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Cheltenham hero who swapped horses for houses; WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Rupert Wakley, enjoying a second career as an estate agent after riding nearly 250 winners.

ONCE you might have put your house on him - now he may be the man to sell you one.

If you enjoy your next visit to Stratford so much you want to move there, call in at Knight Frank estate agents in the town to meet the Cheltenham Festival-winning jockey who has swapped horses for houses.

Rupert Wakley has fond memories of that National Hunt Chase victory on Wandering Light for Tim Forster in 1998, though he says now: "It was a very special day, but if there is anything I could say to a young lad now it would be that you might think this is only the beginning but you just don't know how long it is going to last.

"I don't think I appreciated it at the time - I probably only appreciate it now."

It was the high point of an amateur career during which he was pipped for the championship only by riders of the calibre of Robert Thornton and Seamus Durack before making a good go of professional life.

Trouble Ahead in the Agfa Diamond Chase and Trinitro in the Swedish and Norwegian Grand Nationals were among nearly 250 winners and Wakley recalls: "I was probably never going to be in the top flight but I had a good income and thoroughly enjoyed what I did."

Then injury intervened. "I kept having problems with my shoulders, they kept dislocating," Wakley says. "I had about five operations on them and every time I came back they were not really stable.

"Funnily enough, I am moving house and I have just read the final letter from the surgeon. He couldn't see how it was going to rectify itself unless I stopped falling off horses. And that is just not an option if you are a jump jockey. His advice to me was I had to look at another career.

"That was probably the most difficult time of my life. I found it very hard to come to terms with that for a year or 18 months. Because I was making quite nice money and doing something I loved doing with great colleagues. I found it tough."

Tough to find a new career too, and Wakley remembers: "I thought long and hard about training but I saw so many good mates who knew the time of day struggling with 20 or 30 horses, working seven days a week. What I wanted to do was to find a job where I could afford to have a horse for pleasure, not relying on them for a total income."

Then old point-to-point friend Rupert Sweeting suggested estate agency. "He said you can carry on a lot of your interests and they are quite supportive, so I went to have a chat with the Worcester office and they offered me a job," Wakley says.

"It was hard work to start with. I have never been hugely gifted on a computer, and it is a completely different discipline. I was a rabbit in headlights for probably two or three months.

"I am an associate, one of the negotiators dealing with sales of residential houses or farms or equestrian properties - as we all know, if you need to talk to someone about gallop surfaces, mnages and things like that, it is a slightly different language, so it is quite helpful on that side."

Work commitments do not prevent Wakley from enjoying hunting and he goes to "nearly every" Cheltenham meeting. He reflects: "It is competitive but I suppose I have been fortunate that I have gone from racing and gone into my next job, which I really enjoy. I wanted to do something different but I'm sure I will never be too far away from racing."

David Carr

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Rupert Wakley: "I will never be too far from racing"
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:May 16, 2010
Words:636
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