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Talking Horses: Beasley maintains family tradition
WHEN County Durham apprentice Connor Beasley dismounts at the end of a race, he does not have to wait long for a detailed assessment of his performance.
An interested owner wanting to discuss the 19-year-old’s tactics? His principle employer, Michael Dods, keen to dissect the way in which the race panned out? More often than not, the verdict is delivered by someone a little closer to home.
“My grandad’s (Bobby Beasley) my biggest fan and critic,” said Beasley, whose 26 wins in his breakthrough first full season leave him third in the race to be crowned champion apprentice. “He was assistant trainer to Arthur Stephenson and he’s one of the main reasons I got into racing.
“He’s in his 70s now, but he still comes racing with me most times I have a ride. I think it keeps him going, and he sometimes says he’s reliving his life through me.
“He’s still as fit as a fiddle, and sometimes he’ll come with me to two meetings in a day at the opposite end of the country. He loves to see me do well, but he’s not afraid to let me know when he thinks I’ve made a mistake.”
Some people are born into racing, and from his earliest days, it was always fairly obvious that 19-year-old Beasley would carve out a career in the sport.
As well as his grandfather, who ran one of Stephenson’s satellite yards in Leasingthorne, his mother, Susan, and father, Shaun, were also work riders, with the former spending most of her time riding for Norman Mason at Brancepeth.
From the age of six, Connor would accompany her to the yard, following the string on their daily exercise schedule on his first pony. From there, the progression through pony racing, show jumping and eventing, under the auspices of South Durham Pony Club, was a simple one, and when he left school in Spennymoor at the age of 16, he took up his first full-time post at the stables of Tracy Waggott.
He teamed up with Dods at Denton Hall, near Piercebridge, at the start of last year, and was granted his apprentice riding license last July.
A first winner came courtesy of Osteopathic Remedy’s success at Ayr two months later, and the current campaign has seen him emerge as the leading conditional rider in the north. His 26 victories this season have come from 184 rides, and he is showing a level stakes profit of more than £19, a success rate almost unheard of in the apprentice ranks.
“It’s gone way, way better than I could have expected,” said Beasley. “Both in terms of the number of rides I’ve had, and the number of winners, it’s been way beyond my wildest dreams for a first season of racing.
“I’m so grateful for the chances I’ve had. The boss (Dods) has been great with me right from the start. When (Osteopathic) Remedy won at Ayr, I’d only had 12 rides but he still put me on a fancied horse in a £10,000 handicap.
“I’m fortunate enough to get most of the good rides that are going, and just the other week he trusted me enough to put me on Spinatrix, which came second in the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon. That’s a £43,000 race, and both him and the owners could easily have decided they wanted someone else.”
That they didn’t underlines the high esteem in which Beasley is regarded, and only last month, Mick Fitzgerald picked him out on Channel Four Racing as the brightest young jockey in the country.
He retains an outside chance of ending the season as champion apprentice, but admits it is important to balance the pursuit of winners with the need to build up as much experience as possible before he rides out his claim.
“I lose my 5lb claim when I get to 50 winners, and then I can claim 3lb until I get to 95,” he explained. “I want to get there as quickly as possible, but I also know this is the time when I’m building up experience and I won’t be able to do that as easily when I lose my claim.
“I’m still learning a lot by going to new tracks and experiencing different types of races. I’ve only been riding for just over a year, so really that’s no time at all. I don’t want to be doing things too quickly, so I’ll probably limit how much riding I do on the all-weather over the winter because I don’t want to lose my claim like that.”
Between now and then, he will continue to travel the length and breadth of the country in pursuit of the winning post. Last month, he rode at Yarmouth, Warwick and Haydock in the space of two days. On another occasion, he travelled to Hamilton for a night meeting, before returning to the North-East to start riding out at 10am the following morning.
It is a punishing schedule, but while sacrifices are inevitably required in order to maintaining a riding weight of eight stone, Beasley would have not things any other way.
“It’s hard work, but it still feels more like a hobby than a job,” he said. “I still wake up first thing on a morning desperate to get down to the yard.
“This is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and I don’t want to let the opportunity slip through my hands. A lot of people have put a lot of trust in me, and I’m determined to repay them.”
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