Jockey Jan

Jan's Story

Young Forfar Jockey Who Lived The Dream
By Alan Ducat

A FORFAR farming couple have paid a moving tribute to their daughter who, for two years, ‘lived the dream’, rubbing shoulders with many of the top stars in the sport of kings.

Nineteen-year-old Jan Wilson was one of two apprentice jockeys who lost their lives in a fire at a block of flats in Norton, close to Malton in North Yorkshire, on 5th September 2009.

Re-running DVDs of her racing successes, glossing over countless photographs snapped at racecourses all over the country and browsing through a scrapbook of Jan’s racing highs and lows, parents Drew and Margaret Wilson, of Greenhead Farm, Rescobie, by Forfar, described how their daughter had set her heart on becoming a jockey from an early age, and how her determination to succeed drove her forward.

“She was a bubbly person and mixed with everybody,” explained Margaret. “She was also very determined and totally fearless in the saddle.

“Jan set her heart on becoming a jockey from an early age - and wouldn’t let anybody put her off that goal.

“We had suggested she got herself a proper job and that we would buy her a horse so that she could continue her show jumping, cross-country and other equestrian events.

“She made the best Yorkshire pudding I have ever seen - and we thought we could steer her into catering or something a little more secure in sport.

“But nothing could stop her from following her dream - and, although I was a little apprehensive at first, she went on to prove me wrong, and I loved every minute of it!”

Brought up on the family farm, Jan was educated at Chapelpark Primary School and Forfar Academy, playing a leading role in community life before moving south to pursue her dream career as a jockey.

At school, she was a real sporty person, taking a keen interest in athletics, particularly cross-country events.
Indeed, Margaret recalls the day, at an Angus primary schools’ cross-country event in Arbroath, when she finished second to Eilish McColgan, the daughter of former top athlete Liz McColgan.

“Jan enjoyed her athletics and was particularly keen on cross-country, so we got her to join Arbroath Athletics Club.”
But Jan’s real heart lay in the equine field, her interest spawned when, one Christmas, at the age of nine, she was given a gift of a Shetland pony.

“It was a big strong pony and a bit too strong for Jan, but then her grandfather, Angus, got her a Welshie, which she affectionately called Toffee.

“It was a ‘thrawn’ beast but Jan managed to break it in.
“She showed a knack for horsemanship from an early age, and soon grew in confidence, moving from jumping make-shift obstacles in a farm field to taking part in pony club events.”

Jan enjoyed a spell helping out at Brechin Equestrian Centre and received some lessons in return. She spent two weeks at Conchie’s Riding School at Barry for her school workers experience.


Prior to moving south to pursue her career as a jockey in the spring of 2007, she also enjoyed a number of other interests, including Highland dancing at Friockheim, membership of Forfar Young Farmers, golf and curling.

Indeed, while she spent a season as a member of Aberlemno Curling Club, there were three members of the Wilson family competing on the ice - Jan, father Drew and grandfather Angus.

Jan also found time to help out at Angus Riding for Disabled, while, also in 2007, she represented Scotland Young Farmers at the 4H-Camp in Finland.

Throughout her later secondary schooling, the focus remained on becoming a jo

 

ckey, so much so, that her parents managed to get her enrolled in the British Racing School, at Newmarket, on a course she passed with flying colours.

“At the end of the nine weeks that meant a guaranteed job in the industry,” added Mrs Wilson. “Jan expressed a wish to join the stables of Ferdy Murphy in Leyburn, and that’s where she went in October 2007, as a stable lass and involved in riding out work, which included schooling over hurdles and jumps.”
Drew went down to bring Jan home for Christmas and said it was a proud moment when he drove into the yard to find Jan aboard Kalahari King, one of the stable stars, and also in the company of a number of top jockeys, including Graham Lee.
In April of the next year, Jan joined the stable of Ferdy’s son, Paul, described as a good move by mother Margaret.

“Paul had a great influence on Jan’s career. He was like a brother to her and mentored her as she continued her progress.

“He explained that Jan had a great pair of hands and was able to settle horses quite easily.”
Jan’s career moved forward in the spring of 2008 when a trip to Doncaster sales saw Margaret become the owner of a horse called Bed Fellow.

 

“We wanted to help Jan on her way, so we went to the sales on April Fool’s Day and bought Bed Fellow.”
Her first race under rules was an eventful one, when she travelled all the way to Goodwood to partner Bed Fellow.
Jan had prepared the horse for the race that day - and it looked striking, being awarded the prize for the best turned out in the race.

Alas, the horse twice reared up in the stalls, and, as a result, Jan suffered a broken nose. But that didn’t put her off, for, although well down the field, she finished the race, flashing past the post despite struggling to see through her blood-splattered goggles.

The experience didn’t put her off, and she went on to twice finish fourth on Bed Fellow, also finishing runner-up in a charity race at Newcastle - on Goodnight Dick for Paul Murphy.

 


Late last year, Jan considered going to America to further her flat career, but Dean Heslop, a promising apprentice, managed to fix her up with an interview at David Barron’s Maunby stables near Thirsk.

It was in December last year that she settled into her new environment at Maunby, and, in the early part of the year she picked up two mounts for the stable in all-weather races at Southwell. She was very grateful to the owners of The Canny Dove for giving her the opportunity to ride.

But it was when Margaret decided to sell Bed Fellow to Ian Simpson, of Knowehead of Duntrune, by Dundee - a great supporter of Jan - and purchase a horse called Imperial Sword, that the young jockey’s career really took off.

Three times she rode ‘Swordie’ to victory - at Ripon, Haydock and Ayr.

Indeed, when she came from last to first and pulled clear of the field in the last 50 yards at Haydock, the commentator was heard to say “Jamie Spencer would have been proud of that finish! Spenceress.”

Her last win was at Ayr in August a very proud moment for both of us as she drove her Swordy past the finishing line
Jan was last in action at Newcastle on Monday prior to the blaze that was to claim her life, finishing down the field.

She was due to have ridden Imperial Sword again in the 5.45 pm race at Thirsk on the day she was killed - but the horse was withdrawn in the wake of the tragedy.

And, her untimely death probably robbed Jan of yet another high - for Imperial Sword’s possible future engagements included the Ayr Gold Cup, the top race at the premier flat

 

 racing meeting on the calendar at the west coast track.

Jan was last back home on the 17th July for the annual Kirre Show - where she was to stage an exhibition of her life as a jockey, until the weather resulted in the event’s cancellation.

In a poignant gesture, following the devastating loss of their 19-year-old daughter in such tragic circumstances, Imperial Sword, the horse on which Jan enjoyed a hat-trick of successes - at Ripon, Haydock and Ayr - has been gifted by parents Drew and Margaret to the British Racing School.

Jan’s outgoing personality, friendly manner, her ambition and competitive spirit will be missed by her family members and many friends.

She did indeed live the dream, if not for long.

“We were living her dream as well,” concluded Margaret. “And, her passing will leave a big hole in our lives. Our thoughts are also with the family of Jamie Kyne, the other young jockey who lost his life.”

 

 

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