Chris Maude, 46, master valet
Portrait © Rob Greig
So you’re a valet, but for jockeys. What does that entail?
‘A valet sorts out all the jockey’s kit. Makes sure the saddles are clean and ready for each race with the right colours hanging up. Racing takes place virtually every day of the year, so there’s plenty of work. There’s a great sense of camaraderie and a lot of piss-taking – the odd cock-up too. But I’ve yet to see one of my jockeys ride out naked.’
You started off as a jockey yourself, right?
‘Yeah, I was a professional jump jockey for 16 years. I won a few big races, but I never won a Grand National or a Gold Cup. I did ride a few winners over the fences at Aintree, though. I suppose they would be my biggest achievements.’
Why and how did you make the switch?
‘I always swore to myself I wouldn’t become a racehorse trainer when I retired because I’m very grumpy and dealing with all the owners wouldn’t work. Two brothers used to valet for me when I was riding, and one of them sold the business to me in 2001.’
What are the jockeys like to work with – any little Hitlers?
‘When they’ve been up since five in the morning and haven’t eaten for three days because they want to be as light as possible, then they get tired and grumpy. But overall they’re a great bunch of lads. Because it’s such a dangerous job, there’s a lot of camaraderie.’
Is it true they wear tights?
‘Jockeys do wear tights, especially jump jockeys. Mainly it’s to keep warm in the winter. Thankfully they don’t prance around the dressing-room in them.’
Even AP McCoy?
‘Even [record-breaking 20-time Champion Jockey] AP McCoy. Watching him go from strength to strength over the years has been brilliant. And most days the job is brilliant. You’re guaranteed a bellyaching laugh at someone else’s expense. My children tell me I wash dwarves’ underpants for a living. But I love it. It’s good fun.’
Interview by Michael Curle
Hours: 70-80 pw with lots of early starts
Starting salary: £30,000 pa
Qualifications: ‘Being able to wash underpants in a machine
Or why not become a cheesemonger?
Photography © Rob Greig