An Interview with National Hunt Jockey Marc Goldstein
Marc Goldstein likes to laugh – after reflection and thoughtfulness, his infectious laughter always bubbles back up like fizz in a glass. After all, he was the Pwoducer in the Wocket Woy skits that became an internet sensation; his infectious laughter the undercurrent to the costumes, cross-dressing and clownish acts that gilded many a dull Saturday.
Combing through the stages of his race-riding career, Marc starts at the beginning. Following the path of racing
that his father Ray had trodden; Ray had been a successful jump jockey, riding over 180 winners. Marc then trod in his older brother Jamie’s physical footsteps. Both started out at Nigel Twiston-Davies’ in the Cotswolds, for whom Jamie, then aged 22, rode the 2000 Hennessy winner on King’s Road. Marc rode his first winner for Nigel on the talented Petite Margot round Ludlow in December 2003. ‘She ran away with me – I won by swinging out of her from the front,’ he chuckles.
Still nicknamed Goldie throughout the weighing room, Marc highlights how those years at Nigel’s were very positive. He worked hard and loved riding the bumper horses that usually jumped out in front and knew their job; they were fit and knew how to gallop. As a seven-pound claimer, he won bumpers on good horses like Jeremy Cuddle Duck and Night Safe, and is grateful for the chances that he was given. ‘There’s a photo of us all from back then,’ Marc says. ‘In it, I seem very young and naive, but we had lots of fun.’
That photo from approximately 2005 at Nigel Twiston-Davies - Marc is on the back row to the right of Nigel.
A move to Jim Best’s was a learning curve. ‘I learnt to school properly and not to just fire horses down the fences. I learnt to slow down and pop away.’ There, he grew tougher and more streetwise, shaping him towards the successful jockey he is today.
Now based at Sheena West’s, Marc also happily schools for other trainers. Before his current injury of a badly broken leg, he was contented: his wins to rides ratio was high and he’d found sponsorship through Tuffa equestrian boots. He’d won four on the juvenile hurdler Mr Freedom but subsequently missed out on his fifth in the Fred Winter at the Cheltenham Festival. As well as Sheena, he regularly rides for Lydia Richards and the likes of her prolific winner Certainly Red. Marc’s terrific season was frustratingly ended last February by that fall at Lingfield. Yet, he remains philosophical and accepting of the bad times. He looks forwards more easily, knowing he has built up good relationships with a few loyal owners and trainers.
Marc with Pockets and Rufios
Carley Stewart is his long-term girlfriend; they met in the Cotswolds when working along the same rural lane – Marc a conditional and Carley an amateur, they have been together for seventeen years. Having stepped away from racehorses, Carley is now a professional dog trainer and runs Canine Instincts, in which Marc is heavily involved. They both offer behavioural training for any breed of dog and foster for The Boxer Rescue Southern Service, taking in the most difficult dogs and rehoming them. ‘It’s challenging but I love it,’ explains Marc. Discussing these illtreated dogs is the only time Marc sounds despondent, his laughter simmering down. ‘We do it for the dogs. Often, it’s the difference between living in a kennel or in a home.’ It’s been lifechanging for both Marc and Carley – and the dogs in their care. ‘We take in dogs that haven’t had the best starts and have bad histories. It’s not easy to pair up dogs and new owners but we work out the dogs and who they need.’
Presently, Marc, 37, and Carley own five boxers acquired through the rescue. Marc’s two are Pockets and Rufios, names inspired by the Lost Boys from Hook, and Carley’s three are Bella, Jeffie and Loomie. Marc’s hometown is Lewes, East Sussex and Carley and he now live in Rushmore, near Farnham in Surrey. Working with the rescued dogs gives them a lot of satisfaction; not dissimilar to the satisfaction Marc gets from riding those winners…
The laughter returns when Marc flits back to memories…winners, racehorses past and present and the days that, when the leg is mended, will shine golden again.
First winner on Petite Margot
Photo Credit: Gettys Images
Did you have a horsey childhood? Mum owned Hansey Riding School in Lewes, so I've always been around horses. Dad was a jockey, retiring in 1989 when I was four, but I do have early memories of knowing he rode in races. Mum and Dad have always worked down the riding school – we were taken down there and let loose to run wild round the yard.
Which trainers have you worked for and in what roles? I started off as amateur and conditional for Nigel Twiston-Davies. I then went back down south and was conditional for Jim best. This was an important time in my career; I learnt a lot and it shaped me into a better jockey. I'm now at Sheena West's and have been here years and years.
What's your favourite racecourse? To me, Plumpton, Fontwell and Sandown are all local ones that have been very lucky.
Which is your least favourite racecourse? It used to be Towcester. I never had a winner there, I only ever had placings. I didn't ever get on with the place, even down to driving there. The ground was usually horrible, the fences seemed six inches bigger because of the ground and I had horrible falls round there. Often, I turned in, thinking I was on the winner but never won there. I seem to remember it was always raining too!
Who is your racing hero? As a boy, it was Adrian Maguire. He rode five out of six winners in a single day – he won the first five races and, I think, he pulled up in the last. It was all done in a different time – now, it's hard for a lot of jockeys to get six rides in a day; there's just not the spares there used be. To get six rides in a day is hard enough, let alone having six in with a chance or all of them favourites. I can see how Harry Skelton doing it now through his brother Dan, or Harry Cobden but you'd almost need to set out to do it.
Which has been your best day in racing so far? I describe them as more sentimental days, like the Sportingbet Future Stars Listed chase at Sandown on Golan Way and when I've ridden winners for friends. I also find it very satisfying to win on horses that are difficult.
What is your favourite racing story? I used to love riding a mare called Cannon Fodder. John Panvert sold her to a syndicate from Brighton called The Cheapskates and Sheena West had her on trial for a few weeks. Neither of us would have looked at her because she was scatty and small, 15.1 hands if that, but kept on going and going up the gallops. We bought her cheaply and only expected for her to finish mid-div in a bumper and run round 0 to 100s at Plumpton over three miles.
In her first run, she was second at Plumpton in a bumper to an expensive horse. We thought it was a fluke then she ran really well over hurdles. I couldn't make the running on her because she was too spooky and it took a while for the penny to drop, but she ended up being brilliant. Hers was a story about a written-off horse that then gave her owners the best days out at Cheltenham and Ascot.
She ended up with black type after finishing second in Listed races at Donny and Wincanton, and was also third In a Grade 2 at Ascot to Vroum Vroum Mag. At the Christmas meeting at Kempton on Channel 4 back in the day, we had a ding-dong battle with Desert Queen of Harry Fry’s and this ‘little pony’ got up. With Cannon Fodder, there was no pressure or expectations and she just kept surprising us. Unfortunately, she died out in the field, which only happens to the good ones but it’s good to look back on her.
How do you reflect on your injuries? In my early days, especially with my first injury when I had six to eight weeks off, missing winners was agonising because it was at a time when every win counted. Now I accept it more. I've done my pelvis twice, fractured my cheek bone and now have a broken leg and I can't do anything about it, I just have to get on with it. I've learned to stop thinking about it as I can't change it. With age, I can see how I could be worse off and that there's always someone worse off out there. It's only horse racing – it’s horrible to miss winners, to be a part of a horse’s journey and to miss the party at the end, however, you can always be worse off.
It still isn't easy to miss a winner and luckily, I now ride for people whom I get on well with. I'm happy for every winner they have whether I ride them or not. Nevertheless, my job is still there when I've mended, so I've still got rides after a comeback. Riding for good, supportive owners means I'm not stressing about losing rides, so that makes things a lot easier now.
What does racing generally do well at? It's a great social day out for anyone, even if they are not into racing.
Where can improvements be made? Racing is falling foul of the antis – it’s slowly digging its own grave and needs to put its foot down. As a sport, it’s always improving and we're all horse lovers: there's the best veterinary care in any equestrian sport and a lot of rules, especially whip rules, but for jockeys it’s all going the wrong way. Racing is bowing to the wrong people and it's not going to stop. The antis ultimate goal is to ban racing. Racing can improve and improve but they'll keep chipping away. First the whip will be gone, then jumping will be gone and then the whole of racing will be gone. The Irish have put their foot down and now we need to. There's too much at stake at losing racing – jobs, income – but over the next decade, we must be stronger. These are extremists who don't want us to own any animals or to ride horses but who are influential in the government’s thinking and they won't stop until a complete ban comes about.
How did the Wocket Woy and the Pwoducer videos start? It started completely by accident. Mattie Batchelor used to ride out at Sheena's and Mattie being Mattie was always goofing around and one day, I decided to film it. I put it up on my own Facebook page and it received a lot of interest and a lot of people liked it. Then every Saturday morning I would post a new one. After about five, it went viral and, after I switched my settings to public, my phone was red hot. We then set up the Wocket Woy and Pwoducer page. It lasted five years, we had lots of fun with it but it was demanding. I moved one and half hour’s drive away from Mattie and trying to find half a morning or half an afternoon to put something together became more difficult. We had great fun and did lots of shows with great great people. However, in the end, it had become too demanding for what we were getting in return. After five years of coming up with videos, we decided to take a break.
What's your ideal day off? Walking the dogs, pub lunch and just being at home or in the garden.
If you weren't a jockey then what would you be? I wouldn't have a clue. I am such a practical person that all I do is ride horses and train dogs. I wouldn't want to do anything else. I actually love riding or training dogs, so much that I don’t see either as a job.
winners on Mr Freedom and Certainly Red
Favourite meal: Roast beef.
Favourite snack: I don't really snack!
Favourite drink: Coffee or water.
Favourite holiday destination: Anywhere sunny on a beach.