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My Racing Story

My Racing Story

Ben Harvey

Ben HarveyBen Harvey
© Photo Healy Racing

I've just turned 22 and things have gone really well this season with 14 winners on the board so far.

Earlier this week I did my interview with the licensing committee and I hope to get my conditional licence by the middle of the month. With the way things have gone lately and most of my 5lb claim still intact, it seemed the right time to go for it as a professional jockey. I weighed things up carefully and listened to a lot of people before making the decision, and Jamie Codd's encouragement was probably the final decisive factor.

I'm from the Naul in north Dublin and my family has been steeped in racing and hunting for generations. My grandfather David renewed his trainer's licence last year and myself and my brother Alex do a lot of the work with the horses at the yard we have at home. We've had a nice bit of success with the homebred mare Beyond Ambition who's from a family that has been very good to us and I've ridden my father William's horse, L'or Des Roses, to win his last two handicap hurdles at Cork and Thurles this autumn. We have some nice young horses coming along that we're looking forward to running and we do a lot of pre-training as well. I've been riding out for John McConnell, who's only a few miles away from us, for the last eight years and we pre-train a lot of his horses. John was another person who encouraged me to turn conditional as he's been looking for someone to take on that role in his yard for a while. His stable is really on an upward curve and he's not afraid to send his horse to the bigger tracks in Britain. I ride out for John three or four days a week.

It was a great thrill to win the cross-country chase at Cheltenham on Some Neck in December 2020. He finished strongly from the back of the last and we just got up in the final stride. I was absolutely over the moon and I've had some good rides at Cheltenham since then, including another winner for John on Seddon in October. Unlike with Some Neck, the crowds were back for that winner and I got a great reception from his very enthusiastic bunch of owners.

Space Cadet winning the Ulster National in 2020 just before the lockdown was announced was another memorable success as it was my first winner under Rules. I had ridden him to win a point-to-point the previous year and he came alive in Downpatrick when Gearoid O'Loughlin fitted him with blinkers for the first time.

I intend to keep riding in point-to-points until my conditional licence comes through and I'll certainly miss the atmosphere in the weighroom which is different and more relaxed than at the racecourses. There are some great characters in the pointing scene. I've ridden 22 point-to-point winners and Pat Doyle is a trainer that I've ridden out for for the last six years. Along with Brian Hamilton, who I ride out for once a week, I go to Pat's every week and he's been a big help with my riding. He knows exactly what he wants when you're schooling his horses and he has managed to find a balance when preparing his point-to-pointers. He gets them fit enough to win but leaves enough in the tank so that they'll keep progressing when they start racing under Rules.

Ben winning on Seddon at Cheltenham in OctoberBen winning on Seddon at Cheltenham in October
© Photo Healy Racing

My father and his three brothers all rode as amateurs but none of them managed to ride a winner so I have one up on them already! It's great to have such family involvement in our yard and my parents have always supported me in my career as a jockey. I was studying Equine Science in Maynooth until the pandemic arrived and all the course work went online. I was riding out a lot at the time and decided to pursue that more and more so I didn't finish the course which wasn't as enjoyable when it was all done remotely.

My brother Alex is a very talented rider and had seven point-to-point winners last season. He rides a lot of horses trained by James and Ellen Doyle and, through them, got the opportunity to spend time in the United States this summer with Kerri Brion who's a top jumps trainer there. He was very unfortunate to break his ankle while he was over there but he's on the mend now. He'a big part of the team at home.

I don't have an agent as yet but hopefully someone will have me when I turn conditional! It would be great to keep the winners flowing and having the 5lb claim will hopefully help me to keep the momentum going once I join the professional ranks.

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