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  • Writer's pictureJo O'Neill

The Racing Life of Jenny Carr

‘I’m still known as Mad Jenny Carr around home.’ Racing may not have been the only crazy aspect to Jenny's life but it was a part of her life she loved and it gave her so much fun.

She rode successfully as an amateur under Rules and between the Flags, riding thirty-five winners. She had her first winner on Fleur De Nikos at Stratford, winning by thirteen lengths, for long-time supporter trainer Alan Walter. They made all and won next time out too, at Jenny’s local Devonshire point-to-point, Bratton Down. She won four on Bucket Awl and placed numerous other times, and also clocked up a Novice Riders’ title.

Three winners were for top owner JP McManus and her former boss Jonjo O’Neill, including on Forty Five and Whataboutya, both at Ludlow. Jenny worked for O’Neill for several seasons, describing it as a ‘fabulous experience, especially getting to school with AP McCoy, I loved it’. She was there for Don’t Push It’s Grand National win, babysat and rode the ponies for the young Jonjo Junior and AJ, who are now jockeys themselves.

Yet, Jenny’s race riding was cut short by a fall. She reiterates that, during her long recovery process, how amazing the Injured Jockeys’ Fund was.

Horses have remained Jenny’s rock and she is now heavily involved with Haldon Riding School situated five minutes away from Exeter Racecourse. They do lessons, hacks, their own breakers and have working liveries; very busy weeks into which Jenny crams as many days hunting as she can.

Jenny’s immediate family includes Mum Mary Carr, Stepdad Rob Holmes and her five-year-old son Charlie Bob, who is hunting and motocross mad. She has two dogs, Tiny and Phoebe, and a hamster called Honey. Her boyfriend, Shaun Carter has recently retired as a hunt Master and is also from a very horsey family; his great grandfather, Oliver Carter, trained Venn Ottery.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Did you have a horsey childhood? I was born into a riding school; horses are all I’ve ever known. I did lots of hunting and Pony Club when I was a kid.

How did you get into racing? I was naughty at school because all I wanted to do is go hunting. I ended up going to Jimmy Frost’s for three days a week, Friday through to Monday. At 16, I went to the British Racing School and stayed for the nine weeks.

Before actually leaving school, I did work experience at Martin Pipe’s in the Easter holidays, so I had a job to go to after leaving the racing school.

Which trainers have you worked for? Jimmy Frost, Pipe’s, Chris Down, Richard Woollacott, Polly Gundry and Jonjo O’Neill.

Winning on Forty Five at Ludlow

Who did you ride for as a jockey? Alan Walter gave me rides ‘pointing and under Rules in hunter chases. At Jonjo’s, I rode under Rules as an amateur. I remember being listed alongside Alan Berry in the Racing Post’s Stable Tour.

Which were your favourite horses? Forty Five, who I nicknamed Champ as early as when he was in training at Jonjo’s. I won at Ludlow on him and finished second on him at Market Rasen.

Jonjo rang me on the 25th October 2012, a year after my accident saying, ‘Do you want Forty Five?’ – that he wouldn’t go to anyone else. I’ve never forgotten it. We’ve evented and competed in the hunt relay, and even won showing at the Devon County Show together. He’s my baby. In training, he was a headcase, very keen but he quietened down and was used in the riding school. A fourteen-year-old even took him to Pony Club camp. Now, he lives a quieter life and is inseparable from his favourite friend Bonkers the Arab.

Plus, Fleur De Nikos, who was my first winner, Rate Of Knots (I called her Norries) and my old pony Monty who died aged 28. Bucket Awl, trained by Alan Walter, was a legend. Othello at Jonjo’s – everyone else hated him but I loved him. Miss Midnight who won six ‘points and then went to be a broodmare. I now have her foal, Midnight Annie. Gala Ball, who is a former Phillip Hobbs’ horse, is a darling and my hunter.

Which is your favourite racecourse? Under Rules, it’s Cheltenham and Newton Abbot, because it is home and completely different to ride around. ‘Pointing, it was Bratton Down, only because there were good parties after racing!

Which was your favourite meeting? Definitely the Cheltenham Festival. At Jonjo’s, it was the best week of the year. We had runners in every race and loads of winners. It was unreal.

Which was your best day in racing? Riding at the Festival in the Kim Muir. Jonjo had four runners in it. Sam Waley-Cohen, Alan Berry and JT McNamara rode the others and I rode Saphir De Bois. I rode up the inner and was the only one that got round, finishing eighth.

That Festival ride...

How did you make a recent comeback in a charity race? My friend Steph said, ‘Let’s ride in a charity race at Larkhill’, so I said I’d do it for Brain Tumour Research. My boyfriend Shaun has a bad brain tumour so I did it for him. Philip Hobbs’ team lent me a horse and they couldn’t do enough to help me. I finished second – the youngster couldn’t quite get up the hill, but I had a great ride.

It meant so much, because of Shaun, to have raised nearly £4000.

What was the best aspect to working in racing? When I won on Forty Five, it was Grandad’s funeral the day after – so, I guess he was there with me. The memories will always be great. Plus, all the brilliant friends I made, particularly Kate Hanson, with whom I'm still great friends. We had some laugh; it was a great group of people.

Jenny winning on Forty Five in the show ring

What was the worst aspect? When you lose one of your horses. It hurt so much because you love them.

Who gave you the best advice? Jonjo said, ‘You never stop learning and if you put in enough hard work, you'll succeed.’ I agree; in racing, you have to put everything in to get something out.

How do you reflect on your time in racing? I loved it; they were the best days of my life. After my injury, I didn't go racing for a year, but you get over these things. I think of hunting as the new leaf I turned.

Jenny during her days at Jonjo O'Neill's with Rate Of

Knots, Forty Five and Raise You Five

Do you have any funny stories from your time in racing? Too many to write down!

Who helped you a lot when you worked in racing? Jonjo was very good to me, always going through my races. The assistant trainer Guy Upton always wanted to help me and always had me schooling. Head Lad Johnny Kavanagh was an inspiration to work with. Alan Walter helped me a lot too.

Who has influenced you the most? Mum, Angie Browne, Polly Gundry, AP McCoy, Jonjo, Alan Walter… I looked up to so many people.

Why did you leave racing? I got a head injury falling off in a ‘point so I had to give up. I’d won the hunt race and then I had a faller in the maiden. I was knocked out for ten minutes and had a bleed on the brain. I've suffered memory loss since.

The fall that ended Jenny's career as a jockey.

What do you do now? Since I was 30, when the covid hit, I have worked at home for my Mum in her riding school. I love teaching all the children and seeing them progress. Through the winter, I also constantly go hunting.

Describe yourself in three words: Crazy, mad and loyal.

Other hobbies: Only hunting.

Favourite drink: Cheap rosé and lemonade.

Favourite food: My Mum’s roast beef dinner.

Favourite snack: Crisps.

Favourite holiday destination: I don’t really go on holidays. I get bored after the first day. I just like being at home.

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