By Ezra Woodman
This is the first article that I have written for Rein It In so I think I should introduce myself. I am Ezra, I have just turned 16 and, like many of the brilliant writers at Rein It In, I have been interested in horse racing since I was small. My father’s interest in the sport has allowed me to travel across the UK and beyond, watching national hunt racing and point to points. Most of my friends at school know very little about racing so I decided to try and explain to them why I love the sport by creating a YouTube channel called ‘Jump Racing for Beginners’. My channel shares a primary objective with Rein It In – to encourage the younger generation to the sport.
In this article, I’ll cover one of my favourite aspects of horse racing – the excitement and happiness that it can bring to people. And boy, we could all do with some now.
This is a very strange time to be thinking about horse racing. Like millions of other people, over the last few weeks, my daily life and routine has changed in ways unimaginable just a short time ago. It’s an emotional time and it’s very difficult not to be overwhelmed with appreciation and admiration for the key workers who are looking after the sick and keeping the country just about afloat.
While others are working heroically, many of us have found ourselves with a lot more time on our hands, something I have never really experienced before. I had been preparing to take my GCSE exams but since they have been cancelled, it’s likely I will not have to go to school for over five months. I admit that initially I did feel a huge sense of relief that I didn’t have any exams but this faded quickly and has been replaced by a sense of anti-climax. I think one of the reasons I am disappointed is partly because we had planned to celebrate by attending some summer jump meetings. I was particularly looking forward to going to Ffos Las for the first time and to feature that on my channel.
With all this extra time on my hands, it’s strange how I can’t stop thinking about racing even though there hasn’t been any for weeks – and there won’t be any for the next few months at least. When I was planning to write this article, I made a note of all the magical ingredients that makes racing so important to me: the spectacle, the range of extraordinary courses, the wonderful horses and the amazing people, professionals and enthusiasts alike. I think that when all these are combined on a racecourse, it creates something quite unique that can bring a lot of joy, excitement and happiness to people.
I first started going racing when I was still in a pram, enjoying being pushed around whilst watching the horses, jockeys and entertainment at the racecourse. When I began to toddle, I am told that I started to imitate commentators calling a thrilling finish. Furthermore, whilst at the races, I took an interest in autographs of jockeys; I could usually be found by the weighing room trying to get as many as I could in one go! The jockeys were people who were about to do something quite dangerous but no jockey ever said no to me and some of them were really friendly and kind. They impressed me with their matter of fact attitudes and humility, especially when compared to footballers. I used to enjoy the looks of disbelief and delight on the faces of conditional and amateur jockeys as I approached with my pen and racecard.
One day when I was at Newbury Racecourse, a staff member kindly invited me into the weighing room to meet all the jockeys. It was quite a surreal moment as I chatted to all my childhood heroes whilst making sure that I had taken the autograph of every jockey in the room. I think that this cemented my early love of the sport and made me realise just what a great community it is.
One of my most vivid memories of racing was in 2015 where we had made the trip to Doncaster Races with some friends. After watching the horses in the parade ring before the fourth race of the day, I picked the 2/1 favourite ‘Milan Bound’ for Jonjo O’Neill and Tony McCoy. After being placed in mid-division and struggling to keep his position after 4-out, he looked totally beaten. However, McCoy never gave up. He kept working and after a good jump at the second last, McCoy was in sixth position. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and quickly began to realise that the unthinkable could just happen. We started shouting and jumping in disbelief and ‘Milan Bound’ kept gaining until he was into second position approaching the final hurdle. Richard Johnson on ‘Western Jo’ had kicked for home but McCoy had begun to reel him in. It was a classic Johnson vs McCoy battle and incredibly, ‘Milan Bound’ and McCoy just won. The thrill of this race did not wear off for a long time and I still think about that performance quite often. Maybe it was because we all had a great day at the races, or more likely that McCoy’s ride proved to be such an inspiration to me.
Although we had no connection with ‘Milan Bound’, the thrill of that race made me feel connected to him from then on. However, this said, another one of my favourite moments did come from a horse that we had a particular soft spot for.
The appropriately named gelding ‘Allchilledout’ was owned by our friends and always had a lovely temperament. His chasing debut hadn’t entirely gone to plan when favourite at Lingfield so we were all hoping for an improvement at Chepstow next time out. It was one of the strangest races to watch as the runners dipped in and out of the thick fog. The commentary was intermittent so we had to almost guess what was happening throughout the race. To our delight, ‘Allchilledout’ appeared at the final fence in front and went on to win nicely for Aidan Coleman. It was such a great moment afterwards as we all hugged, smiled and were brimming with joy. I can still remember the moment clearly when I was invited to stand by the horse and jockey, surrounded by my friends to pose for the photographs. That smile remained on my face for the rest of the day and the journey home flew by.
Despite the fact that we are going through tough times at the minute, what keeps me going is the thought of getting back on the racecourse. I am sure that I’m not alone in feeling like that.