Dreaming of the track

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by Charlie Cooke,

First Published: 9 Nov, 2018

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Ahead of Cheltenham November Meet, we caught up with our top military Jockey Lieutenant Billy Apahamian, to discuss life in the superfast lane, the Army and something a little closer to Billy’s heart.

Billy, what is it about racing you find so exciting?

There’s simply nothing quite like it, it’s hard to describe. It’s a combination of the competition, the adrenaline and the relationship and trust you build over time with your horse.

You’ve had a fantastic season with the horses the past year, what was the highlight?

I think a big highlight for me was claiming the Grand Military Gold Cup for Nicky Henderson and the Hanburys on their horse Baden. He made the race so easy for me, he ran it perfectly and jumped beautifully. Baden was fatally injured at Worcester only a few weeks ago, this makes the memories I have of him extra special.

Let’s talk horses. Who are your favourites?

If I had to pick one… it would be Bayley’s Dream. We train him from home, he is a quirky little horse and always gives absolutely everything; he’s also extremely accurate with his jumping, which makes my life very easy! He had a very successful campaign last year and we aim to take him hunter chasing this year.

But there are so many class acts on the racing circuit. I am looking forward to following the progress of Harry Whittington’s Saint Calvados, I’d also love to see a triumphant return from Colin Tizzard’s Thistlecrack.

Are you excited for Cheltenham?

Of course, it’s the home of jump racing, everyone gets very excited for the first meeting of the season. It’s always a great craic, irrelevant of the weather, as one can always seek shelter in the bar with a Guinness!

You’re off to Cheltenham, what Fairfax & Favor favourites will you be wearing?

Cheltenham? Balmorals every time, purely because they are very smart but still hold their own if it’s wet and cold.

Life in the Army, what is it like?

The Army has been fantastic. Since I joined the army in May 2015, the role has been so diverse there’s always something new and challenging going on. You meet some pretty inspirational people from all walks of life. I was at Sandhurst for one year, which got tough when I was trying to get down to racing weight. I have now commissioned to the Irish Guards, based in Yorkshire in a racing town.

Tell us a little bit about the sponsored charity bike ride you completed earlier this year.

Our sister Harriet was born with an unknown learning disability meaning she needs full time care. Six years ago, we found Home Orchard, it is a truly wonderful place, where our sister is looked after so lovingly. They built a small Sensory Room to enhance the resident’s sensory intuition and learning. The money we raised is now being invested into developing the learning space, we are very exciting to watch the expansion unfold!

Fairfax & Favor were delighted to sponsor Billy & brother Charlie’s 1000 mile cycle this summer from Italy to their sister Harriet’s care home for disabled adults, Home Orchard in Devon.

How tough was trip /10?

To be honest, 7/10. Bar my incredibly geriatric knees which caused me a spot of bother, we were armed with everything we needed for success: some spare inners, a repair kit, a pack of blister plasters, isotonic gels, true grit, that all important brotherly banter and, above all, a truly great cause.

Did the F&F sponsored lycras protect your bottoms?

They did actually! Thank you for your generous donation too, you guys have been hugely supportive over the last 4 years; racing licenses, fantastic stash, moral support, it really has been a pleasure. Also, having a brand like you behind me makes me feel like I have far more supporters than I actually do!

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