Blackmore and Doyle are inspirational
You can take inspiration from an individual that you may see yourself in and I remember as a kid being inspired by others and it’s human nature to be inspired and want to be better. If you’re in the equine world, or even if you’re not and you see people like Rachel Blackmore, Hollie Doyle, what they’re doing is just huge.
Not just because they’re female, we can’t change that, it’s the people that they are, the way they conduct themselves, everything about them and their dedication is inspiring, it doesn’t matter who you are. Even as a fellow jockey standing next to them, it’s inspiring.
It’s one of the few sports, if only, that you can go out there and be on a level playing field. We’re a team out there with our partner and the team back home behind us is huge. On the track, you only see the horse and jockey, but it’s mind-blowing to think of the team behind them, those travelling with the horses to races, the head lads and lasses that look after them, the trainers and the owners, the physios, the farriers – it’s huge.
It’s a massive team sport, but you only get to see the two of us out there. At the top of the pyramid is the horse and you couldn’t do this without them. You could be the best jockey out there but if you don’t have your partner then you’re no good.
The crowds supports means everything
That support is sometimes quite difficult to take on because I’m so involved in my horse and I believe it’s him and her all the time, so it’s hard when people are shouting for you but I also massively appreciate it.
Sandown will be a high point in my career when I came back on Grenateen after winning the Tingle Creek in December.
I was so pumped for him and his owner. I just kept saying ‘we’ve just won the Tingle Creek’. It’s a strange feeling but it’s very hard to explain that support for me and that moment will be at the top of my memories.
You can hear a pin drop before the National
Us ‘stupid, crazy and bonkers’ jockeys that are brave enough to ride in the National barely say a word at the start of the race due to our concentration.
At the start of the Grand National, there will be hardly any chat, maybe a few shouts for more space and things, but normally it’s complete chaos. It’s the busiest motorway that you would ever drive on. It’s all about the split-seconds once you get down there. You have to get down there in good time and get on the rail as quickly as possible, so your concentration levels are so high and there’s not a lot of chat going on.
Jockeys are still quite bubbly and there are a few conversations going on in the weighing room half an hour before the Grand National, but normally once the five minutes bell goes, everybody starts to quiet down and the job comes into focus, it’s definitely a different atmosphere for the Grand National than any other race.
It’s the Grand National, it’s one of the big races so on your day-to-day races when there are only 10 runners, everybody has their position and nobody is bustling for a place, whereas the Grand National it’s all about having your elbows out and being ready to rock and roll.
You could say we’re stupid, crazy, bonkers, whatever you want to call us, but the Grand National is the absolute height of a buzz.
You’re galloping for four miles over a lot of different fences and we don’t get that in our calendar frequently. A lot of it depends on your partner when you’re out there too, if they’re awesome then it’s a class place to be out there, but in your mind and how you change yourself for the Grand National, you don’t. You remember that concentration is key, keep moving forward, keep your heels down and sit low and ride the wave.
My dream to follow in my Dad’s footsteps
You honestly wouldn’t know that he’s won it.
It was the one thing I was extremely cocky about as a kid in school, boasting that my Dad won the Grand National. But, Dad, he wouldn’t blow a trumpet at all about being able to win it, but there are pictures in the house and I definitely talk a lot and to say that your dad has won the Grand National is a pretty cool thing.
When dad does rarely speak about when he won the National, the whole town had their £1 on him and I think he was 28/1 or something like that so everybody had a really good pint that night.
I struggle to say what it would mean to win it. As a kid, it’s something you dare to dream about and to have a horse just to run in the National is a rarity and I’m lucky enough to have finished fifth on my first attempt, so if that’s the best that we can do then that’s fine, but I have a bit of a career still in front of me and we might find a partner that can take me around again.
The Chair has changed but remains challenging
You see pictures of The Chair back in the day so you know it’s not as big as it used to be, but I can tell you that it still takes a bit of jumping. You know it’s coming as you know the layout of the course so you shorten the reins a little bit more and you get lower in the saddle and try to find a bit of light and a pocket and hope there’s a reliable source in front of you to follow and get over.
You definitely space out coming into it. Everybody wants to be in their own line and in their own bubble so that they can control the atmosphere around them.
Those fences are not any different when you take off, it’s more the drop once you get to the pinnacle at the top of the fence and you start coming down when you do notice that you’re coming down for an extra second than a normal fence.
The Grand National is a measure of everything. Everything has gone right for you when you win, it’s the times when you’re second, third, fourth and fifth when you’re thinking ‘that bit could have gone better’ or ‘I found trouble here’, they’re all the things that come into your head after a race.
After the first mile of the National when you come back around to the start is the first and only place when you can take a breather, and if you’re still going well then on the Melling Road is another place when you can breathe and say ‘not far from home’, other than that, it’s relentless with horses around you, jockeys are you and the fences are coming so thick and fast, there’s so much to concentrate on and there’s no time for thought, it’s all about relying on your instincts.