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Issued on behalf of the Yorkshire Area Point-to-Point Secretaries Association

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Coward Wins National Title

Elusive Swallow

On the flat, she has twice won her weight in Champagne.  A point-to-point win usually merits a bottle, but this is where the heart of the new 2012/13 national champion lady jockey, Jacqueline Coward lies.  Having had her first ride at 16, Jacqueline now 27 has become the first Yorkshire rider to take this coveted title.  Last year she was runner up.  Making a real battle of it up to the last few weeks, Jacqueline’s horse power was drying up, then losing a race for drawing the wrong weight having been weighed out incorrectly, she had to admit defeat with only a handful of meetings to go.

The weather this year once again played its part in trying to control when a meeting would take place and although the Coward team, for that’s exactly what it is, whether your surname is Coward or not, made their seasonal debut at Chaddesley Corbett, just after Christmas, the Yorkshire season only lost two meetings, which was quite an achievement on organisers parts.  This meant that every weekend, Jacqueline had a superb chance of adding to her ever growing tally.

Taking an early lead in the title and never being headed, Jacqueline was continually asked if the national title was the aim.  Her answer, similar to a politicians, was always a question, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do it?”  her grin growing as she dreamed of the possibility, yet full of modesty, aware of all the factors that can influence the outcome of a title race and knowing that in this game you are only ever one ride away from an injury which would halt the dream…again.

104 rides produced 25 wins, giving a strike rate of 24% which is very impressive.  The majority of rides come from her mother’s stable, who Jacqueline rates as the “top trainer.”  They take a very natural approach to training, running the majority of horses together in fold yards.  They employ one girl, Karis, and others turn up when it suits them, who simply like riding out.  Horses are allocated, tack is dolled out and instructions given.  The lot gets together and heads for one of the many fields to canter up hill sides.  There are no surfaced gallops, just grass and mud, but everywhere you go there are tyres, logs and schooling fences to pop on route.

Each year, Cherry has a competition with brother David to see who can train the most winners.  Not surprisingly Cherry has come out on top of the sibling rivalry this year, however Jacqueline finds the conflict between being a trainer and a jockey as a hard thing to deal with.  “One part of me wants to ride them all every week, the trainer side of me knows this isn’t possible and that I need to be sensible but when the title looked a possibility, keeping the two separate is challenging!”

Trying to pick the most memorable win of the season is not easy for Jacqueline as each one has counted for so much.  Elusive Swallow, trained by Lucinda Atkinson, who provided Jacqueline with a win in the first race at Sheriff Hutton started this successful campaign.  Jacqueline has also been delighted with Leedfka’s wins at Heslaker, in the restricted final and the Intermediate at Bangor.  Another favourite is former Royal Ascot winner Pevensey.   He took a while to get going on the Pointing front, but Jacqueline was delighted with the ride she had given him at Chaddesly Corbett.  She remembered, “The fences there are so much bigger than Easingwold (where he won two weeks previously) and he is such a little horse and took a circuit to warm up to them.  I had walked the course with my cousin Becky and told her not to make ground up going up hill, but after a circuit we were so far behind bet he finally got going.  I didn’t try to make up ground on the hill but he just took me there and Becky gave me a little telling off as I cruised up her inside!”

The most controversial race Jacqueline won this year was at the final meeting of the Yorkshire season, where Jacqueline was riding Alfoisin.  She was riding a waiting race and sitting off the pace at the back of the six runner field.  From here, she could see four in front of her go the wrong side of the marker and therefore knew that she only had one to beat.  The crowd couldn’t quite understand the battle for fourth until Jacqueline announced as she came into the winners’ enclosure that she had gone the correct side of the marker and was therefore the winner.  A lengthy Stewards enquiry followed and the result was amended.

The biggest blow this season was Amicelli who fractured his pelvis, although pleased to report that he is recovering well and has even been ridden out.  His loss made Jacqueline’s championship title quest even harder as she was without an Open horse.  Admittedly by the end of the season some of her yard had progressed to this level but to lose such a good horse was a blow both numerically and mentally.  “I love riding Celli” enthused Jacqueline.  “He is such a legend of a horse but he is quite sharp!  However when you get on a horse as good as Amicelli he keeps your confidence rocketing sky high and confidence contributes to riding Maidens successfully.”

Jacqueline was part of the team that made up the British challenge against Ireland, where she rode in two Mares’ Maidens against a team of Irish girls.  Sadly she was unable to find a winner, but came fourth in the first race and sadly fell on her other ride which she felt would have been very close with a circuit to go.

As well as her mother the trainer, Jacqueline credits her sister Sam as the lynch pin of the operation.  “We couldn’t do it without Sam, she makes all the entries, tells me what weight I need to be, organises my colours, does the declarations and most importantly films all my races.”  Jacqueline feels that re-watching her races is the thing that helps her improve the most.  Sam is also a master of the Middleton hunt and Jacqueline credits hunting with helping her awareness.  “In a race there are rules to follow.  Out hunting there is etiquette but in both disciplines you need to be aware of what is happening around you, particularly going into a jump or through a narrow gate, as well as the ground you are crossing and this compliments race riding.”

Jacqueline is well known for her beaming smile and even the falls she has taken this season couldn’t wipe it from her face.  A title challenge without an Open horse seemed inconceivable, but without making an issue of it, trekking across the country to ride at meetings on Saturdays and Sundays , the early starts and hard work, Jacqueline has achieved something that no other Yorkshire woman before her has managed.


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