An Interview with Jockey Stan Sheppard
Updated: Jul 7
Jockey Stan Sheppard had a brilliant season. Yet, with his family pedigree, it isn’t surprising. His Grandfather, Roger Guilding, rode over 135 winners as an amateur during the 1950s and ’60. His Dad, Matthew, is a trainer and his Mum, Nicki, a former amateur, has also trained a lot of winners in ‘points. ‘My father and mother have always had horses, training them and regularly going hunting,’ Stan says, playing down his family’s achievements.
It was only natural that Stan, 24, continued the successful family name. It all began with a horsey childhood and being an active member of the local Pony Club. After pony racing and point-to-pointing for a couple of seasons, Stan had his first ride under Rules in June 2016 and only waited days for his first winner on Derrychrin at Stratford. So far, he’s ridden over a hundred winners and will continue to tally them up. He rode a bumper winner round Cheltenham for his then-boss Paul Nicholls, and has since ridden winners round many of the big tracks.
In December 2021, Stan won a Grade 2 at Sandown on Lossiemouth and surpassed that last season by clocking up the Welsh Grand National on Iwilldoit and a Betfair Hurdle on Glory And Fortune. He rides regularly for his boss Tom Lacey but cannot be ignored when on his Dad’s horses. He’s won eight races on The Bay Birch alone.
It’s not just racing in which Stan excels but other riding disciplines. He’s competed in the Golden Button race on the heroic Ed the hunter, finishing seventh and first for the Best Ledbury Hunt rider. ‘Although it was my first go at it,’ Stan remembers. ‘it was Ed’s fifth go and fourth time he’d completed.’ Stan also enjoys hunting and has done so since a boy, saying, ‘I go hunting on Christmas Eve most years when I can’.
Stan grew up in Eastnor in Herefordshire, where his parents still train today, and now lives with his partner Channon Whitson down the road in Ledbury. Channon and Stan met whilst working at Ditcheat where Channon spent a few fun seasons as a groom, looking after and riding out daily the 2018 Grand Annual winner Le Prezien. Channon is now out of racing full time and is deputy manager at Walsingham Support, assisting adults with learning difficulties.
Did you have a horsey childhood?
I can’t remember a time when ponies or horses weren’t around.
What is your first racing memory?
I had chicken pox so had the day off school and as no one was around to look after me, I had to go racing with Dad. He’d forgotten to pack me a coat so he had to buy me one at the races, which he wasn’t too happy about.
At which point did you know you were going to be a jockey?
Once I started pony racing, and got the speed bug, I was really hooked.
What steppingstones did you use to become a jockey?
I used to do pretty much everything you can think of with ponies, then progressed onto pony racing and point-to-pointing along with lots of trips to the British Racing School.
Which trainers have you worked for and in what roles?
I spent most summers going to yards to gain as much experience as I could, from Peter Bowen’s to Ralph Beckett’s. Then after school, I went straight down to Paul Nicholls’ in Ditcheat as an amateur before turning conditional.
Who has had the biggest influence on you in terms of your career as a jockey?
It would have to be my parents but there have also been so many other people along the way from everyone down in Ditcheat, the Alners and ex-jockey and jockey-coach Rodi Green, and many more.
Who is your racing hero?
Richard Johnson, mainly because he’s from Herefordshire and he’s a good bloke.
Do you ever have disagreements with your Dad about race riding?
Yes, most of the time. Although he seems to have accepted that I don’t listen to him anyway!
What race would you most like to ride the winner of?
For me, it’s the Champion Chase – just for the speed and accuracy that’s needed to be right on the limit. These are two reasons why, I think, most of us start being jockeys in the first place.
What is your favourite racecourse?
Easily Chepstow and for many reasons – it’s a great track with great chase fences, it’s close to home and it’s my most successful racecourse. Winning a Welsh Grand National obviously helps.
What is your least lucky racecourse?
Doncaster, particularly the chase course – I don’t seem to have much luck round there at all.
What is the best advice you can give to a wannabe jockey?
Keep your mouth shut, and your eyes and your ears open. Learn everything you can from people around you.
What is the best advice you were given?
I can’t remember where I saw it but I read somewhere ‘at the end of the day, it’s only horses galloping around the field’. I use that quite a lot.
What is the best aspect about working for Tom Lacey?
He’s fairly laid back and we seem to agree on most things.
Are jockeys adequately looked after through their riding careers?
I think they’re looked after a lot better than they used to be, however, I still think there’s always room for improvement with how people are looked after they retire from riding.
What’s your ideal day off?
Nice lie in, breakfast, telly and then to the pub for dinner.
Favourite meal: Medium rare steak and chips with garlic bread.
Favourite drink: Amstel beer.
Favourite holiday destination: Preferably somewhere not too hot as I’m ginger, I burn very easily.
Favourite movie: The Imitation Game.
Favourite music: I literally listen to anything really.
Other hobbies: I love playing cricket in the summer.