By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
Some of you readers may be wondering who Nick Barratt-Atkin is so let me introduce him to you.
Nick is a seventeen-year-old apprentice jockey for Catterick-based Phillip Kirby and he has lived and breathed horses all his life, “I’ve always rode ponies from being born, so it was always going to be an option to pursue a career in horses. My family have always had an involvement in horse racing from transporting, to ownership and training horses themselves, so it was always a lifestyle I was involved in!”
Like many top jockeys under both codes, for example Paul Townend and Oisin Murphy, Nick started out on the pony racing circuit, “I became involved in Pony Racing through Pony Club when aged 9. I had always been involved in other events but my main focus soon changed after giving it a go!” Nick was very successful on the pony racing circuit, winning fifty-three races altogether and he believes this experience from a young age was extremely helpful, “Pony Racing helped a huge amount when it came to becoming an apprentice, from a typical race day procedure-to race riding in itself, and it’s a great way to get a taste and insight of what it’s like to be a jockey; whether being for fun, or practice for a future career, I’d definitely recommend it!” If anyone has any interest or would like to find out more, the official website is https://www.ponyracingauthority.co.uk.
The next step in Nick’s career was to got to the British Racing School, “I was able to go to the BRS on a fast track 4 week course, which was helpful as it meant I could achieve my level 1 and 2 diploma in horse care and get straight into working in racing as a full time job for Philip Kirby. Both the NHC and BRS are great for people wanting to get into the industry as they supply courses for all ranges of horse experience for people to attend.” The British Racing School and National Horseracing College have kick-started the careers for many top jockeys like Tom Marquand, Jason Weaver, Danny Tudhope and Adrian Nicholls.
Nick’s main piece of advice to anyone looking forward to working in racing is to follow this route, “As a whole racing is always looking for staff of any role and it is a sport which is increasing in numbers all the time. If someone were to be interested in working in racing, the best process would be to go to one of the racing colleges to get a taste of what working in a real-life yard situation is like whilst learning!” Like Nick says, they are the perfect place for anyone with aspirations to work in horse racing. For more information, read my article about the BRS <here> or use these links – https://www.thenhc.co.uk and https://www.brs.org.uk.
On leaving the British Racing School, Nick joined Phillip Kirby’s yard and really enjoys the job, “Phil is a great boss and it’s a great job in itself. My favourite NH horse would have to be stable star Lady Buttons! And flat horse would be December Second who is a progressive sort and one to watch out for when flat racing resumes!” Lady Buttons has been the Kirby yard’s flagship horse for the past few seasons and she is definitely a fan-favourite. Nick rode December Second at Hamilton in July and the pairing only lost out by a neck to subsequent winner New Arrangement. The gelding seems to have a bright future under both codes as he came sixth in the Champion NH Flat Race at the Punchestown Festival and is very consistent on the flat.
For Nick, his first ride under rules was amazing, “Although I didn’t win or place, the feeling was surreal and it went very quick, I now find having more rides, that the races I ride in are much more slower and you have more time to process the race itself in front of you.” Last season was Nick’s first season riding and the horses have come predominately from his boss Phillip Kirby but has had nine rides for Marjorie Fife, “My target for my first season was to ride as much as possible and build up a backing from outside owners and trainers. Phil and my agent have been very supportive especially when hitting the crossbar on many occasions!” After fifty-four rides, Nick is still searching for his first winner but, judging from the ride he gave December Second and times I’ve seen him ride since, he will be in the Winner’s Enclosure very soon!
Nick looks up to James Doyle most, “I’d look up to James Doyle, because of how he manages his weight, which is no easy task especially with flat racing weights being so low and himself being 5ft 9 inches tall! Also, he admitted that he nearly gave up being a jockey and is now a retained rider for Godolphin and Charlie Appleby and established himself as one of the best jockeys in the world.”
His main piece of advice for any young person going into the industry, “As a whole, racing is always looking for staff of any role and it is a sport which is increasing in numbers all the time. If someone were to be interested in working in racing, the best process would be to go to one of the racing colleges to get a taste of what working in a real-life yard situation is like whilst learning!”
With racing set to return by end of this month, Nick’s eager to get back racing, “My target for when racing resumes is to try and maintain my weight and ride as many winners as possible!”
I’d like to thank Nick for taking time to answer my questions and I’m convinced his first winner will be very soon! Keep your eye out for Nick when racing resumes!