It feels like the 2016/2017 jump season has flown by. It was one that provided me with many highlights in the saddle, including picking up the champion conditional jockey title, which was presented to me at Sandown on Saturday (29 April).
When Sam Twiston-Davies was sidelined with injury in October some extra opportunities came my way and helped boost my tally for the season to 63 wins. I’m very grateful for those opportunities, especially in just my second season as a professional jockey — I rode horses I never thought I ever would.
I was delighted to ride my first Grade One winner on Irving, trained by my boss Paul Nicholls, in the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in November — it was great to get a big Saturday winner under my belt. I also enjoyed my first spin over the National fences, winning the Topham Chase at Aintree on the Colin Tizzard-trained Ultragold. Before taking on those big fences, I had no idea what to expect but I had watched plenty of replays and just needed a bit of luck — which I got!
To be honest the race was over far too soon, I don’t remember much but everything went to plan.
I have enjoyed riding for Tizzard as well this season and have been riding out there once a week each Wednesday morning.
When I rode out my claim in February things did go a bit quiet, in terms of both rides and winners, which I think is not unusual. However, it has definitely picked up again and I’m busier now than I ever was before losing my claim — I have just returned from riding at my first Punchestown Festival in Ireland.
Ponies to pointing
It was thanks to pony racing followed by point-to-pointing that I got going as a jockey and how my connection with Paul Nicholls began. Aged nine, I did pony racing alongside Paul’s daughter Megan and when I turned 13 he suggested I came over in my school holidays to ride out.
I was fortunate to ride two “steering jobs” pointing, and, ideally, I would have stayed doing it for longer — I rode from December to March in my one and only pointing season before starting at Paul’s as a conditional. People told me at the time it was too soon but I bit the bullet and went for it, which I’m glad I did.
I’m still at Paul’s most mornings, mucking out and riding out lots and that definitely keeps me grounded. I’d say Paul, as a boss, is very honest — perhaps tough — but always fair.
As a jockey you can go three weeks with no winners and then have five in a week, that’s the way it is and it’s hard. But I’d say to any aspiring jockeys, if you really want it then persevere — keep your head down, keep going and believe there is light at the end of a tunnel.
Ref Horse & Hound; 4 May 2017