A day after finishing 2nd in the 2018 Newmarket Town Plate on Saturday 25 August, Irishman Derek Jackson was visiting the National Heritage Centre and riding on the simulator! Sixty four year old Derek, an accountant by trade, though now retired, stopped off at Palace House for a few hours before flying back home to Ireland.
The race for four year olds and upwards is over 3 miles 6 furlongs on the Round Course. After racing for approximately 1 mile 6 furlongs the contestants then join the July course where they finish in front of the grandstands. Started in the old fashioned way by a flag, the race is the longest flat race held on a British racecourse, a mile further than the second longest, the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot.
All the riders are true amateurs and this year’s competitors included a driving instructor, a carer and a bookmaker. Professional jockeys, stable lads/lasses and grooms, who work full time in racing are not eligible to enter.
2018 was the seventh time the Irishman had ridden in the race and he recalled his first triumph in his debut year. “I lost 38 Ibs to ride in it that year to meet the weight limit of 12st. Victory was turning up weighing 12st as a jockey. It took me 8/9 months to get the weight off. I enjoyed the training part of it, riding out, walking, the gym work being healthy and active. I won by 8 lengths on a horse called Lease trained by John Carr. What a reward that was. John Carr trained Sublimity to win the Champion Hurdle that year. I was riding out nearly every day at that time” said Derek. Three years later Derek won the race on Cape Secret.
Derek rides out six lots a day for the 2018 Grand National winning Irish trainer Gordon Elliot who trained his 2018 ride Flaxen Flare. “I can only manage two days a week now as it takes a time to recover at my age” said Derek. Derek has been riding out at Gordon Elliot’s Cullentra House Stables for the past 11 years. “It’s fantastic, such a great facility and he’s able to give me loads of different horses to ride out which are winning on the tracks” enthused Derek.
Twelve horses went to post for this year’s running of the Newmarket Town Plate thirty five minutes after the last race. The field included last year’s winner and former International show jumper Tim Gredley and the 2014 victor Michael Gates, who were riding Right to Reply and As De Pique respectively.
“I thought there was only one danger which was Vent De Force who was ridden and trained by fellow Irishman Michael Mullineaux. My horse, Flaxen Flare was the winner of the 2013 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and had been Grade 2 placed in November 2017 at Navan” said Derek.
“Vent de Force had won the Henry II Stakes (Group 3) at Sandown in 2015 and at his height had been rated 110. I would say they must be two of the best horses to have run in the Newmarket Town Plate. I think the standard is getting higher every year” remarked Derek.
“Flaxen Flare was a very handy horse to ride. He was bit leery jumping off but once he got going he soon settled down. My game plan was to conserve energy and go the shortest way round. I was never any worse than 4th or 5th. I moved into third and then as one horse came back I went on the inside on the rails while Michael Mullineaux went on the outside. I was beaten 13 lengths but I was competitive right up until the last two furlongs.
It was certainly a day for the old guard. “I only found out in the hospitality tent before the race that the two of us had just celebrated our 64th birthdays” said Derek.
To go with the thrill of finishing on the home straight of the July course Derek’s efforts also earned him a £75.00 Goldings Voucher and a box of Powters Celebrated Newmarket Sausages from the race sponsors. The two prizes from the Newmarket based businesses add another unique ingredient to this historic race. Originated in Stuart times there is nothing else like it in the racing calendar.
“I was very impressed with The National Heritage Centre It’s very well preserved, full of character and history. I will definitely have to allocate more time on a return visit” said Derek.
We look forward to seeing Derek return.
2018 Newmarket Town Plate Result:
1st Vent De Force
J: Michael Mullineaux
T: Michael Mullineaux
O: We Enjoy Racing Club
2nd Flaxen Flare (IRE)
J: Derek Jackson
T: Gordon Elliott
O: Mrs P Sloan
3rd As De Pique (IRE)
J: Michael Gates
T: Michael Gates
O: Michael Gates
4th Moorlands Mist
J: Sara Ender
T: Sara Ender
O: Neville Ender
Blog by Stephen Wallis, Visitor Services.
We would like to thank Derek for his help with this blog and for the race day photos.