Leading jumps jockey joins flat ranks

  • user
  • March 07, 2023
  • No Comments

The newest flat racing apprentice in New Zealand racing has joined the ranks in part to try and help him win the jumps jockey title.

Hamish McNeill has been riding over fences in New Zealand for nine years, but this year he’s taking up riding on the flat to help improve his fitness and his jumps riding.

McNeill has won several major jumps races, but said his biggest goal was to win the New Zealand jumps jockeys premiership.

“Because I’m riding on the flat, I’ll probably be one of the fitter jumps riders at the start of the season, and hit the ground running,” he said.

“My main problem has been my longevity. I’ve been pretty injury-plagued, and I don’t think I’ve actually ridden a full season from August to August, it’s always been broken up by injury.

“Now my main goal is to show I can be consistent and win a premiership. Being fit from riding on the flat will hopefully help keep me free of injury.”

The 27-year-old expat Scot has taken out an apprenticeship with Shaun and Emma Clotworthy, who he has worked with for some years.

“Shaun and Emma have been very good to me over the past nine years I’ve been in the country, and one of the reasons for getting my apprenticeship is that I’d like to repay them as much as I can.” McNeill said.

“They have shown me a lot of support and encouragement.”

McNeill said part of the reason he took up flat riding was because of the Clotworthys’ plan to take Abu Dhabi, upon whom McNeill won the Great Northern Hurdle (4200m) in September, across the Tasman for the Australian Hurdles (3900m) at Sandown on May 21.

“I wanted to get myself fit for the summer so I could be ready to go with him, but there weren’t many highweights to ride in over summer, so I wanted to get my flat licence to get myself fit,” he said.

“In the process of doing that, I found out the only way to get my flat licence was to sign up as an apprentice. I had a think about it, and I decided that if I’m going to do it, I may as well give it a good nudge, and try and do flat and jumps.”

So far McNeill has adjusted well, managing to get his riding weight down to an impressive 54.5kg.

“I was probably one of the lightest jumps riders in the jockeys room. I never walked more than about 62kg,” he said.

“Getting the weight down wasn’t as difficult as what I thought it would be. I just cut out alcohol and started eating healthier, and now I’m a bit older my work ethic is probably better than when I was younger.”

So far McNeill has ridden at two trial meetings, and has found himself getting used to riding on the flat.

“The field sizes doesn’t really faze me at all. It was more the quickness of the ground.

“I’ve banged out 16 rides at trials in the past two weeks. The first set of trials I rode on the 22nd of Feb, the reaction times caught me out a bit, but last week at the trials I definitely didn’t feel out of place at all.”

McNeill also harbours plans to set up his own pre-training operation in the future, and said that joining the flat riding ranks should help with that.

“The best way I can do that is to be out there riding and getting more contacts.”

McNeill hopes to have his flat riding licence some time in the next two weeks, and be riding in races shortly after that.

In the meantime, he’s also looking forward to heading to Australia with Abu Dhabi, who he said is much-improved since his Great Northern victory.

“He’s come in this year a completely different animal. He’s probably put on about 80kg of pure muscle,” McNeill said.

“He’s still a maiden on the flat but I think he can win a couple on the flat this year the way he’s going.”

“He’s a real confidence horse. If he’d got run down in the Northern I don’t think he would be as good as he is today.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.