Monday 16 December 2019

Robert Choc Thornton: Former NH Jockey and Apple Tree Stud

A big thank you to former NH jockey and now manager at Apple Tree Stud Robert Choc Thornton for answering questions for my blog.

Choc, have you always been involved in horse racing? 

No, I started at David Nicholson’s when I was 14, so probably about 27 years. 

At what age did you become a jockey? 

I was 16 when I received my first license. 

You have won so many big races including the Champion Hurdle, the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Kim Muir to name just a few, which race sticks out in your mind? 

They are all important and very difficult to single one out. Champion chase was special and my 2 Arkles. I can tell you a race that I’m disappointed not to win and that is the National. A dream was unfulfilled. 

Did you have a favourite horse that was close to your heart? 

Again very difficult to pick. But if I had to I’d say My Way De Solzen. 

If you weren't a jockey what would you have done? 


The day you retired due to injuries was a sad day for all involved in the racing game, did you have an idea what you would do next? 

Yes, I was fortunate to have direction Paul Dunkley and I had been planning the stud for quite some time. Although I was fortunate enough for the position to fall in my lap as when the initial injury struck I had no idea what the future held. 

You were dubbed the unluckiest jockey in racing after suffering countless injuries, now am a runner and injuries are the most depressing things ever, how did you come back each time?  

I hate that headline. It was the Daily Mail trying to sensationalise. I was very lucky and suffered no more than any other jockey that pursues what the loved. Sounds sadistic but I used to love pushing through pain barrier showing Doctors I could do what they said was not possible. I was told 12 months for a knee injury I got back in 5. So whatever I was told I’d half. 

Did you ever think about becoming a trainer am sure you would have been brilliant? 

No, I know I’m not sharp enough to be a trainer, I wouldn’t be good enough at the PR and as a jockey, I’d only seen the good side of training. All I had to do was get on and see how fast they could go.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Anything with my 2 boys William and Wolfie. Love taking them to Rugby. I love snowboarding, Whistler (Canada) is my fav destination. Also, I like to watch any sport played to a decent level.

You had a special relationship with the great Voy Por Ustedes, what was he like? 

He was actually a bit mad, but the best always are. At the time it felt like he was mine. 

Now you're a stud manager at Apple Tree Stud, what is a typical day? 

It depends on the time of year. Generally, I rise about 6am have an hour with my boys then go to work which is on my doorstep. I do all the office work and admin and spend a lot of time just watching the horses. You learn something new every day. I do all the tractor work, topping, hedge cutting, hay, etc and go racing if we have a runner. I spend plenty of time sifting through sales catalogues and attending sales both buying and selling, looking at pedigrees and allocating the right stallion to the broodmares we have. 

Can you give my readers a few horses to follow for the future? 

Yes, we have an unnamed colt at Archie Watsons Showcasing x Astonishing 17. He will hopefully be running over 6/7f in May June time. Gold Maze who was bred by AppleTree is entered in the Irish Derby you can get big prices for an each-way ante-post bet. 

Thanks again and good luck for the future.

Twitter: @Choc_Thornton

Apple Tree Stud

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