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The Racing Life of Martin Jones

Updated: Sep 30, 2023

Martin Jones’ (also known as ‘Jonesy’) destiny with horses was written in the stars: his Dad, Peter, was an Amateur jockey and rode many winners; the legendary Terry Biddlecome was a cousin, as was top amateur Julian Pritchard.

As a jockey, ‘Jonesy’ finished second on Flakey Dove at Chepstow before she was famous for winning the Champion Hurdle. He won four on Mount Oliver, who was his first winner over fences at Towcester and rode for the Duchess of Westminster in Arkle’s colours, winning on Gaelic Cherry at Wetherby. Not forgetting his amateur roots, he trained Yahoo to win a Lady Dudley Cup in 1994, who’d finished second in the ’89 Cheltenham Gold Cup to Desert Orchid.

Yet, it was a return to his homeland in Gloucestershire to start up his own yard that continued this golden run. So far, his yard has been a springboard for over 600 winners – Wayward Prince, From Dawn To Dusk who won nine including a Listed Chase at the 2010 Aintree Festival, a Grade 1 Guinness Gold Cup at Punchestown in 2010 and a Grade 2 Haldon Gold Cup with Planet of Sound and Soaring Glory won a Betfair Hurdle.

Martin, 56, credits his family for the yard’s success – wife Jackie is a constant support, Dad Peter empties the muck trailers, brother Paul does the gallops and all yard maintenance and daughter Sammy is assistant trainer; she also does the books and paperwork. The working family also includes the dedicated staff, of whom Martin particularly highlights his long-term head girl, Megan Harper.

When full, which is the norm, the yard in Redmarley houses thirty-five youngsters. There’s an oval and a straight gallop, an all-weather arena and an indoor lunging pen. ‘I’ve got owners and trainers who have been loyal from the beginning,’ explains Martin, ever grateful for their ‘consistent support’.

‘I’ve never taken my finger off the pulse, I talk to everyone,’ says Martin, ‘and I take nothing for granted. I feed every morning at five – hard work is still the main thing.’

As well as Jackie who is a music teacher, Martin has four children; Jess, who has recently provided grandson Harry, Sammy and son Charlie. The fostered 13-year-old Cameron is following in their family footsteps and was awarded West Midland Area Jockey of the Year for pony racing. There are also three dogs, a boxer called Pooch and Jack Russells Toby and Tia, a yard cat who’s a good mouser and some chickens.

Winning connections of Yahoo, Lady Dudley Cup vicotors in '94

Did you have a horsey childhood? My parents, Peter and Maggie, were horsey so I rose up the pony club ranks and also went hunting.

How did you get into racing? I was born into it - I didn't know anything else.

Please describe your career as a jockey: I started off as an Amateur. My first winner was at Berkley on a mare called Wicked Pansy, twenty years to the day that my dad rode his first winner there.

My first winner under Rules was for Robin ‘Dicko’ Dickin – Polish over hurdles at Nottingham for top owner Roger Brookhouse. I rode fifty winners. My most memorable were a bumper winner at Cheltenham, Glen Mirage, for Nigel Twiston-Davies in October 1990 and a 1991 New Year’s Day double there – Fast Study for David ‘The Duke’ Nicholson (one ride, one win for him!) and on Tuns Hill for Dicko.

The first winner under Rules at Nottingham in December 1987 - led in by

cousin Julian Pritchard and a young Robin Dickin following.

What other roles have you had in racing? When I packed up riding, I trained ‘pointers and was Robin Dickin’s head lad for about four seasons, including throughout Kadastrof’s successful years.

Alongside Kadastrof at the Cheltenham Festival

How did you start your own yard? In 2000, we started laying down the plans and moved the following summer. I wanted to come back home and to work for myself and there was a gap in the market for a breaking and pre-training yard.

Which were your favourite horses? As a jockey, it was my first winner Polish and Mountain Man, he won on his first and only chase as a thirteen-year-old at Bangor, after which he retired.

Macy – an ‘old bastard’ who I was gifted when I left Dicko’s and who won us four point-to-points.

Which was your favourite racecourse? Nottingham when it was a jump track, and Cheltenham.

Winning on Five Lamps over all-weather hurdles at Southwell, February 1991

Who is your racing hero? Terry Biddlecombe and Jonjo O'Neill.

Which have been your best days as a jockey? My three Cheltenham winners, my first winner and old Mountain Man. Also, having Jackie there to watch me ride a winner on Peconpala for David Evans at Hereford, which was actually his first ever winner as a trainer.

However, any day was a good one when I had a winner and when the horses went back home.

Which have been the best days since running your own yard? It’s always a good day when the horses I break win big races. These include Wayward Prince winning the Scottish Grand National, Prince Of Harts winning decent races on the Flat and Soaring Glory winning the Betfair Hurdle in 2021 gave me a great kick.

How has racing changed for the worst? There's a lack of loyalty now. The standard of racing has decreased tremendously. There's too much racing – no one thinks of the lads, lasses and their families. Ideally, national hunt should have a month off in midsummer with no racing.

The appearance of jockeys going to the races is just not the same – we’d never go unless we were in a shirt, tie and had shiny shoes.

And I can't understand fireworks moments before the start of the Derby either.

On Gaelic Cherry, in Arkle's colours, whilst winning at Wetherby

How has racing changed for the better? Jockeys being limited to riding at one meeting is a positive change – it gives everyone an opportunity, especially the younger jockeys. The TV coverage is very good. The stable staff are looked after better in every way, bar all the Sunday racing.

Favourite drink: A nice wine.

Favourite meal: A nice steak.

Favourite holiday destination: South Africa for the food and climate.

Other interests: Cycling. I play Skittles for the team Roger’s Dodgers. Showjumping on my mare, Probably Will: she won most weeks at competitions and now she's just had a foal.

Jonesy with wife Jackie, uncle and hero Terry Biddlecome giving a speech at his

18th and summer 2022 with his homebred foal.

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