New Challenge For Rachel
Riding 123 winners is quite a feat for someone who didn’t set out to be a jockey. Now retired from race riding and getting her teeth into a new challenge with one of the world’s top trainers, Yorkshire lass Rachel Richardson talks about her career and how she achieved this tally of winners.
Growing up in the coastal town of Filey, Rachel didn’t start riding until she was nine years old.
“I had a friend at school who had a pony and I used to sit on it when I visited her, but I didn’t start lessons until I was nine and got my first pony when I was about 12 or 13. My main interest then was show jumping competitions,” recalls Rachel.
Her first experience with racehorses came during a brief spell with Malcolm Jefferson, however once the jumpers were turned out for summer, she went to work at the family business with a view to going to college, but instead ended up at the Habton yard of Tim Easterby, in 2009.
“This was my first experience of riding flat horses which was different again to the horses I had ridden at Malcolm’s,” explained Rachel.
It was a slow burn to begin with. Working in the yard sparked the interest in racing, falling in love with the horses and following them on the racecourses. She credits her success to Tim Easterby who gave her chances.
“I was brought up to work very hard at everything I do. Tim recognised this and it was Tim who suggested I might like to take out my amateur licence,” Rachel recalls.
Having tasted success on her third ride aboard Hayek at Hamilton in 2011, Rachel was bitten by the race riding bug and knew she wanted to be riding more often than her amateur status would allow, so with the support of Tim, took out her apprentice licence the following season.
“I was light, but not naturally talented, but I improved with Tim’s help. I was lucky enough to learn the right way on the experienced horses so I could develop my riding style and race riding technique” she said.
As with many apprentices starting out it took a couple of seasons to get going but Rachel was realistic in her expectations, knowing this was likely to be the case and continued to work hard, doing everything she could to improve as quickly as possible.
Rachel credits the late Tom O’Ryan with refining her technique as he worked with her on the equiciser and spoke to her after her rides to analyse and go through the races, while, in the early days, Russ Garrity was also heavily involved in helping and coaching the young jockey.
Fitness was never really an issue but coming up to the start of the turf season running was Rachel’s exercise of choice to get back to peak condition, which was largely maintained with a busy work and riding schedule.
Tackling the gender subject, Rachel feels that there weren’t any particular barriers to her riding career by being female. As her confidence grew, so did the opportunities and she took every chance that she could to be successful.
“There were certain horses that I couldn’t ride and others that I always rode because I got on better with them, because of my riding style. I couldn’t say that was necessarily down to being a female jockey,” comments Rachel.
She cites York as one of her favourite courses, having won the Sky Bet Dash there on Flying Pursuit in 2017, a partnership that won some big handicaps and finished an agonisingly close third in the 2018 Ayr Gold Cup.
Her most memorable day in racing to date also came in 2018, when she rode her first treble and lost her claim at local track Beverley.
“It was a very odd day – that morning I landed at Leeds Bradford airport, having been in Ireland at the funeral of my good friend Laura Barry and headed straight to Beverley.”
“Shortly after arriving, I got a phone call to say that my Dad had been airlifted to hospital. I quickly changed, set off and rang my uncle who was with Dad. He said there wasn’t anything I could do and not to go until later.”
“I rang Tim and told him I would still like to ride and he said I could if I was sure I wanted to”
Rachel admits that she was excited about having three rides on the day having previously won on the two of Tim’s, Stormin Tom and Ghayyar and her last ride in the Ladies’ race, Island Song, had won last timeout.
It didn’t start well though, Stormin Tom, a front runner, missed the break and had to be dropped in, so to win despite that was a bit of a surprise.
She admits that after riding the second winner, she did wonder if a treble would be possible, given that Island Song was probably her best chance of the day but wouldn’t dare say it out loud, however with two winners under her belt she was oozing confidence and won the last race by a length.
“After that I didn’t dare go to the hospital and tell Dad I’d had a treble as I didn’t want to give him another heart attack!” she laughed fondly.
High on her list of favourite horses is Captain Dunne.
“I rode him in his older days. He had lost his way a bit, but the owners stuck with him and he seemed to come back to life after I won on him at Haydock. I was delighted for the owners who had stayed loyal to him. We had a great run at Thirsk as well. He was very fast!” she said.
Another horse who is very special to Rachel is Copper Knight, who had arrived at Tim’s yard with a bit of a sour reputation.
“I did a lot of work with him at home, one on one, just trying to keep him sweet and happy. I was delighted that I was able to ride him on the track and we won a big handicap at York which was the best way to reap the rewards of the hard work that had gone into him” she said.
The decision to give up racing was not easy, but following a couple of quieter seasons and the passing of her father, Rachel felt that her heart wasn’t in it as much and she needed a change.
A new challenge beckoned and through word-of-mouth Rachel secured a position working for the brilliant Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. Things are going well.
“I loved my time at Tim’s but I couldn’t stay there if I wasn’t riding the horses and I needed a new challenge. The new surroundings, new routine and new way of life are keeping me alert and on my toes” she enthused.
She describes the change as a real eye opener, due to the number of horses, attention to detail and the daily routine. The biggest difference is the size of string with 70 going onto the gallops at any one time, yet it runs smoothly.
Working just mornings, Rachel usually rides three lots, plus a couple more on work mornings, however a strict social media policy means she can’t tell us anything about her regular rides!
Of her new job Rachel says: “I’m still learning and I still get a buzz from riding.”
She was honoured to be included on the work list as not everyone who rides out gets to ride work, but riding top class horses with the best jockeys is a real thrill.
Leaving the comforts of home behind was a bit daunting but the Ballydoyle team have been very welcoming and with so many riders in the yard it has been easy for Rachel to make friends quickly.
For the future, Rachel is looking forward to enjoying life a bit more with a lot less travelling. Her new home is very scenic and with her two trusty dogs by her side, she is enjoying exploring the Irish countryside in her free time.
The opportunity to go racing with her horses and the possibility of going abroad is something to relish, another new challenge for this hardworking Yorkshire girl.
Picture credit: Charlotte Graham
Race credit: RacingTV