100 wins and counting
Horse & Hound|November 05, 2020
Hannah Lemieux talks to trainer-jockey Claire Hardwick about past successes, emotional wins, and her pre-training and breaking-in operation
Hannah Lemieux

“I FEEL like I have my mojo back,” says Claire Hardwick as she ponders over the forthcoming point-to-point season.

With last season largely a write-off owing to coronavirus – Claire had five rides – the 37-year-old trainer-jockey reflects fondly on her 2018/2019 success. Her winning ride in the ladies’ open on Argot at Sedgefield in May 2019 saw her complete a century of wins in a career spanning nearly two decades.

Despite multiple successes under her belt, the experienced rider found herself handing over schooling duties at home last year.

“Schooling has always been my favourite part of training horses and something I have always been good at, but last year I was a pot of nerves and would just let the lads do all the jumping at home, while I observed from the ground,” she muses.

Claire credits visiting the knowledgeable yard of Henrietta Knight once a week to school a variety of horses for getting her “back into a better place”.

“I started out with Hen as a teenager after leaving school. I was there during the Best Mate glory days and stayed for a season and a half. I rang her to ask if she needed help with any schooling and she said ‘yes’,” says Claire. “Jumping at hers has really helped me. I guess now I am in my late 30s, it is hard to accept that the race-riding I have done for most of my life is coming to an end one day soon.

“I am happy to ride horses that I know, I can pick and choose – I wouldn’t want to ride any unknown horses anymore. I feel like I have ‘been there and done it’ and just want to enjoy it now without the added pressure.”

Claire has six point-to-pointers to train for this season from her Gloucestershire base in the village of Adlestrop, where she has been based for six years. She has a couple of horses bagged for herself to ride, including old favourite Western Diva, while jockey Will Thirlby will partner the remaining horses.

Claire has ridden the 11-year-old mare Western Diva in all bar one of her 30 starts between the flags and they have heralded six wins and six seconds together. And the mare lives up to her name according to Claire.

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