Jamie Codd Q&A: The Legendary Rider Talks All Things Cheltenham And More

   Jamie Codd is an amateur jockey in name only. One of the finest National Hunt riders that Ireland has ever produced, Codd can count 10 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name, and has strong claims of adding to his tally next week.

   But it’s not just about the action on the track with Codd. In his role with Tattersalls Ireland, Codd will put in many hours behind the scenes to ensure the smooth running of the Cheltenham Sale, of which Gold Cup livewire Bravemansgame and Brown Advisory Novice Chase hotpot Gerri Colombe are graduates. 

   In this week’s Starfield Stud-sponsored Q&A, Codd talks about his Cheltenham Festival rides, his interests outside the saddle and much more. 

Brian Sheerin: You have a good book of rides next week-what are you most looking forward to?

Jamie Codd: When you are riding for Gordon Elliott, he’s one of the best trainers in Cheltenham Festival history, so, to be in the lucky position to be riding for him in the amateur races, you are going to be in with a chance of winning races there. I’m not sure if I have a standout ride at Cheltenham this year but I do have five or six who have good chances. That’s all you can ask for going into any big festival. 

And what would those ‘good chances’ be?

There are a few in the bumper-Time To Wait is there and Better Days Ahead would be a very good ride in that as well. I’ll be happy to ride whichever one Gordon puts me up on. Dunboyne will be a very good ride in the Kim Muir and Chemical Energy has solid claims in the National Hunt Chase although Gaillard Du Mesnil looks the one to beat in that. What Chemical Energy has going for him though is course form so hopefully we can make a race of it. 

“If there is a horse to beat Delta Work in the race, I think Galvin could be the one,”- Jamie Codd

Do you ride Galvin in the cross-country?

A lot of people have asked me that! I’d like to ride him but I haven’t been told I’m riding him yet. Galvin hasn’t been running well all year but Gordon has tweaked a few things with him since Christmas and the horse has been freshened up, put on weight and he looks fantastic now. He seems to be in good form so, if he comes back to last year’s form and with the way he’s taken to the cross-country in his schooling, then he has a big chance. If there is a horse to beat Delta Work in the race, I think Galvin could be the one. 

It was terrible news about Jack Kennedy not being fit in time to ride next week. Would you envisage yourself playing more of a role for Gordon next week in the handicaps etc?

I wouldn’t have thought so. I’d say the cross-country and the bumper might be the only ones outside of the amateur races that I will have a ride in. But in Jordan Gainford, Gordon has a really good young rider. Sam Ewing is coming along as well and Davy Russell and Denis O’Regan will obviously ride plenty as well. Between them, they are going to ride the majority of them. 

How real is the worry of losing a race at Cheltenham because of the new whip rules?

I’m not worried about losing a race because, with the new rules, you know the number. I don’t think many people are going five, six or seven over the number nowadays. Riders are conscious of the number and I don’t think we will see any disqualifications.

But it’s not just going over the limit because Brian Hughes got done for using his whip over the permitted height.

This is the thing. They tried to bring in the change with the whip in the backhand and the forehand and then that got quashed. Now they are going hard on the height. I do think that, when things are slowed down on camera, it makes it all look way worse. In real time, it doesn’t look bad. Introducing the number, that should have been it. They should have left it at that. They seem to be treating jockeys very harshly and, when the backhand and forehand thing got quashed, they should have parked it with a view towards revisiting it all at the beginning of the new season. It’s going to be very hard on the Irish jockeys going over there. 

It’s not just about the action on the track for you next week. The excitement must be building for the Tattersalls Cheltenham Sale. 

Absolutely. It’s a busy week and we’re hoping to have between 25 and 28 horses for the sale on Thursday night. The sale has become so popular and, when you have the likes of Bravemansgame, Gerri Colombe, Love Envoi, Envoi Allen, graduates like that, it’s pretty impressive. 

I can imagine that it’s a bit of a balancing act for yourself. 

It’s a brilliant week and you have to enjoy it. I’ll arrive on Monday morning and the sales horses will start to arrive shortly after that. On Tuesday morning, I’ll ride out for Gordon and we usually pull out at around half seven. I ride one or two lots for him and then it’s back down to the sales horses to touch base with vendors and get ready for the vetting process the following morning. All the horses get vetted on Wednesday and then the viewing will commence on from then right through to Thursday. It’s a bit of a juggling act between riding out and in the races and then working at the sales but it all fits together. It’s nice to be in a position to be able to juggle it all. 

These boutique sales have taken on a life of their own. Did you ever think you’d see the day where National Hunt horses were regularly walking into a half a million at public auction? 

When I started off point-to-pointing, there wasn’t as much emphasis on those younger maidens but then you had your few people who were selling, the likes of Wilson Dennison, who was strong up north. The Costellos and Liam Burke were also very strong at the time. But the current era of point-to-point handlers have stepped into the market and started with the August Sale-type horse, you know, buying the 15-grand horse and trying to turn him into 30 or 40 grand. They did that quite successfully and kept building the thing up. Now they are operating at such a high level. It’s amazing even the way training set-ups have progressed. The Flat operators have experienced something similar with the breeze-up sales. The breeze-ups and point-to-point handlers are almost pre-training and half-trying these young horses for the trainers. It’s a longer wait if a trainer or an owner buys a yearling or a store. By paying more money for a horse who has come through the point-to-point system, you are hoping that you are getting a Bravemansgame or a Gerri Colmobe. That’s the key thing. 

That’s it. And not only that, you don’t have to buy as many yearlings or stores when you are buying the ready-made horse. That’s probably factored into the thing. 

One hundred per cent. When Gigginstown came into it, they bought a lot of stores-between 30 and 40 a year. Now, it did work but they went through a lot of horses. They have reined it back in and seem to be buying the form horses now and just the odd store horse as well. Everything evolves and this has gone to a new level with the point-to-point handlers pushing on. It has created a market that is viable and strong. Everybody wants a good horse, so maybe that’s the only worrying thing, that the middle market might fall at some stage. But at the minute, we’re going very well and there’s plenty of good owners out there who are willing to spend the money. 

Sean Doyle touched on the middle market when I was down with him-he said that the middle market is in many ways being propped up by the strength of the horses-in-training sales on the Flat. Gone are the days where a trainer can go and buy a few horses with a nice rating off the Flat to go jumping with. They’ve turned to the placed horses in point-to-points and even those who are winning the older maidens instead. Not only that, but Anthony Bromley said recently that, because France has become so expensive to buy out of, he’s turned to buying the placed horses from the Irish points more and more as well. 

Nail on the head. Guys like Sean Doyle and Anthony Bromley, they know the industry and the Flat market has gone extremely strong, largely driven by the demand for horses in the Middle East. The likes of Gordon, he’d to pay 225,000gns to buy Pied Piper, a good horse from off the Flat. So that’s the level you have to go to if you want to compete with the foreign market for the good Flat horses. People find it easier to buy a point-to-pointer and they know what they are getting.

And what about the private market?

I think the strength of our sales drives the private market and that’s a testament to what we have done. People want to go in and try and buy these horses privately but, ultimately, I think the sales ring prices them very well. Sometimes vendors would prefer to sell horses privately, and that may be to keep a relationship going with a trainer, but they all know that, if they have a good one, the sales ring is where they will make the most money. Walter Connors for example, he would sell a lot at home, but every now and again he’ll throw one into the ring. He threw Envoi Allen into the ring and he made £400,000 and he got big money for a No Risk At All gelding recently as well. 

Everyone knows you for being one of the best amateur jockeys of all time but what would you like to go on and achieve outside of the saddle with Tattersalls. 

I don’t know where the ceiling is in Tattersalls as it’s a big company and there are a lot of layers to it. I am a representative for Tattersalls Ireland and I spend a lot of time on the road and do a lot of work at the racecourses and at the point-to-points. I look at the stores, the yearlings on the Flat and, while I don’t know what the next step is, I am very happy with what I do and it allows me to have my racing and trade a little bit from our home place at Churchlands Stables. Tattersalls have opened up a lot of doors for me and they are a great company to work for and I enjoy it. 

How many horses do you have at home and what’s the breakdown?

I try to buy five to eight foals every year and then sell them on as stores. I could buy a Flat yearling to try and store as well. I could even buy a 3-year-old and put it in training with one of the lads, the likes of Denis Murphy for example, so I’m not tied down to one thing. I like to buy my foals and rear them and basically try and get a twist out of every horse that I buy.

And would you have any opinion on what is popular on the jumps side of things?

It’s a hard time for a National Hunt stallion to get going in Ireland right now. We are probably quick to judge a stallion after his first year and then we can jump on the train when they do start to get results. The breeders know that the pinhookers are trying to get these horses on the select stores sales so they are breeding to the stallions who will do that. They are breeding to supply the pinhookers and the pinhookers are buying the horse who they feel will make as much money as possible at the store sales. It’s a funny time but I do believe that a good stallion will always come through and Stowaway is a good example of that. It did take him a while to come through but he did come through. Blue Bresil and Walk In The Park are a good age now. It takes a while to make a stallion over jumps and some of those younger stallions, if they can get the results in the first three years, there’s always a chance they can come back into fashion. Yeats for example, he’s a bit of a forgotten horse, but his results on the track have been good. It is becoming a bit polarised but the pinhookers have driven that. 

Is there anything under the radar that you have cottoned on to?

I’m a trader and will try to find value at whatever level. I could buy a foal from a thousand to 40 thousand. As long as I get my five foals every year, I’m happy enough. Once I see an angle in that horse, I’m happy. The game has become a bit fickle but there are stallions there who are covering big books-Affinisea and even Workforce is coming through now-and then the Coolmore stallions seem to be going well as well. Order Of St George and Crystal Ocean are doing good numbers. I don’t know if I could nail down one and say that it is the second coming because I don’t think anyone knows!

And away from your own interests at Cheltenham, what would you say you are most looking forward to next week?

I’m most looking forward to the Gold Cup. It’s the pinnacle of the week and I think it’s going to be a brilliant race. There are so many horses there with chances. You want Galopin Des Champs to be a superstar but then you have A Plus Tard, Conflated, Bravemansgame, Noble Yeats-there’s so many. There is a list of seven or eight horses who I genuinely believe could win the Gold Cup. It’s going to be a brilliant race and I’m really looking forward to it.

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