The Ditcheat Jockey Academy - Harry Derham tells all
The Ditcheat Jockey Academy was founded this summer by Harry Derham and Aodhagan Conlon. Harry is now embarking on his second season as assistant trainer for Paul Nicholls having formally been a conditional jockey for the yard where he rode 50 winners.
He decided a role in the yard would be more to his liking though and has not looked back since. Although not riding competitively Harry still loves riding out and being involved with the horses from day to day. He is often trying to find ways to engage the work force, helping organise schemes like employee of the month, and so the Ditcheat Jockey Academy was born.
We caught up with Harry recently to get some insight into the academy.
How long has the academy been running and how many jockeys are on the programme?
HD: "It was established in late August this year and the idea started with me and Aodhagan Conlon. We had both been pro jockeys at the same time and had the same length of career. He now does a psychology degree at the University of the West of England (UWE) and rides out when he can whereas I have taken up a role as Paul’s Assistant.
"There are 11 jockeys on the programme that are all attached to Paul’s yard and we are trying to teach them the life of a jockey but more importantly about life in general outside of the saddle."
What were your motivations for setting up the academy?
HD: "I read Sir Alex Ferguson’s book over the summer and the main thing emphasised was always investing in the future. There is a lot of young talent in the yard who are worth investing in."
How long does it take to complete the programme?
HD: "The programme will run until April with 20 sessions of education.”
What areas are covered in the training programme?
HD: “There are a varied amount of sessions ranging from psychology, cooking, fitness, yoga, all the way to owner relationships. We are getting various outside speakers including the Director of Sport at UWE. They are clearly all talented riders but we want to create well rounded individuals that will succeed in any aspect of life – not just racing.
"Every other sport has a great support structure for young people, whether it be football, rugby or cricket. These people leave school early for the love of riding a horse and we need to help them to get into the mindset of a professional athlete.”
What is the recruitment process for the academy?
HD: “There isn’t a specific process, anyone can join that works at Paul’s yard. I always say the same thing to any young rider, anyone can ride but it takes much more than that to be a professional jockey. If you work hard, be smart, punctual and loyal, you will get the rewards at Paul’s.”
What role does pony racing play in the selection and training process?
HD: “Only a very small part – obviously pony racing is a great start and they have a bigger advantage because of the experience but we give all riders an equal chance.”
Anything else you would like to say about the academy?
HD: “I want to emphasise that this is not being done for personal gain, we were both jockeys for a short-time and it’s a tough career. I truly believe these people are worth investing in and hopefully we don’t just make them better jockeys but better humans in the process.”
Look out for part two of our special feature on the Ditcheat Jockey Academy where conditional jockey Stan Sheppard tells us what it's been like to take part in the programme so far.