A chance to catch last week's Racing Post point-to-point focus column, which was published on Friday, December 24.
When Harriet Tucker won the 2018 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham on the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder she touched the top of the amateur rider tree.
Post-race the effervescent Tucker revealed her shoulder had dislocated, compromising her ability to ride a finish, but not to win. It was a well-timed effort given she had ridden just eight point-to-point winners and none under Rules.
If she was walking on water the pond beneath her feet soon opened up. An operation on the shoulder was successful and ten months after Cheltenham she rode two point-to-point winners, but fifth on Pacha Du Polder at Cheltenham proved, to that point, to be the final ride for her boss.
A series of winless spins followed, and while she managed a single pointing success last season the waters were rising.
Now 25, she takes up the story, saying: “I came back from my shoulder operation, but things at work weren’t the same. I didn’t handle it all well, my head was all over the place, and the more I kicked off the more things became a vicious circle. I didn’t admit I had a problem, but one morning I had a break down. I walked into the office and said to Paul, ‘I can’t do this,’ and he said, ‘Take time off and come back when you’re ready’.
“I went home to Mum – by then I was drinking four bottles of wine a day – and checked in to Clouds House [treatment centre for drug and alcohol addiction] and was there six weeks. I’m not ashamed. I got through it. If I go out now I drink coffee.
“When I started thinking about work a friend suggested contacting Henrietta Knight.”
As someone who has spoken openly about the role a bottle of wine played in her life Knight and her pre-training yard was an appropriate lily pad on which to step for Tucker, who says: “I started riding out three mornings a week in July, and that became five mornings. Henrietta is good for discipline and I learned a lot from her – one morning she said, ‘You’re going to ride out for Nicky Henderson,’ and she set that up.”
In October the process of redemption leapt forward when Tucker rode a winner on the Flat for Mark Usher followed by handicap hurdle victories on horses trained by Chris Down and Brian Barr. No less important was a pulled up at Ludlow last week, for it came on the Henderson-trained Docte Dina. She says: “I received a message from the head lad saying I was riding the mare and I just screamed. There can’t be many women amateurs who have ridden in races for two champion trainers.
“I can deal with things now and let them go. I had to hit rock bottom, but Henrietta has been a godsend to me.”
From euphoria to despair and triumph over demons, Tucker’s story could be an analogy of the times we live in – and of hope for better next year.