We are delighted to bring you a Rising Stars Interview with Italian apprentice Gaia Boni.
Gaia has been in the UK just over a year and was just getting started before racing shutdown. She cannot ride on track at the moment, so took some time out of her schedule to talk to us about why she came to the UK, which former discipline is helping with her riding & a horse to keep an eye out for in the future…..
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
I’m Gaia Boni. I’m 22 years old and I come from Milan. I work as an apprentice jockey to Mr. Jarvis in Newmarket. I came to the UK on the 4th of May 2018.
What is your first memory of horse racing?
In 2015 I visited for the first time an Italian stable in my hometown. I was over the moon, but not like when I come to England to start my adventure.
Were you always interested in horses when you were young?
No, when I was young my priorities were school and dance, especially ballet.
You mentioned to me you had a previous career before racing, can you tell us about this please?
I started attending a dance school called ‘Lets Dance’ at three years old and the way was to become a professional dancer. My training was 5 times a week. When I was very young, like 3 to 12 years old, the training was light because I spend time also working on my dyslexia at the school.
Then I started attending an Academy under “ArcobalenoDanza” and I had 2 weeks at a stage school “Cavalli in testa” di Bruno Grizzett in Teatro della Scala, where I learned a lot. I kept going under a school called GAC Academy with highly competent teachers.
After 15 years of dance training, I was getting bored to be honest, with the training routine. In the last year of training, I was going against my body performance (the knees) as I had begun to ride horses.
One day one teacher informed me that I had to make a choice: Ballet or horseracing. As you can see I decided on horseracing.
How do you think you can apply your previous career to being a jockey?
I took a lot from the character points, like discipline and determination. Always stand with your feet on the ground, make sacrifices such as friends or parties & organize your days to make sure that you don’t waste time. I inherited a good balance. I always practice and have fun on the simulator at Palace House Museum.
What was your route into racing?
In 2015 I started just to look at the horses cantering until an old man with just one horse in training let me start trotting. He introduced me to another trainer, Luigi Jack, who looked after me and taught me how to ride, during the summer.
I spend my morning waking up 4:20am to ride out 2 lots. This was my first experience full immersion.
In one week he introduced me to hacking, then to have a canter & after a few days I started to do a piece of work until finally, I did the stalls. It was the best week of my life!
I was fully interested with all the ears.
One year later I started to ride out for other trainers and big stables like “Inconlix” and “Cavalli in Testa” Gallop. I got a lot of experience from riding more than 160 different horses in the summer of 2016.
I got an amateur licence and I had just one ride with Adragon, who was the horse of my heart.
Due to the Italian horse racing crisis and because I was and still really light I did not continue to riding at the track, I was focused on High school and prepared myself to pass the exam to attend Humanitas University.
You are an apprentice with Mr Jarvis, How did this opportunity come about & how are you enjoying life in Newmarket?
This opportunity comes from an advert on the careerinracing’s website. One day I went to introduced myself and offer to ride out for him, so he can had a look at me, with how I ride and my riding skills.
I really love living here because it’s not busy and rush like my hometown. When I go to visit my family in Italy, I always complain about smog and traffic. My life here at Newmarket without the COVID19 circumstances is really busy with English courses, gym’s session. I also do volunteering at an old people’s centre, along with the simulator at Palace House Museum and sessions with my jockey coaches.
I have to look after myself. I usually stayed out of home until 8:30 pm with no regret.
When did you make your rules debut and how many rides until you rode your first winner?
My debut was on 25th August 2019 with Wimpole Hall at Yarmouth. My first winner was on my second ride with Wimpole Hall at Chelmsford on the 19th of November 2019. It was the ” Celebrate November’s Hero Richard Shepherd Handicap, Class 4″.
What has been your highlight of your career to date?
I got off to a brilliant start with two winners in three rides, I guess. Now I have a 27% rate strike ( 3 winners in 11 rides, one third place and two fourth place finishes)
Have you set any aims for the future?
I aim to get as much experience as I can in the morning and on the tracks, maintaining my rate strike high. I would like to widen trainers and owner’s contacts.
I would also like to get some experience abroad like the USA or Australia, with the view to improve my riding skills.
Being from Italy, what made you come to England?
The opportunity to work full time for Mr.Cumani, like a stage. Then that became indeterminate. What made me come to England was that I was really looking for an adventure and then living in a dream. It was quite like I had broken the rules in my life so that made me very excited.
I got the confirmation to leave Italy and University from my parents after I already bought the flight ticket for one way. Bless them, they couldn’t oppose it due I was already 20 years old and I didn’t ask any money for the trip or life in the UK.
Fortunately, I worked as a waitress for a couple of months, So I started my life here just with nearly £200 in my pocket.
How have you been coping during this tough time & how have you been spending your time?
Fortunately, nothing changed at my work full time, which helps a lot. I had a couple a weekends off in quarantine and I couldn’t stand it, I really admire the people that had to stop working and try to be creative spending time at home.
It could be very stressful. I really miss my usually busy routine but I am spending my time going running, gym session at home, studying English and getting my driving license at home.
You must be excited about the season hopefully getting started very soon?
Super excited, even though I can’t ride due just the jockeys and 3Lb claimers have the priority to ride.
Hopefully, I can ride very soon because I am quite keen to get more experience and maintain my strike rate.
Can you give our readers a horse to keep for our readers to keep an eye out for when the season starts?
I fancy Kameko for the 2000 Guineas with Oisin Murphy.
I am really pleased about one I look after, his name is Porfin and he gets better after each gallop. He is a 2yo colt from Belardo and Tropical Mist.
We would like to thank Gaia for her time and her patience while waiting to get her chance to get back on the race course, we all hope it will be very soon. No doubt that you will be seeing a lot of Gaia in the winners enclosure…..
Interview – Rich Williams
Photos – Gaia Boni (Twitter)