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Danny Tudhope

Watch Danny Tudhope’s ride on Lord Glitters in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.  Slowly, slowly, take your time, allow your horse ease into the race.  Cool as you like. 

He sat last of the 15 runners as they passed the half-way point on Ascot’s famous straight mile, but the rider didn’t panic.  He resisted the urge to go around horses to his right.  He charted the brave man’s route, through traffic, the most efficient route.  He took his chances and rode for the gaps.

The gaps opened at the two-furlong pole and he asked his horse to pick up.  Lord Glitters responded willingly.  David O’Meara’s horse showed the turn of foot that his rider knew he had, hit the front 100 yards out and kept on strongly to get home by a head. 

First day at Royal Ascot, first race, a Group 1 contest.  The tension is high and the world is watching.  Just two years earlier, Tudhope had ridden his first Royal Ascot winner, Out Do in the Wokingham Handicap.  Just a year earlier he had ridden his second, Soldier’s Call in the Windsor Castle.  Only two Royal Ascot winners on his CV, and no Royal Ascot Group 1s, yet he rode Lord Glitters with the confidence of a man who had ridden bucketloads.

“I was delighted for the horse,” says Tudhope now.  “He deserved to win a Group 1.  We knew that he was in the form of his life.  He ran a cracker behind the Japanese filly Almond Eye in Dubai, and we knew that you could put a line through his Newbury run.  We knew that he was going to Ascot in great form.”

Tudhope had two more rides on the Tuesday at Royal Ascot, and he won on one of them, Addeybb for William Haggas in the Wolferton Stakes.  He had just two more rides on the Wednesday, and he won on one of them, Move Swiftly, also for William Haggas, in the Duke of Cambridge Stakes.  He was at Ripon on the Thursday, far from the top hats and tails, where he rode Faylaq to win a Class 4 handicap.

“That’s just the way it worked out,” he says simply.  “I didn’t have any rides at Ascot on the day.”

He was back at Ascot on Saturday though, where he won the Jersey Stakes on Space Traveller for Clipper Logistics and Richard Fahey.  That took his Royal Ascot tally for 2019 to four, it trebled his lifetime tally and it saw him finish third in the final standings for Royal Ascot 2019 behind Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore.

The rise of Danny Tudhope is one of the stories of the season so far.  Before racing yesterday, he led the jockeys’ championship, two in front of Oisin Murphy, 13 in front of Silvestre de Sousa.  Ask him if he can win the championship this year though, and he is reticent.

“I think that it’s unlikely.  I’ll give it a go, but Oisin and Silvestre are going to be very difficult to beat.  You never know though.  I’m very lucky.  I have a great agent in Laura Way, I’m riding good horses and I’m riding for good people.”

From Ayrshire in Scotland, and a graduate of the Northern Racing College with no family connection to racing, Tudhope’s relationship with David O’Meara began 10 years ago.  Things were quiet enough for the rider at the time, and he was considering a move to South Africa.  Fresh start.  He knew that he could ride, but he wasn’t getting the breaks in Britain, and his confidence was low. 

Silvestre de Sousa was riding for David O’Meara at the time, and it was on the instigation of his weigh room colleague that Tudhope started going in to O’Meara’s to ride out.  The trainer saw that he could ride, and he started to put him up in races.  Shortly afterwards, de Sousa started to ride for Mark Johnston, and the opportunities for Tudhope on the O’Meara horses increased.

Success flowed.  Good horses and good winners.  Blue Bajan in the Henry II Stakes, Penitent in the Bet365 Mile, Doc Hay in the Rous Stakes, Custom Cut in the Joel Stakes.  In September 2014, Tudhope rode G Force for O’Meara to win the Haydock Sprint Cup to bring up a first Group 1 win for both trainer and rider.

Together they progressed.  Tudhope says that it was O’Meara who was making progress and that he was the beneficiary as the rider.  He downplays the significance of his input.  Of course, the rider can’t go without the horse, but neither can the horse go without the rider. 

A month after G Force’s Sprint Cup success, trainer and rider teamed up for their second win at the highest level, Move In Time in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

“I’m very lucky to be riding for David,” says Tudhope.  “He is a very good trainer, and we understand each other well.” 

It was through David O’Meara that Tudhope started riding for Steve Parkin’s Clipper Logistics, and it was through Clipper Logistics that his relationship with William Haggas began. 

“Steve is great.  I am delighted to be riding for him, but he has no problem letting me off one of his if there is a better ride.  I was delighted to be able to ride a Royal Ascot winner for him.  And it’s great to be riding for William too.  He’s spot on with his horses, he knows exactly how they need to be ridden and how he wants them ridden.  Like I say, I’m very lucky to be riding for some very good people.” 

Since Royal Ascot, there has been no relenting.  A winner at Pontefract, two winners at Catterick, one at Hamilton, three at Thirsk, two at Beverley, one at Haydock, one more at Carlisle, two at Ayr, one at Ripon, two at York. 

The story continues.

© The Sunday Times, 14th July 2019