‘I’ll stick to thoroughbreds’ — meet the camel riding point-to-point jockey

  • Catherine Walton rode her 100th point-to-point winner and scored a hat-trick at Alnwick last month, earning her the accolade of Howdens Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association (PPORA) jockey of the month for January. She talks to H&H about racing camels, managing her weight and race tactics

    Catherine, congratulations on being crowned Jockey of the Month.

    “It’s a privilege. To get my 100th winner and then ride two more was a great feeling. I’ve ridden a treble [of wins] before, several seasons ago, and that was also at Alnwick, so it’s a lucky course for me.”

    That’s a lot of wins — do you have a race plan?

    “It’s more about looking at the horses around me, trying to find something that’s half fit to follow. Your position at the start is a lot to do with it, and where you want to be depends on the horse you’re on.

    “At Alnwick I like to be in the first three, so I line up in a handy position and make ground up around the back. Then I can sit up and get a breather before the home straight.”

    Where do you work?

    “I started as an amateur jockey for Micky Hammond in May 2015. I start at 6am and finish around 1pm, before riding out locally for Neil Mechie and Justin Landy.”

    You’ve dabbled in camel racing before — how was that?

    “That was a few years ago at Catterick, and it was really good fun. Getting a camel to go fast isn’t easy, because each one liked to be asked in different ways. I rode a couple, and hitting and kicking didn’t work. There was lots of rein flapping and shouting, which seemed to be effective.”

    Did you win?

    “I raced a camel with one hump and then a camel with two humps. The one-humped camel was easier to sit on and ride, and that’s who I won on. Another rider kept it for the final, though, and it beat me on the two-humper. As fun as it was, it’s nothing like racing horses and I’ll stick with Thoroughbreds.”

    Do you have your own point-to-pointer?

    “Until recently I had an unnamed home-bred youngster to ride of my own, but sadly he shattered a stifle. My family breeds a lot of horses so most of my point-to-point rides come from them, but I pick up a few rides for other owners too.”

    Are you from a horsey family?

    “Home is Northumberland, which is where my step-dad and step-mum both train racehorses. My mam, Claire, is married to Jimmy Walton, who is a licence holder.

    “My dad Richard’s wife, Sheenagh, breeds horses and trains them too. So weekends off work aren’t really weekends off because I’ll go home and school something there, or I’m away point-to-pointing.”

    How did you get into point-to-pointing?

    “I hunted a lot when I was younger because my dad was a master of the North Tyne. I did Pony Club too. When my mam married Jimmy he was still race-riding, so there were always racehorses around and I got into it that way.”

    How do you maintain your weight?

    “I’m lucky because I don’t struggle to keep my weight down and I’m usually looking for led so that I’m heavy enough to ride the pointers. I keep fit mostly by riding — I ride four for Micky in the morning and then pointers at lunchtime.”

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    How do you keep fit?

    “I go through stages of jogging around the track on race day. In the summer I jog on the moor. I’ve just got a puppy — a Patterdale terrier called Molly — who will come running with me this year.”

    What do you do to relax?

    “I really enjoy going out somewhere nice to eat. I like to make the most of non-horsey time because it’s rare, but I love what I do.”

    February’s Howdens PPORA Jockey of the Month will be announced in March

    Don’t miss our point-to-point coverage from Charing and Thorpe Lodge in this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine (18 February 2016)

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