At the moment, it’s tough booking rides for the jockeys…unless you have an Adam Kirby, Luke Morris, or a William Carson on your books. It has been quite mind numbing and tiring of late. Hundreds of phone calls and the feeling that your getting nowhere. I hate telling Kirsty that there’s a blank day as, after all, it is her bread and butter. A lot of the mornings that she rides out for trainers, she does for no money. It costs her fuel to get there and with some trainer’s there are no guaranteed rides. A jockey, in the eyes of many, coins it in, are getting well paid for doing something they enjoy. But thats not the case for them all. It has been a difficult start to 2013 for many people involved in racing and I, for one, am looking forward to the flat season kicking off.
Over the season, I will be visiting the racecourses, particularly up here in God’s Country, (otherwise known as Yorkshire – not that all of you will agree, but it is as far as racecourses are concerned!). In Yorkshire, we are lucky to have so many courses on our doorsteps providing us with mostly decent racing and in the case of the Knavesmire and the Town Moor of Doncaster, some top class stuff too!
On my racing trips, I intend to catch a word with different racing personalities to give all you Post Racing members plenty to read and hopefully something that will maybe give you all a pointer or two in our constant battle with the bookies!
Recently I wrote about Terry Ramsden and his return to the sport and here, just for the members of Post Racing, I am pleased to be able to give you an exclusive interview with a racing legend. Someone, like Ramsden that is intending a return to the sport that he graced at the very top for many years. Someone who like Ramsden was a colourful character, who enjoyed life and was in some cases a punter’s pal. Someone who also fell foul of the authorities and after serving a ban is now looking to return to racing as a trainer. None other than “The Wayward Lad” himself…Graham Bradley.
It was recently reported in the press that Graham was enrolled to take the trainer’s course to obtain a trainer’s license. In the past, where it was common place for a retired footballer to take a pub on for a career out of the game, it was also the norm where a retired jockey would look to training horses instead of riding them. It was often a case in the instance of a trainer retiring, that the headlad or assistant could take the license over…but not anymore.
Now it is a case of having to enroll to go through a BHA run trainer’s course. In fact they insist on courses for nearly everything. Apprentice jockeys, amateur rider’s, racing secretary, assistant trainer…you name it, there’s a course for it. Everything in life has changed due to “this legislation”, or “that ruling” but what good is a trainer’s course to someone like Graham Bradley? Someone who has been around horses the majority of his 52 years, someone who has ridden and won some of NH racing’s biggest names and races.
As Ron mentioned a few weeks ago in one of his newsletters, the hidden costs as an owner which are paid to the BHA are unreal and this goes for anyone involved in the sport. As the old expression goes “teaching your Granny how to suck eggs” well, it really applies in this instance.
I have met Graham Bradley on a couple of occasions, once at Elland Road when Dandy Nicholls and I were at a League Cup semi-final between Leeds and Manchester United. I was only 18 and back in 1991 his 27 wins that season included an Italian Champion Hurdle win on Bokaro for Charlie Brooks. Unfortunately for Brad, his beloved Leeds United didn’t achieve the same success as he and Bokaro did so it was Dandy and I that left with smiles on our faces. More recently I bumped into him riding out past Brendan Powell’s yard in November when I visited Lambourn, 21 years after I first met him and he still looked the part on horseback, still sporting a smile. I was really pleased that on contacting him, that he agreed to an interview, as he was a great favourite of mine when riding and racing does need it’s charcters such as Brad.
MARK: Firstly Graham, may I say thanks for agreeing to chat to me for the Post Racing website. Obviously it’s been in the news of late that you were going on the trainer’s course, so how is it going?
GRAHAM: I did my NVQ Level 3 Horse Management the other day and passed that. It took me about six weeks to complete. I then did Module 1 at Newmarket and that took five days plus, it was a long five days but we got through it. I learned plenty and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
MARK: Something that has been mentioned on Post Racing recently since the success of our Charity Horse Rosie’s Lady is how the BHA impose costs on people involved in racing through administration charges and all these training courses. Obviously you were brought up around horses, your father Norman Bradley trained, you rode over 700 winners and you’ve worked with some great trainers. Do you feel the trainer’s course is a case of “teaching you how to suck eggs?”
GRAHAM: Well, I understand the course 100% and it’s like anything in life, things in racing are changing all the time especially regards health and safety etc,
The course is not only about how to train a racehorse and how to look after one but there’s all sorts of business modules which I haven’t done yet but there’s that and the health and safety, so it’s fairly comprehensive. It costs a few quid to go through and it’s a bit boring and tedious at times but theres a lot to learn there. I was a steeplechase jockey, a stable lad for a lot of years but I was a jockey spending most of my time on the schooling grounds and the gallops and not in the stable with the horse so, learning from the course is something that will stand me in good stead. It’s something I have to go through and I don’t mind going through it. Obviously the expense is something you’d rather do without. But you have to pay for these things and you are learning so it’s a case of onwards and upwards really.
MARK: Obviously you’ve been through the different stages in a racng career, starting from a stable lad, then apprentice through to a professional jockey. How did you find it returning to a classroom environment?
GRAHAM: Ha ha ha, I couldn’t wait to leave school and to go be a jockey, well a stable lad to start with. But it was very comprehensive and very well done. I took lots of notes and they are there to help you so you’ve got to appreciate it and I got used to it fairly quickly.
MARK: During your career Graham you rode for all the top trainers, you also spent a long time in the early stages of your career with the Dickinson family. Is there anything that sticks out in your mind that you’ll take with you into your training career?
GRAHAM: The Boss (Tony, Michael’s father) Dickinson always said that you’ll never stop learning with horses and there’s always something around the corner. He was a brilliant judge of a horse, fabulous he was and he did all the buying. Mrs D (Monica, Michael’s mother) did most of the feeding and Michael Dickinson did most of the entries, the preparation and physical work. So you pick up plenty, I had 10 years with them so I picked up plenty from them all. Different gallops that I’ve ridden on for the likes of Paul Nicholls, who I was a stable jockey to, David Elsworth who I rode a lot of winners for, David Murray Smith and I had 10 years with Charlie Brooks.
When I was with Michael Dickinson he had a pan flat mile round gallop and Michael said he wanted a bit of a hill. He was doing interval training before Martin Pipe was, except he did it all on the flat, where as now they do it over six furlong on a steady incline. I’ve just got used to the way different trainer’s did things but most of my experiences have been with the jump horses rather than the flat ones, so theres plenty for me to learn about two year olds and things, which is why I enjoyed going on the course. Things like conditioning, the way they are fed. I took a keen interest in the feeding when I was with the Dickinsons but obviously all that has changed now. We used to have a linseed mash every night for them back then. I’ve been to different yards, Richard Hannon has been a big help and you just ask questions, pick up things, ask more questions and learn as you go on.
MARK: You’ve been based in Lambourn for a while now. Are you looking to train from there bearing in mind you know the set up and the gallops there?
GRAHAM: I’ve been in Lambourn about 24 years now, I was with Charlie Brooks for 10 years so I’ve ridden alot of work here. My family are settled here, I have a wife and a 10 year old daughter, so it would be nice to find a yard here with around 25 boxes.
MARK: A few weeks ago in my column for the Post Racing members I wrote about Terry Ramsden making a succesful return as an owner. You rode Stearsby to win the Welsh National for him, what was he like to ride for?
GRAHAM: An absolute superstar, a really nice guy. I initially got the ride on the horse in a Novice chase. I won a Novice chase on him at Aintree and then the Welsh National the following season. He was an absolute gent, loved a punt, loved having a few quid on. He was a successful guy and he was always kind, generous, flamboyant and great to be around. I didn’t really get to know him that well but he was a pleasure to ride for as he always had good horses.
MARK:Graham, you had a colourful and some may say a controversial riding career, riding well over 700 winners and won on some great horses. Bregawn and the “Famous Five” Cheltenham Gold Cup of 1983, the Aintree Hurdle win on Morley Street, (which many deemed to be your best ever ride), King George victory on Wayward Lad and the Champion Hurdle win on Collier Bay, to name just four, but which one is your particular favourite?
GRAHAM: Winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Bregawn when Michael trained the first five home aged 22 years old was the best by far. It was only my second ride in the race having finished second in the race the year before and it’s every jockey’s dream to win a Gold Cup, or a National and it was mine to win the Gold Cup. It was literally a dream come true for me, from when I was a young kid riding on the edge of the bed, the garden wall or the saddle horse, the settee commentating in Sir Peter O’Sullivan’s voice. It was always the Cheltenham Gold Cup for me, so for a young council house family lad, who’s dad had worked with horses all his life, who was sat watching it all at home on telly it was a very proud moment and something I’ll never forget.
MARK: Looking ahead to your new career as a trainer, some people are of the opinion, as they were when you rode in the 2010 Leger Legends race that you shouldn’t have a license because you were once banned. Surely it’s a case of having done the time for the crime you should be allowed to move on and look to the future?
GRAHAM: Whatever you do in life there will always be knocker’s and it was a long ban that I got. What people don’t really appreciate exactly is what I was found guilty of, I was found guilty of giving somebody some winning tips, not loser’s. It was years before Betfair and there was nothing corrupt. The Jockey Club was obviously under a lot of pressure from that Panorama programme and the guy I was giving tips to was a high profile name. But at the time I thought it was a bit severe for what I’d done as John Francome got done for exactly the same and got three months and he was giving tips to the biggest rails bookmaker at the time. They were hard on me but it’s all in the past and you’ve just got to put it behind you and move on.
Training is something I’ve been thinking about preparing for, for a while now. It’s going to be a big challenge, I’ve been planning it for a while and tomorrow is another day. I was a fairly useful jockey, I had over 750 winner’s and rode a lot of big winner’s and things but I’m starting with no horses and no winner’s and its going to be hard. I say I’ve got no horses, I have been promised around 12 to start with, to get going with. But you know, I have to finish these courses, probably go in front of the licensing comittee and say I’ve learnt from my mistakes and what I did in the past. It’s a new chapter in my life now and I have to prove myself in a new sphere.
MARK: Well, all the very best of luck with that from myself and everyone at Post Racing.
MARK: Obviously Cheltenham is just around the corner and I think I’m right in saying you had eight winner’s at the Cheltenham Festival, a Gold Cup on Bregawn, Champion Hurdle on Collier Bay, a Sun Alliance Chase on Kildimo, a Supreme Novice Hurdle on French Ballerina and four Grand Annual’s on Pearlyman, My Young Man, Sound Reveille and Uncle Ernie
GRAHAM: Sabin Du Loir won the Sun Alliance Novice Hurdle when we beat Dawn Run and West Tip so, I think it’s nine. Four Grand Annuals which has never been done before, it’s a record so we’ve had a bit of luck in that.
MARK: It looks that way, you certainly liked winning it!
GRAHAM: I’ll be going every day. It’s 30 years on from when we won the Gold Cup so we’ve been invited there for lunch and I’ll be going along with Michael and I’m really looking forward to it.
MARK: Finally, are there any whisper’s around Lambourn, or anything you fancy for the Festival?
GRAHAM: The big hope in Lambourn is Puffin Billy I think. He’s a real high class horse with a great cruising speed and I don’t know what he had beaten but he had beaten them all easily until he was beaten the other day at Exeter. He did come back with a corn, or a bruised foot or whatever and he was pretty sore. He is the big hope and it’s going to be a tough race but were all keeping our fingers crossed for Oliver Sherwood because he’s a star in Lambourn.
MARK: Well thanks for taking the time to talk to me Graham, I hope you have a great time at the festival and good luck in the future with your training career.
GRAHAM: No, thank you Mark and all the very best of luck to you all at Post Racing.
Well, I hope you all enjoy reading that and I for one look forward to Graham getting up and running as a trainer.
A couple that may offer a bit of value on Friday are CYFLYMDER 2.00 Lingfield, with Ian’s claim he comes out on top at the ratings. He ran well when a close second over CD last week. The likely favourite SAHARIA has not got the best of form around Lingfield so could be one to lay as it will be short. Finally HANNAHS TURN 6.40 Wolverhampton, won over 6 furlongs at Southwell on handicap debut, making all in the process. Chris Dwyer’s charge is well drawn in stall 1 to repeat the dose and Hayley Turner got off Desert Strike at Lingfield (trained by Conor Dore who she rides everything for), to take the ride.
Good luck to Hiddon Coin, who runs for 500 Club members in the Southwell 2-50!