The jockey legend and former Celebrity Big Brother contestant on making weight and race tactics
How much of your job is simply making weight?
I’d say 95 per cent of being a jockey is weight management. We’re in one of the oddest sports – whereas boxers need to make weight every few months and racing drivers every couple of weeks, we need to make weight every day. It’s a very fine balance to be light without tipping the scales the other way and being too weak to perform at your best. As the years go by you learn about your body a bit more. I now know that I’ll always lose three pounds every morning, either by running or going in the sauna. I also know that if I lose just one or two pounds more I’ll be too dehydrated. But for my evening meal I know I’ll put that weight back on.
What types of food do you eat?
I have a great nutritionist who sorts my meals, plenty of healthy stuff with yoghurt, nuts, white meat, and salads. I only eat in the evenings and I probably only have two steaks a year. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine – it’s good to give yourself a treat.
How much of your regime is going out riding?
I ride twice a week with one or two horses – it’s more to give them a workout than me though. But then I have a horse simulator at home that I use to work on technique. I train in the gym now more than I did before to keep on top of my fitness. I like going for runs too but the weather in this country is so unreliable – so I have a running machine in my house too. For once, the weather was actually good this morning so I put my tracksuit on and waterproof and went for a 40-minute run for between four and five miles.
How great a physical challenge is a race?
It’s not easy. Even after doing it for 28 years. It’s a physical job having to control a 500kg animal at 40 miles an hour. You need a lot of physical strength and endurance – you usually have six or seven races an afternoon and you have to be fresh for every one of them. It’s a push-pull motion utilising a lot of energy over short, three-minute bursts. I probably have a bit more muscle than I did in my twenties. I’m 45 in December – I still feel great but I’m obviously not going to be as fit as I was when I was 35. So I do a lot more stretches to help with the wear and tear. I have to train a lot more to try to be where I was before – seven days a week.
How much of racing is a tactical battle?
A lot of it. You have to read your horse to race your race – but you also have to beat your rivals. A lot of it comes from developing your racing style and staying behind the horse’s neck in the wind to be as aerodynamic as possible.
Cement your style at an early age – it’ll hold you in good stead when your body develops and you gain more experience.
The Stobart Champion Flat Jockey will be crowned at QIPCO British Champions Day on 17 October 17; tickets www.BritishChampionsSeries.com