How much weight has your 6ft frame put on since you retired from the Flat in 2004?
I was about 8st 10lb when I was race-riding and I’m about 15st now, so I have put on six and a half to seven stone. When I packed in riding the great thing was being able to eat what I wanted when I wanted, but nowadays it doesn’t really enter my head; it’s not something I dwell on.
How do you reflect on your time in the saddle?
As a jockey you are in that little bubble where you think life is normal, but it’s not. The odd time if I wasn’t riding on a Sunday I would have a meal on the Saturday night, but that would ruin my weight for a whole week. Nowadays I can enjoy going out and not having to worry about what I eat.
Would you like to see the minimum riding weight in Britain raised?
When I was claiming 7lb off the minimum weight of 7st 10lb I would have to do 7st 3lb. But then when I was claiming 5lb I would let my weight go up a couple of pounds because 7st 5lb was the minimum I had to do. Even though I was 2lb better off I still ended up facing the same struggle.
With over 60 winners in less than two full seasons, what has been the secret to your exceptional start as a trainer?
I try to get into the horses’ heads and it is very important to make sure they are happy within themselves. I am a firm believer in keeping them to the same routine because they enjoy that, and when they are doing the same thing every day they know what to expect.
You rode 285 winners for Mark Johnston. How much influence has he had on your career?
All the time I was at Mark’s it was as a jockey, but you don’t walk round with your eyes closed and the one thing that stood out was how simple he keeps things. He always had a fixed routine which seemed to work and that’s what I tend to do here. Everything was always done just right; nothing was ever missed. I’d like to think I am continuing in the same vein here.
What are your plans for the future?
I have just bought out the yard’s owner Gordon McDowall. Part of the changeover involves setting up a website and branding in the yard. I have always been salaried so now what I earn will come through the results with the horses. Of course there are pros and cons when branching out on your own, but in the end you have got to be your own man and go for it.
For the full interview see August’s Thoroughbred Owner & Breeder magazine