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An Interview with Top Amateur Natalie Parker

Updated: Feb 16

Racing is in Natalie Parker’s blood… Her parents, Kevin and Tracy, trained point-to-pointers and Kevin has driven runners countrywide for Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls. Older sister Laura, who’s married to Ladbrokes Trophy-winning jockey Ben Jones, trains ‘pointers. Natalie, 31, even grew up in Bilbrook in Somerset, a stone’s throw from Philip Hobbs’ yard.

Not only a successful and busy amateur, Natalie also works hard in her role as Pupil Assistant for Paul Nicholls. Her jam-packed days start at Paul’s at 06:30, when she check the horses in the field, before joining Paul and head lad Clifford Baker to do the riding-out board and then riding four lots. During evening stables, Natalie completes any odd jobs with Assistant Trainer Charlie Davies – this, all on top of riding out for point-to-point trainers Sam Loxton and Sally Alner, and, having passed her HGV licence, driving the lorry when necessary.

Natalie winning the 2023 Horse & Hound Cup on Secret Investor

Between the Flags, last January, Natalie rode her first ever double before going one better, striking up a treble. She rode Ihandaya to victory in the second division of the maidan, Go Sacre Go in the open maidan then the veteran and legendry Caid Du Berlais won the ladies’ open. In fact, Natalie has partnered Caid Du Berlais for five wins in total, trained by the late Rose Loxton and latterly, her husband Sam. Virak is another icon who Natalie has struck up a successful partnership with, riding four winners on him in ‘points and hunter chases at Ascot, Ludlow, Wincanton and Musselburgh.

Yet, the cherry on top of the cake of a fine season last season, was winning the Horse And Hound Cup on one-time Denman Chase winner Secret Investor, whose colours of owner Clive Hitchings are also carried by the promising young Ihandaya and the now-retired Virak. Secret Investor and Natalie also paired up to win hunter chases at Bangor and Ludlow.

Natalie lives near the powerhouse Ditcheat yard and owns Willow, a pugapoo.

Did you have a horsey childhood? I rode showing for many years and competed at HOYS, the Royal International etc. I had a good Welsh Section A called Basil that my parents bought for £30 and we still have him now, aged twenty-four.

How did you get into racing? A boy from school turned up wearing a P J Hobbs jacket so I thought I’d give it a go too. I started riding out there aged thirteen and left at twenty-six, when I went to Paul’s.

What roles have you had in racing? I ended up second travelling and was in charge of the ‘north yard’ at Hobbs’. I have been pupil assistant for Paul since 2018.

Growing up, who inspired you to become a jockey? I always admired AP McCoy, and Richard Johnson when I worked for my old governor. Tom O’Brien and Ian Popham used to live in my mum’s and dad’s cottage, and they kindly drove me there every Saturday when I was at school.

What have been your best day in racing so far? Secret Investor winning the Horse and Hound Cup has just overtaken Virak winning an Ascot hunter chase.

Favourite racecourse under Rules: Newton Abbot. I had my first winner under Rules there and it has been quite a lucky course since. There’s always a nice atmosphere as well.

The day of the treble: after winning on the legend Caid Du Berlais

Favourite racecourse between the Flags: Milbourne St Andrew as I rode my first treble there this year and again, it’s been quite lucky.

Race you’d most like to win: The Cheltenham Foxhunters’ as I think it’s everyone’s dream to ride a Festival winner but I’m beginning to run out of time.

Favourite racehorses: Silver Forever and Virak but they are both retired so I’ll now say Hitman. I ride him every day at Paul’s.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future? For Hitman, or for any horse that I ride out at Paul’s, to win a Grade 1.

I’d also like to ride around the Aintree Foxhunters’ before I retire.

Sam Loxton, left, traner of the promising Ihandaya

A horse to look out for this ‘pointing season: Go Sacre Go, trained Sally Alner. He won his maiden comfortably last year and I think that he’s a nice horse moving forwards.

In your opinion, how secure is the future of point-to-pointing? It has brilliant support from all the trainers and owners but everything is getting so expensive. The cost of hunter certificates, etc, are sky high. Therefore, I think, unless things change, a few people aren’t going to be able to afford to continue, which is a shame.

What type of boss is Paul Nicholls?! I say, he’s very fair and very generous to all his staff. I have massive respect for Paul and look up to him as, to be honest, he’s a genius. He makes training horses look easy.

Favourite meal/food: Belly pork slices/banana bread.

Favourite drink: Rosé and lemonade.

Best racing party you have attended so far: Harry Skelton’s Champion Jockey party would be up there.

Favourite music: Elton John and N-Dubz.

Favourite film: The Lion King.

Favourite book: The Harry Potter series.

Favourite holiday destination: Altea in Spain because I have fond memories there with my Grandparents.

Other hobbies/interests: I like watching tennis and athletics. Now, in my spare time, I enjoy mostly going home to spend time with my sister Laura and her newborn daughter, Amber.

Natalie with sister Laura and little niece Amber

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