On the day of my first Cheltenham win I was just an amateur, meaning I was entitled to two tickets on the day – professionals get four.
There’s a kiosk for jockeys next to the owners and trainers entrance. You walk up and tell them who you are, and who else you want a ticket for, but to be fair to them the staff normally know everyone’s face.
So you pick it up from there and then just walk in the door like everybody else. But there would be plenty of photographers, press, reporters milling around, trying to catch people on their way in.
I was just an 18-year-old before my first win on Alexander Banquet, no-one really knew who I was then. But when I got older and more famous, I used to find a way of sneaking in the back way to avoid all that.
I would come in where the horses came in with a stable staff wristband.
I would get my hands on one of those each morning so I didn’t have to stop and talk to anybody. Even this year, throw on a woolly hat and avoid the selfies, it’ll be grand.
I never got cornered by the media because as a jockey coming off the track, you could almost always find an excuse to walk around them.
Either you walk fast and say you have to go to the ambulance room and then you could easily get out the back door. Often, when I was heading out of the back door, you’d see trainers dotted around also just trying to get a bit of solitude and peace.
Sometimes staring at their phones, sometimes just staring into the abyss. Just looking for a bit of isolation where they could be on their own. It’s not just jockeys who need the alone time!
- Ruby Walsh’s Cheltenham Festival Cheat Sheet
- Frank Hickey 4 favourites to oppose at the Festival
- Frank Hickey’s 3 horses he fancies who are well handicapped