Harding embraces new life off track
After a long career, Cork’s Brian Harding is passing on his knowledge to a new generation of jockeys, as Jordan McCarthy reports
CORK’S Brian Harding retired a year and a half ago and nowadays he is passing on his knowledge to the younger generation of riders in his role as a jockeys’ coach.
Working for the British Horseracing Authority, the Castletownroche native is currently helping 13 different riders to fulfil their potential.
One of those makes their living on the Flat, the other 12 ply their trade, as Harding did for 25 years, over jumps.
The 46 year old is working with the jockeys on every aspect of their racing careers, from honing their skills as horsemen, to managing their finances, and improving their use of the whip, to achieving peak fitness.
Three mechanical horses at Harding’s base, situated at Cumbria in the north of England, are among the resources at his clients’ disposal.
‘‘The boys will come here, we’ll work away on the mechanical horse, and we’ll video it and look back on it.
“We’ll sort of work on everything that needs working on.
“We’ll get them to practice using the stick in their left and right hands, their technique, their fitness – all that sort of stuff,’’ Harding said.
‘‘(In relation to) all the work we do, we have an iPad and we have to log everything in.
“If a lad gets suspended for (overuse of) the whip today, they (the BHA) can look at that on the iPad and ask ‘right, has his coach been working with him?’
“It’s a good system and you have to follow everything up.
‘‘For the jump racing lads, we’ll watch them schooling as well.
“I’ll go to the yard, we have a horse here and we’ll do a bit of schooling on him.
“We’ll video it and look back at it and go through all that.
“We look at their races and go over that with them and think ‘right, could we have done this?’
“I might go racing the odd day and walk the track with some of the younger lads.
“We’ll try and help them out when they get hurt as well, and point them in the right direction as regards recuperation and put them in touch with the right people,’’ he added.
Racing has changed since Harding partnered his first winner over obstacles in 1992.
He didn’t have a coach then, or when he won the Queen Mother Champion Chase aboard One Man in 1998.
Nor did he have a jockey coach when he landed the Irish Grand National, courtesy of Granit D’Estruval in 2004.
However, he admits that during the last five years or so of his racing days, his time spent coaching others helped him to enhance his own skills.
‘‘The last four or five years when I was riding, I was coaching, so I got the mechanical horse, which did me the world of good.
“I was using it myself as well as for the lads. Racing has moved forward so much.
Granite D’Estruval ridden by Brian Harding, wins the Powers Gold Label Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse Racecourse, Co Meath, Ireland, Monday April 12, 2004, ahead of the Irish Grand National.
Irish Grand National(L TO R) Owner Walter J Gott and Jockey Brian Harding celebrate Granit D’Estruval win at the Powers Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse Racecourse, Meath. Back in April 2004.