Wetherby winner Flint trades riding for a trainer’s hat

RHYS Flint, an immensely talented young jockey who will always be associated with Fair Along’s dual Grade Two triumphs in the John Smith’s Hurdle at Wetherby, has given up an unequal struggle with his weight and is to hang up his riding boots.

The 21-year-old Northern Racing College graduate is already training six horses at his father John’s yard in his native Wales and Flint, the champion conditional of 2009-10, hopes to acquire a full licence later this year.

Flint hails the diminutive Fair Along’s second win at Wetherby in 2010 as a career highlight, equal to his novice hurdle win on the future Arkle Chase hero Captain Chris.

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“Fair Along because I grew up with him, rode him at home and he was foot perfect that day; Captain Chris because I was bricking myself. I’ve never been that fast over hurdles,” he told the Yorkshire Post.

Both horses continue to be trained by Philip Hobbs but Flint was always going to struggle for sufficient rides to justify a life of saunas and starvation to make the weight – he remained behind the ageless Richard Johnson and dogged Tom O’Brien in the stable’s pecking order.

Flint has been supported throughout his career by his parents Martine and John, a former British Steel employee now enjoying an eyecatching second career as a trainer. His older brother Tom is now enjoying considerable success in the saddle.

Yet, while many tipped Flint to be a potential champion, and he certainly had the natural riding ability to reach the top, he always knew that his weight would be an issue – he is nearly six feet tall and played junior rugby to a very proficient standard in Wales.

The tipping point came when he received a letter asking for £16 to renew his riding licence. “The last year was just depressing. The weight, not getting rides, going weeks without a winner. It costs you money to go racing because the prize money is so poor,” he added.

“I’m very pleased and grateful for the rides I’ve had, and very happy for the career I’ve had, but I was getting too heavy. It’s been on my mind probably the last two years after my conditional title.

“As I’ve got older every year has got harder and I don’t think I’d be able to do another year. I’m 12 stone now and the thought of two or three days not eating... I can’t do it. You then spend half of your life in traffic jams or travelling alone because you have the odd ride here or there or need to spend hours in the sauna. It’s not the glamorous life that people imagine.”

While continuing with his fledgling training career that has already yielded several winners, albeit in his father’s name, Flint will also ride out point-to-pointers at the David Brace-run Dunraven Stud. “Dad’s willing to give me a few boxes at the bottom and I’ll probably start training from the same yard in my name,” added the now former jockey.

Tominator is set to make a swift reappearance at Doncaster on Friday week after the former Northumberland Plate winner won at Chester on Saturday. The Ladbrokes Mallard Stakes, a race in which he finished fourth last year, is the target for the Reg Hollinshead-trained stayer.