Harry Bannister is the February Jockey of the Month

Features | 9th March 2023

A fantastic ride at Haydock and a Grand National hopeful 

Bouncing Back

Harry Bannister is Great British Racing’s jockey of the month for February. His victory on Quick Wave in Haydock’s Grand National Trial impressed expert judge Richard Johnson. The four-times champion jump jockey thought it was the best ride during February and it came on the back of a serious hip injury that kept Harry out of action for more than three months. He dislocated and fractured his hip in a bone-crunching fall at Stratford in October. It happened at the worst possible time, just as the main jumps season was getting going. After putting in the hours at Oaksey House, the Injured Jockeys Fund’s state-of-the-art rehabilitation centre, he returned to the saddle in late January. 

Quick Wave’s win was Harry’s first winner since his enforced lay-off. He brought the Venetia Williams-trained mare with a well-timed run to lead going to the second-last fence and they battled on well to see off Snow Leopardess. The performance helped Harry win £500 to donate to the charity of his choice. He has chosen the Injured Jockeys Fund. 

Harry, 28, said: “It was my first winner back so to win a race like the Grand National Trial at Haydock, my local track to home where dad’s chairman, meant an awful lot. “I’ve won on her before but on the first circuit I ended up a bit further back than I wanted to be. She warmed up through the race and the further she went, the better she was. “It was more of a relief than anything to get the first winner out of the way. I’d been hitting the crossbar a bit – I’d had a load of seconds – so it was great to do it in a race like that.” 

Quick Wave is entered in the Grand National and has been allotted 10st 11lbs. It means she would be guaranteed a place in the starting line-up if connections decide to head to Aintree. Harry added: “She stays very well and she has a lot of the credentials you would like to have in the Grand National. “I ride a lot for the owners and they were very good to stick me back on Quick Wave.”

High Praise

His injury brought his progress to a shuddering standstill. His total of 49 winners last season was a personal best and he had made a decent start this term before his fall. Harry said: “I’ve been quite lucky with injuries but the timing of this one was a disaster. “I’ve never known pain like it. I certainly wouldn’t want to do it again. “I can’t thank the IJF and Oaksey House enough. They did a great job. “The rehab gave me something to focus on. I only live 20 minutes from Oaksey House in Lambourn, so it gave me a bit of a routine. “I’d spend three hours there, in the pool, in physio, in the gym – it helped my sanity as much as anything else.” 

Harry’s ride on Quick Wave caught the eye of Richard Johnson. He said: “I thought he gave her a lovely ride and he used his head in a long-distance race on a mare with a big weight. “He looked for the best ground by coming wide into the home straight. You need to do all the right things to win those races. “Harry is a really hard-working jockey and he doesn’t get opportunities in the top races very often, so it was a big winner for him. “It was probably one of his career highlights, so I thought it was a great ride.”

Rate your season out of 10 so far? 

Five. I started the season well but then the hip injury obviously halted everything. I’m looking to finish the season strongly and, hopefully, the momentum I’ve got from Quick Wave’s win can only help. 

The horse you’re most excited about riding next? 

I enjoy riding Diesel D’Allier – he’s a great spin. He runs in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham next week. He was placed in it last year and, if he can do that again, it would be great. I’m looking forward to, hopefully, riding Quick Wave in the National, too, if I were to keep the ride. 

What is your favourite racecourse? 

Stratford. I seem to have a lot of luck there, although, ironically, I broke my hip there. I’ve always liked Stratford and it’s just down the road. A lot of people I ride for like to have runners there and it seems to have mostly worked out well in the past. 

If you weren’t a jockey what would you be? 

I never really wanted to be anything else but a jockey. I quite like athletics. I did quite a lot of it when I was younger and represented Yorkshire in cross country from the age of about nine. 

Who is your sporting hero? 

AP McCoy. It was quite surreal the first couple of times I rode against him. I can still remember when he came past me in my second ride. 

Tell us about your chosen charity and why you have chosen it. 

The Injured Jockeys Fund. They were instrumental in helping me come back from my injury. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to come back so soon without them