Joanna Mason – The BIG Interview

We are delighted to bring you an interview with Joanna Mason.

The flat jockey is aiming to make up for lost time & lose her 5lb claim in double quick time.
We talk about the up’s & down’s of racing, advice from Grandad, Jack Berry & many other things…..

Joanna with Tapis Libre

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please….

I’m from Malton in North Yorkshire (Gods own country). 1 of 4 Children (two sisters (twins) and a brother). I was born and breed into racing, with my grandad being Mick Easterby.
My dads a farmer, he never race rode, but has trained pointers for as long as I remember. And my mum rode as an amateur and was Yorkshire ladies champion. 

I’ve ridden all my life, from pony club, hunting, eventing, tetrathlons and race ridden as an amateur when I was 16. 

When I’m not on a horse, I love going out for a run, walking, netball. Just anything active, I do get quite competitive. 

I actually used to play Hockey at National League standard while I was at university. 

“I broke my back in two places (T8 & T9 – unstable fractures) in a fall pointing in 2015”

What is your first memory of horse racing?

My first racing memory was always going pointing. My dad has always had pointers that he trains off the farm, so we used to go pointing at weekends and we ran riot. Dad had a horse called Jackson’s Hole run in the Fox Hunters at Aintree with my Uncle, David Easterby riding.
He came 4th and got more of a cheer coming in than the winner. 

You started race riding in 2008 (if my info is correct), as an amateur, was being a jockey always your ambition or did you have another career in mind?

I think my first ride was actually in 2006 at Beverley. I was 2nd on a horse called Emperor’s Well, I didn’t really do much. Just pushed. I loved it !! 

But no it wasn’t to be fair. I think really my career in mind at university was to go on and be a Sports Nutritionist and riding for fun. But once I finished, horses sucked me in full time and that career path never happened.

I always looked up to my cousin – Jacqueline Coward who’s been Yorkshire ladies point to point champion more times that I can even remember. So that’s what I wanted to do, ride point to pointing as an amateur. So I finished six form and went off to university and studied Sport and Exercise Science undergraduate and a Masters in Sports Nutrition along side riding point to pointing at weekends, and riding on the Flat in the summer as an Amateur.

It wasn’t until I broke my back pointing in 2015 that I decided to just stay on the flat post recovery.
Then eventually, end of last year due to Covid19 turn professional.

Joanna riding in Point to Point

You have also ridden in the National Hunt Sphere, why did you decide to stick to the flat?

As mentioned above I broke my back in two places (T8 & T9 – unstable fractures) in a fall pointing in 2015. It was after a stint in the Jack Berry House in Malton (when it first opened) in recovery and with metal work in my back, I then decided I would stick to the flat.
I had a really good next season earning joint champion with Serena Brotherton. I really enjoyed the flat and there are lots of great girls I rode with. 

In 2015 you tied with Serena Brotherton at the top of the  Ladys Amateur Riders Championship, with 6 wins each…. 

How long after did you decide to turn Pro?

It was only because of Covid last year and amateurs unable to ride that i eventually changed my licence over (with a push in the right direction from Serena). With the advantage of still be able to ride in apprentice races if you had a claim. And that I still claimed 5lbs but with the experience, I suppose I took as was an advantage. 

I have had it at the back of my mind for many years and I suppose I just didn’t have the self confidence to say yes that’s what I’m going to do. Ever since meeting Jack Berry at the IJF Jack Berry house in malton, for years he’s always said to me you should turn professional.  I received a lovely card from him after my first pro winner. 

I know later than most. But the best decision I’ve made and I should have done it sooner.
Better late than never I suppose. 

Joanna with Grandad, Mick Easterby

Having won many times on Tapis Libre, including the Queen Mother Cup at York in 2017, would he be your favourite horse?

Yes Tapis would have to be my favourite. Having won 10 races on him. Winning 15 races in total. 

Some of the wins he didn’t make easy for me. But he was a yard legend aswell. He owes me nothing and is now serving retirement at my parents farm on the wolds.
Although he’s still just as cheeky and keeps trying to let himself out of his stable. He’s already been loose numerous times. 

You have now had over 300 rides on the flat, apart from winning the QM cup, which one is your favourite?

York would have to be one of my favourites tracks been the local one. But I also won 4 races on Tapis Libre in the Ladies Derby round Epsom. It takes some riding with the ups and the downs and the camber of the home straight. 

I suppose where you have winners you seem to love the tracks. But the tracks in Yorkshire are pretty special and a lot in close proximity . 

Your Grandad is a stalwart of the racing industry, what advice has he given you?

What advice hasn’t he given me. He loves watching me probably more than the horses running, says he always has his £5 on me. I’m still to ask if he got me on the 80-1 winner the other night. 

In and around the yard he always tells me I’m a bad delegate, and I’ve got to do it more and not try do everything myself.

His main advice riding is not to complicate it. Roust them out the stalls, don’t take back and quickest route round.
I’m still learning and still taking his advice. 

You rode your first winner since turning Pro on NYE 2020 at Newcastle on Marwari, how much of a relief was that & how was the party afterwards?

Yes I suppose it was a relief. Having a very interrupted summer due to reduced amateur races and actually not riding a winner last year. So it was nice to get back in the board and made the decision turning a positive one.

It was NYE so I just had a drink round a friends house. Nothing mad. 

What are your aims for the season ahead?

My aim is just to ride as many winners as possible. I’ve only got 6 winners left of my 5lb claim, so to loose that. And make up as much connections as possible. I go into Archie Watsons when I can and hopefully that will progress.

Do you have any regrets? 

I always say I should have turned professional sooner and I probably should have. But if I had I wouldn’t have worked two seasons in Dubai for Charlie Appleby, ridden aboard in country’s like Martinique, Italy, Germany, Denmark, USA. 

So no I don’t regret any of it. I’m just lucky to have experienced what I have and I look forward to my next chapter as a professional. 

Favourites….

Drink – Gin and tonic 

Film – Seabiscut 

Music – I’d listen to anything really.  But anything in the charts suits me fine 

Food – chicken teriyaki 

Final 2 questions….

IF you could ride any horse PAST or PRESENT, who would it be & why?

I think it would have to be Frankel. 

And finally…..

Can you give our readers a horse to follow for the season ahead please……

My horse to follow would be Vellcos Boy, he’s an unraced 4yr old, he’s just taken time to come to himself and fill his large frame. I like his willing attitude.

We would like to wish Joanne all the best for the season ahead & the future. It’s hard enough making your way in racing, without having serious injuries to contend with. We will be following Joanna’s career with interest & we are sure with her determination, we will be seeing a lot of Joanna in the winners enclosure…

Interview by Rich Williams
Photo’s – kindly provided by Joanna Mason

April 2021