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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

An Interview with Top National Hunt Jockey Lilly Pinchin

Lilly Pinchin has had a notable career already and she's only twenty-four: Cheltenham winners, riding out her claim... Her hard work has paid off. She can hold her head up high in the weighing room, riding with talent and determination alongside her fellow jockeys.

Lilly was the only female to ride for the late HRM The Queen over jumps. ‘It was an honour to ride High Yield, especially as it was during the last months of the Queen’s reign,’ reflects Lilly. ‘I rode him three times but sadly I never won on him.’

Lilly also knows the tough side of racing when, in April 2021, she fractured vertebrae, ribs and neck in a fall but the aforementioned determination prevailed. She kept notching up the winners until she hit the seventy-five to lose her claim last November at Fakenham on My Gift To You. Hector Javieux and Dame Du Soir have been notable winners round Cheltenham, Lilly’s local racecourse.

In December, Lilly rode under the floodlights in the main arena at the London Horse Show. A member of the green team in the Markel Jockeys’ Competition in aid of the IJF, Lilly rode with Ryan Moore, Sam Twiston-Davies, Harry Cobden and Tom Scudamore. The experience obtained back in those Pony Club days shone through and they won the competition.

Always looking towards the next winner, Lilly explains who have backed her... ‘Two really important yards support me,’ she explains. ‘Charlie Longsdon is where I'm based and I ride out for James Owen. He is such a clever trainer with a fantastic setup, who started to shine especially with Burdett Road.’

Lilly's parents, Darren and Nadine, are not horsey so she wasn't born into racing. Yet, growing up in the Cotswold meant Lilly had a childhood surrounded by animals, including ponies. ‘My family, especially my dad and brother, rally drive and they’re Land Rover specialists – so the competitive side is there and perhaps the love of speed,’ chuckles Lilly.

Even now, visiting home means returning to the menagerie of pets, including chickens and ducks. In June 2020, security camera footage of Lilly’s turkey Trev warning off a delivery van driver went viral. Trev, who fought off fox attacks and deliveries with equal tenacity, became an internet sensation. Lilly’s retired racehorse Dehradun, nicknamed Joey, lives at home. ‘I never rode him in a race,’ says Lilly. ‘but I looked after him throughout his whole career.’

Lilly lives a mile away in the tiny Cotswold village of Cutsdean with her two little Jack Russell terriers, Noodles and Rufus, who, she confesses, are her pride and joy. ‘I love them,’ she affirms.

Lilly's early years point-to-pointing on Marblehead

Photo Credit: David Simpson


Did you have a horsey childhood? Growing up, I was very lucky, I didn't have expensive ponies but I had ponies who taught me to ride. I had a lovely pony who I evented and showjumped but I wanted to pony race him because he was quite quick. My mum said no because I'd blow his brains but she eventually came round. I rode him at Cheltenham and, two days later, we did a one day event. He won the pony race by twelve lengths and won the one day event with the best dressage score so after that I was allowed to ride him in whatever I wanted. In total, I had three wins on him in pony races, another at Wincanton and at a point-to-point. From that, I got the bug.

I got a 14.2 racing pony that was quite cheap at £2000. I won on him at Cheltenham and a few point-to-point pony races. I then went pointing.

 

How did you get into racing? One day, when I was fifteen, I got home after school and said I wasn't going back and asked my parents to support me. I did my GCSEs at the racing school and started a full-time job at Fergal O'Brien's. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

 

How did your horsey childhood help you become a jockey? I feel eventing, showjumping and Pony Club were all instrumental in me becoming a jump jockey. Claire Hart, who trained the first point-to-pointers I had, taught me so much; I was very lucky to have her and to ride out there.

Plus, naughty ponies taught me how to ride competitively.


Which trainers have you worked for? Whilst in my first job at Fergal’s, I got out my amateur licence and got my own pointer. I learnt a lot through pointing. Ferg's first ever winner under Rules as a trainer was Allerton and, later on, I bought him off Ferg. Allerton was my first ever winner – he was a right little monkey but I won a few point-to-points on him.

Then, I got my category B licence out so I could ride in hunter chases – I had a few rides under Rules here and there. At seventeen, I had my first winner at Cheltenham on Knockaderry Flyer at the hunter chase evening, trained by Paul King – that was the icing on the cake. Then Ferg put me on a great old horse of his called Creevytennant and my career as an amateur started to go well.                           

I moved yards just because Ferg’s yard was getting bigger and I needed a small yard to support me, especially being a girl. I moved to Graeme McPherson’s and rode there as an amateur for a season. It was during then I had my first ITV winner for Martin Keighley. I got my conditional licence out and rode fourteen winners in my first season as a professional for Graeme.

My second season wasn't very good because I broke my back and I was off for six months, then the merge happened between Graeme and Fergal, which didn't work out in my favour so I went to Richard Hobson’s. He played a massive role in my career; after not having a single winner, I then had six winners for Richard that season. I then linked up with Charlie Longsdon and my career has just gone from what it was then to glittering, and I've been very lucky to ride out my claim.

 

Favourite racecourse: Cheltenham. I also ride a lot of winners around Fakenham.

 

Favourite racehorses: Tea for Free is one of my favourites. Lyrical Genius isn’t the best racehorse and he's very naughty – he's so lazy, we often finish second but I love him. Big City Roller also won very well.

 

What have been your career highlights so far? My three Cheltenham winners and riding out my claim was a big thing. I’m the only female jockey in the changing room to ride out her claim without having a parent who trains but Charlotte Jones is very close to riding out hers so she'll be another one.

 

Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to be a jockey? Work hard – get up, go to work, work hard from a young age. My parents were great role models, teaching me that hard work pays off.

Racing hero: I do like Rachel Blackmore – what she's done in racing is incredible.      

 

What race would you most like to win? All of them really! I love riding winners.

 

Do you think there's still inequality within racing? I think it's how you ride, not if you're a girl or a boy.

 

Best racing party you’ve been to: I don't party much. After riding out my claim, I went home to my parents for a small celebration, that's it.

 

If you weren't a jockey, what job would you do? A midwife. I tried to find a job that would give me the same adrenaline rush; don't get me wrong, riding horses and having babies is completely different but welcoming someone into the world is amazing.

 

Dreams for the future: To keep happy and healthy.

 

Favourite meal: Spaghetti Bolognese.

Favourite drink: I love juice.

Favourite snack: Chocolate.

What's your ideal day off? Walking my dogs or riding my horse.

Favourite holiday destination: Australia.

Favourite TV programme: I do like documentaries by David Attenborough.

Favourite music: I love Anna-Marie.

Other hobbies: Dog walking and going to the gym.



*Many thanks to Old Gold Racing for the help in securing this interview. They published it first in their fabulous newsletter Racing Weekly. To sign up, go to https://mailchi.mp/2f6ba62d6182/racing-weekly-lead-capture


 

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