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Fresh openings for Future Stars
WHEN Robert Dodsworth spent his nights dreaming of becoming a jockey, tomorrow at Doncaster might have been the vision his young mind created.
Lincoln day. Row after row of spectators in the packed stands, and the glory of trying to ride a winner on a big raceday.
Only it’s no longer a dream for the York teenager.
As the Flat season kicks off another frenetic campaign at the Town Moor track, and the famous £100,000 handicap gets the punters into a new start-of-term frenzy, Dodsworth will have his moment to shine.
At approximately 5.30pm, snow and inspections permitting.
He will be riding Brockfield in the new Future Stars Series, a set of apprentice races launched by Go Racing In Yorkshire to find the next generation of top jockeys.
Ten furlongs is the distance for Dodsworth to master at Doncaster, as he battles it out with his young peers for vital points in the first of a nine race programme.
It’s well worth winning too.
Whoever is crowned the victor back at Doncaster in November will have ridden at the county’s best tracks, including in front of another big crowd at York on The Press Family Raceday in September.
They will also earn a sponsorship package worth £1,500, receive £500 of equipment and be one of the new poster faces for Go Racing In Yorkshire.
So you can see why South Bank-based Dodsworth might be excited.
From the Northern Racing College, the 19-year-old has certainly come a long way from the youngster being pulled round the lap-long gallop by Loose Screw.
He is settled at Mel Brittain’s yard in Warthill, has had his riding licence since July and has even enjoyed a winner to boot – on board Steel Stockholder at Doncaster last September.
That was a momentous day.
“It was great, especially as my first ever ride was on him,” Dodsworth said. “I’d ridden him nearly every day at home that year and it was really good.
“I’d had four seconds before that and I was just thinking ‘I don’t want to come second again’. The other lad was screaming at his horse behind and chasing me down and I just wasn’t coming second.
“It was more relief that I’d finally got one. A couple of the seconds I’d had I just got caught at the end.
“I’ve had my licence since July and 20-odd rides since. Mr Brittain gives me a chance. It’s a lot different (to being at the college) and it’s very hard sometimes.”
One thing Dodsworth does not seem to lack, though, is determination. His quest to reach the top of the tree will not fail on account of effort.
“I finish work and I go to the gym and try to get stronger and fitter,” he explained. “I’ve also been working on the mechanical horse and practicing my skills on that. I have been doing a bit of work with a personal trainer to get fitter too.
“I’m also doing an NVQ where I am being mentored by Kevin Darley.”
So what is it like learning from a living legend? A man who won thousands of races, Classic contests and rode a horse to a Nunthorpe Stakes dead-heat at York with nothing but his hands and the horse’s mane to guide him.
Dodsworth said: “It helps a lot. It gives structure to it and you know he knows what he is talking about. I admire him. He showed us when he won the Nunthorpe on Coastal Bluff when his bridle fell off. It was quite impressive how he kept on going. He’s really nice and he also did my apprentice course.”
Expectations are huge at a young age. Not only from those around you, but from yourself. Without the wisdom that experience brings, it can be hard to be patient and to wait for your chance.
That doesn’t seem to be a problem for Dodsworth, although the excitement at the start of a new season – where he could have a chance to establish himself – is plainly evident.
“I didn’t think I would have as many rides as I have in such a short space of time,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the start of the season. Hopefully I can get a few more rides and get some outside rides and just start to get going properly.
“I want to get going. I am on Brockfield tomorrow. I have ridden him at Doncaster before and he is quite keen, quite strong. He once ran off with David Allan.
“I would just like to have a few winners – as many as I can – and just to keep on improving as well and make improvements in all aspects.”
Legendary jockeys back in saddle
LEGENDARY North Yorkshire jockeys Kevin Darley and George Duffield will line up in an elite group for the John Smith’s Aintree Legends Charity Race on Grand National Day.
The pair will get back in the saddle over a mile and five furlongs in the first race on the card at Aintree on Saturday, April 6.
Darley, who lives in Alne, was British Flat Champion jockey in 2000 and rode more than 2,430 domestic winners in a career spanning 30 years, while Duffield, right, who lives in Constable Burton, Leyburn, won more than 2,500 races throughout his four decade career.
Broadcast live on Channel 4, the race will also include Gold Cup winning rider Jim Culloty, 13-time Irish Champion Jockey Mick Kinane and six-time Classic winning pilot Richard Hills in the field of 12.
The Aintree Legends Race, which is now in its third year, has raised more than £150,000 for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.
Champion, who won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti, said: “Once again we have a fantastic line-up of both jumps and flat jockeys, with more than 17,000 career victories between them.
“Grand National Day is one that will always be special to me and I can’t think of a better way than to celebrate my 1981 win and personal triumph over cancer than with this race. It will help raise much needed funds for the Bob Champion Cancer Trust.”