Promising Morshead continues in family tradition

Bandon Roc ridden by Henry Morshead on their way to victory in the Towcester Handicap Hurdle. Picture: David Davies/PA.
Bandon Roc ridden by Henry Morshead on their way to victory in the Towcester Handicap Hurdle. Picture: David Davies/PA.
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HENRY MORSHEAD was born to be a jump jockey.

His grandfather Peter Beaumont, one of the great gentlemen of the turf, saddled the 1993 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Jodami from his Brandsby stables in Ryedale while his parents, Sam and Anthea, were both National Hunt riders.

But the teenager is adamant – good horses make good jockeys.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are, you have to have good horses,” the 19-year-old told The Yorkshire Post.

These are exciting times for Morshead who is coming to the end of his first season as an amateur rider attached to the Cotswolds yard of Grand National, Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle-winning trainer Kim Bailey.

His first winner under National Hunt rules came when Blazon won a Bumper at Lingfield in December on just the jockey’s third ride for his guv’nor – this highly-regarded horse is one to follow.

His first winners over obstacles came this month when he partnered Bailey’s prolific Bandon Roc to quickfire successes at both Huntingdon and Towcester.

His first ride for leading owners Paul and Clare Rooney came at Exeter yesterday when he partnered Sainte Ladylime, though the race did not go to plan when the horse stumbled at the second last and unseated his young pilot who will only learn from the unfortunate experience.

And he rides the veteran Silver Roque in a point-to-point race tomorrow for racing aristocrat Lord Vestey, the dream is to quality for the Foxhunters Chase over Aintree’s Grand National fences and emulate his mother who won the Topham Chase 25 years ago in a famous family win for the Beaumonts.

Yet, while the jockey’s father served his apprenticeship with Bailey at the yard of the legendary trainer Fred Rimell where a hell-raising life was lived to the full on and off the racecourse, Morshead is determined to make his own way in the racing world.

A graduate of British Pony Racing, he went to school at Cheltenham College where he combined his A-level studies in Geography, PE and Politics – he accrued two As and a B – with riding out for his future boss before lessons.

“I used to drive over to Kim’s, ride out first lot and go back to school,” said Morshead. “I just got in when I could.

“He’s good to ride for and Mat Nichols, his assistant, is a top man.

“We have a great team and we have a lot of very nice young horses for the future.

“We’ve got planning permission for a new gallop to be put in over the summer. It’s going well.”

Morshead is grateful for the encouragement and support from the stable’s main rider David Bass who was second in last year’s National on the gallant The Last Samuri. “Bassy will always give you little bits of advice,” he said.

Yet, while the chance to school horses like top novice chaser Charbel and the highly-regarded Blazon are all part of his racing education as he is afforded more opportunities, he’s an astute student of the sport.

As well as seeking the counsel of his parents, and grandfather, after each ride – they’re avid TV viewers – he spent six weeks last summer at the Maryland stables of Michael Dickinson, the Yorkshireman still acclaimed for training the first five horses home in the 1983 Gold Cup.

Slightly daunted by his first trip to the USA, he is eternally grateful for the opportunity. “My Mum did it at the same age,” said the apprentice.

“It was a completely different way of life. The way they train them, the way horses are run, the climate. It was brilliant.

“I rode work and helped out where I could. The attention to detail, it was incredible. My abiding lesson is that you can’t train winners without nice horses and everything matters. Michael was very good to me.”

Morshead’s return from the USA also required a significant change at lifestyle. At Cheltenham College, he played scrum-half for the school’s rugby union first XV which required him to bulk up in order to hold his own against the physical powerhouses that he opposed.

“When I was in school, I was probably 11st and happy with my pointing,” he said.

“Over the summer, and over the last few months, I’m back down to 10st and managing the weight. Racing’s gain is not rugby’s loss – I’m not sure how much more I had to give. Dad probably didn’t struggle with his weight as much as I do.

“I don’t really drink and I eat reasonably healthily. Dad rings me up before and after each ride. I speak to Grandpa quite a lot and go and see him whenever I’m back home. He likes watching the television.

“There’s a lot to learn from my family – I’m very lucky in that way. Being around Kim’s also helps a lot.”

Moving forward, Morshead hopes to turn conditional next season – it means he will no longer be able to ride in point-to-point races or contests restricted to amateur riders.

And while he had to bide his time at the Bailey yard when the stable endured a sluggish spell in mid-winter, he’s relishing the chance to start proving himself in National Hunt racing as Henry Morshead.