In his report below, Gus Levinson, E Social, 6.2, comments on his success riding Premiere Portrait and most recently at the Cheltenham Festival on March 17th.
My father started me off riding when I was four but I always found little interest in eventing. So when one of my best friends at the time, whose father was a national hunt trainer, got into racing ponies I wanted to do the same. This varied from riding on the flat in local point to points to, as I became more experienced, riding at Aintree, Cheltenham and coming 2nd in a photo finish at Ascot. However once you turn the age of 16 you can ride in jump races, so I had my first ride in a point-to-point over fences six days after my 16th birthday. Since then I have had 34 rides and 13 winners, winning two of the three national point-to-point titles for young jockeys last season.
One of the horses that gave me the majority of these winners was Premier Portrait who ran at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday. The qualification for the race was very tough; Premier Portrait needed to win two open point-to-points or come 1st or 2nd in two big amateur races under rules, or a combination of the both. In the end it required a trip up to Kelso in Scotland where Premier Portrait won by a nose at 20/1 to lodge his qualification claim, beating Black Thunder who ran in last year’s Grand National. I say ‘claim’ because though you may qualify, it is down to the National Handicapper who runs in the race (as he wants the most high profile horses to be running as possible) and fortunately we made it.
The experience at the Cheltenham Festival on March 17th was very surreal. Sitting ten metres away from Ruby Walsh, the most successful jockey at the Cheltenham Festival of all time, to bumping into AP McCoy, both of whom were very friendly, to looking up at the 80,000 people in the crowd as we went past the stands. It was a great experience, and hopefully I can ride there again soon.