THERE is no greater motivation for an injured jump jockey than the prospect of being reunited with a Grand National horse and Sam Coltherd is no exception.
A week ago he could barely stand up in his riding irons days after aggravating an old ankle injury in a heavy fall at Ayr. Now he feels like he can walk on water.
It is, he says, down to the state-of-the-art hydro pool at Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehabilitation centre in Malton, where he has been treated.
And he has been passed fit to ride his father Stuart’s horse Captain Redbeard in the feature Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock provided the track passes a 7.30am inspection.
Captain Redbeard, a seventh-fence casualty in the 2018 National, has been placed in all six starts at Haydock and a solid performance today will confirm his place in this April’s Aintree spectacular.
I thought I was quite strong, but I did a wee fitness test and there’s a lot of further improvement to be had. Unless you’re riding regularly, and having to shove the bad horses for three miles, you’re not going to get the results unless you work on your fitness too.Sam Coltherd
But Coltherd, 20, is simply relieved to be able to ride Captain Redbeard, his own standard-bearer, in a Haydock race that also features 2017 National hero One For Arthur, whose own jockey Derek Fox will always be eternally grateful for Jack Berry House’s expertise before his own career-defining win.
“If it wasn’t for the team at Jack Berry House, I wouldn’t be riding this weekend. They are a great team and I can’t thank them enough,” Coltherd told The Yorkshire Post.
“I got there on Monday morning. I got a bit of physio. I have been in the gym and I’ve been in the hydro-pool, which has been just brilliant. It’s weird. It just takes your pressure and weight off your whole body.
“You feel like a different person as you walk through the water as they build up the power of the jets. You can do everything a lot easier while building up your muscles and ligaments.”
Coltherd – and the aforementioned Fox – are not alone in benefiting from this cutting-edge facility. North Yorkshire jockey Henry Brooke used it to get fit after a life-threatening fall in October 2016.
Champion apprentice Jason Watson is using a similar pool at Oaksey House, the IJF facility in Lambourn, as he recovers from neck injuries as it means he can exercise while in his brace.
“If I had to stay on my arse at home all week, I wouldn’t be fit,” conceded Coltherd. “I thought I was quite strong, but I did a wee fitness test and there’s a lot of further improvement to be had.
“Unless you’re riding regularly, and having to shove the bad horses for three miles, you’re not going to get the results unless you work on your fitness too. It’s up to us, as jockeys, to take more responsibility, and unless you put in the effort away from the track as well you won’t get the results you want.”
The likeable Coltherd hails from the Scottish Borders where his father is a sheep farmer when not training racehorses such as Captain Redbeard, who won the 2017 Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock before finishing runner-up to The Dutchman in last year’s Peter Marsh Chase.
He divides his time between Scotland and West Yorkshire where he is a conditional rider at the High Eldwick stables of Sue and Harvey Smith, who saddle their yard’s faithful old servant Wakanda in today’s test.
Coltherd praises the influence of the trainers, stable jockey Danny Cook, agent Bruce Jeffrey and sponsor Harbro for helping his career so he can ride horses as good as Captain Redbeard in major races.
He attributes the horse’s disappointing run in last December’s Grand Sefton Chase over the National fences to a hard race a fortnight earlier when Captain Redbeard was third to the Smith-trained Vintage Clouds.
Coltherd is also motivated by the crushing disappointment of being unseated from Captain Redbeard in last year’s National.
“Devastated, absolutely devastated,” he said. “I just wanted the race to stop and press rewind for 20 seconds and do it all again. From such a high just being there to such a low – all within a second. Fingers crossed we can get back there. As long as we put in a good performance on Saturday, and if he (Captain Redbeard) reproduces his Haydock form we should be there or thereabouts.”