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From pony express to Flat success for Gemma Tutty
NO ONE is more surprised than Gemma Tutty at how her fledgling Flat career is taking off.
Tim Walford’s star apprentice confesses she had no plans as a youngster to get into racing – but the 20-year-old is now impressing after recently racking up her sixth victory in what is only her first full season.
The Sheriff Hutton trainer is one of a growing number of admirers of Tutty’s talents, a relationship which was only strengthened when she steered the fancied Talent Scout through a field of 16 other horses to win by three-quarters of a length at Pontefract last week.
Tutty has been at Cornborough Manor since May, having previously worked for Noel Wilson, and as well as being delighted with her surroundings, she admits she is still sometimes a little baffled by her career choice.
“I didn’t want to get into racing when I was younger. I wanted to pony race,” she says. “I had two rides in that when I was 14, on a hunting pony I thought was quick but turned out not to be, so I bought a thoroughbred racing pony. She hadn’t run before and I rode her all season when I was 15 and won nine out of 11 races and third in the national series.
“I decided I would give point-to-pointing a go but I hadn’t wanted to before that. I was more into eventing and showjumping. It is very strange. I never, ever, imagined being an apprentice because I liked jumping so much more for years.
“Even when I was riding as an amateur, I preferred the jumping. But once I started riding winners on the Flat, I started to really enjoy it and I probably prefer it to jumping now.
“I just didn’t think I’d be good enough but once I started working full-time in a racing yard my riding just improved dramatically – just from riding out every day. Once I got my licence I felt I fitted in and I was good enough. The further the season has gone on the better I have got and, hopefully, I will keep improving.”
Tutty might be a little perplexed to be an apprentice but, when you consider her family background, it starts to fit. Her sister, Phillipa, is an amateur on the National Hunt circuit while mum Karen trains in Osmotherley.
And, having racked up six winners from 62 rides this year, it is clear she could be here for the long haul – even if she is just beginning to realise how competitive life as a professional jockey is going to be in the future.
Tutty adds: “I didn’t know what to expect. It’s completely different to being an amateur. It’s quite easy to get rides as an amateur. You ring them yourself and everyone knows you – at the end of the day they are not paying for you – it is as long as they think you are all right.
“The one thing that has surprised me as an apprentice is how hard it is to get rides and how competitive it is to get rides in apprentice races. It is quite a roller-coaster. One minute you are on top of the world and the next you are just rock bottom.
“It sounds stupid because people can say you have had an amazing season but it is so easy to let people get to you and you really have to get a thick skin quickly.
“All I said I wanted was to have one winner as an apprentice because I waited a very long time for my first point-to-point winner and amateur winner. I wasn’t expecting winners left, right and centre at all.
“My first winner this year was actually over jumps, as I rode more over jumps initially when I first got my licence. I haven’t ridden over jumps for the last three or four months. When I had that winner, I thought I would have to wait a long time for a Flat one, but it came two days later.”
Tutty is hoping Talent Scout will serve notice of her ability to a wider audience, not just for the victory but for the manner in which it was achieved. And she is determined to bring her claim down as quickly as possible.
“There were a lot of runners in that race and they were all fully-fledged professional jockeys so it is better to ride a winner in a professional race than an apprentice race because you are against all the big boys,” she says.
“He was a brilliant horse to ride. I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me but I don’t think there actually was other than from the punters. You always have that. I got some praise from the racing presenters which always helps your case and a lot of people saw it so I hope they took notice.
“My first aim is to get to a 5lb claim, so that’s 20 winners. I am on eight at the moment. Obviously everyone wants to ride out their claim but you have just got to take each step at a time. Five pounds will be the first milestone.
“I want to carry on riding more winners every season. If I was going to ride more than this next year then I should be at and around the 5lb claim. I don’t want to expect too much but that’s what you would hope and what you would like to happen.
“I’d like to get some more opportunities off other trainers. I can get them in the ten winner races now, which I couldn’t at the beginning of the season, so people must have been taking notice.
“If they didn’t want to give me a chance at the start of the season, they must have noticed me riding to give me one at the end of the season.
“It can only get better, hopefully.”