All in a day’s work: Amateur jockey Timo Condie *H&H Plus*

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  • Amateur jockey Timo Condie on his path from living on the streets to riding out for The Queen at one of the top yards in the country

    I’m a stable lad at Andrew Balding’s yard and gained my amateur jockey licence in February. I ride four or five lots a day, from unraced two-year-olds to five-year-olds who are still here because they’re good at their jobs. Yesterday I rode one of The Queen’s horses, Kings Lynn. All your problems go away when you ride.

    It was surreal when Kameko won the 2000 Guineas in June. You see champions getting off the lorry on videos but I’d never experienced it personally until I came here.

    I was watching the race by myself. There was a point I thought he got boxed in but Oisín Murphy gave him a peach of a ride. He galloped on through, you could hear the eruption in every house, every mobile home, and the yard. He came back at around 9pm and everyone was there to see him off the lorry in his winner’s sheet.

    I started riding three years ago. The army was my dream when I left school, but it didn’t work out after I was injured in training. I was 18, mentally immature and I couldn’t take the fact I was injured and watching my friends going off. It broke me a little bit. So I left, lost my way for a long time, and I ended up homeless.

    I finally went to Rosendael, an ex-servicemen’s homeless hostel. They’d take veterans to a ranch; a lot struggle with mental health and animals seem to help. Caroline there asked if I wanted to come and see the horses. I thought, “Why would I want to do that?” But I’d come off the streets, I had nothing else to lose, and it would break my day up.

    Little did I know, three and half years later I’d be at one of most prestigious yards in the country. It just worked; I remember a horse walked straight towards me and someone said, “He doesn’t usually like men.” A week later I was riding, six weeks after that I was at the British Racing School.

    Once you’re in a routine and setting small, achievable goals it flows like water. Don’t look at the big picture; that was the mistake I made, looking too far ahead.

    I was at Michael Scudamore’s yard for just shy of two years. I loved it; I’ll remember the whole family for a long time. I was fresh out of racing school and didn’t have a clue. Michael gave me a lot of one-to-one teaching.

    The first time I properly schooled, I was riding Skint, the biggest legend, and Michael told me to grab a whip. I thought, “Why am I being asked to do that?” – I wasn’t expecting to school at all. We were trotting away at the bottom of the hurdles, he said, ‘Are you ready?’ and just went and I followed.

    Two Smokin Barrels at the Scudamores was very special. She wasn’t the easiest to train; she had her quirks. In my eyes, she was the horse of a lifetime. She was tough; sass for days! I love horses that have that fire in their belly, it’s what makes them good.

    She was the first winner I ever led up. Tom Scudamore was riding that day in the handicap chase at Wincanton in March 2018. I remember watching her battling in the final furlong, and she got her head in front and won by a length or so.

    It’s one of my favourite moments in racing. We were all jumping and hugging. Two years prior I’d thought about ending my life.

    I went through a real bad patch. I thought there was no hope. It’s remarkable, I can’t thank the people enough that got me here. It’s been a steep learning curve, not a steady climb, and I’ve fallen and picked myself up. If you’re feeling lost, it’s important to speak out and not let things get on top of you.

    Horses make you a much more caring person. I couldn’t be happier. If someone had told me years ago that I could ride, it would have kept me out of so much trouble growing up.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 July 2020