Job title Apprentice Jockey
Employer Sir Mark Prescott (trained by The British Racing School)
"It has been incredible"
How did you begin your career as a jockey?
It probably wasn’t your average start, to be honest. I left school with pretty average grades and started working in the kitchen of a local pub. I was doing my A Levels at the time and doing all sorts, personal training, that kind of thing. I eventually worked my way up to sous chef at the pub I was at. I was 17 at the time and one day I poured myself a drink at the bar and started watching a bit of the racing that was on the TV at the time. The owner of the pub said ‘you could do that, Gavin, you would make a good jockey – you’re the right height’. I told him I would give it a go if I knew how to get into it. And the rest, as they say, is history.
So, horses weren’t your first love growing up?
No, that’s very true. Manchester United were, if I’m honest. I had always dreamed about being a footballer, scoring at Old Trafford, that kind of thing. Up until two years ago I had never sat on a horse before, never had anything to do with horses. So it probably wasn’t your average career step. I ended up applying to the British Racing School and luckily I was accepted.
I would imagine that not too many people apply to the British Racing School without having ridden before?
I had 14 weeks down at the British Racing School and then I started at Sir Mark Prescott’s yard. I absolutely love it. It’s incredible. I never would have pictured myself doing this three years ago but I’m massively glad I did it. It has been incredible.
“A month ago, I rode my first winner at Lingfield, which was amazing. Again, I was very lucky that the boss put me on a really good horse and I managed to steer it home.”
Your career seems to be galloping forward at speed…
My sole interest in working with the horses is just to become a jockey. I always knew that I wanted to be a sportsman. I was playing football at Manchester City as part of a college course run by Hopwood Hall at the Etihad Campus. I always thought that I wanted to be a footballer or a professional athlete, doing anything really! The reality was that making it as a footballer was going to be very tough so I was always on the lookout for other opportunities.
Now I’ve got my (jockey) licence and have been lucky to have my first ride, which the boss gave me two weeks after I got my licence. A month ago, I rode my first winner at Lingfield, which was amazing. Again, I was very lucky that the boss put me on a really good horse and I managed to steer it home.
How have you managed to make up so much time on people who are so much more experienced with horses?
It’s funny, when I went to the racing school pretty much everyone had ridden at some point in their life. I turned up and it was the first time I had ever sat on a horse. The teachers were shocked but I was like a gift to them because I didn’t have any bad habits ingrained. They could teach me completely from scratch. Everything that they told me I took as absolute gospel. I listened and took absolutely everything on.
After my first interview at the British Racing School, when I wasn’t sure if I would make it, I was so determined. I was so lucky to get given this opportunity and now I’m making the most of it.
The British Racing School
At The British Racing School, we provide Apprenticeships for young people wishing to start their careers in the exciting industry of Horse Racing. All training takes place in our state of the art facilities located in Newmarket, Suffolk. On completion of the residential element of the course, our trainees are guaranteed work placements with Racehorse Trainers located all over the UK. There are plenty of opportunities in a racing yard: Assistant Trainer, Head Lad, Jockey and Work Rider to name but a few.With prospects of career progression and world travel coupled with the thrill of riding a thoroughbred, Racing is a career like no other. Check out more at www.brs.org.uk.
Matt BolamOperations Training Manager
Who we work with Past and Present
Careers in Sport
Suite 1, Bulldog House, 267 – 269 Reading Road
Winnersh, Wokingham, RG41 5AB
T: 0345 017 0825