HARTLEPOOL jockey Tony Hamilton spoke to SportMail last week about his winning ride in the showcase Lincoln Handicap and his hopes for the season ahead.
Here, in the second part of our exclusive feature, he chats to the Mail’s chief sports writer, CRAIG HOPE, about the flip side of the Sport of Kings ...
IT was a chance ride, but one which was to prove a cruel turn of fate.
Tony Hamilton had only landed the mount of Flying Statesman because of illness to Paul Hanagan, trainer Richard Fahey’s number-one stable rider.
Earlier in the day Hamilton, the yard’s second jockey, had steered home Our Joe Mac at Haydock for his 29th winner of the season before boarding a light aircraft to whisk him up to the Scottish track.
But, within hours, Hamilton’s world was, quite literally, turned upside down.
Having made their way down to the start ahead of the 7f claimer, Flying Statesman reared just before the off, tossing the startled jockey onto the turf.
Worse, though, was to follow, the gelding losing its balance before crashing down upon the helpless Hamilton.
The television pictures were, as a watching and guilt-ridden Hanagan later said, “horrible”.
And the view wasn’t too pretty for Hamilton, either.
“I’ll never forget that date – August 7th, 2010,” said the 28-year-old.
“It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt and the worst pain I hopefully ever will.
“We were just about to go in the stalls when the horse reared up and then landed on top of me.
“It was awful. I broke my pelvis in three places and missed the rest of the season, I was out for seven months in the end and I still get pain now.
“It’s not a happy memory.”
The fall would have been enough to deter any young rider from returning to a living where the dangers can often outweigh the financial reward.
But not Hamilton.
“You’ve just got to get on with it,” added the former Manor schoolboy, “If you start thinking about it and getting nervous then you can’t do your job properly.
“I love what I do and injuries are part of it, no matter how painful.”
While the horror fall will not keep Hamilton himself out of the saddle, he admits he won’t be encouraging his horse-mad daughters to follow him into the sport.
“The girls love their horses and they’ve got two ponies,” he said of Katie, seven, and Jane, five.
“But I wouldn’t want them to follow me in being a jockey.
“I wouldn’t want them to have a fall like I did.
“On top of that it’s not an easy life – it’s a pain in the backside at times.
“I’m up at six in the morning and ride out at seven.
“You can have 10 rides a day or just two rides but you could be travelling hundreds of miles for them.
“I spend a lot of time in the sauna and in the gym keeping my weight in check and it’s not easy.”
But moments such as his win in last month’s Lincoln Handicap aboard Brae Hill ease the pain of the early mornings, sauna sessions and lifestyle limitations which allow him to ride at a weight of 8st 8lbs.
Hamilton’s girls were at Doncaster to see him land the first showcase race of the new Flat season.
So was wife, Helen, mum, Linda and nephew, Harry.
“It was great to have them there for that,” Hamilton went on.
“It was the biggest win of my career so far in terms of prize money.
“It was the perfect start to the season and I hope it’s the first big win of many this year.”
With champion jockey Hanagan now employed elsewhere, this season represents a golden opportunity for Hamilton to surpass his career best of 64 wins.
He’ll be hoping it’s a turn of fate which, this time, is more pleasure than pain.