MY DAILY CHELTENHAM ROUTINE
My usual start time: I’ll very much be sticking to my normal routine. Although Cheltenham Festival Week is a very special week, I try to keep things as regular as possible.
6.45am – 8.30am
A chance to have a little breakfast and study the racecard. I’d usually head over to Paul Nicholls’ to ride out but will steer clear of the yard this week. The extra time allows me to clear my head and focus on the day ahead.
I’d like to think I’m pretty studious – certainly much more so now than when I was at school! – and will have a detailed map in my head about how to approach each race by the time we hit the road and head to Cheltenham.
8.30am – 10.30am
I like to set off to the racecourse nice and early to beat the traffic. It’s about 2 hours’ drive to Cheltenham from my house and the last thing I want is to cut it even slightly fine as it’ll mess up the rest of the morning.
I’m lucky to have a driver most days of the week which allows me to relax. As for radio choices I’m not too fussed; some classic hits will do me just fine.
10.30am – 12pm
Once I’m at the track I head into the weighing room and check in with the valets to make sure everything’s looking good. Your peg in the weighing room is very much the same each time you ride there. Everyone has their weighing room spot and similar neighbours most days of the week and Cheltenham is no different.
I’ll then pop on a pair of wellies and head out to walk the course. Getting a feel for the ground is important, but it’s also another way of getting relaxed and ready for what’s to come.
12pm – 1pm
I often head up to a private box to see some owners and chat about the day ahead. Everyone’s hoping I’ll have a nugget of wisdom or a strong fancy. I try my best to give an honest assessment of each race – jockeys aren’t famous for being amazing judges – and I try to never sound overly bullish.
I then head back to the weighing room in good time before the first race; sometimes getting stopped for the odd photo
At that stage of the day the buzz about the place is really picking up and you can sense the excitement in the air.
1.15pm – 1.30pm
We head out to the paddock ahead of the first race. By this stage the butterflies are certainly starting to get going. I speak to Paul (Nicholls) and the owners and then before I know it I’m getting a leg up and am on my way out to the racecourse.
Adrenalin at this point is pretty high and the buzz of the crowd is really intense. I just try and stay focussed on my job and will be getting a feel for the horse I’m on.
1.30 – 5.30pm
Once the racing gets going the rhythm of the day develops and I barely pause for thought. If I’m not riding in a race then I’ll watch it on the big screen in the weighing room with all the other jockeys.
It’s a pretty relaxed atmosphere, but as the races develop you usually hear the odd person shouting for their favourite horse.
If there’s a dual up the straight between Irish and British-trained horses then things can get a bit louder. It’s all in good spirit though and all the jockeys congratulate the winning rider when they get back to the weighing room.
5.30pm – 10pm
I try to get away from the racecourse ASAP after my last ride. My main concern is beating the traffic and getting home quickly.
Once home it’ll usually be a pretty quiet night, some dinner with the family and then relatively early to bed. We try not to talk too much about the racing – I think it’s important to unwind when you can.