‘Manners are still important’: Gold Cup-winning jockey Nico de Boinville on judging retrained racehorses

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  • As a Cheltenham Gold Cup and dual Champion Chase-winning jockey, Nico de Boinville has been fortunate enough to ride — and win — aboard some of the most eye-catching racehorses, including the Nicky Henderson-trained duo Sprinter Scare and Altior.

    But on Sunday (26 August), he swapped a jockey hat for a bowler to be on the judging panel at the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) Goffs UK National Championships.

    A self-proclaimed “amateur judge learning the ropes”, Nico judged the supreme champion alongside his wife, Serena, a Connemara pony breeder, and experienced judge and showing breeder Jonathan Geake.

    The trio adjudged 15-year-old former hunter chaser What Of It, ridden by Hannah Horton, as the winner of the coveted supreme champion of the show, to reserve champion Jack The Giant, who was shown in-hand by Clare Poole. Their show ring rivals included the 2016 Gold Cup victor Don Cossack, ridden by Louise Lyons.

    “As soon as the horses entered the arena, you could see straight away how much presence What Of It had,” said Nico, whose showing background saw him ride at Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International as a youngster.

    “He stood out from the start. We hadn’t seen them stripped beforehand, but his way of going was impressive — he looked exceptional.

    “Judging is very subjective, ultimately you are comparing horses to each other and deciding which one you like best,” said Nico.

    “There were some lovely horses on the night, but What Of It caught the eye from the start and fortunately all of us on the judging panel agreed!”

    Continued below…

    For any racehorse, going under the lights in an arena is a totally different environment to what they are used to when in training, but how important is temperament in the show ring?

    “Manners are still important, after all it is called the ‘retraining’ of racehorses,” said Nico. “As a judge, you like to see them trained appropriately — particularly when being ridden under saddle. The in-hand veteran Jack The Giant, who was our reserve champion, was certainly showing his enthusiasm of old, but minor things like this can be forgiven I think.

    “As a jockey, I ride a lot of different horses and I would not say I have a particular stamp of horse that I favour,” added Nico. “Although, I do like horses with a classy and intelligent head, who have a nice way of going — a horse that is nice to look at!”

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