The reigning men’s point-to-point champion jockey is shaking off the shackles of having famous sisters to chase some major ambitions, finds Gemma Redrup
If ever there was a surname synonymous with point-to-pointing, it would be Andrews. And the latest member of this dynasty to make their presence well and truly known is Jack Andrews, who claimed the men’s national title last season, despite it being cut short by three months due to Covid.
“It will always be in black and white that I was champion jockey in the 2019/20 season and that was the way I told myself I had to look at it,” says 22-year-old Jack pragmatically. “A lot of people said I earned it and I feel proud of it, but there’s definitely an overriding feeling that I want to do it in a full season to try to get more satisfaction from it.”
Jack was five winners clear of his nearest rival when the curtain fell on the season early last March.
“There’s nothing better than going down to Umberleigh on the last day of the season, knowing you’re going to be crowned champion. I managed to experience that when I won the novice title in 2017. The whole chase through the season, trying to fend off rivals or trying to catch the one at the top right up until the final day – I missed that feeling in 2020,” he says.
A defining point of Jack’s winning season was when he bagged 11 winners from 18 rides over the course of two weeks. This purple patch culminated in riding a four-timer at Ampton, a day he pinpoints as the highlight of his career.
“I went from being four or five off the leader, and looking like I wouldn’t challenge, to being three or four in front,” explains Jack, saying he doesn’t set out to win a title, just to see how he gets on. “Then all of a sudden, people said they were going to get behind me in an effort to try to help make winning the championship happen.
“I was riding at a 33% strike rate, which was ridiculous considering historically I was probably riding at half of that percentage. I’m quite good at getting on the phone, trying to pick up rides.”
Jack follows in the footsteps of his two older sisters, with Gina, 29, and Bridget, 28, both taking ladies’ championship titles – Gina has seven to her name so far. Bridget is now a professional jockey and married to fellow jockey Harry Skelton, son of Olympian Nick. Gina is married to Tom Ellis, and they train a yard of around 40 pointers. But a big sticking point for Jack while growing up was to shake off the label of being “Gina and Bridget’s brother”.
“It was something I wanted to grow out of – I wanted to be someone in my own right. I jokingly said to them the other day that I want them to become known as ‘Jack’s sisters’ instead.”
Jack has recorded 111 point-to-point winners from well over 500 rides, plus a couple in hunter chases and 20 under Rules. But he wasn’t a pony-mad child while growing up on the family farm near Luton; he was more interested in football and tennis.
“I rode from the age of four or five but I hated Pony Club and my mum, Joanna, used to have to drag me out in the lorry to take part,” laughs Jack, who had his first taste of racing success at the age of eight in the pony ranks. “I always wanted to be a jockey but I wasn’t interested in stable management and I used to make Bridget and Gina tack up my pony for me as I wouldn’t ride it otherwise. But when I was old enough to ride the pointers at home when I was 13 or 14, I started to get into it. Now it takes over my life and I don’t think about anything other than racing.”
When Jack was 15, his father Simon, who also had a successful career between the flags, including winning the Aintree Foxhunters, bought his son a pointer called Pheidias.
“I rode him every morning before school – if mum could get me to school, that is,” he says. “I hated my studies with a passion and used to do things like not get on the bus to get out of it, but I still managed to pass my GCSEs and left immediately afterwards.
“Mum and Dad never put pressure on us to pursue a career in the saddle. The opportunity was there if we wanted it. Dad pushed me more to be a farmer in the early days.
“My first ride was three days after my 16th birthday at Higham in April 2014 on Pheidias, and it went woefully, pulling up three fences out,” chuckles Jack. “I knew he was a bit of an old dog, but he was safe and he got me started.”
Jack had to complete another 23 rides before bagging his first winner at Horseheath in February 2015.
“Waiting that long for a winner made me appreciate it more. A lot of people get off the board straight away and don’t appreciate it as much as they should do,” he says. “It was a brilliant day as Bridget and Gina both rode winners there, too. I think we were only the third lot of three siblings in history to win on the same day at the same racecourse.”
Jack is instantly recognisable due to his lofty height; 6ft 4in to be precise. It threw a spanner in the works in terms of his original career plans.
“I was average height until I was 16 or 17. Then I shot up. It wrecked my brain as being a professional jump jockey was all I ever wanted to do, but it was out of my control,” he says.
With height, obviously comes weight, and this is something Jack has to monitor closely.
“My weight ballooned quite badly when I was 18 and 19, but I’ve got it under control and it’s better now than it’s ever been,” he explains. “I have tried a few different things in terms of diet, but at the end of the day, the less you eat, the less you weigh. I eat the same sort of things every day and it works, but I can still go out and enjoy a social life in normal times – my diet doesn’t prevent me from doing that.”
Jack lives within 30 minutes of his sisters in Warwickshire and he sees them regularly.
“Bridget and I used to fight like hell when we were kids, but the three of us get on well now,” he laughs. “I ride out at Tom and Gina’s every day, bar Mondays and Wednesdays, when I ride for my other trainers such as Stuart Morris and Julie Wadland. I’ve also recently started going into Fran [née Nimmo] and Charlie Poste’s this year to school on a Monday. Anywhere you can go to learn is a good thing.”
Things have of course been quiet recently on the racing front, but Jack is optimistic that the effects of Covid will be relatively short-lived.
“Hopefully we will be getting going again soon. It’s annoying, though, and I feel sorry for the horses more than anything as they were fit and ready to go,” he says.
He picks out two horses to watch on the resumption of point-to-pointing.
“Gina and I bought Fumet D’Oudairies for £800 from the sales in 2019. Trained by Tom, he has achieved more than we could have ever imagined, winning all four starts last season,” Jack says. “He looks like he could be a serious horse moving forwards and one I’m looking forward to riding again.”
Indeed, just last week Fumet D’Oudairies added a maiden hunters’ chase under Bridget to his tally.
Minella Wizard is another purchase made about 18 months ago.
“He won both of his starts last season for trainer Stuart Morris, and looks like he’s got a lot of scope for improvement,” he adds.
Long-term, a career in training appeals to Jack: “I play quite a big part in the training of Tom and Gina’s horses and the planning of where they go. That really interests me, especially with the young horses. Even if a training opportunity under Rules came about, I would be interested in it.”
His more immediate plans are pretty obvious; to ride as many winners as he can.
“I want to win the championship in a normal season and I’d love to win an Aintree Foxhunters’ or Cheltenham Foxhunter [now known as the St James’s Place Open Hunters’ Chase]” – preferably the latter as I think the quality of horse is better,” he explains. “I want to ride for as long as I can, but the day I stop enjoying it, I will stop as the diet isn’t worth it if you’re not enjoying it.”
I have a sneaking suspicion there are many more championships with Jack’s name on them, so we’re hopefully not going to be waving him off into retirement any time soon.
Also published in H&H 11 March 2021
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