We are delighted to bring you an interview with apprentice jockey, Gavin Ashdown.
Having started his career in racing in 2019 having come through the BRS & has amassed over 200 rides in his career to date.
Gavin has recently moved to Roger Varian & is looking forward to the season ahead…

Can you tell us a little about yourself please…

I am 24 years old and from Manchester. I am a huge Manchester United fan and was always going to be with my Dad working at the club for over 43 years. I love all sports and I have given most of them a go throughout my life including; golf, swimming, cricket, rugby, badminton, fishing and many more. 

Gavin Ashton

Being 19 and never even touched a horse in my life the idea seamed crazy…..

What was your first racing memory? 

My first memory of racing was every year on the Grand National day, my dad would let me choose a horse and have £1 E/W on. It wasn’t until my cousin started following it more when I was about 16 that I first watched any other race than the Grand National.

I understand you wanted to be a professional footballer, why the career change?

Sadly there is a huge difference between wanting to become a professional footballer and actually being good enough to make it. While I was offered a great opportunity to travel to America on a footballing scholarship at a high level college, it was then when someone mentioned I am the right size for a jockey.
Being 19 and never even touched a horse in my life the idea seamed crazy enough yet somehow achievable as it was simply the only sport in my life I hadn’t tried.
In life I always wanted to make it as a professional athlete in any sport I could and I thought racing may be my best option at my age.

What skills that a footballer has can be transferred to race riding? 

Without a doubt the most important attribute that helped me with riding was the fitness. It is becoming more apparent each year how important fitness is when it comes to race riding and I feel throughout my career in racing that is one thing that has helped me stand out and aided me to achieve everything I have so far.

I couldn’t trot for the first 4 days and I was bouncing around in the saddle!

British Racing School

How did you find your British Racing School course? 

I absolutely loved my time at the BRS! I must have been a nightmare for the instructors to begin with because I had never touched a horse in my life so everything was very challenging! I couldn’t trot for the first 4 days and I was bouncing around in the saddle!
However, I was very determined to learn and I took all the instructors advice to gospel so they said I was very easy to teach as I did everything they told me. I am very grateful for all the help and support the Racing School gave me!
I think it is a brilliant start to racing for everyone coming into the industry.  

When did you ride in your first race & how was that experience? 

I had my first ride on the 20th of December 2017 at Lingfield on a horse called Alternate Route for Sir Mark Prescott. The timing of the ride was a huge shock to me as I had only completed my apprentice license course 2 weeks earlier.
I was very excited for my ride but needless to say I was nervous. It all happened so quickly on the day but I loved every minute of it! Sadly I just missed out on a winner on my first ride and I finished second but from that moment on I was addicted and wanted to have as many rides as I could!

Do you get nervous or have any superstitions?

When I hadn’t had many rides, I did get nervous before rides but now I have had over 225 rides I tend to only get some nerves when riding in higher class races. I used to play cricket & I had a superstition that I always had to be last out of the changing room as we went onto the field; This was a superstition I carried over to racing until I had to go down to post early or the trainer wanted me out promptly, that superstition soon faded. 
I also used to believe every time I wore something that I had never worn before in a race (such as a new under armour or different pull ups) I would ride a winner. However again, after a few times of that not happening I left it behind me, so to this day I don’t really have any superstitions.

Roger Varian

You are with Roger Varian, how did that come about? 

With being based with Ian Williams through the 2020 season, I was very lucky to receive a high number of opportunities from him and I am very grateful for that, however I struggled to settle in away from Newmarket, I missed friends and hobbies such as the gym and cooking. Sadly due to the pandemic I wasn’t able to pick up these hobbies at Mr Williams and with winter coming and flat rides quietening down I attempted to seek happiness in coming back to Newmarket.
I settled in immediately and after 2 very good months with Mr Varian, I felt there would be a fantastic opportunity here for me this season and I made the decision to stay. 

What aims to you have for the season ahead?

The ultimate target is to ride out my 7lb claim and hopefully ride as many winners as I can while claiming 5lb. But like always I am always looking to improve my riding in every aspect and tidy myself up.

I am a big meat eater and I love all types of meat and I like to be very creative with meals…..

You are also a Chef, so what is your signature dish?

During my time working in the kitchen I spent a lot of time on the grill so I would say anything from the grill I can do very well but if I was trying to impress, I love serving chateaubriand. (Chateaubriand is a dish that traditionally consists of a large centre cut fillet of tenderloin grilled between two lesser pieces of meat that are discarded after cooking)

With nutrition and diet a big part of sport now, how do you manage your weight & What is the best foods to eat? 

I am very lucky that I am naturally light so it is not something that I have to be massively strict on. Obviously I want to be as light as I can be and with cooking being a passion of mine I do tend to watch what I eat.
I feel peoples bodies process foods differently and I have found that bread puts weight on me so I try to cut that out of my diet as much as I can. However I am a big meat eater and I love all types of meat and I like to be very creative with meals and I always enjoy duck.

What are the best & worse parts of your job? 

Without a doubt the best part of the job is the winners. Crossing the winning line in front brings a huge sense of joy and the feeling is something that will never change! 
It is very difficult on cold winter mornings or when it is chucking it down, however I know it is all part and parcel of the job and you have to go through them times to appreciate and enjoy the good days. 


Which horse would you like to ride, PAST or PRESENT? 

As crazy as it may sound with me riding on the flat one of my favourite horses is Faugheen! 

And finally. ..
Can you give our readers a horse to follow for the season ahead? 

Mr Varian’s yard is full of very nice horses and hopefully we will have a very good season but having never ridden him, a horse that looks incredible and is continuing to improve is Father of Jazz.

We would like to thank Gavin for his time & wish him all the best for the future & the season ahead, we hope he achieves his targets & rides many winners for Mr Varian….

Interview – Rich Williams
Pictures – Twitter

February 2021