Being a jockey is one of the toughest jobs in the horse industry, but along with the early mornings, high-speeds falls, hours on the road and sometimes painful losses, the realities of the job are often eclipsed by glorious rides, thrilling wins, loyal comradery and partnerships with outstanding thorougbreds.
Joey Sheridan is fast becoming a superstar and recently achieved his first Grade 1 victory, guiding the incredible Princess Zoe to a dramatic last-gasp win in the Qatar Prix du Cadran at Longchamp.
Helen Sharp (HS): Being a jockey is a tough job - why do you do it?
Joey Sheridan (JS): I do it because from a young age I was hooked! My father was a jockey, I have other relations that are jockeys, I rode ponies, went pony racing and then became a jockey. It’s all I want to do. I’ve never thought about not doing it!
HS: If you could have a spin on any horse alive or dead, who would it be?
JS: Sea the Stars for sure, and I’d love to have felt Frankel’s turn of foot underneath him.
HS: Jockeys have to get up really early in the morning, what are your tips for early rising?
JS: Well, I struggle with that – I wouldn’t be the best at that! I get up at 6am every morning. My advice would be go to bed early, don’t be up late on your phone. I should probably listen to my own advice more!
HS: Are you ever scared before or during a race?
JS: No, I’ve never been scared. It’s often said in racing the day you have fear is the day you should give it up. Nerves are a different thing, you might have some nerves before a big race, but I don’t get afraid ever. It’s hard to tell a youngster not to be afraid, but if you are afraid you start to fumble. It’s like the programme The Cube – if you went in afraid, shaking with nerves, you’d make mistakes. It’s the same in racing. Pressure is good, but you have to keep cool.
Sometimes a young two-year-old horse would be nervous its first few times out. I like to think I can settle horses, I have that ability to get horses into a rhythm. If you’re scared the horse would feel it through your hands and your body as they tense, you’re best chance of winning is to stay ice cool.
HS: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given and would pass on to anyone up and coming?
JS: One thing I was told by Colm O’Donohue, who I still go to if I want to ask a question or talk, was to take my time and to count to 10 before the last push. I didn’t take this advice when I was young, but I use it now. I would have kicked on too hard when I was younger and got a couple of bans for it. I was just a little bit antsy, trying too hard, going for it too much.
Now I’m a bit older, I am only just using this piece of advice properly. I used it in my recent Grade 1 win. I’ve noticed I’m doing a lot better since I have listened to that advice. It’s important to be calm and to think. Tom Mullins told me when I was riding Princess Zoe that a horse can’t go like a car, 0-100 in a couple of seconds.
You have to bring the horse carefully through the motions, like a human, it needs time to move into top gear. But if you do it right, you’ll get the best possible performance out of it. You have to relax and let the horse reach its best without forcing it.
HS: What is it about thoroughbreds that you like?
JS: Anyone you speak to in the industry, whether it be owners, trainers, jockeys or stable lads, we all have a love for horses and usually animals in general. If you go to any yard, there will be cats, dogs and even chickens!
Every jockey has liked horses from the start and thoroughbreds especially for their speed, we have a love for them. I don’t mind saying that I’d love it if people who are unsure about racing would come into any yard and see how the thoroughbreds are treated and the genuine love we all have for these horses.
When a horse is fatally injured, a piece of you goes with them. You grieve every day for them. I think those people would only get an understanding if they could see it with their own eyes, how much we love these animals.
A dose of inspiration from champion jockey Rachael Blackmore:
“If you have a passion for something, you’re lucky. Some people can’t find a passion, so don’t waste it. Work hard on it, which will bring you enjoyment and you would never know, it could turn into you living your dream. As a jockey, I feel male/female doesn’t matter anymore. If you’re good enough and you work hard, you’ll get the opportunities. That’s been the case for a long time before me in racing. It is something that the racing community should be very proud of.”