Davy: The Secrets Behind His Jockey Days

  • Davy Jones
    Every young aspiring star always carries a composite photograph with him, consisting of three or four separate photographs showing him in different moods, to show producers. This was Davy’s.
  • Davy Jones
  • Davy Jones
  • Davy Jones

Davy Jones might never have become a Monkee if he had not made up his mind to be a jockey. And, if that sounds odd, then just listen into a very secret conversation I had with Davy and Basil Foster, the well-known horse trainer, when Davy visited this country recently.

JACKIE: “When did you first speak to each other?”

BASIL: “When I went to meet Davy at Cambridge Station. The first time I saw him, I remember saying to myself, “Well, that can’t be the lad, he’s far too small—he only looked about nine years old.”

DAVY: “You’re not that big yourself! How tall are you, Basil? 5 feet 5? But the first time I saw you I was really looking forward to starting my training. I had often talked to my father about what I was going to do when I left school. I’d thought of lots of things, of course. Then I really decided that I’d like to be a jockey. Perhaps it’s because I was small, or something maybe I realised that it’s one profession in which it was an advantage to be little. Anyway, I asked my father if he could find out how I could go about it. Luckily enough, my sister knew a bloke who was friendly with a newspaper reporter on the Sporting Chronicle, called Richard Onslow. Richard knew Basil was a well-known Newmarket trainer and he said he would try and help by getting in touch with him.”

BASIL: “Richard wrote to me saying that he knew a young lad who wanted to be a jockey and asked if I had a vacancy and would I take him on trial during the Summer holidays? This was 1960 by the way. He told me to get in touch with Davy’s father if I was interested. I wrote to Mr. Jones saying that it was quite possible that I would have a vacancy the following Christmas. But, I thought it would be a good idea if Davy could spend a few days with us during the Summer holidays to see if he really liked the life or not.”

DAVY: “You needn’t have worried about that. I had made up my mind already. When my father told me that I was to spend a few days at a stables, I was so excited I remember I could hardly sleep until the big day arrived. I was all ready to go long before the time came to leave. And I remember saying goodbye to my father and sisters, and waving to them as the train pulled out of the station. And then meeting Basil and driving from Cambridge Station to Newmarket in Basil’s Jaguar. Some of the stories I’ve read have had me sleeping in the hay loft, living on next-to-nothing, but actually, I stayed with Basil during my trial period and so I had a fairly easy time. I got to know Basil and his family very well. He had a boy and a girl, David and Susan and three dogs called Willie, Rex and Betty and a parrot—what was her name?”

BASIL: “Polly. You were always trying to get her to say things but she wouldn’t pick them up.”

DAVY: “Your wife was very nice. I remember one of the first things she said to me was, ‘Don’t worry about Mr. Foster—if he shouts at you, he doesn’t really mean it—his bark is much worse than his bite’.”

BASIL: “I thought it would be a good idea if Davy did stay with us as one of the family, because his father had told me in his letter that Davy had recently lost his mother and that he was pretty upset about it. When I mentioned this to my wife, she immediately insisted he lived with us.”

JACKIE: “How long did you stay at the stables, Davy?”

DAVY: “I can’t remember exactly—it’s so long ago now. I do remember that I loved every minute of it. Well, almost. The morning after I arrived, I was up early and out in the yard to meet the lads and horses. I was introduced to Bill Evans, the head lad, who showed me what I had to do. And I got into the routine pretty quickly. When the horses had finished their work in the morning, I would go up to the gallops with Basil and ride one of the horses. I remember the first time I sat on a real race-horse very well. It was a terrific feeling—I felt as though I could have beaten Lester Piggott if we had been in a race.”

BASIL: “Davy was really great—he might have been small, but he always worked hard and although he had only ridden a pony, it was obvious that he would soon be able to ride very well. Eventually, he had to go back home because the Summer holidays were over—before he left, I called him into the office and asked him how he liked the life. I thought at the time that he might decide to forget it, as there is a lot of hard work involved in becoming a jockey—getting up early in all weathers, feeding the horses, grooming them—it never stops.”

Davy Jones
[Above]: Davy mounted on Lanngee Duff at Basil Foster’s stables in 1960.

DAVY: “I remember what Basil said very well. He was all sort of dignified about it. He told me I had been here a few weeks and that it was almost time for me to go home and that I had seen and done enough to know whether I wanted to become an apprentice jockey or not. He also said that there would be no disgrace or hard feelings if I did change my mind. He quite understood if I did, because it would be too late once I was an apprentice. He said, ‘I will give you until tomorrow morning to make up your mind’. But I didn’t need any time, my mind was already made up and I told him I had no intention of changing it. Basil said ‘O.K. I will inform your father and you can come and start work properly when you leave school at Christmas.’ I remember I felt on top of the world because I was well on the way to becoming a famous jockey. In fact, I couldn’t wait for school to end so that I could get back. My father gave me a big talking to before I left the second time, telling me that I must be careful and do whatever Mr. Foster says, you know, the usual sort of things that dads say to their sons the first time they leave home.”

BASIL: “Things are a bit tougher, of course, in the stables during Winter time. It’s not so easy getting up in the early hours of the morning, when it is dark and freezing and Newmarket can be a very cold place in the Winter!”

DAVY: “Yes, I remember it was freezing. The worst thing of all was washing in that cold, cold water Brrrrrrrr!”

BASIL: “It will probably make him laugh now, but his starting salary—it was the same for all first-year apprentices—was £1.5.0d. per week, plus his board and lodging. And out of that he had to put away 5/- every week for clothing. You must earn that just about every minute these days, Davy.”

DAVY: “I may earn it. But most of it gets passed straight on to the tax man!”

BASIL: “As he had some experience of stable work, the first few weeks of his apprenticeship was much easier for Davy than for most of the other lads who had never worked in a stables before. He also knew the other three apprentices as he had got to know them during his Summer holiday.”

DAVY: “I remember now, there were three—that’s right three! Gary Cooper, Jeremy Glover and Keith, Keith something-or other.”

BASIL: “Keith Beeson. He is in America now. Jeremy Glover is a well known National Hunt jockey. You all seemed to get on very well together.”

DAVY: “Bill Evans, the head bloke, used to get at me sometimes. He was always saying I rode like a sack of spuds, but all the lads were constantly playing tricks on each other—it was all part of the fun.”

DAVY AND BASIL CONTINUE THEIR WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE NEXT MONTH

Magazine: Monkees Monthly
Editor: Jackie Richmond
Published:
Issue: 14
Publisher: Beat Publications Ltd.
Pages: 20–23