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Monday, 22 October, 2018

Festival-winning rider Clements retires after long battle with scales

Steven Clements holds the prize for winning the Connacht Hotel Q.R. Handicap aboard Quick Jack
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Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey Steven Clements has quit the saddle, citing the mental and physical demands of making the weight as the most influential factor.

The 31-year-old amateur rider, who partnered Oiseau De Nuit to win the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase in 2011, has not ridden under rules since mid-October and announced the decision to hang up his boots at the weekend.

Clements told the Racing Post: "It's not that I wanted to do it, maybe if I was a bit mentally stronger I could have stuck to it better but I've never been a light fella and it was always a struggle. I was just getting through it with ignorance."

Speaking of the strain making weight had impacted on his mental and physical health, the County Down native explained: "I had forgotten how to enjoy myself I think. I wouldn't go out and never had a drink. Even for my first ride when I was 16 I had to have a sweat."

Steven Clements on his way to winning the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase aboard Oiseau de Nuit
Reflecting on a career in which he enjoy successes in the leading amateur events at the Galway festival and rides for the likes of Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard, Nigel Twiston Davies and David Pipe while in Britain, Clements said: "I've had a great time and I could have done even better if I was in the right frame of mind and wasn't starving all the time, but I'm very grateful to everyone who supported me. I couldn't have got anywhere with plenty of great people.

He added: "Tony Martin has been unbelievable to me and Barry Connell and Alan Fleming have had me on some lovely horses in recent times. I had been thinking about calling it a day last year but what keeps you going is the thought of Cheltenham and Aintree, I just loved those big meetings."

Having informed Colin Tizzard that he had "ridden 20 point-to-point winners" prior to securing the ride on his sole Cheltenham Festival winner, Clements admitted this week: "It was only my sixth winner overall and I actually only had two point-to-point wins but I was desperate to keep him onside.

"Winning was probably the best and worst thing that ever happened to me because it fuelled an ambition for more winners but in reality it wasn't always possible.

"Every year I believed I'd win because there was no feeling like it. I can assure you that the guys who take the drugs will know no feeling to the one I felt after winning at Cheltenham."

Steven Clements celebrates after winning the Connacht Hotel QR Handicap at the Galway Festival on Edeymi
A keen surfer and drummer, Clements added: "I've been busy with my own business SC Cozy Cabins, which recycles redundant containers and converting them into homes, and over the last month it came to the point that I was either neglecting my riding or my company.

He added: "I'll still be involved in racing as it's all I've ever known but I was reminded just how close the racing community after I announced my retirement – I wasn't expecting to get the attention.

"I will deeply miss race riding and will never be able to match that same buzz, but you haven't seen the last of me on the racecourse."

In response to Clements' social media post outlining his decision, Turf Club chief medical officer, Dr Adrian McGoldrick tweeted : "Your statement shows how difficult both physically and mentally the lifestyle of a rider is. You're a credit to racing."


Look back on the best jumps action of the year in the new edition of the Racing Post Annual. Order now at racingpost.com/shop or call 01933 304858


 

I can assure you that the guys who take the drugs will know no feeling the one I felt after winning at Cheltenham
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