A jockey who “doesn’t make many mistakes and exploits other people’s to win races” is how a fellow rider describes our May-June Howden Jockey of the Month – read on to find out more!
A jockey who “doesn’t make many mistakes and exploits other peoples’ to win races”is how Tommie O’Brien described our May-June Howden Jockey of the Month Award Winner – Phil York who rode his 350th career winner at Northaw in May. We spoke to Phil York to find out his slow burn start, what keeps him motivated, and found out he plans to keep going for as long as it continues to be fun!
With a total of 353 career wins on the chart at the end of the 2017 – 2018 Season, Phil is the 6thwinning most Point to Point rider of the post war period, and of current riders only Will Biddick exceeds his winning tally.
It’s a record that speaks for itself and yet Phil’s early venture into race riding was far from propitious, successful in a variety of pony related activities as a child the transition to race riding at 16 was far from smooth, and after failing to complete in his first 8 rides he stepped away from race riding.
It seemed“impossible to jump 18 fences in a row – when you first start it’s a trauma just galloping at a fence. Over the years I’ve had a lot of owner-riders in the yard and it’s practice, practice, keep doing it till galloping at a fence is not a trauma and then you can think about what other people are doing – experience makes it a lot easier.
After those first rides I didn’t race again till I was 26! I blame my father (the late Ray York)for putting me on 5 year old mares that I broke in – but apparently I was a hooligan who wouldn’t do what I was told!”
Tempted back by a horse he’d ridden drag hunting there was no fairytale return, the horse failed to make it to the track, “but I’d got my licence and a saddle and Ray Fielder offered me a ride so I gave it another go. To be honest I wasn’t great but I continued, it took me 20 rides to get round, and longer to get a winner, but I stuck at it I’ve always been a stubborn b***er! When I finally rode my first winner – Paco’s Boy at Tweseldown in 1995 it had taken so long that it was almost an “about time” more than a celebration!”
It’s fair to say that despite the slow burn Phil developed into a force to be reckoned with, his end of 2017 – 2018 tally ranks him 6thin the league of winning-most post war Point to Point riders, and of all current riders only Will Biddick has ridden more winners between the flags.
Despite being one of the more senior in the changing tent, at 52 he has no intention of calling it a day although thoughts of the next milestone are not at the forefront of his mind
“I’ve every intention of carrying on while it’s still a laugh – which it is – but I don’t know how far ahead you can really look. You ride the next one and the next one and so it goes and then you realise oh look there’s another milestone passed – I don’t think I’ve really ever set targets other than the next race and doing the best I can all the time.
He does however confess to setting himself goals after finishing 4thin the 2009/2010 National Men’s Championship.
“I’d ridden in about 75 races that year and I started to get a bit serious and think if I upped my number of rides I’d have a good chance of winning it the following season. I really knuckled down. And drove all over the country taking every ride there was, but it got so annoying if a horse finished second and I thought we should have won. It took the fun out of it because without a winner it felt like a waste of time. So I gave up that idea, relaxed, and came a close second to Richard Burton – I learnt to just get on with it”
Other than that brief interlude he stresses Point to Pointing has always been about fun – and that’s one of the aspects he loves about the sport
I’ve ridden a bit under Rules too – (his winners include 32 under National Hunt Rules) – but there’s more laughs pointing though there’s a serious side too of course, we’ve got to do it right.
Health and Safety has improved massively over the time I’ve been riding, as has the tuition of young riders. You used to see young lads who’d got a “ticket” and they flapped around a lot and fell off a lot in the beginning, now you see these 16 year olds who’ve come up through pony racing and they are like professionals before they get there (to the Point to Point course). It’s made the sport different but it’s still great fun. There are definitely people making a living out of it and who have to get results – I don’t own a living out of it, I train for fun as well. I’ve bred horses where I’ve ridden their parents and grandparents on both sides, stood them up for their first suckle and taken them to the races on won on them that’s a fantastic achievement – when it all goes right – and that’s part of the fun of it.”