RHYS Flint, the jockey synonymous with Wetherby hurdling hero Fair Along, is to make a Christmas comeback after taking up a milkshake-based diet to help keep his weight in check.
The Northern Racing College jockey, who was champion conditional in 2009-10, walked away from the sport in September after handing his licence to the racing authorities.
He admitted to being disillusioned with the lack of opportunities and constant dieting – he is 5ft 11ins tall and had been a very successful schoolboy rugby player in his native Wales before pursuing a career in racing.
Weather permitting, Flint’s first ride back will be at Ffos Las on Boxing Day on Stony Road who is owned by his mother Martine. She had said earlier this month that “all she wanted for Christmas” was for her youngest son “to ride her horse on Boxing Day”.
That dream moved a step nearer yesterday when the British Horseracing Authority renewed Flint’s licence. “She was always disappointed with my decision not to renew it,” the jockey told the Yorkshire Post. “It’s her horse and she wants to see me on him. My elder brother Thomas rode him last time, so no pressure!
“When you race, you starve yourself and then your weight goes back up two pounds after a small meal because your body is like a sponge. Since I’ve stopped riding, my weight is far more under control. I use Herbalife which is like a high-protein milkshake. I have one in the morning, one for dinner and one in the evening. When I was on the road before, it was so easy to just stop for a snack or a sandwich. Now I can take them in the car.”
Flint, who will continue to study for the qualifications that will enable him to become a fully-fledged trainer, is realistic about his comeback chances.
Though he still has the services of top agent Dave Roberts, he will not allow his weight to drop below 10st 12lb – and he knows that his training work, and commitments riding out, will help to pay the bills. “I don’t need to go racing to make a wage. If I do, it will be a bonus. But I have missed the adrenaline rush – I bought a dirt bike but it wasn’t the same,” he explained.
Two of Flint’s most memorable days in the saddle came when the ever-popular Fair Along won successive renewals of Wetherby’s John Smith’s Hurdle in 2009 and 2010.
The Philip Hobbs-trained veteran then rolled back the years to win at Newbury last month under Richard Johnson, and is on track for the Pertemps Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival next March.
It is too early to say whether Flint will be reunited with the horse that he grew up with on his family’s farm. “I love the horse so much that I was delighted when he won. People said ‘you could have been on him’ or ‘you should have been riding’. That hurt, but the weight has been a killer – and that you don’t realise how much you miss racing until you stop doing it.”