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Things are really looking up for Arran professional jockey Nicola Currie who has bounced back to form after a difficult two years.
Last weekend the 28-year-old equalled her 2020 tally of 23 winners when she rode the 5-1 shot Top Secret home in a live ITV race at Ascot, where she can now regularly be seen taking part in the major meetings, as well as the smaller events around the country.
Her turnaround in form was helped last month, when, as a late call up to the Shergar Cup at Ascot, she seized the opportunity in style, winning the Silver Saddle for leading individual rider with 47 points to lead the Ladies’ team to glory – thanks to two wins, on Just Hubert and State of Bliss, a second on HMS President and a third on Royal Scimitar.
After her win she said: ‘It’s well-needed and it’s more relief rather than enjoyment at this stage because I want to keep improving my career. I don’t just want to make a living, I want to make something of it and follow in the footsteps of Hayley [Turner] and Hollie [Doyle]. It’s going the right way, so long may it continue.’
It was a welcome afternoon in the spotlight and the knock-on effects have been tangible. In a recent interview with the Racing Post Nicola told interviewer Peter Thomas: ‘I really needed the Shergar Cup and thankfully I have been busier since, picking up some extra rides, keeping the momentum up. I think a day like that really helps a jockey, but how long it lasts is a different question. Hopefully, before it dies down you can get some new contacts and keep them happy as long as possible and maybe it’ll build up into something else.
‘I’ve found myself riding for people I wouldn’t normally ride for and I’ve been lucky to have a few more rides for Mark Johnston since. So yes, it was a huge boost, but it was only last year I was thinking I should be looking to do something else.’
Nicola has also been riding for the up-and-coming trainer George Boughey and the William Muir and Chris Grassick team, who train at Lambourn, where she is based.
In 2018, Nicola rode 81 winners but admitted: ‘I had a very quiet two years, I had an injury and it caught up with me and I couldn’t get the ball rolling again, but hopefully this year is different and the Shergar Cup will help with that,’ she said.
When she is low Nicola likes nothing better than to head back to her family on Arran. She told the Racing Post: ‘There are no roundabouts, no traffic lights, no motorways, no train station, no airport, which is great, apart from having to rely on the boat that doesn’t always sail.
‘There’s just a local pub where you don’t have to talk about racing, so it’s nice and quiet and I love going back to see my family. But there is also no cinema, no Costa drive-thru and I know I’d be bored inside two days if I had to live there now.’
Nicola is now a freelance rider having left Jamie Osbourne’s yard after his daughter Saffie came of riding age. And she admitted: ‘It was quite tough for a few months not having a base anymore, so I got up and rode for different people every day, got the ball rolling and got on a few winners, but I wasn’t flying until the Shergar Cup.
‘The worst thing is a lot of the time it is out of your hands. People jump on and off the bandwagon. They tell you you’re riding well at the moment, but you’ve not changed the way you’re riding, you’re just riding better horses with better chances. Yes, you may have more confidence, and that goes a long way, but realistically nothing has changed and you are just waiting for the wheel to turn.’
So the life of a freelance rider may be uncertain and gruelling but when it is going well it is great, and Nicola is going well.
- Nicola’s win on Saturday came on the same day the globetrotting Prince of Arran was retired after a poor outing at Kempton. While he has no connection to the island, the Charlie Fellowes-trained horse has been followed in recent years by some local horseracing enthusiasts. It had been hoped he could have one last attempt at the Melbourne Cup in Australia where he was runner-up in 2019 and finished third twice, but that has been ruled out by his retiral.