IF the supposedly tired-out England and Liverpool footballer Raheem Sterling wants a better understanding of the meaning of hard work in professional sport, he should perhaps follow the exploits of Andrew Mullen, North Yorkshire’s trans-Atlantic jockey.
The 30-year-old from Bedale recorded the biggest win of his burgeoning career when partnering Caspar Netscher, the 2011 Gimcrack winner, to first prize of £100,000 in the prestigious Group Two Nearctic Stakes at the Toronto track of Woodbine late on Sunday night.
He then flew back to Heathrow Airport by mid-morning yesterday before making a frantic dash around the M25, and up the M1, to Pontefract in time to win the 2.40pm maiden auction – a race for the most moderate of racehorses – on Ocean Sheridan.
The success left Mullen on the 54-winner mark for the campaign, one short of last year’s career best, but he will not be adding to the tally as he is due to undergo surgery in Cambridge today on his left hip.
He will then complete his rehabilitation and be fully fit in time for the 2015 Flat season.
In many respects, this has been the breakthrough year for Mullen, who left school at 16 to work for Tim Easterby as a stable lad before joining Kevin Ryan’s Hambleton yard and then teaming up, more recently, with the ambitious Newark trainer Michael Appleby, Thirsk’s David Barron and Ocean Sheridan’s Darlington-based handler Michael Dods.
It was through Appleby that Mullen started riding for the owner Charles Wentworth which, in turn, led to an unforgettable win on Caspar Netscher – in the jockey’s first ride in North America.
Mullen says the key was not pressing the panic button when his rivals set a searching early pace and then picking them off.
“It was brilliant, unbelievable,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I’ve been watching the horse since he was two, and then to win a Group Two, I’m buzzing.”
The jockey has been riding with an injured hip for several months and has been in pain since hitting the frame of the starting stall. Today’s surgery will see fragments of bone cut out and surgery performed to strengthen his cartilage, the victim of wear and tear.
“I’ve had a great year, but it is all about next year and getting fit. If you had told me two years ago that this is where I would be, I would have laughed,” he added.
“The key is riding better horses. You can’t win on bad horses. I’ve not changed who I am or how I ride.”
Mullen regularly rides out with Dale Gibson, the Professional Jockeys’ Association’s liaison officer, who said: “It just shows you the roller-coaster ride that Flat jockeys can have. It makes you realise how hard they work.”
Next year will not be any easier for Yorkshire-based riders on the Flat after the BHA allocated 57 fixtures next year to the all-weather track reopening at Chelmsford City.