A jockey checks the scales (Getty)

    The jockeys’ guide to staying thin this Christmas

    21 December 2016

    None of us want to wake up on Boxing Day with the sugar sweats, and a body that resembles badly mashed potato. No one wants to look porky in the pub, with a waistband overspill like a Niagara Falls of fat. And no one wants to go out on New Year’s Eve looking like we’re smuggling in a lumpy mattress under our clothes. But will we curb our Christmas excesses, in an effort to look svelte? God no! I’ve had my eyes on the pies since November, eating two or three a day with Courvoisier cream. There’s no hope for me now.

    But spare a thought for those who must forgo the goose fat. There will be those this Christmas who can only look longingly at the chocolate log, whose greatest act of gluttony may be licking a discarded Roses wrapper. They are, of course, Britain’s top jockeys, who’ll be pelting across country for our kicks, after the indignity of being weighed on Boxing Day. I am shuddering at the thought.

    If you want to show solidarity with these beleaguered, starving souls, Great British Racing has rustled up some healthy recipes for Christmas Day dinner, including salmon parcels and steak salad, as recommended by a selection of Britain’s top jockeys. However, if like me, you’re irrevocably off the rails already, perhaps we can prise some quick-fix secrets from the jockeys, to look reasonably dashing or minxy (delete as applicable) by New Year’s Eve. Jockeys are basically the world’s experts at weight loss, so what are their tips for burning off brandy sauce and undoing the effects of eating for five?

    Leighton Aspell  and Many Clouds on their way to winning the 2015 Grand National (Getty)

    Leighton Aspell and Many Clouds on their way to winning the 2015 Grand National (Getty)

    Leighton Aspell, who’s twice won the Grand National, says sensibly, ‘It’s input over output – if I’m going to be eating lots, I need to be doing lots to balance it out. So if I’m not going to be doing lots of exercise, then I’ll have to limit how much I’m eating and drinking.’ Oh Christ, Aspell, no one wants to hear that. Come on, how can I lose a few pounds between Christmas and New Year? ‘Well, stay off the beers – you can drink the wine, I suppose, and the champagne, and take some nice long Christmas walks!’

    I feel as if I’ve called an NHS advice line. Lizzie Kelly became the first female jockey to win a Grade One race in Britain, on Boxing Day 2015. She tells me, ‘I’m an absolute sucker for roast potatoes, I can put away ten, easily.’ I like Lizzie. OK, so how do you get on a horse after that? ‘Every time I look a bit heavy, I always go for a run. You look better after exercise – it tones you up very quickly, and I think you feel better as well.’

    What? If I went for a run right now, it would be like chucking Baileys, salmon and Celebrations in a blender, then bouncing it round Regent’s Park. I turn to Tom Scudamore, who’s a third generation jockey. His grandfather won the Grand National in 1959, and his father is an eight time champion. Scudamore doesn’t disappoint me when he says I should sit in the bath. ‘Use your nice bubbles that you get for Christmas, then sip tea and keep topping the bath up. Sit there for a couple of hours and you’ll lose two or three pounds just doing that!’ Marvellous! But hang about, Scudamore, what’s that you’re saying? ‘It’s very short term – as soon as you hydrate yourself, you’ll put it back on very quickly!’

    So far, so much disappointment. But there is still Richard Johnson, Champion Jockey of 2016, and former beau of Zara Phillips. Johnson doesn’t even like mince pies – or Christmas cake. His recipe for a healthy Christmas lunch is below, while his top tip for combating the effect of chocolate is to avoid it. ‘If you can see a box of chocolates on the table when you walk past it, it’s hard not to keep picking one up, so for me, the best thing you can do is put it out of your sight!’ Right, thanks for that Johnson. I do not envy the jockeys their Tiny Tim helpings, but I’ve no doubt, come New Year, I shall envy their physiques.

    Richard Johnson’s healthy Christmas lunch


    200g turkey steak
    175g new potatoes
    40g of Brussel sprouts
    Knob of butter
    Handful of parsley
    Handful of croutons
    3 slices of trimmed bacon
    1 tbl spoon of mustard
    1 tspoon of cranberry sauce


    1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
    2. In a large saucepan, add water, one clove of smashed garlic and season with salt. Add potatoes and cook until soft.
    3. Season the turkey with salt & pepper then place in the oven for eight to ten minutes.
    4. Shred the sprouts finely and trim all fat from the bacon.
    5. In a frying pan, add butter followed by chopped bacon. Fry on medium heat until the bacon starts to colour. Next, add in your sprouts and stir well. Add two tablespoons of water from your now boiling potatoes. Stir in, remove from heat and add in the chopped parsley.
    6. Crush the potatoes with the back of a spoon and plate up.
    7. Next add a layer of sprouts
    8. Top your stack with your turkey and add croutons.
    9. Serve with cranberry sauce and gravy as desired.

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