Monday, September 25, 2017
Thumbs up for the British Racing School
On Monday we look forward to welcoming George Rooke as the latest British Racing School pupil to join the Weathercock House team on a placement. Finley Marsh, Abby Murray, Siobhan Webb and Sophie Jones, all came to us after completing their BRS Foundation Learner Course.
A foundation learner will have spent four, nine or 14 weeks - depending on their ability – at the BRS, during which time they will have learnt the basics of horse care, including mucking out, grooming, feeding, tacking up ready for exercise, turnout and putting horses on the walker under supervision.
They will have ridden a number of different horses appropriate to their ability in the school and on railed gallops at walk, trot and a controlled steady canter.
On completion, students will be awarded their Level 1 diploma and are expected to sign up to Level 2, the Intermediate Apprenticeship in Racehorse Care whereby they spend time at a racing stable.
Youngsters at the beginning of their careers in racing arrive here as a ‘work in progress’. They have been taught the basics but there are lots of things they don’t know and it is up to us to further their education by guiding them in the right direction, and teaching them how to do the job the correct way.
The most important thing for them all to learn is how to work as a team. After a month or so they soon learn that looking after horses is not just a job but a vocation and involves an incredible team effort.
All of our trainees fitted in very well at Weathercock House. We are delighted with them all, and with his progression as an apprentice Jockey we now see Finley daily in the newspapers.
Leaving home is a daunting time for teenagers, and it’s not easy to adapt. Working in a racing yard may be a lot of fun, but it is also physically hard, demanding and tiring.
Many people who go on the course do inevitably fall by the wayside, but others complete it with flying colours and go on to have successful careers in racing. A particular highlight for me has been the improvement shown by Abby, Sophie & Siobhan in their riding ability.
British racing is lucky to have such a brilliant course available for young people to take. After all, younger staff add a vibrancy to the workforce and are the future of the industry.
I strongly believe that more money should be invested in the scheme.
I’ll never forget Scissor Ridge, my first winner in Britain
I was sad to hear the news on Wednesday that Scissor Ridge, my first winner as a jockey in Britain in July 1994, had died at the age of 25.
Leigh O’Brien, who rehomed Scissor Ridge at the end of a wonderful career which spanned 165 races, rang to tell me the old horse had been put to sleep.
Scissor Ridge, who was bred by Kevin Keegan, will always hold a special place in my heart. It may only have been a seller on a Saturday night at Wolverhampton, but I can still vividly recall how he powered away in the final furlong to win by four lengths.
I have been indebted to Mick Channon, who trained Scissor Ridge at the time, ever since. I thought I’d won the Derby that night.
A few days later I even received a letter of congratulation and thanks from Keegan himself.
You never forget horses like Scissor Ridge, Chucklestone and Paradise Navy, low-grade horses on whom I won races at an important stage of my career.
A jockey’s career is not just about the Group horses. If it wasn’t for the likes of those three I may never have had the opportunity to ride in Group races.
Chucklestone, who was trained by Jeff King and owned by Mark O’Connor, was so lazy you had to push him along for two miles, while Charlie Egerton’s Paradise Navy, owned by Elite Racing, was the total opposite - he was a bridle horse who only needed to be pushed for 25 yards at the end of a race.
They all gave me a valuable opportunity to show off my talent in the early days, and I owe them a lot.
Bowen and Lingfield - you’ve read it here before!
I mentioned James Bowen as a name to watch out for in this column a couple of months ago, and I read this week he has joined Nicky Henderson.
That’s a great move for the lad. At this stage of his career he needs to be getting on good horses, and Nicky will give him those opportunities. He will learn twice as much by going to a top yard like that.
James is from a good family and they will ensure he keeps his feet firmly on the ground. He’s been getting plenty of favourable publicity, but I am sure he will react in the right way to it.
I also tipped Andrea Atzeni for the top when he was an apprentice. He has matured into a great jockey who should be fighting for a title.
While on the subject of what I’ve said in previous columns, it didn’t surprise me one little bit to hear about the chaos which ensued at Lingfield last Saturday when Craig David had a concert after racing.
I have written about Lingfield’s suitability for such things before, and can only reiterate that the place simply isn’t designed to stage concerts on racedays.
The good thing about the concerts on the July Course at Newmarket is that the stage is at the bottom end of the track.
Everyone who wants to watch the concert goes there, while the owners, trainers and punters who want to see the racing stays at the other end. Both sets of patrons are happy.
At Lingfield, however, you cannot separate the people who only want to see Craig David, and the people who want to look at the two-year-olds.
What those running Lingfield seem to forget is that without owners and trainers there wouldn’t be any racing.
If owners are rocking up to win a paltry £2,000 in a seller it is the very least they can expect to be well looked after.
And it’s not as if there are that many people to be looked after. Half of the field for many races are in foreign ownership, and they are often not in attendance.
When you get the type of scenes that were reported from Lingfield last Saturday it is inevitable that owners who were badly treated there will leave the sport; it’s as simple as that.
Racecourses have an obligation to look after the people who are the lifeblood of the sport, and some tracks on some occasions don’t do that very well.
Geoff Wragg was a lovely, quiet man, and a brilliant trainer, the last of his era. He was never high on numbers, but always had a stable of 60 horses, all of whom were good.
I rode a couple of winners for him and, like so many others in the sport, was sorry to hear of his passing. My thoughts are with his family at this time.
A half-century of winners and my Saturday runners
I was thrilled to reach the landmark of 50 winners for the season last Friday when Jashma landed the 5f handicap at Sandown under Shane Kelly.
Jashma has been a model of consistency all year - he also won at Bath in May, and has finished second four times and been placed either third or fourth on his other three starts.
I’ve been very happy with the season so far. After all, getting a first half-century was the target at the beginning of the year.
We have four runners on Saturday, starting off with Wannabe Friends in the 7f handicap (2.40) at Newmarket.
He blew his chance in the stalls at Kempton on his last outing, but if coming away better this time he will be competitive. Dubawi’s progeny have an excellent record on the Rowley Mile.
Barye is having his first run back from a break when he tackles Newbury’s 1m4f handicap (4.35). He is more of an all-weather horse.
We send a couple up to Wolverhampton for the evening meeting there, Debonaire David, another who likes the all-weather, in division one of the 6f handicap (6.40), and Inuk, who contests the seller (7.10).
Unfortunately both have disastrous draws and it will be very hard for them to win.