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The Racing Life of Ex-Jockey Emily Jones

Growing up in Bassaleg, near Newport, Emily Jones moved to Merythyr Tydfil when she turned twenty, always following in her mother’s horse-loving footsteps. At fourteen she rode racehorses for the first time and she has been involved fulltime in racing ever since leaving school.

Emily, 50, was a successful amateur, riding her first winner aged seventeen between the Flags on Come On Sonny in 1989. In total, she rode about thirty point-to-point winners and twenty in Arab races. She was also a successful rider under Rules – her career bookended by successes at Wolverhampton. The first was Pontynswen for Dai Burchell and the last Captain Cool for Richard Hannon; a total of sixty winners, forty of which were over jumps.

Emily was not only a jockey, but she has also been a pundit on At The Races, a well-respected commentator and a box-driver. She rode out in lockdown for Roger Teal when furloughed and is now settling into her role as a Judge with the British Horseracing Authority. Emily lives just outside Lambourn, Berkshire, with her terrier called Pickle. Did you have a horsey childhood? My Mum was very horsey so we had a pony on loan when we were kids and she always encouraged us.

How did you get into racing? I started riding out for point to pointers for Tim Jones at fourteen.

Which trainers have you worked for and in what roles? I worked for Bryn Pauling, Dai Burchell and Bernard Llewellyn in Wales and did a stint as Assistant Trainer for Georgie Browne when I moved to Lambourn.

Photo Credit: Alamy

Which were your best days as a jockey? My best day was Welsh National Day 1999 when I won the big hurdle race on the card on Distant Storm.

Favourite racecourse? For the above, Chepstow is my favourite course.

What is the best advice you were ever given as a jockey? Don’t leave anything in the tank for the next jockey.

What is the best advice you can give about working in racing? You will never be rich working in racing but you will meet some brilliant people and horses.

What is the story behind your big race winner at Ascot in 2000? The year I won the Diamond Handicap Ladies’ Race on Peter’s Imp, I had been riding up north in a lot of amateur races. I had to sell the De Beers necklace as I was so skint.

Who do you admire the most in racing? I admire so many people but AP McCoy is a standout for me, not just as a jockey but a person.

When I moved to London, I had my purse stolen and in it were some proof photos of me beating him in a close finish at Market Rasen. Somebody told him I was upset to lose them. He found out the date and got the photographer to blow them up. He then signed them and gave them to me. They are framed on my living room wall.

Who is your racing hero? Other heroes of mine include Johnny Murtagh, Richard Pitman and Pat Murphy I could listen to them talking about racing all day.

Did you ever meet any animosity towards you as a female jockey? When I was riding there were fewer lady jocks about, particularly in jumping and I did encounter some prejudice from owners and trainers, but never from fellow riders.

Over the years, I had several disputes on the track and back in the weighing room with both male and female opponents. If I was in the wrong, I held my hands up and apologised, and if I was in the right, I stood my ground, but any squabbles were quickly forgotten. What I miss more than anything is the unique camaraderie and support I encountered whilst competing and it breaks my heart that closeness and mutual respect has deteriorated in recent years. To be able to go and pick the brains of the jockeys who had ridden your horse last time out or get some invaluable advice from a senior rider was a privilege and something I never took for granted. I think the imposed segregation of male and female riders would be an absolute tragedy.

What roles have done since retiring from race riding? Since hanging up my boots, I had a very enjoyable stint working in the racing media as a pundit for ATR and more regularly as a voiceover for GBI, exporting British Racing abroad. I was however looking for more security, as being freelance and self-employed is scary when you have a mortgage to pay, so I started working for the BHA in January 2019.

Please describe your role as a BHA judge: My role as a judge is basically announcing the result and placing every horse in the right order. Although it sounds straightforward, close photos can be tricky and I have had a couple of dead heats. I still love being involved in the sport that is my passion.

Favourite drink: My favourite drink is a pale Provence Rosé, like Whispering Angel.

Favourite food: Italian! I could eat mountains of pasta but sadly my metabolism won’t allow it.

Favourite holiday destination: I recently went to Cape Town for my birthday and loved it there. I also love scuba diving in Asia.

Favourite music: Stereophonics is my most played band.

Best racing celebration you’ve been to: I went to a brilliant party in Adare hosted by JP McManus to celebrate AP’s 4000 winners. Robbie Williams played. It was surreal!

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