It is not just the superstars who make a sport. In cricket the Vaughans and Pietersens win the headlines but it is the gritty Paul Collingwoods, making runs when others are losing their heads, who give the England side character. So who expresses jumping’s ethos? Try Warren Marston.
A crowd-pulling name? Maybe not. But Warren is the weft and warp of the winter sport, the epitome of jumping’s spirit. Back in the early 1990s he was Adrian Maguire’s No. 2 with The Duke, David Nicholson. He rode Cheltenham Festival winners like Nathen Lad as stable jockey to Jenny Pitman. He has been around Richard Phillips’s yard for years, partnering the likes of La Landiere. And now this dire winter has been more like an Indian summer for Warren.
This season’s success story is the 35-year-old Gloucestershire-based Martin Keighley, and, as his stable jockey, the three-years-older Warren Marston, now 38, who made friends with Keighley in the Duke’s yard, has been a key factor, banging home more winners than he has done for a few seasons past.
‘A big thing for me is riding for people who want you to be riding for them. Especially with Martin I have enough confidence in him and in myself that, if I felt I had to do something that was totally contradictory to what we’d decided, I’d be happy to do that in a race because he knows that I’m trying to do what’s best for him.’
Wazza, as the weighing-room knows him, gives everything a ride, including those with a string of duck eggs in their record. A realist, he knew from the start he was never going to be champion jockey. ‘There are only ever going to be two or three people at the top of your profession in your time and there are plenty better than me.’