Two full-time jobs, racing under an alias and a spectacular point-to-pointing season debut after 11 months on the injury list. Richard Smith, who missed most of last year with a badly broken shoulder, bounced back with two winners and a runner-up at Alnwick in December 2015, earning the accolade of Howdens PPORA Jockey of the Month.
Richard, you missed most of last season. What happened?
“I was riding a horse called Morianour in an open maiden at Sherriff Hutton last January and he fell at the last when in the lead. I broke my shoulder and as it was so early in the season I missed the rest of it. It was a bad break that needed operating on.”
Were you concerned about regaining your earlier form?
“I was determined to get back to riding the way I was, but I didn’t rush my recovery so that my shoulder could mend properly.”
How did it feel being wiped out so early in the season?
“It was frustrating because my friends had all ridden winners, whereas my horse wasn’t going well. I thought he would come good with a few runs under his belt — but then I broke my shoulder and he didn’t go out again.”
How many horses do you have in training?
“Two — Mistissio and an unnamed youngster. I’m looking for more horses but prices at the sales have been ridiculous recently. My Dad has a few friends who would like something to go in the paddock with, so next season I hope to have a couple more horses at home.”
How do you fund your point-to-pointing?
“I’m a farmer’s son, so I do the horses in the mornings and farm in the afternoons. We have beef cattle and sheep on 500 acres across two farms in Ferryhill and Bishop Auckland, County Durham. It’s like having two full-time jobs.”
You’ve been point-to-pointing for 10 years. Can you recall your best race ride?
“I’ve ridden 68 pointing winners, plus four in hunter chases. The best was at Catterick Bridge in 2010 on Areyacoddinmee. He wasn’t going a yard, but on the last circuit he suddenly picked up so I got stuck in and we flew down the home straight to win easily. I trained the horse myself and it was my first win under rules.”
And the worst?
Sweeping Storm taught me how to swear. At South Durham [in 2005] he jumped to the front and then ran out at the fifth fence from home. I was as weak as a kitten and I couldn’t pull him back in. Boy was I cross — I’m stronger now!”
How did you get in to point-to-pointing?
“It all started with Sweeping Storm, whom my mother [Elaine] had in training when I turned 16. He became my schoolmaster and even though he didn’t give me a win, he was the horse that got me going. My granddad trained pointers, too, and tetrathlons and hunting were my favourites when I was in The Pony Club.”
Tell us something not many people know about you.
“My real name is George, but I’ve always been called Richard, which is also my Dad’s name. That’s why my initials are G.R. when I ride under rules.”
What do you do to relax?
“There’s not much time for that! I like hunting and shooting. Once the season finishes I’ll go on holiday with my girlfriend, Lizi Scott. Somewhere hot with a few activities to do, plus plenty of food and drink.”
What are your goals for this season?
“Being named Jockey of the Month was completely out of the blue, in a very nice way, as I’ve been out of the saddle for so long. I don’t set goals; I just take it as it comes. When I get down to the start on race day I try to follow something I know won’t get in the way and hope it works out.”
January’s Howdens PPORA Jockey of the Month will be announced in February, www.pointtopoint.co.uk.