Jump jockey David Crosse has developed a successful business engaging with the racing public at tracks nationwide. A series of recent injuries has done nothing to deter his race to get back riding while growing a business that promotes the sport he loves.
My sister dared me to go to the local riding school
I was introduced to horses and riding relatively late at the age of 13 at home in Tipperary. My sister dared me to go to the local riding school one day even though I was a little intimidated by the horses. That fear didn’t last long and it soon turned into the obsession that has led me to where I am today.
I knew that I wanted to be a jockey when I was 14, and at the earliest opportunity went to join the yard of Willie Mullins, alongside a team of aspiring jockeys. I soon found I was getting impatient for rides and winners, and so looked to England for new opportunities. In the summer of 2009 I joined the yard of Charlie Mann in Lambourn, and from there managed to get five or six rides and a couple of places in my first year. In my third season I was champion amateur, riding a Cheltenham Festival winner, too.
My current tally is 198 winners plus some point-to-point wins. Last season was my best for 14 years at 17 winners, prior to a double whammy of injuries, including a bumper mare veering through the rails breaking my thumb and right hand, followed swiftly by a schooling accident which left me with a dislocated shoulder and multiple fractures in my humerus. Specialist Dr Geoff Graham has done a fantastic job and I’m on track to be back riding in a month’s time, eight months ahead of schedule, defying some doctors who threatened that I wouldn’t race ride again. The Injured Jockeys Fund’s Oaksey House has been vital in my recovery, along with my own gym and physio programme.
Trust a jockey to find a gap
During my career as a jockey I have always worked on the side to supplement my income. I used to valet cars, and currently provide jockey coaching. I soon discovered that there was a gap for hosting at racecourses and visiting hospitality boxes on racedays. It started at Windsor and Warwick three years ago and has expanded exponentially from there to a full-time job, with a team of co-hosts who can be spread across the country on a busy day’s racing. This Saturday for example, the team will be at Lingfield, Haydock and Ascot. We find that each hosting day tends to lead to two new jobs, such is the power of word of mouth in racecourse hosting and the effect it has on participants. Up and coming hosts to watch out for include Ryan Tongue, Conor Shoemark, Tom Bellamy and Kate Tracey.
Maximising the race day experience
Meeting characters working behind the scenes is important to guests. Being involved in the ‘jockey banter’ provides the extra insight that can make the difference between watching horses from a distance and feeling a part of the day.
I realise that I have an opportunity to educate racegoers in my day-to-day contact with them, and always make a point of taking my racing whip with me to show guests the air cushioning. I even (with their permission) will use the whip on a volunteer guest’s hand to demonstrate how they are an encouragement, rather than a punishment, and how if a horse experienced pain they would be unlikely to respond in a positive manner. When it comes to the high level of care the horses receive and their daily routine, I take every opportunity to explain that in racing horses receive first class care as athletes.
I strongly feel that if I give a true impression of the fun, the excitement, but also the care and attention that is a big part of horseracing, if one person goes on from their day to tell others about the sport and their brilliant day at the races then I have done something very worthwhile.
Engaging more racing fans
Racing to School is a brilliant way to engage with the next generation of racegoers. It’s a great age for people to learn about the sport and how their local racecourse has an impact on their area, as racing can be difficult to get into if it’s not passed on through family connections. Riding schools and pony clubs are also great places to get youngsters into racing, as they are already likely have an interest in horses, the outdoors and can become fans and participants of the future.
Community and CSR in racing
Having broken my leg a few years ago, during the rehab process I grew my hair long and jumped in the car with Sir Anthony McCoy on his journeys to racecourses all over the country. I did a bucket collection at each course I went to and raised £16,800 for the Injured Jockeys Fund. I have since been a part of Ascot’s fundraising for the IJF, raising over £22,000 for them.
The most rewarding part of this work is the smiles on people’s faces when they’ve been out on the track. Earlier this week at Carlisle, we hosted two kids as part of a larger group, who were attending the racecourse thanks to the Barrie Wells Trust and The Jockey Club. Michael and Andy had a race down the track in their wheelchairs on the way to the final fence, and the smiles on their faces said it all. As a jockey, kids view you as a hero and just by meeting and talking to them you can make their day.