Soldier rider Nathan Rahman bucks a trend
Followers of Point-to-Point racing will recognize that many names are just passing through en route ti greater things under Rules. The cross over between the ranks of amateur and professional racing is very blurred nowadays. Brought to you as picks from the Winners Enclosure, we highlight riders to look out for as a new season emerges into view.
Based at Tidworth near Larkhill, but originally from Cardiff, it’s appropriate that 31-year-old Nathan Rahman is a sergeant in the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh. He's grown a budding career between the flags with 4 winners from 36 rides between the flags, although last season other commitments prevented him from riding at all. And it hasn't been without incident either. In December 2018, he broke bones in his back in a fall at Clifton-on-Dunsmore but still managed to return to the saddle six weeks later.
Having served the Army in locations as diverse as Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands, Nathan admits that he sometimes struggles to find a happy balance between work, family and his hobbies, of which riding is the main one. And our smaller Army makes the number of soldier riders at its smallest nowadays in any case.
In the latest of the “Pointing People” series, Jake Exelby spoke to him to find out more about him and his views on pointing. This article was first published earlier this month at www. pointtopoint.co.uk.
When did you join the Army and why?
I joined when I was 18. My goal was to go down a racing route, but I wasn’t disciplined enough at the time – I was going to work for Dai Rees, but I found it difficult to get up in the morning! So I decided to get my life in order – a friend of mine was a recruiter and he fast-tracked me into the Army.
Among your military achievements, which are you most proud of?
When the government announced the Nightingale hospitals last year, my regiment was tasked with setting one up in Bristol. We trained intensive care support workers and helped them treat patients with Covid. We then set up the testing centres and their operations procedures and manned them before the civilian companies took over.
I’m also an ambassador for Tedworth House in Tidworth, which is a charity that promotes equine therapy for rehabilitation, both physical and mental. I’m passionate about a saying of Winston Churchill’s – “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man.”
How did you get into Point-to-Pointing in the first place?
My grandfather had a farm in Pembrokeshire and was involved in Pointing. In the days when you used to have to hunt horses to race them in points, he would qualify them, and he instilled the same ethos in me – I used to have to take the naughty ones out!
My racing career started through Sentimentaljourney. He was half-owned by Robert Varnham and half by Alan Wilson, who was ex-Artillery and wanted to run his horse in military races. I got myself hooked up with them and the relationship with Robert (who has trained all Nathan’s Pointing winners so far) developed from there.
You also ride regularly in Europe. Tell me about that.
It came about through fellow jockey Luca Morgan. He knew an Italian trainer who wanted someone to ride so I went to Merano, was placed first time out, then won a race and it took off from there. I’ve ridden in Germany, including for Christian von der Recke – who’s achieved notable success in England – and in the “Lake Hunter” race there, where you have to jump natural fences and swim a lake! Then I’ve been placed at the Pardubice meeting and I think I’ve ridden in six countries in all on the continent. I probably have more rides abroad in six months than I do in two seasons Pointing.
How has your background affected you in the sport of pointing?
I was brought up on an inner-city council estate in Cardiff and have had to work hard for everything. I’m a British Asian, and the only such Pointing jockey as far as I’m aware. It would be good to see more ethnicity in racing and I’m a supporter of the “Step on Track” programme to promote this – I can only think of Sean Levey among professional jockeys with a BAME background, which is surprising, given that a high proportion of work riders have South Asian heritage.
Who's inspired you most in the world of pointing?
Dickie Collinson, a very good friend and a much under-rated rider outside East Anglia. He’s the nicest gentleman in the weighing room and, having been around for a while, is the voice of wisdom! If I ever needed advice, I’d turn to him. We’ve also done a lot of filming together – for programmes like Bridgerton, The Crown and Game of Thrones.
Who have been your favourite horses and why?
Sentimentaljourney gave me my first win, first ride under Rules and first ride at Cheltenham, and Isaias was my first international winner.
What's your favourite course and why?
I’ve always loved Penshurst. The committee really look after you and the hospitality is great. And I rode my first winner there.
What do you love most about pointing?
I get a buzz like nothing else. Being on a horse, going fast, without a care in the world does a lot for my mental wellbeing – I don’t do drugs, but I’d imagine it’s like being on crack! I also love the community, especially among the older lads. If you have a bad day, people look after you.
What's been your funniest moment in the sport?
I won’t name him, but watching someone trying to weigh out with no boots or saddle, just a weight cloth, hovering on and off the scales. It helped me learn who the characters were when I was young and naïve!
What's been the highlight of your time in the sport?
Either my first day riding at (local course) Larkhill, where I won on Tangoed in my Dad’s colours, or my double at Edgcote – again on Tangoed and on Prouts Pub in the Novice Riders Final.
What would you do if you were in charge of the sport?
I’d have a different rating system, with a new category for elite horses. You have to take on horses that have been running in big races under Rules – they may be past their best, but they’re still too good for moderate horses.
What do you think the effect of lockdown on pointing will be?
It’ll be interesting to see what happens next season. A lot of young riders have turned conditional and this may have an impact if it means less new talent is coming through. We may have lost a generation of young riders.
What are your plans for next season?
I’m hoping to be back riding between the flags again as well as to have lots of opportunities to ride abroad, Army commitments notwithstanding. I’d also like to officially “lose my claim” by riding my fifth winner in points and to enter the winners enclosure(by being placed at least) in a military race.
I’m also focused on pony racing with my daughter Alexis. Last year was her first season, on a previously unbroken nine-year-old, who races in the 138cms events, but is on the small side for them. It took a few rides for the penny to drop for both of them but she was placed at Haydock, Kelso and Cheltenham, after which she asked me, “How long did it take you to ride at Cheltenham, Dad?”
Which jockeys/trainers/horses do you expect to do well?
I hope Bradley Gibbs has a brilliant season as a trainer – without a shadow of doubt, he’ll make a good one. I’d be really happy to see Jason Warner, for whom I’ve ridden, be leading owner again – he won’t be far away. Luke Price has a nice horse – Best Pal – who won a bumper at Larkhill and it will be interesting to see him develop.
As for leading jockey, Will Biddick’s enterprise is growing and it won’t be a surprise to see him do well. Finally, I’d love to see my friend Sam Burton get back into the swing of things – he took a break from the sport during the pandemic.