There’s a little fat man inside desperate to get out
“There’s a little fat man inside desperate to get out.”
That’s what rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll told me when I met him at Windsor recently. He weighs himself twice a day to make sure he doesn’t pile on the pounds. A lot of people ask me whether I’ve put on weight since retiring and I’ve probably put on about a stone, but I’ve been keeping very active riding out various horses for JP McManus.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend some great sporting events that I just wouldn’t have been able to go to when I was riding. I watched Andy Murray at Wimbledon in the quarter finals and as an Arsenal fan, it was a very enjoyable day going to the FA Cup Final. The highlight though was Royal Ascot. On the Friday, I went to Windsor Castle and had lunch with The Queen. It was a bit surreal coming up the course at Ascot in the horse and carriage. I said to Her Majesty later on that it was the safest I’ve ever been up the straight at Ascot in my life. I didn’t like the fact I was in the last carriage though, I was a bit disappointed to be at the rear. I’m glad I wasn’t there very often throughout my career.
The Queen is a very knowledgeable woman about racing, breeding and the sport in general. I watched a few races with her, just the two of us in the box. She has an opinion like all owners. I probably should have been nervous meeting her but she just makes you feel very comfortable because she is so interesting. I came away thinking that in years to come racing will really miss her when she’s not around, especially at Royal Ascot. Everyone wants to see her and they want to know what she’s wearing. She’s probably the only woman in the world that bookmakers have bets on what outfit she’s wearing. On the day, I wanted to give a few people the heads up about what she was wearing so they could have a few quid on it, but she bowled me a googly by wearing both yellow and green!
Speaking of googlies, one man who is good with balls in his hands is Shane Warne. I played golf with him and Ricky Ponting this week, trying to get in shape for the Dunhill Links Championships at St Andrews. You definitely wouldn’t want Warney lining up in a handicap because he’s always got something up his sleeve. He certainly isn’t an 11 handicapper, he’s very crafty. And Ricky? He plays off scratch so I won’t be beating him anytime soon.
I’m looking forward to the football season getting in to full swing and as an Arsenal fan I think the signing of Petr Cech is a great bit of business. Arsenal have lacked a leader since Vieira and Cech has that presence and qualities of a leader and an organiser. A lot of players wouldn’t want to be in a one-on-one against Cech. It’s the first time in a long time that Arsenal have got strength in depth and if someone gets injured we’ve got someone good enough to cover. I really do think this is the best squad we’ve had in 10 or 12 years.
I think Arsenal will win the Community Shield and I think they’ll win the Premier League. It’s the first time in a decade I’ve actually thought that. I’ll be having a bet on Arsenal to win the league - at least I get to watch for a whole season and see if I’m right.
I’m arranging a charity dinner in October in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund and Tiny Tickers, which is an organisation I came to know when my son Archie had heart surgery. It will be nice to give a bit back to them. Gareth Bale has very kindly offered one of the big prizes on the night – to go and watch a Champions League game in Madrid and then play a round of golf with me and him. I wonder if that means he's staying at Real? Guess we'll find out soon enough.