Tom Sadler is an Australian jockey who started out in flat racing and has now moved into the world of jumps racing.
He came and visited us at our Peter Horobin Saddlery headquarters and we asked Tom some questions about his new career and how he's adjusting to his new role as a jumps race jockey.
Q. You’ve just recently moved over to jumps racing after years as a flat jockey. Why the change?
Mainly, it was because of the weight. I always struggled from the time I started in 2011 until towards the end of 2017. My weight was a bit of a yo-yo and in the end it just became too much and I was just riding work. Steve Pateman and Jess Barton put the idea of jumps racing into my head and it wasn't something I thought I'd be able to do, but the more schooling I did and the more I learnt, the more I loved it and the more I wanted to do it. I got my licence, and my jumps racing career kicked off in May this year (2018).
Q. How do you find jumps racing different to flat racing?
The main thing I find different is that there is more of a bond with the horse. Unless you've got a real bond with the horse, working together as a team throughout the race, you're not really going to have any success. If you do have success, it's going to be short term. In flat racing it's all about getting the steering and the conditions right and asking for the effort at the right time, whereas jumps racing is a continual team effort and if you're not working together, nine and a half times out of ten, you're not going to get the result.
Q. Is one more taxing on the body than the other?
Probably in different ways. Jumps racing goes a longer period of time. The shortest jumps race is by far the longest flat race, so there's that dimension to it. With flat racing there's more of a sprinters fitness, for the jockeys as well as the horses. Longer term, I think it's more taxing on the whole body rather than just your cardiovascular fitness. It is very different for sure.
Q. Is there a different effort towards diet now that you’re a jumps jockey?
Most definitely. I rode 55kg on Oaks Day in 2017, where now the minimum for me is 64kg, so I've been allowed to grow and with my food and nutrition, grew from 58kg to 64kg pretty quickly. I'm a lot more comfortable and happy within myself. You still have to be very fit, so whilst the diet doesn't need to be as restrictive, you still need to keep your fitness up.
Q. What do you hope to achieve in this new career of jumps racing?
There's probably 4 or 5 different things I'd like to achieve. If I could achieve one or achieve all of them, that would be great. I would love to win a feature steeple or hurdle. That is the pinnacle of any jockey, to win a big race, so that would be a big thrill I'd love to experience. The other thing would be to win a Premiership and probably more than any of those two would be to win a Grand Annual. Well before I had any intention of becoming a jumps jockey I've always admired the race and it's something different being at Warrnambool, whether it's a maiden hurdle or the Grand Annual, it's an amazing experience and is definitely something I'd like to achieve.
Q. Horsemanship is a vital part of success being a jumps trainer, what are the schooling efforts involved for a horse to learn about jumping?
The first thing I was taught when I first started schooling with Steve Pateman was that the horse has to enjoy it and it has to be fun for them, otherwise you're not going to get very far. Seeing first hand, that is 100% the truth. It can be quickly or a slow process, but as soon as the horse enjoys it, it makes your job very easy and they get a real kick out of it. It was a quick realisation how much more the horses have fun and enjoy the schooling versus the mundane chores of track work early in the morning. Horses I've ridden, they're a different character when going over jumps compared to when you've ridden them on the flat. There's a horse of Steve Pateman, Surging Wave. I rode him when I was a flat jockey, he was like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, and then riding him in the Crisp Steeple, he was a completely different horse. He had grown three hands, and it was like he was on a jumping castle. It is without a doubt, something horses loves doing.
Q. Who is your role model?
Hard to say, I've got a few role models. In racing I'd say Johnny Murtagh. He's an extremely successful, champion Irish jockey who also had a crack at riding over jumps. I admire people being able to do both. As a rider here in Australia, by far, it would definitely be Steve Pateman who is someone I look to and learn off and will continue to learn from, and is basically the person who has taught me everything I know to date.
Q. If you had to invite someone to dinner who would it be?
Hmmmmm ... probably Ricky Gervais.
Q. Tell us more about the horses and their range of motion when going over the jumps. How do you prepare going into a jump and what is the feeling you get when approaching?
It's different whether coming into a hurdle or a steeple. I think the main thing is to keep them straight, keep them balanced amid picking a stride. It's something that I've had to learn to do that is non-existent in flat racing - counting and picking strides. There's no better feeling than when you see a stride and the horse jumps into the stride and clears a big fence, such as Casterton, Ballarat or Sandown, with big sweeping tracks. Nothing can beat that.
Q. As you grow and gain more experience as a jumps jockey, how would you like to see the industry change for the better?
I think the industry as a whole is on the up. When I was 11 years old, I went to a rally at the RVO for saving jumps racing because it was basically going to be thrown out and be non-existent. To think that was only 12 years ago, and now we're racing for big money and big races and people are really rallying around it again. I think the main thing for me, is to educate people on the perception of jumps racing. I think if we can push that forward and educate people that the horses love doing it and that they're not forced to do it and don't enjoy it, that we will continue to grow and grow.