JAMES Reveley’s Christmas wish is a simple one – to be fit to ride on Boxing Day.
He is not alone; his weighing room colleagues – some of British sport’s toughest competitors – will all say the same. Their trade is one of the most unpredictable.
For, while today is likely to be an endurance test of a different kind for last-minute Christmas shoppers, this likeable North Yorkshire rider will only contemplate the festive period after the last of six rides at Sedgefield today.
“You never like to look too far ahead,” said Reveley, whose 36 victories this season have seen him confirm his status as one of the country’s most proficient National Hunt riders.
This Christmas could be even more special if he opts to ride Diamond Harry, the 2010 Hennessy hero, against the likes of Kauto Star, Long Run and Master Minded in Boxing Day’s King George Chase at Kempton.
Riding plans are still fluid – Diamond Harry’s trainer Nick Williams may opt to send the in-form 21-year-old to a lesser meeting if there is a greater chance of yielding more winners.
Either way, Reveley’s Christmas begins tomorrow when he studies the final declarations that will confirm his own riding plans.
Help will be close at hand as he studies the form book – his grandmother Mary was a successful trainer while Reveley still lives at the family’s stables near Saltburn where his father, the quietly-spoken Keith, oversees 30 horses at this yard that looks out over the North Sea.
It also means there is no chance of a lie-in on Christmas Day itself. “We only have about half the staff in,” explains the jockey.
“That means a bit more work for Dad, my mum Fiona and myself. I don’t mind. Up in the yard about 8ish, all the horses will have to be fed and mucked out. It’s part of the job, what I’m used to. At least there’s no snow this year – or I hope not. We may gallop a horse if they’re running on Boxing Day; I leave that to Dad.
“Usually we all end up at my grandmother’s for Christmas dinner and then the horses have to be fed and mucked out again. Arduous? You just get on with it. It’s what I’ve been brought up with, I don’t know any different.”
Reveley does concede that he will have a glass of Champagne in the evening, a fine taste that he’s acquired during his well-documented summer stints in France where his horsemanship has matured considerably under the tutelage of Guillaume Macaire.
It will not be a late night, especially if Reveley is driving 270 miles to Kempton on Boxing Day morning to take on three of steeplechasing’s all-time greats.
He has already ridden against Long Run at Kempton – albeit in the 2009 Feltham Novices Chase on his father’s Tazbar who has been sidelined with injury for 18 months and may not race again.
Even more exhilarating was last month’s Betfair Chase at Haydock where Reveley and Diamond Harry contested the lead with Kauto Star before the great champion, seeking an unprecedented fifth King George triumph on Monday, pulled clear.
“It was brilliant, great to be part of a race like that,” said the jockey whose Christmases in his teenage years were spent thrilling the crowds at showjumping’s Horse of the year Show at Olympia, London.
“They went a real good gallop. When you’re on a class horse, you don’t feel like you’re travelling. But when I watched the replay, we were going some.
“It will be tough to be in the first three – but the chance to ride in a race like the King George, you don’t mind having a quiet Christmas.”
As he juggles the demands of his various trainers – Reveley has also enjoyed success for Martin Todhunter and John Wade as well as his father and Williams – he can look to the future with optimism.
He won an eyecatching novice chase at Ascot last week on Zaynar, a former Champion Hurdle third now bound for the Cheltenham Festival after an electrifying round of jumping.
“I thought he’d win a little one to gain his confidence, but he goes and wins a big one,” he said.
He is similarly effusive about Wade’s Borders National winner Always Right, a possible Rowland Meyrick contender at Wetherby on Boxing Day, and Benny Be Good, trained by his father and second at Doncaster earlier this month.
Both, says Reveley, are National contenders – with the likelihood that one horse goes to Aintree and the other to Ayr for the Scottish National as they are both owned by Wade. “They are really nice staying chasers and I’m hoping the good run of recent weeks continues in 2012.”