FIRST PAST THE POST

Man and beast in union; both trained to win. The crowds hush in hope and anticipation. Everything is riding on the outcome. The tape is raised… and they're off!

Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies is definitely the one to watch in the Jump Racing World. With the 2016 Grand National just around the corner the world of racing will have its eyes firmly fixed on Aintree racecourse. SAMSON spoke in depth with Sam to find out exactly what goes on behind the scenes in his life, being one of the UK’s best riders. 

 

MATT

Sam, thanks for speaking with us. You are currently the main Jockey for highly regarded trainer Paul Nicholls and you also ride for your father (Nigel Twiston-Davies). How much of an influence has he been on your progression in horse racing from a young kid until now?

 

SAM

He has been a massive influence, obviously. Me and my brother Willy grew up around horses and I suppose it was natural that we would want to make it in the sport of Racing. Dad always worked hard in racing and that gave us a huge head-start towards what we wanted to do. We were always around racing folk as youngsters and that just becomes part of your make-up and everyday life. From a very early age, we were engrossed in racing.

 

MATT

With the Grand National coming up at Aintree, what will be your hopes for this race?

 

SAM

Well I really like Aintree racecourse. The National is definitely a race that any jockey in the world would love to win one day, so basically we’ve just got to go there and give it our all, but it is one of the hardest races in the country to win. I’ll give it my best shot, but it will be a tricky race. Cheltenham is also a big few days for us, so I’m looking forward to them both.

 

MATT

So how would you describe a typical weeks training?

 

SAM

There aren’t actually any typical weeks of training during the season. It changes from week to week and depends on the racing calendar. My fitness looks after itself during the season because I could be doing three or four races in one single day. I will probably ride every day of the week during the season but a day off from racing is taken as a rest day, where I will try to put my feet up as much as possible and recover.  We’re just so busy during the season! Probably, when I was a kid, I never thought about the travelling side of the job. Over the course of a year I might travel 60-70,000 miles to different races. You just have to find a routine that works best for you. 

 

MATT

You wouldn't expect there to be so much travelling involved as a Jockey - do you mind it?

 

SAM

Well, when people find out how much I do actually travel during the season they always assume I have a driver, but I prefer to drive myself everywhere. I really wouldn’t want to inflict the distances I have to drive on somebody else! I do share lifts with other jockeys sometimes, but the travelling is a massive part of the job. It makes for a very long day, sometimes. Although I am not complaining because I love my job.

 

MATT

What would you say has been the proudest moment or moments of your career so far?

 

SAM

I would say riding 'Hello Bud' to win the Beecher Chase at Aintree in 2012. He was 14 years old at the time and that just doesn’t happen very often, so that was a personal favourite of mine. I will never forget that day.

 

MATT

What advice would you give a young person who wants to have a successful career in the sport?

 

SAM

You have to live for horses and for racing. You have to be prepared to live every aspect of your life with the focus on your career. The British Racing School is a great foundation, but you must be prepared for a huge amount of hard work. When you learn how to become a jockey at the Racing School, you are taught all the basics first. You have to muck out the stables and learn how to brush the horses, as well as study all the technical aspects of riding and jumping. It’s a fantastic grounding and one I would thoroughly recommend.

 

MATT

What are your hopes for this season?

 

SAM

As it stands, I have 94 winners at the moment, so I have to be focused on getting to the century mark. That would be marvellous for me. You should set goals that you think you can reach, but it is important that you stay realistic because you never know what’s around the corner in sport.

 

MATT

What are your goals for the next few years?

 

SAM

To keep winning! It’s as simple as that, for now anyway. Jockeys are judged on how many winners they have. If I keep winning, then hopefully I will keep getting good rides. Again, you never know what’s around the corner, but if I can keep training, riding and hopefully winning, then I will be happy. Every time you get on a horse it’s a risk, but I take that risk every day of the week and I am very happy doing it.

 
 

MATT

So what would you say would be your ultimate goal or dream within the sport?

 

SAM

One dream will be to win the Grand National of course. Like I said earlier it’s one of the toughest races to win, but that is definitely one of my aims

 

MATT

Have you had to tackle any problems in your personal life to get to where you've got today?

 

SAM

I think the travelling is the hardest part of what I’ve had to do so far. I’m not moaning at all about what I do, it’s a great job, racing is my passion and I know I am very lucky to be able to do it. However, the miles on the road do take their toll on me. One other thing that affects a lot of Jockeys is that people think we are always miserable because we can’t eat what they want and have to be extremely careful about our weight. Having said that I’m pretty fortunate in that I don’t have a massive problem with my weight.

 

MATT

Would you say though that you have to stick to a strict diet as a Jockey?

 

SAM

I have worked out my body pretty well now. I know that if I have a Sunday roast for example, my weight may spike on a Tuesday or Wednesday, but I generally eat healthily and enjoy a balanced diet overall. I just keep an eye on it and stay sensible. Every Jockey has their own way of doing it, I try and eat early so my body burns the energy during the day. I will just have tea and fruit for breakfast then some energy drinks during the day. I have found that Jockeys love to snack on chicken nuggets on race day! When I get home after a race I will usually have chicken and vegetables or maybe a good steak. I try to stay clear of pizzas, but it’s easy to be weak sometimes!

 

MATT

Do you think British horse racing is in good shape going forward?

 

SAM

Yes I think so. Every sport has challenges it must face and some are unforeseen. But I would say racing is in good health.

 

MATT

What do you like to do in your spare time?

 

SAM

My big vice is the cinema. It’s great to go and watch a film and forget about everything for a while. Some of the other Jockeys like the movies also, so every now and again, we go to the cinema as a group. I get more chance in the summer though to do this, but even in the season I try to sneak in the odd film, I find it very relaxing.

 

MATT

I know it's a long way off but would you like to stay in racing after you eventually retire from being a jockey?

 

SAM

I love racing. It’s in my blood. I want that to be part of my life for the rest of my days. Hopefully, I have a long way to go, but I have no intention of moving away from racing.


All imagery courtesy of SAM TWISTON-DAVIES | @SamTwiston


SPORTS EDITOR | SAMSON