OAKLEY BROWN is in his element. It is 5.45am and he has just cycled into the Malton stables of top trainer Richard Fahey.
It’s pouring with rain – and he’s had no more than a cup of coffee for breakfast – but his boyish enthusiasm is still infectious. And with good reason.
For, the first horse he rides on the Musley Bank gallops is George Bowen, the teenage rider’s mount in today’s valuable Coral Sprint Trophy at York.
He’s happy. He reports the six-year-old sprinter to be in very good order for the season-ending race on the Knavesmire before riding out eight more lots.
And victory would be particularly special for Brown who only turned 17 at the start of the month and is still waiting for his first driving lesson.
Born in York, his very first winner came at his home track when Third Time Lucky prevailed at the rain-hit fixture in late July when the Sir Tom Jones post-race concert had to be called off.
York is special. I watched Frankel win the Juddmonte International there in 2012 – and I’ve been back every year since. To actually win there, it’s hard to explain. It’s what I always wanted to do.Oakley Brown
Not that this perturbed Brown who was simply anxious that a friend could beat the traffic on the drive from Thirsk, where he had ridden earlier in the day, to York in time for him to weigh out.
“I knew the more rain the better,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I was probably the only person who didn’t want it to stop.
“York is special. I watched Frankel win the Juddmonte International there in 2012 – and I’ve been back every year since. To actually win there, it’s hard to explain. It’s what I always wanted to do. Brilliant.”
Twenty four hours later, Brown was in dreamland when Lucky Lucky Man prevailed on the all-weather at Newcastle. Yet, while August was a fallow month, this is the horse that took his career to new heights when winning the William Hill Bronze Cup at Ayr.
One of the biggest – and most competitive – sprints of the year, the fresh-faced teenager looked an old hand as his mount cruised through the race before surging clear to record the biggest win of his burgeoning career.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling when you’re in the starting stalls, ready to go,” he said. “I used to get really nervous. I still get nervous before every race, but now it’s more that I can’t wait for it to start. It’s good nerves. All I want to do is get on the track and do it.”
Brought up in Malton, Brown grew up with horses and his family’s friends include National Hunt jockey Mark Dwyer who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1985 on Forgive N Forget before winning the blue riband eight years later on the great Jodami – the last Yorkshire-trained horse to win steeplechasing’s celebrated prize.
His parents Julia and Richard have been longstanding friends of the aforementioned Fahey, now one of the top trainers in the country, and he encouraged Brown to take up pony riding.
This gave Brown a chance to compete against riders like James Bowen, now an established jump jockey, and Connor Murtagh, who is on the rider’s roster at the Fahey stable.
From then on, Brown would ride out at the stables at the weekend while completing his schooling. After undertaking his apprentice rider’s course at Doncaster’s Northern Racing College this summer, he turned professional and started riding for a living – his dream.
Even after riding nine lots yesterday, and being soaked to the skin, Brown is animated as he cycles home at 12.30pm before returning to work for evening stables. The regret is that his career on the Flat will be relatively short. He’s already 8st 13lb and going to extreme lengths to make the weight. A career as a jump jockey beckons.
“I have to watch it. I always do a lot of running and am having to sweat. Hot baths, saunas, going to the gym, running with loads of gear on. Up to three hours if necessary. That’s how much it means,” he says.
“All the Fahey jockeys have been very supportive. But I’d like to win today most of all for Richard Fahey, Michael Scaife who owns George Bowen and all the owners. They have all been so good to me. Richard is the best boss around. He’s easy to ride for. He gives you riding instructions but puts you under no pressure.
“George Bowen has a very good chance. Last time he won at York (in May), he won by six lengths. He’s gone up in the weights, but he felt good on the gallops and did a nice bit of work – I didn’t want him doing too much. Riding in a big race like this is unreal, but it is 10 times better that it is at York.”
And better still if Oakley Brown is first past the post.