An Interview with Work-Rider Steve Woolley
A former jockey, Steve Woolley has worked a lifetime in Flat racing. He’s the most experienced work-rider for Andrew Balding and has ridden horses all over the globe. Having worked at Park House Stables for Ian Balding means that Steve, 64, has been there forty years. He grew up in Chesterfield and initially started out as an apprentice in Newmarket.
Now living in Kingsclere, Berkshire, Steve has a wife and daughter. With such a wealth of experience, Steve is a vital and treasured staff member at the Balding yard. He has known many top horses, including Tagula, Phoenix Reach, Selkirk, King of Clubs, Lochsong, Kameko and many more.
Steve with Cleonte, winner of the Queen Alexandra Sakes at Royal Ascot, 2019
Photo credit: Park House Stables
How did you get into racing?
In 1972, I was sitting at home watching racing on TV and said I fancy being a jockey, especially as I was small. Without me knowing, my mother – bless her – went to the employment exchange and before I could say boo, I was in Newmarket as an Apprentice. Not saying they were trying to get rid of me or anything but I stuck at it and have never looked back.
Did you ever ride in races?
Yes, 22 winners.
Which trainers have you worked for and in what roles?
Geoff Barling – Apprentice, Eric Collingwood – Apprentice Jockey, Bill Wightman – Apprentice Jockey, Ian Balding – Jockey, and now Andrew Balding – Work Rider.
On Dreameater in Hong Kong
Please describe your role as a work-rider?
I ride out four lots every day. Wednesdays and Saturdays are our major work days where all the main galloping takes place.
Which have been your best days in racing?
My best ever day whilst working in racing was as an apprentice jockey when I beat Lester Piggott in a photograph finish at Leicester. Being a young apprentice jockey, this was a great moment for me as he was the biggest jockey at the time and is now listed in the all-time Hall of Fame.
Have you ever travelled abroad due to working in racing and if so, where?
I have been very lucky to have travelled the world and been to most of the big race meetings. My favourite place has got to be Singapore. Other places include, Hong Kong, five times! Canada, USA, Dubai, Japan, and most of the European tracks.
Where is your favourite racecourse?
UK based has to be Chester as it is unique, followed by York. Racecourse abroad would be Japan, based on the great atmosphere on the course on race days.
Which is your favourite racecourse canteen?!
York without a doubt, because being a northerner, they always have great pies!
Which is your favourite meeting?
Royal Ascot. I was lucky enough two years ago to finally lead up a Royal Ascot winner, after so many close misses.
Which have been your favourite racehorses?
Of all time has to be Dancing Brave, the unluckiest Derby loser ever, Pheonix Reach who took me around the world and Selkirk best miler of the ‘90s.
Who is your racing hero?
Pat Eddery. When I came into racing at fifteen, Pat used to take me to watch the gallops on Newmarket Heath. He was a legend.
What is the best advice you can give?
To young people who are thinking of coming into racing, if you work hard there are many roads you can go down – it is far from a dead-end job. It’s exciting, healthy, and very rewarding, as I said, if you work hard.
What was the best advice you were given?
Always respect people and they will respect you.
On Pheonix Reach in Chicago
What is the best aspect to working in racing?
Getting up early in the mornings and riding the Racehorse, the best creature in the world.
And the worst?
Working weekends, without a doubt.
Do you have a horse to follow for this Flat season?
Group One Power, already won this year but hopefully will win many more.
What are your hobbies?
Liverpool FC, drinking moderately and keeping fit.
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
What is your favourite drink?
Foster’s Lager. What is your favourite meal?
Fish and Chips in newspaper, especially by the coast.
Dancing Brave (left) and Lochsong
Photo Credit: Racing Post