Hunt jockey Anthony Ward-Thomas chats to Sue Pelling about horse racing to yacht racing 2/5/06

It’s fairly rare for the sport of sailing to be paralleled with horse racing but an interesting chat with jockey Anthony Ward-Thomas who’s making his debut into sailing this week at Antigua Sailing Week raised several similarities.

Ward-Thomas who’s been flown in from Sussex to join his ‘old’ school friends aboard the British Swan 60 Fenix is an amateur hunt jockey who’s fairly unique in that he owns, trains and rides his own horse. He agreed to join Mark Bishop, the team organiser, and his other friends in Antigua at the last minute on the understanding he needs to be back in the UK by Wednesday to race at the Hunter Chase meeting at Cheltenham!

Totally naive about the sport of yacht racing Ward-Thomas admits that it’s tougher than he thought and can’t believe how many similarities there are between horseracing and yacht racing commenting: “?particularly at the start where there’s so much jockeying, shouting, screaming and yelling at each other and then you’re off. Okay it’s at a slightly different pace and, of course, the race is longer but like horse racing, it’s still physically demanding. Doing a three-mile hurdle is a bit like grinding for three minutes.”

Chatting about his position on the boat Ward-Thomas added: “Not sure how much of a bad deal I’ve been given but I’m the grinder – if that’s the technical term. It’s awfully hard work and I seem to be building all the wrong muscles I need for riding. But hey, here I am in the Caribbean enjoying what seems to me to be a fantastically fun regatta. I’m on a lovely boat, although not being familiar with sailing or racing I don’t think I’d know the difference between a lovely boat and a horrible one.”

So, should we lay a bet on Ward-Thomas for next week’s race at Cheltenham? He has good form with Joyedesiles his nine-year-old, French-bred, bay gelding having won the Hampshire Hunt Point to Point members’ race just three-week’s ago. According to Ward-Thomas his horse is good over the fences and should cope well with the course at Cheltenham next week.

Just before he had to dash off to the racecourse for the 1015 in Antigua, Ward-Thomas concluded: “This regatta is amazing with the amount of people and boats involved and the incredible amount of money around. To be honest, it’s a bit like Ascot on the water!”