daniel tudhope is the embodiment of Jockey School, the acclaimed Channel Four fly-on-the-wall documentary which followed the progress of three young riders at the Northern Racing College on the eve of the Grand National.
He had not sat astride a horse – or shown any interest in racing – before he left his roots on Scotland’s Ayrshire coast as a 16-year-old to head to Doncaster on a journey into the unknown.
Now he is the most prolific Yorkshire-based jockey after riding a century of winners for the first time last year thanks to his burgeoning relationship with Nawton-based David O’Meara, the rising star of the training ranks.
Perhaps the biggest compliment that can be paid to the unassuming 28-year-old, The Yorkshire Post’s guest racing columnist this summer, is that he does not look out of place alongside the likes of Richard Hughes, Ryan Moore and William Buick, who all hail from great racing dynasties and were riding ponies before they could even walk.
It has not been easy – a broken collar bone denied Tudhope the chance of becoming champion apprentice in 2005 and he abandoned his 2010 campaign in August after notching just six winners.
Then there are the sacrifices. At 5ft 8ins, Tudhope’s day is dictated by the bathroom scales and how much weight he has to lose each morning, either by running or sweating in the sauna. His main meal of the day is invariably muesli at breakfast time.
Yet this is offset by the successes – like a first Group winner on Blue Bajan, the veteran horse given a new lease of life by O’Meara, and seven high-profile successes on York’s Knavesmire last year.
“I had a great year last summer,” said the 28-year-old, who lives at Thirsk. “If I can get anywhere near last year’s total of 135 winners, it will be great.
“I don’t really like setting targets but 100 winners in the Turf season, rather than the calendar year, would be another step forward and I’ve had a great start already with 20 winners.
“I love riding at York. It’s local, it’s a very fair track and there’s always a great atmosphere. There’s always a great buzz as you ride up the home straight, it is something else.”
Yet the odds of Tudhope even riding at York, never mind winning the major races, would have been of the magnitude of six figures when he was growing up in Irvine and wondering what the future might hold for him in an area that suffers from above-average levels of youth unemployment.
“I was 15, I didn’t know what to do, The schools careers adviser came up and mentioned this course at the Northern Racing College,” he explained.
“I wasn’t well-educated at school and I didn’t have many qualifications.
“There’s no history of racing or riding in my family.
“It got me away from home, more than anything, because there weren’t that many job opportunities in any line of work. I didn’t know what I would have done otherwise.
“I’d never sat on a horse until I went to Doncaster.”
Tudhope’s first winner did not come in this country.
It came courtesy of a success at Pisa, Italy, in October 2003 at a special meeting featuring Europe’s most promising young riders.
His successes slowly accumulated thanks to his association with Sledmere trainer Declan Carroll, who has been instrumental in the career of last year’s champion apprentice Jason Hart, another Scot making a name for himself in Yorkshire racing.
Yet, after the despair of 2010 when Tudhope became enveloped by despondency, salvation came in the form of a conversation with Brazilian rider Silvestre de Sousa, who is now one of Sheikh Mohammed’s retained riders.
“I didn’t have a job and he told me to ride out at David’s,” said Tudhope.
“I took him up and I’ve never looked back. I definitely got in at the right time – David was just looking to expand and the Godolphin job came up for Silvestre.
“David is a very good horseman who knows his horses well. He’s just got that knack of entering them in the right races, and getting them right on the day.
“Blue Bajan’s success in the Henry II Stakes at Sandown three years ago is still the race that stands out – it was the first Group winner for both of us.
“He was a great old horse and it was just a shame that he didn’t come to David’s sooner.”
In conversation, Tudhope makes the art of race riding sound so natural. If only that applied to his weight.
“My main meal of the day is breakfast, and that can just be porridge or muesli,” he explained.
“I usually wake up most mornings at about nine stone – the first thing I do is weigh myself. If I am under nine stone, I am happy.
“I’ll ride out, go home, have a hot bath or run, and then go to the races and, if I need to, sweat some pounds off in the sauna.
“That’s the hard bit, but it’s worth it if you have a winner or two.”
Especially at York.