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Richie’s Isolation Mix

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Richie’s Isolation Mix

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Billy Lee on working hard to stay sharp ahead of racing's return next month

Limerick jockey Billy Lee admits it'll probably take a while to resume full fitness when racing resumes behind closed doors next month. 

Lee’s ride aboard Space Traveller in the Boomerang Stakes on Champions Weekend was voted the best of the year in 2019 at the Horse Racing Ireland awards and he told Ger Gilroy and Johnny Ward on Friday Night Racing that the sport's shutdown had left jockeys having to adapt:

"I'm just ticking over and trying to keep myself fit by doing a bit of exercise every day, whether that be a walk of a run or just a workout at home. I'm riding out as much as I can at home and a few days a week going to different yards to ride out.

"It is hard to replicate race riding fitness so it'll probably take a few days to get back into the swing of things fitness wise but other than that it won't be too bad.

"Sprinting and strength and conditioning training is the only way really to replicate that strain on the lungs during a race. I've stayed in contact with (S and C coach) Wayne Midleton during the lockdown, he's really good and he's been giving me some good workouts to follow, they work.

"A lot of being a flat jockey is muscle memory, if you haven't sat on a horse for six or seven weeks your muscles just take a little while just to remember what you not to use when riding in a race. That takes years to build up."

Lee told Johnny Ward that the experience of his first meeting back on the saddle next month is likely to feel like returning to school after the summer break:

"We've had the experience of it (behind closed doors races) before lockdown came in, which will be a bit of a help, yeah it's going to be strange but we'll crack on and get back into it.

"We're all in contact and just looking forward to getting back now. It's fully understandable why racing was stopped but now the figures are headed in the right direction we're looking to getting back. You do miss it, just riding good horses and competing for wins. And of course you miss the lads in the weights room."

The 32-year-old was a star of the infamous 'Castletown Donkey Derby" YouTube video and was able to laugh at his efforts on Percy in the race:

"Haha, I think just pulling up at the end and everyone in knots laughing after the race is my one memory of it alright. A local publican in Castletown was doing the commentary and he was very funny in it.

"It was August 15th and there's a little festival in Castletown every year and they were great days. Even when I got my apprentice license I kinda expected I'd get a bit heavier and end up being a jump jockey but when I got a grip on my weight I started to watch the really flat riders to learn from them then.

"When I was 17 I was doing things totally wrong by skipping meals and a lot of sweating in order to get the weight off. Now I keep a balanced diet and my training programme with Wayne helps to keep that weight off. We've come a long way in a short period of time and the younger jockeys now are much better educated on diet and strength and conditioning now and they know that starving yourself is not the best way to do it."

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