A Jockey During Lockdown - Rab Havlin

13th May 2020

With the hope of horse racing returning to the UK in the near future we wanted to find out what it has been like for a jockey during lockdown.  In our latest Palace House blog, Stephen Wallis spoke to Rab Havlin 46, the experienced Scottish born horseman, who has been with John Gosden’s team for two decades.

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Only a couple of weeks before racing was suspended Rab, had on 4 March ridden his 1,000th British winner on his stable’s Pitcher’s Point at Lingfield having been stuck on 999 for three weeks.

What was your last ride and can you remember it?

It’s been so long I can’t actually remember but I had a few rides at Lingfield.

Rab had his last rides on Friday 13 March at Lingfield but was out of luck that day.

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How has your typical day change since lockdown?

I am still riding out two or three lots every morning.

Social distancing has not been a problem as we go one behind one another anyway.  So we are always two metres away from the next person.

I go out my bike straight after riding or later on at night.  I normally do 15/20 miles a day.   I like going out on the bike. I picked it up in the last five years and have stuck to it.

It’s a brilliant and handy way to come back from injuries.  It’s a tried and trusted way for me.  It’s something I enjoy.

Rab had just finished a personal best 36 miles on the bike before our phone call.

When we started lockdown I was eating what I liked but over the last month as we have got closer to racing again I have been watching my diet, eating fish and keeping my weight down.  Thankfully I haven’t got too heavy.

How has the lockdown affected your family life?

It’s actually been good because you get time to spend with the kids.  They have been out riding on their pony and riding a bit better than before.  I have been helping with the pony.   It’s the one good thing that has come out of it, the family time.

The wife is doing the homeschooling before I get in and she has been doing some work from home.

What do you miss the most with no racing?

Honestly, the money.  We get paid for the riding out and the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA Income Support Scheme) has done a fantastic job in getting some funding for us, which has just started to come through.  Every little helps.

I love the racing but it does get a bit monotonous when you are on the road every day.  The travelling is the worst part of the job.   The first few weeks we were off it was a welcome break.

You are always rushing. There is never any time in between.  You’re riding out, then you are rushing home, have a sweat, half an hour on the bike, then you are in the car and you are not home until 9 o’clock.

For those of us who ride every day, which most of us do, that is probably one thing we don’t miss.

The longer it goes on you do miss the competitive buzz.

When do you think you will be back riding again?

I think racing has put itself in a place, where it has sought advice from German and French racing and in that sense, we are ready to go but it is just when it is safe to go.   We don’t want different rules.

When it safe to go we will be ready to go.  I certainly think in the next month, hopefully.

Are you worried yourself about riding again, health-wise, family friends etc?

I think you will be going racing, staying in your own car, weighing separately, bringing your own food and if you are not riding you will be in your own car.  We are doing that at work anyway and keeping two metres away from everybody.

I think when racing starts it will be similar to that.

I am not worried.  We are ticking all the boxes and think it will be safe when we get there.

What experience, if any, have you of riding behind closed doors in the past?

Not myself personally.

What do you think about riding in masks?

The lads in Germany have had the visors on and a lot of lads have them on the All-Weather for the kickback.  It wouldn’t be a hindrance at all.

Do you think that Racing will bounce back from the current situation?

It’s going to take a while but the smaller owners are going to suffer.  It’s the same in every industry.  The whole country is in the same boat. Hopefully, we will be stronger enough to come out the other end.

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Have you got a two year old for us to look out for in 2020?

I have only sat on about three or four.  We have a nice Frankel colt, a half brother to Shutter Speed. Our two-year-olds are normally back end two year olds.

Have you had the chance to ride out Enable and if so how is she?

I haven’t sat on her this year.

I have been riding Stradivarius last week.  He’s in good nick.  He’s got the same targets this year including the Ascot Gold Cup.

We would like to thank Rab for his help with the blog and for the photos.

Blog by Stephen Wallis.