You very often see it in amateur sport: teams desperate for a player or two to fill out their starting line-up posting desperate SOS messages on social media and the like.
Indeed, it’s a scenario not wholly reserved for amateur sport: who can forget Roy Essandoh answering a Teletext ad from Wycombe Wanderers looking for new players, before going on to score the winner in an FA Cup tie against Leicester City?
It’s unusual for horse racing to get involved in such shenanigans, but when you are an owner or trainer in dire need of a replacement jockey at the last minute, where else are you going to turn?
That was the predicament that owner Vaughan Lewis found himself in when his jockey Trevor Whelan was forced to pull out his scheduled ride on Ruacana at Lingfield when his flight over from Ireland was cancelled.
Lewis, understandably panicking given that his horse had already been declared and was the bookmakers’ favourite at 13/8, sent out a rather optimistic Tweet asking for any available jockeys with racing experience to contact him.
‘Help please Racing Twitter – Urgently need flat jockey to ride favourite in 1pm at Lingfield,’ he posted to his feed at around 08:30 on the morning of the race.
It was a shot in the dark, by all accounts, and with the threat of having to withdraw Ruacana from the race he was looking for somebody, anybody to answer his call.
Absolutely buzzing to be riding in the flat jockeys hurdle race at @LingfieldPark today!! I feel extremely lucky to have Ruacana as my partner too who looks to be in great form at the minute. #jumpjockeyforaday #dreamcometrue
— racheal kneller (@jockeyrach) 19 November 2019
And they did….with incredible consequences.
Step forward Rachael Kneller, who was put in contact with the owner by a mutual acquaintance.
The 32-year-old is a flat jockey by trade, and at this point she had never before ridden competitively over obstacles.
Kneller was riding out two lots of horses when Lewis put out his SOS, randomly checking her phone along the way. She noticed that she had been mentioned in a number of tweets, and decided to investigate further.
It took just an hour for an agreement to be reached.
“It’s funny how it all happened. I had been keen to ride in the race and quite a few people tagged me when they advertised looking for a jockey,” Kneller said.
She set off on the 90-minute drive from her yard in Lambourn to the Surrey track, stopping off for a McDonalds chocolate milkshake on the way to keep her strength up – weight wouldn’t be an issue for a flat jockey.
When she finally arrived at Lingfield, she quickly walked the course while watching videos of Ruacana’s previous runs, before promptly calling mentor Jamie Murphy for advice.
You can probably guess the rest, as her horse dominated the field to land a rather memorable victory for Lewis and Kneller, for whom this was her first win in 36 attempts this year.
“I’ve been chasing a winner for a long time and the horse jumped everything perfectly. He was pulling me round; I was just a passenger,” she said jubilantly afterwards.
“I had a chocolate milkshake on the way there and I’ll be having champagne when I get home!”
The full result for the race, the Flat Jockeys Can Jump Handicap Hurdle, which was run at 1pm from Lingfield on Tuesday 19th November can be found below.
|1||Ruacana||Racheal Kneller||Zoe Davison||13/8 Fav||£3,769|
|2||Flaminger||Shane Kelly||Gary Moore||13/2||£1,107|
|3||The Game Is A Foot||Tim Clark||Zoe Davison||16/1||£553|
|4||O’Rahilly||Phil Dennis||Zoe Davison||9/2||£350|
|5||Karakoram||Dougie Costello||Grace Harris||15/8||£0|