In life you need to keep motivating and challenging yourself. Throughout my career, no one challenged me more than Richard Johnson did on a daily basis. It’s for that reason that I really hope that Richard becomes champion jockey this season.
Richard brought out the best in me and I probably wouldn’t have achieved as much as I did if it wasn’t for him pushing me. He’s really taken this year’s championship by the scruff of the neck, establishing a lead of nearly 50 wins. If the others want to beat him, they are going to have to work as hard as he is.
It is nice to be back at Cheltenham for the Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase today. It’s a strange feeling being here and not riding. In some ways I am just another punter, just another racegoer now.
I’m not going to have any ups and downs any more. I’m not going to have that excitement in my life any more, I’m not going to have that unpredictability. I’m not ever going to get to walk into the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham again, which is a sad way of looking at it.
This is also my start as part of the racing team on Channel 4 and it’s not something I feel overly comfortable with. When I was riding, I was already confident in what I was doing.
Hopefully the more I do it, the more confident I will get and the better I will get. You have to be honest. Someone told me once that you can’t go far wrong telling the truth, so that’s what I plan on doing. At least when I go to Cheltenham from now on there’s a lot less chance of me ending up in an ambulance.
I’m still doing some work with Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus on a consultancy basis. Riding out keeps me fit and it keeps me sane. It’s very difficult to do something for so many years and just stop.
I’ve been riding More Of That in his work for the past six weeks and he won very well yesterday. I’m pleased but, in some ways, I miss riding horses like that.
There are probably only three handicaps in the year that really fire the imagination, the Grand National, the Hennessy and the Paddy Power. I won the Paddy Power four times in total. I was very lucky that I was riding for Martin Pipe when he was as dominant as anyone has been in racing.
It can be a springboard to big races. Imperial Commander went on to win a Gold Cup, Exotic Dancer, who I won on, was placed in a Gold Cup and King George. The Pipes won with Celestial Gold who went on to win the Hennessy. It can be a stepping stone.
The likes of Cyfor Malta, who I won on in 1998, was a special talent who had won at the Cheltenham Festival the year before. And he showed how good he was by winning it again after a long lay-off.
Art Mauresque, from the Paul Nicholls yard, looks the one to beat today. Irish Cavalier beat him at Newton Abbot, but he has won at Cheltenham since and has a good young jockey in Sean Bowen.
I did get on a horse at Cheltenham yesterday, as part of a dressage demonstration with Charlotte Dujardin, the Olympic champion.
The only way I could describe it was near embarrassment. It felt very odd, very different, because it is a totally different sport. Charlotte was a very good teacher and very helpful. But she didn’t have a great pupil to work with. I think there are probably some punters who hoped they would never have to see me on a horse in the parade ring at Cheltenham again.