'I've got my life back' – 'Reborn' jockey Ray Dawson on a winning mission after enduring dark days of lockdown


AFTER months of rehabilitation, suspended jockey Ray Dawson returns to action feeling “reborn” at Newbury on Friday.

Dawson, who won the Group 2 Duchess of Cambridge Stakes at Newmarket in 2022 against eventual 1000 Guineas heroine Mawj, was banned for six months in November last year after failing a test at Bath racecourse.

Jockey Ray Dawson has gotten his life and career back on track after a drug ban


Jockey Ray Dawson has gotten his life and career back on track after a drug banPhoto credit: PA

The 30-year-old, who has a history of alcohol abuse, had a binge drinking episode that led to cocaine use while dealing with the breakdown of a relationship with the mother of his daughter Lila.

“To be completely honest, when I failed the test I didn’t do well,” Dawson told me, speaking about the dark days following the BHA’s decision.

“I was extremely ashamed. I was incredibly embarrassed to be in a situation I had experienced before.”

“I beat myself up quite a bit and was very hard on myself. I was depressed and full of anxiety and fear.”

Acceptance of the problems and support are always the key to recovery.

Dawson continued: “The first few months were very difficult.”

“It was difficult for me to get a positive result. Luckily, I had the support of pretty much everyone: my family, my friends and the coaches I work with.”

“It was strange because everyone around me had forgiven me, but I couldn't manage to forgive myself.

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“It took at least six to seven weeks to change that mindset.

“I had a negative attitude towards myself. I thought everyone else did too.”

Dawson, who lives just outside Newmarket, has been supported in his recovery by the charity Sporting Chance and Alcoholics Anonymous.

He said: “Slowly and surely I started to feel better and that was largely due to Sporting Chance and their leadership – they were key to getting me out of the mental state I was in.”

“I fully committed to their program and without that I’m not sure where I would be. I focus on that every day.”

“I have been preparing since the New Year. I worked extremely hard on myself. Mentally and physically. Being in the gym was like a new obsession.”

“I talked to (coaches) Roger Varian and TJ Kent and they gave me hope. TK was like a second father to me.”

“My life is back. I’m racing on Friday and in a completely different place.”

“I didn’t think I would get my license back – it was so scary when you think you won’t be able to do what you love.”

“I am full of gratitude and determination.

“It was a roller coaster ride. I've been through this. I learned more than I ever thought I would.”

“I’m almost grateful it happened. Because now I’m on the path I have to go.”

Dawson's absence from racing meant he saw Lila.

He said: “She lives two hours away and it's not easy but you do what you have to do.”

“I spent a lot of time with her. That side of my life is good now.”

“I’ll be driving for Roger Varian and TJ Kent and Peter Chapple-Hyam and I can’t wait to get started. Mark Loughnane also spoke to me and was very supportive.”

Alongside Mawj, Dawson enjoyed other major racing successes with riders such as Zain Claudette in the Group 2 Lowther at York and Teona and Believe in Love for Varian.

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He added: “I feel reborn that I can live my dream and I know this is my last chance.”

Take it, Ray. Take it.