At just 21 years of age, Poppy Bridgwater has already started to pave her way on the UK Horse Racing circuit as a Flat Jockey, being close to riding out her weight claim and making the transition from Apprentice to Professional jockey for trainer David Simcock in Newmarket (Horse Racing Headquarters!) in the United Kingdom.
Growing up in Stow On The Wold in the beautiful Cotswolds, daughter of successful Dual Racehorse trainer (Flat and jumps horses), David Bridgwater, Poppy inevitably grew up around horses and her passion for them start from a very young age; “I was always interested in horses and I started riding ponies before I could even walk! I was very into my show jumping from the age of 14 onwards.
What really kickstarted me wanting to race ride was when my mum rode in a charity race at Cheltenham racecourse and I thought it looked really good fun! I then asked if I could have one ride as an amateur, although my dad wasn’t keen on the idea. After my first official ride I was hooked, and the rest is history! As soon as I left school I just wanted to ride.”
Poppy’s day starts the same way as many others in the sport. “My average racing day would be to wake up at 5:30am, ride out 4 lots of horses and then drive anywhere between one and three hours to the racecourse that I’m riding at that day.”
Jockeys have to arrive at the Racecourse a certain amount of time before their first race so they can get changed and be ‘Weighed Out’ before they get in the saddle. As an Apprentice Jockey, Poppy currently claims 5kg, which is the weight that gets deducted from a handicap weight that a horse is carrying – This essentially means that all of the horses in the race each have a fair or equal chance of winning the race.
Once a jockey has ridden in all of their races for the day, they then have the drive home before it all starts again the next day. Racing in the UK takes place 7 days a week for most of the year, so you can imagine how many miles jockeys rack up on their cars throughout their racing season!
Working with horses provides a combination of high and lows which comes with the territory when being involved with animals, however the highs make it more than worth it; when asked about the highlight of her career so far, Poppy vividly recalled her biggest win to date; “It was having a winner at Ascot on ‘She Believes’ for trainer Sylvester Kirk in May 2019. My racing career had been relatively quiet up until then and it really gave me the confidence boost I needed. I don’t think there’s any feeling like Ascot! Even at a normal Ascot meeting there’s just a special feeling about just being there, let alone winning!”
Horse Racing never guarantees a pathway to glory, so having tough skin, motivation and the drive to succeed are all important parts of the winning combination. Poppy’s advice for those wishing to embark upon the difficult task of becoming a jockey isn’t really surprising;
“Keep working and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. My dad tried to push me away from it as he knows first hand what the racing industry is like and he’s now my biggest supporter! Racing will tame lions, but the good days definitely make all of the hard work and knocks worth it.”
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