Racing: Swinburn on a higher plane: Richard Edmondson reports on a day in the glamorous life of Walter Swinburn

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FOR six days of the week jockeys usually have a bad time. But, on Friday, Walter Swinburn enjoyed the seventh day by riding a double at Newbury, including the big race, to make him the third jockey this season to pass pounds 1m in earnings.

'A day like Friday is what makes it all worthwhile,' he says. 'As Michael Stoute (the Newmarket trainer who provides Swinburn with most of his mounts) told me when I started, 'There will be more bad times than good times, but the good times will be worth waiting for'.

'You can go six days without covering your costs but it's the good day you live for.'

A day like Friday also provided an example of the intensive and glamorous 24 hours a leading jockey can expect as Swinburn travelled the country by plane, from his Newmarket base to Newbury and then on to Haydock's evening fixture.

But this cycle began, as it always does, by waking up with a horse. When Swinburn rises at his cottage, one of his first movements is to climb on the dummy thoroughbred in his bedroom.

'It's called an Equicizer and I probably have five minutes on it in the morning to stretch my calf muscles,' he says. 'You have to work to make it go and in effect it's like riding a racehorse. You use all the same muscles and ache in all the same parts.

'The idea is that you feel as though you've ridden in three or four races before you even get on a horse at the course. You're not going in cold.'

Friday was unsusual in that Swinburn did not sit astride the real thing until he got to the racecourse. Torrential overnight rain meant that his appointment to ride in exercise gallops for another trainer, Alex Scott, was cancelled.

Ordinarily, the man who rode Shergar to win the 1981 Derby as a 19-year-old is up at 5.20 to join various strings at racing's headquarters. On Wednesday and Saturday he teams up with Stoute, James Fanshawe and Geoff Wragg; Tuesday and Friday means dates with Scott and Ben Hanbury.

Morning manoeuvres on Newmarket's myriad gallops take two broad outlines. 'When you're getting on a two-year-old it's really about education, teaching them how to race, but with the older horses, especially at this time of the year, it's all about checking their well-being,' Swinburn says.

'For instance, Sheikh Albadou (Scott's Breeders' Cup Sprint winner) starts to get going again now and I will ride him in all his work leading up to the Haydock Park Sprint Cup. Three or four pieces of good work.'

After work, Swinburn usually slides a 25-minute jog in a sweatsuit into his itinerary. 'And then if I do need another pound off I might get in the sauna after that,' he says.

The first thought that this is not to be the day of the average commuter comes after Swinburn is driven to take-off point behind Newmarket's July Course. The car park appears like a showroom without glass, new BMWs and Mercedes proving that a portion of Britain's trainers have escaped the worst ravages of the recession.

Swinburn usually climbs into his own Cessna Crusader, which cost about pounds 250,000, but on Friday transport was provided by a hired twin-engined Piper Seneca Executive as his own plane was being serviced. Swinburn's fellow passengers were his agent, Michael Haggas, and another Newmarket jockey, Lanfranco Dettori, who was helping to defray the pounds 800 bill for the day. Alongside, the trainers Julie Cecil and Ben Hanbury, plus the riding twins Richard and Michael Hills, manned another aircraft.

The proof that Swinburn has long since conquered flying nerves came 15 minutes into the journey when the light aircraft's path took it through a swarm of gliders out of the Wycombe Air Park. Twenty minutes later, pilot Rod Paris touched down in the middle of Newbury racecourse after a journey mostly at 2,500 feet and at a cruising speed of 180mph.

Following the opening apprentices' race, Swinburn's first mount was Welsh Mill in an event for three-year-olds. The preamble to this contest, as it is with all others, was a tactical discussion in the parade ring with the colt's trainer, Lord Huntingdon.

'We talk about how the race is going to be run,' Swinburn said. 'Some trainers give you a lot of orders and others hardly discuss the race at all.'

Swinburn gets the tactics slightly wrong here, though, as Welsh Mill, an odds-on favourite, challenges too late to trouble Million In Mind. 'The horse hadn't run for a long time and in trying to do the right thing I probably did the wrong thing,' the jockey says. 'I thought my horse would always be able to pick up the winner at any time but I was wrong. If I had to ride the race again I would probably make my move a little earlier.'

Mojave's win breaks the pounds 1m barrier for Swinburn's mounts this season. As he collects 10 per cent of this sum and also enjoys a lucrative retainer from the owner, Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum, it can be assumed the wolf will not be calling.

Two losing mounts follow, but Ribbonwood's easy victory in the fillies' maiden race provides a double celebration. 'It was nice to ride the winner and also know that Michael Stoute has got one at home that has already beaten her and is obviously pretty useful,' Swinburn says.

Following Ribbonwood's success, Swinburn keeps running. First to the weighing room and then out to the runway to meet a tight deadline for Haydock's evening meeting. Flight No. 2 takes him over Birmingham and Crewe and through the low-level corridor between Manchester and Liverpool before landing just after the first race at the Lancashire course.

Swinburn's fortune has been used up by now and he is unsuccessful on his three mounts, the first of which, on Under The Bridge, leads to a sorry debriefing. Jockeys usually manage to report some quality in a horse to trainer and owner when they return from competition. In some cases, though, this is impossible.

'When you come back from a ride like that all you can say is 'he's a lovely ride but unfortunately I can't get very excited about him'. Sometimes you wish you can say something positive but you can't,' Swinburn says.

Janaat's run in the 8.15 is followed by another scramble, to beat darkness on the way home. This is the fourth race of the evening Swinburn fails to win, however. The jockey has arranged for a strip of battery-operated lights to mark a path at the July Course, but Paris decides landing would be too dangerous and diverts instead to Stansted.

Forward planning succeeds later, though, when following a 40- minute drive Swinburn arrives at a Newmarket restaurant to find his first sustenance of the day, ordered by telephone from the plane, on the table. The talk is of possible future victories but mostly of Mojave and the pleasure of the seventh day. 'Just riding a winner gives you a buzz, it brightens up any day,' Swinburn says.

Only six hours of sleep may be available until the cycle starts the next day, but the jockey is quite happy with his lot. 'It sometimes bugs us a little bit that people criticise you when you've done your level best, and that there are those who don't appreciate that we put our necks on the line every time we get on a horse, but I can't complain,' he says.

'It is a glamorous life and the rewards are very good. I always wanted to be a jockey and it is a great life. I love it.'

(Photographs omitted)

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