Horse Racing Tips

Vanessa Ryle: Irish Derby showed "jocking off" is widespread

Betting.Betfair horse racing columnist Vanessa Ryle
Vanessa Ryle says jockeys experience changing fortunes regularly

"The Westover example was well publicised but jockeys further down the food chain regularly have to endure such changing fortunes and, although it may be out of the limelight, it may well still have a meaningful effect on their careers..."

After the controversial change of rider on the winner in last weekend's Irish Derby Vanessa Ryle discusses the fluctuating fortunes endured by jockeys at all levels...

The chances jockeys are given has been a hot topic of conversation in the aftermath of the Irish Derby where a very public "jocking off" took place on the winner. Rob Hornby, Westover's regular rider, was told he wasn't going to be on board the eventual Classic winner as the owners had decided to go with Irish Champion jockey Colin Keane instead.

This decision divided opinion. Some took the stance that the owners can do whatever they like and had made the decision to give themselves and the horse the best chance of winning the race. Others believed Hornby had done nothing wrong on the horse and had earnt some loyalty having been so invested and involved in Westover since day one.

The Westover example was well publicised but jockeys further down the food chain regularly have to endure such changing fortunes and, although it may be out of the limelight, it may well still have a meaningful effect on their careers because of the knock-on effect one horse and one winner can have.

Even the best jockeys can find it tough

Sliding door moments happen in racing every day and in many ways it's a vocation built on what ifs and opportunities taken and lost.

Nicola Currie is one of those whose fortunes have changed over the years. In 2018, Scottish-born Currie rode her most winners in a calendar year when she had 793 rides and notched up 81 victories for 30 different trainers. Since then the numbers have decreased and so far this year she has ridden just four winners for four different trainers.

When looking at the yards using Currie, the constant is Jamie Osborne who has given her 18 rides this season. He was her second-biggest supporter back in 2018 too, behind only Phil McEntee who gave her 107 rides in 2018, and Currie rewarded that loyalty by steering home 14 winners for McEntee.

Those top two backers both have daughters - Grace McEntee and Saffie Osborne - who are now first in line for the majority of rides. So where does that leave Currie? Further down the pecking order through no fault of her own.

Last year Currie struck up a notable and lucrative connection with George Boughey that yielded eight wins from 51 rides but they included some important names. She rode Navello to victory in the Lily Agnes in May 2021 and did insightful and interesting pieces on Sky Sports Racing both before and after where she showcased the communication skills that are now such an important string to a jockey's bow.

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She rode the future Classic winner Cachet to victory on her racecourse debut for Boughey last season too. She was on board for her next two starts but was subsequently swapped for the likes of Ryan Moore and James Doyle, with the latter being the main benefactor of Currie's loss as the relationship between Boughey and Currie appears to have gone south of late.

Boughey hasn't used Nicola at all in 2022 which is a huge gulf to fill for Currie as the Newmarket trainer's stock continues to rise in relentless fashion this season.

There is always a case to be made for the old adage that 'if you're good enough the opportunities will come'. We can agree with that sentiment to a degree but it can be a vicious downward spiral when the rides dry up, the chances become less frequent and the opportunities to make new connections are few and far between.

When that happens there are limited chances to fine tune and develop and all of a sudden, the likes of Currie, who won the Silver Saddle on Ascot's Shergar Cup day in 2021, is driving to Wolverhampton for one ride on a 66/1 shot and would be excused for wondering what the point is.

Currie has plenty to offer in and out of saddle

However, Nicola may have only notched up four winners in 2021, but victories on both Princess Shabnam and Shut Up And Dance in the last two weeks showcase just what an excellent judge of pace she is. Both wins came under front-running rides on horses that were not obvious candidates to win either race.

She remains a jockey with plenty to offer in and out of the saddle as a fine communicator too.

There may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for her as she had a good record with the William Muir and Chris Grassick yard last year, a 22% strike rate, and although they have had a quiet start to the year, the yard seem to be picking up the pace now and hopefully Currie's fortunes can take an upward turn as a result.

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