Journeyman Nathan Moscrop now at home as he enjoys careeer-best season

THERE are times when Nathan Moscrop has even surprised himself by winning races in a 15-year struggle to establish himself as a journeyman jump jockey.

Nathan Moscrop riding Sao to victory at Newbury.

Yet the biggest compliment to him is that no-one was shocked when he surged clear at Wetherby this week on Relkadam to deny, amongst others, champion jockey Brian Hughes.

Moscrop’s 16th success came in a career-best campaign, the numbers now speak for themselves. The Bedale rider’s previous best was eight in 2018-19 and Relkadam’s victory was his 62nd winner since his first success in 2008-09.

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While Relkadam is trained at Great Habton by Tim Easterby, one of many to recognise Moscrop’s new-found strength and confidence in the saddle, the jockey himself is quick to credit his main trainer, Rebecca Menzies.

Trainer Rebecca Menzies has been integral to the career of Nathan Moscrop.

Both spent their formative years at West Witton working for the late Ferdy Murphy, the multiple Cheltenham Festival-winning trainer, and learning from his lifetime of experience and stories.

Yet, when Murphy retired, Menzies began to establish herself as one of the North’s pre-eminent dual-purpose trainers, first at the Brandsby yard of former Gold Cup-winning trainer Peter Beaumont and now at Sedgefield, while the unassuming Moscrop came close to being lost to racing.

A spell with James Ewart did not lead to the anticipated opportunities before racing’s fickle fates intervened when Menzies needed a jockey in May, 2018 to ride Captain Mowbray at Hexham after regular rider Tony Kelly had suffered an ultimately carer-ending back injury.

Step forward Moscrop, who finished second on the horse and then won on him later in the same month at Cartmel. It was a turning point for a rider whose great uncle Doug was the respected racing correspondent of The Journal in Newcastle.

This was Nathan moscrop and Relkadam winning at Catterick earlier in the season. They followed up on that success at Wetherby this week.

This steady progression culminated with Menzies and Moscrop teaming up to win a fiercely competitive conditional riders’ handicap chase at Newbury last December with Sao who, on the back of that win, now holds a Cheltenham Festival entry in the Grand Annual Chase.

Just the prospect of riding at jump racing’s biggest meeting prompts Moscrop to shake his head in disbelief. “Things have been working out at Becky’s; I am riding a lot of them,” he tells The Yorkshire Post when asked about his recent run of success.

“We have a good working relationship, me and Becky. She trusts me and I like the way she trains horses. She puts her opinion forward, I put my opinion, and it’s been working.

“She has put a lot of faith in me and a lot of owners have kept supporting me. Hard work. Keep grafting. I ride out every day, seven days a week. I don’t take a day off in winter.”

That work ethic – and the unseen hours schooling horses – epitomises Moscrop’s mindset and is being rewarded on the track.

Inadvertently, he has been helped by Covid-19. At the start of the lockdown, he decided it was safer to move into the Menzies yard until restrictions were lifted.

Such sacrifice meant many weeks separated from his wife, and their two young daughters, but it also enabled Moscrop to maintain his fitness in the yard’s makeshift gym developed by the trainer’s partner, Phil Lawrenson.

The regular video updates sent by the Menzies team at their Howes Hill Farm Stables to their owners also paid off; recipients starting seeing Moscrop’s behind-the-scenes ‘graft’, a recurring word during conversations with both the trainer and jockey, and felt obliged to use him more frequently on race-days.

“The last few years, he’s been riding a better type of horse and has been gaining confidence from that,” explained Menzies. “He has excelled on them and that has helped his confidence.

“He has always worked hard on his fitness and, with a gym in the yard, he’s using it every day and has been doing boxing coaching. He continues to work on every aspect of his riding and fitness. He grafts.

“A lot of owners can see him riding their horses on the gallops and they can see the improvement. After lockdown, he stayed at the stables so we could keep the horses ticking over. Anything he lacks in ability, he makes up in terms of his fitness and determination to be the best he can.”

Moscrop concurs. “For my height, I am quite light and you need to be strong to compete against the top jockeys,” he observes.

“That has been a difference. So, too, having confidence and being part of a team. I rode her 100th National Hunt winner (Travel Lightly at Newcastle) and she said all over social media that I’m the stable jockey. That meant something, reading that. In the next year or two, she will be one of the North’s biggest dual-purpose trainers.

“Give her a five-furlong horse or three-mile steeplechaser and, believe me, she can train them and she’s ready to go to the next level.”

Menzies, in turn, is quick to credit Moscrop for his work on Stormy Girl, who provided her with a hard-earned first Listed success when triumphing at Pontefract last summer under Cam Hardie.

Equally, Moscrop derives as much pleasure from this victory, and what he describes as “his small part”, than the win at Newbury aboard Sao.

But there is palpable pride when he recalls Sao’s success – and what it has done for his career.

“Newbury. Even midweek with no crowds due to lockdown, it’s still a big day,” said Moscrop whose mother was a show-jumper while his father rode in point-to-point races.

“I think some of the big southern stables wondered what we were doing down there but we knew what we were doing and it worked out. I got such a kick out of it and it was great that the horse won again at Wetherby in January and no fluke.

“After Newbury, I said to Becky that it was my eighth win of the year and that I’d be happy with 10. She said ‘I will get you to 20’.

“I do work hard, and I’ve never been afraid of graft, but she’s supported me.

“I can be hard on myself if things don’t go quite right, but Becky and her boyfriend Phil always point me in the right direction and I owe that to both of them. They know how to keep my head level.

“She’s helped me and I’m helping her. She trusts my judgement and I trust her judgement. Whatever we’re doing, it’s working.”

Long may this last.