Mathias calls time on his career in the saddle

  • Posted: Friday, 17th February 2017
  • Author: Carolyn Tanner
  • Photo: Neale Blackburn

John Mathias, one of the most outstanding riders of the 21st century, and undoubtedly one of the all-time best never to have won the championship, has decided to hang up his boots at the age of 26.

The injury he sustained at Cottenham on the opening day of the season, a fractured pelvis, has taken longer to mend than expected, and rather than wait another month for the next specialist's report, John feels it is the right time to call it a day. "I've thought about it very hard and of course I shall miss it – though there are some bits I won't miss! – but I'm busy with other things and I've realised that there is actually more to life than riding a horse round a field," he commented.

The "other things" include a new job with Connolly's Red Mills, for whom John started in January as representative for Wales and the West. "I'm really enjoying it," he emphasised. "I'm driving round the country talking to likeminded people, so it couldn't be better."

"And I'll probably have more time to help Amber [his wife, who trains the string of Pointers at their Norchard Farm Stables] with the horses at home," he continued. "Nothing will change with the regime at the yard – it will just be someone else in the saddle at the races."

John made his debut in 2007 at Erw Lon on Howdydoody, finishing second, and went one better on his next outing, on the same horse, at Garnons. Six victories in that first season earned him the Wilkinson Sword for the leading Under-21 novice rider.

In 2009/10 he began a near-domination of Welsh racing, winning the Principality's title on six occasions, the exception being in 2012/13 when a ban forced him onto the sidelines for 12 months.

He has been runner-up in the National championship four times, in 2009/10, 2011/12, 2014/15 and 2015/16, but the year he considers to have been his best chance was in 2010/11. "I was six clear of Richard Burton when I dislocated my hip," he recalled.

His final tally of 196 Point-to-Point victories included two six-timers, at Cilwendeg in 2011 and Llwyn Ddu in 2015. He also booted home 17 winners under National Hunt Rules, the majority being for Dai Rees, to whom he was assistant trainer for some time. He twice won the Dunraven Bowl, the Chepstow Hunter Chase so prized by the Welsh Pointing fraternity, on Gale Force Oscar in 2014 and Desertmore View the following year, while fittingly, considering his current employment, he landed last season's Connolly's Red Mills Final at Cheltenham on Lilbitluso.

He has been part of the British team in every year of the Anglo-Irish Point-to-Point Challenge, and is proud of the fact he was team captain when Chaddesley Corbett hosted.

John's talent as a jockey is matched by his humility and his appreciation for all the help he has received during his ten-year career. "I'd like to thank everyone who's ever given me a ride," he said. "Not just the winners, but anyone who's been prepared to put me up." It works both ways, and there are plenty of owners and trainers who have reason to thank John for finding themselves in the winner's enclosure.

Assuming that Howick goes ahead he will be back on a Point-to-Point course on Sunday, when Amber is hoping to run some of her charges.