When will Nick de Boinville receive the recognition his supreme horsemanship deserves? Not that his skill stops with being only a great horseman; he is also a really cool customer when it comes to the drive to the finishing post, as skilful with the whip as he is at presenting a horse at an obstacle.
A small matter, but the Racing Post chose to put a picture of Barry Geraghty riding Sprinter Sacre on the cover of their table-top book on the great 2-mile champion, even though Sprinter’s finest hour came with de Boinville in the saddle and with de Boinville having done the bulk of the work at home on the horse, especially after his heart scare. And that is not to denigrate Geraghty; as great a jockey as there has ever been.
Nicky Henderson’s good horses do not jump for fun for no good reason. Trainers of the ilk of Henderson are blessed with both a work ethic and a special sixth sense for training racehorses but those blessings will be wasted if he did not have superb horsemen carrying out his instructions on the schooling grounds, and de Boinville must be one of the best. Might Bite may have nearly thrown away the R.S.A. with a sketchy jump at the last and wandering off to see what the fuss in the stands was about, and the loose horse may have helped de Boinville get him back on the bridle, but the race was won by how the horse jumped from fence 1 to the 2nd last. Mighty and gazelle-like hardly does the horse justice, and that after one of the most sickening falls I have seen only two races before. Kempton might have soured a horse in lesser hands and it must have taken bucket loads of kindness and knowledge to return the confidence to Might Bite, to restore the fire to the belly of a potentially great steeplechaser.
I suspect Might Bite will bite. I also suspect his great ability comes attached to a quirky character that will test Henderson, de Boinville and the Seven Barrows faithful in the seasons to come. I suspect he will be raced with the trademark Henderson tender loving care and we will neither see him in handicaps nor we will see him frequently on a racecourse. And next year it will be the Ryanair and perhaps a clash with Douvan, and not the Gold Cup.
de Boinville will never be champion jockey but by the end of his career he will have accumulated a long list of Cheltenham Festival successes. If I had a runner in the National and no go-to jockey I know who would be first on my list, after, of course, Nina, Katie, Rachel or Lizzie. And that’s only because the biggest marketing boost racing will ever receive is when a female jockey wins the Grand National. A jockey perceived by his surname to have been born to wealth and privilege will never out-sell a pretty girl winning racing’s greatest prize.
It is a mystery to me why Henderson does not appoint de Boinville to the position of stable jockey. He rides all the good ones anyway and Seven Barrows has always had enough horses to give opportunities to the other jockeys attached to the yard. How many of the top races does he need to win before the honour is bestowed? He has already won a Gold Cup, a Champion Chase, R.S.A., Supreme, Arkle and one of the big Cheltenham handicaps.
I am sure de Boinville would acknowledge that he learned and refined a lot of his skills working alongside Barry Geraghty during his tenure at stable jockey. Only a fool does not listen and learn when in the company of men of greater ability than yourself. And de Boinville is no fool. It takes a very clever and brave man to defy the expectations of your family and to forge your own path in life. And even if he continues to stir his tea with a silver spoon I am sure everyone would agree that no man has ever looked so natural on a horse than Nick de Boinville.
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.