A National Hunt jockey is hoping a new mobile pizza venture will have him rolling in the dough once his racing days are over.
Tom Garner, who rides for Oliver Sherwood, has converted an old trailer to run the catering business, which he has set up with chef and former jockey Josh Baudains.
“I wanted something to fall back on, racing as a career is quite hard and can be cut short at any time,” said 28-year-old Tom, who also supplements his earnings with a part-time job as an insurance broker.
Tom had originally been inspired to buy a tuk tuk to use as a mobile pizza outlet while on holiday in Sri Lanka, but later decided a trailer was a more viable option.
“I was at my brother’s wedding and saw how much they were charged to cater for relatively small numbers, which had originally given me the idea,” he said.
“I approached Josh, who is an old friend I used to ride with in Jersey, who is an exceptional cook, and coincidentally he’d already thought of the idea but never had anyone to do it with.
“He’d been working on a farm, which he loves doing, but it’s not where his heart is, which is in catering.”
Tom said he had taken a hands-on role in setting up the business, although the bulk of the cooking was left to his business partner.
“I’m not quite as hands-on as Josh would like with the cooking but I worked on the trailer, which we found on a farm where he was working,” Tom said. “I even spent 18 hours sanding the thing!
“We had it fabricated by some friends of mine near Tewkesbury who have set up a new engineering firm, Mocho Fabrication, and I went down there and helped.”
The business, Fired Up Pizza, has already had its first gig at the Blowing Stone pub near Lambourn and dates for point-to-points, the Vale of the White Horse hunt ball and weddings are already in the pipeline.
The upmarket menu includes the “Tally-Ho” chorizo and goats cheese; “Gone to Ground”, which features chicken, peppers, onion, sweetcorn and mozzarella; and the vegetarian option, the “Chris Packham”.
“We sold 75 pizzas at our first gig — there were a few mistakes and it was a bit of a learning curve but it went well,” Tom said. “Two people said ‘I want you to do our wedding’, so if it goes like that every time I will be delighted!”
Tom is hoping to expand the business in future and already has plans for a second trailer selling prosecco, gin and rum.
If you think of a trailer as just a means of transporting your horse from A to B, think again.
Siobhan Reilly and sister Karan McLernon spent three months refurbishing the two-horse trailer
Tom said many working in the racing industry had to think about further qualifications or back-up work if they could no longer carry on with the job — adding that Josh had moved away from riding after a bad fall over hurdles.
“He was a very good rider, and in that sense his career was cut short,” said Tom, who also pointed out the financial pressures jockeys face.
“Without the insurance work I do, I couldn’t have continued riding the last couple of seasons as the money for going up and down country is not good enough, even with 150-200 rides a season, it involves a lot of expenses and you’re doing that just to live,” he said.
“You need something to fall back on this game, it can be very harsh. Jets [Jockeys Education and Training Scheme] helped us out and I can’t thank them enough — I’d advise any young fellow to use them.”