Cheltenham Gold Cup-winner Sam Thomas has revealed the toughest part of swapping life as a jockey for training, insisting he doesn't want to be remembered just for riding Denman.

The 33-year-old says it was never his intention to go straight into training horses once his career in the saddle was over. And, in a candid interview with The Jockey Club's Love The Jumps podcast, he admits he was "naïve" in thinking he could start by training from his girlfriend's farm.

Thomas says he soon realised he would need better facilities than he could afford on his own and now trains out of the yard once used by the legendary Fulke Walwyn, working his horses on the Lambourn gallops.

Explaining the motivations behind his career change, he said: "Obviously winning. I had a successful enough career and rode some fantastic horses and winning is what drove me then and what drives me now...

"I don't want to be known for just riding one horse - I rode lots of others. But at the same time, if it means I can get some publicity out of it then fantastic. But when I look back at those days you realise how lucky you are. Those horses don't come round very often, as we see now."

Thomas, who rode more than 500 winners in a career spanning a decade, has been linked with a return to the saddle and admits he has found handing over control to his jockeys the toughest part of making the transition from rider to trainer.

He said: "The hardest part of training from being a jockey is handing over the reins as such... We ran a bumper horse about two weeks ago. I hadn't sat on him for about a year to be perfectly honest, but I rode him in a bit of work beforehand and I knew instantly that he was in great form and he went and ran a blinder.

"Richard Hughes actually said to me not so long ago, 'Why should I pay a 16-year-old to do a bit of work on one of mine when I've ridden over 2,000 winners and I can tell in 60 seconds?' So there's an element of that that comes into it and that's what I'll try to bring to the table - I'll sit on every horse as much as I can."

With a number of new trainers on the scene, Thomas also acknowledges he will require some luck along the way in order to persuade owners to send him their horses.

He added: "It's ultra-competitive and it's no different from being a jockey. You just need that break I guess. We're not doing anything differently to a lot of other trainers. It's just about being at the right place at the right time, training the right winners where it's going to get noticed and very much training is word of mouth as well.

"It's very fashionable, the same as the jockeys. When you're in fashion everyone wants to be with you - people send you horses no matter what, so hopefully when the winners start rolling in and people can see our horses are running well that'll then snowball and help things along...

"I just want to train winners... Every head I've got over that door, I'm looking at that horse and thinking, 'how and when can I win with you?' And I want to be able to think that I can win with that horse and if not then we need to be thinking about building up the quality.

"I want to have this yard filled out with heads over the door that we can win races with. It's easier said than done but I think you've got to keep building the quality along the way."

Thomas is keen to one day train from his girlfriend's farm but, with the facilities run by Jockey Club Estates at Lambourn at his disposal, he concedes those days are some way off.

He added: "It's a proven, healthy yard which is very important. It makes my life a lot easier and, of course, we're situated in such a fantastic spot, location-wise, for all the gallops.

"Initially we set up in Gloucestershire at my girlfriend's farm, which is still the plan to go back there one day. But I suppose we were slightly naïve in the fact that we thought we could do everything from there as well as anyone else.

"But the reality is we've got eight gallops here in Lambourn, all maintained every day by staff using the best machinery, the best surfaces on the gallops.

"The reality is unless you're wanting to spend, and let's make no bones about it these are £1million gallops to put down, so unless you want to spend a lot of money it's a bit of a no brainer to come to a training centre like this. It means that I can then concentrate on training the horses, dealing with the owners and not having to deal with the little things like looking after the gallops."

Handed his big break in the saddle when Ruby Walsh suffered an injury, Thomas still remembers the day he picked up the ride of Kauto Star, but he also recalls how the pressure soon followed.

He said: "To be honest I remember when I first stepped into the job and Ruby I think broke an arm or something I got told at Uttoxeter that I was going to be stepping in to ride Kauto (Star) the following weekend and whoever else.

"I just relished it and couldn't wait to get stuck into it. And I suppose after being in the job for a little while the pressure does start to build, of course things don't always go right all the time...

"It's a very, very lonely place out there when the chips are down. I suppose it's like stepping into a boxing ring, there's no one else to confide with when you're out there. It's very much a one man sport in that sense.

"So I suppose I taught myself how to deal with it, maybe not always in the right way and I guess it's very difficult to talk about things, but I guess I could have done that better which could have helped. But I guess I learnt to keep my head down and keep trucking I suppose. There was always light at the end of the tunnel no matter how bad things might have seemed at the time."

The Jockey Club's podcast Love The Jumps is available to download throughout the 2017-18 season. New episodes are uploaded every Wednesday.

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