Stan Sheppard - student of the Ditcheat Jockey Academy
Making the step up to becoming a conditional can be a challenging time for a young jockey looking make it in the fiercely competitive world of racing but there can be few better places to make your mark than with Paul Nicholls.
This summer has since the launch of the Ditcheat Jockey Academy which was set up by Paul Nicholl's assistant trainer Harry Derham and Aodhagan Conlon. We caught up with 20-year-old conditional Stan Sheppard to see how the programme is helping him progress.
What are the main benefits of the programme?
SS: “It is more individual and specific to certain scenarios. We get plenty of practise at all of the different aspects of being a jockey, from talking to owners to knowing how to eat healthily.”
What education sessions are you most forward to?
SS: “I am mostly looking forward spending two hours with A.P McCoy in a few weeks. Being able to pick the brains of the greatest jockey of all time, isn't a chance to be sniffed at. Many people would do a lot to get that chance. To be honest we've been kept slightly in the dark about what all the sessions involve exactly. All we know is that we will have some great chances to learn from some inspirational people. If we approach each session in the right mind set they can only improve us.”
Who needs the cooking class most desperately?
“Sean Bowen. He can just about cook chicken nuggets and chips and that is if he can't be bothered to drive to the chip shop to get them.”
Should the industry be encouraged to increase the support network for conditional/apprentice jockeys over and above that already provided?
“I feel that the industry does a lot, but with all things in life there is always room for improvement no matter how good things seem. There is already a lot of help out there for young jockeys, such as jockey coaches and plenty of time spent at the British Racing School. As Harry told me when I joined Paul’s, you get out what you put in so it's up to the young jockeys to try harder than the person next to them.”
How has pony racing made it easier to develop as a jockey?
“Pony racing is a great introduction to the sport, especially in the later years when it becomes more competitive. It is less about going flat out from A to B and more about riding a race and everyone is a lot more switched on. The best thing about pony racing is how it prepares you for other races in the future, from getting a good start to weighing in and the different situations that arise, not just in the race but around the build up to it as well.”