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24th October 2021 Wincanton

By Graham Clark

Former Premier League football player Jay Tabb may have been out of luck on his first appearance in the saddle in the Thorner’s Of Somerset Racing Welfare Charity Flat Race at Wincanton today but he described the occasion as the “best feeling ever.”

The 37 year old, who made over 350 appearances during his career on the pitch, finished sixth aboard the Philip Hobbs-trained Umndeni in the mile and a quarter contest which was won by Celestial Force and Sarah West.

Although the former Brentford, Coventry City, Ipswich Town and Reading star failed to find the back of the net, he admitted he was keen to take in a similar race along with testing his riding ability in a point-to-point.

He said: “Our travelling head lad all week had been saying to me all week don’t miss the start and today it was one of those things. I knew it was going to happen.

“We took a turn. They then said take another turn and we did. Before I knew it, I was second last. I’m a little bit gutted I wasn’t closer to the pace at the start but someone has to be at the back.

“To be fair to my horse I didn’t panic as after that happened I knew I wasn’t going to win. So I thought try and travel and overtake a couple.

“To finish sixth, I’m absolutely delighted. Without winning it was the best result I could have asked for. 

“It was the best experience ever. I would recommend it to anyone who works in racing.

“I would love to do that again as it is such a buzz. A realistic aim is to ride in a point-to-point in the spring.

“I’m delighted to work in the industry and get the chance I did today. I’m lucky to do what I’m doing and to find something I love after football is really good as well.”

There might be plenty of differences between racing and football but the drive to the Somerset track reminded Tabb of his journey’s to various grounds up and down the country.

He added: “Driving in this morning was the first time I’ve had the same feeling as driving to a football match.

“It is very similar in the fact that you are on your own and you are getting there earlier than all the fans so the butterflies are building up a long time before the race is taking place. 

“It was quite nice actually listening to the radio and thinking how the day would go.

“At the end of the day you are performing for someone, so it is the biggest thrill you can get.

“As soon as we jumped off I was fine it was before the race I was nervous as I didn’t want anything bad to happen.

“I had loads of people supporting me so it kind of took my mind off the race and they have all had a good day as well.

“I want to give a big shout out to the owner Salvo (Giannini) as they pay a lot of money to have their horses in training and for them to let me to ride their horse in the race shows you what a nice guy he is.”

Despite having worked for Grade One-winning trainer Philip Hobbs for the past two and a half years Tabb, who also rides out for Epsom handler Pat Phelan, has no intention of turning his passion into a full time career in the saddle.

He added: “Before I started working in racing I used to watch it all the time and you think someone just sits on a horse and they make it look easy but it isn’t.

“I’ve lived with Sean Houlihan (jockey) for two years. I know what they have to go through and how talented they are. It makes you have so much respect for them.

“All the jockeys have been doing it since they were young, so they have a wealth of knowledge. I’m not stupid enough to think I will come in at 35 and in two years I will know everything.

“I’ve sat on Thyme Hill and Defi Du Seuil and it is a pleasure to get on them and if I can ride in a point-to-point or charity race every now and again I will be delighted.

“I’m delighted to work in the industry and get the chance I did today. I’m lucky to do what I’m doing and to find something I love after football is really good as well.”

Having competed in point-to-points more than 10 years ago it was welcome return to the track for winning rider Sarah West, who provided trainer Paul Nicholls a one-two in the race when getting the better of stablemate Wise Glory by a nose.

She said: “I used to ride in point-to-points but I haven’t done that for 10 years so I was a bit rusty and I was still quite nervous as I didn’t want to let the team down.

“It’s all a bit surreal really but it I think it all went to plan. I was hoping to make all the running all but I did end up near the pace.

“Turning into the straight I kicked on then I realised it was my colleague (Hannah Roche) upsides me and I thought I can’t let her by.

“There was only a nose in it but it felt like a dead heat. For everyone concerned at the yard we couldn’t have had a better result.

“I think it was the fact that Celestial Force had a bigger head that’s why he stayed in front. It was really exciting and it was great to have the chance to ride in it. 

It was also a victory off the track for the 49 year old West, who during her time working for Nicholls has ridden the likes of dual Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Master Minded, after beating her fundraising total for Racing Welfare.

She said: “I’ve not done too much riding out over the last couple of years however back in the day I used to ride Master Minded and I sat on Denman a few times but I really upped my game over the last six weeks.

“I did think he had a good chance but really we both just wanted to do our best.

“It has been great to raise money for such a good charity. I had set my target at £1000 but I’ve raised over £2200. People have been so generous.”


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