A day in the life of a jockey: Robert Winston recounts his dramatic 19-hour trip
British-based rider won on Nearly Caught in Germany but was demoted by stewards
Jockey Robert Winston travelled to Hoppegarten in Germany on Sunday to ride the Hughie Morrison-trained Nearly Caught in the Group 2 Comer Group International 47th Oleander-Rennen, Germany's premier staying prize. The pair finished first past the post but were demoted to second place after the stewards decided Nearly Caught had interfered with the runner-up, who was awarded the race. Here Winston provides a vivid account of a 19-hour rollercoaster day.
5.15am I'm washed and dressed and gather all my stuff before I leave home in Oxfordshire at 5.50am to drive to London Gatwick, an hour and a half drive.
8.55am The flight departs, arriving into Berlin Tegel at approximately 11.45am German time after delays. It's about an hour taxi ride to Hoppegarten race track.
12.50pm I arrive in plenty of time. I go and walk-jog the track twice round to make sure I have my bearings right. It takes me 40 minutes. I go and relax in the weighing room with a 20-minute massage to relieve any stress, aches and pains. I'm now in the zone, ready for action after watching the first four races. I know where I want to be sat in the race and what I have to do in order to bring home the winning prize.
4.35pm I finally get to the parade ring. Nearly Caught is parading and looking fantastic. My confidence is sky high. I get legged up and canter to the start. Nearly Caught feels a million dollars.
4.45pm We load the starting gates and away we go for the first four furlongs of the two miles race up the home straight. The tactics couldn't have gone more smoothly as we end up sitting joint fourth tucked away nicely.
The pace in front of me begins to slow up down the back and the jockey in front is dropping a look to the left of him to see where I am. I had to switch off his heels momentarily until I gathered my horse behind again. There was no way was I going to loop the field so far out.
As we round the final turn into the straight, Nearly Caught had a little moment of lugging right until I managed to pull him back out to make a challenge, and boy he made an explosive change of gear passing the two-furlong pole.
Nearly Caught was slightly hanging to his right but always clear of his rivals who could not make enough effort to give him a race. As my horse gradually made his way to the favoured rail, the eventual second Sound Check gets a smack from his rider's left hand causing his horse to drift to the hedge. He then puts his whip down losing no momentum and correcting his mount Sound Check.
Nearly Caught had a major advantage over him, being clear of him by more than a length. So the jockey of the second horse realised very quickly he was not going to get a run up the favoured rail position and sharply pulls out to the left to give his horse daylight.
He slowly made late headway to be beaten just over half a length, but the rest of the field were also making late headway.
It demonstrated Nearly Caught was idling in front and made it to the line a very well-deserved winner.
I couldn't have been more made up to have won such a prestigious race knowing how much hard work had gone into his preparation by trainer Hughie Morrison and his team.
As we got back to the winners' enclosure it was made very clear that there was a stewards' inquiry, but I wasn't fazed as it was clear in my mind I hadn't broken any rules or caused interference to another rival.
Now anxiously I make my way to the weigh-in area and the trainer and jockey of the runner-up were hanging around outside the stewards' room. They had obviously gone in and made a case as to why they should have won the race. One could argue that they could have been a little closer if the sixth horse had not made him snatch up and switch left earlier in the home straight.
So I get called in to watch the recording. It was very clear from the side-on and head-on views that I was clear of the runner-up. It was obvious that the jockey let his horse duck right for the rail while he smacked him with his left hand and was not being hampered by Nearly Caught. He wouldn't have had to switch left had he kept a straight line himself.
His own ride lugged right too – they lost no momentum and unfortunately I had the rail before him. They had no option but to switch back left after his horse lugged right to where he was in the first place. The runner-up got awarded the race and in my opinion was that was a bad judgment by the stewards on the day. There was no justification.
6pm So now I'm making my long journey home and it will be midnight when I get home to my beautiful family. Nineteen hours is a long day – even before having to endure being stripped of the winning prize and not be able to celebrate being the winner.
In my mind I'm still the winner, but it doesn't ease the pain of being stripped of my pride and dignity.
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