Behind the Scenes

Go Racing In Yorkshire General Manager Emma White goes behind the scenes of racing to look at some of the roles you might never have thought about”

Behind The Scenes – The Jump Jockey
It’s 7.30am, it’s freezing and absolutely chucking it down and I’m lost somewhere in Middleham! I have to say my long suffering PA was remarkably polite when I rang her to ask where the heck I was supposed to be going! Two minutes later (thanks to Jane!) I pull into Julia Brookes yard and like most racing yards at this time of the morning it’s a hive of activity. Kitted out in water proofs and plenty of layers I force myself out of my warm car and go and find Henry Brooke.
Henry is 25yrs, former winner of the conditional jockeys title and a sort after jockey in the north. He was based at Donald McCains yard for a while but is now back in Yorkshire and enjoying the opportunities freelance can bring. He rides out for many trainers and has certainly struck a successful partnership with Ken Slack this year but he also rides out for his mum about once a week and this is where I find him today.
It’s a cracking yard, only around 15 in training but the attention to detail is obvious. The atmosphere is relaxed and if horses can look happy then these guys do! Henry is in a box, brushing a horses tail getting it ready to go up the gallops. His mum is next door getting her horse ready, it’s plain to see where Henry has gained his skill. Everyone looks at my Mini and it is decided there is no chance of me getting up the gallops in it in this weather so the cavalry is called in. John Platts (Henry’s granddad) pulls in in a more sensible vehicle and I jump in (back in the warm!). It’s a short hack for the horses to Middleham gallops, John and I pass 3 or 4 strings as we wind our way up. I’m very glad that the lovely grey Smadyum is in the string so I can pick them out easily on the gallops.
Henry is schooling a few over fences today, one of which has never seen a fence. Ross Turner, a very classy 10lb claimer and one to watch in the future (you heard it here first), gives him a lead. After the first attempt I’m starting to think we won’t make it to Catterick where Henry is racing this afternoon and A + E is looking more likely. The second attempt is better and the third is spot on. Henry swaps horses a couple of times and schools them all over a fence, some with a lead, some upsides. It was great to watch, even if I did think I may freeze to the spot and become a permanent fixture on the gallops. As the string walks back down through the village, John and I head back to the house, coffee needed!
Henry comes in and we sit down for a chat. I really want to know what makes anyone want to go at 30 miles an hour sat on half a ton of muscle at a big fence. Henry was riding before he could walk, Toots was his first pony and it sounds like the two of them got into all sorts of scrapes. Now is very different, now it’s a job but one he loves and as he describes his average week to me he would have to because it doesn’t sound like an easy existence. He drives around 2000 miles a week, more depending on who he’s riding out for. He’s lucky because he doesn’t struggle with his weight but he has had some serious injuries to deal with. A broken shoulder, broken fingers, five cracked vertebrae in his back, he’s broken his nose on a few occasions and also broken his ribs. I’m now convinced that jump jockeys are either very brave or very crazy as he’s laughing about this and telling me it’s just part of the job. I settled on the crazy option when Henry remembered the broken ribs actually came from an extreme game of tig with his brother Dan and his best mate and also jockey Joe Colliver.
It’s time to get ready for racing at Catterick so we head off. As I walk down towards the weighing room Henry is just coming out with Callum Whillans to go for a run round the track. This is partly for fitness but also to look at the track, look for the best ground. It’s still chucking it down!
There is a lot of weighing to do on a race day! Weigh out before the race and weigh in after the race. To weigh out, the jockeys have to be in the correct colours (jockey silks) and have the correct saddle for that horse. Each jockey has a valet to help them, there are some quick changes needed if you’re in the first and the second race, hence the reason you might see the jockeys running back to the weighing room some times.
The first is off and Henry is riding Tinseltown for Harriet Bethell. His silks are pink so he is easy to spot for about 2 furlongs at which point his silks turn brown with the mud and I’m now relying on the commentator to let me know how he’s doing (god knows how he knows!). Tinseltown comes in 3rd, nice start to the day. My Friend George for Ken Slack is his horse in the second. It’s a brave run in the conditions and he gets 2nd. All we need now is a winner to have a full house! Discoverie for Ken Slack duly obliges, under a cracking ride by Henry, we have a winner! The other jockeys congratulate Henry, and they actually mean it. There is a massive camaraderie in the weighing room, true friendships with a bit of competitive rivalry but not much. This is really surprising in any sport but there is no denying it.
Of course there are a million things I haven’t got into here regarding this crazy job. Like getting instructions from the trainer before the race and giving feedback to trainer and owner after the race. A successful jockey is certainly a diplomatic one! But Henry has given me a real insight. These guys work ridiculously hard to be part of the spectacle we all love. They risk injury every day they go to work, I mean how many jobs do you know that has an ambulance following? The jump jockey is an adrenaline junkie, a bit of a joker, has the stamina of a marathon runner and the heart of a lion.
Just before going to press Henry found out he had a ride in the Grand National on Aachen for Venetia Williams. A horse he has never sat on before. I know who I will be shouting for this year! Good luck Henry!

My last questions for Henry are my usual Yorkshire favourites.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire Track?
Henry: Wetherby, I’ve had some great days there.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire trained horse?
Henry: Stags Leap, he was the first winner I rode for my mum.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire based jockey?
Henry: Ha ha I have to say Joe Colliver, he’s my best mate!

So there you have it, the jump jockey. Great guy, with serious skills oh and just a bit nuts!

Behind The Scenes – Clerk Of The Course – Jumps Meet
So there are two 6 o’clocks in a day, who knew? Well Clerk of the course Jonjo Sanderson knows this well. As I pull into Wetherby there is a full moon lighting up the paddock and coffee is the only thing I can think about!
Jonjo is in his office and in my opinion, in far too much of a good mood for this time in the morning! His first task of the day is to have a chat with his groundsman to discuss the going. The course was checked yesterday so it’s only the overnight weather that can spoil the party! The going on the course is reported to the BHA 7 days before racing and then updated to the RCA before 6.45am on the day of racing so it can be broadcast.
The coffee is strong and needed but drank quickly so we can head out onto the course with our sticks! I am in charge of the old type stick, which is literally just a wooden stick; Jonjo has a more technical updated version, with a digital display to give the readings from the going. Tilly (the Jack Russel) is ready to go, really ready, so we head out. The sun is shining which is a welcome sign; Wetherby has lost some big days this year because of the rain and a waterlogged track. Not today! Jonjo operates his high tech stick, basically stick it in the ground, pull back and read the display, clever stuff. I have a go with mine; apparently I need to put my back into it a bit! I can tell where the ground is softer and where it’s a bit firmer, that’s all I can tell and this is where years of experience and knowing your ground comes into play. By the end of our walk around the whole track on the chase course and on the hurdle course we have the numbers that everyone is interested in. By the time we hit the office the phone is already ringing to find out the ‘stick numbers’.
The paperwork is pretty heavy in this role and the next bit to tackle is the information sent from the vets to the BHA regarding horses which will be required to show their passports on arrival at the track. Also we have the declared runners and corresponding microchip numbers to take over to the stables. This is also a great opportunity to pop into the stable staff café for breakfast which I have to say was spot on!
Full and happy it’s back to the office for more paperwork. A plan of the course is printed to go in the weighing room. This made me laugh a bit, just a big circle with either chase fences or hurdle fences surely? That would be a no, rails are often moved to accommodate the ground and this needs to be pointed out to the jockeys. Most walk or run the track on arrival after a quick check of the course plan. There is also a going report to go in the weighing room and a timetable for the jockeys. The timetable tells the jockeys exactly what time they need to hit the paddock so that the races run to time. This is really important these days with every race televised.
While we are out and about putting up notices there is a very important thing to check. Are we compliant to race? Basically this means do we have 3 x ambulances, 3 x Doctors, a nurse and a physio? If we don’t we don’t race! Thankfully all present and correct, another tick in the box!
The Stewards meeting is fast approaching, this takes place 1hr and 10mins before the first race. I have no idea why 1hr 10mins but 1hr and 10mins it is. All officials are at this meeting, stewards, starters, vets, handicapper, clerk of the course. Each race is discussed and each official asked if they have anything to note. The vet may point out one of the runners kicks, the stewards will declare how many dope tests will be done in the day etc.
The first race is fast approaching and the scruffy morning clothes have to be changed to suits. I’m shattered, thank god for make up! Radios are on and we head to the paddock as the first horse enters. The radio chat is constant with all sorts of random things to deal with including some bad parking. This is par for the course and solutions are found and problems dealt with every 5 minutes. Interviews are now required, one for RUK to discuss the going and the racing and another for Radio Yorkshire. I’m starting to wonder where Jonjo gets his energy from!
As the jockeys mount we head up to the stewards room which is upstairs and looks out across the course. The Clerk is there to deal with issues and deal quickly, things like loose horses, broken rails can be spotted quickly and the correct people sent to sort things out. Jonjo is quick to point out here that his whole team are on the ball and he hardly ever has to radio anyone as they are already heading to the problem. This has been evident all day, his team are slick and professional. Most importantly they are happy and it rubs off! Even though it’s a really long day it was a thoroughly enjoyable one.
Me: I think I know the answer Jonjo but what’s your favourite Yorkshire track?
Jonjo: Has to be Wetherby in the winter but definitely York in the summer!
Me: Favourite Yorkshire trained horse?
Jonjo: Mister Baileys 1994 winner of the 2000 guineas. It was Mark Johnstons first classic winner and I backed it!
Me: Favourite Yorkshire based Jockey?
Jonjo: Can I have two? Jason Weaver, he rode Mister Baileys. Current Jockey has to be Graham Lee, ultimate professional in both disciplines.

So there you have it, Clerk of the Course at a jumps track. The team surrounding him just as important as the man himself. The fact that everything is done with a smile makes the day fly by. Great day.

Notices Up
Notices Up
Beautiful full moon over the paddock
Beautiful full moon over the paddock
Walking the course and the sun is out
Walking the course and the sun is out
Tilly is ready to go... NOW!
Tilly is ready to go… NOW!
Radio Yorkshire Interview
Radio Yorkshire Interview
N
RUK Interview
Let the paperwork commence
Let the paperwork commence

Behind The Scenes – Race Course Vet
I’m excited and feeling really privileged to go Behind The Scenes with my next victim, sorry racing related job. I had to get permission from the British Horseracing Authority to do this one, why? Because these guys lead the team who keep our four legged hero’s safe and look after their welfare as soon as they hit the race course. It’s the Race Course Vet.
Tony Walsh is one of the most respected vets on any race course. He comes from a general practice background and has a reputation for straight talking, no messing, all done with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.
I pull into the race course stables at Pontefract and go to find Tony. What I actually find is what I can only describe as a well-oiled machine. Horse boxes are pulling in and parking up, the horses are led to the stables entrance where they are met by a team of officials who scan the horses for a microchip. The micro chips are checked against the list of runners declared to race that day then off they go to their allocated stable. Tony is overseeing this and going through his list, there are certain horses he must see himself before they will be allowed to run. These include any horses returning to the track after 365 days, they must be trotted up to check movement and generally looked over. Also if a horse leaves the track lame or injured from its previous race, it will be checked by the vet on arrival at the track before its next run. Tony also has to check certain passports for the horses, these are for horses that have maybe changed trainer, or are first time runners.
As the amount of arriving horses slows down, Tony’s phone rings. Now usually this wouldn’t be a call it would be a meeting but as we are at Pontefract and the stables are a bit of a hike to the Stewards room on the course, it’s a call. This meeting is to discuss any horses that have had previous issues, are known to kick for instance, have had a past loading problem, basically anything to do with any of the horses that it’s wise everyone is aware of. After this it’s off to the track.
The team moves on to a little room where samples are labelled and signed for. On either side of this room are stables. One has shavings bedding and one has paper bedding. The horse goes in the one it’s most comfortable with because let’s face it we all like to feel at ease when we have a wee! More of that later.
Tony is on with a bit of paper work when a call comes over the radio for him to pop back to the stables to check on a horse the trainer isn’t happy with. You see Tony isn’t just there for racing injuries and dope testing; he’s there to look after these beautiful athletes full stop. The head lad is with the horse when we arrive back at the stables, he’s sweaty and uncomfortable, and that’s the horse not the head lad. Tony calmly does his stuff, the horse is a little colicky (basically has a bit of a tummy ache) but in no danger. Tony signs him off as a non-runner and arranges a further check in an hour. Back to the track we go.
We head straight to the parade ring where Tony stands and looks over his charges, he is looking for anything that stands out that might indicate something isn’t quite right. All is good and we head upstairs to watch the race. At the finish of the race a call comes over the radio to Tony, this is the stewards telling him which horse they want to dope test. On this occasion it’s the unplaced favourite number 5. Now after a race there is a bit of a hullabaloo! Crowds trying to get back to the winners enclosure, pathways roped off to stop the general public getting squashed by a horse and it’s essential that the chosen horse for sampling isn’t tampered with in any way. So the vets use a catcher. Now try and not think about the child catcher from chitty chitty bang bang and instead think of an extremely nimble Irish chap named Stan. Off he goes at a gallop after the allocated horse, respectfully keeping his distance while the jockey speaks to connections and then directs the groom to the sampling box. The catcher (Stan) never takes his eyes off the horse as the groom leads him round, waiting for his heart rate to slow down and the excursions of the race to pass. After that it’s into the sampling box, whichever one the groom feels he will be most comfortable in. All tack is removed and the sample taker stays in the box with the horse. Some horses comply very quickly and others take what seems like forever and all this time the sample taker waits with a bucket on a stick! Once urine is collected it’s bottled, labelled and signed for by the groom. This is sent off for tests for any banned substances.
After achieving my urine sample action shot I bump into Tony checking over a horse after a race, he has been struck into by another horse during the race, has a small cut and is a little sore but nothing to worry about.
I don’t think I have seen Tony stand still all day, I’m shattered trying to keep up with him but it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening day. I’m going to have to keep up just to get my last questions out, easier said than done, Tony has long legs and mine are not!
Me: Favourite Yorkshire Race Course?
Tony: Has to be Thirsk, it’s where I first started my race course work.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire based Jockey?
Tony: Graham Lee, great horseman who has achieved so much over jumps and on the flat.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire trained horse?
Tony: Easy, Partners In Jazz. I own him and although he has now retired from racing he still hunts every week. He’s 14yrs old now and has given me endless pleasure on the track and on the hunting field.
So there you go, the Race Course Vet. No messing, straight talking if you have two legs but if you have four he is caring, protective and professional.

Scanning an arriving horse for his microchip.
Scanning an arriving horse for his microchip.
Trot up in the sunshine
Trot up in the sunshine
More paperwork
More paperwork
Looking over the charges
Looking over the charges
Catching the sample
Catching the sample
Got it
Got it
The microchip scanner
The microchip scanner

 

Behind The Scenes – White Rose Saddlery

In a fair few jobs you are required to wear a uniform and in racing this is also true, and that’s if you’re a horse or a jockey! You have to get your kit from somewhere so I thought I would track down the people who make it.
I took a ride to Malton to visit one of the longest standing racing saddleries. White Rose saddlery has been dressing Yorkshire jockeys and horses for the last 31 years. Wendy Hoggard the owner was there to greet me and show me round.
The workshop is a hive of activity, tool benches and a fabulous smell of leather. Wendy herself is a master saddler with one of her staff, Les, well on his way to the same qualification and Jo who seems to do, well, everything! The only person getting any rest in this place is Georgie the dog, and apparently she is tired from a day at Beverley races where White Rose also have a shop and attend every race day. They also have a trade stand which goes to every point to point in the area. Busy seems to be an understatement.
So what do they do? (Deep breath!): Jockey silks, jodphurs, boots, all types of bespoke tack including saddles, bridles, breast plates, girths, blinkers, hoods, saddle cloths, rugs, embroidery for sponsors, owners, trainers, the list really is endless. Their reputation is 2nd to none and their list of famous clients backs this up; Desert Orchid, Oath – does anyone remember that white bridle Oath was wearing when storming to victory in the Derby? Well that handmade white leather bridle was made at White Rose! Oh and better not forget the Queen! She has also purchased from White Rose.
I doubt it’s just the exceptional quality; the Yorkshire welcome is here in abundance. These guys give back, sponsoring young up and coming jockeys, races etc. I have had a lovely morning with some genuinely lovely people, I think Wendy will find the questions hard to answer as I can’t imagine she has favourites, but I’m going to ask anyway!
Me: What’s your favourite Yorkshire trained horse.
Wendy: Mon Brav – he was the horse that got me fit riding out at Brian Ellisons. He is a real character and a bit of a monkey. He bucked me off on numerous occasions!
Me: Favourite Yorkshire track?
Wendy: Oh this is really hard! It’s very close between Beverley and York. I rode in the Macmillan race last year at York and it really is special to me, but Beverley have been so good to me and my business, I have such good friends there, can I choose both?
Me: Favourite Yorkshire-based jockey?
Wendy: Again this hard for me but I’m going to say Jack Garrity. We sponsor him and he’s a great kid. He is in contention for the national apprenticeship title this year, I think he has a fabulous future ahead of him.
So there you have it, the Racing Saddlery. Leather and silk! Takes allsorts in this industry!

Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade
Beautiful Handcrafted Jockey Silks
Beautiful Handcrafted Jockey Silks
180 grams saddle, Yes your bum would look big in this
180 grams saddle, Yes your bum would look big in this
Georgie chilling out
Georgie chilling out
Oath storming to victory in the Derby
Oath storming to victory in the Derby

 

 

Behind The Scenes – The Jockey Agent

Many of you will know this guy as a presenter on Racing UK. You may even know him as the crazy one in lycra cycling from course to course with his mate Michael Shinners. But not many of you will know he is also one of the top flat racing Jockey agents in the UK. Who am I talking about? The charismatic Niall Hannity!
Now I have only seen Niall when he was filming the cycling program for RUK, he was hilarious and made that week pass very quickly with his constant jokes and pranks, so I didn’t know quite what to expect when I walked into his office.
Organised chaos would be one word for his desk, another would be paper explosion! Niall was on the phone when I arrived, another phone was ringing and another phone was flashing indicating numerous messages. His ipad was open on the Racing Admin website, a site where agents and trainers can add Jockeys to horses. Sounds easy? Well here is a rundown:
Entries are made by the trainers 5/6 days in advance.
Declarations are made 48hrs in advance.
At 10am the provisional declarations are confirmed.

At 1pm the declarations are closed and nothing can then be changed.
Confused? It gets worse! There are so many factors to take into consideration but let’s go back to the beginning.
Firstly who does Niall look after? Joe Fanning, Jamie Spencer, Tom Queally, Tony Hamilton, Dougie Costello (only on the flat as Dougie rides both), Louis Steward and Joey Haynes. Now there has to be some names you recognise there but let’s put this into prospective! Queally rode Frankel (the best horse ever), Spencer has been champion in England and Ireland, the ultra-reliable Joe Fanning, Mark Johnstons right hand man, is closing in on 2000 winners and Tony Hamilton is Richard Faheys stable jockey! Also, along with useful apprentices on his books, his team of jockeys have rode over 400 winners between them from over 3000 thousand rides and its only August!
So how does Niall get them the best rides he can? There are numerous pages of the Racing Post open on Niall’s desk, all with highlighted lines through horses in all different colours. He explained to me what each colour meant; he did this about six times before giving up and throwing a pen at my head! Basically they relate to jockeys, trainers and possible spare rides.
The phone calls start at around 8.30am. Niall will call trainers to see if they want one of his Jockeys to ride their horse; trainers will call Niall to see if one of his Jockeys will ride their horse; racing secretaries will call to say a horse isn’t going to be declared for one of a million reasons – ground, lameness, going somewhere else. Basically the phones (yes numerous phones!) never stop.
There are also other factors to throw into the mix. If a jockey gets a whip ban the agent can swap one day of the ban to a later date to avoid missing a big race. Also there is the travel factor. Very often a jockey may have an early race at one course and then a later race at another course. Niall must give them enough time to travel from course to course because if the jockey is late he will get a fine. The BHA even has a document which gives times that must be allowed for a jockey to get from one course to another (this was part of the paper explosion on Niall’s desk). It’s a military operation and happens every single morning!
On top of this, Niall watches all the races his jockeys ride, races involving horses that his jockeys may ride. Basically, he watches a lot of racing!
He talks to the jockeys to discuss the ride and make plans for the coming days, he talks to trainers to find out the targets for particular horses so he can start to make a plan around the big races. That’s a lot of talking, so his ability to retain information has to be immense.
At 1pm the phones fall silent as the declarations close. I have a headache but soldier on to ask:
Me: What’s your favourite Yorkshire trained horse.
Niall: The Grey Gatsby. Since he was two years old he has been top class and I don’t think he has ever been given the credit he deserves. He has another big win in him, you watch this space!

Me: Favourite Yorkshire track?
Niall: Has to be Wetherby and not just because I rode my last winner there. It’s great that it now has Flat fixtures; you can’t beat its location either!
Me: Favourite Yorkshire-based jockey?
Niall: Joe Fanning. He was my first jockey as an agent and in my opinion longevity defines any sportsman. He is truly a great all round jockey.
So there you have it, The Jockey Agent. Detailed planning and logistics, dealing with huge characters and egos with a smile.
I’m going for a lie down in a dark room without phones!

Niall and his untidy desk                         Gadgets galore

BHTNhannity BHTNhannity2

Coloured in Racing Post                            BHA travelling times guidlines

BHTNhannity2  BHTNhannity3

JOCKEY COACH – PHIL KINSELLA
When we at GRIY decided to do the Behind The Scenes Series I didn’t realise I would be getting quite so involved, but more of that later!
The first Behind The Scenes job I thought everyone might be interested in was the Jockey Coach. This is quite a new phenomenon instigated by the BHA. The majority are ex jockeys who go through an intensive UKCC (UK Coaching Certificate) to qualify as a Jockey Coach. There are approximately thirty coaches now in the UK. The BHA allocates coaches depending on geographical area to apprentice and conditional jockeys.
I rang Phil who is a jockey coach in the Yorkshire area and asked if he fancied doing an interview for me. I explained what it was about and he invited me to come and see him. Now I should have been a little suspicious when he told me to wear shorts and trainers but I will certainly be on my guard from now on!
Fitness is an important part of jockey life and that’s where we started on my arrival. After a bleep test (running a distance before a beep sounds and then turning and running back again before the beep sounds, the beep gets quicker and quicker!) some, in my opinion, horrendous core muscle exercises and a few furlongs on a pretty uncooperative equisizer (a plastic horse to practice position, changing whip hand, riding a finish) I thought I may be sick! To try and stop the pain I decided to slow him down with some questions:
Me: So you’re  kind of a riding instructor for jockeys then, is that right?
Phil: Ha ha no! I mentor young jockeys, I ask where they need to improve and that could be fitness, how to hold a whip, race riding, and mental fitness, basically anything to do with being a jockey.
Me: Most elite sports men and woman have their coaches by their side at all times. Is it similar or are you just called in to solve specific issues?
Phil: We are trying to get them to plan so they don’t need us at every step, but we do a lot of race reviews to see what went well and what’s to work on.
Me: What are the most popular exercises and the most hated?
Phil: Most hated is definitely the interval training on the equisizer. The easy ones are the most popular!
Me: Is it only new jockeys who use the jockey coaches?
Phil: The BHA assign us apprentice and conditional jockeys, they tend to move away from us when they lose their claim and become fully professional. However we stay in touch and some still come for help when they need it.
Me: Do you consult with Trainers?
Phil: Yes, mostly just to make sure we are on the same page.
Me: You were forced to retire through injury. Do you get the same buzz as a winner when one of your jockeys wins?
Phil: Not the same buzz but certainly the same satisfaction when one does well.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire trained horse?
Phil: Without doubt Tazbar, trained at Reveleys, had the biggest heart and gave you his all.
Me: Favourite Yorkshire Jockey?
Phil: Ha ha that’s hard! Brian Hughes, brilliant jockey and great mate!
Me: Favourite Yorkshire track?
Phil: Wetherby. I had loads of winners there and I have some great memories from that course.
So there you have it. The Jockey Coach. If you want to be a jockey these guys have been there and done it and will help you be the best that you can be.

 

Phil Kinsella and the plan!
Phil Kinsella and the plan!
Phil and the torture chamber!
Phil and the torture chamber!
Phil Kinsella
Phil Kinsella
Phil Kinsella winning the Totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree in 2007
Phil Kinsella winning the Totepool Grand Sefton Handicap Chase at Aintree in 2007
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