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‘I could be tempted to get back into the saddle, but not competitively’

PUBLISHED: 10:59 10 September 2018 | UPDATED: 10:59 10 September 2018

Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund at Newmarket.

Lisa Hancock, chief executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund at Newmarket.

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Injured Jockeys Fund chief executive Lisa Hancock knows all about the highs and lows of racing, having been a point-to-point rider herself for 12 years herself. She told Sheena Grant more.

Injured Jockeys Fund chief executive Lisa Hancock in her point-to-point race-riding days. 
Picture: Lisa Hancock/Michael HallInjured Jockeys Fund chief executive Lisa Hancock in her point-to-point race-riding days. Picture: Lisa Hancock/Michael Hall

When she took charge at Newmarket Racecourse in 2000 Lisa Hancock became the youngest ever managing director of a major UK track.

Nowadays, she’s chief executive of the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF), working to support amateur and professional race riders and their families at what can be some of the most challenging times of their lives. Since its foundation, which came about after the devastating falls of two riders in 1964, the fund has helped more than 1000 jockeys and their families, paying out more than £18million in charitable assistance.

Here, mother-of-two Lisa, a former point-to-point rider herself, tells us more about her life with horses and her role with the IJF, which currently involves overseeing the building of a new £6million rehabilitation and fitness centre at Newmarket.

Tell us about your involvement with horses, both personally and professionally?

I come from a farming family passionate about point-to-point racing. From the age of 16 point-to-pointing was my life and I was likely to be riding most weekends in the East Anglia point-to-point area. I did that for 12 years and rode more than 50 winners.

I became racecourse manager at Warwick when I was 22. I did four or five years there and then went to north west England, where I was worked at Haydock, Chester and Aintree. The opportunity came along for the managing director job at Newmarket Racecourse, which I took on in 2000, when I was 28. I stopped point-to-pointing then because it was a big role and I couldn’t risk getting sidelined. I was at Newmarket Racecourse for eight years. In that period I had two children and was later offered a role at the Injured Jockeys Fund, which I took on a consultancy basis at first before leaving the racecourse just over 10 years ago.

Did you suffer any injuries yourself when you were race riding?

I broke my collar bone on two occasions, my wrist and had three concussions.

I am passionate about all racing, flat and National Hunt, and hopefully my riding experience means I don’t ask stupid questions when someone is injured and I know the right time to approach an injured jockey. I understand the pressure they are under. If they can’t ride their income is in jeopardy. All they want to do is get fit again. Increasingly at the Injured Jockeys Fund our focus is on injury prevention. A fit, healthy body and mind enables you to recover more fully and speedily than you might do otherwise so we are increasingly focussing on nutrition and sports psychology, strength and conditioning.

What does your role at the IJF involve?

As chief executive I am responsible for overall strategy of the operation and 37 members of staff, six of whom are at the Newmarket admin centre (where Lisa is also based). We also have two rehabilitation and fitness centres at Lambourn in Berkshire and Malton in North Yorkshire, along with a team of physios, nutritionists and sports psychologists. We are in the process of building a third centre at Newmarket, which will be open in late summer next year.

What sort of assistance does the IJF provide and how likely is it that a jockey will need its support during their career?

The charity offers support to jockeys and their dependants. That can be pastoral, financial or medical. Statistics from the British Horseracing Authority show a jockey riding on the flat has one fall in every 240 rides and 40% of falls result in injury, giving a rate of one injury every 594 rides. Jump jockeys can expect one fall in every 16 rides and 18% of falls result in injury, giving a rate of one injury every 83 rides.

What difference will the new Newmarket rehabilitation and fitness centre make to the IJF’s work?

Peter O’Sullevan House will provide a more visible presence for jockeys past and present in the south east part of the country. At the moment, because we don’t have these facilities locally, we would have to direct people to private consultants.

What role do horses play in your own life and your family life nowadays?

I have got two children aged 14 and 12. Both are keen riders and it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them decides they would like to have a go at point-to-point or race riding at some time. Being a mother puts a different complexion on things and I am acutely aware of the possibility of them getting injured. But I love the sport and so do they. It is our principal family hobby. They are aware that when my telephone rings I am likely to be talking to doctors and injured jockeys so understand the risks.

We have two ponies at home. I rider my older daughter’s pony to help keep it fit. I was in Lambourn last week with (National Hunt trainer) Oliver Sherwood and it was the most glorious morning. I could be tempted to get back into the saddle, but not competitively.

Peter O’Sullevan House

Located on the site of the British Racing School (BRS), Peter O’Sullevan House will house rehabilitation and fitness facilities including physio treatment rooms and a hydrotherapy pool, as well as a light and airy gym, the IJF head office and a multi-media and comms room, along with shared meeting and educational facilities for the BRS students.

The IJF says all donations towards the project are gratefully received but those giving more than £100 will be allocated a horseshoe in recognition of their support, which will be used in the creation of a ‘Horse Shoe Sculpture’ in the grounds. The life-sized sculpture, by renowned steel sculpture artist Tom Hill, will depict galloping racehorses and will be made up of around 800 worn horseshoes from local racing yards. To donate call 01638 662246 or visit www.injuredjockeys.co.uk/shoes.

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