We’re all familiar with the expression, “moving the goal posts”, however when we’re referring to Northern Racing College student, Jay Tabb, the goal posts have quite literally moved.
London born Jay, 35, is no stranger to goal posts. As a Premiership footballer, a career which started with Crystal Palace in 1999 and finished with Ipswich Town in 2016, he scored countless goals. However the goal posts this time have been moved by Jay himself who has set his sights on working in the horseracing industry.
At 5 ft 5 in Jay was considered too small for the “beautiful game” and was released by Crystal Palace however he still went on to make 450 appearances across four clubs and made it to the top-flight with Reading.
Upon retiring from football in 2016 Jay set his sights on rugby and in his spare time he played golf and the piano both to an impossibly high standard.
If we have learnt one thing about Jay over the last 12-weeks, and we have learnt a few things I can assure you, it’s that whenever he sets his mind on something he does it to an impressively high standard. There are no half measures with this man and he’s not a man to rest on his laurels.
Jay has had an interest in horseracing for as long as he can remember, an interest which has seen him purchase a racehorse, Mister Miyagi, which he owns in partnership with former Coventry City team mate Ben Turner.
Our first encounter with Jay was on a cold, dreary Friday in January 2019 when he attended an Open Morning. Catching the train up from London he arrived bursting with enthusiasm and it’s that enthusiasm which has seen him excel during his time as a Foundation Course student. Every task asked of him he has undertaken with determination.
The first hurdle he had to overcome was his weight. Enrolling on the residential course as a rider meant Jay needed to weigh in, complete with his riding attire, under 11 stone. Despite being small in stature Jay was muscular from years of training. Not one to be defeated he shed an incredible two stone prior to starting the course on 29 March 2019. That’s a whopping 28lbs in 63 days. And he accomplished it by steadfastly following a wholesome, nutritious diet and by sticking to a varied, rigorous exercise programme. Proof, if it were needed, that you really can achieve what may appear impossible if you put your mind to it and want it hard enough.
Jay has followed exactly the same learning programme as the other students on his course, many of whom are 17 years his junior. He has learnt how to muck out, to groom, to tack up, to take a bridle apart and to clean it and how to ride. He has become a jockey and a horseman.
Once Jay received confirmation that he had been accepted onto the Foundation Course he duly booked half a dozen private lessons at Wimbledon Village Stables, his local riding centre. During this period he learnt how to walk and trot but by no means had he mastered the rising trot. But after hours and hours riding a couple of very patient retired racehorses in our indoor arena he found his rhythm and progressed to a sitting and then a standing canter on a few of the more challenging horses.
With the basics firmly in place Jay was ready to test all he had learnt in the confines of an indoor school out on the gallops.
As with all students riding on the gallops for the first time a patient, forgiving partner was chosen and Jay cantered in the racing style over seven furlongs or if you’re counting in football pitches approximately 15 lengths of a football pitch. He smiled after this experience. The following day he did the same and this has continued every day since except Sundays when the horses have the day off. On the horses day off Jay has diligently mucked out their stables and seen to their every need.
Jay graduated on Friday (21 June 2019) and has been secured a work placement in Minehead, Somerset at the all conquering stables of National Hunt trainer, Philip Hobbs. Jay will become part of the racing staff team and will be allocated his horses which he will look after on a daily basis. He will ride out and will take his horses racing and in time who knows where this talented, hardworking man will go. He has the tenacity and drive to achieve all he sets his mind to so maybe we’ll see Mr J Tabb the jockey appear in the Racing Post newspaper. Maybe one day we’ll even see his name on a trainer’s licence. One thing is for sure and that is Jay Tabb will achieve whatever it is he sets his mind to.
Foundation Course Manager, Liz Clifton, has had the pleasure of working closely with Jay and recalls his time at the College fondly, “Jay has been a pleasure to work with and coach. He is highly motivated and came to NRC with a clear mission – to learn as much as he could about caring for and riding racehorses. He has achieved this and more and has become an accomplished rider; his motivation and determination have also inspired other learners and he has helped them to stay focused.
“We wish Jay every success in his new career and feel sure that he will continue to develop his skills as a horseman and achieve his ambition, which is to race ride”.
Reflecting on his 12-weeks at the College Jay takes up the story, “I’ve had an amazing time at the Northern Racing College. I’ve learnt to ride and to look after horses which is something I’ll never forget and will be forever grateful for. All thanks to the College I’m now in a position where I can be employed by a racehorse trainer. I’ve learnt so much and I’m sure it will all stand me in good stead when I start at Mr Hobbs on 07 July 2019. I’ve had a great time and would encourage anyone who has a passion for horseracing or even just an interest in horses to go for it”.