Car crash was the wake-up call for Newmarket jockey bidding for big race success this weekend
Jockey Ray Dawson said crashing his car when he was drunk proved to be the wake-up call he needed to kick start his career and has given him the chance of riding his first Group 1 winner on Saturday.
Having hit rock bottom, the 28 year old, who has spoken publicly about his drink and drugs problems, is now clean and sober and said he would never have got the chance to ride leading contender, Zain Claudette, without being determined to change his life.
Winning the £160,915 first prize at the Rowley Mile, would bring Dawson full circle as the accident, which led to the start of his recovery two years ago, happened in Newmarket.
"People my whole life said to stay away from Newmarket," said Dawson "but it was the best thing that ever happened. It was a rocky road but I had my licence with (trainer) Jane Chapple-Hyam," he said, having failed to hold down jobs at other stables due to his personal problems.
“I then got drunk one night and crashed my car in Newmarket on May 4, 2019, and that was the last time I had a drink," he said.
“Whatever it was about that night I thought, ‘I have to stop this as it is crazy’. That was the start of it and from then my career has taken off. I’ve put down the drink for good this time and got the proper help and continued to get the help. Once I could live a life without needing a drink on the weekends to deal with life I was able to give my career a proper shot."
And he sought help from Sporting Chance, a charity, headed by former England football captain Tony Adams, that helps professional sportsmen beat addiction and mental health problems.
“I don’t mind talking about my back story but when I ride a winner I would like people to concentrate on the winner at that the time to help me move on,” he said.
Dawson, who has already partnered more than 50 winners this year, has plenty of people to thank for helping him get back on track, but arguably none more so than his partner, and mother to his daughter Lila, Abbie Wibrew, who he met at Chapple-Hyam’s.
Away from track the support of loved ones has helped Dawson with his recovery, but much of his success in the saddle can be attributed to his agent, Adam Brook, as well as opportunities given to him by trainers Roger Varian and Robert Cowell.
And although acknowledging Zain Claudette will need to take another step forward to triumph at the top level, Dawson is confident she will secure victory in a Group One at some stage of her career, whether that is in the six furlong prize at the weekend or further down the line.
“Zain Claudette’s form going into the race is unreal and I certainly wouldn’t swap her. Going into it I’m very excited.
“I think the Rowley Mile will suit her and that it won’t bother her at all. She is very balanced and you wouldn’t even notice her change her legs as she does it so quickly and the stiff finish there will suit her.
“No matter what happens on Saturday we know that she is good enough to be a Group One filly at some point next year which is great.”