Saffie Osborne might have gone to the top in the world of eventing if she had pursued that route, but as the daughter of jockey-turned-trainer Jamie Osborne and acclaimed equine artist Katie O’Sullivan, racing was in her blood from a very young age. While making a name for herself on ponies she grabbed every opportunity afforded to her in the thoroughbred world, including work experience with Aidan O’Brien and Gai Waterhouse, so it was no surprise she already looked the part when taking her first rides just three years ago. Her earliest success was for her father, who
continues to supply a significant proportion of her rides, but she is in increasing demand elsewhere. She might have been champion apprentice in 2021 but for injury, and though still only 21 she has already accumulated an impressive portfolio of international experience.
I’ve got three older brothers who wouldn’t know one end of a horse from the other, but for me it was always going to be horses. Whether that was as a jockey or in eventing was unclear until I was about 12, but as soon as I sat on a racehorse it was clear that I was going to be a jockey. I went eventing first and was very lucky, as I did three European Championships and won six medals. I was successful at youth levels, and taking eventing further was an option, but financially it’s pretty hard and I always wanted to be a jockey, as I love racehorses and love racing.
I was so lucky with two ponies I had to ride, Little Indian Feather and Lakantus, both owned by Lord and Lady Blyth, who have Quickthorn and Not So Sleepy. The Blyths were amazing – it was their backing which allowed me to be so successful, so it was great to ride a winner for them on Ormolulu at Southwell in January. Little Indian Feather had quite a backstory as she was a rescue pony who was pretty much dragged off the back of a meat lorry and then went on to do well for the Connells, who also breed racehorses, in Ireland before I got on her. It was amazing when I won the European Championships for ponies at Bishop Burton on her in 2018 and I didn’t think it could get any better.
Growing up, AP McCoy was a big influence and he only lived down the road, so I was lucky enough to know him from childhood. Sea The Stars was a favourite of mine too, so Mick Kinane was my favourite jockey, and Ryan [Moore] has been another influence. I never really got to appreciate dad as a rider as he was finished before I was born, but it’s quite cool when people come up to me and say things like, ‘Your dad was some pilot’. I think he’s planning to ride Cliffs Of Capri [in the Legends race at Doncaster], but I’ve told him he mustn’t embarrass me.
It’s mad to think that my first win on Hot Scoop at Windsor was only three years ago. I’ve always been in a bit of a rush – whether I was eventing or racing, I’ve always been looking to the next thing. Things happened pretty quickly for me after that, but in my own head it didn’t seem like that. I didn’t really feel as if I really got going until the second half of last year, and it’s only this year that I’ve really felt I’m starting to establish myself.
I’ve had a few injuries since I started racing but I’ve never questioned whether it was worth it. Three months after my first win I had the Windsor fall, in which I punctured both of my lungs, did ten ribs, had two fractures in an arm and had a dislocated elbow and wrist. I was knocked out for a very long time and don’t have any recollection of it, but I’ve watched it plenty of times. I was out for six months with that and then had another operation on it at the end of the following year. I also fractured a leg in July that year when I got dragged under the front of the stalls at Newmarket. I was leading the apprentice championship at the time, and that was the end of that. Hopefully I’ve already had enough falls to last the rest of my career.
Winning the Chester Cup on Metier was my best day in the saddle so far. I won the November Handicap on him last year and I’d been saying since January that if it rained, we’d win the Chester Cup, so it was unbelievable when we did. We didn’t have the best draw and plans to be in the leading handful went straight out of the window, but he proved what a good horse he is by picking up quickening rivals in the last half mile while going wide round the outside. It’s so good to have horses like him and Random Harvest to help take me to another level in my first year without a claim. I won a Group 3 on Random Harvest in Italy last year and we’ve been second twice at Royal Ascot. She’s been unbelievable for me, and so has Ed [Walker, her trainer].
I don’t know that I’ve had more online abuse than any other jockey, but dad was incensed and chose to draw attention to it. It wasn’t nice and it made the news in 2021, but I don’t know how it can be brought under control unless people posting on social media are obliged to provide their IDs, and I’m not sure that’s ever going to happen. If you ride a favourite which gets beat you just know that there will be texts waiting for you when you come back in. That’s the world we live in, unfortunately.
Tony Hind is my agent now and that’s been brilliant. I was with Niall Hannity, but he had loads of other commitments, so I rang Tony to see if there was any way he would take me on. He had a think about it before saying yes. Tony’s the agent of champions and there’s nobody better. Everybody wants to be champion jockey one day but besides that I just want to ride big winners on big stages around the world. I’ve already been given some great opportunities and I’ve ridden in Bahrain, Saudi, Dubai, Italy and France. I was lucky enough to get to ride in Dubai during the Carnival and on World Cup night, and Ijust want more of that.