Wayne Hutchinson rode as a Jump jockey for 23 years and enjoyed 806 winners with 3 Grade 1 winners as well as his most memorable victory aboard Smad Place in Hennessy Gold Cup. He ended his riding career in 2019 aged 38 and has subsequently retrained as a starter for the BHA where he joined in February 2021.
Why did you decide to stop riding and how did you decide what to do next?
I’d actually had my best ever season numerically with 89 winners but I then got injured over the summer and when I came back for the new season, I had six rides and just decided it wasn’t for me anymore. I’d achieved what I wanted and felt it was time for a change and to do something different.
Working as a starter was something I had earmarked towards the end of my career. I really wanted to stay in the racing industry and I thought the role would suit me well.
How did the you work towards your second career as a starter?
After I stopped riding, I had been doing some corporate work at Newbury and introduced myself to Brant Dushea and Nick Rust at the BHA, letting them know my situation and my interest in working in the starting team. Unfortunately the pandemic struck and it wasn’t until December 2020 that an opportunity came up and I applied for the role.
How did you find the application process?
It was obviously relatively new to me. I had already sat down with Lisa when I finished my riding to pull together my CV and I made sure the BHA had it on their files. When I was put forward to interview for the role, Lisa put me in touch with someone who helps prepare candidates for interviews so I had a couple of sessions with him. It was really useful and I did a couple of mock interviews which put me in good stead for the interview. In the end, I had to do it over Zoom which probably suited me better as I was at home and I already knew a couple of people on the interview panel which helped. When I got the job, I then did a three month training process before starting as an Assistant Starter in May.
What have you most enjoyed in the new role?
I’ve really enjoyed being back on the racecourse and being involved again in the sport in a different capacity. Although being a jockey can be seen as a solitary sport, I really felt part of the team at Alan King’s so it’s great to be back in another team unit again. You’re forever learning in the job and there’s been a lot to take on board especially with all the admin on the Flat with the load orders and records of horse behaviour in the stalls, it’s quite involved.
What skills have you brought with you as a jockey that have helped you in the role?
Obviously I have lots of experience as a jockey and horsemanship is a key factor in the role, being able to assess situations, how horses are reacting, making quick decisions and remaining calm.
What are the most challenging aspects of the role?
It’s probably the fact that you have to work in such a short time frame window. You don’t get a second chance so you have to be confident in your decisions. You can’t tippex out and correct a mistake!
What are your ambitions for the future?
For the timebeing, my main goal is to be as competent as I can, I’m still learning as I’m only six months into the role but I’m aiming to be as confident and assured as I possibly can and work to the best of my ability. That’s what I want in the role, for the horses to be safe and the riders to have full faith in me as a starter.
How have you found the transition from being a jockey to working in a second career?
Mentally, it was very tough last year, finishing riding was what I wanted but I couldn’t have foreseen the circumstances with lockdown. It was very challenging when I wasn’t working towards anything but once I had a purpose again and I had light at end of tunnel, it has been an easy transition for me and the role really suits me and my lifestyle.
What advice would you have for other jockeys thinking towards their future?
Absolutely take advantage of JETS, I was fully aware of the support available to me and they were a massive help. I came out of school with no qualifications so I really needed JETS to lean on and provide the support I needed.
Your career as a jockey passes by so quickly so I do stress that jockeys should always have something in the back of your mind about where you want to do if it doesn’t work out or when the time comes to call it a day. If you don’t, then the reality is when you actually stop that your purpose and goals you’re striving towards are no longer there and to suddenly be sat there twiddling your thumbs can be a lonely place to be.