‘I’m very lucky’: meet young jockey Olive Nicholls, who is following in the footsteps of her famous family

  • Horse & Hound is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy. Learn more
  • The surname Nicholls is one that has become synonymous with horseracing over the years. And it looks as though that isn’t about to change any time soon.

    Olive Nicholls, who recently turned 17, is following in her family’s footsteps and is already making a good impression on the horse world by riding an impressive 14 point-to-point winners from 37 rides to-date. She also secured the novice rider point-to-point championship last season.

    Olive is a daughter of multiple champion National Hunt trainer Paul Nicholls, while her older sister Megan Nicholls had a successful career as a jockey before hanging up her boots to present racing on TV, including being part of the ITV Racing team. Olive’s mother, Georgie Nicholls, with whom Olive lives and for whom she currently rides, has been riding and training in Oxfordshire on and off since the late 1990s, originally under her maiden name of Browne.

    “My life has always only been horses,” says Olive, who is juggling riding with a BTEC business course. “I’m very lucky to be in the position I am in, but of course it does bring quite a lot of extra ties having the surname that I do. There is definitely is a bit more pressure and I’m very aware that. But I think more than anything, I put pressure on myself – I’m pretty tough on myself – but I’m trying to make the most of the fortunate position I’m in.”

    Olive also has a passion for eventing, competing up to intermediate and two-star level, and currently has two horses she plans to campaign in this sphere in 2023.

    “Eventing is now just my fun really,” she explains. “This year I’d love to have a good shot at the junior team, but there’s no pressure with that – I just want to enjoy it.”

    With so much on her plate, Olive’s typical day is pretty busy.

    “I have to attend my business course three-and-a-half days per week, which works pretty well around my riding,” she says. “During the Christmas holidays I was riding out six lots for mum near Lambourn each morning, then I rode my two eventers and then did evening stables. My life is pretty much just horses.”

    Olive rides pointers predominantly for her mother and picks out Viroflay as one to watch this season.

    “I think Viroflay is a very exciting horse. He definitely keeps me on my toes and makes me work for it as he’s a bit of a funny fish, a bit nuts and runs away with me at home regularly, but we love him for it,” explains Olive of the six-year-old, who is owned by her father Paul Nicholls along with John Bolton, and is trained by her mother. 

    Viroflay most recently won his second point-to-point at Larkhill (1 January) by 12 lengths, beating some good horses in the process.

    “The result was beyond my expectations and I nearly didn’t run him as he’s so inexperienced, but he was an absolute pro and I’ve never ever had a feeling like that,” explains Olive. 

    Viroflay has just returned to racing after two years on the sidelines.

    “He did a leg after two juvenile hurdle runs for dad and to be honest, the injury was possibly the biggest blessing I’ve ever had because I wouldn’t have Viroflay otherwise.

    “He was owned by the Stewart family and Andy Stewart very sadly passed away in 2022, so I think he was blessed into our hands really.”

    Olive says that she has been “extremely lucky” to ride some of the horses that she has gained experience on in point-to-points, such as previous multiple National Hunt winners Virak and Shantou Flyer.

    “The experienced horses taught me the most on the course and that is the only thing that’s going to take a jockey forward. To have those older horses last season means that now I have have more knowledge to get on the younger horses this year and every teach them a bit as well.”

    In terms of this season Olive says that she will be building on last season’s experiences.

    “Obviously now I’m not a novice rider [having won the title last season], there’s a bit of a jump up in competition,” she explains. “I’d love to give the ladies’ national championship a go, but I don’t think I’m in a position to secure it just yet. I’d love to do better than I did last season though and I have a lot of personal goals; I’d love to get my category B licence and get some rides under Rules under my belt.”

    In the long-term, Olive takes no time in saying that she would like to go down the racehorse training route.

    “I’d love to train National Hunt horses, but if I thought I was going be good enough to be a professional jockey, and it seemed like the right thing to do, then of course I would give it a go. But I wouldn’t do that unless I thought I could really do it.”

    Note down the name Olive Nicholls – she is definitely one to follow.

    You might also be interested in:

    Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

    You may like...