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Friday, 14 December, 2018

'I'd lost my grandad two days before the race and said I'd do it for him'

The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup winning jockey, 23, takes our weekly grilling

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To celebrate the countdown to Christmas, the Racing Post is giving away one piece of paid content free each day. Here, jockey Ryan Day is the subject of our Q+A

What advice would you give your ten-year-old self?
I wouldn't say anything as I wouldn't want to change anything I've done. 

What is your earliest racing memory?
I didn't know anything about racing until I started riding out at 16, so it was when Kauto Star won the Betfair Chase after being written off. I remember my dad had the racing on telly and was shouting him home and I thought I had to take an interest.

Who has been the greatest influence on your career?
First of all it was Fergus and Liz Jestin. I started riding through them when I was 16. They ring me up every time I've won and I still live on their farm. Then when I was going through a difficult time Brian Harding was unbelievable. He talked a lot of sense into me and is a great mentor.

Ryan Day (right) helps to carry his mentor Brian Harding on the veteran jockey's retirement in April
Did you ever dream of having a Cheltenham winner and what did riding one mean to you?
Everyone starting out as a jockey dreams of a winner at Cheltenham and on the drive down I was daydreaming about it, trying to picture what would happen and the way it would go. I'd lost my grandad two days before and said I'd do it for him. That made it extra special, along with it being just my second ride at the course.

Have you ever thought about moving south or been approached to do so?
I'd be a fool to think about that as I'm working at a brilliant place with the best bunch of horses north of the Cotswolds and the timing has been good, with Brian Harding's retirement opening up more opportunities. But you never know what's going to happen in the future.

Guitar Pete (left) takes the final fence of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup alongside Clan Des Obeaux

Would you rather win the Cheltenham Gold Cup or be champion jockey?
I'd probably say the Gold Cup. As horsemen we want to ride the best of the best in the most prestigious races.

If you could play any other sport professionally, which would it be and why?
Boxing. My dad was an amateur boxer and I go boxing twice a week. I love watching it on the telly and it's a good workout, helping my level of fitness. 

What alternative career could you take up?
This time last year when I half-retired I applied to go into the fire service. I did the paperwork and online test, passed the English and maths test, but was still waiting to hear back when I changed my mind.

There's a feeling the northern racing scene is struggling to match the southern circuit. What do you think?
Yes, I think there is a north-south divide, especially when it comes to affording the horses and handicapping. There's not the money around in the north to buy good horses. If you win a couple of novices in the north you get rated 130-140 and when you run in the south you get beaten out of sight. There are good races in the north at Aintree, Haydock and Doncaster but they might as well be southern meetings looking at the runners. Personally there aren't the spare rides up north compared to the south.

Which country would you most like to race in that you haven’t yet?
As I've ridden in Ireland once I'd like to try France – I'm a good friend of James Reveley and have watched him quite regularly over there. They race for good prize-money.

Kauto Star or Arkle?
Arkle. I'm not old enough to know but it sounds as if he was awesome, although you can't really compare as racing is so different in this day and age. 

What’s your biggest ambition in and outside of racing?
I want to get to an old age, be able to look back and to have made my way in life, not owe anybody anything and have no regrets.

What are your worst habits?
The same as many 23-year-olds and after Saturday at Cheltenham a few of them came out – there was no racing the next day but I did have to ride out in the morning!

If you could meet one person, past or present, who would it be?
I'd like to sit down with Richard Dunwoody. I've never met him but Nicky Richards goes on quite a bit about him and so did Tony McCoy in his autobiography. If he invited me on one of his extreme expeditions I'd bite his hand off to go.   

What is your most treasured possession?
My collection of boiler suits, particularly my Massey Ferguson heavy-duty one as it keeps me warm. I rode out in it one day.

Richard Dunwoody: "If he invited me on one of his extreme expeditions I'd bite his hand off to go"
How do you relax away from racing?
A day out with my girlfriend Amber Blythe or if she lets me I'll have a few drinks and games of pool with mates down the pub.

What is the strangest/funniest thing you have seen on a racecourse?
When my best friend Max Jenkins was having his first ride at Ayr and we were in Nicky's [Richards] house watching, having had bets on what he might do. I said he'd forget to pull his goggles down, which is what he did, and then he tried to pull them down with his whip in hand up around his head after two hurdles. Everyone was in hysterics.   

Who do you most admire from Flat racing?
Ryan Moore for the obvious reasons.

Do you have a nickname?
I have one around the yard but it's difficult to explain. It's my initials RD but said "rerr derr" and even the boss has called me that once.

Social media – friend or foe?
It's a brilliant thing, good for networking and promoting business but not the trolling and abuse. Every jockey can relate to it and some I do reply to but others are too bad and mad.

Who would be your four ideal dinner party guests?
The Basher Harding Fan Club, that's my whats app group of three brothers, Tom, Rob and Steven Hogg, and John Leslie. All Brian Harding fans obviously.

What are your ambitions for 2018?
To get rid of my claim first. Having had a nice winner at Cheltenham hopefully that will spark things off with 24 more to go and it has made me eager for more days like last Saturday.

Who’s your biggest fancy for Boxing Day?
I'm not saying he's going to win but I'm most looking forward to riding Baywing in the Rowland Meyrick at Wetherby on Boxing Day. If conditions are right for him – he wants bottomless ground and a slog – he'd have a chance.

Baywing and Ryan Day win the Grade 2 Towton Novices' Chase at Wetherby in February

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'My most treasured possession? My collection of boiler suits, particularly my Massey Ferguson heavy-duty one'
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