Secrets of the Saddle

Secrets of the Saddle

Monday, August 28, 2017

LAST week's Secrets of the Saddle series in the Racing Post made great reading.

As a rider, I always stuck to the belief that a horse could only go as fast as was naturally possible. I couldn't make it go any faster than it was physically able to.

Horses can only run at their maximum speed for a certain amount of time - which isn't very far - so my secret was to get it into a nice early rhythm and find it's natural cruising speed. It didn't matter what trip, that's what I did.

The only exception to this rule was with lazy horses, who you instinctively knew weren't trying too hard. You had to make them do it. You had to get them motivated early.

Persian Punch, one of my favourites, was a prime example in staying races. You had to roust him along in front and motivate him. You had to rev him up very early and maintain speed from start to finish.

The worst place for a jockey to be is stuck on the wing with no cover. If you are off the bridle you should be rowing away in behind them, not on the outside where all the horse can see is daylight.

It's far better to be on someone's tail with plenty of cover before producing the horse a furlong out to go by. You should only try and go by a horse when you know you are able to go by. Horses thrive on confidence and it gives a horse huge confidence to pass others in this manner.

Horses are athletes, and I firmly believe that confidence and mindrelated issues often provide the difference between winning and losing. A jockey can give a horse confidence and, similarly, also destroy any confidence it had.

The best way to destroy that confidence is to produce them on the outside at the three-furlong pole when they're off the bridle.

Any idiot can jump on a horse and push and shove for three minutes, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the art of race-riding.

My other secret was getting to know the idiosyncrasies of each racetrack and you only achieve that through experience. That's why I became a better jockey during the later part of my career.

For instance, the way I rode Chepstow was to imagine the furlong pole was my winning pole in all races.

You had to be up with the pace at Chepstow and I learned over a period of time that if you got to the furlong pole in front, you usually won.

Obviously you do get exceptions, but that was my golden rule round there.

Goodwood was one of my favourite tracks to ride. The key was to go the shortest way round. In many races there you get a horse three or four wide quickening in front three furlongs out. I would let my horse stay on the inner and give it time to fill up its lungs.

You are always turning to the right at Goodwood, so the horse who goes for home at the top of the hill on the outside is quickening up but not necessarily gaining any ground on its rivals.

The right time to switch out wide round that track is at the two-furlong pole and many races there are won and lost at this point.

Windsor is another track I used to enjoy riding. The perfect scenario there was to get out in front and give them a breather as soon as you reached the bottom bend.

You had to really stretch a horse from the gate a bit longer than normal to get to the front there, but you would get that energy back at the bottom bend where you would pull them up.

If you pulled up in front you would soon get all those in behind climbing on top of each other and you would be saving energy for the closing stages of the race.

I think it takes foreign jockeys quite a while to get used to our tracks.


The Juddmonte International at York on Wednesday certainly lived up to its billing. It was a great race.

They went a good Group 1 gallop all the way and the best horse won. Ulysses didn't just win; he won convincingly.

Jim Crowley gave him an even better ride at York than when they won the Coral-eclipse at Sandown earlier in the summer.

Normally in a race like this you have a pacemaker in front and the rest follow. however, on this occasion it was the 9-2 shot Cliffs Of Moher at the head of affairs, with the 11-4 chance Barney Roy and 5-2 favourite Churchill sat second and third.

Perhaps Barney Roy isn't as effective on slow ground as he is on a quicker surface, and maybe the ground blunted Churchill's speed? On fast ground it could well have been a different outcome, but this time the older warrior took the scalp of the three-year-olds.

Ulysses is now being aimed at the Breeders' Cup and he'll be hard to beat in America as long as they go quick.

It was another great training performance from Sir Michael Stoute. I remember tipping Ulysses in this column for the Derby last year.

he didn't perform to expectations that afternoon and got beat by Chain Of Daisies in the Group 3 Winter hill Stakes at Windsor on this very day last year.

Ryan Moore told me he was a good horse a long time before that and Sir Michael has now clearly found the key to getting the very best out of him.

he has been a work in progress over a period of time and Sir Michael persevered and kept faith during times when the jury was out. All those efforts are now being rewarded.