th October
I had no time to ride out this morning as I was in early at Aintree. I shared a lift with Barry Keniry and Richie McGrath who were both riding in the first. Aintree is an amazing place to ride around and the track was yet again in fantastic condition. I have ridden Garleton around there once before and he won pretty convincingly so with course and distance form I was more than hopeful for a big run. He is the best jumper I have ever sat on and he’s just an absolute pleasure to ride.
We went a good gallop as always and he was foot perfect over his fences. He started getting tired going into the 3rd last fence but he is such an honest horse he battled on and finished a good 4th. It was his first run after a break and off a career high mark carrying top weight he was entitled to get a little tired. They will probably say in the papers that the handicapper has him under control and they wouldn’t be far wrong but if there’s something I learnt about Garleton over the last couple of years is never write him off. He is a classy animal who is better than ever at the age of 11 and always seems to win at good prices.
Sunday 28th October
I was back into Mark Johnston’s for four lots this morning along with a few other of the jump lads, Richie McGrath, Barry Keniry and Adam Nicol. It’s a quick morning in there on a Sunday so it’s good to get up and earn some extra pocket money. Unfortunately I had no rides at Aintree today but I was booked this morning for Sinnamara at Bangor tomorrow which was good news, she was travelling well with me last time around Sedgefield before taking a heavy fall.
No winners this week but things are not looking too bad. There’s still plenty more horses to come out of the woodwork and November is looking like it will be a busy month so fingers crossed that hopefully the weather holds up and we have no hiccups with meetings getting abandoned.
Thanks again and I will see you all again next week…
All the best – Zander Voy (@Zander_Voy on Twitter)