Sportin Wales Founders Column By Alex Cuthbert

By Sportin Wales’ Co Founder and Welsh international rugby union player; Alex Cuthbert

Away From Rugby, it’s Racing That Really Gets my Blood Pumping

I’ve had a number of sporting ambitions over the years – some I’ve managed to fulfill, while others are destined to remain fantasy.


In the second category was my dream of being a jockey.


But at 6ft 6in and 110kg, it was always a long shot.


I don’t know whether or not you watch much horse racing, but the guys on board are not really shaped like me. There was always more chance of the horse getting around the racecourse on me, rather than the other way around.


Still, not being the next AP McCoy or Frankie Dettori has never dampened my enthusiasm for the sport and as November arrives and we go deep into the jumps season, my passion for racing is as strong as ever.


I rode as a show jumper for years as a kid, and my mum – who was also a very good horse rider – was a big influence in that.


I didn’t really get serious about rugby until I was around 17-years-old and before that riding dominated, including a love of racing.


As someone who lived near Cheltenham, I used to go to the races from a young age and I’ve even galloped around the place myself.


I did some pony racing as a kid, but as I grew taller and heavier my ambition to be a jockey sadly had to be shelved.


Not my love of horses and racing, though. I am lucky to have had ownership in a couple of horses, trained by the brilliant Welsh trainer Christian Williams, and then my interest continued when I played for Exeter.


Together with Jonny Hill, I own a mare which has had a foal by Schiaparelli, and another foal to Golden Horn. Former jockey Tom Scudamore is also involved with those, so it’s all pretty exciting.


Jonny, who I played with at Exeter, shares my love of racing and together we thought we would move into breeding.


Within a couple of years, we’ll have two yearlings, which will be very exciting as they are long term projects since we’re hoping they’ll be jumpers.


The horse Jonny and I had at Exeter was called Cottonvale. It used to finish second quite a lot, which was a bit like the team at the Chiefs at the time.


I really enjoy the whole day of going to a race meeting. Everyone is there to have a good time and the atmosphere at a place like Cheltenham is amazing.


But I also enjoy the smaller meetings, where you can go and watch the horses in the parade ring and appreciate what amazing animals they are.

If you have a little bet, then that gets the blood pumping a little more, but I also enjoy just going to meetings to catch up with friends. It’s a great place to socialise.


The more you get into the breeding side of things, the more you learn how fascinating the racing industry is.


You might not think it, but there’s quite a bit of symmetry between horse racing and rugby.


You are dealing with athletic performance, recovery, the onus is on peaking over a season and having certain big targets in mind.


That’s the process for a racehorse trainer or someone training a squad of rugby players. It’s about hitting those occasional high points.


With the Ospreys at present, the target is peaking through this next season with what is a very young squad.


When I first went back into training after my stint with Wales this summer, there must have been around 50 per cent of the squad who I didn’t really know.


Some of them are 13 years younger than me, so it’s a bit scary. It reminded me of when I first started out with Cardiff, except now I’m the old guy.


But we’ve all blended together and there are new developments to get excited about, like playing a home game against the Sharks at the Twickenham Stoop.


There is a sense of optimism around, and I think it stems from the fact that the game in Wales has moved on from the lows and all the uncertainty we had last season.


There are bound to be a few struggles over the next couple of years with a very young squad, but there are going to be big benefits for these young players in the long run.


There are huge games against the likes of Leinster and Munster, the South African teams, plus the Welsh derbies, so although the learning on the job has to be rapid, the progress will be there, too.


It’s not how you take the first fence. It’s whether you’re still there in the final furlong.