Escapism, the biggest buzz, the if only - and what's next Rilly Goschen
One More Tune’s dramatic sweep to overhaul rival Swallowshide at the post in the Hursley Hambledon Members’ Race at Larkhill (December 3rd) brought Rilly Goschen to the 150 winners mark (131 in Points and 19 under Rules) – winning her the PPORA Moment of the Month Award.
In the second of our “In Their Own Words” features, Tessa Jenkins caught up with Rilly to chat about memorable moments from her remarkable riding career and what the future holds.
What lit the spark?
“Escapism. My parents bought me a pony when I was 3 and it grew from there. My father died when I was 7 and I think a lot of the mental scarring was fixed on the back of horse.
It’s the freedom you get on a back of a horse no matter what you’re doing. Racing of course is a massive adrenalin rush, but that escapism is there with horses in general. It’s figured a lot in my career, later on when I had cancer I kept riding right up to the day I started my treatment”
Despite not being an especially “horsey” household, local Points at Badbury Rings and Larkhill, were a regular family day out, and sparked an interest in racing – “I always headed for the lorry park, and just absorbed so much about it” – that evolved into a career.
After a spell with Elaine Webber and a summer with Richard Mitchell came a move to the late John “Duf” Dufosee’s Yard from where the foundations for a lifetime in racing were built.
Who’s been the greatest influence, and what was their most memorable piece of advice/lesson?
“John Dufosee” says Rilly, without skipping a beat, “I owe him so much, I learnt so much. To this day I replay conversations in my head about training and horses and problems and how to solve issues.
He would never be beaten by a horse, not that he’d argue with them, he’d just outwit them. He was sure that no matter what the issue there was a solution. That’s something that’s stayed with me. If something’s not working change what you’re doing… and ask people, never be afraid to ask people.”
It was John who legged her up on E Zoe Mou for her first ride in 1991, and who 4 years later provided the first winner Great Uncle at Badbury Rings.
“It took me an age and a lot of hard work to ride one winner. I really am a story of a non-privileged girl in the sense of having no racing contacts. It was me working hard and doing the schooling, plus I had amazing people around me to watch and learn from – Mike Felton, Robert Alner, Rupert Nuttall. I just learned and absorbed, and eventually the rides came.”
The best horse you’ve ridden?
This gives Rilly real pause for thought, with three main contenders entering the reckoning
“One of the best would have to be Chasing The Bride – I’ve still got him he’s stood in the field at the age of 25 looking magnificent and majestic. I do always wonder how good he would have been if he’d been professionally trained….” she ponders, admitting she declined the chance to find out despite a suggestion from Paul Nichols to try the horse under Rules. “It was arrogance really, but in my mind he was ‘my” horse”” she reflects frankly.
“Stalbridge Bill was a very good horse. I had the race of my life on him against Rough Quest in a Hunter Chase at Newbury in 1999. As a horse he never really got the recognition he deserved, he did need soft ground, and he bled occasionally, but was a relentless galloper and very very good.
Best of the all though was probably Earthmover my Cheltenham Foxhunter winner (2004). He galloped through any problem he had – he just kept galloping – and he was a bit of a hard nut. We clicked and I never had a problem with his jumping – I don’t know what everyone else was talking about!” she says referring to a jumping style that earned the horse the moniker “earth shaker” in a feature in the Telegraph editorial “He only made one mistake worth talking about in the 13 rides I had on him – I forgave him that!”
… and the race you’d ride differently given a second chance?
“All the seconds that should have won, but of course everyone would say that ” she laughs.
“It would have to be the Newbury race on Stalbridge Bill. It was the best race I’ve ridden and the worst race I’ve ridden. We were two lengths up on Rough Quest when we fell at the last.
In the paddock Duf had said to me “You won’t jump the water jump twice will you?” (referring to the layout of the Newbury finish) “I was a bit put out and said ‘Of course I won’t!’
Stalbridge Bill jumped left, but coming to the last I decided to make clear to Duf that I wasn’t riding for the water and went for the middle of the fence. The horse ran down the fence and we went a purler. Duf said ‘I’ll take the blame for that’ but I knew it was my error and I was furious with myself, we’d run such a good race up to that point, we were going to win. I learned an important lesson from that, ride for the now and not the round the corner bit. If I could have the moment again I’d stick to the inside line.”
The biggest buzz?
Without hesitation she nominates her spin on board General Claremont in the 2004 Aintree Fox Hunters’
“I was so in the zone that day it felt amazing, it’s an incredible feeling to ride round Aintree. I was convinced I was going to win, only to get brought down at Becher’s. It was just one of those things but I was mad when I came down. I want to relive it but with a different ending, it’s something I am striving for, and I am going to make it happen.”
… and your horse of a lifetime?
“Now you’ve got me thinking” she ponders momentarily before thoughts shift to the future.
“I suppose it’s Little Orange the unraced 4 year old I’ve got now. He’s one of three horses I have to run in the colours of the Florian Racing Club once I obtain my licence to train under rules. I’ll combine training them, from a yard at Pulham in the Blackmore Vale, and riding them” she adds emphasising there are no plans to quit race riding. “I think he’s a bit special – he’ll be my horse of a lifetime. The future, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it ?”
Rilly is the PPORA’s November-December Moment of the Month Winner and will receive a bottle of champagne to celebrate her success